Crystal's StorySite


Mea Culpa

by Hypatia


When you're strange
No one remembers you're name
When you're strange
When you're strange
When you're strange

The Doors:-When You're Strange


Her minds made up she walks down the road,
Her hands in her pocket, coat buttoned against the cold,
She finally finds Billy down at the Italian café,
When he's drunk, it's hard to understand what Billy says,
Then he mumbles in his coffee and he suddenly roars.
It's a rat-trap Judy, and we've been caught.

Boomtown Rats:-Rat-Trap


I can trace the origins of this story back to a discussion I had with Bek D. Corbin about superheroes. Bek seems to have a real passion for superheroes; yes, I enjoy superhero stories, but my own characters have always had a more mundane nature. After talking to her, I tried to write a superhero story…it didn't quite work out, I didn't end up with my superhero…this isn't Superman…possibly more a Clint Eastwood type hero or it might even be Forest Gump meets Batman.

Despite the nature of this story, it is a love story…well sort of… owing a hell of a lot to the film Moulin Rouge. Anyway, it contains gratuitous violence and lots of things that will probably offend many people. If you are easily shocked, upset or offended please be warned of these things now and that the sex is minimal. As always, I would rather lose a thousand potential readers beforehand, rather than upset just one of you.



"The fringes of society are a strange place and I mean all fringes here, not just my own little world. There are fringes in all aspects of society; social economics, sexuality, religion and even age are factors that cause these fringe groups to exist. What you do tend to find common amongst all these fringe groups is two things, solidarity amongst the members and the parasites. No, not parasites, for parasites are but an irritation, there are jackals that feed on the fringes, but too often they feed for the wrong reason…not to live, but for the pleasure."

"Thinking about it though, the jackals would be offended by this association…"

"I though tend to shit out in all ways; yes, I live on the fringes of society in more ways than one, however I am a loner I don't tend to play well with others. Not that I have anything against people, but I tend to miss the cues that most people rely on in social interactions. I tend to cause offence by opening my mouth at the wrong time and telling the truth…I don't fit in."

"A social outcast amongst social outcasts is an unenviable position. We don't tend to last very long, suicide or violent endings are common and the few that do tend to make it out of these fringes have a nasty habit of changing the world…for good or bad. I think it is something to do with the places that we have survived, to escape from the shit-holes of this world we have to be smart and as I said before, I tell the truth, I'm very smart."

"Oh and yes, one other thing. To survive in my world you have to be inconspicuous…or nasty. Me, I'm in no way inconspicuous."

"I'm as nasty as they come…"

"Shall we dance, you mother-fuckers?"

They stood there for a moment or two, almost disbelieving. The thought of someone interfering with their hunt had never crossed their minds. That is if any thought had ever crossed their minds. Not everyone was willing to bow down and kowtow to those who wore the colours of the gangs.

A few of us actually lived to tell the tale…

"Walk away man, just walk away and you can live for today anyway…" the largest of the three said with an irritatingly bad American accent. He was nervous, his body was twitching in his agitation, but his eyes were moving side to side rather than up and down, if the eyes move up and down you don't bother talking.

There is no reasoning with a dusthead.

"The faggot is ours. Understand me man, he walked on our turf and for that this faggot is going to bleed," the second one of the group said. He seemed less strung out than his companion; he fiddled less with the blue bandana that he wore; however, it was the third that I had my eyes on.

Never discount the small man because of his size, or he might just kill you.

I glanced down at their prey, an ambiboy; he should have known better than to walk these streets at this time of night. Then again, there's no reason why he shouldn't have been able to, except for the animals that prowled the streets of a night. I am one of these animals and whereas most of the nocturnal creatures feed off the innocent, I feed off the guilty.

"Fuck off or we waste you," the smallest of the three said. Obviously, despite his size, this wasn't a man who believed in small talk.

"As I said…shall we dance ladies?"

Anger is a wonderful weapon, but it should always be the other man who is angry. When his mind is clouded by hate, an opponent loses sight of the important things and often his life is over before he realises it.

These three were angry…

The largest was the leader of this little pack and as such he was the first to move, the other two followed suite. The leader met the sawn off snooker cue I carry up my sleeve with his teeth.

Needless to say, the teeth lost the argument…they shattered.

The second received the blow across the side of the head his cheekbone faired about as well as the teeth of the first. The third, the smaller one, stood his ground. In the darkness, I could see the flash of a blade.

"You'se is going to die for that…" he said passing the blade from hand to hand as he advanced on me. It wasn't a small knife more like a machete.

"That is you are…not you'se is, you are neither black nor American…" I said.

"What are you some kind of fuckin' teacher?" he demanded, the blade still unconsciously being passed from hand to hand as regular as clockwork.

"No," I said with a swift kick at the blade as it passed between his hands. It tumbled off into the night and he was left unarmed.

"I'm purely an enthusiastic amateur," I told him and as he stood there open mouthed brought the cue down across his forehead. The second blow was across the back of his head and he was out. For a moment or two I stood there, enjoying the endorphins that flooded my body, enjoying the high that this little squabble had caused. Then sated, I bent down to help the victim.

He was young, under twenty, and dressed for a night out. High heels, skin-tight jeans makeup, and nail polish; in many places it was safe to walk around like this.

Here this said victim…

"Oh thank you," he said grasping at me for support. Again, his voice so deliberately effeminate said victim.

"Look Dorothy, this isn't Kansas and it isn't safe for you to be walking around here," I said. I had no issues with what he was, it wasn't my scene, but I doubt my scene was his. "Next time take a taxi."

He stood there speechless for a moment. With the sound of an approaching police car, I carefully emptied the gang members' pockets of money and I took my leave of him.

As I said, I don't play well with others…

That was it for my night. I am not greedy nor will I put myself at unnecessary risk, but everyone needs a hobby. Taking the side streets less obviously marked out as gang territory I made my way home, there I could relax and savour the memories.


There are many psychiatrists who would have a thing or two to say about me. Mixed in with the pseudo-scientific claptrap would be words like sociopath and psychopath tendencies.

I would disagree strongly with that.

I have nothing against society, except for its decent into barbarity. I have no doubts about the reality of the world around me I just don't like it and no, I do not hear voices.


"And what time do we call this Mr Harper?" the young woman asked.

"I have never been known to call it anything and I don't know about you dear?" I replied. "I can suggest a number of eminent psychiatrists if you are having such delusions about time being a sentient entity…"

"Mr Harper," she said ignoring my sarcasm. "Your appointment was for two o clock. It's now almost four."

"Very good, now what time is it when the big hand points to six and the little hand points to nine?" I asked.

"Why are you late Mr Harper?" she demanded angrily.

"That's better, don't patronise me…it doesn't work," I said. "I am late because I couldn't leave the house."

"Ah yes couldn't leave the house, your condition again I presume…" she said while flicking through a thick file. They had used computers in here, until one day I got slightly upset that what the computer said could not be wrong…now my own information was kept on paper. I could supposedly cause less damage with paper.

"Agoraphobia…" I said.

"Ah yes and why exactly does this mean you can't leave the house?" she asked.

"Because I am agoraphobic," I snapped back.

"There's no reason to be like that," she replied in a voice that suggested my benefits might cease. "I just want to understand your condition, so we can perhaps better place you in employment. You didn't go for one of your interviews, the one at Burger King, why not?"

"Because, as I told your predecessor, working with the public as part of a team is not an option. I don't play nicely with others…" I replied. "His idea was that it could be considered as therapy for me. That was bullshit."

"And the other interview we arranged, there was something about you threatening the employer…"

"He asked me how long I had been a head-case, so I asked him how long he could hold his breath. After that things just deteriorated, there was no reasoning with the man."

She paused a second or two as she made some notes and then looked up at me; for what seemed an age she seemed to study me.

"You don't look like the violent type…" she said thoughtfully.

"Looks can be deceiving, especially when you revert to basic instincts. Flight, fight or freeze are the most basic human instincts when facing fear. I tend to fight."

"Well we can't have you trying to strangle potential employers with their ties. We are supposed to be looking for a way of increasing your employability. We want to make you more attractive to potential employers and I am afraid that you are not helping me to help you," she said giving me a hard stare.

"As I have said before, I don't tend to play well with others…"

"So you want a job that you can do nights, working alone and without and I quote here 'some cunt who thinks he is god lording it over me'," she said flushing slightly.

"Yes," I agreed and leant in closer, to her obvious discomfort, "and the man wasn't a cunt, he was an ignorant cunt. I can deal with cunts…"

"Well we're going to have to do better or else we'll have to review your benefit entitlement."

"Is that the royal we?" I asked.

"This is exactly the attitude that has caused your present situation," she started to say. I stood up and walked towards the door, focusing just on the doorway, not the people around me.

"Mr Harper where do you think you're going?" she demanded from her desk. "This interview isn't over until I say it is."

"Fuck you," I said and formally ended the interview.

I don't play well with others…


I ignored the moans of the taxi driver about taking me such a short distance and once inside the house locked the doors. As always, the curtains were drawn and inside in the comforting gloom I fought to bring my emotions under control. The terror of going outside is there every time I go out, but in the daytime I have to exert much tighter controls. In the daytime there are people around who must not be hurt and must never see what I am of a night I can release these controls of a night I can feed these desires.

I sat down on my chair with the television on, for a second or two I considered cleaning up the rubbish that littered the house…only for a second or two. I then dozed in front of the television; if my benefits were being stopped again I would need to work harder. I would have to be out again tonight.


After midnight, I left the house and I was in a foul mood. There had been a little altercation with a bailiff who felt that he should be allowed into the house to discuss my present financial situation.

I soon altered his perception of the situation. A madman with an axe hung on the wall behind him is something that most sane people avoid.

Yes, I have a psychiatric condition; yes, it is one that most people don't understand in the slightest. It can work for me though, be proud of your madness. Look around you at this world we live in, spend a week listening to the news. I may be mad, but I am nowhere near as fucked up as the rest of the planet. Besides I don't pretend that all my actions are rational, I don't pretend to know the answers to everything and unlike most politicians I don't lie…

I was in my usual working dress, jeans, boots, a hat that looked like it had escaped from a nineteen fifties gangster film and a long leather jacket. I believe it is an antique, a world war one dispatch riders coat, but that isn't the important thing. It's tough leather; tough enough to save me from a blade more than once and you can hide a multitude of sins inside.

I wasn't willing to mark myself as a victim. That would have brought me too much attention…but with my long hair and beard, it marked me as something strange.

It's nice to be an unknown quantity; it's nice to be strange. When you're strange, people will leave you alone…unless they are particularly nasty individuals and as I have said, not many are nastier than me.

The drunks were out in force and one of the big problems with drunks is too often they love everyone. My skin crawls as they get too close and the fear rises deep inside me if they try to touch me. An arm around my shoulders is enough for me to want to break down in tears…or to rip someone apart. I avoided a small group of ambiboys out for the night; these went that little further in expressing their femininity than most short skirts, stockings and some of the highest heels I have ever seen. It was almost an intentional parody of femininity, rather than the acceptance that the TG's seem too seek. The ambiboys brought too much attention to themselves; they flaunted themselves. Not that there was anything wrong with this, especially if you had the sense to walk around in groups. There was strength in numbers, but alone, like last night, it was asking for trouble.

"Hey big man, looking for a good time?" one of them shouted across the road to me, provoking giggles and titters from his companions.

"Not tonight ladies," I said raising my hat slightly. "But thank you for thinking of me…"

I carried on walking, I could hear them laughing and giggling behind me and I was glad. They were happy, there were too many people in this world who were sad.

"Come on you bitch," a voice screamed from ahead of me, it was followed by the sound of a woman screaming. I walked faster; I will not run it draws attention to me, that is the last thing on earth I wish.

"Just wait till I get you home, you embarrassed me you bitch. I saw you talking to him; I know what you were thinking…" the man shouted. He had drawn a lot of attention to himself; a fair number of people were standing around watching the events unfolding before them. None of them seemed willing to intervene on the woman's behalf. He raised his hand, hit the woman across the face with a closed fist and then grabbed her by her long hair.

Still no one did anything. Eight people stood around watching and not one of them would help.

I detest an audience and there would be no profit in this, but sometimes money isn't the issue…sometimes you do it because you just have to do it.

"Hey dickless, do you always fight with women?" I shouted. He let go of the woman's hair and her head hit the pavement with a crack that everyone there must have heard.

"What's this to you, fucker?" he demanded.

"Depends what you want to make of it, but that wont be much. Tossers like you are only good for beating up women."

He stood there swaying; the alcohol was slowing his thought processes…he was a big man confident that his size was all he needed to be able throw his weight around.

"What?" he demanded.

"You're a dickless tosser who is only willing to beat up women because you are too chicken-shit to face anyone more than half your size," I repeated slowly and carefully.

With a roar of anger he charged at me, I stepped aside at the last moment and let his momentum take him to the floor, with a little encouragement. Once down I kicked him hard in the ribs and then knelt by his side rubbing his face into the pavement. He soon started to kick and struggle…but a few well-placed kicks to his ribs and one to his crotch soon stopped that.

"What are you doing, stop it, stop it…someone call the police…someone help him..." the screaming dragged me away from the enjoyment of my high. I looked in the direction of the voice and found the woman he was abusing bearing down on me.

"Touch me and you will wish it was him still beating on you," I said, perhaps more than a little ominously. It worked she stopped.

"What've you done you bastard," she screamed at me. "What've you done you fucker…"

"Don't be a victim all your life," I told her. "Get out now, while you have a chance."

"You fucker…someone call the police…call the police…" she screamed.

"Some people are born victims, there's just no helping them," I shouted as I walked away. Three side streets and one backtrack later I relaxed, though I'm sure I could still hear her screaming.

As I have said though, I often misinterpret a situation…and I don't play well with others…


It was a quiet night after that. A bad night has a nasty habit of getting worse, this one though didn't, it was dead. There were opportunities, plenty of opportunities to part some drunken fool from their money. That though would be unethical.

That would be wrong.

I only prey on those who prey on others; those who take pleasure and enjoyment in causing suffering. I target those who are so like me.

I have no delusions about what I am. I know I'm not some crusading hero, like some people have tried to suggest. I'm not in this for the moral rights and wrongs of the situation…I'm in it for the money…and the high.

The high is the key though, the high when the battle is over and I have released all of the tension and hate that has been building inside me and the endorphins flood my system. Those are the moments to live for, those moments of almost orgasmic bliss. Because of those I feed on, I am beneath the radar of the police. They have little interest in inter-gang rivalries; they care little if a would-be mugger has the shit beaten out of him. If I took it as far as murder then it would be a different matter, but murder doesn't pull my strings.

Not that I wouldn't or haven't.

Some scrote did break into my house...once.

He dared break into my sanctuary and invade my space.

That is my space…no one comes inside…there I don't have to put up with the fickle nature of people; there my mind is at ease and the fear doesn't grab at my guts.

There alone, I'm me…

He pulled a blade on me in my own home, he dared to try and turn my sanctuary into a place so like the fear filled streets.

He tried to make me feel that fear in my own house…

I killed him before I had time to find a rational thought within my fear.

Fear rules my life except at home, inside with the curtains drawn. There I am king and there alone, I rule. When it was necessary, I became judge, jury and executioner.

But it's a right bastard to get rid of a body…

It puts a whole new slant on life when you realise that the cunt trying to rob you has more money in his pocket than I normally see in three months. It makes you reflect on things like justice in this world…not that many expect justice in their lives. Justice favours the rich and those who know how to play the system. Justice is not blind it is just uncaring. I'm neither blind nor uncaring.

I care about them all, all of the persecuted ones. Someone has to care…because the rest of the world sure as hell doesn't.

It's the fringe groups I associate closest with. Those are the ones I care most for, for they do the least to warrant the hate and bigotry that this world spews out at them. The ambiboys are a classic example, those who claim the third path in this bi-gendered world. Usually, but not always they are young men unsure in their lives they find a path as valid as any girl who ever tried to be one of the lads. They live their lives, do their thing and harm no one, yet they take a phenomenal amount of shit for it. The shit I dislike, though rarely will I get involved with mere shit.

It's when it gets violent I come out to play; that's my own form of morality in my madness.

Yes, I care about them, but that's not why I'm there. I'm there hanging around them because they are the bait. The animals that I feed upon are drawn to them like flies to shit. When they come, and they always do, I'm there waiting.

The strange thing is so many of these predators feel they are doing something right, something just. That to persecute and destroy these individuals who dare to live differently from them is some form of holy quest.

I at least have the guts to admit I enjoy it…yes it's wrong but what am I supposed to do, deny myself because it's wrong?

That's not me, I don't play that way. I am a creature of the darkness and in that darkness I will feed.

And I know it's so very wrong…

Mea culpa…


Back home, safe, I locked my door and filed the post in an appropriate rubbish bag. I don't want to know what the outside world has to sell me and I don't want to know what I owe the outside world. I tend to keep the interaction between the world and myself to a minimum and that tends to be best for both of us.

I did have a psychiatrist once, who told me that the world wasn't all bad. From his perspective it probably wasn't, from my place in this world the view isn't quite as nice. I don't disagree with him, there are probably plenty of good people out there, but it's so much easier to be a good person with plenty of money.

It's easier to have faith in the world when your world doesn't stink of shit.

I considered the television for a moment or two, not that I actually watch often; it just fills a void in my life. It brings a little sound into my world. I dislike company and people dislike me, but I still crave the sound of human voices. It must be part of being a social primate…the need for others around me. It can be weeks between conversations and too often I am disappointed in the quality of these interactions when they do occur.

I tried the Internet for a while. That though is a place where you could forget who you are; that is a dangerous place. I wonder how many psychotics are born there in the intangible places where strangers meet. It is not a drug that is used to control the masses like television; it doesn't cater to the lowest common denominator like the television does either. The quality of the people was so much better in cyberspace, but again I lived only on the fringes.

Again I didn't quite fit in…

Again I upset people unintentionally…it was almost a relief when I couldn't pay the phone bill.

If nothing else, it stopped people ringing me up.

It meant I was again alone in my splendid isolation.


I spent the day with my books, visiting old friends and at one point venturing far enough into my childhood to see what Huck and Tom were doing down on the river. They were still there as I remembered them and in that familiarity was a sense of security. In my fiction, I didn't have to worry about everything I said. In fiction, I could walk amongst the people without worrying if my bladder would cut loose in an all-consuming wave of terror.

I suppose I am a coward, I should be a man and face up to my fears and many times I have tried to. It isn't the fear I fear, that I live with everyday, it is the thought of losing control…letting the world see me for what I am…

An animal…

A freak…

Yes, I'm a freak I know that. Everything about me is freakish, from my nocturnal wanderings and my antisocial behaviour down to my irrational fears and my love of the printed book. Something as innocuous as books can breed a lot of suspicion in the barely literate. People are proud to say that they haven't read a book since leaving school and will look on those who do read with the same sort of suspicion that is usually reserved for paedophiles.

What would the world see if I allowed the whole me to be seen?

I read my books and then I dozed in my chair.

I don't function during the day…I live for the night.


I hit the chippy early in the evening, while it was quiet, before it filled up with the drunken idiots that seem so much in the majority these days. I wandered the streets not expecting to find anything happening this early, while eating my supper. While people are around the predators tend to lie low.

Not this time though.

Down an alley, two men were laying into a woman lying on the floor. I could see the curtains of nearby houses twitching; as usual though, no one was willing to get involved.

"Whatcha think you're doing?" I asked while munching on my chips. It had the desired effect; both of them stopped and stared at me.

"Teaching the freak bitch a lesson, we don't want her kind around here," one of them said.

"Her kind?" I asked looking down at the woman.

"A fuckin' prozzie and not even a real one at that. It's a shirt lifter…we don't want things like that around here," one of them said.

"Arse bandit," the second agreed.

"A brown hatter isn't wanted around good decent people?" I suggested and both of them agreed enthusiastically.

"What's the problem, wouldn't she give you a discount?" I asked.

"What did you say?" the first man asked. I hesitated for a moment studying him, an overweight man in his forties, everything about him suggested grubby and unclean. His companion was a smaller wiry man and seemed to be looking to his friend for the lead.

"Well it was just that you two seemed so enamoured in each other I thought you might be a couple of bum boys, I could understand your anger if she wouldn't give you a group discount…"

"You're heading for the same as her," the larger man said. I notice details about people, details that others miss…the collar of his shirt was dirty and he had obviously been watching telly while eating tea, as there was what looked like baked beans dribbled down the front of it. It was also buttoned up wrong…this was a man who could barely dress himself.

"Come on mate, it's an easy mistake to make, besides I would rather be like her if you're what it means to be good decent people," I replied.

"What are you, some kind of queer?" the smaller one demanded.

"No sorry ducky, not my scene…" I replied and he exploded.

It's fascinating to watch people flash with rage. It's almost a sexual experience for them and those sensations and emotions they feel are written all over their faces with the expressions they make.

I intercepted his charge with a knee to his gut and he doubled over. It gave me the time necessary to turn to his larger and much more dangerous companion. This was a man who obviously enjoyed using his fists and he started pounding at my body, as he got close.

I'm smart; I used my head…literally.

I finished them with my feet…kicks to the body do work wonders and there is no skin on skin contact. There is only one thing to do when you are on the floor being used as a football, curl up into a foetal position and hope they get bored.

These two didn't know that trick.

As always I enjoyed the rush for a moment or two then turned to the victim. She was good, just a hint of masculinity around her chin and possibly a little over the top with her makeup. However as her clothes said she was a working girl and over the top is expected.

"You hurt bad love?" I asked, she just moaned in response.

"Don't worry I'll get you an ambulance," I said gently. She had taken a damn good beating and obviously needed some help.

"No," she whispered raising a hand to place it on my arm. "No, he'd kill me…"

"Not now," I said turning around to look at the two on the floor.

"Not him," she whispered. "Frank…oh god he'll kill me, help me please."

"I wont let anyone hurt you," I told her and turned my attention to the predators. They had less money between them than I did. Probably they were getting their kicks the same way as me…but they shouldn't prey on the weak.

There is much more satisfaction to be found in preying on the strong…


Despite the way it felt, I helped get her to my house. Another human touching me for that length of time was enough to leave me damn near catatonic. The thought of taking her inside was even worse. No one violated the boundaries of my home, not since long before I started this strange dual life.

I couldn't leave her though, not for the wolves outside.

I know there are monsters outside my door; the fact that they are outside allows me to sleep peacefully.

Allowing the outside in was a different matter…


Pushing books off the couch, I let her slip down. There was nothing to her, just skin and bones and I tried to assess the damage. After a few minutes I came to the conclusion that despite a damn good beating there was no major damage, I wiped the blood off her face with a wet cloth, took her shoes off her and carried her up to my bed.

There I covered her up and left her to sleep. It was still early, but despite financial considerations, I couldn't leave her alone here. Not because I couldn't trust her…just because I couldn't.

I sat there in my chair reading for the rest of my night; Thucydides kept me company followed by Euripides. Again they were old friends who I had spent many hours with before. Euripides was by far the easier read, but where would we be in life if we never challenged our minds?


The smell of food woke me, something I have never woken to in my adult life. For a moment or two, I panicked knocking over a pile of books nearest my chair and taking half a cup of cold coffee with it. I grabbed a dirty t-shirt off the floor and mopped it up before it could cause any real damage to the books and then turned my attention back to the matters at hand. For a moment or two, I considered the axe, with its single notch in the handle.

"You awake in there?" came a voice from the kitchen, with just a hint of masculinity in the tone.

"Yes," I said hesitantly.

"Good, I've done you bacon and eggs, you didn't have much else in…I hope you don't mind I've done myself some too," the voice replied.

"No not at all," I assured her, "though at this time coffee would be most welcome."

"What's up?" she asked walking into my living room wearing just one of my shirts. She hesitated for a second before venturing to walk on the carpet in bare feet and her face showed when her foot found something that little bit more sticky.

"I'm not a morning person," I said while studying her. She was going to have a gorgeous pair of black eyes when the bruising came into full bloom, her face was swollen and her bottom lip sported a decent cut. Besides that, the rest of her showed a vast array of bruises, the idiots that attacked her had used their feet too. I just did it better.

But she was wearing my shirt and for a moment, my anger began to grow, in my house in my shirt and cooking in my kitchen. I took a deep breath and rationalised it in my mind, she needed something to wear and I could always throw it away afterwards.

"You seem a strange kind of hero to come to my rescue," she said passing me a plate.

"I'm a strange kind of person," I admitted looking at the food. I am not a morning person and the thought of food this early, all of ten o clock, was almost enough to turn my stomach.

"Milk and sugar?" she asked from the kitchen.

