432: Action Reaction

The police weren’t very happy to see me go. They pleaded and begged for me to stay a little longer, like a guy who thinks he’s close to scoring with a drunk girl but then her mates come take her away.

Cherry was that mate. She was the perfect counter to their leery charms. She was an unimpressed woman with a sharp tongue.

Of course, most guys think they can out-argue anyone they consider to be beneath them. Women certainly fall into that category. But Cherry was armed with facts and legislation. Which most men would ignore, but this was the police and they were kind of obliged to pretend to give a shit about the law.

DS Seymour had quickly lost his smile and his swagger as he tried to cite various rules and regulations that meant I had to cooperate with their inquiries, but Cherry had just as many that limited those requirements. In fact, she knew the exact amount of time I needed to spend helping the police to prevent them accusing me of being obstructive.

She even put a timer on her phone and left it on the table.

No woman can ever truly get to the top — even those who seemingly do are only there with the permission of our true overlords — but that doesn’t mean they can’t wreck shit in the middle.

Sure, the fastest man is always going to beat the fastest woman, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be faster than you.

By the time the timer ran down, poor old Len had no valid reason to keep me there, and no invalid ones he could get away with Cherry seated next to me.

The buzzer on her phone went off and we were out on the street with papers signed and copies of the interview acquired.

“Here,” said Cherry, handing me her business card. “Just in case they follow you home. Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay my ridiculously inflated fees — Mr Larwood’s compliments.”

I took the card. “You’re just letting me go? Archie didn’t want you to bring me back?”

Cherry lit up a fag and waited until she’d inhaled half of it before answering. “He didn’t say anything to me. But you might want to have a word with him.” She pointed down the steps at a familiar van and driver.

“Don’t worry, he’s just here to see you back to your flat,” said Cherry.

I was inclined to believe her. So far, Archie had not used force on me, which meant either he was a good person who respected other people’s boundaries, or he couldn’t get hold of what he wanted by ripping it out of my body and so had to wait for the right opportunity to trick me into giving it up.

Either way, it gave me a little bit of breathing space, which was all I wanted right now. My goal was to find a way to activate my magic powers and after that I would be golden.

“If you want some free advice,” said Cherry, “you should seriously consider taking up Mr Larwood’s offer. I don’t know what it is he wants from you, but if he wants it, so will others. And they won’t be as pleasant to deal with.”

Her advice was pretty solid. It wasn’t so much about not making a deal with the devil but more about which devil to make a deal with to protect you from all the others.

“I’ll think about it,” I said. “But no matter who I get in bed with, eventually they’re going to try to fuck me.”

Cherry choked on her cigarette smoke and started wheezing. Perhaps I’d hit a nerve. Or maybe smoking is just really bad for you.

I thanked her and walked down the steps towards my waiting limo. I could have tried to give him the slip again but I was too knackered and I believed what Cherry had said. As long as they knew where I was, they could afford to wait.

They were counting on their offer to become more attractive as things got worse for me but what they didn’t realise was that things getting worse was my default setting. Sure, you can always try to stay one step ahead of your enemy, but the smart move is to be three steps behind the fuckers.

The driver opened the sliding door for me with a click of the key in his hand and nodded.

“Nice to see you again,” he said, which was the most talkative he’d been since we met.

In fact, his whole attitude towards me had changed. You might even call it respectful.

“Can you give me a lift home?” I asked him.


I got in. There was still a chance I would be taken to an abandoned warehouse and have my ear cut off, but maybe he would just drop me off back in Tottenham. Which would be crueler? Hard to say.

As I made myself comfortable in the back and helped myself to some nuts, the TV screen that acted as a divider between the front and rear of the van slid down to reveal the back of the driver’s head.

“That was quite the runaround you gave me,” he said as we drove off, his eyes flicking to look at me in the rearview mirror. “Really thought you were gonna get away. I woulda been in real trouble if you had.” He didn’t seem upset. Quite the opposite. He sounded delighted to have encountered a bit of a challenge.

“Pretty dull for you, is it?” I said. “This job, I mean.”

“It’s not usually the most exciting, I have to admit. But it pays well. And every now and again things take a turn for the unexpected. It’s not bad. So you, you’ve done some time in the armed forces, have you?”

Here I was hoping to get a little time to collect my thoughts, and suddenly Chatty Cathy here starts in with the small talk. He seemed to have been unduly impressed by my attempt to give him the slip earlier.

“What makes you think that?”

“Oh, you know, those moves, don’t think I’ve seen more than two or three people who could juke like that. Someone must have trained you, no?”

“I wasn’t in the military but I’ve had some training,” I said. “I was never a very good student, though. I know people who could squash me flat in a second.”

The driver laughed. “Sure, sure. That’s always the way, innit? Always someone better out there.”

“You were in the army, were you?”

“Yeah, but not our army. Foreign Legion. Joined when I was seventeen. Wanted to see the world, not guard some shed in Stockport.”

“And did you? See the world, I mean.”

“Yeah, went all over. Middle East, Far East, Africa. Got to see what it’s really like in those places. It’s not like on the news, that’s for sure. What about you? You look like you’ve seen some interesting things.”

