Monday, 31 August 2009
A THRILLER, A KILLER 'N' A CHILLER..... A Trio of Tales from Co-Editor, Col Bury
NOWHERE TO HIDE
Breathless, Jake skulked behind the wheelie-bin in the alleyway. He consciously tried to suppress his gasps for air, but the more he tried the louder they became. The stench of the bin’s contents invaded his nose, but this mattered not. Glancing at the dazzling moon, he realised its fullness spotlighted him, casting bizarre shadows around him. He shuffled his stooped form further into the darkness, seeking a sanctuary that didn’t exist.
A howling pierced the silence of night. But was it a dog? The howl seemed deeper. Jake felt a prickle run down the back of his neck.
He could hear feint footfalls at the top of the alleyway. He froze, held his breath. The steps grew louder. Two sets now, maybe three.
‘Fuck,’ he whispered.
The cool night breeze wafted an old newspaper nearby and Jake cringed. He slowly peered round the side of the bin. Like when you stand on something perilously high, but still feel compelled to look down. Human instinct, call it what you want, but he was sorry he looked.
Four distorted figures were glimpsed. The snapshot lingered, increasing the dread. When he quickly withdrew behind the bin he leaned on a discarded box, its dull crunch betraying him.
His eyes shot about manically, searching for something, anything, as the footsteps thudded closer.
Hope glimmered as his eyes fixed on a broken brush pole. In haste he reached across and grabbed it. His fingertips caressed the sharp end. The footsteps became quieter, more measured.
Jake’s grip on the pole tightened. He could hear his own heart beat, his mouth parched. This was it.
One last chance. He tossed the pole into the dark depths of the alley, the clatter echoing.
Whispered voices, on the other side of the bin, Jake’s face now a grimace. He felt pressure shift the bin a touch. A hand appeared above his head, probing the air.
Jake stood up.
Four shadowy figures glared at him, their faces pallid in the moonlight, their eyes brimming with excitement.
‘Caught you!’ they yelled in unison.
Jake shrugged. ‘Yeah, but it was a great hiding place, right?’
Melvin launched the empty packet of Marlboros across the room, knowing fully the perils of leaving his flat. But addiction was a powerful thing - his punters could vouch for that - and the cigs, booze and weed were all he had of late so he donned his baseball cap, pulled on his jacket and grabbed the key to the VW Golf.
After all, what harm could possibly come to me in a ten minute trip to the shops?
He moved swiftly, pivoting like a double-jointed owl on exiting the flat. Zammer’s boys were not to be messed with and the signs were pretty conclusive they knew where he lived. The smashed first floor window and the graffiti daubed front communal door, saying, ‘MELVIN KANE – R.I.P.’ were testament to that. Although a bit presumptuous if you asked Melvin. He patted the trusty Browning 9mm in the inside pocket of his jacket, his only friend, its bulk reassuring.
Well, there was one other friend, Jacko, but he’d done one to the Costa Del Crime a month ago after an armed blag gone wrong. Melvin pulled the Golf onto the A57 that split the suburbs leading into Manchester, his eyes as much on the mirrors as the road.
So far so good and only a couple of minutes to the off licence. After a desperate telephone call from Melvin, Jacko had posted him the keys to his flat five days earlier as a last gesture of friendship. The cops had grown tired of calling there in search of Jacko so the fact that Melvin himself was also a wanted man wasn’t too much of a problem, address-wise. They’d be looking elsewhere for him.
His mind drifted to the moment his life changed forever and the reason he was wanted by the both the cops and Zammer’s crew. How the fuck was he supposed to know the guy selling coke on his patch was one of Zammer’s new recruits? Anyway, if a man intrudes on your livelihood and, when confronted, has the balls to pull out a piece then what option have you got but to give him a slug, and in Mojo’s case another one for his cheek, ironically in his cheek, or buttock to be precise.
Melvin’s thoughts were interrupted by an old black BMW in his rear view mirror. He was two streets from the shop, but took a right instead of a left then went round a mini-roundabout twice. The BMW sped up the road and he backtracked toward the shop.
He considered solutions to his problems. Either take out Zammer and gain his patch, or get a fake passport off Asian Don and blag his way to Spain.
After parking outside the off licence for two minutes and scanning the area, he was happy to proceed, and besides he was dying for a ciggie.
While queuing he spotted a face he didn’t like. Vaguely familiar, but he was unsure where from. Pot-hole complexion, beanie hat and heavyweight build. An uneasy feeling swamped him as the guy’s shifty eyes glanced over one too many times from the aisles.
The Pakistani shopkeeper decided now was a good time to start chatting in depth about fuck all to the girl in front. Her ample tits clearly the reason for his small talk as his eyes nearly burnt holes in her bra.
Shifty was still skulking.
Fuck this. ‘Ee-ar, matey. Gimme forty Marlboros,’ he said taking out his wallet.
