Thursday, 23 December 2010

Sweet Charity

I check the sheet in my hand and stop in front of a scratched, dirty, white plastic door. This is my fourth time round the territory, only a handful of houses left where I haven't had an answer. There's a doorbell, but I rap on the fake leaded glass panel. Area like this, charvas with mortgages, there's more chance of Lord Lucan opening the door than of the doorbell working. More chance of watching Pollyanna blow the Pope than of them giving money to charity, no matter how good the cause. But hell, I only get paid if the fuckers sign up, so I plaster a smile on my face and think a happy thought.

The door opens and a tattooed, shaven-headed fuckwit peers out.

'Hiya, y'alright, mate? I'm Dan. I'm here because…'

He checks out my ID badge and clocks the laminated presenter with the charity's name on it. The door slams in my face and my happy thought is hanging by a fucking thread.

Charity. Who the hell gives a damn about charity?

I walk on down the street in a fine drizzle, the sort of rain you hardly notice until you're soaked to the skin. Getting soaked to the skin is a regular hazard in this job. Either that or you get baked alive. My body looks like a patchwork quilt, white with patches of red and tan, depending on how the sun has caught me on different days.

The houses are terraced, the doors opening straight onto the street, no long paths or driveways to walk up and I'm glad of that. My shoes are pinching. I need new shoes. Better shoes. Although if I could afford new and better shoes I wouldn't be doing this shitty job in the first place. I pop a couple of painkillers and march on. Last door somebody signs up, happy to make a monthly donation through the bank, and I get to write both my name and hers on a form. I tuck my copies of the paperwork in my folder and pass her ones over with a tired smile. Days like today won't ever make me rich. Days like today, I'm grateful if I break even.

Next day I'm somewhere different. The kind of neighbourhood where all the doorbells work and none of the streets have a door numbered '13'. Fuckers! The more money they have, the nastier they are and the less likely they are to part with it. Not only that, but I have to limp all the way up a damn path to get told to fuck off. Give me a council estate any day. Pick your way through the dog turds, fight through the tidal wave of grubby truanting kids and stinking three-legged mongrels, and you'll find some really good people. Warm-hearted and generous. Never steal off their neighbours. If only the fuckers had bank accounts, I'd be living like a prince.

I've been doing this job almost three weeks now. Last week, first day out on my own, I rang the bell on this big, heavy, wooden door. Heard it clanging all the way through the house, no way anyone home could have missed that racket. The houses had long driveways, double garages and big gardens. It was a good area, juicy as fuck. I was just walking away, figuring the occupants to be at work, when the door swung open. I turned back and once I got an eyeful of the blonde in the bikini, the smile I gave her was genuine.

'Hi, I'm Dan,' I said, jogging back to the open door. I was still light on my feet then, still able to move easily.

'Stacey. I was sunbathing in the back garden,' she told me. Looked at me from under her lashes, gave me the eye. Played with her hair and tugged at the bathing suit, gave me the signals. I was trying to act professional, trying to talk about old people and how they need our help if they're going to stay independent and live in their own homes and she was spilling out of her top, playing with her belly-button ring, giving me a glimpse of a cheeky tattoo. Looking at me looking at her and liking it, looking at the all-too-visible signs of how much I appreciated what I could see, asking me to please come in and would I mind putting some suntan lotion on the bits she can't reach for herself?

Christ, I couldn't help myself. She led me inside like a puppy on a leash and kept me there for the best part of an hour, picture of her in a long white dress and some young gun in a morning suit grinning down at us the whole time. I must have done okay, because when we were through she signed up for twenty pounds a month. My hands were shaking so much I could barely fill in the form. I could do with a woman like that every day.

We're doing a children's charity now. Presenter's got a picture on it of some kid with tears running down his face. Must have really made the little spud cry, I can see snot glistening in his nostrils. Snot. That's not going to make anyone reach for their bank card. Christ, why don't these people think things through? Fucking shitty job.

Seven hours of pounding pavements later and my feet feel like lumps of liver, my legs will hardly move anymore and my back aches like a bastard. Eight o'clock. I pop a couple more painkillers. Half an hour to go and I'm torn. It's been a shit day and I just want it to be over, but I need to make two more sales to make it all worthwhile.

I look at the windows of the houses, warm glow visible through the curtains drawn against the dank, dark night and I want to be inside, sitting on some fucker's couch signing up three brothers and their mother while their slutty little sister uses her eyeliner to write her phone number on the back of my hand. Half an hour of comfort, a payday worth having, and the promise of a bit of dirty, sticky fun

Images of Caz flit through my mind. We're kind of an item, on a strictly casual, no-ties basis. She's a pain in the arse, off her fucking head, but a good fuck. Mind you, so she should be, the practise she gets. Then I get that itch again and I make a mental note to go to the clinic. I'm sure Caz has given me a dose, fucking skanky bitch. Her knees have different postcodes, they're so far apart most of the time. She's fucked more men then Kate Moss, although in fairness, she doesn't insist they can all play the guitar.

I worry about some of the women who do this job, going alone into a house with some guy, could be anyone. A lot of them are students doing this as a summer job, nice kids, and they're putting themselves at risk. Some sleazy fuckers out there. Some of them have hit on me, men with soft voices, hairy arms and pressing needs. Christ, never mind the girls, there's been times I've been worried about being in houses with people; the mad ones, the ones with too much testosterone, too many voices in their heads offering them advice. Scary fuckers.

Next morning, I drag my sorry arse out of bed and limp downstairs. Christ! It's only Wednesday and I'm already on insoles and two pairs of socks. It doesn't seem to matter what I put on my feet, they ache constantly. I go to bed and they ache. I get up and they ache. I stand still and they ache. I walk around and they ache. Are you getting this? My fucking feet ache.

Early evening and I've been on this doorstep ten minutes already. Ten fucking minutes being witty, likeable, entertaining and positive, despite the pain in my feet and my back, pain that no amount of paracetamol can kill any more. Now that the form's out and the chips are down, the fucker tells me that he doesn't have a bank account. Stood there in his designer jeans and poncy loafers lying through his fucking teeth. This is just sport to him, like baiting Jehovah's Witnesses. But we're not like Jehovah's Witnesses. We're trying to pay the rent, put food on the table, buy some thicker socks and better insoles. He's laughing at me, pretending to be disappointed that after all the time I've spent with him, he can't sign up. I want to punch his whitened teeth down his tanned fucking throat, the time-wasting bastard, but I smile, shrug and make like it's no big deal. I don't make a single sale all day, don't earn a penny. Ten hours straight and it actually costs me money. Fuckers!

