RRP To RIP can be found here.
The Man Who Watches The Watchers can be found here.
These are pretty much stand alone stories. But The Man Who Watches the Watchers explains the bricks.
THE MELTDOWN - LEE HUGHES
Ed and Tony watched as the police and the two numpties from Customs and Excise slumped out of Joey Rowland's office. They were empty-handed and with their tails firmly between their legs.
"Don't I even get an apology?" Joey Rowland called after them, then chuckled.
If apologies came in the manner of a slammed door, then he got one. Joey Rowland turned in his seat and watched them on the screens to make sure that they were actually leaving his club.
He gave Ed and Tony his attention. "Thanks for that, boys."
"No worries, Mr. Rowland," Ed said. All Ed wanted to do was get the hell out of there.
Ed stood, Tony followed suit. Tony was under strict orders to keep his mouth shut. They both shook Mr. Rowland's hand before heading for the door.
Mr. Rowland called out after them. "Come by sometime in the week. Like I said earlier, need to talk with you pair about some guns."
"Sure, Mr. Rowland," Ed replied, as he moved to open the door.
"Oh. And lads?" Mr. Rowland added.
Ed looked over his shoulder. "Yeah?"
"Don't forget your bricks," Mr. Rowland said, as he went back to doing his crossword.
Ed kept his cool, nodded to Tony and they went and picked up the hold-alls filled with bricks that Mr. Rowland had made them bring in the first place.
They tipped the bricks out of the bags around the corner of the club, leaving a nice pile of rubble.
Ed sparked up a smoke, sucked on it, blew it out. "Well, that's pretty much fucked everything up." He watched the club as the last of the punters left it.
"Nah. It's still on," Tony said, with a beaming face. "He's gonna suspect us even less now. After what we've just done for him and everything."
"Let's go have a pint. Should make last orders at the Lion," Ed said. "I need to have a little think."
They stood at the bar and ordered a couple of pints. Karen passed Ed his change. He nodded and they headed over to one of the tables.
Ed had to keep warning Tony to talk with his voice down. Tony took a few calming breaths. "Seriously, Ed. I mean, it's why we got those guns in the first place."
"And look where that got us. We've ended up with a van full of the fuckers and enough bullets to restock Bin Laden."
"Think of it as a long term investment," Tony said, then paused as something occurred to him. "Do bullets go off?"
"I should fucking hope so," Ed said, with a grin, as he took a swig.
"Prick. You know what I mean. A use-by date?"
"Ain't got a clue, probably not."
"Then we're sweet. We can sell everything off slowly whenever we can. But I reckon we should definitely do this. I mean, it's a hundred grand's worth of gold. With only Joey Rowland between us and it. We've got it all planned, Ed."
"You're right, it's..." Ed trailed off there as a bloke that just entered the bar caught his attention.
"What is it?" Tony asked, as he turned on his stool. It took a couple of moments for it to click, but click it did. "Fucking hell."
"Yup," Ed replied.
They both swivelled back around. It was one of the Customs and Excise pair. A familiar face passed the table.
Ed reached and caught the fat man's arm. "Moobs, sit down a minute."
The large bloke lowered himself carefully. He looked to them both at the same time. He could accomplish this feat because he was badly cross-eyed. It was like one eye had gone to the shops and the other was already back with the change.
"Alright, Ed?" Moobs said. And without moving his head. "Alright, Tony?" They both nodded.
Ed said, "Not bad, Moobs. As usual, things could be going better."
"Always the way, innit? Got a load of dodgy cigs if your looking," Moobs offered.
Tony asked, "How many you got?"
Moobs looked over at the fag-machine and began to mentally calculate how many packets of fags the machine was likely to be holding.
Ed broke his concentration as there were more important things at hand. "Moobs. You do know that there's filth in the house?"
That caused Moobs's eyes to widen. He looked around as though being cross-eyed gave him a panoramic view. "Where?" he asked.
"At the bar. The bald bloke. In the pale jacket," Ed described.
Moobs clocked him. "You mean Tom?"
"You know him?" Ed asked, showing more than a little surprise.
"Yeah. Usually comes in on a Wednesday. Plays on the darts team. Only night you usually see him."
"You know he's filth, though, right?"
"Customs and Excise," Moobs corrected.
"Same thing," Tony chipped in.
"He's alright. Sometimes sells me old man stuff that the lads back at the compound have kept for themselves." Moobs shrugged.
Any other time, Ed would have chuckled and found it funny as fuck. But not when a couple of hours ago he'd seen him trying to bust Joey Rowland.
"I'm sure Joey Rowland is going to be okay with the fact that you and your old man are letting one of the boys that just tried to have him arrested beer it up in your boozer."
"Couple of hours ago, the circus came into town and the clowns decided to set up shop at the Swing Room," Ed said.
