Investigative journalism is hard, committed work, so not the kind of thing I’d get involved with. So I have to confess that the day I spent following Half-life as he plied his trade – furnishing South London with narcotics – was an accident. A bad accident.
Half-life had borrowed the keys to my flat so he could retrieve the cheese he’d stashed there. He was already cross that I was taking my girlfriend to lunch without him, but even more so that it meant he had to get his own shit out of my place, when he was so busy and all – just so he could turn a tidy profit with his new cheese fence, Two Thumbs Tony.
I should have known better than to let him have my only keys, especially as that’s how I lost my spare set. He needed them when I was away recently, so he had somewhere to entertain The Actress where he wouldn’t be found. Now The Actress has them, but wasn’t returning his calls, which he put down to ‘Love Paralysis’.
We arranged to meet later at The Rake so I could pick up my keys.
After searching his bag and shorts he said he must have left them at his place. Apparently this was my fault because there was nothing attached to my keyring to make them conspicuous.
‘I never lose my keys,’ he said, proudly, showing me his set, chained to his belt, attached to a purple butt plug.
He offered to fetch them, but I knew better than to let him out of my sight. It was Thursday, the day he had to score for his weekend trade. He’d be visiting his supplier before packaging and distributing the goods to his clients, like a pillar of business, and could end up anywhere but where my keys were. I had to get them tonight as I was being picked up at 7am the next morning and needed to pack my shit for a long-planned mucky weekend. My only chance was to become Half-life’s shadow for the night, God help me.
‘As long as you don’t put it on that fucking website of yours,’ he said. ‘What’s it called again?’
Half-life was cycling, which meant I had to keep up on a Boris bike. Luckily, he was held up on the Old Kent Road, by The Windsor, as he dragged a driver out of his window, by the throat, to make a point about road safety. At least the window was open, this time.
At New Cross we were buzzed in to a heavily-secured hallway that smelt so powerfully of skunk, I felt immediately dizzy and self-conscious, then hungry and incoherent and finally, sexy. And this was before I’d even made it into the lair of the man known as No Name.
Half-life apologised for my presence but assured No Name that I was alright, ‘For a cunt, like.’
No Name was polite and welcoming, but he was guarded by Angel, a monosyllabic colossus straight from Central Casting, perpetually on the verge of ’roid rage, willing me to make a faux pas so he could crush my bones to powder and then snort them.
Angel passed Half-life a large bag of weed, a ball of coke, ketamine and some marinaded chicken.
Half-life complained about the previous consignment and refused to pay for anything until he’d had a free line and a joint for quality control purposes. Time was getting on as Half-life borrowed No Name’s scales so he could bag up and short-change his friends. Bored at the lengthy process, I pulled out my phone, only for Angel to cough and lift up his shirt. At first I thought he was showing me his abs, so I was almost relieved to realise he was letting me see his handgun. I put my phone back in its holster and got patient, fast.
‘How long will it take us to get to Brixton?’ I asked Half-life once we’d made it out and my sphincter had recovered its equilibrium.
‘Brixton? I’ve got work to do, pal,’ said a man with a vocation to serve others.
He rode off towards the Elephant, to deliver his bounty to grateful customers, who had all been waiting for hours. We entered a world in which Half-life was Lord; kissing, hugging and shaking hands like the Mayor of Gearsville.
He left richer, a couple of pints drunker and with a whole salmon, bartered from the kitchen on favourable terms, which he strapped to my reluctant back. A keen gourmet, he’d happily trade low-quality drugs for high-quality fish, meat or veg, like he was Warren The Buffet.
‘Gastrocunt,’ I called him, almost within earshot, as we headed to a Waterloo boozer for his final delivery of the night, where Martina, a new, beautiful, Euro-barmaid had the misfortune to serve him.
‘What would you like?’ she asked, sweetly.
And he told her, in pornographic detail. The Guvnor intervened to save his momentarily stunned staff.
‘This is Half-life’ he said, pulling his complimentary pint. ‘You get used to it.’
It wasn’t the only time that evening that Half-life would introduce himself with unexpected indecency. For him, it was the equivalent of a firm handshake. He takes the measure of women by their reaction to unsolicited intimacy, rather like, I imagine, Vladimir Putin does with bears.
At least we were in a pub that closed at 11. I could be home by one, away from the madness, skinning up in the garden in my pants. But I hadn’t figured on the the lock-in, the usually welcome entreaty to go on and on and on. Getting Half-life out of a pub that is still serving is impossible, especially when my own resolve was being tested by a free bar.
By the time the Guvnor turfed us out, it seemed like a good and logical idea to go to the river. On the beach near the Undercroft I held the salmon still while Half-life snorted a livener and declared himself roadworthy.
He climbed on his steed as I jumped in a cab to his gaff. While he sped home, I was tortured in traffic by Anodyne FM. You don’t need pliers to get me to talk; just plug me into duets of the ’90s. By the time I arrived he was already expertly cooking churrasco and preparing a fiery sauce.
‘Alright, alright, I haven’t even had fucking dinner, yet. I’ve been working all night. Jesus, it’s like hanging out with Iain fucking Duncan fucking Smith’s uptight fucking brother, Fuckface Duncan Smith.’
It was past late. The food was welcome though, and superb, but the bottle of stolen Château Margaux was wasted on palates defiled by hops, herbs and unknowable chemicals.
‘It’s four, I’m out. Keys and cab time,’ I declared.
‘Four? Fuck! Boca are on,’ as he magicked Argentinian football onto the screen.
‘And the keys?’
‘What are you on about? I haven’t got your fucking keys. Crash on the sofa. I’ll break in for you tomorrow.’
In a pitiful attempt to calm my fury, Half-life told me he had searched for the keys when he got back and couldn’t find them.
‘Why didn’t you tell me that two fucking hours ago?’
‘Because I knew you’d be a fucking bitch. And I was right. Again.’
Speechless, I took the cab and didn’t even say goodbye to his passed-out ass. If this idiot could break in, so could I.
Back home, I spotted an open bathroom window. All I had to do was lose two stone and cover myself with butter and I was in. Then I saw what happened to my keys. There they were, dangling in my front door where Half-life had left them, mocking me and, worse, the entire home security industry.
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Pills image from Carsten Holler: Decision – Hayward GalleryTags: