This is the second part of the interview with Nick Sloane – please be aware that I haven’t edited/censored what he has to say IN ANY WAY, so those of you who know how he is and what he does will be more than familiar with the fact that his language can, at times, be a little ripe!
You can read the first part of the interview on the page Special Guests and the first Nick Sloane story appears in the book ‘Blind Cupid’, which will give you even more back-story to this fascinating and dangerous man.
After Nick had finished his drink and cigarette, he returned to the bar and indicated that it was OK switch the voice recorder I was using back on. To me, it seemed that our previous conversation had, inevitably, stirred up some emotions that he was finding hard to bring under control. We were in ‘The Goat’, a pub Nick uses, and the lounge bar was pretty much deserted at that time of day. I decided to re-direct the conversation and asked him if he came here often.
Do you have much success? Using lines like that? (He gives one of his wry, crooked smiles) I have nowhere that I go to ‘often’, other than Ferdy’s club. I have no routine or favourite places. My life is, if you’ll pardon the oxymoron, rigidly random. I can’t afford a timetable – gym on Tuesday, library on Friday – like I said, there are too many people who’d like to have a quiet word with me in a dark alley. It’s my protective cloak. To all intents and purposes, I’m invisible.
You still visit libraries then, when you get the chance?
Randomly, yes. Even that’s a habit that could cause me problems…even more so now I’m talking to you about it.
So if you told me your preferred library choice, you’d have to kill me?
(There’s a long, unsettling pause)
Best not to joke about certain things, eh?
(There’s another long pause, then he laughs out loud)
Sorry…sorry, but the look on your face was a picture. I’ve agreed to talk to you primarily because of the way you handled the other story, yeah? There has to be a certain amount of trust – and that’s a commodity I have in very short supply – but you have to trust me as well, and I’d be a fool to ruin what seems to me to be a healthy and productive relationship. So don’t worry. Much.
Why ‘Lord of the Flies’? What is it that resonates with you so much, in that particular book?
Well…it’s a bloody brilliant book for a start. It’s exciting, which is what grabbed me the first time I ever read it. (He pauses, gathering his thoughts again, wanting (needing?) to be understood) Any thoughts, explanations, are going to be tangled on this one. I don’t know, but I think, now, that maybe I saw something in that book that was…what? A time tunnel? A film in my head that was somehow predicting what would happen to me? What I would become? I’m not sure…but I tell you what I did see in that story, almost from the outset: a reflection of life in all the Children’s Homes that I’d ever been dumped in. Quietly savage. Pecking orders, disagreements, the whole thing. And sitting here now, actually talking about it, it feels as if Golding had tapped into me and written…written me a personal message. I’m that group of boys, if you like. I’m all boys.
What, you think that all the kids in care have the potential to be like Simon and Ralph and Jack?
No. I’m all boys with that potential…and let’s face it, I have, for want of a better phrase, descended into savagery. Just now, I told you about Stav, yeah? Well there’s a part of the book that describes a kill…err, let’s see…I think I can pretty much quote it to you: His mind was crowded with – something, err…memories I think… of the knowledge that had come to them when they closed in on the struggling pig, knowledge that they had outwitted a living thing, – and here’s the important bit, the bit that matters to me, anyway – imposed their will upon it, taken away its life, like a long satisfying drink. (He sits back and takes a drink himself, which is quite unnerving after that quote, and watches me over the rim of his glass. I think he’s watching and perhaps waiting for a reaction) And that describes to a T what I came to feel in the days after Stav died. I was Jack. And over the years it’s become apparent that I do what I do…at least it seems this way to me…not because I’m interested in the common good, it’s about survival, the primal instinct. End of. It’s in all of us. It’s just buried a little more deeply, a deal more successfully, in most people. And that beast is in all of us, it’s not something you can hunt and kill, it’s…
That sounds familiar. Are you actually equating yourself to…to him?
(Nick leans forward at this point, not really staring at me, more through me)
His beast was infinitely more savage and twisted, and yet…and yet, I think, somewhere under it all, he actually understood the nature of his beast better than I do mine: and he certainly hid it more effectively, wouldn’t you say? Here’s another quote: What I mean is . . . maybe it’s only us. That’s Simon. Out of context, I think, a little, but he was the first to say in the book, there is no beast, it’s all in us. It is ALL us. Golding was saying, as am I, that innate human evil exists in all of us; that it’s not an external pressure. (Nick takes another drink and exhales, slumping back into his seat) I’m severely fucked off with this now…can we talk about something else?
What would you like to talk about? Tim? David? I’m interested to know more about what happened immediately after the clearing at the house.
Tim and David are a story for another time* I think. And Miranda, before you ask. You know what happened after: I went to Florence.
OK, fine. The ‘missing years’ then? Flute? What about Flute? When did you first come across him…or rather, when did he first become aware of you?
‘The Missing Years’! Seriously? You make me sound like Agatha – fucking – Christie! (It is always when Nick becomes unsettled or unsure, when he’s dealing with things internally, that his language becomes that much more colourful.) And my old mate Monty – long may he stay on the other side of the river, with no bridge – you know, I can’t actually remember when I first had a set-to with him. I think…well it was years ago…I think he was a Detective Sergeant…yes! He was still in town and his boss was…was…Shelley! Oh yes, of course…Shelley, whose parents had a sense of humour…or no idea what they were doing when they called him Percy! Detective Inspector Percy Shelley; what a twat he was. Thanks for that Max, now I know where Flute gets it from. Nurture not nature, see?
Have you always been on the police radar?
