The God Machine Chronicles: Session 4: Like Marionette Puppets

Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)

Walthamstow. The scene of the road accident. Ten Thirty In The Morning.  Imran trapped under the bus that hit him. His laptop, the only lead forwards is smashed to the ground. Cars stacked up on the side of the carriageway, backed up in both directions for as far as the eye can see. Stuck in the centre under the gaze of rubbernecking pedestrians Sanjiv is still going on autopilot, trying to get people back out of the way while Ryan secures the scene.  He feels at a loss, he wants to call his people. Get someone down here to help. But this isn’t the tube lines, he can’t call his people. Ryan is handling that. Sirens are coming in the distance.

Everything seems so far away.

He’s sat on a car bonnet, tin foil wrapped around him. Looking down at his hands he sees a half drunk cup of tea in them.  Sound comes back, the shrill sound of sirens. Response vehicles are all around him.  A WPC looks at him with a mix of sympathy and concern “Sorry, do you want me to repeat the question?” she asks.

Sanjiv tries to replay the past few minutes but remembers nothing. He has just been running on autopilot. The WPC has been interviewing him, taking a statement, obviously he has been answering, but he doesn’t know what. “If you would please” he answers. As he answers the questions he looks around. Ryan has gone. Trisha is still there, holding her professional composure well. Bags under her eyes and skin pulled taught with long held stress she looks at her watch and lets loose a low ironic laugh inadvertently. “I’ve been awake for eighteen hours straight” She mutters shaking her head.

Sanjiv knows it has been longer than that for him, and he feels it. His entire body aches, bone tired. He can barely feel the vibration from the phone in his pocket.  Pulling it loose he sees a text from his father, asking if he is free to speak on the phone tonight. Conflicting emotions rise in Sanjiv’s stomach. He wants to speak, to call, but it is less than seven hours until his next shift and he has yet to sleep.  Numbed, he thumbs a message back, agreeing to talk but this is not the time for it. Over an increasing terse set of messages back and forth he explains in vague language the events of the past day, trying to mollify the man who raised him.

Meanwhile, Trisha starts stumbling towards the bus stop. She wants too get home. Gwil, left back at Dave’s house, is completely forgotten. It takes her several minutes before she realises the backed up street will prevent buses getting through and with that realisation she starts the walk back to Walthamstow central. Sanjiv follows shortly after, hailing a taxi home at first chance. Holding sleep back as he rides home he sends short texts to Gwil explaining the days events. Home, bed and sleep awaits him.

Gwil kicks awake with a start. The phone shrieking by his ear.  Nausea runs through him and he fights back against a deep sense of disorientation.  It is dark outside. Pitch black and the orange glow of street lamps the only light. It was light, morning, only moments before. He turns to  stare up at the ceiling, a sticky feeling gripping his face as he rolls off the carpet. The room’s lights are off and only the glow of the CRT monitor lights the room. A monitor now filled with static.

Trying to pull himself up to a sitting position Gwil swallows back the rising panic, his pulse racing and his body shaking. His mouth feels dry, the taste of stale booze and vomit. A loose tooth rolls under his tongue and he tastes the distinct taste of blood.

The phone stills, and its shrill cries with it.

Gwil puts his hands to his face, a sticky sensation. Eyes itching like the worse hayfever ever, itching and cracked. His hand comes away black with dried blood that has spilled from his nose.  Through his shock he is barely aware of the dying echoes of a fax machine.

His hand goes to the back of his head feeling for a skull  injury, something to explain the pain and missing time. There is vomit all over his shirt and trousers. His own, he presumes. Things would be better with light, he tells himself, dragging himself up and across to the wall, thumbing the light switch, heavy breaths still hard to control.

The light flickers and for a moment it looks like the bulb will blow, before coming on. The light fades in and out in waves, matching to the nausea that has risen in Gwil with his attempt to stand. He sags against the wall, a feeling like something trying to pound out of his skull. In the light he realises he has pissed himself, his jeans soiled. There is blood and vomit all over the computer and the keyboard. Again his, he presumes.

