Authors: David Thorne
David Thorne has worked as a writer for the last 15 years, originally in advertising, then in television and radio comedy. He has written material for many comedians, including Jimmy Carr, Alan Carr, David Mitchell and Bob Mortimer. He was a major contributor to the BAFTA-winning
Armstrong and Miller Show
, and has worked on shows including
Facejacker, Harry and Paul
Alan Carr: Chatty Man. Nothing Sacred
is his second novel in the Daniel Connell series.
Also by David Thorne
East of Innocence
First published in trade paperback in Great Britain in 2015 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.
Copyright Â© David Cadji-Newby, 2015
The moral right of David Cadji-Newby to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination.
Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities, is entirely coincidental.
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A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Trade paperback ISBN: 978 1 78239 363 4
E-book ISBN: 978 1 78239 364 1
Printed in Great Britain.
An imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd
26â27 Boswell Street
GABE AND I
are coming back from the coast, Gabe driving too fast through flat country under a low blank grey sky, heading for the arterial road that will take us home. Gabe is telling me once again about the size of the shark he pulled out of the North Sea three hours ago, the shark writhing and bucking, Gabe managing to control it in both arms on the rocking deck long enough to give a proud predatory grin to the photographer, which was me. I let him boast as the road rushes past, branches slapping the wing mirror next to me as he cheats blind bends; it is good to see him happy, living in the moment, relishing a battle that he can still fight.
We have been out on the boat of Harry Rafferty, a man who I have known for years, ever since I was a child. Our fathers had been friends, both of them part-time villains and full-time drinkers; we had been their neglected sons. Together we spent hours half-heartedly kicking a football around weed-ridden pub car parks, waiting for our fathers to emerge, desultorily participating in the fiction that this was normal, that this was what all children did on Saturday nights; that we were in no way different.
For a while Harry went the same way as his father, running with a neighbourhood crew and nearly going down for the firebombing of a local nightclub in which a young woman was terribly burned. But, like me, he eventually managed to escape the gravitational pull of his suburban Essex upbringing and connections, moving to the coast where he now runs an apparently legitimate charter fishing business.
He has one of the fastest boats coming off the Thames Estuary, with twin 400 horsepower diesels which he did not waste time pointing out; he told us that they were for reaching the fishing grounds faster, no point fucking about getting to where the sharks were.
âMore time for the punters to get their lines wet,' he said.
âThat right?' I said. Harry wore a battered cotton skipper's cap and a sweatshirt that read
My Boat, My Rules
and a smile that was far harder to read.
âWhy else, Danny?'
âNever taken it to Spain? Over to Holland?'
âWhy'd I do that?' As he said this his eyes crinkled and I could not help but smile back, Gabe chuckling behind me. The man is a rascal. I do not believe for one moment that his boat has never taken on illicit cargo, that it stays in harbour every night there is no moon. But his history is, to some extent, my history and I cannot moralise, even if I am a lawyer by trade. What he does is his business, not mine.
âSo, what are we fishing for?' Gabe asked him.
âSmooth hounds, tope, skate. Bass on lighter tackle. Be a good day out. Trust me.'
âThink we'll catch anything?' I said.
âYour mate, definitely. What I remember of you, Danny son, you couldn't catch fucking clap.'
Going on a fishing trip had been my idea, a way to reconnect with Gabe, my best friend but a man who has not been the same since he was invalided out of Afghanistan, a captain of the Royal Tank Regiment who would never command a platoon again. Some men never find their calling in life; for Gabe, being in the army was the only thing he ever wanted to do and, once in it, I believe that he loved it ardently and unquestioningly. To lose it has been his undoing, a grief he cannot come to terms with.
âBe fun. Day out.'
He frowned, like fun was a dirty word, frivolous, nothing that he would willingly entertain. He looked at me, then shrugged. âSure, all right. Fishing. Whatever, Danny.'
