I knew that Harvey was out there somewhere, call it instinct, call it woman’s intuition but I definitely had a sense of his existence, sixth or otherwise. Even so, it took me nearly a year to track him down. People don’t just vanish, most people leave a trail, it’s impossible not to these days. Then again Harvey was never most people; he was anything but most people. He’d covered his tracks well, disappearing into the night like a phantom without a trace and for months my sniffer dogs and net bots turned nothing in. Not that I despaired, I always find them in the end, it’s the thrill of the chase; killing them, when the time comes, is just the cherry on the cake.
Despite my strict rules on allowing personal feelings to interfere with a target, I did, at times, regret taking the contract. The country’s principal gang leaders including ‘fat boy’ Thompson, Michael ‘Bananas’ Bentley and the Meadows gang maestro George Shadows had put aside their differences, temporarily, to stump up the cash for the job. I never really had a choice. If I declined the offer I’d probably never work again, these guys were my paymasters and everyone knew it.
No one ever contacts me directly, it’s not possible, they just put the word out and sooner or later, if I’m inclined, I turn up. I turned up, it intrigued me. The Clock Tower Pub, complete with boarded up windows loitered in a filthy side street called ‘Beggars Alley’, near Soho. Inside, smoke and gloom hung heavy in the air, sour faced men sat huddled over glasses, savouring either their last pint before incarceration or their first since emancipation; it was hard to tell. The barman, known, for whatever reason, as Shirley Temple, a onetime jewel thief from Carlisle nodded towards a door at the back of the pub. I followed his nod. I stepped through into a plush interior, all crushed velvet, burgundies and reds, a glitter ball lit the room and a spot light trained on a pole in the middle of a stage flickered with anticipation. I looked at the pole and then at the men gathered with a stony look apiece, sitting nervously around a table. There they all were, these rivals, these hard men of gang land Britain sitting at a round table, the table had to be round, not that there is anything Arthurian or chivalrous about any of them, with one common agenda.
Meadows spoke first, ‘we were going to offer you a little entertainment’, gesturing toward the pole, ‘we assumed you were a bloke. Unless that is, you like that sort of thing?’ He added optimistically.
‘Let’s just get down to business, shall we?’ I said
Just then a young girl with tassels on her nipples, needle tracts on her arms and methadone on her mind came onto the stage and smiled a toothless, deprived smile.
‘Just give me the name and I’ll be on my way’
‘Take out Moriarty’, said Bananas.
I blinked once, a controlled flinch and then left them to the charms of the methadone dancer.
Harvey hated being called Moriarty, I think it was meant to be a compliment, you know, great criminal mastermind and all that. He was an outsider like me, did his own thing, worked for the gangs when it suited him. Harvey was a cunning strategist and the gangs, void of imagination, employed him for his creativity. He was tough yet fair, as balanced as one can be in our line of work. He never drank, (only green tea) or smoked, never took drugs, kept his shit together, his suits and his mind sharp. Harvey managed to operate in disparate worlds, in the real world (your world) Harvey organised charity events, raised money for a children’s hospice, helped out at a clinic for drug abusers, even played the piano for his local church. There he went by the name, Philip Darcy, people thought him to be a wealthy banker with a keen interest in community.
Despite his philanthropic commitments he remained pathologically meticulous when it came to keeping himself and his face out of the public domain. His day job was poles apart from his private life, forgery, embezzlement, misappropriation on a corporate scale, black mail, internet hacking and good old fashioned robbery; an impressive skill set.
Like me he had managed to remove himself from the myriad of databases and files of officialdom; we don’t exist, we are as good as dead only better, we were never born. Not that a few hurdles has ever stopped me, I’m used to dealing with the underworld; faceless, nonexistent people are just more of a challenge, and I like a challenge; keeps me fresh.
And yet as I watched him from across the street, Harvey looked normal, almost too normal in fact. Suburban man doing his suburban thing day in day out, bins in, bins out. His features had softened, become neighbourly, approachable! His posture, slack and unperturbed suited a man twenty years his senior. He lived a humble, lower-middle class existence with no sign of the millions of pounds he’d swindled out of the gangs.
