“Walk in. Shoot him. Walk out. Catch the train back to London and I clear all your debts and give you a nice chunk of change. And Presto Hey! Bob is your uncle!”
Big Ron is the owner of the casino where I regularly lose money. He’s also a criminal and a gangster. He came here from Poland a while ago and tries too hard to be English and is always messing up familiar sayings, but of course no one would dare tell him. He even scares stray cats.
You seem, gambling is my downfall. I’ve lost thousands over the years, and believe me, in order to service my habit, I’m not exactly Mr Squeaky Clean. In fact I’m a bit of a thieving bastard if you want the truth. I’ve stolen money, broken into shops and houses, even went on a bank raid once, I’ll give anything a go if there’s a few pennies in it. But I’m strictly small time, no way am I some scary ‘face’ who bashes and threatens people. My dad used to say “Freddie, fuck me if you’re not a wrong ’un. You’re a dangerous little bastard and you’ll end up behind bars!”
“We get you the gun, afterwards you throw it away,” Big Ron continued. “And all the Sailing is Plain, yes?”
“But who is this guy?” I asked him. “What’s he done?”
“Don’t worry about that,” Ron treated me to one of his patronising smiles and clapped his bear-like hand on my shoulder. “He is one bad cookie! He has done jail time for molesting little girls, he’s a swindling liar, and he’s pissed off a lot of important people. Believe me, Freddie, he is doing some wicked evil things and causes misery all the time, he is one piece of utter shit, the world will be better off without him. Don’t go thinking about it, just go up north, do the job, come home, and all is dusted and done.”
“I don’t know about that,” I argued. “I never killed anyone before.”
“There’s a time first for everything,” Big Ron told me, knowing that muggins here was hooked. “You can do it, Freddie, you are tough guy, yeah? Besides you really need the money, don’t you? You’re behind with your rent, and Alison will leave you if you lose the flat. What have you to lose that you’ve got?”
All the way up to the north it was running through my mind like a mantra. I’m not religious or nothing, but killing someone? It’s gotta be a big deal, after all it’s the most terrible thing you can do. And it’s not like a war or something, where you got no choice. I was going to be a killer.
On the other hand I was stony broke, and maybe killing someone was just another inevitable milestone downwards in my shitty life. What’s more was it really such a big deal? The guy who I was going to off was a right bastard by Ron’s account. And, after all, he was going to be buried anyway sooner or later, wasn’t he? If I didn’t do the job, some other fucker would pull the trigger, wouldn’t they?
As the train bumped along I was bricking it all the way, I tell you, my guts was like water. The gun was tucked into my waistband, the metal cold against my belly, while I’d packed up a complete change of clothes and shoes in my backpack. I was risking being nicked and going down for five years, just for carrying the bloody pistol, so I’d already made the choice, and I now I had no alternative but to see it through. . . . I hadn’t slept a wink the night before and, I make no bones about it, my nerves were shot to fuck. What was so terrible about killing a child-molesting monster anyway? I was doing the world a favour, wasn’t I? And getting paid for it. I pictured it all being over and done with, walking away from the place, changing all my clothes, getting rid of the ones I’d been wearing in a rubbish bin, and chucking the shooter in a river or a lake or something. That way I’d be in the clear. I wasn’t risking nothing, no way.
How could they possibly catch me?
I was so nervous that like a prize prick I went and got off at the wrong stop, just before the station in Yorkshire I was aiming for. I looked at the timetable on the platform, and turned out there wasn’t another train for ages. I looked at the map I’d brought with me. I reckoned that my destination was about three miles away from here. Not too far to walk, and a long relaxing walk might do me good, I reckoned, might calm my nerves a bit.
Outside it was open countryside, there were trees and fields, and I double checked the road sign to make sure I was walking in the right direction. It was beginning to get dark, and I wished I was back home, safe and secure and I’d done the deed and could put it all behind me like a bad dream.
Then, wouldn’t you know it? It started to rain. Hard. Pissing down it was, and my coat wasn’t even waterproof!
In the distance, I could see what looked like an old ruined stone building, and I ran towards it, reckoning I might be able to find some shelter there. When I got closer it seemed that it was close to a river.
It looked like a big old church that had fallen down, ‘turned derelict’ as my old dad used to say. Inside it was just a few walls, no roof, but I was able to find a corner where a stone outcrop gave just enough shelter to hide from the worst of the downpour.
I guess that I fell asleep because I was already tired out.
What woke me much later was the shouting from outside.
“Help Help! Help! I can’t swim!”
It was a woman’s voice. I leapt up and ran outside to see that it was early morning. A child was far out, in the deep water of the river, struggling and thrashing about, and she was sinking fast. The woman was wading towards her and screaming her head off.
Instinct took over. I ran across, tore off my jacket and shoes, and dived in. For a second I panicked as I swam out and couldn’t find her, felt the strong undertow pulling me out, but then I found the struggling little girl, whom I managed to haul up above the water’s surface. She was unconscious, so I lost no time in grabbing hold of her and swimming like fuck for the shore, the panicking mum joining me.
The mum and I lay the poor little mite onto the grass, but the mum was screaming and crying that it was too late. Then I remembered seeing that advert on telly with Vinny Jones, telling you to have a go at chest compressions if someone’s unconscious, so I did, pressing the child’s little chest, then opening her mouth and trying to breathe into her like doctors do on the telly.
Then, suddenly, her eyes flew open and she coughed, coughed again, brining up a lot of water, and taking big gasping breaths.
The mum was over the moon, ecstatically happy. And so was I.
“You saved her life!” she wailed out, crying her eyes out. “You saved her life!”
And I have to admit, saving someone’s life really was the most wonderful feeling in the world. I mean, it was the best, the very best, you just can’t describe how spectacular it feels. My heart kinda swelled, I started crying like the mum, and all three of us had our arms around each other, like we’d never let go.
“We’d better call an ambulance,” I suggested at last, as I pulled away. “They need to make sure she’s okay, in case she’s swallowed water or something.”
It was only afterwards, when the mum and child had gone away with the ambulance that I went back to the ruined building, and saw the little green plaque on the wall. It said: “This was once the Abbey of the order of the Whitefriars of Seville. It was said to be the site of many miracles.”
I remembered how magical it had felt to save a life. And I laughed to myself as I realised that I’d lost the gun in the river.
Because now, of course, I knew that I didn’t need it anymore. . . .
(image courtesy of Tim Hill, from Pixabay)
And this is one of the best songs ever: