Goons – Chapter 2

Two years and eight months until takeover

It doesn’t always go smoothly. For example, there was one time when we tried to steal liquid nitrogen from a laboratory at the University of Bristol. The three of us were crammed into a small room, crowded around a liquid nitrogen freezer like witches round a cauldron. I was wearing these padded gloves that looked and felt like oven mitts, and watching the steam billowing off the freezing liquid as we siphoned it into a smaller vessel. Bossman kept on and on at me about how dangerous the stuff was, and every movement I made was slow and careful. Until the security guard showed up.

He burst through the doors behind us, announcing his presence with a shout. He was forty-something, probably. Bearded. I feel like I should remember his face more clearly, but I don’t.

I remember shaking off the padded gloves and throwing the first punch, but then everything blurs. I’m usually clear-headed in a fight, but maybe I was having an off-day or maybe what happened afterwards messed my memory up. What I do remember is how it ended – with the security guard crashing to the ground, knocking over our chunky vessel of stolen liquid nitrogen as he fell.

Me, Em and Bossman all ran for it. Through a store room, down a corridor, past a laboratory. Behind us, an alarm sounded, but it wasn’t a burglar alarm. It was a low oxygen alarm. Apparently if there’s too much nitrogen in the air, it displaces the oxygen and you suffocate. We had just spilled a large quantity of liquid nitrogen, right next to a probably unconscious security guard.

We left the building and hid in the bushes beside it, getting stung by nettles and waiting for something to happen. For the guard to stumble outside in search of us. For a light to flicker on in the office. Any sign of life.

“He’s dead,” said Bossman.

“We can’t be sure,” said Em.

“Maybe you can’t, but I can.”

I was stunned. Couldn’t feel anything in particular, and my brain seemed to be working slower than usual. If the security guard was dead, it was my fault. And yeah, I’d hurt people before, but never to the point that they just … didn’t exist anymore.

“So we get out of here, right?” said Em.

“Wrong,” said Bossman (this is his favourite word). “We get rid of the body.”

He led the way round the back of the building. The sound of the low oxygen alarm leaked out between double doors, marking the room when the liquid nitrogen was stored. I strained my ears for any noises underneath the alarm – the sound of choking or gasping. There was nothing.

Forcing the doors open, I saw the security guard’s body sprawled across the floor.

“See, I told you he was dead!” Bossman exclaimed, his voice suddenly high and sharp with panic.

I stepped towards the body but Em grabbed my arm and yanked me back. “Wait until the alarm stops”, she said.

With the doors wide open, it only took a few more seconds for the oxygen level in the room to return to normal. Then I bent over the body and felt for a pulse. Nothing. Bossman started talking very fast, about how the body was covered in evidence, as well as being evidence itself. My DNA in hairs on his clothes, in skin cells under his fingernails. I felt sick enough to puke, but that would’ve been one more thing to clean up. I took the guard’s body by the shoulders and Em took his legs.


We buried him in the thick, sticky mud of the Severn Estuary. Em, who claims to be a staunch atheist, said a very quick and quiet Hail Mary. Bossman said a few words about collateral damage, and his fingers tapped out something that looked like Morse code on his thigh. This is something he only does when extremely stressed.

“Are you okay?” he said, giving me a sideways, suspicious look. “You’re not freaking out, are you?”

“No, I’m alright.”

“Good. ‘Cause let’s be honest here, this was gonna happen eventually. You knew what you were signing up for.”

I didn’t. That was the whole reason for signing up. Curiosity.

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