"Only a drop of milk and two sugars," I said. Moments later she returned carrying her own plate and two cups. She touched me as she passed me the cup and I visibly flinched.

Her face fell…

"I know, it's because I'm not real," she said.

"Well Pinocchio, you seem plenty real to me," I said poking at her arm with my finger while grinning like an imbecile in my efforts to reassure her. I don't think it worked.

"No that's not what I mean," she said sadly, despite trying to force a smile on her swollen face. "It's because of what I am…I understand."

"No," I said firmly. "The problem is me, I have problems with people…all people not just you."

"And yet you came to my rescue," she said.

"We all need a hobby," I said and there was a rather awkward silence.

"It seems a rather dangerous hobby," she said breaking the silence.

"No more dangerous than your own chosen profession," I replied and again her face fell.

"No I am not criticising or moralising, it's just a dangerous game that's all," I said quickly.

"Not my chosen profession, I owe a man a hell of a lot of money," she replied.

"So you decided to work the streets to make some easy money?" I asked.

"No, he decided I would and he expects money every night…I'm dead now…" she said sniffling.

"How much do you owe?" I asked gently

"Almost twenty five thousand Euros and it's rising," she said, she was on the point of breaking down in tears.

I whistled through my teeth, I had financial problems but this girl was in serious shit.

"That's a hell of a lot of money to owe," I said. "Drugs?"

"Yes," she said quickly. "But not what you think, drugs to make me like this…"

"I understand," I told her. "I know it's impossible for a TS to get treatment anywhere but the black market."

"You seem to know a lot of things," she said wiping her eyes.

"I read, I look and I listen," I told her. "This person you owe money to, would that be Frank who you were talking about?"

"Yes," she whispered.

"Let me have a think about this…" I told her and began eating my breakfast. If I had refused it, I think it would have been impossible to stop her crying.

"What's your name?" I asked almost as an afterthought.

"I call myself Judy," she said cautiously.

"That's all I am after," I said with a smile. "Just a name to call you and the one you feel you are is the best one…"

"What's your name," she asked.

"Billy, just Billy," I said.


During the day, I managed to cope with her in the house. It was hard though, oh so hard. As the night approached for once in my life, I was almost keen and eager to be out of the house.

It wasn't anything she did, if anything she tried to stay out of my way. Unsure of me she was unwilling to disturb my almost religious meditations as I fought to keep my fear under control. It was as I got ready for the night that I next spoke to her.

"This Frank, does he have many girls?" I asked.

"A few," she said hesitantly.

"No problem then," I replied.

"Where are you going?" she asked with fear in her voice. "What are you going to do?"

"At the moment just talk," I replied and she rushed towards me. I cringed away from her and she hesitated.

"Will you promise to be careful? Frank can be very nasty," she said.

"He hasn't met me…" I told her as I adjusted my hat and composed myself again. I could see honest concern in her face. "I'll be back before dawn, don't worry…I know what I am doing."


I started off amongst the whores of Union Street. There and there alone it is reasonably safe for a girl to work, if she has a half decent pimp. If Frank had Judy working the area I found her, he either wasn't a good pimp or he didn't have the muscle Judy thought he had. I avoided the offers from the girls there and scanned the faces for those I recognised. More than one of these girls owed me a favour; more than one violent pimp would gladly see me dead. I had no arguments with either half of the business arrangement as long as it was a fair arrangement. Once it crossed that certain line then I could play, working the pimps is a profitable business and they had soon learned.

"Kelly, remember me?" I asked a vapid blond youngster I had rescued from an abusive client a few weeks before. She was no more than sixteen; too young to be out here, but it was her choice…not the choice of her pimp.

"I never forget a face," she said her voice slurred. "I remember you honey and you were one hell of a lover…"

"No, three weeks ago, in the car. You were being beaten up," I said.

"You'll get no sense out of her," an older woman, probably far too old for this game said. "She's been shooting up."

"I thought she was clean?" I said.

"She was, but the young fool decided to play…" she said.

"She still working for Jessie?" I asked.

"And what exactly is it to you?" she demanded.

"Get her home, tell Jessie I don't want to see no youngsters out here in that condition. I want to see her cleaned up before he has her working again," I said angrily. I had never had issues with Jessie. I didn't like his profession but it was no worse than my own. Usually he did seem to care for his girls and take no more than his percentage, that here meant something. Here he was an honest man with some integrity.

"Who do you think you are telling me and tellin' Jessie what to do?" the woman demanded.

"I know who I am, but I have no idea who the hell you are and that means you haven't worked here long. I'm the last person on earth Jessie wishes to piss off, as for you I am making you personally responsible for getting her home. Tell Jessie I said you were to be compensated for your time," I snapped at her. She hesitated a second or two before nodding.

"Do you know where I can find a pimp called Frank who also does loan sharking?" I asked her and again she hesitated.

"You might find it to your advantage for me to owe you a favour?" I said.

"What profit is there in a favour?" she asked.

"Ask Jessie…" I said.

"He hangs around at the Ring-o-Bells over on Claiborne Street," she said. "Jessie better pay me for this…"

"Just tell him I said," I told her.

"And who are you?" she asked, but I was already walking away.


It was earlier than my usual nocturnal wanderings; I needed to be out while this Frank was still to be found. The thought of going into something as crowded as a pub was not on my agenda, but it had to be done.

I stood around for a minute or two outside, taking deep breaths and steadying myself before the onslaught on my senses.

Then I walked inside…

It was a place out of time, a throwback to an earlier era and the people inside where throwbacks too. I had heard of the nationalist clubs, but I had never been to one. Union Jacks adorned the wall beside the bar and don't think I would have seen as many bald-heads on a chemotherapy ward.

You could almost smell the testosterone.

Over one side a competition seemed to be occurring which involved drinking as fast as possible then shouting loudly…I think the winner was the person who actually found their mouth with the liquid. Over the other side of the room, the women seemed to be gathered chatting nicely and looking disapprovingly at their husbands. This seemed a strange place to find someone running a stable of girls that included Transsexuals. I stopped myself from lashing out at a man who barged into me without looking where he was going and made my way to the crush that was the bar.

People were too close to me pushing and shoving in their eagerness to find chemically induced oblivion. I could smell them, I could feel them and I could hear them all around me, the terror had me fully in its thrall. I couldn't run though, I couldn't leave…I had to do this.

"I need to see Frank," I gasped as I reached the bar and an ape-man looked me over for a second or two before grunting and indicating a door with his head. There was the ubiquitous gorilla in a suit stood by the door.

"I need to see Frank," I said to the man.

"Why," he grunted.

"It's about one of his girls, Judy," I said. For a moment or two I could see him contemplating this.

"You packing?" he asked indicating I should open my coat.

"No," I said opening it and letting him see. He opened the door and stepped inside, making no indication I should follow him. A few moments later, he returned.

"Mr Hallows will see you," he said. "Go on in."

I did and found myself in a smallish office with two men. One of them, the older one, was sitting behind a desk empty except for a laptop computer, a bottle of whiskey and an ashtray; the other was standing watching me like a hawk.

"You know something about Judy?" the man behind the desk asked. I stood there looking at him. He was a man in his late fifties who could have happily been a bank manager, except for his eyes. His eyes were cold and seemed at odds with the rest of his silver haired image.

"Mr Hallows asked you a question," the younger man said walking towards me. The two of them were both dressed in smart suits; the younger one though had an obvious bulge under his jacket. The man outside was the muscle; this though was the man to watch.

"Are you Frank?" I asked.

"That's Mr Hallows to you," the young man said moving even closer to me.

"Easy Geoff, the man just asked a question," Hallows said raising a hand to indicate that the youngster should stop. "I'm sure there was no offence intended."

"No," I said, "no offence intended at all, if I want to be offensive there is no mistaking it."

Hallows sat there for a moment or two trying to decide if what I had said had been intended as an insult. At the end of this deliberation, I could see that he wasn't exactly sure.

"You mentioned some of my property, Judy," he said his voice not hiding his displeasure.

"Property?" I said.

"Yes property, I made the young lady into the beauty she is today. For that she owes me a hell of a lot," he snapped back. This was a man I wouldn't have to push too far to make him blow, he was a man who lived on the edge of his rage.

"Well thanks to your mismanagement Judy nearly got herself killed last night and she is no longer working for you, in fact she is no longer working," I replied. I could see movement from Geoff on my right.

