Hinkson’s tired, dog tired, but he can’t fall asleep. Can’t let himself drift off into the warm, comforting womb of his unconscious. It’s seven minutes to midnight and the brothers will be here at the witching hour, for sure. Same as last night and the previous night.
The motel room is dark except for the faint light from an old transistor radio that is tuned to a classical music station. Hinkson sits in an old rocking chair, eyes closed. A sawn-off shotgun across his lap. A half-empty bottle of whisky on the table beside him. He opens his eyes, leans over and unsteadily lifts the bottle to his lips. Takes a little sip. Closes his eyes again for a moment. Drifts away.
The slam of a car door drags him back to reality. He peels back the blinds. The motel’s neon sign flickers. Snow falls like confetti and the brothers stand in front of their battered BMW. They’re dressed in black, as always. Overcoats, flat caps. Black leather gloves. They are illuminated by a string of Christmas lights that encircle the car park. They take something out of the car boot, slam it shut then slowly trudge across the snow smothered car park, looking like shadows. Larry leads the way. Lloyd and Lee either side of him, as usual.
Hinkson rummages in his jacket pocket and fishes out an amphetamine. Pops it in his mouth and washes it down with the whisky.
A church bell chimes.
Lloyd span the BMW into the side street, narrowly missing an old woman with a tartan shopping trolley as she dragged herself across the street.
Lee, his massive frame jammed into the passenger seat, giggled.
‘For fuck’s sake, that was close. Nearly got ten points,’ he said.
‘Only five points for a coffin-dodger,’ said Lloyd.
Harsh winter sunlight was pouring through the shattered windsceen and he was sweating like a pig.
‘Focus, lads,’ croaked Larry. ‘Focus.’
He was slouched in the back seat, blood pouring from a shotgun wound in his stomach. Hinkson had covered the wound with a towel but it was already soaked red.
‘This’ll have to do for now,’ said Hinkson. ‘Fucks knows what I’m doing, though.’
‘Thought you were medically qualified,’ said Lee, his speed-freak eyes dancing a tarantella.
‘First Aid certificate from when I worked at the swimming baths,’ said Hinkson.
‘Beggars can’t be choosers,’ said Lee.
Sirens screamed in the distance as they pulled up in front of The Royal Oak. The pub was stained with graffiti, its windows boarded up. A rusty metal shutter was pulled down over the front door.
Lee rushed out of the car and pulled up the shutter while Lloyd dragged a black holdall out of the car boot. Hinkson eased the groaning Larry out of the car and into the darkened pub. Lloyd followed, struggling with the holdall.
‘I’ll hide the car round the back while you phone Doc Holloway, then,’ said Lee.
‘Most sensible thing you’ve said all day,’ said Lloyd.
Lee stopped as his hand gripped the car door handle. He glared at Lloyd.
‘Do not blame me for this, bro,’ he said. ‘Understand?’
‘Whatever,’ said Lloyd. ‘Just get a move on’
He pulled down the shutters with a bang.
The radio’s batteries are dying and the music and light are fading. The brothers are outside the motel room’s door now. Hinkson can hear Lee trying to suppress his giggles. Larry is breathing heavily. Hinkson pats the holdall.
There is a knock at the door.
‘Three strikes and you’re out,’ rasps Larry. ‘I’m growing impatient. I’m not a well man.’
The radio dies and the room is completely dark, silent. Except for the sound of Hinkson’s heartbeat which seems loud enough to make his head explode.
The day had melted into night. Lee and Lloyd were crashed out on the sofa, bottles of vodka drained and littering the floor. Larry was knocked out by the morphine administered by Dr Holloway. A police siren dragged Hinkson from his slumber. Seemed to be getting nearer. Hinkson looked at the black holdall and did what he always knew he would do. He picked it up and left.
The hammering on the door is getting louder. Hinkson opens the holdall. Pours the last of the whisky over its contents. Takes out a lighter and sets fire a toilet roll. Puts it in the bag and puts the bag in front of the door.
He stands and picks up the shotgun as the front door bursts open.
‘Bring it on,’ he says, as he presses the trigger.
Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton and The Neon Boneyard. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste.
2 thoughts on “Seven Minutes To Midnight By Paul D. Brazill”
Weird flashes of noir and desperation. Or maybe of booze and shotguns. Either way, it leaves you with an odd feeling. Betcha it was planned that way.