Wreckage

Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Niall Griffiths

Title Page

Book One

Others

Book Two

Others

Book Three

Others

Copyright

About the Book

Everything goes wrong from the start. The money’s been stolen from the remote North Wales post office, but Darren’s been over-enthusiastic with the lump hammer. The elderly sub-postmistress lies in a coma. When he and Alastair get back to Liverpool and try and spend the cash on a consignment of pure cocaine – and in doing so get involved with some seriously dangerous criminals – things really get out of hand, and stay that way until the story finally crashes to its grisly conclusion. Epic in its scope and its cast of characters, ambitious in linguistic and narrative range,
Wreckage
is Niall Griffiths’ most confident, audacious novel yet. An examination of violence and the humanity it destroys, this is a book of furious pace and pacific calm that allows the reader to see both sympathy and terror in a world where everything that can possibly go wrong, does.

About the Author

Born in Liverpool in 1966, Niall Griffiths now lives in Wales. He has published four novels:
Grits, Sheepshagger, Kelly
+
Victor
and
Stump
, the last two of which are being filmed.

Also by Niall Griffiths

Grits

Sheepshagger

Kelly
+
Victor

Stump

NIALL GRIFFITHS

Wreckage

B
OOK
O
NE

There is no pain, or very little, only this sensation of slipping away from a place never completely solid to him anyway, never really reliable, under his feet. Slipping away from the now shattered body, the ribcage wrenched apart as if by giant hands, this red wreckage still feebly beating, a red purse to catch the strange rain descending, this fall of flaming paper. And somewhere in that soft and crackling shower is a gun and attached to that gun is a man and behind that man is a shop and behind that shop, in time if not in space, is the wreckage of a woman, an old woman, of a life so easily
breakable
.

 

What is this light in Darren’s eyes. Not the giving back of the small bulbs of the dashboard nor the spread sodium of the street lights bowed and shamed nor the illuminated shopfronts that pass outside the car. Nor that which spills from pub or chipper or private home as they enter the outskirts of Wrexham on the A525 from Coedpoeth and the smaller villages beyond that and the mountains and lakes beyond them, nor even the half-moon hanging yellow over all this some pale flame there is in Darren’s eyes flickering between the road and Alastair, Alastair and the road in front, outside:

—Fuckin
rich
, Ally! Fuckin brewstered, lar! See that fuckin wedge she had inside that safe? Didn’t I tell yeh, Alastair? Didn’t I fuckin tell yis! Pure fuckin rich we are, lad! Pure fuckin loaded, man! No cunt touches us now, man, eh, we’re pure just fuckin
saved
!

Alastair has seen Darren similar before but never quite like this, never quite this high-voltage animation, never quite this heat. Always an exuberance following violence in him but that usually combined with a resignation of sorts, an acknowledgement of the necessity of an ugly job but still a job worth doing well but never this,
this
, this sparking eyefire as if flints clash in his skull or steel strikes stone.

—All this fuckin money, lar! We’re
rich
, Alastair! Do
wharrever
the fuck we wanner do now! Four fuckin grand nearly! He leans over to Alastair face to face jerking the steering wheel and so the car and shouts: —FOUR FUCKIN GRAND, MAN!

Warm spittle on Alastair’s face. —Eeyar, Darren, straighten up. Yer takin us off the road.

—And? What fuckin odds if I did? Could go straight into that garage over there, man, an buy another motor straight off, no fuckin messin. Can do anythin we fuckin want, now, man. No fuckin lie.

They pass the garage/dealership and Alastair scans the price tags in the windows of the few vehicles on the forecourt and there is not one below six thousand. Utility vehicles of various kinds as befits the terrain roundabouts and these never come cheap.

And the way she collapsed, the old lady, all force gone in one split instant. The sound of metal on bone.

—So what now, Darren? What the fuck do we do now?

—I’ll tell yeh what
you
do, lar – yeh keep yer fuckin gob shut. Unnerstand me? Not one werd of this to Tommy or no cunt else. Djer hear me? I mean it, Alastair; not one. Fuckin.
Werd
. Alright? That fuckin trap o’ yours stays
shut
.

—Yeh but no, I mean …

Big sigh from Darren. His chest swells to touch the steering wheel and then flops back flat again. —Can’t understand you, lar, honest to God I can’t. Just don’t fuckin get you at all. We’re four fuckin grand to the better, do wharrever the fuck we wanner do an you’ve gorrer face liker smacked friggin arse. An I know why,
n
all; it’s cos of that ahl queen, innit? That one in the shop, like?

Alastair nods.

—Thought as much. Can read you liker fuckin
buke
, tellin yeh. Yeh were all like this after I glassed that Blackburn knob’ed n all.

—Yeh didn’t avter hit her that hard, Darren.

—That hard? How else would she have opened the safe?

—Yeh but I mean yeh hit her
after
she’d given us the fuckin code, didn’t yeh? No need for that, man. I mean she might be dead.

