CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32EPILOGUE

Judd’s flat may be small but for being 23 years old and owning your own place it was impressive. There’s only one person living there anyway, Judd, and let’s face it, how much room does one person really need. And although the flat isn’t big there is a lot in it. Not in a hoarder sort of way though, more like every need you may ever have has already been catered for. Everything in the flat has been carefully chosen to scream classiness and elegance while also showing off exactly how wealthy its owner is. It’s not gaudy, not too in your face. It’s tasteful but definitely out there as interior design goes. Each room has an LED wide screen television in it, even the bathroom. The carpets are thick enough and plush enough to sink your feet into. There’s no need to wear slippers, even in winter, the carpets are so thick they keep your feet warm easily.

The bathroom, complete with its own wide screen telly, is marble clad with its own personal sound system and lighting display. If you wanted low, mellow lighting while you soaked in the gigantic tub you could have it. If you wanted bright, brilliant light while you made sure you had shaved off every hair on your chin, you could have it. All it took was the flick of a button and the twist of a knob. The bedroom had every gadget you might ever need in there, iPhones, iPads, tablets, Macs, Macbooks, a massage chair, an adjustable bed. Lights are hidden in every surface and could be controlled from both the doorway and a panel near the headboard. It has its own sound system too, just like in the bathroom, and the television slips out of a panel from the ceiling so it doesn’t take up too much space when it’s not being used.

The kitchen looks like something out of Grand Designs, all gloss and granite surfaces with more counter space than you think could ever be used. It could make a Michelin star chef cry with jealousy. Any gadget that an amateur, or professional, chef could need is within easy reach. The fridge contains only the best ingredients and the pull out cool cupboard is perfectly stocked with organic fruit, vegetables and grains. No junk food can be seen, it’s all hidden away somewhere secret, out of sight and mind until the cravings get too strong. As a place to unwind if cooking’s your thing it’s perfect and it was designed that way.

Judd had designed each and every inch of this flat so that it is just the way he likes it. He’s never had that much freedom, that much room to make things exactly how he wanted. Now though he had an entire flat and he was making sure that not only did it have the latest mod-cons but that the entire space worked for him. Now, as he looks around the place that is essentially his palace, he almost can’t believe that he owns it, that it’s his and he’s only a couple of years out of university. Most graduates are still searching for a job and living with their parents by this point and here he is, owning his own home, running his own business and chasing all of his dreams. The flat he lived in now was a far cry from the small apartment he shared with his dad, Sally and his brothers growing up. There had been three of them squeezed into one room when he was a teenager. Now he loves the amount of space that he has.

He’s lying on the sofa, playing one of the many Grand Theft Auto games. He’s comfortable, wearing the sweat pants of gamers the world over. His t shirt is clean and neatly ironed though, practically fresh out the packet. There’s a tiny alligator on the chest, marking it as designer. He’s got a lot of points and a lot of money. His street cred is at an all-time high, even for him and he couldn’t be happier. He drives his virtual car down the street, stopping at a red light. He makes his character look around.

“Oh come on mate!” he cries, “That’s just bad business.”

He was watching another player do a drug deal with one of the NPCs. There’s a police car just down the street and the lights start flashing and the sirens start wailing. The light turns green and Judd drives off.

“That guy knows nothing about dealing,” he mutters in to his headset, “You never do a deal in the middle of the street. Especially not when there’s coppers right near by.”

A few people agree with him, their accents mark them from all over the world. Someone doesn’t understand though.

“Well it’s simple isn’t it?” he explains, “Doing a deal in the middle of the street gives you too many witnesses. And doing it in front of the plod is just asking for trouble. They’ll see you easy. They’re trained for that sort of thing, even computer coppers.” Someone else asks a question, “Plod means police, you know, the popo, coppers, pigs, The Man. Get a dictionary and look it up or something,”

The watch on his wrist beeps and he glances at the time.

“Shit!” he cries. “Sorry guys, gotta love you and leave you. Class starts in an hour and I’m still not ready.”

He can’t get killed now, he’s gained too many points and he’s in the lead. If he dies then it’s back to square one. He logs off the game and throws his controller to one side

“Xbox off!” he calls as he scrambles for the remote.

The Xbox beeps as it turns off, even as Judd bounds over the back of the sofa, hitting the remote to turn off the telly without looking back.

“I’m going to be late!” he mutters to himself as he rushes into his bedroom. He glances at the clock beside his bed and freezes. “Wait a minute…”

Then he remembers. He had set his watch half an hour ahead, just to stop himself from being late. He knew that he would want to take his time getting ready and if he thought he had more time then he would take longer. So Judd had decided to trick himself into thinking he had less time than he would want. And it had worked. Now he had just the right amount of time to get ready. He flings open the doors to his wardrobe, kicking off his sweats as he waits for them to finish sliding open. He crosses his arms over his bare chest, clad only in a pair of tight Armani briefs and taps his finger against his lips as he stares at all his clothes.

