Readers only ever seem to care about the heroes. Does anyone truly ever consider what it is like to be the villain? Did readers of Casino Royale ever stop to think about poor old Le Chiffre? Did anyone feel sorry for Pinkie in Brighton Rock? Did anyone consider Big Brother’s point of view in Nineteen Eighty-Four?
No. The villain is someone to be despised and booed at. Even in pantomimes, children are actively encouraged to hiss at the bad guy when he walks on stage. The same is as true in real life as it is in fiction. Such was Jimmy Ambrose’s line of thought on that miserable Sunday afternoon during the summer of 1965. As he walked down the dirty, litter-strewn street, he tried his hardest to catch the eye of anyone and everyone who walked past him. Women with perambulators; important-looking men with briefcases tucked under their arms; immigrants; mods; rockers – yet nobody seemed to think twice about the pale young man with the wide, staring green eyes and the thin, tightly-pursed lips. And, furthermore, nobody seemed to care that the hands buried deep in his pockets were still stained crimson with the blood of his latest victim.
Everyone knew who he was. Everyone wanted to ask him what it was like to kill a man in cold blood. Yes, they did. Everyone everywhere at every point in time wanted to know the story of Jimmy Ambrose. They would say they didn’t. It was as if it was some sort of taboo, wanting to know more about – even supporting – someone the police called a villain.
But Jimmy knew the truth. Everyone pretended not to know him, but they must do. They must. How could they not?
Jimmy turned and walked slowly down a seedy alleyway. The air smelt as though a truckload of rotten fish had just been dumped into one of the bins. Jimmy liked the stench. It reminded him of home. It reminded him of how his father had gutted fish all day long when he came in from his fishing trips. He had never been there while jimmy was growing up. He had even, on one occasion, called him “Tommy”. Tommy! Ha! It came to something when your own father didn’t even know your name, didn’t it? Yes. Yes, it was a terrible mistake for Michael Ambrose to have made. It was the last mistake he would ever have the privilege of making.
Jimmy had initially considered drilling holes in his father’s boat. As an experiment, of course. The aim was to discover whether the boat would still float. But it would have been pointless to do such a thing. How could he ever see the reaction on his father face if he were to drown in the middle of the ocean? Jimmy couldn’t go with him to watch. He would die too. And Jimmy Ambrose must stay alive. It would be wasteful for both father and son to find themselves trapped in a watery grave. He had wracked his brains for days upon days for a solution to his problem. How could he punish dear father? He came up with so many plans: hitting him from behind with an axe, poisoning his evening meal, and he even considered locking him in the garden shed and letting his starve to death. But no, that wouldn’t be right. It would be pointless. After all, if you are going to murder someone who has wronged you, they need know that it was you who killed them. There’s no point murdering a man if he doesn’t look into your eyes before he falls and thinks “oh, so this is why I am to die – because I wronged poor little Jimmy.”
In the end, he had stolen a shotgun from the shed, and had confronted his father in the living room. His sister and mother had been there too. Jimmy could still remember the looks on their poor little faces. It was hard. But it had to be done.
It was only a year later, but there were still far too many villains in the world. Jimmy wasn’t the villain! Everyone thought he was, but he simply wasn’t. He was one of the goodies, righting wrongs and punishing the wrongdoers. Yes, he liked killing. But isn’t it simply a divine gift if one can truly enjoy their work?
“Hey, mate.” The voice called out from the shadows. Jimmy turned slowly on the spot to see where the sound had emanated from. He raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“Yeah, you.” The person speaking was a young man of about Jimmy’s own age. He wore a long brown coat and sunglasses, and jimmy saw that a thin white stick had been placed in the boy’s mouth. What was it? Ah, of course. One of those foul smelling sticks that people breathe through to make them cough. He had never understood why you would want one.
“You got a light, mate?” the boy asked.
