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*** Quick note! Many people reviewing this have said it's grim reading. It is. But it is in three parts. This first part is Roy's addiction, the second is a spell in prison, the third is redemption and recovery. Enjoy, thanks!
When Roy Walden woke up and saw the dawn filtering through the torn blanket he used as a curtain, he groaned and closed his eyes again. But with the need on him, he sat up, rubbed his face and looked around. 'Fuck me.' He dragged himself to the corner of the room, lifted a floorboard, and took a bundle from under it. Inside the bundle was a syringe, a spoon, and a small bag of pink powder. From a milk bottle, he poured some of water into the spoon, tipped some powder in, and lit two matches under it. Once the powder had dissolved into a brown bubbling liquid, he rolled up his sleeve, wrapped a belt round his arm, and poked at what remained of a vein in the crook of his elbow. After pumping his wrist, he pushed the overused needle through the skin. Dark blood rose into the head. The memory of the lava lamp his Mum used to have came into his mind. He’d watch it for hours as a kid. When the memory faded, as it always did, he pushed the plunger down. As the warm glow of Chinese heroin flooded his system and wiped everything away, he flopped back onto the mattress. All his problems were solved for the time being. But Roy would to get his act together. Like everyone else in this world, he needed money.
Once he'd put paraphernalia back under the floorboard, he opened the door and stumbled downstairs. A drunk flopped on the landing groaned as Roy moved past him. Even in the condition he was in, Roy still caught a whiff of the rank alkie's smell.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Roy pulled a corrugated sheet to one side and squeezed through. He winced in the bright morning sunlight, and stumbled through the overgrown garden. After pausing for breath, he climbed over a low wall and dropped onto the pavement below. A distant church chimed seven. Roy scurried along the deserted litter-strewn streets to a café where no one cared who he was.
After ordering a milky coffee, he sat down by the window. When Curly entered the cafe, Roy looked the other way.
‘How ya doing, Roy?' Curly said.
‘I’m OK Curl. You?'
‘Yeah man, cool. Got any gear, Roy?'
‘Buy us a coffee?' Curly’s voice grated.
'Fuck off, Curly.'
As Curly slouched away, Roy picked up a paper and read something about Bobby Moore stealing a bracelet. ‘Why the fuck would Bobby Moore wanna do that?’ He looked around for something hanging from a pocket or bag. Unlikely at this time of day, but you never knew. Too early for women's bags, you could be halfway down the road before they were missed. He recalled the time a gang of Paddy's had chased him for trying to liberate a five-pound note from one of their pockets. They would have killed him if they’d caught him. ‘Stealing from your own kind!’ they’d shouted. But Roy wasn’t like them. They might have thought he was, but he wasn’t.
He finished the coffee and looked around again. It was too early, so he decided to return to his room, and the semblance of safety it provided. Home was the top room of a derelict Victorian three-storey house opposite the Magistrates court. Below Roy two more junkies existed, a man, or what was left of him, and a woman. Roy went to them when he was desperate. They usually had something to take the edge off.
Safely back in his room, Roy shot up the last of his gear and crashed out.
By the time he got back out on the street it was busy. People got in the way! First port of call, Boots the chemist; easy pickings. The only store in town that still left albums inside the sleeves.
After stacking some bestsellers into a pile: Beefheart, Bowie, Zeppelin, and a double Stones album, he cast a glance at the overworked girl behind the counter, still tired and drawn from her previous night out. She would notice notice.
Five albums at one pound per pop Roy would get a five-pound bag of smack. That would sort him till he got to the electrical stores on Tottenham Court Road. They were tricky, but the prizes were better; a portable stereo or TV was a good score. Amazing what you could get under a coat with a bit of willpower and a big inside pocket.
Taking advantage of the girl's condition, Roy decided to push his luck. He put another three albums into the pile. 'That's a ten-pound bag now,' he thought, as he slipped them under his coat.
He made his way out of the shop, and nipped up the stairwell of the multi-storey car park to look at his haul. 'Cool!' If he held his ground with Eddy he'd get a tenner for this lot.
When Eddy opened his front door he was wearing the same ripped Levi's and flip-flops he always wore. The tattered remains of a Ben Sherman were all that remained of his skinhead days. The straggly beard and hooked nose made him look Fagin.
‘What ya got?' Eddy asked.
