You are on page 1of 17

Life-swap: It got to a point after the Great, Great War that all cities looked the same.

And then some bastard decided that all the houses and flats in each city should ha e similar si!ed families li ing in them as well. And so one of the conse"uences of ha ing, say, another baby, could be that you could be mo ed on, to another street, another neighbourhood, your family then making way for a family that was now your si!e, same as yours before then. #hen no one e er pushed it so far as I know. $ut there must ha e been a big place in town for those families that got really big. %ust as there was, and I know this was so, smaller places for those that had lost a family member as well. &ourse, the bastards that ran the cities, they had the best places in town, as always, before then as well. Well of course if you wanted to mo e to another city then you had to find another family the same si!e as yours. And then persuade them, or them you, to swap then as well. And belie e it or not, that wasn't frowned on either: for that kind of alidated the whole bi!arre system in yet another way as well. #hough how that was was a little beyond me, often. (ften I felt uncomfortable with this. And maybe with an attitude like that, that says something about why I wanted to mo e. #hough I wasn't on my own there anyway. #here had e en sprung up intercity chat sites where people compared rather than contrasted lifestyles. Get that) #hat was how I met *am as well: who might ha e been black +he said he was,- and who might also ha e been a .uslim +he said he was that as well,, but I didn/t know) A little older than me he was as well. *till he was my kind of guy, the system ha ing seen to that, our li ing style the same anyway, not like before. $efore I tell you any more about *am, well more about what I did for him really, I'll ha e to tell you more about myself then as well. Well a little anyway. I didn't fight in the Great, Great War ha ing 0ust missed out on selection. #hat is, it ended before I was of age. And it ended ery "uickly indeed: that after years and years of low le el inter entions and occupations of the 1astern !ones. *uddenly, without warning, these populations, which pre iously had been well sat upon, then, suddenly, went all out and in partnership with each other in fighting back. And that with weapon technologies that they had co-operated in de eloping before then, and then shared amongst themsel es before then as well. 2nheard of, that sort of thing, a complete failure of intelligence there) #here was outrage then of course. And then se ere escalation for a time as well. And then we were all spent. #he casualty numbers were huge e erywhere. After that there would be no more wars the sur i ing leaders said. %ust like they ha e said before, I/m sure. At that point, at the end of all that, and because I did sur i e, I was in ol ed in the reconstruction effort for many years on from then as well. And because ery few engineers and architects had sur i ed, the uptown areas of all cities ha ing been targeted in what is now called, in a neutral sort of way, the Great 3ush $ack, the first new cities, suburban areas e en, were laid out all the same, all according to the first plan off the drawing board back then. #hen because e eryone was so pleased with how the first few cities looked +they looked like something anyway,, our left o er leaders then decided that this /plan/ could be duplicated elsewhere as well, e erywhere. &ut down on disparities that would as well then, they said. And that's what happened, and how that happened then, that way.

Way out the outer areas of the cities were, by then, waste areas anyway. Where all the contaminated old building components were stored as we cleared them away. $roken up roads, bricks, roofing, drains, trains, carriages, planes, cars, buses, e erything you could think of, all stored, all sho ed out there, spread out for miles and for miles inland as well. #here was no wilderness left to wander in, nor left e en to speak of really, after that, at all. All the casualties of the war, well they were out there as well. $uried deep in mass gra es mile after mile wide. .illions of them. And all of them, and all of that, lay out there in what had pre iously been our countryside, the farming and recreation areas we all once en0oyed the freedom of. Well not any more we didn/t. And so nor could I. I only sur i ed because I came from one such country area. And so many of us left became displaced then as well. #he Great &learances then seeing us all mo ed into and in ol ed in the construction of the nearest new city after that then, #hen, after that, there was the ne4t city and after that the ne4t. 5inally, I ended up a long way from home then as well. A long way from the area I longed to go back to, always, ruined or what) (r at least to be near to there again one day I hoped. And surely, one day, we would be allowed to roam there again freely, out there, as I always remembered also. #hat before the war that befell us all, that brought us all to our knees, all eyes were to the hea ens then, I can tell you, all praying that no more rockets would fall, all eyes searching, looking out, for the ne4t though. #hough this was probably 0ust a foggy, forlorn hope, I had hung onto an idea of getting back home if e er possible any way. And sure I looked for persons li ing in the city that I first helped build to chat to then because of that. #here were many of us that harked back to before then, chatted about that, though I don/t how many wished to really go back. I did though. And I am back near there, li ing here, now as well. *till, how I got here, back to near where circumstances had remo ed me from, plays on my mind still, I will tell you. 6ou couldn't tell 0ust by looking at any chat screen where any other indi idual li ed then. 6ou still can/t now. #hey ha e to say. 6ou as well. And of course some would ne er say straight away anyway. *am did though, right off, straight away after I put up where I now li ed, which I often did, 0ust to see if someone might wish to speak to me about mo ing here. *o far then it had always been why, what for, it/s all the same now, so it had always been no. /7o kidding,/ *am said, his opening gambit. And then he said that he had grown up there, or here as it was to me, then. #hen,/Would he,/ I asked, after a bit of half-hearted tosh about our family type, e er, then, /e er consider mo ing back)/ $ack he came with, 0ust like that, that he might) $ut now that we were talking, we certainly were, he then said that there was some problem stopping him e en isiting here anymore. Anymore) *urely this was some e4aggeration8 5or so far as I knew, then, someone else 0ust ha ing the same si!ed families as me was the only prere"uisite, then, for me wanting to lea e) /Lea e it with me to think about it anyway,/ he tapped back. /#here might be a way, some day. I/ll ha e a think./ #hink it was three weeks after that that I caught up with him online again. And so he ob iously worked, I had worked that out by then, worked at something anyway) Anyway, he said then, after I prompted him with a, /.e here again, from 9:,/ pause...then

