Chapter one.

Dolly Chambers always had high hopes for her son as she proudly watched him grow up. As a matter of fact, she often said she hoped one day he would follow in his father’s footsteps and be just like him. 
     The thing is, he did exactly that. The problem was, unbeknown to Dolly her husband wasn’t the true, steadfast man she thought he was. In fact, quite the opposite. He was a swindler and thief at best, and if that wasn’t bad enough, most of his life was spent trying his hardest to find out new ways to con the good folk of London out of their hard earned wages. 
     Unfortunately for Dolly she was not as street-wise as most of the others who lived around Camden Lock, London. They could see what her husband was like; not at all like Dolly. She was so blind to her husband’s criminal ways, and when she failed to see what her husband was up to, most of her friends put this sightlessness down to nothing less than blind love. 
     He wasn’t a hardened criminal, far from it as it was mostly petty crime he got up to. Like stealing a pint of milk off the back of the milk cart as he walked by on his way to work, or the odd loaf of bread from the bakers on his way home after a hard day’s graft. That’s if you could call sitting on his backside all day counting the crates and pallets of goods being offloaded from many of the lorries coming in to the builder’s yard where he worked, hard graft. But, if you ever heard him talk, and by Christ Dolly heard him talk every night about how he virtually ran the whole place on his own, as the rest of the workers were just lazy bastards sitting on their arses. All in all, he was a pathetic little man, with the morals of a rat.
      However, one thing about Frank Chambers, he did have ambition to a certain degree. But this ambition was only to earn enough money to buy himself some beers to get himself mortal drunk on a Friday night.
      So, in his infinite wisdom he hatched a plan that would do exactly that. His job wasn’t hard, and all he had to do was count the palettes going in and out of the yard. He was in a position of trust, and that’s why his work was never checked. After a while, a few fives became a four on his checklist, and before long he had quite a stock of goods hidden in a dark corner of the warehouse that nobody knew about. Being quite pleased with himself, all he needed to do was sell it to the highest bidder. The problem was, the highest bidder just happened to be a very upstanding man of the community, and also the best friend of the owner of the business. 

      A few months later, Frank Chambers was up before the courts on the charge of theft. A few days after that, and because the idiot pleaded his innocence, as well as conducting his own defence in court, he was handed a five-year sentence.
      So what an idiot I’ve turned out to be,Dolly thought as she watched the policeman grab him by the arm to take him down to the cells still protesting his innocence, shouting that the jury had already made up their minds before he could prove his innocence. 
      ‘Well Charlie,’ she said to her son sitting beside her in the public gallery picking his nose. ‘What do you make of that? Five years of being on our own, without your father.’
      ‘I’m surprised he didn’t get more, the stupid prick,’ he replied not caring a hoot how long he was put away for. The only thing he was bothered about was the amount of time he had wasted listening to a load of bollocks coming from the judge as well as all of the other tossers around the courthouse. ‘Still,’ he said to his mother. ‘I’ve got my dole money today, so I’m going out tonight for a few beers.’
      Dolly looked at Charlie somewhat dismayed, and then she remembered what she had hoped for all those years. ‘I’ll tell you what Charlie,’ she said sadly. ‘Let me give you some good advice. Always remember. Be careful what you wish for, it might just come true.’ 
     Charlie looked back at her not having a clue what she was on about, didn’t reply. 

     What was she to do with him? She thought. Today is his twenty-first birthday. We should be out as a family, celebrating with a night in the pub or something like that. Not sitting in a courthouse watching him pick his nose all day, and listening to his father sprouting off a load of lies. Now, for the first time since Charlie was born, Dolly was worried sick about her son. She looked towards the stairs her husband was led down just a few moments before, and wished she had taken her own advice about being careful what she wished for. Because at this moment in time, she had a terrible feeling, it was indeed starting to come true. Charlie, even at the age of fifteen, already had a police record. Just like his father, he went down to the bakers one night, but not just to steal a loaf of bread. The idiot, along with his mate kicked the back door in and stole the few loafs and cakes the baker didn’t sell that day. 
     There were only five stupid loafs,Dolly thought again. And what made it worse, the fool tried to sell them in front of the baker’s shop the next morning. He’s just thick as two short planks, and as gullible as his father.   

     Apart from being gullible, there were of course other ways Charlie was like his father. Like his father, he too wanted to get drunk on a Friday night. But unlike his father, he had another ambition, and that was to get himself a girlfriend. All of his young life he never had someone he could call his own. He did have a couple of one-night stands after the odd party he was invited to, but that was as far as it went. However, it should be said that he did have an eye out for a particular young lady who worked in the local café. 

