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Chapter 1. Roy.
When Roy opened his eyes dawn was filtering through the torn blanket he used as a curtain. He dragged himself to the corner and lifted the floorboard from where he took a package. Inside the package was a syringe, a spoon, and a small bag of pink powder. He poured water from a bottle into the spoon, tipped some pink-brown powder in, and careful not to spill any, he lit two matches underneath and cooked the water. Once the powder had dissolved into a dark brown liquid, he sucked it into a disposable plastic syringe. The room was OK considering it was on the top floor of a derelict house. A large green rug covered most of the floorboards, and the floral wallpaper gave it some semblance of normality. Roy rolled up his sleeve, wrapped a belt around his arm and pumped his wrist. This action exposed the remains of a vein nestled in the crook of his elbow. When he pushed the overused needle through the skin and watched dark blood rise into the head, it reminded him, as it always did, of the lava lamp his Mum used to have in her bedroom. As the plunger descended and the Chinese heroin entered his system, Roy felt immediate relief and dropped back onto the mattress. All his problems were resolved and dissolved for the time being. A small amount of pink powder was all it took.
But he had to get his act together. Like everyone else in this world, Roy needed money. He sat up and noticed his reflection in the blotchy mirror resting against the wall. His brown hair used to look like Marc Bolan’s. It looked like rate tails now. And sallow skin drawn tight over his cheekbones made him look hungry and mean.
He put the paraphernalia back under the floor and stumbled downstairs. A drunk flopped on the landing groaned as he squeezed past. And when he reached the foot of the stairs and pulled a corrugated sheet to one side the brightness of the morning sun hurt his eyes. He stumbled on through the overgrown garden, climbed a low wall and dropped down onto the pavement below. A church clock chimed 7am as he scurried along the deserted, litter-strewn pavements, heading for a café where no one cared who you were.
He ordered milky coffee and sat down. Curly entered the café. Roy looked the other way.
Curly came over, ‘Roy, how ya doin?'
‘I’m OK Curl. You?'
‘Yeah man, cool,' Curly said, followed by, ‘got any gear?'
‘Buy us a coffee?'
Curly’s voice did something to Roy’s brain. 'Fuck off, Curly.'
As Curly slouched away, mumbling, cunts and arseholes, Roy picked up a newspaper, read something about Bobby Moore stealing a watch. ‘Why the fuck would Bobby Moore wanna do that?’ Roy, always looking for an opportunity, something hanging from someone's pocket or bag, looked around. The place was filled with builders munching tea and toast and fried breakfasts, smoking their way to early graves from too much booze and hard graft. He had more chance of getting struck by lightning than getting anything out of this lot. And it was way 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 chased him down the road 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 dragged the coffee out for as long he could, but it was still 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 pile opposite the local magistrates court. Below him two more junkies existed, a man, or what was left of him, and a woman. But Roy only ventured near them when he was desperate; they usually had something to take the edge off. On the landing below several piss-heads resided.
Safely back in his room, Roy injected the last of the gear and passed out.
By the time he got back on the street it was busy with people shopping getting in his way. First port of call was Boots the chemist, easy pickings in there, only store in town that still left albums in their sleeves. He stacked some bestsellers into a pile: Beefheart, Bowie, Zeppelin, a double Stones album. He needed five albums to get a five-pound bag of smack. That would sort him till he got uptown later; the electrical stores on Tottenham Court Road were tricky, but the prizes were better; a portable stereo or TV was a very good score; amazing what you could get into a coat, especially one with a big inside pocket. After sorting eight albums into a pile, Roy slipped them under his coat and looked around. Don't head for the exit too fast; don’t need undue attention. When it looked good, Roy made his way out. After a quick walk up the multi-storey car park to look at his haul, Roy knew that if he held his ground with Eddy Beecham, he'd get a tenner for this lot.
Eddy opened the door in ripped Levi's, flip-flops, and the tattered remains of a Ben Sherman he always wore. These were last vestiges of his skinhead days. Roy could vaguely remember Eddy from an earlier era, one where he looked smart Now, with the straggly beard and hooked nose, he reminded Roy of Fagin.
‘What ya got?' Eddy growled.
‘Albums.' Roy took the albums from under his coat and followed Eddy into the main room where three young girls were sprawled around, two on the sofa and one on the armchair. Roy put the albums on the floor.
‘Watcha got?' one of the girls asked.
‘Never you mind.' Eddy knelt to look at the albums. ‘Seven quid,' he said to Roy, without looking up.
