The Genesis Secret
Alan Greening was drunk. He’d been boozing all night in Covent Garden: starting at the Punch, where he had three or four pints with his old friends from college. Then they’d gone to the Lamb and Flag, the pub down that dank alleyway near the Garrick Club.
How long had they lingered there, sinking beers? He couldn’t remember. Because after that they’d gone to the Roundhouse, and they’d met a couple more guys from his office. And at some point the lads had moved from pints of lager to shorts: vodka shots, gin and tonics, whisky chasers.
And then they had made the fatal error. Tony had said, let’s go and look at some girls. So they’d laughed and agreed and ambled halfway up St Martin’s Lane and bribed their way into Stringfellows. The bouncer hadn’t been keen on letting them in, not at first: he was wary of six young guys, obviously out on the lash, swearing and laughing, and way too boisterous.
But Tony had flashed some of his ample City bonus, a hundred quid or more, and the bouncer had smiled and said, Of course, sir…and then…
What had happened then?
It was all a blur. A blur of thongs and thighs and drinks. And smiling naked Latvian girls and ribald jokes about Russian furs and a Polish girl with unbelievable breasts and endless amounts of money spent on this and that and the other.
Alan groaned. His friends had departed at various times: collapsing out of the club and into taxis. In the end it was just him, the last punter in the joint, tucking multitudes of tenners into the G-string of the Latvian girl who gyrated her tiny little body as he stared at her helplessly, worshipfully, dumbly, idiotically.
And then at 4 a.m. the Latvian girl had stopped smiling and suddenly the lights were up and then the bouncers had him by the shoulders and they were firmly escorting him to the door. He wasn’t quite thrown into the street like a bum in a saloon, in an old-fashioned western-but it was pretty close.
And now it was 5 a.m., and the first throb of the hangover was needling him behind the eyes; he had to get home. He was on the Strand and he needed to be in bed.
Did he have enough cash left for a taxi? He’d left his cards at home but, yes-Alan sorted groggily through his pockets-yes, he still had thirty quid left in his wallet; enough for a cab to Clapham.
Or rather, it should have been enough. But there were no taxis. It was the deadest hour of the night: 5 a.m. on the Strand. Too late for clubbers. Too early for office cleaners.
Alan scanned the streets. A mild April drizzle was falling on the shiny wide pavements of central London. A big red night bus was trundling the wrong way-towards St Paul’s. Where could he go? He fought through the boozy fog in his head. There was one place you could always get a cab. He could try Embankment. Yes. There were always taxis there.
Collecting himself, he turned left: down a side road. The sign said Craven Street, and he’d never heard of it. But that didn’t matter. The road headed downhill towards the river: it must take him directly onto Embankment.
Alan walked on. The street was old: lots of serene Georgian buildings. The drizzle was still falling. The first hint of a spring morning was bluing the sky above the ancient chimney tops. There wasn’t a soul around.
And then he heard it.
But not just a noise. It sounded like: a groan. A human groan: but