A/N: New story, woop woop! I will be updating Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (CET) until all thirteen chapters are up. Content warnings: alluded violence, alluded kinky sex, on-page (not massively kinky) sex, morally shady characters. Feedback is appreciated. Enjoy.


No one questioned James as he walked past reception, up a couple of stairs and down the corridor. He passed two guys in Jack Wills sweatshirts, one carrying a box loaded with bottles of booze, one a stack of books. Neither spared him a moment's notice. Thank God for self-involved students. When the guys rounded a corner he was alone. He took a quick look around as he walked slowly towards the third door on the left. A big noticeboard on the wall was pinned full of health and safety notices, directions to the nearest student health clinic and advertisements of various parties or political happenings. He hadn't been able to determine whether there was CCTV surveillance on every floor, but for the benefit of the cameras in reception, he was wearing a battered old Yankees baseball cap on his head and a thick scarf wrapped around his neck and chin, ostensibly to protect himself from the wind and rain of the typically English autumn day.

Bumping the lock took him a couple of seconds, and then he stepped inside Marcel Campbell-Smith's student room. He stood with his back to the door for a moment, taking in the space he had just entered. The first thing he noticed (the first thing he always noticed when he entered a room) was the smell. Though it was early afternoon, Marcel's student room still smelled like the night. Not unpleasant, just a bit confined. Like still-warm sheets, used but clean. Nothing an open window wouldn't take care of in a moment. There was also a lingering smell of after-shave, something generically masculine, like wood/leather/tobacco.

The second thing he noticed was that the room looked so much like his old cell in Belmarsh that he almost shuddered. With the exception of the windows (this room didn't have those narrow, escape-preventable panes), the rooms were nearly identical. Perhaps James' old cell had been a little bit larger, actually.

James took a couple of steps into the room and had a good look around. The large notice board above Marcel's desk was full of pictures and papers. Almost photorealistic drawings of what looked like Iron Man making out with Captain America alongside photos of old Greek statues, of groups of friends (so James presumed), a schedule and a wedding invite. James had never met Marcel, but he had Facebooked him prior to this little date, so he could identify him in a few of the photos. He snagged one off the notice board and took a closer look. Two boys and a girl. The middle boy was almost certainly Marcel. He was pale, bare-chested and boyishly slender. He had a long, slim arm around the girl. The rainbow flags and the crowd in the background put them at Pride. Well, now. James put the photo back.

Marcel had a modest selection of books, most of them heavy textbooks on accounting and book-keeping. The one on Marcel's bedside table was a library book with two shirtless men kissing on the cover. There was definitely a theme here.

James opened the closet, revealing a lot of shirts and chinos, neatly hung. The smell of that woodsy after-shave was stronger here. He poked around the shirts a little bit, then closed the closet again. He moved on to the simple bedside table. It had three drawers and James pulled out each one systematically. The top one contained some loose change, keys, a few credit cards, a mobile phone charger and a passport, which gave Marcel's full name as Marcel Peregrine Grieve Campbell-Smith. The second drawer held a selection of what James figured was either beauty products or medical supplies. A lot of tubs and tubes, anyway. James picked up a tub at random and sniffed the white cream inside, but it was virtually scentless. The bottom drawer contained a collection of condoms and sex toys, heavy on dildos in ridiculous neon colours. James closed that drawer quickly.

Perfunctory search over, James sat down in the room's only chair and considered what he had learnt about Marcel Campbell-Smith. Gay, obviously. Out and proud, if the Pride photo was anything to go by. Doing accountancy at LSE. Tall (according to his passport, he was 6ft, so he was nearly as tall as James), and very slender. Posh name, posh clothes, posh aftershave and no sense. James tried to make the image of gay posh kid work with the reason he was there in the first place: to inflict upon Marcel Campbell-Smith the importance that he pay for a packet of coke he had tossed into the murky waters of the Thames five days prior. Actually, it wasn't that hard imagining Marcel throwing away 10k's worth of coke; it was harder to imagine how someone like Marcel ended up selling coke in the first place.

About a quarter of an hour later, the door opened and the boy himself entered. Marcel looked just like his Facebook profile picture, with the addition of a half-healed split lip and a dark bruise at the corner of his eye. James eyed the injuries, thinking that Shawn and/or his boys had obviously already gotten to Marcel. Marcel managed to close the door, lock it and toss a messenger bag on the bed before he realised there was someone sitting in his chair.