shyly, /hi.../ /;i again,/ then +and so he did remember me, then. <elief...,, /;ow is it going with you, in =>, was it)/ /It was,/ I said, nonchalant like +when I/d actually been hanging out to chat with him again all that time, weeks,. And then got down that, /It was going fine is fine here.../ +another dust storm ha ing 0ust passed through then which I didn/t mention, instead I asked him, we all do, about the air up there. #hat our big pre-occupation here, now. /7ow how was the air up there, then)/ I asked, so far south I was from home, now a lot longer though, than one day of tra el by Inter-city train away. Away we then we chatted again. And about nothing really, can/t e en remember what really. And then, after a while, I broached a big "uestion, the what) /What did this person down here ha e against him)/ #hat without broaching the "uestion of him mo ing with his family down here again 0ust yet. $ut I would. I first off 0ust asked him that. /#hat,/ he said, would ha e to wait for another night. And then, after a two minute wait, /We/d ha e to go to Inc to discuss that anyway./ And then, after another minute or two while I cogitated on that, he tapped back, /9id I know what he meant by that)/ #hat I might, I thought, and so I tapped back that, /I did,/ after that. #hat was one tap too many perhaps then. #hough I am now back near where I wanted to get. As it was, then, I didn/t know that much about that sort of thing. I had some ague idea though, which turned out to be "uite right. #hat this sort of thing in ol ed chat, with some encryption added to that. #hat and that this was supposedly secure as well. #he only trouble being, that if *am wanted me to go to that, well I didn/t ha e access to any of that kind of technology. *o few of us e er had, at that. #his should ha e, really, raised "uestions inside of me as well then. $ut I blithely carried on. I was blinkered. $linkered by then most us were as well. 5or it was like this then as well. It was no longer considered cool, or anything e en remotely like that, to rebel or to retaliate any more. #hat due to all the decimation there/d been. #here had been great fear after that. &onformity, now, was standard, part of that. #hat technology, formerly military, was prohibited property now as well. *till I tapped back that, /7e4t time you see me online, I will be able to get into that./ I would try, anyway. Anyway, I don't know why, but I thought then, as I logged off that night, that *am was taking a big risk there. $igger that I was then anyway. 5or I was clean as clean up to that point. A model citi!en, hadn/t we all been for a while. *am not, ob iously. I/d ha e to get out more. .ore, I had the yen to mo e so I must. *till, up till then, that was all that could e er ha e been used against me. #hat frowned on a little, not made easy anyway, but no more than difficult, really. 7ot much fuss at all for me. .e, I/d ne er e en kept dodgy company before. Well, not much anyway. (ne good friend had turned out to be a bit of a robber, but I didn/t know about that then. Another guy, another friend, had mo ed on some time ago as well, had had to really, to another city, money again. In

what league, I wondered, was *am) *am was not, by the sounds of it, clean as clean at all. ;e had things he had to face, more difficult things. And so more held him back. &ourage, well courage was something you could not e en begin to know you possessed unless you had been tested. 7o e4amination at all, really, a life that is ordinary. (rdinary my life is but not my wife though, at least I didn/t think so. Always testing me she asked me the ne4t morning after that e4change with *am to e4plain. /14plain, if you please, your in-ordinate amount of time you ordinarily spend online) Are you bored) +I was. Good test,. /What/s got into you) ;a e you got another woman on the go) And who on earth ha e you been chatting to lately)/ /Lately,/ I replied, /#o no one in particular./ 7ot yet to anyone in particular I meant. .ostly, I had been looking out for someone like *am. #hat was all, actually. Actually, it would, of course, ha e been impossible for me to spend the amount of time online that I did then. #hat had it not been that my wife had shifts worked into her roster at the hospital then. *he a nurse, then, working late afternoons till late, sometimes ery late. And latterly she/d been arri ing home later than usual and I/d still be up and at this. It was, she said, /getting a bit beyond a 0oke./ /%oke,/ I used to think, that was one, another one, as if. .addy, e erything any man could e er want. ;ighbrow not. *imple she thought so of herself then, said so. #hat an idea she had about herself that came from where I don/t know) (ne I ne er contradicted though, that being how she liked to see herself then, ob iously. (b iously, that another 0oke. 5or there was nothing ob ious about my .addy at all. #all she was, is. =ind she can be at times as well. $it of a confidence shaker at times as well though. 2nderstanding, well some of the time. Good looker, yes. Great mother, yes, that to our two children, those two, .a4 and .atilda, near independence as well, by then. *eldom asking us for much, or e en about anything, much more, anymore. 5rom her maybe, not from me. .e, I did ha e one secret at that time though. #his one. And I had decided to keep it to myself as well. Which I shouldn/t ha e, of course, I knew. .addy sleeping deeply beside me, rolled o er, e en as I, beside myself, turned this, not for the last time either, o er. ( er to the ne4t morning then, after that semi-sleepless night, and a kiss goodbye from my adorable, if not adoring of me all the time, .addy, as off to work I would soon go. .addy still seeming somewhat suspicious of me it seemed so then, that morning, as well. (ff to work. And on my way I decided I might best curb some of my logging on for a while as well then, that being so. *am, back to that, did seem to work as well. I wondered at what) And as well as that, up until a little after I usually got back, from my work. Work, mine, this part of my problem possibly, wasn/t actually ery interesting, ta4ing. 5ew 0obs were, actually. And, actually, there were no ta4es by then anyway, not after the great, great war. War had actually been of benefit insofar as the system functioned better for all those that were left ali e then. It had simplified things. .any of the great and intractable economists had perished in the war as well. *taying at home hadn/t worked for many of them either. And so, by then, the system had had to work out a system of similar benefit. #he goods and ser ices to a large e4tent were technologically ad anced by then anyway. #hat signalled many years before then. $ut not thought of then as possibly of benefit to all. Well it would be, e entually.

