Terror filled Charlie ‘The Dip’ Foster’s world.
Charlie had earned his nickname by being a great ‘dipper’—a pickpocket—as a kid. From there he’d graduated with honours to GBH and armed robbery; he’d worked his way up the ranks of the Delaney mob, one of London’s finest, until he was Redmond Delaney’s right-hand man. So he was no fool. He knew he was up shit creek.
Some heavy faces had brought him to Smithfield meat market and he knew he was in it up to his neck.
They were Carter boys.
For the Cockney Carters and the Irish incomers, the Delaneys, the streets of the East End were a war zone. Always had been, always would be.
They’d snatched him; worked him over. Taken him by surprise.
He’d been at his girl’s twenty-first birthday party, key of the door. They’d been bopping the night away; they’d got all amorous and gone outside for a bit of how’s-yer-father, and he’d been caught with his trousers down—literally.
So now here he was.
They’d laughed as they put him up here. Hung him up by his jacket collar from a hook while joking about meat being well hung. Then they’d left him here while they stood around chatting. Killing time. Waiting for something , he thought. Or somebody.
Charlie was a tough bastard but right now he was scared shitless.
It was the noise. The awful noise of that thing coming down on the wooden block.
Charlie’s brain was agile, quick, like his fingers—you didn’t get well up in the mobs without having a few brain cells, but now his mind kept faltering. That noise.
That thing on wood.
Chopping through flesh and bone.
He tried again to get his hands free from their bindings, but failed. He slumped, exhausted.
He dangled there, limp, fearful, worn out. And the smell in here. The stink.
The smell of meat, of death. Pigs’ heads surrounded him, the skin flayed from the flesh. Their eyes stared at him blindly. Sides of beef nudged him, smearing him with blood.
The cleaver came down again and a trotter thumped on to the floor.
Oh God help me , he thought.
He knew he’d done bad things. Hurt people. Robbed people. Bad things. So perhaps God wasn’t listening.
The butcher with the gentle eyes and the bloodstained apron went on chopping patiently away at the meat.
Dead meat , thought Charlie. That’s what I am.
Sweat was dripping from his chin on to the concrete floor, even though it was cold in here.
Gonna die right here , thought Charlie.
But now the boys who had been slumped around, chatting, straightened up and fell silent.
Something was happening.
Someone had arrived.
Now he could see through his stinging eyes that there was a woman approaching. A tall woman, dressed in black.
Dark straight hair falling on to her shoulders and dark green eyes that were just this side of crazy. A real looker. Black coat. Black leather gloves. Like the angel of death.
There was a heavy on either side of her. Known faces. Jimmy Bond, he
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