I twist the screwdriver out of his neck, and it makes a sound like a sloppy kiss. To his credit, he doesn’t even flinch.
The tang of hot blood fills my nostrils. The windows of the brothel have been nailed shut, and there is nowhere for the blood-stink to escape. I look for the tell-tale arterial spurt, but it never materialises.
I jab the hot metal into his gut instead, and he smiles queasily – before dropping to his knees.
Jesus. What a fucking mess.
When I first met my ex-wife Alouette, she was turning tricks to support her crippled brother. Her drugged eyes looked like clumsy smudges, and she had track marks on the backs of her legs. At that point in time, she was the prettiest hooker I had ever seen.
It was love at first sight.
When Alouette walked into the Dirty Lemon yesterday morning it was the first time I had set eyes on her in over a year. By this point, we had been divorced far longer than we were ever married. I took comfort in that fact – it made me feel like I had outrun my past. I haven’t outrun anything since I was ten, so it was especially satisfying. Fuck, last month I got outrun by a fat cop. He beat me so hard I shat blood in the holding cell.
It was a hot day, and the pub’s fire exit had been propped open with a traffic cone. The wheelchair ramp had been freshly painted, and the fumes drifted into the bar.
Alouette craned her neck as she glanced around the pub. She didn’t have to look too hard admittedly – the bar was quieter than the county morgue on a bank holiday.
I was happy to see her – in spite of myself. She was wearing sprayed-on jeans, an inside-out T-shirt and grubby tennis shoes. She looked clean and healthy.
She slipped into the chair opposite me.
“I need a favour.”
No small-talk. I appreciated that. There had been a lot of water under the bridge. A lot of other stuff too.
She smiled at me.
As a general rule, I don’t even do favours for my few remaining blood relatives, let alone my ex-spouses.
Her eyes creased as she struggled to maintain the smile. I remembered it well – small crooked teeth and a vague hint of desperation.
I didn’t return her smile. Lately I have had very little to smile about.
Alouette told me that her step-sister, Aileen, was part of a teen-hooker ring, operating out of a semi-detached house in Foxhole. I had heard worse stories coming out of Foxhole over the years, but this one seemed pretty fucking raw. The pimp – a guy named Nelson Felton – was keeping the girls strung out on ketamine, and selling them like animals to the highest bidder. Some of the prices I had heard mentioned were distressingly low.
Nelson and I go way back. I remember him as a teenager – he was skinnier than a junkie’s dog. He used to do razor attacks for Remy Cornish, back when that was still a viable career option. Remy always paid by the stitch, and it ended up being one of the best part-time jobs in town.
Nelson recently served 19 months in Channings Wood for breaking a man’s ribs with a claw hammer. The experience had a profound impact on him, by all accounts. I have never spent enough time in prison to succumb to the unique delights of ‘penitentiary pussy’, but I’ve met a few surprising converts over the years. None more so than Nelson. Rumour has it that he is now shacked-up with his ex-cellmate. I have heard that they make a lovely couple.
Alouette’s life story is long and depressing – like Foxhole Road. The brief chapter involving me always seemed like something of a high-point, but maybe I’m biased?
For what it’s worth, Foxhole Road also has its own unique charms. You just have to look really fucking hard to find them.
I pop the lock of Nelson’s semi-detached house with my screwdriver and sneak into the hallway. Inside, it resembles any other small town brothel. I can hear sex noises emanating from the lounge. Someone sounds like they are having fun – the other person, not so much. I slide the screwdriver into my back pocket and kick open the door.
“What the fuck?”
I recognise the boyfriend. His name is David Cummings. He is bony and rat-faced, and has a high-tar cigarette tucked behind his left ear. He lunges at me across the bed, dick still rock-hard. I slam an open palm into his chin and his head judders backwards with a queasy crack.
Nelson disentangles himself from the sweaty bedsheets. He has waxy yellow skin and a badly inked neck tattoo. He looks positively withered. Prison food was evidently bad for his health.
“Aw man, was that really necessary?”
I remove the crumpled photo of Aileen from my jacket pocket.
“I don’t want any trouble – I just want this girl.”
He laughs uproariously.
“Take my word for it – girls are overrated.”
I glare at him, dead-eyed, and he matches me with a well-honed prison yard stare.
A beat passes, and then I feel a tiny prick as the photo slips from my hand. I try to turn around, and realise there is a fucking needle stuck in my neck.
It’s Aileen, jailbait smirk stitched across her face.
I jerk away from her, trying to swat the needle away, but my arm flails helplessly.
Aileen stands over me, grinning. She is wearing a soiled-looking school uniform.
Nelson puts a sickly arm around her.
“Just what the fucking doctor ordered.”
It could have been minutes, it could have been hours.
I’m slumped on a worn recliner, sifting through the ulcerated visions inside my skull. The radiator next to me oozes a warm, reeking heat, and I’m sweating like a fat man at a gang-bang – mouth dry like sandpaper.
Nelson is wearing a cheap-looking kimono. I’ve seen similar items being sold from wire hangers on Torbay Road. They usually cost less than a rock of crack, but more than a Harbourside handjob. He offers me a feint, sardonic smile. When he smiles the sores around his mouth crack and ooze.
“David, our friend looks a little bit woozy. Would you escort him to the bedroom?”
David Cummings grins at me through yellow teeth and my guts tighten.
Then I remember my fucking screwdriver…