Life's a bitch.
Look after number one.
No-one has friends, just people who want something.
All platitudes of sorts, and all depressing. But all true. That's probably the main thing I've learned over the past 25 years. Everything I've been through in my short life has led me to the place I am now, made me who I am, but the years don't feel short, and I'm 25 going on 60.
So young, and so cynical.
But when you've been alone most of your life it changes you, and the wide-eyed, innocent, carefree child you once were is lost forever.
So here I am, locked in a relationship with a man I'm afraid of, but too scared to leave. Partly because I'm scared of his reaction, and partly because I don't want to be on my own again.
Not that I'd admit that to myself. Well, not unless I've been drinking, anyway. I don't know why, but it's harder to keep the defences up after a few vodkas.
Nine o'clock on a Friday night, and I'm sitting in my flat waiting for James to arrive. I rarely go out on my own now - it's not worth his reaction if I'm not around when he appears. And the few friends I did have drifted away as I got more and more besotted with James. He said he'd pick me up at 7, and the line of empty glasses on the table in front of me stands as testimony to how late he is, even if you couldn't tell just by looking at the clock.
I'm rapidly drinking myself into a stupor, but the half-full glass in my hand will be the last. I need to keep some of my wits about me in case James does come home tonight. One wrong word and I'll be walking with a limp for the next week.
This is his flat, even if he rarely spends any time here. When James first asked me to move in with him I was flattered. Finally, after all these years, I'd found someone who wanted to take care of me. Even his jealousy made me feel loved and cherished, the kind of feelings I hadn't felt since I was a young child. But it got worse and worse, and only now can I see it for what it is; possessiveness. It doesn't really matter anymore - even if I could find the courage to leave James I'd have nowhere to go, no family to rely on.
So I keep quiet, do what's expected of me and forgive him his violent temper. Look after number one has been my motto since I was fourteen, and as long as it's safer for me to stay here than try and survive on my own, so be it.
By the time the door flies open and James stalks in, I've made sure to clear away the glasses. He doesn't like the flat being a mess. I stand up from the chair and smile. I'm happy to see him, but he's in a filthy mood - and he's not alone.
Steve's with him, and since they're both deep in conversation; neither make any reply to my greeting.
"Then tell him I'm not interested. There's plenty of people interested in this stuff who aren't going to make me wait for the money."
"But Jimmy, we always deal with..."
"I told you, no! Mitchell will take it off our hands for more money than we can get out of that bastard Taylor."
Steve nods, and from the corner of the room I breathe a silent sigh of relief. Any argument involving James usually has a fall-out zone.
They sit down, and I go over to the drinks cabinet and pour them both a drink. A scotch for Steve, with ice, and a can of beer for James, but always in a glass. He never drinks straight from the can.
As I put the drinks on the table in front of them, James glances up, almost as if noticing me for the first time. As always, I'm struck by his eyes. They're so blue, they shine out from the rest of his face as if calling to you. That's what first attracted me to him.
I smile, but it's a little hesitant, even for me. I'm not quite sure what he expects from me tonight.
I move to sit down in the chair opposite him, but he stops me before I get very far.
"Kelsey, this is business. Go and wait in the bedroom, will you?"
One of James' most important rules - never mix business with pleasure. His business is important to him, but I'm not allowed to know anything about it, though I've gathered enough clues over the years to be damn sure it's not legal. Still, look after number one, right? And that means, if it doesn't involve me, I'm not interested. It's safer that way.
I push the bedroom door closed behind me, and curl up on the corner of the bed. It's ever so comfortable; one thing about James, he likes his luxury. The walls are too thin, this block of flats isn't that posh, and even through the closed door I can still hear some of what theyíre saying.
"Phil's worried." This from Steve's deep voice.
"He's always worried. Bloody prat ain't cut out for this kind of thing."
Steve laughed before continuing. "I think he might have something though. Someone might be on to us."
I could imagine James perking up at that, and he did. "I'm listening."
"...last couple of days. People poking about, asking questions."
"Didnít look like normal coppers."
"Don't mean much. Could still be the law. Or maybe another dealer. Get Martin to find out."
