Monday, July 04, 2005

Three

Mike Read was on his way home from the library when he heard yet another shout from a member of the public who'd recognised him.

'Oi, 'Itler mate. Wotcher reading?'

The speaker was a heavily tattooed skinhead who looked even more fucked up than Neil Spencer - who was now on remand for the murder of Peter Powell at the Deathcamp Festival in London two weeks ago. Since then Hitler Rally had hit the front of every national newspaper with headlines such as 'WHERE NOW FOR POWER ELECTRONICS?' (The Guardian), 'THIS SICK CULT THAT THREATENS OUR CHILDREN' (Daily Mail) and 'LOONY SHOCKERS WHO WORSHIP ADOLF' (The Sun). The murder had been great publicity as far as Dave Blunkett was concerned - he was lapping up the media attention. For Mike, the whole thing was a nightmare come true.

He tried to ignore the skin's question and walk a little faster but the boneheaded boot boy walked alongside him, eyeing up the book under his arm. 'Oh yeah. That Willyam Burrers, I heard he was a bit of a lifter, still. Naked lunches and that or sumfink. I know your sort. Yer junky an' queer. Too right'

Mike tried to quicken his pace. Before all this had happened he'd been an arty kind of guy who liked to think he possessed an unusual form of creativity. Now he was some sort of national icon for the disturbed, for true scum, for fuckups and misanthropes of every variety. It was completely doing his heed in and held been referred to a psychiatrist by his GP. He couldn't seem to relax at all - he was constantly anxious and assailed by weird guilt.

Mike managed to get rid of the brutal, bestial boot boy with his Borstal tears and made it home. He grabbed the mornning's mail and hotfooted it to his room before his mum had the chance to give him any more grief. It looked like the usual mix of fan mail from crazies and serial wankers, plus the usual few offers from tabloid journalists. But one letter stood out. Postmarked London SW1, it was neatly addressed in nondescript italic capitals, in blue ink. Opening it, Mike Read found no covering letter just two photocopied sheets. They locked like memos of some sort and his paranoia really started to prickle when he saw the heading 'MOST SECRET' - a phrase which he knew the CIA used for their most confidential documents of all.

Both memos were apparently from 'P.F.Leeds' . One was addressed to 'Paul Condom'. The style was terse and authoritative. 'Your men must refrain from overzealous reactions to events within the power electronics cult' said one line. 'I would remind you of the work which the agency and our associates have put into this project over many years - we will not tolerate undue interference from your uniformed officers into matters which should rightly be left unmentioned'.

The other memo was to 'Philip West, Customs & Excise, Heathrow Airport' and it consisted of one line only. 'Final confirmation: any mail addressed to H.R., N.S.M. etc which emanates from Brazil should reach its addressee post haste and should be in no wise tampered with or doctored'.

Mike's brain reeled with sickening shock and fear. Who was this P.F. Leeds character? He began to think laterally as he slipped into the bad trip dreamworld that his life had suddenly become. 'P.F.' obviously meant 'Pickle Factory'. And he was being handed some 'leads' to help him understand how deep he was getting into this morass of intrigue and subterfuge. All he'd ever wanted to do was be a sort of arty bloke, he thought as the tears began to flow.

He took one last look at the envelope. There was an advertising postmark, very faint, stamped, which he hadn't noticed before. 'COLDSEAL - NO ONE ELSE IS IN THE FRAME BUT YOU' it read. Mike Read held his head in his hand and began to howl as he curled into a foetal ball on his bed. He was still in that position five hours later when the ambulance men finally arrived.