View from over the shoulder

Somewhere in the mists of time…….

On a heady august afternoon, just a whisper away from a storm, music floats lazily through the open cottage window, dancing around on the gentle breeze, falling, gently caressing the ears of a man in shorts while he basks in the fading summer sun, rich gold’s and mellow hues.

Behind those closed eyes, flicker memories of a dark and troubled past, uttered on his sleeping breath are the names of those left behind many years past, on a grey and cold London morning. Now, only existing in chilling dreams, and nagging memories. They get easier as time passes, he thinks to himself, on those incoherent morning stumbles to the coffee pot,
“Still after all these years lying to yourself Dean” a voice of ethereal nothingness, gasps. Conscience? Why develop one of those at this age, never had bothered me before, ghosts of my past to haunt me? Maybe, he continues to think.
“It’s not like I don’t deserve it” he bellows into emptiness of the early morning.The dog jumps and cowers away,
“What did I do?” Is written across his sweet and expressive face.
“Not you, Cassius” Dean smiles his big natural smile, reserved only for the dog.

“Come here you daft mutt, give daddy some loving” he continues in his broad booming rough London accent. Followed by clipping claws on the tiled floor, the lolloping big brindle, all legs and tongue, the slavering boxer ambles around the wooden kitchen table, wagging the stump of a tail and with smiling eyes, wrestles Dean to the floor and slobbers.

Now, as Dean lies in the dying summer sun, Elvis humming his silken voice, he wakes with a bang, heart pounds at the back of his throat and blood pumps through his ears, the metallic taste of fear fills his mouth, lower body tingles as his scrotum hit’s the floor. His sits for a moment to gather himself, pulls a beer from the cool box, takes a long hard drag on its amber, cold and revitalising contents, belching and gasping for air, and he rubs his thinning hair.
“Their getting fucking worse, not better with time” he mumbles to no one but himself.
“Cunts” he exclaims loud and unflinching in the solitude of this lake land hide away, reclusive by necessity, not choice. The dog flinches slightly at this shout, and snuffles back down to dreams of rabbits and squawking birds. It’s not uncommon for his dad to cry out in pain and fear, upsetting, but what can he do apart from giving him love.
“Come on baby, walk” Dean Mumbles, picking up the heavy chrome choke chain.
“Need a stroll to clear my head darlin’” he justifies himself for disturbing Cassius and his afternoon slumber.

They walk, through green fields and down by the wide expanse of lake, and wonders why, it’s called a lake and not a loch, as it would be a few miles up the road across the border. A London boy at his heart of being, he misses the daily struggle with grime and unsavoury characters, but has to accept that although quiet, the vista here is very pleasant. It was a decision made many moons ago to move up here to the biscuit tin picture cottage, and although going from a somebody to a nobody was hard to come to terms with, he has made that transition, although he thinks to himself, I do miss the soft touch of a woman. They make it back just as the sky darkens in anger and the first droplets of precipitation shakes the grass and ripple the mill pond surface of the lake. As the storm he had smelled on this barmy august day releases its anger in full ferocity, blinding flashes and cracks of thunder that shake the stones and foundations of this very cottage he sits in. Sitting on a black leather sofa, out of place here, almost as though it had been up rooted from a swanky London flat by a tornado and dumped a couple of hundred mile up the country, and in essence he thinks, it did kinda happen like that.

In through an open window drifts the burning smell of electrical flashes and dust, jolting him back to a time when………………Somewhere in the mists of time Dean sits lounging on his black leather sofa, as out of place here as he is himself.
“At one time” he tells no one, but himself and Cassius. He started talking to nothingness a while back, and is just oblivious to it himself.
“I was the man south of the river” he continues, Cassius buries his head knowing this story and its end off by heart. As the storm outside rages on, with no sign it would ever blow its self out, he remembers such a storm many years ago, and rushing memories flood his mind, of the day he left London and never to return………

Here and now
As I sit and listen,
A storm of fire and brimstone rages beyond these walls,
Bringing emotions and fears from long ago,
That nightly I brick up behind doors to flimsy to hold,
Today I woke from nightmarish horrors of my past,
To gaze at fields of emerald green,
A lake of blue,
Floating like gently shaken silk,
Once revered, reviled and respected,
Now hiding from everything but my dreams,
A lifetime away from drab streets,
The disused power station reminiscent of a long dead animal,
On its back, legs in the air,
Smell of fear around every grey corner,
And now to look upon England’s green and pleasant,
Just to smell summers nature sweet and alive,
The vivaciousness unfolding of life in peace and quiet,
And here and now,
I am a changed and different man,
Viewed as a local,
No longer shied away from,
The labelled mob boss, blood no longer stains these fingers,
Just splatters across my nocturnal mind,
Biscuit tin painted stone cottage,
Puffing smoke through the winters deep,
Honey suckle and jasmine clad in fresh spring and summer,
Each perfume comforting in seasons change,
The world without me continues to turn,
And hair goes on thinning as I age,
Trying to make my peace for wrongs once done,
But how can we repent,
If given a second chance,
We wouldn’t change a thing.

As Dean continues to mutter to the emptiness, Cassius snuggles down further from the ragging storm, and considers how lucky he is to have his daddy to protect him from the raging storm outside these rattling windows. There have been times of strangeness before the move when he feared that dad may have not come home one day, an intangible fear that his mind could not get a handle on, but a genuine fear none the less. He too remembers a time when these fields of green were replaced with concrete and tarmac surfaces, on his way to the park, the only green he would see, and the only other animals with four legs were other dogs like him. Most were none to friendly, but I could always hold my own he thought.
“I love my new home” he continues, and starts to think about sunnier days of this year, running around free and doing doggy type things, that he knows why he does, but daddy does laugh and give him strange looks for, but then again, it’s nice to see daddy smile once more after the trials of the last few years.

Here and now (a dog’s tail)
Here I slumber with my daddy mumbling,
Bring back to mind colder times,
Full off my fear for him and his well being, Selfish in my own prayers for my master,
But now many years on,
We stroll in fields of green,
By lakes of blue,
Chasing small fluffy things with tails of white,
Bounding across carpets of pea green,
But never catching,
People riding bigger beasts with longer tails,
In varied colours,
From chestnut through to grey,
Like London mornings,
Of long ago,
Squawking birds who float on waters of deepest sapphire,
In a furious paddle,
Life is quiet with no comings or goings,
Just me and dad,
And a life so sweet.

