Authors: Charlie Williams
Tags: #Humorous, #General, #Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery & Detective
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright ©2010 Charlie Williams
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by AmazonEncore
P.O. Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
Mangel Police have found the body of a woman inside Hoppers nightclub, which was gutted by fire in the early hours of yesterday morning. It is thought to be that of Mangel resident Elizabeth Dawn Blake, 25.
Lee Munton, joint owner of Hoppers, was taken in for questioning yesterday along with Royston Blake, 28, head doorman at the club and husband of the deceased. Munton was released without charge shortly thereafter. He was later unavailable for comment.
Blake remains in custody.
I were standing on the grass out by the East Bloater Road when the Meat Wagon came past. She slowed a bit then drove on up towards town. I were glad of that. Sight of the Meat Wagon never had been summat to warm a feller’s cockles.
Standing on the grass out by the East Bloater Road didn’t seem such a good idea now. A wind had started up from the north that went through your clothes like a gutting knife. But I couldn’t go yet. Not unless I wanted to be passing the Meat Wagon on the way in. So I paced around for a bit and smoked two fags, thinking how I really ought to stop coming out this way cos nothing were to be gained from it. Then I got back in me car and pointed her homeward.
She were a Ford Capri. I’d always driven a Ford Capri and always would do, long as I still had a choice in the matter. Despite the chill and the damp and the mood I were in, she started first time, which cheered us up no end. As I slotted her into third she backfired like a bastard. Been doing a fair bit of backfiring of late, she had. Hole in the exhaust like as not, and once you gets one of them they only gets bigger. Unless I got her down the garage for fixing, she’d get louder and louder until the noise were hurting folks’ ears. But that’d have to wait, being as I were skint. And besides, she started running smooth once I shifted her up to fifth.
Judging by the way the sun were slipping down beyond the Deblin Hills, it were getting late. I put me foot down and swung her into the first long bend on the way back to Mangel. It were nice and straight for a mile or so now with woods either side and no other vehicle in sight. Rarely was folks out this way. Didn’t lead you nowhere you might want to go, see. I opened her up and tipped her over the ton mark. Course, I were taking a risk shifting at that pace. But like I says, no one were about. And I were meeting Legs and Finney down the Paul Pry in a bit. If I missed the start I’d be on catch-up, and I didn’t like that. I liked to swill at the same rate as them I’m swilling with.
The trees was hanging over and it were right dark down that stretch, so by the time I saw the Meat Wagon parked longways across the road I were near enough atop it. I braked hard and thought about swinging her left or right around the big white van. But there were no room for that. It were the Meat Wagon or one of the big trees either side. And by the time I’d decided on which trunk looked softest, it were too late for either of em. The Meat Wagon it were, with Lee Munton’s eyes glaring out at us from the driver side and the shadow of Jess peering over his shoulder. I squeezed me eyes tight and pushed down on that middle pedal for all I were worth and a lot more besides. My head were filled with screeching rubber and a thump thump thump the like of what you’d never heard. When I felt the wheels flip out from under us I knew I were done for. Not from the car crash, like. But from what the Muntons’d do to us for fucking up the Meat Wagon.
The car stopped.
I kept me eyes shut, thinking how there hadn’t been much of a bang on impact. Not even a little pop as bumper met panel. But I had an explanation for that one, see. I’d slammed into the van so hard that the noise had gone and bust me eardrums.
Then Lee started talking and I knew me eardrums was right as plumb wire. ‘All right, Blake,’ he says.
‘All right, Lee. All right, Jess.’
Jess moved his head a bit.
The Meat Wagon were but a few inches from where I were sat. Somehow the car had stopped with my window sideways-on to Lee’s and back-to-front, like if we’d been passing each other in the street and stopped for a chat. ‘Well,’ says Lee, smiling like we was still mates. ‘Reckon you needs yer tyres checkin’. Eh, Jess?’
