Chelsea Girls by Paul D. Brazill

Chloe left the money and took the guns. She couldn’t carry everything and she knew that cash would be a hell of a lot easier to come by than a couple of AK47s that was for sure.

‘Fuck you very much,’ she said to Charlie Grimhaven’s unconscious form.

Grimhaven was naked, bloodied and handcuffed to a radiator. She’d forced him to take few sleeping tablets along with half a bottle of Mortlach, so he’d probably be out for the count for a few more hours.

She strapped a gun over each shoulder and paused to catch her breath. She was beginning to feel her turbulent, outlaw life catching up with her.

She closed her eyes and could hear the familiar thump of a Massive Attack song from the park opposite Grimhaven’s office block. She switched off the strip light, peeled back the blinds and looked out of the window. A constellation of streetlamps lined the deserted street below. She closed the blinds and eased the front door open. She peered into the darkened corridor to make sure there was no one around.

Chloe gave Grimhaven the finger and stepped out into the corridor.  She ignored the lift and took the stairs down to the underground car park. She kept in the shadows as she looked for her 2CV, banging a knee against a concrete pillar.

‘Oh, for shit …’

She limped over to her car, opened the car boot and put the guns in.

‘Shit,’ she said, feeling pain in her shoulders and knee.

Then she heard the footsteps.

High-heels clicked over concrete and stopped just behind her.

‘Is that you?’ said Adele.

Adele stood in the shadows. Apart from the footwear, she was dressed identically to her twin sister – black jeans and roll neck sweater. Chloe wore Dr Martin shoes. Adele’s hair was pulled back into a ponytail and Chloe’s was short cropped but both women wore black lipstick and nail varnish.

‘You know, the answer to that question is always going to be yes, no matter who I am?’ said Chloe. ‘You need to be more specific in your questioning technique. You’d never work in HR.’

‘Thank god for that. I’m filled with inertia as it is. Are we good to go?’ She tapped a foot impatiently and lit up an e-cigarette. Its tip glowed in the darkness.

‘Yep. Meet you at Bar Italia? I’ve had enough of Starfucks lately.’

‘No. I need something stronger. Vino vidi vici.’

‘The French House then?’

‘Oui! Oui!’

‘Yes, I need one of those too so let’s get moving.’

Chloe opened the door to the driver’s seat.

‘Are you going to drop off the machine guns first?’ said Adele.

‘They’re not machine guns, sweetie. They’re selective fire assault rifles,’ said Chloe.

She got into the car and started up the engine.

‘And yes, I will.  I’ll take the guns to Crispin first and then head back to Chelsea get changed. I’ll meet you at The French House in a couple of hours, OK?’

‘Oui! Oui!’ said Adele.

‘Stop bloody saying that! I’m bursting!’

Adele slammed the door, grinning.  She waved as her sister drove away and went into the building.

*

It was a stiflingly hot Friday evening and The French House was stuffed and stuffy.  Chloe and Adele were leaning against an open window drinking prosecco. They had exchanged their black clothing for identical white linen blouses and trousers, with matching accessories though the lipstick and nail varnish remained black.

‘The things that I like about the French House are,’ said Adele. She counted off on her long fingers. ‘The wine, the food, the location, the lack of music. Oh, and the fact that people can’t use mobile bloody phones. The things I don’t like are; it’s always full on a Friday night and full of media tossers at that.’

She took a swig of her drink.

‘But you still come here,’ said Chloe. ‘Week after, week, after week …’

‘Oh, I love it. You know that. It’s part of Soho history. Frances Bacon, Derek Raymond.  Real London. Well, the London we fled the sticks to escape to, anyway,’ said Adele.

She scraped away at her black nail varnish. It flaked off easily.

‘London’s changing, though,’ said Chloe. ‘Like everywhere else.’

‘And not for the better, I fear,’ said Adele.

She sighed.

‘Vive le difference!’ said Chloe.

‘Oui! Oui!’

‘Oh don’t start that again! I’ve just been for a slash and the queue for the toilets was bloody torture.’

‘Speaking of torture, how easy was it to persuade Grimhaven to turn grass?’

‘Not desperately difficult, to be honest. One snapped little finger and a razor blade under one of his thumbs was pretty much all it took. It’s a pity about leaving the money, though. Still, you can’t have everything. ’

‘How much dosh did you leave behind?’

‘In cash? Just over twenty grand!’

Adele took out an e-cigarette.

‘Well, if that’s how much  he had in his desk drawer, can you imagine how much he could have in the office safe?’ she said.

‘Well, I really didn’t have a chance to look. I was more interested in finding out who ripped us off and getting out without getting caught.’

‘You know, I knew it’d be Sammy Lee. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him,’ said Chloe.

