Looking down at the broken man cowering on the pavement, Bernard felt nothing. He had never felt sympathetic towards any of his victims, most of them had brought it on themselves, but now he was not even experiencing that rush of adrenaline he used to thrive on. He had become a joyless creature of habit.
The victim had pissed himself and the stench of urine had now overpowered the alcohol that had been seeping from his pores. This along with the pleading and the tears almost made Bernard want to keep him alive. Surely killing such a pitiful excuse for a man would be doing him a favour. Bernard thought, do I really want to snatch this runt from his miserable existence? Then he remembered the insult and the anger stirred inside him again. Bernard swung his left leg back and forward to connect hard with the injured man’s midsection. His victim coughed hard and blood leapt from his mouth. The man was trying to speak, but a combination of pain and the flooding of his mouth meant he could not muster the words.
Bernard bent down close to his victim’s head and grabbed a handful of hair to pull his head towards his own. The man’s face strained against the pain that ran throughout his battered body.
‘You trying to talk, you pathetic little fuck?’ Bernard asked.
The words still would not come and fresh tears merged with the blood on the man’s face. The menace in Bernard’s eyes had resigned the man to his inevitable fate. He knew he would die tonight.
Bernard let go of the clump of hair and his victim dropped to the ground, ‘What makes you think I’m interested in anything you have to say? Last time you opened your mouth to me you thought you were the big man, didn’t you?’
Bernard didn’t wait for an answer, aiming another kick this time connecting with the rib cage. Crack.
‘Not the big man now though, are you? You should see yourself, crying like the bitch you are. All mouth when you bumped me in the bar and spilt my pint, no apology, just a load of bravado.’ Bernard laughed. ‘And just think all this could have been avoided if you had just said sorry, but you had to act the big man, didn’t you? Well, where is that big man now that he’s not in the crowded pub?’
The victim’s eyes were glazing over, the sobbing stopped and his head started to turn away. Bernard reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a deck of smokes, placed one in his mouth, lit it, took one long pull and then bent down stubbing it out on the face of the other man. It had the desired effect of bringing him back round with a yelp.
‘I’m sorry. Was I boring you?’ Bernard continued in a menacing tone that varied in pitch to match his mood, ‘See. I had to listen to your bullshit earlier today. What was it you called me? A clumsy twat? Yet you don’t find it necessary to extend me the courtesy of listening when I’m talking to you. And let’s be honest, it was you that invited this conversation, was it not? If I’m not mistaken your exact words were, if you’ve got a problem, we can take this outside. Am I correct?’
The victim nodded in agreement.
‘Well here we are outside lad. You’re a big lad. In fact you’ve a good 3 stone on me, don’t you chubs? I thought I was going to lose my foot in that gut of yours when I kicked you earlier.’ Bernard smiled and laughed at his own joke, he even felt a little annoyed that his victim was not laughing along.
Bernard unleashed a series of kicks to the man’s head, the first one had taken the life from the body, the kicks that followed served no purpose at all.
Darren was stood at the end of the alley. He had been nursing a can of 7Up whilst he kept watch. He was there to guide people away from walking down the alley if they tried. But it was late and quiet and he had been under employed. Bernard made his way towards him, breathing heavily, shoulders heaving deeply, his face a blotchy red.
‘All done?’ Darren enquired matter of factly. It was an attempt to hide his nerves. He was never sure with Bernard, whether the attack would spill over to him as it sometimes did if Bernard hadn’t extracted maximum satisfaction from handing out a beating. These days it seemed to take more to satisfy Bernard’s lust for violence than it used to and Darren often copped a slap just for being the only person available.
To Darren’s relief, Bernard seemed to calm quickly and nodded. ‘Get Yuri on the phone, tell him to get down here to help us clean up.’
Bernard and Darren worked as enforcers for a crime family led by a couple of old timers that had made a name for themselves back in the late 1960s: Terry Weir and Alan Castle. Tonight’s violence had not been in anyway related to that organisation. Bernard and Darren had simply been enjoying a pint together on a night off, neither of them would really list the other as a friend, but in their line of work they didn’t find themselves with queues of willing drinking partners. Darren had noticed that recently Bernard had been unable to make the distinction between work and life and whenever they’d got together for a beer, something had happened to set him off. Darren had let Weir and Castle know and they’d asked him to keep an eye on the situation, they certainly couldn’t afford to have a loose cannon bringing unwanted attention to the organisation. None of the previous incidents had ever gone this far though, a man was dead just for spilling a pint and not knowing when to keep his mouth shut.
