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A collection of short stories.

Published by:
Bullet Media Ltd
7 Roker Park Road
Sunderland SR6 9PF


Copyright © Retained by individual authors.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be repro-

duced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise, without the permission of the copy-
right owner.

ISBN-10 0-9551497-3-8
ISBN-13 978-0-9551497-3-3

Bullet 7! More shots from the hip….

Attitude. Passion. Excitement.

That’s what Bullet is about.

We believe that when you sit down to read something, anything, it

should give you the thrill of a lifetime. That’s what we set out to do.
Of course we don’t always pull it off but we’re out there swinging,
doing the best we can which is way better than most.

You’re gonna love this issue, a truly global round up of writers full
of aggression and style, taking on the idea of rock’n’roll noir and
putting their own individual spin on it. Mainly new writers this time
round but with a few old mates thrown in there as well.

Keep an eye out for some of these writers, we think they’re going

But if you think you can do any better, come and have a go. We’re
always on the look out for new talent, that’s what we’re here for.
Check out our submissions details at

So read on, enjoy and remember…keep on rockin’….

Keith Jeffrey

Milky Wilberforce (England) 4

Peter McAdam (England) 26

Ray Banks (England) 39

Paul Kavanagh (England) 49

Chris McTrustry (Australia) 54

Jason Golaup (Scotland) 60

Julie Wright (England) 64

Dan McGrath (England) 74

Mandi Winterburn (England) 88

Brian Richmond (Northern Ireland) 93

Cindy Silvester (England) 103

John Weagly (USA) 109

Adrian Magson (England) 117

TK Dan(England) 127

Lee Coombes (England) 141

Mark Boardman (England) 146

Scott Cassidy (England) 152

Milky Wilberforce
Keeps making idle threats to give everything up but hasn’t the guts
to see it through. Recently upgraded to a studio flat from a bedsit
so maybe things aren’t so bad after all. Milky has recently devel-
oped an intense love affair with sixties free jazz which may explain
his lack of success with the opposite (or indeed same) sex. Still if
Albert Ayler was good enough for Lester...

I used to have a foreskin…not that I’m Jewish mind…..

Friday night, the last night, I locked up the office and dropped the
key down the drain. I took a last look at the Benwell Sava-loan
branch office, blew it a delicate little kiss then turned, hugging the
briefcase tight to my chest. It was done, all I had to do was walk
from the office to that bus stop over there, get on the 38 and I was
gone. Away, clean, free.

I should have known though, I should have seen them coming. I

should have known that Frankie wouldn’t let me get away with
anything like that.

One step towards success was all I achieved, then I was hauled
back from the brink by two hands clutched at my elbows. They
steered me towards a beat up Mondeo parked way over in the
wrong direction. Behind me the psst! of pneumatic brakes spat
mockingly. The 38 had come and gone.

“Hi Stevie boy. Alright?”

“Yeah Frankie, fine, fine.”

I twisted and writhed in a pathetic attempt to break free but that

soon stopped when a third hand clutched tightly at my throat and a
knee thumped me in the kidneys. I dropped the case.

From then on, I did what I was told. I’m not stupid.

Well, maybe.

I knew I’d blown it and I knew who had me. Resistance, as they
say, was futile.

“Now, now. You ain’t going anywhere. Got it?” I nodded my head.
The grip slackened so that I could breathe again and we resumed
the frog march.

The Mondeo was getting closer, bigger, scarier. Final.

Frankie picked up the case and my knees went.

“Heavy this. Got more than your sandwiches in hasn’t it?”
“Notes, papers you know, catch up on a few things over the week-

Frankie hove into view. Olive skin, jet black hair and cold green
eyes that nailed me with a piercing, unforgiving gaze. I went cold,
like I was with a dead man, like I was with a Nazi, a butcher. Noth-
ing underneath but emptiness.

“The conscientious employee. Does my heart good to see dedica-

tion like that. Mind if I have a look? I am your employer after all. I
like to keep tabs on my staff, know what they’re up to. At all
times.” He lightly touched the case handle.
“What’s the matter Stevie boy? Got something to hide?”

Frankie opened the bag.

Frankie looked impressed.

Frankie stuck his right boot in my bollocks.

Woke. Eyes blinked. Hard concrete. Nausea, waves of nausea.

Cold, hard world. I sat up in a pool of piss and blood. Naked from
the waist down. Frankie, heard Frankie.

“He’s woken up Rocky. Pin him down while I get the pliers. I want
him to feel this.”

“So what brings you to Bradford?” The landlord was fiddling with a
set of keys to get me into this dump he was trying to sell me. I
guessed he was about my age and he wore a dark Matalan suit
like he was made for it. His shirt collar was frayed, his shoes plas-
tic leather but he spoke with the practised authority of someone
used to dealing with scum tenants.

“New job. Need something while I get myself sorted.”

“Just yourself?”
“Yeah. Split up with me ex. You know how it is.”
”Tell me about it. My ex cost me two houses when we spilt up.”

This mansion he wanted to rent me was a stone built back to back
just off the Manchester Road. It was up a dark alley way past
three bins filled to overflowing with household rubbish and horse
dung. As we entered the back yard, through a tumbledown fence, I
could see the originator of the horse shit. The house faced on to
scrub land where a moth eaten old pile of horseflesh was munch-
ing on burnt grass. A gipsy caravan, faded with time and graffiti
was parked nearby.


I’d spent the last couple of days traipsing round the arse end of
Bradford trying to find somewhere decent to live. Trouble was,
Bradford seemed to be all scrag end, no prime beef, at least not in
my price range. I was getting desperate, my wedge couldn’t stand
any more nights at the b&b and neither could I. Sharing accommo-
dation with brickies and scaffolders was not my idea of comfort.
One more night in that lump of concrete they called a bed and I
doubted I’d be able to walk again. I imagined cockroaches every-

So I needed to find somewhere quick and my standards were

dropping faster than a football club’s shares.

Eventually the landlord found the right key and slipped it into the
UPVC frame of the conservatory door. The door opened up and
he ushered me in ahead of him.
“Lovely little house this. Modernised back to back. New kitchen,
fridge, washer.”

This was a house? The kitchen was in the living room and you
could barely fit in a three piece suite. Upstairs was a shower room,
and two bedrooms. On the walls were pictures of dogs dressed as
policemen or milk men or soldiers. The furniture was MFI fire sale
stock, the carpet red with blue swirly patterns throughout. The
place smelled of damp, it was cold, dark and oppressive.

“I’ll take it.”

“Excellent, I’ll need a month’s deposit and a reference.”
“I got this from my employer.” I pulled out something I’d printed off
the pc in Bradford Central Library that morning. Desk top publish-
ing takes the joy out of forgery don’t you think?
“That looks fine.”

“And I can pay cash now.”

And I was in. A new start, a new life in this broken down heap of
shite with a portable telly and a bin bag full of clothes that would
embarrass Primark. But nobody knew nor cared who I was which
was all that mattered. Jason Marshall would be able to start over
once again, just like the song. Hope this time Bradford had a bet-
ter conclusion than all the others.

The Landlord held out his hand. “Welcome to Bradford. Sorry

what’s the name?”
“Tony. Tony Draughton.”
“I think you’re going to like it here.”
I fucken doubted it.
I wasn’t wrong.

Winter was soon on me and I couldn’t find a job to save me life. A

proper job I mean, one with prospects, one that could offer me the
opportunities I was looking for.

I soon fell into that sad sack routine that leads to an appearance
on the Jeremy Kyle show. Woke up about ten everyday, Radio 5
on permanent throughout the night filling my dreams with weird
shite. I’d get up, eventually, have me breakfast then head on out.

Usually I’d walk into the city centre, drop into the Greggs seconds
shop on the way in and have a pasty while I walked. I’d visit the
library or the job centre, scan the websites for jobs then back
home for Countdown. Watch telly till about six, then nip out to buy
some chips and nick a bottle of whisky from the offy. Routines are
meant to keep you sane aren’t they? This one didn’t, ground me
down into the dust. I started getting desperate, started not wash-
ing, started not doing the dishes, started not changing my clothes.
What was the fucken point?

I needed something, really fucken needed something but there

was still a bit of cash stashed away in the mattress so I didn’t have
to bang on the door of Morrisons for a job just yet. That was the
measure, that gave me my freedom. When that wedge was gone,
that was when I gave up.

Three months later my pile was down to about an inch thick and I
was panicking, big time. Nothing was happening and the siren call
of shelf stacking for Morrisons was beckoning. I was cold all the
time because I didn’t want to turn on the central heating any more
than I had to, the place was dark because I wanted to keep the
lecky bill down and the place stank because the damp was creep-
ing up from the basement.

One day I thought fuck it, I’d had enough. I looked at the wedge
and flicked it. £220. Blow the fucken lot I thought, go out with a
bang then go round Morrisons on Monday morning, skint, desper-
ate and willing to do anything for money.

So I came home that night with a nicked bottle of whisky up me

front. It was just on the turn from winter to spring but that shit hole
I called home was still fucking freezing. My plan was to switch the
telly on, wrap meself in the duvet and drink till I puked. I walked up
the tunnel and heard some talk and chatter.

“Ah fucken know you fucken stupid bitch.”

“Well why the fuck didn’t you fucken get it then?”
“It fucken wasn’t there.”
“It fucken were there! I fucken saw it!”
“Well it weren’t fucken there when ah fucken went.”

I hesitated then thought fuck it. I fucken live here.

I turned the corner into my little yard area and came across a cou-
ple, younger than me, arguing the toss about nowt. She looked
late thirties but I saw that drugs had a hold of her and she was
probably early twenties. Her face was puffed up and the skin
ready to drop off like bad movie make up. Her hair was in a long
bob framing a face with hollow sunken eyes, encircled with comi-
cal black rings. She looked like a bulimic charva panda. She held
her arms tight to her chest and looked in desperate need of some-
thing, a tab or a drink but then I realised she needed something a
lot stronger.

She was toe to toe with a bloke at least a foot higher and wider
than her. He wore a black nylon bomber jacket zipped up to the
neck and his jeans were stiff with filth. He had his face stuck right
in hers, the skin taut on his skull, white, pasty with blue tattooed
dots on his cheeks like psychedelic black heads.

Mills and Boon never had a romance like this.

They looked surprised at my arrival but as I jingled my keys they

realised I must be the neighbour.

“Areet mate,” he threw a nod at me and I threw one back, expres-

sionless. I moved on, desperate to get the keys in, the door open
and away from them. They weren’t having it though.

“You the neighbour then?”

“Keep yersel to yersel don’t you.”
“Suppose so.”
“Been here long?”
“Six months or something.”
“Fuck me, you a hermit?”
“Not really.”
“I’m Mark, this is Sarah.”
“Hi Mark, hi Sarah. I’m Jeff.”
“Should get yersel out. Come round have a can or summat.”
“Thanks for the offer.”

I sped in and shut the door quickly behind.

“Miserable fucker.”
“Shut up! He can still hear you!”

Fuck him and fuck her. A can with them? Fuck me. I’m not that
desperate. Not yet.

The pile was gone and I was on my way to throw myself on Morri-
son’s mercy when it came. The letter I mean, inviting me to an
interview with West Bowling Housing Association for the post of
Rent Clerk.

The relief was overwhelming, then the panic, Jeeze I had to get
this one.

I decided to check on them that morning, a quick recce to see

what I was letting myself in for. Tip number one for the successful
job hunter, do your research.

They were just down the road in one of those tower blocks built in

the modernist fever of the sixties. The sort of places that architects
love to build but hate to live in. You could tell it had been through a
refurb, it had one of those ridiculous metal hats on top, air condi-
tioning I think.

Only the desperate wanted to live in places like that and that’s
where the Housing Association came in.

“No job? No future? Got a job stacking shelves? Let West Bowling
Housing Association find you a shit hole to live in! We can make
your life bearable by giving you a decent roof over your head. Es-
pecially if you don’t deserve one!”

Looked good. Just the sort of place I wanted. Plenty of cash and
lots of do-gooders.

I wandered into the reception area and picked up a few leaflets. It

was bright and welcoming in an IKEA sort of way, I felt good about
this one, felt it was right.

When I got back Mark and Sarah were sitting on their door step.
For the first three months I’d seen or heard nothing of them, now I
couldn’t avoid them. Had they been hibernating all winter? Now
the sun was poking itself out of Bradford’s watery clouds had their
biorythms clicked, driving them outside ready to bathe like lizards
in whatever sun they could get? Or was it warmer outside their
back to back than inside?

“Areet mate.” Mark was smoking a thin rolly, jeans still filthy and
still wearing that nylon bomber jacket. Dominoes were stitched
into the material. Must have been a bouncer once. Looked psycho
enough for it.

A girl about 10 and a boy about 5 were there. A woman dressed

smartly, formal, official was filling out a form.

“Alright?” I returned the greeting but was obviously staring too

“Mind yer own business mate.”

Sarah looked up, a big shiner on her left eye. She eyed me vi-
ciously. I let myself in and raced upstairs to peer from the upstairs
window. I saw the woman take the kids away.

My new suit made me as downmarketedly contemporary as TK
Maxx sale item but I walked into the interview full of confidence.

A middle aged man stood up in a tight fitting shirt that bulged over
his belted stomach. He looked decidedly average, like he only
wore this stuff because he had to, because he had to go out to
work for a living and that if he had to wear a suit it would have to
be the nastiest he could find. His partners were equally dishev-
elled. Middle aged women with fly away hair and blouses that
bulged at the breast. You didn’t feel tempted to look inside though.

The guy held out his hand. I grasped it firmly but not too firmly, a
cheesy grin slicing my face. I swiftly moved on to the women shak-
ing their hands in the confident knowledge they fancied me.

“Hi, I’m Steve Maplin. I’m the area manager for West Bowling
Housing Association and this is Pat Morden and Sheila Weston
who are based in the Manchester Road office. If successful,
Sheila will be your line manager.” She shifted uncomfortably, like
the responsibility was too much too bear.
“Mark Farnham.”
“I hope so! Otherwise something awful has gone wrong!” Steve
laughed. I smiled, the women grinned politely.
“Please help yourself to water.” Steve shoved a plastic glass full of
water towards me. I declined.
“Now let’s start off with an easy one eh? Tell us about yourself and
more specifically why you want to join us here at the Housing As-
“Firstly can I say thank you for allowing me the opportunity of talk-
ing to you today.” Their eyes widened in surprise. That’s when I
knew I had the job. I continued.
“This is an exciting opportunity and one for which I’m ideally
suited. I feel my unique set of experiences and skills would be
invaluable for the Housing Association and I’m sure I can make a
difference. I have relocated to Bradford for personal reasons and
I’m looking for a new start in a post that can make a real difference
to my life and to others.”

So it went. I can talk that sort of shit with the best of them, read all
the books, done all the personal motivation courses. I know what
to say and when to say it to get the job I want.
I got it. The letter came a few days later. I was to start two weeks

on Monday.

The Monday came and I was up with the larks. Get there early,
show enthusiasm, get in the good books. Had to show willing,
build up confidence that this guy was on the up and up. Could be
trusted above all else. I’d splashed out on a brand new Matalan
suit, buffed up the shoes to a highly polished state and I was

I slammed the door and locked it. A warm Spring morning that felt
like a new beginning. For the first time since the incident with
Frankie I was feeling good about life, feeling there was a future, a
plan to work to. I was back on track and ready to rock.

“A’reet mate.”

Mark was sitting on his doorstep drinking a can of Morrisons own

brand and smoking something herbal.

“Looking smart there. Suited and booted. Tie an’all.”
“Just off to work.”
“Work? Enjoy yersel’ mate. Got better things to do with my time.”
“Glad to hear it. See you.”
“Just to let you know there’ll be a couple of dogs in the back yard.
For a coupla days.”
“Yeah dogs.”
“Just thought I’d let you know. Good neighbour and that.”
“Yeah no problem.”

I turned the key in the door and headed off to work.

The post of Rates Clerk at the West Bowling Housing Association

was an absolute piece of piss. In normal circumstances I’d be
pissed off that I was reduced to doing this monkey work for the
peanuts they were paying me but I saw the opportunity and I
needed to impress. This job was so well within my capabilities that
it wouldn’t be long before they were looking for ways to increase
my responsibilities, I was certain of that.
All I did was sit at the computer and process the rent payments.

The tenants would come in with their cash or giro and hand it over
to me and I would process it. Within a week I’d sussed it, saw the
holes in the system and how they could be exploited. I just needed
a bit of time though, work out the audit trail, who did the daily and
weekly checks, when the security guard came to pick up the cash
that sort of thing. But this was doable. Very doable and the
amount of money I was handling on a weekly basis made Frankie
Rivaro and his betting shop look like peanuts.

I was happy and I was in a nice routine and the weather was turn-
ing warm. I’d even dispensed with the additional duvet. Got myself
a new TV with my first wages and everything was feeling fine. Like
the Farmer waiting for the crop to ripen.

One night about half six I was just settling down to a Loyd Gros-
man pasta meal and Price-Drop TV when I heard some barking
outside. Deep and raucous and loud. I ignored it, probably a dog
out in that back field annoying the horse. But it went on and on
and I realised that it was close, real close. Then I heard the chink
of chains then a whining, a persistent high pitched whining. I got
up and looked out the window.

There, tied to my washing line post were two Rotweillers, three

foot high, tongues lolling out, yellow fangs dribbling saliva on to
black and brown coats. There were three dollops of shite on my

I opened the door and went out. There was Mark on the door step
smoking a regular rolly. A can of lager at his feet.
“A’reet mate? Told you I was getting the dogs. Meet Carver and
Bully.” A smile rose up his face like vomit. Triumphant fucker.
Reckoned he’d played me.

I’m a “Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy Fan” so yeah I can be a bit
of a nerd. At the time though, back in 1978 when I heard the first
broadcast of the first episode it was like nothing you’d ever heard,
like when I saw the Human League that time. Back then the future
seemed an exciting place to be, a hang over from the Moon land-
ing and Tomorrow’s World. Not any more though, now it’s all
about global warming and terrorism and state control of movement
and identity.
But at least the Hitch Hikers is still around to keep that sense of

spirit and adventure alive, so I obviously had to be amongst the
first in the country to see the film version when it came out. It was
being shown at the local cinema in one of those deals where you
go along late on a Thursday night and get a sneak preview. Their
guess is that you’ll tell all your mates about it on the Friday and
encourage them to go see it over the weekend. Word of mouth
drives box office and maybe they get a smash on their hands.

I couldn’t see that working for this particular film, the die hards
were gonna hate it and the few that did like it didn’t have any
friends in any case. By definition, HH2G attracted sad twats like
me, nerds, sci fi fans, members of the extended Nomates family.
Doomed to failure I reckoned, anyway the film was fine though not
as good as the radio version obviously and it was about half
twelve when I got home.

I’d forgotten to leave the porch light on so it was pitch black walk-
ing up that alley way. The light that was meant to switch on at the
first sign of motion had gone months ago and the landlord still
hadn’t got round to fixing it. I couldn’t see what was in front of me
and I tentatively placed each foot carefully in case there was some
trip hazard there that would send me arse over tit.

As I moved I heard the chink of chains. I stopped then turned the

corner into my patio. A whirlwind of barking deafened me as
Carver and Bully leapt at me like ravenous, slavering wolves.
Their chains yanked them back causing a brief whine then they
were up again barking, straining to get at me and tear me limb
from limb.

I cowered back against the house. Closed my eyes waiting for the
leash to snap, for teeth to tear flesh but nothing came, except a
thunder roll of deep, cavernous barking. I sneaked a look, they
were at the limit of their chains, jumping, leaping, desperate to get
at me but always jerked back at the last second by their leash,
collars digging deep into their throat. To my side there was maybe
a three foot corridor of safety to my door but I was frozen to the
spot with fear.

“Carver! Bully! Shut the fuck up will ya!” A light switched on next
door. I could see a bare chested Mark struggling to pull some
shoes on.
“Fucking shut up you stupid fucking bastards!”

I was relieved when he pulled open the door and stumbled out. He
had a dog chain in his hands and went at them flailing them into

“Down! Fucking down! I fucking told yer to be fucking quiet you

fucking stupid bastards.”
Three hefty swipes each was all it took.

“Hey look mate you can’t keep them there you know.”

He turned on me, deathly white flesh, taut wired body, well toned,
well muscled torso, face right in mine, nose bumped nose.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do with them! They’re fucking
guard dogs!”

I thought of Frankie and knew I couldn’t go through violence again.

I turned and went to the door and fiddled with the key, hands
shaking, desperate to get the lock open. I pushed the door open
and slammed it behind me, desperate to keep Mark out. I held the
handle and waited for him to go away but he stayed there, shout-

“You fucken miserable twat, they’re only fucken dogs! What’s the
matter with you? Fucken scared of them? Fucken puff!”

Frankie, images of Frankie. Cold floor. Pain.

Then the alarm went, bells and blue lights turning my back yard
into the world’s worst disco. I’d been too busy keeping that psycho
out that I’d forgotten I only had 45 seconds to get to the control
panel. Nothing could have delighted Mark more.

“Ha! Ha! Ha! You twat!”

Then Sarah appeared, arms tightly crossed, wearing a raddled old

T-shirt with baggy leggings suspended on wire thin legs.
“Turn that fucken alarm off! You’ll wake the kids!”
“What fucken kids?” I was feeling brave behind that glass but it
was a stupid thing to say. Mark disappeared for a second but re-
turned with the dogs. He put them up against the door and
whipped their backs.
“Kill! Kill! Kill that bastard!” They went into a frenzy of rage at me,

barking, biting, lunging, slavering all over the door. I locked the
door then went to the alarm panel and turned it off.

After the bells stopped clanging, I could hear Mark again beating
the dogs into submission. Their tiny whelps and whines heart-
breaking despite their previous attempts to rip my throat out. I
opened the fridge door and pulled out a bottle of Smirnoff Blue
and knocked back a mouthful neat in one heavy gulp. The hit was-
n’t enough so I did it again and again and again till those
flashbacks of Frankie were banished and my hands had stopped

I checked the window again just to make sure that everything was
quiet out there. Then I went to the basement and found an old
wooden chair the landlord had left. I smashed a leg off, went back
upstairs and watched TV till dawn broke.

I have this theory based on the idea that you have a number of
elements to your life that are important to you. The Sine wave
theory I call it. The aim is to achieve equilibrium, one part of your
life is going well, so another part has to be crap, one wave is up,
one wave is down so everything balances out. That way you can
deal with the bad as long as something else is going really well.

Right then, the good stuff was work. That was going a treat. I’d
fitted in perfectly. I was always being asked out by the gang for
drinks, my skills were being recognized and I’d been given addi-
tional responsibilities. In fact I thought hey this isn’t so bad, why
take a chance in ruining something that was working this well?

But then again I was beginning to crack the system, it was there
for the taking. I’d been through an audit, seen what they did and
how they checked the processes. I was getting up to Level 3 ac-
cess and I already had the safe key. Couple more months and
jackpot! Nope I couldn’t turn that down for a safe nine to five.

The down side was home. I dreaded leaving work, because it

meant another creep past those rabid dogs, usually with the smirk-
ing Mark there making dumb insults. It was like a bereavement
waiting for me every morning and evening. I stopped going out at
nights, even made sure that I got my groceries straight after work

so that I had no reason to go out again. It was like that eighteen
months I spent on day release. Worse, I wasn’t in fear of my life
back then.

The dogs were there, all the time, sleeping, eating, shitting in my
back yard. One of them was always asleep but all it took was the
other one to notice me creeping past like a cartoon character to
set them going, snapping and tugging at their chains. One of these
days that chain was going to snap….

A month passed then one night I came in from work, I’d just done
a bit of shopping at Morrisons and was carrying a couple of plastic
bags. The rustling of the paper was enough to set them barking.
As they did so Mark ran out of the door and started laying into
them with a chain.
“Shut up! Fucking shut up you stupid fucking twats!” A few swipes
and they soon quietened down.
He turned and saw me.
“Oh it’s you, setting them off again.”

I ignored him and moved towards the door.

“Fucken coward.”
I found my keys.
“I fucken said “You fucken coward.””
“You fucken will be. Couldn’t do it to ma face could yer?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I am talking about the bastard RSPCA.”

He leaped at me, grabbed my collar and shoved his face in mine.

His breath stank of own brand lager and stung like acid. I closed
my eyes and saw images of pliers and Frankie, memories rushing
back. Puke began to well in the back of my throat.

“Don’t come the fucken innocent with me! Bastard RSPCA came
round today. Told me I had to find some proper accommodation
for them. Proper kennels and shit.”
“Look I’ve spoken to nobody about them.”
“Well who else you little shit? Where am I going to put these two?
Whose gonna have a pair of guard dogs like that? I’ll have to get
rid of ‘em. Rid of ‘em you hear?”

He shook me hard.

“Say something, say something will ya, ya cunt!”

Then the pressure left and I heard something slump to the ground.

“They’re all ah’ve got, they’re all ah fucken got.”

I gingerly opened my eyes and saw that Mark was slumped on the
ground, head between legs.

“You crying?”
“No I’m fucking not!”

I left him to it and sneaked into the safety of home. I’d just turned
off the alarm when a brick sailed through the window swiftly fol-
lowed by a dog turd. I spent the rest of the night boarding it up.
From the inside of course.

The day came.

Cash from the rent collections reached a peak on the last Friday of
the month. Most of the tenants only understood cash, only felt
comfortable with the reality of notes and coins, so they made sure
that when they got paid by the dole or the company they did man-
ual work for, that they paid their rent before anything else. At least
then they could be sure that they’d have a roof over their head for
at least the next four weeks.

By 3 o’clock there’d be a cash mountain in there, all registered, all

accounted, all independently verified. Then the security guy would
come round make the pick up and it was all smoothly transferred
to the bank, everything safe and secure. Unless, unless….

The person who signed over the cash had to make sure that the
figure that was transferred to the bank was the same figure that
was entered into the system. This was then reconciled the follow-
ing week and checked off against the tenants’ accounts. That way
they knew who was up to date and who wasn’t.

Unless, unless….somebody, who was less than trustworthy, got

into the system and made a number of obscure contra entries.

That way the figures would balance and the tenants would have a
roof over their heads. Nobody would notice, at least not for a cou-
ple of months, maybe longer. By then though, I’d have handed my
notice in “for personal reasons” and disappeared off the face of
the earth.

I settled myself into my terminal and tried to focus on work but It

was impossible. All I could think of was that pile of cash growing
ever larger as one tenant after another came in and paid off their
balance. Now and then I’d get a tantalizing glimpse of the wads in
the huge black safe that dominated the office as the door opened
as more money was deposited.

By lunch time the office was all but empty as most of the staff
used up their Flexi on a Friday afternoon. Just me and Gill the
admin assistant were left, two of us in charge of all that cash.

Gill was a nice woman, though who she was assisting was any-
body’s guess. She seemed to spend most of her time surfing the
net and going to the toilet. Gill usually went out at lunch time, to do
a bit of shopping, maybe get some office stationery to pad out the
time but this lunch time she wasn’t shifting. 12.30, then one, then
one thirty and still she hadn’t gone. I couldn’t say anything though,
couldn’t risk any attention being brought to me by asking Gill why
she wasn’t going out for lunch but I had to get a clue as to what
she was doing.

“Doing anything at the weekend Gill?”

“Not a lot. Do something with the kids.”
“Sounds nice.”
“That’s a big bag you got there, Mark” said Gill.

For weeks now I’d been attending a gym after work on a Friday.
£35 quid a month just to make myself ill, but it was worth it, gave
me a reason to have a big bag in the office on a Friday afternoon.
“Yeah, going to the gym after work.”
”Quite an obsession with you now isn’t it?”
“Got to keep the pounds off.” I slapped my belly.
“Got your own equipment in there? It’s a very big bag.”
“Just a couple of towels.”
I looked at the clock, it was barely shifting, like the workings were
caught in treacle and time itself had slowed down.

Gill’s phone rang, “Hello? Yes…..What?........ When?...... Ok I’m
She hung up and started pulling on her coat.
“Mark, our Jamie’s done something to his head at school, I’ve got
to pick him up from the hospital. Will you be alright on yer own?”


“Oh yeah, I think I can manage. Nothing serious?”

“Daft bugger tripped over in the yard and sliced his head open. 8
stitches. See you Monday.”
“Take care.”

Thank you God.

Then silence except for the clock ticking with ever slowing preci-
sion. I gave it ten minutes, ten minutes that never dragged more
slowly, like they were swinging on crutches.

I caressed the safe keys in my pocket, jangled them slightly, en-

joying the exquisite pain of waiting.

Slam! Bob came in, door swinging, loudly banging, heart stopping.
“Sorry forgot me notes for the meeting.”

He came and went. Five more tortuous minutes of loneliness.

Fuck it.

I whipped the keys from my pocket, quickly scampered across the

office, opened the safe and shovelled big piles of neatly banded
notes into the bag. I slammed the door shut, zipped up the bag
and resumed my place at the PC.

Sixty seconds work and 80k richer.

At 3 the security guy made his pick up, I signed over the amount
and made the entry on the terminal. I would make the contras later
next week so it didn’t look too contrived.

Bob came back to the office at about 4 and fiddled around with a
few bits and pieces. Half four came and I reckoned enough was
enough. I picked up the bag and started walking.

I touched the door handle.

“Cheers Bob! See you Monday.”

“Thanks Steve. Enjoy your weekend.” I planned to.

It was right then that I thought I was going to get away with it, right
then, just for that fleeting flashing moment, I thought I was going to
pull it off. Fantasies overwhelmed me in a Technicolor blur of
decadence and luxury. High class escorts, luxury hotels, foreign
holidays and bleak, bleak Bradford left thousands of miles behind.

I left the building.

“Hey you bastard! Look what you done! Look what you done! This
is you, this is all your fault!”

Staggering towards me across the car park was Mark. In his arms
something dark and big and heavy. I tried to ignore him and
walked in the opposite direction, I couldn’t be having this today. I
walked in the opposite direction.

“Come here you little bastard. Don’t you fucking ignore me!”

I heard running and turned to see Mark covered from head to foot
in blood racing towards me. I dropped the bag in shock, then
turned to run, tripped over it then went flying across the concrete
car park. Mark leaped on me.

“They’re dead! They’re dead! I fucken killed ‘em. Stuck a knife in

their hearts and fucken killed ‘em! RSPCA were gonna take ‘em
away and destroy them. The bastards were gonna charge me for
the fucken privilege. Fucken cunts. Beat ‘em to it.”

He stared balefully at the corpses, then dragged me by my shirt

collar, I scraped and scrambled till finally he dropped me on the
dogs. They were still warm.

Frankie. Blood. Pain. Not again. Not again.

“Look at ‘em. Smell ‘em. Touch ‘em. This is you. This is you. You
did this.”

I looked away and saw the bag, made a movement but he

stamped on my neck. Bob came out of the office. He saw my bag
and picked it up.

“Mark? What’s going on here? Are you alright?”

I heard a siren.

“It’s ok Mark, I’ve called the police.”

Peter McAdam
Peter is a quiet Dadaist living in the shadows of suburban
Washington. But he gets these frequent visits from Eddie
Temple and it shakes up his life. He’s moved three times
but Eddie catches up with him and dictates his brooding
monologues of a relentless hitman.

Julie Andrews and The Goat Of Mendes, what a combo!!

Julie holding her arms aloft singing her heart out amid the splen-
dour of the Swiss Alps and little kids running around the landscape
innocently singing the dori rey mee’s.. The she-goat of Baphomet,
the Satanic emblem of black magicians.

These two images subliminally flash on and off like an ampheta-

mine flashbulb;

“High on a hill was a lonely goatherd

Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd”
(cue subliminal image of Baphomet, the winged she demon. Sit-
ting cross legged sporting a goatee beard, wearing a pentangle
crown, a devilish stare and horns sprouting from its Pan-like head)
“Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo”
(cue subliminal message)

I’ve found a way to crack open DVD’s. I can manipulate the con-
tents of the films with an editing package, so I’m copying the
Sound Of Music for old Bikey Jackson. Bikey’s just got out of the
nick, he has a penchant for old musicals and I’m playing mind
games with him at the moment.

“YOU’RE GONNA DIE FUCKHEAD” flickers in and out 0000.5

mili-seconds at a time and a satanic symbol staining an otherwise
vanilla family film. This technique alters the atmosphere creating a
sense of foreboding; hopefully the desired effect will make him shit
his bed.

It’s all about pissing in someone else’s water.

I did this for a guy down at my local paper shop as an experiment.

He loves Bogart films, so I edited in a horse being executed, shot
in the head from an old black and white documentary about
equine diseases. It’s on a loop as it collapses and rises unnatu-
rally from the ground again.

So two weeks later, after I’ve been away working on a job, I return

to pick up my magazines. There he is with a fucking rash on his
neck. You see he gambles on horses always fucking bragging
he’s won this and won that, now he won’t even look at the form.
Mention horses and he changes the subject, when I say I have a
tip for Cheltenham, a horse called Humphrey, he scratches that
fucking neck of his.

I’m trying to get him to watch some Doris Day if he does the poor
bastard won’t ever drink milk again.

A film on a DVD is a self-contained entity. Usually you can’t get in

there to change it but with the right kind of software you can crack
it open, break into the content. You can go in there and jiggle with
the innards, fuck it up, mess with the narrative, slip in your mes-
sages. That’s what I’m good at, manipulation.

This is how I approach my job. I like to penetrate things. Watch the

jig saw pieces of a personality fall apart and then move in for the
kill. In actual fact I’m like a voyeur with bullets and some shit hot
software to boot.

Bikey Jackson is a Hells Angel. A big fucker, got a Grizzly Adams’

fuzzed up grey beard that looks like it’s fucking exploded all over
his face. Their lass must have to send out a search party to find
his fucking mouth to kiss… well not exactly, I’ll explain later.

He has a big, big smile and tiny fucking eyes which in physiog-
nomy terms means a dodgy cunt. He wears a bike jacket like he
was born in it. The arms are cut off to reveal his now flabby arms,
dotted with tattoos of snakes and swords and somebody called

He has a limp, not from a bike accident, silly fucker dropped an

iron on his foot while he was in the nick. He’s out now and smell-
ing the sweet air of freedom. He wants to take out Ravenger.
Ravenger is a fat charva from Wallsend… Ah! Wallsend where the
English breakfasts are ‘fuckin massif.’ £5.99 you get the whole
fucking heart attack on a plate.

In the not too distant past when Ravenger was a junior twokker he
looked up to Bikey because of his power and his drug territory. But
things turned sour when Bikey slapped Ravenger in a pub coz he
looked at him the wrong way. This humiliating experience sowed

the demon seed in his soul. He never forgot.

Ravenger was a police bitch, anything that happened on the es-

tate he would squeal. So years passed and Ravenger after sev-
eral gym sessions and a quaint bouquet of steroids and uppers
got big, real big… and bold. Having friends in the force and want-
ing somebody out of the picture. Ravenger was in the ideal posi-
tion to get rid of Bikey so he paid a local prostitute, coincidentally
called Caroline, armed with two bags of coke, tapped Bikey up in a
bar and led him to a disused building. She spiked his bottle of ci-
der and knocked the stupid fucker on the head, coppers were
tipped off and Bikey was pulled in for possession.

After he was put away, Ravenger and his gym sluts ruled the
roost, but apparently Ravenger is still soft as shit, still needs his
army around him. That’s why he never had a one to one with
Bikey; Bikey still has something on him.

Bikey has calmed down since coming out, he now talks really
camp, he hangs around the town toilets looking to rub your stiffy
for a fiver, sad fucker. Four golden stars to the penal readjustment
system coz before he went in the nick he was a mean machine
who would belt you even when he was having a good night.

He couldn’t give a toss about his territory now. He doesn’t want it,
it’s the fact that Ravenger framed him and sent him down for
seven years that keeps him hanging on. So he’s biding his time.
Strangely, they are still on nodding terms, but I bet they do a lot of
back watching.

You see if Ravenger did it himself or got any of his cronies to do it

then the Wallsend Black Snake Chapter would be busy grave dig-
ging the whole weekend. They don’t normally get involved coz
Bikey is a bit of an embarrassment to them, but when one of their
own gets rubbed out, well they have their principles.

I don’t know any of these guys you have to understand. I’ve whee-
dled my way into this via Ravenger. I only got to know Bikey in the
Wallsend Café and a few drinking holes.

So at the moment he thinks my name is Jimi Hendrix and I’m a

plumber from Ashington with a passion for Hollywood Musicals.

My real name is Eddie Temple, I hate plumbing, I hate musicals
and my full time job is killing.


Why does it always rain in Wallsend, every fucking Monday. I hud-

dle into the Cholesterol Café, whip my woollen hat off and nod to
Betty. She’s got a skewed rolly dangling from her mouth and her
hands covered in tomato ketchup, like she’s just butchered some
unfortunate fucker.
“Well ya said Ketchup”
“I didn’t mean all of that” scowls a disgruntled pensioner.

I sit down opposite Bikey. He’s eating a ‘fuckin massif’ 3 eggs, 5

rashers of bacon, fried bread nearly half a loaf, pile of beans, 6
slices of black pudding, 4 sausages and a clump of dodgy mush-
rooms spilling over the side of the plate.

“Got something to tell ya Jimi” he looks up from his feast and

wipes the egg yolk from his mouth.
“Remember the World Cup? Eriksson was under pressure with
Rooney breaking his foot, should he take him? Should he leave
him? Will his foot heal up in time?”
“In the end he took him, it was a gamble, but he could afford to
gamble coz the silly bastard was on his way out anyway. He had
fuck all to lose, apart from his reputation”

I look puzzled. He didn’t get me to come out in the rain to lecture

me on fucking football.
He continues “It’s what you call a dead man’s gamble.”
Bikey leans forward.
“When someone’s on the way out it’s time to take a gamble, even
take someone with them, call it vindication, call it what you fucking
like.” He points his fork right near my eyes.
“It’s about resolving things, this is my gamble”
“What are you on about mate?”
“Fuck sake.”
“Say nothing more, I want no questions.”

“That’s fucking shaken me up Bikey.”
I lean back in my seat with false resignation.
“I mean it, no questions,” he jabs the fork again and lowers it to
pick up a burnt sausage, shoves it whole in his mouth and nods to
I nod back.
“No questions then.”
“Thanks Jimi, you’re a good ‘un.”

If he’s going to pop his clogs then that’s my fee down the pan.
Here’s me thinking I’ll have to do it soon when…. he gives me
cause for a slight reprise.
“I’m going to do Ravenger next week, at Marsden Rock.”
Thank fuck for that.
“That guy who framed you? No man Bikey, you’ll get yourself
“I’ve passed caring Jimi, am on the way out, it’s the right time. It’s
his two monthly pay cheque from the south crew,” he says “He’ll
be on his own because he’s fiddling, even his mates don’t know
he’s earning extra.”
“At least let me give you a hand. I have a mate who can get you a
gun and I’ve got wheels. I mean you can’t rub somebody out by
going public transport, where’s your class?”
“Aye you’re right, I might need a hand, that’s good of you Jimi
you’re a real mate”

He finishes off his ‘massif’ and leans back in his seat. “Ah!
Jimi…Jimi Hendrix, what a name… Pity you couldn’t play like him,
you could give up plumbing” then he starts singing “Hey Jimi!!
Where you going with that pipe in your hand?” he lets out a hearty
laugh a big, big smile and those fucking slits of his eyes become
tiny knife cuts at the top of his face. His laughter bellows all over
the Cafe, shaking the dayglo poster offers on the grease stained

Betty looks over with another eternal rolly in her mouth. She wipes
her hand clear of ketchup and joins in the joke, her guttural ma-
chine gun laughs ending with a 50 a day ciggie cough.

I look at him seriously “I can’t play like Jimi but there’s always time
mate, time is on my side.”

He drops his smile and can’t figure out whether I’m taking the piss

out of his situation or I’m making a philosophical statement about
mine. No matter. He sups off his coffee and before leaving says
“I’ll let you know mate.”
“By the way Bikey I’ve copied Singing In The Rain for you” I hand
him the DVD, “Cheers mate”
“Did you enjoy The Sound Of Music?”
“Well, yes and no, I enjoyed it but felt really uncomfortable for
some reason. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the stress I’m under.”
“I understand.”

Bikey limps away into the afternoon rain.

The Crown Posada is a long bar with a little snug on your left hand
side when you walk in. Dark wood, stained glass windows and the
ceiling is an amazing lilac with white decorative plaster. It looks
like it used to be a theatre but cut in half right down the middle.
There’s an old record player on the far side of the bar and Billie
Holliday sings above the vinyl scratches. Strange fruit, beautiful

Ravenger is in the snug with Billy Johnson and Nez, his right hand
man. Billy is another fat baldy cunt weighed down with bling. He
looks like Ravenger, a bronzed potato head wearing golden ear-
rings. The only difference is Billy has a scar on his cheek from a
knife fight in his Merchant Seaman days. And there’s Nez, all mus-
cles and no brain, sporting a Chris Waddle mullet. He must have a
sense of humour to wear fucking hair like that, the sad bastard
looks like he’s been in stasis since the 70’s. He’s got a gold ring
on his left hand finger, it reads NEZ but the letters are backwards.
So when he thumps somebody in the face, he leaves the word
ZEN imprinted in the skin. Big fucking deal.

Ravenger gets me a pint while he’s at the bar. I pull off my woolly
hat and take off my drenched parker. Billy and Nez don’t know
who the fuck I am and what I am doing here, they think I’m a
hanger on. They give me the evil eye.

“You a student then?” Nez looks me up and down.

“Nahh! I’m a plumber.”
“Might have a job for you.”
“Aye,” I pretend to perk up.

“My Uncle Dave has plenty of leeks in his allotment.”

They both laugh their tits off, I laugh with them and make a ges-
ture to Ravenger for a quiet word.

We both head for the toilets.

“What’s the score?”
“Next week I’m coming along with him, he’s going to try and hit
you at Marsden Rock.”
“That’s an important meeting for me, don’t fuck it up… Anyway
how did he know I have a meeting at Marsden?”
“He keeps tabs on your every move mate. Anyway he’ll be dead
before he gets there, I’ll take a detour.”
“When it’s done and I read it in the Chronicle I’ll send the second
instalment… You have my word on that, now piss off I need to talk
to our lass” he thumbs in a number on his mobile.
I leave and return to the snug.
Nez points at me “Fucking pipes r us” they both laugh as I pick up
my parker.

I think I might just return again to see these two Muppets. That
gives me a satisfied feeling and a little glow in the centre of my
“See ya lads, another time eh?”
“Fucking arse” rings in my ears as I head off… nice boys.

Bikey limps down the road and gets in my car.

I give him a reassuring smile.
“You got the money for the gun?”
Bikey takes out a bundle of 20’s.
“£400, it’s all there” I take it from him and push it in my parker
“A mate of mine is meeting me in the Marsden Grotto pub so if
you wait in the car I’ll text you when I’ve got the gun.”

I rev up and we’re on our way.

“I would put some music on but the little shits have stolen the fuck-
ing radio and the speakers. They’ve even pinched my favourite
Betty pen – the one where you turn it upside down and it reveals
Betty’s suspenders.”

“Who? Betty from the Café?

A smile grows on my face from a bizarre image of Betty from the

Café, lounging on a sofa in her underwear covered in tomato
ketchup. Erotically smoking a skewed rolly. “Nahh man Betty
“Does she live round here?”
I point over to a housing estate “Aye look number 32”
Bikey looks over and hasn’t a clue what I’m on about.
I look at him, his exploding beard and his big, big smile, I kind of
feel sorry for him.
“Fancy a drink?’
“Aye what have you got?” he spins around looking for alcohol.
“Check out my carrier bag on the back seat.”
He buries his hand in and pulls out a carton of milk.
“Fucking Goat’s Milk?”
“You can laugh it’s good for you.”
“Don’t mention goats to me.”
“Why what’s the problem?”
“They give me the willies, those fucking little beards and their ob-
long weird pupils, man, satanic fuckers.”

I’m thinking of Maria Von Trapp and the satanic goat. My judo
psychology does actually work.
“Fancy a sing-a-long?”
“Like what? Sweet Child Of Mine? Bat Out Of Hell?”
“See if this rings a bell.”

High on a hill was a lonely GOATHERD

Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Loud was the voice of the lonely GOATHERD
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

Bikey looks sick.

“I’ve changed my mind Jimi, I’ve got this weird feeling something
bad is going to happen”
“Too right, you’re going to blow fucking Ravenger into the next
fucking dimension”
I look at him.
“Seven years of your life he’s fucking ruined, get a grip and shoot
the bastard”

He says nothing and it’s silence from here on in.

Marsden Rock. It’s only a bloody rock, 50 metres from the shore.
It’s had a chequered career. Soon as you get there you see a sign
advertising the Samaritans, it’s a popular spot for suicides. The
safety fence is always decorated with flowers. I think it reeks of
death. A lot of people like it, say it’s a spiritual place, a place of
contemplation. Mind you when you’re having a pint in the Grotto
pub and you see the Rock against the sea, you feel kind of hum-
ble, like you’re insignificant in the general scheme of things.
Apparently there was this gothic kid who killed some of the sea-
gulls and placed them on the beach making up the word “DEATH”.
Does that sound like a spiritual place?

The Rock of Death, it looks like a big chunk of fucking cinder tof-

“Right Bikey, I’ll go down see my mate and get the gun, then I’ll
text you. Come down to the pub toilets and then it’s all up to you.”
“Okay” he says staring through the front window into the sea like
he wants to drown in there and forget everything.
“You alright?”
“I’ll be fine. I think that goat’s milk is making me sick”

In the lift that takes you down to the Rock, there’s this full length
mirror, so I practise whipping out my gun, “Ravenger your dead
fucking meat.”

There’s obviously no mate in the pub toilet going to sell me a gun,

this is to keep Bikey out of the way. It’s Ravenger’s two monthly
meet up with the South Tyneside crew, swapping cash for drugs
and I want a part of it.

I put the gun away and take a long hard look at myself. I’m think-
ing I just might let Bikey go, he doesn’t know who I am and he’s
harmless enough, just been given some bad breaks. Although I
think it’s his karma catching up coz he was a bad bastard. Let
nature take it’s course, Eddie.

I come out of the lift and emerge from the pub. I see two figures on
my right in the distance walking south along the foot of the cliffs
where it curves round into a cove, a cosy hiding place from the
Marsden tourists.

I make my way over to the big Rock, and stand inside the stone

arch, watching them talking, laughing then the guy hands Raven-
ger an envelope. They shake hands.

It’s a cloudy day and there’s only a few people around mostly clus-
tered near the pub. This is perfect for the situation that is about to
unfold. I don’t want any messy massacres. The guy walks away
and Ravenger is on his own, I emerge from the stone arch, he
sees me and lifts an arm. I acknowledge him with a wave. I climb
over the rocks to meet him as he walks towards the in coming tide.

“Job done?” he asks, he doesn’t even look at me.

“Aye,” I look up to the sky and see the Sun breaking through the
“You shouldn’t have come here, I told you I’ll pay you when I see it
in the Chronicle, now piss off I’m going to phone our lass”

I circle round him and stick my gun into his bronzed cheek. His
golden earring shimmers in the sunlight. He twitches and goes to
turn to face me but feels the coldness of the barrel.

“What the fuck are you doing, man?” He instinctively raises his
arms. I can see those sweat beads running down passed the
glowing earring; I move the barrel to his temple. “Now you know
why my surname is Temple?”
“You’ll get fucking hunted down if you harm me”
“What by Billy No Mates and Mr Zen? The fucking Wallsend
Krankies? You know something I just might hunt them down
someday, call it unfinished business.”
“Please man I’ll forget the whole thing, keep the money.”
He throws the envelope down onto the rocks, “I’ve got a kid man.”

Now it’s getting a bit mushy, just like the Sound Of Music.
“Got a kid? you only see him once a month and you let him deal
for you, what kind of Father is that eh?”

I bend my knees and search blindly with my free hand amid the
crusty rocks for the envelope. “Got it,” it feels fat full of notes. I
straighten up and push the barrel into his temple and grip the trig-
ger. I’m just about to give him the big goodbye when I hear Bikey
stumbling over the rocks.

“Jimi man what the fuck are you doing?”

“Fuck man. Keep your fucking voice down.”

Bikey pleads with me, “Let me do it man, give me that at least.”
“Bikey you’ll be a marked man, your life won’t be worth living,”
says Ravenger lowering his hands. I push the barrel hard into his
cheek and push it up wrinkling his face. He raises his hands again.

I look at Bikey and his face is so pitiful.

“Here,” I give Bikey the gun, he takes over, holding it with both
hands and screwing it into the side of Ravengers face.
“Make sure you do him good and proper,” I walk away.
“Where you’re going Jimi?”
“His name is not fucking Jimi he’s Eddie Temple, I paid him to kill

Bikey looks puzzled and screams into Ravenger’s ear.

“He’s not Eddie Temple, his name is Jimi Hendrix”
“Jimi fucking Hendrix?” Ravenger turns to see me walking away
with the envelope and manages an ironic smile.
I shout over, “He’s making it up, just trying to worm his way out of
it, I’m going back to the car, he’s all yours Bikey.”
Bikey gives me that big, big smile of his.

I continue, “Oh! And Bikey when you’re finished throw the gun into
the sea.”

Bikey grits his teeth and forces Ravenger to his knees. “Get down
ya spineless bastard you’d do anything to get out of this one,
Jimi’s my mate, he’s a good ‘un.”

I climb the winding steps to the top of the cliff.

I pause half way and look down at Bikey waving the gun at Raven-
ger who is on his knees. They’re arguing with each other. Re-
minds me of the DVD analogy; their lives are self-contained, living
their small narratives. I enter as an observer, see all the shit un-
derneath the surface. So you crack open the secrets go in there
and meddle about, drop in a few messages, manipulate the
scenes become a virus. That gives you the power to alter the out-
come. I continue my climb.

I’m surprised I haven’t heard a bang.

I look down leaning on the safety fence. He’s still talking to him he
must be pouring out his seven-year angst before blowing his head


Then…..A dull THUD.

The seagull’s squeal and fly from the top of the Rock, filling the
sky. Ravenger slumps lifeless among the rocks.

Lifting the boot of the car I grab my trusty Serendipity, the long
range L115A1 sniper rifle. My ipod toggles to Number 22. The
spine tingling harpsichord runs over your skin like a shard of glass,
drenched in echo and reverb. The infectious groove of the bub-
bling bass and slap happy tabla’s, chug along like a chilled out
train. It’s where happiness meets menace, it’s the mid-heaven of
the day’s arc.

The climax.
Right time right place.
It’s the sovereign of soundtracks.
Roy Budd I take my woolly hat off to you.

I can’t get over this being like the end of Get Carter. If I told any-
body they would accuse me of engineering this, I must admit it
borders on the cliché, but what the fuck.

Bikey is in my sights, unfortunately he knows my real name now, I

was going let things go. He limps away from the dead body; he
looks dejected like he’s regretted it and he’s going to break into a
mournful song. I’ll wait till he throws the gun away.

“Goodbye Bikey, you were fun but you didn’t half stink.”

He throws his arm back to throw the gun in the sea, just that sec-
ond before releasing it.


Ray Banks
Ray Banks is the creator of Leith-born, Manc-raised PI Cal Innes,
who made his novel debut in May 2006 with Saturday's Child
(Polygon), with two more following in 2007. When he’s not under-
mining British crime fiction with his foul-mouthed stories, he can
be found living in Newcastle with his wife and assorted animals.

He still maintains he has balls the size of coconuts at


“What you gonna do, Joey?”

Dunc brings it up the day the two of them get chucked out
the hostel because Dunc had tack on him. And Dunc’s already
pure fucked off because the way he sees it, it’s medicinal and it’s
only tack, man. It’s only fuckin’ resin. When he doesn’t get an an-
swer, he looks down at the bin bag full of clothes by his feet.
Sticks a rollie in his mouth. He takes up a double seat on the
Metro, his legs spread, his spine curved. There’s the sound of
plastic every time he moves his foot.
Still nothing from his mate across the way, so Dunc starts
on: “Where you gonna go, Joey? Tony Hills, man, he’s dead or
fucked off somewhere. Your old lads Andy and Blake up in Blyth,
they got themselves nicked. So what you got left, man? You want
to nip down The Well, see Goose? Gonna put up with all that Falk-
lands shite to get a fuckin’ score bag?”
Dunc smokes half his rollie in one draw. Smoke puffs out of
his mouth as he continues.
“Fuckin’ Tumbledown, man,” says Dunc. “That cunt bashed
Argies like I bashed his fuckin’ mam.”
Joey’s breathing through his mouth. “Don’t matter. I can’t
go back in there, can I?”
Joey isn’t his birth name, but it’s what everyone calls him.
Name stuck to him like grem. Dunc used to call him a streak of
dehydrated piss, so that’s mates for you. Dunc always gets a vo-
cabulary – “a certain perspicacity” – once he’s tied off on one.
Now Joey’s got his cap pulled down, two days’ of blond
fuzz on his cheeks and neck. Sitting forward, leaning on his knees,
head down. Smoke curls from the inside of his palm, his tab
turned inwards just in case the inspectors come round. Looks like
his hand’s on fire. And it fits in with the full-on boiling temperature
on the train. Dunc doesn’t give a shit about the heat or his tab.
He’s got his shirt off, the blue ink on his back like a dare, the
tracks on his arms double-dogging it.
Dunc says, “You want revenge or not?”
“Revenge?” Joey catches a face of smoke and blinks be-
fore he turns his face to the window. “Howeh, man, it’s not that
fuckin’ bad.”
“You know your problem, Joey? You’re a fuckin’ mong,
can’t see straight. Tapped, man. Always have been.”
“She’ll recognise us.”

“So what if she does?”
“So she knows me name, she knows where I live.”
“Like I fuckin’ care.” Dunc spreads his legs further, gets
more comfortable. “Like you fuckin’ care, man. You don’t live there
no more anyway.”
“I don’t want the polis coming round me mam’s.”
Dunc sucks his teeth, shakes his head. “I dunno, like. If it
was me, I’d want a bit of fuckin’ payback. You been moaning on
for ages, like that bitch was on your back every time you went in.
Treat you like a smackhead thief an’ that, you want to do some-
thing about it.”
“Can’t do nowt about it, Dunc. I’m barred, like.”
“’Cause of what? ‘Cause you twocked a couple fuckin’
Mars Bars?”
Joey pokes at something in his back tooth with his tongue.
It was only a couple of Mars Bars – Work, Rest and Nick – but that
suspicious old bitch, she’d kept Action Man eagle eyes on him the
whole time. Thinking back, Joey should’ve known better, learned
from his mistakes. But the urge to steal was too strong and he had
a sweet tooth. When he turned around, she’d been straight up,
caught him with a fistful of kets. Shouldn’t have been a big deal
problem, but Joey’d been nabbed before and this was his third
She went off it, pure mental – looked to Joey like her eyes
would roll back in their sockets, she’d point and scream like one of
them pod people he’d seen on the telly. Joey did the Deacon
Shuffle, one foot to the other, acted like he didn’t know what was
happening, tried to block out this woman’s kick-off.
“Kinda situation’s that?” says Dunc. “What you gonna do
then, eh? You admit you nicked stuff, you’re out. You don’t admit
it, she’s still got your fuckin’ script.”
“I know.”
“And you went down the market, right?”
“Aye. With the fuckin’ Motorolas. You need cash so bad,
you risk getting nicked down the market over phones?” Dunc
leans forward, slaps Joey’s cap. “Give it a shake, marra.”
Joey frowns and adjusts the peak. Pulls it even lower to
hide the red in his face. “Didn’t know what I was thinking, like.”
“Fuckin’ bitch. Reckons she can hold your jellies over you
like they’re fuckin’ dog treats. All that power’s gone to her head.
And while I’m fuckin’ at it, what kind of power is it, anyway? Give
‘em a white coat, they think they’re a doctor.” Dunc finishes his

tab, drops and grinds what’s left of the Zig-Zag into the rubber
floor of the train. “All I’m saying, we do this, we don’t need to score
for fuckin’ donkeys’.”
Joey doesn’t say anything. He looks at the trampled rollie,
takes a drag on his own.
“You’ll do this,” says Dunc.
Nothing from Joey.
The doors hiss open at Manors.

Dunc doesn’t let it go. Joey knows he won’t, but he still bristles
when Dunc swans into his room at the Sally. Joey shifts in bed,
still half-asleep, and the room goes black for an instant, something
landing on his face.
He hears Dunc saying, “No excuses now.”
Joey puts one hand up to his head, pulls the ski mask from
his face. “Aw, howeh...”
“No excuses. Stick that on your head, that old woman won’t
know you from her fuckin’ son. Camera won’t get you, neither. So
any shite you come up with now, it’s ‘cause you’re a bottling cunt.”
Joey rubs the material of the ski mask. The heat’ll kill him if
he wears this. He pauses and bites a hangnail from his thumb,
then sticks his fingers through the eyeholes.
There’s a weight on the bed. Joey looks up. The door to his
room is closed, Dunc leaning against the wall with a grin on his
face. Joey follows his gaze. A machete lies on the bed. Rusty at
the blade, crusty at the handle.
“What’s that?” says Joey.
“That, marra, is a big fuck-off knife. Stick that under your
jacket, we’re in business.”
Joey’s already shaking his head. “Where’d you get it from?”
“Fuck does it matter?”
Joey puts his hand on the machete, lifts it. He feels the
weight, the balance, in his hand and arm. The crust along the han-
dle is a mucky brown.
“I can’t carry this,” he says.
“Course you can.”
“Dunc –“
“Unless you’re a bottler.”
“I’m not –“
“You keep this shit up, you’re a bottling cunt. End of.”

Joey thinks about the machete, about what Dunc wants to
do. His lips go thin. He blinks.
“What you got?” says Joey.
Dunc opens his jacket, grabs the rubber handle sticking
from his inside pocket. He draws out a claw hammer. Looks new.
“See anyone fucking about with us, I’ll put a hole in their napper.”
He short-swings the hammer. “Wap. Down. Out.”
Joey pictures that hammer coming down on someone’s
skull. He blinks some more. “This is shite, man.”
Dunc replaces the hammer, the grin dropping to half his
face. There’s a glitter in his eyes. He opens the door.
“The morra, Joey,” he says. “First thing. We’re on.”
When Dunc closes the door behind him, Joey gets a burn-
ing pain in his throat.

Joey has plenty of time to think that night. He needs it. He’s been
bombarded by Dunc all day. Spent the afternoon with him, but
they didn’t talk about the next morning in detail. Dunc dropped
statements into the conversational lulls, and now Joey’s trying to
piece them together, his stare trained on the ceiling.
Dunc said, “You been in there before, Joey. You know the
place like your own cock.”
Dunc said, “You think the fuckin’ polis care about a chem-
ist? They got people stabbing each other and raping each other
every day. They’re not gonna be bothered about a shitty little
methadone rip.”
Dunc said, “Them fuckers, that bitch what fucked you over,
they’re all the same. You want to worry about them you be my
fuckin’ guest, but I’ll tell you this: it don’t matter who’s in there.
People at them cushy jobs, they think that if they fuck with people
they see every day – people like you and me, man – they’re like
better than those people, know what I mean?”
Joey knows. He’s sick of it. He went in there to get his
methadone, reckoned he was turning his life around. Back on the
straight and narrow. That bitch behind the counter giving him evils,
it wasn’t good for a man’s soul, especially when it was as fractured
as Joey’s.
And then there’s that fuckin’ name. Not his name. His
name’s Robert, named after his dad, wherever the fuck he is. Only
his mam who calls him Robert.
To everyone else, he’s Joey.

Back in the eighties, back when Robert was a kid, Blue
Peter’s annual charity thing – collect your milk bottle tops, all that
– was for the disabled. In order to do that, in order to really grab
the kids’ attention, the BBC brought on Joey fuckin’ Deacon. Poor
bastard had cerebral palsy, proper shoulder-biter, looked like Dav-
ros in a charity shop suit. And kids, being the spiteful little cunts
they were, they adopted Joey Deacon as their spastic poster boy.
His name became a byword for any freak – physical, mental, even
spiritual. Something the matter with you, you didn’t fit the norm,
you didn’t belong, you acted like a divvy that one time or acciden-
tally called the teacher “Mam”, you were a Joey. That was it, you
were branded. Kids saw you, their tongues got stuck under their
bottom lip, the Frances McDormand thing. Their heads went to
one shoulder – maybe there’d be a slap to the back of one wrist –
and the word “Deeeaaacon” came at you like a punch to the gut.
Or Flid, Scoper, Bifta...
And this particular Joey, he lapses every now and then.
Like when he’s got Dunc staring at him, the smoke spilling from
the big man’s mouth, sucked up his nose and recycled. That glitter
in Dunc’s eyes, it makes him feel like a Joey because he’s so
He puts a hand over his face. Pinches his nose and screws
his eyes closed. Joey feels like he’s about to cry, but he doesn’t
allow himself that luxury anymore. His body shakes under the
sheet. He waits it out, his face creased. Hears the bedsprings
squeak as he shudders.
The emotion passes. Joey lets go of his nose, sniffs a wet
breath to his lungs.
Breathes out and wipes his cheeks.
He pulls himself out of bed, reaches under the mattress
and removes the machete. Joey turns the weapon in his hand,
puts one finger to the blade and draws it down. The blade’s dull.
Joey’s scared. But he’s always been scared.

Dunc goes into the chemist first. He’s safe to show his face
– he’s never been in there before and the woman behind the
counter isn’t going to recognise him. It’s early morning and the
heat hasn’t settled into the day yet, but Joey’s still sweating. He
can feel himself burning up inside, one hand on the machete in-
side his jacket, the other dug deep into his pocket, rubbing the ski
mask like a security blanket. He stands across the street from the

chemist, trying to look like he’s meant to be there.
So Dunc’s inside, he’s doing a recce. Making sure the
place is clean of customers, making sure there’s nobody caught in
a blind spot, nobody who’ll get in the way when all this kicks off.
He has a look through the greetings cards on the spinning rack,
then goes to the door.
Joey sees Dunc appear, sees him nod. Joey pulls the ski
mask over his head with one hand, pulls the eyeholes to the right
position. Then he jogs across the road, picking up speed as he
hits the threshold and into the chemist.
The more noise, the better. Get the woman scared out of
her mind, she won’t remember a fuckin’ thing. Someone comes on
all aggressive, a person gets scared, the brain shuts down. Joey
knows all about that – he’s been there enough times. Could be
Satan himself telling her to empty the fuckin’ till, she won’t know
the difference. So when Joey bursts into the chemist, he’s waving
the machete like a cavalry sword and screaming.
It’s like Dunc says: these people, they never expect it to
happen to them.
Dunc slams himself up against the till, gestures for Joey to
follow. Joey holds the machete high as he squeezes behind the
counter, takes the two steps in a single jump. The woman scrab-
bles out of the way, backs into a corner. She’s silent, but her
mouth is open like a scream is caught in her throat. It’s not the old
bitch, either. This woman’s young. Got a Celtic band tattooed on
her wedding finger. Her eyes shine with tears, but the water does-
n’t escape. Joey points the machete at her, uses every muscle in
his arm to stop the tip from shaking. She flinches, stares at the
Joey can hear Dunc in the back. He’s pulling drawers out,
the rustle of the bin bag as he empties the pills and potions into it.
Joey wonders why the old bitch isn’t here. He wants to ask
this girl, but he can’t speak. And anyway, it’s like, think, you
spacka: he asks about the old bitch, they’re going to know who he
is. They’re going to go looking for him at his mam’s house. And
Joey’s mam always believed Joey had something special in him.
He doesn’t want to think about that now.
Joey looks at the girl. She’s got a badge on her uniform
that reads CAMRYN. Joey narrows his eyes behind the mask,
wonders what kind of name that is. Starts to play on him, that
name. What kind of parent calls their kid Camryn? And now he
stares at the ring finger, part of the hand that’s covering her face.
He wonders why she got that tattoo, wonders who it’s for.

Too many questions.
Before he knows it, Dunc’s back out and slapping him on the
“Howeh, Joey,” he says. “We’re gone, marra.”
Joey doesn’t move for a moment. Then he shuffles his feet,
not sure what to do. He hears Dunc knock the card rack over on
his way out the door. He looks down at the girl. There’s a puddle
of urine on the floor.
“Sorry,” he says.
And runs.

Dunc lies back on the grass, the handle of the claw hammer lolling
out of his inside pocket. He’s taken two vallies and he’s drifting.
The sun beats down on him. There’s a Morrisons carrier full of
beer on the ground. Joey reaches for another can, cracks it. Out
the back of the flats now, nobody’s going to bother them, so
Joey’s got the machete laid out on the grass in front of him. He
looks at it as he drinks. He’s taken a couple of blue pills himself,
didn’t know what they were but they’re doing a similar job to
Similar, but not the same.
Joey pictures Camryn’s face, blank with fear. He pictures
the piss on the floor, the Celtic ring. He pictures all of these things
swirling around like water down a plughole. His gut feels weird, so
he drinks some more beer. It doesn’t help. It makes him want to
throw up. Joey looks across at Dunc. The big man grins at him.
“Did alright in there, Joey,” he says.
Joey scratches his bottom lip with his top teeth, looks at his
“Should be good for a couple weeks until the next one.”
“Nah,” says Joey.
Dunc lets out a hack of a laugh. It sounds ugly. “Said that
the last time, Joey.”
“I know. And I mean it this time.”
“Aye, right y’are.”
Joey stares at him. “I fuckin’ mean it.”
“I know.” Dunc sits up, puts a hand to his head. Then he
pulls his T-shirt off to top up his homegrown tan. “But you do what
I tell you to fuckin’ do else I’ll deck you.”
Joey nods, sniffs.
Dunc lies back on the grass and closes his eyes. There’s a

sick grin on his face. It makes his lips look purple and wet.
Joey puts his can on the grass and reaches for the ma-
“Aye,” says Joey. “I know you will.”

Joey’s upstairs, lying on his bed, looking at the Loaded poster he’s
got on the ceiling. Jennifer Ellison tries to look demure, stares
back at him with her arse in the air.
Joey’s mam opened the door to him and a look of terror
spread across her face.
She was lucky Joey wasn’t carrying the machete at the
time. It might’ve killed her. But no, Joey had left it somewhere
else. He wishes he hadn’t. He liked the machete. It was like a
sword and he always liked swords, especially when he was a kid.
Like when he was playing by himself out in the back yard and he
had this broom handle he was waving about. Fought off a bunch
of soldiers like fuckin’ Zorro. Jumped backwards onto the bin and
missed his footing, ended up getting stitches in his head.
Only person he ever told about that was Dunc.
And Dunc said, “That explains a lot.”
Joey sits up, looks at his front. His jacket, his T-shirt, his
jeans. Blood caked brown on his clothes. He wishes he had the
machete with him right now so he could compare the colours.
Joey picks at some of the dried blood on his jeans. He ex-
amines the flecks under his fingernail, then wipes his hand.
Dunc was right on a couple of things.
One: People freeze when the screaming starts.
Two: People never expect it to happen to them.
Joey remembers picking up the machete like he was going
to offer it to Dunc, the blade lying across the palms of his hands
like he’d seen in a samurai film. He knocked the beer over with his
foot as he stood up.
Dunc opened his eyes, saw Joey with the machete, then
looked down at the spilled beer. “You fuckin’ spaz.”
Then Joey started screaming. He twisted the machete,
closed his fingers around the handle, brought the other hand
round and the blade down on Dunc’s leg. The machete dug deep
and stuck. Dunc folded in two, his stomach muscles twitching as
he sat up, the colour rushing from his face.
Joey frowned, tried to wriggle the blade free from Dunc’s
thigh. All he could hear was an ear-splitting screech. And he won-

dered where it was coming from. He let go of the machete, took a
step back. Saw Dunc flailing about on the grass, blood welling
around the blade, raining down the sides of his leg.
He stopped, watched Dunc some more.
Heard, “You-fuckin’-cunt-you-fuck-gonna-fuckin’-kill-you.”
Then Joey ran.
After a while, Joey felt his knees ache with each step. He
slowed down, looked over his shoulder. Knew that Dunc wouldn’t
be following, but he had to make sure. He got an image of his
mam in his mind, telling him to stand up to bullies, all them lads at
school who called him flid. He felt his chest tighten, had to stop.
Put a hand over his face again. Let the heaves go through him.
Nothing left in him now. He’s off the bed, at the window.
There was a buzz at the door a second ago. Joey looks out the
window at the police car.
He’s glad. If it’s the police, it’s not Dunc. Dunc’s off some-
where, bleeding to death. Or he’s fixed up and ready to even the
Doesn’t matter now.
Joey knew his mam wouldn’t let this go. She probably
thinks he’s mixed up in something serious. She’s probably right.
Because Joey thinks this wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t
been such a fuckin’ Scoper. A fuckin’ spaz. A fuckin’ Deacon.
He feels a cold sweat at the sound of someone climbing
the stairs.
There’s a knock, then the door opens.
Joey turns.
Two uniforms on the landing, looking serious and disgusted
at the same time. One of them talking to him, his lips barely mov-
ing. Saying something, but Joey turns back to the window, blocks
the copper out. His feet are burning. He starts to shift the weight
from one foot to the other.
And somewhere in the drone of the copper talking, he
thinks he hears the name Robert, but he doesn’t answer to it.

paul kavanagh
was born in england 1971. he likes to drink gin. he has not
smoked a cigarette in ten years. he once lost a bet because of a
donkey. he gleaned much. he is happy. his wife is happy. together
they are happy.

I’ll polish your knob, said Jane.

Watching her teeth rattle the last place I would want to stick my
cock in was her mouth. Her teeth were chomping wildly. Though
her teeth were rotten they were still like jagged rocks. Speed is a
strange drug. It is a cheap drug. It fills you with the fear that soon
everything will slow down. That’s why you take the drug. You take
speed to rush through the night. Through the day.

Come on let me suck your cock, said Jane.

Dry frothy spit was flaking off her furrowed pale lips, again this
was another reason why I didn’t want to shove my cock into her
mouth. She was pacing around. She was splashing piss every-
where. The toilets of the boozer was like a sewer. There were shit
and piss everywhere. Jane was febrile, scratching, itching, she
couldn’t stand still.

Come on I’ll split your bell end from your foreskin with me tongue,
said Jane.

Jane’s tongue was like sandpaper. I knew a man that liked a

whore to masturbate him with sandpaper. He would roll the sand-
paper into a tube. He’d have the rough sand on the inside of the
roll. Next he would place his erect cock into the roll. He told me
that sometimes he didn’t even need to spend the money on a
whore. The skin of a cock heals quickly he told me.

Speed is a cheap drug. You can inject it. You can snort it. You can
down it with a glass of gin. It leaves a terrible taste in your mouth.
It leaves you dry. Sometimes your teeth chatter. You can’t help but
bite your lips until they bleed. You perspire profusely. The taciturn
suddenly finds himself loquacious. Sex can be a disaster. Here it
is unlike ecstasy.

Come on you can fuck me here, said Jane.

Jane was a skeletal ghost. When your cock entered her cunt you
could feel her bones rubbing against you. There was none of that
hot flabby flesh that lubricates and sucks upon the cock. There
was no suction. Jane never became moist. She sucked the juice

out of you and you walked away just as dry as her. Your cock al-
ways felt as though it had been between two planks of wood.

I have never heard of anybody od-ing on speed. A speed freak is

unlike a coke freak. There is something dirty about speed freaks. I
can’t describe why this is so. Speed leaves the junky macerated.
Speed is used by the hard man that likes to drink all through Sat-
urday daytime and into Sunday morning. Speed allows him to do
this. The hard man believes his is not a junky. He doesn’t thieve to
achieve his goal. He only takes the speed on Saturdays. Maybe
he’ll do a bit on Friday night to keep him awake. Most speed
freaks are thieves. They break into cars and steal radios and
whatever is lying around. A speed freak unlike a crack head can
live off paltry sums.

Her boyfriend introduced Jane to speed. He told her it would trim

her down. She would shred the pounds quickly. It would stop her
from eating. Jane was anorexic and bulimic. She didn’t need any-
more encouraging. The weight dropped off her. So did her family
and friends. She stole off them all. Her boyfriend ended up in Liv-
erpool for three years. She never visited him. She never wrote to
him. The boyfriend had been fiddling with Jane’s three-year-old
girl. The little girl was now living with her grandparents.

Jane started to unravel a roll of shit paper. She made paper ma-
che moors on the floor.

At a cake factory that I used to work at all the nightshift used to

take speed to get them through the night. Even some of the old
ladies that did the packing were on speed. You could see them
standing folding boxes sweating and chatting. It was kind of funny.
You could hear them complaining about how many cigarettes they
had consumed. Speed can do this.

I lit up a cigarette normally this would have Jane on her knees

begging but not tonight. Those undulating moors would slowly
becoming hills.

Speed normally comes in a paper packet that is folded with the

precision of origami. A piece of an old magazine more then likely,
though now and again one gets it in a plastic bag. I prefer the pa-
per packet. I once got one of these packages and the picture was
of a lovely cunt that was a good omen. Speed is a strange drug. It

is a cheap drug. You know when somebody is on speed. Speed
has its neon lights. The sweat, the chewing of gum, the pale com-
plexion, that wild, feral stare. Speed makes you do funny things.

During those moments of loquacity I have seen quiet men sweet

talk the most beautiful creature into bed. Speed is usually taken
like coke in boozer toilets. Speed is sold a lot in pubs. You always
know the pub. The pub you can buy anything, dvds, fur coats,
dogs and a lady. The police are always watching, but this does not
stop the thieves, the junkies, the football hooligans, the whores
and the hard men from drinking in this pub.

Give me some and you can do anything you want with me, said

Once in a flat she sucked ten cocks one after the other. The men
were all sat around smoking weed, drinking, watching Coronation
Street. They doubled up on her, fucked her with bottles, air fresh-
eners, everything that was oblong. She was beaten so badly she
had to have a hysterectomy. Though it was more like a lobotomy.
Jane was a speed freak. She hated living. She wanted to run
backwards. All junkies desire to run backwards.

Speed is a cheap drug. It fills you with the fear that soon every-
thing will slow down. That’s why you take the drug. You take
speed to rush through the night. Through the day. It’s a cheap
drug. For some people speed is fun. Like the hard man speed can
be taken to make a boring town fun.

I passed Jane the last drags of the cigarette. Those hills had be-
come mountains. The paper was no longer white but yellow with
patches of brown.

Jane handed me the syringe and moved so that I could squeeze

past her. I had got a glass of water from the barmaid. She knew
that I was using it for my gear but she didn’t care. I withdrew the
right amount. I passed the syringe to Jane and pulled out the
spoon I always took out a spoon with me on Saturday nights. I
kept it in my back pocket. My mother lately had been complaining
about how all the spoons were going missing. While I removed the
filter from a cigarette Jane sat on the toilet and rolled up her
sleeve. I poured some of the bag onto the spoon, emptied the
water from the syringe, mixed the compound and placed in half of

the filter. A junky lets nothing go to waste. So Jane sparked up the
cigarette and took three long drags. After this she passed the ciga-
rette to me and I did the same. It went between us like a joint.
Jane held the lighter under the spoon and I mixed until the gear
had dissolved. These tasks were too much for Jane because she
had the shakes. I placed the needlepoint into the filter and filled
the syringe with the fluid.

The rush from speed starts at your toes and undulates up your
back until it reaches your head. Waves undulate periodically.

Sometimes you start to laugh. Sometimes you have to sit down.

Sometimes you feel nauseous. The rushes can be too much.
Sometimes the rushes are not enough. Jane would shake herself
down and that was it for her – me I would shake myself down,
inhale and exhale deeply. I wanted to fuck sometimes. But this
would be a fleeting desire. From now on everything would be a
fleeting desire. Ephemeral moments of desire superseded many
more desires.

Chris McTrustry
In between writing gigs, Chris McTrustry makes ends meet
by contributing to the misery of others - i.e. by working as a
postman in the city of Wollongong, NSW, Australia. Known
locally as the Cranky Postman, he delights in delivering de-
liciously devilish debt-ridden love letters (a.k.a. bills). The
more the merrier. He is a produced television writer, having
dipped his toes in the frothy waters of soap opera and a
published children's author. Crime is on the agenda now
and the frothy water is starting to get murky...

“You’re not like our usual clients.”
Morris leaned forward and lifted his cup of coffee. “I got
that feeling. I must admit, you’re not what I expected either.”
Fischelli shrugged, spread his hands. “It’s business.”
“Yes.” Morris sipped. “Business.”
“Well, you got to present a certain…image.” He grinned,
showing a mouthful of gold teeth. Nice. “It makes people feel
at ease. And let’s face it, when they come to see us, at ease is
the last thing they are.” Fischelli loosened his tie, a bright flow-
ery one, and leaned back in his chair. “So, you got some ID,
Mr Morris?”
Morris presented a photo license. Fischelli laboriously
checked the address against a sheet of A-4 paper – Morris’s appli-
cation. Christ, a loan shark who insisted on the client - the mug,
the sap, the loser – filling in an application.
Fischelli looked up at Morris. He reminded him of a fish,
a groper, big lips, sad, droopy eyes. That face looked like it would
wear a hook. “So how come you want to do business with us?”
“That’s my business. But needless to say, I can’t go to a
legitimate lender.”
“You’re a postman.”
Morris nodded. “Have been for twelve years.”
“You got any banks on your beat? Eh?” Fischelli
laughed. “Maybe do an inside job on them.”
“I’m only a postie,” Morris said, glancing down. “I’d get
“You’re asking for a lot of cash.”
“That’s because I need a lot of cash. Fast.”
Fischelli tapped the application form. “You didn’t list any
“I don’t suppose many of your clients do.” He reached
into his pocket and dropped a small plastic bag; druggies called
them baggies on the desk.
“What’s this?”
“My collateral. It’s a sample.”
“You can’t do a bank job, but you’re buying drugs.”
Fischelli smiled to himself. “Why am I not surprised? You got
“Er, no.”
“You got runners, sellers? A network?”
“I’m working on it.” Morris pushed the bag further across

the desk. “Taste it. Test it. Whatever. This is what I need the
money for.”
“Obviously.” Fischelli sighed. “So tell me, why don’t I
just remove you from the equation and take the score myself?”
Morris swallowed. “I have a unique in on this deal.” He
licked his lips. “Sure, I’ve come to you with nothing. Yeah, I have
nothing. But without me, this deal doesn’t go ahead. It’s nothing.”
“Oh yeah?”
“What’s so unique about this? It’s coke, right?”
“You’re right, the coke isn’t unique. But the circum-
stances in which it’s come into my possession are. Like I said,
without me, the deal doesn’t go ahead.”
“I could torture you.” Fischelli smiled.
Morris sucked in a deep breath. He tried to smile. “True.
But I’ll give nothing away. I’d sooner die.”
“Believe me. I have nothing and I have nothing to lose.”
“But everything to gain?”
“Maybe. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to get back where I-”
Morris silently chastised himself. “But that’s my business. So kill
me, cheat me. Lend me the money. It’s your call Mr Fischelli.
But rest assured I will pay you back.”
Fischelli topped up the coffee cups. “Then perhaps we
should negotiate.”
“Can we negotiate a better interest rate?”
“Cheeky.” Fischelli clicked his tongue. “My rates are
“Your rates are exorbitant.”
“My rates are the best in the market,” Fischelli spat.
There was an edge to his voice. A menace for the first time. “In
this specific market.” He gestured at the door. “I don’t need your
business. Go see what my competitors are offering.”
Morris held up his hands ‘in surrender’. “Okay. I’m sorry.
I apologise.”
“Hey, we got to negotiate, I know, but I say what’s what.
Interest on the one hundred grand will be forty percent. That’s
non-negotiable. First instalment is payable a week from the day
you get the cash.”
“I’ll need ten days.”
“A week. You’re aware what happens to those who de-
Morris nodded. “I’ll be able to pay everything back in ten

days. Principle and interest.”
Fischelli sighed. “See how you’re travelling after a
“Do I get the money?”
“You got a house?”
Morris frowned. “…Yes…”
“Well, it’s mine and my mother’s. Why do-”
Fischelli held up his hand. “Good enough.”
“So do I get the money?”
Fischelli picked up the baggie. “As long as this is what
you say it is, yeah, you’ll get the money.”

“Try the number again.”
“Sure. Let me use your phone.”
“Lenny. Just make the call.”
Lenny sighed and dug his mobile phone out of his jacket.
“I’m claiming expenses from Fischelli.”
The driver drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.
“You don’t need to bother Mr Fischelli, you just need to get onto a
better plan. You get a good plan, your mobile is your friend.”
Lenny hit the redial button on his phone. “This is a busi-
ness expense.” He put the phone against his left ear. “It’s ring-
The driver squinted at the house across the street. All had
been quiet since they arrived fifteen minutes ago. No-one had
entered or left. He glanced at the file on Morris. The photo from
his license sat in the top right hand corner. He supposed Morris
was a good looking guy. Plenty of blond wavy hair, a strong chin.
He wondered why his license photo didn’t look as good.
“Fuck it! It’s gone straight to message bank. Again.”
“Let me hear.” The driver snatched the phone from Lenny.
“-so if this is you-know-who about you-know-what I will
need the full ten days – as I requested. But please leave a mes-
The driver hung up. “That same message has been on
there for three straight days.”
“Well, then...?” Lenny said. “What are we waiting for?”
He reached back between the seats and grabbed two baseball
bats laying on the rear seat.
The driver nodded. “Yeah, yeah. Let’s go.” He was

about to open his door when a dark sedan eased to a halt outside
Morris’s house. “Just a tick,” he said, snatching a handful of
Lenny’s coat sleeve. “Let’s see who the visitor is.”
The driver and passenger doors opened almost simulta-
neously and a small but solidly built white man with a blast of red
hair and a large and very solidly built islander stepped out. After
adjusting their ties and sunglasses, they strode up the path lead-
ing to Morris’s front door.
“Shit,” Lenny muttered, “Paddy and the Chief.” He
frowned. “What the hell are they doing here?”
The driver took one of the bats and opened his door.
“Let’s go ask,” he said, as he left the car.
The white man, Paddy had knocked on the front door and
it was just opening as Lenny and the driver reached the front
The Chief frowned. “What the fuck you guys doing
Lenny spread his hands and shrugged. “Professional
ethics prevent from me replying to your enquiry. However, apply-
ing said ethics, to you, I’m obliged to ask you the same question.”
“Mrs Morris?” This from Paddy.
“Oh, not again,” squeaked a small voice from behind the
security door. “Is this about Edmund?”
“It is,” Paddy said, dourly. “Is he in?”
Mrs Morris gave a long, tired sigh. “Why won’t you leave
me in peace?”
The driver nudged the Chief in the ribs. “So you’re here
to collect?” he whispered.
The Chief nodded. “This dude’s in for a hundred big
ones. Mr Flattery isn’t happy he’s not been in contact.”
“Our employer is of a similar disposition,” the driver said.
He pushed past Lenny and the Chief and joined Paddy at the front
door. “Hello, Mrs Morris. I assume you’re Edmund’s mother – or
is that older sister?”
“Oh, spare me. You’re just like the others.”
“The others?” The driver gestured at Paddy and the
Chief. “You mean these gentlemen?”
“And the others. After money. Saying my Edmund bor-
rowed money.”
“Lots of money,” the Chief said.
“He borrowed nothing.”
“You sound pretty sure,” the driver said.
“That’s because I am.”

“You can’t know everything your son gets up to.”
“Oh really?” There was defiance in the old girl’s voice. “I
knew everything my son was up to.”
The driver sighed. “Your son borrowed a substantial
amount of money from my employer-”
“-and mine,” added Paddy.
“And he has defaulted on his repayments.”
“No, no. That’s not possible.”
“Fuck it!” Lenny muttered and, drawing a bat from under
his coat, charged the front door. “Tell us where he is you old
bitch!” A loud crack exploded as the bat smashed into the door.
There was no answer, apart from a gasp and a low whim-
“Mrs Morris, we have no quarrel with you, but we need
you to co-operate.”
“Ah shit,” Paddy said. “It’s a couple of Ray Spencer’s
The driver glanced over his shoulder. Sure enough, two
large, well-dressed thugs were making their way down the path.
“This is ri-goddamn-diculuous,” Paddy muttered. “Who
hasn’t this guy borrowed from?”
“He hasn’t borrowed from anyone!”
“Don’t start that again-”
Suddenly the front door opened and Mrs Morris, a small,
withered lady who’s whole being was dominated by the roundest,
greenest eyes set in a wrinkled pinched face, marched out onto
the patio. She held a photograph frame to her chest.
“Excuse us ladies,” said of the new arrivals. “Hey, old
woman, you tell me where I find Edmund Morris.”
“Go to the end of the queue,” Lenny smirked.
“My Edmund didn’t borrow money from anyone.”
“Oh Christ, don’t start that again,” Paddy said. “You’re
doing my head in.”
“When did he borrow the money? Hmm?” This came
almost as a challenge. “Tell me that. When?
“Ten days ago,” said the driver.
“Same,” the Chief said.
Mrs Morris smiled, but it held no humour. There was no life
in those old green eyes. “He couldn’t have borrowed any money
ten days ago.” She held the photograph up to the driver. He saw
a portrait shot of a cowed, bald man smiling shyly at the camera.

“My son died seven months ago.”

Jason Golaup
Jason was brought up in notorious Glasgow housing
scheme Easterhouse, where gang warfare, drug addiction
and poverty are rife. His idols include Brian Jones and
George Best.

Shawsy n I were standing at the bar at a Chemical Brothers gig.
My girlfriend Maz was trying to get served for us, but it was prov-
ing to be more difficult than it is for John Motson to live a single
day of his life without spewing the words England, World Cup n
1966 in the same breath.

I clocked a skinny guy gesticulating furiously with Maz. Waving

his arms around mental he was like a mad ‘Acieed!’ house dancer
keeping the spirit of ’88 alive. What’s his fuckin problem? I
thought. I started to walk over. But a girl that was standing next
to me grabbed my arm n said that he was her boyfriend, Boab, n
that he was getting pissed off with the lack of service. That’s cool
then, I thought.

When Maz jetted back from the slowest bar in Glasgow, she was
deep in conversation with Boab. I was fucked if I knew what
they’d been on about, but then she asked him to guess what age
Shawsy was.

“Aboot 25,” replied Boab.

“25!” gasped Shawsy. “I’m 39.”
“Ma arse.”
“I am. I’m 39.”
“Yae need tae stey aff ae that Voddy mate.”
“See these two here,” stressed Shawsy, pointing his smouldering
cigarette at Maz n I, “they’re taking me to The Dam for my 40th
next year.”

Boab took a swig of his Budweiser before providing a response to

Shawsy’s revelation.

“40? Yae musta went tae Rez then.” I looked at Shawsy. His
coupon was as vacant as Alan Shearer’s drawer of winners med-

“Rez… Rezerection… Hangar n that?” Boab offered.

“Right,” nodded Shawsy. “No, I wasn’t into that scene.”
“Whit kin a music wur yae intae?” asked Boab.
Shawsy took a drag on his fag - a stick on for being the solitary

legitimate cigarette being consumed in the entire arena.

“After the charts got saturated with all of that rave n techno pish I
got into Take That,” he replied. “But Barry’s my number one.”
“Take That? Barry Manilow? Ur yae fuckin gay?”
“Aye. You got a problem with that?”
“Naw mate. Not at aw,” Boab protested, raising his hand in a con-
ciliatory gesture.
“Don’t piss me off,” warned Shawsy, “I’ve had a shite day.

