Priest was a gangster. Had been for a very long time. A career criminal, as the police would say.
Now he was feeling like a very old gangster. Much older than his 45 years.
His face was like a slab of cold meat, sunken eyes and a slash of cruel mouth below a twisted nose. Shaven close-cropped grey hair topping granite features. Several days of grey stubble covered his face.
He was a hard man and looked it.
Now he was lying on his bed, blood stained sheets, wearing only vest and pants, grubby and stinking from over a week of wear. He was awake but his eyes were closed. A lit Silk Cut smoking between his lips. A glass of malt whisky stood on the floor, the bottle next to it empty down to the label.
He reached down for the glass and felt a stab of pain shoot though his body. Anger seethed inside of him and a spark flared in his eyes.
He uttered a single word. Stark and loud in the silent room.
He gulped down a large belt of the whisky. Grimaced as he felt it kick him in the throat like a cold-hearted mugger and then again as it settled in his stomach. It was just gone mid-day and his mood was black.
Getting blacker by the minute.
Sliding his right hand beneath the grubby vest top, he rubbed his index finger gently over puckered skin. The scar tissue was still fresh, the flesh still red and raw.
Tender to his touch.
He'd been shot in the gut some six weeks earlier when a post office blagging had gone wrong.
The owner, an Asian guy, had pulled a hand gun from below the counter. Pulled it from nowhere and got a shot away before Priest had a chance to react.
Fortunately for Priest, the bullet had not lodged, smashing a rib on entry and ricocheting out again. Not so fortunate for the Asian; he was now history, splattered over the back wall when Priest let him have both barrels from the sawn-off.
Priest had help on the job; a kid named Slater, recommended by a friend of a friend. A flash young pup, with a ferocious habit that needed satisfying. He should have been watching Priest's back but had fucked up.
Fucked up badly and then literally fucked off when the bullets started flying. Picked up the hold-all with the takings from the safe in it and like Meat Loaf sang.
Was out of there like a bat out of hell.
Somehow, Priest had managed to get himself out of the post office. And, with one hand holding his guts, in place had driven himself to an alcoholic Irish ex-GP named Flynn who, between bottles of Jameson, had opened up Priest and repaired the damage. All the time Priest remained awake, the sawn-off in his hand as an added incentive for Flynn to get the job done.
The sawn-off never wavered an inch.
Bazz Clarke was a dealer. Well-known for good quality stuff. His motto; No shit dealt. No reason for customer complaints.
Always leaving them wanting more.
Two days later, Bazz, a short, stocky man with receding hair and as his few real friends would vouch, bad breath, returned home to his basement flat.
As he entered, a boot prevented the front door from closing behind him. Bazz, turning, was only briefly aware of a blade glinting before his eyes and then felt blood oozing as the tip found flabby skin under the chin. Backing into the room, Bazz had fear in his eyes.
"Hello, Bazza boy," hissed Priest. "I think we have a mutual friend that we need to have a little natter about."
Keeping the blade steady, he stepped closer and reached inside Bazz's jacket pocket and pulled out a mobile phone.
"Make a call and keep it short and sweet."
Priest's wicked grin sent a shiver down Bazz's spine. Slowly, he reached out his left hand and took the phone. For a split second, he seemed to hesitate and the knife held in Priest's hand twisted ever so slightly. Bazz quickly punched a speed dial number.
Priest's eyes never leaving him for a moment, the blade held firmly in his hand.
Later, Priest watched from his car as Slater came sauntering down the street, a haunted junky look in his gaunt face. Hands in pockets and collar up against the bitter weather, he stopped, took a quick glance over his shoulder and quickly descended the stairs to the basement flat.
Priest, sitting low in the front seat, blowing smoke rings from his Silk Cut, imagined Bazz answering the door to Slater; an inch of sticking plaster under his chin, sweat on his brow, a shake in the hand, maybe a nervous wobble in his voice. But he knew that Slater would be too desperate to pick up the warning signs.
Too flush with money. Flush with Priest's money.
And Bazz was too scared to say anything. Too fond of his balls.
Ten minutes later, Slater appeared on the street and slunk away. Priest gave it 30 seconds, waited for Slater to turn the corner then flicked the key in the ignition and put the car in gear.
Slater had been home over three hours. Home alone.
Priest had waited patiently outside to make sure. Now dusk had fallen, he got out of the car, crossed the road, pulled the knife from his pocket and went to work quietly on the lock with the blade.
As he pushed the door open, a terrible stench reached his nostrils. Quickly, he pulled the door shut behind him and moved slowly along the hallway.
The heroin and rat poison mixture had worked fast. Too fast.
Much quicker than Priest had expected. Well, chemistry had never been his strong point at school.
He had hoped to find the fucker in terrible pain; scrabbling around on the floor, clutching at his guts like they were on fire. Frothing at the mouth, begging for help.
But Slater was dead. Face down on the bathroom floor with his works scattered around next to him.
Lifeless eyes in a tortured face stared back at Priest as he rolled him over onto his back with his foot. Vomit and blood dribbled from the mouth and nostrils, pooling and making a mess on the tiled floor. Priest had to cover his mouth to stop himself from retching.
Revenge was definitely a dish best served cold, thought Priest. The colder, the fucking better.
"Ya cunt," he spat, the words echoing in the cold empty room.
The money wasn't too hard to find.
Still in the same hold-all, clumsily hidden and surprisingly full of crumpled bank notes. Before he left, Priest stowed the sawn-off in its place. Carefully cleaning the shooter with a towel before wrapping and stuffing it behind the water tank in the airing cupboard.
In the car, he pulled the remaining packet of poisonous heroin from his pocket and examined it closely. Drugs had never been his thing; he could never see the point really, always leading to trouble in one shape or form.
He shrugged, threw the packet in the glove compartment, gunned the engine, checked the rear-view mirror and pulled the car into the traffic; heading back in the direction of Bazz's flat.
After all, he didn't like to leave any loose ends. A good gangster never does.
Even an old one.
BIO: Alan Griffiths lives in London, England. He has a keen interest in reading Crime Fiction, particularly Noir. If successful, Rat Fink would be his first published story, making him a very happy man.