Take Down The Union
A Cal Innes Story
by Ray Banks
......."I'm saying we need to make a stand in our own communities. I'm saying we need to tell our present council, 'Yes, we're here. Take notice of us.' And I'm saying any legislation is wrong that leaves good, honest, hard-working Britons to rot in the flats while our immigrant friends live in luxury. It's dead wrong. I don't want to make this about us and them, but that's what it comes down to, ladies and gentlemen."
......A murmur of approval. This
stuffed shirt with his tie too short for his body takes a moment
to drink from a glass of water. He leaves scum on the lip of
the glass, clears his throat. His name is Jeffrey Briggs and
he wants to see me after the meeting. I can't say I'm looking
forward to it.
he continues, "isn't a party of hatred. We don't hate anyone.
But we do reserve the right to be English. We do reserve the
right to feel proud of our country, to respect our traditions,
to be patriotic about who we are and where we're going."
......The murmur becomes louder,
voices calling out now.
......"And what happens
when your average Joe Bloggs, your man who's been working ever
since he got out of school, learning his trade, working every
hour God sends to provide for his family, took a beating by Thatcher,
what happens when that man sees drugs on his estate, prostitution
on the street corners, asylum seekers scrounging dole and getting
a free ride? Where are all his taxes going? Certainly
not the schools. Certainly not to the hospitals. Certainly not
to the police force, the fire brigade, the youth centres. Certainly
not going to anything he believes would help pull this country
out of the mire."
......A few hear hears.
The bloke next to me hasn't blinked throughout. His hands are
balled up into fists. He looks like he's ready to take on the
......"And let's not kid
ourselves. Britain isn't British anymore. The Scots have devolved,
the Irish want nothing to do with us. Some might say England
......He pauses, letting that
last statement hang in the air.
......Somewhere in the room,
a chair squeaks. Uncomfortable.
say that. I say England is the backbone to Great Britain.
Without England, Britain would be a series of small islands in
......I don't want to be here.
In fact, if I didn't need the job - I mean really need
it - I wouldn't be within twenty miles of this place. For all
the bollocks with its butterfly house and elephant rides in the
town centre, Bolton is still Manchester's little brother. All
of the problems, none of the self-respect and this room holds
the worst of the worst. I see various ex-cons, former boot boys
with blue ink creeping from under their shirtsleeves. Uncomfortable
with formality, but trying to look the part of the establishment
anyway. They call themselves English National Socialists. Nazis
masquerading as left-wingers. Even the BNP won't touch them.
......Fuck this, I'm going for
......Outside, the sun is just
starting to set, casting an orange glow over the buildings. Just
another northern town. I blow smoke into the air. It's still
warm out here, has been for the past week. Good weather's not
unusual, but sometimes I forget it exists.
......Up the road a group of
kids are banging a football off a wall. They're enjoying themselves
and being loud about it. One of them bends over to tie his shoelace,
ends up with the ball bounced off the back of his head. Hard.
He zeroes in on the culprit and starts pounding him.
......I shouldn't be here. But
money is money. Last Monday, my dear old Micra gave up. Just
coughed out and died on me. If I knew anything about cars, I
might have been able to help. But I don't. So she's stuck in
a lock-up, covered in a sheet until I can raise the folding to
get her fixed.
......Take a last drag off the
Embassy, listen to the filter crackle, then dump it. The doors
to the youth club open. People start filing out, talking amongst
themselves, some of them squinting against the fading sun. Pamphlets
everywhere, badly photocopied Union Jacks and lots of exclamation
marks. I stand to one side, let them pass.
......I take a deep breath. Suppose
it's time to talk to my client.
......."Let me tell you
something, Mr. Innes. I'm representing the values and opinions
of the people. They wouldn't have me stand for councillor otherwise."
......"I understand that,
Mr. Briggs. I honestly do."
......"I represent the silent
majority. They're crying out for the opportunity to ditch the
Old Gang and vote for the only party that will make a substantial
difference to their community. It's time to make a stand, Mr.
......I don't doubt it. But I'm
not for canvassing. "Listen," I say. "I'm not
here for the party line, okay? I'm here because you said you
wanted to speak to me. If it's about how there ain't no black
in the Union Jack, then I'll be leaving right now."