‘I want a tenner for these Eddy. There’s a double Stones album in there.’
Eddy stood up and told the on of the girls on the sofa to go make coffee. ‘Eight quid,' he said to Roy.
‘Fuck off, Eddy.'
One of the remaining girls, a pretty blonde, sniggered. Roy knew Eddy would give him the tenner under normal circumstances. This was all show for the schoolgirls playing truant in his flat.
‘Give us a tenner Eddy,’ Roy said. ‘Come on. You can sell these for one-pound-fifty each. Don't be a prick!'
When the blonde sniggered again, Eddy pointed at her. ‘Laugh at me again an ya can walk the fuckin streets.' He pulled a brown leather wallet from his back pocket. Roy counted two hundred pounds before he put it back again. Eddy handed Roy two, five-pound notes, and the girl returned with the coffee. ‘Didn't you make ‘im one?' Eddy pointed at Roy.
‘Oh for fuck's sake.' The girl stomped from the room again.
‘You do want one I suppose?' Eddy said. ‘And you’ll want this I expect?' He held out a ten-pound bag of heroin.
Roy handed the money back. ‘Mind if I use ya bathroom?'
‘Yeah. But don't make a mess. Don’t spray claret up me walls like the last mug!'
Roy nearly laughed. Everyone hated Eddy. You had to. He didn't use gear and he had all the money. When the girl retuned with the coffee, Roy took it to the bathroom with hm. He then cranked up half of the ten-pound bag and nodded out.
One of the girls banged on the bathroom door. ‘Roy! Eddy wants ya!’
Roy opened his eyes. Coming from Eddy, well known for cutting his gear, it was very good. When Roy got back to the room Eddy was standing in the corner and the girls were on the sofa. He turned to where they were all looking and saw Pete Laney.
‘Alright, Roy?' Pete Laney said.
Roy didn't answer.
‘Got me money, ave ya?'
‘Not yet, Pete.'
‘Not yet?' Laney dug his hands into his Crombie. His red tie looked like a bloodstain on his pale blue shirt. ‘Not fuckin yet?'
‘Gis a break Pete.'
‘A break you cheeky fucker?'
Laney was short and powerful, with the close-cropped hair and snub nose, he reminded Roy of 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 hundred ‘n thirty quid, Roy,' Laney in. Insisted. In one deft move, Laney coughed, rubbed his hands together and cracked his knuckles. ‘And you've owed it a while too.'
Roy turned to Eddy, ‘Eddy. Give us that hundred notes you owe me.'
Eddy looked at Laney.
‘Come on, Eddy, don't fuck about,' Roy said, legs shaking.
‘Is that right Eddy?' Laney said. ‘You owe Roy a wunner?' He rubbed his hands again.
‘No fuckin way!'
Pete Laney was an arsehole of the highest order. With his Doc Martens laced to his knees, his white Levi’s, Roy knew Laney would have no compunction whatsoever in taking Eddy Beechams’ money and giving him a good kicking into the bargain. He hated dealers more than he hated queers, and that was saying something. The rumour was, Laney, had been raped by an elderly male neighbour 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 to take Roy's word for it. It suits me interests. I’m sure ya know what I mean Eddy. Now gimme the fuckin money!’
‘Ah, for fuck’s sake Pete,' Eddy whined.
‘Gimme the fuckin money Eddy!' Laney moved forward.
‘Alright, alright!' Eddy peeled the money off, handed it to Laney and turned to Roy. ‘You cunt, Walden! You fuckin wait.'
The smack working fine, Roy didn't give a fuck about Eddy. He left the flat on the heels of Laney with the blonde girl following.
‘I'll see ya later. You cunt,' were Eddy's parting words.
Laney went one way. Roy with the girl following went the other.
When it started to rain the girl slipped her arm through Roy’s.
‘What ya doin?' he said.
‘Tryin to keep warm. Where d'ya live anyhow?'
‘Opposite the courthouse.'
‘Can I come?'
Roy had gear. Now he had a chick on his arm. Pete Laney was off his back. Not bad. He almost smiled. But what had just happened with Eddy was not cool. 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 bein, yeah, why?'
‘Looks a bit shit.'
Does it? Roy thought.
They scrambled through the garden, climbed through the corrugated doorway and went upstairs. A drunk yelled something incomprehensible.
‘Fuckin 'ell.' She gripped Roy's arm.
In the room, Roy sat on his mattress and patted the space beside him. ‘What’s ya name?'
