Pentonville High Street
Monday 25th April
Kenny Thorne wanted to vomit. The acrid diesel of the streets pinched at his nostrils and the traffic pounding in his ears confused him. For a moment he dared not look up at the sheer wideness of the sky lest he overbalanced and fell. He had imagined being out would be much better than this but all he felt was sick. With an effort of will, he blinked away his fears and set off into the crowded high street. The tag on his ankle felt like an anvil. He wanted to kick it off. Instead, he pulled off his necktie and stopped to stuff it in a waste bin.
All in good time, Kenny, he told himself. All in good time. Take it easy. Four days yet before your big day.
For half an hour, as he walked, he expected to be stared at or pointed out. Nobody did and he enjoyed the freedom to stride where he liked. Finally, panting, he smelled new-baked bread. He stopped.
Toast! He wanted toast. He imagined thin, hot slices, newly buttered. For three years he had eaten only doorstops of rubbery white-bake made in the prison baker’s shop. The pigs around him dipped it into every meal, devouring it like animals. At a small café he drank tea with lots of sugar, grateful for the silence. As he stared into the mush of black tea leaves in the bottom of his cup he saw again the Dream.
A golden coach, pulled by four, enormous, white horses and the shining face of Diana, the bride at its window, beckoning to him with a hand. She called to him with a silent, open mouth.
He couldn’t remember when the pictures in his head first came. He knew for certain they were there when he was sent down. Now he quite liked them. Any distraction inside was welcome when the other prisoners wanted to kill you. Even the E block night guard wanted to slash his throat in his sleep. He ate ten rounds of blackened toast and paid with the last of his prison wages before he was able to face the crowds.
He went to his bank in the high street and waited his turn at the window, his eyes devouring the petite cashier. He wished he could smell her through the glass. Thorne undressed her slowly – picturing her clothes falling off her as if by some unseen force of nature only he controlled. She was wearing white lace underwear. He changed it to red silk. He was removing her bra when she spoke.
“Yes? What can I do for you?”
“I…I have an account here. I want to withdraw all my money. My name’s Thorne.”
He knew he had spoken too loudly, his voice shrilled and she studied him with concern.
“Is there something wrong, Mr Thorne?”
“No. Nothing at all, I just want my money. Here’s my cheque book, my credit card and driver’s licence. Do it now, please.”
He watched how her small breasts rose as she breathed and wondered if it were her nipples or just the bunched bra cup silk that he could see.
“You have three thousand pounds in your account. You want a banker’s draft or a transfer?”
She glanced up through soft eyelashes and his eyes slid down her body as she counted the notes.
“I’m going abroad, you see.”
Thorne was pleased with the lie. She half smiled as if she cared, handing him sheaves of money to count. Thorne did so with fumbling, stubby fingers, enjoying the crisp feel of the new banknotes that still smelled of ink. He stuffed the envelope inside his jacket and left.
Alone, Thorne sat huddled in a bus shelter lost in thought. He felt an ache deep inside his skull.
Now it’s your time, Kenny. Just like we talked about all those nights. They’ve had their shot, now it’s your go.
The thought of his revenge was so sweet Kenny Thorne could taste it on his tongue.
At an ironmonger in the high street he bought a pair of tin snips and sheared through the nylon strap of the Geo Fencing tag around his left ankle. He rubbed at the reddened skin. The pompous bastard prison Monitoring Officer, who fitted the tag, had a wet-lipped smile he hated. The sneering, exaggerated way he addressed him as Mister Thorne, as if he meant it. When the man crouched over his leg, zipping up the strapping, he imagined pressing the barrel of his .38 Special against his puffy, white neck.
You think I’m some kind of wild animal to be tracked? Maybe I am. But maybe I’ll find you first.
In his mind he pulled the trigger and spattered the man’s brains across the office walls.
At the Post Office he bought a Jiffy bag and slipped the tag and the phone inside. He addressed it in large script with a ballpoint he found hanging from a chain.
‘THE FIELD OFFICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, 11000 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD, LOS ANGELES, USA.’
He posted it and left, waving down a black cab.
“Take me to Welton Street. You know where that is?”
The cabbie grunted.
“Yeah, I know. Out by the park. Take us twenty minutes this time of day.”
“You wait there then we’ll go on.”
He settled in the back, huddled in the corner, his fingers curling and clenching as he mumbled. He knew he was talking out loud again and bit his lip, drawing a bead of blood.
“Left at the lights.”
The cabbie gave him a sneer.
“I know where it is. That’s a one-way street now. How long since you been here?”
