Over on the western edge of the park the afternoon
sun clipped the crescent moon above the golden dome of the mosque.
At Lords the shadows lengthened on the last, falling wickets.
He tugged the peak of his black baseball cap further down his
brow. Low as it was the sun still had plenty of heat left in it
and the power to dazzle.
Around him neat old
ladies and gentlemen were struggling out of deck-chairs and gathering
their belongings, buttoning up their cardies and making ready
for home. He overheard them chatting, talking of a nice cup of
tea and the early evening soaps.
brass band was packing gleaming instruments into their cases.
The musicians milled around the bandstand, uniform collars now
undone, mopping sweaty necks and faces with large handkerchiefs,
their last selection from ‘The Sound of Music’ softly
echoed by a solitary whistler.
On the lake lovers rocked
their boats and kissed and made up.
Spring was more than
in the air.
God that sun was bright.
A hungover and sore-headed five o’clock ... not a good sign.
... not at all like
this ... he did not at all like this. This was not a good place
for him ... too open ... people on all sides walking around ...
people in every direction ... not a good place. He might be attracting
attention. He could do nothing here. He couldn’t even look
properly. There were too many damn people. Somebody might even
be watching him. It wasn’t safe ... not here. It was dangerous.
It was stupid. He’d been here nearly two hours. He’d
seen everything he needed to see ... but ... had he been seen?
Nosey bastards ... couldn’t be too bloody careful ... too
many nosey bastards. He should have gone an hour ago. He should
leave now. Right now. Nothing for him to do but leave ... and
Going for that lunchtime
drink had been the first mistake. He really should know better
by now. But the heat had got to him. He’d been walking a
long time; the South Bank, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Soho.
He’d felt sticky and sick in his stomach from the smell
of traffic and bad drains. The heat shimmering off the shining
car bodies and the reflected sunlight flashing off passing windshields
forced him to screw up his eyes in a permanent squint and gave
him pins and needles in the brain.
Well O.K. he’d
needed a beer. But did it have to be that bloody super-lager piss?
It had all started then.
That girl ... that girl
pressing past him in the crush by the bar; the drinks for herself
and her friend held high in the air; her arms upraised above the
crowd. That girl in her little blouse for the first of the hot
days. That girl and the smell of fresh sweat and sweet perfume
from the wet black curls of her armpit and her soft, smooth, raised
arms as she squeezed by, not six inches from his face, in the
steamy bar room, laughing in the press and yelling, “Scuse
me!” and, to her friend, “Hey Carol, give us a hand.
I’m not a bloody juggler y’know!” Bitch! She
He had sat till they
left. Drinking and watching her. It was safe in the pub. Mixed
in the crowd he knew exactly how to behave. He watched as he sat;
glancing over the shoulders of others, or in between heads. Someone
asked if the seat beside him was free and he moved round into
the corner giving himself just as good a view but at a little
different angle. And, if she’d caught his eye once or twice
before as he watched, it would take her a little time to notice
After a while he went
up to order another beer at a place where he knew he would plainly
see her reflection in the barglass and...she gave his ratchet
another twitch, tightened him up one more notch. It was so quick
that he’d have missed it if he’d taken his eyes off
her mirrored image for one second. It was so quick that not another
sinner in the entire packed bar saw a thing. He’d take a
bet on that. Her cigarette pack fell from the table to the floor
and, as she bent forward in her seat to pick it up, a beautiful,
fat, little, pink-nippled tit glanced into focus in the frame
of the wide arm-hole of her blouse ... just one look!
A seat beside her became
vacant and he moved to it quickly. He squeezed in with his back
to her back, leaning against her ever so casually, only a little,
breathing her in ... every sip she sipped, every crisp she cracked,
every tobacco, blue smoke breath she sucked ... was him ... blowing
in ... and ... blowing out. Gone with the wind.
to her chat with her friend: fashion and boys and holidays and
work -- problems with her manager. He knew the shop she worked
at; trendy, full of weird clothes. It wasn’t far, just up
on Oxford Street. He could go there. He wouldn’t go there.
He was not trendy. Anyway that wasn’t the point. It didn’t
have to be .... It had never needed to be that ... specific.
She didn’t even
know he existed ... but somebody would ... not now ... later ...
somebody would know he existed. She’d started it. She’d
started it with her body, with her presence, with her smell, with
all the promises she didn’t even know she’d made and
wouldn’t keep. Just by being there she’d started it.
It was all her bloody fault.
She left. He didn’t
follow. That would have been stupid. A couple of affluent-looking
blue-suiters with gelled hair and mobile phones watched her and
her friend pass and made some remark. Both girls laughed and shook
their heads. It really didn’t need to be that specific.
Anyway that way was a damn good way to get seen and get caught.
In the city, on the busy streets, people noticed a lot more than
you would think. People were, sort of, constantly on edge all
the time. You’d be surprised. That’s when he’d
gone to the park. It gave him a bit of space, let him escape the
constant hard-sell that the city streets had become. Wandering,
watching, drifting, watching, the couple of pints of loony-juice
getting into his overheated bloodstream. He could feel himself
getting more and more wound up, as full of energy as a pumped
air-gun. But not quite ready to shoot his shot. Not just yet anyway.
