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January 2001

 He didn't want to call himself a gangster, or drug dealer, Jason preferred the term 'Businessman' choosing instead to look at it differently, objectively. Historically, he had an aversion to drugs, and most things illegal, and hated alcohol too. He often thought that had he been born into a different era, or perhaps family, then his life would have been very different, still this was the cards he was dealt, and it was funny how he ended up like this, someone he didn't anticipate to become. 

 Although he did look the part, there was no denying that. The young man of 29 was 6"2 tall, largely built in an athletic way, a slightly broken nose from many boxing tournaments in the ring, and many street fights out of it. He had steely blue eyes that people mistook for craziness, and short cropped hair that most people assumed looked like a football hooligan. Added to that a 3 inch deep scar just above his left eye made him look brutish and people often mistook him for a Scandinavian. Yet he was as proud of English as any other man growing up in the country.

 Laying there in bed he reflected on how much his life had changed, from the young naive man he used to be, to the person he was now, and no doubt becoming. Jason used to be of the opinion that if you worked hard then good things would come your way, but since coming out of the Army 7 years ago, he had found little evidence of this. At times he regretted leaving the Army, but immediately remembered he had no choice. 

 Things were so promising for him back then, awarded Best Recruit and Best at Physical Training during basic training, even his own Officer in Charge of the platoon pulled him aside and said he had a bright future ahead of him, even remarked that he had 'great leadership qualities'. Surprisingly, the miserable Physical Training instructor, who Jason kept up with every step of the way during speed marches, assault courses, and never once gave in during hard sessions in the gym, came over and suggested he automatically go for 'Selection', the extremely difficult course to get into the SAS, which warmed him massively as that guy never once praised him, or anyone else, during basic. 

 On the day he passed out, he had to go out in front of so many people and salute in front of the General overseeing the parade. Boots polished until they looked like mirrors, his beret proudly fitted to his own head, his uniform pressed neatly, tightly wrapped around his fit body, not a loose fibre or hair on site. A proud day for him and his family who came to Pirbright, Surrey to watch. 

 Then later doing a tour in Bosnia, being mentioned in Dispatches, being chosen to go on missions alone, or with other squad's because he was deemed 'Switched On' by his superior officers and Non Commissioned Officer's (NCO's). Like that time when he was 'asked', not 'ordered' if he would follow a jeep up Mount Igman, overlooking Sarajevo. Serbs guns were pointed out over Muslim position's nearby and the Welsh Guards sent to oversea the delicate 'ceasefire' that was held in place. The Welsh Guards had run out of water and Pte Jason Jones (JJ), was asked if he would go up in a 7.5 tonne drops vehicle, full of water, with lights off, up a mountain, at midnight. The Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System (DROPS) is a family of logistics vehicles operated by the British Army.  In other words, a huge workhorse open spaced truck that could move weapons, tanks, food, clothing, and water. It amazed Jason that these vehicles could literally pick anything up, he recalled the training for them, having to reverse the hook underneath the lever to allow the flat bed to lift up onto the rear of the truck, all done by hydraulic, effortless. 

 Without a hesitation he said 'Yes', he had a huge sense of adventure and didn't really see things as dangerous, more exciting than anything else. 

 What followed was a slow grinding drive up a single tracked lane, snaking up and up Mount Igman. The Sergeant in the land rover jeep in front advised Pte JJ to keep very close to the mountain side, he didn't say why. As it was pitched black, little in the way of artificial light Jason took it in his stride.  The only thing guiding him was the torch light underneath the jeep, a small light, hidden from external view, but enough Jason could see where the jeep was headed. Over very bumpy terrain the torch often came off. When this happened Jason was to stop completely, and eventually the Jeep would realise his vehicle wasn't in sight, they needed to reverse, find the torch, and start all over again. A painstakingly slow process, frustrating at times. 

  After 4 hours of driving, dawn was beginning to break and they finally reached the top of the mountain. Once he parked up, and got a few 'Thank you' from various officers and senior NCO's of the Welsh Guards for bringing so much needed water.

  He was ordered to sleep for a few hours and would then be taken back down the mountain by the same NCO who guided him up.  Jason looked around his immediate vicinity before he crashed inside the cabin part of the  DROPS vehicle.  The sun was just coming up the horizon, an orange hue lighting up the back of the mountains, a really majestic view, really stunning scenery.  He did reflect why people would go to war when they had so much beauty around them, still he wasn't the one in charge. 

 Yet Jason had heard harrowing stories of the Serbs firing on anyone who worked at the zoo in Sarajevo, trapping all the animals. Apparently a few of the lions left there gnawed at their steel fences so badly because they were dying of starvation. Locals who became translators for the UN told how harrowing it was to hear how these proud beasts were left to starve to death in their cages, over a war that was not of their making. Equally, they took potshots at people leaving their accommodation, trying to find food, rations, never returning to their families. A grave time. 