Over the past several months I’d read numerous statements, made freely to the police, by eyewitnesses, describing Harvey’s death. Each account was different in content but all agreed that Harvey had been murdered in one way or another. The police had nobody, no crime scene, plenty of motives and allegations though, and as time passed, varying degrees of confusion and disbelief. Despite everything, Harvey had people willing to lie for him, to testify to his demise.
According to a young Turkish horticulturist from Bristol, whose job it was to tend skunk crops for a gang of Armenians, Harvey had sought sanctuary with the brotherhood. The brotherhood refused, not wanting to blot their copybook with George Shadows. Shadows had set the Armenians up in business expecting a healthy return. The Armenians worked quickly to transform abandoned warehouses into hydroponic skunk farms and supplied the southwest with enough dope to sink a flotilla. Harvey, feeling snubbed, took it upon himself to blow those farms into next month, the blue haze that hung over the city for a week caused an influx in the purchase of tie died T shirts and joss sticks.
The Armenians found him drinking green tea in the oolong emporium at the foot of Park Street. They dragged him out in broad day light, bundled him into the boot of a Mercedes 280 and drove him to the suspension bridge. They sliced though his Achilles heels with a bread knife before throwing him off the bridge and into the muddy waters below.
The police dragged the river and found the body of an eighty year old woman whose body had been preserved in the clay for more than a century and Harvey’s money clip; but no Harvey.
Fat Boy Thompson’s son, Fat Boy junior, a psychopath with a penchant for misogyny and sadomasochism, left a string of beaten, broken women in his wake. One of which, Savannah Le-Pont turned up at Bootle street police station in Manchester, not as everyone thought, to press charges against Fat boy junior but to make a statement as to the death of Moriarty.
According to Savannah Le-Pont, Fat boy had made a deal with Harvey, a fifty/ fifty split of the proceeds, cutting out the other gang members altogether. Fat boy offered Harvey asylum at his country retreat in Cheshire until the heat died down and they could smuggle him out of the UK.
Harvey, after several weeks, grew restless, paranoid, convinced that Fat boy’s security/ thugs were employed primarily to keep him there, rather than protect him. Harvey thought that he had been deceived and in reality was being held prisoner rather than guarded guest.
One weekend Fat Boy Junior arrived with Savannah Le-Pont and a bunch of sycophantic neo nihilists he’d handpicked for their inability to give a shit. Harvey kept away from them, preferring instead to spend his time in the library pouring over hundreds of dusty unread books. Books placed there by Fat boy to outwardly display a culture and intelligence he never possessed. It was in the library that the affair between Savannah and Harvey apparently began. It was in the library, amid scattered tombs on ancient prose, that Harvey was caught on security camera performing cunilingus to a delighted Savannah Le-Pont!
Fat Boy Junior, furious and high on crack, had Harvey stripped naked and tied with barbed wire, face down on the pool table. He took a pre-heated poker from the fire and ordered Savannah to insert the red hot phallus into Harvey’s anus at gun point. Savannah, fearing for her own life and through tears and muttered apologies and pleas for forgiveness, complied. The smell of burning flesh filled the room and even the hardest and cruellest of Fat Boy Juniors nihilists flinched as Harvey’s agonised, tortured screams pierced the stale air.
His body, part cooked, had been tied to the back of a quad bike and dragged over the estate, a pack of savage dogs in hot pursuit.
Fat Boy’s retreat had been raided and the poker taken as evidence along with a copy of the Kama Sutra, found by an Alsatian called Moffet, filed wantonly under ‘animal husbandry!’ Other than a packet of Maofeng and a tea pot shaped like a stripper nothing relating to Harvey or the alleged circumstances of his death were found.
Other statements, equally flamboyant claimed Harvey had been mustard gassed by special branch, poisoned with arsenic infused tea by girlfriend Miranda Sinclair, thrown out of a moving plane at thirty thousand feet and drowned in a bucket of beer! My personal favourite however has to be the statement made by an ex-policeman known as Bent Rex.
