Bryant looked toward the jumble of outsized apartment buildings being
constructed at the edge of the Thames, the yellow steel cranes clustered
around them like praying mantises. After so many years in the service,
he was quick to sense approaching change. Another wave of executives was
colonizing the riverbank, creating a new underclass. He wondered how
soon the invasion would provoke fresh forms of violence.
It's metabolizing quickly, he thought. How long before it becomes
unrecognizable? How can I hope to understand it for much longer?
He turned up his collar as he passed the urban surfers of the South Bank
car park. The clatter of their skateboards bounced between the concrete
arcades like the noise of shunting trains. Kids always found ways to
occupy ignored spaces. He emerged into daylight and paced at the river
rail, studying the evolving skyline of the Thames.
Hardly anything left of my childhood memories.
The Savoy, St Paul's, the spire of St Bride's, a few low monuments
palisaded by international banks as anonymous as cigarette boxes. A city
in an apostasy of everything but money. Even the river had altered. The
ships and barges, no longer commercially viable, had left behind an
aorta of bare brown water. Eventually only vast hotels, identical from
Chicago to Bangkok, would remain.
As ever, Londoners had found ways of cutting grand new structures down
to human size. The 'Blade of Light' connecting St Paul's to Bankside had
become known as 'The Wobbly Bridge'. The Swiss Re building had been
rechristened 'The Erotic Gherkin' long before its completion. Names were
a sign of affection, to be worn like guild colours. The old marks of
London, from its financial institutes to its market buildings, were
fading from view like vanishing coats of arms.
I've been walking this route for over half a century, Bryant thought,
stepping aside for a wave of shrieking children. A Mexican band was
playing in the foyer of the Festival Hall. People were queueing for an
art event involving tall multi-coloured flags. He remembered walking
through the black empty streets after the War, and feeling completely
alone. It was hard to feel alone here now. He missed the sensation.
His fingers closed around the keys in his pocket. Sergeant Longbright
had mentioned she might go into the unit today in order to get things
straight for Monday. He preferred to work out of hours, when the
phonelines were closed and he could leave papers all over the floor
without complaint. He could join Janice, collect his thoughts, smoke his
pipe, prepare himself for a fresh start. For a woman who had recently
retired, Longbright showed an alarming enthusiasm for returning.
For the past month, the Peculiar Crimes Unitor rather, what was left of
ithad been shunted into two sloping rooms above Sid Smith's barbershop
in Camden Town, while its old offices were being rebuilt. The relocation
had been forced by a disastrous explosion that had destroyed the
interior of the building and years of case files. The ensuing chaos had
badly affected Bryant, whose office was virtually his home. He had lost
his entire collection of rare books and artefacts in the blaze. Worse
than that, he had yet to recover his dignity. The sheer embarrassment of
being presumed dead! At least they had uncovered a long-dormant
murderer, even if their methodology had proven highly abnormal.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...