"And who are you to come into my office and dictate to me?" Frank said standing up at his desk with enough force to make his chair tumble over.

"You know so little about this sideline that you have gotten yourself into, you don't think you do anything other than force some poor kid out onto the streets," I said.

"What are you, the competition?" he demanded.

"Nah," I said as I let the snooker cue fall out of my sleeve into my hand. I hit Geoff across the hand that was reaching in to draw the weapon and then brought it back down across the side of his head. I was behind him reaching into his jacket before he fell to the floor and I felt the cool weight of a pistol in my hand.

"No, I'm not the competition," I said indicating that Frank should back up. "Consider me the health and safety inspector and I'll be the one who closes you down if you are playing a dirty game."

"What the hell are you talking about?" he demanded.

"The girls on the street around here go there willingly or not at all. You don't force them and you don't threaten them, it's bad for your health," I replied.

"Who do you think you are?" he demanded.

"I think I'm no one, I make a point of being no one and I know I'm nothing, but you are even less," I said. Geoff on the floor groaned. I kicked him in the head and he stopped groaning.

"Judy owes you money, twenty five thousand," I said.

"It's more than that," he said. "There are late payments to consider, she didn't pay me last night."

"Listen fuck-head, I am here to negotiate this debt…or I can negate it. I doubt the debt still stands if I blow your fucking brains out."

"What are you offering?" he asked cautiously.

"Twenty five grand paid within three months and no more interest, or I'll start asking what the principle sum was and getting very pissed off."

"That is not how I do business," he said the edge returning to his voice.

"It's how you keep breathing," I said.

"You do have a point," he said slowly.

"How do I know this debt will be paid?" he asked.

"Because here is your first thousand," I threw an envelope on his desk. "Treat your girls right and keep your goons away from Judy and this will be profitable for you. Otherwise you're going out of business."

"Is that a threat?" he asked.

"No, as Merv Dawkins found out, it's a promise," I said firmly and turned to leave.

"What happens if I just kill you and that tranny slag?" he asked.

"Whoever you send to kill me better be fucking good, because I know you now and I will come looking for you…"

I walked out of the door; the gorilla did place himself in the way for a second. I lifted the large silver pistol and indicated he should move…he did. I slipped the weapon inside my coat pocket, pushed my way to the door and was out in the open again. At last, I was able to breath normally. I had no time to enjoy it though, I had to move and move quickly.

The last thing I needed was to be followed.

I made use of every alley, backtrack and rat-run I knew of, I crossed four different gang territories in the wrong direction before heading towards home. I was walking in places that you would have to be mad to walk…which meant I was right at home. By the end, I was reasonably happy that I wasn't being followed, to such an extent that I was able to catch two opportunities to make a little money. On the night I almost broke even, now all I needed was some more nights like this and I might just get Judy sorted. I didn't make a habit of adopting waifs and strays but having done so I couldn't abdicate the responsibility, that wouldn't be fair.


Back home, I found she had been tidying and as I stood there in the kitchen, I considered heading up to the bedroom and dragging her out of the house. It isn't that I like the filth and clutter that fills my life, it's just it is familiar. I grabbed one of many clean cups and made myself a coffee, noting as I did that the fridge was almost empty. I have seen evolution occur in my fridge; as yet, I am still waiting to be greeted by a sentient mould covered piece of cheese complaining about the living conditions, but that is only a matter of time. I just hoped that Judy hadn't risked eating most of the things in there and she had washed her hands well afterwards. I settled down in my chair and much to my surprise found the remote control for the television on the arm of the chair. I hadn't seen that for months.

I peered around the room, illuminated by just the light of the television. It didn't look much different. The books still dominated the room, the rubbish I had never bothered taking out still covered the floor and there were still piles of dirty clothes. There were no plates though, she had been cleaning in here too…all the cups and plates that had been around were now gone. I put my hand down to the pile of books nearest the chair and picked up the top two books. I knew by feel though that these weren't Thucydides and Euripides, I took a deep breath and tried to control myself.

"She isn't doing anything wrong," I said to myself.

"Unlike your motives in assisting her, her motives are but to help," I told myself.

"She is doing it to say thank you, she means no harm," I whispered.

I sat there sort of trembling for a long time.


"Do you want a coffee?" a timid whisper asked. I looked up and saw she was standing there in another one of my shirts. Not that I could complain I reminded myself, she still had nothing to wear. I looked down at the coffee I was nursing it was long cold.

"Yes," I said and she walked towards me to take the cup, I held it out to her and her fingers touched mine for a moment. I tried not to flinch.

"What did you do last night?" she asked.

"I saw Frank, we sort of came to a compromise…but I wouldn't count on going home for a bit," I said. "His little boyfriend got a little bruised in the negotiations, I can't see him being that impressed."

"What sort of compromise?" she asked.

"We pay off the twenty five within three months, no late payments no interest," I said.

"I can't do that," she virtually screamed. "I haven't got that sort of money, I have given up everything to get to this stage…my home…everything. Everything I had has been sold and I can't make that sort of money out there on the streets."

"Judy," I said gently, but she didn't answer. I stood up, walked through to the kitchen and found she was holding onto the worktop weeping.

"Judy," I said again and despite my revulsion, I placed a hand on her shoulder and rubbed her back gently.

"I can't do that, there is no way I can get that sort of money…" she gasped. "Everything is gone; I have nothing left at all and at the time I didn't know it but Frank was only paying for the boob job because he knew it was an investment. With the boobs I'm a more valuable piece of ass…novelty value and all that…"

"I'm covering the debt, don't worry about that," I said. She looked at me disbelieving for a moment or two shocked from her tears. Then to my surprise she broke down in tears again…I thought she would have been happy. I stood there for a moment or two longer feeling more and more uncomfortable with these raw emotions in another and then walked back to the living room. I grabbed a handful of science fiction magazines off a pile and flicked through them until I found a story I could lose myself in.

There I was safe, there I was in control.

"What are you reading?" Judy asked dragging me away from my one remaining sanctuary.

"Waterspider, by Philip K Dick," I said, taking the coffee cup she was holding off her.

"It looks old…" she said indicating the magazine.

"Yes, 'Worlds of If', January 1964," I replied with almost clinical coolness.

"Fifty two years old, that is old," she said. "What's the story like?"

"I haven't had chance to read it yet, though most of Dick's works tended to see the future as a slightly grubby place," I said.

"You read a lot," she said.

I resisted the urge to answer 'yes and you talk a lot' and just nodded.

"Why?" she asked.

"It's safe and it's my escape…" this left another long silence. I like long silences in conversations and see no reason to fill them with aimless chatter. A conversation should be worthwhile or not at all.

Judy obviously didn't feel this way.

"Do you realise I may never be able to pay you back…the job opportunities are not exactly great for a transsexual and I never want to go back on the streets," she said hesitantly, "though if you want me to, I will try."

"No," I said quickly. "This is not a loan or a business arrangement, this is a favour. Nothing else, just a favour."

"What do you want in return for this favour?" she asked.

"Nothing," I said turning my attention back to my reading.

"Billy, can I ask one other favour of you?" she asked gently and I looked up. "Can you see me to my flat, to get some clothes and my hormones?"

"Is there anything you can't live without, anything money couldn't replace?" I asked her.

"I suppose not," she said her face falling.

"Suppose?" I asked.

"The clothes and things are not an issue," she said after I kept looking at her for a while waiting for her answer. "There are a couple of photo's, some cheap jewellery that's all of my mother I have left and…I know it is stupid, but there is a teddy bear…"

"Not as stupid as some of my own little foibles," I said with an honest smile. "We'll go when it gets dark, I don't go out in the daytime unless I really do have to."

"What about food?" she asked. "You haven't got much left."

"I know, someone threw most of it away," I replied.

"Going by the 'best before dates' I could have done the same job by opening the fridge and letting it walk away," she said with a shy smile.

"What day is it?" I asked.

"Friday, why?"

"I can't go out today, too many people, too much hustle and bustle…could you get something in and get whatever you need to tide you over?" I asked pulling my ill-gotten gains out of my pocket and passing it to her.

"There's a hell of a lot of money here Billy," she said. "I don't need nearly as much as this."

"It's just money," I said closing the conversation.