“Wanna come with me on a journey in time?” Dean mumbles in a semi slumber of an alcohol induced afternoon nap.
“Come back to where it all began to change” he continues, beads of sweat form between bare flesh and the leather surface of the sofa, part cold sweat of remembering, and part due to the muggy afternoon outside. Eyes flicker and twitch as sleep falls heavy upon him, to a place where no control over emotions is possible, a time for his mind to punish this tender heart, as he writhes and squirms in total helplessness. Cassius snuggles in closer raising his dad’s body heat in discomfort, Deans last conscious thought is that he will pay for this later when he wakes, and mentally plots where the nurofen may be.

Through swirling mists of grey, his unconscious mind takes him on a familiar and much travelled journey, one he nightly makes in reluctance of a small child on his way to the inevitable injections that come with youth. There through the thinning mists an unwelcome sight of the past, the grey drab outline of Battersea power station, and thinks in slumber, welcome to my manor, this is where my story began. So come with me on my journey in time…………………………

A journey in time.
Far away in miles and time,
From this quintessential essence of Englishness,
To a place through mists and smog,
Old London town sprawls beneath this greying sky,
Where for a man like me danger lurks in darkened corners,
Where deals are done away from prying eyes,
And a man is measured by his reputation alone,
And reputations built on mankind’s suffering,
I was the man in this part of town,
Where the only known land mark is this disused power station,
And a home for dogs, as unwanted as me at the end,
For this is Battersea,
Where I once laid my hat and called home,
My parents last resting place,
Where I spilled my share of other peoples blood,
And left some of my own,
Down through this muddy earth,
Which now holds my DNA,
From hooligan to enforcer,
Petty thief to mob boss,
Where peoples painted smiles greet me,
And snarling features unleashed behind my back,
Where hands are shaken warmly,
And fingers counted discreetly,
I kept my friends close,
But enemies closer,
Sleeping with one eye open,
In a life,
Viewed from over my shoulder.

The storm rages on outside this stone cottage, Dean Jumps and flinches seemingly in time with the crashes of thunder and sparks of lightening, as though dancing in time with the percussion of a marching band. His eyes flicker with the frenzy of piranha at feeding time as images too painful to recant blast the inside of his mind, as he once again finds himself back home. Highlights of his life, a condensed version where all the pain and suffering replayed in slow motion replays, just not as entertaining as Lineker and co on ‘Match of the Day’. As the mists of memory clear, there stands a small child, snotty, sticky, short trousers and grazed knees, sporting one of his numerous black eyes, beside him stands his life long shadow, as inseparable as Siamese twins, as much trouble as Butch and Sundance, and a smile flicks across this sleeping face…
“Harry Cross” he mutters with a dozing chuckle in his voice. Cassius, pricks up his ears and with an almost audible grumble flops back down to sleep. He remembers Harry Cross, always bought him treats and gave him a lot of attention every time he came round to see dad. And in a smile that only boxers can muster, grins a grin of happier times, before the bad times. Deans memory of Harry and himself, school uniforms and bruises, takes him back to where it all started………………………….

Where it all started. Short trousers and scabby knees,
Elastoplasts skin and lollipop kisses,
Snotty noses and comic books,
This is where it all began,
Back in the day,
Running errands for twilight men,
Watching for rozzers and helping bookies,
apprenticeship of the illegal kind,
Where only the fittest survive,
Me and my shadow,
Strolling down the Alexandra Avenue,
Harry Cross by my side,
The brother from another mother,
No sibling rivalry here,
Confidant, right hand man, brother in arms,
But who led whom astray,
Kindred spirits of a violent kind,
Both with the same goal,
The man who would be king,
South of the muddy river,
Old father Thames oozing along, with sludge and slime,
Today Battersea, tomorrow,
The world.

As the storm continues to rage outside, rain lashes against the glass panes of the cottage, reverberations of thunder shaking the glass in their wooden frames, the air clearing from the muggy atmosphere of earlier in the day, to that crisp slightly chilled freshness of post storm weather, making dean feel a little more comfortable than earlier, but now moving into the realm of the cold sweat. The gentle drafts, emanating from Cassius nose as he breathes deep and slow, whisks across deans skin in Goosebumps, chilling down his body temperature just a touch. As he lays there drifting into the stage of grumbles, so common now, that Cassius doesn’t even flicker in his world of sleep and dreams. Unlike Dean, he sleeps with the clear conscience of the innocent. Deans only armour to protect himself from his conscience was the fact that men like him lived in every town in every country all over the world, some were even worse than he, but it was all just a mere smoke screen, as in later years the demons were to rage through his nights and days alike.

The devil on his shoulder whispers incessantly, recalling Deans life in the form of a body count, as the roll of honour is dripped in his ear, as a dodgy tap in the bathroom drip, drip, drip, Slow, unrelenting and unforgiving, mental blood red splashes are the imaged emblazoned on deans mind, hanging by fewer threads each day from the insanity of a perpetual drug fuelled remedy. Laid on by the head shrinking doctors, who, while unable to fix can still prescribe. His break down, looking back with hindsight, was never far from the door, alcohol used to quell his own shrieking demons in a blurred mask of inebriation, which now, looking over his shoulder to from his current perspective, of village life and the social drinking that goes along with that, was way out of control. Back then to meet in the pub at six was as much part of his working day as was his regular visit to his places of business. Upon leaving half cut at eleven pm, Harry and himself would go back to his to hatch their next plan over some of Spey sides finest single malts and a fat Cuban.

It was never easy growing up in this part of town, his parents were salt of the earth working class stock, his father always remembered the blitz in vivid tails of bombs and the ensuing treasure hunts amongst the rubble of a war torn and ravaged London. His grandmother, apparently, would entertain American service men on a nightly basis, his grandfather, whom Dean never met, had been killed on some scarlet sandy beach in France, in the allies last and conclusive push to rid Europe of the German menace. His was as well fed and clothed as money would allow, and his mother who always seemed to be washing or ironing, or even both, to earn a few extra shillings to go towards the annual trip to Southend for a fortnight. When he asked to go to Blackpool one year, it was followed by a clip round the ear, as his father started to curse those bleedin’ northern monkeys. As all young boys in his neighbourhood, he dreamed of a better life. He would see the local thugs in flash clothes, Italian suits, the then British icon of sporty cars the MG, Jags and Triumphs, wads of ‘Lady Godiva’s’ (a.k.a fivers, a.k.a £5) thick as your wrist. Harry and Dean soon realised the best way to feel the crisp crinkle of the big bluey was to run errands.

