Novels‎ > ‎Shot Down‎ > ‎

Chapter One



            Ripley Bennett leaned over the balcony and took in a Saturday night full of potential.  It could go many ways.  Thus far, it was leaning towards carnage with friends – the beer wasn’t doing much, but a pill might do the trick.  He appreciated his friends so much more when he was on a pill – the unity was chemical, but the feeling was real.  The band had been alright, nothing special. He’d already forgotten their name and he wouldn’t be seeking them out in Piccadilly records, but at the same time they hadn’t made him want to cut his ears off.

            Manchester was full of musicians.  That he was a poet made him feel somewhat unique within the ever increasing circles of guitar-led Rock Idols.  So many people had the dream, and they definitely had the intention – but the reality was that they lacked the oomph.  Manchester had a musical heritage, granted – but how many bands remained in the toilet circuit waiting for the word of mouth that never arrived? 

            Ripley was different, though.  He had been to London.  He had met agents and made progress.  People seemed interested down there – they got things done.  It was inevitable that Ripley would leap to bigger city eventually, proving that he had more than just idle dreams.

            It was the fans that he preferred – the real lovers of music.  They didn’t hold false aspirations of a better future when Sony would wander into the Dry Bar and discover them, setting their careers in stone.  They knew that they were there to clap and enthuse, and leap around to The Stone Roses on a Saturday night in 5th Avenue.  There was no pretence – just real interest.  It wasn’t that Ripley didn’t like musicians - it was just the ones that got bitter when they weren’t signed within three uninspiring gigs that riled him.  Like Barry Dolan, the man stood right next to him berating the music that evening, despite the fact that it was the same as every other week.

            “The Stone Roses were over-rated,” he over-stated.  “It was bland.  What we do is-“

            -is not get signed, Ripley thought, but remained silent.  When Barry was ranting, it was best to let him get it out of his system.  Barry had been in bands all of the way through their time at Manchester University, none of which had gone very far, ruined by people moving on after graduation, or through heavy workloads or bouts of alcoholism.  With each failed venture, Ripley had watched Barry get more and more bitter about the music scene, resenting every new ‘next big thing,’ writing them off as tired, whilst promising that he would change music forever.  It was just taking him forever.

            A pill would be a good idea, take the edge off the ranting, Ripley thought.  He could let go and enjoy himself then.  He had been far too controlled that evening, not really allowing himself to relax.  A pill would sort him out.  Just as long as he didn’t tell Faye.  Girlfriends and drugs never seemed to mix.  She could never tell when he was on a pill, she just thought that he’d overdone the vodka red-bull.  She knew he took drugs, she just believed that he respected her enough not to take them in front of her. 

            Faye, for the record, was downstairs in the ladies toilet snorting coke off a flyer.  It was hardly glamorous, but that was the circumstance.  Out of the corner of her eye, she could detect a used tampon that had missed the toilet bowl, surrounded by a soggy layer of bog roll that had also missed its destination.  It was relatively early in the evening, but the sanitary habits of the masses had already descended dramatically.  It was always the same here.  It wasn’t the chrome expanses of Deansgate Locks, this was the indie disco.  She didn’t even like the music, but Ripley did, and she liked to please Ripley.  He was a bit of a maverick and made her feel exciting.  Not tonight, though.  Tonight he had looked thoroughly bored, and she wondered if he was conjuring up in his head verse after verse of witty rhyme about a stale relationship.

            That was what she was scared of more than anything – Ripley’s boredom.  He was a creative soul, so he thought, and she always thought that he would leave on a whim and never come back.  Project Management was not something that interested Ripley, and so she never brought her work home with her.  She would just powder her nose a little more and prove to him that she was exhilarating.

            With shaky hand, she passed the flier to her friend Lucinda, who had scored the coke from some mystery source earlier in the day.  You could always rely on Lucinda for drugs.  And for discretion.  They had been firm friends at University, but when she was combined with Barry and Ripley, they made Faye seem even tamer.  She had gone and got herself a career whilst the others remained in the student mindset.  Still, she could play hard at the weekends and had more cash to enjoy herself – like right now.  Coke empowered her, and made her feel more exciting – it was her secret life away from project management and that made her feel enigmatic. 

            But only for about twenty minutes or so.  Then she needed a top-up.

            It was a standard night for the four of them, really.  Faye could tell that it was all a bit predictable in many ways.  Or was she just paranoid?

            She wasn’t paranoid – she could tell from the distance in Ripley’s eyes that he was bored out of his mind and she wanted to get him out of there straight away.  She wanted to run down an alleyway and have a blazing row with him, make him want to argue back and show that at least he cared in some way.  It had only been a fear before, now it seemed so real.  He was disinterested with all of this, his eye on larger things – bigger cities, better futures.  Why couldn’t he be happy?

            Faye seemed to get hyperactive on most nights out now.  He thought she might be on some caffeine supplement recommended to her by Bev from the office or something.  Either that or she couldn’t handle her drink.  She was content at the beginning of the night when he picked her up, but then she would get all fidgety, and suspicious.  It was at this point Ripley thought that maybe he didn’t love her after all.  That side was new and distinctly unwelcome.  She was itching to say something now, and Barry was droning on, and none of his regular dealers were anywhere to be seen.

            This night was crap.  With the group two people down, the variety wasn’t there and the formula had got stale.

            He had to get out.

            When Ripley thought something like that, he wasn’t sure whether he meant it on a micro or macro-scale.  Was he bored now, or was he bored in general?

            He kissed Faye on the cheek and strode out with no further farewell – he couldn’t be bothered tonight, a familiarity bred lethargy sapping his enthusiasm by the second.  He just wanted to go home and be alone.  It didn’t strictly cross his mind that he had shunned his girlfriend until she steamed out in the street after him, seeking her ‘Eastenders’ moment.

            “Ripley!” she hollered and he sighed.  He had wanted a swift exit, not a showdown.

            “Nothing’s wrong,” he pre-empted the conversation.  “I’m just a bit tired, babe, that’s all.”

            “Tired of me more like,” she snapped, looking incredibly hurt. 

            “Not at all.  I promise you.  I’m just not in the mood tonight, that’s all.  I just want to chill.”

            “Can I not chill with you?”

            “Not tonight,” he shook his head and waited for the impact.

            “Fuck you!” she slapped him, rather predictably.

            “Faye, I love you, but symbiosis is not something I crave.  I just want to wake up alone in my bed, a bit refreshed.  There’s no ulterior motive.”         

            “You just want ‘me time,’” she mocked with an ugly sneer.

            “Go back in the club.”


            She stormed off, barging rather aggressively past a bouncer, who would have knocked seven shades out of her were she a bloke.

            Ripley knew there would be questions to answer the following morning.  It wasn’t good practice for boyfriends to abandon their girlfriends in a club on a Saturday night, but at that moment, with Faye’s handprint ringing across his face, he couldn’t care less.