The Leader kicked back with a soulless expression of bloodshot defiance, packing the pistol. The sky wept, the clouds shone dark. I strolled past in nonchalant style, the fear screaming to be released. Smiling at my feet as they stepped heavily onto gravel, I was thinking of the bet I'd be laying on a horse called Lady Luck - number 13, unlucky for some. I kissed death full on the lips, resisting the temptation to slip in my tongue.
I turned and leaned back against the lamp post behind me. Like a silent sidekick, its single sodium eye blazed down on me; a searchlight trained on the escapee.
I reached into my pocket. Leader tentatively toyed with his weapon. I pulled a hip flask from within. The liquid contained in it rang the doorbell on my lips and entered when the door was answered. With the warmth from the bourbon spreading through me like cancer, the fear fell into a deep sleep, narcotic-induced. I reached out to Leader and offered my heart and soul. As he took it with his outstretched hand, I shot him.
"Don't touch my drink, motherfucker!" was probably the last thing he heard before his head laid out a Picasso masterpiece on the pavement.
The moon came out to engulf the two of us. I took another slug from the flask, replaced it in my solitary pocket and went to lay a sweet hundred on that horse.
The fucker didn't come in! Beaten by a nose by the 25-1 outsider. Still, I had a £50 bet on that one so I guess I cut my losses and not only my throat. The bar I stepped into was littered with torn slips. The laugh that followed was too much to resist. When you're the winner, tears are too much – laughter is glory. Should have laughed earlier. Next time, maybe. Next time for sure.
As I slicked back a couple of Tequila slammers, I chatted to the inane barmaid, trying to score a hike back to her place or at least a blow-job from the luscious lips attached to her dense skull. I knew I'd missed out when her boyfriend came in. I raised my lover for the night, attached to my right arm, and skittled another slammer for the road. Then, I left the bar into the cold, unforgiving night. I scowled at the winking stars and pissed up a bush idling in the shadows.
I drove back past the crime scene but the Leader was gone, leaving only his outline in chalk and most of his head. I took a slug from the hip flask and this time I did laugh – made me feel a whole lot better. I warmed my hand on the heater; I would need it later and I didn't want it cold to the touch. Like my heart, I thought. And then I laughed again.
I put on a Kate Bush CD and pressed the repeat button, reached under the sofa and pulled out a small, wooden ornate box. I grabbed my rolling tobacco and papers and stuck two together. I placed the tobacco along the papers and opened the box; awaiting my mercy was a lump of cannabis resin, which I lit and broke over the tobacco. When I was done, I rolled it up, placed a small piece of cardboard in the end, lit it and sat back to relax at last. I'd repeated the rolling ritual several times before Kate had gone around twice. I fell asleep before the third time through the album.
I woke to the sound of the doorbell and panicked. My stash of illegal drug paraphernalia lay strewn across the sofa. The thought of some not-so-friendly police officers at my door sprang into my brain as I attempted to hide my dope. I pushed everything under the sofa, retrieved my gun from the belt of my trousers, took an almighty hit from the flask and moved towards the door. I opened it quickly and saw a surprised Paul McIntyre standing, immaculately dressed, in front of me.
"Are you going to ask me in or not?" he said, smiling.
I relaxed. "Sorry Paul, come in," I replied.
Paul is six foot and one half inches tall (he takes pride in this extra half inch of height) with jet black hair, the body of a male model and a face to match. He stepped inside as I replaced the gun down the back of my trousers, the butt again resting against the small of my back. The earlier panic had metamorphosed to joy. Paul followed me into the lounge and proceeded to count out £25,000 in used notes, to cover the balance. I retrieved my stash. We took turns to skin-up and played cards until the early hours of the morning. Then Paul left and I retired to bed.
I don't fucking believe it! I just don't... jeez! My killing of the good old Leader is languishing on page two of the newspaper. It should be embellishing the front page but, instead, some guy killing homosexuals has stolen my thunder. Still, a milk bottle up the arse is noteworthy. But, does it justify front page? NO!
I put the paper to the flame of my lighter and watched the news dance like a raver on six E and a handful of acid trips. That will teach them to prevent me from becoming a star.
That night, after my bad luck at having only made page two, I hit the town to drown my sorrows. There'd been no work today and the track was closed. If I can't earn money, I may as well spend it. I started on snakebite but I was soon chasing them down with double Tequilas. I felt fine, but I knew tomorrow would be a different story.
I woke early - always happens when I forget to turn off the alarm clock. The other side of the bed was empty. I hadn't expected anything else. I lay back on the pillow, attempting to piece together the previous night's events. It could have been no worse than the last bender I was on.