Drugs. So that was it. Well, that's normally what you're talking about when you mention dealers, isn't it? I'd heard enough, didn't want to know any more. I didn't even want to know that. Too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I needed something to take my mind off the conversation, and there was no TV in here. The book I was in the middle of reading would be ideal, but it was in the kitchen, I'd put it down to wash up the glasses. Still, it would only take me a few seconds to fetch it. Surely James wouldnít begrudge me that...
Twenty minutes later and Iím standing in the bathroom, head tilted back as the water in the sink runs the colour of blood. I shouldnít have walked through the lounge, not while they were talking. You think Iíd have learned by now, but even as James got angry I tried to defend myself, explaining what I was doing. I should have known better.
James sees even straightforward explanations an example of my answering back, which in his book means I donít have enough respect for him. Itís respect that he says heís trying to teach me. In my more philosophical moments I wonder just how he thinks respect can be taught through a fist, but thatís one thing I do know better than to ask.
I was on the ground by the time heíd finished his Ďlessoní, and he and Steve left the flat, leaving me alone. As I stood I saw the small patch of blood on the floor where Iíd landed, and made a mental note to clean it up before James came back.
The water finally runs clear Ė my nosebleed has stopped, but I can feel the swelling beginning around my eye even as I dab my split lip with cotton wool. Itís times like this that I hate him so much, and my hand shakes as I move, though whether in shock or anger I just canít tell.
Lifting my head, I cast an appraising look in the mirror, trying to assess the damage. It shouldnít be too hard this time to cover it up; makeup these days can do wonders. But there are limits even to miracles, and on the occasions when James had been particularly angry, all the makeup in the world couldnít have hidden the marks he left.
Itís those times in particular that I confine myself to the flat, refusing to even go down the road for groceries. People in the street stare at me, obviously wondering where the black eyes and bruising come from. Those who guess correctly have pity in their eyes, and itís that which drives me crazy. Pride is one thing Iíve never been short of, and I donít need the pity of a stranger.
They may not think so, but Iím doing fine. Probably better than most of them, anyway. I have a nice flat, no need to work, a long-term relationship and nice clothes. To most people that would be a dream, and okay, so my boyfriend beats me. A small price to pay?
No. A large price, perhaps too much, but I canít see any way out, so I keep a tight rein on whatever self-respect I have left, and put up with the status quo. Pretend everything is fine - itís the only way I can keep myself from going crazy. Iíd leave him if I could, but heís made it quite obvious that Iíd never be able to find anyone else. My mother once told me that Ďpart of a man is better than no man at allí, so I hold on tight to the side of Jamesí personality that I fell in love with, and put up with the rest as best as I can.
Even if I did leave, I canít run back to my family. Dad died when I was eight years old, and my mother married a man I hate more than anyone else in the world. Iíll never forget the things he did to me, the way he turned my mother against me so that I was kicked out at fourteen. Letís just say, Ďlook after number oneí became my mantra solely because of him.
But life goes on, and Iím making the best of the few things that I have. And if Iím going to carry on doing that, I have to get me and the flat tidied up before James comes back.
Forcibly shaking myself out of the mood Iíd settled in, I begin to put myself back together. James likes me to look presentable twenty-four hours a day, which means the bruises have to be invisible, and the make-up flawless. Thatís easier said than done.
Pulling my brush out of the makeup bag in the cabinet, I take my hair out of the plain band itís in and start brushing it out. When I was a little girl I used to spend hours brushing my hair. Itís the one thing Iíve always been proud of. Waist length, sleek black hair that my dad used to say made me look like a princess, that proved one day Iíd be somebody important. Well, that and my name. My dad told me that heíd chosen it, that it was different to everyone elseís my age, because it showed I was unique, that I was special. At six years old you believe everything your parents tell you, and I trusted that Iíd do something worthwhile one day just because he said so.
Even through everything that happened after he died, I pretended that Iíd be fine just as long as I still had my hair and my name. If I still had both those things Iíd have to make good some day, because he promised me that I would. These days, in my more maudlin moods, I wonder whether Iíll ever make it further than this flat before ending up in a ditch. Itís stupid, a childish belief, but habits formed when youíre young are hard to break, and I still look at my hair as an indication of how my life is going. Today it looks lank and dull, and I know I canít take much more. But I donít have the strength to make the changes that deep down, I know have to be made.
