Category Archives: Jack Larkham

Keepsake

I take the ear out of my pocket and slide it across the desk. Markus has been crying, on account of his dog, but he perks up at the sight of the ear.
+++++He smiles. His teeth are fucking shocking, his mouth a black hole of nicotined stumps and bleeding gums. I look away, towards the dog, a scrawny little mongrel called Lucky. Lucky’s ancient and flatulent, but he still has better teeth than Markus.
+++++Markus examines the ear, turning it over in his hands. He squeezes it and stretches it. Bangs it against the desk a couple of times.
+++++“I thought it’d be bigger,” he says, his eyes red from the crying. “You sure this is his?” He sniffs it, as if that might help.
+++++“I hacked it off with a box cutter,” I say. “Off the side of his head. I’m pretty sure it’s his.”
+++++Markus holds the ear up to the light, at arm’s length. You can almost see right through it.
+++++“You know what Vince was like,” he says. “Massive fucking ears. Taxi doors.”
+++++I’d never noticed Vince’s ears before. We’d worked a few jobs together, doing Markus’ dirty work, and I liked the guy. We talked, but not much. He said he had an ex-wife who was a nurse at St Mary’s and a kid he wasn’t allowed to see, but that was it. Vince didn’t say much, and that was fine by me.
+++++“Did he suffer?” Markus asks.
+++++“He suffered.”
+++++Markus nods. “Guys like Vince, they think they’re clever.” He smiles and tosses the ear into the corner. Lucky sniffs it and licks it, but half-heartedly. “But they’re not so clever.”
+++++Markus likes them to suffer. Pays extra if they suffer, and extra again if I bring him a little keepsake for Lucky. An ear, a nose, a thumb.
+++++I don’t tell Markus I shot Vince the second he walked into the basement. Back of the head. Didn’t need a box cutter because the ear came clean off. Ended up on the other side of the basement, in a puddle next to a leaking hot-water pipe. Wet, but intact.
+++++It didn’t take long to find the money, the hundred here and hundred there he’d been keeping for himself. I didn’t think he’d be that fucking dumb, to be honest. Not with Markus. Didn’t think he’d be stupid enough to stash it under his bed either. Nearly five grand.
+++++Markus leans forward, bony elbows on the desk. Something creaks: his elbows or the desk, I can’t tell.
+++++“What about the money?” he says, clicking his tongue and turning to Lucky.
+++++“Nothing,” I say. “Took a couple of the lads back to his place, little shithole he was renting near the station. Turned the place upside down. Nothing.”
+++++Markus shakes his head. He takes a filthy handkerchief from his pocket and wipes his eyes.
+++++“Look at him,” he says.
+++++I look at the dog. He’s sleeping, his eyes twitching.
+++++“Breaks your heart, doesn’t it?” Markus says. “Seeing him like that.”
+++++I nod. I want to leave, just so I don’t have to look at Lucky any more, or Markus.
+++++I’d like to say I did the right thing and dropped the money off at St Mary’s for Vince’s ex-wife and the kid he wasn’t allowed to see, but I didn’t. It’ll come in handy, when the time is right.
+++++Markus pokes his tongue into his gums, roots around in the rancid corners of that mouth. He winces and spits blood, before reaching into his jacket pocket again.
+++++He slides my money across the desk. Three grand. It’s a little light, but I take it. He looks away, deflated, and stares at the wall. His signal. Time for me to leave.
+++++He waits till I’m at the door.
+++++“Remember what I said,” he says.
+++++I turn back. Watch him dabbing his eyes with the handkerchief.
+++++“About what?” I say.
+++++“Guys like Vince. They’re not half as clever as they think they are.”

Tooth

Len’s at the bar, counting his teeth.
+++++Big one at the front is missing. Another one at the back. It’s been a decent morning’s work though. Couple of teeth down, but five-hundred quid to the good. The money’s in his trouser pocket, a fat wad of twenties.
+++++“What’s the damage?” Matt says. Matt’s taken his ten percent, is already talking about a rematch. He pulls a pint of bitter and slides it across the bar.
+++++Len pokes around at the back of his mouth with the tip of his tongue. Finds another one, another hole. Makes him shudder, this one: a crater, all the way down to the raw nerve.
+++++He spits blood, wipes his chin with the back of his hand. Dribbles down the front of his already blood soaked shirt. Some of the blood’s his, but most of it belongs to the big Irishman they just wheeled out of the back on a makeshift stretcher.

***

Maggie opens the door a couple of inches. Pokes her head out.
+++++“You should see the other guy,” Len says. He tries to grin but his whole face aches. He looks past her, into the hallway. “Where’s the little man?”
+++++“I’ve told you, Len,” she says, her foot wedged against the door. “Just fuck off.”
+++++He sees the toys in the hallway: tractors, diggers, the red and white fire engine they’d bought Len Jr last Christmas.
+++++“I mean it,” she says. “I’ll call the fucking police.”
+++++Len shows her the money, the wad of twenties.
+++++Maggie hesitates.
+++++“Five minutes,” she says, letting him in.

 ***

“Big fucking Irishman,” Len says, sitting down, feeling himself sinking into the sofa. He closes his eyes, shakes his head. “Hard, hard bastard.” Len clenches his fist, feels the pain shoot up his forearm. Feels like something is broken, his knuckles smashed to fuck. He’ll have to have a word with Matt later. Guy’s a stiff, Matt says. The Irishman. Plenty of him, but slow. An easy five-hundred. Len thinks he needs to be a bit more careful next time. No worries, he said, set it up. Thinks what he should have said is, He’s so slow, Matt, why don’t you fucking fight him?
+++++Maggie stands over him, hands on hips.
+++++“Don’t you go bleeding everywhere in here,” she says.
+++++Len gives her the money, and she disappears. She used to have a strongbox in the bedroom, under the loose floorboards near the wardrobe. Used to hide all her valuables in there, her spare cash, her personal things, till Len cleaned her out. There’d been a diamond ring that had belonged to her mother and her mother’s mother before her. A really nice ring. Len got eighty quid for it.
+++++“Don’t think this changes anything,” Maggie says when she comes back into the living room.
+++++Len’s flat out on the sofa, snoring.
+++++Maggie’s brought him a spare shirt and a towel. She disappears again and returns with a blanket, one of Len Junior’s. She lays it out on top of him, and tucks it up under his chin. She hasn’t forgotten about the ring, about all the other things, and what she said: that she’d fucking kill him one of these days, she’d really fucking kill him.
+++++She watches his chest rise and fall, and listens to the gentle wheeze of his snoring. One of these days, she thinks, leaning over him and kissing his blood-specked forehead.