YOU CAN FIND EARLIER CHAPTERS OF ‘TOXIC’ IN THE ‘BLOG ARCHIVE’ ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE PAGE. CHAPTER ONE WAS RELEASED IN MAY 2014
When he had arrived into the world on a cold morning in February 1972, nobody would have predicted that Philip Titmus would go on to live any kind of stand out life. That being said, he was a big baby at a touch over nine pounds and he was able to out scream the fellow infants on the maternity ward of
. Luton Hospital
His formative years were non eventful in the extreme. His dad was a signalman for British Rail and his mum was a dinner lady at the local primary school where Philip became a pupil in 1979.
At first glance there was nothing remotely special about his first two decades. Teachers at parents’ evenings spoke of a middle of the road boy who was unlikely to get the grades needed for university. He was seldom in any trouble and he was reasonably popular with his peers.
However three separate things laid the foundations for his future life.
Every summer holiday would see him on a train north for a three week stay with his grandparents in
During these stays he discovered that he had the ability to absorb different
accents and by the age of fourteen his Glaswegian twang had become something of
a party piece among his mates in Glasgow Luton.
Throughout his teenage years he grew strongly until he eventually made it to six foot three. He filled out as well and by the age of sixteen his powerful shoulders were enough to see him fast tracked into the second row of the school rugby team. He lacked the innate aggression to cut much of a dash on the rugby field, but the game was to leave a lasting legacy on his life. Early in 1985 a high tackle around the neck saw him hospitalised for four days and when he was finally allowed to return home, the consultant told him that damage had been done to his vocal chords. His voice had been changed forever. For here on in he would speak with a deep and gravelly tone.
It was in this year that he surprised himself by auditioning for a part in the school’s production of ‘Oliver’. He was even more surprised when he was awarded the opportunity to play one of the lead roles as his size and voice made him a shoe in to be Bill Sykes.
Most surprising of all was the fact that he was given rave reviews by one and all for his performance. He liked that. He liked that a lot. Especially when Trish Dawson who had played
said yes to his offer of a night at the
So it was that the failed second row forward with the growling voice set out his stall to become an actor. For the next ten years it looked like it was going to be a pretty bleak life choice as he scratched a miserable living out of bit parts and advertising work.
In 1993 he decided that being called Philip Titmus wasn’t helping his career prospects any and so he decided on a name change. After much careful consideration, he tapped into his Scottish roots and re-branded himself as Cameron Laing.
And nothing changed.
Then in 1995 he went along for an audition for the part of a bad guy in a three part drama set in the East End of London. It wasn’t any kind of lead role, but it was the kind of part that he had never managed to land for himself in the past. As he stepped out to give his reading, a sudden impulse made him change his planned performance.
So it was that he read in the hard tones of the east side of
ominous accent coupled with the gravel voice won him the role. And when that
role was done, there were more offers of other roles, all of which required the
man voice. Glasgow
By 2002 he was playing the lead in a moderately successful cop show set in mean streets of a
where the rain fell every day and somebody got murdered every five minutes. Glasgow
The maverick detective he portrayed was a hard drinking type complete with designer stubble and a willingness to stretch the law to snapping point in order to prevail against a succession of scar faced bad guys.
People over in
noticed him and flew him out to take a closer look. They liked what they saw
and turned him into a star. Over the next ten years he became a permanent
member of the A list. Sometimes the part he played still required him to speak
in the voice of the Glaswegian tough guy, but more often than not he spoke in
excellent American. Hollywood
But whenever he carried out any kind of media work he stuck with his trademark Scottish twang. The old
accent was quietly consigned to the dustbin of history along with all memories
of a quiet boy called Philip Titmus who had lacked the aggression to cut it for
the school rugby fifteen.
By 2010 he had become ‘A’ list in every way. When he moved into his multi million pound Hertfordshire mansion with his ‘B’ list actress wife, OK magazine had run a three page spread to celebrate the event.
Thanks to his uniquely threatening voice, there was no need for him to ever be involved in bar brawls or drunken rampages to rubber stamp his tough guy credentials. But he was keen to take another step up. He was convinced that he had more in his locker than merely being the go-to tough guy. He fancied a shot at Macbeth and King Lear. He wanted to be seen as a serious player.