—Alright then, eeyar, tell yeh what; I’ll divvy the dosh up inter two and you can get a cab and take your half back to that friggin post office and give it back, yeh? Sound alright? Check on thee ahl biddy while yer there, like, see if she’s alright and if she isn’t yeh can ring for an ambulance to taker to thee ozzy. Yeh? That sound alright to you, does it? That what yeh wanner do, aye?

Alastair’s bottom lip protrudes, a child about to cry. The dull thunk of hammer on skull and the way she fell so crumpled. Lump hammer on bone and its awful noise felt in
his
bones too and the manner she fell so sudden so utter.

Darren makes a left turn, the brewery on their right. Lit up like a small city and the creeping smell of roasting hops and sugar into the chugging car, welcome smell masking the lingering niff of vinegary chips several hours old and cigarette smoke and engine fumes and farts and sweat the same age, unyoung.

—Where we goin?

—You’ll see when we get there. Gorrer ditch the motor.

—What, get rid of the car? What’s Tommy gunner say?


Fuck
Tommy, lar. Fuck that fat cunt. Don’t need him any more, lar.

—Aye but …

—Tell me, Alastair, you enjoyed yerself today, did yeh? Adder fuckin boss time like, did yeh, drivin all that way inter friggin Wales to find some one-armed blert that probly doesn’t even live there? Consider that a day well spent, do yeh?

—No.

—No, an neither do fuckin I. Woulda spunked the whole fuckin day if it weren’t for that friggin postie and that woulda been that Tommy’s fault so
fuck
that fat bastard. This four grand, like, every friggin penny of it we owe to ar
own
fuckin, what, we owe to arselves, like, an no fucker else. All ar own hard work, man, knowmean? So piss on everybody else. Fuckin initiative, man. That’s wharrit is.

—Aye but the car.

Darren imitates Alastair, a high whinge: —‘Aye but the car, the car’ … He smirks. —Wharrabout the fuckin car?

—What we gunner tell Tommy happened to it? Gorrer tell him
some
thin, like, haven’t we? Can’t just say we ditched it, like.

Darren shrugs. —Just tell im it conked out. Tell im it fell apart on us like outside friggin Wrexham. An tell im that he shouldna sent us off on a dodgy job in such a knackered ahl piecer fuckin shite in the first friggin place. Fuckin fat no-mark arsewipe.

THUNK, that hammer went as it struck skull. THUNK. And no noise made as the old woman fell except for a dry rustle of starched apron and old skin similarly bereft of moisture because of the years spent behind that counter franking envelopes and shuffling papers until the body becomes as parchment itself. And then the world’s rude reward: attack and blackness, and the body then brought to earth with one THUNK and crisp rustle as if its station has consumed it whole, the obliteration of one office never-altering.

THUNK. And then that arid keel.

—So what we gunner do? Torch it?


Torch
it?

—Yeh.

—The car?

—Aye.

—Nah. Don’t be soft, Alastair. Fuckin fire attract every friggin bizzy from here to Chester, man.

—Like moths, aren’t thee?

—Is right.
Moths
thee are, them fuckers.

—So what, then? Can’t just
leave
it, like, can we? Got ar prints on it an everythin.

Darren turns left, over a bridge. Street lights thinner here in this suburb and more sheltering darkness. —There’s a river here. Gunner dump it in that. Get all yer stuff together and wind yer winda down so it sinks.

He drives into a car park and then across and out of that car park, sudden bump as they traverse the kerbstones and into a field that slopes down into a river ridged and silverscaled by the moonlight. The car labours in the field made soggy by the recent rain and Darren swings it to aim at the river then stops.

—An what then?

—What when?

—After we ditch the car, like. How we gunner get home?

Darren turns off the engine. —Not goin back to Liverpool tonight, lar. Gorra mate in Wrexham, we’ll stop over at his. Get yer gear together like I’ve just told yeh to.

They gather up mobile phones, cigarettes and lighters and of course the rucksack heavy with plunder. They wind all windows down and exit the car, Alastair stretching his cramped and tired joints till they crack and there is a cold wind on his face and he licks his dry lips and fancies that he can hear a bird but thinks no, not here, not at this time. Birds don’t sing in the hours of darkness. Maybe the shriek of a gull if you’re at the seaside or the hoot of an owl if you’re in the country but in the suburbs of a large town at nighttime, no, no birds sing there and then.

—Got everything, Alastair?

—Yeh.

—Got the swag?

—No.
You
have.

Darren grins. Them white teeth. —Too fuckin right I av, lar. An I’m not lettin the fuckin stuff outer me sight. Handbrake off is it, yeh?

Ally nods.

—Right. Say tara to the piler fuckin junk. Come ere and give it some welly.

They move to the rear of the car and place hands on the boot and on ‘three’ push it forwards, gathering speed, it lurching and creaking over the uneven
ground
. It accelerates away from them and they let it go and stand shoulder to shoulder panting as they watch it bump over the earth down the sloping field then appear to leap off the steep bank, airborne it is for a second or two no wheel on the lumpy earth. Then the splash, surprisingly quiet, surprisingly deep in pitch. Then the vanishing roof, sinking beneath the water, and one more small surge, rise, as the tidal river buoys it and it surfaces and blows steam like a grampus or a manatee, riparian cetacean sounds only once then gone.

