“The fuck are we meeting in here for?”
“Sit your arse down. Act normal. And cut the swearing”.
“Hate these places though. Why here. Seriously?”
“If you mean: what are two hard-nut hitmen doing in a calm respectable place like this first thing Tuesday morning? Well, there’s a few reasons. For now though, just sit down. Shake my hand, and smile like a good 'un. That’s it. Look; we’re two guys on business, talking a project over. Something like that. So watch the language. Got it?”
“Good. So, you don’t like it in here? Rather meet up in a boozer?”
“Too bleedin’ right”.
“OK then big man. You show me a pub that opens seven thirty in the morning. Has free wi-fi. Air-con. Respectable, unsuspecting people. Plus clean shitters, and we’ll meet there. Get me?”
“OK OK. I know the score mate, don’t worry”.
“Ha! You know the score? Don't make me laugh. I wrote the book on scores mate. You ain’t even got a library card”.
“Anyway, in pubs everyone’s expecting something. Watching. They may be chilling out, having a pint and a laugh. All well ‘n good. But there’s always an edge. Everyone checking the door. Everyone eyeing everyone else. Wondering if any minute something will kick off. Speaking of… Did you hear what happened to Jumping Jimmy couple of weeks ago? In Parkside Tavern?”
“I didn’t, no. I know a few lads off Parkside”.
“Ah, good stuff. Having boys on Parkside isn’t a bad thing mate. Keep in with ‘em. Good to have an out on an armpit estate like that if it ever gets dicey, know what I mean? So, Jimmy’s in there on the pinball machine. Middle of the afternoon it was. Dealing a bit 'n stuff, ya know? Anyway, he’s obviously watching the door, when he can that is; had his back to it cos he’s on the pinball isn’t he? Not the wisest move. Anyway, he’s there playing pinball, next thing, Stevie Blades just storms through the doors. You know Stevie Blades?”
“Heard of him yeah”.
“Stop fiddling with the sugar mate. We’re normal guys in a meeting, remember? You look twitchy as a hungry kitten. Look at the laptop. Like I’m showing you a presentation or something... That’s better.
...Anyway, he’s a top-boy Stevie. Lives the straight life these days, but he's no joke. Take anyone on he would, one-on-one. Anyway, Stevie storms in with a baseball bat; like a total nutter. Right on one he was. Rushes in, wacks Jimmy right on the crown of his head. Boom! No messing. Looked like all his strength went into it ‘n all. He’s a big bloke Stevie. Arms like Thor, 'cos of his job - steel erector. Makes a decent wage for a Joe-normal gig too. But yeah, the sound was like new wood hitting an old tree-trunk. Heavy, dry cracking sound. KNOCK! I’ll never forget it. Made me feel a bit queasy to be honest. And I’ve seen some shit. Done some shit in my time”.
“Crazy! And you were in there when it happened?”
“Yep. On a job for the Boss-man wasn’t I? Yeah so, Stevie belts him, top of the bonce – and Jimmy’s completely oblivious. He hit him so hard that Jimmy’s teeth come flying out of his mouth. All crackling on the pinball glass like diamonds on a jeweller's counter. Looked like a good half a dozen teeth. Unreal mate honestly. Caved his head in on the back. Just here. (Pat-pat)… Dinted like a half deflated football it was. I’ve heard that even when Jimmy recovers he’ll lose the use of one half of his body. Paralyzed. Down one side. Brain damage”.
“Yeah. He’s toast mate”.
“Why’d Stevie do that then?”
“Well; I heard that Jimmy had been knobbing Stevie’s Mrs while he worked away. Got what he deserved really mate. You don’t go off like that”.
“Idiot. Can’t believe you were in there though”.
“I know. I’d never be in there normally. But funny thing was, Jimmy was the job I was in there for. I was there to do him over a bit. He was into the Boss-Man for five grand. I was supposed to give him a gentle once-over. Break a finger or two, ya know? Make a mess of his nose ‘n that. Nothing heavy. Was quite looking forward to it too to be honest. Not had a soft job for ages”.
