Friday, August 20, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 551 - Paul D. Brazill


Originally published at Powder Burn Flash in May 2010

I used to get angry all the time. Especially when I was a teenager. The ‘difficult years’, doctors used to call it. As if there were ever any other with a father like mine.

I’d see crimson, burn up like a volcano, rant, rave, spit, scream - the whole deal.

And sometimes I’d even black out. A switch would be pulled and I’d fall through a trapdoor straight down into the deepest well. Darkness all around.

It was after one of those ‘episodes’ that I came to with gigantic hands gripped around my throat, dangling me over the thirteenth floor balcony of some grimy tower block somewhere in East London. No recollection of getting there.

So, that was when I decided to channel my aggression. That’s when I joined The Squad.

First it was just the football; following the team to some hick northern town and screaming abuse at the bumpkins. But that was never enough. I knew there was more. I could smell it; taste it.

And then I met Tubeway, Slammer and Col. The Squad. They were a breakaway group from the mainstream hooligans. They called it ‘rucking and rolling’. Football hooliganism mixed with mugging. It made sense. This was the nineties and Cool Britannia had no place for the likes of us.

We we were the dispossessed, according to Tubeway. He liked to use words like that; flaunt his vocabulary and GCSE in Philosophy. The same Tubeway who used to listen to Hitler’s speeches without understanding a word of German.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew that they were tossers - just looking for excuses for being violent. I didn’t need an excuse, though. I knew that I liked to inflict pain; I needed to hurt. It was just a matter of when and who.

Then they introduced me to Mr Bettis - or Sweaty Betty, as he was known behind his back. He was like a giant pink slug. Col said he looked like Jabba the Hutt. I just nodded. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I didn’t watch films. I didn’t read books - I could barely read - and I didn’t like music. What I liked was violence.

Sweaty paid well. He told us to keep out noses clean. Become respectable. Invisible to the law. He’d contact us once a month with a name and a place. Maybe a picture. And we did what he asked. Sometimes we used Stanley knives. Or blowtorches. Or even guns.

I loved it. I was good. The best. I started to develop a sense of professional pride. I distanced myself from the others. They were a liability. Disasters waiting to happen, I thought. And I was right.

Tubeway had his neck broken by a transvestite in Clapaham. Col died of a smack overdose in a piss stained Wansworth squat. And Slammer got locked up for life, which I found ironic once I’d learned that word at my adult literacy class.

Oh yes, I studied. Learned to read and write. Learned history - enough to put Tubeway in his place without batting an eyelid. I learned aikido and kung-fu. I practiced yoga and I got married. And had kids.

I still worked for Sweaty but the jobs were few and far between; he only used me for the ‘prime cuts’, as he called them.

Everything seemed so right.

And then it all went pear-shaped as quick as spit disappears on hot pavement.

It’s been fifteen years since I joined The Squad and I suppose it’s taken its toll. I expect that I’m a tad jaded.

Which is why, I suppose, that the sounds and the yells of the man strapped to the tree in front of me have no impact on me. Don’t even ruffle a feather.

The golf course is empty, it’s dusk and like in the film Alien - yes, I started watching films, too - no one can hear him scream.

Time to continue the interview.


It always rains in the dreams. Always. Pours down in sheets. But in reality it was a burning, brandy-brimmed, summer morning. In the dreams, there were no kids, either. Just a sinister, grinning man, who looked like my father, wearing a long black coat and carrying a carving knife.

And when I wake up, I feel released. Free. But then the cold light of day hits me in between the eyes. Because there was no man in black. No pounding rain. Just two kids who got in the way of a hail of bullets. My own kids.

It all went black for a long time after that. Until I woke up drowning in sweat, booze, piss and tears. Stinking of shame, guilt and self-loathing.

And then it never went black again. It was an endless cold white.

I’ve heard it said that eighteen months of sleep deprivation can drive you crazy. Well I was mad after that anyway.

So now there’s a dead man in front of me, dangling from a tree, in an exclusive golf course, in the fresh morning dew. A slug of a man who looks like Jabba The Hutt. And he’s given me the name of the man who ordered the hit. The hit that resulted in the death of my kids.

Oh, I know. It’s just an excuse. A way of avoiding culpability. Just a reason to inflict pain. A reason to hurt. And to kill. And to keep on killing.

BIO: Paul D. Brazill was born in England and lives Poland.

His stories have appeared in a number of online and print magazines including Beat To A Pulp, Dark Valentine Magazine, Needle Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine and Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers, as well as in the anthologies Dusted, Flash!, Caught By Darkness, Don't Tread On Me, Howl: Dark Tales of the Feral and Infernal and RADGEPACKET Volume Four.

His Crimefactory story, Guns Of Brixton, will appear in The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Fiction 2011.



Charles Gramlich said...

"an endless cold white." Very well written.

Paul D Brazill said...

Thanks Charles. Still working on it.

Kevin Michaels said...

Well done. Absolutely love the grittiness and edginess in this one.

AJ Hayes said...

The cold light in which all madman and fanatics walk is edged with the eternal darkness of pit where they live. If this story doesn't grab you by the throat . . . then you can't be grabbed. I think if we listen close enough to it, we'll find some things out about ourselves that maybe we don't want to know. Had me from the git go until the ending slammed my head against the wall. Terrific story, Paul. Thanks.

Chris Alliniotte said...

Excellent work Paul. You've given us enough background on the man to truly feel something for him -- whether that something is comfortable or not.

This is how you write noir.

Paul D Brazill said...

Thanks gents. I just wanted to give hardboiled a try.

Alan Griffiths said...

Yep, super writing Paul and really good to read this one again. Really well done sir.

Anonymous said...

Paul, yo always manage to peak and maintain my attention. Another good write.

Crybbe666 said...

Paul, like Jeanette, you always grab the reader from the start and throttle us til we are out of breath...seriously cool piece!!

Laurita said...

This reads like a full novel. Edgy and full of character. Well written.

Bernard said...

Very good.

pegjet said...

"A switch would be pulled and I’d fall through a trapdoor straight down into the deepest well."<==loved that imagery and the feeling it provoked.

"And then it never went black again. It was an endless cold white." <==intense and wonderful phrasing.

Paul, you evoke so much in short spaces.

Unknown said...

Paul, sharp, quick and no dicking around. Great piece of work. I ever make it over to your side of the world I owe an evening of hops.

Paul D Brazill said...

Thanks very much, all. I just wanted to write a short, sharp piece of hardboiled under 1000 words - with Powder Burn Flash in mind.

after re-reading it, I thought it would fit in very nicely here at ATON.
And I think it does!

DukTape said...

This was definitely not my kind of story; the dread heaped up from the start. But I could not stop reading. Great job, sir. Nonetheless, I am SO glad it wasn't a novel. *shudder!*

Debbi said...

Wow! Very nice ...

Graham Bowlin said...

Very nice work, sir. Love it.

Al Tucher said...

I remember this one well! Good to see it again.

Carrie Clevenger said...

Rockin' piece. Mean as nails. Or tuff. Uh I liked it Paul. ^_^

Paul D Brazill said...

Glad it worked. Thanks very much all.

Michael Solender said...

superb telling, great motivation and a perfect dark character you just love to hate..