Things settled down again after that Friday night. James was spending more and more time dealing with his business, becoming uptight and short-tempered. I hadnít figured out why yet, didnít really want to, but it was obvious that something was going wrong. The few discussions I couldnít help overhearing suggested that the police were starting to interfere. As the days passed, Jamesí temper became shorter and I took to avoiding him as much as I could, speaking little even when we did spend time with each other. The more I said, the more chance there was that heíd take offence, and the mood he was in, I didnít want to risk it.
It was early the following Monday when things flared up again. Not in an obvious way, and I didnít think much about it at the time, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I should have known things couldnít stay the way they were forever. I mean, you can only bury your head in the sand for so long.
James hadnít come home the night before, and Iíd taken the opportunity to stay in bed longer than usual. I was dozing when the doorbell rang, and assuming it was James, I threw on a dressing gown and opened the door.
I didnít recognise the two men stood outside. Suddenly nervous, I kept the door half closed, and peered uncertainly around the gap.
One of them held something out for me to see - a photocard - ID of some kind, but he put it back in his pocket before I could get any more than a glimpse of wild curly hair.
Even so, Iíd seen enough to identify the man who spoke.
His companion leaned forward and entered the conversation. "Bodie. Also CI5."
Glancing across at this man Bodie, I was startled by his eyes, which were as piercing a blue as Jamesí, if perhaps a little bluer.
I think he noticed my gaze, because he smiled this little amused grin, as if he was used to getting this reaction from women. Stepping forward, he gently pushed the door open and grinned at me as he came past.
"Mind if we come in?"
Oh yeah. This one was a charmer all right. Well so was James, and Iíve learnt to my cost what charmers like this can be like. Iím not about to fall for another one.
Scowling, I stepped back to allow his colleague in to the flat. I didnít want to let them in, but theyíre law, and regardless of what James is involved in Iíve no intention of getting on the wrong side of CI5.
The curly one, Mr. Doyle, paused to let me go first. Whether through some misplaced attempt at chivalry or because he thought I might try something I wasnít sure, but I walked back into the lounge anyway.
They ignored me at first, looking briefly into the other rooms of the flat instead, probably checking to see if I was alone or not. I pulled my dressing gown tighter around me and headed for the sofa, picking up my cigarettes on the way. Itís a nasty little habit, and not something Iím proud of, but when Iím nervous or uneasy, having a cigarette helps me relax, gives me something to focus on.
By the time theyíd finished stalking round the flat Iíd curled up in the corner of the sofa. Mr. Doyle came and sat in the chair next to me, while the charmer hovered by the table, leaning against the wall.
"Weíre looking for James Fielding. Any idea where he is?"
I shook my head, but didnít look up, too busy lighting my cigarette.
"But he does live here, right?" This from Mr. Bodie, who strangely, seemed more amused than anything else.
"When he feels like it, yeah." I looked up then, at the curly one. God knows how heíd missed it before, but he obviously only then noticed the bruising on my face, because he straightened up and reached out a hand, as if to turn my face to the light.
I flinched instinctively, shrank away from him, and he let his hand drop back into his lap with a frown.
"That looks nasty." That was all he said, but it was obvious he knew what - and who - had caused it. I could see he pitied me, just like the others. Even his friend had stopped smiling, and I couldnít help the sarcastic tone in my voice.
"I walked into a door." He didnít believe that any more than I did.
"You should be more careful," he replied. "Doors like that can do a lot of damage."
An awkward silence settled over the room for a few minutes, and then the two men left as suddenly as they had arrived. Just before he left, though, the curly-haired one, Mr. Doyle, handed me a piece of paper with a phone number on it. I thought he was trying to hit on me at first, and was preparing a suitably scathing put-down when he spoke.
"Keep it. Just in case you need someone to... fix the door." But he wasnít mocking me, and there was a curiously hard, almost dangerous edge to his voice, as if he was angry about something. As I closed the door behind them I was still trying to work out what it was. It couldnít be James, surely - I mean, the man didnít even know me, what should he care if James doled out a few bruises from time to time?
I hid the phone number straight away. If James ever found something like that, even if he didnít know the manís name or who he worked for, I didnít even want to think what heíd do. I never thought to throw the number away, though. It didnít even occur to me. But there was no way I was telling James about CI5ís visit. What he didnít know wouldnít upset him, and that suited me fine.