‘Albums.' Roy took the albums from under his coat
Eddy turned and Roy followed him into the main room. Three young girls were sprawled around. When Roy put the albums on the floor, one of the girls asked him what they were.
‘Never you mind,' Eddy said, and pounced on the albums. ‘Seven quid!’ he said, without looking up.
‘I want a tenner for these Eddy. There’s a double Stones album in there.’
Eddy told the girl on the sofa to make coffee. ‘Eight quid then,’ he said to Roy.
Roy bent to pick up the albums. ‘No way!'
One of the girls sniggered.
Roy knew Eddy would give him a tenner under normal circumstances. This was all show for the schoolgirls playing truant in his flat.
‘Give us a tenner Eddy. Don't be a prick.'
When the blonde girl sniggered again, Eddy pointed at her. ‘Laugh at me again and ya can walk the fuckin streets.' He pulled a brown leather wallet from his back pocket.
Roy managed to count two hundred pounds before he put it back again. Eddy handed Roy two five-pound notes. The girl returned with the coffee. ‘Didn't you make coffee for Roy?'
‘Fa fuck's sake.' The girl stomped back out of the room.
‘You do want a coffee Roy? Spose ya want this too dontcha?' Eddy held out a bag of heroin.
Roy handed the money back. ‘Course I fuckin do! Mind if I use ya bathroom Eddy?'
‘Yeah. But don’t spray claret up the wall like the last cunt!'
Roy almost laughed. Everyone hated Eddy. He didn't use gear, and he had all the money.
When the girl came back and handed Roy his coffee he took to the filthy bathroom with him and shot up half the ten-pound bag.
Someone banged on the bathroom door. Roy opened his eyes and looked around
'Eddy wants ya!’ a girl's voice called
No one knew for sure whether Beecham's was Eddy's real name because he was well known for cutting his gear with Beecham's powder. But Roy impressed with this stuff. It was very good. By the time Roy got back to the main room Eddy was standing in the corner. The girls were sitting in a line on the sofa. Roy turned to where they were looking and saw Pete Laney standing there.
‘Alright son?' Pete Laney said.
Roy didn't answer.
‘Got me money 'ave ya, Roy?'
‘Not yet Pete.'
‘Not yet?' Laney stuffed his hands into his Crombie pockets. His red tie looked like a bloodstain on his pale blue shirt. ‘Not fuckin yet Roy?'
‘Gis a break, Pete.'
‘A break?' Laney was short and powerful. The close-cropped hair and snub nose made him look like a bull terrier.
Roy didn't know what to say. It was useless asking, Eddy. But wait! Eddy had two hundred quid in his wallet.
‘You owe me one hundred ‘n thirty quid, Roy.' In one deft move Laney coughed and cracked his knuckles. ‘You've owed it me a while too!'
Roy turned to Eddy. ‘Eddy can ya got that wunner you owe me!'
A shocked Eddy looked at Laney.
‘Come on Eddy. Don't fuck about,' Roy pushed.
‘Is that right Eddy?' Laney pointed at Eddy. ‘Owe Roy a wunner do ya?'
‘No fuckin way!'
Pete Laney was an arsehole of the highest order. With his Doc Martens laced to his knees and white turned up Levi’s, Roy was certain Laney would have no compunction taking Eddy Beechams’ money off him and giving him a good kicking. Laney hated dealers more than he hated queers, and that was saying something. Rumour had it a neighbour had raped him when he was nine. But no one dared ask.
‘You know what,’ Laney said. ‘I don't give a fuck if you owe Roy a wunner or not. I'm choosing ta take his word for it. It suits me interests. Ya know what I mean Eddy? Now gimme the fuckin money!’
‘Fuck’s sake Pete,' Eddy whined.
Laney moved forward.
Eddy peeled one-hundred pounds from his wad and handed it to Laney. He turned to Roy. ‘You wait Walden! You fuckin wait.'
The smack working fine, Roy didn't give a monkey's about Eddy. He left the flat behind Laney and the blonde girl followed.
‘See ya later, asshole,' were Eddy's parting words.
Laney went one way. Roy, with girl following went the other. It started rain. She slipped her arm through his.
‘Wha ya doin?' Roy said.
‘Tryin to keep warm. Where d'ya live?'
‘Opposite the courthouse.'
‘Can I come?'
'I fuckin hate Eddy, 'n you seem OK.'
