Lemmings #1, 2013

Spider clawed at the thick fingers around his throat. He stamped at the pedals, the floor of the car, and the door, but he couldn’t seem to get the message through to Quinnell that he did not want to die. “Stop struggling,” said Quinnell. He gave Spider’s head a hard slap and Spider did as he was told. The Mustang’s windows had steamed up. From the darkness a short-bladed knife consolidated itself and glittered in the rear-view mirror.

“Mr Quinnell,” Spider hissed.

“You mucked everything up,” said Quinnell with a tone that sounded like regret. He pressed the tip of the blade to Spider’s throat. Spider yelped.

Quinnell’s face was flushed. Even the red in his moustaches seemed to have intensified. Following the curve of Spider’s throat, the blade moved slowly and with great deliberation, not too soft and not too hard. Momentarily, it left behind a neat red line. Then it got messy.

Spider spluttered something that sounded like f_k. “You didn’t have to do that,” he rasped. He squirmed in his seat. There was blood down the front of his yellow jumpsuit.

“It’s been a long day,” said Quinnell.

Spider tried to turn his head, but Quinnell did not want him to turn his head. So he hit the side of Spider’s head with the hilt of his knife to keep it where he wanted it.

“How did you find me?” said Spider.

“I’m asking the questions,” said Quinnell. “You lied to me, Mickey.”

The slight movement of Spider’s neck Quinnell’s fingers allowed suggested he wanted to shake his head. “Why?” said Quinnell. Spider sniffed.

“Of course, you’re not going to tell me anything. Not for nothing; that would be against your principles,” said Quinnell. “But I could torture the answer out of you.”

“Who’s your boss, Mr. Quinnell?” Spider hissed.

“You’re the one who knows everything; you tell me,” said Quinnell.

“Detective Superintendent Pankhurst,” said Spider. “Think about it.”

“Pathetic. That’s your answer?” Quinnell relaxed his grip. But the knife blade remained. “Very weak, Mickey,” he said.

Spider chanced turning his head to face his interrogator. “The culture’s changing, Mr. Quinnell,” he said. “And Bamtree’s changing with it. Our old arrangement was good, but someone made me a better offer.”

“Who actually paid you?” said Quinnell.

“No money involved.” Spider laughed a tight little laugh, which turned into a cough that rattled through him and shook the car around them. When the fit subsided he added, “Just be glad you didn’t hurt me too bad, Mr. Quinnell. I’ve become an asset.”

“You’re a prick,” said Quinnell. “Tell me who paid you.”

“I can’t do that, Mr Quinnell. As you know, words is my business, and those words would cost me dear.” There was a sour chemical taint to Spider’s breath. He turned back round so he was facing the windscreen. “Please don’t make a mistake here that we’ll both regret.”

“Mickey, you are no longer under my protection. May God help you.” Quinnell withdrew the knife. He slid back in his seat, folded the knife away, swung the car door open and climbed out. It had all been for nothing – paying the kid in the squad car – the bloody car-chase. Quinnell blinked in the darkness.

*

Lemmings (Including Cog) is the first track on Van der Graaf Generator’s 1971 album, Pawn Hearts. The original album was a massive three tracks long, the whole of side two being taken up by A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers (23:04). The album reached the number one spot in Italy. When the band toured the country to support it in 1972, riots broke out. Exhausted on their return to the UK, the band split. And reformed in 1975. Split again in 1978. Reformed in 2005 and are still going today (minus flute/ sax player David Jackson). The remaining members (Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton and Guy Evans) are touring this year and have promised to play A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers in full. You can see the song being performed on Belgian TV here. But, you know, buy the album.

*

Just after I ran into Jimmy Clancy, I met up with David Cook. I’ve known David since 1986. We were at art school together in the nineteen (mutter, mutter, mutter). He’s an artist and runs a great blog about art in London here. I was very jealous of David’s red jacket (not the reason this photograph is B&W). Anyway, thanks for letting me take your photograph, David! Hope you like it.

David Cook, 2013

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