I’m sitting by myself in a rear booth next to a pool table in O’Malley’s on Kilburn High Road. Taking in the calm before the storm, watching football highlights from another pointless preseason tournament on the giant screen to my upper left. The television next to it has a replay of a hurling game on: Limerick vs. Kilkenny. My friend Kaz punches my left arm and slams down a pint of Guinness and a shot of whiskey. “A shot of Paddy for Paddy,” he says, laughing loudly to himself, half-shitfaced.
That’s my name: “Paddy.” Well, Patrick Maloney, officially. And this is my life right now. The black geezer here is Karen Sanchez. Karen, pronounced “co-ren,” as far as I know used to be a relatively popular masculine name in Trinidad where his mother is from. But here in northwest London, not so much.
The ginger fella in the QPR track top taking a Pugh opposite me is my other friend Darren Mullins. The pair of them go by the names of Kaz and Daz, and along with my identical twin brother Hughie, we’ve all been inseparable since we were five. Hughie recently got sentenced to a year’s stretch in Wormwood Scrubs for an incident I would rather not divulge right now.
“You might wanna slow down on the booze, lads,” I say.
“Fuck off, Paddy, you fucking prudish sigh cunt.” Darren says in the broadest cockney accent heard since Ted Heath was prime minister.
“Listen boys, get a fucking grip here. This is Yuri fucking Shevchenko we’re talking about. He’s not gonna let this go. How are you not fucking shitting yourselves right now?”
The pair of them fall silent for a couple of seconds, then turn to face each other and begin laughing hysterically.
Just over two weeks ago, the three of us went up to the West End to celebrate Daz’s 21st. I have hazy recollections of leaving the lads in the Empire Casino and getting a hackney cab from Leicester Square to the posh house my girlfriend’s daddy purchased for her in Chiswick. Pippa was none too pleased about me banging on her front door in the early hours, but she soon forgave me as she loves the working class cock.
Anyway, I found out yesterday, dumb and dumber here ended up at a luxury brothel in Paddington that night and spent £4,200 getting their dicks wet inside trafficked blonde Eastern European whores, all while shoving their own supply of Charlie up their beaks and guzzling down bottles of Cristal. Not only that, they paid all in cash; counterfeit £20 notes, to be precise. Here in Britain, the £20 note is the last one made of paper; all the others are now made from polymer, which makes them near impossible to fake. A couple of months ago, Daz and Kaz had decided to start moonlighting printing fake £20 notes in their flat. I told them I wanted no part in the operation.
Here’s where I have to admit we’re not good people. I’ve never had a regular job since leaving school. Neither has my brother or these two dickheads. We’ve all been running coke for years. London’s appetite for the silky white powder has surged during the last five years, which is how I met Pippa: she and her yuppie friends down in Chelsea and Kensington love the Charlie. We’ve all been full time employees of the Murphy family, otherwise known as the Kilburn crime syndicate, for quite some time.
As you may already know, Kilburn is somewhat of an Irish enclave of inner city London. 15 percent of the area is Irish-born, and there’s a whole lot more of us of Irish descent. My parents are from Ballyfermot in Dublin and Darren’s family are from Sligo. As for Kaz, there’s obviously not much, if any, Celtic stock in him. So anyway, as the area is largely Irish, the organised crime in the vicinity also reflects this. The Murphys are the top boys of Kilburn, and although they hate the limelight and loathe publicity, they still think of themselves as kings. The neighbouring affluent district of Maida Vale and certain other parts of Paddington is Yuri Shevchenko’s patch. He’s an extremely powerful Ukrainian businessman with a lot of connections, and his entrepreneurial enterprises include property development and arms and drugs smuggling, with human trafficking and pimping thrown in for good measure.
“You need to chill the fuck out, Paddy. I thought with that stuck-up little strumpet straddling your micro-dick, you’d relax a bit.” Daz says, letting out a loud belch and laughing like a hyena on an acid trip.
“Listen man, I’m warnin’ ya: don’t fuckin’ call her that.”
“Relax, Paddy, mon. It’s jus’ joke an ting.” Kaz says, attempting to speak Jamaican patois. What a fucking joke. The closest that cunt’s been to the Caribbean is Brixton.
“London Calling” by the Clash goes off on my phone, showing a text message from Yuri.
Hey guy meet me by bandstand in Queen’s park at midnight. Bring me my gear and those two muppets.
I say, “Yuri wants us to meet us in Queen’s Park.”
Kaz says, “What time, Pads?”
“In half a fucking hour. What the fuck is with this cunt and the short notice?” says Daz.
“Well, you best hurry the fuck up and finish your beer then, you soppy cunt. And don’t forget that fucking bag.”
We make our way out of the bar. It’s roughly a three minute walk down Cambridge Avenue to the Kilburn Park Tube station. I did think about taking the over-ground from Kilburn High Road, but I have no idea of the times of trains at this stage of the evening. As for the underground, there still one every few minutes until midnight. I could call a taxi, but I feel it would be rather suspicious getting a black cab to a park at 11:30 at night.
We start making our way down to the Tube, trying my hardest not to draw attention to myself, which is proving to be rather difficult with me babysitting these two. Daz starts chanting QPR football songs along with shouting “fuck Chelsea, fuck Fulham, fuck Tottenham” etc. And of course, his shadow joins in.
It must have been the hottest day of the year so far, and when you get a heat wave in London, it’s brutal. The city was not built to contain this level of humidity. I feel the cool breeze of the July night blow through the polyester and cotton of my T-shirt into my chest, causing me to have a refreshing momentary shudder.