Not just yet.
Hot coffee steamed in
a cracked mug, his third or fourth, as he sat and waited. The
late light lingered into darkness outside his kitchen window,
gradually fading to the careless, butterfly-flicker of nextdoor
T.V. on his backyard wall. A station I.D. blared time for the
News as his neighbour turned the sound up to watch exotic disasters
from a safe distance. Time to be moving.
Now he was on tracks.
He knew all of the signs. There had always been checkpoints; places
where decisions had to be made; times when he still had to think
consciously of certain, shall we say, arrangements ... how to,
why to, whether to, if, when, where, but ...? Most of that was
ancient history these days. These days ... once the switch was
thrown ... it was automatic pilot ... cranked ... wicked ... juiced-up!
... hot-wired! ... runnin’ wild! ... boop boop a doop! Once
those connections were made the whole fiasco was in the bag! Not
one concession of not one part of not one inch would be made to
no sucker. Direct injection tingling all the way from his assbone
to his ballbone, right on up through his gutbone to his heartbone
and on to that nasty little burning, fuzzy spot smack dab in the
middle of his eyebones.
So, let’s run
a little of this. Strip. Shower. Check over every inch, every
crevice of the dark old clothes for tags or any other kind of
giveaways. No labels, no tickets, no nothing ... thin leather
belt ... no tie. Ready?
Nuh uh. One question.
New question. Unanswered up to this point in time anyhow. The
knife? A lock-blade hunting knife he’d bought and been keeping
in the kitchen drawer for a while. Now, why had he done that?
Yeeees, why that? The knife was small, solid, vicious, full of
power: sharp as fear itself.
Up to here it had all
been run before and sheer momentum had taken him to this point
without even a shiver of second thought. Now he paused.
There had been other
times like this. Many stages along the way. A new trick having
been added there followed a period of habituation, of desensitization,
followed in turn by a build-up of desire for a fresh improvement;
an additional novelty, further elaboration. For long periods of
time he might concern himself only with refinement of his methods.
But, sooner or later, at the far edges of these plateau, he always
arrived at the next step up.
In the bathroom mirror
he rechecked his clothes and made certain his pockets were empty.
From the workbox he took a roll of thick, brown packing tape and
put this in his pocket. He slipped a ten pound note in his trouser
back-pocket and left out his house-keys to be hidden safely under
the pot-plant by the door. All this was done precisely; it had
been done before; it was all part of the act. But, this time ...
tonight ... was it enough?
The last one must have
been a couple or three weeks ago. A to B and back again. No problem.
It had been a black night and bloody freezing. Nobody hanging
about. He’d waited by the main road a good bit up from the
tube station, hidden in a dark, shop doorway. Most of the street
lights there were on the blink or not working at all. Down the
side street beside the shop, there was a vacant lot he knew with
a corrugated iron fence pulled apart by the local kids in a not
too obvious way. There couple of light-industrial warehouses on
either side of the lot, empty at night ... no residentials ...
Half past midnight had
glinted from the clock in the church tower up the street. He’d
stood quite still in the shadows ... listening. It became quiet
... some cars, not many ... a late bus. Far along the road a figure
pulled the tube station gates three-quarters closed, letting out
last train passengers, then full over. A couple passed, jolly
from a nightclub, walking quickly home, laughing, arm-in-arm.
At last ... here was
something ... nothing to see ... a shadow among the shadows ...
a dark shape in the night ... a series of signals ... long hair,
walk, hips, skirt, heels ... tik tak. She was alongside him ...
such a good boy ... he could reach out and ... now so lonely ...
no one in sight ... Mamma said ... he could ... reach ... .
She passed close by
and he was out behind her instantly ... his arms over her head
... his belt wrapped around his hands and round her neck. He ripped
his arms back with vicious force ... hauling her into the black
doorway ... smashing her poor head against the brickwork. She
made hardly a sound. Surprise, shock, fear, semi-strangulation
and a smashed face all kept her silent.
He held her slumped
and whimpering in the angle of the door while he wrapped tape
around and around her mouth and hair. He wrapped and wrapped till
her mouth was completely covered and she was unable to make a
sound. Her long dark hair had fallen over her tearwet eyes and
was held there by the way he’d wound the tape. She had come
round a bit and was shuddering, trembling in a spasm against him,
her legs giving way. She stared up at him wide-eyed through her
tears, her run mascara, her blood and the black veil of her hair.
He nutted her hard in the face and put his arm around her shoulders,
supporting her off round the corner to the empty ground -- a couple
with a few too many drinks.
Big fat bitch. Still
it had made a change from the run of skinny bitches he’d
had a couple of months before.
He thought again about
the girl in the bar that afternoon. He slammed his fist into the
kitchen wall, screaming the silent mantra to himself, “Bitches!
Bitches! Bitches! Bitches! ...” He took the knife from the
kitchen drawer and slid it into his trouser pocket. He felt its
weight and the warmth of the wood handle against his thigh.
“She fucking started
Nothing is Ever What it Seems (1994),