I usually like to consider myself a long distance drinker, perhaps more suited to a cross country run than a one hundred yard dash. But one winter evening, as the moon drowned in the chasm of the night, I broke into a bit of a sprint.
And this is what happened …
* * *
The words of a Scott Walker song stumbled and tumbled through my brain as I stripped to the waist in the morning dew and started to dig. With great effort, I hurled the remains of Nathan’s scrawny corpse into the grave and then paused for a moment to evacuate my guts. I took a snifter of rim from my hip flask, lit a cigar and reflected on the last few days’ events.
As I watched the spectres of smoke drift upwards I considered my predicament. There was no doubt that Nathan had been quite useful for the last year or two. Whilst he could hardly have been considered a Class A specimen of an assistant at least he was slim and reasonably fit – characteristics which a lot of my jobs required, I’m afraid.
You see, I’m a safecracker and a locksmith and , if I may blow my own trumpet a tad, a rather good one at that. And, indeed, getting in and out of buildings is , for me, most of the time, a piece of cake. However, every now and then, the work requires something a tad more, physical, shall we say. A bit of old fashioned Breaking and Entering, for example.
And, unfortunately, the body that I inhabit is that of a fat middle aged businessman who bares more than a passing resemblance to Frank Cannon era William Conrad and so, leaves a lot to be desired when it to comes to scaling walls and the like. So, as you can see, a young and healthy factotum made things a little easier. But then Nathan had to get greedy and I had to get drunk and lose my temper.
Ah,but every cloud has a silver lining, I realised, and I suddenly felt a warm glow of contentment in the knowledge that I would no longer have to tolerate Nathan’s abominable music taste. Indeed, the only thing worse than enduring the cacophonous drivel that Natahan considered to be music was the ridiculous hand signals that he made as he grunted along to Fifty Pence, M & M and the Notorious BFG or whoever it was.
So, sweating, I finished filling the grave and walked over to the Zephyr Zodiac. The frost coated grass crackled beneath my heavy feet and I opened the car boot and wiped myself all over with one of the puke coloured towels that I’d taken from The Marina Hotel.
I took out a clean shirt and put on my jacket, wiped down the shovel and placed it back against a gravestone where I’d found it. There was nobody there but me and a chewed up old cat that crawled towards a crumbling mausoleum as if seeking sanctuary.
A church bell echoed through the granite winter morning as I got in the car and drove towards the beach. After I dumped Nathan’s gun and wallet into the briny my plan was to head out of town as fast as possible but I had that feeling again. That fatigue, the French called ennui although I suspect that my Thyroid and weight problems may have had more to do with it than existential anguish. I really was going to have to find a new partner, though.
* * *
The Marina Hotel’s car park was pretty much empty apart from a dusty greengrocer’s van that was parked near the kitchen door and one of those disgusting Daimler Smart Cars that was parked near the entrance. I put in a Jacques Loussier CD at low volume, reclined the driving seat and closed my eyes. I was on the cusp of canoodling with Morpheus when I heard the bang.
You would think that someone in my line of work would automatically recognise a gunshot but I’m afraid it doesn’t really work like that. More often than not a loud bang actually is a car backfiring and not, for example, someone blowing someone else’s brains over the front of a car. My car.
I rubbed my eyes and saw something out of a Sam Peckinpah film.
The hotel receptionist, a beautiful oriental girl the size of a peanut, was stood with what looked like a long barrel Desert Eagle XIX in both hands and shook like Christy Brown with a Chainsaw. She wore a black trouser suit and a sharp white blouse that was pebble-dashed red.
Splattered across the front of my prized Zephyr Zodiac was the remains of a man almost as fat as me.
The horns of a dilemma you might say. Well not really. I couldn’t exactly wait for the police to come and there was no time to clean up the mess so I dragged myself out of the car, picked up my suitcase and walked toward the trembling girl.
‘Where’s your car?’ I growled.
She said nothing. Just stood shaking, her eyes filled with hate.
‘Where is your motherfucking car?!’ I barked in my best Samuel L Jackson.
She turned toward the Smart Car.
Oh, wonderful.I thought.
I gently took the gun from her hands, put an arm around her and moved her toward the car. She still looked too discombobulated to drive so I opened the passenger door and pushed her inside.
Police sirens howled in the distance as I handed my suitcase to the girl and struggled into the driving seat. The car stuttered off down the road towards the city centre.
I parked the car in a backstreet behind the train station, knowing that one of the town’s many prowling packs of joyriders was sure to have away with it in no time at all and bought a ticket for the next train. Five minutes later we were heading into the countryside.
I handed the girl, Su, a large brandy and asked her for the SP on what had just transpired. After a few sips the words tumbled out of her mouth like a gang of drunks staggering out of a pub at closing time.
Su was from Vietnam and, as I had suspected, she had been working illegally for some time and the local greengrocer , who had somehow discovered her secret, was blackmailing her. Indeed, the loathsome creature was wanting more than money – to have his wicked way with her. As his threats increased, the gun, a gift from her brother, had been waiting under her pillow each night tempting her. And eventually she had snapped.
As the evening melted into day I began to have a bit of a brainwave, or thought shower as I believe is more politically correct. After all, with Nathan feeding the worms I was a bit out of sorts with regard to an assistant.
‘You know, this could actually be a rather serendipitous meeting, ‘ I said. Su seemed non plussed.
‘Sorry,’ she said.
‘A window of opportunity may have opened for you, young lady,’ I continued.
‘I don’t think I understand,’ said Su.
She still seemed confused and more than a little suspicious.
‘How would you fancy a career change? Something a little more …physical.’ I said.
Su glanced down at the gun nestled in the snakeskin handbag on her knee.
‘Good lord no, young lady. Nothing like that.’ I said, blustering a little. ‘You are, of course, a very attractive young woman but I have, shall we say, other tastes.The common parlance, I think, is that I ‘bat for the pink team’’
She looked relieved.
‘Okay. So…’ she said.
‘Well, first of all,’ I said, leaning forward ‘ there is just a little question about your taste in music.’
(c) Paul D. Brazill 2010.