1 entually the 0obs, then, after the war, were shared by those who wanted them. Which, surprisingly, was by "uite a few persons as well. Generally to get out and about I supposed as well then. #hough not that many then, as far out as I could see, wanted to get "uite as far away from it all as I did those days. 9ays at work for me, anyway. $ack to that, in ol ed monitoring then, many 0obs did, the great machines mostly, some planting planning went on as well by about then. And in the field I worked we looked after the great outback/s border fences as well. Which were pushed out further, a little further, into the interior, from time to time, specific to that plan. 3lan A, after the war, was to monitor the fences with cameras and sensors mostly. And that from our building down town as well. *ame as e ery city then. And plan $, de eloped after a time, in ol ed checks on the ground out there as well, so to speak. We were at that phase and once a week, at least, we checked our areas out as well. #hen, and at any other time also, there were any concerns raised from our monitoring. .onitoring, in our bureau, was confined to the fences in our areas. And problems that did arise would usually concern some damage to some part of the fence from some animal from out there trying to push on though. A fence, when encountered, meant nothing to an animal, that animal not understanding why or what the fence was doing there) #here some animals did succeed of course. And some managed to break through as well. #hat was the department of another department after that, though, not our department. *till, thankfully, the animals would be returned, turned round, rather than killed then, no matter what the le el of deformity. #hey would, one day, be all that was out there anyway, their like. Like it was surely en isioned, somewhere, that one day the wilderness would be welcoming to us all as well then. #ill then still. *till, in my lifetime I thought that was possible as well. As the ground out there was fore er being soaked with blanching sprays.#hose being constantly dropped somewhere out there from the planes and helicopters I/d often see going o er while at work, checking, repairing, the fence line. Line after line like that used to appear amongst the 7ewspeak anyway. And some areas, after this sustained process, were said to be regenerating better than had been e4pected e en. And one of the areas often commented on, and as a clear e4ample of that, was my old stamping ground as well, and its outlying areas where I also once used to clomp around. Around a couple of days after I last chatted to *am I was scheduled again for a turn out on the fence line. I suited up at work as usual, first thing. .y .addy was still a bit thin with me. 1 en though I hadn/t been on the chat lines much since that last e ening blast. #hat said I wanted some of the air out there that day, contaminated or whate er. #hat said I still wanted to get further away from there, that not an area I e er got into. Into the briefing room after suiting up I turned out with the teams there for our general briefing about the days planned fence checks. #here were three ehicles to go, si4 personal assigned, and our briefing was conducted by a eteran of the great, great war. e4-*ergeant .a0or %oe $rown, aka our $rownie. $rownie to us, not to him of course, was, is, a thinnish wiry guy, not a lot to him at all, not a lot to say ery much either. It was as if he was, might ha e beeen also, constantly bored. ;is briefings were brief and so far as 0oking about with him goes, you don/t8 9on/t get me wrong though. ;e wasn/t panicky or picky, 0ust ery professional, at work.

Another part of his life, we knew, was not ery professional. 5or we all knew he had a taste for 0ust about anything going out of work. And that that included gambling as well. *o that we put down to his war ser ice, his close calls. #hat we thought leant him more towards risk, after that. And as a more risky life-style would cost more, his likely did, that we imagined was why he was often at work as well, for more money, more often than us anyway. Anyway, I had already decided that %oe $rown was the man. ;e was the one I was going to ask about this little problem of mine now, this Inc) ;e was the man, I had decided, that 0ust might help me there) &ertainly he wouldn/t report me I didnl/t think. *o I could ask. Ask him I did then, ne4t time I caught up with him outside and smoking, that frowned on more that most social crimes still. #hat despite the whole world being laid near waste again. And that with weapons of all si!es and ranges, and some portable, packaged, as well. And those all sold or de eloped with narry a mention of their possible side-effects either. (nly, in that respect, that they can, could, deter the taking of life. 2ltimately they didn/t. 2ltimately, all I wanted anyway, was the Inc. /Inc,/ he mused, his eyes sparkling a bit, charging up. /&hatting to a married lady eh) (r is it a guy) 9on/t answer that, I don/t want to know./ #his was my man alright. /Alright,/ he said, /stop worrying, or whate er it is you/re doing 0ust now. I don/t care. I/ll ask around. if your serious about this, I/ll get back to you. 6es)/ I nodded. 1nd of that then. And whew, then, I drew in a breath or two. #wo weeks later he did 0ust that as well, tapping me on the shoulder one morning, telling me then to meet him at his smoking place again, outside, at the end of my shift for another chat, later. Later, and in between draws on his cigarette, he told me he had to meet with me again. $ut that this time it would ha e to be away from work, his club. /9id I still want this)/ I nodded again. /(kay,/ he said, told me where, when, and turned away... Away from work $rownie could be found at a club for e4-military types, some "uite highup once I would soon learn as well. #his club, the Musketeer, $rownie said he/d ha e to sign me into as well. (nce that was done I/d be a member then as well. After that I/d be welcome there any time. ;e signed me in. /Any sort of business can be conducted here,/ he said, lea ing me in no doubt then that that might not be the case any old elsewhere as well. ;e would introduce me to someone there. (minously I thought, that the underground, a feature of the long war, was now o erground perhaps) 3erhaps, I ha e wondered since, $rownie thought I was an aspiring black marketeer back then as well) (r since) .aybe) *till I wasn/t. 7or did I "uite like the sound of this club to begin with either. $ut hey, he was as good as saying he was going to sort me out with the Inc there. #hat only if I would enter the fray though, that is there. #here, collecti ely, the ranks, as $rownie called them when he bid me sur ey the main lounge, that after he returned from the bar with two %ars of &ity $itter, looked aguely disreputable. 9isreputable with the notable e4ception though, of only one lot of them, those together though at only one table. 3resumably, I thought then, they were perhaps some of the more higher up e4-military types) In charge of the den, perhaps, as I saw it then as well) Well, that 0ust wasn/t so. And $rownie told me that when I first remarked on this. It was 0ust that, /that lot,/ as he put it, /some of them had risen to "uite high rank in the military, had all,

