A short story of revenge. 15 yrs plus. Strong Language & Themes.
How he got into the club dressed in the way he was dressed and not immediately thrown out was in itself a miracle.
Tommy had hung around the back of the club in the alley and the dirt hiding in the shadows waiting for the chance, for the moment to slip past the disgruntled KPs on their smoke break. He knew their routine in the same way he knew all the workers’ routine, he used do their rotas.
Right on time at 8.25pm the door opened and the two Polish kitchen porters stepped out into the alley crowded with the detritus of the busy club. They lit their cigarettes and started the well worn routine of bitching about the customers. He knew that the boys would soon stroll down to the end of the alley to peer at the short skirts and pushed up bras that were forming a queue round the front of the club. They were creatures of habit.
And they didn’t disappoint.
He breathed in deep then exited the shadows stepping around the empty barrels and broken bottles careful not to make a noise. Careful not to bring the Poles back. As much as they hated the customers they hated him more and would love a chance to kick his teeth in.
He smiled. So far so good. One last look to make sure he hadn’t been made and he slipped inside the club unseen, his hand held firmly in his jacket like a man with a wounded arm or a like a man packing heat.
He sat at the bar hunched in a corner hidden enough from the cameras but with a good line of sight to the empty booth that he knew she would soon occupy. She was a creature of habit though not a slave to time but she would at some point be here and she would take her usual booth.
It was early for the club. Anything before ten was early. The place really didn’t kick off until midnight and then there would be wall to wall pussy, testosterone and wads of folded bank notes. A meat market fuelled by coke and whores and fifty pound singles. This was a gangsters paradise and right now the club was just the right side of busy.
At least for him.
It was enough to hide. Enough to move freely. Enough to make his move and disappear into the crowd when he had done what he had come here to do.
He could wait. He had waited this long. A couple more hours wouldn’t matter.
So he sat there waiting, patiently biding his time. The cold gun heavy in his pocket. It sat there like a well trained pinscher with dead eyes. The same dead eyes he now had.
You shouldn’t be here Tommy.
The voice was familiar but he didn’t know the man that was now standing next to him. He felt that he should. There was that nagging feeling of recognition. The man looked familiar but Tommy couldn’t place him. Not that he couldn’t really see too much in the dim, low lights Of the bar.
The man was an older man than Tommy maybe twenty, thirty years with a deep ink vine scar that seemed to be the only thing illuminated save for those deep piercing eyes. Eyes that cut through the darkness straight into the core of Tommy. He went to get up but the old man put a stop to the movement with one firm hand on the kid’s shoulder.
Don’t get up. Barman. A couple of mojitos here for me and the kid.
The barman responded that he wouldn’t be long. The old man never broke his stare from Tommy.
Mind if I sit?
No answer from the kid. The old man held his hand on his shoulder long and hard. His stare the same. To Tommy it was a lifetime.
I’ll sit then.
The old man released his grip as the drinks arrived and he sat down next somewhat uncomfortably. His leg stiff. He massaged it a little then swivelled his bar stool a little to half face the kid who instinctively went to pull his gun. This time the old man squeezed the youths gun arm hard and shook his head.
Have a drink. Relax.
Tommy was anything but relaxed.
The old man repeated himself, have a drink.
It wasn’t a request.
Tommy took a couple of nervous gulps from his drink then turned to face his new problem, this unforeseen circumstance. He should have planned for it but Tommy was only thinking of vengeance and the sweet taste of murder. Too busy psyching himself up for what had to be done to consider a plan B. He looked around trying not to look nervous. Don’t want the fucker thinking there was no plan B.
Maybe he should wait til he got outside, when he no doubt would get dragged out into the alley. The old man had no visible backup, no-one standing by the exits. No heavies with folded arms. And the bar was still open. Patrons moving this way and that, but that didn’t mean much. Not really. The owner of this club had no customer complaints department save for the Polish KPs and they didn’t hand out refunds. Only beatings.
The CCTV camera above the bar was still broken. The owner left it that way on purpose and everyone knew that this end of the bar was where the juicy deals were made. The security dark spot was intentional. Why change it now? No. Tommy reassumed himself , the little red light was off. Still broken. The old man smiled and took a sip of his drink as if reading the kids thoughts.
Love this drink… Haven’t had a drink in twenty years… Not til now. Man still takes good. How’s yours?
What do you want?
