Category Archives: Paul D. Brazill

The Last Shot

I was ten minutes late. Chunky Baines stood in the crisp factory doorway with his hands on his hips or at least where his hips used to be. He was wearing a grubby string vest, stained tracksuit bottoms and a pair of worn tartan slippers, despite the fact that it was pissing down with rain. He chomped on a bar of chocolate.
+++++I jogged up to him, sweating like a pig.
+++++‘You’re late,’ said Chunky, grinning.
+++++‘No shit Sherlock,’ I said.
+++++‘Yes, I know Sherlock’s shit,’ said Chunky. ‘But Wilson’s been looking for you. He knows you’re late.’
+++++Chunky went into the factory and I followed. I took off my raincoat. Wiped my brow.
+++++‘I’m sweating like a nun in a sausage factory,’ I said.
+++++Chunky snorted and plonked himself down in a leather armchair.
+++++‘Catch your breath and then let’s get a move on,’ he said.
+++++He farted.
+++++The disused crisp factory was almost empty. In one corner there was Chunky and his chair. In another there was a table that had a kettle and two chipped mugs on it. There was a crate of diet coke and a box of Lion Bars. All were well past their sell-by dates.
+++++In another corner there were three wooden crates that contained a collection of rare pornography. And in the middle of the room was Sir Edward or The Antiquarian as he was sometimes known.
+++++He was almost sixty and wore a tweed three-piece suit and riding boots like some lord of the manor, which was probably fair enough since he actually was one. He held a riding crop in one hand and smoked a cigar with the other.
+++++Wilson marched into the room puffing on his inhaler. He was casually dressed in expensive clothes. His real name was Pierce but many years ago someone had commented that he looked and sounded like Sergeant Wilson from Dad’s Army and the nickname had stuck.
+++++‘About bloody time,’ he said to me.
+++++He took a video camera from one of the crates.
+++++I stripped to my boxer shorts and walked over to Sir Edward.
+++++‘Action,’ said Wilson and Sir Edward slapped me on the chest with the riding crop. He smirked.
+++++‘Can I do it again?’ he said to Wilson.
+++++‘You’re paying, Sir Edward,’ said Wilson. ‘But remember we’re on the clock.’
+++++Sir Edward licked his lips and slapped me across the face.

***

I daubed myself with TCP and ointment. Cleaned up my wounds. Sir Edward had certainly got his money’s worth. Wilson had gone off to convert the video he’d recorded to DVD. The business was becoming a nice little earner
+++++‘Have you heard about the Mandela Effect?’ I said.
+++++‘What’s that, then? Some sort of progressive-rock band?’ said Chunky. .
+++++‘Naw,’ I said watching Chunky opening a Lion Bar.
+++++‘It’s like a collective illusion. When loads of people believe something’s true even though it isn’t.’
+++++‘Like an urban legend?’
+++++‘Yep, a bit like that,’ I said.
+++++Chunky bit into the Lion bar and grimaced.
+++++‘Not exactly five star cuisine then?’ I said.
+++++‘Naw, it’s way past it’s sell-by date. Tastes a bit … fishy.’
+++++I dressed. Picked up my raincoat.
+++++‘So, what were you saying about the Mandela band or whatever?’ he said.
+++++‘The Mandela Effect,’ I said. ‘Well, it’s just that there are people in the pub who believe they’ve seen you get a round in but we all know that’s never actually happened.’
+++++I chuckled.
+++++‘Could say the same about you,’ said Chunky. ‘You never even go out these days.’
+++++‘I told you. I’m saving up.’
+++++‘How close are you to your financial target then?’
+++++‘Three hundred quid and my precious will be all mine.’
+++++‘Best make sure all that cash is safe, then. Stanley’s been hanging on to that car for you for six months now. The Aston Martin DB6 is a well sought after car, You know. He’ll be well peeved if you don’t buy it. And you wouldn’t like him when he’s peeved.’

***

‘It looks like an amateur job although it could be a professional job made to look like an amateur job,’ said DS Ronnie Burke.
+++++He popped a Nicorette into his mouth.
+++++My flat had been trashed and, of course, my savings were gone.
+++++‘Are you sure nothing was taken?’ said DS Burke.
+++++‘Nothing,’ I said.
+++++‘Could well have been a smack-head. Probably looking for cash or something valuable to sell.’
+++++‘There’s nothing valuable here that’s for sure. It was a shithole even before they trashed it.’
+++++DS Burke gave me his card.
+++++‘Call me if you spot that something is missing or if you have any ideas of who could have done it,’ he said.
+++++Of course I had a pretty clear idea of who had done it but I wasn’t going to share my suspicions with the law. I’d sort things out my own way.