‘Needs his tyres checkin’ all right. See em slip out from under him just now, did you, when all he done were apply a bit o’ brake pad?’
‘Aye. Flipped out. Brake pads.’
‘Know what my impartial advice to him would be?’
‘Go on then.’
‘S’right, Jess. You dunno. And Blake here dunno neither. Thass why I gives impartial advice. Wouldn’t bother if folks knew it already. Be no use to em, would it.’
‘S’right. Well, I’d say to him this: bring yerself down Munton Motors and Baz’ll sort you out.’ Lee stared at us for a full half minute. When he piped up again he weren’t smiling. ‘For tyres, like.’
He knew I were skint. Every bastard in Mangel knew I were skint, I reckoned. But I put on a smile anyhow and says: ‘Ta. I’ll think about it.’
‘You do that,’ he says. ‘Cos our Baz, he wants you to know that there’s no hard feelin’s. Sometimes he has a drink an’ gets a bit lairy an’ forgets hisself is all. But he didn’t mean nuthin’ by it. And he don’t want you gettin’ no wrong ideas about him by it. Juss get yerself down there and he’ll sort you out for tyres. All right?’
He stared at us until I says: ‘Aye, all right.’
‘Smart. Cos if there’s one thing I don’t like iss hard feelin’s. And our Baz, well, he ain’t got one of em in his whole body. Just a bit of a boy, is our Baz. That right, Jessie?’
Jess’s lips didn’t move at all. ‘Bit of a boy.’
‘All right, Blakey. All right. Long as everyone gets along, thass all I asks. Now, Blakey, what was you doin’ up yonder just now?’
‘Aye. On the roadside up there. What was you up to?’
I looked past him at Jess. He hadn’t moved once. Not even when he’d been talking. He were like a big statue carved out of sandstone. Only time he ever said summat were when Lee spoke to him. Even then it were only aye or summat. ‘Well,’ I says. ‘Ain’t much of a reason for it really.’
The Munton brothers stared.
‘Just comes out here now and then to…’ I tried to swallow but it weren’t coming easy. So I coughed a bit instead. ‘You know, look at the scenery an’ that.’
There weren’t much else I could say so I sat tight and waited, listening to Jess’s breathing.
Lee stuck his big head out the window at us. When he spoke I could smell what he’d had for lunch. Mixed grill, I reckoned. ‘Just so long as you ain’t plannin’ on leavin’ town.’
‘Leavin’? No one leaves Mangel, Lee.’
‘S’right. Specially not you. Don’t want our mates leavin’, does we Jess? Wants em here where we can see em.’ He fired up the engine, eyes still stuck on mine like a terrier’s teeth on a robber’s ankle. And suddenly he were smiling again, like he hadn’t ever not been smiling. ‘Workin’ tonight?’
‘Nah. Night off.’
‘Just so long as you ain’t got yerself sacked. Don’t go gettin’ yerself sacked, Blake. Not for a couple of weeks anyhow.’
‘Ain’t intendin’ on it.’
‘Smart. And remember—tyres waitin’ for you at Munton Motors.’
The Meat Wagon lurched forward and headed townward. I pulled in on the verge and had a fag. Then I looked at my watch and headed townward meself.
‘So he says to us, he says: “Get off the fuckin’ pitch or I’ll have you banned from this fuckin’ league.” No, he did. That’s what the bastard said. He fuckin’ did, you know.’
I were in the Paul Pry now, knocking em back with Legs and Finney like the sun had set for the last time. To be honest, the way I were feeling, I wouldn’t have cared much if it had. I were in a hole, see, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t climb out. Weren’t just seeing the Munton boys just now. Seemed like I’d been feeling that way or thereabouts for a couple of years, and the old, easy-going Blake who everyone knew and loved were some other feller entirely and not me at all.
‘I knows what I’d of done, mate.’ Finney stood half a foot shorter than meself and about half as heavy, but you’d not have known it from the way he spoke sometimes. He never really knew it neither. ‘I’d of smacked the fucker. Fuck the fuckin’ league.’