So that’s what they did, hanging around outside a boozer after dark, in this neck of the woods was never the best place to be, but they fronted it out, knuckle dusters and flick knives at the ready. They could make more in a night, than both their dads could in an honest working week, they were the cats who got the cream. Life even back then with the metallic taste of fear and tingling scrotum come night fall, were the best days of their lives, and one neither of them forgot, and some times in the local village pub, when Jenny the land lady get on the ‘old Joanna‘, and tinkles the ivory’s, he is transported back to early teens, outside the nags head, amateur music with a drunken regular singing ‘Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’ out of tune and slurred, a woodbine cigarette in one hand and a glass of Young’s brewery’s two best ales, a pint of light and bitter in the other. Even now he can taste it, although it’s been many years since his last one, red wine has now taken its place and continental lagers for those hot sunny days. In his mind’s eye he sees the hot summer sun dipping behind Chelsea bridge, casting red tinges across the rippling dirty Thames……………………………………………..

Things I did. Things I did,
When I was young,
Thing we did,
When we were young,
Snot nosed errand boys,
Drinking and smoking like grown ups,
Our initiation into life,
In to this underworld life,
Where blood, sweat and tears,
Means what it say’s on the tin,
Little did we know that in years to come,
For what price the piper would sing,
Our souls at best,
Friends and family would be its gratuity,
But here in glorious 1975,
Two boys,
Could be brothers all but four doors,
Signing on that dotted line,
The only collateral, your life,
No four week’s notice, disciplinary or sick pay,
Just the eternal contract,
We have beaten, bludgeoned, Battered and killed since those days by Chelsea Bridge,
Watching the burning Thames turn scarlet red,
A colour to stain our conscience,
A colour we would know all too well come millennium,
But for now,
We do as we are told,
Heads down and were off,
A lady in the pocket,
Crisp and blue, another tomorrow,
If we want, course we do,
And slowly sucked in by flash parties,
Money in the old sky rocket, back bin, pocket,
And we were lost,
In this black sea of woe,
Where as with John the baptise,
On a platter it would have sat,
With me, likely encased in a concrete tomb,
Stone my only overcoat,
Had my third eye been weak,
But mine was the choice alone to make,
No fear, no regrets and no remorse, I fear,
These are just,
The things I did.

“Come with me, on a journey through this haunted tunnel. The haunted house ride at the local fare, nightmarish in its gross caricature,…Horror unimaginable, blood, oh so much blood” Dean Mutters into this stone wall prison that he had thrown himself head long in to. Memories of parties, late night lock in’s and good old Q.P.R. FC, my boys, and then a warm Saturday afternoon fills the void of his mind, ten men in blue and white hoops and one in green would bring him to joy, Loftus Road, Shepherds Bush. Footie, burger, beer then pie and chips on the way home, a Saturday made in heaven. But as names of his glory boys and the scent of salt and vinegar lingers in his dreams, he descends further into darker recesses of his past, that try as he might he can’t forget. And for the past few years, while a practising recluse, how he has tried.

Back to his hey day, the 90’s. he had paid his dues, done a bit of bird, kept it shut and worked hard. He was the boss of his own firm, money was coming his way, and life was sweet. By his side the ever faithful Harry Cross, “as in what you nail people to” he always used to say. Me and ‘arry went way back, brothers we used to think we were, sweet, and no man could want a better bloke to watch his back, sturdy, unflinching and as hard as coffin nails. Together through thick and thin, me and my shadow, nice. Then, there were the parties, A-list Celebes and bubbly, fantastic. And still the money rolled in, the national debt in me back bin, fuckin’ aye. I had it all, and a solid, loyal firm to keep it that way, I never put me fingers in Jack Harrgrieves pies and he didn’t in mine. Plenty of work on either side of the river to keep us sweet, but there always has to be an ant in your sandwich on a blissful picnic, and I had mine.

Ritchie, a.k.a Rich, a.k.a Ricky, Mr Richard Parks, I could barbecue his nuts. The young pretender for my throne, I was grooming him for my replacement, fuck me, Harry was right. Anyway where were we…Oh yeah, the parties……………………………………

There I was, Dean dreams, 15 years old, Harry at my side, our reputation know all over London, bringing in a grand a week each, and in ‘75 it was ten times what me old man was on, and he had to do a full week, this was just my evening job, and the days we used to bunk off, a teacher complained, well, lets just say we sorted it. Up sparks the image of a Adidas shoe box stuffed full of cash, having to swap tenner’s for £50 notes on pay day with the boss just to keep his box from over flowing, and in his sleeping mode a smile creeps across his face, and a light chuckle which makes Cassius stir, but not really awaken, he has been here too many time before. The storm outside dissipates, the air now filled with the late August chill. Dean now laying in chilled sweat, murmurs and fidgets, as though from out side looking like he is wrestling with an invisible foe. Behind these flickering eyelids a daydreaming mind races into overdrive. Cassius gives up the attempt to snuggle with his dad and trudges off in the way only a Boxer can, heavy footed and solemn, to the empty sofa opposite his dad. He looks across from his new resting place, to see his dad is still twitching and flailing like a drunken dad at his daughters wedding. He lowers his head and lays his jowls neatly splayed across the sofa.
Dean’s sleep is briefly disrupted by the click of claws across the wooden floor, jogging deans memory of the wooden beaded curtain that hung from Bob the bookies shop doorway, as it was blown on summer breezes. Harry and me could always be seen standing outside, he reminisces, night or day, rain or shine, just waiting for a job from Max Gifford, my boss back in the day, a time of acne and squeaky voices. Max used Bob the bookies back room as his office, no names on paper, no rent, and no questions asked. It was here that after two years running errands and standing out front of the bookies, they were invited in for “a cup of old Rosie”
Once inside the office, which after coming through a grubby and dusty bookies full of loosing betting slips, fag ash and dog ends, where the smell of stale tobacco was strong enough to put the most ardent of 60 a day smokers off this evil weed, we emerged in to a well in to a well lit and very sumptuous office you would expect to find in the city, oil paintings adorned the walls and large statues were set around the room. The big mahogany desk with beautifully adorned legs, and comfortable chairs were immaculately chosen by someone with an eye for not only style, but also a view for future investments. This was an office complex set in a single room, an entire empire run from a single room, the boys were in ore. Max stood there with an out reached hand to the boys, Dean remembers the feeling, that once his tiny hand was enveloped inside this immense palm, he may never see his own hand again, almost as though it was swallowed by a great white shark, but the hand shake is greeted with an enormous smile, from the man in these parts whom can have you killed with a simple nod of the head.
They were hailed with a voice so deep and booming that it was felt in there chests as well as their ears, Max only standing at five foot five inches, it was his reputation the bought him up to seven foot six inches, Stocky, shaved bald head and eyes so intense they would mesmerise Dean within every glance, and it was that that told Dean that this is where he should be, he wanted that throne, with a passion. Dean was mesmerised by the reflection of light off his shaved bald head, and wondered in innocents who had inspired whom, thinking of his hero Kojak. This round and friendly face they now gazed upon, would not look the same if they had crossed him, of that they could be sure. In truth Max loved the two boys that sat before him, and in a half dream saw his kingdom expand with these two on board, just as his bosses all those years ago saw their empire grow with Max in the team. There was a spark of him in his younger days within them, but much more intense, these two were twins all but the fact they were from different mothers, and were six months apart.