“Take That tickets were going on sale this morning. Don’t know if
you heard - they’re doing a reunion tour. I got up super early,
stuck one of my old Take That videos on, n was on the phone all
morning. Didn’t have any breakfast. Didn’t go to the loo. Just
kept my finger on redial. Dedication, as Roy Castle would’ve said.

“Could it be Magic came on. That’s a sign, I thought. One of

Barry’s. Was it fuck.

“I had to watch that video more than the once. Didn’t want to fuck
about with swapping tapes over… But after the nth time of hear-
ing Lulu murder Relight my Fire, I could’ve murdered the ginger
old cow.

“When I eventually got through, the lassie on the phone told me

that the tickets had sold out in jig time. I was fuckin gutted. Had
to fire out for some B n H to deal with the stress.”
“Did yae ivur see thum perform live?” asked Boab.
“No. Seen Robbie though. But he’s a wanker.”

I was dying to get back to The Chems cos I could hear the hyp-
notic drums of Let Forever Be kicking in, n I was fuckin mad for
that song. But I couldn’t yank myself away from Boab n Shawsy’s
tête-à-tête. It was captivating as fuck - the way that they were
batting conversation back n forth with a verve n intensity reminis-
cent of one of those classic Borg v McEnroe encounters during the

“So, did yae nivur listen tae any dance music at aw then?” Boab
“Why do you keep asking me that?”

“It’s jist thit ah cannae see the connection between Barry Manilow
n The Chemical Brothers.”
“I did have a Shamen CD,” confirmed Shawsy. “The one with the
song about E’s are good.”
“Ebeneezer Goode. Fae Boss Drum.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”

Boab necked his Bud. He shifted over to within a ball hair of

Shawsy. He looked dead nervous. Like Pete Doherty’s baggage
handler going through customs. His eyes were animated, bounc-
ing around crazily like a pinball on speed.

“Huv yae goat any E’s oan yae mate?” he asked Shawsy.
“Whit did you jist fuckin say tae me therr?”
“Sorry, ah -”
“You don’t know me. Ah could be any cunt. Ah could be in the
“Whit? It a Chemical Brothers gig?” laughed Boab.
“How no? Dae yae think thit nane ae the polis listen tae The
Chemical Brothers?”
“Sounds a bit mental. That’s aw.”
“Whit’s mental aboot it? Whit ur yae laughin it noo? It’s no that
“Jist thoat a somehin,” smirked Boab. “A bent copper who’s intae
Take That n Barry Manilow, n gits ees rocks aff tae The Chemical

Shawsy didn’t laugh. Didn’t utter a word. But Boab must’ve

twigged that he’d gone too far.

“Didnae mean tae offend yae mucker. Ah wis jist huvin a laugh.”
“Yae want a laugh? Resurrect this ya fuckin prick.”

… N that was how my best pal, Shawsy, got hit with HMP in Bar-
linnie. Plunging that boy with a steak knife. Fuck knows how he’d
got into the SECC tooled up with a steakie down his juke. Poor
fucker died there n then in a pool a blood.

So whenever I’ve got The Brothers on, I think of Shawsy banged

up at Bar-L, n the night he lost his nut standing at the bar at a
Chemical Brothers gig.

Julie Wright
Julie Wright’s first published fiction appeared here in Bullet
magazine. She also has stories on Flashing in the Gutters,
The Curve Ball Conspiracy and Flashes of Speculation.

It’s Monday, so it’s Southwick, land of the short, pale person.
White bread, white sugar, lard, chips and lager. You are what you
I do the rounds, collect the cash, no problems. They’re all
as good as gold. They know what’ll happen if they fuck me about.
Some of them found out the hard way.
I’m the man with the money, personal banker to the per-
petually skint. I make people’s dreams come true, especially at
Christmas. If the bairns want something special, I have the power
to let them have it. I’m the Santa Claus’s Santa Claus. I’m a fuck-
ing saint, me.
You won’t see my adverts on the telly, mind. I’ve not
taken any billboards out lately either, but I’m chocka with busi-
ness. Anybody needs a loan, all they have to do is ask. Anybody
wants to stay in one piece, all they have to do is pay up in full, on
time, every time.
I learned the ropes working for Alan Savage. His squad
used to hang around the arcade when they’d finished collecting. I
used to doll off school and go down there most afternoons, that’s
how I got to know them. I started running messages for them,
proved I could be trusted. When I turned sixteen, Savage took me
At first I was still just an errand boy, but before long I was
on the squad, out collecting with the lads. I loved it, took to it like a
duck to water. Not that I’m violent, I’m not a headcase, man.
There’s only bother when some fucker takes the piss, other than
that I could be the man from the Pru. After a few years, though, I
realised I was in a trap. I’d gone about as far as I could with Sav-
age; he was a good boss, but I’d always be just an employee. I
wanted more. I wanted my own operation.
I thought about it all the time. I knew I could handle it, I
had the experience. I knew there was enough business, I could
set up and he wouldn’t even notice me. I also knew that if I did, I
would be taking a huge risk. I saw it as the next step, setting up for
myself, but there was every chance Savage would see it as dis-
loyal, me learning the business from him then setting up as com-
petition. Bad things happened to people who pissed off Alan Sav-
age. Bad things that were done to them by people like me.
I tried to forget about it, but that itch wouldn’t go away. I
couldn’t just be satisfied with what I had. The job was easy, the
arcade was boring. All I was doing was making time pass. Some-

thing had to change. About a year ago I set up a meeting with
Savage, and change happened.
He listened while I explained what I had in mind, then he
sat and thought it all through. Still as a rock, but I could see his
mind ticking over behind his eyes, weighing it all up. I was hardly
breathing, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I felt a bead of sweat
run down my spine, tickling from the nape of my neck to the crack
of my arse.
‘You’re ambitious, I’ve always known that,’ he said. ‘And I
reckon you’re right, there probably is enough business to go
round.’ I relaxed a little; dared to hope. ‘But you must know I can’t
let you set up on your own, Edward. How would it look? You work
for me.’ He laughed, but there was no mirth in it. ‘Or you did, any-
way. Barry will be in touch.’
He turned back to the papers on his desk. That was it; I
had been dismissed, just like that. A part of me that had kept its
gob shut up until then suddenly wanted to be heard: How the hell
else did you think it would end, dickhead? Did you think he’d throw
you a fucking party? My guts turned to ice. I was fucked.
I paced the floor that night, waiting for Baz. I wanted him
here on my territory, that way I had less of a disadvantage. I’d be
watchful on the street, but he was a sneaky little fucker and mean
with it. If he got the drop on me I’d had it. Baz liked space to fight
in. My flat was small. Barely room to swing a bat, but I had one
next to the front door anyway. Not much in my favour, but I’ll take
whatever’s going.
He turned up at midnight, probably hoping I’d be off my
face by then. I wasn’t.
‘Evening, Baz.’
‘Eddie.’ He nodded. ‘Nothing personal, mate.’
Not fucking much. Savage had picked his man well. Eve-
ryone knew that Baz had been looking for an excuse to slap me
ever since that business with Sophie. She was out clubbing with
her mates when I met her, how the fuck was I supposed to know
she was Baz’s kid sister? I didn’t know he had one. I didn’t know
she was only fifteen, either. She was just some jacked up little bird
wearing fuck-me shoes and a fanny pelmet. She looked eighteen,
easy. Very fucking easy, as it turned out.
‘Just business,’ I agreed, then danced back out of the
way as he took a swing at me and the door frame splintered under
the force of the blow from his baseball bat. I reckoned that one
must have rattled the teeth in his head when it landed. I fucking
hoped so, anyway. I grabbed my cricket bat and took aim; let bat-

tle commence.
I wound up with a trashed flat, a black eye, a fat lip and a
couple of cracked ribs. Baz ended up in hospital, as much a victim
of his weapon of choice as of mine. Cricket bats are shorter, more
manoeuvrable in an enclosed space. I just landed more hits than
he did.
The neighbours knew better than to pick up the phone,
so I rang Baz an ambulance myself, after I’d kicked him down the
stairs and dragged him up the street. Let him be found outside of
somebody else’s house. I didn’t need the aggro. I sent him flow-
ers, though; after all, it was just business, nothing personal.
A couple of days later, I was back in front of Alan Sav-
age. I had a new proposition for him. We could go on forever, him
sending somebody round and me kicking the crap out of them.
Fair enough, my luck would run out sooner or later, but I reckoned
I had the measure of the squad he was running just then. I should
know, I’d recruited them.
‘All right, son,’ he said, eventually. ‘A franchise. Let’s give
it a go.’ He paused to check that I was listening, not that there was
any need. He had my full attention. ‘I’ll give you your territories
and I want fifteen per cent of your take.’
‘Seven and a half.’
‘Agreed.’ I’d expected to have to pay twelve and a half,
so that was a bonus.
‘You get me somebody who can fill your shoes. Until
that’s sorted out, you stay put.’ I nodded again. That had been my
idea. I couldn’t afford to pay for a franchise, not with my other set
up costs. This was in lieu, this and the percentage. ‘And you stay
on call, Edward. I need you, you’re there. No question, no charge.’
I hadn’t counted on that. ‘All right,’ I said. ‘For six
‘Twelve after the new boy’s ready.’
We shook on it.
The new boy is Jeff Jopling, JJ. He’s doing all right so far,
which is keeping Savage sweet. Makes life easier.
It’s Tuesday, so I’m off to Pallion. Over the water. First
call, old Pop Harris. Owes me two weeks. He’ll be shiting it if he’s
come up short again.
I rap on the door, what my mam would call a money
knock. The curtains twitch and I see Ma Harris’s wrinkly old face

peering out. She’s mouthing something, looking nervous. I can’t
hear what she’s saying.
‘Open the bloody door!’
She hears me, though. She hesitates. I mime kicking it in.
She nods and a few minutes later I hear the bolt being drawn, the
chain going on and the click of the lock. She peers out through the
‘He’s not in, son.’
‘I need my money. Two weeks.’ I pretend to check the
book, but the figures are all in my head. ‘That’s a hundred quid,
not counting the extra interest incurred for late payment.’
Old man Harris is into me for about fifteen hundred now.
He’ll pay back four times that, easy, more if he keeps slipping with
the payments. Gambling debts. The bookie was going to break his
legs, so I came to the rescue. Trouble is, the stupid old sod can’t
lay off the gee gees, and his luck’s no better now than it was be-
fore. The way he’s going, me and the bookie will be breaking a leg
each. He knows it’s no idle threat. The lad up the road still walks
with a limp. And he’s still paying. Never misses, these days. If he
does, he knows it’ll cost him a finger.
Ma Harris is shaking her head. ‘I haven’t got that kind of
money, son. I’ve mebbe got ten pound in me purse, but I need that
for food.’
‘Better than nothing. It’ll buy him a bit of time.’
She looks crushed, but she goes and gets her purse any-
way. Poor old sod, worn thin with years of worry and want. I al-
ways wonder why women like that don’t leave, but they never do.
They always stick with the useless tossers they married.
She passes the tenner through the gap, chain on the
door giving her the illusion of safety. Her hands are shaking. When
I do Pop Harris, I decide I’ll give him an extra boot in the bollocks
just for her.
‘Tell him he’s got two days. I’ll be back on Thursday. He’d
better be here.’
She nods, her eyes teary. She probably thought she’d be
done with shite like this at her age, whatever that might be. She
looks about a hundred and ten.
No sooner am I away from Harris’s than my mobile rings.
It’s Savage.
‘Edward? Trouble. Your monkey’s fucked up.’
Bollocks! That’s all I need. Things have been sweet so
far and I’m only at his beck and call for another month or so. Well,
allegedly. A part of me knows I’ll never be free of Savage. I’ll al-

ways be paying him a percentage, always be at the end of a fuck-
ing chain that he can yank whenever he feels like it.
Ten seconds later and I’ve got JJ on the phone. I arrange
to meet him in the Fort, see what the silly sod’s been up to, then I
ring Kenny and get him to do tomorrow’s round for me.
‘He was pushing it, Eddie! He got what he deserved.’
‘You don’t beat the fuck out of the posh ones, man, I told
you that.’
‘He set his lip up.’
‘You lost it, you mean.’
‘Thinks he’s a cut above.’
‘You shouldn’t have smacked him.’
‘He’s no better than I am. At least I can pay my bills.’ He
scratched his head. ‘He’s pressing charges. I’m going down for
this one, Ed, I’ve got previous.’ He swallowed his lager. ‘He wasn’t
half as cocky after I bust his nose, mind. Snot everywhere. Cried
like a fucking baby.’ He waggled his empty glass at me. ‘Pint?’
I shook my head and he went to the bar to get himself
one. How the fuck was I going to sort this out? What a bastard
‘He got family?’ I asked JJ when he came back, slopping
Stella all over the table as he sat down.
‘Aye. Horse-faced bint and a couple o’ kids.’
‘Late thirties?’
‘The kids.’
‘Oh. Senior school. They go to Southmoor.’
‘Any lasses?’
‘Good. Enjoy your pint.’ I got up and headed off.
Thursday and I’m off to Seaburn, catch a bit of salty sea
air. Ocean fucking finance. Savage isn’t the only one with middle-
class clients. Makes good business sense. Some of these in their
own homes, they’ve got even less cash than the housing associa-
tion crowd. But they’ve got jobs, families, appearances to keep up.
More to lose.
I’m done by one o’clock, although I’ll be back at seven to
do my evening round, catch the workers while they’re having their
dinner. It’ll be mince and spuds or fish fingers and beans for most
of them. Summat cheap, anyway. Mind, if anybody asks them at
work tomorrow, it’ll have been salmon and asparagus or veal es-
calopes with roasted root vegetables. As if anybody who ate that
posh nosh would look as ill and grey as this lot do on their unre-

mitting diet of shite and stress. Anyway, I’m done for now so it’s off
to Pallion to catch up with Pop Harris.
On the way there, I get a call from Savage.
‘Nice work, son. All sorted.’
‘No worries, Mr S, all part of the service.’
Pop Harris is waiting for me, opens the door before I
knock, and he’s got my dosh in his hand. I nod, take it and count
it, mark the book up. I see Mrs H at the window. She jumps like
she’s been burned when my eyes land on her. As the yellowy nets
fall back into place, I see an empty space where the telly used to
I meet up with JJ again once I’m through with old man
Harris. ‘Here,’ I say, passing the envelope over the table in the
pub. ‘You hang on to that.’
‘What is it, like?’ He peers inside then pulls out the photo-
graphs and spreads them on the table.
‘Put them away, you fucking idiot!’ I gather them up be-
fore anybody can see them. Pictures of the wife dropping the kids
off and picking them up. Pictures of the kids in the town with their
mates. Pictures of the bloke’s family when they’re vulnerable. Evi-
dence of how I spent Wednesday. I trailed around after people, sat
in the car and watched, took pictures, waited for my chance.
I got it when I saw Shergar load the kids into the car and
take off after tea. I let myself in, caught him at the kitchen table
with the Guardian sudoku puzzle and a glass of red wine. He
nearly shit when he saw me. I nearly laughed out loud. With his
two black eyes, he looked like he had a burglar’s mask on.
‘Who are you?’ he demanded, once he’d recovered from
the shock of me being in his house and had realised that I wasn’t
just there to hurt him. ‘What do you want?’
‘You owe a lot of money to an associate of mine.’
‘Your associate did this to me.’ He indicated his face,
purple and yellow bruising showing around the bandages taped to
his nose. ‘I owe him nothing.’
‘Your debts aren’t cancelled just because he stuck the
nut on you.’
‘How about if I drop the charges?’
‘Good idea, why don’t you?’
‘Well, I will, if he does his bit.’ He sat back, ready to cut a
‘What bit?’
He tapped his nose and nodded. ‘Cancels the debt.’ It
was like being in a Carry On film. I was just waiting for the bugger

to wink.
‘What are you saying?’
Cheeky sod tutted and rolled his bloody eyes. ‘I’ll drop
the charges if he cancels the debt.’ He enunciated each word
carefully, like he was speaking to an idiot. I could see why JJ had
twatted him. I was tempted myself.
‘Oh, I see.’
‘Well? How about it?’
‘No chance.’
‘It’s a fair deal. Take it or leave it.’
‘You’re kidding yourself,’ I told him. ‘It just won’t happen.’
‘It would be worth his while, surely. The publicity….’
‘The publicity is just fine the way it is. You defaulted on a
payment, you got a smack. You’ve done him a favour, really. It’ll
be all over the papers when it goes to court. Gets the message
across loud and clear.’ He hadn’t thought of that. ‘On the other
hand, your neighbours, your family, the people you work with,
they’re all going to find out that you have money problems and
that the banks won’t touch you.’
‘He’s a thug. It’s an assault charge.’
‘It’ll all come out, I can promise you that. All the details,
the full story. As for my associate, well, prison is an occupational
‘But he will be locked up. He can’t collect money if he’s in
‘He’ll be looked after while he’s inside and his job will be
waiting when he comes out, along with a nice, fat bonus for being
a good and loyal employee.’
He sat back and folded his arms, stuck his chin out. ‘I’m
not paying another penny. There’s no way anyone can touch me
‘Nice looking girls you have.’
‘Your daughters. What are they, twelve and fourteen?
Something like that.’
‘You leave them out of this!’
‘She looks like a nice lass, the little blonde one.’ I flipped
a photo onto the table in front of him, the youngest kid waving and
‘You wouldn’t dare.’
I spread the other pictures out across the table. ‘You can
make this all stop now.’
‘I’ll have the law on you!’

‘After my associate, you got me. After me, someone else
will come. Then another, and another, and another. You’ll never
meet the man you owe money to. You’ll never be in a position to
touch him. Are you getting the picture?’ I stirred the prints with my
‘Fucking scum! I’ll break your neck!’ He jumped to his
feet, crashed into the table and sent the wine glass flying, but for
all he was quick, he was soft, spent all day in front of a computer. I
got his arm behind his back and pushed his face into the scrubbed
pine. He howled, his nose still tender from JJ’s ministrations. I saw
him eye the broken wine glass, his imagination doing my work for
‘Drop the charges, no-one gets hurt. Your call.’
‘He’s dropped the charges.’ JJ tells me what I already
know. ‘Thanks, Eddie.’
‘Just don’t fuck up again.’
‘I lost it, man. I let him wind me up.’ He grinned, embar-
rassed. ‘It won’t happen again, don’t worry.’
‘Sometimes you use your fists, other times you use your
loaf. I told you this.’
‘I know. Sorry, mate.’
Friday, last collecting day of my week, and I’m off to
sunny Hendon. Third call and I’m at the door of one Bobby
Robson. No kidding. This one’s a spotty little scrote with an atti-
tude problem. I knock, my money knock, then listen. Sure enough,
I hear the back door slam. Mid-terrace, so pick a direction and go
for it. I take off and race round the block. Luck’s on my side and
Bobby-oh ends up running down the back lane towards me. He
looks up when he hears the pounding feet and his eyes nearly pop
out of his head. He skids to a halt cartoon style, does an about
turn and takes off again.
I catch him easily. He’s sweating like a rapist, breath
tearing at his lungs. I’ve barely broken a sweat. I get him by the
scruff and throw him against the wall. While the back of his head’s
still stotting off the brickwork, I punch him in the gut and step back
smartly. Sure enough, he doubles and pukes. Misses me, though,
which is lucky for him. These boots cost a packet.
‘You owe me,’ I tell him.
It’s a couple of minutes before he can speak. ‘It was me
mam’s birthday. Had to get her a present.’
‘What about your repayment?’
‘Next week, mate. I’ll have it all for you, get back on
track.’ He’s gasping air like a mackerel flapping on the pier.

‘And how will you manage that, Rockefeller?’
‘What?’ He doesn’t get it.
‘HOW THE FUCK WILL YOU PAY?’ I shout, and I swear
a few of his spots pop in terror.
‘Sell something.’ He’s not half so cocky now. You aren’t
though, when you’re kneeling in your own puke.
‘Sell what?’
‘Mountain bike. It’s a good ‘un. I don’t use it.’
That much was obvious from his athletic prowess. I put
the toe of my boot under his chin, turn his face up to mine. ‘Make
sure you do.’
He nods as best he can under the circumstances. I kick
him in the ribs and walk away. I can hear him behind me, sniffing
and cockling like a brat.
Out on the front street I see a group of kids playing foot-
ball. Little Tommy Briggs runs over in his new Sunderland strip.
Brand spanking, just out this week and he’s got it on his back.
Other kids watching him with green eyes.
‘I got it for my birthday, Mr Bell.’ He stands in front of me,
showing it off.
‘Looking good, Tommy.’
‘Me mam said she got the money off you. Thanks, Mr
I ruffle his hair. ‘No bother, son. Tell your ma I’ll see her
next week.’
He runs off to join his mates, kicking the ball around the
streets, proud as punch in his new footie strip.
I made that possible. Me. That’s what I do. I make peo-
ple’s dreams come true.

Dan McGrath
Dan is a freelance theatrical technician living in Newcastle Upon
Tyne, where he scratches out a living on the backs of the talented
by putting up their sets and mopping up after their shows. His
ample spare time, he wastes on television and an assortment of
futile projects, some of which involve making words for other folk
to put in books and other assorted reading matter. At last count,
he had managed to stay alive for twenty seven years, earned two
university degrees and at time of publication retains all his own

Two friends stood side by side in a bleak industrial wasteland, a
light wind blowing whirls in the aging dust around their feet. Hulks
of abandoned warehouses loomed faceless in the early morning
greyness. The silence between them was a little uneasy.

“Anything you want before I go?” asked Ally, breaking the uncom-
fortable moment, his voice wrung out and tense.
“Pair of wire cutters would be good,” replied Joey, then, catching
the look on his friend’s face, “just kidding, man, just kidding. I
know.” Joey held up his hands pacifyingly and shook his head.
“Just kidding.”
“This isn’t exactly funny for me, you know.”
“Think what it’s like for me then.”
Ally turned his shoulder and took a step towards the car, a small
dark blue Rover; inconspicuous. You could see this car drive past
you every ten minutes for a day and still not think twice about it.
“Wait, man. Hold on; okay,” Joey kept his voice down a notch from
shouting, but only just. There was a pleading tone to his words
that he didn’t want to show, but it leaked out anyway. Ally stopped
and turned back. “Okay. No more gags.”

Ally had always been bigger and brawnier than Joey, and Joey
had always been a fast talker, glib and casual. They had known
each other since school, when Ally’s size and strength had been
the only thing that had kept Joey from being beaten to a pulp. He
had a habit of talking too much near bigger kids. Lots of people
had asked Ally over the years why he hung around with Joey; the
little bastard was always getting him into shit. Ally would always
just shrug, as if he wasn’t sure himself. He was sure: they were
friends, what could he do?

“A cigarette, okay?” Joey asked, testing the question as much as

making a request, “I want a fag.”
“Sure,” nodded Ally, reaching into his coat and pulling out a bent
packed of Benson and Hedges in his fist. He thrust it out towards
Joey, pulling the top back with his none-too-dainty thumb. Joe slid
one out, and Ally noticed that his hand was trembling. He had
never seen that before.

Ally watched his friend’s hand as he pushed the end of a cigarette

into his own mouth, thinking. He knew why Joey was scared, even

though he was trying not to show it. He knew damn well. Joey was
scared because he knew Big Al was not going to get him out of
this one. Almost his whole life, Joey had been getting into shit, and
always he had had Ally there to step in for him, to be on his side.
Well, not this time.

“Er, a light?” Joey asked, interrupting Ally’s reverie. “I left mine in

my other trousers.”
Ally just looked at him.
“Okay! Okay,” Joey raised his hands again, “no more joking. Do
you have a light?”

Ally dug in his pocket and fished out a scratched clipper, which he
used first to light Joey’s cigarette, then his own. The two men
smoked without talking for a long minute, the seconds dragging
out into years, somehow easing the silence between them. The
old industrial estate was full of silence now. Somewhere a rusty
hinge squealed with the breeze and occasionally the wind would
cause a skittering of dust on the cracked and pitted concrete; the
sounds of decay. Once upon a time, this place would have been
full of the noises of engines roaring, metal banging on metal, the
voices of men working and laughing and shouting and sweating.
Not anymore. These days there were just the sounds of things
rotting away and a whole lot of silence.

The cigarettes were nearly smoked to the ends. Both men smoked
down to the filter, neither one wanting the moment to end, neither
one willing to say so. At last, Joey flicked his well-smoked ciga-
rette away into the wind. Ally did the same and gathered his coat
around him.
“I should go.”
“Yeah, you probably should.”
“Listen, Joe, I..”
“It’s cool.” Joey nodded, then shrugged his shoulders. “This is my
fault, man, not yours. I don’t blame you for it.”
“It’s cool, man.”
“You know, it’s just that-”
“It’s cool, Al.”

They looked at one another in silence. The moment drew out, be-
came long, but not uncomfortable.

“If you want, Joe,” Ally began slowly, almost helplessly, “you know,
I could...” He didn’t finish, just let the thought trail off into the wind.
“But we cou-”
“No, man,” Joey shook his head firmly, “I’m serious. They’d kill us
both, and we couldn’t run away. We’d be found. They know every-
one we know. We’d be dead.”

Joey had always been able to convince Ally of anything. It was

probably why Ally had ended up in so many stupid situations, he
reflected. Joey had always talked him round, sounded reasonable,
made even the most lunatic of plans sound like a safe, sensible
option. The little guy with the big mouth that got him into more
trouble than he was worth. Everyone said he was more trouble
than he was worth, anyway. Not to Ally, he wasn’t. The first time
Ally had been laid, it had been down to Joey. The little guy had
just marched over to a girl Ally had been sweating over and star-
ing at and mumbling about all night and dragged her right over to
him, sat her down and pretty much told the two of them to just get
the hell on with it. He did things like that, and he got away with it.
Joey always got away with it. Always.

“Maybe, but maybe we could go-”

“Are you even listening to me, you dunce?” Joey had on his an-
noyed face; the face he used when he was talking Ally round to
something, like the big guy was intentionally not listening to rea-
son. “I said no, man. It’s not going to work. I’m here, and you’re
going to go away back to Donny and tell him it’s all sorted, leaving
me here like this.”
“But Joe...”
“No fucking buts, idiot. No fucking buts. None. There is no ‘but’.
That’s it; the way it’s going to happen.”
“Why?” Ally looked almost on the verge of tears. It was the first
time Joey had seen it in him. He understood; it was the first time
since the two of them had met that he wanted to cry, too.
“What do you mean, ‘why’? Are you fucking kidding? Because
Donny will tear you a new-”
“No, I mean why did you do it?”

The question stopped Joey dead, mid-sentence, like somebody

had just grabbed hold of his windpipe and squeezed. The two of
them were almost crying now, crying like a pair of schoolgirls, he
thought bitterly.

A month ago, Joey had started creaming chunks off the top of the
payments he collected for Donny. Not big chunks, but a few notes
here and a few notes there, sometimes telling Donny they were
behind on their payments; sometimes telling the payers the rates
had gone up and they owed more than they thought. He hadn’t
told Ally anything about it; just let the big man assume Joey knew
what he was talking about, as usual. Joey and Ally worked hard
for Donny; picked up a lot of money, a lot of payments, and a few
notes here and a few notes there added up pretty quickly.

It wasn’t long before Donny found out, naturally. Someone talked

to him direct. Either he went to see someone about money sup-
posedly owing, or someone came to ask him why the rates were
going up, it didn’t really matter which had happened. He found out.
When he found out, he had Joey and Ally dragged in and asked
them about it. Ally knew nothing about it, but Donny had sus-
pected that all along. Joey knew all about it, tried to deny for a
while, then gave in and fessed up.

Well, that was it. Donny had to do something about Joey, and as-
sure himself of Ally’s loyalty. So he sent them both out to this old
industrial estate with a pair of thick gloves, a short length of steel
pipe, a jar of grease and a coil of barbed wire and told Ally to give
Joey the choice.

“Why the fuck do I do anything, man? Really?”

Ally shook his head. “I don’t know, Joe.”
“Because I always do.”
“Yeah, Joe, you always do.”
“I always get myself in shit.”
“Yeah, you do.”
“Always. Just too deep this time. It was always gonna happen, one
way or the other.”
Ally just nodded. He didn’t trust himself to speak without sounding
“So you better get back in the car and go tell Donny it’s sorted.”

The choice is not much of a choice. Arriving at the estate, Joey

had stripped naked while Ally greased the pipe, then inserted it as
gently as he could into Joey’s anus. In a lot of ways, Joey was
grateful it had been Ally doing this, as a lot of guys in Donny’s
service would have taken great delight in roughly shoving a length
of only partially lubricated pipe up Joey’s arse. Guys like Joey with

big mouths tended to make themselves unpopular with moronic
but egotistical wannabe gangsters. With the pipe inserted, Ally had
gently fed one end of the barbed wire through, then carefully re-
moved the pipe over the wire, leaving the metal barbs stuck inside
Joey’s rectum and lower intestine. Ally had kept going with the
pipe until it was completely clear of the wire, then stood on his car
and, wearing the gloves, tied the wire to the top of a high fence-
post, securing it in several loops. Lastly, Ally had bundled Joey’s
clothes and chucked them in the back of the car. Once Ally left,
Joey would have a simple choice to make: stay painfully where he
was in the middle of nowhere on the vague chance someone
would find him or until he died of dehydration, or tear the barbed
wire out of his arse and try to make it to a hospital before he bled
to death from his rectum. Not much of a choice at all.

