The voices out there are doing me in. They started about an hour ago. If only I could unfreeze my brain for a second, maybe I could think of a way out of this. I can’t stay in here with these stinking horses forever, can I?
One thing I do know is the odds against me must be a thousand to one, and I’m an expert on betting odds.
What went wrong? My plan was perfect wasn’t it? Foolproof. There I was, working at Johnny Overmire’s stables near Goodwood (working for peanuts I might add) and on a warning that my work wasn’t up to scratch.
“I’m sorry Briggs” says Lord Muck Overmire himself “we may have to let you go.”
I could see the way the wind was blowing, all right – give it another couple of weeks and I was going to be out on my ear. So when this Chinese guy turned up at my rented flat last Sunday with a proposition, I had to go for it.
He slipped me a red envelope with my name on the outside – and inside a shed load of cash. And his calling card in Chinese. All I had to do was to nobble Firebrand – the favourite in Thursday’s Derby trial race. So I took the cash, thank you very much my Old China. And the ACP tablets he handed me to do the dirty business with.
But, clever old me had a better idea. The drugs went in the bin and the cash went on Firebrand’s nose to win.
Which he did, at seven to two.
Of course, I didn’t hang around to celebrate. By the time Firebrand was having his post-race rub down, I was in Waterloo collecting my winnings. I wasn’t stupid enough to place the bet at the course, oh no. I had slipped up to London in the week to do it.
I almost needed a wheelbarrow to collect my winnings.
There were a couple of Chinese guys in the betting shop and when that red envelope slipped out of my pocket and the calling card fell out, their eyes nearly popped out of their heads.
“What?” I asked them.
The older one grinned at me through big broken teeth, shook his head and said “Triad”. And they both cracked up laughing. Outside I burned the envelope and card and trod the ashes into the pavement.
I wasn’t so worried then. They might be looking for me down in Sussex, but I was sixty miles away in London. And about to disappear for good.
Ten minutes later I was on the 1805 from Waterloo to Poole in Dorset, but I was heading for the New Forest. I know that part of the country a bit from when I worked near Salisbury races. Hadn’t been back there for ten years or more. I bought a ticket through to Poole, but jumped off at Southampton, to cover my tracks. In case anyone was trying to follow me.
On the train I used my i-phone to book a random B&B at a place called Ashurst. Never heard of it before, but nice and remote, on the edge of the New Forest.
Any Chinese face I saw on the way down from London and there were a few – gave me the spooks, but I felt safe enough. And the bulge in my back pocket was very comforting, I can tell you. I spent the journey thinking of my next move. Probably Spain, I thought. I could do bar work there when my cash ran out. Which wouldn’t be any time soon.
The taxi from Southampton cost me thirty quid, but I could afford it. I kept the cabbie waiting while I checked in to the B&B. I signed the book as Donald Trump. My little joke, but the owner didn’t even raise an eyebrow. Then I went out for a few beers.
I got a taxi back about half eleven. Went to my room and the first thing I saw was the envelope on the floor. A red envelope with my name on it. I must have stood there for five minutes, just looking at it, hoping it would disappear. But it didn’t. Inside was another card with Chinese writing – and a photograph. The photo was of me, getting into the taxi at Southampton station, only the face had been scratched over in red ink.
That’s when I almost soiled my self. I scrambled downstairs and outside. It was pitch dark now. Nobody around, as far as I could tell, so I ran for it, heading into the forest. I didn’t stop running until I found this stall. With these two mangy horses.
And now the voices.
“Mister Trump” they are saying “Come outside now. So nice to see your face again.”
And that other, louder noise, like a road drill. That’s my heart beating.
Did I say a thousand to one? That might be just too generous.