      Annie was her name, and a really attractive lady she was too. Tall slim, with long ginger hair, and a face some possibly would call angelic.
      Unfortunately for Charlie, Annie was somewhat selective in her type of men. Not that she was standoffish in any way, she just wasn’t foolish, and knew any type of relationship with a half brain like Charlie Chambers was simply never going to happen, no matter how hard he tried.
      Of course Charlie could not understand this at first. It wasn’t until Rob Fellows, the local window cleaner put him straight when they were both sitting in her café drinking tea.
       ‘You have to try and understand women,’ Rob said to Charlie, giving him the wisdom of his years. Not that many would imply he was anywhere near wise mind you. ‘The thing is with Annie, she’s a cut above the rest,’ he carried on. ‘To have a girl like her, you must be better than the rest. You have to show her that you can give her a future. Look at you. You’re a mess, your life’s a mess, and you’ve got no money to even take her to the pub for a half a pint of lager, never mind a swanky meal out in the West End.’
       ‘I’ve got money, quite a bit, if you must know,’ Charlie retorted. ‘And I’ve got a job, as you well know.’
       ‘Oh, come on Charlie, everyone knows you’re just like your father. Money slips through your hands like water. As soon as you get it, it goes straight behind the till of the Red Lion.’
       ‘That’s not right, I’ve been saving for a rainy day. Every time I get paid, or my dole money comes through, I’ve always put something to one side, and now I’ve got a good wedge saved up.’
       ‘Oh yeah,’ Rob laughed not believing a word. ‘So how much have you got then?’
       ‘Probably more than what you have.’
       ‘Have you now? Okay, say if I were to believe you, which I don’t by the way. You may well have enough to take her out for the night, but what Annie wants is more that a good night out. She wants someone who can give her what she needs for the rest of her life, not just a couple of hours.
       ‘Well, I can do that. As I said I have a job, and I get my dole money.’
       ‘Yes Charlie, and I dare say you might have to pay some of your dole money back, because sooner or later someone is going to shop you to the dole office for fiddling. Why you keep boasting to people you’re on the dole, and working is beyond me. Anyway, you and me, we’re both birds of a feather. I clean windows for some rich bloke who lives in the city somewhere. He pays me a shit wage on which to live on. I’m not going to ever get rich unless those six little numbers come up, and neither are you, working for the peanuts you get; or fiddling the dole for that matter. You’ve got to go and make your own luck in this world, and there are only two ways to do it. One is to start your own business, and let’s face it you’re not clever enough for that. The second is to go down the rickety road of crime. Everyone knows you’ve also tried that, and that didn’t work out so well for you either. Just face facts Charlie, as far as your life goes, you’re fucked.’
        Charlie wanted to respond by smacking the man in front of him, but he knew he would just get up again and smack him back even harder. The thing is, Charlie thought about what the window cleaner had just said, and his words hit home. He was right! His life was going nowhere fast. He also knew he never had it in him to do anything like start his own business, or anything else for that matter. He just wasn’t clever enough in his own eyes, or anyone else’s. So according to Rob, there was only one other option, and that was to go down the road of the criminal. 
       However, thinking back, Rob was right again. He had tried that too; and failed at every hurdle. Like the time he tried to set up a gambling ring. 

        It worked for a while, well a few days anyway. Unfortunately, he couldn’t count past the fingers on his hand, so that little venture cost him dearly. So that was that, until he once saw another opportunity to make a quick couple of quid when one of the local traders left a rack of clothing he was delivering to a stall on Camden Market. It was only meant to be just for a few seconds while the trader went around the back of his van to close the back doors.
        Charlie seized this golden opportunity and grabbed the rack of clothing and started pulling it down the street. Of course, as soon as the stall keeper saw it disappearing around the corner he gave chase. It must have only been about twenty seconds, even less when he caught up with him. This was when Charlie’s golden opportunity didn’t look so golden anymore. Charlie’s luck ran out just like the blood from his nose after the trader smashed his huge fist into his face teaching him a big lesson in life.
         The poor young man really was a mess, just like Rob the window cleaner had told him. So, broken nose, unshaven, and as for his hair; well that hadn’t seen a comb for a week. Still, he wondered why he couldn’t get a girlfriend.

