Just Enough

“Johnny,” she said, stopping him dead with a tug on his hand.

“What’s the matter?”

He smiled, soft and sweet like the day they’d first met, like the time they’d first kissed, like the time they’d first woken together. In those days, she remembered, the smile had touched his ocean blue eyes.

“Come on,” she said, stroking his fingers like she always had, attempting to soothe the demons running rampage through his soul.

“You can tell me.”

She felt the rejection in broken eye-contact, watched barriers rise from the ground where his gaze landed. Her battered heart, long ago relegated behind his secret woes, slowed in her chest.

“It’s just the job,” he said, failing to paint truth across his care-worn stare.

“It’s just the job.”

Kelly laughed and pulled him close, tucked herself under his broad, muscular shoulder, wrapped an arm around his narrow waist.

“Come on,” she said, rubbing his side with a delicate hand.

“Let’s get a drink.”

Pulling his arm across her back, she tried not to dwell on the lost solace of her one-time sanctum.

“Okay,” he said, vision lost to a distant spot deep inside.

April rain cooled the silence of their walk, street trash danced a slow-waltz with the same limp connection of his body around hers.

“Hey,” she said, stopping short under the orange sun of a sodium lamp.

“Things will turn out right.”

She watched his eyes blossom, stroked rough, two-day growth along his jaw, felt the old-time-melt as his strong arms finally tightened at her waist.

“Yeah,” he said, his gaze searing holes in her soul.

“Everything will turn out right”.

Nicotine breath invaded her lungs, sharp bristles dug her full, soft lips. His mouth crashed like waves across the shore of her hers. Kelly’s aching heart withdrew like the tide.

“Johnny,” she whispered, hands tracing the plane of his still-firm stomach, sinking low to the line of his belt.

“Kell,” he said, hands roaming over long-forgotten trails.

“I love you, Kell.”

Passion-burnt, she danced her man to alley mouth, gripped his stiffened desire and guided him in. Amidst the grunts and tears of re-sworn vows, her heart glowed white-hot with satisfaction.

“Well, well,” a stranger leered.

She felt Johnny freeze, felt his hard muscles tense and flex, felt him push her one-handed behind his protective mass.

“What have we here?”

Her lover’s shoulders squared, fists clenched hard in darkness. His shaggy head jutted forward. The arrogance on his sneer-twisted mouth oozed tangibly from his body.

“Fuck off, mate.”

Johnny’s growl, deep and low, reverberated through her body. Her legs trembled. Adrenaline bit hard.

“Make a donation, mate, and I’ll do just that.” A click and rasp punctuated his words.

She side-stepped Johnny, peered past his bulk into the sodium glow. The other man, smaller and slight, peered through shadows of his hooded coat. A balisong jutted hungry from his fist.

“Johnny,” she said, eyes on the blade.

Bio-chemistry exploding, pulse hammering, she swallowed fear burning in her throat.

“Johnny?” She reached a trembling hand to her lover’s arm.

“Fuck him,” the big man growled, hands shifting, legs flexing.

“He doesn’t have…” The words died on his lips.

Silent, he dropped to his knees, fell face-first into rain-soaked trash. Black liquid stained the fabric of his lacerated shirt.

Kelly, calmer than she’d imagined, tossed her purse to the smaller man.

“You’ll get the rest,” she said, driving a toe into Johnny’s bloody ribs.

“When you bring me that slut’s head.”


Fall Guy

The bloated gypsy stamped around like a hippo with a hard-on. Twenty-four stone of cheap booze and fast food, he pumped his fists like a TV wrestler, hacked a ball of phlegm onto the concrete floor. His cocaine-gaze bored into me like maggots in dead flesh. He dragged a thumb across his tattooed throat.

“I’ll rip yer foken head off,” he screamed, shoving a fist in the air like he already had me beat.

The Chinese, Pikeys and assorted violence-junkies outside the circle brayed their delight at the fat-man’s show boating. Bookies took bank notes like fry cooks taking orders. Donny Yip, arms crossed and face impassive, stared at me with Arctic cool.

Malone made his move a second before the bell. Dropped his lard arse into fifth. Trampled the distance between us. Looked to knock me flat with a shoulder barge.

Smooth as a matador, I stepped to the right. Hammered his liver as he barrelled past. Tried not to sneer as he dropped to the deck. Ignored the booing jeers of the crowd around me.

“You’ll pay for that,” he bellowed, both hands on his knee as he struggled to stand.

He came in again. Fists tight to his chin. Elbows tucked to his shit-sack body. Shoulders hunched like a wise-guy in the wrong part of town. Sweat leaking from his bald head thirty seconds into the fight.

For the joy of the crowd I made my move. Ducked and weaved around his death-slow haymakers. Tested his guard to the rhythm of jab-jab-hook. Rapped on his skull with a Witness’ insistence. Shit bricks when a cross took him square on the jaw.

My hands dropped with my chin. I watched him stagger. Saw every ripple in his bulky gut. Watched his batwing triceps flap in the breeze of his wind milling arms. Watched his eyes rolled back to white. Felt my guts clench around pig iron.

“Don’t.” A one word prayer to whatever power would listen.

I threw a look to Donny Yip, saw the his glacial cool replaced with a question. Knew the answer and turned back to the game.

Malone brushed off his second. Came at me like an elephant trying on a Salsa dance. Swung low like a chariot. Swung high like an idiot. Tried to focus with KO eyes.

I ducked back in. Choked on his body odour. Drummed a limp-wristed tattoo against his arms and stomach. Wound up for a big right. Telegraphed it to my ma back home in New Zealand.

The smart fucker read it.

My world turned red as Malone slammed his forehead into my face. Blood and snot filled my mouth with bitter copper. I hit the deck like an insane DJ. Felt my ribs buckle under Malone’s stamping kicks. Heard the crowd roar before it all went black.

I could have taken him. Could have sent him home to his caravan with one less eye and an important lesson. But Donny Yip asked me a favour. And when Donny asks, the kids ain’t safe ‘til you say yes.