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Friday, 8 October 2010

Sample Chapter from Novel: Through Hell and High Water


Through Hell and High Water

By Alex Laybourne






PART I


DEATH



To sad humanity alone,(Creation's triumph ultimate)The grimness of the grave is known,The dusty destiny await . . . .Oh bird and beast, with joy, elance Effulgently your ingorance!Oh man, previsioning the hearse,With fortitude accept your curse!

Dark Truth by Robert Service



Marcus Fielding looked at his watch, he was half way through his shift, the last one of his current round of shifts., and also the last shift before his three-week vacation. It was to be a sort of second honeymoon. He and his wife had been together twenty years the previous April, and had never been away just the two of them. They had always had at least one kid tagging along, first the twins, Erica and Bryony then came Roger and finally little Marcus Jr. Not that Marcus cared, his kids were his life and he would do anything for them.

He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand; carefully replacing his cap once he was finished. It was the middle of July and the temperature had been stuck in the low thirties for over two weeks already, and the new bullet proof vests they had been issued with made him lose fluid quicker than he could take it in. All in the name of safety the duty sergeant had said. ‘Easy for him to say’ Marcus had grumbled along with all the others in his section at the end of their first shift. There had actually been a queue of people by the toilets waiting to wring their shirts out before putting them in their bags.

“One more round then I’ll head back to the car. I’ll meet you there.” He spoke into his radio using another recent addition, the covert earpiece and microphone.

“Ok, I’m done up here anyway. There’s nothing going on. It’s too hot, everybody’s down at the beach.” A young voice answered him, typically optimistic, his love for the job still passionate and unbridled.

Simon Dillings had been on the force for almost three months, and was the lucky protégé of Marcus. That was why he had been clocking so much foot patrol. No only di it bump him up over quota, but it was a tried and tested method of breaking a rookie in,showing them its not always gunfights and car chases like you see in the movies.

“Lucky them. Well we’ll head in for some grub and then you can impress me with your paperwork skills again. How’s that sound?” Marcus asked grinning wildly as he pictured Simons face drop, his glasses slip down his nose and his mouth screw up, pursing his lips together in a way that made him look constipated. Marcus liked the kid, he was a good honest guy, and he would go a long way.

“Boy, sounds like a party. You really are spoiling me today aren’t you.” The voice answered back, a little bit of attitude finally beginning to crack the ‘good-boy’ rookie shell.

The town centre was pretty quiet, with the age demographic definitely favouring the slow moving older citizens, who idea of causing trouble was whispering about someone in the local bingo hall or bridge club meeting. Deciding to cut his route short, Marcus turned left at the midway point of the high street and entered the covered shopping arcade. It had just been renovated a couple of weeks before, but the local youths had already managed to ‘tag two walls with vibrant paint and even more colourful language. Truth be told Marcus was surprised it had taken them that long. The town wasn’t known for being the most picturesque place in the country, and with a high unemployment rate benefit claimants were flocking there in droves, with council estates springing up wherever there had once been a bit of green ground for kids to play on.

Unlike Simon, Marcus had lived in the town his whole life, and had watched as it slowly made the transition from a small coastal Enlgish town, to a place the size of a city, and now it was on the cusp of linking up with the three surrounding towns that were slowly suffering the same fate. Marcus knew it was only a matter of time before someone raised the idea of combining them all.

Easterton had once been nothing more than a proud and well-respected fishing village, which grew as the industry it housed did. Then over night the fishing moved away, takig the majority of the jobs with it. Yet the people had stayed, they were settled, had families and so the next generation of emploment came along., Factories rolled into town, offering short lived salvation to the locals. Sadly the eternal quest for cheaper labour and longer hours played its part and slowly they were once again made redundant to make room for the immigrants who were not only more than willing to work, they were perfectly happy to do so for a much lower remuneration.

Marcus knew first hand what a crappy place the world was, and that was in part why he decided to join the police. He wanted to be able to say the neighbourhood was slightly safer for his kids to grow up in. It was a loosing battle, he knew that, but he had never been one to just cover up and take the abuse.