***

+++++‘The thing with stupid people is that they are too stupid to know how stupid they are,’ I said. ‘They believe all they know is all there is. Know what I mean?’
+++++Chunky was sobbing, hanging from a girder in the crisp factory. It had been a pain getting him up there but Wilson and I managed in the end.
+++++Sir Edward was chuckling as he slapped Chunky with the riding crop.
+++++‘Stop, stop …’ he moaned.
+++++‘Have you got enough footage?’ I said.
+++++‘Pretty much,’ said Wilson.
+++++He moved closer to Chunky. Pointed the camera at his face.
+++++‘Just time for the last shot,’ said Wilson.
+++++Which, of course, was when I pulled out the gun.

The Dominant Hand

‘I met him on a Monday and although my heart didn’t stand still, per say, it certainly skipped a beat or two, I can tell you,’ said Martyna. She giggled. ‘But then that was Philly Bailey. He was a charmer, alright. Not to everyone’s taste I know, a bit rough around the edges and that. But he always had something about him. A twinkle, you know?’
+++++Martyna finished her gin and tonic. She sucked on an ice cube.
+++++‘He was certainly a hell of a ladies man,’ said Ryan. ‘I’ll give him that.’
+++++Ryan was feeling uncomfortable. He couldn’t relax.  Astros Wine Bar was filling up with after-work office drones and although it wouldn’t have bothered him back in his boozing days now that he was on the wagon he found that he had less and less tolerance for pissheads. He’d successfully survived Philly Bailey’s wake without the urge to break his three year dry run but now he wasn’t so sure of the strength of his resolve.
+++++For one thing, Martyna was looking well-fit in her little black dress and he wondered whether maybe he should try to comfort the grieving widow. Maybe a drop of Dutch courage would help oil the wheels of opportunity.
+++++‘Can I get you another drink?’ he said.
+++++‘Don’t mind if I do,’ said Martyna.
+++++Ryan went over to the bar and pushed through the crowd. He was a big man and had no problems getting to the front of the queue. He moved directly in front of one of the barmaids.
+++++‘What can I get you, love?’ she said.
+++++‘Gin and Tonic, please pet,’ he said.
+++++‘Ice and a slice?’ she said.
+++++‘Yes, please,’ said.
+++++‘Anything else?’
+++++His heart beat quicker.
+++++‘Er, a pint of John Smiths will do nicely,’ he said, feeling as if he were falling into a void.

***

Cokey hadn’t thought the kid would shoot. Hadn’t thought that a kid barely out of his teens would even know how to use a gun. But there he was lying on the kitchen floor while a snotty nosed kid stood over him with what looked like a Glock. The kid was holding the gun like a cop, too.  Gripping it with two hands, legs spread. Giggling.
+++++Cokey cursed himself for not casing the house properly before he decided to rob it. He’d let greed get the better of him. That and his desperate need for a fix.  
+++++ What was weird, though, was why the bullet hadn’t really hurt. In fact, it had been like a sharp stab now he thought about it. And now he couldn’t feel a thing. The kitchen door opened and a tall man with a silver beard came in. He was dressed like some sort of doctor.
+++++‘How many darts did you use, son?’ said the man.
+++++‘Just the one, dad. And then he fell over,’ said the kid. He started giggling and the man laughed.
+++++‘He’s not the sharpest tool in the box this one, eh?’ said the man.
+++++Cokey opened his mouth to speak but couldn’t for some reason.
+++++The man crouched in front of Cokey.
+++++‘It’s a drug,’ said the man. ‘Experimental. My own creation actually though my smart son here helped a fair bit.’
+++++The kid giggled.
+++++‘You’re paralysed now. And it’ll spread so that all of your organs give up and then, well, you’ll die.’
+++++Cokey tried to scream.
+++++‘But I’d like to thank you for coming here. For giving us to opportunity to test our new toy on a real person. I’m fishing to sell it off to the highest bidder over the dark web and you’ve just made pitching that sale a lot easier.’
+++++The boy crouched next to his father and used his phone to film Cokey. To watch him die.

