The glitzy eye of the capital dimmed by savage wage cuts, job losses, unlicensed pawn shops, rampant racism, and those over fed piggy bankers. 5am: Underneath Waterloo Station. It stunk of skunk-sick man’s urine and a hungry bull mastiff. Empty cans of Stella, KFC chicken boxes, and orphaned, pound store socks lay strewn across the mouth of the underpass.
Sitting on a crinkled grocery bag : Dutchie, a streaky- haired scrawny seventeen-year-old stretched her arms out. She was a stage school flunkey and forgotten acting ingénue. Now, a part -time flower arranger rough sleeper , and full-time coke addict. Defiant in charity couture. Underneath a beige rain mac, she was trussed up in a lime green spandex leotard, red polyester micro mini, and sheer stockings, mottled with runs. A pair of three -inch black pleather kitten heels, swaddled in a fleece -lined navy hoodie were neatly bundled by her side. Sodium street lights colored her elfin shaped face. Her huge , heavy -lidded violet eyes flashing violently as a lanky, pony- tailed rake aged about nineteen, slumped in front of her. Ichabod Funk (Ich). Scruffy genteel, in bleached baggy -denim, a porkpie hat, and a drab- green Adidas sweatshirt. Today, he sported a v shaped goatee and a dangly feathered earring in his right ear. On his feet scuffed, branded trainers splattered with months of missed opportunities, bad luck and, hard -nosed rejection. Ich was homeless, a music school dropout, spliff-social poet and street-scammer .
Ich trotted around London Central, selling stolen shit, useless intel ,and mobile phone sims. With his goofy , harebrained scheming mind and child -like view of the world he was waiting for a miracle or something close. His shattered suburban dream of becoming ‘someone’, shredded in the excrement of social cleansing.
Still strictly small -time ,Ich had stumbled on a Baudelairean hangout The Horseshoe a few miles away in Portobello Road . His pinched nasal voice overridden by a see- saw lilt .
‘We gotta go. C’mon.’ Dutchie stared at him sourly.
‘It took me five hours to get this space.’ She shivered, as if the frost-tipped tongue of December were licking her fingers raw.
‘I have a place for us to go. C’mon.’ Ich gathered up the rain stained ,lightweight duvet ,sample sized toiletries and a half-drunk bottle of mineral water. Everything they owned housed in disposable plastic bags they lugged around town. They left behind their cardboard sheets and Milky Way wrappers.
Ich and Dutchie , spent most of their time stalking shop doorways and empty benches for places to rest. Blocked by an ugly slew of spiked barriers . All around them , erected steel fangs jutted over warm air vents, designed to stop them snatching even a few minutes of snooze time. A sharp reminder of their HOMELESS status…
Dutchie attacked by a nest of erratic cocaine-sprayed thoughts. The bowels of her mind festering with hate as she watched sparkly party -goers slink by: Pretty long-haired bitches with your bottled tans talking- titties singing asses and fake eyelashes -judging me with pouty lip disgust I had a life too, once upon a time, living like a DEBT zombie from 9-5 . And who are you to judge if I shove my fist in your satin -glossed mouth ? Are you gonna scream and shout? Sometimes I can’t change my tampon for days. Sometimes I wipe the dried blood off with my little finger. And all I can eat is stale cheeseburgers micro flipped for sixty seconds . Or yesterday’s thrown away pastries from Costa Coffee Will I wake up dead ? Just another statistic in an unmarked grave You look at me like I’m a slimy -back -sliding spider -struggling to climb outta a sink hole. I got big dreams -just ask the angels. Ask them if I’d be forgiven for stabbing you in the throat. If I could wash my fingers in warm, peachy soap. And not the public scum -furred toilets where that pimpled -chin sex perv’ with lice in his beard- masturbates while I’m trying to take a dump. Guardian reader ! With your patronizing smirk . You make me puke offering me free lattes ,in your ethnic -free -trade hempy skirt. I’m just a way for you to bag likes and shares as you take another pic for your growing twitter feed. Here’s one for your Majesty ! So beloved of all you gushy Mid West American tourists and 85% of the English middle classes . Why am I the outsider ? And why are you ENTITLED to shit on me and plant your royal arse on acres of land without worrying about paying the tax man ? The poisoned parasitic slurp of the English Monarchy fucks us all. What kind of sicko world is this ? Where hordes of fans stand in line to catch a glimpse of H.M’s smug little face and grovel at her feet, begging to shake her grasping white- gloved hand? She’s not Jesus Christ and she didn’t discover a cure for Cancer.
