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Authors: Ray Banks

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A novella by Ray Banks





This edition copyright 2011 Ray Banks

Introduction copyright 2011

Original edition copyright 2008, Ray Banks

First published by Crime Express, 2008

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission of the author.

All the characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Cover design by JT

Visit Ray Banks' website:

Visit the print publisher's website at:




The Big Blind


Saturday's Child


Donkey Punch


No More Heroes


Beast of Burden









I was talking to another crime writer not so long ago and Ray Banks’ name came up.  This other writer gave me a funny look. "Ray Banks?" he said. "You know him, don’t you?" I replied that I did. "Yeah," this other writer said. "I think I’m a bit scared of him . . ." 

This other writer was talking about Ray the man. Never short of an opinion (always strongly expressed, often the opposite of everyone else’s, but usually correct), an insult or a brilliantly constructed joke. (My favourite Ray Banks one liner was a throw away tweet he made once: I will miss the X Factor. In the way that Christopher Lee and pals miss the constant satanic attacks orchestrated by Charles Gray.)
Clever, funny, acerbic, precise.
His writing to a t.

Most writers don’t bother with short stories now. They’re a dying art, they say. They don’t pay. They take up so much time that you could be using on a novel. (
Which does pay – but usually not very much.
) Or this one: You’re either a novelist or short story writer. Not both. Well, Ray Banks puts the lie to that theory. He’s the author of five brilliant novels (including the excellent Cal Innes quartet), several novellas (including the excellent
, of course) and numerous short stories. And, I have to admit – begrudgingly, because I’m useless at short stories and not too good at novellas, either – that he’s brilliant at all of them.  

What makes them so good? A strong sense of terrain, both physical and emotional, evoked with the most precise of words.
The dialogue.
It just leaps off the page straight into the reader’s head.
And the characters.
Jesus, the characters.
They’re at the bottom of the food chain, barely clinging on.
The ignored, damaged dregs of a society whose collective eyes are somewhere else.
Probably on the X Factor.
They’re desperate enough to try anything that’ll leap frog them, short cut their way a couple of Darwinian steps higher. They’ve got their
they’ve got their journeys to take. And they use anything to hand.
Machetes and hammers.
And above all, a burning anger and a loathing of themselves and their situation.
Of course, we know that’s just not going to happen. They’re not going to get anywhere.
Because somewhere along the line they get let down.
More often than not it’s the very thing that’s stuck them at the bottom to begin with that sends them tumbling back down again.

But if that wasn’t enough, he does something else. He takes those bottom-feeding characters, the kind of people you’d probably cross the road to avoid in real life, and makes the reader root for them. More than
empathise with them. It’s a rare gift. 

And then there’s the title novella,
. I have to confess, I’ve got a bit of history with this. Before I became a writer I was an actor. Oh, not a famous one, just a jobbing one. I hardly do any of that now but I still do
. And I had the pleasure of reading
And what a pleasure.
Those characters, that dialogue ... Usually, when I do an
, I’ve got plenty to say about it. And the producer has too.
But not this time.
  I had the time of my life in that studio, working with those words to life. I just hope I did it justice.

So yeah.
This is Ray Banks. For my money one of the top crime writers
currently operating
in Britain.
But scary?
No. Not in that way.
But scary talented?
Hell yes. If you’re another British crime writer, you should be very scared
indeed ...


May 2011











when he thought back on it, it was all Goose's fault. He was the one gave him the job in the first place.

"You want to know what a real war is, you have to go right back to the last big one, the last World War. There, right, you
looking at total annihilation of a democratic way of life. Fuck the rest of them." Goose started counting on his fingers. "Korea?
Police action.
Police action.
The Falklands?"

Goose paused, sucked his teeth.
Then looked at the lad in front of him.

"Last ditch attempt to curry favour with the general public by sending us all out there to slaughter a bunch of
' shepherds. Don't get us wrong about it or
. I was over
I did what I had to do. And I wasn't under any
' illusions about it, neither. I mean, I knew we was the better soldiers, we was the
lads, the only things they was supposed to be good at was shearing and dying. But
cunts managed to get lucky a couple times." He slapped his stump. "Including the time they took me leg off us, the bastards."

