Why does every modern pub have to be a corporate-owned, pretentious, wank-hole? The décor screams quiet country pub, but outside all I see are shops, cars, adverts and an endless stream of consumers hell-bent on buying the shit out of the latest bit of frivolous, technological titillation. I was in one of those soulless, crap-shacks, a break from the wife and little one on their endless shopping spree, when I bumped into Ian ‘razors’ McMullen.
A decade ago we’d shared a cell in Craiginches. I’d been done on an assault charge and he’d got nicked for giving a Chelsea smile to a skinhead. By all accounts the Nazi bastard got what he deserved but sometimes justice comes at a price.
We were chatting about old friends, mostly dead now, when razors’ eyes went white and I watched as he slowly collapsed to the floor. Behind him was the man I only knew through reputation. It was Big Billy B, holding the remnants of a pint glass and a smile I can only describe as disturbed. I later found out the intention had been to shit Razors out, a message, so he would pay his debts. He was dead before he hit the floor but Big Billy B still loomed over him demanding his money.
Billy’s massive belly stretched his Armani shirt into shapes that would make any designer weep and as he approached me I let out a small laugh. His wiry eyebrows looked like a family of white-legged spiders growing on his brow. He wasn’t pleased, either at me or the now dead Razors, and as he took a step towards me and leaned in, his Santa-esque beard tickled my ear. I knew laughing wouldn’t help, but I wasn’t scared of this psychotic Saint Nick, I dealt with worse than him back in the day.
In a whisper that belied his size he said, ‘Son, you’ve just inherited his debt,’ and pointed to Razors.
I instinctively told him to fuck off but recoiled, not at his words, but the smell of his breath; a kind of minty fresh, putrefied corpse.
I saw his massive fist coming but didn’t have time to react.
When I come too, I’m in a portacabin, empty except for the blacked out windows, blood splatters and of course Big Billy B himself.
‘Awake at last! I’d have expected someone with your reputation to put up more of a fight.’ I just shrug my shoulders. I assumed I would be restrained but I’m free to pick myself up off the floor and as I do so I’m checking for an exit.
‘So… James Dorian, or should I call you J.D.?’
‘Okay J.D., this is the situation. You’re currently in my portacabin and in my debt; apologies for both. My basement is being refurbished and well… Razors is dead… so he’s in no position to pay me back.’ He strokes his beard in an imitation of contemplation.
‘And why the fuck should I care about his debt?’ The animal in me, sleeping for years, opens a lazy, quizzical eye.
‘Ah a bit more of that spirit I remember so well!’ he pauses, stares at me and then continues, ‘you should care about his debt cause I’ve decided you’ll have to repay me for his fuck ups. Just so we’re clear. Razors owed me three hundred grand which means you now owe me three hundred grand and I want my money.’ The only way out is the door and Billy’s massive bulk has that covered.
‘Call me Big.’
‘Well BILLY, as much as I would love to pay off someone else’s debt, especially one for more than a quarter of a million pounds, I’m afraid I’ve got about thirty quid to my name. You can have if you’re stupid enough to take it.’ I feel the animal’s muscles tensing for the first time in decades.
Billy’s face squints from a carefree smile into something my wee one has nightmares about. The joviality of his conversation is replaced with a thick silence. As I anticipate what he’s going to say next, I miss the fact he’s holding a baseball bat at his side and the fat fucker moves like lightening when he’s motivated.
I feel reality slowly sliding back into view as I pick myself up for the second time. The side of my head’s pulsing in time with my heartbeat and swelling with every passing second. It’s not the first time I’ve been beaten with a bat but it’s definitely the hardest.
‘Well I’m glad to see you’re awake again. I thought for a minute I’d done you in… and who’d pay your debt then? I guess your missus could raise some funds, I know some wealthy Arabs that’d buy her… and your little boy… probably for the same purpose.’ The casual tone is back along with a sympathetic smile.
I’ve heard many threats in my life, issued more than a few myself, and I know a genuine one when I hear it. Honestly, I wouldn’t be that bothered if they took Becca, but if he goes anywhere near my kid I will rip his fuckin throat out with my teeth.
‘Look Big, there’s no need to involve my family. I’m sure we can come to some sort of agreement. What about Razors’ family? It’s his fuckin debt, why don’t you sell his wife and kids? ‘
‘Damn, that’s cold! But then again they didn’t call you “Hyperdorean” for nothing. And I did think about it, but as Razors was my brother-in-law, I didn’t think my sister would be too happy!’
‘Well I’m warning you now, if you touch my boy, I will fuck you up.’ The thought that this walking advert for obesity would go near my family fully awakens the animal; teeth bared and growling.
‘No worries, I have no intention of harming your family.’ He chuckles to himself, ’you have something of value and you don’t even know it.’
‘The fuck you talking about?’