Now there was an understatement.

“Yes. It’s why your boss is so interested in me. I’ve seen things no one else has, and he wants me to help him see them, too.”

“Not interested?”

“It’s not that I’m not interested, it’s just that after I give him what he wants, he’ll probably tell you to get rid of me. And then I’ll have to kill you.”

The eyes locked onto me in the mirror for a second.

“It won’t come to that, will it?” There was a slight edge to his voice.

“I hope not,” I said. “I don’t really enjoy it. Usually end up crying afterwards. I still remember those bloody mice.”

His eyes looked momentarily confused and with that our amicable chat came to a close. The divider went back up.

He was clearly quite a dangerous person. The type who didn’t make a big show and dance of their psychopathic tendencies, they just quietly snapped your neck and buried you in a lime pit.

I was all talk, of course. Without my magical abilities, I was just some chump who could surprise a few people by running away quicker than expected. But as long as he thought I might be some dark horse with hidden strengths, I was happy to let him think I was someone not to fuck with.

We reached my flat without further incident.

“I suppose Mr Larwood is going to be keeping an eye on me,” I said as I got out. “You?”

“Not me,” said the driver, not denying that someone would. “But no one will bother you. Mr Larwood isn’t the type to bully others.”

Sure, I thought, he’ll just have you do it.

What dastardly tricks would they have taught him in the French Foreign Legion? How to poison people with a variety of foul-tasting cheeses? The evil bastards.

But these were things to worry about later. What I needed to do was get myself sorted vis a vis supernatural powers that would give me an unfair advantage in the world of men.

Cheat mode? Yes, please.

I mean, it wasn’t as though other people didn’t have powers here, it was just that theirs involve game-breaking immunities and cash shop items.

“Let me give you my number,” said the driver, “in case you need to go somewhere.” He took out a business card. I was building up quite a collection of the damn things.

He put out his hand and I ducked.

It wasn’t a conscious thing, I just fell down, hitting the pavement with my backside.

There was a ‘ping’ as a dart hit the window of the van and bounced off, leaving a faint crack in the glass.

The driver looked shocked. He pulled out what looked like a phone although he didn’t press anything on it, he just put it up to his mouth.

“I need eyes in the sky. Got a shooter. Probably a drone, look for a heat signature.”

I had no idea who he was speaking to but he seemed to have the situation in hand, whatever the situation might be.

The dart on the ground had little green feathers on it.

“Don’t touch that. It isn’t that dangerous but it’s gonna have a marker on it, radioactive. Looks like someone wanted to make sure they knew where you’re going to be for the next week or so.”

“Do you know who?” I had the feeling he hadn’t been surprised by the dart, almost expecting it. It was even possible that I had been used as bait to draw them out.

“No, could be any one of a number of interested parties. But we’ll follow up and let you know what we find out. Damn, that was a smooth move, my man. Never seen anyone dodge a bullet like that. Even if it was dart fired by compressed air, that shit don’t make hardly any noise.” He was becoming more familiar with me the more impressed he was with my ability to stay alive.

I got off my arse and stood up. “Just lucky. I have a small head. Snipers hate me.”

It wasn’t luck, it was something else. But I wasn’t sure what. I’d always had good reflexes when it came to avoiding being sucker-punched or attacked from behind, but this was something different. I hadn’t been aware of it at all until I was sitting on the floor.

It wasn’t like I was suddenly Neo in the Matrix, I just seemed to be more sensitive to things here than previously, which wouldn’t require much since I’d been completely numb most of my life.

“You should go in.”

“What if they’re waiting for me in there?”

“Nah. We’ve been watching your place. That’s why they tried to get you out here.”

I wasn’t entirely convinced but it wasn’t like they were trying to kill me, whoever they were. Just mark me like an endangered species so they could track my mating habits. Boy, were they in for a dull time.

I left the driver to coordinate the hunt for the sniper drone and went up to my flat. As I approached my door, I noticed my neighbour’s door was slightly ajar and a beady eye was looking out at me.

“Colin. You made it back okay.”

“Hey, Tone. Yeah, of course. You okay?”

The one eye I could see looked a little wild.

It had already occurred to me that the person watching me on behalf of Archie was Tony. When I first arrived, Archie’s call was pretty quick, and the only person who knew I was back was Tony.

But he didn’t seem the most reliable guy for that sort of thing, so I wasn’t convinced.

Now, though, there was definitely something going on with him. He looked shocked to see me back for a start.

“Okay, well take care.” I put the key in my lock.

Tony made a strange choking sound and the glint of a blade appeared across his neck.

“Colin,” said a thin, whispery voice from behind Tony, “we’d like a word if you don’t mind.”

“Mmm. No, thanks.” I turned the key.

“I’m afraid I must insist.” The blade pressed against Tony’s skin and released a little trickle of blood. Tony’s eye got wilder.

“Insist all you like,” I said. “See you later, Tony. Good luck, have fun.”

I opened my door and went inside, shutting the door behind me. Fucking amateurs.

Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.