THREE MEN AND A LITTLE BOAT - LEE HUGHES
An entry in Jason Duke’s RED HOT Writing Contest
The waves jostled the small boat. It was a paltry fiberglass affair, fourteen feet from prow to stern and had a piss-poor outboard engine, wouldn’t be much use for anything, except a little leisure fishing. It had no business being way out to sea, nor did the three shifty blokes inside it.
It was a challenge, yet they were managing to keep their distance from each other whilst casting accusatory glances, their hands never straying too far from the inside of their coats.
Three hours ago, there were four of them. Their business had been done, dusted and the suppliers had departed. The exchange of fifty-grand cash for the hundred-grand worth of Belushi was complete and they knew things were looking good.
The beam from the watchman’s torch stroked the area, sending the four of them scattering for a place to hide.
Bill gave it a couple of minutes before crawling out from beneath a boat trailer. He hissed into the night. “He’s gone, where the fuck are you lot?”
After a few moments’ silence, there came an “Over here.” It was Sammy’s voice worming its way from around the port side of a catamaran.
Jack came out of the shadows next wiping the shit of wherever he'd been hiding from his pants and elbows. “That was too fuckin’ close. Since when did they hire a night watchman?”
Bill looked around as he said, “Since people started doing drug deals around here? Where’s Donnie?”
“Donnie!” Jack called out, as quietly as he could whilst still being audible.
The only noise was the slapping of the waves behind them as they rubbed shoulders with the dock.
Bill shook his head. “Let’s spread out and look for him, he won’t have done a runner.” Bill patted the bag with the goods; Donnie hadn’t screwed them over and that was something.
Jack won the game of ‘Find the Donnie.’ The problem was Donnie was dead, sprawled out and very much camping out at the Pearlies.
The others joined him. The trio swapped glances between each other and the dead body on the floor. There was blood on Donnie’s lips and plenty around his nose like he'd been beaten to death; there was also a black puddle about the back of his head.
Bill took a few deep breaths. The wheels had been coming off for the last few deals. Now it looked like one of them was trying to up their personal profit margin.
Bill sniffed. His free hand moved to dip into his coat. “One of you gonna own up to it?”
Jack made the same motion to his own piece. “Fuck you, Bill, how the fuck do I know you didn't batter the fuck outta him?”
Sammy wasn’t gonna be the only one standing there like he just had his piss-pump in his hand for protection and made for his own gun. “It certainly wasn’t me.” His eyes narrowed at Bill. “Come to think of it, Bill, you’ve been talking about disbanding the crew for a while, what better way?”
“Don’t even fucking think of going there.” Bill’s hand inched ever closer. None of them got a chance to grab their guns as the night air blistered with the wailing of sirens and the harbinger of flashing lights.
Bill looked towards the entrance. “Fuck this. I'm gettin’ out of here.”
“Not with our share of the coke you’re not,” Jack replied.
Sammy nodded. “I ain’t letting it outta my sight neither.”
Bill turned and started running towards the water’s edge. They climbed down onto the nearest boat. It didn’t matter that it was small. Bill thought it was probably for the best, less chance to get seen. Besides, they only needed to go a little way down the coast, and then they could abandon it.
Jack stared at the little engine.
Bill asked. “You know how to sail?”
“Fuck, no, but seen them driven on films. It’s just like starting a lawnmower.” He yanked the cord a couple of times but it did fuck all.
“Have you turned the petrol on?” Bill asked.
Jack fiddled with something on the side and then yanked the cord again. The engine chuckled to life. The whole time Jack was getting the engine going he kept an eye on the bag.
They’d gone maybe a nautical mile before the engine made a guttural noise and ground to a halt.
Jack tugged on the cord. “Must be out of petrol.”
There were utterances of cusswords from each of them.
“Now what?” Sammy asked.
Bill shrugged. “Let’s hope we drift to shore, you’ve seen the state of the beaches. There’s a pretty good chance we can make it if a turd can.”
“What about the Coast Guard?” Jack threw in, still keeping his hand near his gun.
There was only enough moonlight to make the three of them grey shapes.
Bill answered. “This isn’t America, there are no gun-boats. Besides, their radar ain’t gonna pick up this tiny bathtub.”
Sammy hoped Bill was right. “What we gonna do in the mean time?”
Bill glanced down at the bag, then to each of them. “Gives us plenty of time to find out which one of you killed Donnie.”
“There we go again, trying to bounce the blame away from your own doorstep,” Jack said, though he looked straight at Sammy hoping to see some kind of reaction on the few features that the simple moonlight offered.
Sammy had a thought and they were usually very few and far between. “Whoever killed Donnie gave him a beating. Someone’s knuckles must be a bit fucked up.”
“We’re not gonna be able to see shit in this light and I’m not gonna let either one of you get close enough to pitch me over the side,” Jack said.
Bill nodded his agreement in the darkness. One of those pair in the boat was a crooked cunt and, until he knew which one it was, he was going to stay at more than arms-length. It was bad enough they had guns.