As Gwil stares the monitor clicks off. Silent and black. Without a moments hesitation Gwil pushes himself up and out of the room, into the main hall. Away from that room. He grabs at a chair to sit, try to control his breathing. The only sounds he can hear is his own breath and that of the traffic outside. Still no memory of what happened. He left his phone back in that room. A fact that results in a curse from him.

When he feels he can stand he moves through to the kitchen sink, tossing maggot covered plates with dried on rank and mouldy food from the bowl and spinning the taps. The pipes groan and spit brown gunk for several moments, then a high pressure dousing of brackish water that soaks Gwil. Then finally water, just water. Drinking deep and washing himself down, Gwil looks at his reflection, shone against the window before the darkness outside. He looks pale and worse than he feels.

“Right. Get phone. Get out. It’s a plan. Just get phone and get out of here”

Throwing the door open Gwil grabs his phone from the floor and sprints out, throwing the front door open and slamming it behind him. Dropping down against the floor, panting again. Sitting, he looks to the grey plastic phone and its green lcd screen. Thumbing through the missed calls and texts.

Several from Steve Mathews, his superior in the faith. Gwil frowns, before flicking to the next. Missed call from Lisa Walker, a young woman Steve wishes him to recruit into the faith. He has been speaking to her the past few days but doesn’t feel in the mood right now. A missed call from Lucy Brent. A friend, a true friend.  He had met her in a club, his usual hang out, a bit rough compared to what she was used to.  She worked in Media, not the sort of person who would normally be seen in such a dive. He had helped her out when things went south, and now she had a floor for him to crash on when he needed it. Pity her boyfriend was such an uptight prick though. A few more missed calls from work and Milosh at work. Glancing at the screen Gwil sees the time, five minutes to ten, he is late for his shift

“Shit” he mutters.

Can’t exactly get any more absent from work or the faith he thinks, dialling Lucy’s number with his first smile of the night. The phone crackles for several moments before connecting to the sound of dull bass thudding and distorted music. Lucy’s shouting voice is barely audible “Can’t hear you right now. Busy. In club”

As Lucy hangs up Gwil’s eyes flicker to the building opposite, terraced housing, tiny gardens no more than three foot deep. Bushes marking the front, and fences the lines between them. Someone is there, a shadow behind the bushes. Moving back into the garden as it realises Gwil is watching.

Anger dispelling the fear, Gwil rises, storming across the street, pushing the bushes out of his way. Someone has been screwing with him. Someone has been screwing with Dave. If this person is responsible Gwil intends to take it out of his hide. The bushes part too reveal an old shop mannequin, standing like a scarecrow in the middle of the garden. Both its arms are missing and cracks run from spine to stem, a vacant expression facing Gwil.

“Fuck.” Gwil mutters before raising his voice “Right, who is playing sillies with me? I saw you here. I’m in no fucking mood for this”

A light comes on from inside the building and a voice shouts out exasperated “Not a-fucking-gain” The shadow of the person speaking casts upon the closed curtains “I’ve told you crack heads already. Don’t hang around here”

“Fuck off” Gwil replies “I’m not a crack head you paranoid fuck”

“Get fucked you cunt. Get off my property before I call the cops” As Gwil starts to leave the man continues muttering “Bastard probably pissed on my lawn again”

Gwil slows, still angry, but now inspired.  Turning he drops the flies on his piss sodden jeans, and manages to find some reserve in his recently emptied bladder and lets loose a golden stream all over the mannequin in the garden. “Serve you right you old fuck”

Cars drive past, slowing at the odd sight “You dirty bastard” one driver exclaims, to be replied to by Gwil’s raised middle finger.