Suddenly Roy had gear and a girl on his arm. It'd been a long time since he'd had one of them. He had Pete Laney off his back too! Not bad. He almost smiled. But what had just happened with Eddy was not cool. It would have consequences.
By the time they reached the four-story derelict rain was coming down hard.
‘Fuck me. Is this where ya live?' the girl said.
Roy looked at her. ‘For the time being, yeah! Why?'
‘Looks a bit shit.'
They scrambled through the garden and climbed through the corrugated doorway.
‘Fuckin hell,' the girl said. She gripped Roy's arm.
'You don't have ta come,' Roy said.
When they got into the room Roy flopped on the mattress and patted the space beside him. ‘Wass yer name?'
‘Terri. Terri with an I.’ She sat next to him. ‘Ow long you lived ere?'
‘Bout three months.'
‘Ya swear a lot, doncha?'
Terri dropped on the mattress next to Roy. She looked too smart. Too clean. ‘Ow old are you?’ Roy said.
Roy woke up to find Terri was gone. He checked his pockets and cranked up. Then he sat for a while against the wall looking at the moon shining through the skylight. The same moon he'd looked at as a kid. Another life. He was nineteen now. He first used gear at sixteen when his old man died. In three years he'd become a full-time junky. He'd not intended to, but they all said that
Above a decrepit arcade along the High street was a small dive called The Chequers. A front for an ongoing card school, it was a speak-easy that sold soft drinks and burgers. Blue Beat played and black pimps and white junkies held an uneasy truce there. Eddy didn't go there much but he’d be there now. Roy felt uneasy at that thought. Bugsy Gordon was found dead under the High Road walkway a few weeks back. Announced officially as a suicide, rumours were rife Laney had something to do with it. But Eddy wasn't like Laney. He’d be pissed off, but he'd get over it.
When Roy got to the Chequers, a small wiry guy stopped him at the front door. ‘Ya know Pete Laney?'
‘No mate.' Roy pushed past and headed upstairs.
Marie sold hot dogs and Cokes. She was nice to Roy. Probably felt sorry for him. Short and plump, dark bob, she was pretty but not Roy’s type. And besides, she had a kid. When she nodded at him, Roy nodded back and looked around: speed freaks on pinball, a couple of black guys playing pool.
‘Got any gear, Roy?'
Roy went to the corner and sat on one of the benches.
Curly followed. ‘Eddy's well pissed with you, Roy.'
‘Curly, tell me something I don't know.'
Curly scratched his head. ‘Erm?'
The wiry guy came upstairs and went to the counter and asked Marie something.
‘See that geezer?' Curly pointed at the wiry guy. ‘Just come out the Scrubs. Did a five stretch. One of Laney's old crew. A nasty fucker.'
‘Ow d'you know?'
‘Rumours Roy, rumours mate.'
Roy went to Marie and asked for a Coke. The wiry guy looked at him. Roy nodded. The wiry guy narrowed his eyes and turned away.
‘I see Eddy Beechams earlier,’ Marie said. ‘Well fucked off with you.'
‘Fa fucks sake! Does he tell everyone ‘is problems?'
‘I would’ve been pissed off if you'd done that to me Roy.'
‘I wouldn't do that to you, Marie.'
Curly arrived. ‘Lend us a couple of quid Marie, could ya?’
‘Fuck off Curly,' they both said.
‘Don't spose you know where I could get a hundred and thirty quid Marie?' Roy said.
‘Ever thought of gettin a job?'
Roy turned to walk away.
‘Me brother Eric's lookin for people.'
‘To do what?' Roy turned back.
‘Got a job at Marble Arch, needs labourers. Pays ten quid a day. Cash!'
In three weeks, Roy could make a hundred and fifty quid, get Beechams off his back. ‘I might be interested.’
Marie scribbled a number on a piece of paper. Roy went downstairs past the wiry guy to the phone box.
Marie's brother Eric told Roy he needed faces on the job, told him he'd have to look busy, do a bit of sweeping up, keep the place tidy.
Roy said, ‘OK.’
‘See ya Monday morning at seven, outside Judd’s. OK?'
Roy went back upstairs and looked around. The wiry guy had gone, but the place was busier. A variety of petty criminals stood around. Mean looking souls with thin sad faces, speed freaks, most of them. Roy saw Ray Christian. A bit older than Roy, Ray was well turned out, probably because he still lived with his mum. Roy thought about his own mum, how he’d almost forgotten what she looked like.
