A COUPLE OF GALLONS - RICHARD GODWIN
They were drowning him in the salt water, dunking his head under and holding it there as they felt him shaking like a lame dog.
He retched and let the bile hang from his bruised and bloody mouth in long sinewy strands before they held him under again and he could hear them demanding the information over the waters distant as a fading dream.
Manuel Stiga looked down at him with that smile, that sick and twisted smile as he gasped and tried to struggle but the grip on the back of his neck was like a vice and the sky was bleeding into the copper ocean as his eyes filled with burst veins. He stared up at Stiga’s face lined with scars.
Finally they stopped and he lay there floating.
He could smell a cigarette burning in the night air.
A pale moon was rising and the sun was ebbing from the sky where distant birds wheeled in solemn mourning for the loss of light.
‘He doesn’t know,’ Stiga said.
‘Or if he does he’s putting up a good job. I say we let him drink a couple of gallons.’
‘You think he’d protect him?’
‘Maybe. If the price was right. The guy’s a killer, I’ve seen the way he is when he’s on a job.’
As they splashed back through the water, he pulled the knife. Reaching upwards, he stabbed the heavy right in the chin.
He could see the edge of his blade sticking out of his lip as Stiga turned.
The goon was holding two oversized hands around his neck, blood frothing beneath his grasp.
‘So, what we got here?’ Stiga said.
‘You gonna kill me now?’
‘Or you talk.’
‘You think a canary’s got a song when there’s no food in the cage?’
‘I think you got plenty to talk about.’
‘You think wrong.’
Stiga lifted his head and took a drag on his cigarette and blew a long plume of smoke into the dark air, taking his eyes off him, saying I ain’t scared of you.
When he rested his gaze on him again, the cruelty was there, the salivating anticipation of harming his body.
He knew Stiga’s reputation with a knife.
‘Convince me, Marco.’
‘You know more than you’re letting on.’
‘An’ what makes you say that?’
‘Call it a gut feeling.’
‘Maybe you’re wrong.’
‘You know, Marco in all these years of running mobs, I never got a guy wrong. Never, I always know when someone’s hiding something.’
‘An what do you think I’m hiding?’
Stiga glanced around the beach, as if they were not alone, as if some faction of the resident night were listening to them, hungry for information.
Only the floating body of the goon, a thick pool of blood around it, only the scattered litter of a beach.
Stiga took a step towards him, his animal eyes luminous with the scent of prey in the dark.
He pressed the red tip of his cigarette to his thin lips and said, ‘Someone close to me has been giving out information, information about my business, now who could it be?’
‘Have you considered who else?’
‘Only you, or--’ he laughed.
‘My wife, so it must be you.’
Just as Stiga lifted his foot and stamped the butt into the dirt he moved, the moonlight catching the steel in a flash that sparkled in the air as he drove the blade so hard into Stiga’s chest it buckled and he pulled out the half that still held to the handle. Stiga reeled, his shirt red, and Marco drove the jagged end into him until he was more wasted flesh than a man and he fell still.
He looked down at the dead body and walked to his car beyond the shoreline.
He started the engine and drove through the darkness without lights until he came to the house at the top of the hill and entered by the back door.
She was sitting there waiting for him, her blonde hair a halo in the light.
And she looked up at him with the eyes of knowledge and desire and he kissed her full mouth tasting female, her softness surreal against the blood and battle he carried on him, her breasts full against his chest.
‘It’s done,’ he said.
‘You killed him?’
‘And he never suspected?’
‘He never suspected you, Sal.’
Her bags were packed and on the table and he saw the notes stacked inside and they zipped them shut and went to his car.
‘A woman knows all there is to know,’ she said.
He was putting her bags into the boot.
‘Why do you say that?’
‘I knew him, he told me everything, he would never think I would do this.’
‘You mean use me.’
She touched his face.
‘Use you? Honey, you love me, you make love to me and we’re here heading off to a new life together with his money, we got everything right here.’ She tapped the bag of money as she reached into the car. He watched as she bent over the driver’s seat. ‘Tanks’s low, we need to put a couple of gallons in,’ she said.
She stood in the moonlight, straightening her dress.
‘He trusted you.’
‘The plan worked, turn me into some killer, make him think I’d double crossed him and head off together.’
‘I told you, come on.’
‘You like me.’
‘I like you.’
‘Until another comes along.’
She narrowed her eyes.
‘You think you can work me?’
‘So what’s your plan, Sal?’
‘What’s that mean?’
‘We planned this, you and me together, him gone.’
‘So you say.’
‘What’s the matter, honey? Hold me tight like you do when you make love to me.’
‘You got one thing right in all this.’
‘I got one thing right?’
And he moved into her and held her so tight that when he released her, his hands were imprinted on her neck and she hung limp like a chicken. He let her slump to the floor and checked for breath but it was gone.
‘I’m a killer,’ he said, ‘you got that right.’
And he left her lying there and drove the car to the edge of town where he switched vehicles to the blue Dodge he’d parked earlier.
He switched on the engine, the needle pointing to full and he drove away with the money that Stiga had worked up over the years and the taste of his wife in his mouth and he decided that she didn’t taste so sweet.
BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London, where his dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the stage. He has just finished writing a crime novel. His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled and Gloom Cupboard, among many other magazines. He has a Twitter account and can be found there under the User Name Stanzazone. He is in the process of setting up a blog. For right now, you can check out his portfolio here. His first crime novel will be published later this year.
The Irish Times’ Crime Fiction ‘Best Of’ 2018
2 hours ago