in some way or another, graduated into the upper echelons of the current ruling class as we know it now./ 7ow, the one that was most likely to help me out was seated amongst that lot then, $rownie said then, pointing him out to me then, pointing me out to them as well. 9uke ;enry, his name was, and he had been in the military, not particularly high up though. $ut he had made the grade though, into the upper class after the great, great war because +?,, he had sur i ed and +>,, because of his outstanding book keeping and record keeping abilities. And notwithstanding those outstanding talents, he had also kept the whiskey arri ing at the front line for some sitting there back then as well, and for some not sitting there at all, but who might ha e been sitting there had they also sur i ed. <umour would ha e it later that these guys used to bet amongst themsel es as well, as to who would get it ne4t. And apparently 9uke also used to keep the bets o er this. #his guy then, that $rownie pointed out to me, was, so far as I could tell then, him being seated, side on to me, about my height, no taller anyway. *hort he was then and fair skinned he was as well. ;e had a receding hairline with spectacles sitting on an upturned nose also. 1 ery part of him then looked the part of a efficient clerk, well-employed, well-padded. 3added well in contrast to my good self, anyway. 7amed by my parents <upert after my mother/s father, a tall man and dark skinned. #hat in contrast to my short, light skinned, compact self. *elf assured this 9uke, anyway, turned out to be an enormously likeable guy. ;e was full of stories, and, as it tuned out, always an4ious for more friends. 5or he said that if he was going to do anything for me we had to appear to be friends. 5or that way anything that passed between us e entually would not necessarily be noted by anybody so noticing. /7oticing)/ Well he would know, I thought, better than me, if such sort noticing went on. #hat sort of thing not widely worried about now, I knew, therefore not widely thought of as happening much any more either, or hardly. ;ardly anyone ended up in prison anyway. And that only for ery serious crimes, like murder. #reason, another, and you were gone. Anyway that was how 9uke and I ended up friends. I had to keep coming in and not 0ust up until our transaction ended. /9eal)/ /9eal,/ I agreed. And it would cost a bit this Inc as well. ;alf to go to $rownie, his fee for finding me, about @AAA inner-city dollars in total he "uoted me. And that not e4actly chicken feed that either. $ut then again, I hadn/t seen a chicken for many years either, nor any feathered friend in flight for 0ust too long. Long after that, I recall now, I went in again and again. And that with .addy getting suspicious of that then. (nce again, as I shouldn/t ha e, I kept the real purpose of my isits to that club to myself. I ha e a lot of regrets about that now, for .addy would ha e stopped me, pointed out the folly of it all then, to me. .e, I got my Inc as it turned out in the end, and I didn/t stop calling into the club after that again, as per the deal, and by then I did ha e good friends there as well. 9id I say good) Let/s say 0ust friends instead, perhaps, some of them new chaps brought in, like me, by $rownie first. 5irst thing though, after I got my de ice, I did get in touch with *am, sending him a message ia this Inc once I/d worked out how it worked. And I did this the day after one slight hiccup. *imple stuff this was really, but it still took some learning. &ouldn't ery well ask the kids

either could I. 5amiliarising your kids with dodgy gear, they/d wonder about your type) #ype your message in, onto an ordinary 3& document, then, instead of sending, you sa ed that document to the Inc/s micro-disk, which fitted any ordinary 3& disk slot. 6ou then inserted that disk into the Inc slot. A bit of whirring later and after the orange Inc light went out you then pulled back your disk and inserted in into the 3& disk slot as before. 7ow the print was gone and what looked like a full stop appeared then, te4t gone, 0ust that. #hat you then cropped and added to the end of any ordinary chat message. #o read a message you worked the process in re erse, copying any chat that appeared to any micro disk again, inserting that into the Inc, which then blinked a different colour, green, which signified that unseen te4t had been added to any messages. .essages, for the sake of safety I supposed, were wiped as soon as you hit the off button on the 3&, wiped e en from the disk. *ome kind of micro-field was operating then, that the processes secret heart. #he te4t suspended then, in it/s own space. Where er, whate er) Whate er sort of military application this was for I did not know) $ut this did come in handy when .addy came in that first e ening I was at this, and earlier than e4pected as well. #he fact that I was sitting there silently made worse by the fact that I immediately hit the off button as well, as soon as I saw her standing there. /#here you are, back to that again./ /What and why)/ I should ha e said. /Why, .addy, you/re home early,/ was all I was able to think of to say instead, then. #hen, with an about face, she said, /#o bed you,/ and that night she ga e me a right bothering as well) What had got in to her, I wondered later on, blinking. And downstairs, the Inc, sitting behind the speakers, began blinking as well. Well, the ne4t day was a work day, and the ne4t night another late shift for .addy as well. With little to interrupt me again, after I/d washed up, I switched on the computer again. And after logging on I prepared a message for *am again, 0ust in case he might come on again. Again he did, late again. And once again we chatted, my back to the door, my ear to the wall, listening out for my .addy. .addy didn/t interrupt us though, that e ening, and we got though "uite a bit. #he effort not wasted then for once again it had taken me "uite some time to get a message for *am all set. *o ready at the end of a line of ordinary chat I had managed to add, within the full stop, a message to *am, /I could now recei e more personal messages./ I wondered if he would get back by Inc. I didn/t ha e to wait long. /Long time back,/ his full stop, when I/d deciphered it, said, /I was witness to a war crime and that/s why I BheC mo ed here, swapped myself, luckily, after I ran into him again, the guy who/d gi en the orders, the guy who/d then let me lea e the scene thinking, I suppose, the war would ne er end anyway, and that I/d get killed that way. *urprised I was to see that he had sur i ed as well. $ut e en more surprising to me was, I found out, that he was part of the new order in my own home town when I returned there./ #here he ended for now. #he preceding chat to that, free for all to see, letting me know the weather was fine there, thankyou. %ust like I remembered it was as well, once. (nce .addy had gone off the ne4t night I watched for him again. And when I noticed him there I sent him another message, preceded by another en"uiry about the weather there that day

