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Authors: Howard Marks

Tags: #Cardiff, #Crime, #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Thriller, #Women Sleuths

Sympathy for the Devil

BOOK: Sympathy for the Devil
2.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
During the mid-1980s Howard Marks had forty-three aliases, eighty-nine phone lines and owned twenty-five companies trading throughout the world. At the height of his career he was smuggling consignments of up to thirty tons of marijuana, and had contact with organisations as diverse as MI6, the CIA, the IRA and the Mafia. Following a worldwide operation by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, he was busted and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison at United States Federal Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Indiana. He was released in April 1995 after serving seven years of his sentence. His autobiography,
Mr Nice
, was first published in 1996, and has been published in nine languages. The film of
Mr Nice
, starring Rhys Ifans, Chloe Sevigny and David Thewliss, was released in 2010.
Mr Nice
Howard Marks’ Book of Dope Stories
Senor Nice: Straight Life from Wales to South America



Howard Marks



This ebook is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form (including any digital form) other than this in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Epub ISBN: 9781409027928
Version 1.0
Published by Vintage 2011
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Copyright © Howard Marks 2011
Howard Marks has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
This novel is a work of fiction.
Although loosely inspired by the disappearance of Richey Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers, all characters and events described in this book are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
First published in Great Britain in 2011 by Vintage
Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road,
London SW1V 2SA
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 9780099532736
Wrth fargeinio gyda’r hen
Nid oes diben cynnig dy enaid
Fe piau hwnnw eisoes
Rhaid I ti roi’r hyn sy’n agosach i’th galon
To bargain with the old gentleman
No point in offering your soul
He already owns that
You must give him what’s closer to your heart
A Book of Witches
. Anonymous. Welsh, 19th century
They are at the door
The two men again
She can hear the slapping of their palms on the walls, out in the passage she has never seen
This is her sign. She must kneel now, put her face to the wall. Close her eyes, not look back as they enter the room
For one bright moment, as the door opens, she can smell the mildew of long-abandoned houses by the sea
On the wall over her head – their silhouettes, the vague shapes of the bundles under their arms
From the cupboard in the corner where they leave the school books, the taller one takes out her mask again
He is putting on the buckles at the back of her shorn head. He pulls the straps tight
Their hands are moving on her gently. They must feel she is broken now
She knows what is coming, she tries to feel nothing
No anger, no fear, this is her resistance, not to feel
They guide her again to the reclining chair, to the leg straps on either side
In the shuttered half-light she sees their perching shapes, shifting, spreading. Over their eyes are mirrors. She tries to close her eyes, but she cannot. They are taped open
One is beneath her, the other above and over the walls run shadows of her twisting in their hands. She tries to turn her head away, but she cannot
The first one’s skin is calloused, knotted with muscles, the other’s younger, soft almost as her own. She sees the staff again, thick with ancient carvings
She waits for the pain. She tries not to make a sound, not to cry. This is her resistance. It makes the pain worse, not making a sound, but still she does not
She knows she’s always been here, it was the before that was unreal
She waits for it to end, for it to begin, for it to end. This is the only clock she knows. One is beneath her, the other above and light shimmers in the mirrors over their eyes – an old light, like a deep winter dawn – and by it she sees everything that is done, and she remembers
Of all the moments in her life, this was the one Catrin would most like to have back.
It was the night when news of the rock star’s suicide at the bridge broke. Not that she thought that had anything to do with it; nothing, not at first. Like the rest of the city, she was huddled over a television, watching the shocking events unfold live. In her arms was her man Rhys who meant more to her than the rest of her meagre life put together. More than life itself, it felt like. But for once her eyes were not on him, but trained on the flickering screen.
It had been a bitter, fog-bound February, the first winter Catrin had made detective: a suit, not that she ever wore one. That night she was in her old joggers, Rhys sprawled naked over her. The room was dark, the furniture barely visible. But they hadn’t switched on the lights, hadn’t even gone to get their smokes. They weren’t moving from in front of the set.
On the screen the stage was lit by a single spotlight beam. In and out of it a lone figure was swaying in silhouette, his narrow shoulders hunched. The light created a pale halo around his head. It was the last song of the set, the torch song, and creeping into the darkness came a faint glow from thousands of flickering lighter flames.
