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Viva la madness, p.41
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       Viva La Madness, p.41

           J. J. Connolly
 

  But Roy’s a long way from home. Something’s snapped, something that’s been bending for a while. Roy flips. Roy thinks Ted is a dead phantom bringing a message from Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for all our sins … He starts chatting madness, karma, fate, synchronicity, serendipity, ghosts, prayer, and spooks – and it’s all pure psychosis. He’s accelerating, head gone, like he’s possessed. It’s ugly. There are forces we don’t understand, can never understand. If a spirit dies in violent circumstances …

  Morty tries to grab him, talk sense to him, but Roy wrestles free and grabs Ted’s arm, gets on Mort’s blindside. Roy tells Ted he feels compelled to confess to the local Catholic priest – O’Fallon, the Paddy, the one who taught me to box, years ago – I coulda turned professional except for … what happened … with the other priest …

  Roy stops dead still, deep in his own past. A single tear rolls down his cheek. Then Roy spits, returns to his mad rant, talking faster but getting tongue-tied, frustrated. He feels the need for absolution for his sins, for my sins, for all our sins! Roy’s brain is bouncing. Scattergun. ‘Remember where that stick came from? Down that hole! His eyes, they wouldn’t stay shut, staring at me, even in the pitch black. It was on me – on me, you hear! And I was searching. The smell was choking me … not shit, rotten meat … the worst fuckin smell … Can’t get away from it! No matter how much I wash … it’s like I’ve swallowed it, can’t get rid. Was like sludge in that hole – like hell! Can’t eat, not for days.’

  Don’t bear thinking about … Roy spits again, repelled, nausea growing. ‘It’s killing me. I dream of the cunt! Tried pills, vodka, to knock meself out. But I still dream of him. Grinning at me, like a loon! Calling Mum names, saying what he’s gonna do to her – dirty cunt! Can’t kill him twice? Wish I could! He’s dead already!’

  Roy, his face a snarl, reaches out – hand spread like a claw – like Jesus’ face was in front of him. Roy wants to erase Jesus’ memory, wants to crush his skull, grind it to dust. Only Roy knows what madness he’s seeing.

  Now it’s Ted who’s spooked. Roy changes tack, feels betrayed, breaks down again. He begins to weep pathetically. He grabs Ted, and Sonny’s taking the piss. You’re a soldier, he said – it’s a mission.

  ‘Sort this out, Mort!’ cries Ted, pushing Roy away, ‘Sort this mad cunt out!’

  Roy is across the table – one big leap. He grabs Ted’s throat with both hands – I ain’t mad, ain’t fuckin mad. Tell me I ain’t mad! Tell me!

  Ted’s overwhelmed, amazed at Roy’s agility. Roy’s shaking Ted, seeking reassurance. They’re grappling in the tight space. If Ted was cuter, he’d pacify Roy – Sane? ’Course you are, son.

  Morty grabs Roy’s shoulders, tries to wrench him back. Roy instinctively wriggles free, like he’s been greased. Morty tries to get Roy in a headlock. Roy won’t have it. He’s still got Ted around the throat. I’m half-across the table now too, trying to prise Roy’s hands off Ted. Roy is oblivious, fearless, gone. Roy’s not trying to kill him; he’s trying to squeeze something out of him – no, Roy, you’re not mad. If Roy was trying to hurt Ted he’d wrench his windpipe out or snap his neck. It’s symbolic. Ted doesn’t see it – he’s choking, spluttering, punching and trying to kick out. Ted’s pinned against the wall but edging himself towards a cabinet that’s half under the desk, his hand extended towards it just as Roy’s had been – grasping. The other hand is trying to push Roy’s face backwards. Ted is getting redder, fighting for breath. Morty is reaching but can’t get at them properly. He’s punching Roy in the head, the kidneys, trying to incapacitate him. Morty’s blows bounce off, do no damage. I’m hanging on Roy – see his hands, up close, white and bony, trembling. Roy’s clamped on Ted’s throat, scared to let go, childlike; wants to be told he’s sane, but acting like a madman. Suddenly Ted pushes a thumb hard in Roy’s eye, drawing blood. Roy groans, twists and turns – still hangs on. But I let go of Roy. It allows Ted to drag Roy far enough across the table to knee him in the diaphragm. Roy coughs and chokes. Ted seizes his chance, moves towards the top drawer of the cabinet – something’s gonna save him. Roy’s hands are still around Ted’s neck.

