vendredi 13 mars 2009

The Poor List - After, but unconnected to, O'Hara's first real gig

Kev's first gig.

The post leaned into the hill climbing the back of the terraced houses his mail-sack heavier than usual. The low sunlight made him squint. He frowned and tried to balance its weight round his torso.

The sound of feet crisp on the cindered path had caught her attention. He closed the green metal gate of the house next door and walked to the wall of 35 Ashgrove View. She stood and flexed her back. Far away across the grassy hills, motorway traffic hummed and fizzed.
- Ms. Melling? Something for you.’
The woman left her basket and walked down the paved path. A blackbird sang brightly in the distance.
- Can you sign here?’

He handed her a form, attached to a clip board, arrayed with barcode labels and other signatures. He passed her an A3 padded envelope heavy for its size. The official looking acronym made her stop. She signed and thanked him, their breath gathered faintly in front of them. The man smiled and nodded. She looked up from the lettering as he moved off.

- Will you be here tomorrow? She asked the receding figure. He looked over his hunched shoulders,
- We’ll keep you posted.
Somewhere, a car door slammed shut and an engine revved.
- Ha – We’ll keep you posted!
She watched over the wall, as the he trudged up the slope to the next house, then returned to gathering coal.

McCabe heard it first as an absence of something. Instead of the city’s subterranean throb there was a lightness where engine noise and traffic seethe should have been. They could hear the crackled voices on the radio. McCabe slowly moved his hand down towards the seatbelt mechanism by his haunch. Further along the street, they heard percussion and music and a repeated megaphoned noise that gathered into echoing phrases. Then actual voices, raw in the near suspended rain. They slowed behind some matt black Trooper, its rear window reflecting shifting sunlight into their faces. The seat belt came undone quietly.

- The fuck’s this? Tony says.

Up ahead some fluorescent and ligh-stripped jackets of herded police shine and glint.
They had driven and plunged through London’s steeped narrow streets towards the river passed Georgian fronts, shame shaded hotel back entrances and boarded up shops and bars, revved past most of the city’s landmarks and splashed throughthe too small streets. McCabe, half slumped between two Gov Agents, stares from the back seat through the rear passenger window as they slow down. The suspension of freedom happens in so many little ways.