again as well. #o which I/d also added, asked, could he tell me more. Which I hoped he would before .addy also came back. $ack, after a while, came some more chat. /*orry I was ha ing some dinner with the family before./ And then attached to that was a bit more about this crime, and what could still be it/s conse"uences. /&onse"uences for a crime like that, unlike many others, are serious still. #hese can still be in estigated if anyone does come forwards with information. $ut, ah,/ he finished with, /would that person e er be safe though, after that) #hat was the end of that line of chat then, the weather being fine again, down there. 5or a whole week, after that, I looked out for him e ery night, after more. .oreo er I worried about him as well. I couldn/t see him there) I wondered if his Inc might ha e been detected then) &ould /they/ then) #hen I began to wonder if he had been arrested) #hen whether I might be ne4t as well) &harged with possessing the means for rumour mongering or some such thing) 5eeling slightly guilty e en though of nothing really, I was second guessing. Guessing further then I supposed that for all *am knew I could ha e been a 0ournalist or some sort of in estigator myself. And finally, after much of that sort of thinking, I became determined to let him know that I was at least not that. #hat by way of reiterating that I was ery serious about mo ing as well. What more could I do) If he would let me know more, like who this person was, especially, I could at least try, try anyway, to find out more about that person now anyway, get back to him. With his standing perhaps, now. Was it the same as before, for instance) #hese things and more I said I could do, would do, as well... Well *am did gi e me this man/s name then, that some time after I asked for it, but he did in the end. *aying then that he would be interested in knowing about this chaps standing now. #hat he did need to know. #hat determining if e er he might be able to come back here then as well) Well, that was enough to start me off. And so now, well now the "uestion was where to start as well) And so all I could think of then was to ask at the club, ask some of the guys there that I/d got to know as well. And a dodgy lot some of them were as well, I knew, And so asking about someone I/d ne er met might be risky there as well. And e4-military more than a few of them were as well, possibly e en old friends) 5riends) Well lucky for me one of mine by then was one of the barmen there as well. And it was this guy, the guy I first asked as well, who said wait, wait till when he comes in ne4t and he would point him out to me if I was in as well. And then he did as well, pointed *am/s old comrade out to me ne4t time he was in, and I was in as well. And it was e en the case that I/d once said hullo to the guy myself some time ago as well. #hat while getting a drink in for $rownie again, and for 9uke, we/d bumped into each other. ;e/d looked me up and down then, I remembered, this %ules. %ules 1thrington was his name, the name I/d been gi en by *am. /%ust slips in,/ the barman had first said, /from time to time. 7e er stays long. <etired, perhaps still acti e,/ I don/t know) 14-military though, "uite definitely, "uite the type, definitely./ 9efinitely he looked so as well. #all, not bowed, hair greying, an arm missing e en) #hat *am hadn/t mentioned) At least, I thought then, he/d know I was talking about the right guy

then, when I mentioned that. $ut by lea ing that out, I remember wondering, had he been testing me as well then) As it was *am didn/t know this, almost put me off, but I was all in then. Who, I ask myself now, was he) ;e, this 1thrington I noticed, seemed to know the book keeper "uite well then as well. 3erhaps, I thought then, through him, 9uke, I might glean something on 1thrington as well then. $ut not that night I decided. I had to get home to .addy again, wanted to, though it was usually .addy that wanted me home when she got in. In, I decided then, fitful and not getting off to sleep easily, I decided I wouldn/t get back to *am about 1thrington for at least a couple of weeks after that last night out. 7ot about ha ing seen him, especially, this %ules. .indful, then, that *am would "uite rightfully be suspicious of me too, if I did get back to him too soon. ;ad to work him up as well, I decided. As he was me, some small oice, not .addy/s, said to me then as well. *o real. <eal fluke anyway, it had been. #here were more than a few clubs of that type in that city as well. .ind you, I thought as well, it wasn/t beyond the realms of impossibilities, perhaps, that 1thrington isited all of them as well) Looking out for the likes of *am perhaps, one or two others e en) 1 en so, though I was still thinking for myself then, I was getting drawn in as well. And when .addy came to bed that night I was still wide awake as well, thinking about all this again... Again I still didn/t tell her. 1 en though she asked again. (ften did, anyway, when she could see I was thinking about some thing too much. *he could tell, I can tell you. And I should ha e, of course, told her then as well. And had I done that I wouldn/t ha e so much on my conscience now about it. It was either two or three nights later, still worried, not enough too desist though, that I went back to the club again. #here I e entually collared the book keeper again as well, intent. /I saw you talking to a guy with one arm the other night, a returned soldier I suppose, looked the type)/ I let the "uestion lea e a slope... /And some,/ was all the book keeper said though, lea ing it at that, that night. #here was no helping me out that night then. #hen, two nights later, I noticed them talking again. #hen, the ne4t night I was in, the ery ne4t night, the book keeper, when he saw me, came up to me, grabbed me by the arm, motioned me aside, and mentioned to me then that the one-armed guy now seemed interested in me as well. #hat he had also asked him who I was now8 /7ow I had to be careful then,/ he said. /;e scares me a bit, actually, lot of clout once, still probably has some now as well./ Well I least knew that now, anyway. /And so I 0ust told him,/ 9uke said, that, /I didn/t know you ery well anyway. $ut that you were a work colleague of $rownies in any case, which seemed to satisfy him for then./ #hen he told me that he and $rownie went back a ways as well, to before he met him, out there. /I/m not sure $rownie cares for him much though./ #hen closer, he came closer. /9on/t e er, if you e er get talking to that guy, say that I/ e helped you out with anything e er8 (kay8D /(kay, don/t worry 9uke,/ I was getting alarmed by then, feeling distinctly like running home to .addy that night and right then again as well. 14cept she wasn/t in yet, not back. /$ack some time ago that was his 0ob you know. (nce anyway. *taying in touch with what

