HACKED OFF

HACKED OFF

 

It was a steamy August night in London as I sat in the bar at the Hilton Park Lane dressed as an Arab when things came to a head. It was, after all, the height of the silly season. I was waiting for the Conservative MP who was unknowingly about to become front page news. For the sake of authenticity to my genre – I was a tabloid hack – and to “protect my sources” and as a testament to my “journalistic integrity”, certain words and phrases will appear in double quotes in this story. As I sunk deeper into the fabric of the foyer sofa the tape recorder digged into my ribs, strapped as it was around my chest, the wire slithering underneath my sweaty arm pit leading to the concealed microphone.

 

“Good evening, what are you drinking?” I asked the MP who had sauntered through the lobby to the bar.

“How are you Hassan? I’ll have a Scotch on the rocks” replied the MP, who for reasons of legality, we shall call F. “How long have you been waiting?” F jittered as a  strange grin spread across his face. I drew deeply on a Silk Cut Extra Mild.

 

He was a sitting dog and old enough to know better. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth and later, if my plan turned out, one up his nose. Following press day I would soon be able to “exclusively reveal” how F’s political career “hung on the brink” due to the “astonishing allegations” I would be making. After the story broke I knew it would be a “harrowing ordeal” for him and his family but nothing that the Surrey air, time and some Tuscan sunshine couldn’t mend.

 

F’s suit was impeccable Saville Row, sharp with the light grey matching perfectly his hair which had started to recede. I suppose he had a certain dignity to his look, although come Monday morning I doubt this would still be intact. The plan was to get him suitably oiled in the bar before we retired upstairs for the real fun. As part of a long term operation tonight was the culmination of months of undercover work. As payment for certain sensitive military information I procured from him he would receive, in addition to large amounts of money, two “high class hookers” and two grams of “damaging and highly addictive” cocaine were waiting for him upstairs in the Hyde Suite.

 

I should have been very happy. I didn’t know which was better; “Tory MP in drugs and vice shame” or “Tory MP in arms bribery shocker”. But something about tonight wasn’t right. Something in me had changed.

 

 

———————

 

My path leading to this had been ordinary or extraordinary depending on how you looked at it. Like a moth diving head first into the media glare, I plunged thoughtless into the world of journalism. I guess it was my career miss-trajectory. Something about being attracted to the glamour. Or the bit on my Journalism post-grad about pursuing noble truths and making society a better place. For years I lived the life in London. Rubbing shoulders with societies movers and shakers; “soap star starlets”, depressed pop stars, ex-snooker players with drinking problems, IT girls, roasting footballers, vice queens, TV celebrities, lewd judges, kinky MPs and unfaithful City gents.

 

I’d proven myself on my local North London paper as a hard nosed hack and quickly made it to Fleet Street. It was here I nurtured my steely nerve under pressure and became renowned for my undercover work. I never flinched. Infiltrating criminal networks, rubbing shoulders with football hooligans, shaking up Triads, exposing saggy paedophiles and making public “seedy suburban orgies” where young couples engaged in “unspeakable” sexual acts not knowing that our “secret dossier” would soon be landing on the Police’s desk and the nation’s doormats. It was these stories that really tickled me, especially when accompanied by a junior undercover reporter we had to exit just as the naked blonde made her “lewd and depraved sexual advances” to my trainee. It was then that we would “make our excuses and leave.”

 

I became increasingly dissatisfied with the media world. Frequently it became obvious that we were leaches and frustrated, underpaid nobodies. In reality, the music journo wanted to be on stage tweaking the guitar solo to the crowd’s adoration. The sports writer would much rather be scoring the winning goal at Wembley and earning 30K a week whilst taking his pick from an ever-present “bevy of beauties”. The financial hack really wanted to retire early from an over valued IPO. Instead we were writing about these worlds but not inhabiting them, trapped in a perpetual state of vicarious dissatisfaction.

 

The years had polluted me. I became tainted by the world I seeked to expose. I picked up bad habits, not least, a taste for snorting powder and a contact book that could make me one of London’s biggest coke dealers. This seemed to be the fuel of the media / celebrity classes. It was rife and something we always used as bait. It had eroded my morals. I often related to Robert De Niro’s Travis character in ‘Taxi Driver’. I wanted to rid the world of all the ‘bums, druggies, whores, tramps’, but in the end became further isolated and turned into one of them.

 

For every paedophile we exposed there were scores more lurking in the shadows. One footballer with a taste for gang bangs was followed by a queue down the hotel corridor. Ditto corrupt politicians, gangland killers, still in the closet rock stars and drug addicted lottery winners. The faces were interchangeable the acts the same.  I provided the nation with titillating English breakfast reading material but it was always next days fish and chips paper. Suddenly, an affect of the tabloid sensationalism that seeped through my every pore and a predilection for cliché and pun, it became a case of if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.

 

 

——————

 

 

“I take it you received the files?” F enquired, by now with a Scotch reddened nose and less nervousness. I tapped on a Silk Cut Extra Mild.

“Yes, thank you. Very useful. You received the money?” I tried in my best Middle Eastern accent.

“Indeed. Although I’m rather more looking forward to tonight” he replied seedily, the glint in his eye bordering on the depraved. His poor wife, I thought.

“Why don’t we retire upstairs?” He was waiting for me to say this.

 

The suite was large and sumptuous. Hyde Park traffic silently twinkled below. The 24 inch plasma screen was playing CNN which I quickly turned off. The faux pink marbled floors and walls and remote control for the window blind echoed the decadence and seediness of the unfolding scene. Within minutes of texting them, Sandy and Chelsea – our “vice girls” – were with us in the suite as easily as if we had ordered a take away pizza or Club Sandwich from reception. Which I suppose in some ways we had. Their high heels clacked as they walked across the marble floor.

 

Soon they were chopping up large lines on the glass coffee table. F greedily shovelled one up each nostril. Next thing the girls were stripping and I watched as Chelsea bent over to hoover up from the tracks of off-white powder arranged neatly on the glass. Another night at the office as it were for the “working girls”. I guess also another working night for me. I inhaled sharply on my Silk Cut Extra Mild.

 

Normally it would be at this point in my journalism pieces that I would have “made my excuses and left” armed with all the evidence I needed. Tonight something in me flicked. Fiction merged with reality, my worlds melded. I made no excuses. I stayed.

 

ENDS

Words 1305

 

Martin Worster

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