Marcus noticed that three shops had decided not to open at all today with signs in their windows advising potential customers of the temporary closure as a result of the near unbearable hot weather of the previous few days. They were small, family run establishments selling leather bags, another sold hand made cards for all occasions– or so the sign in the window claimed –The last was a craft shop, its window filled with knitting patterns, wool of every colour imaginable lined the back wall as if it were where God had made his Technicolor Dreamcoat.. None of them would see the end of the year. It was a sad fact, especially in Easterton, that no small business could compete with the bigger companies, many of whom were part of international consortiums now.

Stopping, Marcus bent down and grabbed an empty disposable drinking cup and threw it in the bin that was about half a meter away. He didn’t like litter; it was pointless in his eyes. He whistled to himself as he moved further along, no song but just a jaunty tune that seemed to grow in his head.

His stomach growled noisily, stopping him instantly. He had skipped breakfast that morning, and he knew he was going to be made to regret it. He patted his trousers, and the pockets of his vest, and then the pockets of his sweat sodden shirt beneath. Nothing, his wallet, he saw in a flash image, was still on the small table beside his bed.

“Bollocks” He muttered under his breath. He looked at his watch, he would eat when they got back to the station that wasn’t a problem, he would lend a fiver from Leslie Granch, he still owed him from the football result the week before. Marcus’s frustration was more due to the knowledge her had acquired over the years thatthat whenever he was caught unprepared, something always went wrong that would delay him somehow.

He paused by the window of Budget Gaming Supplies, looking at the rather poor selection of games on display. The new Boxing Academy game was out he saw it in the back corner against the wall. The objective of it was that you took a boxer, and trained them up, with a diet programme all the way through to setting specific workouts and guide them through a career. He didn’t really play games anymore, hadn’t since he left school if you don’t count the times he played with his children. Yet that was one he loved and always bought when it was released, irrespective of how much he actually planned on playing it. Having been a boxer himself before joining the force he supposed he had an interest in it that wasn’t strictly spectator based. He had been a light heavyweight with a lot of potential if the people back then were to be believed. He had a record of 21-0 with 18 knockouts. A title shot had been promised to him by his manager Walter Whitney, a small reptilian looking man with the cold beady eyes of a shark and a temper to match. He had been Marcus’s manager from the beginning, ever since he had first spotted him sparring at the local fitness centre. He had been big and fast and even as a young rookie had had the power to stop any other fighter in his gym. He had been described as the perfect mix of George Forman and Joe Fraser with his raw power yet graceful style, and as he matured so did his boxing.

Yet sadly it had all begun to crumble around his ankles one afternoon a matter of days after he had knocked out the number one contender to the WBO title inside of 5 rounds, and Walter called him up to the office. Marcus had expected a title offer would be bounced around but not so quickly.

He remembered it like it was yesterday, a fact helped by his regular repetition of the tale at the many gatherings he attended It had become almost a trademark party tale, one that could b rehashed as often as required without getting stale. Of course his children had also loved it, still did or at least so they told him. He had only come into the gym to pick up his running shoes, and then he had gotten chatting with some of the other fighter who had been milling around waiting to start training, when Big Joe, one of the trainers came across and summoned him up to the office. He looked up and saw Walter’s shadow looking down on them from behind the dirty glass. He wasn’t alone; someone else was up there. Marcus couldn’t think whom, his mind really wasn’t thinking about his next fight, let alone a shot at Virgil Hill the current Light Heavyweight champ.

Yet despite the strange feeling that rumbled in his gut like a hunger pang, Marcus ran up the stairs, taking them two or three at a time, buzzing past the dusty photos with randomly taken pictures or newspaper clippings covering boxing events and fellow pugilists going back to the days of bare knuckle fights held on the fishing docks. He had spent years staring at them, reading them all while he waited for the ring or a heavy bag to free up.