My world. Well,
Here I am,
Finally at the top of my trade,
Weekends off,
Most of the week in truth,
Rangers, pie ‘n’ chips on a Saturday,
Life is good,
Celebrity parties,
A modern day Kray,
Little more muscle,
A lot more blood,
Oooohhhh, so much more blood,
More skeletons in this closet than Fred West’s,
And do they natter,
Far too much,
During my nocturnal hours,
But come sunrise,
Money to be made,
Deals to be done,
Scumbags to panic,
And then there’s Cas’,
Demanding deservedly so much love,
Love the little fluffy bundle,
But now for work,
Don’t you owe me a monkey,
Meet my mate Mr Smith-Weston,
He is easier on the soul than Mr Cross,
And the bones and knee caps,,
Paid in full, nice,
Got me a party tonight,
Bubbly to buy,
Celebs to charm,
Pictures in every gossip column,
I’m more A-list than half the stars,
Every one loves a gangster,
Ay, just ask Mr Sinatra,
Croon me a dance while in the arms of this young starlet,
What the missus don’t see,
The gangster don’t remorse for,
But Mr Piper must be paid,
My soul?
But I’m using it,
It’s yours,
One day,
Just not today, add it to my tab.
And so I party on,
But for how long?

Dean remembers the cigars they were offered thick as telegraph poles, and as long as your arm, the heavy cloying smoke that only time would give him a taste for, they both gladly accepted. Max played dad, and told them the ins and outs of the etiquette of the exquisite cigar, choked then felt sick, but never let on, it’s all about the reputation. Max saw, and appreciated there nonchalance, the fine smoke from a Cuban cigar was not one you made friends with on the first draw, and Max thought it may take them a few days to smoke this baby. They sat, Max talked. He offered them the world on a silver platter, tinged with blood that they were ready to spill for a life better than their parents, offer two kids from hell with a life in heaven, they would kill the world for that, and although in years to come they killed a fair few gangsters, they had a clear conscience that they were only being who they were groomed to be by Max, god rest his soul. No one knew that it was Dean and Harry that waved Max to his final rest down the Thames, well he loved the river, and he was knocking on a bit and loosing it. It was that look in Max’s eyes that would come back to haunt Dean time and time again. It was obvious to most within the circle that he lived, who was responsible for the act, at this time there was only one man who would benefit from Max’s final demise, and his shadow, their reputations so fearsome by now no one would ever dare to admit it outside a dream, even in sleep talking names were changed for fear of reprisals. T’was in the summer of 1990, rescission hit the capital with as unforgiving as a tidal wave on third world shores, even in the depths of the underworld belts had to tightened and job losses were inevitable, redundancy in this line of work were a little more permanent basis than others, and redundancy payments were made to the widow, the golden hand shake wouldn’t return the hands and the carriage clock was larger, made of wood and was buried if the corpse could be found and identified. Max could never come to terms with punters money not coming in, and to him drugs were not to be used to make up for any short falls, Dean saw it was the only thing, no matter how tight money was, people would always find the cash from somewhere for. Well that was that, Dean and Harry had to act to save their firm, and get to the top of the tree, obviously.

Olive wood table

Its was a warm and sticky night in old London town, they had invited Max up west for a Chinese and night clubbing, they spiked each and every drink, barring those in the chinky on the “eat as much as you like” deal in Leicester square, where the beer came in stubby little cans of warm Carlsberg, and with his impetuousness of tequila, by 3am he was easier to handle. His last walk came by the Embankment, across the way ten years from now would be a huge spinning wheel they would call the London eye, over priced, slow and very uneventful, but for now it was the place you could pick up a boat to travel the Thames. Dean was never sure when the penny dropped for Max, the presentation of one of the finest cigars ever made, the view of the river or the 1956 bottle of highland park they drank from, but all at once Max realised his doom, and for the first time in over ten years that Dean had seen even a glimpse of a trebling lip or tear form within these eyes. Max lifted his right arm and with his left hand fumbled with a Rolex clasp, removing it he gave it to Dean, then reaching behind his neck pulled of a gold chain struggling with them over his fat round head, placing both in Deans large palm, and with the promise
“Give ‘em to me misses, she will need the readies more now” he whispered in tones of a man lost and away in a better place. Dean could only nod in agreement as you would give any man a request at his “termination of employment” Harry had circled around behind the bench, with Max and Dean’s gaze locked in one last embrace, and in this final moment Harry’s trusty flick knife severed Max’s spinal cord just below the skull and max flopped, like a puppet with its strings cut, and a silent scream of agony, this was the look that Dean would always take with him to his eventual grave. It never was the image of blood on their hands in the moonlight, the splash as the cooling corpse hit the water, or the hushed journey home, but that silent scream.