He looks around, relaxes and picks at a morsel of dried cement off his jeans, coughs, grimaces, looks around some more and then lunges clumsily over the woman to try to get to the inside passenger door handle. With a swift trained action, though, the woman leans forward catching McCabe’s face with a heavy shoulder blow to the left side of his chin and before he even gets within arm’s reach of escape she punches McCabe squarely in his groin with a heavy hit. A police passes by on the back of a near cantering horse, hooves clatter with a hollow faraway noise.
“…some semblance of order into this stricken country…” The pain, though, is perceived by all the males present in some form or other. McCabe tries to say something. Lisa turns to him then to Dermott,
- Sorry about that. Some march or other? She says, with slight sigh, and scratches the slightly enflamed orbit of her nose stud. A helicopter clatters overhead and McCabe, still paralysed, watches a swing sway with a twisted shiver in a playground over the way. They pull up behind the Trooper. Boyd the Driver reaches over to the radio and a procession of static, voices and music pass by.
- I did warn you. Mister McCabe. Dermott says and, frowning, looks at his watch. We’re going to be late. There must be another way round Boydy?
- Might be. Sav a look on the satnav.
Whistling the chorus of an Irish polka, the driver reaches over to the device on the windscreen front and pushes buttons with his thick set fingers.
- Time for a pick me up. Everyone? Tony, the man on McCabe’s right, says.
He snaps open a seat compartment and extracts a small cloth bag. A flare amidst the march ahead of them shines incandescent green and smoke pours over the road.
- So Mister McCabe, Dermott says over his shoulder, How does it feel to be back on the team again?
The windscreen wipers whine a rubbery snigger. The man on McCabe’s right breathes in a line of the twinkling dust in one smooth rasp.
- Press ganged you mean? Painful. Actually.
Dermott assesses at the figure in the back seat for a moment and raises his eye brows slightly. He answers a call on his pda and in a space says,
- Look. Everyone has to, what? Do their bit in times like these though don’t you think, Lisa?
“…arrested in connection with the attacks…” a voice on the radio was saying. The engine gunned and a siren wailed from a side street behind them. Tony snorted in derision.
- Absolutely sir. Music Boydy. Music. The woman says.
McCabe sits up from his crouch and leans slowly back into his seat.
- Be careful. Says Dermott to them trying to catch their eye in the rear view mirror of the sun shield.
- Yes.
- He replies, with repressed anger, to whoever he is speaking to on the phone. The cars move forward and McCabe watches up at the glinting towers of glass and metal ten blocks away as they drift by.
- He’s no going to throw up is he Tony?
“…and inevitably our forces responded with redoubled efforts. Regrettably, this involved involuntary human terrain and resource depletion, but ultim…”
- Lisa. Get me the rozzer in charge of this carnival. These two’ll do here now, Dermott says uncupping his hand from his glowing pda.
- Right.
- Er, hold on.
Tony stretches himself and puts the little red bag in his pocket as Lisa presses a button on the car door. The window glides down and she shouts to a pair of police walking towards the demonstration. They stop and turn, looking annoyed. McCabe shouts for their help. Lisa reaches into her coat and takes out her ID. She holds up her cards to them.
- What’s the hold up here?
- A march, Madam. What seems to be the trouble? The bulky police asks, looming over the window. There is a bright yellow padded jacket over his uniform and a large number of suppression devices hanging from his belt and shoulder harness.
- How long is it going to take?
- Be about half an hour I should think.
Static alien voices crackle from their two radios
- But traffic can get through.
She turns to the struggling Tony and McCabe and whispers loudly.
- Nope.
The other officer approaches the car a quizzical look on his face.
- Look, we’re in a hurry here and we need to get across it?
- Afraid not madam. Regulations. You’ll have to go back the way you came. Is everything ok in here then?
- But this is a one way street.
- Indeed it is madam.
He frowns at the struggle going on in the back seat.
- So we can’t. And look…hold on. She speaks to the figure ahead of her one step removed from the scene,
- Sir, this copper reckons we’ll be here half an hour or so.
- Dermott stabs a button on his pda and opens his window and says, ‘Listen officer. I’m with Inland Security Division at the Home Office. Here’s my ID’. The square faced police scrutinises the small though surprisingly heavy document.
- The what? Inland Security…? Can’t say I’ve heard of it sir. Says KG 1654 and turns to his colleague. Have you?
- Inland Security Division?
The other officer stands up from checking the car’s front tyre, purses his lips and shakes his head.
- I don’t want. To pull rank, officer, but I could get you sacked, says Dermott.
- Right. And I could get transport down here and tow your car away for having what, three persons in the back?
- And kidnapping. Officer help I’m being retained here…against my will. Shouts McCabe.
- What’s that? KG says leaning in. He glances down at Lisa who stares back. Dermott is saying,
- He’s a suspect in an on-going operation officer. We’ve got to get him to HQ right away. Ring your chief if you don’t believe me.
The officer stands back up and waves to other police down the road. Struggling, McCabe says as best he can,
- That’s not true officer.
There is some more shouting.
- OK. OK. Calm down. Reg get hold of Dutton Street. See if this Inland bollocks actually exists. An’ hurry up.
He leans into the car window frame again.
- Now then sir. What’s all this commotion?
Then, everyone is talking over everyone else. McCabe is yelling that he is being taken, kidnapped and doesn’t know who these people are. Which isn’t exactly false. Insulator Tony is holding McCabe down by his arm and shouting at him whilst Dermott and Lisa, the latter between re-assaulting McCabe, convince the police officer that the person in the back is a dangerous suspect. The other police puts his radio back in his belt and says,
- Sir? Apparently this Internal Security Division is for real and they’re all accredited.
KG breathes in deep and sighs. He checks Dermott’s ID again and hands it him back.
- There you go.
Dermott looks up at the aged officer,
- Get me through this march officer. Where in a royal hurry here.
- Well, the officer sighs and combs his hand through his brushed back wood coloured rug, Terrible weather eh? The thing is it might be a bit tricky. Hold on.
He puts his hat back on and explains things rapidly into his phone to someone up ahead. A surge in the noise and chanting of the march drown out McCabe’s muffled pleas.
- You can get through up there on your right. Watch it though. The way things are…
Both police duck slightly as a mighty firework explodes up ahead somewhere.
- Thanks. You heard the man, Boydy. Let’s go.
The windows close. Boydy revs the engine and they accelerate into the road at an oblique angle. They force a gap in the parallel line of waiting traffic creating a loud and angry reaction then they hit the right hand kerb with a heavy thud. The security measures had seen to it that the last hundred yards of pavement before any march’s route are cleared of parked vehicles and so Boydy is able to speed the, now tilting car, along half the glistening pavement. Shop fronts and leaning pedestrians flash past. Boyd laughs,
- City Death Race three.
- Lamp post Boydy.
- … me out of this bloody mad house, McCabe shouts
Tony picks up his little bag from the floor.
- Now, where was I?
The muscles in Lisa’s jaw clench and turn rigid. Then as if unleashed,
If you don’t shut it, McDuff or whatever your fucking name is, I’m going to really own you. I mean really. Fucking. Own you. Do you know what that means?
- Sell me on e-bay? McCabe says and regrets it.
- It means I’ll punch you harder than that in your ugly pugly face and you’ll be waking up tomorrow fucking morning even uglier than you are now.
She takes the small mirror off Tony. They brake joltingly behind some ragged police line by the junction. McCabe rubs his thigh.
- Mister McCabe. Once again I can only say that you were well warned. Now if you utter one more word in front of his majesty’s finest up here about kidnapping, being detained or other such nonsense, I will authorise Lisa to turn distinctly Guantanamo. On your sorry arse. Crystal?
- Here. Lisa says to McCabe but he can only reply,
- Erh.

They brake behind the police lines and a constable moves towards them. She motions for the window and tells them to wait until the bulge in the march had passed. She shouts to a team of police to their right and waves the car on and the ISD vehicle edges forward into the path of the demonstration.