After Stav, yeah, pretty much. The filth managed to get my name somehow…actually, it’s pretty obvious how they got my name: one of the guys at Stav’s place gave it them. But they managed to pin everything on the guy that was left behind, the one that had a go at Ferdy. So I sort of became a…person of interest, if you like. There was a thing that happened though…yeah, it feels like that’s the first real encounter with Flute…yeah.
And? I mean, if you’d rather not talk about it, we can…
No, no, no, we can. It’s not that earth-shattering, to be honest. It was a while ago though, probably…what? About two maybe three years after I saved Ferdy – that’s his phrase, by the way, ‘saved’ – and I was back in town…and thinking about it, it was probably the first time I’d been back since the old man…can I digress a mo, Joe? That town…I don’t know why I keep going back. It’s nothing but shit that happens when I go there; least ways, that’s how it seems now. Pure sewage. Anyhow, the more I think about it, the more I’m recalling; I’ve not thought about this for donkey’s years..and now I do, I sort of wonder what Flute was doing there in the first place – in the back streets, I mean, not the town itself. I was coming back from the top of town, had a couple of pints in different watering holes, and I saw this bloke sort of leading a girl. I mean something must have struck me as a bit off-kilter, you know? I say leading, more pulling but trying to disguise it really. I remember telling myself to ignore it and I almost took my own advice, would have, if the girl hadn’t screamed.
It wasn’t a full-blooded, Hammer horror sort of scream actually, but it made my hair stand on end. I half ran down the hill as the fella pulled her into a sort of driveway between two houses, more a long, thin bit of waste ground really, but it went back, you know, into the shadows. When I got there, just before I turned the corner, I heard him talking, trying to stop himself from shouting, ‘You don’t lig off me, you little tart, and think there ain’t a price to pay for all them free drinks.’
So I asked her if she was alright. Seriously, I did. There was sweet fuck all that was anything close to alright about what was going on. The bloke asked me to mind my own business, which was…
Really? ‘Mind your own business’?
Yeah…in slightly more graphic terms, admittedly, but it’s just occurred to me that my use of Anglo-Saxon mightn’t be appreciated by everyone who reads this. Shall I continue?
Thank you for caring.
My pleasure. Right…asking me to take my nose to another location – one which was anatomically impossible – is, was and always will be a sure-fired way to rouse my suspicions. I started to…
Nick? Can we dispense with the ‘being careful’ choice of words please? Just tell the tale.
Certainly. He told me to shove my head up my arse and fuck off which really pissed me off. So I went for him. Simple as that. The girl sort of scuttled back into where the hillside met the shadows, just swallowed her up, and when I’d made sure that Mr Nice-Guy was thoroughly repentant of his nasty ways, I dragged him over to her. She was fifteen if she was a day and in that light, with the tears and all the fright, she looked about twelve. That made me even madder. I was holding this bloke up by the collar, so he sort of dangled like a teddy-bear that’d had its stuffing kicked out of it…which I s’pose he had, in a way…and I gave him a shake. Said something like ‘Apologise to the young lady’, I dunno, then I asked her where she lived.
Can I guess ‘Freeways’?
You can, and you’ve won tonight’s star prize.
How did you feel?
Almost as de-stuffed as Mr. Nice-Guy. Took the wind out me sails; it was pretty much the first time I’d heard that name, let alone really thought the place, in…oh, bloody years. Do you now, I can’t even remember the kid’s name. Anyway, I dropped the bloke and told her to scat and I think she asked if I was going to hurt the bloke anymore.
Couldn’t be arsed by now, in all honesty. So off she trots and I’m left standing there wondering what the hell I’d managed disturb, in my own head, y’know? Then this voice says something like, ‘You okay love? What are you doing out here at this time of night?’ I turned round and there was your friend and mine, M. Flute, Esq, pulling the kid back into the drive. And I swear to God he then said, ‘Hello, hello; what have we here then?’ That was when I started to know, with a concrete certainty, that the majority of coppers are blessed with little or no imagination.
Then yer man catches sight of Mr. Nice-Guy, groaning in the shadows, and quite naturally I suppose, jumps to all sorts of erroneous conclusions, despite what the girl was trying to tell him. Kids, see? No one really listens to them. Might be getting better these days, but back then? She might as well have shown him proof-positive that aliens had landed and he’d have still patted her on the head and proceeded to try to cuff me. Which is exactly what he did. So I decked him. Took his cuffs, attached him to our other friend, told the girl to hoof it and did likewise myself. Unfortunately, I did one more thing before I did leg it.
Something you obviously regret, it seems.
Yeah. It goes back to that power-over-other-people thing we talked about earlier: that and its unhappy pairing with my being a deal younger and greener in those days. Jesus, I was a dick. I justified it then by blaming them for being stupid and unaware – stupid and unaware being my words now, I don’t think I had any conscious thought processes about any of it at the time – and not caring about what other people had to say or how they felt. If anyone was stupid – particularly stupid – then it was me. I went back to Flute, as he was trying to sit up, thumped him again and said, ‘Be careful shit-head, Nick Sloane’s going to be keeping an eye out for you.’ (He laughs and shakes his head here, still unable to believe that he did what he did, finishes his drink and offers to buy another round) I think I’d like to call it a day Max, if that’s okay? We can get together again, when you’re free, if you like? Bitter?
We did finish there and we did have another drink. And I have met with Nick again, several times as it happens, and we’ve talked a lot more.
*He did answer questions about Tim, David and Miranda and he was very forthcoming about a great deal else…but that, as he said, is a story for another day. And it’s tentatively called ‘The Blood-Dimmed Tide’, which we’re both working on at the moment. It’s as unnerving as his previous story, perhaps more so, but it’s very much a work-in-progress. I’ll keep you posted.