“I didn’t want to-” Ally turned as he opened the car door.

“I know, Al, it’s cool. Nothing personal, you know? Just business
and all that.”
“Yeah, but-”
“It’s cool. Just get going, or Donny’s gonna have you out here
“Yeah.” Ally ducked his head and he clambered into the small car.
He always looked stupid crammed inside that little space. Joey
almost laughed, but didn’t.
“See you Joe.”
“See you Al.”

The car reversed in a slow, broad circle, kicking up dust. Joey

could feel the gentle trickle of blood from inside his colon, the sting
of the barbed wire in his delicate flesh.

“Just business,” he said out loud to nobody. “Just business my


He got his own joke and barked out a laugh, then stopped be-
cause it hurt. He was glad he hadn’t dragged Ally down with him;
the big man would be okay. He wasn’t bright or inventive enough
to double-cross someone like Donny, so he’d be fine. He didn’t
have many friends, but then he didn’t have many enemies either,
and that was handy. Personal attachments were all well and good,
but in Ally’s job, the fewer the better. They made things compli-
cated, like they had almost made things complicated with Joey.
You take away the personal entanglements and what do you have


Just business.

Dave Zeltserman
Dave Zeltserman’s dark short crime fiction has been pub-
lished in many venues, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery
Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mysery Magazine, New Mys-
tery, Hardboiled and Hot Blood. His first novel, Fast Lane,
debuted in 2004 and was listed by Poisoned Pen Bookstore
as one of the top hardboiled books of the year. Dave has
two additional dark crime noir novels scheduled for publica-
tion in 2007—Small Crimes (Serpent’s Tail) and Bad
Thoughts (Five Star). Dave lives in the Boston area with his
wife, Judy, and when he’s not writing crime fiction, he
spends his time working on his black belt in Kung Fu and
running his noir fiction web-zine,

Charlie “the Mole” Greco gently kisses the eight-ball
into the corner pocket setting up an easy nine-ball shot in the op-
posite corner. As he’s chalking up his stick, he asks me how play-
ing pool is like making love to a woman.
I shrug, tell him I don’t know.
“Think about this,” he says. “Even though you usually get
better results with a gentle touch, sometimes it just feels so damn
good to slam it home.”
Charlie bends over the table and slams the nine ball hard
nearly bouncing it out of the pocket, his face turning red as he
laughs at his own joke. Nobody I know likes laughing at their own
jokes more than Charlie. He looks up at me, kind of quizzical,
wondering why I’m not laughing along with him, ’cause usually I
do. I tell him I got too much on my mind. Which is true. I drop a
ten-dollar bill on the table for the game, and he waits while I rack
up the balls for the next game.
Charlie and I’ve been playing pool every Thursday night
at the back table in Donnegan’s since high school, almost twenty
years now. Of course, I dropped out of school after one year, be-
ing more muscle than brains and having an open invitation to work
for “Big” Tony Lombardo, but Charlie being a smart guy finished
high school, then two years of college before dropping out to take
the job I helped arrange for him with Lombardo. I do “muscle” work
for Lombardo – stuff like breaking deadbeat’s arms, busting
heads, sometimes much worse. Hence my nickname, “Knuckles”.
Not too hard to figure out. Charlie’s nickname is my fault. He does-
n’t have much of a neck, and has kind of a long nose and round
face like a mole would, but that doesn’t have anything to do with
me giving him that name. And it’s not because he spies on people
or has any sort of facial blemishes. I started calling him “Mole”
because of his bad eyes. Before he got his contacts, Charlie used
to squint like a mole coming out of the ground. Probably because
of the physical similarities the name stuck, but if it wasn’t for me,
and his eyes were better, he would’ve ended up with something
like “Professor”, or maybe “Socrates” or “Plato” or some other phi-
losopher, ’cause he’s always philosophizing about life, especially
how it relates to pool.
“What the hell does a muscle-head like you got on his
mind?” Charlie asks, his eyes like small gray polished stones as
they sparkle with amusement.
“Just business,” I say.

“You need to have your mind on the game,” he tells me.
“Pool is like life, focus is everything.”
He breaks the rack, pocketing both the three-ball and the
six, but also dropping the cue ball in the side.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” he swears, his lips pulled back to
show his canines. He turns, shakes his head angrily at me. “You
see, Knucks, just like life a game of pool can shit all over you
when you least expect it.”
I now have ball in hand. If I want to try it, I could place the
cue ball behind the one and take a tough cross-table combo with
the nine to win the game, but it’s a low percentage shot. I see
Charlie spotting the combo and then trying hard not to look at it,
trying hard to will me not to see it. But that’s not why I place the
cue ball so I can easily tap the one into the side. It’s because the
combo’s a low percentage shot and I don’t do those. I like to play it
safe. After I make the shot I hear a heavy exhalation of breath
coming from Charlie, a thin smile creeping onto his lips.
“You had the game, Knucks,” he tells me. “All you had to
do was combo the nine and you had the game.”
“Low percentage shot,” I tell him as I sink the two-ball
and set up an easy four-ball corner shot.
“You never get anywhere playing it safe.”
I give him a go-fuck-yourself look as I pocket the four and
then the five. I don’t set myself up as much as I wanted with the
seven and I end up rattling the ball around the corner pocket, but it
doesn’t drop.
“Fuck,” I swear under my breath.
“Pool is like life, Knucks. You gotta make it look easy.
Never let them see you sweat.”
I watch as Charlie takes the game from me, his shit-
eating grin stretching wide. I drop another ten-dollar bill on the
“What’s wrong, Knucks? You seem so damn preoccu-
Preoccupied? Yeah, that was one way of putting it. I stop
to polish off the pint of Guiness I’ve been drinking. “I told you be-
fore, just business.”
“Yeah, so what does Lombardo got you so worried about
I wasn’t going to tell him. As I said before, I’m a guy who
usually plays it safe. But Charlie and me have been buddies over
twenty years, and I can see the concern spreading across his
face. I shrug and tell him it’s because of the Voodoo Lady busi-

“Oh Chrissakes, Lombardo still has that bug up his ass?”
I rack the balls up and wait until he breaks. It’s a bad
break. Worse than bad. Not only does nothing go in, but he leaves
a quick one-nine combo to take the game. I line up my shot, taking
my time.
“He lost fifty grand on that,” I tell him without taking my
eye off the shot. “And then you got the two hundred grand he did-
n’t make that he was expecting to.”
I sink the shot and look up as Charlie crumples the ten-
dollar bill I had just given him and tosses it back in front of me. I
smooth the bill out, taking my time with it before placing it in my
wallet. I usually don’t beat Charlie and maybe that’s why I’m taking
my time celebrating the victory, or maybe I’m just trying to stretch
things out and avoid the unpleasantness that’s coming. I’m not
sure. It’s already ten o’clock. But I just stand and watch as Charlie
takes his turn racking the balls.
“I thought you already got that one figured out,” Charlie
I look at him, and he looks back, mostly bored. A month
ago ten grand was spent fixing a dog race, and forty grand spread
out among WIN and perfecta bets. If Voodoo Lady wins as she’s
supposed to, Lombardo takes home a minimum of two hundred
grand. The dog should’ve been shot up with enough ampheta-
mines to guarantee a win, but more was used than should’ve been
and the dog’s heart exploded in the middle of the race. Left the
bitch dead dead where she fell.
“I thought so too,” I say. “But Lombardo found out ten
grand was bet on the dog that won.”
Charlie strokes his chin as he thinks about it. “We were
double-crossed,” he says. “I paid that kid ten grand to fix the race
for Voodoo Lady. He must’ve intentionally overdosed our dog and
pepped up the one that won. And the sonofabitch bet the ten
grand I paid him on the winning dog.”
I nod. It could’ve been that way. Makes sense. But it also
could’ve been Charlie who double-crossed us. Give the kid the
hypo with enough junk to kill, then pay someone else to speed up
the winning dog. You do that you get to walk away with all the
money –what you’ve won with the ten grand bet, plus the remain-
ing thirty thousand that was supposedly spread among losing
bets. The question is why does Charlie only bet ten thousand on a
sure thing? Well, I guess that’s pretty easy to figure out. He’d want
to set up the kid at the track in case Lombardo’s able to get his

hands on the betting info. That’s if Charlie’s the rat and not the kid.
Charlie looks like he’s telling the truth, but then again, the kid
stuck to his story when I broke each of his fingers, and kept break-
ing bones until he passed out. I tell Charlie what I did to the kid
and the story he told. Charlie keeps looking at me straight on. Not
a flinch, not a waver, nothing as he tells me the kid was simply
sticking to the lie.
So there I am. If Charlie’s lying to me, I can’t tell. I can’t
read it, just like I couldn’t with the kid. I shrug and tell Charlie that’s
what I thought but it’s what’s on my mind. Then I break the rack. A
pretty good one sinking three balls and leaving me an easy setup
for the first three shots. I peek at Charlie as I make them. He looks
unconcerned, just pissed.
“Nice break,” Charlie says.
I just make a face as I line up my next shot. I’m barely
paying attention as I’m knocking down shot after shot before sink-
ing the nine. I’m trying hard to get a read on Charlie, just like I did
that kid.
“Sonofabitch,” Charlie swears. “Two games in a row.
Fuck. When was the last time you took two in a row from me,
“Been a while,” I say.
The next game is more of the same. I hit some sort of
streak where I can’t miss. For the first time I see Charlie looking
worried. Not a fucking drop of perspiration when he thinks I might
be suspecting him of ripping off Lombardo, but the thought of los-
ing three games in a row to me has him sweating. Fuck, I just
don’t know. I wish I could read him. He tries distracting me by tell-
ing me why people like nine-ball so much.
“With eight ball you got so many choices,” he’s saying.
“With nine-ball the order’s set. You don’t have to think so much.
You just do what’s laid out in front of you. Simplicity, Knucks.
That’s what people strive for in life.”
He’s right about that. It’s when you have choices to make
when you get yourself in trouble. Thinking about that does distract
me, at least enough so I miss the nine ball shot. But at least I
leave him a tough cross-table bank shot. At least it’s no gimmee.
Still, he’s grinning from ear-to-ear seeing how he psyched me out.
I stand back and watch him line up the shot. He’s off on
the shot. You can tell from the sound the cue ball makes when it
hits the nine that it’s too flush, but I watch as the damn nine-ball
does a slow spin towards the side pocket and falls in. Charlie
starts laughing at that. Damn near busts his gut.

“Like in life, better to be lucky than good,” he forces out,
still cracking up over his luck. “I was shooting for the corner.”
“No shit.”
His face is turning red as he’s laughing harder to himself.
I just stand watching trying to get a read on him. I mean, we’ve
been buddies over twenty years. I need to know which one’s lying
to me, Charlie or the kid. But the thing is the kid never changed his
story, even when I slapped him awake and sliced him open from
neck to groin. Even as he was gurgling out blood, he insisted he
was telling the truth. But there’s nothing Charlie’s saying to make
me think otherwise either. Except he should’ve noticed when Don-
negan’s cleared out an hour ago. That was when I was supposed
to do the job. He should’ve realized it was too quiet in there. But
then again, it could be nothing more than being worried that
Lombardo’s falsely suspecting him since he was the guy responsi-
ble for the bribe and laying down the bets. I just don’t know. But
then I realize it doesn’t matter. I’m just dumb muscle. I’m not paid
to think. I’m just one of those guys who does what’s laid out in
front of him. Charlie was right. Like everyone else I seek simplicity
in my life. I start joining Charlie, laughing also as I pick the nine-
ball out of the pocket and start tossing it in my hand. That just
makes him laugh harder.
“Charlie,” I ask, “you know what a nine-ball’s like?”
He’s just about choking with laughter now, his face turn-
ing a bright red. Barely able to spit out the words, he mutters
something about how this is going to be good.
I’m laughing hard too at this point. I catch the nine-ball
and stare at it. I turn to him, a hard grin etched on my face. He’s
barely able to keep from pissing his pants, his round body con-
vulsing as he laughs himself sick.
“Come on, Knucks,” he forces out between tears of
laughter. “What’s a nine-ball like.”
“It’s like a hard fucking rock,” I say to him. Before he’s
able to connect what I’m saying I slam the ball hard into his fore-
head. He drops like a sack of guts. With the ways his eyes are
staring open I know he’s dead, but I stomp down on his windpipe
to make sure. Maybe he was telling me the truth, maybe he was-
n’t, but it wasn’t my call to make. As I said before I’m just dumb
muscle. As it is, the job should’ve been done an hour ago. It was-
n’t my place to figure anything out. I call and arrange for the
cleanup. I know the guy on the other end is pissed. I’d kept him
waiting. I hope my fuck-up doesn’t get back to Lombardo.
Before leaving I give Charlie one last look and think there

but the grace of God, and realize that’s as much thinking as dumb
muscle like me’s entitled to.

Mandi Winterburn
Mandi Winterburn is not quite thirty and has spent the last three
years doing the ‘poor student’ bit. Currently living in Grimsby but
looking for somewhere a tad more exotic. Mandi’s previously pub-
lished work includes ‘If you insist’ in Peep Show.

John paced. Sighed. Paced. Shook his head. Rubbed his sweaty
palms. Paced. The knot in this stomach grew tighter. His jaw be-
gan to shake. His life, his wife’s life, his daughter’s life all de-
pended on this one game, more to the point - this one frame. He
would beat near enough anyone over nine frames but one frame
to keep them quiet and off his back for another six months was too
much. He jumped as the living room door opened.
“Someone walk over your grave?” Melissa asked.
“Not yet”
“What’s up wi’ ya?”
“Just nervous about this match tonight darl’.”
“You and your fucking pool, try being nervous about the
bills we haven’t paid, the job you haven’t got and the money we
fucking owe! Why I am still with you I really don’t know. Sort your-
self out John!”
She stopped, stock still and glared, turned, headed back
towards the door and turning to look at him again, said, in calm
tones that scared the shit out of him “or we are leaving.”
He wanted to tell her, desperately wanted to tell her, one match
tonight and they could start afresh, he would quit pool, he would
never play again, he just had tonight to sort it out.

“You are trying my patience kid, it’s eight grand and it’s my
eight grand.”
“I’ll pay you I swear, only give me…”
“Here’s the deal; you play a man of my choice, one frame
next Thursday night, you win and you have six months, you lose
and I’m going to break every bone in your fucking body then let
you watch while I do the same to the lovely Melissa and - what is
your daughter called?”

One room, a table in the middle, red walls and bad light. Six men
sat at a table at the end stretched out confidently around a bottle
of JD. Johnny stood in the doorway, his knees weak, his heart
“How very nice of you to join us Jonathon, come have a
Whiskey was poured into a grubby glass and waved in his direc-
tion. John felt sick and dashed for the door. Outside his stomach

wrenched and his face fogged with hot sweat. The food he hadn’t
eaten all day lurched to his throat in bitter acid and he spat on the
floor. Dizzy, he leaned back against the wall, his head on hard
concrete. It was a warm evening, a hot evening and the stench
from the nearby bins didn’t help.

Melissa had never cheated before but she had had enough and it
was just one date. He seemed such a nice guy and it was just
dinner so why not. Kate was downstairs with Lillie and said she
could stay till half eleven. It was only six. Opting for something
less tarty she took off the black dress and wore the summer dress,
that was better. She was quite excited, his flat was nice, she had
been before and after all it was just dinner.

“Not feeling well Johnny? Best you perk up, you need to be
on your game tonight.”
John didn’t answer. If only he could get the break, if he got
the break he would calm down, he would be OK, he could do this.
Cue out, balls wracked.
“Your call Johnny!”
He watched the coin spin, be caught and slam on the table.
“Heads it is!”
His legs wobbled, his head spun, his stomach turned.
“I’ll break then.” Came a voice from behind him and he
turned to see a tall slim man approach the table.
“Don’t worry Johnny, It will all be over by seven.”
The tall slim man winked, broke and potted four balls. John stared
at the table and watched the last ball’s roll die.

Melissa was ready and it was only half past six, she didn’t have to
be there for an hour. She sat on the bed and got the purple folder
from under the bed. The bills. John needed to get work and get
work fast, her job didn’t make ends meet. Why the fuck shouldn’t
she go out for dinner, at least this guy had a job.

By the time John approached the table the tall guy was on the
black. John tried to calm himself, they would all go, he knew that,
nothing too difficult and as long as he played a simple game, noth-
ing flashy, he would be OK. Just seven balls and the black. He
took his first shot, perfect. Six balls and the black.

Melissa walked in the bathroom and picked up her perfume. She

sprayed, neck, wrist, wrist, chest, neck, neck. Nice.

Five balls and the black, cut it in the middle pocket, leave yourself
right for the next, nothing flashy, just pot.

Hairspray, it was a lovely evening but breezy. She sprayed it on
and scrunched. Nice. John didn’t like it like this but then when did
John ever care for her.
Four balls and the black. Not too hard but he needed to screw
back. Just enough bottom, pot roll, ready.

Lipstick, baby pink, blotted on tissue and re-applied, sexy!

Three and the black, pot. Two and the black, pot. Last ball, pot.
John relaxed a little. The black ball and he was safe, his family
were safe for six months and he would get a job, work his arse off,
stay out of the halls. They could move. Tell no-one. He needed to
double it, straight in the middle. He could do it, he was calm, he
was confident, then he dropped his cue…

“Right chick I’m going. I’ll be back by eleven-ish and I have
my mobile”

Melissa left the flat. the sun was shining, a lovely evening and she
set off to meet her date.

John collapsed to his knees. If only he hadn’t dropped his cue and

lost the confidence. The black ball dropped into the pocket.
“Hard luck kid,” said the tall guy as he walked out, unscrew-
ing his cue on the way. John was dizzy again, sick, terrified. He
felt hands under his arm pits as he was half lifted, half dragged to
the table at the end of the room.
“Now, I know I promised to break every bone kid, but that
takes effort. You owe me eight grand. HAND.”
Someone grabbed John’s hand and forced it on to the table, he
panicked and clenched his fist. A voice told him to spread his fin-
gers. The cold metal of a gun stung his temple, he did as he was
“Now what would you say a finger is worth these days?”
“NO, PLEASE, GOD NO!” John screamed. He struggled
but his hand was being held down, he was being held down. He
could feel dry ash under his fingers, tears and sweat on his face.
“It’s not God you owe kid, it’s me! A grand per finger while I
wait? As way of interest? No, I’m feeling kind, two per finger.”
John lost control, crying and begging, his bladder panicked too
and lost control along with him. He felt the warm piss on his jeans,
the cold blade on his skin and he screamed.

“I suppose we had better eat then as it is nine and you are
deserting me at eleven.”
Melissa and her date sat down, the food looked lovely, she hadn’t
been treated like this before. Separate courses were not some-
thing she was used to.

“So will you come again?”

“Just try to keep me away, sorry I have to go.”
“And you enjoyed dinner?”
“Delicious, the first dish, what was the meat in it?”
“Oh it was just nothing special, lets call it a finger salad.”
“And do I get that again?”
“I doubt it, cooking like that won’t happen for at least an-
other six months.”

They kissed and she left. Melissa was over the moon, at last she
had found a nice guy, a decent guy. She had been struggling with
John for so long and it couldn’t go on. She would tell him when he
got home

Brian Richmond
Brian Richmond grew up on a housing estate in Belfast during the
troubles. It was pretty hardcore, although he spent most of the
time in his room reading 3 Investigators books. He now lives in
the much more peaceful surroundings of Donegal where he walks,
writes and spends too much money on books and cds.

Death – in the form of a 26-six year old psychopath from Belfast
called Billy McQuade –crashed into the cottage holding a .45 cali-
bre Barretta in front of him. Thorpe didn’t even look up from his
“Trick or fucking treat,” Billy said.
“Been done before…”

McQuade walked over and backhanded Thorpe, the front sight

ripping open his cheek. He rolled out of the chair and ended up on
his hands and knees watching red raindrops plop heavily on to the

“Think we wouldn’t find you, you squealer, you tout…? Your Spe-
cial Branch friends should of found you a better bolt hole than
“Look, just do me, okay. I’ve been waiting. But tell them they can
whistle for their fucking money…” Thorpe sat up, shook his head,
tried to stop the room rotating about him.
“What money?”
Thorpe paused. “Money?”
“You said they could whistle for their money…”
Thorpe kept his face blank.”Ah…no…must’ve been the crack on
the head…”
McQuade kicked him in the stomach.
“ If you’ve got money here, I want it…”
“ What… you gonna… do, shoot me..?” Pulling himself up with the
arm of the chair, Thorpe collapsed on the cushion, still fighting for
“I know, sounds like I don’t have much – whadyacallit? – lever-
age? But, see, I do. I’ve found that people’ll do just about anything
to try and live for even a few minutes more. Mebbe a neighbour’ll
call. Mebbe you’ll have a chance to get the gun…Your mind plays
funny tricks…”
“Look, sonny,I made bombs for our boys for 15 years, don’t tell me
about being close to death…”
“Until you turned tout.”
“Hey somebody’s got to do something about the new breed of little
shits like you…”
“Just, you know, show me the money…You like that movie? Per-
sonally, I think that Tom Cruise’s a fruit…”

McQuade sat on the chair opposite. A fire was blazing in the
hearth. Outside, the October wind whaa-hooed around the walls.
He held the gun loosely in his lap, still pointing over at Thorpe.

“There is no money, is there? That’s bullshit. If there was you’d be

throwing it at me to let you walk away from this…”
“That’s right. No money. You’re spot on, there.”
McQuade looked around the room. The place was pretty bare, like
nobody lived here. Except……on an old, dust-coated dresser. A
picture of Thorpe with his arm around a girl about half his age.

McQuade nodded at the photo. “Girlfriend?” Thorpe didn’t react.

“Daughter…That’s it. A daughter. Someone to leave the old inheri-
tance to…You do have money stashed, you bastard…”
Thorpe wouldn’t look at him. “You still can’t make me tell you
where it is. I’ve gotta leave her something, to make up…”
“Oh, I think I can. Remember, that neighbour could be on their
way any minute. Mebbe the police are following me…Anything
could happen…A few more minutes and things could turn right
round…You know, there’s nothing beats a real fire, is there?”
“What are you thinking..?”
“Remember, when you were a kid, and some bigger kid talked you
into doing something, and when your ma told you off, you’d say
“He told me to do it!”
Remember what your ma would say?”
Thorpe was silent.
“You know, go on, tell me…”
“You are one sick little shit, you know that..?”
“Just tell me.”
“She say, if he told you to put your hand in the fire, would you do
“Da-daah. That is the correct answer!”
“Fuck you, no. Shoot me.”
“Is that footsteps I hear on the gravel? Sirens in the distance?”

Thorpe drew himself upright. “All right, you little shit. You think
you’re hard, eh? You think you’re tough..?” He stretched out his
hand towards the flames. It was trembling. All of a sudden he
jerked it back.
“Whoooo…too hot for you, eh?” McQuade said. Thorpe looked at
him, drew a breath. He looked at the fire. He saw explosions. The
flames became burning people, twisting and turning in agony.

Slowly, he reached out his hand. The skin grew hotter and hotter,
seemed to tighten, draw itself in around his bones. Heat turned to
pain, intense, scalding pain. The skin went red, then gradually
blackened, darkness spreading across his flesh like cloud shadow
over a summer field.

He bit his lip against the agony. Black flakes lifted off the back of
his hand and fluttered up the chimney. He remembered his daugh-
ter, as a child, notes to Santa Claus… Pain was no longer limited
to his hand: he felt it through his whole body now. But with it came
a strange exhilaration. He turned back to McQuade, the hand
held in front of him like a trophy.

“You want the money? You want the money, you fuck? I’ll show
you your money.”
He swept past the still seated gunman who jumped to his feet and
ran after him. “Where you going? Where you going? Come

Thorpe stormed through the kitchen, out the door into the black
autumn night, McQuade trailing in his wake, waving the gun but
feeling strangely impotent.
They crossed the overgrown back yard: Thorpe striding, McQuade
stumbling. In a corner by a dry stone wall was a little shed, about 4
feet high.
“Don’t you open that fucking door. I’ll kill you if you do…”
McQuade shouted.

Thorpe stood back. All of a sudden, the rage seemed to go out of

him. His shoulders slumped. His face seemed to draw in on itself.
Now, as he looked at the still smoking remnant of his left hand,
there was revulsion in his eyes.
“In there…” even his voice was weaker. “It’s the well for this place.
Pull up the nylon cord hanging over the side.”

McQuade kept the gun pointed, managed to crouch and reach in

to the little shed, felt along the side of an old, damp wall until his
fingers met the rope. He pulled. It was heavy but he couldn’t afford
to put down the gun. Gradually, something came up, clattered
over the side. The rope was wrapped around a bundle enclosed in
a water covered plastic bin bag. One-handed, McQuade ripped
the bag away. More plastic and more, layer after layer until, at last,
he came to a silver metal box, the kind people carried expensive

cameras in.

Thorpe began slowly inching away.

“Where you going? “
“Me? Nowhere.” Thorpe kept shuffling backwards.
“Stay still to fuck…” McQuade looked at the box, looked at Thorpe,
looked back down. What had the old bastard said? He made
bombs for the boys for years?
“You wouldn’t have booby trapped that thing now, would you?
Smart old bugger like you?”
Thorpe didn’t reply.

McQuade stood, took a few steps away from the box. He should
get Thorpe to open it. Yeh, that was it….No no no…Hold on a
second…What if there was a gun in there? The old boy could
have stashed a pistol inside.
“Aren’t you going to open it? It’s what you wanted.”
“Fuck up!”
Shoot Thorpe, open it himself…No, he couldn’t do that either. Not
if it was booby trapped. He wouldn’t be able to disarm it.

“Pick it up. Bring it inside.” Thorpe hesitated. “Do it!” Maybe it was
McQuade’s imagination but the older man seemed to handle the
thing very gently for such a strong box. They went back into the
cottage, back into the main room and Thorpe put the box on an
old linoleum-topped foldaway card table between the two chairs.

McQuade walked over to it, reached out towards the catch. There!
Thorpe moved back, near to the door, drew his body in on itself.
“You sneaky old bugger…You’ve got a little surprise in there,
haven’t you?”
“What? No. I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh? Then tell you what. You open it.”
Was he wrong or was there a flicker of panic in Thorpe’s eyes?
“Open it.”
There it was again, the hesitation.
“What if I’ve got a gun in there?”
“Then you wouldn’t have mentioned it, would you?” There was
stillness. There, McQuade thought, got you. Not so smart now, are
you? But the old boy was smart…Could it be a double bluff..? A
double bluff…Jesus, he was in charge here, it was supposed to be
simpler than this.
“Okay, I’ll open it.” Thorpe reached towards the box.

“Whoa whoa whoa. Just hold on a minute..!”
“For Christ’s sake! Open the box…don’t open the box…Make up
your mind for fuck’s sake…”

McQuade thought. He was pretty sure it was a bomb. But it could

be a gun. He’d lost confidence in his ability to read Thorpe’s moti-
vations. Despite that fact that he was the armed one, he felt his
control of the situation slipping away.
“Right. Here’s the plan. I’ll be behind you, aiming right at your
back. Even if you do have a gun in there, you’re going to have to
turn and aim and fire. You won’t have a chance. You have to do all
that, all I have to do is pull the trigger. So, that’s what we do…And
you make sure you do everything in slow motion. Now, stand fuck-
ing still ‘til I’m in position.” McQuade inched himself around,
weapon on Thorpe, until he had the chair between himself and the
card table.
“Okay. Open it.”

Thorpe’s back blocked his view of the box, but that was all right.
McQuade would be able to tell by Thorpe’s arm movement if he
was grabbing a gun. And putting a body and the chair between
him and any possible blast was a good idea.
He can’t get a gun without me shooting him, he can’t set the bomb
off without blowing himself up. And, even if he is suicidal, I’ve got
some protection. It wasn’t perfect but it was the best he could think

Thorpe stood in front of the metal box, not moving.

“Get on with it!”
The older man reached out with his good hand, flipped one of the
metal catches. Despite himself, McQuade jumped at the loud me-
tallic clack.
They both waited. A turf fell in the fire, sending up sparks.
“The other one..!”
Thorpe hesitated, then said “You’re right. I booby-trapped it.”
“Yes! I knew it!”
“I can disarm it. But I need to hold the box open about an inch, no
more, slip my hand in the gap, flick a switch.”
“So do it.”
“I need two hands. One to hold it open, one to disarm the bomb.
This one’s burnt to fuck…”
He was a trier, McQuade would give him that.
“I need you to come over here and help me.”

No way, no fucking way, McQuade was staying right where he
was, gun trained on Thorpe’s back.
“Fuck that. Fuck your hand. You do it.”
“Do it.”
“I give you the money, you let me walk..?”
Yeah, that was going to happen. “Absolutely.”
Thorpe paused, took a deep breath. With his good hand, he lifted
the second latch, carefully, but it still snapped back at the last min-
ute. Claaack!This time they both jumped. God, thought the gun-
man, I really need to piss.