"Oh my God!" Marcel put a hand to his chest. "Jesus." A forceful exhale. "What… I mean… What's going on here?"

"Hullo Peregrine," James said. He kept his features deliberately impassive and his tone of voice deliberately neutral. For some reason, people usually found that scarier than outright anger and threats.

"It's… I go by Marcel, actually," Marcel said, slowly dropping the hand he had held over his heart like he could calm it from the outside.

"Sit down, Marcel." James nodded at the bed. He turned the chair around so he could look straight at Marcel as he sat down on the bed. What he saw was Marcel looking not a little miserable. "Can you guess why I'm here?"

Marcel sighed, his shoulders slumping, though his posture was still good enough that it looked like something from a promotional poster at a physiotherapist's. Typical posh kids. James supposed 20 years of sitting up straight on a horse would do that to a person.

"Is it about the—that thing I dropped in the Thames?"

"No one drops shit in the Thames, mate. Things end up in the Thames because people throw them." Not technically true, James supposed. People dropped things in the Thames all the time and had been since the beginning of London history. Usually they didn't drop ten thousand pounds worth of coke, though. Usually, they didn't throw ten thousand pounds worth of coke into the Thames either, but Marcel was clearly something of an exception.

Marcel swallowed, eyes darting to the floor.

"So…" James continued. "You want to tell me why the hell you threw away 10k's worth of coke? It's wasted on the fish, you know. It's the fucking Thames, they're used to worse."

"I thought I was being followed!" Marcel looked up at James. "It seemed like a sensible thing to do, you know? Like, get rid of the evidence."

James pinched the bridge of his nose. It was mostly theatrics, but not only. He was beginning to get an actual headache from how clueless Marcel was. He had expected Marcel to come up with some excuse; he had not expected Marcel to defend it as a deliberate strategy. Whoever had recruited him to sell coke should have their head checked out. Or fucking removed.

"But you weren't actually followed, were you?"

"No, I wasn't. Or maybe I managed to lose them."

"What did they look like?"

"Like, I don't know, plain-clothes police men. Guys in suits."

James sighed, torn between total resignation and budding fury. "You see a couple of guys in suits on the South Bank, and you think that's suspicious?"

"I was paranoid. I didn't want to get caught."

James leaned forward in the chair, elbows on his knees. He looked up at Marcel, who was running a hand through his perfect floppy hair. It fell back into place as soon as his hand had left it. The fact that whenever James would run his hand through his hair, it would fall back into shit just added to his annoyance.

"You're an accountant, right?" James asked him. He nodded at the textbooks on Marcel's desk.

"Well, I will be when I graduate."

"So you understand my dilemma here, don't you? If you'd sold that coke, you would've brought about 10k to Shawn. So Shawn has lost 10k. And on it goes." Tampering down the growing annoyance, James used what he liked to think of as his patient, explaining voice. "You can't pay Shawn, Shawn can't pay me. Okay?" Strictly speaking, if Marcel didn't pay Shawn, Shawn couldn't pay Giles, which then became James' problem as he was Giles' executive force, but no point in getting technical with this hopeless fop.

"Uhm, but if you could look at it from a supply and demand perspective… I mean, I've created a shortage by, you know, dropping—"


"By throwing some coke in the Thames. Remaining coke can be sold for a higher price."

James sighed again and stood. He walked the very short distance to stand right in front of Marcel, almost between his legs as Marcel was sitting on the bed. James was taller and broader over the shoulders than most people and he knew that more often than not, just allowing someone the time to take in his build was enough to get them to rethink their position. Marcel, built like a reed, looked genuinely frightened.

"You'd have to add another 10k onto the price you can get from the next package just to break even. It's not in that short supply." James leaned down over Marcel and poked a finger hard at his breastbone. Marcel was noticeably terrified. He didn't look up at James. Instead, he was looking down, at the finger poking at his chest hard enough to bruise. "From the point you accepted that packet from Shawn, you owed him 10k. Whether you sell the coke to come up with the money or not doesn't matter; he needs paying. Do you understand that?"

"Yes." Barely more than a whisper.

"You have until Friday to come up with the money. You can drop it off at this address." James handed Marcel a business card. "Give your name to the bouncer and he'll let you in. Then go to the bar on the first floor and ask for James."

Marcel took the business card and frowned at it.

"A strip club?" he asked, finally looking up at James.