‘You wouldn’t be able to throw him that far or you might damage your nails. And, by the way, sweetie, that cheap nail polish you get from Poundland won’t be doing your nails any good, either.’

Adele looked at her watch.

‘You know, Grimhaven’s probably still there tied to that radiator. I bet no one has discovered him yet,’ she said. ‘His boys are all off on that booze cruise to Gdansk until Sunday night, you know? Why don’t we pop back there and get the money? You could have crack at his safe, too. ’

‘You mean, go back to the scene of the crime? You know what mum always said about that. Like going back to relight fireworks.’

‘Yeah, but she married dad three times, didn’t she? Anyway, if there’s enough money in the safe we could piss off for a bit until all this other shit has cooled down. Go somewhere more bohemian, like Barcelona or Prague. Even New York. You always wanted to go to CBGS.’

‘I very much doubt it’s still there. It’s probably a Starbucks now.’

‘You know what I mean!’

Chloe though for a moment, biting her bottom lip. She stared out of the window. A group of city boys staggered down Dean Street singing a Coldplay song.

‘Okay,’ she said. ‘Drink up. We’ve got to get back in black.’

*

‘Well, you were right. He’s still here. Well, his body is. His spirit has clearly departed this mortal coil,’ said Chloe.

Grimhaven’s office was exactly the same as it had been when Chloe had left it except for the fact that someone had cut Grimhaven’s throat and he was an even bloodier mess than he had been before.

Chloe closed the door behind her while Adele went over to the desk and checked out the cash.

‘It’s all still here,’ said Adele.

Chloe kneeled in front of the safe.

‘I wonder who killed him,’ she said.

‘Now, you’re not going to ask if he had any enemies are you?’ said Adele.

Chloe started twisting the dial on the front of the safe.

‘Yes, that would be too long a list, I expect.  And you’d be on there too since you’ve been married to him for the last ten years,’ she said.

‘An error of impetuous youth,’ said Adele.  ‘My own fault for mixing my drinks.’

She sat on the corner of the desk

‘Any ideas, though?’ said Chloe.

‘You know Charlie Grimhaven.  He was probably caught with his tail between someone else’s wife’s legs and was croaked by some disgruntled cuckold,’ said Adele.

‘Well, they’re very rarely gruntled, are they? Now praise silence, please,’ said Chloe.

With one twist she opened the safe door. She peered inside.

‘Oh bugger,’ said Chloe.

‘What’s he got in there?’ said Adele. ‘The crown jewels?’

‘Not far off, if it’s what I think it is,’ said Chloe.

She took a small wooden box from the safe and put it on the desk.

‘After you,’ she said.

Adele clicked the box open.

‘Oh bugger indeed,’ she said.

Chloe slipped the box in her pocket.

‘Let’s vamoose,’ she said. ‘As soon as we get in the car, phone Crispin and tell him what we’ve got. We want to offload this as quickly as we can and then …’

‘Leave the capital! Exit this Roman shell!’

‘Yes, something like that.’

*

Chloe slouched in the leather armchair. Checked her plane ticket and took a sip from her half-pint of London Pride.

Adele sat at in the chair opposite.  She put her coffee and Nick Hornby paperback on the table in front of her.

‘Start spreading the news,’ she sang.

Chloe smiled.

‘Here’s some news. So, you know, when I opened Grimhaven safe there was black nail varnish on it and on the white rug that was in front of it,’ she said.

‘That cheap stuff that flakes off so easily?’ said Adele.

‘Yes. The very same. It’s almost as if someone was trying to crack the safe earlier and their nail polish flaked off.’

‘That nail polish is very popular.’

‘More common than popular, I’d say,’ said Chloe.

She looked at the tickets and checked the time of their flight to New York again. She was always stressed before flying.

‘Any ideas as to how that happened?’ said Chloe.

Adele shrugged.

‘Well, maybe …’

Chloe leaned forward and looked Adele in the eye.

‘Continue,’ she said.

‘Well, it was cheaper and easier than a divorce,’ said Adele.

Chloe rubbed her eyes.

‘You know Grimhaven’s boys will come after us?

‘Of course. But wouldn’t they anyway? We weren’t exactly going to be on his Christmas card list once he regained consciousness. This is a clean break. Or cleaner.’

‘Have you got the new passports and ID?’

‘Of course.’

Chloe took a sip of beer.

‘Plus ça change,’ she said.

‘Oui! Oui! Oui!’ said Adele.

‘Yes, good idea,’ said Chloe. ‘I’ll go before we get on the plane. Better safe than sorry.’

© Paul D. Brazill

*

Paul D. Brazill is the author of The Last LaughGuns Of Brixton, Cold London Blues, and Kill Me Quick! 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.

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