We swipe our Oyster cards and head through the turnstiles of the station, making our way down the escalators. Just as we reach the bottom, the 23:39 Bakerloo Line service to Queen’s Park pulls in.
We’re the only people on the platform as we board the middle carriage. We stand by the doors we just entered, holding onto the handles which propped up the two partially inebriated brothers from other mothers. The only other patron in our car is some old vagrant Scottish guy down the other end, rocking back and forth talking to himself. I keep my eyes fixated on the Ralph Lauren polo bag Daz is holding and stay silent, letting the pair of them chat shit about QPR’s chances of promotion or relegation next season.
It’s a two-minute roller coaster ride out of the tunnel into the open air station of Queen’s Park where this service terminates. I’ve always hated the Tube ever since I was a little boy; the way these things sway around give me motion sickness. The train speeds off like the Nemesis Inferno at Thorpe Park. I immediately feel the steak and ale pie I ate for dinner collide with the Guinness and whiskey making a thundering sound in my stomach. In this moment in time, it feels like the entire world is about to fall out of my arse.
After two minutes—which felt more like two hours—the train arrives into the moonlit station. We alight onto the darkened platform and I head for the exit onto Harvest Street. The pair of liabilities dragging their feet behind me start play-fighting with each other like we all would a decade ago.
We made our way into the Park via the South Gate. I strolled underneath the willow trees as the cool summer’s night breeze cast its branches, making a beautiful hypnotic motion. The odour of fresh-cut grass made me reminisce about all the cricket matches I’d seen played here in summer’s past. I thought of all the games of hurling me and Hughie participated in here as young boys with our mother and father watching, euphorically cheering us on.
Eventually, we make it to the bandstand at the end of the park’s lawn. It appeared glorious, lit up by Victorian-era gas-powered street lamps, reminiscent of a scene from a fairy tale.
Yuri stands in front of the fence that circles the grandstand. To his left and right, he has a pair of minders with him. Big monsters of men and Ukrainians also, I have no doubt. They appear to look alike and could have been brothers. The Klitschko brothers come to mind.
Yuri says. “Hello, my friends, I’m glad you could join me on this beau-ti-ful hot night.”
“Good evening, Yuri,” I say.
Daz and Kaz stay silent with their hands in their pockets, standing slightly to my sides.
“You have my gear.”
“Yeah, just like I said: three kilos of Charlie. Should make up for all the counterfeit money my friends spent in your whorehouse.”
Daz nervously passes me the bag, which I hand over to Vitali Klitschko’s body double standing in front of me to my right.
The three of them converse in either Ukrainian or Russian for a moment.
“What happens now, Pads,” Kaz asks me with a worried look on his face.”
I brush him off and tell him, “Just relax, I’ll sort it.”
“You have been very bad boys, my friends, and naughty boys need punishment,” says Yuri as he spits on the grass.
“You fucking think three keys of coke gonna make up for this shit?” Yuri starts laughing like an evil Saturday morning cartoon villain.
The Klitschko brothers pull out a handgun each and immediately proceed to shoot my lifelong friends in the centre of their foreheads. My ears start ringing like I just exited an all-night Drum ‘n’ Bass rave.
I gaze down at the ground below me and see two of my former best mates’ corpses laying on the deck. The claret of their blood and brain tissue spilling from their canisters onto the healthy plush green of the lawn mixed in with it, creating a shit-stain brown appearance on top of the blades of grass.
“You’re a ruthless cunt, Mr. Maloney.” Yuri chuckles as he puts his right arm over my shoulder “But this is what happen when you grass; you lay in grass bleeding out.”
We walk back over towards the park’s South Gate as the Klitschkos take care of the remnants of Daz and Kaz.
“The Murphys send their regards and apologise once again for the inconvenience caused,” I say.
“No worries, guy, and don’t you feel guilty, my friend. These shitheads grassed your brother to the Met.”
“Blood is thicker than water,” I say.
“They were sniffing too much of their own product. They were getting out of control, and the Murphys hate attention.” I say.
“Yes, plus they tell me these guys are fucking informants for fucking NCA.”
“Ya, well, last thing I want is the fucking flying squad hanging around.”
“The flying squad are part of the Met, Yuri.”
“Whatever, guy, Danny Murphy tells me he give you job working with his contacts in Tenerife. Make us all lots of money.”
“Well, it’s Marbella, actually.”
“Marbella, Tenerife: same thing, guy. It’s still Spain. Sunshine and fucking shagging all year round.”
“El viva España.” I smiled.
“You take your girlfriend and you have a good time, guy. And if ever you need anything, you call your Uncle Yuri, my friend.”
I made my way back towards the station and caught the night bus back to Kilburn. Once I got back to my apartment, I took a shower, got dressed, grabbed my bags, and got a taxi to London City Airport to meet Pippa.
From there, we boarded the first flight of the day to Malaga.
On the plane, as we were in the air somewhere over France, I sat in a daze as Pippa talked to an air hostess about hiring a car from Malaga Airport to get us to Marbella. I began thinking of all the good times Hughie and myself had with Daz and Kaz as young boys growing up in Kilburn. Playing football in the park, climbing trees, jumping brooks, knocking on doors and running, getting in fights, seeing QPR get promoted to the premier league…and then I have them killed. Like I said, I’m not a good person, and I’m just going to have to live with that fact.
Joe Murray has been a merchant mariner for many years and has been lucky enough to travel the world with his job. He took up writing short stories as a hobby to distance himself from the drinking culture that is heavily ingrained in his occupation. Murray was inspired by his father, who used to enter short story competitions for Ireland’s Own. His stories are often like an enjoyable mix of Dennis Lehane and Irvine Welsh. Murray divides his time between Somerset, England and Ibiza, Spain.