"Gentleman's club, mate." With strippers. But whatever. "Be there."


"Bye now." James gave him a cheeky wink as he unlocked and opened the door. He heard Marcel's dejected 'bye' right before the door closed behind him.


James threw open the doors to Giles' gentleman's club and stepped inside. He spotted Giles by a table in the middle of the room, looking like something out of an old British gangster film. It was something about his eyes that made everyone think that Giles was capable of absolutely anything. And they wouldn't be far wrong, James thought as he let the doors swing shut behind him.

The rest of the place was empty, apart from Nat standing behind the bar wiping glasses like some ridiculous bartender stereotype. Giles had hired Nat because the guy was big enough that his mere presence – even behind the bar – did more to keep guests in check than any of the bouncers did. Nat was normally stationed on the first floor, but during meetings like this, Giles put him wherever the meeting took place. James nodded at Nat and Nat held up a freshly wiped pint-glass in greeting.

"James, my lad," Giles said as James approached. "Sit down, have a pint."

"Meeting down here then?" James asked, pulling out a rickety old chair and sitting down.

"Yeah." Giles did something with his mouth, a little twitch, that told James everything he needed to know.

The gentleman's club – The Frye – had three floors. Ground floor was a pretty regular-looking pub. It was a typical stop on the way back from work for people – men close to retirement, mostly – who lived or worked in the area. Not quite the lay-out of an old-fashioned working men's club, but something close to it. First floor, reached by a sequestered walkway from which you could overlook the pub through the glass top half of the wall, was much swankier and a pretty strange contrast to the ground floor. It was where the girls danced and where there were private areas for private dances and whatever else you could talk the girls into doing for you. Top floor was private. Offices, a private little bar, changing rooms, a small lounge for the girls. The first floor was where Giles took people he wanted to impress. Top floor was for the initiated only. Ground floor meant you still had to earn your stay. The fact that they were meeting this guy on the ground floor meant that Giles wasn't certain about him. That little twitch of a lip had confirmed it.

Nat came over with a pint of Guinness, putting it on a Carlsberg beer mat.

"He's late, the fucker," Giles said.

James glanced at his watch, attached to a wide leather cuff his dad had made in some leather-work class in prison in the 70's. It was the only thing James owned that he felt even remotely sentimental about. "Still a couple of minutes to go."

"He'll be late, trust me."

Giles' phone went off and soon he was going on about dancers and girls and whatever, so James allowed himself to zone out and think about last night. Kailey, a dancer girl that he fucked on a semi-regular basis, came around after hours. Woke him up, but made it worth it. James wasn't exactly into dancer girls, but through the years, he'd become something of an expert on making it work for him. Usually, it was a fairly simple fantasy where he'd be fucking Kailey or whatever girl as roughly as was advisable while thinking about what they'd say if they knew what he really got off on. The imagined humiliation of that was usually more than enough to get him through it. Enough, sometimes, to make him enjoy it.

"Here he is now," Giles said, interrupting James' chain of thought. "What's that, eleven fucking minutes?"

The guy who walked up to them was a skinny blonde bloke with a bit of a paunch. James didn't mind a bit of a belly on a man, but he liked it to be in proportion. Big belly on a big guy. This guy just looked off. His suit was ill-fitting and in some sort of unidentifiable colour that should have died with the 80's.

"Mr Buxton?" the guy asked, looking between Giles and James, lips twisting into some sort of insecure smile. It wasn't just the guy's looks that were off. Something about this whole thing was off.

"Call me Giles, son," Giles said, sounding so friendly it made James' skin crawl. Friendliness from Giles typically meant he wanted you dead.

"Giles," the guy said. "Pleasure to meet you. I'm Mike. Mike Allcock."

Mike turned his attention to James, looking like he didn't know whether to introduce himself or not. In the end, he stuck his hand out but didn't repeat his name. James took it, but didn't introduce himself. Mike Allcock didn't need to know him.

"Something to drink?" Giles asked.

Allcock looked at the empty or near-empty pint glasses on the table.


"London Pride?"


"Nat, pint of Pride," Giles called out. Nat nodded. "Take a seat."