  Morty spots Ted straining and throws himself across the table, but Roy’s blocking his path. Morty goes to grab the drawer handle but Ted gets there first. He opens the drawer, comes out quickly with a handgun in his free hand, his other hand holding off Roy. Roy sees the gun. He turns his head side-on to Ted, his eyes squinting, fear on his face. I jump back.

  Ted fires – at the closest range. Ted blows the back of Roy’s head clean off, sends blood, brain and bone splashing over the wall. It’s a blur, a micro-second. Roy’s hands drop from Ted’s throat. He slides off the desk … then stands dead straight, standing to attention, supreme effort, like he’s gonna salute. He remains upright, eyes wide open – head half gone – then his arms go out in front of him, like a toddler trying to walk. Then he slumps backwards, bounces off the wall, crumples in a pile on the floor.

  I can’t breath. There’s no oxygen. The air is full of cordite. The cabin has gone deathly silent. The clanking and crushing goes on outside. A freight train rumbles over the viaduct. I’m frozen to the spot – spooked – ears ringing. The smell of blood makes me wanna vomit; I’m trying hard not to retch. Don’t wanna look at Roy but can’t turn away. A puddle of dark, thick blood is creeping across the floor – same as Stevie, as Evey, Santos. Morty flops down on a chair, lights a cigarette, takes a long drag.

  ‘Ted,’ he asks quietly, politely, ‘what the fuck did you do that for?’

  ‘He was trying to kill me!’ says Ted, trying to catch his breath.

  ‘He was ill!’ Morty hisses. ‘Not right in the head!’

  ‘He was trying to strangle me!’

  ‘It could have been dealt with, Ted! You didn’t have to fuckin shoot him! He was harmless!’

  ‘Harmless! It wasn’t you he was trying to fuckin strangle! It’s all right for you to say!’

  ‘You was told …’ says Morty, looking at the floor, shaking his head. ‘Told he wasn’t well.’

  ‘He was talking about confessing, to a priest. What do ya think a priest is going to do with him?’

  ‘You didn’t need to—’

  ‘Send him to Old Bill, that’s what. Confessing to murder. They’ll rinse him out, take advantage. He’s mad!’

  ‘Not any fuckin more he ain’t!’ screams Morty, losing his temper. ‘He’s fuckin dead!’

  ‘They’d know everything Roy knows. And he’s an encyclopedia. Roy knows everyone’s business—’

  ‘Knew, Ted, fuckin knew. We coulda got him down to Spain, found a doctor, straightened him out.’

  ‘I’m not being funny, Mort, but you’ve allowed this to get messy. I ain’t blaming anyone but …’

  Morty looks like he can’t believe what he’s just said. Morty leaps up, screams at Ted. ‘You what? You stupid fuckin cunt! I shoulda walked! Fuck you! If you hadn’t lost that load we wouldn’t be in this mess!’

  Mort’s being sharp considering Ted’s got a gun and we’re witnesses to murder.

  ‘Oh, fuck off,’ says Ted, with a dismissive wave of the hand. Too dismissive.

  ‘What did you say?’ asks Morty, his eyes locked on Ted’s. ‘What did you just say to me?’

  Suddenly Roy’s heels start drumming on the floor – a rapid, relentless snare. Roy’s gone into some posthumous spasm, like he’s throwing an epileptic fit. Morty looks sick, sits back down, but now Ted’s twitching, like Roy used to. Ted is desperately trying to cover his embarrassment – strange word in the circumstances. He slings the gun on the desktop and begins searching for a live match in his box of dead ones, won’t ask Mort for a light. Ted finds a match, lights his snout, oblivious to Roy’s spasm.

  Suddenly as he started, Roy stops, stops dead. Like someone pulled the plug. His eyes are staring straight ahead in shock, mouth hanging open. Morty brings out a hanky, tiptoes over, and carefully crouches down. ‘Why couldn’t you, Roy,
just for once, shut up?’ Morty reaches over and, tenderly, shuts his eyes. ‘You couldn’t just go away. Had to be around for the finale.’ Morty stands up. ‘You better get this cleaned up, Ted,’ he says, ‘before it starts … to be a problem …’ Like Roy was the remains of a takeaway.