Marcus stopped himself just outside Walters’s office, running this fingers through his then thick and busy hair. He hadn’t shaved for a week or so and the thick stubble was threatening to become a beard if he didn’t act quickly. Bracing himself, Marcus rapped firmly on the office door and walked in without waiting for the invite.

Inside Walters office was almost as run down as the outside of the gym. The walls hadn’t seen a lick of paint in years, probably not since before Walter had bought the place. The single light was just a bare bulb that hung loosely from the ceiling, its fixture long since vanished into oblivion. A thick layer of grey green cloud hung in the air from the constant stream of cheap cigars that Walter insisted on smoking. Lighting one was the first thing he did each morning, and the glowing embers never left his mouth until he went to sleep at night.

He had died of lung cancer at the age of 63, an age that everybody who knew him was amazed he ever reached at all.

The eyes in the room turned to face Marcus, and the bad feeling (which to until his last days on earth continued to creep over him every time a bad call came over the radio,) rumbled his stomach again. Louder this time.. There were three men in the room, and none of them were recognizable as being on Hill’s payroll. Walter had ushered him inside and offered him a seat. The three strangers were wearing expensive suites which hugged their giant steroid enhanced muscular frames like spandex. While their ‘business’ attire may have been stretched taut to the point of ridiculousness, they still cut an imposing figure that even Marcus respected from the moment he laid eyes on them.

“Listen Kid, you fight good, but to get the champ you gotta let him think he can win. D’ya understand?” Walter croaked, his voice deep and scratchy from a lifetime of tobacco.

Marcus was only young then, a real talent in the boxing world, but naive to the workings of the real world. He had nodded, what he heard made sense. He just hadn’t heard what was really being asked of him. There and then plans were drawn up for him to fight Aleksander Papp, a young German fighter, who had an good reputation but was struggling to find contention for a belt because of his nationality and the fact his trainer was a Russian defector.. Everything moved quickly from the moment Marcus sat down, and before he knew what was going on his hand was being clutched by the sweaty powerful grip of all three strangers in turn. The fight had been arranged and dates confirmed he would later realised before he had even arrived, and his presence was actually a matter of unimportant coincidence.

Tensions had begun to rise in Marcus’s camp eight weeks before the fight. He felt as though he wasn’t being put through his paces enough, and after several heated arguments he started to work out himself in the garage of his flat. Walter kept telling him that the fight was more of an exhibition, just to get the champs teeth chomping. Marcus, foolish and young had believed him.

It wasn’t until three days before the fight, that Marcus began to get a feeling of what was happening. He cornered Big Joe one day after training as he was locking the place up. Joe was about 40 kilos over weight and sweated profusely just climbing into the ring, and despite his name and appearance, was one of the kindest men Marcus had even known. He bread racing pigeons and enjoyed tending to his own allotment whenever he had the chance.

Joe had crumbled like a baby before Marcus had even started to ask him any real questions. He told him that he was being deliberately poorly trained to make the fight harder for him. To make him really have to work. He had actually started to sob when he confessed to knowing what was happening all along, and then in between repeated apologies and nose snorting he said that they were all trapped in something much bigger than they could understand. Some big time mobsters from London had already bribed the referee to make sure that the German won no matter what he had to do.
Marcus stopped in his tracks; his heart was pounding as he looked around the shopping arcade. He could have sworn he heard something, but he still got worked up when he remembered that incident. It had robbed him of his future and he would never forgive Walter, not even if he stood between him and the very fires of Hell. It wasn’t about being the champ; it was taking away from him what he loved, the disciple and also his faith in people. Boxing made the world a simple place, you were given an opponent, you trained hard, looked after yourself and then you either won or lost.

Once Big Joe had finished apologising and offering promises of redemption that included all the fresh vegetables he could eat, Marcus stormed straight into the local bar where he found Walter in the lap of some local woman for hire. Marcus ripped the freshly lit cigar from his managers mouth and after pulling him to his feet, stuck him with a lightning fast jab – right cross combination that sent Walter flying into the table behind him snapping it two and upsetting the two large tattooed men who were the occupants.

