Keith and I would often talk about how we’d end it all, had we been able to access the means. Funnily enough, we had a conversation about it just before I was locked in the trunk.
He would hang, but I would opt for carbon monoxide poisoning in the comfort of a four-door sedan. Neither of us would jump off anything on the basis that you could fall before you’re ready. Nor would we opt for a drink and drugs-based exit, it being too much of a hit and miss affair. All that fuzzy nausea and soiled pants. And the vomit! Then it doesn’t quite work out, and suddenly you’ve got some real practical issues to resolve when you come back round. Slashing wrists? I said I could, but Keith said I couldn’t. Same drowning – I think I’d be a natural, but he disagreed.
‘You’re not brave enough,’ he told me, ‘And look how much you dislike suffocating.’
He had a point. It’s all very well until the moment comes, I suppose. Like shouting out, “[insert name of boss] is a retarded ponce,” in a crowded office – only some of us can do it when push comes to shove. I wonder, though, if you took the easy option of the car, would you play songs on your way out? And if so, which ones? On the face of it sad ones seem the most appropriate, but I’m not so sure. Sad songs are all about evoking regret, and death by your own hand, is perhaps the first positive thing you have ever done with your life. You don’t want to bring the mood down. I’d advise going out to a Genesis track, or Led Zep, or something like that, so that you had no regrets about leaving the earth and all its mediocrities. Then you’d just have to hope that you died before having to listen to it all the way through.
Of course, we’d both stared into the face of death and knew what it looked like. The first time was after a bathroom break one morning. I was put in a hood in the corridor. Then, back in the room, the hood was removed and I found myself facing a camera. Keith had been taken downstairs to wait for his turn. There were five of them, one of whom gave me a card to read. Mareva was behind the spotlight which lit the scene. I read it out. It was basically a statement about how naughty I’d been, and how everything was my fault. No big deal. Quite reasonable actually – the sort of thing my father would have supported as the alienable right of anyone normal or reasonable to say about me whenever they pleased.
I was made to kneel forward with my head on the ground. I felt the cold blade of the axe settle on my neck. No, I didn’t. That’s what they say in novels. I sagged under the heavy weight of the blade on my neck. My indignation rose with the act – it was an implement too coarse for job, and would only succeed because of its gross over-size relative to the task in hand. Like the way obese, inadequates are allowed to play rugby.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Mareva twitch his head back to say, ‘Do it.’ The executioner swung back the axe then let it come back down to land a few inches from my head.
I said nothing. I think it disappointed them. The inaccuracy disappointed me more.
‘You see,’ said Mareva, ‘this is the ultimate price. We receive no response – this is what we do. It’s still valuable to us, because we can release the video. Do not think that you or your people can win this game of brinkmanship.’
He twitched his head again and the executioner reset. This was the time for me to confess all; to own up to being Nigel Ackerman, son of billionaire industrialist and global fixer, Sir Aki Ackerman. But I had no words. He should have known by then that I’m no good at thinking on my knees. Besides, I had no confession to give him.
For all I’d tried to tell him the truth, he could not come to terms with the fact that I was here by unlucky coincidence, like someone out of one of Carl Dickie’s novels. Throw a blanket over the pedestrians on Fleet Street and you should get a least a lawyer. Even a bad throw would bags you an accountant. They were almost as unlucky as me. On the day they’d thrown theirs, they landed on someone standing close to a valuable person he resembled, so instead of getting a billionaire’s son as a hostage, they managed to grab someone without a family, job, career, children, purpose, future or worth, and who had recently taken up tramping as a serious occupation. I suppose us unlucky sorts are naturally drawn together somehow.
I think he’d reached the stage then, that he secretly acknowledged that I was not who he hoped I was. Maybe he had, maybe he hadn’t. But by the time he locked me in the trunk for a week, I suspect it was as much driven by a desire to punish, as it was to force a confession from me that was not mine to give. Perhaps it was a last desperate attempt to get me to confess to something useful. Anything.
Yet for all this cruelty, and his desire to salvage a modicum of value from his possession of me, he’d let slip through his fingers the only leverage he’d ever had over me. He separated Keith from me while he had me in his trunk, and he didn’t extract an ounce of value for the threat of doing it.
Keith, the single thing of any value in my life. And now he was gone.