Goose fell silent.
Looked like he was waiting for Richie to say something.
Behind Goose's wheelchair, BBC News 24 rattled on.

Richie didn't want to get into it.
Wasn't even fucking born when Goose was over there.
Didn't know what to say.

So he said, "Right

Goose's eyes dropped to slits,
he ducked to the tray in front of him, snorted a thick line of coke. When he came back, he thumbed one nostril.
Pointed at Richie.
"You just got out?"


"How long?"

"Give us eighteen month, like."

' tickle," said Goose.
"What for?"

Richie frowned. "You told us to go round and chin Hacky Curtis, remember?"

Goose started to shake his head until something fired in his brain.
"Oh, aye.
Right, I thought that was a kid I told to do that."

Richie looked at the carpet.

"How old?"

"Sixteen, almost seventeen."

"And they got you on GBH, did they?"

"Nah, it was Actual," said Richie.

"Right, then you didn't do what I told you to do,

Richie looked up, his mouth open.

"I say chin someone," said Goose, "
get a GBH."

"He was in the hospital. And I was at

"That's for adults, son."

"I got in trouble at the remand."

Goose regarded the lad. "You know, you get caught again, that's it."

Richie nodded.

"That's you right back in the shit, back at the YOI."

"Aye," said Richie. "They explained it to us. But then I could go back to the shit just being here with you.
Known criminal an' that."
He wiped his nose, smiled.
"Jumped the
to get here an' all."

, a
' badge?"

"Nah, I want a job."

Goose blinked at Richie. Then he burst out laughing. It was a low sound, cackling high in the middle. A coke laugh that tore right through Richie, tensed him up. Goose shook his head, waved one hand at him.

said you had jobs going, like," said Richie.

, is it?"

Goose's laugh wound down to a chuckle. He ran his tongue over his bottom teeth,
breathed out.
Kept glancing at Richie with this weird smile on his face.
A lot of thoughts running through Richie's head, the same old story about a lost leg on Goose Green when everyone knew what really happened – stupid bastard mainlined an artery. But you never said that to Goose. He might've been a fucking cripple and nose-deep in his own product, but Goose had a rep that stretched back since before the riots. And that rep was what brought Richie over today.

," said Goose again, and there wasn't any laughter in his voice now. "That twat wants a
' seeing-to, he keeps sending people round here. I got dealers, son. And I got muscle. So unless you want to run errands –"

"Okay," said Richie.

Goose smiled. "You got a family to support?"

Richie thought about lying.
Realised that Goose probably already knew about his girlfriend.
Even if he didn't, it wasn't so hard to find out.

as if that was the answer he was hoping for. He shifted his arse in the wheelchair. "I got something, maybe. Not much, like. But it'll pay."


"You keep this to yourself."

"You can trust us."

"I know I can, else I wouldn't be telling you." His eyes narrowed. "I need protection."

Richie didn't say anything.

"You know what I'm talking about," said Goose.

And I thought you had a gun."

Goose looked long and hard at Richie, one eye going lazy. "I had one, aye. But now I need another one." He grinned wide. "You can never have too many
' guns around the place, the job I'm in. And it's not like I'm going to give anyone a good kicking, is it?"

Richie smiled, but he didn't laugh. He knew better than to laugh in Goose's presence. A smile you could explain away if the cripple got
; laughter was a lot harder, and if Goose reckoned you were laughing at him, you could forget about it. He'd been known to launch himself at blokes, especially if he'd had a couple of lines before the meeting. And right then, Richie was glad Goose didn't have a gun, because the man's eyes narrowed, waiting for the smile to turn into a laugh.

us to do?" said Richie.

Goose moved again in his wheelchair. The coke made him itchy, and Richie had to drop his eyes whenever he moved his stump. Then Goose breathed out hard as he dropped back into his seat. In his hand was a stack of cash, all fivers. He tossed it to Richie. The money was still arse-warm.

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