The shopkeeper gave him a glare as if Melvin had just walked in on him actually shagging the girl.
‘Quit the fuckin staring, dickhead an gimme the cigs.’
‘Now there’s no need for that, my friend.’
‘And there’s no need to ogle this girl’s tits is there, you fuckin perv?’
The girl half-turned, but decided against it, while shifty still hovered in the background.
‘That’s out of order, my friend.’
‘Yes it is, and am not your fuckin friend.’ Melvin considered withdrawing the Browning and slugging the fucker then taking a month’s supply of cigs. ‘Just gimme the cigs now or I’ll…’
Melvin heard the bleep signalling the shop’s door opening and couldn’t believe his eyes, or his luck.
The shopkeeper grew a foot as the copper walked in. ‘What were you saying, my friend?’ said the shopkeeper with a smirk.
The copper looked his way and Melvin dipped his head. He slapped his wallet on the counter and slid out a twenty. He warned the shopkeeper with mad eyes. ‘Look…I’m in a rush.’
The shopkeeper smiled at the girl. ‘Excuse me one moment, love.’ He passed over the fags and Melvin snatched them off him then left like shit off the proverbial shovel.
Melvin purposely didn’t wheel-spin the Golf. But when he’d eased away from the shop he doubled the speed limit of thirty. Once on the A57, and after checking his rear-view mirror a good dozen times, he relaxed a fraction, blending with the traffic and frantically lit a fag, sucking it so much a glowing carrot appeared within seconds, the nicotine rush dizzying him somewhat.
He began to wonder whether Shifty was just innocently buying a loaf or something. Or had Melvin just become so paranoid because of his predicament that anyone who looked slightly dodgy was one of Zammer’s crew? To be honest, this whole ducking and diving lark was beginning to get right on his tits and he knew there and then the answer wasn’t to take out Zammer, but to just do one and find Jacko in Spain.
It was then he glimpsed the cop car in his rear-view, his heart-rate jumping.
It was decision time. Fight or flight? The Golf was still in the name of the previous owner so there were no immediate worries there. On the flip side there was more chance of being best man at Zammer’s wedding than getting bail, so Melvin cranked up the revs.
The cop responded with a flash of his blues 'n' twos with a brief burst of the klaxon.
Melvin took a sharp right and felt the tail-end go and battled to straighten up. After a shuddering zigzag he just managed it. He took an even sharper left accompanied by a screech of tyres. But the cop was still up his arse like an unwanted sex pest.
Melvin purposely avoided the vicinity of his flat and headed for the single-carriageway parallel to the A57, but a group of kids on bikes took up half the road and he had no choice, but to slow down. The cop took advantage, pulling alongside Melvin who could see the cop frantically gesturing for him to pull over.
From experience he knew within minutes traffic officers would be flooding the area in their high-powered Volvo T6’s, and this was just one youngish-looking patrol bobby, so he nodded and took the next left. He selected a specific spot to park in the quiet cul-de-sac and waited for the cop to appear at his side.
Privets on one side and a six foot fence on the other, plus nobody was on the street. If this was to go pear-shaped he’d burn the Golf out and head for Spain. He gave the Browning a pat for reassurance.
Be cool, he told himself, but could still feel the adrenaline bubbling out of control, like it did when he smoked Mojo. He lit another cig and drew hard.
Melvin saw the cop’s fluorescent green jacket appear in his peripheral vision. The officer leaned toward his closed window with a befuddled expression, his breath partially steaming up the outer window as he signalled for Melvin to wind it down.
‘Good afternoon, constable.’
‘Is it really? What the bloody hell were you playing at back there?’
‘Sorry, at first I thought you just wanted to get past. Then I just panicked as I’ve not registered the car in my name yet.’
The officer sighed and looked heavenwards. ‘Step out of the vehicle, fella, and join me on the pavement.’
Melvin’s hand reached into his jacket. ‘Why?’
‘Just do it, will you?’ The cop turned and walked to the pavement.
Melvin wondered whether the cop had already PNC’d him. He knew he’d have already checked the car out. Regardless, he wasn’t getting locked up today.
Feeling increasingly edgy, he took out the Browning and popped it into his side pocket for easier access before following.
Okay...Let’s do it, pig.
‘I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, so I’ll just give you a producer, okay?’
What? Melvin felt himself relax a little. He’d just gone from cop killer to having three points on his licence! Play along. ‘Aw, man. Do you have to?’
The officer was already reaching into his pocket. ‘Count yourself lucky. If I was a Traffic cop, you’d be done for speeding, driving without due care and failing to stop for police, and probably even that bald tyre, too. But I haven’t got the time for all that and I only pursued you to give you back your wallet. You left it in the shop.’
Shaking his head, Melvin took the wallet off the cop. ‘Thanks, officer. And sorry for wasting your time.’
