Unsafe Load

To say I could do without this would be to massively understate my problem. I need to get out of the city. Fast. The car that pulled out in front of me at the last junction and is now doing a steady 15 however, is not matching my urgency. I wouldn’t have let him out, but he didn’t give me a lot of choice. Didn’t even look, pulled straight out. And now he’s ambling along at walking pace.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand his caution. I’m fucked if I’d want to be driving around with all that shit strapped to my roof. Looks like he’s moving house and didn’t want to spring for a removals company. But then, I’m carrying a pretty unsafe load of my own, in that it’s hot as fuck and I’d imagine by now the fellas I stole it from have worked out its gone. And, who’s got it.

I take a look past the loaded up car. It’s clear in front but there’s no way around. The traffic heading into town is heavy and I can’t squeeze through. I bang my hand against the wheel in frustration.

‘Fuck!’

They’ll be looking for me by now – I know it. See, the thing is I’ve got a boot full of guns. Jimmy O’Keefe’s crew invited me in on a job. I was game, but after a while it started looking less and less interesting. The problem was Jimmy kept adding people to the job. Benny the inside man, I understood that one. But then there was Yuri and Tyrone for extra muscle – We had guns for Christ sake! Frank Wheeler was brought in to drive – I’m no stranger to a handbrake turn. Terry was going to get a cut because we’d be using his lock up to store the stuff whilst the heat died. It was getting silly. With every new person my cut was getting smaller – and the score wasn’t that big to start with. It was starting to look like I’d be lucky to clear a couple of grand.

And then it hit me, the guns Jimmy’s boy Alan had arranged for the job, they had to be worth at least five grand on the street. So, I lined up an out of town buyer, went to Terry’s lock up, boosted the arsenal and decided it was time to move on. I’ve never stayed in one place long anyway.

I check my mirrors, nothing behind me at the moment. But I know they’ll be looking.

‘Fuck, this was a stupid idea, Roy!’ I shout at myself as I bang the wheel again.

Another look up the queue of oncoming traffic gives me hope. 200 metres and it’s clear. I can pass this cheap bastard with his whole life packed in and around his car. I edge up closer to him. I want to be ready to overtake when the time comes.

He clears the traffic and I go to make my move.

‘Shit!’

I hit my brakes hard as the load from the top of the car spreads across the road. I realise I’m done. The load didn’t fall from the roof. It was cut free. I look to the passenger side of the car that had been carrying it. I guess I was right. They were on to me. Seems I didn’t get all the guns either, because Jimmy’s boy Alan has one pointed at me and he’s wearing a grin wider than the mouth of the Thames.

Can I back up and make a run for it? My eyes flicker to the rear view mirror. But there he is, Jimmy O’Keefe himself approaching fast in a silver Range Rover.

Yep, I’m done.


The Replacement

The very definition of man was looking at me. Unfortunately I wasn’t in front of a mirror. It had been a long while since my peek, and I’d never looked as good as this guy. Shirtsleeves revealed a network of raised veins tight over thickly muscled arms. I’d put him mid-forties and there was no sign of a belly. I took a shamed look at my own – it only took the slightest flicker down of the eyes to catch sight of it these days.

‘You must be Joe’s replacement?’

He nodded his yes.

‘You got a name?’

‘Sam.’

His heavily stubbled jaw never moved as the name left it in a whisper.

He didn’t look like a Sam and probably wasn’t. He didn’t want me to know his name that was fine – we had to work together, we didn’t have to be friends. I just needed some way of addressing him – Sam was as good a way as any.

‘We better make a move; we got a lot of stops tonight. This recession, it’s brought a lot more customers the organisations way, but I ain’t convinced it’s been good for business – none of them pay up.’

I was making small talk. Sam knew the score. Mr Weir had hired him as muscle to collect unpaid debts. But, I’m awkward around new people – tend to talk for the sake of talking.

‘Do you want to drive?’

I offered the keys.

‘I don’t drive.’

I’d have notched his lack of skills behind the wheel up as a point to me. But, I couldn’t be sure his next line wasn’t going to be, no need, I’m faster than a speeding bullet and fly.

Sam took the shotgun seat. I slipped in next to him at the wheel. My awkwardness with strangers took over my tongue as we ate up deserted roads. I rambled questions semi-rhetorically. Sam barely acknowledged my presence.

I was glad to arrive at the first address on Mr Weir’s list. At least there would be someone else I could direct my words at. Not that they were going to be keen to listen either.

The board over an upstairs window and knee-high grass on the front garden told me everything I needed to know about our chances of seeing the money we were here to collect. I looked at the list again.