The king is dead, long live the king
And that was that, Jobs done,
And now promoted,
To a places of power,
My word the last comment,
And my comment the final word,
Within is where the buck stops,
Many lives to furnish with prosperity,
Tayma is the oasis I lead my Persian army to,
Max saw his writings,
But ignored its heed,
And is now foolish in his demise,
I may have been sent to protect my master,
But his disguise I did not ignore,
Now to sleep with the fishes,
And I am king,
To build my Babylon as I see,
Walls to push forth,
An empire to expand,
And be wary of the sacred vessels those before me mistreated,
Never desecrate tombs I have no reason to ravage,
And be happy within my own limitations,
And be aware they may fall through foundations of sand,
Bring round me protectors,
To see beyond this mask I wear,
True confidants to confide in,
I have seen the quicksand’s of this land,
And will tiptoe around them,
When I must,
The king is dead,
Long live the king.

And that was that, Dean had reached his pinnacle at the mere age of 26, he was the boss, and nobody had the bollocks to challenge him. It had been eleven years since the day in the office at the back of Bob’s bookies, but if it had been measured in blood both he and Harry would have drowned twice over. In truth they were a couple of nasty bastard’s, no shotguns to loose your knee caps, they much preferred the silent baseball bat, and the aggression was easier to work out of teenage systems, puberty is such a bitch, good job it wasn’t PMT! From this moment forward it was to be his rules followed with the wisdom of Solomon. He had seen the pitfalls of Max and his reign, they would not be his. As with life there is always an unexpected jolt to ones journey, unless you were mystic meg, who of course knew all, not! With Dean’s knowledge of history, he had studied history, not in school obviously, but in later years as his gap of education and lust for wisdom led him to the history section in Waterstones. Dean has studied fallen empires, Egypt, Rome, Greek and of course the third Reich, he had read, and understood Sun Tzu ‘The art of war’. No matter what meticulous planning and perfect assault on weaker factions was applied, someday every great empire would fall. the simple fact was you could never account for the unpredictable sword of fate, and if you could it would be Max Gifford’s arse warming this comfy chair and not Deans.

Yes he was glad that life’s plan was not on show for all to see, he was glad that he could share all with Harry, but no one else. They both could see the future of the firm was safe in their hands and bless him, Harry was no leader. So in real terms it fell to Dean to run the business and Harry could do what he was best at, inflict pain. He was a simple creature, but the volatile temper could never be tamed, like the intrepid bull fighter, Harry was the bull whose body produced natural crack cocaine, making him hyper all the time, no wounds would ever stop this bull, except to remove its head, then bury it mile from where the twitching body laid. Harry would even head butt the grim reaper and tell him to fuck off until he was ready, hard was not a strong enough word for him, and Dean was grateful they were mates and not on opposite sides of the double edge sword, and in a word that was how it all started, by the early 90’s they were the top two dogs on this manor, and after their sacrifices to the cause, it is where they deserved to be.

The air outside in this picturesque part of the sceptred isle had cooled by a few degrees, and the early evening air was fresh to the gasp, dark clouds in the heavens suggested it was dusk, but it was still many hours from that time of the day. Dean still slumbered and twitched involuntary, his mind may have told him in the depths of his subconscious he had been asleep for hours, it had actually only been thirty minutes, still his conscience would torture him with eyes closed and rolled back. Like the morning after the night on the piss, recollections of the past nights sins come back as the day passes in imaginary punches of your mind. His life was splayed across his involuntary mind, like being at the pictures when he was a kid, lost and away in a celluloid dream, the smell of cigarettes, plastic ice cream and cheep chocolate. He, in a deep sleep, started to recollect his ascension to power, the blood, sweat and tears, the determination to be the boss, and wonders was it worth the pain and loss it was to eventually cause, then again if we could all view life with hindsight then our futures would be lived in a different vein. Dean’s mind has always told him that even after all this grief, the good times have far outweigh the bad. Life demands a price from everyone, Dean now feels he has paid in full, has he not? The dream perpetuated through the last few years, every night and afternoon slumbers, rages through his mind as the earlier storm, relentless and with an uncertain time of duration, a combination of cold sweat, chilled air and drying mouth keeps him restless but still asleep.

Back in times gone by Dean’s conscience had never bothered him, through all the mayhem, blood, beatings and assassinations. Filling the M25 bridges and fly over’s would have cost the government a lot more had he not supplied ballast so they could use a little less concrete to fill them, he would often drive around it wondering just which of his victims helped hold up which pillar, it was like a drive by reunion of sorts. Had Max Gifford not been his mentor and been as close to him, his wife would have be told he had gone away, instead of having a body to bury. It has long been Dean’s view on his chosen profession that a body would tell the rozzers more, once dead and in the public domain, than they would ever have the bollocks to do when they were alive, well the fears are gone then. Once they were dead what was he gonna do? Kill them again?. Now this is not some surreal joke of ghosts and the un-dead, just the evidence no matter how small or insignificant, that the police can glean from the corpse of a dead comrade in arms.
“I was too soft on Max” he mumbles while dead to the world Cassius perks up his ears, then settles back down.
“Max? who the fuck is Max?” he thinks. Cassius hears the name on an almost daily basis, but is still none the wiser to the identity of this Max bloke.
“Well before my time” he notes and settles his jowls back down to watch the clouds through the window turning from black through grey, he wonders if they will ever return to white today or will he have to wait until tomorrow?. Dean continues to dream, flashes rush through his mind as each new horror surfaces and he thinks…………………
“It’s what I had to do”.
“Honest” he pleads if only to his own conscience

What I had to do
My world becomes dark,
It is a free fall through my hauntings,
Spiralling through dreaming’s of memories,
Behind soft warm flickering eyelids,
And given nods,
But in needing,
I clip back these unwanted shoots,
Those that stray across my path,
These gardens I had to tend,
Keep these blooms of green in health,
Everyone wants a cutting,
Feeding through this forest,
To fuel their lives,
I am the gardener of this legacy of blood,
And advice I should have taken heed,
Be careful what you wish for,
You may just get it.

