Bernard Fischer had never enjoyed the city life, and would much rather spend his life in the open country. It was of
no surprise to his family or those that knew him when he settled in Bath, with
its idyllic green pastures, and gothic architecture which brimmed with history
lost and found.
It was the change his needed, particularly in his line of work. A job, which up
until this point, had been fraught with peril, for there was always unseen,
twists of the knife lurking in the dark when you had connections with the world
of underground crime. He had been born into the life, he hadn’t simply chosen
it; this was perhaps the sole reason he longed to escape. Nothing was ever
simple, this chance at freedom had to be carefully planned, perfectly executed and
without any loose ends which they could use to find him. He had to outsmart the
most evil men and women in the country; he had to defeat those who could not be
touched. At least, not by his hands anyway.
Three years shy of his fortieth birthday, Bernard, or Bernie as he was known to his
friends, more like those who feared him, had always been one never to back down
from a spot of danger. It was this, which had landed him in prison for ten
years. One account of murder, premeditated and swiftly executed, yet cleaned up
rather messily, there was no doubt in the eyes of the law that Bernie Fischer
was guilty; and he was, he could still remember the exact moment in which he
garrotted his victim, the smarmy Gill O’McAteer. His, amongst a long line of
others, had been a quick death.
He was shipped off, never to see his family again at the age of twenty-eight. He
had married a young Irish girl and yet had failed to conceive an heir to his
small fortune he had accumulated over the years. The girl, Karen, wept the day
he was taken, and had still cried every night for the first eight months of his
sentence before she too found herself caught up in the affairs of the family
business. Not that she wanted any of it. It had been her defiance which had
first warned Bernie to get out. It was her, his voice of reason, which told him
to swiftly end his life of crime by taking out the most influential figure
controlling his life. He hadn’t planned on getting caught. That was a lack of
judgement, a mistake if anything though he would never own up to it.
For ten years, Karen and Bernie never once saw each other. It was too much to
overcome for the poor lass. Her husband, whom she had barely known before their
wedding, was nothing like the man she believed she could change him into. It
was a crushing blow, though Karen Fischer had sworn to distance herself from
Bernie and the Fischer clan. She would not become like one of them. She still
had her humility and dignity, and none of the bravado his in-laws prided
themselves on. Eventually she remarried with an accounts manager from central
London, and delivered three of his children in a matter of three years. Two
girls and a boy who looked nothing like his father which had caused tension in
the marriage. Karen and her second husband divorced over lack of trust and
Karen found herself contemplating life with her estranged first husband when
news of his release got through to her by her best friend Carol, who was
herself drawn into the spider’s web that was the Fischer clan.
When Karen saw Bernie for the first time in ten years she saw nothing of the man she
had once believed she loved. He was much gaunter, his hair which had once been
luscious and dark was now streaked with grey and a number of tattoos now
protruded the sleeves of his shirt. His eyes had remained the same yet saw a
completely different version of the world. Those blue, all-knowing eyes
recognised Karen, and had instantly forgiven her for doubting him. There were
only three minor problems with their reunion, and it came in the form of three
surprises who now stared back at him. Bernie Fischer was taught never to raise
another man’s child, let alone three of them. Yet if he was going to keep Karen
this time, he would have to make do.
It was his decision to relocate them to Bath, away from the sprawl of the city,
kept from temptation of ever returning to the family business. Still, he would
occasionally glance out the window, expecting to see the arrival of his family.
He knew that if he ever saw them again, it meant business. It meant trouble,
and much worse, it could inevitably end his newly-renewed marriage to Karen
Worrisome then, that it was not his family that made first contact.
‘The brew here is excellent,’ the man said casually, removing his coat and hanging
it over the back of the chair.
Bernie looked up from his paper and eyed the man with curiousity. He clicked his
tongue and returned his attention back to the paper. ‘That seat’s taken I’m
Looking around the small cafe, the stranger grinned. ‘I don’t think so. Besides, I’d be
much better company.’
Bernie sighed, folding the newspaper and placing it in his lap. ‘I’m not interested.’
‘You will be though.’
‘Who sent you?’
‘Funny, I had assumed that would have been your first question.’ The stranger tapped a
finger on the table. ‘It doesn’t matter who sent me, all that does is why. You
must hear me out Bernie.’
‘No. I don’t think I shall.’
‘How’s Karen doing these days? Still as... robust as she once was?’
The threat was meant to unnerve Bernie, yet it only made him smile. He rose from
his seat and flung the newspaper down upon the table. ‘Look, whoever you are. I
have no idea what you’re talking about, nor do I care. You have the wrong guy.
So if you’ll excuse me, I have business to attend to.’
