London Games, Excerpt From Chapter Nine.
Across London the street lights were coming on, burning orange to begin with as they warmed up. The western sky was also orange as the early spring day came to an end and cooled down. From Docklands in the east to Hammersmith in the west, the traffic surged to its evening crescendo and then began to fade away as the commuters reached home or dispersed from the main roads onto the M25 and various motorways heading for the home counties and more distant destinations.
The river continued its endless and timeless meander through the capital. The setting sun reflecting off small wavelets, the spring tide running fast, creating hard work for the dozens of small boats plying up and down, carrying passengers, moving cargo or just messing about. The lights on Albert Bridge burned brightly as a solitary figure strolled along the pavement and paused to lean over the side and watch the water.
Clive was worrying. He had hoped that a walk through Battersea Park and along the river would calm him down and prepare him for the meeting. Staring at the water he told himself that he had done everything that he possibly could. In his younger days that had been the recipe for a worry free existence. If you’ve done everything you can then worrying isn’t going to achieve anything more.
That philosophy, or perhaps it was just a mind game, didn’t seem to work anymore though. Not since the long and painful break up from Kim. That experience had wounded him deeply, perhaps more than any other. He had tried to – no, he had – acted with integrity throughout. He had been ready to break away himself but her tears and her pitiful begging had reeled him back in and he had re-committed to her more deeply and profoundly than ever before. Her betrayals had hit him hard and it had taken too long for him to see the truth that was actually staring him in the face. She had pleaded to move back in with him and he had found a delightful cottage in Sussex that she had enthused about and seemed to be the perfect solution. Within days of moving in though she had disappeared. She went straight back to her former ways. She’d go out to the shops and three or four days later would surface “at her sister’s” or “visiting her mum and dad”. Clive had to come to terms with the fact that the woman he was doing his best to love was a liar and a cheat. It hurt.
He’d spent a year looking at the bottom of a bottle. At first it had been to dull the pain and the worry, a way to sleep. Later it had become a problem. He’d stopped working and would go to the pub for a couple of pints at lunchtime then spend the afternoon and evening getting through a bottle of scotch and watching old black and white movies. Along the way, he had to deal with his father’s death and with three or four passionate reunions with Kim, each occasion causing him more pain and demonstrating the depth of her insincerity.
Tonight was to be the end of all this. No, he’d already put all that behind him. Tonight was the start of his new life. He’d done everything he could. There was no point in worrying.
He turned away from the river and started back towards the park. He had an hour now to get home, get changed, into his car, back up through Chelsea, Kensington and Holland Park to the restaurant. The walk had done him good. He felt calmer and stronger. Howard would be introducing a new man to Mark de Boer this evening.
The early evening rush for Mo was well underway. His business phone was ringing almost constantly and he was making an endless and impossible series of promises to be at various different locations in west London“in 10 minutes”.
Mo knew the Range Rover was far too conspicuous but it was the one thing he was unable to resist. He lived his life in a constant state of fear, always watching over his shoulder, checking every car behind him, trusting to his instinct, avoiding any situation that felt dangerous. He was always ready to cut and run. Once, outside a chicken shop on the Harrow Road, he’d been spooked by a van that he was sure he’d seen following him earlier that day. He was serving a new customer. He’d seen him before but never on his own, always with a girl that he’d known for some time. The van had suddenly appeared in the side street. Mo had turned, walked calmly but briskly away and dropped several hundred pounds worth of gear into the waste bin. He hadn’t been pulled so on the face of it, it was a false alarm. Several hours later he’d sent one of his soldiers to check the bin. Amongst the empty boxes and the greasy bones and skin, he’d recovered more than half of what he’d dumped.
In this constant game of cat and mouse, Mo excused the Range Rover on the basis that the police knew who he was anyway. If today was to be his day, it wouldn’t make any difference what he was driving. He gunned the big black beast up to the top of Ladbroke Grove and past the Sainsbury’s roundabout. Everything was quiet now. The store had reopened but rumours were rife about exactly what had happened earlier. He swung right immediately after the roundabout and headed down the back road to Trellech Tower. There he stopped twice on two corners before completing the loop back down Golborne Roadand onto the Grove again. He waited opposite the tube station until one of his regulars showed up, jumped in the passenger seat and then he cruised round to Portobello while they negotiated the price of a quarter-ounce in good humour. “Give ‘em both one for me!”, Mo grinned. “You’re too greedy for your own good!”. He barely let the customer out of the car before flooring the throttle again and then, just as quickly, screeching to a halt as he saw Beanie bumbling down the road. “C’mon, get in. I need your help”.
Beanie was strung out now but he had the latest news about the stabbing at Sainsbury’s. “It was that squaddie girl. Susan something. She went nuts. There was a cash van collecting and she tried to jump them but that big fat security guard jumped her. Y’know the one what nicked Jimmy’s missus. She shanked him good and proper. He’s dead”.