A Thousand Alibis [SHORT STORY]


Simple job - find him and kill him.

Doug didn’t ask the questions of why. He had a job to do. The job came directly from The Man. The Man gave the direct orders usually. Doug was special. A special case for The Man.  

Doug saw The Man with his own two eyes and nobody ever sees The Man. The Man gave Doug a cigarette. Put it right in between his lips and pulled out a match and said just a few words.

“His name is George. He should be at the festival. He runs a food stall – George’s Caribbean food.” The Man said with a smile.

“I know you’ll take care of it.” The Man said.

That was all The Man said to Doug. But that was a direct order. That was all he had to say.

 The Man didn’t give his name. Nobody knew his name. Did The Man even know his own name?

The Man didn’t explicitly tell you to commit a crime. He just told you where to be and at what time and that was that. The crime commenced. The Man ran London – top to bottom, nothing got passed The Man.

***

Douglas just had to go to the festival and find George.

Easier said than done when you’ve got a thousand people all laughing and dancing around you of course.

The festival would have either a thousand witnesses or a thousand alibis.

Doug held out the leaflet The Man had placed into his palm.

GEORGE’S CARIBBEAN FOOD

A jovial bald black man with a large, wide beautiful smile took up the left side; a silhouette of a steel drum took up the right side. Across the middle were pictures of Jamaican Patties and burgers.

Doug stared into George’s eyes. He liked him. This was a pleasant man. A hard working immigrant, business man that had probably fallen on hard times and had to borrow from the wrong people – it wasn’t in Doug’s nature to even question how George fell in. He just knew that he fell.  

But that aside; Douglas took an immediate liking to George just from the leaflet.

***

George knew they wouldn’t get him at the festival. Not here. It was his busiest time of the year; a chance to make some money back and get right with The Man.

Just let me get down and make some money and I will put it right. Let me work the festival – George thought.

They wouldn’t do it here? These guys are brave but they’re not that brave.

No, I am just going to work the festival and get some money together. I will call the man tomorrow.

Get things right.

And so George put on a brave front and set up shot. Right in the middle of the street. Right there for everyone to see. It was broad daylight. It was a public place. It had a thousand eyes on him. A thousand witnesses. George felt safe.

He got out there early at eight am. He set the grill up. He had his bags of coal. He prepared the cases of cooling beer and a big fucking sign:

GEORGE’S CARIBBEAN FOOD.

***

Doug rode the tube in. He was turning the leaflet over in his hands continuously. The sides of it had become all frayed and worn from constant touching.

The Man had given Doug his first job. Doug was only sixteen and this was it – take care of it.

It was almost rites of passage for Doug. Take care of it. Take care of George and his beautiful big smile. Doug almost felt sad – melancholy.

The train gently approached the station. Douglas’ mind played games – whatifs:

Where would he be without The Man? Still on the street. Still homeless. Still taking food from rubbish bins. No, this was it. Pay it back to The Man. Take care of it.

Out on the street he did a couple of circles and let the festival crowd build up before he’d stake his claim. He saw the stall and smiling George on three different rotations.

You should have stayed home George.

What could The Man do then? If Doug came back and said; well he wasn’t there today. Surely, they’d just write that one off and get someone else to do it on another day. Did it have to be today? Maybe George could get square in that time. But you never got square with The Man. The Man didn’t do square.

You should have fucking stayed home George.

As it got to midday Doug decided to make his move. He approached George’s stall.

“Can I help you young man?” George said.

“Burger. Plain. No cheese. No onions.” Doug said.

George flipped up a patty and begun to put it in a bun.

“No. I said plain. A burger.” Doug said.

“Ok. Just a burger.” George said and presented just that.

A plain burger on a plate. Doug handed over a ten pound note and as George began to dig out for some change and Doug held up a hand.

“How much you owe The Man?” Doug asked.  

George went white. From black to white. His face had been drained of its colour. Just the words The Man had placed George into a state of shock.

They’re doing it here. They’re doing it today. They’re not giving me a chance. They’re not even giving me today to make it back – George thought.

“Excuse me?” George said.

“How much you even owe The Man. What you in for? They don’t even tell me you see. I am just curious.” Doug said.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” George said.

“Are you not George?” Doug said.

“No. Who is George?” George said.

Doug pointed at the sign to the right of the ketchup that said – GEORGE’S CARIBBEAN FOOD.