I dozed in my chair for the majority of the day, waking occasionally when something that Judy was doing disturbed me. The sound of the washing machine on a spin cycle nearly had me in a state of shock at one point. Then after she had gone out I finally got some proper sleep. It was hours later I awoke to the smell of food again, by my side was a pile of notes. I did a quick count up; she had spent less than a hundred and fifty, this girl wasn't a big spender.

I went upstairs to the bathroom and found she had been tidying upstairs, there were clean towels in the bathroom, the toilet actually looked like it could be used safely and there was a new bar of soap and a clean flannel. Even the many piles of books had been tidied up. As I took my coat off the weight of the pistol in my pocket reminded me I still had it. I had intended to dump it somewhere, but I was concerned that children might find it…or worse one of the predators find it and use it on me. I carefully lifted up a floorboard I had once had up for a repair to the central heating, I had never got around to fixing it back down properly. I put the automatic there, I could forget about it and it would never be a danger to anyone. I cleaned myself up, grabbed a clean t-shirt and made my way back down to the kitchen where I could hear Judy working.

"Oh, you're awake," she said with some surprise. "Sorry I didn't mean to wake you."

"No, that's ok. I don't tend to sleep long anyway," I replied.

"I'm afraid I spent a little of your money," she said. "I didn't want to walk around looking like he wanted me to dress."

"No problem," I said looking at her. She now wore a long orange cotton skirt down to her ankles with flowers on and a matching blouse.

"Well?" she asked.

"Pardon?" I replied confused.

"How do I look, do I look more human than when I was dressed as a tart or dressed in your shirt?" she asked.

"Sorry, I'm not very good at doing the people thing," I apologised quickly unwilling to have the tears again and looked at her, properly for the first time, long dark hair, dark eyes, curves in the right places, just a hint of masculinity with her chin. She had toned down the make up, to something more acceptable and disguised most of the bruising, she looked good. I doubted she would get a second look off most people.

"You look good, but I don't think those shoes go with that outfit," I said indicating the ridiculous high heels she had been wearing when I found her.

"I know," she said.

"I got these cheap at Ethyl Austin's," she said indicating the blouse and skirt. "Shoes though would have been expensive."

"You should have," I said. "It's only money."

"You're a strange one Billy," she said with a smile.

"Yes," I agreed.


We sat at the kitchen table, which she had rediscovered, and ate. We ate a Shepard's Pie, which she had made from scratch. I don't think the kitchen had been used to cook, rather than reheating precooked food, since my mother passed away almost eighteen years ago. As we ate, she kept looking at me for reassurance that what she had done was ok, after the first three or four times of assuring her it was wonderful I gave up. As I started on the sponge and custard she produced for pudding, I could see that she was upset.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Oh, nothing," she said. I could tell she was lying.

"What's up?" I asked again a little more firmly.

"I just tried so hard to get everything right for you, just to say thank you in a little way," her face indicated that she was about to cry again.

"Judy," I said reaching across to touch her hand. "It was wonderful, the problem is me."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I don't do the people thing very well," I said. "People scare the shit out of me and I don't know how to interact with others. I'm just not very good at this whole socialising thing. I know you probably think I am a right bastard or a miserable git, but that's all right I understand. People just don't like me for very long."

"You are difficult," she replied and grasped my hand. "But I like you."

"For the moment," I said pulling away as if I had been burned. "We will have to make a move soon and go and get your stuff. Where is your place?"

"A flat above the newsagents in Elbert Street," she said. I knew the place, a seedy street about four miles away, normally I would have walked it seeing who I could hunt on the way. In those shoes, I doubted she would be able to make it more than a few hundred yards.

"I'll get us a taxi," I told her, "and thank you for the meal, it was special for me. It has been years since I have eaten like that here and even longer since I had good company for dinner."

She smiled as I left, maybe I could get the hang of this interacting.


We drew up outside the flat almost an hour later. It took a long time for one of the taxi's I would travel in to arrive, at one point I wondered if any of the drivers I knew worked nights. Eventually though one did turn up and we picked up Judy, much to the drivers surprise, before heading to her place. I had the driver sit outside for a few minutes before we headed inside. The movement of the curtains confirmed my suspicions there was someone inside.

"Harry you stay here," I said. "If I am not out here in five minutes you're to get her back to my place. Don't let her get out of the car before I get back."

"Do you need a hand?" Harry asked. He owed me a favour from a few years back, not long after I started this dual life.

"No, I shouldn't do," I said. "Get too many people in there and it'll get confusing, I might start hitting the wrong people."

"Fair enough Mr Harper, but if you need a hand you just shout," he said indicating a baseball bat that occupied the passenger seat.

"I will Harry. Let me have your keys," I said to Judy.

"They are just things, we can leave them…" Judy said, I could see the fear on her face.

"Don't let yourself become a victim or too soon you start thinking like one," I said to her. "At some point you have to stand up to the animals or you will forever be the victim. If it was just things that could be replaced then I would say leave it, but there are things in there that are important to you. So we take them back…"

"Don't you worry about Mr Harper, he's no ones victim," Harry said reassuringly.

"That's right Harry," I said while giving Judy a reassuring smile. "I'll be back in a moment."


I wasn't worried about guns as I stood at the bottom of a rickety iron staircase. Guns are a status symbol and those who carry them risk an automatic life sentence, such draconian laws hadn't stopped gun crime, but it had made those willing to carry them that much more willing to use them. People who are willing to risk spending their lives in prison are expensive to hire or very desperate. I didn't think Frank would be willing to spend a lot or to use rank amateurs. There were probably three or four people in there waiting for Judy or Judy and me…they probably had blades and clubs.

I could feel the fear in my gut; I could feel the tension inside me. This was not the fear of battle, this was the fear I lived with every day, but I knew in a few moments I could let all this tension and fear turn into something else. I could not let my rage take control of me though I had to use it. I had to keep my brain working or end up dead.

"Judy, Judy Honey I'm here Honey," I shouted loudly before making my way up the stairs very loudly. Outside the door, I banged a couple of times.

"Judy Honey, I'm here," I shouted, intentionally slurring my words and fumbling with the key. "Judy we've an appointment girl."

I opened the door and was met by five men in the small room. Frank wasn't taking any chances.

"Who the hell are you?" I demanded. "Where's Judy, she knows I always come at this time?"

"Just fuck off, Judy won't be having customers for a while," one of the men said. I looked around at them these weren't gang kids. These looked like they had been hired from the 'Ring-o-Bells', clientele. These were hired as bruisers and anyone of them would have made a formidable opponent. One of the men was looking at me that little bit harder; I could virtually see the thoughts crossing mind in his face.

"Why have you got a key?" he asked. "You're him, you're…"

It was a bloody small room, a living room and a kitchen in one. The five men filled the small room with just a clear area nearest the door where the cooker was. The man who had realised who I was was suddenly silenced by a frying pan off the cooker. Though swung with my left hand it served its purpose.

He dropped and all hell let loose.

There wasn't enough room for them to use their numbers; they also didn't work well as a team. Some of the gangs I have had dealings with have almost worked as a single entity. The four remaining idiots here were falling over furniture and each other in their eagerness to get to me. I dropped down as one of them swung a huge fist at me and punched with all my force upwards into his crotch. I must have lifted him six inches into the air with the force of the blow. I had the snooker cue out by the time the next one was in a position to take a swing and it made contact across the fist that was aimed at me. I finished him with a knee to the face. That left two of them who tried to circle in the confined and now body littered room. They looked at each other before charging as one. Rather than stand there in the way of these two big bastards, I turned and ran, out the door and down the stairs. However, by the time they sorted themselves out enough to get down the stairs one at a time they found me there waiting. Now it was two against one, and these sort of odds I could live with.

The first one to reach the bottom of the stairs caught the snooker cue across his chin and then either side of his head. He still seemed reluctant to drop despite how stunned he was. A knee to the groin proved to be the last incentive he needed to fall. Now without the backing of all his companions, the last man was not willing to play with me.

"Come on mate there's no need for us two to fight," he said holding his hands up imploring me not to attack him.

"Why?" I asked. "A moment ago you were quite willing to beat the shit out of me, now it's all let's be friends."

"It was nothing personal," he said backing up the stairs as I advanced on him. "Nothing at all in it, it was just a job for money."

"Empty everything you have out of your pockets and drop it on the floor just inside the door, then you can go. I want you to pass a message to Frank though," I said the man nodded rapidly while he fished in his pockets.

