When the call finally came it made him feel like he was having a heart attack. He jumped and panicked so much that he dropped the phone onto the floor of the car, and spent an agonising ten seconds frantically searching for it under the drivers seat. With it finally grasped firmly in his hands, Anthony answered the call and held the phone to his ear. What he heard did not bode well. Danny’s voice, sounding desperate and high pitched. Danny saying he was worried about his friend, who had not moved or made a sound. That part made Anthony zip up his coat and go to get out of the car. What the hell had happened to Mike?
He had to listen to more. It didn’t sound good. Danny was obviously in pain, had obviously had a beating. They must have been ambushed on the way in. Fuck! He had thought to himself uselessly, lashing out and punching the steering wheel, those fucking bastards!
Jerry Howard was arguing with Danny. “Anything he did to you, was for your own good you pathetic whining little specimen…” The argument went on and on, Danny sounded frustrated, getting angrier as Howard repeatedly denied the truth about his son. Anthony listened in, phone pressed against his ear, his other hand on the door handle, poised to leap out. Things were heating up. Jerry was getting angrier. Was Danny doing it on purpose to get Anthony’s attention? “Get up!” he was shouting now, and there was scuffling noises, “get the fuck up now!”
Shit, that’s it, Anthony thought, flinging open the car door and leaping out with the phone still glued to his ear. “It’s all true, it’s true, I wish I hadn’t killed him but that’s why I did it!” There was a loud bang, and then nothing.
“What the fuck?” howled Anthony, pulling the phone away and looking at it in horror. The call had ended. He brought Danny’s number back up, pressed call. Nothing. Dead. Shit. He started running, stopped, looked at his phone again, and brought up the police stations number. The phone burst into life again, scaring him stupid and making him drop it a second time. “Fuck!” he yelled at himself, and snatched it up from the ground to answer it. It was Lucy. “Lucy?”
“Anthony! Listen, you won’t believe this, me and Kay just had a visit from that reporter woman!” Lucy’s voice was slightly distorted Anthony thought, the line was crackling badly.
“Who? What? Lucy, I can’t talk right now, I’ve got to call the cops!”
“Call them, call them!” she was screaming back at him. “We’re on the way to them! Haskell gave us some tapes Anthony! She said it has all the conversations on she ever had with Howard! He admits everything!”
Anthony stopped walking. He stared ahead at the club, then over his shoulder at the road that twisted around to the police station. “What?” he cried in disbelief.
“Yes! Yes! She recorded all her meetings with him! We can nail him Anthony! You have to get out of there, you have to leave it to the police!”
“It’s too late!” Anthony cried back, suddenly breaking into a run, the club in his sights. “Mike and Danny are in there! It’s all gone fucking wrong Lucy! Call the cops, I’m going in after them!” He hung up and raced breathlessly across the road towards the club.
The violence lasted longer this time. He dipped in and out of consciousness, pondering the nature of it while it occurred. He seemed to feel oddly at peace with it. It was almost like after a certain amount of time, you couldn’t even feel the pain anymore. The other men didn’t have to hold him any longer. He was down on the floor and he was staying there. After a while, the kicking and the punching stopped, and he could hear the old man wheezing loudly. Good, he thought in amusement, give yourself a fucking heart attack you old bastard.
“What’s the plan?” Danny heard Nick Groves asking calmly. Jerry Howard coughed a few times, hawked up something and spat it out onto the floor near Danny.
“I haven’t decided yet,” he growled. “But I certainly feel better for that.”
“We’ll check on the other one again.”
Danny opened his eyes then. He found Jerry Howards burning back into his, just inches away, and he smiled at him. “What the fuck are you smiling about eh?” the old man demanded, blowing furious breath out from his flared nostrils. “Now I can really see why Lee liked battering you, you fucking ask for it don’t you eh? You little wind up merchant!”
“It’s just funny,” Danny coughed. “You look just like he did. Leaning over me in the kitchen…slamming my head into the floor…loving it. Until I fucking knifed him.”
“Well see if you find this funny, you worthless little cunt,” the old man leaned closer. Danny could smell the whiskey he had drunk on his breath. “I’ve got your money. I’ve got your apology. I’ve beaten the crap out of you. Now I’m sat here trying to decide whether to finish you off or not.”
Danny coughed in reply. He felt like his lungs were clogged with blood. It was getting difficult to breathe. Just like last time, he remembered calmly, and I was okay, I was okay. Jerry Howard rested his elbow on his bent knee and scratched the back of his head, as if in deep contemplation. “That’s right,” he said. “You put my son in the ground, now I’m trying to decide whether to put you in there as well. I’m trying to decide how I feel about spending the last of my days in prison, knowing that you’re in the ground. How about that eh? That make you smile eh?”