In a rapid motion George flipped up the entire stall. The grill fell atop of a queue of hungry customers and singed the side of Doug’s hand. A crowd of people then fell back on top of one another and George set off running, just running.

Doug wasn’t fazed. First hit was hardly going to be that easy. He grabbed the contents of George’s cash register and stuffed them into his pocket and then he set off walking after George’s run.

***

George stayed within the crowd. Constantly looking behind him. He dodged through the crowd. He knocked over other partygoers. He barged into parade floats and costumed revellers alike.

He was frantically searching for a man in blue – a copper.

But there wasn’t one. Here he was in the middle of a thousand people in one of the biggest festivals in Europe and he couldn’t find a police officer anywhere.

He ran through the crowd just trying to find somewhere, someone, and something which could lead to his escape. A tube station entrance, a policeman, a taxi – something.

George’s eyes darted in front, behind, to the sides – at everywhere and everything. But he didn’t stop to dwell on his surroundings. George was running for his life.  

***

Doug had about twenty years on George. Doug was younger, about five stone slimmer and physically fitter. Fat George sprinting off in a northern direction didn’t bother him. The time for subtlety was over.

Although, Doug had been far from subtle on his approach. He’d have to learn for next time. The whole fear and intimidation bullshit would have to go next time. It couldn’t be used. As much as Doug loved seeing the sheer panic emerging from George’s face – looked what happened. He had to take the sadism out. Save that for his free time.

***

George finally found a police officer. Just one. The officer was drinking a coke and eating a hot dog – taking a break. George came running over and grabbed the man by his collar.

“Officer you got to help me. Somebody here is trying to kill me.” George shouted.

“Excuse me.” The officer said.

“There’s somebody here trying to kill me.” George said.

“Right. Let’s get you to my squad car and we can talk a bit more about this. Get you calmed down.” The officer said.

George was saved. He knew that the officer thought he was crazy but it didn’t bother him. He was saved. Taken firmly into the arms of the law and saved.

George would be taken somewhere safe; he could give some bullshit statement about some maniac that hated burger stalls and give him time to get out of here and get square with The Man.

Why did you have to set up your stall today? You knew this would happen!

They walked closely together and began to get off the path towards the clearing where a whole squad of officers sat.

George fell down the second he felt his skin bursting open and the knife scuttled up into god knows what organs lay peacefully at that side of his body, as he felt the organs explode from inside his body. He fell into a heap on the floor shivering for a moment as the blood pooled out before him soaking into his face.

The officer crouched down to see what happened. George lay still. George’s mouth and eyes were open – almost aghast – George had died.  

***

“What’s your name?” Doug said to the pretty young girl.

Jessica sat alone on the steps to someone’s front porch. Out the way of the chaos.

“Me?” Jessica said; staring up with tears in her eyes.

“You’re going to catch nasty sunburn sitting here young lady.” Doug said.

“I was... I had a horrible fight with my friends.” Jessica said wiping the tears away.

“Well, I can be a friend to you.” Doug said, handing her a can of Coke and a Mars bar taken out from his bag.

“Thanks.” She said with a hopeful, optimistic and beautiful smile.

“I tell you. We all need a friend in this world – all of us. I’m Doug.” Doug said and he held out both his hands to clasp hers within his fingers.

“Jessica.” She said consenting to the handshake.

“What about we leave all this chaos and go see a movie?” Doug said.

“Really?” Jessica said.

“Looks to me like you could do with it.” Doug said, offering his warmest smile.

As they got up to leave, a policeman came hurtling towards Doug and threw him down on the ground. About four other police followed after.

“That’s him. That’s the one.” The policeman said.

“The one what officer?” Doug said.

“I saw you stick it to that man and throw the knife on the floor.” The policeman said.

“Officer. You are confused. I have been here with Jessica this entire time. Haven’t I Jessica?” Doug said.

“He’s been with me.” Jessica said defiantly.

Doug held up his hands.  His palms outwards in greeting towards the police.

“What are you doing Brown? This lad is just a boy. Look at him. He’s not even bloody.” Another officer interjected.

“Well it just looked like him is all...” Officer Brown said.

“Can I go sir?” Doug asked, tears welling up in his eyes.

Jessica grabbed Doug’s hand and gently pulled him away from the police. From a thousand witnesses, Doug had found his alibi.



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