“So Boss-Man down five G’s then?”
“Haha, no way mate. He took Jimmy’s mum’s car and appliances didn’t he? Kid’s tablets and all that. No way he’d let that go. Bad times for Jimmy.
…So yeah, pubs. BIG no-no mate.
Besides, they do nice drinks in here. Decent sausage sarnie too”.
“Bit sad though these places, don’t you think? Office workers ‘n that. Mugs”.
“Exactly mate. Unassuming. Oblivious mugs. People are predictable in places like this ya see. Watch ‘em. Study the herd. Cows; the lot of ‘em. Learning about people, that’s as much the job as offin’ them is. Take ya time, see what habits they have – habits and insecurities, that’s it. They’re all the same: behavior-wise. So watch ‘em. Helps cut down on any unexpected reactions, trust me”.
“Yeah. Example: I saw something recently, super-interesting. Apparently, if you take random people and give them a pen. Ask them to tap out a rhythm, long as it stays the same speed, ya know? Well; apparently, nine out of ten people will tap pretty much the same speed – tap tap tap. And not only that, the rhythm will always be close to the same beats-per-minute as the average human heartbeat. Straight up! Mad that innit?”
“Strange. Why’s that then?”
“Cows mate, the lot of ‘em, that’s why. A herd. It’s ingrained in us without knowing. You’ve gotta watch out for it son. Learn it. That’s the edge you need to keep things sharp”.
“I’ve got all the sharp edge I need right here thanks mate”.
“No way you’re tooled up?”
“Obviously? Why obviously? Who d’ya think you are? Tom Cruise or something?”
“That’s a bit racist. Tom Cruise is white”.
“OK then, Jamie soddin’ Fox”.
“Jamie Fox? In what film?”
“Errrmmm, I don’t know. Django!”
“You can’t say Django. That’s racist ‘n all”.
“Why is that racist?”
“It’s about black slavery innit? I’m black. It’s offensive”.
“Yeah good point. Sorry. OK then, errmmmm, Denzel in Training Day”.
“Now you're talking. ‘This shit is checkers, it aint chess!”
“Other way round mate”.
“Never mind. But yeah, seriously. Leave that blade tucked right where it is. Not gonna need it. Look, just simmer down mate. Look at this loooovely spreadsheet – smile like you love the figures. Go on, smile at the lovely bleedin’ figures!”
“I’m smiling yeah. Great figures”.
“Nice laptop by the way”.
“Sweet innit? Surface Pro off Amazon. Five hundred notes, good spec’. Ordered it eight-pm and it’s free next day delivery using my Amazon Prime. All that and free Prime Video too. No wonder companies are going under”.
“Definitely. So. No knives then. Understood. What’s the job anyway? Bit of info would be good”.
“Well, we’re watching out for a lad. A young ‘un from Rude Boy’s firm”.
“Rude Boy? Why is he called Rude Boy?”
“I don’t know do I? Maybe he likes The Specials or something”.
“What are The Specials?”
“WHO mate, not what. Ska band. Late seventies, early eighties. Later on became Fun Boy Three”.
“Never heard of ‘em”.
“Jesus. Well, fair enough with Fun Boy Three. But I’d have thought your dad would’ve clued you up on The Specials. He loved ‘em. Skinhead for a bit he was. Fun Boy Three though, underrated. Not many people know David Byrne produced their album”.
“Oh please. Seriously? Talking bastard Heads mate! No? Very poor”.
“Do me a favour… Tonight, watch Stop Making Sense. Should be on YouTube. It’ll blow your head off. Either that or I will. But don’t you dare tell me you don’t like it when you’ve seen it. Lie to me if you have to”.
“Yep. No worries. Will do”.
“Anyway, we’re waiting for Rude Boy’s lad. He comes in every day, round about this time. Gets him a drink and nibbles. We watch for him. Shadow him and see where he goes. Rude Boy stays at a different one of his girl’s places every night ya see? Paranoid. He should be too. Wanker”.