Marcus had walked away and never spoken to Walter again. He had turned up to the fight, determined to do it on his own. “Fuck the consequences” he had told Big Joe in the dressing room. Walter hadn’t been foolish enough to show his face. His nose had been broken and a further slapping from the bikers he had upset put him under self imposed house arrest for several weeks.

The fight began quickly, the German opponent clearly in the know about what was planned and so just came out swinging. It really didn’t matter to him.

Marcus survived the first few rounds with little damage. It was easily obvious that while his opponent was a good fighter, he wasn’t a killer. He lacked the look in his eye and the ruthlessness in his gut to really move in and pile on the hurt if his man refused to fall from the heavy blows. During the later rounds Marcus’s mind remained unfocused, his fire forgotten, perhaps somewhere in the dressing room. His long-term girlfriend was ringside; he looked over to her for inspiration at the end of every round. It was the beginning of the seventh when he suddenly remembered where he had seen the people sitting either side of her before. They were large shaven headed gentlemen wearing sharp and expensive looking business suits, and they had been present at the pre-fight weigh in, whispering with Papp’s trainer and management team. By the end of the eight round, Marcus saw the two men stand and walk away, his wife was in tears, her caramel coloured face had paled and she looked like she was about to pass out. Her lips had blended in shade to fit with the rest of her, while her eyes were expressionless. He looked at her, with his left eye beginning to swell shut from a well-placed series of blows, but she wouldn’t look at him. She simple sat staring straight ahead her expression on similar to the abused women who he would later take statements from on a regular basis. She cried; he had never seen her cry before, but she had tears welling up that just couldn’t be held back any longer.

As he rose for the eighth round, Marcus knew what was happening, but he didn’t know what to do. It was a strange feeling walking out for what he knew would be the last few rounds of his career. He was going to go down swinging, win loose or draw the kraut would have to beat him. He told himself this, and believed it in that moment, he believed it in the aftermath of it all, and deep down he still believed it to his dying day.

His wife never did tell him what the large man in suits had told her, only that he didn’t need to know. It didn’t matter and that it was all over with now that he had given up the ring. They had planned on moving away, to start a new life together away from the corrupt nature of the sport that no matter what length of retirement was put in the middle, Marcus would continue to love, and miss. None of them ever really spoke about it, but both knew that had he been single, Marcus would have carried on fighting simply because he loved it, and wasn’t the type of person to tuck tail and run. No matter what the odds.

Marcy, whose real name was actually Michaela had been the one who suggested Marcus try for the police. She was five years older the Marcus was and already been a member of the force for 3 years. Her father had been a cop and she had always wanted to follow in his footsteps, to make him proud of her, and she had succeeded by simply being accepted and he had told her exactly that.

Marcus applied, spurred he would reflect in later moments by the events that surmounted to the effective murder of his boxing career. He was accepted almost before he had completed the application form and passed the physical test with flying colours, breaking the course record in the sprint and number of push up he completed in one minute. A staggering 70 the instructor had dubbed it that night over drinks in the training centre bar.

Marcus loved the force, even on the hot summer days, but he could never fully forget the thrill of the fight either. It was something that was part of him, and he knew it would haunt his dreams for the rest of his days. In fact, for years he was plagued by the same recurring dream. He was back in the ring, back fighting Papp, and he was winning. The German’s face was broken open and bleeding, his nose shattered, left cheek swollen so badly his left eye looked as if it had simply been erased from his features. They were in the last round, always, and he was unleashing on the German. He had him trapped in the ropes and he was about to fall. Marcus would glance over that the clock and see he still had just under a minute to knock the guy down in. He knew he wouldn’t get up, and so planned on taking his time. Then out of nowhere the bell began to sound, it rang and rang, Marcus stopped punching and looked around and that was when the German unleashed his lucky shot, and just as the punch hit Marcus would wake up. The ringside bell would melt away and become the howling impatient cry of a baby woken from sleep. He own body shaking from the cold caused by the sweat that covered him and soaked his sheets. His blood would be pumping, his whole body tense, he would jump out of bed in a state of confusion each time, utterly lost until it all slotted back into place one piece at a time.

