The Gun Guy
By Jonathan Wood
I’m a fixer. I’m that guy. I’m the “go-to, can-do” man. The man your friends say they know through a friend of a friend, and I can get you; pretty much, anything.
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a fixer is: “someone who is skilled in making things happen, sometimes in a way that is dishonest”. I can’t claim credit for the definition, or it being applied to me. But it was something that the people I was involved with labeled me over the years and the term just stuck. Like much in my life, it happened incidentally.
I drive taxi’s now and have for years. But I was once a different type of driver. I drove for one of the top dogs in London’s East End, once. Took him everywhere. Dropped him off, picked him up and I was never late. Sometimes he’d be with his whores, sometimes with his Business Associates. Tough looking, well-dressed men that were just like him, icy-eyed with soulless stares and bodies carved from wood. Men you don’t ever cross.
Sometimes I dropped off packages, sometimes I picked them up. Sometimes I wiped semen off the back seats of the car at the end of the night or when the sun was coming up in the early hours of the morning. Sometimes I wiped up the blood. After a while, I stopped being scared and stuff like that became my norm. But, it’s how I got started and earned my name. I wasn’t connected, I wasn’t a tough guy and I knew my place in the food chain. But, I began to get to know people. The right people. The people I could tap and squeeze on the side, for the things that other people wanted and were prepared to pay me to get for them. The drug guys doing business with my boss, the weird guys who dealt in other stuff and also the hookers he banged, who got into the car in short skirts and high heels reeking of Chanel, faces caked in makeup with their heads down to hide the fresh bruises and black eyes.
They say when you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. He changes you.
I wasn’t there the night my boss got clipped. I don’t even know the full story, beyond the rumors I heard. It was a conflict with a rival firm based over in North London. Some kind of shared business venture that went wrong. A row developed and there was trouble. I didn’t drive my boss that night to the meet, which at the time seemed out of place and unusual. I always drove him. Everywhere. But not that night. You might say my boss knew and maybe he wanted to keep me out of harm’s way. He was a pitbull but always fair to me. Had I been there with him that night, I’d surely have been clipped too. That’s the way these things go. It’s business, not personal.
So I left London and disappeared up North for a few years. Laid low, kept my head down until things blew over. The London firm didn’t come after me, so fingers crossed, I’m clear. At least for now. When I returned back to London, I decided to drive taxi cabs. I can’t sleep anyway and I like to drive at night. It’s calming. And, if I’m gonna be awake all fucking night, I may as well get paid for it.
Through driving taxi’s I got to know everyone again and plug back into the dark matrix. The people creeping around looking for sex, the students looking for recreational drugs. The creeps looking for other shit that gives me the creeps. But I make no judgments. I just want my cut, and it’s always 10%.
That night was more or less like any other until he got into the car. His name was John Jones, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t who he really was. John Jones sounds far too convenient for a man wanting to buy a gun on the black market. I just called him the “Gun Guy” and like my label, his just stuck, too. At least it did with me. Not many people come to me and ask me to get them guns.
The rain had hammered down all day that day and it continued into the night. I watched the windscreen wipers of the car moving against the glass from my driver’s seat and listened to their rhythmic whine, the relentless rain battering against the screen from outside. Aside from the dashboard glow and gloom of the neon signs of the stores in the now-closed retail car park I sat parked up in, it was just me and the cloak of darkness. The way I like it.
A sudden hand that rapped on the front passenger side window startled me and I caught a glimpse of a face looking in, saturated and squinting in the hard rain to see inside. I unlocked the door and he opened it, quickly getting into the car without hesitation, to take refuge from the rain. He was soaked through.
For a moment, he just sat there, droplets of water running down his face and he made no effort to wipe them away. They collected on the tip of his nose and just gathered there in dewdrops until eventually, they dropped to the floor of the car. He was middle-aged, wore a raincoat, but he looked well-dressed underneath, his raincoat hinting of a suit and tie underneath. But there was something just wrong about him. He didn’t belong here. He didn’t fit at all. And he certainly didn’t fit the voice I had spoken to on the phone a week earlier, who had called inquiring about me getting him a gun. “Something a novice could handle, and something untraceable”, he’d said. He was shaking too. Either in fear or from the cold. Maybe both.
I offered my hand across the middle of the car to break the ice.
“So.. you’re John? I’m Alan”
He shook my hand quickly then withdrew it, his weak handshake leaving my hand damp and cold.
He refused to make eye contact and just stared ahead, his head down. Understandable, I guess. Most of the people who get in my car late at night don’t really want to be there.
“So how does this work?” he said in a low voice, wiping the rainwater from his eyes.
I exhaled slowly. “Well, first you show me the dough. I count it, then I give you a package. You check it, and we say goodbye”
He slowly reaches into his inner coat pocket and takes out a small envelope. He hands it to me gingerly. It’s wrapped in a waterproof bag. Inside is the correct amount of money we agreed on. In cash.
I reach below my seat and take out the packet. Inside it is a Glock 17 handgun. I’m told it’s a good beginner’s gun, reliable and light. Not much recoil, easy to use. But that’s as much as I know. It’s not my business to know either, nor ask questions of my supplier. I get the shit I’m asked to get. And I get paid. That’s all.
“Do you know how to use one of these?” I ask, not really knowing what to say if the answer is no.
The man takes the package from me and tears the top end, splitting the cellophane wrapping inside the outer pouch, and he peers inside. Strangely, he doesn’t take the gun out to examine it. Instead, he stuffs the packet inside his raincoat.
“It comes with bullets?”
“There’s a full clip inside the packet. Don’t you want to check the gun first?”
He doesn’t answer and goes to open the passenger door to exit the car. He turns and looks back at me. For the first time, I see his face and features full-on. Even in the dim light of the car, I see something I don’t often see in my line of work. Something I have become desensitized to, perhaps, even a now, alien emotion. There’s a striking pain leaking out of this man, this ordinary, everyday man. It seeps from his face, his eyes, his very pores. I suddenly get an unpleasant pang of dread in the pit of my stomach. I don’t know what he has planned, but this man is going to be involved in something terrible, and very soon.
And I have helped facilitate it. I’m complicit.
For a moment which seems to last forever, our eyes remain locked on each other, and I think he is going to say something. Then, as though changing his mind, he simply says a short “Thank you, Alan” in a soft, almost resigned tone and exits the car, back into the pouring rain. As he disappears into the night, he turns once and looks back towards me, his silhouette cutting a forlorn and vulnerable shape in the gloom. Like there is some moment of reticence, doubt, or conscience speaking to him and him alone before he steps over a border. A dark line from which he can never return.
Then he is gone, his image dimming and blending until all I can see is sheeting raindrops bashing against the concrete of the car park.
That was two years ago. Although I never did find out what became of the Gun Guy, I remain haunted and affected by his image and I think of him, quite often. I look for clues in the newspapers and media and wonder if whatever precipitated or pushed him to get a gun, happened, or is yet to come. Two years on, I still get the same horrible sense of dread and foreboding when I think about him and his dark silhouette disappearing into the rainy night and I wonder what he was thinking at the very moment he hesitated and turned back.
I never fixed another gun for anyone again.