But it was not long after Harry had opened up the engines and the boat was bouncing over grey waves like a pebble thrown by some delinquent giant that Gabe was smiling into the spray, holding tight to the guardrail as we left the Thames Estuary and headed out into the North Sea. Adrenalin is adrenalin, even if it is not being supplied by the British Army, and when he got his first bite, his reel shrieking as a big fish took thirty metres of line on a vicious run, I do not doubt that he was having fun.
It was the last cast of the day that landed Gabe his shark; even Harry, who cultivated a careful air of seen-it-all weariness, could not help but let out an agitated
as he watched the dark outline of the shark arrowing beneath the boat. What Gabe lacks in my blunt strength he makes up for in determination; even fishing off the one leg he didn't leave in Afghanistan, there was no doubt about the eventual winner of the fight. I do not imagine that Gabe has ever given up on anything in his life. And as he held the shark in his arms, I knew with a relieved elation that he was not a lost cause, that he still held the capacity for joy.
He laughed as he struggled to hold the big fish and Harry told him to fuck off, how he'd caught one twice the size off the coast of Ireland, at least twice the size. Then I took his photograph and things, for that one instant, were blameless and entirely good.
Now we are back in his car and Gabe is mocking me for the fish I did manage to catch: several runt-like smooth hounds, like miniature sharks, and a skate which, as Harry told me, broke all kinds of records; unfortunately the wrong kinds. But it is good to see Gabe laugh, good to see him take pleasure in an ordinary day, and I do not mind his ridicule. Anything is better than the cloud he has been under for so many months. My phone rings and I check the number. It is a client, one of my only clients, and I cannot afford to not give him my full professional attention. But I am out of the office and the man calling is Aatif, a Pakistani national whose visa application I am trying to push through. I do not feel like pointing out to him that having an unexplained Somali entrance stamp on his passport is always going to set alarm bells ringing, particularly when there is no exit stamp, and that his application is, essentially, dead in the water. I swear softly, cancel his call.
Gabe looks across at me, amused. âWork?'
âSome guy, wants a visa to stay in the UK. Got a dodgy Somali stamp on his passport.'
Gabe nods. âHome Office aren't having any of it.'
âThey think everyone's an insurgent. Everything's got to be spotless or there's no chance.'
Gabe doesn't answer. His leg was blown off below the knee by an IED as he led his company on patrol through an area infamous for sheltering insurgents, many of who came from across the border from Pakistan. I speak quickly, fill the silence.
âAnyway, looks like he'll be on his way back home soon.'
âThat what you're doing now? Visas?'
âGot to make money somehow.'
âChrist, Danny, you used to be better than that.'
âIt's a living.'
Gabe raises an eyebrow. âIf you say so.'
But I have to admit, Gabe has a point. This kind of work is a world away from the cases I used to take on, back when I worked at one of the City's most respected firms. Still, I cannot help but resent his contempt for the work that I am now doing; at least I am working. Since Gabe left the army he has done, as far as I can tell, nothing at all. Yet he has just bought himself a new car, is having renovations done to the house his parents left him that I could never afford. I wonder what he is living on, where the money is coming from.
I know what Gabe is capable of, and I know that he has a need for adrenalin. One of the reasons that he loved the army so much, I believe, is the buzz that killing, or the possibility of killing, gave him. It is a hard thing to accept of a friend that I grew up with, but he has become something harder and far less civilised than he once was. Now he has money and no visible means of support. Not something noteworthy in Essex, where the origin of people's money is so often murky, the subject of rumour and speculation; but worrying in Gabe, who has always been straight up, honest. What is he involved in? I know that I need to confront him about it, get to the truth; but confronting Gabe about anything is not an act I take lightly.
Gabe shifts in his seat and winces. After a cold day on a boat, fighting a shark, I imagine that his leg must be troubling him and feel a brief stab of guilt for expecting him to cope without consequences.
âHow's the leg?'
âStill missing in action,' says Gabe, eyes front, his tone closing down the discussion before it has even begun. Still, I cannot help myself; I have been excluded from this part of Gabe's life for too long.