RHONDDA LOVEBITE - GARY DOBBS
He’d found them at last.
Stanton lay back on the bed, staring at the damp walls and twirling the business card over and over between thumb and forefinger. Round and round it went, incredibly fast so that the text upon it became a blur.
He’d had years of practise.
Sitting around with nothing else to do but twiddle his thumbs.
The place was a shithole. The wallpaper stained with damp, was curling the edges. In one corner, a strip had come loose of the wall and was being held up by the cobweb it had fallen into. The door frame, once a brilliant white, was stained yellow by years of nicotine and the floor was littered with empty beer bottles and crisp packets.
Stanton didn’t give a flying fuck, though.
He didn’t see none of it.
He was looking into the past, far into the past...
Five years ago, in fact.
Everything had gone to plan, better than any of them expected and Stanton grinned like an idiot as he passed the bottle around.
High-grade Scotch with a kick like a pissed-off mule and yet Cathy took it from him and mouthed it like it was nothing but water. She took more than her fair share and passed the bottle to John, who laughed as he threw a handful of twenties into the air and allowed them to come fluttering down around him like expensive confetti. He, too, took a swig but he couldn’t handle it and he doubled over coughing.
‘I need a piss,’ Stanton said.
‘Too much information,’ Cathy said and lay across the sofa and snatched the bottle back from John.
‘Don’t go running away with all that money,’ Stanton joked.
The wisecrack didn’t get a reply and, for a moment, Stanton thought that he detected a guarded look between John and his (Stanton’s) wife. No, he pushed the thought from his mind, telling himself if was the drink, coming after such an eventful day, playing tricks with his mind.
Stanton smiled and went through to the toilet, which was at the back of the flat. He unzipped and pissed out a tanker truck full.
He couldn’t believe everything had gone so well. He’d hardly slept last night for worry and yet the job had gone off without a hitch. Too fucking easy, if the truth were told.
The post office on giro day – hit it fast and hit it hard, get in there and scare the fuckers straight before that had a chance to react. Keep them scared so they wouldn’t react. Might have to rough someone up to achieve that terror, maybe bust a nose or break a jaw. The thing was not to use the shooters if at all possible, well other than as crude but effective clubs.
They’d done that, sure enough. As soon as the head postmaster opened the store, Stanton had jumped out of the alleyway and smacked the man in the nose with the butt of his shotgun. The heavy walnut grain smashed the man’s nose and sent him staggering backwards, clutching at his meshed up snout. John had come in immediately behind Stanton. Wearing a ridiculous Homer Simpson mask and, waving the shotgun about, he looked scary enough.
Homer’s gun went straight to the woman behind the counter, daring her to make a move.
‘Shut the fuck up!’ Stanton yelled, his own words muffled beneath the stocking he wore. Cathy, for a laugh, had written in black marker, “MAD FUCKER”, so that when he wore the stocking, the words could be clearly read on his forehead. She’d said it’d serve two purposes – one, it would scare people even more and two, it would take their attention away from his face. All they would remember would be the words. Stanton thought that kind of made sense and figured it couldn’t do any harm, just as long as she didn’t put his name and address on it.
Homer stamped on the cowering postmaster, a kind of shorthand that reminded him his broken nose would only be the start of his problems. If he didn’t shut the fuck up, that is.
The postmaster didn’t exactly “shut the fuck up” but his cries became whimpers and that seemed to satisfy the Homer thug somewhat.
‘There,’ Stanton yelled. ‘Put the money in a posties bag. All of it - we know what’s here so don’t fucking hold out. Come on.’ He pointed the shotgun directly at the pretty girl behind the counter, sighting up square in the middle of her face.
Homer kicked the postmaster once again as if to punctuate Stanton’s orders.
The woman did as she was told. She opened the safe and stuffed everything into a large postman’s sack. And then, without prompting, she went to the other safe, the one hidden below the counter and likewise transferred its contents into the sack. Next, she emptied the tills, all of them and poured everything into the sack.
‘Good,’ Stanton said and took the sack from her. He turned on his feet and nodded for John/Homer to follow. They were almost out of the door when John pulled back.
‘Wait a minute,’ he said and went up to the counter, pointing his gun at the woman, who was on the verge of hysterics. For one awful moment, Stanton thought John was going to blow the woman away for the fun of it, but then he snarled, ‘Give me a book of fucking first class stamps.’
The woman handed a book of ten stamps over.
‘Thanks,’ John said. ‘Let’s go.’
Once outside, they ran down the alleyway to where Cathy was waiting in the tuned-up Subaru. And from there they made their getaway before the alarm was raised.
Stanton finished what he was doing, gave his knob several shakes and left the toilet. He immediately went back in as something hard hit him in the jaw. He went down and tried to lift himself but someone hit him again and again. The moment before he passed out, he saw John standing over him, a baseball bat in his hands, and Cathy grinning as once more the bat came down towards him.
Stanton got off the bed and pushed the business card into his jeans. He went to the wardrobe and fumbled about beneath the pile of clothes and pulled out a 9MM Glock. He’d had the piece some time but had yet to use it. It was fitting that he’d christen the thing on his lying cheating wife and her wanker of a boyfriend.
Stanton pushed the gun into his waistband and pulled his jacket on. He wouldn’t be coming back to the stinking bed-sit again after tonight but he didn’t take any of his belongings with him. It was all worthless shit in any case and there was nothing to identify him amongst the tat.