By the time I get back to the office, I can hardly walk. Inside my shoes, my feet feel wet. I sneak a quick look and see dark stains on my socks. Blood. Blood that's soaked through two pairs of socks. No wonder I can hardly fucking walk. I drop off my paperwork, make my excuses and cut loose. Normally I'd be there another hour finishing up and doing the shit we do, but not tonight.

Outside, I pull out my mobile and call a taxi. I can't afford it, but I can't take another step either. I collapse into the back seat when it pulls up and decide there and then that I'm taking tomorrow off. Immediately I feel better. When I get in, I'm going to pour myself a whisky and fill a bowl with warm water to soak my feet. I'll clean them up and put antiseptic cream and fresh plasters on them, then I'll have another whisky. I'll set the alarm for ten, ring in sick, then sleep until four or five. Then I'll get up, watch TV, get dressed and go out for dinner. I haven't eaten dinner since I started the job. And I'll decide if I'm just taking a day off or if I just quit that shitty job for good. I'm almost asleep when the cab pulls up outside my place. I drag myself awake, pay the driver and fall out into the night.

A guy materialises in front of me. Says my name. He doesn't look like he belongs in these parts, so I ask him who wants to know. He's vaguely familiar and I wonder if I owe him money. He replies with his fists. He's good, quick and hard as fucking nails. I try to defend myself, but I'm tired and outclassed. In no time, I'm on the ground curled into a ball while the fucker plays football with my kidneys. While he kicks the shit out of me, he tells me about his beautiful blonde bride and how she got this itch, and how she passed it on to him, and how she finally confessed that she'd been unable to fight off the guy from the charity. The way he tells it, I'm a fucking low life, a disease ridden skunk who raped his wife then forced her to sign a pledge form. That's about as far from the truth as it's possible to get, but there's no point telling him that. He must know what a sex-crazy slag she is, else he'd have gone to the police. Truth is, he can't know what happened for sure, but since he can't bear to beat up on her, he's tracked me down. Fucking forms.

I think about Caz and wonder which of them, Caz or the blonde, has actually given me the clap. Doesn't really matter. We all have it now anyway, along with this guy; the guy from the picture, the one wearing the morning suit. Finally he gets bored kicking me. Maybe his fucking feet ache. Anyway, he stops and I lie there mostly dead and unable to move. He stomps off over the road and fucks off in his car, but not before he works up a good one and hawks it at me, just so I can be sure what he thinks of me.

Much later I'm soaking in the bath, hot water making the abraded parts of me sting. I ache all over. I'll be black and blue from head to toe. Fucker!

Next day I don't even call in. I just don't go. I figure I won't go back. My phone is switched off so I can evade the texts and calls I'll undoubtedly be getting from the crew. I've stiffened up so bad from the job and the beating that I can hardly move. I know I should try at least to get to the clap clinic, but it feels like too much effort.

I stare unseeing at the TV, managing to ignore the prick getting excited about some old dear's collection of ugly ornaments that he plans to sell for gazillions at a car boot sale. I want to be left alone. I want Caz to come and cheer me up. I want to kick the shit out of the blonde's husband. I want to kick the shit out of the blonde. I want a proper job. I want to win the lottery. I want…

Someone raps on the door. Slowly, painfully, I ease myself out of the chair and limp down the hall. I open the door to the rear view of some young lad just on his way back down the path. He stops when he hears the door and swings round, jogs back, big grin on his face, clutching a presenter showing a kid's face running with tears, snot glistening in his nostrils. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

'Hi,' he says. 'I'm Philip. I'm just here because…'

I slam the door in his fucking face.

***

This story first appeared in Darkest Before the Dawn in 2009.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

White Christmas

Those nice people over at Do Some Damage are running a Xmas noir flash fiction challenge, with new stories regularly posted between 20th December and 2nd January. I think it's a cracking idea, so naturally I threw my hat into the ring and wrote a heartwarming festive tale. It's up now - read it here, if you are so inclined.

Merry Christmas! :)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Let's Dance

'Let's Dance' started life in Bullet, then found a home at the completely wonderful A Twist of Noir. I need to get up to date with my reading, and I must get some new stuff written and submitted to great sites like ATON, which is currently running the 600-700 challenge. Starting to sound like a New Year's resolution!

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Black Dog

This isn't all that old, but hasn't been on here before. The link takes you to a Word doc, linked from the Lit and Phil website, which is where this lives. Different in style from my usual stuff. See what you think!

The Black Dog

Monday, 15 November 2010

NaNoWriMo: And there's more...

We're two weeks in and the word count is now up to 25,000. Here's the next wee bit in the story:


‘She’s been through a lot, you shouldn’t be so hard on her,’ Derek said. He and Penny were sitting at the kitchen table sipping coffee. Tina was asleep on the couch, her face buried in the bunny toy she’d had since she was tiny. Derek’s heart caught in his throat: he hadn’t seen her cling to the toy like that in five years or more. Penny sighed, ran her hand through her hair.
            ‘How could she have been so stupid!’ she asked Derek for maybe the fiftieth time that morning. ‘First off, defying us, then dragging Annie into it, to share the blame, I suppose, then getting into a stranger’s car! How many times have we told them…?’
            Derek covered his wife’s hand with his own. ‘She’s a kid. She made a mistake. She’s only eleven years old, remember.’
            ‘Annie’s only eight.’ Penny’s voice caught when she spoke of her youngest daughter, and she started crying again. Since she had opened the door to find Tina on the step, she seemed to have been either in a rage or in tears. ‘Where is she, Derek? Who has her?’
            ‘I don’t know, love, but the police will find her. They know what they’re doing. Tina told them everything she could, that’ll all help.’
            ‘I just want her home… she’s so little…’ 
            ‘I know, love, me too.’
‘She’ll be scared out of her wits…’
            ‘Mum? Dad? I’m sorry.’ Tina stood blinking in the kitchen doorway, fluffy bunny trailing behind her. Her father held his hand out to her and she crept into the circle of arms as the family huddled together and cried for their missing little girl.
***
By eight o’clock, the police were back in the house. There had been a car outside all night, but the men in it had given the family privacy. A different policewoman, this one out of uniform, was explaining her role in the investigation.
            ‘I’m Ruth Crinson,’ she told them, ‘and I’m your Family Liaison Officer.’ She smiled, aiming for reassurance. ‘Basically, I’m your link with the investigation and the outside world. I’ll keep you up to date with what goes on.’
            ‘Do you have any news for us now?’ asked Penny.
            Ruth Crinson shook her head. ‘We’ve got people searching for the car, the abductor and Annie, but no-one has seen anything yet. We want to do a television appeal, if you’re up to it. We can get something on the lunchtime news. Getting the story out there can only help.’
            ‘Someone must know something.’
            ‘Exactly. Now, have you got any photographs of Annie that we could use?’
            The morning wore on. People came and went. The doctor had been to check Tina over and declared her none the worse physically for her experience. Ruth Crinson wanted to talk to the girl again, to see if she had remembered anything that might help, and so Ruth, Penny, Derek and Tina took their seats around the kitchen table. Penny had made yet more tea and Tina was nursing a glass of apple juice.
            ‘Tina, I want you to tell me everything you remember about last night, absolutely everything. Just talk me through it as it happened. Okay?’
            Tina nodded. ‘Okay.’ She started telling her story again, how she and Annie had pretended to their gran that they were really sleepy and wanted to go to bed early, then had put pillows under the covers so Gran would think they were in bed if she looked into the room. They sneaked out of the house, climbing out of the bedroom window onto the porch roof and then clambering down the drainpipe to the ground. They had walked to the Metro station, excited and giggling, and caught a train to Newcastle, then been swept up in the stream of people heading for the concert venue. CCTV would confirm timings: there were spots where the girls would have been caught on camera.
            Tina told again about the concert finishing late, running to the Metro station to find that the last train to Sunderland had gone, catching the one to Heworth to get nearer home. ‘I didn’t have enough for a taxi,’ Tina told Ruth. ‘I bought t-shirts for me and Annie. They were expensive.’
            ‘What happened to the t-shirts?’ Ruth asked.
            ‘They must be in the man’s car. I left mine on the seat when I ran away.’
            ‘How did you get home after you escaped from the car?’
            ‘I recognised the road from driving along it with mum and dad. We go that way to Asda sometimes, or to Newcastle. I followed the road back home.’ She sneaked a look up at her mum. ‘It took a long time, because whenever I heard a car, I hid.’
            ‘Do you have a mobile phone, Tina?’
            Tina nodded. ‘I lost it when I ran away. I dropped my bag.’
            ‘How come you didn’t ring for help when you were stranded? You could have called your parents or your gran. Why didn’t you do that?’
            Tina took her time before answering. ‘I was scared to,’ she said eventually. ‘I knew we’d be in dead trouble.’ She flicked another glance at her mum. ‘I knew there’d be hell to pay.’ She sobbed, put her head down on the table. Derek stroked her hair.
            ‘That’s enough for now,’ Ruth said, recognising that the child had had enough. ‘We’ll talk more later.’
            ‘Will there be anything on CCTV from Heworth Metro station, do you think?’ asked Penny.
            ‘It’s possible. We’re checking that now. With a bit of luck, we’ll get a look at our man, maybe even get the car registration plate. That would be a massive help.’
***
Annie awoke to find the man leaning over her. She blinked and rubbed her eyes: she felt groggy and disorientated, didn’t recognise the room she was in, wondered where she was. The man had made her drink a mug of hot chocolate when they got back to his house the night before. It had made her go to sleep.
‘Good morning, Sarah. How are you today?’
‘I’m not Sarah,’ she told him. ‘I’m Annie. I want my mum.’
The man smiled and sat down on the edge of the bed. ‘No, child,’ he said to her. ‘You’re Sarah now. You have a new name and a new life.’ He stroked her hair. ‘You’re my little girl now, God’s precious gift, and I’m going to look after you properly. Not like those other people, letting you out on your own at night. Anything could have happened to you!’
Annie began to cry

