Ian McKay

A writer with a particular passion for war stories and comedy.

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Halloween in Sickmans Lane

In the year 1651, the Black Death plague paid a visit to the city of Liverpool, in the UK. Near today's modern city centre is Addison Street; which, in 1651, because of the hundreds of deaths caused by the plague, was known as Sickmans Lane. This was due to the fact that so many people died from the plague, in the same street, that mass graves had to be dug to bury them. These graves were known as Plague Pits. However, as the years went by, the exact location of the plague pits became forgotten, and dwelling houses were built above them.  

 

Liverpool, (October 1965).

As Charlie Kennedy put the last finishing touch to a schematic of the city centre road plan, an early winter storm was building up somewhere out over the Irish sea. He stood in front of the drawing board in his office and he had a satisfied smile on his face, as he admired his work. Gnawing gently at the end of his draughtsman's pen, his eyes flicked over his drawing. Charlie gave an involuntary start as a powerful gust of wind suddenly rattled a flurry of sleety raindrops against his office window. The icy drops, driven in by a vicious north westerly wind skittered, this way and that, across the glass: perhaps a harbinger of the coming winter.  

 For a couple of years past now, Charlie had been forced to take stock of his life. He had come to terms with the fact that, because of his insistence on doing things his way, and his sharp abrasive personality, he was never likely to be considered for a higher paying position within the council's planning department hierarchy. Although it had never occurred to him, perhaps the real reason for his lack of advancement was the fact that Charlie Kennedy was, basically, a profoundly corrupt and dishonest man. This communicated itself to everyone he came into contact with, and it was not a quality that was conducive to him being promoted.

However, if nothing else, Charlie was a realist; and, because he had long ago accepted the fact that his council salary was unlikely ever to enable him to enjoy the freewheeling, high-living, lifestyle that he would have liked to become accustomed to, he had been on the take for a number of years now, and had welcomed several 'brown envelopes' into his bank account.

 He knew just how to take advantage of corrupt business men, and there were men who made it clear to him that they were not averse to side-stepping the normal channels of going through the usual planning application rules. Men who were more than willing to offer him a bribe, in order to make sure that their planning permission applications were successful. And, because one of his main areas of responsibility was to review all the commercial and business planning applications for final approval: he was perfectly placed to do that. Charlie Kennedy had always considered himself to be a pretty good judge of human nature and, whenever he was in a position to let that particular corrupt type of applicant know it, he made sure that he got his message across to them. He always made sure that, given the right financial incentive; a fat backhander for Charlie, the chances of their particular planning application coming to fruition would be assured of success. He always prided himself on being a practical, pragmatic, kind of man; the type of man who was able to spot a fellow wheeler dealer. He was always on the lookout for other men with the same corrupt moral characteristics as himself. And, with that kind of applicant, he never missed the opportunity to subtly make them aware of the fact that he was also a player: and, just like them, he was a man with an eye for the main chance.

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