The old man was still watching him. Reading him.
That’s your problem. You know that? No subtlety. No finesse. Fucking amateur. Jumping right in. Feet first without looking. Never really thinking it all straight through. What you should be doing now is keeping your mouth shut and seeing what I’m about.
Again, the kid tried standing. Again the old man stopped him.
The two exchanged stares. Tommy’s hand grasping the gun within his pocket but unable to remove it. The strength of the old man immense holding the young man firm.
Relax, sit back down and have a drink… Or if you want, if you insist we can get to it right now.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then Tommy relaxed and the old man relaxed allowing the kids arm to move free. The old man grabbed the gun through the pocket trapping the kids fingers.
Uh ah! Hands free please.
Tommy obliged and the old man relaxed his grip a little the gun remaining in the kids pocket. The old man allowed Tommy to slowly remove his arm and the kid shrugged casually laying his arms on the bar like he had a choice. Like it was it his choice. The old man reached into the kids pocket and removed the revolver. It was a piece of shit and the old man let Tommy know in a disappointed click of his tongue. He rolled the revolver around just under the bar, out of view. The dull metal gleamed in the darkness. Then the old man released the barrel and knocked out the six rounds into his palm and looked down the barrel and holes where the bullets had sat moments before. All of this out of sight of the rest of the bar.
You should look after your weapon. You don’t want it blowing up in your face.
He blew down the barrel… and again. Whatever it was that was down there the old man couldn’t shift it.
Hey kid hand me one of twister things. Yeah right there.
Tommy just looked at where the old man was pointing. A bar tidy full of napkins, straws and plastic cocktail stirrers.
That thing! Give me it, the old man growled.
Tommy did so. The stirrer was 5 inches long flat round head at one end and a little teardrop at the other. Semi-transparent. A garish shade of orange. The old man bit of the tear drop end and spat out the piece.
Now hold you hand out, the old man said.
When Tommy didn’t the old man grabbed one hand and positioned it palm up on the top of the bar, fingers outstretched. Taking the plastic stirrer the old man prodded and poked into the barrel and with a little frustration a sliver of metal dropped onto Tommy’s palm.
Never buy a gun from a junkie. Especially a junkie that gets his gear from two dumb Polack KP’s.
The kids face said it all. How could you know?
The old man said nothing returning the revolver to the kid and keeping the bullets for himself.
You’ll wanna get rid of that. It’s been linked to three murders.
The old man waited for Tommy to take the drink and when he had, the old man smiled and joined him.
Tommy watched the old man down the rest of his drink. Then he waved to the barman for another round.
No…go ahead. Be my guest… It’s on the house.
The barman stood back a while before waving back that he would be a moment.
New barman, said the old man. He won’t last.
Against his will the kid cracked a smile. The old man joined him.
You know I can’t really blame you… for being stupid. You’re young, what the fuck do you know? You haven’t even fucking lived. Look at you full of bile and rage and piss and come. No idea of how the world really works… Or how to game it.
You going to kill me?
The old man turned away as if in disgust or was it disappointment?
I was there once. You know that? Many, many years ago. Right where you’re sitting. Right there. On that very stool.
He looked around at his surroundings swivelling around on his stool, like a man in a museum.
You know you remember something and it’s a certain way… And in reality it’s not. Not really. We don’t really remember things like a camera… Humans I mean. More like we paint a picture in our heads and every time we visit the memory we smudge it a little until it’s no longer a memory… It’s just a dream. A lie. And you think… If I can hold on to it… Replay it… You can somehow keep it alive, that memory. But you can’t. ‘Cause all you’re doing is just putting your grubby little prints all over it. Making it unclean.
The drinks arrive and the old man slid one of the mojitos over to Tommy.
Who the fuck are you? You’re not one of Petrov’s goons. Are you?
The kids eyes cut through the gloom and asked the same question as his lips had moments before.
The old man turned exposing his face to the light twisting his head ever so slightly. Left. Right. Up. Down. Back again. Making sure that Tommy got a good look at him. The man sure looked familiar but…
Don’t worry it’ll come to you.
Then he turned back to the bar.
Mickey! Mickey mate, bring us a couple of shots.
The Barman turned back to the couple with a snap of a neck and an attitude to match. He was getting a little edgy. Either it was the name calling or the badgering but his patience was wearing thin.
The old man turned to the kid.
