The guy is starting to piss me off, hanging around. “Can I get you a coffee?” he asks. A coffee. The man is a f**king coatstand and I’m lying down. I direct him to the loose floorboard and he gets a couple of glasses from the drainer. “O.K., asshole,” I tell him, “give me a cigarette and I’ll tell you all you want to know.”

I extend my arm, like a junkie getting ready. I stretch out and flex my fingers, and there, dancing on their tips to no music, is a tiny ballerina.

“I’m recruited in Feltham, where I’m serving eighteen months for an assault on a mini-cab driver. That’s three or four years ago when the hardcore consists of maybe ten guys, Muslim converts attracted by the violent mystique of radical Islam. We’re mostly in our early twenties, some of us the sons of Yardy gangsters and all totally ruthless, heavily tooled up -– MACH-10s are a favourite -– and trading on rumours of links to Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

“We start by taxing South London crack-houses and shebeens and ripping off local dealers and pimps for protection money. There are no boundaries: one dealer who refuses to pay has his house petrol-bombed and is incinerated, along with his wife and three kids. 

“Conversion is easy, simple and quick. You don’t need an imam, you don’t even need to go to the mosque. All you have to do is make a declaration of faith in the presence of two other converts that none is worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah and it’s done.

“It relaxes me and they start to call me Static, give me protection and status and better food. I’m fourteen when I leave school, man. I tell you about all this already. My junkie crack-head old man and the Grime. Yeah man, that’s what we call it, that kinda life, the Grime. That’s all there is when you got no family. All there is.

“But now I’m running with the Mussulmen. I find a security I’ve never known before, I’m part of something, a family.”

She’s dancing in the palm of my hand now. I watch her for a while then I clench my fist.

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