And so I had to remind myself yet again. Patience. Early days. All that crap. I was getting restless though, that was the trouble. I was vibrating under the surface. I talked to myself at night in my head. Thought about what I had, and who I was. Lee Howard. The co-owner, the sole manager of an up and coming nightclub. My own boss. My own man. Plans whirling in my head constantly, about the refit for the club, about the direction I wanted to take it in. I hadn’t got there in a hurry. I hadn’t got to the top of my game by rushing things, by moving too fast. Being patient and clever had got me everything I had ever wanted. The job, the cars, the woman, the power, all of it, in the palm of my hand. Everything. Nearly everything. Everything except for that fucking kid. That kid was fast becoming a thorn in my fucking side. A constant nagging headache.
I found myself mulling it over at work. It would invade my mind, without my permission, at the strangest of times. Going over paperwork at my desk, or whilst on the telephone to a supplier. It would leap into my head, bold and gleeful, taunting and goading me. I would be in the middle of a conversation with the cleaners about doing their check lists properly, and I would hear it in my head; that little fuck up telling me he was going to fucking kill me. My mind would wander away with it. I would feel my fists tightening at the end of my arms, my muscles tensing. I had the feeling I was treading on dangerous ground, but I was not sure why, or how. I wasn’t exactly sure why it enraged me so much to realize that I had not yet made the little bastard cry.
He was trying to ruin things between Kay and I. I knew it, I knew he was. In his own, sneaky little way. He was at it all the time. Putting ideas into her elderly mothers mind, trying to turn her against me. He had a big mouth. He had gone back on our deal. I could see how Kay was weakened in his presence. She liked to think she was tough, but she was unable to keep it up for long. I had seen it many times. Her resolve would soften, her tears would fall. She wanted him to like her, and his behaviour made her uneasy. I seethed in silence when I thought about the party. She never should have let him go to that party in the first place. What was she thinking? I told you so, I said to her afterwards, I bloody told you so. “You want him to like you all the time,” I pointed out to her, “and that’s not doing him any favours! That’s not how it works. It just means he has no respect for you, none whatsoever.”
I was right. I was fucking right about it.
I recalled my overriding feeling towards my own parents as a child, and it was fear. Pure and simple. Fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of upsetting or disappointing them. I did my best to avoid this fear by doing what was expected of me, doing my best, making them proud. It absolutely sickened me when I watched the way that boy strolled about, thinking he could do whatever the fuck he wanted. At age fourteen! It shook me to the core. The defiance in his eyes. All the time. All the time it was there. And what made it worse, the tougher I was on him, the more defiant he became. I will fucking kill you. If I had ever dared to say that to my parents…
He should have been in line by now. Like everything else. That was how it was supposed to be. That was how I had envisioned it. I hate you and one day I will fucking kill you. It popped right into my head when I was serving customers on a busy night. I saw his little face over theirs. Piercing blue eyes under lank blonde hair. Hate and defiance. I was perplexed by his attitude; I had no idea what to do with a rebellion. Every time I thought about that boy threatening me, every time those words trundled through my mind, my entire body would prickle with rage. The words would set off a powerful physical reaction within me. My breathing would intensify, air rushing in and out of my nostrils as my teeth clamped together. I would feel my body shudder, and then begin to tense, hair by hair, muscle by muscle, limb by limb. And then it was like there was nowhere for it all to go, and it felt almost impossible to stand it. My fists would curl up, one by one, and the sensation made me feel restless and unsatisfied, like a dog that has not had a walk for days. The intensity of it all would consume me and I would be unable to sit still, unable to concentrate. When I closed my eyes at night, all I could see was that boys scowling, petulant face, his messy hair hanging all over the place, and I would long to seek him out, to grab him, to squeeze him until he was begging and crying and saying sorry, I’m sorry. There were words I needed to hear him say.
I did what I could to alarm Kay. I put in longer hours at work, until she came to me with red-rimmed eyes, anxious that things had gone wrong between us. “I have to put in the extra hours,” I assured her. “The refit is under way, and I need to be there or it’ll all go tits up. I need to put the work in now honey, to make a better future for us all.” It was all paying off, I told her. There was a buzz on the street about Nancy’s. It was becoming the place to go. She lapped it up, as I knew she would. It was easy to placate her. The right words, chosen carefully. I was doing my best to make them happy, to provide for them. I was working my arse off, night and day. I wanted to make her happy and proud of me. I hoped that one day, Danny and I would be friends.
“You’ve got a big mouth,” I told him at the dinner table one night. Kay had rushed to answer the phone in the hallway, so I nudged the door shut with my foot, and lowered my knife and fork to the table. I clasped my hands together under my chin and looked him right in the eye. He was sat like he always sat. Elbows on the table, his cheek resting in one hand as if it was far too much trouble to hold his own head up and eat his food. He pushed the mashed potato around the plate, a slight snarl on his face, as if the food offended him somehow. “I kept my side of the deal but you didn’t keep yours. I told you not to make an enemy of me, but you didn’t listen. Now I’m going to be your enemy until the day you die.” He got up then, scraping back his chair, too arrogant to want to listen to a word I said. He went to walk past me but I caught his skinny arm and held it tight. I tugged him towards me, until my face was next to his and I could whisper softly into his ear. There were lots of things I wanted to say to him, but I had to be patient. There were so many things we needed to get straight between us that it was frustrating only having a moment. “You know, I’ve always thought I’ve got it in me to kill someone,” I told him in that moment. “Only thing that’s stopped me before is the fear of getting caught…but you know then I got thinking the other day, about kids like you.” I tightened the grip on his arm until I heard him release a gasp. It felt so thin and weak in my grip, I felt like one more squeeze and it would snap. I had to stop myself. That is the thing with violence sometimes, you know. It can take you further and further. “Little shit stains no one would even miss if they just disappeared…Kids who run off all the time ‘cause they’ve got into trouble. Run off. Disappear. Who would know? Who would care?” I shrugged my shoulders calmly, dropped his arm and turned back to my dinner.
It wasn’t enough. In fact talking to him in snatched moments like that only seemed to make me feel worse. That night I lay awake for hours while Kay snored gently beside me. The night of the party came back to me again and again. It was bad enough that the boy always had his mouthy little sidekick with him, but now he had the criminal older brother watching out for him as well. Keep checking over your shoulder, he had said to me, his voice a smooth whisper, a promise dancing in his dark eyes. I saw the look in those eyes and I recognized it. It was cold, and hard and it was what prison did to a man. You won’t see me coming, he had told me.
Enough was enough. Scumbag kids threatening me, warning me off, sticking their noses in. Sulky little motherfucker storming around the house I paid for. I finally made up my mind on a sultry September night, just days before the new school term began. I had been patient for long enough. I was avoiding my own fucking home, just so I wouldn’t have to see his sneering little face laughing at me. I was looking over my shoulder, staring into the crowds at work, wondering. It was becoming a joke. So I picked up the phone and dialled the number of an old friend.
“D.I Freeman?” the gravelly, whiskey soaked voice rasped from the other end. I let out a raucous, appreciative laugh.
“Jack! You old bastard!”
“Lee? Lee Howard? Fuck me!”
“The one and only. How the fuck are you, old man? Long time no see!”
“I’m hung over mate, how the fuck are you? How’s that new place you got going?”
“It’s blinding mate, gonna’ be unbelievable. That’s why I’m calling you Jack.”
“Yeah, got a proposition for you old man. How would you fancy a new job and a new place to live? Got a situation here that’s right up your fucking street.”