WHAT'S DYING LIKE?

Is Mason dead or is he simply in a state of suspended animation?
Involuntary functions like heartbeat, breathing, some electrical brain activity and sometimes a discernable pulse still seem to be working, but why are these life processes so slow?
If he tries really hard he can remember his relationship with the wonderful Sophie. But what happened to her? Did she double cross him? Has he gone mad?
Or is he just dead?


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3. All Fall Down

Someone was standing at his feet. They were talking. About him, he thought. He strained hard, but could not make out what was being said. Then the light got fainter and their forms lost their shape and the image started to change colour as the light faded. The forms were losing their shape. He felt weaker. A roaring noise filled his mind. Then it grew softer. The grey turned to black. Fear made an unwelcome intrusion. 

    At last Mason realized what was happening. The picture in his mind turned a sickly yellow. It got weaker and weaker. 

    He felt a powerful force serge through his body. It flowed over every nerve. Someone was applying pressure to his hands. Then they stopped what they were doing. Mason felt himself falling.  

    A draining eruption of vitality. 

*

It was a really smart bag. Two-tone genuine leather and shiny brass fittings. Probably designed to be carried on to an aircraft. It was filled with small cellophane bags. About two hundred of them. One hundred and ninety seven, to be exact, when they were counted. They were all identical. 

    'Fucking hell!' Mason put his hand into the bag. He took out one of the sachets. He bit it open with his teeth. 'Fucking hell,’ he said again. ‘I think it's crack.'

*

Mason told Sophie to wait for him in her apartment. ‘Don’t open the door to anyone,’ was the last thing he said to her. 

    He went downstairs and got into his car. He pounded his phone on the dashboard and then threw it out of the window. 

    Then he drove around looking for a phone shop. He bought a new phone.

*

Sophie waited ten minutes to make sure he’d gone. Then she picked up the bag and walked out through her back door. She went down the fire escape onto the street below.

    Sophie went to the main railway station. A crumbling, decrepit building that had seen better days. She put the bag in a left luggage locker and pocketed the key.

    Just outside the station a few whores were plying their trade in front of a hotel that advertised rooms by the hour. 

The receptionist thought she was kidding when she said she wanted the room for a week. But she was smart enough to know that she couldn’t go back to her apartment.

*

The heavy, black V8 four wheel drive smashed into Mason’s car at the traffic lights. The force propelled him across the steering wheel and into the windscreen despite his safety belt. Two men got out and smashed the driver’s side window with a crowbar. They pulled a sack over Mason’s head and shoulders. They opened the sliding door of their vehicle and pushed him inside. A few startled pedestrians stared at what was happening, then quickly looked the other way. A man in a passing car took out his mobile phone. But he put it back in his pocket and drove on when the lights changed.

    There were no witnesses when the police arrived to ask their routine questions.

*

Mason knew he was in a penthouse. He was strapped to a chair with lots of tape. They kept asking him the same question. But he couldn't answer it. Because he didn't know where it was. The bag. The smart bag that Sophie had taken. He tried really hard. He knew his life depended on it. But he had no idea where she'd run off to. What she’d done with the bag. Or where she might be hiding.

    Tough luck, Charlie Mason.

*

Mason looked a mess. They’d ripped off most of his finger nails. And wrenched out a few teeth. Part of one of his ears was gone. But it didn't matter. No one was likely to look at him again. 

    His days with Sophie were a thing of the past. He could     hardly remember them any more.

    Or could he? 

    He decided to try again. Just once more. 

*

Sophie walked into the bar. It was quite a smart place, full of businessmen in suits and well-groomed hookers. But her long legs and blonde hair made sure she was noticed. By most of the men. And a few glances of pure envy were shot at her from some of the girls.

    She went over to the bar and sat on a stool. She ordered a drink. 

    ‘Starkey,’ was all she said when the barman put it down in front of her.

*

Mason had a fantastic view. He was high up looking out over the city from a picture window. He could hardly hear what they were saying to him. They kept asking him the same question, but he didn’t know the answer. So he tried to think about Sophie. To take his mind off his hands. 

*

A large fat man came out of his office. He sat down on a stool next to Sophie.

    ‘Listen Sweetie, my name’s Brazzo. Andy Brazzo, if you like. And I love pretty girls. You must know that your’e very pretty. And I’d like you to stay that way.’ 

    She could smell his sour, dyspeptic breath when he leaned over and brushed up against her. 

    He went on, ‘So let me give you some advice. It’s really good, valuable stuff. But because, as I said, I like pretty girls, I won’t even charge you. Just listen carefully. It’s a warning. You’re on dangerous ground. Thin ice. That kind of thing. So don’t go around asking how you get hold of Starkey. It could have an impact on your heath. Like death. Now, I don’t want no trouble, so fuck off out of here.’

*

Sophie spent a long day thinking hard. But she couldn’t think of any alternative. The bag of stuff was the key to her future. Whatever way she looked at it, she knew Starkey was the answer. He was the only thing she could think of. 

    She was fast running out of money and she couldn’t think of another way to go. Even good looks are no substitute for pictures of the queen. Surely she could do a deal. She knew how to handle men. Even ruthless men, she thought. Yes, she knew she could do it.

    She took her phone out of her pocket. She asked for Andy Brazzo.

    Bad mistake Sophie. Because once she’d dialed the number, they had hers and they knew where she was. That’s technology for you.

*

 

The buzzer sounded. Sophie saw a good looking, well dressed man staring at her from the other side of the spy-hole. As she opened the door, a fist smashed into her face and broke her nose in two places. Good Looking’s accomplice started kicking her. After a few vicious kicks she fainted. 

    When she recovered consciousness, they were stretched out  in armchairs, each with a glass of Scotch. 

    About ten minutes later Sophie didn’t look quite the same when she handed over the key to the station locker.

*

Mason thought he’d thought about many things while he was falling. It had seemed a long way down. He wasn’t quite sure, but perhaps he was already dead. He’d have to make up his mind soon, he thought.

    A draining eruption of vitality. 

*

The man in the white jumpsuit turned the body over. 

    They’d thrown him out of a window on the nineteenth floor. True to their word, they’d cut off his hands to set an example.     

    The body of a woman with blond hair and long legs was found in a nearby dump bin.

*

So, that’s it. All over. 

    But in case anyone’s interested, the moral of this sorry tale is this: If you ever have the misfortune to come across Jack Starkey, don’t fuck around with him. And don’t take any of his stuff. Because it could be deleterious for your health.

***

After several years of writing and rewriting, I have just finished my novel , ALL FAL DOWN about coming of age in nazi occupied France in World War Two.

 

If you’d like some information about my book ‘All Fall Down’ (a novel set in Nazi occupied France in World War Two) please go to 4.

 

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