He hadn’t realised how deep he had been in the daydream until the ear-piercing cry of a young baby finally pushed its way through the image, sounding like someone scraping their fingers down a blackboard; attempting to get the attention of the whole class.

He turned around; a small crowd had gathered inside the covered promenade predominantly elderly couples, sitting hand in hand on the various benches that were scattered at seemingly random intervals. He scanned the centre; his brow once again plastered his sweat. His eyes stung and he felt his pulse increase without warning. His stomach lightened, butterflies spread their wings inside his organs and began to patter against him. He felt his stance change; he came up onto the balls of his feet, ready to move . . . ready to rumble, it was instinctive, he hadn’t ever thought about it. It happened before he ever really heard what was going on, Marcus could almost sense it, his instincts as a fighter able to evolve from sensing where a punch was going to come from into a danger detector that was more often than not correct.

Marcus reached for his radio to alert his protégé, but stopped his hand half way, by the time Dillings got there, even with his rookie over-enthusiasm Marcus would have taken care of it. It wasn’t like he was dealing with a riot.

He looked around and saw the couple that were responsible for the scene he was about to become a part of. A young woman, too skinny for her height, for most heights actually, although it was especially obvious on her frame was she was above the average height. Graham would have guessed that she was around 5’10”, although she was standing with her back to him. Her strawberry blond hair fell greasily against her shoulders, she was wearing a tank top that showed her bony protruding shoulders and the tribal based tattoo that traced a spiral path down her left arm beginning on her shoulder and dancing its way around her skinny frame ending at somepoint just below her elbow. It’s design was somewhat distorted an obvious side effect to the weight she had lost since its initial application. She was wearing a denim skirt that was only just long enough to cover her hipless waist, revealing skinny legs that were bruised and covered with veins that by the time she hit forty would resemble a detailed road map of the British Isles. She was tottering on a pair of high heels that made her even taller, and off to one side was a rough looking pram, which was wobbling as the occupant continued to scream.

Marcus was busy looking at the pram, wondering why the mother wasn’t responding, nor the person she was with, when he saw her head snap backwards, sharply cutting off to the left. The woman fell backwards, stumbling on her heels as she fell to the floor, turning as she did. Marcus saw that her face was bleeding, her lips broken and sore, her left eye was beginning to swell closed, and her desperate look told him it was par of her everyday life. Her skin looked dead, stretched taut over her rake-thin frame. Her large breasts swung restrained beneath her yellow summer inspired tank top, and their size in relation to the rest of her frame and their lack of gravity defiance told Marcus two things. One that the baby in the pram was probably hungry, and two it was very young, probably a matter of weeks old; this thought was confirmed by the sagging post labour stomach which took a while to recover, and on most women doesn’t look anything unusual. However on a frame as obviously malnourished as this woman, it shone out like a distress flare on a clear night at sea. The other clear giveaway with regards to the age of the child were the two large and dark wet stains on the point of each breast, where the milk had built up to the point that they were about to burst open like a bad implant.

“Hey!” Marcus heard himself shouting, firing off a warning shot, announcing his presence and also letting other know that something was going on and that they should watch out.All thoughts of calling his partner gone. He wouldn’t ever get there in time.