‘Terri. Terri with an, I,’ she said and sat next to him.
‘I’ve got an uncle Terry,' Roy said.
‘Whadya want a medal?'
The sound of drunks leaving the house distracted them.
‘Ow long ya lived ere?' Terri asked.
‘Bout three months.'
‘You swear a lot doncha?'
When Terri dropped back across the mattress, Roy looked at her. She seemed too smart to be in this place, too clean, too nice to be here. ‘Ow old are you?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, right.' Roy dropped back next to her and closed his eyes.
When Roy woke up, Terri was gone. Automatically he checked his pockets. ‘Na,’ he said to himself. ‘She’s too young to be inta smack.’ He went through the routine, cranked up again, and slumped against the wall. The moon was shining through the skylight; the same moon he'd looked at as a kid. He was nineteen now, he’d been using for three years, a full-time junky. He'd not intended to become one. But they all said that.
Above the arcade on the High street was a small club called The Chequers. It was a front for an ongoing card school; a speak-easy that sold soft drinks and played Blue Beat. The black pimps and white junkies held an uneasy truce there. Eddy didn't go there often, but Roy knew it was sure as shit he’d be there looking for Roy, or someone would be. Roy felt uneasy at that thought. Bugsy Gordon had been 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 arrived at the Chequers a small wiry guy stopped him at the front door. ‘Ya know Pete Laney?' the guy asked.
‘No mate.' Roy pushed past and headed upstairs.
Marie sold hot dogs and Cokes. Roy liked her. She was nice to him, felt sorry for him probably. She was short and plump, dark bob and pretty. Not Roy’s type, and besides, she had a kid. She nodded at him from behind the counter. Roy nodded back and looked around: speed freaks on pinball, a couple of black guys playing pool.
‘Got any gear, Roy?'
Ignoring Curly, Roy went to the corner and sat on one of the benches. Curly followed him.
‘Eddy's pissed off with you,' Curly said.
‘Curly, tell me something I don't know will ya?'
Curly, taking Roy literally, sat back and scratched his head. ‘Something you don't know?'
Roy watched the wiry guy come upstairs, go to the counter and ask Marie something.
‘See that geezer?' Curly whispered. ‘He’s just come out of the Scrubs. Did a five stretch He’s one of Laney's old crew. A nasty piece of work.'
‘Ow d'you know?'
‘Rumours, Roy, rumours mate.'
When Roy went over to Marie and asked for a Coke, the wiry guy looked at him.
‘Alright?' Roy said and nodded.
The wiry guy narrowed his eyes and looked away.
‘I see Eddy Beechams earlier,’ Marie said. ‘E’s well pissed off with you ‘e is.'
‘For fucks sake! Does he tell everyone his problems?'
‘I would’ve been pissed off, you'd done that to me Roy.'
‘But I wouldn't do that to you.'
Curly came over ‘Ya couldn't lend us a couple of quid Marie, could ya?’
‘Fuck off Curly,' they both said.
‘Cunts,' Curly mumbled, and walked away.
‘Don't spose you know where I could get a hundred and thirty quid, Marie?'
‘Ever thought of gettin a job, Roy?'
He turned to walk away.
‘Me brother, Eric's, lookin for people.'
‘To do what?' Roy turned back.
‘Got a big 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 and Laney off his back. ‘I might be interested,’ he said.
Marie scribbled a number on a piece of paper. Roy went downstairs, past the wiry guy, to the phone kiosk outside. Marie's brother, Eric, told Roy he needed faces on the job; told him he'd have to look busy and do a bit of sweeping up to keep the place tidy.
Roy said, ‘Yeah.’
‘See ya Monday morning then, outside Judd’s. Be there at seven. OK?'
‘OK,' Roy said. When went back upstairs and looked around the wiry guy was gone and the place was busier with a variety of petty crims scattered around, mean looking souls with thin sad faces, no hopers, using junk. Roy noticed Ray Christian standing in the corner. A bit older than Roy, Ray was well turned out, probably because he still lived with his mum. When Roy thought about his own mum, he’d almost forgotten what she looked like.
‘Yeah, man! How ya doin?' Ray held out a spliff.
Roy took it. ‘Ave you heard?'
‘Na, man, wassat?'
‘Me sister said she met ya.'
Roy handed the spliff back. ‘Yeah? I liked her.'
‘You never gave her any gear did ya?’
‘Na man! I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't do that to no one.'
‘Cheers man. She's a good kid. But she ‘angs out at Eddy's place, I don't like the man. D’you think e’d give er gear?'