Friday, 5 November 2010

NaNoWriMo - the next instalment

‘It’s okay, Tina,’ the policewoman said, ‘I just want you to tell me what happened.’
            Tina shuddered, shot a sideways glance at her parents, her mum in the chair, her dad perched on the arm. She was scolded if she sat on the arm of the chair like that. The policewoman was sitting on the sofa, next to her. She had a nice face, kind eyes. Not like her mum’s eyes just now: they were like ice, cold and hard, when they looked at Tina they stabbed and burned.
            ‘It’s okay, love, you’re not in any trouble.’
            Tina doubted the truth of that statement. Her mum had already shouted at her, she’d go ballistic just as soon as the police were out of here. ‘We missed the last Metro to Sunderland,’ she told the policewoman. ‘The concert finished late and we ran all the way to the station, but we missed it.’
            ‘This was at The Arena… MC Boyz?’
            Tina nodded. ‘They’re my favourite band.’
            ‘And you went there on your own, just you and your sister?’ The policewoman flicked a glance at the parents. ‘No adult.’
            ‘They weren’t supposed to be there at all!’ Penny exploded, her fingers gripping the edge of the cushion. She glowered at Tina. ‘You were told “no”.’
            ‘I see,’ said the policewoman. She turned to Tina. ‘But you wanted to go, is that right?’
            Tina nodded, kept her eyes down. The row with her mother had been ‘epic’, as she described it to her best friend, Hilary.
            ‘Normally, we’d have taken them,’ offered Derek. ‘But we had plans and the girls were staying with my mum. She couldn’t manage a do like that…’
            ‘She couldn’t manage to keep them in the house!’ spat Penny. ‘Didn’t even know they were gone until you rang her and she checked the beds.’
            ‘Oh, that’s not fair, love,’ said Derek. ‘She does her best. She’s never had any trouble before.’
            Penny glowered at him, then turned her gaze on Tina, who wisely kept her eyes on her shoes.
            ‘So, Tina,’ the policewoman persisted. ‘What happened after you missed the Metro?’
            ‘There was one that went just to Heworth, so we got on that. It meant we were half way home. We thought there might be a bus.’
            ‘And was there?’
            Tina shook her head. ‘There was a taxi, but I didn’t have enough money.’
            ‘Did you ask the driver to take you home?’
            She shook her head again. ‘I knew I couldn’t pay, I only had two pounds. That’s just enough for a tip.’ She flashed a look at her dad. ‘Dad says you should always tip taxi drivers.’
            ‘Tina, what happened next?’
            ‘There was this man, he saw us and he asked if we needed help.’
            ‘What did you say?’
            ‘I asked if I could borrow some money for a taxi, and promised I would pay him back.’ Tina chewed nervously on a fingernail. ‘But he said he had a daughter himself and he’d be worried if she was out this late, so he’d take us home for free.’
            ‘So you got in the car?’
            Tina nodded. ‘He sounded… posh. I thought we’d be safe with him.’
            ‘Then what?’
            ‘He asked where our parents were, and I said they were out at a party. He said they didn’t deserve two lovely little girls like us. Then I realised he was driving the wrong way so I told him. He said he knew where he was going and not to worry.’ Tina risked a glance at her mother. ‘But I was worried, so I started shouting and hitting him and telling him to stop.’
            ‘Where did you hit him?’
            ‘On the head and the arm. I was sitting behind him. I made him swerve the car and he stopped on the side of the road. I opened the door and shouted at Annie to get out, but she couldn’t open her door. She tried to get out of mine, but he caught her. I bashed him to let go, but he wouldn’t.’
            ‘So you ran away?’
            Tina nodded, saucer-eyed. ‘Yes,’ she whispered. Annie had urged her to go, to run for help, but she hadn’t wanted to. When she realised he would never let go of Annie, she had run, dropping her little handbag with her house keys, purse and mobile phone, sprinted into the bushes at the side of the road. The man had dragged Annie through the gap in the seats and tied something round her wrists. He locked her in the car and searched through the bushes at the edge of the road, but Tina stayed very still and held her breath, and he didn’t find her. After a while, he got back in his car and drove off. The image of Annie staring out of the window into the darkness, tears running down her face, no idea what would happen to her, would stay with Tina forever.
            ‘You left her.’ Penny said the words and they were an accusation. ‘Your little sister, who you’re supposed to look after, and you left her in that car with that man.’
            Tina was sobbing. ‘Mum, I couldn’t get her away, I tried…’
            ‘She shouldn’t have been there in the first place!’ Penny roared. ‘You selfish, stupid little fool! Have you any idea what you’ve done?’
            ‘Mum, please! I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry!’
            ‘Pen, love, it’s not the bairn’s fault. You can see she’s upset…’
            ‘Not half as upset as she’ll be when I’m finished with her!’ Tina wondered that she didn’t melt under her mother’s venomous gaze, laser eyes burning into her, hatred burning bright. Penny stalked out of the room, and they heard her slamming about in the kitchen, no doubt making another round of cups of tea that they would allow to stand until they cooled and a skin formed on the surface.
            Derek reached out to Tina and pulled her to him, gave her a hug. ‘She’s just upset, love. She doesn’t blame you, not really. Just give her a bit of time.’ He turned to the policewoman. ‘Do we have to do this tonight?’
            ‘Tina’s told us as much as she can about the car and the driver. We’ve got people out looking. We’ll be in touch first thing.’
            Derek saw her out, then looked at the clock: four-thirty. It was already first thing, he thought as he went back in to see how his wife and daughter were coping. Not that the hour mattered: they would be unlikely to get any sleep.


Still a bit rough, but that's the NaNo nature of things at this stage! Word count up to 8500 - hoping to see 15000 by Sunday night. Fingers crossed! :)

Monday, 1 November 2010

Day 1 NaNoWriMo: 2075 words

I won't be updating this here daily, but thought I'd mark the first day. Two thousand and seventy five words: not too shabby a start. Here are the first three hundred or so:

Annie


Penny woke with a start. Something had disturbed her sleep, something out of place… there it was again. A tapping on the front door.
            ‘Derek.’ She shook her husband awake. ‘Derek, there’s someone at the door.’
            ‘What time is it?’ Derek was groggy, full of ale and unhappy about being woken up.
            ‘Just gone two.’
            ‘Ignore it, Pen, it’s the middle of the bloody night.’
            Seconds later he was asleep again. Penny swung her legs out of bed, shuffled her feet into her slippers. Her head felt woozy and she regretted that last glass of wine: she’d be hung over in the morning and she had a busy day ahead of her, starting with picking the kids up from Derek’s mum’s house. The tapping began again. She sighed, pulled the bedroom door shut behind her and flipped on the landing light.
‘Who is it?’ she called when she got to the front door. ‘Who’s there?’
            She heard a strangled sob, then: ‘Mum.’ She fumbled the lock, panic making her clumsy, and yanked the door open to see her eldest daughter, bedraggled and tearstained. Penny gathered her child to her, felt the little girl sag against her, helped her over the step and into the sitting room, shushing her and flipping on lights as she went.
            Once they were seated, she brushed her daughter’s hair out of her eyes, fighting the swell of panic, trying to stay calm, trying not to scare the girl even more. ‘Tina, what’s happened, pet? Why are you not at your gran’s?’
            ‘Mum…’ Tina’s eyes were full of fear.
            ‘Where’s Annie?’ asked Penny, suddenly very afraid. Her two girls were inseparable.
            Tina shuddered. ‘She’s…’ she began, hesitantly. Then she cried out, ‘Mum, he took her! The man, he put us in his car and he took Annie!’

The Last Weekend

NaNoWriMo 2010 has just begun for us in the UK. I'm really excited about this year's story - can't wait until I really get my teeth stuck in to it! But for now, here's the first bit of the one from 2006, just to get me in the mood...

Prologue

Ronnie Wilson let himself into his flat, shut and locked the door, then heaved a sigh of relief. Going out had been a mistake. Going out was always a mistake these days, just like coming home was always a reminder of what he had lost. He shrugged out of his jacket, hung it up and went into the kitchen. Ten minutes later he was in front of his computer, mug of coffee at his elbow.

Once the machine had booted up he got online, accessed his list of favourite sites and clicked on www.endofdays.com He was spending a lot of time on there these days. ‘End of Days’ was a personal outlook for the people who met there, not some sort of religious fundamentalist thing. It was a site for people who, irrespective of any dogma or doctrine they might subscribe to, believed that the end of their days was both desirable and imminent. Site users met there for advice and support, and users generally weren’t around for all that long. The friendships that were forged were lifelong, but short-term. People used the site to help them to find the best way to end their lives, one that would guarantee success at the first attempt. As well as hints and tips, the site was littered with warnings, horror stories of people who had tried and failed to kill themselves; the worst ones were those that left the suicide unable afterwards to try again unaided. That was their biggest fear; being trapped in their existence by people who simply didn’t get that not all lives were worth living. That was why they wanted to get it right first time. End of Days was for people who were quite genuinely sick of their lives. Which made it just another thing that Ronnie’s friends wouldn’t understand, just one more reason why they had so little in common anymore. They seemed to be permanently out of step.