“The business” he stammers
“Its all about the business” A line he had heard Max utter on many occasions, that would in time become his mantra and one to ease a troubled mind. In a post slaughter drink or two, on more than one occasion, he would recollect and under more scrutiny than just Harry’s, was all this blood and lust worth the money they made? Of course it fucking was, he would answer himself. A lad from the rough end of town in a big house, drinking champagne and driving a Jag, what were his school boy mates doing now? More than likely in the nick or working for him. Well, what else was there to do in Battersea, paint the power station? He more than likely blew more money in a night up west, than they would earn in a month, or collect in a year from the DHSS. He had made it, not quite king of the world, but a small cog that keeps it ticking, at the very least. He had made more of an impression with his mate Harry at his side in the miniature universe of London, over the last few years than most of the kids from his school would have made in their own homes, how sad can that possibly be? he wondered in the quiet moments in the room behind the bookies, while he waited for something or other, more than likely for his rigged pony to romp home at 25-1. His life was taken up on a daily basis by people demanding decisions from him, of life and death, more often than not, although he no longer played an active part on rubbing someone out, he would sometimes go along to make sure it was done right, well he just loved the smell of gun oil and gunpowder smoke, like a thespian adores the smell of greasepaint or a chef dies inside without the perfume of wild mushroom and fresh herbs. Its just what you get used to during your own apprenticeship in a working life. He knew no other trade than one that used violence to get a means to an end, and if the end was an end to a life, so be it, it was business, no more no less. He would often go to sleep at night and see the faces of those he had hit, and would loose consciousness with a smile, the words from hill street blues ringing in his ears
“Do it to them before they do it to you” This was just the job he did to put food on the table, more Harrods than Lidl’s true, but food all the same and we all live to our means, don’t we? He drove a Jaguar XJ8 instead of a second or third hand Nissan, he bought his suits from Armani and not C & A, his shoes were hand made Italian not from Dolcies. You have to show a certain image to those below you, image is everything he thought and his public image was impeccable, he would strut it everywhere he went, but come the end of the day and his front door was closed, only then would the jogging bottoms and grubby T-Shirt come out. Image. As for the business, well it was going from strength to strength, Harry was the ultimate enforcer, he would beat you to a pulp and then ask the question, if he was wrong you then got an apology, if he was right then oh by god you would have a ring side seat for the grand opening of the M25, or as it was to become known, the orbital car park. Dean would often lean back in his leather swivel office chair and think these heady days would never end, he knew he could ask Harry to fall on his sword and he would, without a question or delay, and would gladly take a bullet for him. Harry would also tell Dean to fuck off if he thought he was making a bad decision and Dean would either do it or not but Harry was generally right. He had the best of all worlds, and as long as he didn’t step on Jack Harrgrieves toes across the water life had no reason to ever change, he thought.

Dean would always grease the right wheels, a donation to the Police widows and orphans fund, a Christmas hamper to the man at the top, a monthly bonus to the Bobbie on the beat, the odd tip for the nags or the dogs in the right ear. He never forgot the pleasantries to the right people, and in return pencils were not so sharp, eyes were a little less 20/20 and luck to be in the right place at the right time was not something that happened. Every day was Christmas to Dean and Harry, but there is always one Ebenezer at any Christmas bash, isn’t there. Although just up to now he had failed to accept the invitation, yet, Dean at least, was thankful of that. His business was never going to be floated on the stock market, never to be a fortune 500 or blue chip company, that he knew, his little firm was mentioned on the news, although never by name and never linked him for its naughtiness. It did go from strength to strength in the late 80’s and early nineties. The recession was what happened to other people and his bar chart only saw increasing size columns and soaring profits, plus he never declared anything to the tax man, that was only paid by his one legitimate company, which funded his public side, although only just. Winning betting slips would back up his more extravagant side to his lifestyle, and by Christ was he lucky!

The business. Lost within these extravagancies,
My lie at the golf club told over and over,
The outward show of success covered in a flimsy veil,
Of luck and good timing,
Confuses like a magicians slight of hand,
But within these hands I can see the blood stains,
Turning my 50’s, 20’s and tenner’s red,
A life for a monkey, pony or more,
A grand life,
Or a life for a grand?
My wallet screams of pain,
As I pay for a 19th hole drink,
Spectres faces watch in imaginary grandstand at the 18th,
And appear on every bank note I spend,
But no cheering here,
A car that roars to life in a blood choked gurgle,
But that’s just the business,
Collateral in blood soaked gems,
But a conscience clear as a spring day,
I sleep the sleep of virginity,
And loose my self in imagery portrayed.
For the outside world to gauge me by,
But tattooed through my soul like Blackpool rock,
I smile as I pass you by,
Trailing my ghosts behind,
Smiling as you pass,
But will you be next?
Is your name on my list?
As mine is on the door of all the top places,
But who’s the fool?
Fucking you,
Of course.

Dean sits back in his leather chair in the den of his London home, scratching his nuts through the jogging bottoms he wears behind closed doors, rolling a Montecristo through the fingers of his spare hand, a long drag of contentment followed by a pea soup mist of highly perfumed and expensive smoke. Just for a moment Dean wonder whether burning the £20 note it cost to buy this would give him as much pleasure as it does to smoke the cigar worlds version of a railway sleeper, and comes to the conclusion he is talking bollocks, in total contentment with his smoke and Cassius resting the front half of his body on deans lap while his back half remains standing on the floor, Dean, bemused by his reluctance to get up on his lap completely, tickles his puppy at the base of his ear, also befuddled by the fact that the daft mutt for all intense and purpose, appears to be asleep! This image of happiness, dean muses, was bought to you by death, blood and mayhem.
“Fuck me, what a fucking business” Dean chuckles to no one but Cassius and himself