“Start with the shoes,” he mutters to himself, “That’s what Dad always says.”

It is what Judd’s father always says, has always said. Judd can remember it from as far back as his memory goes. It was one of the most important pieces of advice Asif had ever given him and it had never steered him wrong in all his years. His father’s voice came in his mind, repeating the familiar words, ‘You can tell a lot about a man from his shoes. If they’re worn and scruffy then he can’t be trusted, if they’re clean and well cared for, even if they’re old, the man is good. If a man can’t even take care of his shoes then how is he supposed to be trusted with anything else?’ With those words in mind Judd realises that he can’t go wrong with a fresh pair of white trainers and dark jeans. They’re all designer of course, Lacoste and Armani respectively. He grabs an Hermes belt to go with it. The trick, he’s learnt over the years, is to dress well to show your wealth, not to dress flash. It’s only if someone looks closely that they can see the labels on the clothes, otherwise they look just like regular jeans and trainers off the high street. Except, Judd thinks to himself as he finally picks out a shirt, they fit a hell of a lot better.

Judd’s dad is a good man who taught Judd to work hard to get where he wants. He’d always encouraged Judd to work for his money, to focus on his studies and do well. It was what had propelled him to study Economics at the University of Essex. Knowing how money was made, the things that had worked and the things that hadn’t, what can influence his chances to make money but are outside of his control, in Judd’s mind that was the best way to make more money and keep it. He’d lived in Farlow all his life. It was close to the university without being so close that he was kept up all night by drunk students and parties. Asif had always taught him that a good night’s sleep made a better student. It was the need to work hard and improve himself that’s led him to taking a law conversion course at night school. Lawyers had always seemed better somehow to Judd. They worked hard, long hours but they made a lot of money and there was always some new challenge on the horizon for them. That’s what Judd thought anyway. The idea of getting justice, punishment for those who do wrong was another appealing thought. He knew that there were flaws in the British Justice system, things that didn’t work the way that they should. If he knew how everything fitted together, how the pieces turned and made the rest move, there was a chance, however small that he could change things.

He had to change things. He had to get justice for his dad. His father who had brought him up, encouraged him to learn and study and work to get what he wanted. His father had never sat around doing nothing. He’d worked since he was old enough to. He’d run his own shop and made quite a success of it. And now he was in prison, waiting for a trial, all because some little oik had thought it was a good idea to try and nick from him. His father had decided to teach him a lesson, and anyone else who thought they could steal from him. And now Asif was the one being punished. The very thought of it made Judd’s blood boil and it drove him to study harder, faster.

**

 

Judd looks at himself in the mirror, examining each and every inch of his outfit. He wanted to look respectable but casual, like most of the other students on his course. Wealth wasn’t there to be splashed around, it was there to make your life easier, at least that’s the way Judd thought of it. The plaid shirt, Ralph Lauren of course, fit him perfectly. He looks like any other student but neater somehow, smarter and tidier. He supposes that’s because his clothes are designer, not off the hanger stuff. But then again it could just be that Judd has made sure that everything he wears is neatly ironed before it even sees the inside of his wardrobe. Judd smooths the shirt down over his chest. Then he stops and frowns. He holds his arm up in front of his face.

“Stupid button,” he mutters.

The button on his left cuff is hanging loose. It’s dangling by a thread. A single tug could break it, catching it on something could pull it free. Then Judd would be left with an open sleeve and that just wouldn’t do. As he looks closer he spots something else, hidden amongst the stripes of the plaid. It’s a small blood stain, stretching in a thin line up his arm.

“Crap,” Judd mutters.

He pulls off his shirt, tutting to himself as he quickly flicks the buttons open. He tosses the soiled and broken shirt onto his bed. Shirtless once more he digs through his wardrobe, flicking shirt after shirt to one side.

“Where is it?” he murmurs, “Come on, where are you, you little sucker. I know there’s two of you in here,”

Judd gives a cry of triumph and pulls out a new shirt. It’s almost identical to the one that lies on his bed. Judd looks it over, holding the hanger in his hand before he nods and puts it on. He looks himself over in the mirror again and flicks a few strands of hair back in place. He’s stain free, all his buttons and seams are in order and he looks like a model student. He grabs his backpack as he heads to the door and glances at the shirt on the bed. He will bin it later. He glares at the offending garment and flicks off the light.

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