So it was that in 2013 he saw the up-coming Referendum as a big opportunity to give himself some extra gravitas. The cool and edgy Cameron Laing seemed like a perfect fit to front up the radical end of the ‘Yes’ campaign. But that was never going to get him where he wanted to go. He studied the whole thing with great care and soon worked out that the most of the people who held the keys which would unlock the doors to him becoming a serious actor were well and truly rooted in the ‘No’ camp.
Cameron Laing was determined to become a regular in the flagship BBC dramas of the years to come. And so it was that he stepped out into the limelight and used his world famous growling tones to implore the people of
to vote ‘No’. Scotland
He enthusiastically threw his hat into the Better Together ring and they absolutely loved him to bits. What was there for them not to like? All of a sudden they had a
lister on their books who was happy to put the Unionist message over in the
authentic voice of East Glasgow.
It took no time at all for him to be front and centre of the ‘No’ campaign. It wasn’t all plain sailing of course. The social media up in
Scotland picked over his Luton
roots and his life as Philip Titmus. His involvement in a sprawling tax
avoidance scheme was also dug up from where he had tried to bury it and put out
into the light.
For a while, he spent a few sleepless nights worrying that he had made a monumental error of judgement. In a matter of months he had gone from being seen as being dangerous and edgy to being seen as signed sealed and delivered man of the Establishment.
And then one morning his agent called to say that the BBC were desperately keen for him to take on the role of Heathcliff in their upcoming period drama.
The emergence of Black Clan put him even further into the limelight. Everyone wanted to hear what the tough guy cop from the mean streets of
thought of the man behind the Saltire mask. Glasgow
He became the number one voice of angry outrage as he toured the TV studios. He gave a masterclass in how to play the determined tough guy role as he promised that the antics of the Black Clan terrorists would never work.
He called them cowards hiding behind silly masks.
He called them filthy terrorists.
He promised them that a life rotting away in prison was all they had to look forward to.
And then his agent called to tell him that the panicky director from the National Theatre had been in touch. The National treasure who had been scheduled to play King Lear in a month’s time had fallen from a horse and shattered a hip. Would Cameron Laing be willing and able to step into the breach at such short notice?
You bet he would.
And he did.
And every morning his driver would pull up his Bentley in front of the front door of his magnificent Hertfordshire home at exactly 6.00 am to take him into the rehearsals.
It was a routine.
The Bentley would draw up and the driver would jump out and open the back door.
Then the front door of the house would open and Cameron Laing would step out. If it was raining, he would dart straight into the back seat.
If it was sunny, he would pause for a few seconds and enjoy the feeling of the early morning glow on his chiselled face.
Richard Maltby and Gordon Campbell had witnessed this early morning routine for five days straight from their hiding place in a hawthorn thicket on a low hill four hundred yards away.
Two days had seen driving rain and a scurry to the back seat.
Two days had seen a pause to enjoy the sun.
This morning it was sunny again.
This morning they were ready to end the watching phase.
So very predictable.
5.59 am clicked to 6.00 am and the Bentley appeared from where it had been parked at the rear of the property.
Richard had his scope lined up on the bottom half of the fine front door which was 100% seasoned oak.
The door opened and now the scope gave him a zoomed in view of Cameron Laing’s sturdy legs in their designer jeans. And the legs were perfectly still as the man who had made it all the way from a terraced street in Luton to the National Theatre paused to enjoy the sun.
It could not have been an easier shot.
Richard caressed the trigger of his Barrett 50 and a heartbeat later the bottom half of Cameron Laing’s right leg disappeared in a blur of red.
Gordy recorded the prone screaming figure and the frantic driver jumping about in a panic and waving around his frenzied arms.
He gave it a minute and then snapped the camera closed. Richard had packed away his rifle in 45 seconds. They exchanged a nod and moved clear of their bush in a gentle jog.
This time they followed a new routine which Boy had told them was necessary. They drove ten miles to a service area where they donned wigs and hats. They ordered coffee and made use of the free Wi-Fi to send Gordy’s video to
and the care of Saj Khan. Dacca
They left after five minutes and drove through ten miles of country roads to the place where they had parked up a second car. They thoroughly cleaned car number one and transferred all their gear into car number two.
Then they set out on the long drive back to
Once again Saj experienced a sinking feeling as he watched the video footage of Cameron Laing having the lower half of his right leg being blown off by a high velocity bullet.
He felt like throwing up.
He felt like running away.
He felt like bursting into tears.
But he didn’t follow any of these courses of action. Instead he thrust a cigarette into his mouth and did what he did.
Within minutes the latest Black Clan offering was the biggest show in town in both the online world and the real world.
The same figure in the same mask. So very familiar. The same bricks in the same wall. So very familiar.
‘Aye well, there’s not a whole lot to say, right? This fucker isn’t even Scottish. He’s just a sad English prick pretending he’s fae Glesga. Take some advice pal. Just shut the fuck up.’
And next came a minute’s worth of crystal clear footage. A fine front door of a Hertfordshire home of a member of the super rich. A glowing early morning light. A rural idyll. A shining Bentley. A young driver opening a back door. A fine oak door opening. A handsome man standing on the step and smiling at the start of another day. A puff of crimson and the handsome man is changed. The bottom half of his right leg has simply disappeared. He keels over as in slow motion. And for a few desperate seconds, his face is almost comical as his expression wonders why on earth he is sprawled on the front steps of his OK Magazine house. But then his expression changes from bemusement to abject horror as he registers the fact that the bottom half of his leg is no longer there. The camera zooms in ever closer to his screaming face and frantic eyes.
End of show.
Every news channel on planet earth dropped everything and chased the story. Within minutes the footage was being beamed out to a gasping world with a careful blurring which spared the viewer the grisly reality of what it looked like when a high velocity bullet met with a human leg.
Those who viewed the event online were not spared the reality. Millions gaped in horror at the sight of the blood pumping stump.
Soon updates were flooding in.
There was confirmation from the local police. A forty two year old man had been the victim of a shooting incident.
An air ambulance had attended the scene.
A forty two year old man had been flown to a nearby hospital where his condition was described as stable.
Three helicopters provided aerial views of the house as police vehicles gathered. News vans hurtled out of
to get up to the minute reports of the
unfolding story. London
Some headed to a patch of ground outside the hospital where the now stabilised ‘A’ lister was being treated.
The majority headed to the scene of the crime to set themselves up to send constant breathless up to the moment updates back to their studios.
Not that there was a great deal to say. A famous actor had been dismembered by Black Clan. An air ambulance had taken him to hospital to be treated. An online video of the event had broken all online records.
Nobody had been caught.
Experts were rushed into studios to analyse what had happened.
The Prime Minister appeared outside Number 10 to describe what had happened as a wicked and cowardly act.
The First Minister appeared in the Parliament in Holyrood to describe what had happened as a wicked and cowardly act.
A procession of actors from both sides of the
Atlantic turned out to agree that it had been a wicked
and cowardly act. They told the world what a great guy Cameron Laing was. They
shared quality time they had spent with him spent on film sets. They told
favourite Cameron stories. They wished him a speedy recovery. They told him
they were with him every step of the way.
The director of the National Theatre’s upcoming King Lear felt like smashing his office up, but managed to control his temper to give an interview where he wished Cameron the very best in his recovery.
First a shattered hip. Now a blown off leg. For Christ’s sake….
Cameron Laing’s property was the last house on a two mile long cul-de-sac which was home to thirty houses with a net worth of well over £100 million. At the end of the cul-de-sac was a car park which gave local dog walkers access to a popular woodland walk. The car park was home to an information board and three picnic tables and it had the capacity to park eighty vehicles.
It provided an ideal home for the growing collection of TV vans to set up a base and send regular updates out to the watching world. By ten o’clock seven vans were up and running.
Boy Masters had been watching them arrive for an hour and a half. He had taken up station on top of a low hill three miles away a little after eight o’clock and his high powered binoculars gave him a good view of the frantic activity that was happening in the normally sleepy cul-de-sac for the super rich.
His hard face was home to a constant smile.
It was all so utterly predictable. The sight of a celebrity having his leg removed by a sniper was always going to make this the greatest story in the lifetimes of the men and women of the media. And whenever such a story erupted onto the airwaves, they always followed the same playbook. They would mobilise their news vans and send them to the place where whatever had happened had actually gone down. And then the highly made up newsreaders would endlessly regurgitate the same facts to a watching world. The fact that nothing was happening any more mattered not a jot. All that mattered was that they showed the viewer that they had managed to get themselves to the nearest available spot to Ground Zero to give their constant updates. They could have done every bit as good a job from the studio, but that wasn’t how things were done.
They needed to be THERE.
They needed to be SEEN to be THERE.
And here they were.
Seven of them. Loving the limelight. Feeding off all the voyeuristic attention. Breathless with the delicious horror of it all.
Christ he hated them. Leeches feeding on blood. Maggots feeding on putrefaction. Hyenas ripping at the carcass.
Always watching. Never doing. Always judging. Playing God.
Holier than thou.
Full of themselves.
Flies on cow shit.
And so pathetically predictable. He had played them like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn had played his rats. He had made them dance to his tune and it had been so pathetically easy.
He had fed their voracious 24 hour news cycle and they had taken what he had offered with the unquestioning lust of junkies helping themselves to hits of free heroin.
They were the dumbed down mouthpieces of a country he had come to despise. It was time that they became the news. Time they paid the price. Time they felt the pain.
The idea for his final masterpiece had come during one of his long walks over the hills around the cottage in
And once the idea arrived in his imagination, it had grown and evolved. It was why he had headed across the water to
and driven down to stand by
the glistening waters of Carlingford Lough. Ireland
Back in the classrooms of Sandhurst, a young 2nd lieutenant Charles Letchworth Masters had absorbed the story of the greatest British Army calamity since
And it had all been down to two crucial failings.
Predictability and carelessness.
The men of the second battalion of the Parachute Regiment had made the mistake of travelling along the same stretch of road at more or less the same time on most days. They created a predictable pattern and the planners of the Provisional Irish Republican Army loved nothing better than a predictable pattern. The IRA parked up a wagon loaded up with bales of straw in a lay by opposite the impressive gates of Narrow Water castle. Two men hid themselves on the far side of Carlingford Lough which was also the border between British Northern Ireland and the
When the convoy of one Land Rover and two four tonne trucks drew level with the
parked lorry, the hidden trigger men detonated a 500 pound fertiliser bomb. The
last truck took the full force of the blast and was blown many feet up into the
air. Irish Republic
Six paratroopers dead. Two critically wounded.
The Army reacted quickly. And the Army reacted predictably. They reacted the way they had always reacted before in the wake of a major incident. They set up an incident command point in the area immediately behind the gatehouse of
They flew in a senior officer to take command of the situation in a Gazelle
helicopter. They flew in a Narrow Water
helicopter to evacuate the wounded. Wessex
They followed the agreed procedure to the letter. In fact, they followed it very impressively. The rapid reaction force reacted rapidly.
Just like the IRA planners had predicted they would react.
It meant that the two trigger men on the far side of Carlingford Lough had to wait a mere 32 minutes before detonating their second bomb: 800 pounds of fertiliser hidden in milk churns by the castle gates.
Twelve paratroopers dead. Two men of Queens Own Highlanders dead. Another six wounded.
It had been the blackest day the British Army had lived through since the Second World War. It wasn’t merely the fact that they had lost eighteen men that made it so bad. And it wasn’t merely the fact that there were celebrations in every republican bar in the Province that retribution had finally been metered out to the hated Parachute Regiment for the massacre on Bloody Sunday. The worst of it was the fact the IRA had made such complete and utter fools of them.
They killed no civilians. In fact the only civilian to lose his life that way was an English birdwatcher who worked in
who had been
shot in his hide as the panicking soldiers had fired wildly across the water in
the wake of the first bomb. Buckingham Palace
And not only had the IRA killed 18 soldiers. 16 of them had been the right soldiers. Paras. Their most hated enemies.
It had been a PR triumph for the IRA Army Council.
And Boy Masters had been secretly thrilled by the audacious brilliance of the attack, though he had kept such thoughts to himself.
And now it was time to take that old IRA playbook and dust it down. He had guessed exactly how the media would react in the wake of Cameron Laing having his leg shot off.
And he hadn’t been wrong.
And now here they were. Seven vans parked up exactly where he had known they would park up.
And today it was the 27th of August. It was the 25th anniversary of the IRA’s finest hour.
He allowed his binoculars to hang from his neck and pulled a mobile phone from his pocket.
The number was all ready to be called.
He called it and several pounds of C4 explosive duly responded to the ensuing electric signal.
Nobody survived his bomb.
Fourteen minutes after the blast, Saj Khan watched as a one line message appeared in the drafts folder he was watching.
Every instinct in his body screamed at him to just get out of the building and run and run and keep on running.
But he didn’t. Instead he posted.
It was the shortest of the Black Clan videos by some degree. Just a handful of seconds. A figure in a Saltire balaclava. A stone wall. A harsh light.
Not many words.
“Main stream media? Fuck the main stream media. That’s what we think of the main stream media…”
Fade to black.