Allcock sat down opposite Giles and James, looking more like a school boy at the head master's than an arms dealer in a London gangster's gentleman's club. Giles clearly distrusted the guy from the start, since this meeting was taking place on the ground floor, but his whole demeanor set off alarm bells. It was nothing as stupid as a gut feeling, it was far more tangible than that. The way he was so fucking insecure, not knowing whether to introduce himself to James or looking to see what Giles and James were drinking before deciding what he wanted. James had met a good few guys in Allcock's supposed line of work and they had all been cocky bastards. What with the fire arms laws in the UK being what they were, it was a seller's market. Allcock was too careful, too polite, too keen. Too nervous.

"Tell me about what you can do for us, then," Giles said, nodding at Allcock.

"20 brand new Glock 36's. 1000 rounds of ammunition."

"What ammunition?" James asked, noting how Allcock looked a little nervous by being addressed by him.

"I'm not entirely sure, to be honest with you, mate." Mike chuckled, but he might as well have been sweating and pulling at his collar for how relaxed he looked.

"You don't know?" James folded his hands on the table and leaned forward just a little. Like his build, his tattooed knuckles sometimes did the talking for him. Not with everyone – seemed like most people were tattooed these days, after all – but some people, and Allcock seemed to be one of them, took one look at the maverick collection of art on his knuckles and their minds took off in really strange and typically violent directions.

"200 or 185 grain JHP, not entirely sure, but I'll find out," Allcock said eventually.

"How do we arrange it?" Giles asked.

"I'll introduce you or your man," he nodded at James, "to my contact in York. You'll set up payment and delivery between yourselves at the meeting. I'll keep a small finder's fee."

"Fine. Contact us in a couple of days. We'll let you know then." Giles stood and Mike scrambled to his feet. They shook hands and with one last look at James, Mike left.

"What do you think?" Giles asked before Mike was even out the door.

"London's finest," James told him.


"'Yeah'? Fucking hell, Giles, he might as well have turned up in his uniform."

Giles was quiet for a while, looking at James like he was trying to read him.

"Yeah," he said eventually, "I suppose you're right."

"You think they're out for us or the York side?"

"Oh, York, my lad. Allcock isn't some simple go-between. He's been working with the guys up there for a couple of years, according to my contact."

"And your contact is legit, is he?"

"As legit as I am, son." Giles bared nicotine-stained teeth in a smile that made James feel decidedly uncomfortable. The smile disappeared as quickly as it had appeared and Giles was all business again. "Still. Might be worth vetting the York side. If Allcock is the only boy in blue we might still be able to salvage the deal." Giles tapped a finger against the dark wood of the table.

"Yeah? Know anyone with contacts up north?"

Giles was quiet for a while, presumably doing an inventory of his contact list. "I might know someone with contacts everywhere."

"Oh yeah?"

"Did you ever meet Viking?" Giles asked.

"Not personally, no." But like pretty much everyone else, James was familiar enough with the name. Viking was mostly unaffiliated, very discreet, and completely ruthless. He was a reliable and often-employed go-to guy for those jobs that people didn't want traced back to the local scene. No wonder he was well-connected, if even half of what was said about him was true.

"He's a good lad," Giles said. "I think he laid off the…" Giles waved his hand, obviously searching for a word. "The terminal jobs after his last stretch in prison. But he is still very useful for anything not quite so murders, inc. Extremely well-connected. Has done a bit of work for me, a few years back."

"Oh yeah? What did he do for you?"

"Remember Ronnie Sanderson?" Giles smiled again.

"Yeah, I remember Ronnie," James said, thinking of that daft fucker who had ended up with a bullet lodged in his brain in a burnt-out car in the docklands. "He was a fucking cunt."

"Yeah, well, he's a dead fucking cunt, thanks to Viking."

"Fair enough. What's with the fucking name though? Is he Danish or something?"

"Oh, that. He used to look like a fucking Viking, with the long hair and long beard." Giles mimed a beard that stretched to about his belly button. "That's a long time ago, but the name stuck, as they do. I'll get in contact with him. Get you two introduced."

"Alright, looking forward to it." As much as James could possibly look forward to meeting someone who rumour said was a bit of a homicidal maniac.

"Yes…" Giles stood. "Alright. Well, time for this old man to fuck off and do a bit of work. You around tonight, son?"

"'Course I am."

"Good." Giles took a couple of tired steps towards the stairs. "Good."


James hung around until closing, spending most of his time getting comfortably buzzed by the bar. There were usually people lingering, wanting to get in contact with Giles for various reasons. It was always good to get a look at them first, so every so often, James spent an evening being the eyes and ears on the floor. Typically while having a couple of pints by the bar. There were worse jobs to do.