Looking back, the  mannequin seems to be hazy, there seems to be portents everywhere.. Feeling of unease.  Zipping up Gwil staggers away down the street, away from the house that has caused so much unease.  Resting against a bus shelter several streets away, he flicks open the phone again “Hey, personnel? This is Gwil Short. Sorry I’m not in, flu came

on unexpectedly. Knocked  me the hell out, I’ve just come round. Won’t be able to make work tonight” He cups his hand over the receiver trying to dim the sound of the night’s traffic. After a long and blustery conversation he manages to convince them, and signs off before they think twice. A quick text to Milosh backs that up, letting him know he is off sick and asking if anything else was an issue. He’s just about to move onto the next point when the phone vibrates again. A text from Sanjiv. It is slightly meandering and incoherent but explains that Dave is in some facility in Romford.

“They found him. Good job” Gwil says to himself as he checks the other messages. Steve Mathews leaving a seemingly dull message coached in the terms of the faith to hide its true meaning. Telling Gwil that it has been too long since he has been back to the fold for a cleansing, that he needs to do so before the new moon and the opening of the gates. Most importantly he asks what progress Gwil has made in bringing Lisa into the fold.

“Screw it” Thinks Gwil “day I’ve had I’ll deal with it tomorrow” instead he texts Lucy, trying to find where she is clubbing tonight. He is half way home to clean up and change clothes when the the reply comes “The garage, high bridge”. Gwil smiles, a day of dancing, trying to dance with Lucy, and getting yelled at repeatedly by her boyfriend Mark for making passes at his girlfriend, awaits. The day he’s had, he’s earned this.

Meanwhile Sanjiv is back at work, barely rested and dealing with the days complaints and issues. A stack of paperwork that seems so slowly to descend in front of him. He checks his phone again, no reply from Gwil or Dave, just a terse message from his father, encouraging him to call as soon as possible. A now cold coffee cup nestled in his hands, picked up from Jagjit’s newspaper stall on the way in. Sanjiv is sure he talked to him and his wife, sure he said hi to Milosh on the way in as well. The memories are vague though, and he is dimly aware that he is probably still in shock as he works on, unfocussed and easily distracted.

The time passes slowly,everyone looks worn out and grey. The midnight shift does that to you. Only Milosh seems to escape it, he wears the night in the underground like it was his home. After a while what would be considered a lunch break at half two in the morning rolls around. The gates in Waterloo are shutting up for the night and the shutters on underground stations are coming down one by one.  CCTV of the world above shows empty stations and closed shops, a ghost town. Deep below in the staff canteen Sanjiv sits, picking at the food in front of him as Milosh approaches, sitting beside him.

“How you doing my friend? Have you heard from Dave?”

It’s hard to pin down Milosh’s age, he could be anywhere from mid twenties to mid thirties to look at him, slim of frame and narrow chinned, short cropped but curly hair on his head. He is another one of the support group, another one who was present for “The Incident”.

“Not exactly “Sanjiv replies “Things have gone a bit strange as of late.  He’s been over at Romford chasing his newest theory on the truth.”

Milosh shakes his head, speaking again in his thick Croatian accent “I’m worried about Dave. I saw people like him back home. People who have seen too much, lost too much.  So how are you taking things? You look tired my friend”

“I didn’t really sleep I must admit. There was a horrid accident I was present for at Wolfhamstow. I saw a man get…mangled..in front of me.  I just froze. Shut down. I’m used to preparing before or doing paperwork after.  I wasn’t ready for that. For being in the middle of it”

“We rarely are” Milosh replies with a whimsical smile “We are human after all. Maybe you should take some time off, talk to family, see a strip show. Get drunk. You would always be welcome at the Belgrade Bar. It is my local, come by, see some women, cut loose, meet someone” he finishes with a suggestive wink.

“That’s…not quite what I am looking for right now. It is a good idea though. Maybe later”

“Look, Sanjiv. You work too hard. Spend all your time underground. There is an entire city above us and you are deep below the earth.  Ahh, just look after yourself, I need to get back to reports. Catch you later, don’t work too hard”

Sanjiv nods, staring emptily into the middle distance. His thoughts are broken by movement, just at the corner of his eye. Someone standing at the door way of the canteen.