‘I wouldn't put it past ‘im.'
When Roy arrived at Judd’s the following morning, three big guys were already there waiting. They looked like typical piss-heads to Roy and they ignored him. Roy rolled a smoke and waited. After ten minutes, a white transit pulled up.
The driver got out, opened the back doors and looked at Roy.
‘I’m Eric. Hop in.’
There were four men in the back, and three in the front. Because Roy had cranked up half an hour earlier he knew he’d be OK for a while, and he had enough gear to last till tomorrow. Amongst a barrage of loud laughter, bad jokes and piss taking he kept quiet. At least he could sort himself out now, and get those two arseholes off his back, Laney and Beechams.
Half an hour later, when the van pulled off the road onto a building site near Marble Arch, Eric, who’d been driving, turned around. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘I want no fuckin about on this job. You keep yer heads down n look busy. I'm payin you 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 donkey!' Eric shouted.
Everyone laughed. 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.
‘Just ‘ang around on this floor,' Eric said. He handed Roy a yard broom. ‘You hear anyone comin, sweep. We stop for tea at ten.' He walked away.
When Roy looked around and saw the bare breezeblock walls and concrete floors, he got a very strong urge to crank up again. He remembered the bit of weed Ray had given him, walked over to the window to roll a spliff. ‘What a fuckin life.’ That was one of his dad’s favourite terms. Just about to light the spliff, Roy heard voices, stuffed the spliff in his pocket and started sweeping.
Two men in wellies, normal people, hard hats, came into the room holding up large sheets of paper. They pointed around, serious talk, business talk, very real. Roy remembered being at school and all the hard work he'd put in for the exams.
‘Trust the old man to go n fuckin die.’
When the men left, he lit the spliff and leant out the window. A radio was playing a Ray Stevens song, ‘Everything is beautiful?’ ‘Is it fuck!’ Roy mumbled, looking once more at the breezeblock walls. Then he looked up at the sky, deep blue, and a few white clouds floating in it. It reminded him. The sky reminded him of something. Holidays. Freedom. But he felt shut off from it now. He was locked out. It wasn’t right. But what could he do? Could he ever consider becoming normal again? ‘Again?’
‘Why can't you be normal like other kids?' his old man used to say. His old man was the builder, the proper man. Roy looked down at the broom he was holding. If this was a step in the right direction, why did he feel like shit?
‘Tea!' someone shouted.
Roy went down the stairs and followed the sound of voices and loud laughter. ‘How the fuck can they laugh?’ He came to a large room, ten tables, benches down either side, full of men, several more at the counter, one 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, a boy amongst men. He followed Murph to a table, sat down with him and wondered, what the fuck did these guys had to laugh about? In the top corner were the Paddy’s; all gnarled old fuckers, been in construction all their lives. On the next table were the painters. Roy started an apprenticeship painting once, but the boss's son was a wanker, a bully. 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.
‘Yeah, I’m OK.'
‘Cheer up then,' one of the other men said.
Roy looked at these guys he’d been in the van with, all looking back at him and tried to smile. ‘Yeah,' he said. ‘Right.’
At three o clock, 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 had shown him how to do that, poor old Chrissie o’deed about a year ago. When he looked at his pale, thin legs, Roy sighed. It was hard to believe he'd played county level football not that long ago; three years wasn’t that long ago.
He cooked the gear, sucked it up, and wrapped the belt tight around his arm. He pumped his fist and stuck the spike in just above the elbow. He pushed the plunger down and slid down the wall. What a fuckin relief, nothing to worry about for a while, not until he needed to do it again. But that wasn’t now, that was some other time.
After a while, he took the belt off, rolled his shirtsleeve down, and put the works and gear back in the secret pocket. He used the broom to pull himself up and looked around. Those bare fuckin breezeblock walls and concrete floors looked back.
The journey home from work was quiet.
‘How'd it go?' Murph asked.
Eric looked back. ‘You look like death warmed up.'
A few sniggered.
When they arrived back at Judd’s, Eric opened the back doors and the same men clambered out and wandered off.
Eric gave Roy five pounds. ‘See you in the morning,' he said and patted Roy on the arm and walked away.
With Eddy out of the picture, Gedwin Street was the best place to score, but risk of being ripped off was much higher.
He went back to the squat first.
Someone had paid him a visit. Creosote poured over everything. The remaining windows smashed.
‘Fucking Eddy Beechams Powder!'
Roy locked himself in a cubicle of the public toilets on the High street 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.
