UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
S. HEMMING

Rogue .45


I take Amy from her rack, place her gently on the old scarred work-bench before me.

First I depress the stud and action spring. Then I swivel the bushing which allows the spring to go free. I dismount the slide assembly and remove the barrel. Now sheís field-stripped. I hold the barrel up to the light. As expected itís dirty from firing. I use rags and a toothbrush along with Hoppeís cleaning solvent until thereís no trace of dirt on any metal surface. Next I lightly oil the weapon Ė not too much though, for that would only attract the dirt and grit which could so easily foul and jam the pistol. Then I close my eyes and reassemble it. It feels so good, so natural, nestled in the palm of my hand. I jack the slide back a few times to be sure itís properly assembled. Only then do I open my eyes.

She is a Colt .45., a 1972 General Officers Model Pistol, very similar to the Combat Commander, but designed as a self-defence weapon for high level army officers. Her silver-metallic sheen with mother-of-pearl grip shines beautifully as I carefully removed every vestige of the polishing compound from her surfaces. The model comes with a brass plate insert in the left grip panel which is meant to accommodate an engraving of the owners name.

With a drop of Duraglit I lovingly buff Amyís signature.

After all it is only proper that she look her best for the events which will soon unfold.

I have two loaded magazines on the bench in front of me along with a single loose round. I insert one loaded clip into the piece, working the slide to load the first round into the chamber. I carefully lowered the hammer before ejecting the magazine and then I slide another round into place. With eight cartridges in the weapon, and a back-up clip, Iím ready.

By fuck am I ready.

Before I begin I take a moment to compose myself. A couple of deep breaths, hands splayed out before me, checking each finger for the slightest hint of a tremor.

Nothing.

Good.

Time to go to work.

I can feel the adrenalin surge, long before itís needed. But thatís how it is with me. The thrill of anticipation is almost as great as the act itself. Probably more so. And the grimy mirror above my work-station confirms what I have always known Ė that when I want I can be one mean-looking bastard. My chin is hard, despite the grin, with just the right amount of designer stubble, (which is easy to achieve after a couple of days without shaving and a bit of creative blade-work), beneath close-set slate-blue eyes. My hair is centre-parted on top and swept back with just a hint of length down the nape of my neck. I like to think I look a bit like Snake in Metal Gear Solid and it was a look I use to full effect. Donít get me wrong, I know the extent of my arrogance, but I also know, with the unrelenting certainty of psychotic determination, that it is this which has made me the person I am.

Itís nearly time to go.

I pick up the HAK horseshoe shoulder-holster system Ė purchased from the States on e-bay - and settle it beneath my left armpit. Almost as important as the weapon itself the harness is blocked and hand-moulded to perfectly accommodate the .45. It has a moulded sight-track which I know from experience is spot-on for a smooth cross-body draw. Added to that is its weapon retention provided by means of a steel-reinforced thumb-break with a countersunk snap-socket to eliminate snags. Made of soft, chrome-tanned leather itís shaped wide over the shoulder to comfortably carry the full weight of the weapon.

Itís a beautiful thing. And so am I.

Time to go.

2


The warehouse was long abandoned. Filth and debris littered the floor. The only illumination was provided by oily pillars of diffused sunlight which struggled through the fly-blown and cobweb-smeared skylights in the ceiling high above. Rusting girders cast oblique shadows through swirling dust motes and the place stank of urine and neglect.

But I loved it. I was in my element. I had my arms folded across my chest, the fingertips of my right hand within easy reach of the .45.

Across from me, and on the other side of a battered loose-leaf table, were the people I had come to meet. Unshaven and dark-haired, with glittering eyes and faces chiselled from stone, the three Turks glared at me. Between us on the table was a hold-all. I knew these people well, had dealt with them several times before, but this was my last time. My stay in this city was coming to an end. And if I was to move on then so must they; only not in the way they were expecting. And certainly not with my hard-earned cash. Fuck no! I had grown wealthy off the backs of these mobsters - and they off me - but it was their descendents who would reap the benefits. That was just the way it wentÖ.shit happens.

I looked down at the hold-all. It was my biggest score so far. Ten kiloís of Ďcharlieí, all neatly bagged and wrapped. I tested a sample off the tip of my K-Bar, felt my gums go numb. It was good. Real good.

We hadnít spoken but then we hardly ever did. Only this time, because it was the last time, I felt the urge to communicate. After all it was only fair. The least they deserved was for their executioner to greet them in their own language.