Take tonight. Apart from Ronnie, they’d all been on the pull, designer shirts and aftershave used as bait to lure similarly intentioned women. These days most of them were serious about finding someone and starting a relationship, they weren’t just looking for a quick shag. Not that they’d necessarily turn one down, but what they really wanted was to be one of a pair, half of a couple, to make a home with someone. Rob was even talking about kids since his sister had made him an uncle: he was getting broody, for Christ’s sake! Ronnie felt like he was on the far side of an ever-widening chasm, the gulf between him and his mates not one he knew how to bridge. Because while Toby, Mark, Rob and Pete were looking for someone to live with, Ronnie dreamed of someone he could die with.

Anna Mayfield saw Indigo enter the chat room and tapped in a greeting.

Hey, Blue Boy, where you been? Mayfly

Hi Mayfly. Hi all. Met some mates, went out for a drink. Bad move. Indigo

Wanna talk? Mayfly

Sure. Indigo

He and Mayfly transferred into a private room to continue.

So… how was it? Mayfly

Oh, you know how it is. They’re always so full of plans, what they’re going to do, where they’re going to go, jobs, homes, partners…
Indigo

Yeah, I know. Like we’re all into that shit. Like it’s so great on planet Earth we want to stay forever. Mayfly

I just don’t get it. I mean, I know I used to want that stuff, too, before. But now it’s like they’re talking in a foreign language.
Indigo

I know, Indi. My mates have started dropping sprogs, and the ones who haven’t talk about it non-stop. Like breeding is their only purpose in life. Fucksake! As if anyone with a conscience would bring a child into this world! Mayfly

I’m so sick of it all. If I was less of a coward… or more of a bastard, I can’t work out which it is, I’d exit stage left. Indigo

Here’s something you might find interesting – www.thelastweekend.com - check it out. I’ll hang on here. Mayfly

Ummm… okay. Back in a mo. Indigo

Ronnie copied and pasted the link into a new tab in his browser, then watched as the screen unfolded before him. It was a simple enough message. There was nothing to link to further on in the site, it was all there to see on the single black-edged web page.

THE LAST WEEKEND
Don’t travel alone
A unique opportunity for a select bunch of people to take the ultimate trip
All tickets one way only – guaranteed.
reaperman@thelastweekend.co.uk

He returned to the private chat room.

Interesting. What do you make of it? Indigo

I think it might be what I’ve been looking for.
Mayfly

Are you planning to get in touch?
Indigo

I already have.
Mayfly

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Showing off...

In keeping with the site spirit of collecting things and keeping track of stuff, some lovely people have said some very nice things about me and my stuff recently.

The wonderful Mr Paul Brazill kicked things off here.

Next, the generous and talented Sean Patrick Reardon joined in here.

And finally, gentleman and scholar Ian Ayris let me camp out on his blog here.

If you pop on over to have a look, take some time to rummage throught their various blogs - there's some great stuff on there. These guys have their collective finger on the pulse, so if you want to keep up to date with what's going on in the world of crime fiction, this is the easiest way to do it. Links to all of them are also in the sidebar and all are highly recommended.

As well as being generous souls who promote crime fiction and their fellow writers, Paul, Sean and Ian are all superb writers themselves. Check 'em out - you won't regret it!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Copycat, copycat...

Following Ian Ayris's lead and putting up the first few pages of a work in progress. You never know - it might just give me the kick up the wotsit I need to get this one rewritten and out there! (Incidentally, I wholeheartedly recommend that you nip on over to Ian's place and have a read - his stuff is pure gold!)

Chapter 1
Alex was awake but had her eyes tightly closed. A bright light was searing her eyelids, showing her amoeba that swam through the red sea of her vision. She felt shaky, dry-mouthed and disorientated, and an evil incarnation of Keith Moon was rampaging around in her skull with a bass drum and a mallet.

She cracked one eye open just a fraction to identify the source of the light torture: curtains, that was all. Curtains that hadn’t been fully closed. Curtains, in fact, that had been carelessly yanked together in the early hours by someone not fully in control of her movements. Someone very drunk. Someone who by now would be feeling pretty damn miserable.

The effort that would be required to stand up, walk to the window and fully close the curtains was currently beyond her. Instead, she grabbed a spare pillow and hugged it to her face.

Next time she woke up, things weren’t quite so bad. She discovered that she was capable of sitting up and, having done so, reached out towards the large glass of what appeared to be water that sat on the bedside table. Her hand stopped short as she remembered and she slumped back against the headboard with a groan.

It had been one hell of an interview, the first and undoubtedly only time when her ability to play pool, skin up and hold her drink might prove useful in winning her a job. If she hadn’t dumped so much vodka into the fake foliage, God knows what state she’d be in. When she’d been presented with a pint of vodka, light on the tonic, she’d just had enough wit left to announce she was taking it to bed.

Getting up, she tipped the drink down the bathroom sink, rinsed the glass, then filled it up with water from the tap. She was about to drink it when she spotted the mini bar. Remembering that the room was all expenses paid, she ambled over to it and broke the seal.

Ten minutes later she had downed the two bottles of mineral water and the Toblerone she had found in there, and was feeling much better. She rang room service after she’d showered and felt better still after two cups of coffee and a bacon sandwich.

On her way out of the hotel she bumped into Mark Wilson, a fellow ghost, one of that band of writers who see other people’s names on the front of the books that they write.

‘Hey, Mark, how’s things?’

‘Alex! You in for this one as well?’

She nodded. ‘Interview yesterday. Just heading home.’

‘Took the chance for a lie-in, eh?’ It was past noon.

Alex grinned. ‘Found I needed one. Brace yourself, Mark, you’re in for a hell of a ride.’

A couple of weeks later, Alex took a much-loved and often watched DVD out of its case. She slipped the disc into the machine and settled back in her chair with a beer. She pressed ‘play’ on the remote; the image on the screen showed a field full of people in the evening, mostly long-haired, some in jeans, others in long, printed skirts, some in t-shirts, others in cheesecloth or cotton tops. Many were barefoot; grubby toes sinking into soft earth as they waited expectantly, chants and shouts rippling through the crowd. At the fringes, fires burned and small groups gathered around the flames in an attempt to stave off the darkness, the threat of cold playing around bare flesh, for just a while longer. The camera framed what was little more than a raised platform, the focus of attention. As dusk settled, the road crew set up gear quickly and efficiently, the practised choreography of the men in black conjuring a wall of sound out of the gloomy depths.

