" ALFIE SENDS HIS WARMEST REGARDS........ "
The Blackberry curve 8520 cell phone nestled in the right hand thermal jacket pocket that Ray was wearing to ward off the early morning March chill, buzzed seductively against his flesh and bones. He had dabbled with various settings from discreet buzzing to loud and obnoxious audible alert, with a variety of ringtones from the faintly amusing to the wildly irritating, and had settled on a subtle blending of the two extremes. Three silent buzzes followed by a simulated old fashioned telephone ring, reminiscent of the old days of the seventies and episodes of 'The Sweeney' with large numerical dials and deeply recessed earpieces as BT advertisements numbed the public into submission at every commercial break. By the second ring, Ray had halted where he stood, stepping away from the plastic sheeting to take the call, and muttering something under his breath about never a moments peace with this modern day technology.
Ray's cold fingers fumbled for the device deeply nestled in the warmth of his pocket, pulling the phone out and raising it into the light of the day, squinting eyes too vane to allow the positioning of spectacles, fighting hard as his right arm pushed the silicon dial awash with LED symbols and flashing icons away just far enough to be able to read the black lettered information. An incoming text. How Ray hated this new fangled technology with giggle bytes and data rivers or some such gobbledegook jargon that jumbled his brain and addled his mind, a man still grappling with the concept of the common abacus, and round teabags let alone state of the art LCD crystal displays and tiny contracptions with more computing power than the first manned space shuttles!
By the time that he had pressed the button that displayed the wording of the incoming text, eyes struggling to comprehend the succinct string of words that made up the sentence, Ray knew that his life was over. Perhaps with just a faint hint of relief, he sighed deeply and expelled the air, his body posture sinking somewhat where he stood. Sometimes short and sweet is far more preferable to elongated and protracted instances, none more so than in this case, as the penny dropped and an icy chill crept deliciously around Ray's spine like a hypodermic infusion of some exotic and debilitating chemical compound that rendered him all but paralysed, motionless with a macabre understanding of his imminent fate. In his heart he knew that this day would surely come, though the timing was a little off as, ever the perfectionist, he pondered how he had not yet quite completed his job. Oh for a few more hours, and the personal satisfaction of finishing what he but a few days earlier, begun.
He'd had a good run, after all, though it had certainly been anything other than easy. Six years under the police protection system, a new passport and identity for him and Margaret, and their two children, uprooted with a change of scenery and location, a new car and a pack of lies told to friends and relatives who could never be contacted again, each and every day of his life waking up and thanking his lucky stars to still be alive and kicking, taking their toll on flesh and blood. Old before his time, the colour now long since vacating the roots of his hair and lines appearing that had never been present before the trial and convictions that lead to his hasty retreat, he had lived with the reality of his actions and the fear of reprisals like a black cloud hanging over his being, awaiting the arrival of the Grim Reaper who now, finally, it seemed had shown his face in public. Thoughts of awakening in bloodstained cotton sheets to a severed horses head or ambush on a deserted road by machine toting hoodlums had long since gone, but the real and palpable presence of a payback of sorts had always haunted him as he strived to offer his uprooted family some semblance of normality in their newly formed lives. Behind him stood the anonymous man, cell phone in right hand, placed back into his jacket pocket as his right hand reached inside his left breast pocket to grip the holstered Beretta nine millimetre pistol with it's YMM Wraith QD silencer neatly screwed in place. An excellent choice for any assassin of worth and merit, noted for it's feel and usability, trustworthy and accurate at close range. And after all, this was to be a most personal and close range assassination.
Ray pressed the 'OK' button on his phone, calmly pressing the back arrow until the screen had returned to it's home page and managing a wry smile before turning around to face the short man in the dark overcoat who walked three strides towards him whilst reaching into his pocket. Not quite the mysterious gangster with the strangely alluring features that Ray had imagined might end his days. The man was slightly grubby, stocky build with a head and neck that were indecipherable from one another, short hair and piggy eyes that seemed dark and sullen. There was a slight nervous tick in his left eye, the base of the eye lid flicking continuously, causing the surrounding facial skin to wrinkle somewhat before flinching back into place. Great, thought Ray to himself as his life clock slipped effortlessly down, killed by the runt of the assassin's litter!