The officer’s radio boomed into life about some domestic nearby. ‘Be good,’ said the cop as he headed for his Astra.
Fuck me, this was getting better and better – not even a producer! Melvin waved him off with a grin as broad as his luck. What a fuckin knob. He didn’t even check me out, he thought, still waving as the Astra reversed with a whine out of sight.
Back inside the Golf he gripped the steering wheel and pulled himself forward and back laughing his cock off at the rookie cop’s incompetence then pictured his new life in Spain; a snapshot of him and Jacko drinking San Miguels on the beach amongst bikini-clad beauties…
The loud crack to his left hardly registered. Neither did the shattering passenger door window. Nor did the .38 calibre bullet that entered one temple and blasted out the other, topped with a blood, bone and brain combo.
And he certainly didn’t register Shifty’s tobacco-stained grin.
WORKING FROM HOME
‘Daddy, can I go down to the cellar?’
‘NO!’ Bobby snapped. Instantly regretting it, he back-tracked. ‘You know it’s Daddy’s private place, Little Bob. All my work stuff’s down there and that’s why I keep it locked, son.’
‘Aw, but Daddy. I want to play pool.’
‘The pool table’s broken. I’m waiting for the man to come and re-cover it.’
His daughter piped, ‘You’ve been waiting for months, Daddy. Where’s he coming from…Austraaalia?’
‘Hey! Don’t be cheeky, Little Lou. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know.’
Little Bob grinned. ‘Unless it’s a money tree.’
Little Lou chuckled.
Bobby wore a false smile, but internally sighed in exasperation. I’ll be glad when you guys are back at school so I can get some work done, he thought. Working from home definitely had its good points, but certainly not in the school hols. ‘Go and watch some telly, will you? And give me some time to think.’
He could hear the spooky tones of Scooby Doo emanating from the living room as he passed the cellar door in the hallway. It was locked, as always. Not long now till his wife, Louise, returned home from the office. She could see the kids had been doing his head in and had promised to take them over to her sister’s in Liverpool overnight, having booked tomorrow off. This should give him ample time to really get stuck in downstairs and not only finish his current project, but crack on with the next.
There was a sudden scream and Little Lou rushed out from the living room, closely followed by her brother.
‘Daaar-phne’s just been kidnapped by the Ghost of Ghaaar-stly Hall!’
Bobby shook his head and hugged his daughter. ‘It’s not real, darling. Don’t worry.’ He winked at his son and wiggled his index finger before widening his eyes.
‘No, Daddeeee!’ yelled Little Bob as he sped back into the living room. ‘Not the Tickle Monster!’
Bobby felt Little Lou release her grip and she excitedly pushed her Daddy away and ran off giggling.
After ten minutes of hysterical laughter whereby The Tickle Monster’s index finger had found all the appropriate tickle spots, and all involved with sheens of sweat across their foreheads, the front door double bleeped on opening to signal Louise’s return home.
Thank God for that.
Louise smiled as the kids simultaneously told her all about their day without a comma in sight. She then held her palms up. ‘Okay, okay. Let me get a quick brew and I’ll get you ready for our sleepover at Auntie Sheila’s.’
Just under an hour later and Bobby kissed them all goodbye at the door.
‘You gonna give it one last shot, honey, and make those calls from your contact list?’
‘Sure, love. I’ve always wanted to work from home, you know that. And I’m determined to make this thing work.’
‘Good luck,’ said Louise, giving her husband a peck on the cheek.
Bobby waved into the darkness as the Zafira’s rear lights faded down the street, then he turned with a purpose.
He rattled the bunch of keys from his pocket and unlocked the box on the top shelf of the kitchen wall unit, then headed for the cellar door. Unfastening the bolt, he was all fingers and thumbs in his eagerness and dropped the lock onto the floor. He chided himself and took a composing breath.
The musty basement air hit him and with each downward step the low tingle of excitement within grew stronger.
At the bottom he glanced across the old pool table, at his desk, computer and phone in the corner. The contact list was pinned on the wall above and all the male names were crossed out in blue as ‘no shows.’ There were four female names high-lighted in red and the name Jessie Bolton was currently in yellow as she was still ongoing.
Bobby reached for a tin on the dusty shelf high above his desk and again took out the bunch of keys from his pocket. He opened the tin and removed a further single key before replacing the tin onto the shelf.
He pivoted and headed for the door in the opposite corner. Clicking the door-lock he flicked open his lock-knife and entered.
‘Evening, Jessie,’ he said donning a manic sneer. His eyes widening, he wiggled an index finger in the air. ‘Now where were we?’
God, I just love working from home.
Col Bury is currently writing a crime novel and his ever-growing selection of short stories can be found here on TKnC, A Twist Of Noir, Six Sentences and Blink Ink. His Mum once told him his writing was good. He blogs and interviews crime authors here: