The Tall Man

I sit on a bench in the darkened park and watch The Slug get out of his car. I am dressed head to foot in black and holding a black briefcase. The Slug walks up to an apartment block and opens the front door with a key. He doesn’t leave a real trail of slime behind him, of course, just a metaphorical one.
+++++The Slug is a very bad man, for sure; drug dealing, loan sharking, money laundering, people trafficking. He has his grubby fingers in so many dirty pies. But he has friends in high places: power and influence. So he has remained untouchable by the law for a very long time.
+++++He is also a creature of narrow habit. Come rain or shine, hell or high water, each Monday, just after midnight, he visits his Colombian mistress in her luxurious penthouse apartment atop an expensive West London apartment block. One hour later, he returns home.
+++++I wait for fifty five minutes and cross the road to The Slug’s Daimler. I take the Semtex out of the briefcase and strap it under the car. The sciatica in my back and knee hurts as I bend and stand up again. I massage my joints. And then go home to sleep the sleep of the just.
+++++I have much in common with The Slug. Once upon a time I was a very bad person, too: working for people like him, killing for money, until what my creative writing teacher called an ‘inciting incident’ occurred and I changed my ways. After a fashion.
+++++I am also a creature of narrow habit. Each and every morning I have a cup of sweet tea and a bacon sandwich at The Star Coffee Bar, just off the Walworth Road. And as per usual, I listen to Jazz FM and read the tabloids. I open a copy of The Sun, a loathsome rag that I stopped buying after Hillsborough, and find out The Slug is still alive. The article says that he is in intensive care after a suspected terrorist attack and under 24-hour police protection.
+++++I take out my mobile phone. It’s an old Nokia: less easy to hack than a Smartphone. I send a one word text message: Coffee.
+++++Like The Slug, I have friends in high places. And low ones too. Detective Sergeant Steve Toshack is somewhere in between, I suppose.
+++++He arrives at noon and orders a black coffee with hot buttered scones.
+++++He sits in front of me. As always, he wears a waxy raincoat and his long moustache is ragged, in need of a trim. Tosh is also a creature of narrow habit. Maybe it’s an age thing.
+++++‘A bit of an oops moment, then,’ says Tosh.‘A faux-pas.’
+++++‘He’s either a lucky bastard or I’m losing my touch,’ I say. ‘Where is he?’
+++++Tosh hands me a betting slip.
+++++‘That’s the hospital and that’s the room,’ he says, tapping the paper. ‘The copper on duty is a bloke called PC Whittaker. He’s a useless sort, been on the take for years too. He’s due a suspension. If you do the job on The Slug he’ll be up shit creek without a paddle: might even be able to get him to name some names.’
+++++‘A win-win then,’ I say.
+++++We sit in silence while Tosh finishes his food and drink. I try not to look at him while he eats.
+++++After my inciting incident, I decided to go in to business for myself: getting rid of undesirables. I built up a large client base, too, including a couple of governments and police forces.
+++++Now, I use the name The Tall Man and give out business cards that contain only a drawing: the elongated silhouette of a man, and a mobile phone number. Very few people know who I am and even fewer others are able to guess my identity: especially since I’m short. And I’m a woman.
+++++Tosh leaves and I wait for fifteen minutes and get up: my sciatica bites.
+++++I straighten my tweed skirt and pull my tartan shopping trolley towards the front door, waving at Pete and Jason behind the counter. The shopping trolley jams as I try to get it out of the door.
+++++A massive builder gets up and helps me with it.
+++++‘There you go, pet,’ he says, straining with its weight. ‘Bleedin’ hell, that’s heavy. What have you got in there?’
+++++‘Slug repellent,’ I say and step out into the autumn rain.

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Paul D. Brazill
Paul D. Brazill is the author of Cold London Blues, The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has even edited a few anthologies, including Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, and True Brit Grit.
Paul D. Brazill

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