Blinking he realises he is looking at Dave.  Dave just turns and walks around the corner, out of sight. Unsure if he has really seen what he thought he had, Sanjiv stands, rubbing his eyes, following out into the corridor.

Dave is there, standing ten meters away as if nothing has happened. .Expression blank. Again he steps to one side, walking down another corridor out of sight. Trying to be discrete Sanjiv steps a  bit faster after him, trying to not walk too fast. Not to draw attention to them both. Dave shouldn’t be here, he was laid off. Shouldn’t have access to this area any more. Sanjiv doesn’t want to get him into more trouble.

Following he realises Dave is heading out towards the tube platforms, Jubilee line to be exact. Stepping out onto the platform he looks left and right. It is nearly empty, plastic refuse bags filled and stacked up by the side. The run of the platform empty until the very end where Dave stands before the tunnel mouth.

“Dave?” Sanjiv says, his voice echoing in the deserted space. His feet move him closer, trying to be sure. Trying to make sure it is Dave. He is nearly within arms reach when Dave looks up, extending a single arm. A brown manilla A4 envelope in his hand The name “Ryan” on the front.

“Could you give this to Ryan for me?” Dave says

“Sure Dave. Sure”Sanjic answers, keeping his voice level and soothing “What is it?”
“It is really important” Dave answers, and Sanjiv realises what feels off. Dave has a very broad East End accent, Unmistakable. This Dave is speaking with a neutral tone of near received pronunciation. Concerned Sanjiv asks “Are you all right Dave?”

“I would be very grateful if you could give this to Ryan for me. It is very important” Dave repeats.

“Sure. Sure “Sanjiv says “What happened yesterday morning? Do you remember?”

“Everything that happened is according to the purpose”

Slipping the envelope from Dave’s hand into his pockets Sanjic replies “Ok, we need to…hold on one second Dave” Pulling his phone from his Pocket Sanjiv prays for the vague hope of some reception down here, dialling Trisha’s number

Dave watches, his mouth sagging open, then wider, and wider.  The phone is silent, a tinnitus sound rings instead at the back of Sanjiv’s ears, rising in volume until it is deafening white noise.  Light, white beams blind behind his eyes and the sound, the rattling of an approaching train fills his world. Everything becomes pain, then…

A face stares into Sanjiv’s own, inches away, shining a torch into his eyes. The man’s lips are moving but sound is coming through. An Asian man, bearded, waving his hand back and forth in front of Sanjiv’s eyes.

“Sanjiv? Sanjiv can you hear me?” The man, in a green doctors smock Sanjiv now can see, snaps his fingers “Sanjiv?”

Sanjivs eyes focus now and he groans a response.

“Sanjiv? I’m Doctor Khan. It looks like your responses are back to normal. Don’t try to sit up please, you have had a nasty bang on your head. How are you feeling?”

“More confused than anything else “Sanjiv says “Where did you find me?”

“Where is the last place you remember?”

“The underground, Jubilee line station”

The doctor nods “And do you know what date it is?”

“Well it was July 13th, I’m guessing it may be the 14th by now”

“Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“Roughly, well it was three in the morning, I’m guessing I’ve been out for a while”

“Well, when someone has had a head trauma we expect some missing time. We will need to book you in for a cat scan. Hmm, do you have any recollection of what happened to you?”

Sanjiv pauses, pensive “I think there was someone down there.  He looked like a colleague who was dropped from contract a while back but I don’t know if it was him”

A concerned look crosses the doctors face for a moment before his professional demeanour returns “Sanjiv. Would you take a deep breath for me please. Are you feeling calm? Relaxed?”

The muscles in Sanjiv’s body tighten “Confused really”

“Sanjiv. Today is the 20th of July. You have been here for nearly a week. It is 9pm at night. You were found down on the train platform by your colleagues. The police have checked the cctv footage. There was no one present there with you. No evidence of trauma, you just collapsed and passed out. Has this ever happened to you before? have you ever had missing time? Strange dreams? Disorientation?””