Darren pulled out his phone and put in the call to Yuri. Yuri was also employed within the Weir and Castle crime family. For the most part he was employed as a driver, which also meant he had to get involved in the odd clean up where things went further than usual. Darren explained to Yuri what had happened. Bernard had been walking back from the bar with a pint for Darren and himself and some bloke had bumped him. Bernard had insisted on an apology but the bloke that had bumped him basically told him to go fuck himself. Bernard walked away but it had simmered with him for most of the evening and after closing time Bernard caught the bloke taking a piss in an alley so decided that he wasn’t going to let him off so lightly. Darren’s tone inferred that he thought Bernard had overstepped the mark, thankfully Bernard was pacing up and down the alley and not really paying attention to what was being said, he was clearly distracted by something. For most people in these circumstances, being distracted would be understandable, but Darren knew that Bernard didn’t let a little thing like brutal murder distract him for long. Darren gave Yuri the name of the street before cutting off the call.
‘Everything okay, Bern?’
‘Look at this.’ Bernard was pointing towards the ground. ‘Tubby fuck has fucked up me trainees and me jeans. That shit is not coming out. Fuck! Two-hundred quid’s worth of threads and shoes and I’m going to have to have them burnt with that pile of lard now.’
Now Darren understood, what else could it have been, but money. He decided to put some distance between himself and Bernard. The rage might have died momentarily but the sight of the ruined clothing was more than enough to send Bernard back into a storm of anger.
Darren’s mobile vibrated in his pocket. It was on silent. He pulled the phone out, the display read: ‘unknown number’. This was not unusual in his line of work. Darren looked at Bernard who still appeared completely preoccupied with the state of his trainers and jeans. He hit the answer button and raised the phone to his ear.
‘Hello?’ It was more a question than a greeting.
Bernard paced with agitation whilst looking between his shoes and his victim in the alley. He thought about tearing back into the alley and seeing if he could take the lardy bastards head clean off with a kick. But no, his top was clean, no point in risking fucking that up too. He forced himself to stop looking in the direction of the dead man.
He fixed his gaze on Darren. Good old dependable Dazza. Always there to watch his back, help clean up his mess, take a slapping when he was angry. No. Bernard didn’t know what he’d do without Dazza.
In the late night darkness, the glow from Darren’s mobile illuminated the side of his face that was turned away from Bernard. Who’s that little prick on the phone to? Bernard thought. He moved closer and tried to listen to the conversation but Darren wasn’t speaking. The soft twat was nodding into a phone.
‘They can’t see you nodding, you wanker,’ Bernard taunted.
Darren looked in Bernard’s direction flashing him an insincere grin and rolling his eyes. A gesture that implied he realised his own stupidity.
‘Who the fuck you talking with?’ Bernard questioned aggressively.
‘OK I’ll call you later.’ Bernard heard Darren say before he watched him disconnect the call and stick the phone in the pocket of his suit trousers. Why did he insist on wearing that suit everywhere? Bernard thought.
‘Sorry about that Bern mate, it was Claire, she don’t know how to get the TV to switch over to DVD. Silly cow,’ Darren said nervously as if trying to cover up who he had really spoken with.
‘You sound a little nervous Dazza lad. You aren’t lying to Big Bern, are you?’ Bernard had stepped in close to Darren now and stood over him, he had four inches and nearly two stone on Darren.
‘Of course I’m nervous Bern. You’ve just fucked up two-hundred quid’s worth of clobber and I’m the only living thing within 100 metres of you.’
‘Don’t be a prick lad. It’s not your fault, is it?’
Bernard pulled his smokes and lighter from his pocket, took one for himself and offered one to Darren. He lit both smokes and grabbed Darren around the shoulders in a gesture aimed at reassuring him but from a man of his temperament and bulk only ever came across as threatening.
The two men stood silently smoking for a few moments. Waiting for Yuri to arrive. Darren was the first to break the silence, ‘I reckon we should get ourselves into the alley a bit further while we wait for Yuri. We’re a little to conspicuous stood here.’
‘It’s fucking dead down here Dazza mate, all these shops are closed and that shit stinks.’ Bernard commented with a nod towards the corpse in the alley.
‘I know it’s dead on the street, Bern, but who knows who’s looking out of their window from one of those places over there.’ Darren waved in the direction of a high-rise tower block that could be seen from the edge of the alley. ‘All it takes is for one do-gooder from that tower block to call the filth with a report of two men acting suspiciously outside the local shops and we’re going to end up chatting with the Old Bill in front of a stinking body with you all covered in blood.’
Bernard gave Darren a look that said there was no need for the reminder about the bloodied clothing, but then surprised Darren.
‘You got a point, we’ll wait for Yuri further in.’