The lady, who Marcus saw when he was close to her, was younger than he had presumed, early twenties at best was crying, cradling her right arm, which she had fallen on. The man backed up slightly as he saw Marcus come striding towards him. His head immediately began to look around for a way out.. He was a large guy, almost the same size as Marcus himself although he was less muscular and more wiry, he had a lean quick look about him, and equally as black, in fact it he had been in possession of a large Afro Marcus would have believed he was looking through time, back at a younger image of himself, or rather what he would have been had boxing not rescued him from the trouble filled neighbourhood and social circle has was immersed in. The one problem about growing up in a small fishing town was that there was very little in the way of entertainment, especially once the industry died, and so Marcus had turned to the streets, hanging around with the kids from school, and great number of them he had busted himself during the years that had since past. The man in question was bald, his head shaved unlike Marcus’s own natural look, he was wearing a white tank top that showed his muscle covered body, arms decorate with all manner of tattoos, that wound from his wrists up to his shoulders and presumably from the patterns they continued beneath his clothing onto his chest and neck. He had a flat face, his nose showed signs of being broken more times that was healthy, while his forehead had a long running horizontal scar that when it had first been inflicted doubtlessly bled like a broken fire hydrant. His eyes were cold, emotionless and even in the bright light of day looked almost black, like a sharks. His jaw was clenched, face painted with anger so thick it couldn’t have simply been because this girl said something he didn’t agree with.

Marcus bent down to the girl, the guy was standing back, square on to them, and his hands were unclenched hanging loose at his sides. He still made Marcus feel exceptionally uneasy but it was too late to change his mind now. The course of fate had been set on its way and they were all buy pawns caught in its undercurrent.

“Are you okay?” Marcus asked reaching out to the young woman. She was trembling and had an odour about her that Marcus knew all too well, it was the stench of addiction. Her arms were filled with tract marks, and bruising from where she had obviously taken several hits at the same time. Her nose upon closer inspection was red and sore, and her teeth were yellow and looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in a long time.

She looked up at him, her eyes bloodshot with tears. Her face was desperate and it physically pained Marcus to look at her. She nodded at him, a small movement but she averted her eyes, she couldn’t look at him, and he knew why. She looked over her outfit again and it all becomes clear to him. They weren’t a young dysfunctional couple in love, far from it. It was the dirty look of her clothes, and the look in her eyes that she was a young girl trapped in a mistake she had made and now could not find her way back from.

“Hey Pig, get the fuck away from my girl alright?” A powerful voice boomed from behind him.

Marcus rose and turned, ready to face the man, but was more than a little surprised when he saw how close they were. Standing almost nose-to-nose, the hot acrid breath filled Marcus’s face and made him want to gag. The man was high; Marcus could see that, his eyes were unfocused, moving from place to place as if only moments before each had been given a double espresso.

“Listen, I don’t want any trouble, so please, take a step back and tell me what’s going on around here.” Marcus spoke calmly, looking the man directly in the eyes. He tried to talk through the drugs, through the rage that was bringing the red curtain down on the show, trying to reach the person who was buried deep down inside somewhere. No matter who it was, or what they had done, conversing with a clean mind was always easier than dealing with the unpredictable nature of a drugged on. Behind him, Marcus could see the girl was trying to stand, reaching desperately for her baby, although she was nowhere near close to grasping the prams handle.

“Yeah, Well stay outta my face, leave the woman along and get out ‘fore you get into trouble pig.” Anger flashed in the man’s eyes, he smacked his teeth and began to sway from side to side; shifting is weight from on to the other. Marcus took a step back, it was apparent the man wasn’t going to.

The man moved, tracing Marcus’s movements, and it was enough to put him on edge. He was nervous, but in too tight a spot to reach for his radio. He knew then that this was going to turn physical, he looked directly into the man’s eyes and for a second he was gone, and in his place was a twisted featured ghoul, the skin a pale green almost gre, it looked waxy. The eyes were large round discs of black, its nose squashed almost flat against the face like a Persian cat, and the mouth was cocked in a wry smile evealing blackened teeth and a rotten tongue that insisted on darting out to taste the air like a snake. Marcus closed his eyes and shook his head slightly like fighter getting up from a sneaky knockdown and the image was gone..The man had advanced slightly, changed his stance to a more bladed one, and his breathing had become much shallower. He found a reassurance inall of the signs he was reading, because although the man was big, Marcus knew he could take him if it came to fisticuffs.