" Not the face. Please. My family will want to pay their respects ", Ray calmly spoke, looking directly into the cold and dark relentless brown eyes of the man who would terminate his very existence within the next few seconds. The killer was, sadly for his victim as conservative with his sentiment as he was with the fripperies of conversation. There is so much work involved in facial reconstructing, rebuilding a smashed and broken face being intrinsically based upon the recognition of the fact that there exists a safe and predictable correlation between the skull and overlaying soft tissue. Sadly in Rays case, this would not be so. Tissue depth markers at recognised anatomical points on the skull, artists sketches from a treasured family portrait, Pathologist, Anthropologist, Odontologist and forensic input and records, acetate sheets and overlays, you know, it really is quite a complex task to recreate a face so that it is fit to view by the deceased's loved ones, and so little respect is paid to the role of the morticians who lovingly recreate with smoke and mirrors the likeness of those that we so loved and cared for when their facial features were their own with purity and grace. It's also funny what goes through the mind of a man who is about to meet his maker, you know. Not memories of childhood, a Mothers love, family life and the smiles of the children who loved him so, no, not so in this case. Ray sucked in a vast lungful of the morning air and contemplated on the mornings work so far. The taste of the glorious bacon butty and luke warm tea from a plastic cup that he'd bought from the roadside café on his way into the city, the smell of the fresh air and his love of the simple things in life as he plied his trade and set up the plastic sheeting prior to repainting the Victorian metal railings on the outside perimeter of the Covent Garden architecture. It was a good day to die, as good as any, better than many.
The bullet that killed Ray took an extraordinary journey through the confines of his skull. You see, most people believe that a metal projectile travelling through the air at great speed, actually around fourteen thousand feet per second in the case of this nine millimetre shell, would simply smash it's way through the flesh and bone of a man's face, exiting through the rear and embedding itself within the cement foundation of the pillared wall behind. But, in reality, the bullet can deviate thanks to the presence of the various layers of cranial matter, hard bone and nervous system, the ricochet principal and, well, the angle of entry I guess. Ray was out of luck with his initial request. The killer smiling and waving his left index finger in front of Rays eyes in a most callous and condescending manner as if to refuse his request before placing the tip of his silencer just an inch from Rays right eye socket.
And therein lies the reason why the projectile took the pathway that it ultimately chose. Proximity to the skull, entry through the eye socket, pathway to the brain and rebounds off the temporal lobe, all played their part as the bullet smashed and tore it's way in a zig zag pattern within Rays head. It did not help that this was a dum-dum bullet, originally conceived by Captain Neville Bertie-Clay way back in the annals of time in Calcutta for big game hunting, and designed to expand upon impact, leaving a mighty big exit wound whilst exacting bloody and cataclysmic carnage within, allowing the big he-man white hunters to stroll up and finish the writing beats off with a foot on their head and arm proudly on hips for that all important photographic portrayal of the moment of the kill. Soft nosed, copper and brass jacket open to the tip, a round that was chosen specifically to illustrate the dangers and perils of informing on people in a position of power and privilege who do not look favourably upon the damning evidence of police informants, Rays own bullet was in itself a tiny and shiny work of art, hand made, solid and dependable. I say bullet, when in fact the one that entered his eye socket and rattled through his skull in fact came with two other accomplices, both fired into his still beating chest as he lay prone and flinching on the ground. Well, if a job is worth doing, as the old saying goes.
And I guess that is the end of Rays tale. Screams of horror as the assassin walked back into the London shadows, his gloved hand separating sim card from main body, dumping the pay-as-you-go cell phone into the nearest garbage bin before stopping for a quick skinny latte and slice and a cinnamon swirl in Starbucks as the screams rang out from passers by somewhere in the distance. An unextraordinary little man who stood up for what he believed to be a just and right pathway to the truth, that ultimately cost him his life and his family their liberty as once more they were ushered in secrecy to yet another location with alternate passports and renewed fear at every knock on the door, every footstep heard behind them as they walked, every passing glance from a stranger in a street. Later that morning the police arrived in their droves, wet behind the ears bobbies on the beat brushed aside by the nonchelant and cavalier mannerisms of seasoned detectives and wannabee side kicks jostling for hierarchy and privileges of rank. Pawing over the evidence amongst the spent cartridge shells and blood and guts they would find Rays cell phone and on it from an source linked back via a network of communications that appeared to come from far overseas, a sinple final message.......
" Alfie sends his warmest regards........ "
Written March 27th 2011
Photograph taken in central Covent Garden, London, England on March 17th 2011 early morning.
Nikon D700 125mm 1/40s f/6.3 iso200
Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 G ED IF VRII. UV filter.