‘Yeah man.' Ray held out a spliff. ‘Me sister said she met ya.'
Roy handed the spliff back. ‘Yeah? I liked her.'
‘You never gave her gear didja?’
‘Na man, I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't do that ta no one.'
‘Cheers Roy. She's a good kid. She hangs out at Eddy's place. I don't like him. Think he’d give her gear?'
‘I wouldn't put it past the cunt, Ray.'
Roy arrived at Judd’s the following morning. Three big guys waiting standing around ignored him, so Roy rolled a smoke. After ten minutes a white transit van pulled up. The driver got out, opened the back doors, and looked at Roy. ‘You Roy?’
‘I’m Eric. Hop in.’
Four men in the back, three in the front. Roy had cranked up half an hour earlier and he had enough gear to last till tomorrow. Amongst a barrage of loud laughter and bad jokes, Roy kept quiet. He could sort himself out. He could get Beecham off his back.
Half an hour later when the van pulled off the road onto a building site near Marble Arch, Eric turned around. ‘Right. I want no fuckin about. I'm paying you lot more than anyone else, so 'ave a bit ‘o gratitude.’
‘For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly fuckin grateful,' the guy next to Roy muttered.
‘Shut up Murph. You prat!' Eric said.
Everyone laughed and the back doors opened.
Murph put a hand on Roy’s back. ‘Go on son, you'll be OK.'
Roy appreciated the stranger’s remark so much, he almost cried.
Eric gave the men their orders and they dispersed. He told Roy to follow him. They climbed three flights of stairs and stopped on the landing. Eric handed Roy a broom. ‘You hear anyone coming, sweep. We stop for tea at ten.'
Roy looked at breezeblock walls and concrete floors. Then he remembered the bit of weed Ray had given him. He walked to the window.
‘What a fuckin life,' was one of his dad’s favourite terms. Just about to light the spliff, Roy heard voices and stuffed it in his pocket. He started sweeping. Two men in wellies and hard hats came into the room. Holding up large sheets of paper, they pointed around, serious talk.
Roy remembered school. All the hard work he'd put in for the exams. Trust the old man to go n fuckin die.
When the men left, Roy lit the spliff and leaned out the window. A radio was playing, 'Bridge over troubled waters.' Roy looked up into the deep blue. It reminded him of holidays in Clacton with his mum and dad. It reminded him of something no longer here, something he was shut off from. He was locked out of life. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. But what could he do? Could he ever consider becoming normal again?
‘Why can't you be normal like other kids?' his old man used to say. His old man the builder. The proper man. Roy looked down at the broom. If this was a step in the right direction, why did he feel like shit?
‘Tea!' someone shouted.
Roy followed the sound of voices and loud laughter. ‘How the fuck can they laugh?’
He came to a large room, ten benches down either side full of men with several more at the counter. One of them was Murph. Roy went to join him. A full English breakfast was the menu.
‘Yes love,' a woman asked.
‘Just tea,' Roy said.
Murph turned. ‘That all?'
‘I don't eat in the mornings.'
When Murph and the woman exchanged a glance, Roy felt like shit. He was a boy amongst men. He followed Murph and sat down with him. What the fuck did these guys have to laugh about? He looked around. In the top corner were the Paddy’s. They were gnarled old fuckers who’d been in construction all their lives. On the next table were the painters. Roy remembered he’d started an apprenticeship painting, but the boss's son was a bully, so Roy smacked him over the head with a tin of emulsion one day and walked off the job. He never went back. Who was the arsehole now?
He felt a hand on his shoulder.
‘How ya doin?' Eric said.
‘Well cheer up then,' one of the men said.
Roy looked at the guys he’d been in the van with, all looking at him. He tried to smile. ‘Yeah,' he said. ‘Right.’
In a small recess on the third floor, Roy took his trousers down. The gear and works were stashed in a secret pocket inside the leg of his cords. Chrissie Raymond showed him how to do that. Chrissie o’deed a year ago. Roy looked at his pale thin legs. Hard to believe he played county level football not that long ago. Three years wasn’t that long ago. ‘Fuck it.’ He cooked the gear and sucked it up. He wrapped the belt tight and pumped his fist. When he stuck the spike in just above the elbow and pushed the plunger down, the familiar warm feeling came over him. He slid down the wall. What a fuckin relief! There was nothing to worry about, not until the next time. But that wasn’t now that was some other time.