—Seeya, yeh piecer fuckin crap. Werst car I’ve ever friggin driven, you. Rust in peace, useless mudderfucker of a motor.

Darren sniggers at his own joke. Alastair glances at him then back at the river where bubbles boil and burst and then the car is gone. No sign of its existence. All erased, submerged.

—Deep enough, djer think?

Darren shrugs. —It’s sunk, innit?

—Aye but in the day, like. Might be able to see it in there when it’s daylight, like.

—Long as me dabs’re all washed off I’m not arsed. Pure could not give a fuck, lad. Come ed, let’s goan see Dean.

Darren slings the rucksack money-bulging over his shoulder and squelches off the field and across the car park and out on to the main road spotlit by the brewery lights and Alastair follows him and here is Alastair in Wrexham, three, four paces behind Darren and like some negative image of him, the sprightly fire in Darren’s eyes inverted in Alastair’s which spit dark
sparks
and beam black rays at Darren’s back like anti-torches, light’s antithesis. Twin shafts of shadow from Alastair’s eyes aimed at the back of Darren’s head, the colossal self-regard that lolls lizard-like beneath the tight black curls in the skull unslammed, unhammered. Curdle if they could those rays the bad beating blood that drives the will that bursts the undeserving, stop for ever if they could the hard dark heart that wrecks the undefended.

The blow and the noise and then the noise of the fall. The old woman’s slippered feet slowly turning inwards, trauma’s pigeon-toes. And the eyes and the age in them rolling back to become two red-laced eggs in a nest of creasing.

Alastair snarls at Darren’s swaggering back as they pass the brewery and head towards the bus station where taxis rank. Darren turns and just catches that snarl as it vanishes.

—The fuck’s wrong with
your
gob, knob’ed? Friggin kite on yeh, lar, Jesus. Still tampin over thee ahl biddy, are yeh? Got ter fuckin grow up, son. Carn handle a bit of bother then yeh should find yerself another fuckin job. Simple as.

Walking backwards, facing Alastair, Darren spreads his arms wide. —Mean ter say, like, what’d yeh fuckin expect when yeh first got into this fuckin caper? Think it’d be, it’d be, all fuckin –

—Ere’s a cab.

—Wha?

—Ere’s a cab, look, behind yiz. Flag it.

Darren spins, sees the taxi approaching, raises his arm. It stops at the kerb and they get into the back seat.

—Where to, lads?

—Brymbo.

Out into the traffic, around the small roundabout, back into the town.

—Friends there, aye?

—What?

—I said yew visitin friends in Wrexham? Or family?

—Yeh.

—No bloody reason to stop off at Brymbo otherwise, is there? The cabby chuckles. —I mean, that estate. Shockin. Council’s got to do somethin about the mess up there. Only last week they –

Darren, rucksack held tight to his lap, leans forwards over it: —Lad, I’m payin yiz to drive, not natter. If I wanted a conversation with yiz I would’ve started one, knowmean? Givin yeh money to drive me to the Brymbo estate, not gab me friggin ear off, unnerstand?

—Suit yewerself then.

—I will, aye.

The cabby glances at his fares in the rear-view mirror, sees their faces, one peaked by a baseball cap, both with shaded eyes and cheekbones feral, rodential. The eyes of the one unhatted like twin candleflames back there behind him but an absence of warmth there is at his back. As if he ferries an open fridge. He just drives to Brymbo, doesn’t respond when a voice directs him to street and then house number except wordlessly to drive to those places. He stops and a hand delivers money, a ten-pound note which is nearly four pounds over the fare.

—Change is yours, mate. Yeh can keep it.

And in the departing taxi fumes they regard the
house
like a ravey spaceship landed in this estate, redbrick semi-detached and pebble-dashed, multicoloured lights pulsing at the windows and the swift pulse too of the techno being blasted inside. Behind the music loud voices can be heard and laughter and shouting. A dog or dogs barking. Breaking glass.

—This the place, yeh?

—Reckon so, Alastair, don’t you?

Alastair says nothing. And Darren stands there a black silhouette against the sodium cone of the street light behind him. One dark shape he is and only his eyes aglow in the wet, neither rain nor drizzle just a kind of thick, damp air. The rucksack a black bulge held to his belly as if he is with child.

—Dean’s an old mate, he says. —Known im years. Bit gobby at times, like, but he’s alright. Used ter supply Peter the Beak with his charlie, like, which is how I met im but he don’t deal any more. Still hoovers it up liker bastard tho.

—Aye.

—Aye, so we hide out here the night and get the train back tomorrer. Lerrit all blow over, like. And what’s the one thing you’ve gorrer remember, Ally? What’s the one thing yeh can’t forget?

Without waiting for a reply Darren pinches his thumb and forefinger together and makes a zipping motion across his lips. —Yeh keep it fuckin shut. Quiet
as
. Unnerstand?

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