Pick up by Aidan Thorn

Eddie peeled an arm from a bar top sticky with spilt liquor and tipped a spent glass in the barman’s direction, the universal gesture for another drink. Eddie wasn’t hard to spot even in a crowded room, that the bar was empty made it even easier. The barman nodded and hooked up a fresh glass.
‘Same again, fella?’
‘Same again.’
‘You’re not local are you?’
‘No.’
Eddie’s tone said, I’m not interested in an afternoon of small talk.
The barman got the message, pulled the beer, took the cash and split.
Eddie’s eyes wore a sad intensity behind their lack of focus. They were searching for something, someone, they’d never see again. He wouldn’t be enjoying his own company today there was no reason to subject others to it. He was deliberately not local – always the same on this date, he’d stay away from people he might know, people that knew. Eddie took the head off the beer, his third of the day – It was 1.30pm.
By 3pm he gestured for a fifth.
‘Buy a girl a drink?’
The stale stench of pub became overpowered by sickly sweet knock-off perfume. A woman in her late twenties took the stool next to Eddie. She’d sat up on that stool in a way designed to grab attention. A well-practiced move that said, this body’s built to please. If nature intended women to look like this animals wouldn’t be forced to work in labs. She was all fake, heavy make-up, bleached hair, false lashes and nails. She’d spent a lot of money trying to look cheap, and it had worked.
‘Sure, why not?’
‘I’ll take a vodka and soda, sweetheart,’ the woman spoke to the barman then turned to Eddie. ‘Thank-you, honey.’
Eddie knew where this was heading – he was drunk, not stupid. He had no interest in subjecting a barman to his company, but this was a different thing altogether, he’d be more than happy to pay this woman for hers.
Miss Perfume and Lashes rested a bottle-tanned hand on Eddie’s arm. ‘You’re looking good today, honey. What’s say we finish these up and go somewhere a little more private.’
Eddie laughed.
He hadn’t looked good a day in the last decade – hadn’t seen the point even trying to, why mask the truth? He had a daily routine of push-ups and sit-ups – for fitness, not vanity – but a diet of fast food and tall drinks showed more on his frame these days. He’d never been blessed with film star looks but the last ten years had given him a face that would crack mirrors, should he ever look in one.
‘Why don’t we skip the pretense? You’re looking to earn and I could probably do with the release. How much?’
‘It’s £200 for an hour. You want longer we can work something out. I got a room we can go to in a house a couple doors down.’
It seemed high but then Eddie had no expertise in this area. She was a pro, probably had a range and had gone in at the top end. She knew Eddie could afford it – wouldn’t have wasted her time with him if she didn’t. She would have spotted the Breitling and the quality of his shirt before approaching. Knowing Eddie was keen to party gave her confidence she could go in high and still get paid.
Eddie stood and gestured his suitor to the door.
‘You got a name, honey?’ She asked.
‘Eddie.’
‘Eddie, I like that. I’m Candy.’
Eddie nearly laughed again.
‘Of course you are.’

*

Candy’s house told Eddie all he needed to know about her usual rates, there was no way she charged £200 an hour, standard. £200 a month would have covered the costs on the place, and still left change for peroxide and fishnets.
‘Let’s get you a drink, help you relax a little,’ Candy said. ‘Seems you got a lot on your mind.’
Eddie didn’t need another drink, but he wasn’t arguing. Candy poured whiskey from a bottle with a label he didn’t recognise – and he’d seen his share – she handed him the glass. She took one for herself and Eddie saw that the drink wasn’t for his relaxation. She knocked it back greedily and poured another with shaking hand. Another followed.
Were there room for more guilt in his heart, Eddie might have felt some for putting Candy in this position. But, she’d made her choices long before sitting next to him in a bar.
Candy shook herself like a dancer preparing to take to stage. She broke a false smile onto her heavily painted face – she was probably pretty underneath – well, once at least. She offered a hand and led Eddie towards the stairs.
‘Why so sad Eddie?’
Candy was reluctant to move from landing to the bedroom. She used every stall in the book, but they were running out fast. Eddie didn’t know why, but he opened up. Maybe he wanted her to know they were both going through some shit. Maybe he just wanted to say the words.
‘I lost my son ten years ago. Today’s the anniversary. Gunned down in the street.’ He left a beat before the but that really hurt. ‘Revenge for something I did.’
Candy had a look on her face that Eddie couldn’t pick. It might have been sympathy – he didn’t have a lot of experience of that being thrown his way.  Her mouth shaped to speak but there were no words. And then her eyes flashed past Eddie and terror burned deep within them. Eddie’s eyes followed Candy’s, a bedroom door had opened and when his head stopped turning he was looking down the barrel of a gun. The gunman, a dead-eyed pimp piece of shit, had a winning combination look – half junkie, half weasel.
‘Seems like today ain’t your lucky day then, bro,’ said the pimp. He waved the gun in the direction of the room he’d emerged from. ‘Get the fuck in there.’
Eddie’s eyes went back to Candy. He now recognised her reluctance and nerves as fear – fear of this pimp piece of shit who had forced her to find a rich mark. Fear of this man that controlled her as if holding strings above her head.
The pimp shoved Eddie hard onto a poorly sprung bed. Candy stood in the doorway, head shaking slowly from side to side, tears welling in her eyes threatening to streak mascara.
‘You can get the fuck in here too,’ the pimp shouted at her. Candy did as she was told, an automatic reaction, and he continued. ‘What’s this prick got on him then?’
‘He… he’s got some sort of fancy watch,’ she replied shakily.
‘Take it off, fat man.’
Eddie did as instructed, throwing the watch towards the foot of the bed. Candy picked it up and handed it over for appraisal.
‘Nice,’ the pimp said. ‘Right, wallet and phone.’
‘Today wasn’t supposed to go like this,’ Eddie said.
‘No fat man, today has gone exactly as it was supposed to. Candy here has done great,’ the pimp pulled Candy towards him. She flinched involuntarily. He continued, ‘And, you got fucked, just not how you were expecting.’
‘No, I meant it wasn’t supposed to go like this for you.’
Eddie had reached inside his jacket, but he wasn’t holding a wallet or phone. The shot from Eddie’s gun was deafening. Candy collapsed to the floor, the pimp’s grip on her gone. He landed on top of her, having bounced off the wall leaving half his head there.
Ears still ringing Eddie got up from the bed and took his Breitling from a dead hand. Candy was hysterical. She pushed frantically at the corpse on top of her and then kicked herself away into the corner. Eddie stood over her dangling his watch by its strap. She turned her head away in expectation that another round would leave Eddie’s gun.
‘Look at me,’ Eddie whispered.
Candy’s eyes found Eddie but she wouldn’t turn her head.
‘Little tip for you,’ Eddie said, lowering the watch so that it was level with Candy’s face. It swung with a hypnotic rhythm and Candy’s breathing fell into step. ‘When a man of my age is drinking all afternoon and still has the money to buy one of these, there’s a strong possibility he’s not someone you want to mess with.’
Eddie dropped the watch in Candy’s lap. She jolted at its weight.
‘Sell it,’ Eddie said. ‘Get yourself out of this fucking life.’

*

Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England, home of the Spitfire and Matthew Le Tissier but sadly more famous for Craig David and being the place the Titanic left from before sinking. Aidan would like to put Southampton on the map for something more than bad R ‘n’ B and sinking ships. His short fiction has appeared in various ‘zines and anthologies if you like what you see here, look him up http://aidanthornwriter.weebly.com

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