Ray’s thighs burned as he crouched in wait. There was glass underfoot a long time on the floor, it crunched as he shifted for comfort. Twenty-five years ago this would have been standard procedure. Back then he’d have been crouching in an abandoned Baghdad building. He wouldn’t have been alone and it wouldn’t have been raining sheets. In Baghdad he’d prayed for rain, in that desert-land just a few drops would have soothed his sandblasted skin. He’d never thought of himself a religious man, until that was, he’d been to hell.
Lifting an ear to listen for approaching vehicles all he could hear was the farmhouse roof taking a battering in the downpour.
There was nothing to do but wait. Ray looked around this now desolate estate. It had once thrived with activity. This farmhouse once stood proud, now nothing more than a drinking den for youths, a place to shoot up for junkies. There was nothing else to do. Nothing left. With the loss of farming all other business caved. The shops, pubs and cafes now boarded up. So much of the community had relied on farming for income.
Poverty breeds boredom and desperation, and with it, a one-man economy. It employed a couple of people – a certain type, and they were far from welcome. An out of towner, Dan Francis, set up pawnshops preying on the vulnerable as they strived to keep roofs over heads. He also sold drugs to anyone that could scrape together enough cash and those that couldn’t. Dan Francis ran credit with his customers. If they couldn’t pay he’d send someone to take what little they had, the TV, the stereo, the fucking carpet – a man with a pawnshop can shift a lot of product. And when the hollowed out addicts ran out of sellable assets he took payment in other ways.
A spike ran through Ray’s chest. His mind wandered to the reason he was here. Cold, wet, burning thighs, was nothing compared with the memory of her. Broken, terrified – there had been so much blood, he’d seen horrors, but nothing left a hole in Ray like the sight of his once beautiful girl barely able to walk, tears streaking from sunken eyes. Pain etched so deep into her face you’d have thought it carved there.
Flashing lights sketched the horizon as a car turned left heading towards the farm. Ray lifted himself from his crouch. His heart raced. The car lights dipped into the valley and emerged from the other side. Ray waited. Pulling up to the old Farmland it’s slick tyres skidded to a halt. Dan Francis stepped from the car.
Ray took some satisfaction in watching him slip as he slammed the car door. His over-polished shoes slipping on the rain-washed silt. Perhaps, Ray thought, Francis might save him a job, slip and fall over impaling himself on something sharp. He hoped not.
‘Billy, where the fuck are you, lad?’ Francis called out.
Billy’s here alright Ray thought, but he ain’t gonna answer. The hole that Ray had put in the back of his head had seen to that. Billy Young was one of Dan’s suppliers. They met same time and place every week. Everybody knew it, including the police, but no one was going to tackle it – the world had given up on this town and left it to rot. Ray was about to fight back.
He’d waited hours for Billy. Fucker had taken his time. But, when he did arrive Ray wedged a pickaxe deep into the supplier’s skull. He didn’t use the gun, he wanted to keep noise to a minimum. He didn’t want Dan Francis hearing the shot as he approached and getting a heads up that trouble lurked. The rain had helped, Billy had jumped out of his car and ran for shelter in the farmhouse so he could smoke – he didn’t like the smell in the car. Ray’s axe swing welcomed him in. He dragged the body out of sight using the axe handle – which was still stuck in the back of Billy’s head now.
‘Fuck Billy, I know you’re here, I’m standing right next to your fucking car, get your arse out here!’ Dan Francis called out again.
Dan stepped towards the farmhouse using the roof of his Audi as an aid.
Just a couple more steps, Ray thought. He watched Dan slip and stumble, one foot after the other.
In Baghdad Dan would be dead already, Ray’d have shot him with his Long-Range rifle and he wouldn’t have known what hit him. That wasn’t the case here. That wasn’t what Ray wanted. He wanted the fucker to suffer and know why. It was a touch of irony that Ray would use a gun he’d stolen from Dan Francis’ own pawnshop. A quirk that would make this all the more satisfying.
Dan made it to a range that Ray was comfortable with. Ray span from behind his cover and shot twice. Both of Dan Francis’ shoulders exploded as he was thrown backwards. The shots perfect, Ray took two more. This time Dan’s legs were the targets. Aimed for, and hit.
Ray ran from his first floor position ignoring the burn in his legs. Outside he stood over Dan Francis. Dan wept, not such a big man when faced with the inevitability of his situation.
‘I don’t even know you, man.’ Dan pleaded.
Ray pulled out his wallet. He opened it revealing a picture of his daughter, before the drugs had taken hold. He held it in front of Dan’s face.
‘You know her though,’ Ray replied. He slipped his wallet away and took aim.
Dan Francis yelped and shook. If his arms still worked he’d have covered his face, a futile defensive gesture. Ray’s first shot hit the mud above Dan’s head, an intentional miss building fear. Dan flinched violently and yelped again. Ray smiled for the first time in a while.
He shot again. This time he didn’t miss.