What’s that shit you like? Fucking cough medicine… What’s it called?
The barman, now in front of the duo tried to say, Hey you…!
What’s the name of the fucking drink!
How do you know my name? The Barman was still ignored.
Jagermeister. Thats right. Fucking Jagermeister. Mickey bring us a couple of Jagermeisters. Thanks fella.
The barman didn’t move just squinted that way you do when you want to get a better look or are trying to look hard.
Do you I fucking know you?
The old man stared back at the cocky bar-keep, the two daring the other to break the stare.
The barman broke first.
You know guy you gotta slow down alright?
Mickey! Shut the fuck up and get us some Jagermeisters.
I think enough is enough my friend.
You ain’t my friend Mickey.
The air went dead cold. The barman stiffened. The old man pulled out his gun a well loved colt .45 and put it on the bar.
I said get me and my friend here a couple of fucking Jagermeisters.
The barman couldn’t move. He couldn’t break his stare with the old man despite the involuntary twitch of his right eyelid and every fibre in his body telling him to run. He was a deer stuck in the old man’s headlights. Trapped in a recursive loop. His subconscious had rendered him inert and fought with his body and as the barman’s feet woke and slowly answered the call to flight the look in the old man’s eyes was enough to tell him it was too late. He was fucked now either way.
The old man just smiled.
And here we go…
The old man lifted the shiny colt off the bar top. He raised the weapon a couple of inches away from the barkeep’s head and it seemed to hang there as if it was drawing breath.
Almost without a beat the old man grabbed the kid and shoved him toward the bar now covered in Mickey’s blood and brain and skull and tissue and a teetering corpse.
The whole club exploded into chaos. Patrons running this way and that. Anyway they could to escape. Each fighting the other to survive. They were of no concern to the old man because he was searching for something specific.
Two bouncers pushed past the crowd only to meet with the old man’s projectiles sending them backpedalling into the booths behind them.
Tommy was petrified. Shock taking it’s icy grip on the kid. All he could do was watch the old man move and he moved with a grace and speed of man used to violence. The only thing that slowed him was a slight limp on his left side but it was all but inconsequential.
The old man caught Tommy staring and he reflexively slapped a hand over where Tommy presumed the wound must’ve been.
TOMMY! GO GET THE DRINKS!, shouted the old man and went back to his shooting spree.
From behind, one of the goons snuck up on Tommy and swung. The kid caught the movement almost too late. He twisted his body enough out of the way of the attacker’s knife to miss his torso. Instead it slammed down into his thigh sending the kid to the floor howling in pain.
The old man spun round and fired in one fluid motion. The round narrowly missed the falling kid, shattering one arm of his attacker sending the rest of the body bouncing of a wall and back onto the kid now sprawled on the ground.
The old man saw the kid wrestle with his attacker. He tried to shoot the man but his weapon clicked empty.
Tommy saw the old man react to his now empty colt as his attacker reached out and started to strangle the kid.
Tommy fumbled around. Where was it?
Another goon appeared at the other end of the bar demanding the old man’s attention. The old man pulled a clip out of his pocket with one hand whilst dropping out the old with other then he slammed in the new before the goon had even fired his second shot.
Tommy was barely breathing now. The life was all but choked out of him.
Where the fuck is it? Tommy’s mind raced.
He gasped. The hand round his neck tightened. Then he found what he was looking for.
He pulled the knife out of his own leg spraying a crimson fountain out over his attacker and plunged it’s long blade deep into the head of it’s owner.
It took moment for the goon’s grip to release.
HEY KID! SPEAK TO ME!
The room was all but cleared now but there was smoke everywhere. The jangle of broken glass no longer resisting gravity’s warm embrace.
TOMMY! YOU OK?
The kid just waved back. It wasn’t a convincing wave.
The old man returned to the kid with a towel from the bar and put it on the wound taking the kids hand and slamming it down it. Tommy screamed and relented causing the blood to flow again.
Immediately the old man slammed his own hand down on the back of Tommy’s.
Apply pressure, he instructed.
The sound of wood bashing against wood announced the entrance of the Polish KP’s brandishing a baseball bat a piece.
How fucking stupid do you have to be to bring a bat to a gunfight?
They answered by advancing and each were met with a bullet to each of their thick heads followed by a volley into their torsos until the old man’s gun was completely empty.
As they fell the world slowed down once again.