“I’ve had some dreams. A station disappearing and turning to rust, but it’s just a dream

The doctor nods to someone just outside Sanjiv’s field of vision. “Very well, I’d like to keep you if for  a couple of days for observation. Is there anyone you want us to contact? We have already told your father, and your colleagues have been in with flowers”

“Thank you.” Sanjiv says “Would you be able to let my immediate colleagues and WPC Ryan Winters know I’m all right please. I would much appreciate it”

With the doctor gone, Sanjiv tries to go through a mental checklist of what has happened and where he is.  His clothes are in a zip locker storage in the corner. There is a clip board with his patient details affixed to the end of the bed.  A saline drip is inserted into his arm, the view of the rest of the ward is obscured by a screen around him but from the sounds it seems to be quite lengthy. He turns his head to the drawers next to him, a card signed by Trisha and the words “Call me when you wake up” written within.

Slowly Sanjiv checks each of his extremities, moving fingers and toes, testing each muscle in turn. There are rashes down his back and he feels sore everywhere, the muscles protest, too tired to move. Rolling to one side he pulls open the drawers beside him, a brown

manilla envelope labeled “Ryan” stares back at him. That much happened it seems. Hungry, worn down, Sanjiv lies back, feeling the growth of stubble that has formed on his chin over the past week. His eyes slowly close, and sleep takes him once more.

The week before, Gwil found his aches and pains to be more self inflicted. Sprawled on Lucy’s couch, hangover roaring in his skull. His eyes bloodshot in the mirror as he washes and rewashes his hands over an over again before starting the day proper.

First duty, calling Lisa.  She has been watched by the faith for a while now, a potential convert to the fold. She is vulnerable now, near eighteen, father in poverty and prison, broken by the bedroom tax. Brother in care.  Lisa herself nearly got sectioned after reporting seeing things that couldn’t be seen. Seeing gears everywhere.  Steven is convinced she has a gift, one useful to the faith, and pulled strings to ensure she stayed free long enough for Gwil to make contact.

On third call Lisa picks up” Oh Hi. Hey Gwil. You missed my call!

“Yeah, sorry” Gwil mumbles “Stuck down the tube, you know how hard it is to get a

signal down there Sorry I missed you”

“Really. I thought you were just busy trying to get into Lisa’s pants. Gwil, someone approached me, about education. Getting back in, getting something formal. You did Religious Education didn’t you?”

“Erm, yeah. Got given a thorough course on that “Gwil says, wrong footed “Listen, we should meet, can talk it over in person, I can’t stand these phones. You free some time?”

“Yeah, couple of days. Shall we meet at that Japanese restaurant you showed me last time. That was nice. Listen, Gwil, have you heard anything about my brother? It will be his birthday soon. Would be nice to speak to him.”

“I’ll have a word see what I can find out. So see you at Goodge street restaurant right?

“Sure. Say Hi to Lucy for me.  Oh and tell Mark he’s a prick”

“I can do that” Gwil smiles “Mainly because he is a fucking prick”

Hanging up, Gwil dials Steven, his superior in the faith. He’s got a meeting sorted now, should save him some ear bashing for avoiding them for so long. “Hey, its Gwil here”

“I have been trying to contact you for several days” An unimpressed and dry tone answers
“Yeah, yeah I know. Been talking to Lisa, you rang at a bad time. Didn’t want to be seen as a stalker or anything ya know”

“Gwil. What did I say about phone security,and words to not use on a phone?”

“Fuck. Sorry. Listen can we talk in person, its probably better. I hate fucking phones”

“That would be advantageous” Steven agrees “ Four hours time then”

“Yes druid..Ah shit. Fuck. Phone security. Sorry”

All that answers is a dial tone. Depressed and pissed off Gwill retires back to the shoe box that passes for his flat. Around the edges of the walls Russian Dolls stare at him with painted eyes, one by one he takes then, opening them and removing the doll inside, spreading them in concentric circles of shrinking figures. Eyes half closed, forgetting his worries of the days.  His calm is shattered by the ringing of his phone, a message of Sanjiv’s admittance to hospital.