Bent Rex was serving time at Winchester Prison for killing an accomplice. The accomplice, a simpleton named Muddles had blown their cover, not purposefully, but as his moniker suggested he was easily confused. In a fit of rage Bent Rex had stuffed toilet paper down his dim-witted accomplice’s throat until he choked. Once arrested and taken into custody Rex claimed that he suffered from Munchausen Syndrome by proxy and pleaded insanity, until he was asked what Munchausen Syndrome by proxy was.
Harvey came to see him. ‘Harvey just appeared in my cell one night’, is how Rex put it. If anyone could break into a high security prison unnoticed, it was Harvey. Harvey told Rex the story of how he’d met a brilliant criminal while card counting blackjack in ‘Le Café de Paris Casino’, Monte Carlo. They were both drawn to each other; two great con artists operating the same patch would normally spell disaster! Harvey, intrigued by this man’s uncanny luck on the tables, asked how it was possible. The man explained to Harvey that he had studied and perfected the art of hypnotism; he rarely won, but instead performed a hypnotic trance on mass, making sure everyone believed he’d won including the dealer.
To demonstrate his talent he took Harvey on a bank robbing spree. Time after time this scandalous hypnotist just waited in line at the bank with everyone else, carried no gun, wore no balaclava and never used force in any way. Harvey watched on in amazement as his new friend simply hypnotised the bank teller to hand over a sum of money and then nonchalantly walked out of the bank!
After a while the man’s hubris gave way to concern and paranoia, convinced that Harvey would turn him into the police he asked for security. So Harvey agreed to be put under, to be hypnotised; hypnotised to step out in front of a bus if he ever went to the cops!
Harvey agreed willingly, but later wondered if he’d done the right thing, after all the man could have hypnotised him to do or say anything he wanted. Harvey could, unwillingly, unknowingly, be a pawn in a game he had no control over. Harvey feared that he no longer had any jurisdiction or influence over his own life or his actions; for all he knew he had been hypnotised to break into Winchester and murder Bent Rex.
Bent Rex began to worry at this point; self preservation after all had got him where he was today! Rex hit the panic button in his cell; Harvey disappeared, never to be seen again. Rex’s statement, considered laughable by the police, ended up being posted online, went viral and earned the less than flattering status of urban myth. Rex, unsure of his own proclamation, claimed he suffered from the little known mental health condition ‘Fregoli syndrome’ and demanded a transfer to Broadmoor prison where he, as far as I know, resides today.
Although Rex’s statement includes no victim, it does point the finger at a possible murderer, but who this man was and whether he ever existed no one will know.
I had him in the crosshairs; I applied a little pressure to the trigger, just to get a feel, and relaxed. Not today, but soon. I wanted a chance to find out what Harvey was up to, why was he here, living this alien life, pretending to be someone else, someone beige, someone normal? I found the whole charade quite remarkable, the energy required to hide in this manner bemused me, it must be exhausting. Then again maybe he wasn’t pretending at all, maybe this was Harvey and the old Harvey was the phony, the interloper, trespassing in a world that didn’t belong to him. No one in the world knew who he was or where he was but me, I had a little time to satisfy my curiosity.
So far all I had was a record of his habits and routines. He awoke every morning at 7 a.m. precisely. He left the house at nine and walked the two blocks to ‘Le Salon’, a bohemian coffee house and internet cafe that served him green tea in a china cup. He sat in the same overstuffed armchair by the window and poured over newspapers supplied by the Salon. He never used the internet and never looked out of the window; ever. One hour later he made his way to an office situated on the eleventh floor of an insurance company across the street. After a little digging I found out that he didn’t work for the insurance company but only rented office space. What he did there no one really knew, the company was registered under a ‘Mathew Wagner’ and called ‘The Internet Detective Agency’.
Before I pulled the trigger I decided to break into his office, have a little sniff around and see what I could find.
Breaking in needed planning, a little strategy and forethought, none of which I had the time for so I side stepped security, disabled the cameras, wore a cleaners outfit and caught the lift to the eleventh floor. The office boasted a cheap desk, a swivel chair, a water cooler and with further inspection a hand written note addressed to me.
First I’d like to say that I have always admired your work and have the highest regard for your chosen profession. You take pride in your vocation, you shoot to kill and do so quickly and cleanly which is why you, and no one else, were chosen for the task of killing me. Deliberating as you are now, demonstrates to me that you are losing your edge, getting complacent, a little shabby around the edges; perhaps you need a holiday?