The stranger sighed, before shaking his head. ‘You’ll learn Bernie. You can’t
outrun your shadow you know. It will, and always does eventually catch up to
He was about to reply before he thought better of it and turned to walk away. No
idle threats were going to rouse the long buried past. He wouldn’t go back to
the man he was. One more chance, that’s all he had. One more chance or he could
be looking at spending the rest of his life behind bars, without Karen, and
without the children he was starting to love as his own. After that day,
paranoia swept in, and with each morning, Bernie became more relaxed. He knew
they would be back. It was only a matter of time. The stranger in the cafe had
been right. His shadow, his demons, they could not be exorcised, couldn’t be
removed. Still, even as a child he had always been good at hide and seek.
Night after night, he would toss and turn, never once looking Karen in the eye, or
telling her about his encounter. What use would it do her to know? It would
only create fear, and that wouldn’t be good, especially now that they were
trying for a child of their own. Bernie had waited too long for this; he longed
to be a father in another sense. He had to have an heir of his own flesh and
blood. Perhaps that was the old family talking; still, some traditions he
intended to keep.
‘We’re pregnant.’ He smiled as he kissed her forehead.
‘Are you happy?’
‘I don’t know if I want it.’ She murmured.
Bernie suppressed the anger and held his wife. ‘We’re having it. It’s God’s gift, who
are we to take it away.’
‘That’s your mother talking.’ Karen pulled away from his embrace. ‘You haven’t lived
through pregnancy, you don’t know or understand. Three Bernie, I’ve gone
through this three times already. I don’t know if I can bear it another. I
won’t do anything, but promise me we will talk about it.’
They never got the chance to utter another word about the newly conceived heir to
the Fischer dynasty for it hadn’t lived long enough to breathe its first
breath. Some argue that life doesn’t begin until you’re born. Others believe
the soul is born at conception. Whatever the case, the Fischer baby had stabbed
at the heart of the family, and not one but two lives were lost in the fray.
Standing alone outside the hospital, Bernie Fischer smoked his last cigarette as the
rain sputtered down heavier than before. Mist slowly rose from the tarmac as
ambulances wailed into emergency. He had not shed a tear for the death of his
child or beloved wife. He couldn’t, because he knew what was to happen next.
Karen had been his sole reason to change, and now she had been ripped away from
him. The children had been collected by their neighbours, a young couple
desperately trying to have their own children. Perhaps it was fate, or some
other cosmic design which had led Bernie to this moment.
As he flicked the butt of his cigarette into the gutter he sensed the presence of
the strange from the cafe, accompanied by a second, heavily built man.
‘Where to then?’ He uttered the sentence which would change his life once again.
The man from the cafe, Patrick Shaw, had originally been born in Ireland, though had travelled for most of his life,
softening his Dublin accent. He had settled in London, and fell into working
for William “Billy” Fischer as a way of paying off his ever increasing gambling
debt. He had plans to work enough to get the bookies off his back then hightail
overseas, perhaps Amsterdam. Little did he expect he would fall into the job
and love his work. Billy kept an eye on him, and praised him for his efforts
and ridiculed him when things went sour. He had learnt never to cross Billy
Fischer; he would much rather be punished by the Devil himself.
The night he had collected Bernie Fischer, the prodigal son from the lowly town of
Bath had been the day of reckoning for Patrick Shaw. Well, what need had Billy
had for him now that his eldest had returned to roost? Still, he kept his
silence and his backup plan close at hand.
As for Bernie, he could feel the tension mounting between him and Patrick as they
drove to the Fischer estate. He hadn’t seen his father since the trial. He
still hadn’t explained his reasons for killing Billy’s own brother, Bernie’s
uncle and once proud head of the family business. Billy had picked up the
pieces, and now he was the man to be feared. Yet angry as he would be, Billy
Fischer didn’t have the heart to kill his own offspring. He would make Bernie
work for his repentance. He would sweat him dry of any dignity and reawaken the
demon within his soul. Bernie too, knew this well, yet his heart had died when
Karen did. He no longer had a care in the world, no longer desired to live for
the sake of living. If he was going to do this without her, then he’d do it the
only way he knew how. The way that had been ingrained since birth.
‘Hello son.’ Billy sat at the head of the table and nodded for Patrick and his crony
to leave the room. Bernie swallowed hard, sweat beaded on his brow. ‘It’s been
Bernie shifted uncomfortably in his chair yet remained silent.
‘I’m sorry to hear about Karen. I’m sure she’s found a better place.’
‘Cut the shite.’ Bernie seethed. ‘I want in. Whatever it is you have going. I’m in
Billy shook his head. ‘It’s not that simple boy. You’ve done me wrong. You think I’m
just going to accept your disobedience? A bad dog has got to be punished or it
will never learn.’