I couldnít help but dwell on their visit over the next few days. Wondering what they were doing, and whether Iíd see them again. But life carried on as normal, James didnít seem any more nervous than usual, and he never found the number that theyíd left.
It didnít occur to me to call it though, not once, even though I was uneasy about what James was doing. CI5 doesn't have much of a public profile, I guess they canít in order to do what they do, but what little is known about them isnít exactly positive.
Their image is built on hearsay and conjecture, on tales told by innocent bystanders who have been witness to a raid, or to some of CI5ís more unique driving on public streets. Itís no real surprise, then, that many people see them as little more than thugs, albeit legal ones, who believe themselves to be above the law. Even though that wasnít the impression that I got during their brief visit, mud sticks, and even if I had become inclined to call someone about Jamesí more Ďprofitableí activities, it sure as hell wouldnít have been them.
After a few days of wondering whether CI5 were about to kick the door in, I gradually forgot about their visit and just got on with things as if nothing had happened.
The following Sunday dawned bright and early, and a phone call woke me earlier than usual. It was James, calling from wherever heíd ended up the night before and proposing we go out for a picnic. I know it was stupid, I guess a part of me knew it even then, but my heart leapt when he suggested it.
You see, when James and I first got together, he was the most romantic man Iíd ever met. Picnics in the park, evening walks along Brighton Pier, flowers and little presents every so often just because he felt like it. He made me feel more wanted than anyone else ever had, and I loved him so completely that when he started shouting and hitting me, he broke my heart.
Piece by piece his attitude toward me changed, and with it he ripped apart the small semblance of self-respect Iíd managed to maintain in spite of my childhood. Within months he left me trying desperately not to believe the things he said, and it got harder each and every day.
And yet every so often a small spark would surface of the man I fell in love with, and Iíd find myself forgiving everything and falling in love with him all over again. And thatís a big part of the reason why I canít find the strength to leave him. Because, in spite of everything, I still love him. So I agreed to the picnic without hesitation, determined to take what I could get of Jamesí good side.
He picks me up an hour or so later, all charm and promises of what a wonderful day heís got planned. I smile back and say all the right things to keep him happy, but part of me is still waiting for something to go wrong.
Iím not disappointed - we donít even make it to the car. James has just finished locking the front door when a voice from the street calls his name.
We both turn around, but our reactions are very different. James grins as Phil hurries up to us, but I can feel my skin crawl. Phil always has that effect on me. One of the hangers-on in Jamesí crowd, Phil is physically small, whines constantly and reminds me too much of a weasel for comfort. Needless to say, I donít like him.
James on the other hand, tolerates him because heís useful, but the grin is now fading as we both take in the panicked look and wild eyes. Phil reminds me of a squirrel caught in the headlights of a truck. He has obviously run up the stairs, since he can barely get enough breath together to attract our attention, and his chest is heaving so fast I wonder if heís about to have a heart attack.
Practically staggering the final few yards, Phil grabs hold of Jamesí shirtsleeve and pulls him away from me and out of earshot. The look he shoots at me is nervous and not a little suspicious, and I canít stop myself from edging closer. A little nervous anyway in case he knows something about my visitorís the other day, I also want to know whatís so obviously about to spoil our day out.
In trying not to be obvious I miss the first part of the conversation, but Jamesí reaction to whatever it concerns is angry, and loud.
"How the hell do they know?" Phil stammers a bit, but James carries on speaking anyway. "Did you warn Steve?"
"N...No. By the time Iíd f...found out whey were already on their way to the warehouse. Itís too late.
"Shit." Walking back to me, James hands me his keys and switches the charm back on. "Sorry, Kelsey. I have to go. Business, you understand." With a half-hearted "Iíll call you" heís gone, hurrying to Philís car.
At first feeling confused, angry and disappointed in equal measure, the anger takes over completely as soon as I realise that heís left me his car keys, not his house keys. Since Iím not allowed my own set of door keys and have to leave the latch on when I do risk going out alone, heís effectively just locked me out of my own home.
Iím really not sure what makes me decide to do what I do next Ė I must be crazy. But since I have no other plans today, rather than sit on the doorstep and wait meekly for James to come back, I decide to drive to the warehouse, retrieve the keys, and find out whatís so important that James has to stand me up to sort it out.