***

‘We’re all on a road to nowhere, though,’ said Ryan. ‘That’s the funny friggin thing. That’s what’s so friggin hysterical about the song. That’s what it’s really about.’
+++++He spat as he spoke and Martyna leant back, away from his projectile spittle. Earlier, she’d though that Ryan might be worth a shag. Funerals always made her horny and he wasn’t in bad shape for his age. But then he’d started on the beer. Then the strong lager. And now he was knocking back cheap whisky – the Weatherspoon’s pub they were in had a two-for-one deal on.  
+++++He was becoming an embarrassment. She could see the bearded bloke who was having lunch with his son watching them. The boy couldn’t stop giggling.
+++++‘Oh shit,’ said Ryan.
+++++He looked pale. He jerked to his feet and ran. He burst through the toilet door but he didn’t make it to a toilet cubicle before he puked and then he slipped in the stuff as he struggled to get to the toilet bowl. A group of guttersnipes were stood outside the cubicle filming him with their iPhones. Laughing and taunting.
+++++He wished he hadn’t given in to temptation. He wished a lot of things. He tried to stand but slipped and cracked his head on the toilet bowl.

***

Ryan trudged through the dark fog into consciousness. His head hurt. His mouth felt arid. He peeled open his eyes and saw that he must have been in hospital because there was a doctor stood over him. A tall man with a silver beard. He wondered who the giggling kid next to him was. It was a strange scene, to be sure.
+++++Still, at least he was in safe hands.

The Tall Man

I sit on a bench in the darkened park and watch The Slug get out of his car. I am dressed head to foot in black and holding a black briefcase. The Slug walks up to an apartment block and opens the front door with a key. He doesn’t leave a real trail of slime behind him, of course, just a metaphorical one.
+++++The Slug is a very bad man, for sure; drug dealing, loan sharking, money laundering, people trafficking. He has his grubby fingers in so many dirty pies. But he has friends in high places: power and influence. So he has remained untouchable by the law for a very long time.
+++++He is also a creature of narrow habit. Come rain or shine, hell or high water, each Monday, just after midnight, he visits his Colombian mistress in her luxurious penthouse apartment atop an expensive West London apartment block. One hour later, he returns home.
+++++I wait for fifty five minutes and cross the road to The Slug’s Daimler. I take the Semtex out of the briefcase and strap it under the car. The sciatica in my back and knee hurts as I bend and stand up again. I massage my joints. And then go home to sleep the sleep of the just.
+++++I have much in common with The Slug. Once upon a time I was a very bad person, too: working for people like him, killing for money, until what my creative writing teacher called an ‘inciting incident’ occurred and I changed my ways. After a fashion.
+++++I am also a creature of narrow habit. Each and every morning I have a cup of sweet tea and a bacon sandwich at The Star Coffee Bar, just off the Walworth Road. And as per usual, I listen to Jazz FM and read the tabloids. I open a copy of The Sun, a loathsome rag that I stopped buying after Hillsborough, and find out The Slug is still alive. The article says that he is in intensive care after a suspected terrorist attack and under 24-hour police protection.
+++++I take out my mobile phone. It’s an old Nokia: less easy to hack than a Smartphone. I send a one word text message: Coffee.
+++++Like The Slug, I have friends in high places. And low ones too. Detective Sergeant Steve Toshack is somewhere in between, I suppose.
+++++He arrives at noon and orders a black coffee with hot buttered scones.
+++++He sits in front of me. As always, he wears a waxy raincoat and his long moustache is ragged, in need of a trim. Tosh is also a creature of narrow habit. Maybe it’s an age thing.
+++++‘A bit of an oops moment, then,’ says Tosh.‘A faux-pas.’
+++++‘He’s either a lucky bastard or I’m losing my touch,’ I say. ‘Where is he?’
+++++Tosh hands me a betting slip.
+++++‘That’s the hospital and that’s the room,’ he says, tapping the paper. ‘The copper on duty is a bloke called PC Whittaker. He’s a useless sort, been on the take for years too. He’s due a suspension. If you do the job on The Slug he’ll be up shit creek without a paddle: might even be able to get him to name some names.’
+++++‘A win-win then,’ I say.
+++++We sit in silence while Tosh finishes his food and drink. I try not to look at him while he eats.
+++++After my inciting incident, I decided to go in to business for myself: getting rid of undesirables. I built up a large client base, too, including a couple of governments and police forces.
+++++Now, I use the name The Tall Man and give out business cards that contain only a drawing: the elongated silhouette of a man, and a mobile phone number. Very few people know who I am and even fewer others are able to guess my identity: especially since I’m short. And I’m a woman.
+++++Tosh leaves and I wait for fifteen minutes and get up: my sciatica bites.
+++++I straighten my tweed skirt and pull my tartan shopping trolley towards the front door, waving at Pete and Jason behind the counter. The shopping trolley jams as I try to get it out of the door.
+++++A massive builder gets up and helps me with it.
+++++‘There you go, pet,’ he says, straining with its weight. ‘Bleedin’ hell, that’s heavy. What have you got in there?’
+++++‘Slug repellent,’ I say and step out into the autumn rain.