Last night, as far as I could remember, was uneventful. Well, apart from bringing up my dinner, pickled in alcohol, all over a car parked nearby. I blame the driver: bad place to park. I tried to laugh but my head hurt. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
I entered the dark, dingy public house and scanned immediately to take in my surroundings. Men, women, all tapping feet to a band playing on a makeshift beer crate stage. I spotted my 'hit' in an instant - shocking to the eye as well as the ear. Repel was the name of his deodorant, soap and mother. The clatter finished and the gathering of worshippers applauded. I ordered a Scotch. A double.
Another song, this one imaginatively entitled 'Trainspotters'. After the first chorus, I couldn't wait to blow this idiot away. Here's a sample of the lyrics, you see if I'm not right: "Trainspotters are so controversial, because their anoraks are reversible."
I took the Scotch and drained the glass of the rich, warming liquid. I signalled for a refill as the glance slammed against the bar. I poured the new drink into my hip flask and smiled. I left the pub through the window in the loo and came out into the alleyway behind the building. The battered sign with the chalk scrawl of 'STAGE DOOR' swung in the wind. I positioned myself on the wall opposite and drank.
I could hear the jukebox skipping on a teen track. By now, I was outside hiding in a bush, above the wall and opposite the fire escape. Ready to collect another easy payday. The stage door, which I could see clearly from my vantage point, opened. Then, it closed. I was about to pull the trigger when I realised that my target was levitating three feet off of the ground and gurgling like a plug hole. It was only then that I saw the figure in black hanging from the fire escape; a silent, human stalactite.
I watched, stunned, as my target hit the alleyway. The figure dropped down and calmly walked away, not making a sound. I made my way across from my hiding place and stepped across to the body. Dead. I pumped three bullets into the corpse, just to be sure. I needed proof that I'd shot him, but the satisfaction vaporised quickly. I moved quietly down the alleyway and into my car. I needed a drink.
I did it. That is what 'they' said. The newspapers had placed me centre stage at last. Something to smile about, a reason to laugh. Only I knew. But, the figure. Who? Why? It's not my problem, as long as I get my cash. You see, the track reopens tomorrow and I intend to make a killing, if you'll pardon the pun. Here's the tip: 20-1, two-year old at Kempton. Name: Killer on the Loose. Sure-fire winner. Something to smile about, a reason to laugh. You'll see.
Drinks are on me. Take the tip? 20-1 and it came in. Yes, fucking blinding. I took a long hit from the pint of lager in front of me, following it down with the remainder of my flask. I knew this was me for the day; each time I looked at the form guide it broke into two and swam from side-to-side.
I nodded to the barman, lifted my glass and sunk the last half of my pint as a new one was being poured. Even now, I was £1600 better off than I had been that morning. Also, Paul was coming round to pay me the money owed from the hit the other night. I was inclined, in my present state, to ask for more, considering my standing in the national press. Luck, however, can be pushed. It cannot be saved once it's plummeted over the edge.
Well, enough of my philosophical ramblings, on with the drinking.
There was a knock at the door. I knew it was Mr. Immaculate - Paul. I had a spliff ready, Pantera was loud and my mood was good. I opened the door.
"Evening," Paul said, grimly.
"Come in," I invited. Paul crossed past me and into the lounge. I could sense he was not his normal happy self. I lit the spliff, took three tokes and passed it to Paul.
"Drink?" I enquired, as Paul relieved me of the joint. He nodded his head. I was just pouring the bourbon when Paul dropped the bombshell.
"Of course it was me!" I was shouting now. Paul just stared at me in disbelief.
"I know you didn't kill him, he was already dead before you shot him. I have my sources and they are never wrong." Paul wasn't smiling and that wasn't a good thing.
I glared at him in anger and frustration. How could he know? How? He set down half my fee in used notes. A goodwill gesture he called it. Pantera played on, spilling out the words: DON'T FUCK WITH THIS. MY thoughts exactly. Paul left and I sketched out my plan. To err is to be human; so is to react and I fully intended to do so.
I knew where Paul lived. That was his biggest mistake, giving me his home phone number. They say it's good to talk. Fucking right it is. This was going to be easy.
Paul was in when I arrived. I could see him clearly through his bedroom window. I even used his ladder - the irony! As I watched Paul move into the en suite bathroom, I quickly and quietly lifted the unlocked sash window. Less than a minute later, I was replacing the ladder where I'd found it. Job done.
"I'm here tonight, reporting on the death of a local businessman, named by police as Paul McIntyre. He is believed to have had certain underworld connections and police are not treating his death as suspicious. Several rivals have been killed in recent weeks and Mr. McIntyre's death will be added to the growing list of gangland killings. Police say they have no suspect and are appealing for witnesses. This is Edward Cunningham for the nine o'clock news."