The spotlight found the singer again, his shirt ripped open now over his chest. It was narrow and lined with horizontal cuts, the stains darkening it. The rest of the group were behind him in the shadows. His face was soft, dreamy, his eyes half closed behind dark smudges of make-up, and all around him pulsed a strange, low trance-like beat.
As his arm began windmilling over his guitar, his forearm appeared to be painted in bright red letters. The camera panned in closer.
Owen Face
the letters read. They looked as if they had been freshly carved into his flesh with a knife.
As they saw this, people in the crowd tried to run towards him. But the black-shirted security men were already closing in, holding them back. From the front a fan in a velvet cloak reached out his arms, shouting something, his words lost in the wail of feedback. The singer was staggering back now out of the spot to the back of the stage.
‘It’s so they know who I am.’ The singer’s words came out in a single, slurred rasping sound. He seemed about to lose his footing, more men in black shirts were rushing in around him and he disappeared from view.
‘This is the last show, folks.’ From behind the row of bulked-up figures his words came whispered, like a prayer, the mike only just catching them. ‘See you all in a better world.’ If he said anything further it was lost in the sound now filling the hall, a sound that seemed almost biblical, the sound of thousands gasping and weeping, and mingling with it came the whine of approaching sirens. The stage was dark again, the only lights tracking the bodies of those who’d fainted over the heads of the crowd back towards the exit doors.
The round-the-hour news coverage flicked back to the live-time shot at the top of the screen. Out of the fog loomed the outlines of towers and arched span of the old Severn Bridge, the country’s favourite suicide spot. Overhead choppers were still circling, their beams crossing the surface of the waters below. The channel was using night-vision cameras to try to penetrate the banks of fog, the scene bathed in an eerie greenish light. At the edge of the water Catrin could just make out police barricades, the crowd a heaving mass of black leather and spiky Goth cuts. In the strobing lights she glimpsed white mask-like faces running with make-up, others bleary with shock and tears.
The windows shook with the thrum of a chopper passing low overhead. She pushed the volume right up, but they could no longer hear the set.
‘Search and Rescue must be looking for his body down on the mudflats. That’s where the jumpers usually wash up.’ Catrin glanced down at Rhys, his cheek nestling between her small breasts. His eyes were fixed on the screen, the light from it running over his gaunt face.
‘The tides are still up.’ Rhys was almost shouting, something he very rarely did, so she could hear over the roar of the chopper. ‘So these must all be press choppers – it could be the biggest rock ’n’ roll suicide since Cobain.’
‘Sure, Face was rock royalty. But what do you mean
be? Face said his goodbyes at the gig, drove to the bridge and jumped. It’s a done deal.’
‘No body yet though. They found his car at the jumpers’ bridge, but no body.’ Rhys slipped his head into the toned hollow of her belly, his hand resting on her thigh. ‘On the way here I could hardly get past the three-hut circus at the docks. There were BBC, Sky OB units along with a crowd of ghouls and rubberneckers. Even saw foreign units down there, CNN, Fox, RTL.’
‘But it looked like all the action was at the bridge. Why the party at the docks?’
‘There was a body sighting there. Turned out to be a shop dummy dressed up like Face in leathers and a black wig. Some sicko’s idea of a joke.’
‘Right,’ she said, ‘events like these always bring out the artists.’ She let her fingers drift down the side of Rhys’s hair, to rest on his small, elfin ear. Overhead the sound of the chopper was fading. She turned back to the screen.
One half was still showing the spotlights and the fog and the dark, choppy waters under the bridge. The other half, a montage of recent clippings from the tabloids. A pack of paparazzi, standing on ladders with long-lenses outside the wrought-iron gates of a private rehab clinic. Cutting to Face in striped pyjamas, sitting on a sofa for a photo shoot, his head shaved, his forearm lined with tidy horizontal scars, his cheekbones sharp enough to poke through the skin.
‘I’m surprised no one tried to stop him.’ Catrin was pointing at the scars on Face’s arm. ‘Self-harming. In and out of clinics for depression, starving himself. The classic tells of a suicide plastered over the red-tops for months, but no one tries to stop the bloke going for the exit.’
She saw Rhys was pointing at the image of the press outside the private clinic. ‘They may be barking up the wrong tree there. That wasn’t one of the clinics he attended. Face was always a very private man.’
She glanced down at Rhys but he wasn’t looking up at her. ‘Maybe Face should have gone to a clinic. Maybe that would have saved him. Looks like the bloke was completely out of control,’ she said.
‘You’re wrong, Face was never out of control. Everything he did was planned.’ Rhys was staring intently at the carpet, his fingers slowly moving over its blank surface. ‘This could’ve been some kind of stunt, maybe one that went wrong.’
‘But stunts weren’t Face’s style.’
‘No, you’re right, they weren’t. Face had the balls to cut himself on stage, why not finish it there. Instead he drives down to the bridge.’
BOOK: Sympathy for the Devil
2.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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