......Jeffrey Briggs stops talking,
starts breathing through his mouth. His ruddy cheeks, blustering
manner and chubby fingers all scream ex-Socialist gone to seed.
But below those tufts of fluff he calls eyebrows, his eyes have
fire in them. "You're not politically aware. I can understand
I say. "It's an epidemic."
......"You couldn't be more
right," he says. Briggs pick up a pamphlet, hands it to
me. I stick it in my pocket.
......"You'll want to read
......"Why did you call
me, Mr. Briggs?"
......He sits on the edge of
the stage and wipes sweat from his forehead with the back of
his hand. It glistens in the light. He sniffs. "Take a seat."
......I look around, grab one
of the folding chairs. Leaning forward on his knees, he looms
......"I know you don't
agree with my politics, Mr. Innes. You hear our party's name
and you think swastika. You think football hooligan, am I right?"
......"It's not my place
to judge," I say.
......"You don't see the
inequality. A Muslim kid can go to school in a veil, but an English
kid can't wear an England football shirt on non-uniform day.
Racist attacks on whites are hardly reported. They're just street
crime. But an attack on a black, that's national news. Stephen
Lawrence is a saint, but young white victims like Gavin Hopley
and Sean Whyte don't count. Positive discrimination doesn't work.
It just breeds contempt."
......He smiles, exposes his
teeth. One of them looks loose in the gum. "I'm not advocating
violence, Mr. Innes. I'm a simple working man, and all I'm advocating
is proper political processes."
......"Like I said, it's
not my place to judge. And you said you wanted to speak to me.
If it's non-political, I'll see what I can do. If not, I won't
charge you the consultation fee."
......Briggs leans back. His
stomach hangs heavily over his belt buckle. He regards me for
a second. Wondering if I'm the right man for the job. I try my
best to be patient.
......"It's my son, Tom."
Briggs sucks his teeth. "He goes out all night, comes in
looking terrible in the mornings."
......"How old is he?"
......"Then he's probably
out drinking," I say. "He's legal. Nothing I can do
......Case closed, move on.
......"It's not drink. Drink
I can handle. Who doesn't like a drink? He's not a boozer. I'd
smell it on him."
......"Have you asked him
where he goes?"
......For a brief moment, Briggs'
eyes flare. "What do you think? 'Course I have. Lad's a
bloody mute as soon as I show interest. I need you to find out
......"I'll look into it,"
......As I leave, I start thinking
about it. Manchester's my town, not Bolton. Taking the time to
find me and call me in on this, it doesn't sit right. From what
I can see, it's a simple case of tailing the lad, and any Bolton
dick could do that. But a job's a job, and I can't afford to
be too picky.
......When you're desperate for
cash, you don't ask too many questions.
......Turns out simple working
man Briggs lives in a very nice little semi-detached with a box
garage on the side: good-sized and well-kept garden, satellite
dish, the lot. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was just
an ordinary guy, albeit one who's not short of a bob. I'm parked
up the road in a pus-yellow Fiat Uno, the only car in my price
range that I could rent. I hope Briggs' son is either blind or
out of his gourd. If not, he'll see me coming a mile off.
......I've been sitting here
for two hours. My right leg has gone to sleep, but I can't be
seen walking about. This is the kind of place that has Neighbourhood
Watch, a street full of curtain twitchers, one hand on the nets,
the other poised on speed dial to the police. It's an Ever
Decreasing Circles suburbia. And the thought of living somewhere
like this gives me indigestion.
......Briggs' son doesn't appear
to like the neighborhood any more than me. He pulls a light blue
anorak onto a skinny frame as he comes out of the front door.
His features are bland, expressionless, even though he's obviously
being shouted at from inside the house. He reaches the gate,
unlatches it, and stifles a belch.
......I take the opportunity
to capture him on film. Zoom in and I notice he's got bad skin,
pocked where it hasn't erupted.
......Briggs appears at the front
door, suit trousers and polo shirt. He says something to his
son that I don't pick up. Neither does he, or he just ignores
his father, skulking off down the street. I get a shot of Briggs
for good measure.