"Slow evening?" Nat poured him a glass of Jameson, a silent invitation to hang around as Nat was closing down the bar.

"Slower than yours," James said, sipping from his glass. He was really much more of a beer-drinker, but he could put up with the occasional whiskey. "No one waiting for you tonight?"

More often than not, the girls who occasionally came to The Frye with colleagues or groups of male friends would end up going home with Nat. James could understand them; Nat had that sort of approachable look about him that people seemed to interpret as handsomeness. And James had heard at least three girls ask him if he was that big all over. James had wondered himself on occasion, when he'd spent a slow evening watching Nat work.

"Nah. Slim pickings tonight." Nat grinned.

James made some sort of sympathetic noise.

"Yeah, I'm not feeling sorry for you, mate. Not with Kailey on call."

James offered his best blokish smile. "I'm trying to keep that casual."

"Don't know why. She's easily the best-looking girl in the place."

"Yeah, but you know." James shrugged.

"I suppose. Just saying. You could do considerably worse."

"Mhm." James took another sip of his whiskey, wanting to kill this line of conversation. "Can I ask you something?"

"'Course, mate."

James knocked back his whiskey, handing the glass to Nat, who washed it quickly.

"Have you heard of a bloke called Viking?"

"Ah, yes, I thought I heard Giles mentioning him."


Nat laughed. "If it's the same bloke, my little brother did a bit of time with him."

"Yeah, I think it's probably the same bloke, eh? Not that many guys around with that daft fucking nickname."

"Yeah, I suppose." Nat stepped out from behind the bar and sat down on a bar stool next to James. "Well, my little brother got to know him in prison. They had some sort of disagreement on Ben's first day. I forget the details, but it was about something stupid like the rules of...of fucking ping-pong or something. Anyway, Viking headbutted Ben, cracking his nose. Looked like shit for ages, Ben did. They got on really well after that though. Think they're still in contact, actually."

"Huh. I never made any friends in prison," James said, standing. "But then no one ever cracked my nose."

"No, no one ever cracked my nose either."

"I bet they probably couldn't fucking reach," James said, looking up at Nat. The guy easily had five inches on James. James wasn't used to having to look up at people and it sometimes unnerved him a little, how small he felt next to Nat.

"Do you want me to ask Ben about Viking?"

"Nah, I'll meet him soon enough. Just wondered. I've heard his name around a few times, but you can't trust rumours."

They walked towards the doors.

"Well, I don't know, James, mate," Nat said, reaching over the wardrobe counter for his jacket. "Before I met you, I'd heard you were a grumpy bastard. So rumour's not always wrong."

"Yeah, ha-ha."

"Don't worry. It was the girls talking. They said you were grumpy and hot."

"Oh, Jesus..."

"Well, one out of two isn't bad, huh?" Nat laughed, and jogged down the stairs to the pub, which had closed before the gentleman's club upstairs did.

When James came outside, Nat was standing there puffing away on what smelled like a spliff.

"Hm?" Nat said, holding it out to James.

"Nah. Thanks."

"Suit yourself. Got some if you want to take it home?"

For a second, James was tempted. He didn't get stoned that often anymore, but he liked it (who didn't?). It was just that weed made him mellow and horny. Not a great combination for him, all things considered.

"Thanks but no thanks."

"Let me know if you ever change your mind."

"Yeah, sure. Alright, I'm off. See you around."

"See you around, James. Nice talking to you."

"Yeah." James lifted a hand as he took off in the opposite direction.

He had made it about halfway to the tube station when he heard the tattoo of high heels on the pavement. He turned around and saw Kailey jogging after him. Not a small feat in those heels.

"Hey..." she said when she'd caught up with him, sliding close and wrapping her arms around his waist. Even with her ridiculously high heels, he was still taller.

"Hey," he replied, pressing a quick kiss to her forehead. "What are you doing?"

"Just thought you could come back with me, if you fancy it."

Last night, she had come around to his. They didn't usually see so much of each other. That said, it wasn't like he could turn her down at this stage anyway. And her flat was closer.

"Yeah, alright."

She leaned in and kissed him properly. She tasted of some sort of fruity chewing gum and a hint of the cigarette that the chewing gum was supposed to hide. He wrapped his arm around her waist and they walked towards the tube station. He could do this. No problem.