After a while he took the belt off and rolled his shirtsleeve down. He put the works and gear back in the secret pocket and used the broom to pull himself up. He looked around again. Bare breezeblock walls and concrete floors looked back.
The journey home from work was quiet until Murph asked him how he was doing. Everyone looked.
Eric looked back. ‘You look like death warmed up son.'
When they arrived back at Judd’s, Eric opened the back doors. The same men clambered out and wandered off. Eric gave Roy five pounds.
‘See you in the morning.’ He patted Roy on the arm and walked away.
With Eddy out of the picture, Gedwin Street was the only place to score. The risk of being ripped off was much higher.
He went back to the squat first.
When he got there someone had paid him a visit, creosote poured over everything and the remaining windows smashed. ‘Fucking Eddy Beechams Powder!'
Roy locked himself in a cubicle of the public toilets and injected more gear. His arm was fucked. His veins were past their time and this was his last bit of the gear. It wasn’t enough. There was too much edge to take off tonight. Marie came to mind. The only person he could think of. He headed for the Chequers cursing Eddy Beechams all the way.
‘Jesus, what an arsehole,' Marie said when Roy told her what had happened.
‘I've got nowhere to crash now.’
‘Watch it,’ Marie said.
Eddy came from nowhere. ‘I'm not gonna fuck about Walden. What you did was out of order. You owe me a wunner now plus interest.'
The plus bit worried Roy.
‘Where ya gonna get yer gear? I said where ya gonna get ya gear now… you asshole?'
‘Leave im alone Eddy,' Marie said.
‘Leave ‘im alone? Ya know what this prick did?'
‘Gis a break man.’
Eddy laughed. ‘That's your favourite line innit?' Eddy was right in Roy’s face. The stench of his breath made Roy heave. ‘I'll give you a week.' Eddy turned and went back downstairs.
Roy hadn't been threatened since school, not since Vince Clement threatened to stab him for talking to his girlfriend.
By the time Roy got to Gedwin Street it was late. He walked up and down. He needed a five-pound bag. Maybe he could crash downstairs with Martin and his bird. What was her fuckin name? Then he could go to work tomorrow and get more money.
A lank-haired waif with black eyes peered from a doorway.
‘Got a five-pound bag?'
She whispered, ‘We got that.'
Roy handed her the money. She handed him a small envelope.
‘Iss good innit?' Roy asked.
‘Course iss fuckin good!' a croaky male shadow hissed from behind the waif.
Roy headed for the public toilets again. He had to sort himself out. Fuck this! He had to do something. He thought of his mum, his two younger brothers. He opened the bag. It looked good. He cooked it and sucked it up. He pushed the plunger down.
‘Ahhhh.' It had been a long time since he'd scored on Gedwin Street. He was so grateful, he thought about thanking the dealer but he decided to go to the Chequers. Marie might let him stay at her place. He didn't really want to infect her life with his, but he didn’t have much choice.
It was a quarter to midnight when he got there. Marie was busy. Roy went to the pinball machine. He watched two speed freaks whacking a silver ball around. One of them looked at him.
‘All right geezer?'
Roy went over to Curly. ‘Alright Curly?'
‘Got any gear?'
‘Don't you say nuthin’ else?'
‘Fuck you.' Curly walked away.
Rejected by Curly, the ultimate rejection, Roy went to the counter. He asked Marie for a hot dog and a glass of milk. He wolfed the hot dog and drank the milk
‘Could ya lend us a fiver?' When Marie handed it to him he felt bad. He would give it back, but he felt bad.
‘You can crash at mine if you like,' she said.
By the time they got to Marie's, Roy was sweating. The gear from Gedwin Street wasn’t so good after all, and he needed to save what he had left for the morning.
‘Don't spose ya got anythin?'
‘Valium any good?' Marie reached into her bag.
Roy took ten Valium. Twenty minutes later he was feeling numb and warm. On a battered sofa covered in a pink blanket he was like a child, useless and dependent. Eventually he fell asleep.
He woke at two am. He looked in the bathroom cabinet, then under the sink and in kitchen drawers and cupboards. Nothing. About to knock on Marie's door, he saw a bag with a purse sitting on top. ‘Silly bitch!’ He was a junky for fuck's sake. She couldn't blame him.