Knowing the hospital wont give out information to him, Gwil dials Milosh’s number hoping for an inside scoop. The phone answers to loud music and raucous cheers that signifies that Milosh is most likely in Hotel Belgrade in Stratford.

“Hey, Gwil! How is it my friend”

“Shitty. I’m having a crap day and could do with booze and titties but that’s not what I’m ringing about now. Just heard about Sanjiv. What the hell happened?”

“I don’t know man. I saw the CCTV, he was down on the platform. He was by the platform and just collapsed, no one around him. Just staring into space. It was like he was on something, like meth”

“No way. No fucking way” Gwil replies “Not him, he is nigh straight edge to almost annoying levels man”

“Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. Just saying what I saw. He was there, by this dummy”

“Dummy?” Gwil feels a cold sweat on his hands rising “Like hand up the arse dummy or suck on it dummy?”

“Well I wouldn’t put my hand up it, it was just next to him, holding this brown envelope”

“Like…like a mannequin?”

“Yeah, like that”

A strange mix of whimper, exhale and choke comes down the phone. Gwil holding his head in his hands.  Mannequins again. Struggling to hold onto his composure he hears Milosh speak again “Hey, what is wrong with you? I don’t need that heavy breathing down the phone”

“ Mannequins. Fucking Mannequins. No fucking eyes. What the hell is up with that?” Gwil mutters.

“Hey, keep your weird fetishes to yourself”

Shaking himself, Gwil manages to push down the creeping unease “Sorry, things have just been a bit weird lately”

“You’re starting to sound like Dave now, you know that?”

“Sorry man. Listen, I have to go. Need to meet up with someone I hate. If I can get through it without punching him I’ll drop by to get drunk.”

“Sure man. It’s good”

The call done, Gwil heads out into the night. Under street lights the sterile artificial blandness of the station shows up the scuff and soot marks all the more evidently. The London Shard rises up the distance.  Before him sits the man he came here to meet, Steven Mathews. Dressed in a knee length jacket and waistcoat, he sits looking over a steaming cup of coffee in front of him.  He looks in his forties, his hair already going silver. As Gwil sits in front of him he stares unblinkingly at him before speaking.
“When was the last time you broke bread?”

“It has been a while” Gwil admits, shifting uncomfortably

“You have been neglecting your duties. You are out of practise. Tell me, regarding Lisa, how goes your efforts? Do you have her trust yet?”

“Not yet, but I’m meeting with her soon. She wants to meet her brother”

“Pointless. You just need to recruit her, she has an insight we need.” Steven replies “now you must undergo a cleansing before the new moon and you next break bread. We have some VIPs arriving. Normally I would not consider you capable of fulfilling the role but you are the only person available”

Gwil keeps his head down “For the faith, anything for the faith. I will not let you down”

“Good. How goes your work to evangelise to your colleagues?”

Gwil shuffles again “I have been concentrating on Lisa, I didn’t want to be too overt and put off such an important catch”

“Hmm, you should try to bring in her uncle for leverage.  She trusts her uncle. You must befriend him to alley suspicion, if you concentrate on the girl alone it will look suspicious”

“Yes druid”

“Good. Now I have received information from a believer that one of your compatriots is under observation by security services. The one you reported as having an alcohol problem. The one that should be the lowest hanging fruit for recruitment”

“Dave?” Gwil says in surprise

“I believe he now represents a distraction. You should beware, if they are watching him they could be watching you. Hence the problem with your security lapse on the phone.”

“I am sorry druid. I should mentioned that I tried to visit Dave recently, if they were watching they would likely have seen me”

“Do not forget you are a vital asset to the faith. If you need any aid from those of the faith then you  must get in touch with the house. The brethren are missing you. They say you have not been to the root to reaffirm your faith for a long time. You must make the appropriate offering”

“How would they know?” Gwil finally snaps “They avert their eyes whenever I enter the room. How would they know a single thing about what I do!”