“Hey Bitch, I told you to stay on the fucking floor. The man strode forward suddenly focused not on Marcus but the woman. He struck quickly, pushing the girl back to the floor and lashing out with a heavy work boot. Marcus jumped in between, easily manhandling the man and pulling him away from the young woman. The kick hadplit the girl’s lips, opening up a deep slice on both parts of the set that sent a dark rich looking blood pouring onto the titled floor.

“Right, you’re under arrest.” Marcus began, pushing the man back forcefully to give himself time to reach for his cuffs.

A small crowd had gathered now, mostly elderly people, although a few members of staff had come to see what the commotion was all about, carefully positioning themselves far enough back to avoid having to be looked upon to help, or even feign an interest in lending a hand.

Marcus moved quickly, grabbing the man and twisting his arm behind his back. “You don’t have to say anything, but anything you do say…” Marcus had the cuff wrapped around the muscular wrist and was reaching for the second when the man threw his head back. It didn’t hurt because Marcus wasn’t standing square on, but it gave the man an angle and he wrenched his arm free and with one quick movement spun around, and punched Marcus in the stomach. The small area between the bottom of the safety vest and his belt, and area that was designed to be exposed simply to allow for a bit of mobility while wearing the bulky, heavy uniform. Marcus stumbled backwards, doubled over the by the blow. It was the girl that screamed first, her voice becoming instantly hysterical, her cries nothing more than nonsensical babblings from a mind teetering on the edge of oblivion.

Marcus felt faint, woozy and nauseous, his stomach throbbed and when he pulled his hands away to grab the man who was now going down for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. Marcus wasn’t sure which he saw first, the red, dripping blade that the man held menacingly in his clubbed hand, or the copious amounts of blood that covered his own hands and lower arms. Where did that come from? He never had a knife, Marcus asked himself. It’s a flicker, look at the blade He did as his inner voice told him and saw that the knife was probably hidden in a sleeve or pocket all the time. Damn He said, to himself, and quite possibly aloud. His mind was beginning to leave the state of clear thinking, the implications of the rather dramatic turn of events was beginning to set in along with the deep seated pulsing in the centre of his abdomen.

“Y ….You …. s.s.s.son of a bitch” Marcus spoke, his world getting hazy, his legs loosing their strength just as if he had been stung on the jaw in the ring. He reached out to get something for support but found nothing. He fell backwards, tumbling to the floor while everybody looked on mumbling and gossiping with each other, but not actually doing anything about it.

“Should ‘a stayed out pig. Fucking cops.” The suspect, the man Marcus knew now was his killer was bouncing around from foot to foot, filled with a nervous energy. Beside him he heard the young woman scream, begging for her life no doubt.

“Please, don’t hurt my baby. I’ll do what you want. I’ll go back out there tonight. I’ll give you all of it, just please, don’t hurt my baby” She pleased and sniffled, choking on the worlds that were spewing from her mouth in a constant stream.

“What, oh now you wanna work. Well whose gonna want to fuck you now? You’re a bigger mess than usual Becky. Jesus.” He snorted at her.

Marcus was feeling groggier by the second, his body numb now, the blood pooling around him like a warm bath and for the first time in several weeks Marcus shivered with cold.

“No, I can work, I promise, I’ll give them all something special, get extra cash from em, please, come on baby, please.” The girl, Becky, was now on her knees, begging in the street like woman who had run out of options, while all along the baby continued to scream.

“You really care so much about this fucking brat. I mean it does nothing but fucking scream and cry, I mean how often do you need to slap that thing on your tits every day. Just do it once and leave the fucker, maybe you’ll be looking normal again one day this century. I mean look at it. Have you ever really looked at your kid?” He asked her seriously.

“Yes, please don’t hurt my baby. Somebody, help please.” She appealed to the audience who were by now – the younger ones at least- beginning to reach for their cell phones.

“Really, cos I don’t think anyone could love a thing like this, fathers looks and your brains or something, I mean.” He stopped then and began to reach into the pram, the baby cried harder and more frantic instantly.

