I am diabolical. I am the antichrist. Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me. Anyway that’s what several of my mates’ various girlfriends used to say. I’ve never got it. I look in the mirror and a wrinkly old approximation of me looks back. It might not be pretty but it is me, so why the soubriquet?
Two of the friends in question liked to occasionally go out and get mental drunk, and take drugs. And whenever they did it, they’d ask me to go along with them. How could I resist? They’d wake up with appalling hangovers covered in Foster's, spew, kebab juice or maybe mascara, with an animal or a man dozing beside them having shit the bed and missed work, and they’d blame me. ‘Fucking Overbury,’ they’d say to their girlfriends, ‘leading me astray,’ and there you have it.
One of them, Duncan, had three successive girlfriends all of whom expressed the view that I was the prince of darkness. The other one, Hamish, only had the one. She used to sell coke but in her view, of the two of us, I was the demon. When we first met one merry Friday night, I was out with Duncan and Hamish in a Fulham bar and she was friendly. Everyone got a bit bright eyed and loud but then when the Polish waitress pointed at me and said, ‘You are Withnail,’ she got spooked and started darting questioning glances at me from under her fringe.
The evening turned into a long wild apocalyptic night. After the girlfriend split, the three of us went to the notorious Club UK a Wandsworth acid house club where an excited Duncan shot off on a drug hunt while I stood next to a table of Chelsea fans who were feeling for the very first time in their lives, waves of brotherly love: ‘I fucking love you man,’ was the general drift of the eavesdroppings. Hamish just gabbled, disappeared, came back, gabbled some more and bounced away to all the farthest extremes while I remained a rock, my back to the wall, setting up a safe haven in the vast, dark, throbbing club.
When a guy asked me if I wanted some pills, I said, ‘why not?’, and there being no good reason why not I weighed him in some money and he gave me a handful of them. Mid transaction, a small army of black-jacketed bouncers massed behind the dealer and addressed me over his shoulder. ‘Are you dealing mate?’ The dealer’s wide eyes remained fixed on mine pleading. I stared at the bouncers. ‘Dealing? No. Oh no. No I’m not.’
‘Well you look like you are.’
‘No honestly, you can search me.’
With that I raised my hands, one of which was full of pills, into the air, to allow the frisk. The dealer took the opportunity to melt away. They roughly went through my several pockets, then, with miraculous and unique special timing Duncan burst into the scrum of bouncers oblivious and shouting, ‘I’ve found some speed.’
This unintentionally brilliant diversion turned their attention away from me and onto him, which on the face of it was a good thing for me and a very bad thing for him but, vague as I am about the events of the next few moments, we somehow both got away with it, I think on the basis that although he had found some speed, he didn’t actually have it yet. The bouncers were probably quite good at battering people but less so at frisking. ‘It’s in my hand you dummies!’
The bouncers in Club UK were a firm of dealers themselves under the control of Tony Tucker one of the three Essex boys implicated in the Leah Betts death who met death themselves when in 1995 they were shot in their Range Rover. Tucker was charging dealers £1,000 a week for access to the club, so the bouncers’ interest in dealing extended as far as finding the independent operators and taking them out the back to be maimed. I consider myself lucky to have retained all my limbs. My admiration for the guy who sold me the pills increased; then it increased again when the buggers kicked in and I went off into a sweaty oozy mambo for about four hours.
When I came back to reality, Hamish was slurring into my ear, “Have you seen Duncan? I can’t find him anywhere.” I unstuck myself from the wall and went on a slow recce. He'd got form in getting lost; known to just split with some girl he’d known for a moment or go walkabout with a head full of chemicals. He vanished in New York once and I eventually found him at nine in the morning in a bar full of transvestites.
During the search four hundred quid’s worth of root canal surgery broke off into my mouth. Suddenly, I had a mouth full of expensive dentistry and cheap chewing gum. Oh Christ, I’ve been chewing gum for four hours as well as gurning and it’s tugged my fillings out. That put a dampener on things.
I forgot all about my mate, said goodbye to my other mate and exited the club at five in the morning to find a cab. As I walked past the twenty or so uniformed bouncers outside on the steps, one of them said, “Ere mate, were you with that little bloke earlier on?”
“Sorry, what little bloke?”
“The one you was with, the little bloke with the brown coat.”
Fearing that this was somehow leading up to me receiving a kicking, I hedged… “I was briefly with a little chap, yes.”
“Well he stripped off at the bar. He was trying to buy drinks for people and took all his clothes off. Then he said to the barman, ‘I’m terribly sorry, I don’t seem to have any money on me.’” He looked at his henchmen and they all laughed.
“We put his trousers back on him and wrapped him up in his coat and sent him home. You should have seen the fuckin’ state of him. There was money all over the floor of the cab. We couldn’t find his shirt or his pants.”
“Oh, er, OK, thanks very much for sorting him out.”
“No problem. Hope he got home all right. Anyway, when you see him, tell him we’ve got his shoes in the office.”
“Right I will. Thanks.”
Stuffing my bridgework inside my trouser pocket I shuffled off home.
The consequences of that evening were threefold: I never got round to replacing the bridgework and eventually lost all the teeth on that side of my head, which was incredibly stupid and annoys me almost constantly.
Duncan was so concerned about what had transpired (he had no recollection of it and I had to explain the little I knew), that he went into therapy and various forms of counselling. This has continued for twenty years or more. Me telling him that the vision of him standing at a bar stark-bollock naked trying to buy people drinks was one of the funniest things I’d ever heard didn’t lift his mood one bit.
Hamish contracted motor neurone disease and died. That night was the first time he had taken a pill but it wasn’t the last. He became a bit of an enthusiast before he became ill. His illness and demise was all a tragedy but the last stages were appalling. She, bless her, devoted herself to him right to the end but anytime I saw her, she rarely spoke to me. I concluded that in some way she thought I’d caused it all. When I went to the funeral, she just glared at me. Then she died. Cancer, the usual; she wasn’t even forty. Undoubtedly the strain of nursing him for years had taken its toll.
Seen through the prism shared by these four women, I sent one of my best friends into therapy and killed the other however despite the evidence against me there are no horns on my head. I’m just a scapegoat.