        Things changed a great deal for Dolly and Charlie when Charlie’s father was about to be freed from prison. It was in the form of the baker of all people; the same baker Charlie stole the bread off a few years previously. Jack was his name, and it just happened, his wife had had enough of London and couldn’t wait to get on the next train back to Bristol as soon as she heard her mother had died, leaving her house to her in her will. 
         There he was, all alone, and so was Dolly. Cupid pulled his bow and soon the two of them were all over each other like a rash. A week later, Dolly, along with Charlie moved in with him into his small two-bed flat above the bakery shop.
        Charlie was more than happy with this arrangement, especially when Jack forgave his slight misdemeanour with the stolen loafs, and gave him a job as a general dogsbody. 
        To give Charlie his due, and even though the job was not for everyone, and certainly not for him, he stuck at it for some time. He even managed to save some of his wages under his mattress. Of course both Jack and his mother knew it was there, but it was a safe as houses. 

        Dolly was happy. She filed for a divorce from Frank, who was now out of jail and had moved up north somewhere. He never put any obstacles in the way of the divorce, so Dolly was free to live her life and move on. Likewise, Jack and his wife; they too got divorced. So, all were happy and life moved on. But, there was always something in the back of Dolly’s mind niggling away. She just knew something, somewhere would go wrong and spoil everything.
        This something happened a few years after she moved in with Jack, just a few days before Charlie’s twenty-fourth birthday. It was already late evening and dark. Jack was out with his mates playing darts in the Camden Eye pub at the end of the High Street, and she was quite happily watching the start of News at ten.
        Charlie came storming in, slamming the door behind him. He ran up the stairs, banging on every one of them in a temper. At first he didn’t even acknowledge his mother as he ran straight to his room. After less than ten seconds he left again, shouting something like, ‘I’ll show that stupid twat I’m no idiot.’
        ‘Why, what’s happened?’ his mother shouted. But no answer came back as she watched his lanky frame run back down the stairs, slamming the door once again as he made his way onto the street. 
          Instinct told her to look under his mattress, and when she pulled it back her fears were quickly confirmed. His money was gone. Mother’s intuition told her this was not going to be a good day for her son. She pulled on her jacket and shoes before running out onto the street looking for him. Even though he was an adult, Dolly knew her son was just as gullible today as when he was ten years old. But now the stakes were higher. She knew how long he had worked for Jack, and she knew every week a few pounds were stashed under his mattress. Despite his many faults, Charlie was a good little saver, and Dolly knew this as fact, because more often that not, when he was working downstairs in the back bakery, she had a sneaky look at how much he had saved. After all this time, it was a tidy sum of money.

        All in all, Dolly was somewhat proud of her son for saving this money. She knew most young men of his age would have blown all of their weekly wages on either drink or perhaps drugs. She knew Charlie had dabbled in both, and she also knew he had bought and sold some along the way. Once again her intuition kicked in. She did not know why, but it was the strangest of feelings in her gut that was telling her he was at it again, but this time it wasn’t just a twenty quid wrap. This time, the price was in the high hundreds; and that meant jail.
         She quickly closed the door behind her before looking up and down the High Street, but he was long gone. She had an idea he may have moved towards the market and the pub on the corner. She knew, just like all of the other locals, this generally was a place for the local underbelly to hang out. Deep down she knew her son, for whatever reason, was heading that way. She also knew deep down he was going to do something stupid, and she also knew there wasn’t a soul in the world who was going to stop him apart from her. But how could she, if she couldn’t even find him? Then she saw him, but only for a few seconds as someone switched a light on in some doorway illuminating a small entrance where he was standing on the other side of the High Street. 
         ‘Charlie,’ she shouted, just as a bus pulled up in the bus stop in front of her blocking her view. Quickly she ran towards the back of the bus hoping to cross the road behind it, but being London this was easier said than done, even at this time of night. 
         The door entrance was again in darkness as whoever switched on the light had now switched it off again. Then as luck would have it there was a gap in the traffic and a chance to cross the road. She took it and moved quickly to the doorway. Again, whoever switched the light off only a few seconds before, for some reason switched it back on again. This time, illuminating another man standing in the doorway.
         Her heart sank as the person who she thought might have been her son, this time was someone else. This man was not like her son, he was not tall and lanky; he was a stocky type with a fat belly, and she recognised him instantly. 
        The man looked at her and gave a grin, a grin that turned her stomach. In his hand was a small white envelope, just like the one Charlie kept under his mattress. Now she was worried, but what was she to do? Charlie was up to something,and this something had to do with one of the men she hated most in this world. It was the same person who had drained the life out of many good men and women of this hard part of London. His name was Harry Smithson, a local thug who preyed on the local businessmen and women by putting the fear of God in them.


       Mad Harry Smithson, or simply Mad Harry most folk called him. He was a bastard of the top drawer in these parts of London, and she should know. Since the three years she has been living with Jack above the bakery, every Friday evening, at just before seven, he,or his sidekick,Jim Evans would be knocking on their door demanding money, and Jack knowing what was good for him, always paid.
         ‘For the love of Christ, Charlie, whatever you do,don’t get mixed up with him,’ she muttered under her breath. 