  Ted nods at me. ‘Is he gonna be alright? Only his suntan’s gone.’

  ‘Probably not,’ shrugs Mort. ‘But to be honest, I ain’t all that clever … Come as a shock.’

  Ted shrugs, nods down at Roy.

  ‘It’s a shame … I used to like Roy. Shame it wasn’t Sonny …’

  ‘You’re right …’ echoes Morty with dry sarcasm. ‘Yeah, given the choice.’

  ‘Now, if you’re feeling queasy …’ says Ted. ‘If it’s gonna be a performance, I’ll straighten this out.’

  ‘If that’s alright with you, Ted?’ says Mort.

  ‘Yer man has gone white,’ he says, pointing at me. ‘Looks like he’s gonna be sick …’

  Ted had got his mojo back. Didn’t take long. He opens the door just enough to let us out.

  ‘Don’t forget Roy’s motor,’ says Mort, nodding at the Polo.

  ‘I’m on it,’ says Ted dryly.

  ‘You couldn’t be in a better place to get rid—’

  Ted interrupts, ‘If you’re going, go.’

  We step outside, glad to be back in the air again. Morty turns back, an afterthought.

  ‘Ted,’ says Mort, ‘we don’t say anything to Sonny …’ Ted nods. ‘And don’t tell Bridget – she was fond of Roy.’

  Ted nods again and shuts the door. We walk back across the yard. The guy playing with his magnet wouldn’t notice a bomb exploding; appears heavily sedated. The dog snaps at the end of his chain. Plump bluebottles buzz around his bone. We get back to the car. The sun is going down on a warm late summer’s day. Royski picked the wrong venue to have his psychotic episode … So much for his theory about having his own personal guardian angel.

  The car is untouched. We haven’t been away ten minutes. Morty stops before he gets in.

  ‘You wanted to be back in the swindle,’ says Morty, twitchy, ‘well, now you are. Happy?’

  No, not really. I wanna burn these clothes, get back in the shower, and ponder some tricky questions.

  Q. Can Ted Granger be charged with murder?

  Q. Can a dead man be charged with murder?

  Q. Why do people keep getting shot in the head around here?

  A. That’s not the right question. You’re not getting it, are ya?

  Q. Why do people keep getting shot in the head around you?

  CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

  WHAT IS MADNESS?

  Madness is never having to say sorry.

  Madness is thinking Twitchy was the mad one.

  Madness is the darkness in your head, the restless one percent that wants to push strangers under trains.

  Madness is thinking there’s easy money.

  Madness is making reality the enemy.

  Madness is retreat from the world.

  Madness is shooting people in the canister, thinking it’s justified.

  Madness is shooting people in the head and saying he asked for it.

  Madness is Duppy Granger.

  Madness is Mort thinking Roy’s corpse is a mess … Telling me Roy was never going to make old bones.

  Madness is Bridget Granger sawing up frozen bodies of old playmates.

  Madness is Bridget rubbing her hands at the thought of dead Venezuelans.

  Madness is a trio of dead Brazilians a long way from home.

  Madness is Patsy O’Malley shooting Santos de Lucia in the GHQ and forgetting to remember.

  Madness? Nice place to visit but you wouldn’t wanna live there.

  Madness is sucking yer thumb like an imbecile. It’s not funny anymore.

  Madness is a feeling you’ve been swindled outta yer whack. It’s not going away …

  Madness is thinking people are laughing at you.

  Madness is thinking everybody’s mad.

  Madness is paranoia made normal.

  Madness is when the mundane is insane, the insane mundane.

  Madness is burning down the house … seeing the funny side of burning down the house.

  Madness is the expression on Duppy’s face as he pulled the trigger – one for the family album. Seared on the memory.

  Madness is getting blasé about madness.

  Madness is wanting someone to drill a hole in yer skull, to let the demons out.

  Madness is assisted suicide – Kevin the Cab thinking Ted’s doing him a favour.

  Madness is Ted very kindly agreeing to kill Kevin – only cos I like ya, Kev.

  Madness is what happens to ordinary people in mad situations.

  Madness is having the power of life and death over someone … a chap called Sonny King.

  Madness is Bridget, whispering in my ear … in a park, around kids – if you change yer mind ’bout Sonny, let me know.

  Madness is having a fifty-gallon oil drum with Sonny’s name on it … ready to rock.