He left five pounds and took the rest.
Making his way up the street, he counted thirty-five quid. ‘You're a nasty fucker Walden.' He walked faster. He wanted to leave that part of him behind, the horrible, untrustworthy fucked-up part. One certain way to get rid of him was to give him what he wanted - oblivion!’
On Gedwin Street he was as confident as a strung out junky could be. Roy scored a five-pound bag. He couldn’t be bothered to go to the toilets again so he cranked up in an alley. ‘Not fuckin bad.’ He went back and got two more ten-pound bags.
Back in his hovel, with nowhere else to go, under a combination of gear, Valium and tiredness, Roy rolled himself inside a creosote-stained blanket and passed out.
When the grey light of dawn forced Roy’s eyes open, he rolled out of the blanket and dug into his pockets. He had the two tens and a half-used five-pound bag left. When he shot up the rest of the five-pound bag it didn't seem so good. It was probably cut. Everything was cut. Life was cut. He looked round the room. He had nothing. Not even a cup.
He crept downstairs and listened at the door of his fellow junkies. ‘Martin? You awake?'
A gaunt yellow face peered around the door. Jaundice was a junky’s nightmare. Hepatitis B was a killer. ‘Never mind.' Roy went back up and slammed the door behind him. He dropped onto the creosote mattress that looked like it was covered in shit. He felt like shit. He remembered Marie. And what about Eric? Would she tell him? Fuck! With Eddy on his case too, that was all he needed. Desperate for a reality adjustment, Roy went back down and knocked on the hepatitis door.
‘Got any gear, Martin?'
Roy knew still had time to get to Judd’s. Marie wouldn't have told Eric yet. She was probably still asleep. ‘Fuck it.’
He got there just in time and climbed into the back of the van.
‘You look fuckin ill,' Murph said.
Roy looked at Murph. Then he looked at the other hopeless life forms. Due to lack of funds, the mid-week booze lull had arrived, hung in the air like a dark cloud. Last weekend, a fading memory, the next one a glimmer on the horizon. Roy's old man was a drinker and that was just the way it went. He looked at the back of Eric's head. What if he knows? What if they all knew? ‘Paranoia was a side effect of ongoing and intense drug use.’ He'd read that somewhere, buy reassured himself. There's no way they know. No fucking way. He had plenty of gear anyway, so it didn't matter. It did. But it didn't.
When they arrived at the job, Roy went to the alcove and cranked up. Then he pushed the broom around for a while. Plumes of grey dust flew into the air.
‘You should sprinkle water on that.'
Roy turned. ‘Murph?'
‘Throw water on it. It stops the dust rising.’
‘I like dust.'
‘Got any gear?' Murph came closer. ‘I know you got some.'
Roy, holding himself up with the broom, wondered if Eric was using Murph to suss him out?
‘Can ya get some or not?' Murph said.
‘Maybe.' Roy looked at Murph's tattoos, long greasy hair, and obligatory earrings. He asked Murph how long he’d been using.
‘Too fuckin long! Get us twenty quid's worth will ya?' Murph shoved four five-pound notes in Roy's hand. ‘Can ya get it tonight?'
‘I thought ya was clean Murph'
‘I’ve been clean for two years Roy. But I've 'ad enough now. I’m sick of feelin like shit.' He walked out of the room.
Knowing how Murph felt, Roy stuffed the money into his pocket and wandered over to the window for a smoke. The same radio was playing Jimi Hendrix. Roy stood there shaking his head. ‘Purple Haze all in my brain.’ Life has its ups and downs. It has its ups and its downs. But he was cool now. He had two ten-pound bags and thirty quid of Marie’s money. He had twenty quid from Murph too. Then there was the ten-pound bag from last night. Working for a living wasn't bad. ‘Lately things they don’t seem the same. I’m actin funny but I don’t know why, scuse me while kiss the sky.’
At lunch, Roy forced a cheese roll into his body and washed it down with a warm coke. He was sitting with Murph. ‘Why ya throwin ya clean time away Murph?
‘Cos life's shit.'
Roy couldn't argue with that. They sat smoking. After some time, Roy said, ‘Yeah, it is innit.'
Gale and the Beating
When the van pulled up, Roy felt relieved to get out.
‘Walden! Come ‘ere you cunt!’