‘With all due respect, Pa, I’m not a child anymore. I’ll repay you whatever you want.
I’ll do it my way however or I walk. Believe me; I have nothing to lose in
this. You however, have a far distance to fall.’
‘Are you threatening me son?’
‘Yes.’ Bernie found the courage bubbling in his belly. ‘I mean no, it’s not a threat.
I’m not like you, I don’t do intimidation, I don’t fart-arse around. If I mean
something I’ll do it, and not just as a means to an end. If I say it will
happen, then you better watch every step you make. I’m back Pa, but on my own
conditions, my terms, certainly not yours. So you can either accept that, or
see the back of me. Face it, your run is coming to an end, and I’m sure as a
hell a lot better at running the business than Eddie and Carl. So you listen to
me and you listen clearly. I want in on whatever it is you’re planning, yet you
do not control me. When the time comes, I will inherit what is rightfully mine,
without any technical bullshit put in my way, and finally, all my past
indiscretions are to be forgotten. Do you understand me?’
Billy rose and sauntered to his son before outstretching his arms and embracing his
boy. ‘Bernie you piece of shite, I’ve never been more proud to call you my
son.’ Releasing Bernie, Billy sent his forehead slamming into Bernie’s nose,
sending his son sprawling on the ground with spurts of blood. ‘But if you ever,
and I mean ever, talk to me like that again I’ll have your bollocks handed to
me on a silver platter. Do you
understand me? I can’t hear you lad, do you understand me?’
Bernie rose, running his fingers along his now broken nose, a tangle of running blood
coursing its way over his lips. He grabbed hold of his father’s hand and the
two embraced. Bernie grinned, despite the pain and the blinding vertigo; as too
did his father.
‘Welcome home son.’ Billy said jovially. ‘Now, go and see your goddamn mother before she
puts me on a spit roast.’
When he had been sitting in his prison cell, Bernie Fischer could not have foretold the three things which
would directly change his life. The first had been Karen’s untimely death, the
second he reawakening into the life he had for so long tried to outrun. The
third, and perhaps most life-shattering event would happen this night; a
happening so profound, that Bernie Fischer would know the truth of his life,
and a meaning outside the family business.
It began with a shooting.
Eddie, being the middle of four children, was the enforcer. He was muscular and taut,
without an ounce of fat on his body. His black hair was slicked back, and he
wore Ben Sherman frames. His disguise was thin to say the least, yet it
softened the brutish exterior to a certain extent. He had ordered a pint, and
an E for added dramatisation before setting himself down at the back of the
Roost, the local pub in one of Manchester’s many housing estates. Around here
the pubs were dirty and the people were even filthier. Perhaps it wouldn’t be
so hard for him to fit in then.
The plan had been for Eddie to scope the Roost out for their intended victim. Not
used to surveillance, Eddie had lost out when Carl compromised himself to their
target. Carl wasn’t exactly a rose amongst thorns; he would be remembered, the
ugly bastard he was; so it had been decided then, that Carl and Bernie would
intercept the target once he exited the pub, and take him back to the storage
shed at the edge of town which had been specifically spruiked for the night’s
Louis Walsh was a drug dealer. He supplied the youth of Manchester with his wares and
pocketed both the money and his lack of conscience. Though it was not the moral
depravity which was the cause of the Fischer boy’s attention; but much rather a
matter or turf. For a long time, Billy Fischer had run a successful cartel of
drug trafficking in the local area without much trouble until Louis came on the
scene. A Liverpudian, Louis had no regard for the carefully designed web of
crime. He believed he could make himself kingpin. He was a fool to believe he
could cross Billy Fischer and get away with it.
So when the bald man entered the Roost and ordered a pint of lager and a packet of
pork scratchings, Eddie alerted his brothers in the quietest area of the
heavily crowded pub. It was happy hour, and whilst many people avoided this
sort of business at such a time for the obvious reasons, the Fischer boys
believed that one man could easily disappear amongst a larger crowd. Witnesses
weren’t a problem. Anyone who walked through those green doors came out
plastered and rosy-eyed and wouldn’t know their back ends to their front.
‘Hello Louis,’ Bernie spoke first as the drunken man stumbled from the pub. ‘Mind if
we have a little chat?’
‘You’re not on the bible bandwagon are you?’ He slurred, placing an arm around Bernie’s
‘Christ no. Religion and I don’t mix. Besides, I’ve always believed that every man
shouldn’t have to live in fear of some all-mighty, all-seeing entity. If you’re
going to have a good life, why live it in fear of God and all those rules.’
‘Good lad, rules are meant to be broken after all.’ Louis smirked, carefully stepping
from the kerb and onto the side of the road. ‘Ah, so are you looking to score
then? What is it you want?’