Dutchie’s intestines were angry. As if her sore, swollen stomach were littered with rail worms feasting on her rotten thoughts. She stumbled and shuffled her way out of the hallowed sleep- spot tugging Ich’s sleeve as he carted their belongings on his back.
‘They treat us worse than strays. Lost puppies and abandoned cats can get scraps to eat and the lucky ones can even bag a warm fucking bed for the night.’
‘Don’t worry. We’re gonna be fine. We’re going to The Horseshoe. I’ve met someone he’s gonna help us out.’
They trudged through a maze of jagged back streets and alley ways. Half moon sweat circles dampened Dutchie’s underarms.
She tried to air her unwashed body by pinging the elastic on her leotard. ‘Do you think we’ll always be living like this? I feel worse than yesterday. Like my soul’s choking. She stole three breaths afraid of her thoughts. ‘I can see millions of dandelion seeds in my mouth.’ Ich marched on without listening, drumming to his own beat. Dutchie’s voice got louder and more desperate .
‘How long before we get there ?’ Ich just shrugged his shoulders and kept going. Dutchie straggled behind him.
It was always the same. Whenever they found a deserted place to camp out, they’d have to move. Like a never -ending story played in real time, with no final chapter in sight. A long-broken ladder of nothing. She had climbed thousands of steps everyday on that fucking ladder looking for one lousy penny of hope. And that’s what she feared the most, that she’d never find HOPE.
Sometimes Dutchie thought about life before her mother died. She would close her eyes and let her mother’s voice float inside her. It reminded her of a good things. A tiny snatch of blue sky . Ice cream Sundays. Mostly it reminded her of a way out. But that feeling didn’t last long and her daily tableau of survival always brought her back to sick, sordid moments.
6 am. The skies were reddening like a Boschian /Hirst mash up. They were still a few minutes away. They passed a passel of unknown arty types, noodling around, on the edge of insanity, and a slouch of elderly junkies clumped together for their grave -yard fix. Dutchie saw one of them toying with a switchblade. She hurried after Ich. Finally they arrived outside a narrow, nondescript building with a U -shaped doorway. Ich led them inside. The bar was empty save for some sorry slacks at the back, a thin- boned Chinese barman, and a corner table flanked by three refrigerator sized black- suited baldies. Behind them sat a small, slithery looking man: Zipmouth. Dapperly dressed in a custom made, navy checked wool suit and cream button -down shirt. He had a shock of cinema- bouffant silver curls framing huge walnut -sized black eyes and a de -rigeur Grand Cayman tan which set off a strong hawk nose, thick mutton chop sideburns, and a misshapen zip-stitched gash/mouth. It was the kind of visceral Freddy Krueger moment that stretched from your eyes and stayed in your stomach for weeks. On his lap a slim, beach-bunny blonde , even perched on his knee she was a good head taller than him. Zipmouth’s voice was activated by a mechanized electro throat -back . A hand-held battery powered device used by people who’d lost their voice box. Zipmouth pushed the blonde aside and ordered Dutchie and Ich closer. An American – accented ,Stephen Hawking styled ,tinny robotic voice sliced the air:
‘Come. Here. Let. Me . See. You.’ Ich dropped the bags. Folding his palm around Dutchie’s frail cotton thin wrist. They walked gingerly towards the table. The three heavies stepped aside.
‘I’ll . Get. Straight. To. The. Point. I can see you’re in need.’ Dutchie winced . A sharp intake of breath. She tried her best not to stare at Zipmouth’s lopsided jaw. But she seemed fascinated by it. Ich squeezed her hand and she changed her focus, concentrating instead, on Zipmouth’s eyes. They were roving black, horse trading eyes. As Zipmouth leant forward Dutchie noticed a floppy wattled strip of skin dangling from his chin. It reminded her a little of shop- worn, cut -price Christmas turkey.
‘Ichabod. Does. Me. Favors. From. Time to time. To-morrow. My. Crew. Are . Int- ter -cepting an ele-ctronic cash transfer. From. Wonga. Wonga Bank. We .Need. You . To create a diversion inside. We . Have clothes and disguises. You’ll be given the details tomorrow and paid after the job. Any. Questions?’ Neither of them felt they had the right to ask any questions.