Even though he doesnít like me to go there, especially since itís Ďbusinessí, when he first bought the place he gave me a quick guided tour. Not that he ever told me what he was going to use it for, and I knew better than to ask. So I know where it is, and, still too angry to think about what James is going to say when I turn up, I get in his car and drive there.
The warehouse is in the middle on a huge industrial estate in the run-down end of Croydon, and since itís a Sunday, almost every other business is closed. The only people I see as I drive through the entrance into the estate are young kids, and itís a safe bet that the graffiti will have doubled by the end of the day.
I pull over pretty quickly and park. My instincts for trouble have become pretty good since I met James, and Iím certain that heíd be less than impressed if he knew I was here. Quite how Iím going to get the house keys back I havenít quite figured out. The sound of the car pulling up right outside his building though is a bit too much of a give-away, so I decide to walk the rest of the way.
At first everything seems quiet, but as I get closer to the warehouse I start hearing angry voices and shouting. I edge round the corner of the short loading bay, and catch a brief glimpse of James, though thankfully Iím still hidden behind one of the huge piles of crates that are always scattered around the place. I move closer to the crates when suddenly thereís a sound that I try desperately to convince myself is a car backfiring, but which sounds much too much like a gunshot to be anything else. A second shot follows on quickly.
I freeze, without a clue as to whatís going on, but I'm pretty damn certain that I no longer want to be here. Although Iíve known for a while that James is dealing, somehow guns seem much more serious, more dangerous to be involved with. Before he died my father had a firearms license, and I used to sit with him on Sundays when heíd clean his gun. Even though I was very young, I was always inquisitive, and he showed me how to use one. I never saw them as toys though, and it was drilled into me that the locked cupboard where the gun was kept was absolutely forbidden. As a result I have a very healthy respect for the damage guns can do, and find myself hastily re-evaluating my already low opinion of James. I decide to leave, but before I can the voices start again.
Forewarned is forearmed, as they say, and on the spur of the moment I decide to eavesdrop a little longer. Iím fairly well concealed here for the moment, and want to know whatís happened. Thereís a gap between two of the crates where some of the wood has broken off, and if I crouch down I can just about see whatís going on.
"Come on Fielding. Put that thing down before someone else gets killed."
Moving a little, my view through the gap changes slightly, and I can see Philís body just a few yards away. Itís a shock, certainly, but since I hated the guy, Iím not exactly consumed with grief.
But the voice that spoke, now that sounded familiar, but itís a few seconds before I can place it. Itís one of the men who came to our flat last week, though I canít remember which one. But now things are finally starting to make sense. Whatever CI5 were investigating James for has obviously come to a head, and now Iíve managed to walk into one of the violent gun fights that CI5 are so notorious for.
James and Steve are behind one set of crates just in front and to the left of me, and Iím guessing that both CI5 men are much further away, closer to the warehouse itself.
Steve sticks his head out from the safety of the crates and fires a couple of shots at the two men. Neither bullet finds their intended target, though he does a good job of killing the crate, which Iím sure will think twice before crossing him again.
They trade a couple of shots back which are more accurate, but still miss. It occurs to me that this could go on for a while when a glimpse of hair appears, and the curly-haired guy whose name I just canít remember starts shooting.
Seconds later the Ďcharmerí, Mr. Bodie (why do I remember his name and not the other one?) darts out from behind and races towards an oil drum on the other side of the loading bay. Quite why he wants to put himself in the firing line is beyond me, though I can see that from there he would have a better aim.
Thereís a muttered curse from James and he swings out and shoots back, despite the other man laying down cover fire. Again his shot goes wide, but the part of the crate he does manage to hit snaps off, sending sharp slivers of wood in all directions. One of them must have found its target, since thereís a kind of muffled yelp, and the shooting stops as ...erm...Doyle, thatís it... as Mr. Doyle staggers backwards and out of sight.
No longer under fire, James turns his gun onto Bodie, whoís still a good ten feet away from any kind of cover. He fires twice, and Bodie kind of stumbles a few paces before collapsing. I canít see where heís been hit.