Legs and Fin was doing all the chat, but I weren’t paying em much heed. I knew they just wanted to take my mind off things. They meant well, bless em. They could see how I were, and they was helping us out the only way they knew how: lager and jokes. But it weren’t working. How could I be interested with all that worry rolling around up in me swede?
‘What you reckon, eh, Blake?’ This were Legs again. Legs had a way with words. He were a milkman by trade, but from the way he spoke you’d have thought him town mayor. It weren’t the words he said but the way he put em across. He had presence, you might say. Legs said summat, you listened. He were a big enough feller by normal standards but not particularly hard, far as I or anyone else knew. Except on the footy pitch when the game got the better of him. To be honest I hadn’t hardly seen him in a proper fight, so he were summat of an unknown quantity. But it were his voice what done his talking, not his paws. No matter what it were he said, you stopped drinking or smoking or scratching yourself and you gave him your full and undivided. If you didn’t…
Well, there were no saying what if. You just did.
And so did I. ‘Woss that, mate?’
‘You’d of twatted him and all, would you?’
‘Twatted him? Oh, aye.’ I put pint to gob so I wouldn’t have to say more.
But it weren’t fair on em, making all the effort that they was and me stood there hanging my head like a barren brood mare. No, they deserved a bit more from us. So I licked the beer off me lips and got going again. ‘Twatted him and more besides. In fact I’ll tell you what I’d of done.’ I pulled meself up nice and tall. If you’re planning on doing some talking you might as well do it standing up straight. I faced Legs, acting like he were the ref and I were him. ‘I’d of stood in front of him. Nice and tall, yet sorta loose an’ all. Like this, see. Look him in the eye a couple of seconds, weighing him up like. Then this…’
Some fellers is good with their paws. Some knows how to put the boot in just right. Then there’s the ones who always carries an item from the cutlery drawer, or summat nice and solid from a toolbox. We all needs a little bit extra at times. Specially in my line of work. There’s a time in every doorman’s life when he finds himself out of favour with one or two punters and needs some support on his way home. And that’s why I had a monkey wrench stowed down the stitching of my leather. But such hardware is strictly for emergency use only and oughtn’t to be required in most cases of argy-bargy.
Anyhow, my weapon of choice were none of them things. It were my head. I were skilled in every category of headbutt in the book. Straight, sidewinder, piledriver—you name it, I’d swung it. The secret, right, is to keep your neck relaxed and picture your swede like it’s a demolition ball. Mark your target—nose or cheekbone is best—then swing that ball. I swung mine at Legs.
See, the other side of good headbutting is control. You’ve got to be able to divert your butt—or even stop it altogether—at the last moment. That’s what I done. This were only a bit of a laugh after all. I called off the butt, forehead about an half inch from Legsy’s cheekbone. All in the neck muscles, see. I did it all the time on the door. Swing it and stop it. Let em know how easy it is for you. And I hadn’t ever nutted a feller I hadn’t meant to. Until now.
Legs dropped his pint and went down like a sack of turnips. I swigged some lager and rubbed me forehead, wondering how that had happened and what best to do about it.
‘You’ve gone and done it now,’ says Fin after a bit, shaking his head.
‘Didn’t mean it, did I?’ I finished me pint and bent over Legs. His glass hadn’t broke so I picked it up and put it on the bartop. There were a little nick below his left eye. It gave us a nasty feeling in me guts to look at it. ‘Looks worse than it is.’
‘Can’t very well look much worser,’ says Nathan the barman, who’d come over to give us a refill. ‘I won’t have that kind of nonsense in my bar, Royston Blake. There’s plenty of pubs in Mangel that’ll turn a blind eye. But I’ll not have my punters fightin’ amongst emselves. Here.’ He squeezed out a beer-sodden bar towel and chucked it down to us.