Behind the tumbling bodies the old man saw a lone woman standing there like a shocked solo act that’s just realised the curtains have risen. The big KPs must’ve been blocking the old man’s view, but there she was standing in her little red dress. Beautiful as the light that now streamed from the broken windows behind her forming a halo in her corn yellow hair.
She and the old man stared at each other a while. She trying to figure out what the look on his face was.
He looked back unable to move just transfixed by her beauty. He had forgotten just how beautiful she was.
She was always so beautiful. He shouldn’t have been so foolish.
He mouthed the words, but she didn’t understand.
I’m sorry, they said. I’m sorry, he said this time aloud.
Around her waste little dark patches were growing into three large round stains. Wet and dark. They glistened as they grew and when they were big enough to overlap venn-like she fell silently to the floor.
The old man stayed where he was.
Did you get the drinks? he asked Tommy. The bar now silent as a morgue.
Tommy was still pressing on his wound and trying to wrap it with his belt and his own shirt.
I could do with a drink. Haven’t had a drink in a long time.
Tommy finally finished his makeshift bandage and saw the old man standing there motionless. He pulled himself up to his feet and the wound screamed against the action. Tommy bit down and flung himself to the edge of the bar. Fuck! It hurt! He leaned into it and started the long hobble along the bar to the old man. His leg alternated between cold and heat, numb and pain.
Make it a double. Nothing fancy. Rum and coke.
Along the way Tommy grabbed a bottle of the nearest thing he could. It was the bottle of rum Mickey had left on the side.
He took a swig before taking another and then another before deciding to move on to check on the old man.
The girl in the red dress tried to scream but it was no more that a punctuated gargle. The sound of short painful breaths. She felt around her belly. It was wet but she couldn’t move. Couldn’t feel. She didn’t know it but the bullet had blown out her spine and ruptured her spleen and churned up her insides. She pulled her hands back and saw the blood. Then she started to cry.
The old man turned back to the bar and literally caught Tommy falling towards him. He gently placed the kid down on a stool and took the bottle from the kid and sat next to him. He facing the bar. The kid facing the woman in the red dress.
I realised too late what happened. Too late. Thought I could change it. She always dies Tommy. No way to change it.
I’ve been tracking you for days. Never kept a diary you see. It was all from memory. Had a rough idea when it happened. Knew where it happened.. but time’s… Time’s a fucker.
The old man stared at himself in the mirror and the back of the kid now moving to get up – two halves walking away.
The girl was still sobbing. Her mind racing. Pain immense. She imagined a thousand resolutions to her situation. Flickers of hope burnt out like the embers of a fire on a November night. She knew that for all her scheming for all her plans none of it mattered in the end.
There was no happy ending here.
She fought against the thoughts but the truth fought back. Let go, it called. Let go.
She breathed out and relaxed her hands and let the life flow out of her.
I met a man who said he could send me back… a scientist. The man was a shell. A drunk. Came into my bar and shot himself right in front of me. He offered me a way back but told me that I wouldn’t like what I found.
I didn’t care. I just wanted out. All the things I did… will do. I just wanted to go back and talk with that kid and stop him.
But I didn’t stop anything.
She looked up and above her, across from her she saw Tommy. Standing there with the same gormless look on his face…
His … sweet face.
Tommy just stood there immobile as the old man had been before him.
I remember standing where you are now… listening to these words not realising the truth and the weird thing is? I know the words I am speaking are the same words I heard when I stood where you’re standing right now. I’ld forgotten them to tell the truth but now as each one slips from my mouth, I remember.
Tommy turned around and faced the old man’s back. He had left his colt lying on the table behind him fresh clip pointing onward.
And there’s nothing I can do nothing to change them. I tried Tommy. I came back and tried but everything happened exactly as it happened. Exactly as I remembered it. I thought if I could come back I could change it. Save her. Save you. Save me.
Another swig from the bottle.
All this time and I thought we had a choice.
The table where the gun lay was now bare.
The old man swirled another big gulp of his drink and stared at the bottle like it was an old lover.
Been a long time. Too long.
He took his last sip then looked back to the mirror. If he was looking at Tommy or himself the kid didn’t know or care.
It’s the lie which eats you, Tommy… Free will. Choice? There is no choice.
Tommy raised the 45 to the back of the old man’s head.
Don’t worry it’s not you’re fault. It never was. Free will is an…