......I wait five seconds, then
start the engine. I don't have to drive far. At the end of the
street, I see that anorak disappear into a grey Volvo, Bhangra
blaring from inside. Doesn't bode well for a National Socialist's
son. Another photo op. The Volvo pulls away from the kerb, barrels
towards town. I keep three cars behind all the way.
......Look in the rear view mirror.
The street is clean. Don't know why, but I'm wary of being followed
these days. Always get the feeling I'm being set up. Especially
when I'm working for clients I don't like. I'm not comfortable
in this car, either. It's too new, too squeaky, the gear stick's
stiff and it's about as discreet as a cold sore. The engine sounds
like a rubber band whirring in a tin can.
......I try to keep my eyes on
the Volvo. It cruises below the speed limit, taking its time
through the town centre. My camera sits on the passenger seat,
shaking with the ride. Whatever Tom Briggs does, wherever he
goes, I'm supposed to provide documentary evidence. My word isn't
good enough; neither is a typewritten report. Briggs wants to
see it all with his own eyes. And I'm not one to begrudge a client,
especially when I'll be charging him through the nose on his
......The Volvo dips to the right,
pulls into a supermarket car park. I carry on up the road, pull
in as near as I can, limber up behind the camera and zoom in.
......Tom Briggs, out of the
car. A couple of Asian guys next to him. Low-slung jeans. Using
their hands a lot when they talk. Snap. One of them turns my
way, points at something in the middle distance. All three laugh.
That's their catalogue pose. The comedian has corn rows under
a flat cap. The other Asian lights up a joint, leaning against
the Volvo. He tokes on it, hands it to Tom. Tom takes a hit.
I take a picture.
......Hanging out with Indians,
smoking the weed. No wonder he doesn't tell his dad where he
goes at nights. Even though these guys probably aren't asylum-seekers,
dole scroungers, or terrorists and they certainly don't look
like they're living in luxury, they're still coffee-coloured,
and it's likely that's all Briggs cares about.
......I'm surprised that Briggs
doesn't smell it on Tom the moment he walks through the door,
though. I don't look forward to handing over these pictures.
But like I said, a job's a job.
......The joker takes the joint.
Tom joins the smoker at the car.
......They're in the middle of
conversation when another car appears in the car park. I think
it's a Saab. The car crawls towards the Volvo. Headlights off,
it's difficult to see how many are inside. The front passenger
door opens. I watch a light-skinned Asian get out. He's wearing
a hoodie. I can barely make out his face, but I take a picture
anyway. This guy has dealer written all over him. His walk is
loose, his head perpetually down. The joker moves to the dealer,
they talk. Tom watches.
......I see cash, a wad of it,
in the joker's hand. The dealer makes a grab for it and the discussion
becomes heated. Joker shouts something, takes a step back, hands
up. He points at the dealer. I watch Tom's face. He's scared.
So's his mate. They've visibly straightened up against the side
of the Volvo.
......Another picture taken.
Experience made me set up this far away, and self-preservation
keeps me here.
......The dealer advances on
Joker and his hood falls back from his face. I snap again, make
sure I get this bastard in focus. The dealer grabs Joker by the
arm, but he can't hold on. Joker pulls himself away. Before I
know it, Tom's between the two of them. One hand keeping Joker
back, the other slicing the air in front of the dealer. Voices
raised, but I can't make out the words.
......The back passenger door
of the Saab opens. A guy dressed head to toe in black steps out.
He looks like a bouncer, fat with a shaved head. But muscles
under that fat. He goes down on film, too.
......That second is all it takes.
...... A sudden yelp, a shout.
I swing the camera back to Joker and Tom's disappeared. Back
to the dealer and the bouncer, they're getting into the car.
......Where's Briggs' son?
......I lower the camera, and spot him immediately. Focus on the car park tarmac, and Tom's there, on his side, his knees curling up towards his stomach. Joker's with him, pressing his hands against Tom's midriff. He's bleeding. My finger stutters on the button; I take three photos in quick succession.
......The Saab pulls away, brings
the headlights up full beam and barrels out of the car park.
Joker gets to his feet, takes a few running steps after the car.
The smoker is frozen by the Volvo. One hand covers his face,
his legs look like they're about to give way.
