“I’ve been thrown outta way better places than this,” Damon said.
He picked himself up off the pavement. There was blood on his shirt, champagne on his trousers at two fifty a bottle. He never got a sip of it.
The girl’s red pastie was still stuck to his fingers.
“Hey, Mike Tyson’s retarded brother, give that bitch her tit back.”
The bouncer threw a precise jab at his floating rib and he dropped on a three second delay.
By the time he could breathe again the men were gone.
Across the street a cab was idling, it’s light on.
Damon waved it over and climbed in the back, the piss and disinfectant smell swirling up at him.
“North Park. The good side.”
He dabbed his mouth with the hem of his shirt. That wouldn’t be pretty tomorrow.
The driver stopped at the lights and Damon caught her looking at him in the mirror.
“Dangerous job for a girl this.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“They all say that.”
She was a trim little thing, like a doll. Natural blond he reckoned. He made a bet with himself – tenner says she’s collars and cuffs.
“Why’re you doing this?” he asked. “You could be a model. You could get in catalogues easy.”
She didn’t answer, kept her eyes on the road.
Damon watched the city go by, clubs emptying and boys fighting in the street. A couple were fucking in Ladbrokes doorway. His cock stirred. Never finished his lapdance, that was the problem; unresolved tensions.
He looked at the back of the driver’s head. it didn’t help.
His eyes dropped to the taxi license.
“This isn’t your car.”
“Who’s Salim Hussain?”
“My husband,” she said.
“You married a Paki?”
“Ah, it’s all the same.”
Damon shifted in the seat, holding his bruised ribs. He needed pills before the drink wore off.
He took out his cigarettes. “D’you mind?”
Damon moved onto the flyseat behind her.
He lit her cigarette and passed it through the grille. She was cute, had what his old man called cocksucker’s lips.
“How’d you two meet?” he asked.
“At the hospital.”
“You’re a nurse?” He saw her tight little body in a starched uniform. “I’ve got this thing wants looking at…”
“It’s a very serious thing,” Damon said, putting it on.
She turned onto Station Road.
“You’ve gone the wrong way.”
“There’s an accident in the centre,” she said. “We’ll be there all night.”
“I don’t mind if you don’t.” He grinned and she smiled back. “So my thing…”
“I’m an occupational therapist,” she said. “It’s pretty specialised.”
“Like cripples and that?”
“Rehabilitation, yes.” She was warming to him. “After accidents and strokes mostly.”
At the bottom of Station Road she turned left, skirting the industrial estate. The sky was glowing and a machine hum drilled between his eyes.
He felt the pain in his ribs eating through the drink.
“Salim got beat up,” she said.
Damon didn’t remember asking.
“He couldn’t walk when we met.”
“Dead below the waist? Bet you sorted that.”
The streetlights smeared as Damon tried to focus and his cigarette fell out of his mouth.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Got beat up myself.”
“Did you start it?”
“What kind of man d’you think I am?”
The taxi stopped. His face fell against the grille.
She switched on the interior light and he saw her reach for a black plastic something on the passenger seat.
“I think you’re the kind of man who’d kick a cabbie half to death to get out of a forty pound fair,” she said.
“Little fella? Big beard?”
She opened a door in the grille.
“Jesus Christ woman, that was a year ago,” he said. “Hey – you’d have never met him without me.”
There was a pop and a flash and he saw the barbs coming out of the taser, then his whole body clenched and he fell to the floor of the cab.
The adrenaline kicked in and he laughed.
“Is that it?”
“There’re five more settings,” she said, fiddling with the taser. “We’ll get there.”