Silhouette of a Broken Man © Peter Best 2019. Peter Best has asserted his moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying recording or otherwise without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Also this publication is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publishers prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. This publication is a work of fiction. All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Charlie Chambers is a man, who in his life has made many plans. Unfortunately for Charlie they rarely bear fruit, and often land him in the hottest of water.  Now he has another, but this one is fool proof, it  just can't go wrong. Just as well, because the stakes are high.

If it works, the girl he wants to spend the rest of his life with, will no doubt think he's the hero he aspires to be. If it fails, it means trouble, and a lot of it. It could even mean death.

As the hours go on, the lure of Scotland calls, and more sinister plans have to me made, especially when he is given a letter, written by the hand of his dead aunt. But one thing Charlie didn't account for in his master plan, was the green eyed monster of jealousy, a village full of lies, and a man named Mad Harry.

What the, Silhouette of a Broken Man is about.

           Silhouette of a broken man is a novel with the theme of jealousy running through it and what damage it can cause.
            It starts off with Charlie, a young man from London who has got his eye on a certain young lady, who he tricks into going to Scotland with him to stay with his aunt.
           When they get there, Charlie soon finds out the death of his Uncle Frazer many years ago may not have been an accident after all. The thing is, he’s not bothered at all about the evidence he has uncovered telling him this, but he knows he can use it to blackmail his uncle’s killers. The problem is, he may have got it very wrong, and that combined with the jealous feelings he has for his new boss, bring about a disastrous end. 


Chapter Two.

Dolly gently closed her front door behind her, somewhat stupefied at what she had just witnessed. She hung her jacket on the peg next to the others, then noticed Charlie’s also there. Spirits now lifted, she knew her son was home safe. Saying that, she still hoped he could still come up with some sort of a reasonable explanation as to what she had just witnessed on the High Street. She slowly made her way up the stairs when she heard a sound from the kitchen. Her heart warmed when she heard the sound of him making a cup of tea.
      ‘Hi Mum,’ he said cheerfully as she came in. ‘Do you want one? There’s plenty of hot water in the kettle.’
      ‘That would be nice Charlie, then we can have a talk,’ she said softly.
      ‘About what?’
     ‘About what you’re up to. First you come in here stomping up the stairs in a hell of a temper, and now you’re acting like a happy bunny.’
      ‘Well, to answer your first part of the question, I was upset with that stupid Rob Freeman. He’s nothing but a poxy window cleaner himself, and I’m just sick of him telling me how to run my life. He’s been saying for years what I should do, and what I shouldn’t. I’ve just had enough of him, that’s all.’
      ‘Oh yeah, what has he been saying now?’ 
     ‘He was calling me stupid again, just because I wanted to buy Annie a present. The problem was I didn’t have enough money to get her anything worthwhile.’
      ‘What do you mean; buy Annie a present? She’s not your girlfriend Charlie,’ his mum replied despondent.

       ‘What did you want to buy her anyway?’
      ‘Last week; when we were in her café, she said she would love to go the Bahamas, but she hasn’t got the money. So I thought we could go together. The problem is, it costs a fortune, and I haven’t got that much money saved up. Not yet anyway.’  
       ‘Oh Charlie! When will you ever learn? She doesn’t want you as a boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a lovely girl, and I think the world of her, but you two would never make a couple. Why don’t you just try and find someone else? There must be loads of young girls your age around here looking for boyfriends.’
      ‘Annie doesn’t want me because I haven’t got much money. That’s what Rob said. But that’s going to change soon.’ 
       ‘Charlie, I know you are very fond of Annie, and I’m sure she’s very fond of you too. But can’t you see, even if you had money coming out of your ears, you two just wouldn’t fit together. Listen, I’ve known Annie for a number of years now, and she doesn’t chase men for money.’ 
    ‘Well, we’ll soon find out because I have a plan to make some extra cash. Mum, I’m sick and tired of the likes of Rob Fellows always having a go at me because I’ve got nothing, but that’s going to change in the next few days.’     
     Dolly grabbed the edge of the table tightly knowing what was going to come next. She had a question to ask him, but she wasn’t looking forward to the answer she was expecting. She loved her son despite his many faults, and come hell or high water, she was determined to help him no matter what he was up to. Somehow she had a feeling this was going to be one of these times when he needed her help. Unfortunately, she knew this time, just like all the other times, her offers of help would no doubt be refused. She still asked the question anyway.
       ‘Charlie, are you doing some sort of deal with Harry Smithson?’
       ‘Have you been spying on me?’
       ‘Hardly spying, but yes, I did follow you in case you were going to do something stupid again. I saw you talking to him, and I’ve a horrible feeling about it.’
        ‘He’s going to help me out.’
       ‘No Charlie, no,’ Dolly replied raising her voice in frustration with her son. ‘He’s not going to help you out, not in the slightest. For crying out loud, the man is a criminal through and through. Don’t you know what type of man he is, he’s the lowest of the low, and with the morals of the devil.’
      ‘No Mum, listen, he said he has a thing going on that can make me some money. He wants me to be an investor, and you know what, I’m going to take up his offer. For years everyone has been telling me I’m no good, and I will come to nothing just like my father.’
      ‘Well, they will be right if you start dealing with that madman, and you will end up in jail just like your father did; if not worse.’
       ‘What do you mean worse?’
       Dolly took a breath of exasperation. For years she had tried to keep him on the straight and narrow, but he just could not see it. Her thoughts flashed back to the gambling ring, as well as the time he broke into the bakery downstairs. These two were bad enough, and she could always remember what the police said at the time. ‘Charlie was lucky; the next time the judge might not be so lenient. So make sure you keep him out of trouble.’ That was easier said than done,she thought. Also, she knew fine well there were many other dodgy things he got up to over the years that followed. She also knew it was nothing but good luck that stopped him from getting caught on many occasions. 