The silence was broken by Jack, who’d been racking his brains. He came up with, “Hey, Sammy.”
“What?” he asked.
“It was only the other month you and Donnie were having a wrestle in the car park outside of Byrne’s pub.”
“We were drunk and he’d cheated at pool. Not something I’d fuckin’ kill him for!”
“So you say,” Jack said, then looked to Bill. “And you. You’ve been acting funny for months.”
“I’ve been acting funny because you lot have been becoming greedy little fuckers.”
“Hey,” Sammy cut in.
Bill ignored him and continued. “Shut up, you know you have. Jacking up the prices, cutting the shit even more, fighting amongst each other out the back of pubs. Is it any wonder I wanna wash my hands of you all?”
Jack took that as a confession. “So you’re admitting it now?” He had his gun out faster than Bill would have thought.
“Jack, don’t be a dumbfuck. If I wanted to disband the gang I’d just up and fuck off, not one of you is worth killing.”
“Hey!” Sammy cut in again, this time a little louder.
“Sammy, I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. And the truth is what I'm telling, which is in fact more than you pair of pricks are managing.”
“Fuck this shit,” Jack said, keeping the gun on Bill. “When I was a kid, if either my brother or me done something wrong and my mother couldn't work out who should be punished, you know what she did? She took her slipper to us both.”
Jack pulled the trigger. Putting two in Bill’s chest and then swinging it around and popping one into what he hoped was Sammy’s face.
There wasn’t even a grunt as Sammy toppled backwards. A splash followed so Jack reckoned it was job a well done. He didn’t feel too bad; one of them had killed Donnie and would no doubt have tried to shallow grave him at some point down the line.
Bill couldn’t lift his arm. He’d managed to get his shooter out. It was still in his grip, there just wasn’t any strength there to hoist it up and put Jack out of the world’s misery.
He tried to talk instead. “Jack.”
“Fuck. You not dead?” Jack lifted his gun and took aim again.
“I remember you telling me a while back you can’t swim,” Bill managed to say around mouthfuls of blood and bubbles.
“So? I’m in a fucking boat.”
Bill squeezed the trigger and shot a hole in the bottom of the cheap boat. He managed a second hole before Jack let off another three rounds that all buried themselves deep in a mixture of chest and face.
Bill didn’t say anything else.
Jack could feel water taking refuge in his shoes. His heart took up a sprinter’s pace. He started swearing as loud as he could. His anger was not aimed at the fact he’d passed up every opportunity to learn how to even doggie-paddle as a kid. It was aimed at Bill for putting him in this situation. He emptied the gun in Bill’s slumped and lifeless body. He dry-fired it a couple of times as his ankles grew damp.
He fell to his knees and started bailing the water out with his hands. It was futile. He’d scooped out a hundred handfuls and there was still more in than when he started.
“You’re a fucking cunt, Bill, a proper fucking cunt.” He stopped bailing. Bill’s weight wouldn’t be helping anything; it was more than likely speeding up the whole miniature re-enactment of the Titanic’s final moments.
He crawled through the water on his knees, grabbed Bill by his submerged ankles and tipped him out, then went back to bailing.
“What do you think killed him?” the copper asked.
Detective Inspector Sanders looked up from the body to the wooden-top, who had no business asking such things.
“What do you think?” Sanders asked.
The uniform shrugged and said nothing.
“That’s why I get to wear my own clothes.” Sanders went back to scrutinizing the body.
The nose had bled quite heavily before actual death had occurred. There were no sign of trauma to show he’d been punched. There was blood on the lips, yet no signs of lacerations. The only evident wound was the back of the head that was caked in gummy blood and was obviously cracked open.
Sanders started going through the corpse’s pockets until he found what he was looking for. A nice sized baggy of white powder.
There’d been fuck-tons of the stuff on the streets lately.
Sanders could see it in his head.
The numpty had decided to get high on his own tainted supply and had gone into the embrace of an overdose which brought on both nasal and oral bleeding. Then he’d collapsed and twatted his head.
Sanders had no pity to offer. He stood up, looked around. It was barely mid-morning and bodies were filling up the morgue. Two had been found a little ways up the coast, gunshot wounds. A little further up another body had been found. Cause of death? He’d tried to drink the sea by the sounds of it.
It had all happened last night. A patrol car had even been around after the night watchman had thought there’d been trespassers. The officers said they’d turned on the sirens and the lights in the hopes of scaring the trespassers out but hadn’t found anything amiss so had fucked off back to the station for a cup of tea.
Sanders twisted his lower lip and bit it in thought. He reckoned it all had to be connected. But who really cares if a few scumbags end up six-foot under. Besides, tomorrow was his day off and he had a little fourteen-footer that he liked to take out and do a little bit of fishing from to relax and get away from the stains of so-called civilization.
BIO: Lee Hughes's short fiction has appeared on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, Powder Burn Flash, Blink-Ink, MicroHorror, The Daily Tourniquet, FlashShot, Everyday Fiction, The New Flesh Magazine and, of course, A Twist of Noir. And in print in Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. Find out more at http://www.leehughes.net/.