"Tell Frank he has had his one bite, next time I will put him down like the animal he is."

"I can't tell him that," the man protested. I could see the beads of sweat forming on his bald head despite the coolness of the evening.

"You'll have to tell him something," I replied backing away so that he had a clear escape route. He dropped his belongings on the floor just inside the door and ran down the stairs. At the bottom he did hesitate a second…but only for a second. I followed him out of the back yard and out onto the main road. When he looked back and saw I was still following him, he ran like he had all the demons from hell chasing him. I walked over to the taxi.

"Can you pull it down the back while we get all the lady's gear out Harry?" I asked.

"Of course Mr Harper," he said with a smile and a nod.

"And Harry it might be better if you never mentioned that you were here, there are some nasty people playing games at the moment," I said and Harry just tapped the side of his nose with his finger. He was a good man, he understood.

"Come on Judy," I said. "Let's get your stuff together."

At the bottom of the stairs, I moved the man lying there out of her way and began stripping him of valuables. He had a fair bit of money on him and a rather nice watch; this wasn't the usual class of animal to be found prowling the streets. I then heard a small shriek from Judy. I went running up the stairs thinking that I had perhaps missed someone in the room; I hadn't checked there were just five of them. That was a stupid mistake.

In the small room I found the three men I had left, two were sleeping one was still holding his groin and groaning. I kicked him hard in the gut as I passed by him on my way through to the other room. There I found Judy sat on the bed crying.

"What's up?" I asked gently as I looked around the room. It did seem to be a mess, much at odds with what I had seen of her.

"Look what they have done, they have destroyed things just for the sake of destroying them," she said holding the remnants of some torn clothes.

"Well even those bastards couldn't face hurting a teddy," I said picking a small rather dishevelled furry bear off the floor.

"Oh, it sounds stupid I know," she said her tears flowing again. "For so long he was the only friend I had; he was the only one who didn't desert me and turn against me…"

"It doesn't sound any more stupid than my whole life," I said honestly. "We live however we can and if makes your life that little bit better then it is important."

"Your life isn't stupid," she suddenly replied. "Different yes, but in no way stupid."

"Come on lets see what we can rescue and get out of here, you never know they may be back," I told her and made my way through to the living room to strip the other would be assailants of their goodies. In the pocket of one, I found a ring, a bracelet, earrings and a necklace. I walked back into the bedroom to find Judy on her hands and knees searching through the wreckage that was her clothes.

"Are these what you're looking for?" I asked holding out my hand.

"Oh yes, oh yes, oh thank you," she said throwing her arms around me and kissing me. I backed away, trembling at her reaction and dropped the items on the bed.

"Oh I'm so sorry," she said backing away. "I forgot for a moment…"

"Don't worry about it," I said backing out of the room and making my way to the door. In the cool night air, I took deep breaths bringing myself back under control.

"Are you ok there Mr Harper?" Harry asked from the bottom of the stairs.

"Not really," I gasped. "You know my problems…"

"How's about you sitting in the car while I help the lady?" he asked backing away from the bottom of the ladder to let me past without having to be too near him.

"Thanks Harry," I gasped as I ran to the car. He understood some of what I went through, he understood some of my problems.

"No problem Mr Harper," he said as he made his way up the stairs. I reached the comparative safety of the car and sat there trying to bring my emotions back under control. I think it had been partly the surprise, the embrace and the kiss had not been that bad when I looked at it clinically. It was the fact that she did it suddenly and without warning that made me flip completely. Eventually though Harry and Judy returned with numerous bags and amongst other things a potted plant. As Judy got in, I got out.

"Take her home can you Harry?" I asked and passed him a couple of notes from my newly acquired stash.

"That isn't necessary when you're doin' a job like this," Harry said trying to pass back the money.

"No, keep it. Better in your pocket than the pocket of its previous owner," I said and turned to Judy who was looking at me. "Don't worry I'm walking home."

"I though you had problems being outside," she said uncertainly.

"I do, but that means others will have problems too," I said with a smile and began walking.

"Billy…" she shouted after me, I turned to look back at her.

"Be careful," she said.

"I will," I promised. "I won't be too late tonight. I just need a little exercise."


I had watched the breakdown of society from within my self-made prison cell. Things had looked so good at the beginning of the Millennium, from there on things had just fallen apart. It wasn't just one single issue that had caused it, the terrorism and wars of the first decade of the twenty-first century and the great stock market crashes had added to it. The introduction of the Euro and abolition of the Pound had also had its impact, bringing many to the brink of poverty and over into the world of crime. Laws and policing proved ineffective and those with the money moved away from areas that fell into lawlessness. The police now spent most of their time and resources protecting 'the good people' and left the dregs of society to fend for themselves. The fundamentalist nature of the recent governments had widened this divide, classifying many groups as sinful or beyond redemption. Surprisingly this had allowed many of the new fads or fashions such as the Ambiboys the freedom to exist. They were beyond salvation so they were left alone. It also threw people like Judy into a grey area of the law. She could get some help for her gender problems, a psychiatrist would have told her to be a man and face up to the world around her as a man, but sex change therapies and treatments were, like abortions, a criminal offence. It was looked on legally as the mutilation of a person…and it rated a long prison sentence.

Everything had conspired to throw lots of people with very little into areas where the police didn't do much.

Crime and the gangs had flourished in this environment.

From inside my home I had watched it happen. I watched initiative after initiative fail and gradually the decent god fearing people of the country switched off to it. As long as they didn't see the beggars, whores and criminals, they were happy. They didn't mind the whores getting robbed and murdered as long as their car wasn't broken into…

Some people were doing their best to survive in the shit…the whores and the taxis on the whole were honest people just trying to earn a living. Some streets had formed their own protection schemes to clear the filth off their streets and some of these had come up against the might of the gangs. I fought on the barricades over the three nights of rioting on the Antrobus Estate; it was there that I first met Harry. The gangs closed the periphery of the estate to the police, by starting their own riots. While these riots were going on and the police were diverted, they had the intent of sorting out the streets that had driven out the gangs. They found a resistance they hadn't expected; in those four streets of perhaps four hundred men women and children, there was a spirit. In some ways I had something to do with that, it was the stories of the stranger who helped people that drove them.

I couldn't leave them to fight alone.

They won; they kept their independence from the gangs though they still needed patrols of a day and night. The gangs shrugged off this humiliation and tightened their grip on the rest of the city. Extortion, drugs, prostitution and other forms of easily controlled organised crime were rampant. The thing that really annoyed me was the people profiting from this, were the people like Frank. People who to all outward appearances were decent people living decent lives far away from the misery they caused.

I could do little against the Frank's of this world…but I could hurt the rest of the scum.

Walk around enough in this city and you will see crime or become a victim of crime. After my house was broken into, I found a thrill unlike anything I had experienced before. After that man tried to make me a victim I decided I would never be the victim again nor would I walk on by as other were.

I took to the streets and found my calling in life…my calling was to be a vicious sociopath. My gift was the ability to inflict damage on people and enjoy it afterwards…without remorse.

I know it is wrong…

I know I am guilty of many things…

But I do enjoy it so much…

Quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, opere et omissione…

Mea culpa…


I made my way home, fulfilled and glowing with the memories of the violence I had inflicted on others. I only know sexual thrill from my own solo experimentation but I could recognise the similarities in the sensations I felt. It was not the explosive release of an orgasm, except for the violence, but the release I gained from the fears that controlled my life was of an almost sexual nature. It gave me high of an intense nature for a short time…I could live with the memories of this for a while, but at some point I would take to the streets again…I would have to hunt again.

I would have to feed…

Tonight though, with the incident at Judy's flat, I was satisfied with just a little extra money in my pocket. I didn't need to do one of my usual patrols, in one way I was eager to be back home and not because of the fear. I wanted to get home hoping that she would still be awake. I was wishing for her company.

I was longing for something that I had avoided all my life…I wanted people around me…

I wanted human contact…


Judy was sort of awake, when I arrived home. It wasn't yet three still far too early for me to consider sleeping. She actually seemed disappointed to see me for a second or two.

"Sorry," she apologised as I sat down. "I'll get upstairs to bed."

"You don't have to," I quickly replied, before she had a chance to stand up.

"Thanks," she said with a smile, "I've been watching this since it started, I wouldn't mind seeing it through."

I glanced at the television for a second and Warren Beatty looked back at me.