Killing Mr Cornflakes

Mr Cornflakes eased the two plastic carrier bags onto the wet pavement and wiggled his fingers. Squeezed his left arm. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he picked the bags back up and waddled on down the high street.
+++++He’d changed somewhat over the twenty years since Roddy had last seen him. His psoriasis, which had earned him his nick name at the comprehensive school, looked like it was under control but his skinny neck seemed elongated to snapping point now and his eyes were yellow, bulging. He was completely bald, too.
+++++Roddy thought he looked like one of those dinosaurs, a raptor, he thought they were called. He was sure that’s what the kids would call him now, if he was still teaching. Still making kids’ lives a misery.
+++++Roddy drove slowly past him, replaying all the humiliations that he’d endured at Mr Cornflakes’ hands. The times he’d wanted to smash his skull in. Jab a fountain pen in his eye. Thought about how easy it would be to ram his car into him and drive off. Crush those bent legs.
+++++But the old man just looked pathetic now, in his worn suit, with his arthritic hands. And Roddy thought about how much he’d achieved, his expensive cars, homes around the world, and how living well really was the best revenge.
+++++For the most part, anyway, he thought, as he turned the car, sped up and splashed through a puddle, soaking Mr Cornflakes.
+++++Sometimes, it was the little things that made a day.

*

Asia switched off her laptop and took a sip from the glass of Bombay Sapphire. She didn’t usually drink before her shift at the hospital but her other job, as a video cam worker, was eating into her, making her feel stained. Dirty. The drink seemed to cleanse her, though. At least most of the time.
But tonight’s last caller had been a real creep – obsessed with necrophilia- and had freaked her out more than somewhat. She finished her gin and poured herself another glass.
+++++Earlier in the week, Annie-May, one of the psychiatric nurses at the hospital, high on self-prescribed pharmaceuticals, put the wind up Asia, saying that some of the callers were probably cyber nerds. Brilliant hackers who could track the workers down. This had scared Asia even more than the phone calls.
+++++She put on her coat and was about to walk out of the door of her flat when she heard a screaming sound. She raced over to the window and looked out. An old man was stood on the kerb side. Shouting at a car that was haring down the road. He looked like a real nutter. And then she was sure he started looking up at her flat. She checked the Taser in her handbag.

*

George Middleton’s foul mood was getting worse by the minute. He was sure that the idiot driver in the expensive car had soaked him on purpose. Typical of the youth of today. Money but no manners.
+++++He put down his shopping and fumbled in his pocket. His fingers were stiff and it was a struggle to pull out his hip flask. It was looking a bit worn now but it had seen him through many a bad day. He’d never have survived all those years at that hell house of a school if he hadn’t been able to have his little nips of brandy. This time he took a deep swig.
+++++The comforting warmth filled him and he took another drink. He looked up at the clouds spreading across the sky like a cancer. He’d really have to get a move on if he was to avoid getting pneumonia.
+++++He picked up his shopping and headed off down the street. But stopped as he started to feel numbness in his left arm again. And then the weight of an elephant on his chest. He rushed and staggered toward the block of flats as he saw a woman in a nurses uniform step out.
He headed towards her, to ask for help but he couldn’t form words. The woman started screaming and pointing at him with something that looked like a sparking, toy ray gun. And then darkness and peace slowly enfolded and smothered Mr Cornflakes until he was dead.

© Paul D. Brazill 2012