‘Danny Rideout, borrowed two-large, owes three and a half,’ I said.

Sam acknowledged me with a nod – progress, maybe. He was all business. He followed me as I made my way past a gate hanging on buckled hinges and knocked on the front door. Music played inside the house at a volume that wasn’t polite, especially at this time of night. No one came to the door. I looked around at Sam and without speaking asked how he thought we should play this. Sam answered by reaching a veiny tree trunk over my shoulder and pushing on the door. It was open.

Inside it was even more obvious why Danny Rideout had turned to Mr Weir for cash. This was not the home of a man that was going to find a loan from the bank easy to come by. Weir never asked whether a person had the ability to pay. He just made it clear you had to. Uncarpeted floors revealed broken boards. Walls in need of fresh paint wore heaving chips.

I led the way in the direction of the room in which the music played. I felt floorboards strain underfoot and imagined them breaking as Sam’s gladiatorial frame followed. I pushed open the door. The room stood in darkness. I stepped inside and felt a change to the flooring. It wasn’t carpet.

The light came on. I turned to see Sam’s hand on the switch. A look to the floor revealed thick clear plastic sheeting covering it. The man sat at the back of the room, gun trained on me wasn’t Danny Rideout. It was Joe. I don’t suppose there ever was a Danny Rideout.

I guess Sam wasn’t Joe’s replacement. He was mine.


Waste Disposal

‘Alright Eddie, what you up to tonight then?’

I recognise the copper that’s stood driver side of my old Bedford van but I can’t remember his name – and it’s not a priority to be honest. See, I’m a little distracted. I don’t like being able to smell a copper’s breath at the best of times and this fucker couldn’t have picked a worse time to pull me over. It’s hotter than the sun inside this van tonight and the stench of the hacked up corpse in the back has made me gag a few times already. Mixed with the smell of copper it’s making me feel sick for all sorts of reasons. If I can smell it, it’s not going to take long for this fucker to sniff it out. I’ve got to get shot of him sharpish or I’m looking at a life stretch that there’s no way I could survive.

‘Just finished a job at a customer’s house officer,’ I lie.

‘A customer? What line you in now then Ed?’

I still can’t remember this copper’s name, but he clearly knows who I am.  So, he probably knows that I don’t really have a line that I’d discuss in polite company – or with the Old Bill.

I say the first thing that pops into my head, ‘Carpentry.’

‘You’ve just finished a carpentry job at five past midnight?’

‘Yeah, um, it was an emergency job.’ Fuck, should have said plumber or something. Who’s heard of emergency door swinging?

‘Right, well I stopped you because you have a taillight out,’ the copper says. There’s more than a hint of doubt in his tone as to my story but he don’t seem interested in doing a thorough job. God bless a lazy copper, quick ticking off for a dodgy taillight and I’ll be on my way.

But fuck no, did I just see his nose twitch?

‘What the bloody hell is that smell Eddie?’

Shit. Yes, definitely a nose twitch. And, now he’s wearing a face similar to the one I’ve been trying to hide since he’s been stood there.

‘Oh, you know, I just need a shower after working,’ I wouldn’t convince a six-year-old with that line, but then I’m only dealing with a copper so I’ve still got my hopes up.

‘No, it’s not that. There’s something wrong in the back of your van,’ the copper says through the hand he now has protecting his nose. ‘You’re going to have to open it up. I need to take a look.’

Bastard.

Why the fuck couldn’t he be a lazy little prick like his colleagues.

I could just whack the Bedford into gear and drive off. But no, that ain’t going to work, he knows who I am. Even if I get away tonight the fuzz will be at my door quicker than flies around shit.

Fuck.

There’s no way I can do time. I won’t last more than a day inside – too many people in there want me dead. When I helped Tony Ricco take over this city’s criminal activities a lot of people got stitched up. A lot of them are now inside thanks to deals we struck with certain bent coppers. Funny thing is, tonight is another job for Tony – I’m not even responsible for the stinking flesh behind me, not this time. Tony called me up and asked me to do a bit of waste disposal – and when Tony asks, you do.

I’ve got a few quid on me. I could see if this little piggy wants to put his nose in the trough like the officers that helped Tony get to the top. But if he doesn’t then I’m really fucked. He’ll know something is up, probably radio for back up and then I’ve got more of his mates to deal with.

‘Come on Eddie, out of the van,’ trained authority affects the coppers tone. I’ve been thinking my options through for longer than he’s prepared to wait.

I step from the van, the wheel wrench from the passenger seat held low and tight to my side – out of sight. I’ll be digging a hole big enough for two tonight.