Now behind every good gangster there is a strong family, and mine is no exception. I had the best, a man who would die for me, a wife, a bit on the side and never forget the fluffy bundle I called Cassius, named after the greatest boxer who ever lived. Now before I get peoples backs up about the boxing hierarchy , I call Cassius Clay or Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer who ever lived just because he was, there are many, many fighters who may lay claim to the title on power, endurance or just brute force but Ali is the greatest boxer because he had a brain to box, not just to fight, the chin to take the blows, the roper doper done to perfection. The rumble in the jungle was a done deal as far as Foreman thought, Ali on the ropes just where he wanted, bemused by his muttering of defiance, but come the last onslaught in the sixth, bam, down and out for the count, pressure builds within Dean every time he watches thinking it wont turn out the same way until, bam, Ali swings his lightening hands, bam, done deal. No poet could ever do the man justice, fast hands, the glare from focused eyes and a knowing grin as he whispers
“That all you got champ?” Never a fighter better than he before or since, a boxer of complete talent, no chinks in this armour. But I digress, he murmurs, the family, where do I start? With Harry Cross of course, the only living being he could ever trust his life with and too six foot five, eyes dark and unforgiving, built like a brick shithouse and as loyal as this bundle of fur, tongue and legs that now drapes himself across my legs. Although he was no match for Harry, pound for pound, this man if asked to jump would just reply, dry and without question, “how high?”. there has never been in all these years a doubt of his complete loyalty to the cause, and many years later and more miles away, the man that helped him escape to anonymity. When the shit really hit the fan, as it always would eventually have to, it was Harry that took the splatter full on and without regret. It was his loss that Dean blames most for these past years of sleeps haunting. His final scream to the mob baying for his blood of
“Come on you fucking queers lets be fucking ‘aving you” as blood in a fine mist sprays from where his lips used to be, not another scream from anyone else but those whom had arrived seconds sooner than the rest as he bit, bludgeoned and gouged before finally falling beneath the sea of sinew and bone, dull thuds still followed by high pitched screams of those other than Harry. Then the animal groans and grunts subside as their job finally done, as the head of the king conspicuous by its absence is sought through narrow streets and under bridges. To tell the truth and never to be told other than by the driver of this B reg Ford transit, he, me, was huddled beneath a grey and itchy blanket, sobbing of whom he had lost, not the tough guy he once portrayed and praying his life long friend would forgive him for his selfishness of self preservation, and always forgetting whom had arranged this swift and final exit from the town he loved.

This is always the first person of whom he thinks as his final days pan across his sleeping mind, but not the only one he lost in those four short weeks of his empires demise. There were many others as this castle was dismantled brick by brick, body by body, and those who once turned a blind eye to his transgressions were paid a higher price by those who sought him out, turned their backs one by one on this captain of dubious industry. Left naked of his armour and undefended by walls of stone, pillaged and raped by intruders he once shied away from, who’s toes he avoided, and now appeared to trample with no concern. Undone by one he trusted like a son but who buggered him like a nameless rapist, and gazed in to his eyes with a scent of knowing, but blinded by his adoration for a successor. And back to my family, those held within this inner circle of trust, well, there was the wife, obviously. Jenny, the love of my life, soul mate and childhood sweetheart. We have been together since I was 12, I met her on one of my infrequent days at school, I asked her for a light for my Benson, and whether it was the fact I had fags or that I could afford Benson and Hedges, I am not sure, but she fell hard for me, and when sneaking around the power station many years later we consummated our love, on a blanket of wool and rubble, and she was mine until our ends, hers sooner than mine.
Last time we spent an evening together she looked sweeter than I can ever imagine these years later, five foot six, blonde and gorgeous, dressed in a scarlet red cross over top and accentuating her immaculate and impressive bosom, we made love until the early hours, body’s entwined and moist in perspiration, warm and close, the smell of gin and chardonnay on her every breath sweet, sour and expensive, the alcohol residue of a single malt blown back to me on every breath on her naked breasts, the smoulder of a familiar Cohiba rising from an ashtray filled with menthol cigarettes, Bensons and the tail end of a White Widow joint. The rest of this story is for later.

Harry, bless him, far too wary of my reaction to tell me what was going on while I was balls deep in Kay. Kay, oh how I adored the every step she made upon this unworthy earth, unworthy of her glance, step or acknowledgement, my bit of fluff, the other woman, mistress and the real love of my life. I met Kay when she was a croupier at one of my casino’s. Terribly old hat as a story, but true, this underworld of which I live, is a cliché lived by all. There she stood, auburn hair, a thin silk cocktail dress covering this goddesses, voluptuous body, leaving this middle aged gangster to only imagine the soft flesh beneath this flimsy fabric, as if a Goosebumps would show. Eyes of mahogany to be lost within from a single glance, standing over six foot in those stiletto heels, and imagining their rasp in to the back of my naked thighs, her image the only Viagra I will ever need, have her washed and brought to my tent, I murmured in to Harry’s ear, as we chuckled like school boys in shorts and school caps, but I was serious in my intent to explore beneath the silk of that cocktail dress before tonight was out. My cheesy charm new no bounds as she toyed with my heart strings, and walked away to her car, leaving me to bash one out over the sink in my en suite bathroom as my wife slept a plasterboard width away and the television murmuring in the low hum of all-night pap. Weeks passed, lines exchanged, numbers taken, feeling that teenage tingle of excitement every time I knew she would be there to deal me cards, and take my money. Which, would obviously find their way back in to my pocket, neatly laundered and ready to use.

She knew who I was and my intentions, but with the feminine guile she played me along, week after week and month after month. There was me thinking I was irresistible, who ever said women were the weaker species? I ask you, throughout history who has held the real power over mortal men? When I finally get to meet my maker, if I could ever believe I will be going upstairs after my atrocities against mankind, I would only give you 12/10 odds on it being a woman. 3/1 that gods a man, you do the math’s. Well I eventually go to go on a date, thought she might insist on bringing a chaperone, but no. There I was, as crass as ever, condoms at the ready, balls aching as we approached her door, no invite for coffee or a nightcap, not even an offer of a warm bed for the night, just a peck on the cheek and a sweet smile. I had to pull in to the car park of Homebase and bash one out just to relieve pressure on delicate testicles that I imagined might just explode before I even reached Battersea bridge, how would you explain that one in A and E? excuse me doctor, I think my balls just exploded, help. I just was not going to let happen. Must have look like a lonely man dogging on his own!

Without getting in to too much detail, as gentlemen never tells, I did eventually get my wicked way with her, and I must say the waiting made it all the more worthwhile. There started a love affair that would continue on and on. To a point that even under the most vile of torture I would not have given her up, walked slowly over hot coals for her, she made me feel the man I wanted to be, to be able to leave the blood, guts and vengeful man at her front door. Between you and me I even thought about giving up the firm for her and just running away to be someone that, at the time, I was not.The ever perceptive Harry took on more running of the firm as he could obviously tell my eye was not on the ball, but it cost me, things were slipping and my judgement was severely clouded, the beginning of the end, Harry tells me in my dreams on a daily basis, and with hindsight, by god he was right.

Killed by Cupid’s dart. She beguiled me,
Entranced me,
Betrayed me,
A covered it up with her captivating smile,
My Helen of Troy,
Blinded to the jeopardy she brought,
This Goliath brought down by a modern day Davina,
Rather than David,
Planted by a captain held close to my heart,
My Trojan horse of sorts,
My life was lost that first night in a smokey casino,
Hidden in plain sight in glitz and glamour of Mayfair,
She led me by the nose,
As I willing stepped towards the abattoir,
For slaughter.