Itís a terrible thing to see, and I almost cry out in shock, but some sense of self-preservation kicks in and I manage to keep my mouth shut. I do lean back heavily against the wall, legs trembling, and I think Iíve got the Red Arrows doing manoeuvres in my stomach. In spite of everything thatís happened, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that James was capable of killing someone.
I feel cold, regardless of the fact that today is one of the warmest days weíve had in months, and I think I know what people in books mean when they talk about mind-numbing fear.
Everything goes quiet, and James seems to be playing it safe, since none of us knows how hurt Mr. Doyle is. I donít care anymore. All I want to do is go, to get as far away from here as I can and forget what Iíve seen. I turn almost blindly to leave.
But before Iíve taken even half a dozen shaky steps my conscience stirs, pointing out that itís quite likely that at least one more person is going to die here, if Mr. Bodie isnít dead already. And Iím about to walk away and let it happen. But what can I do about it, even if I wanted to? I mean, if two fully trained CI5 agents canít handle James, what on earth could I be expected to do? Besides getting myself killed, obviously, which I canít see as any help to anybody.
I didnít plan this, didnít ask for it - all I wanted to do today was go on a picnic.
So, look after number one, right?
I mean, why should I care what happens to them? Theyíve never done anything for me. Except, I keep remembering the look on Mr. Doyleís face back at the flat, when he saw all the bruises. It was such an instinctive gesture, and seemed so genuine - as if the bruises mattered. As if I mattered. Even Mr. Bodie stopped smiling when he saw.
I canít leave. I just canít.
In some small way, this is my fault. I knew what James was doing, and could have stopped it long before now. I had Mr. Doyleís phone number, I could have called him, left James, done something, rather than just burying my head in the sand like I did.
But this has changed everything. Even though I knew about the drugs it was somehow easier to ignore it. I donít do drugs, and neither does he, so Iíve never been confronted with the consequences. But how on earth am I supposed to stay with him as if nothingís happened? Iíve just seen him shoot somebody for God's sake!
Iíve been torn about whether Iím capable of leaving him for a long time, but it looks like the decision has just been made for me. I have just one more choice to make, and having come this far, itís not a difficult one.
Look after number one is all very well, but itís a sure-fire way of being alone. Maybe itís time for more than one change in my life. I just hope Iím strong enough to carry it through.
I turn my attention back to the scene playing out behind me, still not exactly sure what Iím going to do.
Mr. Bodie is still lying where he fell, and it doesnít look as if heís moved at all. James moves out from where heís crouching and takes a step towards Bodieís body. The satisfied smile on his face as he looks down makes my blood run cold.
"You! Behind the crates! Come out, or Iíll kill him!"
Jesus, does he realise just how much he sounds like a third rate gangster?
For a second, nothing moves. Then Mr. Doyle steps out slowly, fingers linked behind his head. He doesnít seem quite steady on his feet to me, and thereís a gash above one eye that must have come from the wood splinters. He casts a worried look at Bodie before focusing completely on James.
Steve steps out beside James, his gun down at his side. James gestures Doyle with his gun to move further out in the open.
Itís the strangest feeling, being witness to something like this. I mean Iím here, Iím watching this, but it just doesnít seem quite real. I edge forward, right to the corner of the crates. Philís body is just in front of me, and I suddenly notice his gun a few feet closer. If Iím careful, I think I can reach it without being seen, at least by James. Mr. Doyle is still facing in my direction, and his eyes widen slightly when he sees me appear and reach for the gun. I hold one finger up to my mouth and gesture frantically for him to keep quiet, but itís too late. The damage has already been done.
James must have noticed the direction of Doyleís stare, because he starts to turn round.
Oh, god no.
Iím shaking, and take a step back, even though Iím completely out of cover and know that heís going to see me. Everything heís ever done to me is nothing compared to whatís about to happen, and thereís not a damn thing I can do about it.
Mr. Doyle must have seen how absolutely terrified I am, Iím sure itís pretty obvious. With Jamesí attention slightly diverted, though he hasnít quite turned enough to see me yet, Mr. Doyle takes a big chance. It seems that he wasnít quite as unarmed as either James or I thought. Hidden behind his head, his hands were wrapped around a gun rather than each other, which he suddenly produces almost like a magic trick.
Noticing the sudden movement James twists back to face Mr. Doyle, and by some miracle he doesn't notice me. I drag in a very shaky breath, but I know this isnít over.