To solve the issue and save face with your employees I’d suggest you pull the trigger sooner than later, shall we say midnight this evening? I must however warn you that this is your only chance as I’m moving overseas.
I believe that a professional like you cannot be persuaded to down tools. Even so perhaps you will consider that much needed holiday? In the top draw of my desk you will find safety deposit box key number 589. In the box I’ve placed a plane ticket, a new passport and details of an account opened in your new name with ten million Dollars on it. Whatever you decide to do let me just say that I respect your decision unconditionally and if, as I fear you may, decide to kill me, I couldn’t wish for a better assassin than you.
I stood wavering, frozen to the spot, like a rabbit in the headlights I was completely incapable of moving, like the rabbit I was dazzled by something greater, something incomprehensible. All I could do was to stand there and wait for it, whatever it was, to hit me. My mind raced through every angle, each possibility caused more hesitancy, more uncertainty until I couldn’t breathe under the weight of my indecision. Harvey could have a gun trained on me right now, I would if I were him, he had the upper hand, had done all along.
What game, what diversion from his new humdrum existence had he planned for me? Suddenly I found myself reaching for the draw, I recoiled my hand quickly as if the draw had snarled at me like a rabid dog, I had to think fast, give my mind time to catch up with my actions. My hands were sweating; my head felt like it had been dipped in liquid nitrogen and my heartbeat, responding to the most basic instinct, screamed run! I’d been in many tight situations before now, plenty of seemingly impossible ones but I always managed to get through them. Lesson for the future, if there ever was a future, don’t fuck with Moriarty!
I’d come into this blind to my target’s shrewd intellect, his aforementioned ability for creative planning, his ability to come out on top. I had been too blasé, too confident, just another hit, just another kill in a long list of kills and now I’d pay the price. All the while I’d thought that I had been the cat and he the mouse, not the case; how long had he known that I was on his trail?
A survival mechanism unique to killers suddenly coughed and spluttered into action, I dropped to the floor and crawled under the desk. The draw in the desk could be booby trapped, rigged to explode as soon as I touched it. Did I want to open the draw? Yes I wanted to open the draw, what choice did I have now? I could run but to where? I couldn’t go back to my old life without a body; I’d have to disappear, just like Harvey had. I could turn up tonight at Midnight but only a fool would appear for his own execution; rather he’d be waiting for me behind a grassy knoll or more likely be long gone.
Rationally I didn’t believe Harvey would rig his office with explosives, It wasn’t his style, too much of a gentleman. I took my time and checked out the desk, I found no sign of tampering, no wires, no traces of nitroglycerin, red phosphorus or potassium; no blinking red digital screen counting down to detonation….four…three…two…one…
I took a deep breath and opened the draw; inside I found the key 589.
Back on the street with the key burning a traitorous brand upon my palm, I ran to the salon, he wasn’t there; I didn’t think he would be. I decided to risk going back to my car, my surveillance equipment and weaponry were hidden in the boot, a bit of a risk, Harvey could just as easily have put a detonator in the ignition.
Night had caught up with me now, the witching hour, my time of day, I felt alive, the adrenalin keening my senses. I grabbed a small calibre hand gun from the boot, good for close up work. I shoved the gun into a small back pack along with ammunition, a switch blade and my trusty nunchakus given to me by my Hanshi before I killed him. Oh you haven’t got to like me, I’m a cold hearted bitch, it’s a prerequisite for the job. My Hanshi knew too much, nice guy but nice guys talk under pressure and I couldn’t risk that ever happening. He taught me everything, and once I’d drained him of knowledge I put a 9mm Beretta to his head and pulled the trigger.
I ran at a steady pace all the way to Harvey’s house, the lights were on. Now what? What the hell was I doing? My Job. What would Harvey expect me to do? Take the money and run, he hardly expected me to sit on my arse and wait for a better opportunity to arrive.
Obviously if the fabulous offer existed at all, the bank account, the money, it would all be subject to Harvey’s survival. If I killed him, job done, collect my pay and carry on as usual and if I turned the other cheek a life on the run.