......There's a moment of silence
as the Saab's back lights disappear from view. I watch Joker
walk slowly back towards Tom. He looks down, then at his mate
in the car.
......Talking now, the smoker
shaking his head violently, backing away towards the driver's
door. Joker shouting. He spits at the ground. The smoker gets
into the Volvo and cranks the engine. Joker looks down at Tom,
then back at the Volvo. He runs to the passenger side and jumps
......A spluttered start and
the Volvo squeals as it pulls out of the car park. Tom extends
one arm and falls limp.
......I chuck my camera into
the back seat of the Fiat and start the engine.
......"Keep the pressure
on it and you'll be alright."
......I shouldn't get involved.
But then, what can you do? The lad would know he's been followed
the moment his dad gets his hands on the pictures I took. And
I wasn't about to leave him there, bleeding his last in a deserted
car park. Right now I'm gunning the engine, fiddling with an
A-to-Z, and desperately trying to find the nearest hospital.
......Tom's in the back seat,
his anorak stained a deep red where he holds it tight against
his stomach. I check the rearview. Light from the street catches
a pale face, hollow cheeks. His Adam's apple bobs up and down,
as if he's trying hard not to throw up. His eyes have glazed
over, his forehead looks wet.
......All I can think is What
if he dies back there? The blade I found next to him wasn't
big, but I don't know where or how deep it went. I wasn't about
to check, either. What else was I supposed to do?
......Bolton railway station
on my left becomes a blur, but I take a right onto Minerva Road
and the hospital's in sight. I try to ease down on the brakes,
hoping to make the stop as smooth as possible, but the clutch
jumps at the last minute and the Fiat lurches forward. Tom moans
from the back. I get out of the car, sprint to Casualty.
......"There's a lad in
the back of my car. He's been stabbed." My breath comes
out in rasps, the sides of my face red hot. One short run and
it feels like my lungs are about to cave in.
......Two medics leave the building
with a stretcher. The people sitting around me shift into a faceless
mass. And it's only when I see Tom whisked away that I realise
my jaw hurts. My head throbs in sympathy. He's okay for now.
The easy part is over. I'd wait until I get my breath back, but
the fluorescent strip lighting in here is battering my head.
......I get up, out into the
comforting gloom. Wipe dry lips and reach into my jacket pocket
for my phone.
......Now I just have to tell
his father what happened.
......When Briggs arrives I'm
outside smoking. Still dressed in the polo shirt, although the
suit trousers have been replaced by a pair of battered jeans
a size too small. He looks like a defeated man. His eyes are
red-rimmed. I'd swear he'd been crying if it wasn't for the stink
of single malt on his breath.
......"How is he?"
......"I don't know. They
wouldn't tell me."
......I throw the cigarette to
the ground and step on the filter. "He was stabbed."
......"He was buying, there
was an argument, a knife was pulled, he got in the way."
......I look at him. His face
hardens. "My boy's not an addict," he says.
......"I think you should
go in and see him." I start to walk away. His hand clamps
on my shoulder.
......"My boy is not an
addict." It's almost a warning.
......"I never said he was,
Mr. Briggs." He removes his hand. "Now's not the time
to discuss this. I'll be by tomorrow. We can talk about it then."
......And I head back to the
car, still feeling the weight of his hand..
......Briggs' office is a Portakabin
on a building site south of the town centre. Around me is the
skeleton of a building, the large billboard outside showing an
apartment complex. The lots on either side of the site are wasteland,
For Sale signs in view. Up the road, I can make out a series
of dishwater-coloured tower blocks, the old council stock. On
the streets, the smell of halal cooking is overpowering. I pass
a builder filling his face with a kebab. Some people have a fucked-up
idea of breakfast.
......I knock the mud from my
shoes as I step inside the cabin.
......"Shut the door,"
......I do so. "How's your
......Briggs looks at his desk.
"He'll be okay."
......Silence sits heavy in the
......"Did you bring the
pictures?" he asks.
......I pull out a brown envelope.
"Developed this morning."
......He holds out his hand.
I let the envelope drop to his desk. He doesn't flinch. Briggs
thumbs open the envelope and studies the photos. He frowns, chews
the inside of his mouth. Takes a deep breath before he sets the
last photo down and looks up at me.
......"Thank you, Mr. Innes.