“Well at least everyone will know the truth,” Danny croaked his reply, and he raised an arm slowly, reaching out for Jerry Howard. He closed his fingers on the old man’s shirt. “Haskells’ story…what you’ve done here…Everyone will know why I did it and everyone will know he pushed me to it…so go ahead old man. If that’s what you want.”
“I think it might be…” Jerry replied, slapping Danny’s hand away from him. He reached inside his shirt and brought something out. Danny could see it reflecting the overhead lights back across the room. His stomach dropped into nowhere. Coldness spread down his spine. He realised then that he was still afraid. He realised then that he did want to live. He put his hand back out, snatched at the material of Jerry’s shirt, trying to reach for the knife. Jerry leaned back slightly, a cold and eerie smile touching his thin lips, as he ran his eyes up and down the blade he held in one hand. “Do you want to know how he felt, eh?” he asked. “Do you want to know how it feels to be sliced up? Stabbed to death? Knifed, over and over again? You did that to him, you little fucker, you have that in you. You like to think you’re the victim eh? You like to think you were so innocent? You like to make out you’re the good guys, and we’re the bad guys, eh? Is that right?” He turned the blade over in his hand, lifted it up and brought it back down. Danny could only see out of one eye. He reached again, he reached for the knife, he reached out. “You’re just the same as us,” the old man told him, holding it away from his grasping fingers. “You’re a cold blooded killer.”
No, no, no.
“In the old days it was always an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You killed my son. Now I’ll kill you.”
No, no, no, no, that’s not how it goes, that’s not what happens, no, no, no it’s not the bad guys that win, it’s not the bad guys that win, it’s not….
He had never run so fast in all his life. He ran as fast as he could, and it still didn’t seem fast enough. He arrived around the back of the club, and flung himself at the locked back door. Panicked, he looked around for a weapon, just as he could hear the sirens already wailing behind him. He couldn’t find anything, so leapt back up the steps and hammered wildly against the door. He heard the screech of tyres as the first police car skidded into the alley. He heard a voice behind the door.
“Let me in!” Anthony roared blindly, “fucking let me in!”
“Out the way, get out the way!” Voices behind him, boots pounding, more cars spinning and screaming into the alley. Anthony was forced aside.
“They’re in there!” he cried out helplessly, as the policemen ran up to the door, battering ram in hand. They did not knock, or call out any warning, they merely started to batter the door down. Anthony stood back, watching in fear, his hands raking through his hair. The door submitted, flinging back, bits of metal and screws from the hinges flying out. The police ran in, a whole load of them, and Anthony went with them. He felt hands on him, pulling him back.
“Not you! Out you go!”
Anthony shook them off. They had all clattered through to the main part of the club. He could hear them shouting, warning. “Get on the floor! Get on the floor now!”
One of them was kneeling to the side of the hallway, as the rest of them bundled past. Michael. Oh holy fuck, Jesus Christ, oh shitting hell Mikey! Anthony landed on his knees beside him. The policeman was already on his radio. “Ambulance!” he was crying out. Anthony put his hands down on his brother, who was not moving, not making a sound. There was a puddle of blood and his head was lying in it. “Don’t touch him, don’t move him!” the policeman barked.
“He’s my brother! He’s my little brother!”
“He’ll be alright. He’s still breathing.”
“Oh Jesus Christ, Mike? Mike?”
“Sir, you have to get back outside!”
“No, no I’m not leaving him.”
Police were on their way back through, two of them hauling the huge figure of Nick Groves, his hands cuffed behind his back. Anthony glared at him from the floor. He wanted to leap to his feet and beat the guy to death. But his legs were like jelly, and his head was swimming. Nick Groves was pushed roughly past him and out into the night, followed closely by the other man.
Anthony found his brothers hand, lying cold and still under his stomach. He pulled it gently out and closed his fingers over it. “Hold on, yeah?” he told him. “Just hold on Mikey, you’ll be okay, I promise.”
There was another screech of tyres and wail of sirens out in the alley. “That’s the ambulance,” the policeman informed him, patting his shoulder. “They’ll look after him.”
Anthony looked on uselessly as two paramedics rushed into the hallway and surrounded Michael on the floor. A policeman’s head appeared around the door then. He nodded at the paramedics. “Got another one in here!” he cried urgently. “Need you quick!”
One of the paramedics leapt back up and followed suit. Anthony looked up, as it registered slowly in his mind. He patted Michael on the arm. “I’ll be right back little brother,” he said, and to the man working on him. “you look after him, right?”
He got to his feet, walked quickly from the hallway and into the main part of the club. More paramedics came rushing past him, nearly knocking him flying in their rush to reach the figure in the corner. Anthony covered his mouth with both hands. There were two police officers snapping cuffs onto the wrists of Jerry Howard, who looked stony faced, his top lip curled in a snarl. Lying on the floor, close to the stage, was Danny. He was not moving either. The paramedics were working in a frenzy, pressing huge wads of bandages against his abdomen, where Anthony could see fresh bright blood pumping steadily through.