  Madness is Bridget making concrete jam outta Evey.

  Madness is Miguel, charming industrial psychopath.

  Madness is Jenna, her men in specimen jars.

  Madness is Jesus Zambrano – but at least you know where you’re at with Jesus.

  Madness is wishing you were dead, or more alive.

  Madness lives in the head, rent-free.

  Madness is effortless self-persecution … never seeing, or sensing, or feeling any contradiction, or expressing any contrition.

  Madness is telling yourself that you should have seen it coming.

  Madness is thinking you can predict the future, while sitting in a jailhouse, doing birdlime.

  Madness is believing you rule the world, thinking you control the universe.

  Madness is ruling your known world, every day, for years … getting madder every day.

  Madness is fun for a little while, then gets dark … then darker still.

  Madness shuts the door behind you, tells you everything’s gonna be all right.

  Madness talks in riddles, shouts and rages.

  Madness gets its way in the end.

  Madness takes no prisoners, isn’t your friend.

  Madness wants your soul.

  SOULS WANTED. Best prices paid! Instant cash waiting! What are you waiting for?

  Madness is a master of disguise, it goes underground.

  Madness is God. Or thinking you are God.

  Madness is hearing voices … angels in the ether, but listening to the wrong voices.

  Madness is thinking you’re God and the Devil … at the same time.

  Madness is out there, where we live – everywhere; horrific snapshots, that won’t go away.

  Madness isn’t forgetting the dry cleaning or the coriander … It’s more serious than that.

  Madness enters as a friend.

  Madness is contagious, cunning and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying but … Madness is a cunt.

  Madness is the snidest geezer you ever knew … mercilessly derides your dreams, ridicules your desires … but you like him anyway … because … he’s never boring …

  Madness tells you you’re the mad one, tells you you’re going mad.

  Madness is not to be believed … but is so fuckin convincing.

  Madness has you asking for forgiveness, begging for understanding.

  Madness can be charming … if it suits its purposes.

  Madness turns in the witness box – turns informer – blames all its transgressions on you.

  Madness laughs all the way home … at your misfortune.

  Madness is spiteful, and malicious … when it isn’t being charming and amiable … and contagious and dark.

  Madness has you punching the air because you pulled fifteen years; you expected twenty.

  Madness waits behind the cell door.

  Madness is thinking there’s an element of control to be had.
r />   Madness is thinking you’re in control of an incontrollable entity.

  Madness is poking yourself in the eye with a fork … might be fun … least you won’t be bored …

  Madness is getting lost in a strange country … not knowing how you got there.

  Madness is off the map … The one you bought at the petrol station … off that funny-looking man.

  Madness isn’t for kids. This is grown-up stuff. Isn’t one sandwich short of a picnic. Oh, no, madness is a very serious business.

  Madness is not for the fainthearted or weak-willed. Madness takes commitment, untold strength of personality.

  Q. Trying to negotiate with madness?

  A. It’s a mug’s game, guv … send ya mad …

  Madness wins every time. Madness is thinking there’s gold at the end of the rainbow or millions in offshore accounts, waiting to be plucked. Madness is thinking there’ll be no consequences, when everything is consequences.

  Madness is lying awake, speculating on the nature of madness … when there’s an airport down the road … many flights to many destinations.

  This is Madness. Welcome home. Been away, on yer holidays? Nice suntan, mate.

  CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

  PLAN B

  What is required is a one-man delegation – thinks Giles. I voted for Morty. Everyone else voted for me – on account of me volunteering to safeguard Sonny’s interests. Problem is … I feel I’m cracking up. Didn’t sleep much last night – too busy thinking about madness – was seriously worried, for a while, about my own sanity.

  I have what a shrink might term a backlog of emotions that need processing. I think the renewed offensive on Sonny would come better from me and Giles, but Morty and Bridget seem to think that Giles would be a touch delicate for the AQK Club, where Sonny is in residence. Plus, it’s been pointed out, Miguel Zambrano wants to do business with me, not King Sonny. Bridget believes all this palaver is unnecessary – a coup d’état could be organised, not a bloodless one, and the fucker retrieved. She’s not wrong, except for the fact that Sonny has taken the prize into custody, from Smiler in Acton, for safekeeping. Morty has another hunch – Sonny’s hidden the prize in the same place that Jesus had …

 
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