Half way between the entrance to the alley and the bloody corpse, Bernard felt a sharp deep pain pass through the back of his neck and pierce his windpipe. Darren had punched a six-inch knife blade into the larger mans body. Bernard was unable to turn his head but turned his whole hulking frame clumsily in the direction of his betrayer. By the time he had turned around, Darren had taken half a dozen long paces backwards towards the mouth of the alley. At no point had he dared to turn his back on Bernard.
‘Sorry Bern, that wasn’t Claire on the phone, it was Terry Weir. He told me I had to do you, you’ve become a liability with that temper of yours, you’re going to get us all in trouble,’ Darren said sounding almost genuinely troubled by what he’d been asked to do.
Bernard lifted both arms in Darren’s direction and opened his mouth as if to speak. Both actions intensified the pain streaming through Bernard’s body. He lost control of his feet and landed heavily on his knees, the right one broke as he fell before he stumbled forward and smashed his face on the concrete.
Darren waited a few moments and shuffled forward a couple of steps. Only the handle of the knife was visible in Bernard’s neck, the full length of the blade had disappeared inside. The dismal light in the alley made it difficult for Darren to see whether there was still any rise and fall from Bernard’s breathing. He stood still and took out his mobile phone. He scrolled through the phone book until he reached Terry Weir. He double tapped the name and the screen changed, Calling Terry Weir. The phone connected; there was no voice on the other end. This was standard whenever calling Weir; as far as Weir was concerned, you called him, you obviously have something to say, say it.
‘It’s done,’ Darren said, still staring at the figure of Bernard broken into the ground in front of him, now that he had not moved for a while and was almost certain he was dead.
‘Good lad,’ replied Weir, as if Darren had just scored a hat trick in the final of the local seniors cup, ‘I was fucked right off, chasing around cleaning up his mess every fucking week. He overstepped the line so many times. I should have ordered this a lot sooner. But once Yuri called me up, all indignant, whining about having to go out to clear up fucking Bernard’s shit again finally the camels back was broken.’
‘What now Mr. Weir?’
‘Wait for Yuri to turn up and when he does I want him done too.’
Darren paused for a moment, waiting for a crack of laughter and confirmation that Weir was joking. That was absolutely his sense of humour. But the confirmation did not come. So Darren thought he should confirm for himself. ‘So, when Yuri gets here, you want me to kill him?’
‘You got shit in your ears, lad? That’s what I said, isn’t it?’ Terry snapped. Darren’s questioning had clearly angered him. ‘For fuck’s sake, do you lot ever just fucking listen? Yuri bitched so much about having to come and clean up Bernard’s mess, you know, doing his fucking job. Telling me I need to do something about Bernard’s behaviour. Giving me fucking instructions. No fuck it, that little Russian prick has got too familiar so you do him.’
‘Okay, Mr. Weir, no problem,’ Darren knew it was unwise to ask another question with the beast clearly stirred, he was more than aware that it would not take much for someone to arrive and take care of him too once Yuri had been dispatched. He risked a question anyway. ‘What should I do with the bodies?’
There was a pause on the other end of the line. Darren listened for a sharp intake of breath, a signal that Weir was about to explode, but none came. Instead the pause appeared to be one of contemplation.
‘Fuck them leave them where they lay. Maybe the message will get out, there’s too much indiscipline in this organisation.’ Weir disconnected the call.
Darren approached Bernard’s corpse and gave it a few gentle kicks, followed by two hard ones, just to be sure. He was dead. Darren grabbed both of Bernard’s size 12 feet and with all his effort laboured to drag the 17 stone lump deeper into the alley and hide him behind an industrial wheelie bin. Next, Darren stood with his feet on either side of Bernard’s neck and struggled to reclaim his knife, the movement of the fall and being dragged along the alley had clearly lodged the knife in places that the initial thrust had not.
The mouth of the alley flickered with light as a car approached. Darren wiped his blade clean on Bernard’s clothing and stared in the direction of the light. An engine hummed low and finally the vehicle came into view. The light turned red and then brightened with white as the car was put in reverse and backed into the alley. Darren clasped the knife tightly at his side, slightly behind his right leg. The driver side door opened and Darren watched as the slight figure of Yuri stepped from the vehicle and started moving towards him arms open.
‘Where’s that prick Bernard?’ came Yuri’s heavily accented voice.
Darren’s knife hand twitched as he sized up the Russians neck. Suddenly Yuri’s forehead exploded and he collapsed to the ground as the gun shot echoed through the night air. The passenger side door stood open, Terry Weir was stood at the back of the car, his gun hand still aimed at the point through which he had shot Yuri. It was aimed directly at Darren’s chest.
‘Why couldn’t you boys just do your jobs, keep your noses clean and your mouths shut when given instruction, always with the questions.’ Weir said.
He pulled the trigger.
Moments later the alley was left in darkness as the car pulled away at speed.