Chapter 1


North London 1998


   “Time, Gentlemen, please!!!” It was a loud, authoritative voice, which had been honed over many years of working in pubs. It was a voice that commanded respect, but in the smoke-filled atmosphere of the Dog and Gun bar respect was in short supply. The proprietor knew he would have problems getting the corner crowd out. He always did on a Friday night. If they didn’t drink as much as they did, he’d ban the lot of them and accept the consequences. He’d already had a run-in with two of them earlier that night over the jukebox.

   “We don’t want no fucking Spice Girls on our jukie!” he’d been told. He calmly informed them that he had no control over what was put on the jukebox, but that he’d have a word with the guy next time he called. It was hassle that his staff could do without. These days he kept the young female staff away from them, in the lounge, leaving himself and the missus to take care of the bar and of them. He was a businessman, and entertaining the punters was the business; it was with that in mind that he’d got the big-screen television for the football, along with Sky Sports. It worked: it brought the crowds in. It had been great for the World Cup games in France, but that had been the summer, before they moved in.

   Unfortunately, it brought the unwelcome element as well. He loved his football – he loved it with a lifelong passion. He still remembered the first time his dad had taken him to see Spurs. It had been a wondrous adventure for a seven-year-old boy – the noise, all the people, the smells, the sound of the cheers, the smell of the grass – and it had changed his life. He was hooked, and ever since then he’d been proud to call himself a football fan.

   They also called themselves football fans, but the sort of action they went looking for on a Saturday didn’t happen on the pitch. The corner crowd were the textbook definition of football hooligans – loud, rude, and very often drunk. If he didn’t have to serve them, he’d walk a mile to avoid them and what they represented: the shame of English football. They had adopted his beloved pub at the start of the season when they’d been banned from the Butchers Arms, down Turner Road. That had led to the arson attack, and what was left of the Butchers Arms was now a burnt-out shell. The police knew they’d done it, but were powerless to do anything, since they had no proof.

   They’d been looking for a new regular meeting place and they’d chosen his. He, on the other hand, had no choice. All he could do was calmly accept it and hope they’d move on soon, but he seriously doubted that would happen. They had no respect for anyone or anything. If he’d acted the same, his dad would have tanned his behind till he couldn’t sit down for a month. Things had changed so much since he was a lad; that sort of discipline just didn’t happen nowadays. He hoped there would be no trouble tonight, but he knew tomorrow would be a different story – especially if they lost. The police had already become frequent visitors to the pub, but all they could do was clean up the mess. A couple of them had been arrested, but they were out on bail before the head on their pint was gone. There were seven of them tonight: only a couple were missing. Three were hogging the dartboard and the others sat round the table next to it, almost as though guarding it against the rest of the punters. The ones at the table were beginning to get out of hand.

“Wankers, the fucking lot of you.” Tony Harris was probably the meanest of the lot. He stood six-foot two and was big with it – solidly built and wide across the chest. He was only in his early twenties, and the proprietor could remember him as a kid stealing the other kids’ ice creams. He hadn’t changed much.

“Tone, sit on your arse and shut the fuck up.” Danny Henderson – he was a professional hard man and the only one of the bunch with any brains. He was a different person away from them, being a successful sales rep for some insurance company. He wore a suit all week, driving around in a big flash Sierra Cosworth; then at the weekend he turned into this monster. He was cold, calculating and very tough. The proprietor continued mopping up the bar, hoping they would leave of their own accord, but he kept a close eye on them.

“Yeah – come on, Tone.” Little Sammy Jessop was the kid of the bunch. He hadn’t long left school and had barely started shaving; it was a shame to see him hanging about with that bunch. The proprietor knew his mother and she was such a sweet young thing. She’d been pregnant with Sammy while she was still at school. No one knew who the father was, except her, and she wasn’t saying.

“Tone, you be round my gaff by ten. This is payback, Tony. These bastards gave Sammy a right good kicking. You happy ’bout that?” Danny was trying his best, but he knew that trying to reason with Tony yielded about as much success as justifying porn to a nun. Big Tone wanted to hurt someone, and he wasn’t bothered who; to him everyone was, as he put it, “a wanker.” He wasn’t particular. He hated everyone with the same vengeance. Tonight, it was the queers that were being singled out for special treatment. They’d been chatting about a programme that had been on the television the night before; it had shown two men kissing, and Tony made no bones about how he felt on the matter. Danny hadn’t seen the programme and wasn’t particularly bothered about it, but he needed Tony to be fresh in the morning. He had put a lot of effort into the plans for the match and the last thing he needed was his best bruiser getting wasted the night before.

   “I’ll be there. Don’t worry.”

   “So, you’re going to get some kip – right, Tone?”

   “Whatever,” Tony replied, picking up his leather jacket from the back of the seat, and pushing his way out into the night.

   “Wankers,” It wasn’t loud enough for them to hear inside, but it had to be said. He had to make his point. He had to show the others that he was somebody and not a nobody. He hated being “just one of the lads.” He had to stand out.

   It was cold and damp, so he pulled his leather jacket on and stuffed his hands deep in his pockets. His left hand bumped against the hard object through the material in his inside pocket – his favourite knife. It was a perfectly balanced four-inch switchblade, razor-sharp. He stood on the steps of the Dog and Gun and pondered for a moment. The wind on his face stung his cheeks. He made his decision and turned right down the High Street, away from his place. He’d been disgusted at the sight of two blokes kissing, and the fact that they’d shown it on television made it all the worse.