“ Okay. Now I’m going to lift the thing open about an inch with my
bad hand. I need to hold it still while I slip my fingers through the
gap and turn the thing off…”
Thorpe still didn’t move.
“So get on with it.”
“My hand is in a bad way…If you just…”
“Uh-uh. Forget it.”
“Okay, then…”
Thorpe’s left hand had tightened up into a claw-like shape. He
lifted it and the hand disappeared out of McQuade’s vision,
shielded by the old bomb-makers body. Still, McQuade could tell
by Thorpe’s posture that he was starting to lift the lid.
“ Christ that hurts…”
“You can do it. You old skool types are tough…”
“Right, I’m holding it open…” McQuade had to admit, the old
man’s voice sounded agonised. “Now, I’m going to reach in…”

Silence. All of a sudden, the moisture in McQuade’s mouth

seemed to evaporate. The fire spat again and he realised that he’d
wet himself.
“Shit…” said McQuade.
“What is it?”
“Where’s the fucking switch..?”
“Don’t you be trying nothing…”
“My hand…”
“ Watch what you’re doing!”

Thorpe’s arm gave a jerk. The lid of the box shot up and back on
its hinges, crashing on to the card table. From inside the box came
a frantic electronic beeping.

“Oh fuck…” said Thorpe.
“What? WHAT?”
McQuade hurled himself down behind the chair, drew himself
down into a ball, waited for the explosion. Christ, he hoped it was
only a small charge. Oh God, he didn’t want to die here…
Time stretched. McQuade crunched himself in even tighter. He felt
fragile, made of glass, ready to shatter…
The bleeping went on. And on. There was no explosion. What the
fuck…? It hadn’t gone off…McQuade started to uncurl his body…

Suddenly, there was a loud bang and cushion stuffing flew all over

It’d gone off…No, wait a minute, that wasn’t an explosion, that


More shots tore through the chair, knocking him sprawling this
time. He rolled over on to his back. Shoot back, he thought, but he
realised that he could no longer feel his arms or legs, didn’t even
know if he was still holding the weapon.

Then Thorpe was standing over him, pointing a neat little Walther
“You old fucker. You bluffed me. There was no bomb.”
Thorpe smiled. “Oh, there was. But I disarmed it, simple flick of a
“That beeping noise…”

Thorpe raised his burnt left hand. In it was one of those cheap,
tiny travel alarm clocks, still making its electronic racket. Thorpe
threw it down on to McQuade’s chest.
“A little bomb, an alarm clock and a pistol. Heads I win, tails you

McQuade’s insides felt strange, busted up. Ah well, fuck him if he

couldn’t take a joke. It went with the territory.
“They’ll just send somebody else…”
“Maybe. But when they find you here, I’m going to have draped
the trees with your guts. When word of that gets out, they might
find it hard to get anybody to take the job of coming after me. After
all, you’re supposed to be one of the best…”
“Did you ever even have any money..?”

“Ah, that’d be telling,” said Thorpe and shot McQuade twice in the

He went over and sat down in the remaining undamaged chair.

Planning, that was what these young bucks didn’t understand.
Preparation. He looked at his hand. Jesus, it was a mess. Still, it
would heal. Everything healed.
He tossed the gun on the floor, got out his cell phone, thumbed in
a number. His daughter answered. “Everything okay, da?”
“Hunky dory. Come pick me up. Time to move on.”
“Do I bring the money”

He looked into the dancing flames again. Say what you like, noth-
ing beats a real fire.

Cindy Silvester
I enjoy travelling and worked in Romania for two years
but I'm staying put in the UK for now. I enjoy reading
and watching thrillers. I love writing because I can
escape into a fantasy world.

Hard rough hands from behind. They’re holding onto me
for dear life. I’m trying to wrestle out of it but he’s too strong.
Blindfolded; the velvet makes me feel like I’ve lost consciousness.
But I’m very much with it. The smell is of cheap aftershave laced
with sweat. The only name I hear is Glaze.

I’m wracking my brains to think of who Glaze might be as

my body is flung into the back of a van. A pair of footsteps follow
me in. Hands tied - too tight tearing into my flesh. The door slams
echoing in my brain and the engine springs into life.

Gunmetal pressed against my throbbing temple from a

woman’s perfumed wrist and the fear kicks in.

“Thought you could get away with it, bitch” she snarls yank-
ing my hair back with the force of a boxer. “Enjoy your fucking

I must try to compose myself, get out of here alive although

I want to shit myself. Odds massively stacked against me but I’ve
always been a thinker.

“Not this time,” calls a voice from the front.

The accent is familiar. Scottish, but not strong, mixed with

Mancunian. I know, yes I know why and who. I’d heard that ac-
cent before screaming not exactly the same but it must be a rela-

Easy as fuck, we’d laughed three months ago about it.

Easy money, easy targets. We’d got high on our precision about it
all. The roles demanded of Tania – glamour girl, vivacious, blonde
slightly over the top but a winner most of the time. Jake, he’d sim-
ply watched ready to jump in should he be needed. The lookout.
Three months ago the stranger had stepped out of the taxi – this
one wasn’t planned but we’d played the role so long it was second
nature. Rules of the game: Tania pouts and purrs, I jump in and
Jake is there if we need him.

It didn’t work.

“Come on this one.” Tania insists as he staggers out of the
taxi. Smiling he says, “All right,”

His voice is a different lilt, the traces of Scottish.

“Not from round here sweetheart?” Tania purrs sidling up

close to him. “Want to have some fun?”

“Want to have some fun?” A woman’s voice cuts into my

thoughts, like she’s reading my mind. “Or is that your friend?”

I’m shaking but biting onto my trembling lip so much I

can taste blood. Mustn’t show them. Mustn’t show them. The
mantra beats within my heart.

Everyone falls for Tania, almost. He didn’t.

“Sure you want to do it here?” I ask. “Home territory.”

Tania cocks her head back and chuckles.

“Scared are you?”

“We’ve never been caught.” My voice is a feeble cry.

“We’ve never been caught.”

Until now that is.

Unplanned. Usually we do it with hair colour or the next

person to walk around the corner alone.

“Gotta girlfriend,” he slurs the cool night air hits him tak-
ing away all sobriety.

He’s ours.

“Perhaps you’d prefer a brunette,” I murmur as seduc-

tively as I can unused to This role. “Our secret. Fun.”

I step back pushing him from behind. His, dark eyes

turn, glaring before giving a cry of pain when I kick his legs from
under him. As if in slow motion the bone snaps, his head cracks
the concrete. Tania runs up to him her manicured nails clawing at
his skin.

She lifts the wallet like she does every time, stealing the
cash, leaving in a tenner so the dumb fucker thinks he’s spent
more than he thought. That’s how we play the game. “That’s the
last time you refuse a woman,” I cry. “Bastard.”

Only now the rickety road we’re travelling on has made

me the pawn and my captors the master.

The sweat is trickling from me. I’m cold and hot at the
same time. The woman’s voice cuts into my thoughts again.

“That’s the last time you fuck about bitch.”

How? I want to cry out. How did you find me? He was
only a stranger passing through. But I can’t let them see I’m afraid
I’ve never been scared before but now the ice inside is making my
skin prickle so much I’m shaking and can’t stop.

The gun against my temple makes me want to cry out. If

I do it will be so easy for the bitch to pull the trigger. No one has a
gun in this backward place surely. Thoughts of meeting Tania stir
inside me. We were supposed to be going out clubbing and play-
ing our game tonight. She’ll be wondering where I’m supposed to
be. The phone in my trouser pocket suddenly vibrates.

Our targets were only drunk saddos who’d more money

than sense. Gave us good money. Moved around for a week.
This one was home territory.

Hands wrench the phone from my trouser pocket. I ex-

pect the phone to be thrown away or smashed but with a grinding
halt the van stops sharply so I lurch forward.


“Hi who’s this? Cas where are you? We’re supposed to

be to be going out tonight.”

“Playing your game?” the Scottish man asks. “Well

we’ve got a new set of rules - a new contender. Wanna join us?”

He switches the phone off and they both scream with

delight as the vehicle springs into life again.

Their laughter grates on my nerves slicing into me. I
always have a contingency plan and we’ve needed them. It’s
easy being a woman, usually if we run into any trouble, Tania runs
on and flutters her spider lashes.

“Oh they’re after us,” she’ll cry. They’re going to get us,”

I can’t help the smile that cuts across my face at the most
inopportune time. So easy, any damn fucker usually stops and
obliges trusting us implicitly, passers by, anyone in fact.

The slap stings my skin I can feel the heat of it burning

through me.

“Got something to laugh about. Like when you mugged

my boyfriend.”

The harshness of her voice is like that of the insane. I’d

know the stranger’s voice but he isn’t here.

“Girlfriend?” Perhaps I can keep her talking. “He men-

tioned you,”

“Shut the fuck up,” murmurs the man. “No one asked you
to talk.”

I’m left with a vast hole of knowledge - knowledge I’ll

never find the answers to.

The van stops again, lurching forward. I hear the front

door slam as the driver jumps out. The rear doors are opening as
I’m pushed forward into ground.

“Help, help,” I scream surely someone will hear me.

The slow demonic cackle fills my ears. I scream some

more not wanting to believe it is useless.

The searing pain stabs into my ribs. I’m picked up and

flung onto the ground again. I hear my phone. This time it vi-
brates. This time they answer it again.

“Cas,” I hear Tania cry.

“Tania help,”

The gunshot in the air makes my heart want to explode. I

hear Tania scream until someone stamps on my phone. The
sound is gone forever.

“Bitch,” the girlfriend’s voice poisons my ears. “Want to

play our game? Cos this is the last time you fucking mess around
with anyone again. No one ever warn you that you should be
careful who the hell you pick on. We’ll be watching you, anytime
and you won’t know who the fuck we are.”

“No,” I yell out writhing in agony as my arm is wrenched

back Uncontrollable sobbing erupts from me. The kicks in my shin
are killing me.

“Not so brave now,” I hear the Scottish man say. “Don’t

want to play,”

Hands rip off the rope from my arms.

“Next time, you’re fucking dead. Pass that on to your


The shock takes a while to register. The noise of doors

slamming only registers once the van is down the road. I tear off
the blindfold with my good arm. Still sobbing and shaking, my
eyes adjust to the dimming light and the endless country lanes.
Battered and bruised, my phone is on the side lines. I can’t stop.
Must move though my head is shaking. With horror I realize I
can’t tell anyone because they know me and I don’t know them.
Walking, keep walking until someone comes, until I see a phone
box. The game is over. I lost.

John Weagly
John Weagly lives in Chicago, a city that rumbles. He’s had
over 25 plays produced by theaters across the US and over
50 short stories and poems published in a variety of medi-
ums. “The Undertow of Small Town Dreams,” a collection
of his short stories, is available from Twilight Tales

Trains rumbled through my head.
I could feel them bore into my ear, crunching through the
bone so they could get into my skull. Then they would hammer
through my brain, hitting each out-of-the-way switching station that
existed in my cerebellum. They’d screech. They’d smash.
They’d splinter. Finally, when the passing was finished, they
would exit my other ear. Then I would have eight minutes of si-
lence, eight minutes until the next train came crashing through like
a bullet.
In early April, in the eight hundred block of Chicago Ave-
nue, I found a pistol. It was in an alley, behind a Dumpster, in a
puddle of rain.
I was walking, collecting job applications. I took a short-
cut. The sun was out, but it had stormed the night before and
puddles still marked the city here and there. A block away, an
elevated train rumbled. I noticed the handle of the gun behind the
Dumpster’s wheel.
April showers can bring whatever you want them to bring.
When I got home, I looked inside the gun, cracked it open. One
bullet was missing.
Here’s what I think happened:
Someone was running from something, a robbery or a
murder, and they wanted to get rid of evidence. They threw the
gun away and kept running.
And I found it.
The city can be a scary place. There are a lot of people
and you don’t know who they are or what they’re up to. A gun can
be a good thing to have.
Through rumbles I heard ringing.
My phone was an old, red one that ringed instead of
beeped. It hadn’t been hooked up for very long. “Hello?” I said
from the other side of half-closed eyes.
“Were you asleep?” the voice said. It was female.
“No.” I’d gotten home from job hunting and sat down on
my couch. I didn’t remember nodding off. I don’t know why I lied.
There’s nothing wrong with taking an occasional nap. It’s not a
crime. The gun was sitting in my lap.
“Too much sleep is a sign of depression. People sleep
because they don’t want to be awake.”

“I wasn’t...”
“I didn’t mean to wake you.”
A train went past my window. The click clack click of
metal wheels on metal rails sounded like the shrieking of the dead.
“Do you live on the El tracks?” the voice asked.
I was surprised she could hear it. My phone carried more
than I realized. Telephones baffle me. I’ve never understood how
a teeny-tiny wire can carry someone’s voice across thousands of
miles and make it sound like that person is in the room with you. It
just doesn’t make sense.
“Sorry,” I said. “I got distracted. Who is this?”
“Is Clara there?”
“Do you know when she’ll be back?”
“There is no Clara,” I said. “You have a wrong number.”
“Is this 856-8000?”
There was a pause. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to
say more. I twisted the receiver cord around my finger.
“Oh my God,” the voice said. “I’m so sorry. This is
Clara’s old number, before she moved in with Mark.”
“That’s okay.”
“I didn’t realize they reassigned numbers so fast.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Sorry to bother you,” she said. Then she hung up.
The next time the phone rang, I was awake.
“Is Clara there?” It was a guy.
“This is Clara’s old number,” I said, “before she moved in
with Mark.”
“Do you know Clara?”
“Yes,” I lied. “She’s pretty,” I added.
“I’ll say. All that blonde hair. She’s somethin’.”
“Where do you know Clara from?”
“Here and there.”
“Some of us are starting to get worried,” he said. “We
haven’t seen her for a while.”
“That’s too bad.”
“When’s the last time you saw her?”
“I haven’t seen her for a while, a long, long while. It
seems like forever.”

“I hope she’s okay.”
“Me, too.”
“Sorry to bother you,” the voice said. Then he hung up.
I interviewed at a cereal factory for a job working with
marshmallows. I talked to a guy named James. The factory was
on the outskirts of the city. I had to take the train to and from the
I kept getting calls for Clara. Some were from her
friends; some were from people that seemed to barely know her.
Sometimes I pretended I knew Clara, sometimes I didn’t. I looked
forward to the wrong numbers. I liked talking to the people who
knew her. I gathered information.
“She moved up here to be an actress,” a female voice
told me.
“Was she good?”
The voice laughed. “That didn’t matter. It was what she
wanted to do and she was going to do it no matter what.”
“She was determined.”
“She did some plays in high school and some people told
her she was talented, so she decided to try her luck. When she
got here, she didn’t really do much. Some of us went to see her in
a David Mamet thing at a storefront.”
“A storefront?”
“One of those small theaters? They used to be retail,
now they’re art palaces?”
I’d seen them here and there. “I don’t go to plays,” I said.
“The play wasn’t very good, but she was okay.”
I found out that she and Mark became a quick item.
“She met him at Starbuck’s that’s where she worked,” a
man’s voice said.
“That’s where I met her, too,” I lied. “I like coffee.”
“He was a regular, stopping in everyday. After a while he
asked her out.”
“And she said yes.”
“The first time she brought Mark around to meet all of us,
we weren’t nuts about him. We went to this Mexican place for
Margaritas. Mark was polite, but you could kind of tell he didn’t
want to be there. Like he didn’t really care for us.”
“Maybe he didn’t care for the Margaritas,” I said.
“Maybe,” the voice agreed.
I was told about Mark and Clara moving in together.

“It was so fast,” a female voice told me. “We were all a
little skeptical, but it seemed to be what she wanted.”
“Then it was good,” I said.
“No! It wasn’t! Right after she moved in with him, Mark
told her she should give up her theater hobby.”
“Her hobby?”
“That’s what he called it. He told her that there were just
too many actresses in Chicago, that no matter how talented she
was she’d always get lost in the shuffle. He said he was telling
her because he believed in her and didn’t want to see her get
From the things the wrong numbers said to me, from
talking to the people who knew Clara, I grew to know Clara, too.
Listening to Clara’s dreams, I was reminded of my own.
Futures trading was invented in Chicago. This is what
prompted me to move to the City of Big Shoulders. I wasn’t crazy,
I knew I wouldn’t just walk into the Chicago Mercantile Exchange
and be handed a million dollars. I thought I’d get a job as an office
boy or in the mail room and then work my way up. I’d have my
first million by the time I was forty.
The apartment I found was a single room with a kitchen-
ette along one wall and a bathroom in the corner, no curtains and
tile instead of carpet. Elevated trains passed by right outside my
window. I thought, “This place is perfect! It’s so urban! True rags
to riches!” It was just me, my future fortune and the sounds of the
thriving metropolis.
It wasn’t as perfect as I thought. I didn’t become an of-
fice boy at the Merc. I didn’t get a job in the mailroom at the Chi-
cago Board of Trade. I couldn’t get as much as an interview any-
where in the financial district.
All I had to hope for was working with marshmallows.
And the elevated trains never stopped.
Every time a train went past, every time I heard the
screech and scream, every time my skull tore open, I felt a little bit
of me leaving. My convictions climbed onto each of those trains
and went to who knows where.
Honestly, can anybody trade on the future?
“Is Clara there?” the voice said. Another female.
“No. Sorry.”
“I think something’s happened to her.”
“What do you mean?”

“I think something bad has happened to Clara.”
The voice hung up.
My phone didn’t ring for a while after that.
I waited.
And waited.
And waited.
I was supposed to go in for a second interview at the
cereal factory, but I didn’t feel up to it. I stayed home and sat and
stared at the phone like a cheerleader without a prom date.
“I think something bad has happened to Clara.”
What did that mean? What had happened to her? Was
Clara still alive?
I slept sitting up, with the phone in my lap.
Finally, two days later, the phone rang.
“Were you asleep?” the voice said. It was female.
“They found Clara’s body.”
I swallowed. “Was it Mark?”
“Did he shoot her?”
More silence.
“Are you Clara?”
The line went dead.
A train flew by my window, screaming towards its destiny.
I checked the papers. They found Clara in an alley. Be-
hind a Dumpster. In the eight hundred block of Chicago Avenue.
According to the White Pages, she and Mark had moved to 808
The same block where I’d found the gun.
Clara had one bullet in her.
I looked at my pistol. Clara’s calls started right after I
found the weapon. Did it mean anything? Was it a coincidence?
Was my gun an instrument for talking to people far away, but far-
ther than the other side of town or even the other side of the
The phone rang one more time after that.
“It’s all up to you,” was all that was said.
I dressed in the same outfit I’d been wearing to job inter-
views, jeans and a dress shirt. I left the shirt un-tucked so I could
hide the gun in my waistband.

It wasn’t hard getting into the building; I waited outside
until one of the tenants got home and then followed them in. I
took the elevator up to the apartment.
I knocked. A man with short dark hair and glasses
opened the door. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I guessed
he didn’t plan on going outside.
“Are you Mark?” I asked.
“Is Clara here?”
“Do I know you?”
Something crawled across Mark’s face. I couldn’t tell if it
was sorrow, guilt or confusion. “She’s gone.”
“She’s dead.”
I looked at him for a moment and let him look at me. “I
The muscles in Mark’s jaw tightened. “Are you a cop?”
“I’m Clara’s friend,” I said. I took the gun out of my waist-
band. “Is this yours?”
Mark’s eyes widened. “Where did you find that?”
I raised the pistol. Mark started to close the door, but
before he could I shot him in the face. The blast sounded like the
earth exploding. In the distance, a train was going somewhere. I
was surprised I could hear it.
I’d always assumed gunshots were louder than trains.

Adrian Magson
Shortlisted in the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award
2001, Adrian’s first crime novel ‘No Peace For The Wicked’ was
published in November 2004, and is the first in a series featuring a
young female investigative reporter, Riley Gavin, and her sidekick,
former military policeman Frank Palmer. The second, ‘No Help For
The Dying’, came out in September 2005, and in a review in The
Guardian was described as: "Gritty and fast-paced detecting of the
traditional kind, with a welcome injection of realism."

The third in the Riley Gavin/Frank Palmer series – ‘No Sleep For
The Dead’ – came out on the 3rd August 2006.


‘No job yet, Sal?’ Terry, my young half-brother and profes-

sional layabout poked his nose round the corner of my kitchen to
see if there were any free drinks going. There weren’t, so he had
to settle for coffee instead.
‘No.’ It came out resentfully and I wondered what he wanted.
Asking after his big sister’s welfare wasn’t his strong point, and
he’d phoned first before coming round. That meant the visit wasn’t
casual. He slumped on the sofa, eyes revolving like marbles, and I
waited for the pitch. Whenever he was nervous, about to tell a lie
or ask for money, his eyes would go runabout. Most of the family
had grown wise to it, as had his small and shifty circle of mates.
Terry was what some referred to as a career suspect. He
acted bent, looked bent and how he’d escaped doing time was
beyond me. At twenty-five, he was five years and a whole genera-
tion younger than me. Maybe that’s why we’d never been very
I shoved his coffee at him and walked over to the window
and looked down onto the busy street below. It wasn’t palatial,
being a spit from the wrong end of Holland Park Avenue, but Terry
thought it was the dog’s biscuits. He shared quarters and bacteria
near King’s Cross with three lads who thought having a front door
bell was the height of sophistication. ‘What do you want?’ I asked
‘Umm… I thought I could put something your way,’ he mum-
Here it comes, I thought. What will it be - a certain winner or
some hooky goods off a passing lorry? Either way, it would be too
good to be true, like most of his tips and ideas.
‘There’s a… business opportunity,’ he managed. ‘You might
want to get in on the ground.’
‘How much?’ My cynicism must have been obvious, because
he looked affronted.
'What do you mean?’
‘This business opportunity. What is it and how much?’
He jumped to his feet, losing half his coffee in the process. It
was a sure sign he was about to throw a pitch. Terry never pitches
sitting down - it’s a habit he’d got into. With his dodgy circle of
acquaintances, being ready to run was probably good business
‘These mates,’ he said, ‘have got a line in imported security

equipment – from Holland.’ The way he said Holland made every-
thing sound legitimate.
‘Security equipment?’ I knew a little bit about that kind of
thing, but there were many different kinds. ‘What kind?’
‘Lights… alarms - that sort.’ He grinned. ‘I figured you’d know
about that, what with your job ‘n all… well, your old job.’ He tailed
off, remembering he’d just reminded me of my recent departure
from Her Majesty’s Royal Military Police. Victim of jobs cuts, would
you believe. Surplus to requirements after budget re-evaluations,
along with several colleagues and goodness knows how many
others throughout the armed forces.
I was suddenly fed up with the small flat and needed a drink,
even if the only company was my half-bent half-brother. ‘Come
on,’ I said. ‘You can buy me a gin and tonic and tell me all about
it.’ I poked him in the chest. ‘But that doesn’t mean yes’
We went to the Washington, one of those private drinking
clubs that are still about if you know where to look. This one was
down some steps, through a heavy door, and in what probably
used to be the servants’ quarters of a regency-style house not far
from the park. I’d been introduced to it by an old boyfriend, and
had found it a lot safer and convenient than any of the pubs in the
There weren’t many customers when we arrived; a few lone
regulars and a couple of local boys cooking up a deal or two. They
stopped and stared when they saw me, and I wondered if it was
because I was a woman and therefore something to be stared at,
or because it was true that once a cop always a cop - even of the
military kind. I certainly didn’t try to look like one, but maybe
there’s something in the air that we never quite lose. Whatever,
these two suddenly got nervous and decided to go and find some-
thing important to do elsewhere.
‘Sorry, Bill,’ I said to the owner. He knew of my background
but didn’t care. As long as I didn’t smash the furniture he was
‘No, probs, Sal,’ he said easily. ‘They were about due to be
tossed, anyway, bloody entrepreneurs. Couldn’t even spell the
word.’ He gave Terry a leery look, and I wondered if the custom-
ers’ nervousness had actually been generated by Terry, not me.
‘What’ll it be?’
‘It’s a dead cert,’ Terry said for the third time, as we found
seats in one corner. He sank his beer and looked hopefully at me
for a refill, and I caught Bill’s eye.
‘Let me get this straight,’ I said, after he’d explained every-

thing. ‘Your mates bring in these security alarms from Holland,
and you tout them round the housing estates and sell them door-
He nodded proudly, as if he’d invented plutonium. It smelled
suspiciously like too much hard work for my work-shy brother, but
I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. For now, anyway.
‘So what about all the other systems on the market?’
He didn’t even blink. I doubt he’d even considered it. ‘Bernie,
my mate, used to work for one of the big operators,’ he replied.
‘He can carry out installations the same day. Jack’s the money
man – he deals with the pricing. We sell fifty percent below any-
thing you can get from the shops.’
The Holy Grail of selling. Flog it cheap enough and some
mug will buy it. Mind you, not far from here were some monster
housing estates where buying off the back of a lorry was the es-
tablished way of supporting your local industry.
‘So what’s the hook?’ I asked.
‘Crime,’ Terry responded, sharp as a knife. ‘It’s on the in-
crease, isn’t it?’ he continued quickly, seeing my look, ‘and there’s
estates round here where they’re being specifically targeted by
gangs exploiting the absence of domestic and personal home se-
curity systems.’
I stared at him. When Terry uses anything longer than two
syllables, he has to breath in and out before reaching the end.
This sudden burst of loquacity showed he’d been coached. Pre-
sumably by somebody with a lot of patience.
‘So what do you need me for?’ I asked, although I could
His shifty eyes rolled. ‘Well, we - I… need some capital,’ he
said. ‘Y’see, Bernie and Jack put up the cash to buy the first lot of
kit a couple of months back. That went like ice melting. Now we
need more, but the supplier wants cash up front. Bernie said if I
get the money, they’ll make me a full partner.’ He paused. ‘They
want five grand by tomorrow.’
It smelled higher than a vanload of dodgy prawns, but I
couldn’t see what the scam was unless they were planning to do a
runner with the money. Somehow, though, I didn’t think even
Terry’s mates would be stupid enough to do that for a mere five
I shook my head. ‘Sorry, Terry - I don’t have that sort of
cash.’ After ten years in the army, I wasn’t exactly rolling in
money, and so far my job interviews had produced a stunning
silence. Any spare cash I had was geared towards keeping my

head above water.
He looked crushed, and I realised he’d been depending on
me coming up with the resources to help out.
‘What happens if you don’t get the money?’
His face said it all. ‘They paid me a starter to tide me over,
see… so I could start selling the gear and the appointments for the
installations. Only now the first load of gear’s gone and they – we -
need to re-stock before the supplier goes elsewhere and closes us
off. They had another partner a few months back… but he walked
in front of a car one night.’
‘That was unlucky,’ I said.
We were interrupted by two shadows looming over our table.
When Terry looked up his eyes went runabout.
‘Hi, fellas,’ he squeaked, and pretended them turning up
wasn’t a big coincidence. I should have confiscated his mobile.
‘Sal, this is Bernie and Jack.’
I looked up and saw two characters out of a bad film. One
was balding and heavy-set, with the kind of face that had been
used to dig holes. The other was the same, only taller. Both wore
smart suits and ties, and the sort of shoes Terry wouldn’t even
begin to know where to buy. Back-street rough in top designer
The one I guessed was Bernie – the shorter one – nodded
and stared at me with gimlet eyes. His hands were hanging down
by his side, and I could see they were used to manual work; he’d
scraped his knuckles recently on a rough surface.
‘Sal,’ he growled. ‘I didn't know Terry had a sister.’ He didn’t
bother shaking hands. His voice was high-pitched and nasal, and
as he spoke, I caught a glimpse of teeth that looked too good to
be true. Maybe some of the rough surfaces had fought back.
‘Sal was in the Military Police,’ Terry said excitedly, and I
wanted to smack him. What was he trying to do - empty the place
even further?
‘Really?’ This was Jack. He didn’t look impressed, and
seemed more interested in trying to see what I kept under my
blouse. ‘My cousin Stan was a Redcap,’ he said. ‘When he joined
up, his dad lost the will to live. Said the idea of having a copper in
the family made him feel sick.’
I ignored the jibe and decided I didn’t like them enough to
give them the time of day, much less any of my money - Terry or
I left him to his business partners and went back to the flat. I
was suddenly feeling depressed. Depressed at the thought of

Terry leading the existence he led, and wondering how far I was
behind joining him if something didn't turn up.
I called a contact who ran a job search agency for ex-army
personnel. He had the usual vacancies, and I rang off when he
tried selling me the idea of patrolling a shopping centre in Rom-
ford. Next I called a name I’d been given by the adjutant when I
left the army. It was a firm specialising in employing ex-MPs for
close protection work. I was reluctant to take it anywhere, but with
funds dwindling and no promise on the horizon, it didn’t look like
I’d got much choice.
‘We’ve been waiting for your call, Miss Brent,’ the man on the
other end said. ‘If you’re free, we’ve got an assignment for you.
Hot weather casual.’ He meant the clothing. ‘Good female person-
nel are in high demand at the moment. Pop in this week and we’ll
brief you.’
‘Hot weather,’ I said. ‘You mean Iraq?’
‘No,’ he said crisply. ‘Southern Europe. You could do it
standing on your head.’
I agreed an appointment and rang off, and decided to go out
and buy myself some new clothes. The retail therapy might help
lift my spirits.