Relief turned to tension. Eddy shit bag! Before Roy could run someone had grabbed him. ‘Where ya goin wanker?’ Roy struggled against a hard grip.
‘Eddy wants a chat. Fuck me, its Roy Walden. I knew you at school. Thought ya was the bollox with the football didn’t ya.’
Roy turned. Derek Giles was looking back. Eyes close together, snub nose, made Giles looked like a pig. He was the fat kid at school, everyone took the piss out of him. Piggy Giles they called him. By the strength of his grip, Piggy had turned some fat into muscle. Another mean looking ghoul hovered nearby, gagging to do violence. Together they pushed Roy along the road. Eddy was waiting in a shop doorway.
‘Alright, Eddy?’ Roy said.
‘You got some front Walden!’
‘Ya stitched me up for a wunner. Remember? Made me look a right twat. Now yer asking me if I’m alright?’ He looked Roy up and down. ‘Ya workin?’
‘Ya workin or not?’
Piggy Giles moved behind Roy.‘You got cash?’
‘Liar! Search him, Del.’
Piggy Giles patted Roy down. ‘Turn ya pockets out fuckface!’
Roy turned his pockets out, empty.
‘Where is it?’ Eddy hissed.
‘The gear ‘n money!’
Roy pushed Piggy Giles over and ran. He ducked into an alley and crouched in the grimy shadows panting for life. When footsteps went past him he stood and ran to the end of the alley, across a cindered car park, and over a low wall. He scrambled behind a car. Crouching in the dark, he felt the money and gear in his secret pocket. He scurried along the edge of the wall to the rear of the butcher’s shop – the butcher with the unfortunate name of V.D. Harris. Roy and his mates used to call him Harry the Clap. Instead of making him smile, the memory nearly made him cry. For some reason a Carpenters song, Close To You, came on in his head. God had pressed the play button. As Roy leaned against the wall and listened to the lyrics, a strange kind of peace came over him.
When he got home it was quiet. No drunks on the landing, and the Hep B door was cracked and splintered.
‘Roy! From upstairs.’
The door creaked opened. A ghostly female form appeared. ‘You? Those guys are gonna kill you.’
Roy looked up the stairs. His door was closed.
‘They threatened Martin with a blade. Kept askin where you were. Said they was gonna cut him if e didn’t tell. They was ‘orrible. I thought they was gonna kill us. What the fuck ave you done?’
What little there was of Roy’s energy drained down through his legs. ‘Can I come in?’
Roy was surprised how clean the place was. She had ampules of distilled water and several clean plastic syringes. How could a pair like this be so together? He gave her enough gear for a decent hit and looked at what was left. He needed it all.
Job done, he dropped back and closed his eyes.
When Roy opened his eyes again, he saw two large feet. Eddy was looking down at him. Roy rolled over and saw two more pairs of polished Doc Martens. He looked up at Piggy and the Ghoul.
‘Get up!’ Eddy said.
‘Yeah. Get up wanker.’ Piggy kicked him in the chest.
‘Thought you ad no gear, Roy? Ya look pretty out of it ta me. Get it off er didja?’ Eddy pointed at whatever her name was, scrunched in a ball on the armchair.
‘Do im boys!’ Eddy commanded.
When the kicking and punching stopped, Roy was curled in a ball too. Eddy jerked his head up. Nose inches from his, rancid breath and rotten black teeth made Roy retch.
‘I’ll give ya two days to get me dosh. Bring it to me by six on Thursday or what ‘appened here’ll seem like a fuckin night out with the boys. Ya get me?’
Roy nodded. Once Eddy let go, Roy closed his eyes and listened to heavy feet clumping around the place. Eventually they thumped down the stairs. He opened them again. ‘Thank Jesus fucking Christ for that.’
He looked up at Ghost woman. ‘Wass ya name?’
‘Gale Lampard! Don’t ya remember me?’
Roy did remember her. Gale Lampard was one of the tasty girls from school. Now she looked like she’d just been dug up. ‘No, can’t say I do.’
‘You look well fucked up,’ Gale said.
‘Thanks Gale! You don’t look too great yaself.’
When Roy got back to his room he knew was well and truly fucked, more than ever. But if he could get Eddy off his back life could revert to normal. Whatever the fuck that was. He had fifty quid. He needed another fifty. He could get twenty from Eric tomorrow, making seventy. And if he took a day up Tottenham Court Road he could sort this bollox out.