With the lighting rig yet to be turned on, the activity on stage was shadowplay. Alex made out the band moving quietly and without fuss to their spots. The crowd saw them too and thundered encouragement, eager for the show to start. Paul Scott got behind his drum kit and bashed around a bit, getting settled. Colin Carson plugged in his guitar and took up his position near the drum riser. Three tall figures, two wearing guitars that they plugged in when they were in position, strode out further towards the front of the stage. Tom Watson, the bass player, was stage left; Andy Airey, the singer, in the middle; and Johnny Burns, lead guitarist, on the right.

They looked at each other and despite the poor light Alex could have sworn she saw them grin. Then Paul Scott rapped his sticks together as he counted them in: ‘One, two, three, four!’ The lights flashed on and the crowd roared as the band crashed in, bass, rhythm guitar and drums pounding out a hermetic pile-driving riff. Johnny Burns’ guitar screamed into life, notes of angelic, crystalline purity soaring effortlessly into the night sky, spurring bodies into motion as the crowd began to dance. Right on cue, one of the best blues wailers in the business opened his throat and let out a primeval scream that pierced the heavens as Andy Airey, spurred on by the ecstatic greeting they’d received, launched heart and soul into the first number.

Alex put her beer down; she had chills, the hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end. This was the earliest available footage of Heartbreaker, showing the band just as they were breaking big. There were live albums available and they were powerful, raw, but seeing them play, even on screen, was something else. It took little effort for her to imagine herself there, dancing in the moonlight, head filled with rhythm and riff, the heady scent of a summer’s night in her nostrils: patchouli oil, woodsmoke and the sweet smell of grass. No wonder they’d grown to be so successful. It was getting on for thirty years since this gig had been filmed, despite which she reckoned they could give a number of today’s so-called supergroups a run for their money. It was hard to believe so much noise and excitement could be generated by just five men.

They ran through their set, throwing in blues and rock ‘n’ roll standards alongside their own material, then played a series of encores. They seemed reluctant to leave the stage; the crowd was certainly reluctant to let them go. As the final number came to an end, credits rolled over images of a band that had played its heart out, musicians slick with sweat and wreathed in smiles. It ended with a shot of Johnny Burns, one hand on the neck of his guitar, the other punching the air in a salute to the crowd, eyes shining, a big smile on his face.

Alex punched the button on the remote, then sat back in her chair and stared at the blank screen. She had been a fan of this band for as long as she could remember, but felt like she was discovering them all over again every time she watched the footage of the Robson’s Farm gig. She felt a familiar pang of regret that she never had seen them play live. And with only three of the band members left alive, there would be no reunion.

Heartbreaker was a phenomenon, a rollercoaster, the ultimate trip. Enough of the story had emerged to establish it as one of the most intriguing in rock. Alex was sure that there was treasure still waiting to be unearthed: with the search in the right hands, who knew what might come to light.

She stood and stretched then headed for bed. Her misspent youth had paid off; she had landed the job she’d been interviewed for and in the morning she would load her bags into her car and head south to start a new job, working with Johnny Burns on a book about his life, his music and Heartbreaker.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Watching

Watching was up at Darkest Before the Dawn, a great site and this time for slightly longer fiction. This link takes you to the archive version of the site: the link in the sidebar will take you to the current version. Well worth a look!

Incidentally, this story was actually 'longlisted' for a Spinetingler award, which I only know about because Paul Brazill told me. Who'd a thunk! :)

Oh - and I added some pics, right down at the bottom of the page... seemed appropriate!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Easy Money

‘It’s sweet, Tommy. Easy money.’

Mickey’s words have a hollow ring to them now. Tommy pulls his knees in tighter to his chest, wraps his arms around his legs. It’s pitch black in the small space, warm, airless, and claustrophobic. He’s having trouble breathing, panic causing him to take shallow sips of air. Tommy wonders if he’ll suffocate, wonders what would happen then. Would the old fella get done?

He hears movement: a drawer opens and closes, then another.

‘Where are you, you little bastard! I know you’re up there. You’d better come down, now.’ The old man’s voice is high and frail, but shows no trace of fear. ‘I’ve got your mate.’

The plan had been simple enough: there’s an old fella in March Avenue, lives alone. Bound to have money in the house, the oldies always do. Mickey was going to hide round the corner while Tommy knocked, drew the old bloke out. While he was diverted, Mickey could nip in and go through the place, lift whatever he could find. Sweet. Easy money. Even if he twigged, what could the man do? There’d be two of them, young and fit, against one old coffin-dodger.

Tommy hears Mickey thudding down the stairs, his footsteps amplified in the dark place. The only thing louder than Mickey’s feet is Tommy’s heartbeat drumming in his ears. Mickey crashes into the front room, full of bluff and bravado, no idea what’s gone down.

‘Fuck do you think you are, shouting the odds,’ he starts, bold and loud. Then Tommy hears him say: ‘Fucking hell, man! What you doing with that?’ Less confident. Surprised and scared is Tommy’s guess.

It had started out fine. Tommy knocked and spun a line about an injured cat in the bushes at the front. The old bloke went with him to see, and lo and behold, the cat was nowhere to be seen, so they began looking for it. Meanwhile Mickey nipped in through the open door and straight up the stairs, started turning the place over. Then the old bloke asked a favour: would Tommy please come in and read his leccy meter for him? Even with the torch and his glasses, he can’t make out the numbers any more.

‘Stay where you are or I’ll shoot you, you little bastard. You wouldn’t be the first. I was in the war, you know. I shot a lot of little bastards in the war.’

‘Okay, gramps, what do you want to do?’ Mickey has recovered well and is trying to take control. ‘I haven’t got nothing. Didn’t find owt. Look.’ Tommy imagines Mickey turning out his pockets.

‘Thieving little bastard.’

‘Where’s Tommy?’

‘Your mate? He’s where I want him. Now you get over there. Move.’

Tommy and the old man went inside, into the sitting room. The old bloke got Tommy to move the armchair away from the wall. There was a little door behind, just half-height, that led into the cupboard under the stairs where the meter lived. Tommy opened the door and got down on his hands and knees, crawled part way in. Next thing he knew there was a boot up his arse, he pitched forward into the small space and the door was locked behind him. He heard the old bloke grunting as he pushed the chair back in front of the door.

Tommy hears what he presumes is Mickey doing as he’s been told, followed by a series of electronic beeps and the old man’s voice.

‘Hello? Police? I’m being burgled.’