"Fuck," Moobs replied. He gave a clumsy glance back towards the bar. "I'd best go tell dad about it." Moobs struggled to lift his weight from the stool and waddled over to the bar and managed to quickly get his old man's attention.
"If we're doing this job tonight, then I want to make sure there are no fuck-ups, okay?"
"As long as we're doing it I don't care how we go about it," Tony grinned.
He was just chuffed that they were actually gonna do the job. They sat and watched as Finny, the pub lunatic, went and purposely bumped into Tom, the bloke from Customs and Excise. An argument ensued over the spilled pint, though the argument was a little one-sided. The bloke from Customs just kept on saying he'd had a wank day at work and all he wanted was a pint. The Customs bloke got decked by a head-butt.
Finny grabbed him by the throat and dragged him towards the door with Moobs's father shouting that, "I'll have no anti-social behaviour in my establishment. You're both barred...for life!"
Five minutes later, Finny was back inside the pub. Moobs's father had already pulled him a pint in way of thanks.
Ed drained his pint. "Come on."
They stood in the garage they'd been letting for the fortnight since the incident with Gruffyd the Welsh arms dealer. They'd gotten the motor home and the guns. Gruffyd had gotten dead.
Tony was manhandling the big guns. Ed picked a Beretta nine-millimetre for himself and knew he'd not get away with anything so tame for Tony. But there was no way that he could let Tony arm himself up with an assault rifle. A little bit of bartering later and they had met in the middle and Tony would be allowed to carry an Uzi, but the stock had to be folded.
They were using a second-hand motor. They parked it around the side of the Swing Room. It wasn't too close to the door that they planned to burst through, yet not too far away should they need to reach it at a run.
Ed looked to Tony. "You sure you're ready for this? No going back once we start."
There wasn't a shadow of a doubt to be seen on Tony's face. Ed didn't know whether to be apprehensive or a little bit jealous.
Ed took himself on board a deep breath. "Let's do it."
Tony did the business on the door with a police-issue battering ram he'd won last Christmas in the charity raffle at the Lion. They burst through to find Joey Rowland standing there in the loading bay watching on as his boys made a nice little mound of bullion bars. The flower pot furnace was still smoking.
Ed ran over and pistol-whipped Mr. Rowland. It was a sign that if he was willing to put the big boy down then he wouldn't hesitate with the ones on the payroll. Ed had been practicing a fake Irish accent all week, so he was going to do all the talking. Tony hadn't been able to get the hang of any accent other than a Welsh-sounding Pakistani so he was under orders to keep his trap shut.
"No fucker move!" Ed shouted, sounding like something from My Left Foot.
Mr. Rowland seemed as though he had a lot to say about the proceedings but the rag that had been thrust halfway down his gullet muffled the most of it. Ed tied up the two lackeys whilst Tony kept them under control with the Uzi levelled at them. Once everyone was secure they began to fill their hold-alls with the gold bullion. They grabbed a bag apiece and made for the door.
They yanked off their balaclavas so that they didn't look suspicious. They moved around the bricks on the footpath and turned the corner. They bumped straight into the bloke from Customs and Excise. Finny had smeared his nose right across his face.
The Customs bloke clocked them straight away, recognising them from the club earlier in the night.
"You pair of pricks!" he said.
His words sounded bunged up and the coherency was retarded through him being as pissed as a fart to boot. Ed decided to try and ignore the buffoon and opened up the boot of their car. Tony slung his hold-all in.
The Customs bloke growled. "What the fuck is it with you pair and these bags of bricks anyway?" He grabbed for the bag that Ed had put down. Both went to stop him until he said, "If they mean so fucking much to you, here, let me help some." He lifted the bag, swayed a little and then managed to deposit it into the back of the car. He gifted them with the 'V' sign, told them that they were "A pair of cunts, both!", turned and staggered off around the corner.
Ed and Tony laughed as they heard him fall over the pile of bricks. They got into the car and drove away feeling pretty good about themselves for pulling it off so cleanly.
Tom struggled to get up from the pile of bricks that he'd fallen over. He swore at the pile and then spat at it. It took a good few moments for his booze-addled mind to put two and two together. Noise from a door down the side of the club stopped him from wanting to weep at the reality of it. It was Joey Rowland making all the noise.
Tom gave a drunken snort. "Lost something, have you?"
Joey Rowland ran and grabbed him by the neck. Everyone was grabbing him by the neck tonight it seemed, mused Tom as he struggled for breath.
"Who was it?" Joey demanded.
Tom half-laughed, half-choked. "Those two fucking builders of yours!"
"What?" Joey couldn't make out what the idiot was on about. He spied the abandoned bricks. He let out his anger on Tom and straightened his nose for him. Joey regained his composure. There were two very dead men somewhere in what would soon become a very, very small town.
BIO: Lee Hughes' short fiction has appeared or is due to appear on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, A Twist of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, MicroHorror and The Daily Tourniquet. He is in print in the anthology Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. Visit Lee Hughes Writes to find out more.