Jimmy just stared at him. A light? What on Earth did this strange young man mean? Was he…? Yes, he must be. An enemy. This person knew all about Jimmy’s mission to rid the world of Evil. And he had been sent by Evil to stop him. Yes, there was only one way to save himself. The boy would have to die.
Five minutes later, and Jimmy found himself sitting on the ground in front of Big Ben. The last kill had really taken it out of him. He felt ill. His whole body ached. His hands were still soaked in blood. He brought them out of his pockets and started intently at them. Yes, they were still crimson. It reminded him a Shakespearean line he had once heard and very much liked. What was it? This my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red. Never was a truer word more fitting for a moment in time than that one was now. Could it be that the boy had really been an ally? No! He couldn’t trust anyone. Jimmy Ambrose had no friends, so how could anyone ever really be kind to him. To make friends you had to go out, and drink, and touch people. You had to be sociable, and hug other men and – even worse – women. Argh! Women! He hated them more than anything. His mother had been a woman. All he knew was that women were cruel, and shouted at you for no reason, and beat you, and took orders from snakes, and got you in trouble by making you eat apples off trees when you’d been told not to. And if you did find yourself unable to stop yourself from liking them, they laughed at you when you asked them to go out with you. Yes, they thought Jimmy Ambrose didn’t know, but he did know. He knew all about how a woman could make a man’s heart break like glass without physically doing anything to it. It was an evil power. An unearthly power. And he was sure if your heart broke you would die. And Jimmy Ambrose had to stay alive at all costs. Whether we fall by ambition, blood or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust. Webster. He had also known exactly what he had been talking about.
He looked up, and noticed that everyone walking past him was looking right at him. Yes, go on. Stare. You all know me. You know who I am. You know what I do. You know why God created me. Love me! Fear me! You could be next!
But what was it in the eyes of the passers-by that unnerved him? Of course! They were looking at him accusingly, as if he were a common criminal. Or maybe they all just thought Jimmy Ambrose was a sick boy. “I’m not!” he screamed at them. “I’m not mad!” Now everyone had stopped walking. In fact, there was no-one there anymore. The street was deserted. Had he imagined the whole thing? No! He couldn’t have! That would mean he was crazy, and Jimmy Ambrose was not crazy!
But what was that? A shuffling? Over to the right. Turn your head. Yes, there was someone there. A short, hunched figure, little more than a silhouette, was wandering up the street towards him. He carried a large bag at his side. He was another kind of person jimmy had learned about. The tramp. Relatively harmless, but could he really take the chance? He could be another enemy agent. He too would have to die. Jimmy waited quietly for the figure to approach. He would have to time his attack just right, before the tramp had the opportunity to strike first, but when he was close enough for Jimmy to be sure he would not miss.
He waited a little longer, until there was only about a metre between them. Now! Jimmy pulled a knife out of his pocket and thrust it towards the figure. He felt it pierce the soft skin, and warm blood began to rush over his cold hands. The body let out a sigh and crumpled to the floor. It lay there, totally motionless. Jimmy bent down and opened the tramps bag. It was filled with dirty clothes. Could it be possible?
The man had not been an enemy. It was as clear as crystal. The tramp had been just that, a tramp. Nothing more.
It was then that Big Ben began screaming. It shouted out into the night sky. A loud, metallic clanging shout. And it kept on shouting. “Shut up!” Jimmy screamed. It had seen what he had done, and it was alerting everyone nearby to it. The clock was telling the whole world. They would surely be able to hear it in Australia! “Be quiet!” He was desperate for the shouting the stop! Soon he would have a mob on his hands if the damned clock didn’t put a cork in it! He kept on yelling at the great structure, but nothing he could do or say could stop the clanging of those terrible bells. They seemed to go on forever. Jimmy couldn’t take it anymore. To stay here would be suicide. And besides, he was pretty sure the clock couldn’t run as fast as he could. It was far too big. If it chased him, he could easily outrun it.
Jimmy Ambrose turned and ran as fast as his legs could carry him away from the scene of his crime.