‘So I've got nowhere to crash.’
‘Watch it,’ Marie said.
Eddy came from nowhere. ‘I'm not gonna fuck about Walden,’ he hissed. ‘What you did was bang out of order. You owe me a wunner now, plus interest.'
‘Yeah, I know.' The plus bit worried Roy.
‘So, where ya gonna get yer gear?'
Roy didn’t want to hear this.
‘I said, where ya gonna get ya gear now, ya cunt?'
‘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, leave im the fuck alone,' Marie said again.
‘I'll give you a week, Roy. Then I’m gonna set Tony Morris on ya.' Eddy turned and went downstairs.
Roy hadn't been threatened since school, not since Vince Clement threatened to stab him for talking to his girlfriend. By the time he got to Gedwin Street, it was late. He walked up and down. He only needed a five-pound bag, and he could crash downstairs with Martin and his bird, whatever her name was. What was her fuckin name? Anyway, 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?' Roy said.
She whispered, ‘Yeah, we got that.'
He 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. He had to sort himself out. Fuck this bollox. He had to do something. He thought of his mum and his two younger brothers and opened the bag. It looked good. He cooked it, sucked it up, and spiked it. He pushed the plunger down.
‘Fuck me, man. Ahhhh.'
A long time since he'd scored in Gedwin Street. He was so grateful, he thought about going back and thanking the dealer, but decided to go to the Chequers instead. If he asked Marie, she just might let him stay at her place. He didn't really want to. He didn't really want to infect her life with his.
It was a quarter to midnight when he got there. Marie was busy, so Roy went to the pinball machine and watched two speed freaks whacking a silver ball around. One of them looked at him.
‘Alright geez?' he said, and turned back, two large eyes watching the silver ball.
Roy went to Curly. ‘Alright, Curly?'
‘Got any gear, Roy?'
‘Don't you ever say nuthin’ else?'
‘Fuck you.' Curly walked away.
Rejected by Curly, the ultimate rejection.
Roy went to the counter. ‘Marie. Gis a dog n a glass of milk till tomorra?' He wolfed the hot dog. ‘Don't spose ya could let us have a fiver, could ya?' When she 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 and shaking. The gear from Gedwin Street wasn’t so good after all, and he wanted to save the last bit of gear 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 numb and warm, lying on a battered sofa, covered in a pink blanket, like a child, useless and dependent. Eventually, he fell asleep.
He woke up at 2am desperate for more Valium. He looked in the bathroom cabinet first, then under the sink, kitchen drawers, and cupboards. Nothing.
About to knock on Marie's door, he saw a bag with a purse sitting right on top.
‘Silly bitch!’ He was a junky for fuck's sake. She couldn't blame him. He left her five pounds and took the rest.
Making his way up the street, he counted thirty-five quid.
‘You're a real cunt, Walden. A nasty fucker.' He walked faster, wanting 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. ‘Fuckin oblivion!’
On Gedwin Street again, 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 anymore, 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. Two tens and a half-used, five-pound bag were still there. He cranked up the rest of the five-pound bag. It didn't seem so good now. Last night he’d been desperate. He would have got high on a dog turd last night. The gear was probably cut. Everything was cut. Life was cut. He looked round the room. He had nothing. Not even a cup, and nothing to put in it even if he did. He crept downstairs and listened at the door of his fellow junkies.
He knocked. ‘Martin? You awake?'
A gaunt yellow face peered around the door. Jaundice was a junky’s nightmare. Hepatitis B was a killer.
Roy went back upstairs and slammed the door behind him. He dropped onto the creosote mattress that looked like it was covered in shit. He felt like shit, especially when he remembered Marie. What about Eric? Would she tell him? Fuck! With Eddy, already on his case, that was all he needed. Desperate for a reality adjustment, Roy went down again and knocked on the hepatitis door.
‘Got any gear, Martin?'
‘Oh fuck this!’ Roy knew he 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 at the other hopeless life forms. It was a long ride. Due to lack of funds, the mid-week booze lull had arrived, hanging in the air like a dark cloud. Last weekend was a fading memory and the next one was just a glimmer on the horizon. Roy's old man had been a drinker. That was 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. He reassured himself. No. 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, cranked up and pushed the broom around. Plumes of dry grey dust flew into the air.
‘You should sprinkle some water on that.'
Roy turned. ‘Murph?'
‘Throw water on 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 us some?' Murph said.
‘Maybe.' Roy looked at Murph's tattoos, long greasy hair and obligatory earrings. ‘How long ya bin using?'
