I struggled with my impatience, watching Kay pack. She was irritating me the entire time, and as she talked, and wept, and snotted all over the place, I kept getting these intense visions of violence in my head. She would pack a few things, and then collapse all over me in tears again. It was on the tip of my tongue to tell her to get her fucking act together. Instead, I held her close and patted her shoulder and let her cry it out. I felt like reminding her that she had never liked the old bitch anyway, and every time she sniffed the snot back up her nose, I felt like grabbing a tissue and ramming it into her face. That would give her something worthwhile to cry about, I thought. But I didn’t. I did everything the way I was supposed to do. I helped her pack, made sure she had money, checked her car for oil, water and fuel. She lolled against me in the driveway after I had packed the boot for her. “Our last words were harsh ones,” she was moaning into my shirt. “Do you know what the last thing I ever said to her was? Mind your own business and leave me alone!” She pulled back, gazing up at me with her streaming red eyes. “How awful Lee! How awful is that!” I agreed with her; it was awful, it was fucking disgusting to be honest. But I didn’t tell her that obviously. I soothed her, and rubbed her back, and kissed her sweet little face, tasting her salty tears before she pulled away and ducked down into the car.
“We all say things like that,” I told her, as she pulled across her seat belt. “That’s life honey. We can’t possibly know what is around the corner.”
She sniffed and nodded, and turned the key in the engine. “I’ll be back by the end of the week. Trust her to want to get buried in the middle of bloody nowhere in Cornwall. You make sure Danny helps you with the packing and everything.”
“Oh he’ll be helping me alright,” I smiled at her brightly. “Don’t you worry about that. Call me when you get there okay?”
When she had gone, I had work. My mind was busy the entire time. My thoughts dominated by him and whatever it was he was up to. Jack came in late in the night. His brow was all creased and concerned, his rubbery lips jutting out like a petulant child. I sighed and rolled my eyes when he came to the bar. Why did I suddenly feel like his despair was my responsibility? I shoved a whiskey at him and hoped that would be the end of it, but he hauled his fat carcass up onto a stool and beckoned me closer. “No sign of him,” he told me, shaking his head, and reminding me of a shaggy, drooling dog. I scratched my forehead and winced at him. What did he expect me to say?
“Don’t get all worked up,” I shrugged at him.
“Don’t know what I did wrong,” he replied morosely. “Did I do something wrong? I thought we were friends.”
“Well you thought wrong, didn’t you?” I snapped at him in disgust. “Isn’t it obvious Jack? The little shit was using you all along. Maybe he’s found another dealer, maybe he’s given it up for lent, who knows? Who gives a shit?”
Jack viewed me darkly over the rim of his glass. “You,” he said evenly. “You do.”
“Oh do I?”
“You’ve lost control,” he reminded me. “It’s all slipping away from you…You know what else is weird?”
I was losing my patience with him. The very sight of him appalled me. The man was turning into a fucking joke. Sitting in his flat, mourning and moping over a teenage boy who wouldn’t come near him with a fucking barge pole. The great fat bearded slug. “I’m sure you’re about to tell me Jack. What else is weird?”
“Lawler,” he said. “Can’t get hold of him most the time. When I can, he’s jumpy as fuck…evasive. Whatever’s going on, he’s involved.”
I walked away from him then, pretended I had other people to serve. What was the point? Being too close to him was probably bad for my health. If the man was too stupid to realize the little fuck had been using him the entire time, then I had little more to say to him. I was going to drag it out of Danny that very night, when I returned home from work. I stood outside his room for a really long time, just listening to his music beating softly through the closed door. I thought I recognized the song that was playing. I was pretty sure it was by The Rolling Stones. There’s no time to lose, I heard her say…catch your dreams before they slip away…dying all the time, lose your dreams and you may lose your mind…ain’t life unkind? It made me wonder what he was doing in there…what he was thinking, and feeling. Flashes of blood and gore slammed through my mind. I stepped back. My foot twitched and I could feel it kicking out, finding soft flesh and burying itself in it. My hands unclenched at my sides, and I could almost feel the soft hair falling through my fingers. I stepped back again, and I thought, no. No, let the little fucker stew on it a bit longer. Let him lie awake all night with his guts in a knot, wondering if I am coming in. Let him think I am coming for him at any fucking moment. Let him dream about me, and we’ll compare notes in the morning. I went into my own room, peeled off my clothes and slipped gently into bed. I’m coming for you, I thought, as I drifted easily towards sleep, I’m coming for you, and then you’ll be fucking sorry…
He had something on his mind the next day; I could sense it right away. I listened from the kitchen, turned the radio off, and stuck my head forward. I could hear him rushing around up there, scurrying from his room to the bathroom, and back again, as if he had slept in, as if he was supposed to be somewhere by now. I walked slowly to the door, and waited there, with my eyes narrowed and my hands trembling with the urges that rolled and thumped through my body. He was back in the bathroom again. Brushing his teeth. Not hanging around for breakfast then. The toilet flushed and the bathroom door opened again. He was coming down the stairs now, so I kept back. I could tell what he was doing. Stepping from one side to the other, avoiding the stairs that creaked the most. He was always creeping around, I thought then. Always trying to sneak in and out without being seen.