ďMerhaba,Ē I said softly, ďnasilsiniz?Ē

My greeting didnít exactly go down a storm. They might at least have acknowledged that I took the effort to learn a little of their language Slightly raised eyebrows seemed the best they could manage while their expressions remained as inscrutable as ever. If anything they seemed slightly perplexed, as if surprised that I was capable of speaking anything other than English. Which really pissed me off. But I kept my cool. I was kind of enjoying myself, as I always did when my dealings reached this final stage. I knew their reputation but I wasnít bothered by it. My day-job kept me in touch with all their comings and goings which meant I was always one step ahead. And there was no cross-over. If these people passed me in the street tomorrow they wouldnít recognise me. If anything theyíd cross the street to avoid me.

I reached into a pocket and pulled out an envelope. It was thick and bulging and was supposed to contain a huge wad of untraceable cash when in fact all that was in there was ripped-up newspaper. And the funny thing was they would never even know. I wanted this moment to last a little longer. It felt good to be able to list Turks along with the Albanians and Bosnians and various other ethnic criminals whoíd had the misfortune to be taken in by me. And after all I was, in my own way, doing a public service: I was ridding the streets of these economic migrant gangsters and claiming them back for our very own home-grown drug-pushers and assorted criminals.

They were waiting for me to hand over the envelope. Usually the exchange is done in double- quick time but as I said I was relishing the moment. They began to look a little nervous. I knew they were carrying but I was confident I could beat them to the draw.

One of them was called Mehmet. Nice bloke, I suppose, in his own way, but he really had no idea who he was fucking with. Heíd once shown me a photo of his kids. I wished he hadnít, not then. But I soon realised that, hey, they werenít my kids, so what the hellÖ?

He stepped forward and placed a hand on the hold-all. His other hand he held out, nodding to the envelope.

I held it up, giving him my one-raised-eyebrow look of disdainful contempt, and said: ďBunu istermisin?Ē Of course they wanted it.

The three Turks exchanged looks. I could see they were beginning to sense that something was wrong. And how right they were. But I was loving it. I loved taking it as far as I could. Not for me the easy shot from concealment and a quick getaway. I liked to watch them as it dawned on them what my true intentions were. I looked for signs: a small tic in the corner of the eye, the twitch of a handÖ.

Ö.and there it was.

Amy was out in an instant. A quick double-tap and Mehmetís face disappeared in a spray of red. Two more snap-shots followed and as all three Turks dropped I emptied my clip into their twitching bodies. It was all over in a heart-beat. Job done. I liked it when I was close enough to get a little of their blood on me. It made me feel like I wasnít wasting bullets. As long as it wasnít too much that I had to make an effort to clean it off.

And there you have it. Simple really.

All it boils down to in the end is risk assessment. It had been the same in all the other cities: I would let it be known that I was in the market for drugs and that I had plenty of cash to pay for it. Some organizations took longer than others for me to infiltrate but I was never in that much of a hurry. It didnít matter how long it took, and the end result was always the same. I would do maybe half-a-dozen deals, each one larger than the previous, until I had built up a big enough stash to allow me to move on. I lived modestly but I liked to be comfortable and though I was discreet I had all the trappings of a lifestyle well beyond my means. I just made sure that none of it was too obvious and that if queries were ever raised I had plausible explanations.

So it had been for ten years or so. Was I a gangster? A criminal? Surely not. I was a lone-wolf and I revelled in my anonymous notoriety. I had been called a vigilante by the press, which was ok, but of course they had no idea that the whole object of the exercise was to make money. Obscene amounts of it I hasten to add. I justified it with the thought that no-one really mourned the passing of these thugs except perhaps their immediate family. If they had any. And if they knew the dangerous game their kin-folk were playing then they must expect that sooner or later they might have to pay the ultimate price.

Even before the last shot had finished echoing around the cavernous warehouse I had snatched up the hold-all and was off. My buyer was waiting for me at an address some ten minutes drive away. I was on a strict timetable. I had given myself one hour to kill the three Turks, take the stash, get round to the buyer, kill him, take his money, and go. I always left the drugs. After all they were simply a means to an end. It was the cash I was after. Also it helped confuse the subsequent investigation, cementing the myth that I was little more than a psycho do-gooder. And all before I clocked on for work.

God, life was good.

