Let's get things rolling again with TK'n'C debutant, the inimitable Kate Laity and her witty take on crime, that is simply...
In boisterous tones Tony regaled me with the letter he wrote to complain about the boost in water rates. "Uncalled for, uncalled for, outrageous, outlandish," he recited as he waved his Carlie about, splashing the foam on the brown tile floor.
The walk to the pub tonight had been through ghost streets, as if the city had been abandoned by all and sundry, given up as a bad job and everyone had fucked off to Holland or Munich or Rome. But it was only the cup finals.
We weren't troubled by such doings at Tony's. The telly that still hung over the dartboard hadn't worked since the days of Eric Bristow. It now featured a hobgoblin's wig of cobwebs, which complimented the rest of the place nicely from the warped bar itself to the stinking bog at the back. Had any ladies needed to powder their noses, they would have been alarmed to find no door marked mná or with a fetching picture of a doxie with crossed legs.
No woman had ever crossed the threshold of the pub, however.
Perhaps that could be blamed on the décor, which ranged from brown to more brown. Or the ambience that derived from unwashed and mostly middle aged men just off shift. The young lads all went to the shiny new sports pubs with their cacophonous screens and drinks with asinine names that they swilled back like candy.
We had two kinds of lager here and one of ale, with Guinness on the side for the old men from the isle. In the summer you could also get cans of Budweiser to take out into the 'beer garden': a picnic table on a concrete square between the rubbish tip and the grey wall of the car park. The chief appeal seemed to be you were allowed to spit out there.
Tony had just got to the nub of his tirade - "working class traitors! Sixty hour weeks!" - when Huckleberry Bob came in and the room fell quiet all at once. Maybe it was his history as a real hard number: at fifteen he had beat up the next door neighbour for insisting he kerb his dog, Bastard, as the rangy Doberman laid a few steaming brown gifts on his azaleas. Poor old Gary still limped. When Bob got out people gave him a wide berth and not just because he had a habit of muttering menacing words under his breath, aimed at the neighbours or his dentist or the skies.
Most likely the pub fell silent that night because Huckleberry Bob appeared to be covered in blood. The 2 by 4 bouncing in his left hand probably didn't help either. No one looked directly at him. The room got bigger, or so it seemed as our breath ran away.
After an interminable interval, his brother Jack made an attempt to hail him. "How're you keeping, Bob?" Nobody called him Huckleberry to his face.
Bob didn't answer but he did turn his head toward his brother. Without a word, he drew out some kind of pistol and shot him once right through the wide shiny forehead. Jack staggered back against the smudged mirror that had withstood countless years of neglect and withstood the publican's weight, as he expired and fell on the sticky floor below.
The silence broke then like shattered glass, as pints dropped to the floor and shouts rang out as everyone tried to find egress. The pity was Bob stood in the entry way yet and the only other exit led to the garden. Most chose that way to escape, but they quickly became lodged in the doorway like the Marx Brothers on a big night out. A couple of fellas ducked into the loo, but that seemed a worse idea than the garden.
Like an eejit, I just stood there by the pillar. Not really what you'd call cover.
Huckleberry Bob went for the knot of desperate men clawing over one another to get to the beer garden, whacking at the hindmost with his 2 by 4, but not immediately shooting anyone. The men in the bog seemed to be rolling whatever wasn't nailed down to block the door, but they got real quiet when the shooting started at last.
Some made it out, some now lay on the floor bleeding. I saw Tony was one. I don't know why I froze. When Bob turned away from the garden and every nerve in my body said, run, still I stood there.
Bob ambled over. He hadn't rushed or broke a sweat. Truth to tell, he seemed dazed, his eyes rimmed red and his face slack.
May Brigid's sacred fire protect me! I repeated my mam's prayer that I'd heard her mutter a thousand times or more back in our village before I came to the land of the enemy. Like sparks from that eternal flame, words sprang to my tongue.
"How's that fine dog of yours, Bob?" Bastard had died some years back, but he had been replaced by one of his pups, a hideous replica called Junior.
It was Bob's turn to freeze. His fingers twitched as he dropped the board and to my surprise, he began to sob.
"The devil you say! What happened?"
He swayed and I began to think he might just keel over. Sobs wracked his enormous frame and he wiped an arm across his face as he took a ragged breath. "Car. Some fucking Tory in a swank car hit him, killed him." He wailed.
I laid a hand on his shoulder gingerly, ready to jump. "That's a damn shame, Bob, a damn shame. Can I get you a pint?"
He nodded and I stepped around the bar and over Jack's body to pull a pint for him. "So I expect that's how you got the blood all over you," I said, just to make conversation.
Bob looked down as if noticing the blackening stains upon his clothes. I slid the pint of lager across the bar and he drained it, wiping his bloody face again. I set to work refilling it right away, ignoring the way my hands were shaking.
Bob belched, but at least he'd stopped sobbing. He picked at his sticky shirt. "Nah, this is from the Tory scum. On his way back from the cash-n-carry with a load of lumber in his Rover, I reckon."
"Handy that," I offered, as I set up the refilled glass on the bar.
"Too right," Bob agreed, sipping this pint more slowly. "Too right you are there."
"It's a funny old world. Bob," I said, pulling a pint for myself. I could hear the sirens in the distance getting louder.
To find out more about Kate Laity's writing visit her website: http://kalaity.com/