“Hey you leave her alone.” A voice called out from the crowd. Marcus had no idea who it belonged to. His eyes were closed, or at least he thought they were because he could no longer see anything,

There were sounds of a struggle, grappling, followed by a clattering sound as the knife was dropped. Marcus tried to move, he had to try and stop the man, he was a cop after all. He dragged himself; somehow, fumbling on the ground but just couldn’t go any further. The newcomer cried out in pain, a hard thumping sound obviously a fist or some other body part colliding followed this as the man fell to the floor.

While this skirmish was going on Becky had risen to her feet and made a b-line for her child, grabbing the pram firmly and running away.

“Where you going baby. We aint finished talking here.” The black man reached out grabbing the end of Becky’s greasy blonde hair, he pulled on it roughly, removing a large chunk but still with enough backward momentum to pull her over. The pram came rolling back, the child inside hysterical, as was its mother. “Shut that monster up woman.” He snapped, loosing control now, his head was thumping, voices singing out to him in a chorus of song that had been driving him mad for years. He clamped his hands to the side of his head and began to claw at his ears, as if trying to pull out the noise. Becky rose to her feet once again, but she didn’t run away. She watched in dumbfound horror as her pimp, Deejay Afité drew blood scratching away the inside of his ears and the side of his head where they were attached. “Shut up. Shut the fuck up!” He called out, turning towards the pram, his eyes wide with rage. In one strong movement he grabbed it by the base and threw it through the air, flipping it over, spilling the well-wrapped child onto the floor. Deejay collapsed onto his haunches momentarily as if trying to catch his breath. He clapped his hands against the side of his head and began to drive the fingernails of each digit into his skull, pushing and then scratching with all of his strength as the voices continued to scream inside him. When suddenly, like a rain shower passing they left, and while he rose to his feet he became aware that he had never craved the urge for a fix as much as he did at that one moment.

Everybody gasped, and now people came running to help. Marcus heard it all, clearer and clearer as his heart began to slow, the heavy pulsating rhythm becoming irregular and weak.

Becky watched her child fall in slow motion, her own movements slowed from the years of mistreating her body, yet spurred on by the empowering forces of motherhood. She leapt for the baby, crawling over the floor to get to it.

“Leave it be Bitch. I want to see what the little fucker does.” The man snapped, but Becky ignored it, she kept crawling, or so Marcus pictured in, hearing the man bark at her to get up, save being on her hands and knees for later on. When Marcus finally passed out it was to the rolling credit music of approaching police sirens, and as he took his last deep breath he forced his mind back, away from the nightmare scene that had snuck up on him, and picture his wife and his kids, he picture the holiday they had taken about 7 years ago, they had gone to the beach for a day and had run around in the surf, played football and Frisbee and all manner of beach games, the day had ended with a BBQ in the sand before heading back to their small rented cottage just a couple of miles up the road. It was a sickeningly perfect day,o one which had Marcus not been there to experience first hand, would have vehemently argued was only possible in movies or imaginations.

By the time the police and resulting ambulance arrived, the man had fled, although he was caught a few miles up the road, covered in blood, still brandishing the knife that he had remembered to pick up from the floor. He left behind him one dead police officer, a severely injured infant and a critically injured young women, who bled to death as soon as the ambulance crew rolled her onto the trolley. He face had been trampled on and half crushed, along with her rib cage. The resulting post mortem showed investigators that she had died from massive internal bleeding, and the CCTV footage told the story sufficiently to sentence the killer, even without the eyewitness reports that all confirmed how the young lady had begged for her life as Deejay Afite repeatedly stamped on her chest and head, even in her dying moments they all clearly stated that she screamed for him to leave her child alone, she had shielded the infant with her body as best she could, but some of the blows from his dancing feet had hit the baby silencing its cries….only temporarily.

The two bodies where stored together in the mortuary, the only occupants that day, they were buried on the same day, one drawing a big crowd, the other just a handful or mourners who turned up on call to see an unnamed woman committed to the earth. Nobody could even hope to understand why they had died, or what an impact it would have on everything.

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