Ian Copestick

A Habit Waits for No Man


The sound of burglar alarms mixed in with the sound of the ambulances coming to collect the dead and injured.


Through the massed crowds of black, white, Asian and all mixed races in-between, I could see him, Paul, sprinting up a side street with a laptop computer under each arm.

The riot vans screeched to a halt in the market square and armored police leapt from the sliding doors, Heckler and Koch submachine guns in hand. They let off a few rounds into the air, as a warning.


The shots didn’t sound like they did in the movies, they sounded flatter, almost like the sound had been cut off halfway.


The next round of bullets weren’t warning anybody. I saw people fall. Young girls dressed in miniskirts, their legs spread and knickers showing but strangely I didn’t feel horny at all.

Old men with their trousers up to their armpits, cardigans suddenly sprouting flowers of blood. Bright red, like poppies against the grey wool.

The people didn’t fall like they did in the movies either, there was no histrionics, they just fell, like puppets whose strings had just been snipped by scissors.

I turned my head, not being able to stand so much horror.

Then I came to my senses and started to run.

In the car park at the end of the pedestrianised section, I met up with Paul.

“Well, where the fuck are we going to sell these then?”

“At the moment, Paul, that’s the least of our fucking problems, don’t you think?”

“Okay Mister fucking Smart Arse, how are we going to score then?”

“I don’t mean to alarm you, mate, but it seems like getting away from the coppers is the most main thing. Where we’re going to score doesn’t seem so important at the moment.”

“Well it will be in a couple of fucking hours…”

Suddenly I saw the point of his argument. It didn’t matter if the world was about to end, we still needed drugs, and we would still for the foreseeable future.

“Well shit, do you think that the pawnbrokers will still be open,or should we just try Broady?”

“The pawnbrokers is on the way, so we’ll try them first, eh?”

My sickness was on its way, so I couldn’t be bothered to argue with Paul anymore. Anyway he was right, to get to Broady’s, we’d have to go past the pawnbrokers. So why not give it a shot?

Just because there was a state of emergency at hand, and there were armed forces in the streets, people still needed their drugs. A habit waits for no man.

As we walked up Picadilly we could hear the shots in the background.


I didn’t know who they were shooting at, or why. It had to be the so-called forces of law and order who were doing the shooting. It had been happening more and more over the last few years. At first they blamed it on the Muslims, counter-terrorism they called it.

The thing is though, those of us who know who the big time dealers noticed that a surprising number of them seemed to get killed along with the so-called terrorists.

Then the coppers took over the dealing, well so they say. I’m just small time and that’s all I want to be, but from what I’ve heard all of the big time dealers are coppers now.

Then the curfew came into effect. I can almost understand that, I mean, the little fuckers were getting out of control. I myself got a kicking a couple of times off the little bastards.

I know that things are pretty bad, but the way it’s shown on the TV, you wouldn’t dare come out at night.



It was almost like percussion, keeping the beat as we continued up the street.

Some people have told me that a lot of the gunshots you hear are just the coppers firing up into the air, just to keep the people scared, but I don’t know. Those poor fuckers I saw falling in the square, they weren’t acting, that’s for sure.

Anyway, end of the world or not, the Jewish pawnbrokers were still open for business.

Paul did the business, he’s a lot better with the blarney than I am. I always say, if things had been different, he would’ve made a brilliant salesman. No shit, he could sell sand to Arabs, or ice to Eskimos.

He walked out of the pawnbrokers with £200 in his hand, then headed straight to Broady’s.


Up the piss stinking staircase we went.


Up to the seventh floor, Broady used to sell shitty, little £10 deals. Before all the “hostilities” started, you could have got twice as much from him as you did now. But, like all businessmen, he knew how to turn every bit of turmoil to his advantage.


After a while it was like you almost didn’t hear the gunshots anymore.

They were just something happening in the background, like a radio used to be.


At the bottom of the tower block, we peeled off to the left, heading towards Paul’s squat. Well, I say Paul’s, but it was his and anybody else’s who needed to shoot up whilst they were in the neighbourhood.


I think it must have been the last KOFF! that got him.

Paul dropped in front of me.

“Come on mate, stop pissing about!”

Paul just lay there, a small patch of blood blooming on his jacket.


“Shut the fuck up!” I shouted.

It seemed to me that now they’d done their job, they could at least shut up for a bit.

I thought about the drugs in Paul’s pocket.

Then I felt guilty about thinking about the drugs in his pocket.


It was then I felt a hot, piercing pain in my side, almost as if I’d been stabbed with a red hot knife.


I looked down and saw a mess of red stuff coming out of me.


I slumped over to one side. I didn’t mean to, I just couldn’t help it.


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