Tommy feels sick. Bad enough to be caught, but to be caught robbing a war veteran…. They’ll get the shit kicked out of them for this, and not just by the coppers.

‘Stay where you are! Stay where you are!’ There’s panic in the old man’s voice. Mickey has evidently decided he isn’t hanging around waiting to be arrested so he’s taken matters into his own hands. Tommy hears the clatter of the phone hitting the floor, then a noise like an explosion rips through the house. Fear blooms in his chest. He fights for breath, then finds his voice.

‘Mickey!’ he shouts, banging on the small door. ‘Mickey, what the fuck…?’

‘Where are you?’

‘Cupboard under the stairs. Move the armchair, there’s a door.’

Tommy hears furniture scraping, then the door opens, light blinding him temporarily. He crawls out of his prison, tries to get the circulation going in his legs.

The old man is sprawled on the floor, a big, raw, bloody mess where his chest used to be.

‘Gun backfired,’ says Mickey. ‘Otherwise that would have been me.’ He gives Tommy a shaky smile.

A siren blares in the distance. The two boys head for the door as one, sprint round the corner and fling themselves into the Ford. As Tommy drives off, he swears to himself he will never do that, or anything like that, ever again. Nearly caught, nearly killed in Mickey’s case, and not a penny to show for it. That’s it, he’s finished with thieving.

Mickey sticks his hand down his jeans and rummages about. ‘Look!’ he exclaims when he pulls his fist out. Tommy looks. Mickey’s clutching several bundles of notes, all banded up by the bank. ‘Four grand,’ he says. ‘Told you: easy money!’ He flips through the fifties. ‘There’s an old wife lives down Southwick, goes to the bingo with me nan. Won a bundle the other week. You in?’

Tommy grins. If there is anything as sweet as the allure of easy money, he sure as hell doesn't know what it is.

‘Aye,’ he says, his decision to go straight melting like frost in the sun. ‘I’m in.’

***

This is a heavily-edited version of the story of the same name that first appeared in Powder Burn Flash in 2007.

Monday, 13 September 2010

God's Chorister

Ah, another tale about the fallen godly - 'religious noir' indeed! God's Chorister is over at Powder Burn Flash, a site full of bite-sized treats if you like fun-size crime fiction. And I do. It's a great site - check it out and see for yourself. You'll thank me in the end!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Chocolate Button Eyes

An oldie, but still up at Thrillers, Killers and Chillers. Not just my old tripe there, either - it's a great site with some terrific reads. Well worth a visit!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Keeping It Real

Read the papers, listen to the news, you’d think it was really easy to kill a person. They die all the time. A knock on the head, a shock, a moment’s carelessness... dead, dead, dead. Thin skulls, weak hearts, inattention on the roads... people are dying, day after day, all the fucking time.

So why is it I can’t introduce this one to his maker? God damn! I looked immaculate when I came in here, now I’m out of breath, sweating, dishevelled... what the hell will people think? I’ll have to get sorted out before my lunch date, that’s for sure, or else I’ll turn heads for all the wrong reasons.

‘Help me... please...’

A weak hand grabs at my ankle. I look down and his face is turned to look at me, all pleading eyes and bleeding nose. Why does he think I’d help him? Has he forgotten who did that to him? Annoyed, I finish what I’m typing into my laptop, close it and twat him with it. It shuts him up, thank Christ, and I start looking around for something to make a hole in him with. That seems to work a treat. Loads of people die from gunshot and stab wounds. I don’t have a gun and I’m not likely to find one, but could I use something else? Surely, surely... ah, yes! I find a metal file with a pointy bit at one end. Looks like it used to fit into a handle. I try it against my thumb and feel a sharp scratch, see a drop of blood spring into being. Reaching into my laptop bag, I take out a plaster and cover the cut immediately. Can’t be too careful. DNA’s a bugger.

He’s awake again. He’s thinking twice about appealing to my better nature this time. I think he’s finally realised I don’t have one. He sees the file and his eyes go wide, his mouth works but no sound comes out. Great detail! I have a good look, taking it all in, wondering where to stick him. In the neck, I think, but I hope I don’t get that big artery thing. I look bad enough as it is without getting showered in blood.

He grunts when I stick it in and he bleeds but doesn’t gout. I get a picture on my mobile to check the spot later. I note that there was a slight resistance before his skin split, a bit like putting a skewer through a chicken leg. Interesting. I skip back, not wanting to get blood on my good shoes. It’s running out of his neck and pooling around him where he lies on the oily floor of the old warehouse. I check my watch, time him out. His hands are grasping air, I look in his eyes and see panic and fear turn to acceptance, and then he’s gone and they change, somehow. They go dull. It’s not just a cliche, eyes really do go lifeless.

I make notes on my laptop, getting it all down while it’s fresh in my mind, then turn to the business of getting tidied up ready for my meeting. It’s crucial that I make the right impression.

‘Hello, pleased to meet you,’ I say as I stride across the hotel lobby towards the man whose face I recognise from his website. ‘Evelyn Crane.’ We shake hands.

‘Pleased to meet you, too, Evelyn.’

‘I hope you haven’t been waiting long. I’m afraid I got tied up with something.’

‘What kept you?’

‘An opportunity to conduct some research presented itself. I couldn’t pass it up.’ I patted my laptop bag. ‘Got to keep it real!’

‘I was impressed with how well researched your writing was when I read your submission,’ he told me. ‘Your hard work certainly pays off.’

I smiled. He understood. I hoped the rest of the meeting went as well as the start. Crime was a tough genre to break into. If I was going to get anywhere in this game I really needed a good literary agent, and I was about to have lunch with one of the best.

***

This story first appeared in Flashing in the Gutters in 2006.

Monday, 6 September 2010

It Could Be You!

‘Give us the fucken money.’

Beggsy was on his knees, a gun barrel rammed into the back of his neck. Uncomfortable. But at least he was still alive, unlike the bird who’d been swallowing his cock when the Irishman burst in. Before he’d won the money, she wouldn’t have swallowed his chat up lines. Now she was stone cold, blood and semen congealing on her sweet, young face. What a waste.

‘Give us the fucken money.’ The Irishman rammed home his point with the gun. Beggsy toppled forward.

‘Let me up. I can’t do anything down here.’

The Irishman considered. ‘All right, then. But no fucken funny business.’

Beggsy nodded and the Irishman took a step back. Beggsy clambered awkwardly to his feet, pulled up his jeans and fastened them. Difficult to muster any dignity with your knob swinging in the breeze. He turned to look at the Irishman. Ugly fucker. Face like a spud. Looked as thick as his accent. Beggsy nodded at the girl. ‘What d’you have to kill her for?’