“What then? Once we’ve found Rude Boy? We do him in?”
“No mate. Not yet”.
“Well. Orders are; Boss-Man just wants his teeth”.
“His teeth? Bit weird innit? We’re not dentists”.
“Thanks for the career clarification, soft lad. Look, we don’t have to do it dentist-neat. Quite the opposite in fact. We’re free to make a mess on this one. Paint the place up a bit. But Boss-Man wants his teeth. Simple as.
Look, Rude Boy has these diamonds in his front teeth ya see – he’s known for it. And Boss-Man wants ‘em as a trophy or something, I guess. Don’t know the ins-n-outs, we just go do the errrmmm, ins-n-outs. Mainly the outs….”
“Seriously though, how do you take out someone’s teeth? We don’t have a baseball bat like what Jimmy got”.
“Hmmmm, good point well made. We could do with a hammer... What to do… Tell you what, we’ll follow the kid, see where Rude Boy is, then nip off to DIY Depot. One just near here. I’ve got my loyalty card – you get five percent off on a Tuesday, AND free cinema tickets. Sweet that. Ooo, I need some GU10’s actually. Got a couple of bulbs out in the kitchen. Works out nicely this. Could even go see that new Tom Hanks film later if we finish up early enough.
Oh yeah, and this time, I don’t want you making a mess like your last shift”.
“What? He’s dead isn’t he?”
“Yeah, he’s dead alright. But from reports I heard it was like an explosion in a ketchup factory. Bloodbath on aisle three!”
“I know. Sorry. But the guy I was booked on, I’d shadowed him, ready to - ‘sssrrrrITT!’, ya know? Do the old throat... But he turns round, sees me, and I realise we know each other. Went to the same college. Absolute one in a million. Would you believe it?”
“You at college? Not really no”.
“Dickhead. Yeah I knew him from when I was at United for the football. I was signed semi-pro at seventeen and part of the deal was we all had to do college one day a week. Anyway, he used to go there too – barber classes or something. So he sees me and recognizes me even though I’ve got my hood up. ‘Hey, how ya getting on?’ he sez. ‘Yeah not bad I said’…We blabbed on for a bit. Me thinking. Had to improvise. Saw my chance - pushed him in front of a number seventy-two. It was trapping too; fifty road. Bit of a gamble but luckily it did him in big style. Got a bit of him on my jacket though. Look. Hugo Boss ‘n all. Not a snide this”.
“See? That’s what I mean, you need to predict these things as much as you can or you’re not gonna last very long. Be ready for him being ready for you. Look for the patterns of behavior. It’s all accountable. This study, right, I saw it recently…”
“How come you keep seeing these random mad studies?”
“Ted Talks mate. Check ‘em out. Reasonable membership, you can even claim the tax back. This study though, scientists watched people at a classical concert. Same concert each night, different crowds. During the few quiet moments where there’s breaks in the music, odd thing happens. At every cue, at the same point, people would clear their throats. For no reason! Just instinct. Instilled in different people. All at the same points each night. Break in music, clearing of throats. Even though they don’t need to do it”.
“Well the brains weren’t sure. But I know. People feel on the spot, ya see. Think the silence is all about them. Self-conscious and exposed. We’re all the star of our own show yeah? They need to own the moment, to feel important, just for that moment. But really, it’s insecurity. Know what I mean?”
“Not really mate, no”.
“You do will when you’re older, trust me.
Right, game-face anyway. That’s our boy.
Let him get served, and we’re out behind him. Put ya coat on. Keys, KEYS!
And remember, nice and chilled, yeah? Take our time. No knives. No number seventy-two bus. Got it?
But first; get the drinks in and make ‘em to go. Mine’s an extra large with an extra shot. Half Arabica, half Ethiopian, oat milk, extra hot and a squirt of caramel. And get what you want. But don’t forget my fucking loyalty stamp! I get a free drink next time!”