Once More

A back alley parlay and the gnashing of teeth. Billowing smoke stacks set against a powder blue sky with a whisper of dirty pink colouring the edges of the clouds as the sun, slung low in the sky brings another shitty day shift to its end.

Somewhere a gull cried even though they were nowhere near the coast. Dirt and rubbish shifted uneasily in the filthy streets, caught in the humid air.

He had a headache and his arms were tired and his ribs hurt. He had worn his boot heels hard all day and his feet were burning like bad meat. There was a heater in the iron parked near his house, but it was tHatcheand time was of the essence, the fatal slug in the guts had made sure of that.

The other guy struggled; his face a mess of confusion and surprise, there was hate somewhere in the mix too, the hate of getting caught.

“I don know nuttin, you be tootin da wrong ringer bra” His use of colloquialisms made his actual accent hard to discern, southern maybe. He couldn’t tell and it didn’t matter.

A heavy arm coerced the ringer’s ribcage into remembering, but all it succeeded in doing was knocking any words out of his lungs, with a helping of spit.

He let him double over and get his breath back. He couldn’t wait long, he felt like he’d been awake for a hundred years, another Jane in a Chicago overcoat wouldn’t mean much to many folk, but he couldn’t go with that on his conscience.

The other guy got to his feet, “Dem udder man push me round too and you don wan know wad appen to dem,” he said, laces of spit dropping freely from his lips.

He relished the unearned proximity and let loose with another fist, this time to the kidneys.

He noticed the cold finally creeping, it had been a long day taken on the heel and toe. Felt like the sun had taken a dislike to him at first. Waking to it glaring in his eyes; blood crusted over the side of his face.

He struggled to remember it all at first.

The night before, in a field somewhere, the Broderick he’d been subjected to, then the questions that he cracked wise to first; like the violent events shortly before, was not a grim foreshadowing of what was about to happen. He had been interrogated too, not in an official capacity in a preordained federal institution with cool air blowing through its creaking vents and a couple of suited representatives of this country’s law, no! He was grabbing air in the middle of a field, filled with suspicious looking mounds, and the gentlemen asking the questions? A couple of thick jawed button monkeys. Hatchet men with Roscoe’s stashed crudely in their belts. The post interrogation shot to his back ripped through his coat and broke some ribs as the lead bounced around inside him like a cheap pinball machine. He lay in the dark field and hoped to a god he hadn’t believed in up until twelve seconds prior, that they were as professional as they appeared. He squeezed his eyes shut, held his breath and waited for another shot.

He’d have done it; two in the head, make sure they’re dead, right? The kill shot failed to let the daylight in to his skull and swung wide by a healthy couple of inches, taking his ear and fifty percent of his hearing with it.

He passed out.

The morning sun burned through the pink skin of his eyelids, the racous cawing of birds and the wind whispering through the long grass. He’d gotten to his feet slowly. A sheen of sweat plastered his hair across his face. He looked around futilely for the boiler that had brought him here in the first place, but of course the apes had taken it. He pulled a dirty handkerchief out of a pocket and tried to dab at the stringy mincemeat that had replaced his right ear, but that only brought a heated stab of pain.

“This was an expensive suit,” he remarked to himself pulling the bloodied shirt away from his skin and wincing.

He began to slowly limp back into town, the information he had blabbed to the button men the night before wasn’t entirely useless. If heard by the right someone with the right pair of ears; this person could put the finger on the identity of the Jane who had hired him in the first place. He figured that loyalties lay with permanent staff and family members. If you don’t want to be given up at the first hint of a professional chilling off, don’t hire from the outside.

He tried to place the faces of the apes, trying to work back to how they had made him so easily the night before, maybe asking all the wrong questions to the right people.

He could have been losing his touch, but he doubted that.

Last night he was in the middle of oldest part of the city, a place that felt like it was built with a chalk outline around it. He was down at this can house, where the drinks had more water in them than the ice and he was eyeballing this canary. She was the type of dame who would have made a vicar renounce his vows. She was gams and rack all day long.

Then he had spotted the sharp suited meat he’d been waiting for and it was on to the short game, look but don’t look, listen but don’t look like you’re listening, follow him around, then catch them unannounced in the toilets whilst they are taking a leak.

A preoccupation with hiding their junk will leave a man open to some cheap chin music. The guy went down with a bad case of glassjaw. Who’d have known a guy as big as that would have folded like bad origami? So he hits his brain pan on a urinal and is asleep face down in a stream of piss using a yellow urinal cake as a pillow.

He guessed that, that may have been the wrong question.

It shut down his lead, so he exited stage left, grabbing some ice from the bar and wrapping it in a beer soaked bar towel for his hand then dusted.

He was on his way back to his iron when the world exploded in the back of his head, the last thing he saw before the boot of a car closing was ice spilling across the tarmac in front of him like cheap diamonds.

When he got back into town, he followed the lead, given to him by the blabbering button man with the bad aim who was monologue-ing shortly before he squeezed soft lead into him and ruined his suit. The loose talk led him to a man who knew a man, who knew a man that was on his list as someone to visit when he wasn’t in the mood for lies.

And here he was.

“I’ll ask once more,” he says, his heavy frame painted in the dying light.

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