I appreciate what you did last night. More than some, it looks
......"Then they're cowards."
......"So what now?"
......Briggs shakes his head.
One finger taps the top photo as he stares at me. "What
do you think I should do?"
......"I think you should
hand those photos over to the police. Let them do their job.
I got a pretty good shot of the bloke who stabbed your son."
......"You did. But then
what are the police going to do? I told you what happens to racist
attacks on whites."
......"This wasn't a racist
......"What would you call
......"I'd call it a drug
deal gone wrong."
......"And I told you about
that, didn't I?"
......He's adamant. I look at
the floor. "Okay. Well, you do what you have to."
......"I'm glad you understand,
Mr. Innes. How much do I owe you?"
......I charge him more than
I should. He reaches into his desk drawer, pulls out two banded
stacks of twenties and hands them over. The band is a dark shade
of red with a faded insignia. I shove the cash into my jacket
pocket. A thousand quid is a lot of money for a tail, but then
I did bring his son back in one piece.
......"One more thing,"
I say. "And this is free advice: Don't do anything daft.
It's not worth it."
......He smiles to himself. It
gives him a third chin. "Then seeing as you're no longer
an employee, you'll forgive me if I tell you to mind your own
fucking business." He looks at me, eyes sparkling under
those hefty eyebrows. "This has nothing to do with you,
Mr. Innes. You probably saved my boy's life, and for that I thank
you. But that doesn't entitle you to start advising me.
I'm a grown man. I'll do what I want about this."
......Even though I know it'll
be anything but.
......When I drop the Fiat off
at the rental place, I get a long lecture about returning the
cars in a decent state. Apparently, all the blood on the back
seat is going to eat into my deposit.
......Fine. Whatever they want
to charge, they can. I'm knackered and I can't be bothered putting
up a fight.
......The next stop is paying
off a mechanic built like a jockey's whip. Then driving to my
office in my Micra. There's still a rattle somewhere in the engine,
and it's not a comfortable ride, but at least it's familiar.
......I still have copies of
my photographs. Sitting at my desk, I turn them over one by one,
an untouched mug of coffee beside me. Job's over with. Paid in
full. But something doesn't sit right.
......A copy of the Bolton
Evening News is open to the page where Tom Briggs, son of
ENS candidate Jeffrey Briggs, was found stabbed last night in
what police believe to be a racially motivated attack. I stretch
the crick out of my neck, sort the photos again. It's pretty
obvious what's going on. That stack of banded twenties is a pay-off.
......I pull the same band out
of my jacket pocket. Set it on the desk with everything else.
I reach for the coffee, take a sip and wish I hadn't. Stone cold.
......My boy's not an addict.
...... But Tom acts like
a junkie, he makes stupid mistakes like a junkie. And I'll be
buggered if those weren't tracks I saw on his arms when I hefted
him into the Fiat. It explains the bad skin, the bony frame.
But it doesn't explain why Briggs had him followed. Any idiot
could see Tom was using. So what's with the denial?
......I have an idea, but it's
not one I want to cling to.
......At seven o'clock on the
dot, a white van pulls up outside Jeffrey Briggs' house. A bloke
I recognise from the meeting, the one with the eyebrow ridge
and the prison ink, steps out and marches up the path to the
front door. Another bloke with a body like a drainpipe stays
in the van, tapping his thumbs against the steering wheel.
......I reach for my camera.
Take a few shots of the van, train the lens on Briggs' front
door. Sure enough, after a few minutes, Briggs appears with the
ape. They're talking. I snap a few. Briggs looks deadly serious,
the big guy listening with all the intensity of someone who has
to concentrate to tie his shoelaces. This doesn't look good.
......When Briggs hands the big
guy a clutch of photographs, my photographs, my heart
sinks. He can't leave it well enough alone. The ape nods his
understanding, heads back to the van and pulls himself inside.
The headlights flare and they're off. I put the camera to one
......I'm going to get my arse
kicked here. I know I am. It's inevitable. Just as sure as shit
follows sustenance. I pause before I turn the engine over. I
have to. My hands are shaking. But if I leave it here, I won't
know what he's playing at. And if the situation turns nasty,
I want evidence.
......Following the van is easy.