I walked calmly up the front steps with the pistol in my hand. I glanced down, I don’t know why, call it animal instinct, woman’s intuition, whatever, and there on the doorstep lay a cigarette butt still glowing amber in the half light of the suburban moon. Harvey had a visitor and judging from the brand a foreign one at that. The front door was slightly ajar, with my gun in my hand I pushed the door, it opened without a sound.
I was greeted by a deathly silence; the unmistakable aroma of Gauloise cigarettes dominated the air as I moved slowly along the entrance hall. Three doors led off the hallway, I stopped at each door and listened, my heartbeat slow and steady counted out the seconds. At the third door I recognised the sound of a metronome. I took a deep breath, held my gun at arm’s length and kicked the door open.
There slumped in a chair was a well dressed middle aged man smoking a cigarette, he looked up at me, smiled and clicked his fingers, ‘you’re feeling sleepy, take a seat, you are not in any danger’ said the man pointing to the vacant chair opposite him.
The next thing I know I’m in the chair, a little dazed, a little confused. Sitting opposite me Gauloise man smiled, I went to raise my gun but it was no longer there.
Harvey stepped out of the shadows with my gun in his hand; this was the Harvey I knew, the one I thought had gone forever. His back had regained its rigidity making him look decorous, his manner was deliberate and self possession oozed from every pore. He wore a tailored suit, his hair, greying with distinction, slicked back like James Cagney. Harvey patted the Gauloises man on the shoulder, a friendly, reassuring pat, he allowed his hand to settle there and his cold grey eyes on me.
‘Bent Rex’s hypnotist’ I said in amazement.
‘Who would have believed it’ replied Harvey distantly. He squeezed the man’s shoulder tenderly before walking behind me; I felt the steel of my own gun on the back of my head. Harvey seemed to be in some sort of trance, his eyes glassy and dull, his speech practiced yet mechanical; all the while his puppet master sat pompously smiling a smug and satisfied smile. I had enough time think to myself, ‘so be it’ before the gun went off.
The hypnotist lay dead on the floor with a bullet hole in his forehead, the smug look remained.
Harvey’s conduct changed immediately, ‘I’m so sorry to have put you through that, you see, I needed him dead and you need a body.’
He handed me back my gun, I looked at it, then at him, stunned.
‘Oh, yes its fine, you won’t kill me, you can’t, that’s been taken care of’, he nodded towards the corpse on the floor.
Harvey made me a cup of tea, said it was good for shock. Then, as I sipped, he told me his plan.
‘We will arrange the body in such a way that the face is obscured, dress it in a suit your employers will recognise as my own. Luckily we are a similar weight, age and build, him and I. Then you will cut off his little finger, the left one and feed it to the neighbour’s dog. After which you will cut off my little finger, the one with the signet ring and post it to your employers along with the photographs you will take of the scene. Once the police arrive here we will be long gone, they will find a body and assume it to be me; neither of us exists so it would be hard to prove otherwise.
You get paid and your reputation is intact, I’m officially dead to the gangs and I have also rid myself of a psychopath! Not, I should say before I learnt his technique. The offer still remains by the way, take the key, take a holiday and think about joining me in New York; we could make a killing over there.
I’m used to monologues and platitudes, I’ve heard it all before, some people beg me, some ask for forgiveness – like I’m in a position to give it – some even piss themselves with fear and I feel no pity. I came here to do a job, to kill Moriarty and I realised that I still had a chance. You see no one plans my life for me, no one but me, I can’t be bribed or dissuaded, it’s all part of the game, the merry dance I dance with my target. It’s true I don’t normally allow myself to get this close, but it happens and when it does, I kill them all the same. I pushed my chair away and put the gun to Harvey’s head, it all happened so quickly……………..
Rather than the usual sensation of pleasure I get before a kill I was overcome with lust. Harvey looked as bemused as I was, and once we’d had sex on the kitchen floor, he swore blind that he had never intended to profit from my hypnotism, other than the assurance of his own life.
Since that day I’ve tried relentlessly to kill Harvey time and time again, but to no avail. I’ll never stop trying.