Thorne ignored him, feeling in his pocket for his key. He rubbed at the rust, watching each turn the driver made.
“Here. It’s here!”
The cabbie gave a deep sigh, as though he were dealing with an impaired old lady.
“I know. What number?”
“Five. Blue door.”
The cab stopped at a row of Victorian red bricks, white net curtains at every window. Only the coloured paint on the doors and windows marked them apart. Thorne opened the door, grateful that Pauline was out and had not changed the lock. He ran to a raspberry bush in the tiny garden to rummage beneath it, digging with a cane, pulling up a stump of grey drain piping buried there, as excited as a mongrel hunting a bone. He unscrewed its plastic cap, shaking free clods of dirt and withdrew the heavy, polythene-wrapped package, tearing at the wrapping greedily.
The Smith & Wesson .38 Special fitted snugly into his palm. He toted it between both hands, feeling its familiar weight, smelling the soft pungency of the gun oil. He recited.
“Time for vengeance, Diana. I will be your avenging angel, my sweet princess.”
He broke the gun open to study the mechanism he had oiled so lovingly that summer’s day three years ago. Then the police had come to get him. He retrieved a packet of .38 Special calibre cartridges and slid them, along with the gun, into his jacket. In the room Pauline had once called ‘the lounge’ he searched for paper and pen. The nets at the window etched lacy spiders´ webs of shadow on the walls.
He took a square of writing paper, holding it carefully with a handkerchief. Then he printed:
’I WILL KILL CAMILLA ON 29th APRIL. TAKE ME SERIOUSLY.
CODENAME: CAT STRANGLER ONE.’
Still using the handkerchief, he addressed an envelope:
‘TO COMMISSIONER JEREMY CHAMBERS. NEW SCOTLAND YARD. ROYALTY PROTECTION LONDON.’
The sound of a car in the street paralyzed him but it passed by the nets. He burned the remaining envelopes, the writing pad and the pen in the fire grate. The paper flared like a flashgun, throwing his shadow grotesquely up the wall, then it was gone, leaving only a wisp of black smoke. The room smelled of carbonised wood. Without a backward glance, Kenny Thorne left his home for the last time.
Camilla took her life away. I want an accounting for it - for my Princess. Now’s the time. She must pay.
He instructed the driver.
“Mettles Island, please. Quick as you like. Find me a post box on the way.”
“Lot twenty-four, ladies and gentlemen. A Volvo, circa nineteen ninety-eight. Still running. MOT until January. A very fine car. Do I hear two thousand?”
Thorne watched the bidders across the parked cars in the auction yard, listening to the foreign tongues all around him. Each car had a yellow Lot Number patched to its windscreen. A Romanian in a floral waistcoat with the black eyes of a gypsy, heavy miner’s boots and coal-black hair raised a hand, then a tall Moroccan, his djellaba ruffling in the wind, countered his bid. Thorne eyed the auctioneer and guessed he was a boxer in a suit. The man slapped his lectern.
“Going once. Any more for this fine vehicle?”
Thorne grinned at the gypsy and touched the .38 Special under his jacket in his belt, letting him glimpse its butt. The gypsy gave him a withering glance but did not re-bid. Thorne raised his arm. The gavel fell with the crash of a demolition ball.
In the battered PortaKabin he pulled out his envelope. The clerk’s desk had three legs, a milk crate as its fourth. At Thorne’s arrival the clerk hardly raised his head, speaking into a clipboard stuffed with scruffy papers.
“You buy the Volvo? Good buy that. Wouldn’t mind that m´self. Two thousand five hundred, please.”
The room smelled of freshly spilt petrol. Thorne shelled out the notes in fifties and tens, turning his back to the itinerants filling the office whilst he thumbed the cash. The clerk counted it again. With the notes tallied, the man slipped them immediately from sight.
“Name and address, please. For the logbook. Gotta fill in the slip for the DVLA, see.”
Thorne raised his voice, watching the Volvo through a cracked Perspex window.
“Jeremy Chambers. One, The Gables, Taunton.”
The clerk scribbled and asked. “Any ID with that?”
“Sorry, it’s in my other suit.”
The clerk finally looked up with a grin.
“Yeah and I’m Madonna’s mother. I have to ask.”
He waved a hand, encompassing the customers.
“D´you think any of them got IDs? Enjoy your car.”
Thorne slipped the documents into an inside pocket and patted the Smith & Wesson .38 Special tucked under his jacket. He climbed into the Volvo.
Then Kenneth Thorne disappeared.