I was late back and called into the Washington for a night-
cap and some idle chat with Bill. Everybody was talking about a
spate of burglaries on a nearby estate, and one drinker had had
his house turned over. He had lost a DVD player and other nick-
nacks, and his wife was screaming about some missing jewellery.
It seemed they weren’t the only ones.
‘I thought we’d seen the last of it,’ the offended victim
moaned. ‘It all went quiet for a week or two, now they’ve started
up again!’
‘After the last lot, I got one of them alarm systems,’ another
man announced. ‘They’d have to be mental to try getting past
‘As long as it doesn’t keep going off,’ a third man muttered. ‘I
got one and it kept clanging off in the middle of the night. Bloody
thing cost me a small fortune in call-outs.’
‘What about the guarantee?’ the burglary victim asked.
The other man lowered his voice. ‘Well, it was cheap, wasn’t
it? Installation promised the same day… but no guarantees. They
say it keeps the prices down. The engineer reckoned it was proba-
bly kids chucking stones at the casing that set it off.’
I spotted Terry as he came in, but he didn’t see me and

made a bee-line for the group of burglary victims. He soon had
their attention, and when I caught the word ‘installation’ I knew
what he was up to.
Then he spotted me and nearly bolted. He recovered and
strutted over. ‘Sal – hi!’ he said. Up close, he looked sick, and for
the first time ever I realised he was actually frightened of me.
‘Business good?’ I asked.
He grinned faintly. ‘Yeah. Picking up, in fact.’
The smell of dodgy prawns came back and I leaned towards
him. ‘So I hear. There’s nothing like a bit of fear to create a mar-
ket, is there?’
He pretended he didn’t know what I meant, so I put my glass
down and gripped his hand hard. ‘You’re a fool, Terry,’ I told him.
‘Those two mates of yours are going to get you in so much trou-
ble, you’ll never wash the smell off.’
‘What-?’ He swallowed and backed away. ‘I don’t know what
you mean, Sal.’
‘Of course not. Just as a matter of interest, Terry – who do
the customers see in your little enterprise?’
He thought for a second. ‘Well… me - and Bernie when he
does the installations.’
‘And the repairs?’
‘Bernie does them, too.’

Next morning I was woken by a loud hammering on the

door. It was Bernie and Jack. They were dressed casual and
looked annoyed. Before I could say anything Bernie placed his
meaty hand in the middle of my chest and propelled me back-
wards down the hall. They both followed very quickly, and Jack
slipped past me into the living room.
‘Where’s he gone, little girl?’ Bernie breathed, sinuses whis-
tling like a boiling kettle.
‘Where’s who?’ It was obviously Terry they were after.
The slap was light, but still enough to hurt my shoulder. ‘Your
poxy brother, that’s who we mean, Miss Redcap,’ he snarled. ‘And
just for your information, I do hit women.’
I tried to back away to give myself more room, but forgot
about Jack. He nudged me with his shoulder, pinning me against
the wall. All the breath went out of my lungs, and I wondered how
I’d ever let myself get so sloppy. My old instructors would have
been ashamed of me.
‘The little toe-rag’s gone missing,’ grated Bernie. ‘And he
owes us some money.’

Jack moved in on the other side. ‘Problem is, little girl, if we
don’t get it from him we’ll have to get it from you instead.’ To rein-
force the point, he lashed out with his foot making a dent in the
plaster. ‘Understand?’ Then they left.

My instincts were to leave Terry to it and go find my over-

seas assignment. But I couldn’t. He was my half-brother, and I felt
a responsibility towards him. I decided to go looking for him before
he ended up buried under someone’s patio.
Bill said he hadn’t been into the Washington, and a couple of
customers looked a bit leery when I walked in, so I guessed the
word was out. That afternoon I went shopping up west and re-
turned with a couple of packages. They’d cost a bit, but I reckoned
I could use them elsewhere and write them off to tax.
Later that evening I went back to the Washington. I spotted
the burglary victim, who was burbling away about the new alarm
system he’d just bought. I bent his ear for a few minutes, and after
buying him a couple of drinks, followed him round to his house a
few streets away in the middle of a large, anonymous estate.
He provided a ladder, and I had the bright red alarm box off
his wall in seconds. Then I unwrapped my packages and spent a
few seconds at work before replacing the cover. I shimmied back
down and disappeared, swearing him to silence. Then I found a
quiet corner in a side street where I couldn’t be overlooked, and
waited in my car with a flask of coffee.
An hour later, as the pubs were emptying, an alarm went off
in the distance. I drove through the streets, following the sound. A
man was standing outside a large semi scratching his head and
staring up at the wall, where an alarm box was trying to jump off
the brickwork. On either side curtains twitched as neighbours
looked to see what was up.
I stopped the car with a view of the house and waited.
Twenty minutes later, a plain van carrying a set of ladders
pulled up and a bulky figure climbed out and hammered on the
door. I began snapping away in the dark with one of my new toys.
The householder came out and I could hear his voice raised
in complaint. The new arrival nodded and took the ladders down
from the van. As he stepped through a pool of light, I recognised
Seconds later the noise stopped and Bernie shinned back
down the ladder. When he reached the bottom he stuffed some-
thing in his pocket. The happy householder handed him some
notes, and off he went.

I followed at a distance, and he led me to another estate,
where another bell was ringing. I stayed long enough to see him at
work, then left.

The following morning Terry turned up with a large bruise on

his cheek and a limp. He’d obviously bumped into Jack and
Bernie. ‘They say I owe them the money,’ he moaned. ‘Either that
or I work for free until the same amount’s paid off.’
I shook my head and led him round to a camera shop, where
I had a word with the manager and handed him my new camera.
He came back a while later and led us over to a large PC, where
an image was displayed. It showed a man on a ladder against the
side of a house.
Terry’s jaw dropped when he recognised Bernie.
I grabbed his arm in case he bolted, and asked the manager
to run off some prints. Then I dragged Terry round to the local
nick, where we had a meeting with a Detective Sergeant I knew
named Slaney. Being anywhere near a police station went against
all Terry’s instincts, but with a bit of sisterly prodding and a few
threats, he finally coughed up everything he knew.
‘Interesting,’ said Slaney, staring at my camera, image-
intensifier and prints on the interview table. A colleague he’d intro-
duced as an electronics expert was studying the pictures of the
alarm system with a deep frown.
‘I’d need to see one close up,’ he murmured. ‘But it looks to
me like there’s some kind of secondary circuit in there… designed
to go off at intervals.’
Slaney shook his head, quick to catch on. ‘Clever. They do a
few burglaries to create a market, get the punters to buy their
alarms… then wait for these chips to set off the bell so they get
called out to fix it at a premium charge. The householders are so
grateful by the instant response, they don’t even twig.’
‘And they can do that as often or as regularly as the punters
will stand it,’ the electronics expert said. ‘They could pre-set these
things to go off every year without fail. Get a few hundred of these
going off annually, and you’ve got a nice regular income. Money
for old rope… I almost wish I’d thought of it.’
Two hours later, we were back at the flat, and Jack was be-
ing interviewed by the local police. Bernie had ducked out of sight
before they could get to him.
‘What d’you reckon will happen next?’ Terry asked. Now he’d
had a chance to think about things, he was terrified Bernie would
come looking for him.

‘I’ve no idea,’ I said honestly. I was about to suggest he try
moving to a safer part of the country when the front door caved in.
Bernie shouldered into the room like an enraged bull, his
face red and bringing in a strong smell of booze. He had a pickaxe
handle in his fist and looked ready to use it. Terry moaned quietly
and sank into a chair, and I suddenly felt sorry for him. He was out
of his depth with these people, but didn’t have the brains to see it.
Bernie’s first swing demolished the sideboard, spraying splin-
ters of wood across the room. The second went through a coffee
table. When he looked at me, I knew I was next, and being a
woman didn’t count.
I was instantly transported to a pub near Frankfurt which had
been popular with squaddies. It had a series of rooms not much
bigger than this, and was invariably full unless NATO manoeuvres
were going on, when trade suffered and everybody was living in
tents for days at a time. Otherwise, fighting was laid on nightly and
you only went in if you knew you could handle it. Unfortunately,
MPs didn't have any choice in the matter.
I’d had to do my fair share, because women MPs had the
same training as men and none of us wanted a soft ride. Nor could
we allow anyone to threaten our authority. And in my mind’s eye,
Bernie suddenly had on a uniform and was calling me out. And
that wasn’t allowed.
The pickaxe handle hissed past my shoulder and smacked
into the wall behind me. Bernie expected me to back away, or
maybe he thought I’d go all soft and wobbly and run screaming out
the door. Instead I ducked in close and hit him once under the chin
with my elbow, clicking his expensive porcelain together. As he
grunted with surprise and pain, I took his wrist and pulled hard,
yanking him off balance, then spun my hip against him and bent
It was one of the simplest throws, but effective. Bernie gave
a surprised howl and landed hard on the remains of the coffee
table. Before he could get up, I took the pickaxe handle and
smacked him behind the ear.
‘Call Slaney,’ I said to Terry, throwing him my mobile. ‘Last
dial.’ I gulped in air and tried not to be sick. Adrenalin does that
sometimes, which is not something they ever mention in films. I
suppose heroes or heroines throwing up after a fight isn’t good
box-office. ‘And tell him if this carries on, I’ll be expecting a com-
mission for all the villains I’m catching for him.’
Terry stared at me, then Bernie’s prone figure, as if I’d sud-
denly changed into Cat Woman. Then he nodded obediently and

went through to the kitchen to make the call.
I used up half a roll of Cellotape on Bernie’s arms and legs,
then sighed and sat down to wait for the police. It was quiet in the
room apart from Bernie’s nasal breathing, and I found myself
thinking about the job interview and the money I could be earning.
Hot weather casual, the man had said. Hot weather would be nice.
Casual, too.
On the other hand, he’d also said women personnel were in
high demand, which meant it was a seller’s market. Good thing,
too; it looked like I might have to stick around here for a while…

TK Dan
TK Dan lives in Newcastle. He is currently working on a
novel featuring his previous Bullet short story character

Two a.m.- pissing down, my hands blistered, my back breaking,
breathless and caked in mud, I begin to lose heart. I look back
through the trees and into the headlights of the stationary car.
“Enough?” I call out.
“No, keep going,” a desperate, disembodied voice from the dark-
“Fuck,” I mutter, gritting my teeth, taking up the spade again and
driving it down into the glutinous heavy clay. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,
fuck, fuck.”

Four weeks earlier

I was at work when I heard. The lunchtime news, the smug bas-
tard of a newsreader had more than a little glee in his voice.
“James McLeod, the last surviving member of the 1975 Heathrow
Diamond Robbery gang has died in prison. Nicknamed Max the
Axe, he was notorious in gangland for…”
Forgot what I was doing. It took the punter shouting at me to bring
me back into the room. “Fucks sake mate! I like a full pint but
that’s just taking the piss.” I looked down, Guinness, black and
creamy, cascading over the top of the glass onto my hands.
Helen rang me later that night. A heart attack, a massive heart
attack, could have happened at any time. The funeral was Tues-

“What the bloody hell do you want to go and do that for?” My

mother, she’d never understood, never would. I shrugged, and
neatly folded a black silk tie and put it in the suitcase with my suit.
She sat in the kitchen of our tiny council flat brooding over her piss
weak tea, as I rummaged around in a basket of washing looking
for a shirt that would stand another outing. “It was bad enough you
going off to visit him all the time, but at least you kept it private.”
Yeah, that’s what you think, I thought, nine hundred hits in the last
week alone and now, well… who knew? Everyone loves you when
you’re dead.

And my mother was wrong. Plenty of people knew about me and

Max the Axe, and even more would soon.
“I mean the television and newspapers will be there. What are
people going to say if they see you there? Bloody computer.”

Bloody computer indeed, I thought, thank God for the bloody com-

I’ve always loved them. It started at school, lunchtime computer

club with Mr. Gregory. I’d gone as a way to keep out of the way of
the other kids. A failing inner city comp is no place to be at lunch-
time when you’re the freak, the weirdo, the geek, the loner. And
that was me. That was Alan O’Rourke; or Anorak as they chris-
tened me. That was Alan O’Rourke. Was in the past tense.
Not now. Not now thanks to the wonders of the information tech-
nology revolution.

Thing is, computers are my bag. I’m a natural with them, at one
with them; understand them better than I’ve ever understood peo-
ple. Back then, within three months I was better than any pupil or
teacher in that shit hole comp. And they knew it, just left me to my
own devices, embarrassed by their own incompetence.

It was natural I’d want to work with them when I left, but I ended
up in some poxy job with the council. I was a ‘user advisor’, which
mainly consisted of holding the hands of old biddies too scared to
switch them on “in case I break it.” It bored me shitless. I packed it
in and went to work in the pub instead, waiting for something bet-
ter to turn up. I waited for a long time. But it turned up in the end.

I decided to start a website just to keep my hand in, and to fill

some empty hours. Anything was better than just sitting in front of
the box with the old girl, watching hour after hour of soaps and
makeover shows. Only thing was, I wasn’t sure what to do the
website on. What else was I interested in apart from computers?

I found my answer one quiet Wednesday afternoon in the High


There were shouts, an alarm bell ringing, more shouts and a car
furiously revving its engine. I turned to see what was happening
and couldn’t believe my eyes. Two guys, black balaclavas, sawn
off 12 bores and holdalls, struggling to get in the back of a silver
BMW. A couple of women screamed, the driver gunned the car
engine and went to shoot off, but one of the robbers was still stood
at the back passenger door shouting.

“Where’s Davey? Where’s Davey? Not without Davey!” The car

tried to take off into the mid afternoon traffic but the guy at the
back door banged on the top of the roof with the butt of his gun,
which went off with a deep bass boom, emptying its load into the
grey overcast sky.

More women screaming, people hitting the floor or diving behind

corners to take cover but I just stood there transfixed, enthralled.
Mouth open, eyes agog.

Another man, in a balaclava came flying round the corner, a secu-

rity guard in hot pursuit. A wail of sirens was now swelling some-
where in the distance.

“Wait,” screamed the man at the back door of the car. The late-
comer, Davey I presumed, turned and aimed his shotgun at the
security guard.
“Don’t be fucking stupid!” he shouted, “It’s not your money!” But
the security guard was not to done out of his moment. A lifetime
of boredom and waiting had boiled down to this instant and he
was not to be denied his opportunity for heroics.

Davey shook his head as if he were sorry to have to do it, then

nonchalantly lowered his gun and emptied both barrels into the
security guards legs. He crumpled like a condemned tower block.
The BMW screeched away North, along Gosforth High Street, the
only sounds left the intensifying sirens approaching and the in-
credulous moaning and groaning of the security guard, repeating
again and again, “I’ve been shot, I’ve been fucking shot.” It
sounded like he was bragging.

I didn’t stick around to give the police a witness statement. Just

walked away. Buzzed. My head swimming with ideas.

Gangsters. When I came to think of it; I’d always been fascinated

by them. It started as a kid with a black sheep of an uncle. A
drinker, a ladies man, a gambler, a waster… or a bon viveur, de-
pending on your point of view.

I was seven and ill on the couch with chicken pox, when he’d
turned up late one night. Him and two heavies in brown pinstriped
double breasted suits, with broad kipper ties, dripping with gold
jewellery- sovereign rings and chunky bracelets- drenched in Old
Spice and Brut.

“Need to borrow your kitchen for a while, sis,” he’d smiled at my
mother while ruffling my hair. She was none too pleased, but also
scared shitless and had simply nodded and pulled her dressing
gown tighter around herself.

They played cards all night. I remember going in to get a glass of

milk, cutting my way through the whisky and cigar fumes and see-
ing the piles of banknotes casually, carelessly tossed on the table.
And the men themselves. Huge. Powerful. Awesome. And then for
days afterwards, when my uncle had disappeared again, all the
hushed conversations my mother had with aunties, uncles, close
friends- about the late night visitors, “friends of the Krays …”

But the Krays had been done to death. I needed to do someone

else, someone unique.

I found my boys in a true crime book I bought from one of those

cheap, remainder bookshops.

There were only two pages on them but their story was fascinat-
ing. The Rough Diamonds- the gang responsible for the 1975
Heathrow Diamond Heist – and in particular James Alexander
McLeod, Max the Axe.

I can still remember the first photograph I saw of him. His features
as sharp as the blades he carried. His eyes two jet black buttons
staring straight back at the camera, dead, lifeless, intense. His red
hair electric shock spiky.

Born to a prostitute in Easterhouse Glasgow, he’d fetched up in

Benwell Newcastle after his mother had rolled one too many cli-
ents, swindled one too many pimps. The maddest, baddest kid in
Newcastle’s wild west end. In care by ten, borstal by 14, jail by 18.
When he was released from that particular spell for razoring a rival
over a gambling debt, he felt he’d “served his apprenticeship” and
moved to London to get in with the big boys looking to fill the
power vacuum left when the Krays went down. With his talent for
violence and intimidation it wasn’t long before he was in gainful
employment. And plenty of it.

He became respected, liked- a face. Which is how he came to be

in on the Heathrow job. Britain’s biggest jewellery theft. Three mil-
lion quids worth of diamonds en-route from Rotterdam to New


Except the job went wrong. Halfway through the raid, security
guards appeared. The alarm was sounded and there was a
scramble to get away. As Jimmy clambered through a window, a
security guard grabbed him by the leg and hauled him back in.
Jimmy smacked him with a crow bar.
“Ah didnae want to, but the boy gie me no choice.”

Last out, he watched as the Transit with the diamonds in disap-

peared into the sunset, and the cops appeared on the horizon.

One week to the day later at a remand hearing he managed to

overpower the escorting officers on the way back to the cells and
escape. And that’s where the story gets really interesting. So furi-
ous was he with the rest of the gang that had left him “wi ma arse
hinging oot just waitin’ for a shaftin’” that he tracked them down.
One by one. With an axe.

They finally found him back in Easterhouse, a prostitute in his bed,

the axe under it. The diamonds nowhere to be seen.

It had long been the subject of speculation. Who had them?

Where were they? Jimmy coughed to the murders but claimed he
never got to lay a finger on a single stone. Hence the murders.
Hence my website

I don’t know how he found out about it. Maybe he just googled his
name and up it popped, but the day I opened up my inbox to find
an e-mail from one James Alexander McLeod, ranks as the most
exciting in my life.

He thought I’d done a good job, corrected me on a few facts and

we began to correspond. Then he suggested I visit him in jail, for a
face to face interview. I leapt at the chance. He liked me, trusted
me. We became friends. I was even a guest at his prison wedding
when he married Helen, a slim, sleek blonde, thirty years his jun-
ior, whom he’d met over the net.

Me Anorak- the geek, the freak, the weirdo, the loner- mixing with
the maddest and baddest of gangland.

Now I was to be a mourner at his funeral.

He’d wanted to go out in style. He’d left strict instructions. A car-

riage drawn by two jet black horses, the mourners to follow walk-
ing behind. East End style. I was in the second row - friends and
associates - all looking like we’d stepped straight out of Reservoir
Dogs. And despite my mother’s worries, I hoped that every single
camera crew in the world would be trained on me walking along
shoulder to shoulder with some of the most notorious killers and
psychos this country has ever produced.

The streets were packed, the crowds hushed in a respectful si-

lence. Easterhouse had seen nothing like it. The funeral went well,
barring one ugly incident just before the cemetery gates when a
bystander, a man of around 60 with a Glasgow smile, a razor scar
from ear to mouth, broke free from the onlookers, ran and spat at
the carriage. Lucky for him that the police wrestled him away be-
fore we got to him.

At the wake we drank enough whiskey to sink a battleship,

laughed, wept, danced and sang. When I finally stumbled away in
the early hours of the next morning, Helen had seen me out, hold-
ing me and sobbing like a child, begging me to stay in touch. I
enfolded her in my arms, drawing her closer, feeling her svelte
body against mine; drinking in the scent of her sweet perfume.
Feeling myself harden against her,

I promised her that if there was anything I could do for her, any-
thing, she only had to ask.

She turned up three weeks and six days later. Came into the pub,
just before closing time.

The last of the punters chucked out, the doors locked and the
boss cashing up in the office, I poured us both a large Jack
Daniels and coke and took it across to the corner table where she
sat preoccupied and morose, wreathed in smoke from a Marlbor-
ough Light.

She’d said she’d been in town visiting friends and thought she
would look me up. I can’t say I was disappointed.

I handed her the glass and she raised it to mine, “To better times,”

she murmured. We chinked glasses and I sat down.
“It’s good to see you, Helen,” I said. She lowered her eyes, tapped
the ash from her cigarette, smiled sadly and looked up at me.
“It hasn’t been easy,” she said.
I nodded as if I understood and cast around in my mind for some-
thing to say, “Anything I can help with?” It sounded weak, glib. She
lowered her eyes again, a pregnant silence fell between us. I
watched her intently.

Finally she looked back up, her head to one side, “Can I trust you
Alan? Really?”
“You have to ask?” I said looking her straight in the eye.
She held my gaze for a moment or two then turned to the handbag
beside her and rummaged around, eventually producing a small
padded envelope. She took a quick furtive look around the bar,
checking that we really were alone, then slid it across the table to

I looked at it then looked at her. She nodded towards the enve-

lope, indicating I should open it. Carefully, I delved inside and
took out a CD.
“Elton John,” I said flatly raising my eyebrows.
She smiled ruefully, “I’m afraid Jimmy, lovely man though he was,
had terrible taste in music.” She took the CD case from my hand,
placed it on the table and, still with cigarette in hand, opened the
case. She carefully slid out the inlay card and opened it up to re-
veal another CD hidden in its folds. She carefully picked it up, by
its edges and showed it to me.

I looked back blankly, waiting for some sort of explanation.

She laid it carefully on top of the table, “On my last few visits,
Jimmy told me he had written everything down, everything, and
was storing it; burning it to CD. You know what a computer nut he
became in the last couple of years. It was the only course he
showed any interest in the whole time he was in there. Which is
how he ended up meeting you; and me for that matter,” she
paused for a moment looking wistful, “He said he was keeping it
hidden among the few music CDs he had.” She tapped the CD
with a perfectly manicured, blood red fingernail, “This is the only
one it can be.”
“And?” I asked.

She took a long draw on her cigarette, leant back and exhaled

slowly. “Jimmy’s official bank account holds, 37 pounds and forty
two pence exactly. When we married he promised me we’d live in
the lap of luxury once he got out. Said he’d take care of me no
matter what. Now I don’t think he was bullshitting me, nor do I
think he was planning another job.”
It began to dawn on me, “The diamonds?” I asked incredulously.
She shrugged and looked longingly at the CD, “Wish I could tell
you. I’ve got to give the old bugger credit. It’s secure. Needs a
password to access it.” She picked it up, looked at it then leant
forward looking me straight in the eye. “A password the stupid old
bastard forgot to tell me before he popped his clogs.”

There were butterflies in my stomach and saliva thickened in my

“Well?” she asked, still holding the CD in front of my face. I
reached out and gently took the CD from her, enjoying this, a mo-
ment of glory. I studied the CD as if it were some interesting curio,
then carefully placed it back in the case and closed it.
“Leave it with me,” I said drawing the case towards me.
Her hand shot out and grabbed me by the wrist tightly, “No!” she
said panic stricken. I looked up at her surprised, released the CD
and shrugged. She gave a nervous little smile and relaxed her grip
on my wrist, but didn’t take her hand away, “Sorry,” she said, “but
it’s all that I have.” Her thumb began to caress my forearm. “You
do understand?” she asked.
I nodded, leant forward taking both her hands in mine, rested my
elbows on the table and looked into her eyes.
“So what now?” I asked.
“There’s a laptop back in my hotel room…”

His security was laughable. I’d hacked in within five minutes.

Helen who had been pacing up and down behind me, tumbler of
whisky clamped in her hand was incredulous.
“You’ve done it?”

I nodded, stood up, gestured her to the laptop, went across to the
mini bar, poured myself a generous scotch and then reclined on
the bed.

I watched her face lit by the LCD screen as she scanned through
the documents on the computer. From time to time, she looked
over to me, her face a portrait of wonderment and delight. I played
it cool, not asking any questions, just drinking in the fact that I was

here, the saviour of the day, in an expensive hotel, with her.
She clapped her hands with glee, looked at me again, her eyes
alive with excitement.
“It’s all here,” she said her fingers flying across the keyboard, “it’s
all here.”
She shut the computer down, came across and sat on the edge of
the bed. She put out her hand and stroked the side of my face
smiling. I went to make a move, but gently she stopped me.
“Not yet,” she purred, “Not yet. You’re going to need all your
strength for tomorrow.”

“What do you mean not going in to work?” The old girl roused her-
self from the telly, ‘This Morning’ was blaring out, and looked at
“I rang in sick.”
“Why?” she asked suspiciously.
“I’ve got to go somewhere.”
“None of your business,” I fired back.
“You’ll end up losing that job,” she said grumbling and refocusing
on the telly.
“Good,” I muttered, stuffing a pair of stout boots into a holdall.

She picked me up in her MX-5 and we set off for Kielder Forest.
His instructions were clear and two hours later, looking like Dick
and Dora off for a country hike, we parked the car and set off
walking down a rough forest road. Half an hour later we were lake-
side, by an abandoned cottage.
“You reckon?” I asked.
“Has to be,” she smiled, looking around her, the wind blowing
strands of hair across her face. “He must have come this way on
his way up to Scotland.” She looked around, trying to peel back
the years and imagine Jimmy here.
“Should I get the spade?” I asked.
She shook her head, “No risks. Tonight. Late tonight.”

2:10 am - Finally the blade of the spade strikes something other
than clay. There is the satisfying scrape of metal on metal and
when I tap the top of the object there is a dead, hollow sound.
“Helen!” I call out excitedly. I lean back for a moment wiping the
sweat from my brow, feeling the dirt on my face being ground into
my pores. There is the rustle of gore-tex and the cracking of twigs

as she hurries across from the car.

I look up from the sizeable trench I have dug and grin, seeing her
silhouetted above me.

“It’s there?” she asks anxiously leaning forward and tucking a

stray strand of blonde hair behind her ear.
“Found something,” I reply, picking up the spade again and begin-
ning to dig with renewed vigour. I scrape away the soil from the
top of the box first, then use the spade to chop away the heavy
clay either side of the box. Within ten minutes, I’m lifting it out; a
black metal box about the dimensions of a lever arch file.

I hand it up to Helen who quickly bustles away to the car with it. I
haul myself up out of the trench and, beginning to feel the weari-
ness of all the night’s exertions, slowly tramp back towards the
car. My boots, heavy with clay and mud, seem to pick up every
loose fallen leaf on the way.

When I get to the car Helen is sitting in the driver’s seat, her legs
out of the car with the box in her lap, fiddling with the catch.
“Okay?” I ask panting, leaning over the open door.
“Yeah, just got to get the catch,” she replies intent on the box.

Breathless I step back, go to the front of the car and reach down
for the day sac we brought with us. I find a bottle of diet coke, un-
screw the top, sit back against the bonnet of the car and raise it to
my lips. It’s flat and has the remnants of a cheese sandwich I ate
earlier floating about in it bumping up against my pursed lips, but I
don’t care. This time tomorrow I’ll be sipping champagne with
Helen. I lift the bottle again, guzzle and look back towards the hole
and the huge mound of earth still illuminated by the car’s head-
lights. I let out a snort of laughter.

“Looks like I’ve dug somebody’s grave,” I call back over my shoul-
der to Helen. I hear a click and look around to see her stood, just
out from the car door, legs akimbo, arms outstretched, a gun in
her hands.
“Funny you should say that,” she says flatly.
I turn around chuckling, “Helen, what the fuck are you…”
“Shut…the…fuck…up!” she commands slowly and deliberately.
“I’ve put up with enough of your fucking prattle.”

I look at her and the gun uncomprehendingly. This isn’t happen-
ing. I look from her to the gun, from the gun to her. I shake my
head disbelievingly.
“Is that real?” I ask.
“As real as the diamonds in the box,” she says gloating, “Now it’s
time for you to turn around and crawl back into the hole, you’ve
just come from.”
“DO IT!” she shrieks. Outraged, I eye her for a moment and begin
to take the most tentative of steps towards her. This has to be
some sort of joke, a misunderstanding. There is a sharp, crack
and I feel a piercing pain shoot through my left upper arm. I reel
backwards instinctively grabbing at my left bicep. Sticky. Blood, I
raise my fingers to my face mesmerised by the red goo gluing
itself to my fingers.
“I’m not fucking around here,” she warns, “now turn around and

I turn and begin to trudge back towards the hole, my brain on fire
as I try to process this sharp turn of events. When I reach the
edge of the hole I attempt to turn around to face her, but she will
not allow it. “In!” she demands.

I climb down into the hole. The wound in my arm has started to
burn, and the blood seeps out mingling with sweat and dirt. The
full horror of what is happening begins to sweep over me and I
become clammy, nauseous as I realise this is no game, no glib
ITV Monday night crime drama. This is the real deal.

Once in the hole I slowly turn round to look up at the towering fig-
ure above me. Still with arms outstretched towards me, still with
the gun in her hands. My judge, my jury, my executioner. I’m sud-
denly aware of a warm sensation in my left leg and realise I have
pissed myself. I begin to shake uncontrollably, and start blubber-
ing, snivelling, slobbering. No more a rough diamond , no more
the gangster and his moll, I have been these last 24 hours but
back to what I am. The essence of me- geek, freak, weirdo, loner-
Alan O’ Rourke- Anorak.
“Wh…why?” I whimper piteously, pleading looking up at her.

She begins slowly.

