Blood and Botany by Simon Maltman

“Pass us the rake Brian, would ya?”

“Two seconds mate… there you go.”

“Cheers,” said Tim, starting into a final tidy up of the lawn, “if you wanna load up the van that’ll do us.”

“No probs,” Brian said, lifting the strimmer with one hand and dragging the fresh bag of cut grass with the other. He was lean and young, but on a hot day like this his body ached to be sitting in the van again drinking tea.

“Aww man not the McClaine’s, I’m wrecked,” said Brian when they were back in the van, “let’s do a few wee lawns first.”

Tim indicated out before swinging the van and trailer onto the Sydenham Bypass to head down from Belfast towards Holywood, “Don’t be a lapper,” said the elder of the two; fit enough for his late twenties, with a good jet of hair too, “we’ll have lunch when we get there sure and then get crackin’ after, alright?”

“You’re the boss,” sighed Brian, checking his reflection and fixing his trendy fringe back into place.

They sped up the road, Tim sipping from his thermos, listening to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2. Brian finished rolling a cigarette.

“That better not be a spliff,” Tim said with a feigned annoyance.

“It’s not actually, but I’ll be enjoying a few tonight after all this flippin’ lugging about. Anyway- pot-kettle- isn’t that whiskey in your coffee?”

Tim smiled and shrugged his shoulders, “Just for a bit for taste. Now quiet, Jer’s speaking.”

Tim slowed as they entered the exclusive cul-de-sac; all massive houses, triple garages and high fences. As they approached the McClaine’s, they found the huge black gates had been left open for them as usual and they drove up the side driveway towards the expansive back garden.

“Right, have your lunch,” said Tim as he switched off the engine. They were at the back of the house, overlooking the generous lawn and encircling hedges.

“Dead on, coffee and crisp-sandwich it is.”

Tim was chewing on his egg and onion roll, staring absently at the lawn, wondering whether it would need a two and two or three and two setting on the mower when Brian advised,

“I really need a leak.”

Brian was about to pull up his boxers as the double doors of the rear conservatory burst open a few meters to the side of him. A man in all black and ski mask over his head, ran out with a holdall over his shoulder and a large bowie knife in his right hand. Brian spun round before even regaining some of his modesty; his life somewhat in his hands.

“Hey- stay where you are!” instructed the man at Brian, moving slowly towards him. Brian wrenched his boxers up, his jeans now around his knees, then raised his arms in the air.

“Look mate…” he started before the man lunged at him with the back of the knife, striking down on his forehead. Brian fell to the ground with a cry and the man released a kick to his ribs as an afterthought. He swivelled on his heel, a somewhat incongruous figure against the sunny backdrop of the imposing house and tranquil gardens.

Tim had taken a few paces away from the van and stood motionless with his arms hanging helplessly at his sides. A random thought struck him that he had forgotten his power hose before his eyes darted between Brian’s crumpled figure and the man all in black, a few meters away; and that knife in his hand.

“Stay where you are,” said the man evenly before walking very slowly in the direction of the van and Tim.

Tim’s body tensed and his blood surged around his body as he cranked open the van doors and leaped inside. The man set into a sprint behind him, knife raised. Then there was the roar of too pulls on a chainsaw and the belt set in motion. The noise resounded around the inside of the van before Tim strode purposefully out, jumping down softly onto the lawn. As the man approached him, the peaty smell of burning petrol cut through the garden’s sweet perfume.

*

Simon Maltman is a bestselling writer and musician from Northern Ireland. A Chaser on the Rocks was his critically acclaimed debut novel, followed by the bestselling collection of shorts: More Faces. He is also the author of the hard boiled ‘Bongo Fury‘ series. Simon is an established musician, performing with his current band The Hung Jury. He lives in Northern Ireland, with his wife and two daughters.

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