These guys aren't thinking about being tailed. As far as they're
concerned, everything's hunky-dory. Besides, if Briggs warned
them about me, he would have told them I was driving a yellow
Fiat Uno. Broke as I must have looked to him, he wouldn't think
I could afford a change of wheels.
......By the tower blocks now,
the van starts to slow down. At first I think I've been spotted,
but I can see the ape's hand come out from the passenger window,
pointing up the street. I try to follow his indication, but it's
......The van speeds up then,
the engine hitting its peak. It lurches forward, swerves and
mounts the pavement in front of a trio of Asian lads. The passenger
door opens and the ape steps out. The Asians start giving him
......As I pass in the car, I
can make out Joker.
......The ape gives me the evil
eye as the back of the van opens up and three guys jump out.
Joker makes a run for it.
......His mate, the smoker, isn't
quick enough. The ape flicks out a car aerial and whips it hard
across his face.
......And once he's down, two
of the guys from the van start heel-kicking him.
......I slam my foot on the brakes
as Joker slams against the side of the Micra. I lean across and
unlock the door for him. He slides in, still staring out at the
......"You got a phone,
mate?" he says.
......I chuck him my mobile.
......The ape starts running
straight for us. I struggle with the accelerator. The engine
won't catch. That gyppo fucking grease monkey did me over. Joker
slams the lock down with the heel of his hand as the ape reaches
my side of the car. The big bastard wrenches the door open and
wraps his arm around my neck before I get a chance to speed up.
Then I'm out, legs kicking, slammed onto the road. I can't see
......The ape's boot catches
me full in the face.
......I wake up with a bastard
behind the eyes, a reservoir of blood in my mouth. I spit onto
the road. It hurts when I swallow and there's a disc of pain
in the centre of my forehead. Try to get to my feet, but it doesn't
take. I drop to the tarmac and sit there, staring at my feet.
......Try to stand up again,
but I only manage to get to my knees before my stomach can't
take it and I spew. I crawl through it, focus on the Micra. When
I'm close enough, I pull myself into the driver's seat and sit
back. My back aches, my head spinning. I wipe at my mouth with
the back of one hand and try to blink the pain in my skull away.
They could have killed me. They could have left me for dead.
It wouldn't be the first time.
......Reach in my jacket and
fumble out a crumpled Embassy. I light it with a bloodied hand.
After a few drags, the sickness goes. I look out at the road.
Joker's disappeared, but the two lads with him are lying on the
pavement. After a short rest, I get out and check them, see if
Joker's mates are okay.
......They're in bad shape, but
breathing. Just. I find my mobile, scratched to shit but still
working, and call the police, tell them to send an ambulance.
I'm in no condition to go dragging these lads into my car. It's
all I can do to get myself back to the Micra. Then I put the
car into gear, wrestle with the clutch to keep the engine running,
and drive slowly home.
......I'm too scared to sleep,
afraid that after the knock to my skull, it might be the last
time I close my eyes. So I stay up. I drink some vodka and listen
to CDs. When I get too sodden, I drink coffee. I walk around
my flat. I shower. And most of all, I think about those photos.
I thought Briggs would go after the dealer, I really did. Doesn't
make sense to me that he'd leather the two lads with his son.
His friends. Unless the ape got it wrong and went looking for
the two guys Briggs knew for definite didn't stab his boy. But
then Briggs must have pointed them out to him. So it doesn't
add up. Unless. . .
......There's stupid, and then
......But there's only one way
to find out.
......I check my watch as light streaks the sky. It's six. I have another coffee, the last of my cigarettes, another shower to wake me up. Then I change into clean clothes and head out into the world again. My head still throbs; the morning light doesn't help matters. I pop some Nurofen, hope that'll do the trick and get behind the wheel of the Micra. Turn on the radio to keep my eyes open.
......I drive to Briggs Construction.
By the time I get there, the first builders are starting to walk
through the gates. I park up, get out of the car and walk along
with them. I must look like I feel. Some of the builders don't
make eye contact. Straight through the site, I push open the
door to Briggs' office. No need to shake the mud off this time.
Let the fucker's floor get dirty.
......He comes out of a side
office, clutching a mug that says "World's Greatest Dad".