I hung back until he came into sight, crouching down in the hallway to tie up his laces. He had his headphones around his neck as usual. The black cord wound down to the waistband of his jeans. He stood back up and I made my move; taking him out with a heavy blow to the back of the head that sent him crashing into the front door. I approached the fallen body, and I could feel the surge of power rocketing through me. It was like an electric current, it was like being on fire, it was like I was burning from the inside. Inside my mind I briefly considered the phone call I could make to Kay later. Just killed your precious little fuck up of a son baby, sorry about that, went too far, thought he’d bounce back like normal but he didn’t! I’d be laughing at her, laughing at her dumb voice when it questioned me, laughing as I explained to her how I took him apart piece by piece, just because I felt like it…
I savoured every moment of delicious power, of knowing that he was down because I brought him down, that he would stay down until I let him up, that I was the boss and that was the way it was. I felt like I held the entire universe inside my own fist and could do with it whatever I wished. The boy was moving now, grunting as he tried to get his knees up under him, with one hand pressed to the back of his head, fingers splayed. I towered over him and then booted him in the ribs, laughing out loud at the breathless gasp he made as he slumped back down again. “Don’t move, don’t even think of moving, don’t even lift your fucking head unless I say you can, right?” He nodded, with his cheek against the carpet, his hair covering his face. “Good. Going somewhere were you?” I asked him. “Sneaking off again, were you? You’re not going anywhere until you tell me the truth. So we can do this the hard way, or the easy way.” I lifted my foot and placed it down on his neck, grinding my boot into the skin. He cried out, but kept still. Sensible. I leaned down over my knee. “Where you going?” I could see one blue eye staring back up at me through a mass of tangled blonde hair. “Where were you going?” I asked him again.
“Record shop…” he panted.
“Bullshit. I don’t believe you. You’re going to see them boys, aren’t you? There’s something going on between you and them, isn’t there eh? I need to make that phone call to the cops, don’t I eh?”
“No! No you don’t! I was going to work, swear to god I was…”
I increased the pressure on his neck, and all he could do was squirm and take it. “I want to know why you’re not going around Jack’s anymore. He’s sad about it, did you know that?” He said something that was indistinguishable so I eased the pressure and leaned forward. “What did you say?”
“He was giving me the creeps…”
“What the fuck kind of thing is that to say?” I roared down at him. “What is that supposed to mean? Giving you the creeps? He wasn’t giving you the creeps when he was handing dope and whizz out like fucking sweeties, was he eh?”
“I don’t wanna’ do all that anymore…”
“Really?” I sneered, pressing my boot down again, “Is that so you lying sack of shit? And you expect me to believe that, do you? You just woke up one day, and suddenly Jack was creepy and drugs are a no no? You know I could kill you right now, you pathetic little motherfucker? Snap your neck in a heartbeat. Take you somewhere far from here and just dump you. I’d tell your mum you packed your stuff and ran away. Is that what you’re planning is it eh? Running away again?”
“No,” he spluttered under my boot. “No I’m not.”
“You better not be lying to me,” I warned him, gazing down over my knee. I moved my boot around, feeling his neck with it. I felt like I was very close to slipping into some kind of trance. Everything seemed to have slowed down, and blurred around the edges. I questioned dimly if I was actually just dreaming… “I’ll find out if you’re lying to me. I’ll find out if you go anywhere near those Anderson boys, and then I’ll do exactly what I promised I would shit stain, I’ll get those sniffer dogs sent round to their house, and I’ll finish those little fuckers for good. You’ll never see either of them ever again. And as for you, well, I’ll punish you and you’ll realize then how easy I’ve gone on you up until now…” I straightened up then and removed my foot. I heard the boy start to take deep, sucking breaths of air. He pushed his hair from his face with one hand, and then just lay still. “Your mum’s gone,” I told him, and he nodded. “Gone to sort out the funeral and your Grans stuff, and all that crap. While she’s gone, you do not breathe unless I say so, got it?” I nudged his arm with my toe and he nodded again. “You do not leave this house unless I say so, and you do not use the phone unless I say so, and you do not answer the door unless I say so. I want to know exactly where you are at all fucking times, you got that?”
“What about work?”
I thought about this for a second. I knew it meant a lot to him, that place. He kept going on about how he would get a job there when he was sixteen. “Hmm,” I said, scratching my chin. “We’ll see. Maybe if I drive you in and pick you up afterwards eh? When he’s gonna’ start paying you?”
“He pays me a bit. I’ll give it you?”
I laughed, tickled by the hopeful, pleading tone to his voice. He moved his arms and crossed them in front of him, lifting his head unsurely and slowly, his eyes on me, yet unsure whether they should be. “Yeah, give it to me,” I told him blankly. I was bored now. There was a list of things to do lying on the kitchen table. I nudged him again with my foot. “Right, up you get then. I’m writing a list. Got shit loads to sort out while your mum is away. Sale is going through on the new house, so we got to get this place packed up and cleaned up ready for tenants to start viewing. So there’s plenty to keep you busy okay?”
He was rubbing at his neck. “What shall I do first?”
I smiled. I half wanted to tell him he was a good boy. But there was something too contrived about his question. It was like he was asking exactly what he knew I would like to hear. I watched him struggling up to his knees. I experienced a brief urge to boot him back down again, but it passed, and I just felt tired. He turned to face me once he was back on his feet, and scratched nervously at one arm. “You can take everything out of the fridge and clean it from top to bottom. Then you can get started on the oven. Then you can go to the shop and get some things we’ve run out of.”
He nodded. “Okay.”
I slipped an arm around his shoulders and led him towards the kitchen. “Then you can pop over to Jacks and keep him company for a bit while I’m at the club. He misses you, you know. He told me that.” I felt his body freeze under my arm and I laughed, and hauled him along.