Harry saw through her, but the depth of the rot from within my firm remained unnoticed until too late. They came for me that stormy night, I was not home. I was in a late night drinking den in Beauchamp place, just down from Harrods, load of trendy hippies smoking weed and drinking vodka. He was finalising the deal to help an artist put on a gallery opening to showcase his art work. He had been at school with Dean and Harry, and they always kept in touch, Jez had become a very proficient artist, who Dean had felt needed a helping hand to break in to the scene. He wanted to remain as silent as a partner as he could, so as not to detract the spotlight from the art. He had told Harry he had a meeting up west, but not what it was about.

Harry had arrived at Deans to find the door off its hinges, on going into the lounge there was one of the firm charged with looking after Jenny, single shot to the back of the head, he didn’t even know what was coming. The other body guard was nowhere to be seen, upon entering the bedroom he was to find Jenny dead, she had been tortured for information, more than likely Deans whereabouts, and if harry didn’t know, then Jenny would have had no idea. In the waste paper basket where her ears, five fingers a selection of toes and her right hand. She had been disembowelled, and more than likely died slowly from blood loss than that a final mortal wound. As he looked around the room his eyes were caught by the ashtray, a Richmonds superking, with a distinctive shade of purple lipstick on a sheer white smoke, and a roll up with a filter and those brown liquorice rolling papers. It did not take Einstein to work out who had been here, he had not trusted either Kay or Ricky, he never could put his finger on it, and it had never occurred to him they were working together, he had assumed she was just after Deans cash, and may split his marriage to get her hands on it. She had not appeared to be that ruthless. Ricky, on the other hand was a slimy little prick, Harry thought, he would not trust him as far as he could throw him, he was also aware that Ricky was up to no good, but had no proof to break through Dean blindness to him. He immediately called Dean on his mobile and told him to stay right where he was, he was coming over to pick him up.

It took him just over thirty minutes to get to Dean, and once on the move he recounted the details that had led Harry to call him. Dean’s world folded in upon him, everything he heard was muffled by grief and rage. Dean often felt that if he had not demanded they go back to his house, Harry too, may have got away, but he just could not leave without saying goodbye to her. He had rescued Cassius who had been locked in the garden, he and Harry had grabbed the hold-alls that had replaced the shoe boxes for storing his ill gotten gains. These where thrown in the back of the van, and the dog, Harry grabbed the last two suitcase while Dean ventured up to see his wife.

What have I done? What have I done,
I brought this ill wind to my own front door,
For want of cheep thrills,
To massage my ego,
What have they done to you my darling wife?
You have suffered for my Sins,
Paid a heavy price to love me,
Your agonies painted across you inanimate complexion,
Torn from my life before your time,
Now I will spend the rest on my life imprisoned within your love.

Harrys voice shouted up the stairs..
“Get a shift on mate, we got company” his voice snapping Dean out of his trance, he run down stairs just in time to see half a dozen cars pull up, and occupants alight. Harry had grabbed Dean by the arm and dragged him to the van, threw him inside, slammed the door and tapped three time on the side, all the while firing 50 calibre bullets in to the oncoming crowd. The van pulled away just as Dean heard him scream for them to bring their best shots, and saw him disappearing under a sea of bodies. That was the last time he saw Harry, or London again, he guessed that Ricky and Kay had planned this, drawing Deans eye from the day to day running of the firm.
The wind caught a wooden window shutter and it slammed against the window frame, which woke Dean with a jump. His heart was racing, the dreams and sound of a gun shot had his mind in turmoil for a few seconds before he flopped back down to relax his mind…..
“Cassius, you were supposed to remind me to fix that bloody window shutter” he said mockingly to the excited beast before him. Dean got up from the sofa, ripping the bond of bare flesh from leather,
“Fuck that stings Cassius, Jesus” he said once free of the grip of the sofa, he wandered through to the kitchen for a brew, his ever present shadow clipping along behind him. As he waited for the kettle to boil he stepped outside to see the last of the rain being replaced with early evening sunlight.

“Let me have me cup of rosie, and a smoke mate, and we will go for a wander, okay?” Dean assured Cassius, but dogs have no concept of time or tea and was immediately hyper active a the mention of a ‘wander’. Dean knelt down and wrapped his arms around the dog, and got a face full of tongue for his efforts. Dean pick up the daily paper to catch up on the trial. He had seen Kay and Ricky pictured in papers, and on the news of late, their time, like Deans had come to an end. They were given the grace of a trial to plead their innocents, more than they had given to Harry, Jenny or himself. He was eager to hear all about it, and he was loving what he saw. He skulled the last of his tea, stubbed his smoke out in the ashtray, picked up the lead, and off he went with his best friend.

The air had a fresh clean smell to it since the storm and the wet grass was cold against his flip-flopped feet, making second think himself on the wearing of shorts on this walk. By the time they went through the gate on to the rolling fields beyond the chill had left him, and found the wet grass rather refreshing. They walked down by the lake and Cassius went for a paddle and a drink, as Dean splashed cold water on his still groggy face and mind. They ventured back up the hill towards home. On a emerald green hill side, tinged in orange hues, Dean stands gazing over his own piece of England’s green and peaceful land, winds with the slightest chill of the new seasons coming, grasp gently at his bedraggled mop of post nap hair. The afternoons dreams still a vivid memory, his muddy mind still slightly fogged by the usual mid-day consumption of expensive European lager, dubbed by many as “Wife beater”, he has lived with these forced nocturnal memories unleashed on him by a tattered and torn mind, they never get any easier, but he lives with them with a degree of acceptance.

The late summer suns journey below the horizon slowly comes to its end, throwing deep purples, reds and on its outer most fringes fresh clear orange. Cassius sits quietly and obediently at his masters side, to passers by it might even be construed that he too was watching the setting sun and who can tell, he might be doing just that. Their forms slowly turning into silhouettes on the rolling hillside but never to the locals an unrecognisable couple in this part of the world they now call home, the only secrets they carry is their past and that can be said of anyone in their new adopted homes. And, as the sun finally disappears until its roam across the sky begins again come day break, Dean utters to no one in particular,
“Hell, as John Paul Sartre once said,” he mumbles to Cassius and himself alone in the dipping of the sun,
“Is other people”

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