Looks at me. Stares at the massive bruise on my head. Says, "Mr.
Innes. I thought I'd paid you in full."
......"You did," I
say. "That's not why I'm here."
......He smiles with half his
mouth. It makes him look like a stroke victim. He leans against
his desk and sips from the mug. "You been drinking, son?"
......"It was a rough night
if that's what you mean."
......"What are you doing
......"I want a few answers."
......"I don't think I have
to give them."
......"Yeah, you do. Otherwise
I go to the police."
......"And why would you
......"Because you're trying
to instigate a race riot on your own doorstep."
......He laughs into his tea.
"You're a barmpot, son."
......"How's the campaign
going, Mr. Briggs? Things still chugging along?"
......Briggs puts his mug on
the desk, folds his arms. "That's none of your business."
......"Just wondering, because
I keep copies of the photos I take, y'know."
......"You trying to blackmail
......"Nah, mate. You didn't
hear me out. I send a copy of the photos from the other night
to the local rag, they might make something out of it. I send
a copy of the photos I took last night to the same place,
maybe a copy to the police, and then it seals the deal."
......"Fuck're you talking
about?" He picks up his mug again. The way his wrist is
tilted, he looks like he's all set to fling it at my head.
......"I'm talking about
you setting your own son up, Mr. Briggs. 'My boy isn't an addict'.
Jesus, man, you almost had me with that. I honestly started to
believe you were that bloody blind. And then you give him money
to go out and score with."
......He shakes his head.
......"The banded notes
in your drawer, Jeff. Same band's on the wad Tom handed over.
So what's the deal? He steal from you, or did you set him up
with a nice little score maybe, then you get me to follow because
you want to fuck over some local dealer, get the glory but none
of the heat. But the dealer's too hard for you, is that right?
You don't want to risk your boys getting the shit kicked out
of them. I don't blame you, mate. From where I was standing,
they looked like nails. So you go for the soft targets, a couple
of lads who'll be in plain sight, a couple of lads who'll be
missed. And that's what it comes down to, eh?"
......"You're taking the
piss." Briggs works his mouth.
......"It comes down to
you using this to jack up the tension one more notch. Round here,
it shouldn't be that hard to do. Stir things up even more, set
everyone against each other. And it all means more cash in your
pocket. If things kick off, you've got your pick of the land
that's left and a guaranteed victory with the voters."
......"I think you better
leave." His hand has grown pale around the mug.
......"I think you're right.
But I thought it best to give you fair warning. And the next
time someone offers you free advice, you better take it."
......I walk to the door. Briggs
finds his breath, the growl in his voice again. "I won't
suffer, son. You wait and see. We'll weather this. You can't
kill the party by fucking with me."
......As I open the door, his
voice becomes louder. "You think you can piss around with
me, you got another thing coming. You bleeding-heart left-wing
cunt. You can't stop the people from voting for who they
......He's still shouting the
odds when I get to my car. I slide in behind the steering wheel.
That kind of anger, that's what I wanted. A confirmation, just
to make sure it wasn't the brain damage talking. I'll let the
police and the press do the rest of the digging for me. It shouldn't
be too difficult to connect Briggs and the attacks. And it's
a short step from there to nosing through his financial records.
......Reach into my pocket, pull
out the ENS flier. It says, "MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!!!"
......Yeah, it wasn't about the
politics. Wasn't about making any voice heard. Briggs just got
greedy and mean with it. As I pull away from the kerb, I ball
the flier and pitch it out of the window into a pile of churned
......Call it making a stand on behalf of those who can't. Like the two lads breathing through tubes at Bolton General. Or call it what it is. Just another dirty job.
Copyright (c) 2004 by Ray Banks.
"Walking After Midnight" was Ray Banks' first appearance in Thrilling Detective. Previous Cal Innes stories have also appeared in Handheld Crime, Hardluck Stories, Shred Of Evidence and Plots With Guns. His first book, "The Big Blind" was published by Point Blank Press last year. Ray can be contacted through his website, The Saturday Boy.
How's that? Not as good as being born up a tree, but there you go.
Like what you've read? Head here for more Thrilling Detective Fiction!
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...... ."And I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who
likes talking to a man who likes to talk."
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