Irish shrugged. ‘Easier that way. Now it’s one on one.’

‘Bastard.’

Irish pistol whipped him. Beggsy hit the floor again. He sat up slowly, woozy, a bloody rose blossoming on his cheek.

Beggsy was scared out of his wits. He wasn’t a hard man. Just a bloke who’d come into some money. Irish watched while he got it together, climbed to his feet again, jelly legs making him wobble like a newly birthed colt.

‘Give us the fucken money.’

But he wasn’t about to hand anything over to this potato-faced Mick.

‘What, you think I’ve got it in the house? All seventeen million?’

‘You’ll have enough. Scum like you, you want cash. You like the feel of it, the smell. You probably wank over it every night.’ Long speech for a fucking idiot. ‘Give us the fucken money.’ Back to the loop tape.

‘I haven’t got any here.’

‘Then we’ll go and get some.’

‘There’s a limit on what I can get out of the machine. Three hundred tops. Same as for every other fucker.’

‘You’re a liar.’ Said with calm detachment. ‘Now give us the fucken money.’

‘For fuck’s sake!’

Irish threatened with the pistol. Beggsy flinched. Irish smiled. ‘You know what I’m gonna say.’

***

Six months earlier. Beggsy’s round at his gran’s flat, a regular Wednesday night visit. His mam did Saturdays. Gran was desperate to win the Lotto, get out of the cold, damp, council flat, buy a bungalow. Somewhere small and cosy, all mod cons. Buy a house for her daughter. An apartment for her grandson. Something posh on the coast, set him up nice. Gran wanted to win big so she could share it out amongst the family. Get that nice warm feeling you get when you can give somebody what they want. Play God awhile.

Gran pitched a regular two quid stake per draw. A scratch card and a lucky dip. She struggled to afford it out of her pension, but reckoned it was worth it. After all, it was her only pleasure. That and the Superkings. The wall behind her chair was tarry with nicotine, her hair at the front discoloured by the smoke.

Beggsy’s sitting on the settee, no give in the cushions, plywood holding them up now. He’s got his ticket and his gran’s in his hand. He’s taken to getting one on a Wednesday as well, keep the old girl company. Puts his lucky numbers on, same ones every week. Once you start with that, you can’t stop. Gran’s eyes aren’t so good, she can’t check the tickets for herself. Tonight it’s a rollover, seventeen million up for grabs. It could be you, he thought, peering at his gran through the perpetual fog she inhabited. It looked like the fucking tide had come in.

The draw starts, Wednesday night more straightforward. None of that palaver they have at the weekend. Get the numbers out, smarmy voice announces them, bird grins, job done. Here we go.

First ball: miss for him, hit for Gran. Second ball: miss for him, hit for Gran. Third ball: same story. On and on until all six numbers are out.

Beggsy feels sick. He knows he shouldn’t, she’s his gran, for Christ’s sake. She’ll buy him an apartment, see him right for spends. But it’s a waste, isn’t it? All that money going to such an old woman? He could just as easy buy the cosy bungalow for her, buy his mam the house, give them both some cash. Get a little of the warm fuzzies for himself. He’s a young man, young enough to enjoy the win. It’s only right that he should have the money.

‘Hey Gran,’ he hears himself saying. ‘I’ve won!’

‘What’s that, son?’

‘The seventeen million. I’ve only f… flippin’ well won it!’

‘Eeeh, are you sure, pet?’

He nods. ‘Dead sure. It’s all mine, Gran.’

***

Irish had him face down on the carpet. It was deep and soft. It even smelt expensive. Good fucking shit. Everything in here was good fucking shit and Beggsy loved it all. Loved the lifestyle. Loved being rich.
He was calculating. How much would it take to get Paddy O’Muppet off his case? If he could just get out of this, he could call the police, claim on the insurance. Send somebody after the spud muncher, get him wasted.

The whole thing about giving his money away to this dickhead was burning him. Even if it was only temporary.

But he didn’t want to die. Fucked if he did. He was having far too much fun.

‘Give us the fucken money.’

‘Okay, okay!’

‘No fucken funny business. Just makes you hurt and bleed.’

He backed off. Beggsy breathed a sigh of relief. Stood up, slowly and carefully. Stretched. Irish raised an eyebrow.

‘This way,’ Beggsy said, pointing to the stairs. Resigned to coughing up.

‘After you.’

Naturally.

Beggsy headed up to his bedroom. Swung back the full length mirror on the wall and only hesitated a moment before tapping in the combination and opening the safe. The Irishman smiled. Motioned Beggsy into the corner and loaded money into a sports bag.

‘Just out of interest, who inherits if you die? Your mam or your gran?’

‘What makes you think it’d be my mam or my gran?’

‘You’re famous, son.’

The papers. They’d been full of stories about Beggsy and his generosity. He’d wanted the publicity, wanted the world to know he was rich. Irish packed the cash into the bag, then turned and grinned at Beggsy.
‘Proper little saint, you are.’

Beggsy sighed, hung his head. ‘Gran. Gran gets the lot.’

‘Was it really your ticket that won?’

‘What?’

‘Well, if it had been me, I’d have said it was mine whichever it was.’

‘Thief.’

‘All that money. Wasted on an old woman. It’s not like you didn’t buy her a bungalow, now, is it? And that was all she wanted, wasn’t it?’ Irish put the gun in his pocket, zipped up the sports bag.

Beggsy nodded, relieved now that the gun was out of sight.

‘So. Was it really you that won?’

Beggsy shrugged. ‘I signed the back of the ticket. I got the money. Course it was me.’

Irish shook his head. ‘She said you’d lie.’

‘What?’

‘Your gran. She said you were a no good, thieving, lying little guttersnipe.’ He took the gun back out. ‘You shouldn’t have left her the losing ticket. It wasn’t a lucky dip.’ He raised the gun, took aim.
Beggsy went cold. He fell to his knees. ‘She can have it all! Or you can…. Please, don’t do this.’ He was sweating, gibbering.

Irish lowered the gun. Beggsy dared to hope. Then Irish strode over to Beggsy, put the barrel under his chin. ‘Your Gran says “tara, son”.’ He pulled the trigger. The top of Beggsy’s head exploded. Irish wrapped Beggsy’s fingers round the grip and left with the sports bag. Payment for the job. The client would get what was coming to her in due course.

***

This story first appeared in Bullet 6 in 2006.