was going down here, elsewhere as well. (ld habits, I suppose, die hard. ;e looks retired now. I don/t know, wouldn/t ask. =nown to think the worst of people some of those types were, after the war. .y e4perience, people like that find the worst in people because they are, in themsel es, some of the worst e er. 1 er so slowly I crept home that night. 7ot a raging bull, I can tell you. 7or did I rush up to bed. 5or nodding off to sleep "uickly that night wasn/t going to happen. #oo much had been happening. .addy, thankfully, was not interested in where I/d been that e ening when she came in. I held it in again. Again a "uestion that was de eloping for me was how long should I lea e off the chat with *am, .addy aside) I decided, lying there, that I wasn/t going to hold off any longer now, couldn/t. I needed to get in touch with *am about the guy for myself now, and soon. 7ow that it seemed the guy was interested in me also. Also, I was now hiding the Inc for the first time since I/d had it as well. #hat de ice unnoticed by .addy so far, or so I thought, anyway. #hat up until she asked me, the ne4t morning, where that orange blinking thing behind the computer had got to now) /7ow)/ I turned. /A-hum, it/s in the shed./ God she was getting sharper, not simpler, at all) /<echarging,/ I said, after that, awaiting more "uestions. Euestions I mulled o er the ne4t day at work as well. And they would ha e all fitted neatly under the heading then, of /what ne4t)/ $y then of course I/d settled a bit from those fearful feelings that had been settling on me. A new e4perience it was, e4periencing that. And accompanying that there had been fits of imagination un-e4perienced e er before then. #hen, I had thought, the most effecti e course of action would be to kill 1thrington. $ut I had ne er done anything like that before, hadn/t been in the war. And fearful, I imagined, I would be fore er more if I could e er e en get up the pluck for e en a crack at that. #hat, and I worried that if e er I succeeded, would I not be like 1thrington himself then) 3erhaps no better off then either. .e fearful of him for e ermore then, same as he would be of *am, and maybe of others as well, their re-appearance, of them still breathing) $reathing more slowly after that slow shrinking of my spirit, I thought ne4t that I could report him for something if nothing else. At least that. $ut although the burden of proof that was re"uired for something treasonous, say conspiracy against the peace, wasn/t that high, yet he would still be around that way, might beat the charge) 3ossibly became probably, so... *o probably, I decided, what I at least should do first, is to find out where he li es anyway) And so that found out, that first off anyway, there was another way that it now occurred to me to get rid of him. And that was to lea e something incriminating within his property as well then. #hat as well as /informing/ on him. And probably he/d done that sort of thing himself before as well. It would be fitting. 5itting would be a weapon as well then, could I obtain one. #otally forbidden and then some. *ome religious tract, well that was 0ust a ban away from that as well) $ut that something I could easily mock up besides. $esides I could add a membership list to the package e en, a pact, along with a tract emphasising that there are still irreconcilable differences in the world, always would be, that politics was but respite, moderate in action between conflict, despite the appearance of forgi eness.

5orgi eness, yes I thought, any mention of gi ing up on that should, would, put the mockers on him. And on a few other mockers as well, I thought then also. And all that I could arrange without much of a stretch of mind either, 0ust a word placed here, or o er there, then. #hen, ha ing resol ed to initiate something like that, the idea ha ing stuck okay for more than a day, I decided would sol e the problem of finding out where he li ed after I was ne4t put on call all night, then when I would ha e to bring home one of the work ehicles each e ening in case of a call as well. Well, whether or not, then, that ehicle, was or wasn/t being used for its e4pressed purpose, who could make that call. (n the one hand the ehicle with its logos was conspicuous. (n the other hand it would make me less so. *o then, ha ing got that far with a plan, I did, when ne4t on call, wait outside the club, 0ust back a few hundred metres actually, waiting for him, 1thrington, to call in, and then I would wait a little longer for him to lea e. #he third night I waited he arri ed. I spotted him going in about >?AA. And he didn/t e en stay that long, either, ne er did, often arri ing about then as well. ;e was on his way home then. 5rom what) (r on his way to another club then) (r what) We would see soon. *oon we were heading out without de iation towards the suburb of Glosters. Glosters a well to do area south of the city. .e in my ehicle, back a bit of course, he in front of me, in his. ;is place was a little ele ated I found out now. And, as luck would ha e it, his back yard looked like it backed up almost to the fence line as well. #o the fence line that we controlled and which we sometimes patrolled as well. Well, I carried on down the road then and up to the fence road by way of one of our access lanes then, that I soon found nearby. #hen I doubled back along the fence line to near where I guessed 1thrington/s place was as well. 7ear there I slowed down a bit, looking out for lights, my lights doused. #here he was, I could see him in his house, a light turned on, him looking out towards where my ehicle was stopped as well though. As if he was aware I was there as well. Was he) ;e was, had been, I soon found out. #his troubled me and was trouble for me, or could ha e been. 5or the ery ne4t day when I went in to work I was collared straight off by $rownie who asked me straight out what I had been doing up there that night) #hat with no reference as to whether he had checked to see if there had been a call that would ha e gi en me cause to be there. /#here,/ and seen there by no less a person,/ he said, /than %ules 1thrington./ And, he told me, 1thrington had also en"uired when he called on $rownie about this, as to who the operati e was out there that night as well. And so he/d had to tell him then as well, what with the ehicle number also being thrown in by 1thrington. #hen, it was on, I thought, 1thrington, well he was on to me now8 7o doubt about that I felt for sure then. 5orgetting then, of course, that he would still ha e no idea why I might ha e been there) *till, I did know where he li ed by then anyway. #hat part of the plan, done. #hough, unfortunately, he no doubt knew where I li ed by then, and was perhaps e en planing a isit of his own one e ening there +oh please let .addy be out then,, as well. Well for a moment right there and then I contemplated packing it in and mo ing out straight away. %ust bundling, no mucking around, .addy and our kids into our ehicle, e4planations to come later, and heading out of that city actually. $ut where was always the

