The Emperor’s Old Clothes by Paul D. Brazill

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged,’ said Philly Bailey, crushing his lager can, ‘That all Jane Austen needed was a bloody good shag.’

His brother Tom grunted and took off his spectacles. Wiped them with his black sweater and tried to control his anger. To resist the baiting.

They were sat in the back seat of a battered BMW, heading north from Manchester airport. Their sister Molly was driving, thankfully oblivious to the conversation, earplugs stuffed in, listening to The Pixies’ ‘Debaser’. The lights of the passing cars and street lights were like streaks on the night sky. Rain poured down in sheets. It was grim up north, to be sure.

Philly was enjoying rattling Tom’s cage, though. He just couldn’t help it.

He took another can of Carling Black Label from the ice box and opened it, spilling a little over his already stained Bob Marley t-shirt as the car went over a road bump.

‘I’m right though, aren’t I?’ said Philly. ‘She was a frigid fucker.’

‘I dare say a moment or two of coitus may have had a positive impact on her approach to …’

Philly smirked and drifted off. Not listening. He didn’t give a shit one way or the other about Jane Austin. Had barely read her stuff, though he hadn’t particularly liked what he had read. He was a Dickens man himself. Tom stopped his monologue and grunted again. Raised an eyebrow, trying to look thoughtful but looking more like Mr Spock from Star Trek. Philly took advantage of his brother’s silence to turn the screw further.

‘It’s the emperor’s old clothes, though, innit?’ said Philly. ‘If you say that something’s great for long enough and often enough, well, everyone believes it, unquestioning like.’

‘Well, there may be  …’

Again, Philly switched off. This was a topic guaranteed to needle Tom. Like shooting fish in a barrel, really. Get him on one of his rants. Get the blood pressure pumping. At school Tom had always been a brown nose. Kowtowing to the teachers and doffing his cap to anything they said. Pretending to laugh at the jokes in Shakespeare. Since he’d done the Open University English Literature course, he’d got even worse. He’d even affected a pseudo-toff voice when he talked about books. Sounded like Stephen friggin Fry.

Tom was rabbiting on about ‘the literary canon’ and Philly was about to make a crack about Bobby Ball when the car stopped. They were on a side road next to a weeping willow tree. Philly could see a house lit up in the distance.

Molly took out her headphones and turned around.

‘Are you bitches ready to stop your yapping and bite, then?’ she said. She pulled a black balaclava over her shaven head.

Tom grunted again. Got out of the car. Put on a balaclava identical to Molly’s. Philly did the same.

Tom opened the car boot. Took out three Kevlar bulletproof vests. Handed them out.

‘Sure we’ll need the vests?’ said Philly, taking a sawn-off shotgun out of the car boot. ‘They always make me itchy and he’s only an old bloke.’

Tom grunted.

‘Phillip, he’s not just any old bloke, though. It’s Mike Malone, a gent that is quite accurately referred to as Mental Mike. He’s been slicing up rivals since God was a boy,’ said Tom. ‘I’m certainly not taking any chances with him.’

‘Yeah, but …’

Molly clicked her fingers. She pointed to a path and all three silently trudged up the muddy hill toward Malone’s mansion.

*

The sounds of an Elton John song filled the garish living room. Mike Malone lay on a black leather sofa sipping a McDonalds chocolate milk shake, his massive, white gut flopping over a pair of red silk pyjama bottoms.  Three rain-soaked figures in black stepped into the room.  They were carrying guns.

Molly actually grinned as he opened his eyes and struggled to take in what he saw. She pointed her Glock at him.

‘A Father’s Day gift from your Nicky,’ said Molly.

She winked and started shooting. Her brothers followed her cue. Pillows exploded, filling the room with feathers. Glass shattered. And then there was calm as Malone’s bloody body slumped to the ground and Elton sang about an English Rose.

*

‘That was a relative piece of piss, considering his reputation,’ said Tom. He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the splashes of blood from his glasses before getting into the BMW.

‘It’s the emperors old clothes again, kidda,’ said Philly, as he got in next to Tom.

Tom groaned.

‘And another thing. That Mrs Dalloway can stick the friggin flowers up her fat arse, if you ask me,’ said Philly. ‘Lazy cow.’

‘Philip,’ said Tom. ‘You really must …

Molly put her headphones on and turned Portishead up loud. It was going to be a long drive back home.

*

Bio: Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, Cold London Blues, The Gumshoe, and Other Brit Grit Yarns. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has even edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste.

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