‘I want your balls,’ he paused enjoying the sound of the words, ‘on my mantelpiece like some fucked up Amazonian antiquities.’
‘You know like shrunken heads but it’ll be your shrivelled testicles instead!’
‘Why the fuck would you do that?’ I’m more curious than scared.
‘You really don’t know who I am do you? You don’t remember back in ninety-three, the Black Dog?’ I’m not concerned about the past. The future’s the problem as I realise there’s no way out now except through him.
‘How the fuck would I remember some random pub from twenty years ago?’ I’m trying to stare him down but he isn’t even blinking.
‘We were both young then but you must remember. I know I do. In fact I think about that day all the time.’ He finally looks away, dreaming of those halcyon days of our youth.
‘Well are you going to fuckin enlighten me or are you going to get all nostalgic and start blubberin?’
‘Yes that,’ he shouts at me, ‘that’s the J.D. I remember, the arrogance, the temper, the callousness. That’s the man who humiliated me.’ The window of opportunity for us both leaving here intact is firmly shut.
‘Look Billy, that was a long time ago, I was a different man back then, a boy really. I grew up, turned my back on the old life.’
‘Yeah I remember a lot of people were gunning for you, me especially, but I was I no position to take you on. I wasn’t the man I am now.’ He sticks out his chest but his bitch-tits reduce the gesture to a mockery of his eating habits.
‘Well I’m glad you’re feeling self-righteous but you still haven’t told me what the fuck this is all about.’
‘This, you little fucker, is about getting what you deserve.’ He stomps towards me, his massive bear-claw hands clenched into tight, white anvils, ‘You really don’t remember do you?’
‘Sorry Billy, I’ve have no clue what the fuck you’re talking about. ’ His body tenses but instead of a fist, he swings his chubby-muscular leg at me, I almost manage to block it, but my reflexes are not what they were and he boots my balls into my mouth. I crumple and small animal sounds escape my throat.
‘DO YOU FUCKIN REMEMBER ME NOW?’ His shadow blazes over me. His mood swings are infantile. Deliriously happy one moment, Devil-psycho angry the next, but as I’m writhing on the floor, praying my nuts will be delivered back to my scrotum, I realise who Big Billy B is.
‘Yeah man… I remember now… You’re Little Billy.’ I drag myself to my feet… again, one hand over my stomach and the other raised in surrender. I take a few deep breaths and just start laughing.
‘What the fuck you laughing at? He demands, as a fat, heart attack-inducing vein pulses in his forehead.
‘You know exactly what I’m laughing at. I’d forgotten all about that.’ Through fits of laughter I manage to blurt out, ‘Funniest… fuckin… thing… ever!’
‘Really?’ Not so much a question but a threat.
‘Do you think it’s funny to pal up to a guy, have a drink with him, and convince him the barmaid wants to suck his cock? Do you think it’s funny to blindfold him, lead him out the back and convince him the barmaid’s on her knees and waiting? Do you think it’s funny for the guy to get his dick out and enjoy his first experience of oral sex only to hear someone shout “it’s like a tiny snake pokin its head outta the grass”? Do you think it’s funny that when I ripped off the blindfold, not only did I see the whole pub pissing themselves, but I realised that the tongue on my dick wasn’t that of the sexy barmaid but your fuckin dog?’ He pauses for breath and then bellows, ‘DO YOU THINK THAT’S FUCKIN FUNNY?’
I don’t even try to hide my laughter. He breathes heavily several times, his spit and rage showering me, then produces a knife from his back pocket.
‘Do you think this is going to be fuckin funny? Eh?’ He jabs the knife at me and I chock back the tears and close my throat to stop the sniggering.
‘What the fuck do you think you’re going to do with that?’ I bark at him.
‘You owe me three hundred grand and my dignity. I figured a grand for each of your digits, forty grand for your limbs, forty-five for your head and seventy-five for your balls.’
‘Unfortunately for you I only have nine toes… lost one in a sex accident… don’t ask! Neither me, she or the dog came out of that with any dignity.’ My laughing stops at the disastrous memory.
‘Don’t worry about it J.D., the money isn’t really the issue. I’m going to take your balls and no one can put a price on that.’
‘Talking about balls, didn’t they use to call you “Bushy-Balls”?’ And I burst out laughing again. It puts him over the edge. In his Tornado rage, he drops the knife and swings wildly in my direction but with no real power or coordination. The clatter of the knife on the floor sounds the bell to my escape. It’s been eighteen years, four months and two weeks since I last took a life but I feel the old me, the true me, return like he’s never been gone.
I block a few rights and see my chance. I duck and pick up the knife. Lithe and graceful, my cat-like reactions kick in, and I spin to his side and silently slide the knife into his carotid artery but he just keeps swinging, not even aware he’s already dead.