And when Iíd resettled elsewhere the buyersí money would ensure that I had somewhere nice to live while I sussed out the local dealers and suppliers. Image was everything. Also Iíd developed a kind of cocky charm which helped me no end as I trawled through seedy pubs and clubs. My initial contacts always began at the lower end of the scale, tin-pot dealers passing ten-pound deals in stinking toilet cubicles. But I was oh so good at what I did, and itís surprising how easy it is to get in with these guys when you flash a bit of cash and buy the rounds all night. It takes time of course but eventually word gets around. I let my face be known, become a regular. Become trusted. Then I notch it up a gear. Let it be known Iím after quantity as well as quality. I let them come to me, and eventually they do. This is how I work my way up the chain.

And Bobís your uncle.

But before I headed back to work I had a phone call to make. I was never complacent about my activities cosí you canít do a ten-k deal and not be known by people. Which is why I liked to move from city to city. I might be good Ė hell, I am good Ė but I am not so arrogant as to think that the people I kill wonít be missed or, more to the point, the drugs and money which I take with me.

ďCommissioner Phillips please,Ē I say as my phone is answered. ďJust tell him itís Rogue, heíll want to speak to meÖ. Hello Commissioner, itís been a while. You know what I need. I thought Manchester.Ē

And thatís all it takes.

I like to imagine him sitting at his desk shitting bricks each time he gets my call. I only contact him twice, occasionally three, times a year, depending on how lucrative my dealings are with the underworld of each city. He really has no choice. The tapes I have of him, should I release them to the press, would leave him with little option but to swallow the barrel of a gun. And at the end of the day itís really no big deal for him to move me around. He knows itís in his best interests because the people Iím ripping off are not to be taken lightly and we both know that if I linger too long I will inevitably come unstuck. So I keep my requests simple, and they are well within his means. He knows full well that time is of the essence. The longer I stay in a city after a kill the more chance there is of me also ending up dead on a slab. You might think that would be doing him a favour but I have taken precautions, just to make sure that he expedites my requests with the greatest possible haste. You see I have placed the tapes in trust and should anything happen to me then they would soon be splashed over the front covers of every sleazy rag in Fleet Street

And that just would not do.

I know it canít go on indefinitely but Iíve almost completed my ten-year plan and one more good score will give me enough to go find that sun-soaked beach and live in the lap of luxury for the rest of my life. Iím not sure Iíll be able to stop my passion though. Itís something I think about occasionally. But then again South America is a bloody big place and if I get the urge Iím certain there are enough itinerant wanderers to slake my thirst.

And I canít fucking wait.

As long as itís somewhere warm - off the beaten track. I might even leave my man on the phone a little something to sweeten his day. See, Iím not such a heartless bastard after all. Then again, I might have to kill him too, just to tie up all the loose ends. Oh, hell, I just donít know yet; I guess thatís one little scenario Iíll have to play by ear.

3


Forty minutes later Iím back behind my desk. Iím jotting facts and figures into a duty log as various people wander to and fro in front of me. I think to myself how lucky I am that I can mix the sublime pleasure of workaday mediocrity with the supreme thrill and passion of my other life. Without my alternative existence Iím sure I wouldíve drowned in the banality of it all a long time ago.

I hear my voice being called and I smile to myself.

I look over my shoulder.

ďYes Sarge?Ē I ask, affecting my most innocent of expressions, which, to my credit, leaves me quite anonymous in whatever police force I end up being transferred to. Of course Iíve shaved by now and my hair is slicked back with gel to minimise itís length so I look quite different than I did an hour ago.

ďI know you aintí been here that long but apparently youíre being sent to bloody Manchester. Iíve been told the Commissioner of bloody police himself has been looking into surplus personnel. It would appear that you, my old mate, are definitely surplus to requirements. I would love to say that Iím sorry to see you go but you know me, I like to call a spade a spade. And to be quite bloody honest youíre probably the most boring, sour-faced bastard Iíve ever had the misfortune to be bloody lumbered with. Sorry and all that but there you go. So pack your stuff and go bore the shit out of the Mancs and maybe - just maybe - I can get that little Sally Brewer from Admin. to come take your place. Now wouldnít that just be the icing on the cake?Ē

And just maybe, I thought, one day you might come face to face with Amy in some disused building somewhere - when sheís bored and with little else to do - and Iíll let her have a little chat with you face to face and though the conversation would be quite one-sided it would at least wipe that supercilious, condescending bloody grin off your ugly, pockmarked mushÖ.









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