‘Too fuckin long! Get us twenty quid's worth, will ya?' Murph shoved four five-pound notes into Roy's hand. ‘Can ya get it tonight?'
‘Yeah. But I thought ya was clean.'
‘I’ve been clean two years, but I've 'ad enough, though, sick a the fuckin bullshit.' He turned and walked out of the room.
Knowing how Murph felt, Roy stuffed the money in his pocket and wandered over to the window for a smoke. The same radio was playing, Jimi Hendrix, ‘Purple Haze.’ Roy stood there shaking his head. ‘Purple Haze, all in my brain.’ Life has its ups and downs, he thought. It has its ups, and it has its downs. But he was cool for the time being. He had two ten-pound bags, thirty quid of Marie’s money, and twenty quid from Murph. 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.’
At lunch, he forced a cheese roll into his body and washed it down with a warm coke. He was sitting with Murph.
‘Why d’ya wanna throw away ya clean time, 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
That evening, when the van pulled up, Roy was relieved to get out.
‘Walden!’ someone shouted. ‘Come ‘ere ya cunt!’
The relief turned to nasty tension. Eddy shit bag! Before Roy could run, someone grabbed him.
‘Where ya goin wanker?’
Roy struggled against a hard grip.
‘Eddy wants a chat wiv ya son. Fuck me, iss Roy, Walden, innit? I knew you at school. Thought ya was the bollox with the football didn’t ya.’
Roy turned to see the miserable countenance of Derek Giles looking back at him. Eyes close together, snub nose, Giles looked like a pig, the fat kid at school everyone took the piss out of. Piggy Giles, they called him. By the strength of his grip, Piggy had turned some of his fat into muscle. Another mean looking ghoul hovered nearby, gagging to do some violence, and together they pushed Roy along the road towards Eddy, waiting in a shop doorway.
‘Alright, Eddy?’ Roy said.
‘Alright ya cunt? Ya got some front, Walden!’
‘Ya stitched me up for a wunner. Remember? Made me look a right cunt. And now yer asking me if I’m alright?’ He looked Roy up and down. ‘Ya workin then, are ya?’
‘Well,’ Roy said.
‘Ya workin, or not?’
Piggy Giles moved behind Roy.
‘You ‘oldin cash then?’ Eddy insisted.
‘Lyin cunt! 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, you cunt!’
Roy pushed Piggy Giles over and ran. Soon out of breath, he ducked in an alley and crouched in the grimy shadows. Once the footsteps flew past, he stood and ran to the end of the alley, across a cindered car park, fell over a low wall, and scrambled behind a parked car. Crouching there in the dark he felt the bulge of money and gear in his secret pocket and let out a sigh. Once recovered sufficiently 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 – too quiet. No drunks on the landing and the Hep B door was cracked and splintered. He knocked on it.
‘Who’s there?’ A female voice asked.
‘Roy! From upstairs.’
The door creaked opened and a ghostly female form appeared. ‘You!’ she said. ‘Those guys are gonna kill you.’
Roy looked up the stairs. His door was closed.
‘They threatened Martin with a blade,’ she said. ‘Kept askin where you was. Said they was gonna cut him if e didn’t tell em where you was. ‘E didn’t know nuthin, did he? 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 out through his feet. ‘Can I come in?’
‘Got any gear?’
When Roy entered, he 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 he opened them again, he saw two large feet and Eddy bollock face looking down at him. Roy rolled over and saw two more pairs of polished Doc Martens and Piggy and the Ghoul looking down at him.
‘Get up ya cunt,’ Eddy said.
‘Yeah. Get up ya cunt,’ Piggy echoed, and 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 making Roy retch.
‘I’ll give ya two days to get me dosh, Walden. Bring it ta me by six on Thursday, or what ‘appened here’ll seem like a fuckin night out with the boys. Ya get me?’
Roy nodded. ‘Yeah’ He kept his eyes closed, and listened to heavy feet clumping around the place. Eventually they left and thumped downstairs.
‘Thank Jesus fucking Christ for that.’
Someone touched his shoulder. He looked up at Ghost woman. ‘Wass ya name?’ he asked her, getting up.
‘Gale Lampard! Don’t remember me, do ya?’
Roy did remember, Gale Lampard, 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 he was well and truly fucked, more now 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 and needed another fifty. He could get twenty from Eric tomorrow, taking him to seventy, then if he took a day up Tottenham Court Road, he could sort this bollox out.