The thing is, I didn’t particularly care whether she was lying to me or telling me the truth, since most of what I’d told her had been dug up from some murky hinterland somewhere on the outskirts of honesty, but whatever I did I had to get my hands that guitar.
Once upon a time, I wouldn’t have dreamed of picking up a hitch-hiker, even one with long, long legs like her. But then again, once upon a time I wouldn’t have been driving as fast and as far away from my six bedroom Essex home as possible in a stolen rust bucket. On the lam and on the make.
I’d fallen asleep in a lay by somewhere near Leeds and had woken up smelling of smoke, booze and worse. I’d been driving for about ten minutes when I saw her. She was stood at the side of the road near a Little Chef, looking like a long limbed drink of water calling out to a thirsty man. She was wearing a big white Stetson hat, a white dress, white cowboy boots and carrying a white guitar case. Her black Ray Bans seemed to glint in the early morning sun.
Shit, I thought, why not. Maybe I’ll get a shag, or maybe not. There was nothing left to lose now. I tried to tidy myself up and rub some of the brown stains from my fingers and hands before pulling over.
Without a word she got into the back seat stretched out and took off her sun specs. Which was when I gave a double take. She could have been Ben Turpin’s grand-daughter, with eyes at five-to-two. A real Butterface, this one. What the hell, I thought, you don’t look at the fireplace when you’re poking the fire.
In a fake Irish brogue, I introduced myself as Cormac Brown and attempted to schmooze her in the way that had made me the best photocopier salesman in Essex –shit, I could have sold ice cream to Eskimos once upon a time –all the while looking at those long, tanned legs in my rear view mirror.
‘Just call me Angel,’ she said.
‘Angel in the morning, eh?’ I said pointing to the clock in the dashboard. It was an hour to noon.
She forced a smile.
‘I love the smell of Angel in the morning,’ I said and realised that I was babbling.
Angel said nothing. She just popped a Mentos in her mouth and unscrewed the top of a bottle of Diet Coke. Maybe a signal? I thought. You know, screw? Maybe.
‘Going anywhere nice?’ I said in a voice that was like sandpaper. A diet of cigarettes and whisky will do that to you.
Angel started to tell me about how she was going to play at the Hartlepool Country and Western Festival as part of the local Wild West Weekend. Impressed, I spun her a yarn about being a writer travelling around Europe researching the low life.
‘People call me the Irish Hemingway,’ I said, which barely seemed to register with her.
I turned on the radio and listened to George Jones sing ‘One More Last Chance’.
My life was like a country and western song now, I knew that.
Less than an hour later, the car had broken down just outside some nondescript New Town. Angel had dropped the guitar case as she got out to help me push the car and it had spilled open revealing more green leaves than a cabbage patch. My jaw had dropped so much that you could have scraped carpet fluff from my bottom lip.
‘Well, well well,’ I said, not very imaginatively.
Angel looked edgy.
‘Look, I’m the treasurer of the Hull Line Dancing Association,’ she said. ‘We raised the money to send a poorly little kiddy to Disneyland’.
I nodded, trying to look her in the eye, which wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. But, as I said, it didn’t really matter to me if she was on the level or if she’d ripped off a whole hospice full of terminally ill kids. I just wanted the dosh.
I quickly gave up on the idea of wooing the money out of her and pulled out my Bowie knife, which I’ve always found a more than useful way of attracting someone’s attention,
Angel grinned, took out a Mentos and popped it into the Diet Coke bottle.
“What the fuck are you doing?’ I said as she shook up the bottle.
Then she pointed it at my head and I heard a church clock strike noon. And then it all went black.
It was night, when I woke up and I was cold and my head hurt like hell. I rubbed my forehead and looked around. I was at the side of a motorway and Angel had taken my car and my shoes.
Oh, things were bad alright. I was miles away from anywhere. I had a headache, I was cold, I was hungry and I was tired.
As I stood up a piece of paper fell from my jacket. I picked it up. It was a business card for the Lone Star Bar, in Durham, and written on it, in red ink, was a message:
‘Cormac, Happy Trails! – Angel x.’
Hi Ho silver lining, indeed.
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.