My life has been destroyed twice because of Timothy Watkins – not his real name of course. First time when he disappeared – 17th July 1997; second when I saw him on TV – 9th August 2011.
But it’s not his fault. That’s what I’ve told myself. It’s the secret state, the British Stasi if you like. See, he was my all, my everything – but you can’t retaliate against the state, can you, so that’s what do you do – when you’re up against the monolithic state, you have to find an individual to blame, to give you answers. That’s Tim. That’s what I’m going to do now: truth or consequences, Tim, only this ain’t no playground; this is real.
You’d do the same.
Let me wind back, give you the context. Then you decide what I should do.
Back in 1991 I was in a bad place. I’d had an abusive childhood; not the worst I suppose, not like mum had it, but enough beatings and bullying to want out as soon as possible. School was a disaster but I followed my sister to Bristol and found work in St Paul’s, a chicken shop.
Senna and me, we looked out for each other, Big Sis and her shadow. When Clyde came on the scene and Senna took up with him, it all seem great. We had some cash, he was respected, drove a nice car. We got a better flat, changed jobs and I was soon running three of his fast food shops. Loads of locals and students, a good vibe.
One day, I’d have been 20 by then, this tall white guy comes in, buys some chips and chats me up. Real confident he was, not like most of the guys I knew. Cheeky, you know, and nice, nice eyes. Didn’t stare at my tits and make it plain what he was after. After that he came back regular, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Told me he was Tim, living in Redland, working in the building trade. We had a bit of chat. I teased him about his shoes – stupid big things for a guy who was five ten at most.
On Fridays we did the clubs, took some E and kept going pretty much all night. Drugs were pretty common around us though I hated smoking and had seen what heroin and crack could do so stuck to the occasional tab. We were in The Noise House when Tim comes up to me and hands me a Bud – I only drink Bud in the clubs. I told him he was a prick if he thought I’d take it. He looked blank so I explained about date rape drugs. He did look like it had never occurred to him. Anyway, he took me to the bar and got another, let me pop the cap.
One thing and another, he didn’t need no date rape drug that night.
Ok, roll forward maybe a year, he and I are in this flat. He’s working on something down the docks, getting to join the crowd in St Paul’s. Clyde’s a suspicious guy, don’t like strangers but Tim does him some favours, fixing stuff up. He’s great at all that. So gradually Clyde starts using him more and more.
Just a word on Clyde. He’s big, is Clyde and nice enough but, shit, when he’s mad go hide. He comes from up north somewhere – he had family locally but he had this accent, Liverpool or something. He had a lot of business going on. Did I know it involved drugs? Yes. Durrh. Everyone was involved in drugs back then, in that neck of the woods. Not kiddies, mind. He had standards had Clyde.
Well Tim becomes part of his team. We did ok, too. I was kind of pressing him about getting wed, you know, put a ring on it, yeah and he kept saying wait a little longer. I did talk about a kid, but he didn’t want any, not then he said. I believed him, didn’t I?
17th July 1997. Hot, sweaty. I couldn’t get comfortable so caught a bus to the shops. Air conditioned, you know? There was a sale on and I saw these boots, ones I knew Tim’d love. I was so pleased with them, even though they were huge. I was in Dingles store when the whispers went round, shootings and fights with the cops, up in St Paul’s.
You know, don’t you, when things are wrong? When I got back it was a mess. Clyde was shot and arrested as were a whole lot of others. My place was ransacked and I was taken in and given a right going over. It took me until the next day to find out Senna was dead. My beloved sister, snuffed out in the cross fire, going to Clyde. Looking back I had an easy time. Didn’t twig why until later.
And Tim was missing, gone. I thought at first he’d bought it too but no one knew anything. Some of the gang had got away, I heard, so I guessed he was one of them. I thought he’d be in contact but I heard nothing, saw nothing, received nothing.
After a while – I was still in a shit place – I went to the cops. They did eff all. Well laugh, but no help. I knew they would, but I had to try. I loved him, I knew he’d not just leave so I reasoned he’d got hurt, some of the boys got him away and he’d died, probably alone. They’d have not wanted to tell anyone, in case it led to them so they just dumped the body. Off the docks at Avonmouth, probably.
You can grieve when you know someone’s dead. Go to their grave and stuff. But you cling to hope if you don’t know for real sure. I wept for Senna but Tim. It just gnawed away. I left town, after a few months. Ended up outside Gloucester. When I was packing I found those stupid boots. I was half-minded to give them to charity but I’d seen this tree, in the park I walked through to get to work. People had thrown pairs of shoes there, sort of like a memorial. I tossed Tim’s. Took me four goes before they caught.
20 years have gone and it would be bollocks to say I think about him every day but often enough. Sure I’ve had boyfriends. I’ve got a kid now but nothing – the kid apart – sticks.
Then, them riots in August and I saw Tim on the TV – some old geezer was attacked and he pulled the yobs off. I knew… see it’s like this; I’ve been around crime all my life, and so I’ve been around cops. And he was a cop. I just knew. Working out West London way.
I was sick, really really sick when that hit me. I went a bit mental for a while, but after a few days I took myself off to the Births Marriages and Deaths register. I had this idea… it didn’t take long. Timothy Watkins, born 7th September 1964, Manchester was a real person, only he died aged seven. He had a false effing I.D.
I suppose it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together. He was a police plant, a grass. I was to give him credibility. He hooked up with me and through me he hooked Clyde. Now I ain’t trying to big up Clyde. Turns out he was an evil bastard and I probably turned a blind eye to the signs. But he was good for Senna and she loved him and died for him.
Not like Tim. He suckered me in and drained me. He used me like a piece of clothing; like a pair of boots, worn until they’ve served their purpose and tossed away without so much as a thank you.
He destroyed my life. Or rather the government did. You see I’m 41 now and I’m past being pushed about. I understand how things work. I went to my MP. Worth a try I thought. Turns out there are a lot of us, women who are callously used, casualties of fighting serious crime. Like people killed in friendly fire. You can’t fess up, can you? Say a goodbye and sorry for the mess. You just go, retake your identity, don’t you? Something has to break and it sure ain’t the cops or the state.
Charlie Price, my MP, is working hard. He says I’ll get an apology and some money. That’s how our system works. If you’ve been hurt they give you cash and offer you counselling. What they can’t do is not do it in the first place. Charlie wittered on about putting in place safeguards but what do I care? What about me?
That’s when I made up my mind. I’d find him, confront him. I knew he’d been in Ealing that night so I watched the Ealing Nick. Didn’t take long. And for someone who’d been undercover, he was shit at spotting a tail.
He lived in Hounslow, with a mousy little blonde and two snotty kids. Had a lush car mind. I wondered if that was from being a cop or what he’d raked in working for Clyde.
And now I’ve found Vince Chappell what do I do? Tell him what I think? Throw acid on him and his family? Shove shit through his letterbox? All I want, really, is a sorry. Not much, is it?
Yesterday I went back to Gloucester and retrieved the boots. I told myself if they’d gone I’d forget him but they were still there. And now I’m standing opposite his front door. Yellowy-Green. Like puss.
I’ve got the boots. And I’ve got a little extra something to concentrate his mind, tucked into the right boot, snub-nosed beauty. Something to make him understand it really is truth or consequences.