“Does the name Terry Winters mean anything to you?” she asks. I
wrack my brains trying to place the name, hoping that if I remem-

ber it, then all of this madness might stop. Nothing. Timidly I shake
my head, fearful of what my ignorance will bring.
“Think harder,” she snarls, “after all you’re the expert on the 1975
Heathrow Diamond Robbery. You’re the authority on the ‘rough
diamonds’” she sneers this last bit. Nothing comes.

I stand mute, my hand clamped across my wounded arm.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” she sighs, then another shot rings out into the
forest night. My knee collapses and I fall face first, down to the
floor of the hole. I writhe in agony as my brain registers excruciat-
ing pain.

She begins slowly, venomously, “Terry Winters, was the name of

the security guard who tried to stop James Alexander McLeod, or
‘Max the Axe’ as you so proudly call him, from escaping. Terry
Winters, if your memory serves you well,” she says bitterly, “was
beaten unconscious with an iron crow bar for his trouble. And
Terry Winters was my father.”

For a moment I forget the pain as I try to take this in. It can’t make
sense. “Yes, Anorak,” she continues, “my father, who lived the rest
of his days in a wheelchair as a vegetable, with my mother as his
nursemaid, worn out, old before her time thanks to your hero ‘Max
the Axe’.

“She wouldn’t let him go into a home you see. Wanted to look after
him herself. Always believed that with her love, her care, one day,
one day, her Terry would come back. But he never did, no matter
how much, pureed pap she spooned into his dribbling mouth. No
matter how many shitty nappies she changed for him, no matter
how many times she wiped his pile ridden arse, her Terry was
gone. My dad was gone. And I made myself a promise. That
somehow, someone would pay. So I got close to Jimmy. Sought
him out, hooked him and reeled him in, pretending to be in awe of
the hard man with a heart of gold. But all I ever had was the ex-
press intention of making that bastard suffer. One day when he
got out, he’d suffer, but he died before I got the chance.

“The diamonds well…they’re just a consolation prize. Chances are

if he’d survived it would be him down in that hole now and you’d
be at home, tippy tappying away on your computer.…”

She re-cocks the gun. I begin begging, pleading, beseeching her.

“Which leaves, you, me and a gun,” she snorts, “You know Ano-
rak, I don’t know who repulsed me the most in the end. That mur-
dering bastard who must surely be rotting in hell as we speak... or
you…with your slavering admiration for him.”

My voice is no longer my own as I implore her for mercy.

“Please, Helen, no, Helen, I’ll do anything you want.”
She laughs, “And you really thought you had a chance with me…”
she shakes her head disbelievingly. “Well here’s your consolation

The last thing I see before she pulls the trigger for the third time, is
her blowing me a kiss.


Lee Coombes
Lee Coombes is currently appearing as wee willy winky at
IKEA in Bristol reading fairytales to children eight (count
them!) hours a day. He is a singer in cult band the martin
baber killers. his stories have appeared in american maga-
zine Exquisite Corpse and The fRENCH lITERARY rE-
VIEW. his play cabmaster has toured in europe and ap-
peared in stuttgart foreign language theatre festival. he lives
on his own in one bedroom flat in Bath, England.

Evening. November. The clocks gone back, the days short and the
nights sooner. Bob driving through Stapleton road after a business
meeting. Six o'clock but already dark and passing along the road
by the roundabout he spots her, arms clenched around herself,
standing there watching the traffic. He couldn't be sure so he turns
left into the petrol station, heart beating in his chest and breath
coming out in clouds. Without thinking he turns the car around and
drives back down the road and stops the car opposite her. He
takes out a map and pretends to read it. Where is she? He looks
up and she's looking left and right across the road. He looks back
at the map and studies it intently, when he looks up again she's
there, in the middle of the road, looking at him, he winds down the

"You looking?"
He nods his head. She's hard looking and hunched against the
cold, looks left and then crosses the road to the passenger side.
She tries to open it but it's locked. Bob leans over and opens the
door, she slides into the seat next to him and smiles.

He goes all tight and cold in his chest. He's looking at her, young
with her dyed blonde scraggly hair pulled up into a messed-up
kind of bun, white, stained canvas trousers, a sports top but her
face is pretty if strained, young but with a mouth and eyes that
scrutinise and appraise.

"You been waiting long?"

"Yeah!" she coughs and laughs at the same time and Bob smells
the stale fag-smell on her breath.

She pulls up her hair and twists it between her fingers.

"I look a mess," she says. "I haven't got any make-up on or any-
"You look lovely!" Bob says and is shocked to realise he means it.
"Where shall we go?"
"Down there!" and she points down the dark road towards the rail-
way line.
"I'll bet its nice to be in the warm again?"
"Yeah," she smiled briefly. "It is," and then she turns around and
says, "look there's another one taken my place already." Bob
looks, another woman in a long coat was walking up and down the

road. She added, "that girl really is a mess."

They drove further along Stapleton Road and then turned right into
a narrow street that led into a car-park that faced onto some ware-
"Whose that man?" she said pointing at an old man walking a dog.
Bob drove on.
"He's just an old man," he said turning the car around by a ware-
house and switching off the lights.

They talked prices. The old man disappeared up the narrow street.
They were alone now. By the far end of the houses was a small
Victorian terrace. Nothing else. Just the light of the street lamps.

"Money first!"
He opened his wallet and pulled out the money in worn fivers - all
the cash he had - and handed it to her. She took it quickly, folded
it and tucked it away in her coat.

"What's your name?"

"Debbie. What's yours?"
"Bob," he said.

She pulled off her top revealing every bump of her spine, when
she sat back up Bob saw two tiny buds of breasts and a black
tattoo on her shoulder. She started pulling her trousers down. The
hot air from the blower was scorching his face and so he turned
the ignition off.
"You want these off?" she said, her fingers round the waist of her
"No," Bob whispered. "That's all right."

She had a pierced navel and another small tattoo on her stomach.
She looked at him and then settled herself in the chair, lowered
her head to his crotch and started to work.
"Can I stroke your back?" he said.
"I like it scratched," she said disengaging briefly.
And so he scratched her back and ran his hands through her hair
which was hard with hair-spray and smelled of pubs.

After a while Bob heard the sound of an approaching car. He

looked up as the car stopped right in front of them. A black man
jumped out of the car and opened the roll-up metal door of the

warehouse. A woman with dark hair waited in the passenger seat.

Bob pulled up his trousers and she covered her breasts in her
sports top. Bob then drove forward and parked up further away.
Both of them sat there and waited until the other car drove away.

She laughed and it was the laugh of a much older woman, a

cackle really. And then she reapplied herself again and then
stopped when she noticed a police helicopter moving above them.
The helicopter hovered nearby, its search light sweeping the area.
"Its only a matter of time before they catch us," she said.

He didn't say anything. Just started to think about his car that had
been stolen the night before and the laundry in the car and the
baby seat and all his personal stuff in someone else's possession
"They’re looking for someone," she said.
"Haven't they got anything better to do?" he said drumming his
fingers tips on the wheel of the car..

Bob watched the searchlight illuminate the low terraces and ware-
"You look like someone," she said turning to him laughing.
"Someone famous."
"I'm not though," he said.
"But you do look like someone," she said. "Who do you people say
you look like?"
"They say," and he looked away, the helicopter retreating now
over the railway line and up into the hills. "They say I look like that
guy in the action films."
"That's right," she coughed into the windscreen. "That's who you
look like."
Bob pulled up his trousers.
"Shall I take you back now?"
"Whatever you want," she said.

He drove her back. Stopping the car she said, "you look after your-
self Bob."
"And you!" he said. "You take care of yourself"
And they looked at each other.

"Give us a kiss," she said and he put his head forward to kiss her
cheek but she kissed him on the mouth and he felt her mouth was


After he dropped her off he made his way over the roundabout
and waited patiently to join the slip road that would take him up on
to the motorway and home. She remained on the road walking up
and down in the cold waiting for business.

Mark Boardman
Mark Boardman lives in Bolton, Lancs. By day he is a mild-mannered
library worker, by night he fronts crazed Crypt Records inspired
rock'n'rollers The Kiss Off (
Both activities require contact with some decidedly odd people. This
is his first published work.

A gang. Four of us outside the door and I can hear drums pound-
ing in my head. Rob already has his mask on. He reaches under
leather for his gun, checks we’ve covered our faces and strides
into the bank shouting, “1-2-3-4!” Jim pushes past, straight into
his opening riff:

“Ok, punks! We’re here for your money, NOT your lives! Piss
about and we’ll take both! Now - all you punters - OVER THERE

He gestures towards the back wall. One old chap starts to cry.
Everyone else shuffles backwards, eyes fixed cold on Jim’s gun.
Hoping my walk looks determined, I stride past him. I feel his stare
on my back for a second and then hear him turn, shouting at the
nearest cashier. I scan each pair of wide eyes, put on my best
“you can trust me, but don’t piss me off” voice:

“Ok! I don’t want to kill any of you. I’m sure none of you want to
die. Behave yourselves and we can all have a nice day. ”

I roll my gaze slowly over them one by one. My words seem to

have hit the spot. Apart from the blubber, it’s like Madame Tus-
sauds at midnight. Using my gun barrel, I push him gently back
towards the rest. Luckily, the latex smell in my nose dulls the stink
that rises from his tweed trousers. The only time I’ve been grateful
for this stoopid mask. Behind me I can hear the rest of the guys
getting on with their jobs. Filling the sports bags. I smile. Fourth
time out, smooth as. And then someone speaks.

“You’ve got it wrong!”

I swing my eyes across the group. A young girl. 19, 20? Brunette.
Pierced nose. Standard briefcase hiding a faded Metallic K.O. T-
shirt. Good taste and a better figure.
“You heard. You’ve got it wrong.”
“Shut it!”
“You shut it! You don’t know your punk. How tall are you? Five
seven, six? The other guy. Psycho. He should be Joey, you

should be Johnny. In fact, I think you’re more Tommy!”
I begin to sweat beneath my mask. A trickle down my back.
Leather jacket sticking to my arms. Stoopid disguise. I hear drums
again. Pounding.
“Look love, I know my punk. Joey may have been the singer, but
Johnny was the leader and….”

A shotgun nudge in the back. I stop mid-flow. Jim.

“What you doing? Shooting your mouth off? And you…”
He strides towards the girl.
“Shut up, you mouthy cow!”
He pushes her back with his gun. Hard.
“What’s this? I’ll have that!”
He grabs the briefcase.

“Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!”

Rob’s signal. Time to go.

As we back up, I see her eyes, laughing.

Buzzsaw guitars fill the car. Tom, foot down. Rob and Paul bellow
the words. Jim, wild eyed, through the racket:
“Jesus H! The mouthy cow must get paid by the word! Rich bitch!”
A deformed Joey Ramone leers up from my lap as the streets
speed by. Laughing.

Later on. Wired. A change of clothes at the lockup. A couple of

beers to cool down, a first tiny nibble at the tension, then home.
Halfway there, the offy. Lifesaver. Nip in for some more cans and
there it is. Staring up from the counter, front page, black and

“Leather Clad Punks Strike Again! - Is Your Daddy A Bank

Robber? Baffled Police appeal.”

I crack the first can there and then; choke down laughter with a
mouthful of lager.

Later. Still wired. Pouring down pints as some snotty bunch kick
out the jams. Last song and the local Keith Moon pounds his
drums into the pub carpet. The singer spits and writhes in front of
a wall of pure noise. Magic. Back to the bar, up to the top shelf,

then on to the club.

Through the double doors. Jesus and Mary Chain – I Hate Rock
’n’ Roll. Slight nod at Jim in the booth, then I head for the bar.

“A pint, a Wild Turkey. No Ice. And yourself, Karen.”

Karen smiles.
“Been working hard, Tone?”
“Me, Karen? You know I’m allergic.”
Wink. Weave to an alcove.

Later. On the dance floor. Lost in music. Spacemen 3- Revolution.

Jim’s on form tonight. Straighten that buzz out. The last strands of
fuzz fade. I open my eyes. Look straight into hers. Mouthy cow. In
a Suicide T-shirt. She holds out a whiskey.

“For you. Wild Turkey. Is that right? The girl …”

She gestures at the bar. Karen seems to wink. Hard to say in this
Choke. Feel Jim’s eyes on me. Dry mouth.
“I’m sorry. Do I know you?”
“Nah, I just thought you had great taste. Every record you’ve
danced to has been bloody brilliant. Not many like you about. Es-
pecially my mates.”
A vague gesture behind her. Could be at anyone.
Panic drops a notch.
“Thought I might have met you while I was drunk. You know how it
is.” My laugh sounds strangled. She doesn’t seem to notice.
“DJ’s good, isn’t he?”
“Errrm…. yeah, I suppose.”
“This record’s great an’ all. Wanna dance? I don’t get much
chance with my mates…”
Another vague hand wave. The tune’s half way through, but I
haven’t heard a beat. Please Don’t Touch, Johnny Kidd. A favour-
ite. If I don’t go, then…. I glance at the bar. Karen watching. Been
trying to fix me up for years.

For the next hour Jim achieves something new. A full complement
of tunes I like. Not even on my bloody birthday. Worse than that,
tunes that she likes too. From the fifties to last week, spot on
every time. As Love Me Like A Reptile fades out, I’m frantic. With
a capital FUCK. Then, hallelujah! Some shite by Pete Doherty.

“Shite!” One of us is not happy. A chance.
“Yeah. Shite. Errm. Listen. I need the lav and err..owe you a drink.
Meet you over there?”
My turn for the vague hand gesture.
“Sure. Brandy. Don’t sneak off!”

At the urinal I can’t piss. Instead I’m acting out Johnny Kidd’s other
hit, when I hear someone behind me.
“Tony. What the hell…”
Grabbed and in a cubicle. Jim.
“ going on. Does she know?”
“No. At least, she’s not said. Says she “likes my taste”. What are
you playing at? All those crap records I’ve endured over the years,
then when I need them you’re John bloody Peel. Pity there’s no
scouts from Radio 6!”
“Sorry, I’m panicking a bit. Trying to act natural.”
“Look, leave it! What you gonna do?”
“Out the window!”
This gesture is specific.
“Are you mad? That’s like saying you did it! She might know noth-
ing. You need to find out.”
“Trust me”
He glares straight at me.

Back from the bar, Johnny Kidding again. Spilling the drinks. I spot
her in my alcove from earlier. She smiles as she sees me.
“Look, I’m really sorry, but my mates have gone.”
The vague hand gesture.
“Would you mind walking me to a taxi? That’s all though. I mean, I
can see you next week, but…”
Don’t smile. Don’t laugh.
“No. That’s fine.”
As I set my empty glass down, I’m helping her on with her coat.
Then double doors, Bridge Street. Sharp pain. Black.
I’m strapped to a chair. Some old warehouse. I try to make out
some noise. Traffic. Machinery. Anything. Nothing. Once you’ve
seen one disused warehouse…
“It’s alive!”
She’s wearing a boiler suit. She notices me looking.
“I like the Suicide T-shirt. My favourite. Didn’t want to…ruin it.”

“What do you want? What did I do?”
“C’mon, don’t play innocent! If you won’t say it, then I will. The
“Look, your case. I’m sorry. I’ll get it back.”
“It wasn’t mine.”
“The money. I’ll have a word. I might even be able to sort a sixth
“Don’t worry. The guy who owns the case AND the money’s got
everything now.”
“The guy?”
“My boss. Gerard Mosley.”
Gerard Mosley. Shit. The local Mr. Big. Shit. Shit. SHIT!
She sees the fear in my eyes. Laughs
“The manager of that branch likes - strange things. Gerard helped
him then took pictures, to make him do our laundry.”
“Don’t worry, Gerard’s with your friends. It’s just you and me.”
I’m confused. She walks over to a desk in the corner of the room
“…why are we here? Don’t you know, Mr Ramones expert?”
She switches on a standard lamp. Illuminates the desk. Objects.
Baseball bat
Car battery
Bottles of pills
Stain remover.
A long sharp metal object.
She sees me looking at the last one.
“That’s a leucotome. For lobotomies.”
She looks straight at me. Her nose stud glitters in the lamplight.

Later. Choking.
“Last question. Legs McNeill’s book on New York Punk. What is it
I know this. Can’t wait to shout it out.

Scott Cassidy
Scott is 24 and is a firefighter in Edinburgh. He has a psychology
degree but is yet to use it. He has been many things - grave dig-
ger, bouncer and green keeper. Scott has been writing short sto-
ries for the past couple of years and is about to tackle his first
novel. Watch this space....

It has been said that The Palace is a wee bit rough.
That’s like saying Mike Tyson is a wee bit tasty with his fists. It
isn’t rough it’s crazy; crazy in a Beirut meets Baghdad sort of way.
You can go in looking like Brad Pitt and come out looking, walking
and talking like the elephant man’s uglier brother. The customers
don’t go to impress the opposite sex with their slick moves or pol-
ished chat. They go to drink cheap vodka and warm beer, get
pissed, have a fight and get shagged. Simple.
It was, therefore, with a racing pulse and a weak bladder
that Neil (Jackie) Jackson pulled his Audi TT into The Palace’s
pot-holed car park. He took a few deep breaths and stepped from
his car. He looked up. The neon lights made him wince. In the
queue somebody was sick. Ownerless hands launched a drunk
through an open fire escape and a bevy of people bayed to get
past a monster on the door. At least the building wasn’t scary, just
an ugly box of grey metal. It nestled between the various DIY
stores that completed the Fort Bosworth Business Park.
Jackie’s mind struggled to grasp the reality of the situa-
tion. He was the player, he was the man, the ‘hump them and
dump them’ king. Christ, the trainees in his office worshipped the
ground he swaggered on and his wife, well, his wife understood
and accepted that late nights were part and parcel of his latest
“Eh, alright mate I’m here to see Sally, could you let her
know Jackie’s here please?” Jackie thought he’d done alright,
enough to fit in, he’d roughed his voice up and dropped his t’s.
The Monster on the door stared back, more than a little cock-eyed.
He curled his lips back and sneered. His teeth sat like con-
demned houses, and when he spoke spittle flew outwards. Jackie
blinked, painfully resisting the urge to wipe his face.
“Pull the other one Jacqueline,” the brute hissed, “you’ll
queue with the rest!” Despite his fear Jackie felt his face flush with
anger, “who did this moron think he was?” Jackie tried again.
“She’s expecting me, we…” He was stopped mid sen-
tence by Sally herself. Her petite frame appeared from a non-
descript door behind the Monster and she waved him through.
Jackie felt himself relax a little, smug in his minor victory and
nearly laughed when he heard a mumbled “Sorry Boss, have a
good night Sir.”
“I see you’ve got the monkey well trained” A nervous

Sally grinned, “Aye, Davies a wanker but he knows better
than to fuck with me, I pay his wages and the job keeps him from
a holiday at Her Majesty’s pleasure”.
Jackie flinched, his usual choice of female companion:
fellow solicitors and other city types wouldn’t dream of using such
language. Sally was different, she looked like butter wouldn’t melt
but she had a gutter mouth and a list of put-downs that a come-
dian would sell his Granny for. Jackie had seen this as a turn on
at first, he liked common birds and in his eyes men deserved a bit
of rough just as much as women. Anyway, conquests like Sally
made for great chat over his post-work gin and tonic. But some-
where along the line the dynamics had taken a somersault and
here Jackie was, at the beck and call of a 1st class nut job, Sally
Scott, owner of The Palace, daughter of a psycho and officially the
date from hell.
Jackie felt Sally take his hand. She led him towards a
wall of smoke; they skirted a dance floor reminiscent of a battle-
field and headed for an empty cloakroom. The rancid smell of
sweat was overpowering and already Jackie’s head hurt. The
strobe light stabbed his eyes and the music spun like a wrecking
ball inside his head. Sally lifted a hatch giving them access to
her office and almost tripped over two sprawling figures. Jackie
looked down just in time to see tangled limbs futilely grasping for
clothing, clothing that Sally already held and proceeded to rip with
a knife pulled from thin air.
“What the…? Where the…? Oh Shit!”
“If I catch you ugly fuckwits at it again you’ll be shagging
in wheelchairs!” Sally’s eyes were manic. In the blink of an eye her
yelling turned physical. Stiletto heels were raised and driven to-
wards the hapless couple, fists were clenched and a horrific beat-
ing was dished out before Jackie could even think of intervening.
Then, as quickly as it began, the attack stopped. Sally flashed
Jackie a toothy smile, pulled him into her office and locked the
Despite his attempted protest Sally had attached herself
to Jackie, left hand pulling his head towards her, right hand shoot-
ing straight for his fly. He was dreaming, had to be dreaming, his
wife’s magazines never mentioned violence as a form of foreplay.
Her hand was inside his trousers now, the same hand that thirty
seconds ago held a knife. His mind was reeling, her perfume filled
his nose and despite his shock and fear Jackie found he was
turned on; a smile formed briefly, quickly buried in an avalanche of

“No, wait Sally, wait, get off me!” he clamoured, his con-
science winning the battle. “You just kicked the…that doesn’t mat-
ter; this isn’t what I came here for, I mean, we can’t do this, I’m
sorry but we were drunk on Monday, you’re a lovely girl but….”
“You Bastard, You absolute fucking pig!” The words
were spat through clenched teeth. “Fine for a bit of fun, huh? A
pissed up knee trembler after a club. Well fuck you! Don’t want to
see me? Fair enough, but no one and I mean no one comes here,
to my club and makes a fool of me. My Dad would eat you alive if
I told him but …”
The rant continued but the mention of Sally’s father had
stolen the strength from Jackie’s legs. He grasped a filing cabinet,
will power alone keeping him upright. Fear coursed through him
and his mind flashed back to the fateful morning, five days previ-
ous, when a certain Archibald Scott strolled into his office.
“Mr Jackson, There’s a gentleman here to see you, I’ve
explained that you’re busy but he’s adamant he won’t keep you
more than five minutes”
“No probs Lynne, I can give him a couple of minutes, do
you have a name?”
The office door was already opening.
“Archibald Scott” the stranger said, voice deep, right
hand extended. He looked immaculate, a man of at least sixty yet
obviously fit. His three-piece suit hung perfectly from an enor-
mous frame, short silver hair was combed neatly to one side and
he took Jackie’s hand in a vice-like grip. He was smiling as he
introduced himself and Jackie smiled back.
“Neil Jackson. Please, take a seat Mr Scott. What can I
do for you?”
Both men were now sitting face to face and despite
Archibald Scott’s warm smile Jackie caught his first glimpse of
malice lurking behind the friendly façade.
“You shagged my daughter last night.”
It wasn’t a question.
“Eh…say again sir. I mean, right eh Sarah, no Sandra,
the lovely Sandra. Yes I was with Sandra last night. Lets not get
crude though. We were both consenting adults and I care for her.”
Jackie wasn’t fazed. He had been in bother before with
past lovers’ parents, partners and even their kids. A few choice
words and a friendly smile would see the old man on his way.
“It’s Sally, her name is Sally.” Voice steady, eyes burn-
ing. “What was she, a bit of fun, an easy target, a slag? YOU

THINK MY DAUGHTER’S A SLAG?” The man’s voice hit Jackie
like a punch to the face
“Not at all Mr Scott.” Voice shaking, eyes to the floor.
“She’s lovely, a real gem, in fact I was planning on phoning her
tonight.” He lied. He didn’t know why but this man, this pen-
sioner, seriously gave him the shits.
“Likely fucking story you stuck up shite. If it was up to me
I’d tear you apart for even looking at her. She’s leagues above
you; Man United to your Dundee United. For some stupid reason
she thinks she likes you, she thinks you’re different. She wants to
see you again and believe me you will see her and you won’t fuck-
ing hurt her. Oh, and she’ll never, ever know about this wee chat”
Jackie was confused. He was in his office, his territory
and he gave out the beastings, but he was shaking like a beaten
dog, terrified of this man. He wanted Archibald Scott to leave. He
wanted to wind the clock back and stay at home last night.
“I’ll call her tonight, go for a drink or something. She’s a
special girl and…”
“You didn’t even know her name.” Voice quiet, back
turned. The psycho’s parting shot.
The meeting had lasted all of one minute. Jackie’s left
hand massaged his temples and his right reached into his bottom
drawer and lifted out a green bottle. His trembling hands removed
the lid and he took three large gulps. Much better. The whisky
caressed his nerves, he giggled like a scolded child and his mind
whirred, looking for a way out.
An early finish and an appointment with the remaining
whisky gave Jackie the courage to make the call.
“…so did I, it was great and yes of course I want to see
you again. The only thing is Sally, I’m away on business until Fri-
day.” He’d bought some time.
“Well it’ll just have to be Friday night if you can wait that
long. We’ll be at it like rabbits; fucking magic!” Cringe. He hated
her already.
The days passed and unanswered questions pushed the
fear from Jackie’s mind. Why had he been so stupid? How did
she know where he worked? Why’d she tell her dad? And why did
he let a pensioner scare him witless? The answer landed on his
office desk on Thursday morning. Amongst his usual mail sat an
A4 envelope. He ripped it open without a second thought and was
surprised when he found newspaper cuttings, some old, some
recent. They all had one thing in common: Archibald Scott. The
message was clear.

With a sinking heart and rising pulse Jackie read tale
after tale of the man’s violent past; cases won and cases lost.
He’d done a lot of time. The less reputable tabloids gave gory
descriptions of his crimes; copper pipes and barbed wire, blow-
torches and acid, victims that would never walk, victims that re-
fused to talk and victims that were never found. The lunatic was
free because of police error. They’d taken a journalist with them
when they raided his house, a journalist who subsequently con-
taminated key evidence that tied the latest attack to Archibald
Scott. Coincidence? Jackie didn’t think so.
A slap from Sally brought him back to reality. She was
still ranting at him. His conscience crumpled and he changed his
“I just didn’t want to rush things Sally, I don’t want to end
things, and I want to get to know you better!”
She stopped mid sentence, confusion spreading over her
face, slowly turning into a grin. BANG! Her lips smacked onto his
and her hands moved south.
“I knew you wouldn’t hurt me”
Jackie couldn’t move. She was nuts, had to be, nobody
flicked through emotions like this. Sally Scott was a whirlwind; if
you got too close she’d suck you up. If you tried to run she’d
leave havoc in your wake.
Jackie was caught in a no-win situation. He had two
choices: tell her it’s over and face Scotland’s scariest man or fall
deeper into this current mess, no chink of light, no way out. In the
end the decision wasn’t his to make.
Sally pulled away. He wasn’t kissing her. She looked
hurt. The penny had dropped.
“Wait a minute Casanova.” The sarcasm, intended to
sting. “You didn’t want to know me a minute ago and now you
want to play happy fucking families! Do I need to ask why the
change of heart or should I just ask when and where you met my
“ What you talking about? I’ve never met your father.”
His eyes shifted to the floor.
“Don’t try and kid a kidder, I’ve grown up with liars; good
ones, you’re a bloody amateur! And anyway he has a word with
all my boyfriends.”
Jackie was astounded. He couldn’t believe she’d called
him her boyfriend. He’d only met her twice.
“That’s because he’s nuts!”
Another flashback. Too late. Archibald Scott in Jackie’s

office; “…she’ll never, ever know about this wee chat.”
She did now. Jackie waited for a reaction. He’d as good
as told her he wasn’t here through choice. Would she attack him?
He thought he could handle that. He could get past her and out of
the club. But what then? Would Daddy pick up the trail and go to
work? He waited. She stared. The passing seconds unnerved
him and he was surprised when finally, Sally spoke.
“Wait here.”
Her voice, barely a whisper had rooted Jackie to the spot.
His body had been tense, ready for fight or flight but she had
looked so hurt. He had caught a glimpse of the real Sally Scott, a
vulnerable girl behind the tough talking front. And then she left,
locking the door.
Surprise subsided, panic grew and eventually his body
reacted. Nobody to fight, no room for flight; Jackie was trapped.
His mind raced. What was she doing? Where was she? He
slumped, coming to rest in a leather chair facing the door. His
imagination ran riot. Image after horrific image plagued his
thoughts. Who would come through the door and what on earth
would they do? Archibald Scott, the monster on the door, Sally
with her knife? All terrifying outcomes to a very sticky situation.
His memory wandered to Newspaper cuttings, stories of torture
and missing victims. How the hell had he ended up here?
Jackie fished for his mobile. No signal. He smashed it off
the door. He got up and began pacing. The office was bare,
purely functional, no creature comforts. The phone line was dead.
Three hours passed, the music in the club stopped and Jackie
feared the worst. An empty club meant no witnesses. Tears
formed and were quickly fought back. He might get off with a
beating and a warning not to hurt Sally again. She might even let
him go; three hours of confinement was surely punishment
enough. His hands began drumming on his thighs, nervous en-
ergy finding an outlet. Then he heard voices.
Footsteps echoed in the empty club. The sound ampli-
fied in Jackie’s terrified mind. Monsters were coming. He backed
into a corner, put the desk between him and the door, too scared
to feel ashamed of his weakness. Keys rattled, the lock opened,
but the door stayed firmly shut. An eternity passed.
Enough was enough.
“Come on you bastards, get in here and finish it, no one
deserves this!”
The door opened.
“Oh it’s already finished and you deserve this Jackie” The

voice was quiet, yet carried venom far deadlier than any monster.
Jackie looked up. His world imploded. The tears escaped and the
door closed. Jackie was alone. His wife had gone.


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