       The bottom line was; her son had a criminal mentality. He often saw crime as a way to make it big in life. He looked up to the wrong people. To him the heroes of the day, were the men who got away with it, the men who drove down the road in their sporty looking hatchback cars, windows open and music blasting. To her great despair, there wasn’t a thing she could say, or do that would make him change his mind, but she was determined to have one last try.
       ‘Do you know what the latest rumour is?’
       ‘About what?’ he answered.
       ‘Mad Harry Smithson and Joshua Able, the bookshop owner.’
     ‘Joshua Able’s dead; you know he is,’ Charlie answered wondering what his mother was getting at. ‘He died in the fire at his shop last week.’
      ‘Yes of course I know,’ Dolly answered her son back. ‘I also know it was arson. It was in all the papers. Someone put a burning rag through his letter box setting the place on fire.’
        ‘What’s that got to do with Harry Smithson?’
       ‘Because the rumour is, that it was either him,or his mate Jim Evans who did it, or at least one of his other stupid sidekicks. Apparently he stopped paying his weekly protection money saying he couldn’t afford it anymore. Of course Harry Smithson wasn’t bothered whether he could afford it or not, so he decided to teach him a lesson; didn’t he?’
       ‘So what are you saying?’
     ‘Jesus Christ Charlie, you are thick,’ Dolly replied somewhat demoralised with her son. ‘Can you not see; Harry Smithson has killed that poor man because he refused to pay him any more protection money. All he wanted to do was make an honest living, and that man who said wants to help you make some extra cash killed him. Now can’t you see why I’m so worried about you? The man isn’t going to help you, or if he is, he’s only going to help you go straight to jail.’
       ‘I’ll be fine Mum, just wait and see. Harry’s not as bad as people make him out to be.’
     Dolly sighed once again, ‘Do you know Jack has to pay Harry Smithson every Friday night, regular as clockwork just to keep his bakery from burning down.’
       ‘Jack’s a wanker,’ Charlie replied.
      ‘Oh, he is,is he?’ his mother replied back at her son now very aggravated he has just called the man who had helped him out a great deal a wanker. ‘You’re an ungrateful sod at times Charlie Chambers. Jack has done everything he can for you. Remember, he took you in as his own son, even though you robbed his shop.’
       ‘That was years ago,’ Charlie protested.
       ‘When it happened is irrelevant. The point I’m making is, Jack has done nothing but helped you, and he’s a good man. But while we’re on the subject of helping; how is Harry Smithson meant to be helping you?’
       Charlie took his time answering, as he knew his mother was right about Jack. He was a good man without a doubt, even though Charlie always thought he was a weak person by paying his weekly protection payments to Mad Harry. But Harry was strong, and the strong will overpower the weak every day of the year. So he deserved it in his eyes. Now it was time for him to be strong. He pushed his shoulders back and answered his mother.
      ‘I have given all of my savings to Harry. He said he is going to put my money on a horse he knows is going to win a race tomorrow. He told me he has connections in the racing world.’
        ‘Oh my God Charlie, and you think he’s going to give you a big wad of cash as winnings don’t you?’
        ‘That’s what he said. The horse is something like ten to one. I’ve given him nearly a thousand pounds, so I’ll get a fortune back by tomorrow night.’

        ‘No Charlie, you won’t. When will you ever learn?’