   “Fucking wankers!” he said, over his shoulder. Louder this time, but with the doors of the bar shut and the noise inside he was still the only one who heard it. He headed off down and across the High Street, then left into Miller’s Lane, towards the park. He was in a mean mood, and when that happened someone else always paid the price. The frigid wind cut through his jacket and stung his legs through the denim. His feet were not much better off in the Doc Martens; he’d have to chat to his mum soon to bum a few quid off her for a new pair. He moved the knife from the inside to his right-hand pocket. He would need it and the sooner the better, he hoped. It felt cold in his hand, but it would soon warm to the occasion. He wasn’t in the mood for hanging about; that was for the tarts.

   As he approached the park, he caught sight of the figure. It had on a long, dark coat and was walking slowly on the path that led to the entrance. It looked like a queer – the coat was a dead giveaway. He watched to see if the figure would turn into the park; then he’d leap over the fence and get ahead of him. Take him in the park. The lighting was sparse and often vandalised, which made it ideal for his purpose. He felt his heart leap as the figure made the turn through the gates. Now he moved with purpose, quickly crossing the road, and vaulting over the fence. He hit the ground on the other side running. His feet kicked up the smell of the wet grass; he could feel the damp soaking into his jeans round his ankles. He knew his way in the dark. This was home-ground advantage.

   He quickly covered the ground to the swings and paused for a moment to catch his breath. He scanned the route of the path to find the queer. His heart took another leap as he spotted him walking under the light. The only one working, as it happened. He was getting excited now; the adrenaline was coursing through his veins. Tony burst towards the bushes. He’d wait for him at the other end. He got into position and held his breath, listening for anyone else. His heart was pounding in his chest. A dog barked in the distance – probably Mike Shepherd’s Rottweiler, the stupid mutt. He focused on the task at hand. He was going to give this queer a good kicking; he was going to cut him up. He was exhilarated. He felt so alive in the excitement and thrill of the moment. The adrenaline made his senses sharper. He heard the footsteps, and he stepped out in front of the figure.

   “Looking for a friend, are we?” he said. There was only menace in his voice.

   “No, I’m just out walking, thank you,” was the reply.

   “Course you are, you queer. Need some shit-stabbing action, do you?”

   “Look, I think you have me confused with someone else. I don’t want any trouble.”  

   “Well, that’s tough, isn’t it, sweetheart? – ’cos it’s found you.” Tony’s hand emerged from the pocket and the knife clicked into place. The blade still shone, even in the dim light. He held the knife out in front of him, ready to lunge. The queer should be shitting himself by now.

   “I don’t want any trouble, okay?” Tony was slightly confused. At this point they either freeze and shit themselves or turn and run, but this fruit was doing neither.

   “Fuck you, wanker!” said Tony as he lunged at the man. He hit nothing. The man just sidestepped, and Tony went flying past. He landed on the ground in a heap. A sharp pain in his knee hurt where it had hit the ground. Tony was now fuming. He couldn’t believe the fucking nerve of the wanker. The figure stood looking down at him, with his hands still in his pockets. That enraged Tony even further.

   “I’m going to cut your fucking cock off, you wanker.”

   “I doubt that, but I’ll tell you now: if you do attack me again, you’ll not live to regret it. You’ve been warned.”

Tony took that as an insult, not the warning it was. If he’d thought about it for just a few seconds, it might have saved his life. He threw himself with all his strength at the man, with the blade of the knife leading the way. Tony had no idea what went wrong, but something did – and badly. He felt the man grab his hand holding the knife, then felt himself spin off balance with a great strength behind it that he was powerless to fight. He found himself on his knees, looking up into the black of the night and the stranger’s face. The man was behind him, holding his head back tightly as far as it would go, and the knife flashed before his own face. The blade paused at his throat.

   “I warned you, you stupid fuck. Didn’t I warn you?” His voice was almost a whisper. The man was close. His face was so close that Tony could feel his breath.

   “I’ll fucking kill you, you queer,” Tony tried to free himself, struggling against the hold; he reasoned that the queer wouldn’t stick him with his own knife. He was wrong. Tony’s hand still held the blade, but the man’s handheld his. The knife pierced the skin between the throat and the neck muscles, severing the carotid artery. It continued till the full length of the blade was buried in his neck. The tip reached the spinal column and, with a sharp push, severed it. All signals between the head and the rest of the body ceased abruptly. The heart continued to pump, blissfully unaware that the blood destined for the brain was now spurting out into the rest of the world, where it was being sucked into the waiting mouth of Tony’s killer.

   Walker continued sucking the blood from the body till he was certain it was dead. There was still plenty of blood there, but there was no sense in making an issue of it. He released his grip and the lifeless body slumped forward onto the path. The blood continued to flow from the wound, powered by the pressure still in the body. It formed a pool round the corpse’s head and shoulders. Blood always looked so black at night. The body would be found, and the right conclusion would be arrived at. This thug had been out looking for trouble and it had found him. Walker was flying north on Monday anyway, so there should be no problems. He looked down at the lifeless corpse and felt revulsion at what he had done. The fact that he had warned the guy did little to help his mood. Perhaps he had wanted it to happen. It had been a while since the last one, but it was becoming harder every time.