‘Good. Here. Have. A. Little. Fun on me.’
He handed Ich half a dozen red disc shaped pills stamped with a skull and cross bone. Ich popped one in his mouth straight away. Dutchie slipped a couple in her pocket for later. Zipmouth ended the conversation casually.
‘See you kids to. morrow . Sharkie has everything you need.’ Sharkie a paunchy, pigeon- nosed lummox dressed in a green velour jogging suit escorted them out. He trashed their belongings in a nearby dumpster and handed them a shiny new case of mixed apparel. Dutchie secretly wondered if they got her size right. Sharkie chauffeured them to a discreet gated apartment in Central London. They entered the lux hideout with a mixture of awe and excitement. Sharkie left a few minutes later and instructed them to be up before noon.
On the table in the main room a bouquet of assorted fresh flowers, gift wrapped candies and a generous basket of seasonal fruit. A state of the art high -res plasma screen hung on the wall in isolated glory and underneath it, a built -in desk, housing a fully stocked mini bar . Dutchie was the first to speak. Squealing like a hopped -up hamster on Ritalin . She clapped her hands over her mouth. ‘What the fuck is going on ? This is like some Bond bollocks or some other freaky shit. Who WAZ that guy? Did you see his mouth? Jeezus . Really fucking freaky. Ich , what the fuck did you do ?’
She waltzed around from room to room dazed by nouveau comforts. Every now and then she erupted into sporadic fits of giggles. A small kitchenette stuffed with snacks, pre -packed meats ,soft drinks and vegetables proved too much of a temptation. Dutchie helped herself to fun -sized chocolate bars and potato chips. She threw her plastic heels down and sunk her feet into the thick soft rug . In between mouthfuls of food she fumbled around for the little red pills. She grabbed a handful and washed them down with a can of Red Bull. Then she plonked herself onto the bed. A queen sized double deluxe pine fold up. She felt the pristine line of the sheets between her thumb and forefinger and buried her face into the soft covers. She plumped the pillows and bounced up and down on the mattress. Ich was quiet- almost sullen. He sat down cross-legged on the floor ,just staring weirdly at nothing. Dutchie made a beeline for the bathroom. Hurriedly she stripped off and filled the tub with lavender scented foam, soaking in soft ,complimentary bubbles. A three second grin spread across her face. Blissed out, she broke into an impromptu rendition of the cult Clash classic Bank robber, performing to an invisible audience. She grabbed the shower head using it as a makeshift mic radiating liquid joy as she lathered up.
‘Ma daddy was a bank robber who never hurt nobody. He just loved to live that way and he loved to steal your money.Ahhhhhhh.’
In the lounge Ich pulled out two more pills and popped them down his throat . Then he lit a cigarette and took a deep drag.
‘Ugh.’ Two splutters later he snuffed it out with the ball of his thumb .
On the other side of London Zipmouth: Fixer , trafficker and organ harvester was briefing his small clique of cutthroat body snatchers, prepping them to prowl the city , on the hunt for fresh blood . They were paid to maim, and on occasion kill potential “donors”, for a myriad of medical procedures. Of course you couldn’t just pop body organs out .Zipmouth’s recruits had a tried and tested method involving one whack to the head and a potentially fatal dose of morphine or fentanyl. Earlier that week, Zipmouth had already met with a high-ranking administrator at an exclusive London hospital and had created a stack of forged consent release forms and death certificates to validate donation. He had a select, special medical team, private ambulance, and a dozen obscenely rich patients on standby. Transplant tourism, once a thriving black-market economy limited to China, India, and West Africa had gone global. The spike in world diseases meant there was now an unprecedented demand for replacement body parts.
Zipmouth liked to squeeze as much as he could out of a deal.
Hearts lungs and livers were all hot properties, but kidneys were the most prized on the black market. Zipmouth could get as much as eighty thousand pounds for just one, on black market rates. He preferred harvesting kidneys as they were generally easy to remove without too many complications. He attempted a smile. His liver spotted blue veined hand clicking the electro larynx.
‘Thank. God. For. Heart disease high blood pressure and diabetes.’
Ten am : At the apartment. Ich and Dutchie were lost in eternal slumber. Their bodies entwined. Their faces inches apart. Dutchie’s freshly washed locks, braided with the golden -tipped fingers of the sun. Her lips ,half parted like a red tulip in bloom. A look of utter relief on her face.