I’d been with the Barrister for a little over an hour. I’d like to say the conversation had drifted to its natural end, but I can’t. The coffee shop was full of rich people: footballers, agents, silicone-infused young women with long nails and the mean streak required to fight for a better life, even if it meant sucking off an ugly sportsman on a regular basis. I found the foulness of the little wealthy town provided a grimly perfect backdrop to the horror I was listening to. I kept checking that we couldn’t be heard, but the place was noisy with excited talk about little dogs and earrings and of transfer moves. Big phones were being shouted into, watched, pawed at and poured over. Now, as we were finishing up, he was looking at me for a reaction. I didn’t give him the satisfaction. I guessed he wanted me to be impressed.
There were at least five murders. Someone had been burned to death in a disused quarry. Another, finally gutted with a sword, had begged for his life in the boot of a car while they’d gone through a McDonald’s drive-in. A guy was shot to death in his Mercedes at a traffic intersection. Some poor sap had been thrown out of a helicopter. The last had been put in a bag and then thrown into the sea. Fun times.. And those were the murders I was allowed to know about. There were almost certainly many more.
I was told my phone would be bugged, my email was no longer private, and to check periodically that I wasn’t being followed. And I was not to talk to the press or, in fact, anyone about all this. It was the price you paid for knowing the man we were discussing, a man who counted me now as a ‘good friend’. A friendship I was now, more than ever, intending to keep on an even keel.
The arms shipment had been a surprise. So, too, had been the scale of the organisation – Worldwide. It was hard to comprehend in the same way it’s hard to look up at a clear night sky and think about the size of the galaxy with any real grasp of spatial awareness; just the vague sense that you’re very small in the grand scheme of cosmic truths. Small enough to be stomped on with ease.
The snow is falling outside. I’m sitting at the dining room table in my partner’s house. There’s some good music on. It’s warm. I feel warm inside, too. That conversation, and the accompanying reality, are very far away right now. I like that fact. And, despite what my Therapist says, it’s not always good to talk. I’ll leave this one here. Go and hug my woman.