The morning of November 26, a Saturday–three days after Gary Lester had been visited by Grigoriy Nabutov’s hoods–Gary lay in bed shaking. His condition was brought on by three factors: his fear of being summoned to visit Nabutov and what dreadful punishment he would inflict on him, his worry about the job he’d been interviewed for, and his renewed drinking.
Just a wee dram of scotch never did anyone any harm, he’d say to himself as he woke up each morning, and shakily poured a measure of whisky into his tumbler. After that, it was one drink after another until he passed out. He’d wake in a chair, drag himself to his bed, and sleep for an hour or two, then start on the process all over again. He hardly ate, wore the same clothes, and rarely washed. He knew he was slowly drinking himself to death, but he couldn’t stop.
At 10:30 a.m. his doorbell sounded. He rolled off the bed, stumbled to the door and shouted, ‘Who is it?’
‘The postman. I’ve a recorded letter for you to sign for.’ He opened the door, managed to sign the postman’s pad, thanked him, and took the letter to his living room. He flopped onto his couch and tore it open. It was a letter about the job.
Dear Mr Lester,
With reference to the interview you attended recently for the position of IT assistant…
Gary stopped, and turned the letter over. He was so nervous he couldn’t read on. He shook more than when he’d lain in bed earlier. He felt himself perspire. His throat felt dry. His head started to pound. He looked for his whisky bottle. ‘Shit, it’s empty,’ he said, and wondered if he had another one. He shivered. Oh come on, he said to himself. You’ve got to face up to this. He looked down at his trembling hands. He still held the letter facedown. He took a deep breath and turned it over.
We’re pleased to be able to tell you that we would like to offer you the job at a salary….
‘Oh my God,’ he yelled, dropping the letter to the floor, and starting to jump around the room.
The rest of his day was different to any other he’d had for some time. He showered, dressed in the cleanest, newest clothes he could find, and left. He took a tube to central London, and went to the Apple store, where he pored over the newest computers, deciding on which one he’d buy with his first paycheque. He then bought some clothes for his first day at work, before treating himself to a pizza in a smart, new restaurant that’d caught his eye. Afterwards, as he strolled down Oxford Street to the nearest tube station, he felt pleased with himself, and believed his life was about to change.
I won’t drink again, he thought. I’ll save some money, move out of the shitty flat, and maybe meet someone and strike up a new relationship. He thought about his daughter, who he hadn’t seen for a year after he’d taken her back to his ex-wife when he’d be drunk. Maybe I’ll give her a call. He did, but she didn’t pick up. He left a message. Once he’d arrived back in Hammersmith, he stopped off at the local supermarket, bought himself a large rump-steak, potatoes, vegetables, and some ice cream for his supper. He called in at Blockbusters, hired a movie, and bought popcorn and a giant bottle of Coke. He hadn’t had a drink all day, and had paid for his day out with his one remaining credit card.
At 11:20 p.m. he went to bed, expecting his first decent night’s sleep for some time. As his head touched the pillow his phone pinged, indicating an incoming text message. He leapt up, and looked for his phone, guessing it’d be from Natasha, his estranged daughter. It lay on the floor, next to his bed. He picked it up, dropped back on the bed, and held the phone up at the end of his outstretched arm and above his head. He started to shake.
Come to this address NOW. Nabutov.
Gary left Nabutov’s flat at 1:00 a.m., started walking towards Brixton tube station, and wondered if he was in some sort of a dream. Nabutov had kept him for only a half hour, and hadn’t been threatening in any way. He’d said he no longer needed Gary. He’d called him over to check out the procedures for visiting Alex Goad in prison, as he was going to send someone else. He made Gary go through the complete routine: the application process, the security checks, and the visit schedule. When Gary finished, Nabutov told him to go. He wasn’t pleasant or unpleasant, Gary thought. Just curt and business-like. Strange, he could have done all that on the phone.
Once Gary reached the station, he pulled out his hip flask, took a large slug, put it back in his pocket, and made his way down the escalator to the platform. He’d broken his self-imposed ban on alcohol earlier, after he’d received Nabutov’s summons. The station was packed. He remembered there was a big concert venue nearby–The Brixton Academy–and guessed there must have been a gig. He jostled his way along the platform to find a spot close to the edge that would allow him to be one of the first on the train. He looked up at the train indicator. A train was due in two minutes. He reached into his pocket for his flask, but stopped. He remembered there was an alcohol ban on the Underground. He looked ahead, and started reading the big posters stuck on the tunnel’s wall. As he did, he became aware of pushing and shoving from behind him. The station’s filling up, he thought, and continued to read a large holiday advert for the Caribbean on a poster plastered on the opposite wall. Maybe I could go there next year?
Grigoriy pulled the hood of his black anorak over his head to cover most of his forehead, and tightened the drawstrings. He wrapped his black scarf around his face to hide his mouth. Only his eyes and nose remained visible. He followed Gary down the platform, managing to keep behind other people. When Gary stopped, he sidled forward a little so only one person stood between Gary and him. He looked up at the train indicator. He heard the train approach a few seconds later. He waited until the very last second, pushed the man in front of him to one side, and moved directly behind Gary.
Gary saw the train appear from the tunnel, shuffled forward, and watched it approach. It still travelled at some speed, and he guessed it would come to a halt way down the platform to his left. When it was about six metres away, he felt a determined push in his back, and stumbled forward towards the edge. He checked himself, turned slightly, and then felt his legs kicked away. He was powerless to do anything, and fell backwards onto the electric rails, catching a short glimpse of Grigoriy before the train smashed over his body and came to a juddering halt. Bedlam erupted on the platform. The emergency claxons sounded. People yelled and screamed. A shocked and traumatised driver stepped out of her cab and looked down at Gary’s mangled body, trapped under the front part of the train. His blood flooded along the track and between the rails. The driver vomited, collapsed, and was helped away. A wailing claxon sounded a few times, then a man’s voice came over the PA system. ‘There’s been an emergency. The train has terminated at this station. Would you all leave the station immediately and find an alternative route for your journey. The station will close in fifteen minutes.’
At the same time as the station closed, Grigoriy shut the door to his flat, flung his anorak to the floor, made for the kitchen, and poured a large vodka. He was such a waster, he said to himself as he gulped down the entire glass, and refilled it. He reached for his phone, scrolled through his contacts, and made a call. He smiled to himself. One of his favourite hookers had picked up…