problem though) (therwise we would ha e left long ago, .addy in agreement of course, we would, sometime, ha e got going. Going to ha e to tell *am then, I decided after that. Got to get him onside, ready to deal, up with the play. And that/s 0ust what I did do that e ening as well. .addy out, I was going to ha e to do something I said to *am. 5or now I was in some danger as well. And that was how I felt also. And if I did, I told *am, I/d definitely be wanting to mo e, swap places as soon as possible, after, /After what)/ he wanted to know. /=now what *am, I/m not sure myself yet,/ I told him. $ut would he definitely agree to mo e once the threat of 1thrington had been dealt with and then when we were ready) /.e,/ he said then, /I/m ready to mo e now, man. <upert, if you take care of this guy I will definitely change places with you, soon as you like too. I/ e wanted for a long time to mo e back there. And my family here are right behind me as well./ Well that was the end of our chat that day. And so that was the beginning also, feeling reassured by *am/s assurances, of the ne4t phase of the plan as it was working itself out in my head aswell. I also, now, had to broach the sub0ect of mo ing with .addy and then the kids as well. *urprisingly, well not such a surprise actually, .addy said she would like a change. /&hange would do us all good,/ she came out with after that, after I asked her if she would agree, and after I told her it might be soon. /*oon) (h well. And if that/s what has been distracting you so much lately it needn/t ha e. 6ou should ha e 0ust said, a look on her face of relief. <elief for me that was as well, hearing that. And that was all I really wanted to hear really. And so now I was ready to risk e erything. 1 erything, after that, had to go plan as well then. #he plan, taking shape in my head, I then went out of my way to spend some more time with the book keeper again, at the club, 0ust he and me. I don/t know if it was 0ust because I felt a le el of physical threat from 1thrington 0ust then, but I had decided by then that I wanted that weapon I wanted as soon as possible then. #hen, the plan said, I was going to lea e that in 1thrington/s house. 5or there could be no simple demotion for 1thrington now. 5or it was him or me now as well. And so that weapon, especially when secreted along with a list of persons of prominence, with, say, the odd line through their name as well, would do for him I knew, 0ust as it would ha e done for anyone then. It occurred to me that I could reek pandemonium here. &hances were 1thrington might e en be tortured then, to re eal more. &hances were he would likely nominate a few others as well then) ;e would know them all, not like them all. A no el idea this wasn/t of course, not then, nor now. 9on/t make too many enemies along the way I might 0ust say ne4t. 7e4t up I had to way lay the the book keeper. ;e was not impressed. /What8/ he said. /Are you mad, gone out of your mind, they throw the key away for weapon possession8/ /6ou/ e got to help me,/ I said. /I/m at some risk,/ still a bit honest then. /What do you mean got to)/ ;e ignored that last bit. /Well, you/ e helped me before.../ I left it at that. Glaringly he ne4t said, /What is this then) A bit of blackmail) *ome sort of blackmail thing you think you can get away with with me) I/ e got your number as well you know. 9o your

worst, I/ll deny it. 6ou/ll be the one that will go away. I/ e got friends./ /5riends won/t help, denial neither. 7ot in this day and age. ;asn/t helped anyone that I can remember anyway, e er. #he war is o er now. #here is a new order. Look,/I broke his ga!e, /I/ e got a problem and so I/ll ha e to keep on with this, sorry./ /*orry you don/t look punk. Look, I/ e not supplied anyone with a weapon e er./ #hat, grasping at his last chance to reason with me. A good reason that was as well. 9uke was dodgy I knew. $ut he/d no doubt ne er had a hand in hurting anybody before. In the black market business it no doubt paid to keep business light. Light, yes. $ut I was beyond reasoning with that night. I was getting scared as well. /6ou may not ha e supplied a weapon to anyone before but you will this time,/ I told him. /9on/t worry, after that, you/ll ne er see me again, e en though I know that/s not how you work. I/ll be mo ing on.../ /(n ha ing done what though,/ he wanted to know after that. /#hat is none of yours,/ I replied to that, then added, /business./ /$usiness,/ he said, /don/t call it that. /#his is dirty. #ell you lucky with me...if $rownie got to know half of what you/ e said to me tonight, what you/ e asked for, he/d probably do you for both our sakes. ;e won/t as I don/t want in ol ement in any of that. 5or you that/s luckily./ Luckily for me $rownie ne er did get to hear about any of this. I don/t think so, anyway) Anyway back to my scheming again after that. #here/s more I must go o er now. 7ow o er the ne4t few days I scooped up a list of names from back issues of newsprint as well, picking out a few of the more ob iously pious ones for my list to be typed out by myself. *ome I left off the list figuring that 1thrington would nominate some of those as his supporters instead. Well he might, I thought, offer his list. List at hand all I had to do after that was to ne4t get my hands on that weapon as well. Well this wasn/t "uite all. I also had to con ince $rownie that I should be re-assigned to the crew that regularly isited the fence area near 1thrington/s house then. And already he knew something dodgy was up, or on. /(n to something are you $ob) I know you are up to something. =eep me out of it whate er it is./ #his he said with good emphasis, if there is such a thing. /#hing is I don/t want to know. And if you/ e got any good sense you won/t let 1thrington see you anywhere near his house near there again either. %ust stay in the wagon if you go anywhere near there, which ob iously you won/t be doing. Got me, /he stood looking intently at me, making up his mind about me it seemed to me, a fool he saw probably, then turning away said, /or not) 7ot or what, all I was wondering then was 0ust how security conscious 1thrington was on all counts) <egardless, I was going to find out. I was going to slip a bag containing a weapon and a list of prominent persons in to his house any day now, somehow. 9own behind a dresser or something they would be dropped. Light a wee fire, well not literally. An anonymous letter then dropped into a post bo4 after that. #hat part simple. Would he find the package, or not then, before they came to search his house) 3redicting that was not so simple. *imple after that though, to see if he had or not) 5or back to the club for howe er many more nights after that, it would become ob ious if he had been taken in. ;e ne er came in less

than twice a week and so we/d soon know. Well, I/d know anyway. (nce he/d been taken in he/d ne er come back. #here would be no come back from that. #hat, then back in touch with *am then. Gi e our notice at work. 7ot so great for 1thrington, I knew, but he was a serious war criminal wasn/t he) And so he had something coming his way e entually, didn/t he. *omething be-fitting) 5itting it was that the weapons policy was going to work in my fa our come 0udgement night anyway. #hat being that if 1thrington did somehow get me in his sights, well he was hardly going to be able to shoot me then was he. What with) And so all I needed to do, apart from not getting too near him that night, was to make sure that e en from close up I wouldn/t be recognisable to him. .ind you, if he did clock me, anyone there, it would be all o er, his guard up after that. ;e/d look about then to see what was missing, find the bag, get rid of it. It, the weapon sure took some pestering for. And cost plenty as well when I finally obtained it. #he book keeper, not abo e turning some business down, e4hibiting some scruples, was still not abo e making good money out of some risky trades, although ob iously I could ha e beaten him down finally as he was that eager to get rid of it in the end. #o that end he actually brought it round finally, showed it to me in the shed then, showed me how to load it as well after that. And then after that he 0ust cleared off with his money, declining the offer of a cup of char from .addy on his way out as well. Well, anyway, I hid the weapon away, and then went and had a cup of char with .addy myself, bringing up the sub0ect of us all mo ing again then as well. .addy was interested in only one definite thing by then though, who had guy had been) /$een working with him a while,/ I stretched it a lot. /I was 0ust showing him some of the tools which he might be interested in buying when we lea e./ /Lea e) (h, yes, I see then,/ .addy said. /$it of forethought going in to us mo ing then./ #hen, /6es .addy, "uite a bit of forethought going in. Indeed./ I got by. $y this time $rownie had allowed me to change routes. #his cost me a bo4 of cigars actually, for which I had kept the receipt for, on which I wrote his name on the back of as well, pinned it on the wall abo e my work bench. Worth it really, the cigars, to be able to confuse any back trackers, should I get caught) Lead them away from .addy that way, $rownie not likely to point them back if it got to that. #hat sorted I got "uite familiar with 1thrington/s property after that as well then. #hat sorted I had then decided, after some more fore-thought, that I would wait till ne4t time when I was on call again, till then and till when I had a ehicle again, after hours. I would wait until then, then, before I would make my last mo e against him. #he first, I was always aware, he might work out in time) #ime I would make my mo e would also be at a time when he was at the club. #hat predictable, almost. #hen, and that I would find out when by parking near the club again for a few more nights. ;e was ne er away from there more than two. $ack off a bit further though, I would park this time then. #hen, when I saw him enter the club, I would lea e for his house. I would, I had figured then, ha e three "uarters of an hour to an hour ahead of him to plant the items in his house. 3lus a legitimate reason to be out there as well. #here parked in the dark in a an nobody would take any notice of e en if they saw it there. 7o full moon e en to care. #his dark hour ours then, fatefully...

