Friday, July 24, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 123 - Lee Hughes

THE WAGES OF SIN - LEE HUGHES

Alex smoked his cigarette, no longer caring if the stink was on his breath. Maggie wasn't around to bitch and moan. Same went for his whiskey breath. He felt as free as when he'd gotten out of prison that day she'd packed her bags, declaring that she'd had enough of his dirtbag ways. Alex had waved, said a 'cheerio' and listened to the windows rattle as she slammed the door hard enough to move the house an inch to the left.

All the things she'd griped about he was now free to do again. Her crone voice still echoed through the corridors of his head, and would continue to do so for a little while yet. Smoking makes your breath stink, booze makes you a bastard, and robbing banks gets you put back inside.

He took another drag of the smoke, sipped the whiskey from his hipflask and eyeballed the bank that he was planning on robbing; single life was good.

Alex stormed across the road towards the bank. He made it halfway before getting smacked by a car. He went up and onto the bonnet, all the way to the windscreen with enough force to shatter it. The car slammed on the brakes, Alex rolled off, and the concrete cushioned his fall.

The whole world was spinning and his right kneecap felt as though it were on backwards. He heard the sound of the driver's door opening and slamming, it seemed so far away.

“You okay?” the driver asked. The front of his car was crumpled, the windscreen busted and he wondered whether the bloke smeared over the road was okay after doing that much damage.

Alex struggled to suck in breath. Getting run over had winded him. He managed to hold up a hand, hoping that it would signal that he was alive.

“I'm phoning an ambulance!” the driver said.

“No!” Alex wheezed, forcing himself to at least try and get up.

“Stay there and don't move you could have internal bleeding.” The driver fretted.

Alex sucked in as much air as he could. The idiot had watched too many hospital shows.

“I'm fine,” Alex managed.

“It's okay. I've called the police, they've probably called for an ambulance as well,” reassured the driver.

Alex looked up. There was a resigned look in his face. “Why the fuck did you have to go and do that for?” He'd managed to get to his knees.

He looked around. There were enough gore-seekers gawking. Some were even getting footage on their mobile phones.

The pistol in his pocket felt like lead. It was heavy enough to sink him into finishing the eight-year stretch that he'd been freed from early. He drew the pistol.

“Get back in the car,” Alex said to the driver.

The driver just looked at the gun as if it were an oddity. England still wasn't accustomed to seeing guns up close and in real life. The spectators didn't scream, run, or duck for cover. They carried on watching as if the whole scene had just gotten better.

“I said, get in the fucking car. Now!”

The driver snapped out of it and retreated to his wrecked car. He seemed happy once he was back inside the safety of his vehicle. That didn't last long. Alex got in the passenger's side.

“Drive.”

“Where?”

“Just drive.” Alex's breathing was a little more regular. The driver fired up the engine and leant up close to the shattered windscreen.

“I can barely see.”

“Then barely will have to do for now.”

The car moved forward. Alex got his cigarettes out. The driver looked about to reprimand him on smoking inside his vehicle, but very wisely decided to keep it shut.

“Where to?” he managed.

“Just head to any underground car park.”

“Which?”

“Any.”

“The Marks and Spencer one's the closest.”

“Then get there, quick.” Alex wound down the window. His knee felt on fire and his elbows burned where he'd lost the skin to the tarmac.

*

Alex limped away from the car.

The driver shouted: “Wait a minute!”

Alex looked back over his shoulder. “What?”

“Let me help you.”

“Why the fuck would you want to help me?”

“Because I want your help in return.”

*

The police stood around the side of the car. The driver, a local businessman by the name of Arthur Harrington, sat looking shaken, with a nasty graze to his forehead.

“I know you've been through a lot, Mr. Harrington, but I need you to tell me again exactly what happened,” the detective said.

They listened as he retold how the man had forced him at gunpoint to drive him to the underground car park. And then had changed his mind and had demanded to be driven to this piece of wasteland. The man had demanded his wallet, which he had handed over without question. But then he had tried to take his briefcase. That's when he'd decided enough was enough. The briefcase had his employees' weekly wages in it. That was where he had been heading, out to the building site. He still paid cash, his employees preferred it that way. He'd put up a struggle and the man had gun-walloped him.

An officer corrected Mr. Harrington. “It's pistol-whipped.”

It didn't matter what it was called, the man hit him and then made off with the wages. Mr. Harrington had a little sob whilst a paramedic had a look at the wound on his head.

“When he brought me out here, I thought it was to kill me, you know, so no one could hear the gun?”

"How much cash was in the briefcase?" the detective asked.

"About a hundred grand."

There were whistles from the gathered.

"That's a hell of a lot of cash."

"We're in the last month of the build, as much overtime as they want, it soon builds up." Mr. Harrington moaned.

The paramedic had been checking out Mr. Harrington's head, he looked to the detective. “It'll not need stitches, but it'll need checking out back at the hospital. You bringing him in?”

“Yeah,” said the detective. The detective scanned the damage to the car. “Any preference where you want this towing to?”

“Just back to my house, please. My brother has a garage, it'll be cheaper there,” Mr. Harrington said, as he got out of the car, sighing.

The detective patted him on the shoulder. “Look, I wouldn't worry about it so much. The insurance will cover the theft. And it won't be long until the bastard is found. What with all the footage from passersby, we already have a name to a face. It'll be a matter of hours.”

“That's reassuring,” Mr. Harrington said, as he made his way over to the detective's unmarked car for his trip to the hospital.

*

They drove along.

The detective took a little nip and passed it on back. Mr. Harrington took a long pull on it before putting the hipflask back inside his pocket.

“I wouldn't have any more of that whiskey, just in case they need to med you up at the hospital,” the detective suggested.

Mr. Harrington nodded, hoping the booze would ease the adrenaline that was still pumping.

BIO: Lee Hughes's fiction has or is due to appear on, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, Powder Burn Flash, FlashShot, Microhorror, The Daily Tourniquet, Blink-Ink and not forgetting, A Twist of Noir. In print in the anthology, Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. Check out Lee Hughes Writes for even more information.

2 comments:

auntagnes said...

I just promised myself I wouldn't read any more until I'd finished my current read, yet I find myself popping along to your site to see what you've written, and you've written well again! Can't wait to start reading your novels, your characterisation is cracking.

Al Tucher said...

Everybody's on the grift! Good job.