Steven waits for the outburst to settle “Have we not endured such hardship for millennium?think of all those who went before you, who were martyred by the Christians.. Martyred to build this” Steven waves his hand at the station around them “For now you must be like a willow tree and bend before the storm. You serve as a cog in the machine”

Gwil shivers at the last words “Sorry druid. The cog is their machines. Their term not ours of the green and root.”

“Very well, you can go now”

Gwil rises and walks patiently and quietly out into the street, away from Steven’s eyes then punches his hand hard into the wall beside him before disappearing anonymously into the night.

The week passes for Gwil, a mix of drinking with Milosh, trying to arrange meetings with Lisa and trying to get information on the condition of Sanjiv. Trying to keep life normal and sane. The day before he is due to visit the root for cleansing he gets the news. Sanjiv is awake.

It’s 11PM, Guys hospital near London bridge. With his shift ended Gwil has finally got a chance to reach the hospital. To see how Sanjiv is doing. He keeps his face hard and unwelcoming as he walks past the people coming out from the night’s celebrations in the pubs. After a lost half an hour tracking his way through the corridors of the hospital looking for the neurology ward he finally comes across the right door, Sanjiv visible inside sitting upright on the bed.

Pushing the door open Gwil steps in, grabbing a slight squirt of the medicinal hand cleaner from the wall and scrubbing his hands as he approaches. “Hey Sanjiv. What’s up? You don’t call, you don’t write?” He pauses before finally adding grudgingly “Glad you’re ok”

Sanjiv smiles, guessing how difficult that was for Gwil to say “Who says I didn’t write? I don’t know what I was doing”

“No weird stuff ok” Gwil say “Not now, I could do without it”

“Ok, I lost a week but apart from that I’m ok. They are just keeping me in for a few checks”

“So, what happened. Tell me it was just you slipped and fell, right?”

“I was having a conversation with Dave. He didn’t seem himself, he didn’t sound like Dave. I saw him in the station and followed him. He gave me an envelope for Ryan” With that Sanjiv retrieves the manilla envelope from the desk, displaying it to Gwil. Just as Sanjiv is putting the envelope away again Gwil asks “So, you’ve not opened it?”

“No”

“Well, hand it here then” Gwil asks, hand out

Sanjiv thinks then hands the envelope to Gwil.

Turning a nearby kettle on Gwil steams open the gumming, pulling out a thick stack of polaroid photos. They photo paper they are on are faded, but the photos distinct. Sanjiv, Trisha and Ryan standing over a man at what is recognisably Wolfhamstow. Gwil can’t recognise the man who, in the first image is being zip tied, arms behind his back, by Ryan. He flicks to the second image, Sanjiv holding the man down to the ground. The third, Ryan raising her baton high. Gwil’s mouth is dry as he moves on to the next. The baton coming down, the next, Sanjiv kicking him in the ribs. The next, the next, a man being beaten to a bloody pulp

Keeping his face locked down Gwil slips the photos away again, he turns to Sanjiv, voice pleasant and conversational “I got your texts about Wolfhamstow, you never got a chance to fill me in. What happened that day?”

Sanjiv runs through the day, the job centre, the chase, the car accident “Imran was still breathing when I left there, I don’t know if he survived”

“Imran, what did he look like”

Sanjiv gives a perfect description of the man showed on the photos. The man being beaten to death.

Finally scowling Gwil growls “I should have known. The one thing I’ve learned growing up. You don’t trust anyone. Thought I could with you. Thought you were straight edge. Fuck you” Gwil says, tossing down the manilla envelope on Sanjiv’s bed.

Confused Sanjiv picks up the envelope, pulling out the photos and comes face to face with a picture of himself in close up, his eyes blank but his expression manic. A grin wide and blood all over his features as he puts a choke hold on a blooded and battered Imran. Imran whose eye sockets are hollow and his teeth broken to shards. In the photos, in this violence Sanjiv looks like he is having the greatest time of his life.

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