5atefully then, this night arri ed. 3arked where I was not so far up the road from the club as I might ha e liked, I saw 1thrington arri ing. Arri ing near to his home after that, I parked, lights doused, back a bit from his yard, by the fence line. ( er his back fence I mo ed "uickly, "uietly, through his back yard. All was dark, I was dressed darkly. #he bag I carried contained the gun and it was loaded not that I knew that. #he list, my type script, was loaded though, lying in the bag, and I did know that. And besides those, there was the hammer and the punch I carried for breaking my way in, for chipping a wedge of glass out beside a catch. In breaking in I was already in serious trouble. *oon I was in though, mo ing about carefully inside. Inside I was fearful, my mouth dry. .y eyes still getting accustomed to the dark, I was not mo ing about much. I was fearful of breaking anything, of lea ing some sign, then I saw lights mo e across the wall in the hall. (nly car lights, I knew, mo e like that. #hat was fairly alarming, I can tell you, to me. And after they were e4tinguished I heard a key in the door as well. And then there, standing there, was 1thrington as well. And then he was going for me also, as soon as he saw me standing there. #he hammer. Where was it) (utside, sitting on the window sill. I reached for the gun instead, reacti ely, inside the bag, lifted it out, up, 0ust so as to warn him off. (ff he wasn/t put though. #hen, dammit, I had the not ery good sense to s"uee!e at the trigger as well. I didn/t know it was loaded then. $ut, you know it, the damn thing went off. $ang, hell of a noise, filled my ears. And damn the book keeper I remember thinking then, while I also noticed that plaster from the ceiling was also raining down. 9own I almost dropped the gun as well, my wrist hurt. And then he was shoulder charging me and down I did go then. And there we were rolling around in those confines, he grasping for the gun as well. $ut, he with only one arm, and so I had him there, had an ad antage e en, though he was bigger than me, and I managed to keep hold of the gun because of that as well, and dammit, I s"uee!ed the trigger again, unintentionally, and this time a bullet dug into him. ;e bucked, buckled, then slumped. *lumped, done, I knew what I/d done for sure now. $lood seeping from his abdomen. I knew enough to know that I had killed him. .y breathing began to match his. %erky, short... /(h my,/ he came back with, /why) /#his,/ I began to e4plain, /is happening, has happened, because you were standing in my way. I/m sorry./ I was. /It wasn/t meant to go like this. I was 0ust going to lea e the gun in your house, inform on you then, get you arrested, out of the way, so I could get out of here./ /;ere) (ut of) What) What/s that got to do with me)/ ;e was incredulous, in shock and ob iously shocked by that as well. /I/ e done nothing to you. ;ow could I be standing in your way in any way) I don/t understand, I.../ /I want to mo e cities,/ I told him then, he "uietened down further. one who wants to change with me, who wants to come here.../ /And so)/ /And so he can/t because of you. ;is name is *am, and he witnessed a war crime committed by you, back during the war. 6ou let him go on his way, good on you, but he/s still afraid of you, afraid to come back here. $ut for you he will swap li es with me.../ /And I/ e got some

/6ou/re a bloody fool,/ 1thrington snapped. /6ou' e been taken in. I/m the one that witnessed a war crime, idiot. And that/s why I/ e only got one arm now as well. #hat didn/t come from the war. #hat came after he came after me, after I ran into him after the war. I was 0ust going to try to get him to gi e himself up. I was checking to see if that would help him. /;im, I didn/t think I/d see him again. 7ow I do want him, yes. 9id. $ut not for the reason he told you./ ;e was "uiet, "uietening down. /*o he mo ed, eh. And now he wants to come back, eh. *aid that to you has he...Look, something has to come out of this. #ell him you got me, go through with that plan, it/ll get in the news anyway. I/m done, past care. Let him to come back here. /#here/s a file on him he won/t know about. I wouldn/t ha e e en put it together if he hadn/t blown me up in my car outside the bar. #hat/s why I always look up and down the street outside there as well. In case he e er has another go. Gi e him less time than last time that way, anyway. .arked you easily because of that. &ouldn/t figure out why, why you/d be interested in me, but that/s why I came back... /$ack to that then, to the first crime he committed then,/ this from 1thrington again. /;e probably thinks it/s 0ust me that cares, because I tried to help him. 3romise me, do this for me...Get him back here then. *et a little fire here before you lea e. #he car will do. 7ot in here. #hen getaway from here, take your time, dri e slowly away. #hen you mo e, mo e as you wanted to, get him back here. 9o all that for me and for you. I will forgi e you, I do forgi e you.../ he said, then he was dead. 9ead, mort, after which I did carry through with what was his plan now. I did set a little fire there, I did lea e "uietly. 7o doubt he was soon found. I went home. *he wasn/t there. I sat "uietly, waiting for .addy in the dark. FFF