 Given they were on top of a mountain ridge there was nowhere level, rock's and boulders were protruding out of the ground.  Even though he was parked up on a relatively flat area, once he got in the cabin and lay down he felt like he was sliding to the bottom of the passenger side, such was the gradient. He awoke after 2.5 hours of a light sleep, went to get some food and found the NCO to take him back to his own camp, some 2 hours away, after they had travelled down the foot of the mountain.

 This time he got a good look at the sergeant, also a Welsh Guard. He was very tall, well actually only an inch or so taller than JJ, but as he was thinner, this made him look taller. He had a straight back, square shoulders and spoke with authority, even when he wasn't giving orders. Jason couldn't work out if he was institutionalised like a lot of squaddies were, from being in the army for so long, often joining as boy soldiers at the age of 16 years of age. Or perhaps he was just a miserable bastard full stop, that was his first impression. 

 The senior NCO came over to Jason and gave him a once over glare. What caught the private's attention was the intensity from his eyes, the infamous 'Thousand Yard Stare' whereby a soldier had become disassociated with all the chaos around him. It did make him feel a little unsettled. Once the Sergeant gave him a grin, shook his hand for a job well done, it made him feel at ease, only slightly. 

 The Sergeant, unsurprisingly called 'Tall Taff', told Jason he must pay attention to the road at all times and again stick very close to the mountain, which would be on his right hand side this time. He did place a lot of emphasis on this and it did make him wonder why? As he was driving a left wheeled vehicle, Jason wasn't quite prepared for what he was about to see. 

 Coming out of the encampment and down the single lane track he now understood the importance of what 'Tall Taff' said. It was a sheer drop down the mountain, there were no fences, no metal road guards, just a huge drop. Had his wheel gone over to the left a mere 12-18 inches he would have surely dropped to his death. Clearly from the night before it was just as dangerous, but as it was so dark it didn't register. It was going to be a rapid journey down this mountain if fucked up he thought. Also, as his cabin was on the left hand side, relatively high up Jason didn't always see the remaining road on his side, and all he could see was the massive plunge to the ground. This made him very nervous at first and had to make a mental note to keep looking ahead, whilst keeping an eye on the terrain in front of him. It wasn't easy and actually took longer going down than it did coming up. 

  He was so glad when he got to the foot of the mountain, relieved, exhausted, and happy he was still alive. Jason made a mental note not to be so foolish again and volunteer for such precarious missions, but deep down he did buzz off it and knew within the next 24 hours he would be hungry for more adventures. 

  Just like the risk he was taking back then, he knew he was taking more of a risk in getting involved in this life he was now in. He was getting sucked in further and further. He was smart enough to understand the implications he was doing, yet he still did it.  It was getting late, just like the decision he made 18 months ago to get into this life, it was the same things he said to himself then 'Fuck it',  and made a mental note to continue. Dog tired, he turned over his large fit frame and went to sleep. 

 "Do you reckon you can get me 250kg of draw from your man dude?". The tough looking man said the opposite.

 Internally he gulped, his sphincter arse muscle actually did twitch, and he felt a slight spasm in his right knee. Yet, he didn't give any of this away to him. Any signs of nervousness, any indication he was out of depth would show he wasn't ready for it. Only he knew he wasn't ready, well not to take on that much.  He was only used to selling 10-20kg  a week, chopping it up, making a tidy profit, but now this.  A huge step up, just like he was contemplating last night in bed.

 "I can ask him, do you need bail or will it be cash?".  'Ball back in your court' he cynically thought to himself.  

 This time he saw the man opposite look a little uncomfortable. Was he the one who was out of his depth, was he the one blagging to see how far up the pecking order Jason was? Was he lying and just trying to get a better price for the 'draw', or was he trying to back door me so he could get access to his 'contacts'. So many unknowns. 

He didn't consider Steven a friend, although he got on very well with him, and also had a similar upbringing to himself. From a rough council estate, only in a more racially diverse area.  Steven revelled in being a 'Gangster'.  A lot of bad boys, criminal's in this part of the city knew him. Quite short for a man at 5"6, compact build, and a devastating right hand. Very witty and sharp personality and an amazing talent for befriending people, of all backgrounds. People warmed to him as he was very generous, brilliant at socialising, and also feared, as he was very tough. 

 Clearly this was his skill yet beneath this friendly facade lay a man of ruthless ambition, unafraid to step on anyone if he felt it further his cause, very calculating. Yet he did it in a way that people didn't anticipate, he was an excellent liar and great manipulator. Jason didn't see all of this immediately about Steven, it would come with time.  

Bio:  A former soldier, vexed with his life, slides further and further into the underworld.


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