In the movies, this scene would probably be done in slow motion with dramatic music, but Mr. Doyleís shooting is anything but slow. His first shot hits Steve rather than James, and Steve goes down hard. I deliberately donít look at the crumpled body. Unlike Phil I quite liked him; he was always pleasant to me at least, and I donít know how Iíll react to another dead body. Iíve got to try and keep calm, at least, if Iím going to stand any chance of getting out of here that doesnít involve walking away and leaving them to it.
Mr. Doyleís second shot misses James, but Jamesí doesnít, and Mr. Doyle goes down with a cry. Heís still moving so I know heís not dead, but heís bleeding heavily from the shoulder, and he stares up slightly unfocussed as James steps forward, kicks Mr. Doyleís gun away and takes aim again.
Before itís even registered that Iím going to do it Iíve stepped forward.
My voice is shaky even in my ears, but the surprise that it creates is enough to make James step away from the two CI5 men as he stares at me.
"What the he...? Kelsey?"
"James, what are you doing?" I take another step towards him, and although the gun isnít raised, I can see the uncertainty in his face when he sees me holding it.
Since itís pretty obvious what heís doing, thatís a stupid question, and thereís not really much he can say in answer.
Behind him, Mr. Doyle has got to his knees, but without a gun we all know thereís very little he can do. He turns Mr. Bodie over and starts talking quietly, and after a few seconds Mr. Bodie starts moving. For the moment theyíre both alive, and I take a strange sort of comfort in knowing that.
"James, put the gun down."
"I canít do that, baby."
"Please, James. You havenít killed anyone yet, itís not too late."
He lowers his gun slightly, and his voice takes on the pleading tone that Iíve never yet been able to resist. "No, I havenít killed anyone, but they have. They killed Phil, and Steve. If I let my guard down theyíll kill me as well. This is all in self-defence, Kelsey. Trust me."
If I hadnít been watching the battle for a while I might have believed him. He doesnít know Iíve seen everything, which I suppose is what heís counting on. Iím not sure how heíll react if he knows Iíve been spying on him so I stay silent.
I suppose James takes my silence as indecision, because he launches himself into the role of tortured innocence with gusto. Iíve got to give it to him, he plays it well, right down to the slight tremor in his voice as he speaks.
"Kelsey, listen to me. Theyíre thieves. We caught them trying to steal from the warehouse. They deserve what they get."
"Donít lie to me James. I know thatís not true. Now put the gun down."
Seeing that itís not working, he tries a slightly different tack, hoping to put me off guard. Weíve argued enough in the past for him to know that when he gets angry Iím afraid of him.
"Why are you taking their side?" he demands. "I thought you cared for me."
"I do. I love you, James, and I always have. Iím trying to stop you from making a huge mistake. If you kill them youíll end up in prison."
"No I wonít. Thereís no-one else around, nobody will ever know what happened here."
"I will." My voice is little more than a whisper. Iím desperately holding back the tears - I donít know if Iím strong enough to do this. "Are you going to kill me, too?"
He takes another step towards me, and I shrink back a little. "Oh, baby, donít be ridiculous - I could never hurt you. I love you, Kelsey. You mean everything to me. You could come with me, we could get away from here Ė start a new life somewhere else. Just the two of us."
Heís saying things that Iíve longed to hear from him for so long. A few days ago I would have done anything just to hear him say half of them. But not now. Heís manipulating me, just like he always has, saying what he knows I want to hear.
The tears are welling up, and my hands are shaking. I take a deep breath, but it doesnít help. I love him so much, but itís a bitter feeling.
"Are you with me, Kelsey?"
"No." I whisper. "Donít do this, James. Please, donít."
The expression on Jamesí face had been pleading with me, but it hardens, gradually, and I know his mind is made up. Nothing I can say is going to stop him.
He turns back to Doyle and Bodie, and starts raising his gun again.
I bring my gun up as well, aiming it at him. "Donít, James." I try one last time. "Please, donít do this."
"Sorry, Kelsey." He doesnít think Iíll do anything, and Iím not sure I can.
He brings the gun into line.
He ignores me, and takes aim.
The gun fires.
The tears fall freely.
I shot him. Oh, God, I shot him.
-- THE END --