He opened the door and closed it behind him for the last time.
As soon as he’d settled a few scores, Mr. Stanton was going to chase the sun for a change. It was pissing down and the Rhondda looked even greyer than usual as he drove the battered mini down the valleys and towards the A470 that would lead him to Cardiff.
All those years ago, after his wife and her lover had beaten him to a pulp and, leaving him for dead, run off with the proceeds of the post office blag, he had drifted in and out of consciousness, at times feeling he was more dead than alive. He’d been like that for a couple of days before he felt he had the strength to get to his feet. He’d done that, each nerve ending in his body seeming to scream out in agony, as he pulled himself up. He’d stumbled through to the living room and looked into the mirror at John and Cathy’s handiwork.
He’d been in a fucking mess – a bigger mess than the economy after too many years of socialism. His nose was gone, replaced by a painful-looking crimson sponge, there was a huge dent in the back of his head and when he felt it, he’d winced as his fingers found where parts of his skull had crumbled. It was probably only the congealed blood around the wound that had saved him. One of his eyes was swollen shut and there was a rip at the corner of his mouth so that parts of his lower lip hung loose.
He wasn’t sure but he thought he’d passed out again then because, the next thing he knew, he was back on the floor and his brother, Steve, had been kneeling over him, his eyes showing concern and revulsion.
Stanton shook the memory from his mind and came down the gears to negotiate the roundabout at Pontypridd that led onto the slip road that in turn led to the A470. He pulled out into the middle lane and hit the car radio on, tuning into one of the oldie stations. He floored the accelerator as Devil Woman blasted out of the speakers. The sound system was probably worth more than the fucking car.
He caught his reflection in the rear-view mirror, the scars a constant reminder of the past betrayal. He’d spent several weeks in hospital, refusing to say who had done this to him. The doctors had worked miracles repairing a fractured skull, telling him they were amazed he’d survived such brutality. They offered him plastic surgery to put his face right but he’d refused. Just as he refused to talk to the police when they came calling, which they did several times before realising they were wasting their time and left him alone.
The only person who knew who had done this to him, besides himself and those responsible, was his brother Steve. And Steve wouldn’t say anything to anyone – he knew the scores. The Stantons sorted their own shit out.
Stanton didn’t even bother looking for Cathy and John. He was sure they’d thought he was dead, or close enough to it, when they’d left him. And then when they realised he wasn’t, they would have run and hid, gone as far away as possible. There was no point in looking. Revenge wasn’t a good enough motive for travelling all over with no chance of success.
Not when he had a living to make.
And so he’d gotten on with things. He’d almost forgotten about them, or at least the memory wasn’t so fresh each time he looked in the shaving mirror. Until Steve had come around last night and told him he’d found them. He had their address written on the back of one of his business cards and he handed it over to his brother.
Stanton grinned as he made a right on Cathedral Road and started out towards Cardiff’s suburbs. He’d thought Cathy and John would have been over in Spain or even further afield but all the while they been living in Cardiff. Or at least they were there now and from what he’d gathered they’d done well for themselves and owned a string of properties, which they let out to social security cases, getting the rent from the benefit agency. Maybe they’d used the money from the post office blag to get themselves onto the property ladder.
Fifty grand would have done it five years back.
After a few more miles, Stanton took a left, followed by a sharp right and parked the car up at the end of the street. So this was where they lived – he was impressed. It looked a nice area and he doubted there’d be any social security cases living around here.
He checked the Glock and then walked down the street, picking out the door numbers as he went.
Cathy was in the kitchen, shouting that she was cooking when the doorbell went but John knew she was probably hitting the wine back at the same time. These days she always seemed sloshed but then he supposed he should count his blessings. At least she was clean of smack. They both were, the addiction long been purged from their systems.
‘I'll fucking get it then,’ John yelled, annoyed. He had been playing on the X-Box and he tossed the control pad aside and, with a groan, got to his feet.
‘I’m coming. I’m coming,’ John mumbled. Whoever it was at the door, they were growing impatient.
John opened the door and his mouth fell open in shock. He was looking into eyes that had long since died, inhuman eyes.
Before he could react, Stanton grabbed him and pulled him towards him. ‘You fucked my wife,’ he said and brought his head back and then suddenly butted John between the eyes. ‘That’s a Rhondda lovebite.’
Stanton stepped into the house and closed the door behind him. He kicked John in the gut, winding him and then grabbed him by the scruff and dragged him into the living room. With his free hand, he took the Glock from his waistband and allowed it to hang loosely in his hand.
Cathy came into the room and the look of shock on her face as she recognised Stanton was perfect. Her hands came to her mouth but she didn’t scream and instead just stood there.
‘Hello, love,’ Stanton said and then lifted John up a bit and brought the Glock into line with his face. He smiled and then shot John square in the head, allowing his lifeless body to fall onto the nice white carpet that Stanton had, in a roundabout way, paid for.
Stanton had paid for everything here, for their entire lifestyle.
Cathy looked first at her husband and then at her dead lover. She shook her head in disbelief but still no words came from her lips.
Stanton lifted the gun, took aim, and fired.
With that, he turned on his feet and walked from the room.
Finally, he had closure and a new life beckoned.
BIO: Gary Dobbs writes under both his own name and that of Jack Martin. His first novel, The Tarnished Star, a western under the Jack Martin name, is available by Robert Hale LTD. You can find Gary and more of his writings at The Tainted Archive.
Everybody knows - Leonard Cohen
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