Bernie shook his head and waved his hand. ‘Louis, Louis, Louis, do you really think I
want any of your shit? We all know what goes into it. It’s hardly of the
highest grade, let alone you charge an arm and a leg for it. Either way, you’re
bleeding us dry, and cannot allow this. So if you please, get into the car
without making a fuss and this will all go down easily for you.’
Louis’ face turned a bright shade of crimson, flushed upon his high cheekbones and
piggy nose. He was shoved into the back of the black sedan in which now sat
Eddie. Carl, at the steering wheel, eyed their target from the rear-view mirror.
The fear in Louis Walsh’s eyes told them everything they wanted to know. He was
a dead man if he crossed them. He would pay the price for intruding on Billy
‘Shit.’ He mumbled.
Bernie wiped the blood from his hands using an old rag he found at the back of the storage shed before he stripped
himself and showered. Carl and Eddie gathered all their belongings into a
single black garbage bag and thrust it into the burning barrel. With a whoosh,
all evidence of Louis Walsh’s death was incinerated into nothing but ash.
Exposing of the body had been no challenge worth mentioning.
‘Right, so now what?’ Carl chimed. ‘How ‘bout a pint?’
‘Later.’ Bernie answered, motioning Eddie to door. ‘We still have other business.’
‘It can wait until later,’ replied his youngest brother.
Bernie closed his eyes before nodding. ‘You two go. I have things to do.’
He left his brothers to their own devices before driving away into the crude
darkness of the night. His knuckles tightened around the steering wheel as soft
jazz music filtered through the speakers. Mist rolled around the car, as
headlights cut like a blade into the blackness. On the seat next to him sat the
gun which had ended Louis Walsh’s life. He felt the cold steel under his touch
as he swallowed down every doubt which coursed through his body. He had one
last task to complete this night.
One minor flaw to dispose of.
Arriving at the Fischer estate, Bernie took the gun and shoved it into the pocket of his
jacket before entering through the back door and into the small kitchen. Wooden
beams hung overhead, creating shadows on the tiled floor as the moonlight shone
through the windows.
He climbed the stairs gently, careful not to make a sound. With every step, his
fingers rubbed the cold metal of the pistol. His eyes remained dead and calm.
Making his way down the lone corridor, and stopped dead at his parent’s bedroom,
before twisting the door handle silently, and stepping into the gloom. A part
of him screamed to stop. His voice of reason, of which had died so long ago
now, could not stop him for what he was about to do.
‘No.’ He held the pistol up to the side of his head as his hands blocked his ears.
The whispers coursed through his mind, ravaging his every thought. ‘I don’t
want to do this.’
Billy Fischer had always been a light sleeper. He roused from his slumber and saw the
shadow of his eldest son, bubbling like a baby holding the murder weapon of
‘Son. What are you doing?’
‘I don’t want to do this Pa.’
His voice raised enough to awaken his mother, who wailed with fear, clinging to
Billy’s arm. Her eyes were dark and grim. She knew her fate was sealed.
‘Bernard, put the gun down, now.’ He replied. ‘Its nowt gonna end this way.’
‘I didn’t do this!’He bellowed. ‘I... I don’t want to do this! Leave me alone!’
Billy backed off as Bernie waved the pistol in the air violently. ‘I’m sorry son. I
am. I love you, please, just put the gun down, and we’ll talk. Okay?’
Regaining composure, Bernie pointed the gun directly at his father’s head. Anger roiled,
his eyes determined and possessed. He was assured that this was the right
course of action. ‘I love you Pa.’ He pulled the trigger, sending a bullet
through to the back of his father’s head, spattering blood and brain onto the
wall behind him and over his wife’s screaming figure before Bernie turned the
gun on her and fired. Silence reverberated throughout the house as Bernie stood
rooted. Carnage lay strewn about before him as white sheets were now tainted
red. The smell of rotting fish, though he knew better, lingered and he
believed, for that moment, that he could feel their souls escaping.
‘I didn’t want to do that.’ He sprawled down onto the floor, holding the gun
against his head.
‘You had to.’ A voice whispered and he turned to look into the eyes of his dead
wife. ‘Hush, my dear, you have proved your love to me.’
‘Why? Karen, why?’
‘Hush.’ She leant in and kissed him. She was as cold as night and as white as the moon.
Her body send shivers down his spine as she reached down and undid his fly,
before slowly adjusting her hips until she was on top of him. She kissed him
more passionately now, biting his lip as she slowly moved up and down. She
swung her hair around and out of her face. The moon, wafting through the thin curtains,
revealed the thin trace of the mark down her neck. A crucifix, with a blue rose
twisted around its centre.
Cackles arose at the moon.