"Do you want a drink?" I asked heading through to the kitchen.

"No thanks, I'm heading to bed once this is finished, I though you said you wouldn't be late," she shouted back.

"This isn't late," I protested. "Late is after five, late is when people are heading to work as I come in."

"Oh," she said and was silent. I had successfully killed the conversation.

"What are you watching?" I asked trying to initiate further interaction.

"Bonnie and Clyde, rather topical considering the present situation," she replied with a smile.

"No, they were nasty bastards," I replied. "Predators who were merciless in their rampage…"

"You have got to admit it was romantic though," Judy said with a wistful smile.

"Yes the film version is," I admitted. "I like the ending though, that has a little bite to it."

"You would," she said with a disgusted tone.

"Happy endings are a rarity in life you just have to grab whatever you can on the way through."

"Is that what you do, sort of half of Butch and Sundance doing your own thing in your own way?" she asked gently.

"Nah, again in the film they picked the weak targets. If they had some real balls they should have taken on Lefors," I replied.

"Lefors?" she asked.

"The one who drove them out of America and down to Bolivia. You remember 'Who are those guys?'"

"I think so, just before they jump into the river," she said uncertainly. She obviously hadn't spent as much of her life watching old films as I had.

"Another film with a cracking ending, 'Good, for a moment there I thought we were in trouble…'," I quoted.

"It's not too bad, at least you don't see them die," she conceded. "Don't you like anything that has a happy ending?"

"Strictly Ballroom," I said with a smile and she giggled.

"A romantic at heart then," she said with a warm smile.

"Not really, it's just a bit of fun," I admitted. "I prefer the more meaty films, Road to Perdition, Saving Private Ryan, Glory; things like that."

"Sad films then," she said.

"I suppose so, but in every one of those it isn't a case of them being sad films. They give everything for what they believe, no matter if that cause is right or wrong. They have the conviction of their beliefs and though they die they go out in style," I explained.

Judy considered this for a moment. "Butch and Sundance I can live with, as for the others they all make me cry as this one will, but there is nothing up with a good cry."

"Oh…" I said.

"Yes, you have to have a good cry occasionally or you would go mad," she told me confidently.

I didn't reply, she watched the end of the film, had her cry and went up to bed.

Maybe she is right, I don't cry and I am mad…


I didn't sleep well at all; I kept waking up and dozing back off. The sound of her footsteps on the stairs woke me again around nine in the morning. I didn't close my eyes again but listened to her moving around in the kitchen.

"Oh you're awake, sorry I didn't mean to wake you," she said as she peeped around the door.

"You didn't," I said with a smile.

"How did it go last night?" she asked from the kitchen.

"A couple of incidents after I left you, nothing particularly interesting though," I admitted. "I couldn't have covered more than ten miles."

"You walked ten miles," she said with some surprise. "I don't think I have walked more than a couple of miles in my life."

"Most nights I will do somewhere between fifteen and twenty five, depending on which route I take. I have been known to do thirty in the winter," I replied as she came in with two cups of coffee. She carefully handed me mine without letting herself touch me; in one way I was disappointed.

"Why don't you get a car?" she asked.

"In a car you are insulated from the world around you, that's what went wrong with the police they lost touch with the people. Also, in a car you are more noticeable to people like the police, on foot I am another nobody amongst the nameless and faceless masses."

"Harry doesn't seem to think you're a nobody," she said with a smile as she sat down opposite me.

"Harry talks too much," I said with some disapproval in my voice.

"He says that you saved his life, amongst others, on that first night."

"It was a toe-rag with a petrol bomb, I doubt he could have hit anything anyway," I said dismissing it.

"But you stopped him, you warned them what was happening…you even organised them…"

"Don't start making me into a hero," I said. "I am in this for the money."

I couldn't admit to her the kicks I got from my hobby.

"Sure you are," she said with a strange little grin. I realised I was looking at her legs beneath the nightdress that came to the middle of her thighs and wondered if I had been caught out. I found myself unsure as to where to look; the flaking purple nail polish on her toes caught my attention for a second as did her breasts underneath the thin cotton with a print of a teddy bear on. I moved my gaze up to her face and found myself uncomfortable with looking her in the eyes, the old terrors started re-emerging and I concentrated on my coffee.

"Are you hungry?" she asked as she got up.

"Yes," I whispered.

"Let me see what I can do for you," she said with a smile that in one way I am sure was about my discomfort.

"Will you come through and keep me company while I cook?" she asked from the kitchen after a minute or two.

"Yes," I said after a second or twos contemplation.

The kitchen was filled with the sound of her cooking, I was so used to this house being filled with silence that itself was different, with Judy there too, long legs, curves, a whiff of perfume and that smile it was engrossing.

"You seem a lot happier today," I said giving a try at initiating a conversation.

"Oh yes," she said with a grin. "I have Mr Ed back and I have my hormones again. I always feel like shit if I miss some, I tend to be a right bitch."

"Mr Ed wasn't he a horse?" I asked unsure about touching comments about her being a 'bitch'.

"He looks rather like Meatloaf in The Rocky Horror Show, so he's EDDIE," she finished with a squeal. I sat there unsure of what exactly was going on.

"As soon as you want me out of the way, when you need me to leave, don't hesitate to say," she said her face taking on a serious look.

"I don't think I want you to leave," I said cautiously.

"Harry said you have problems with people," she replied.

"I do," I admitted. "But it is people in general I have problems with, people plural. It is the individuals that seem to have the problems with me."

"I can understand that," she said putting a plate in front of me. "You are hard work at times Billy."

"You saved some of your clothes then," I said indicating the nightdress she wore.

"Not many," she said sadly and I realised I was risking tears again.

"Get what you need," I said reaching into my pocket and pulling out a roll of bills. I had some good luck over the past few days and it was rare that I had this sort of money on me; while I had it, it might as well be used. Most of what I had on me at the moment belonged to Frank originally…it seemed only fitting that Judy used it.

"Oh Billy," she said breaking down in tears again, much to my surprise. I sat there as she wept, considering everything I had done, trying to see where I had gone wrong. I couldn't see where I had gone wrong, so I picked up my plate and walked back through to the living room.

"Billy…" she said cautiously from the living room door. "Billy, I'm sorry I upset you."

"No, I'm sorry I upset you," I said. "I thought you might stop crying if I left you alone and got out of your way."

"You mean you didn't leave because I had upset you?" she asked.

"No, because I had done something wrong, I had made you cry."

"Billy Harper, oh Billy Harper," she said.

"Just Billy," I said. "Harry will only call me Mr Harper, no matter how many times I have asked him. The only other people who use Harper are either telling me what to do, how to live or saying I owe them money."

"Oh Billy," she said coming across to my chair and kneeling down without a thought of what she might be kneeling in. She reached out slowly and gently towards my hand with her own, watching my eyes for my refusal. I kept my panic to a minimum and let her take my hand. She lifted it up to her face and rubbed it against her cheek for a moment or two before kissing it. I was surprised by how soft her skin was and how much higher than my own her body temperature seemed to be. "Billy I was crying because I have never met anyone as kind as you before, I was happy."

"Yes, I have read about that," I said after a moments thought.

"I promise not to go mad, I won't spend too much," she said. I let my fingertips explore her face a little, wiping away the tears and gently touching the bruised areas.

"Judy," I said lifting her chin up so that she was looking at me. "It is only money, as money it is worthless. Only when it is used, does it have any value and if it is used to make you happy then it suddenly becomes priceless. Get what you need and what you want, if you need more say, if you come back with too much on you I will be sad."

"Oh Billy," she said clasping my hand tightly to her cheek and starting to cry again. I carefully put my plate down on a pile of books and with the hand that had been holding my breakfast gently stroked her hair. She looked at me with those sad eyes for a long time.

"Our breakfasts are getting cold," I said.

"Oh Billy," she said giggling. "You're just impossible."

"Sorry," I said.

"No, no, no. Do I have to explain everything to you?" she asked.

"Probably," I admitted. "I'm not very good with people…I don't tend to play well with others."

"Will you come back to the kitchen so we can eat together?" she asked gently. "For me…"

"Yes," I said, realising that I wasn't going to be able to say no without risking more tears and despite the fear that had tight hold of me, I didn't want to say no.




© 2003 by Hypatia. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, and compilation design) may be printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without the express written consent of StorySite and the copyright holder.