“The police don't fucking believe me!”
“What did you tell them?”
“What do you think? I told them what I saw.”
Pub owner, Jimmy, scratched his unshaven jowls. The sound of scraping calloused fingers against a three-day growth was better than the sight of the fat chin wobble. His customer cringed.
“Do you want another beer?”
Jimmy pointed at Spike’s empty glass.
“You don’t believe me either?”
“Let’s just say, you and your mates have kept this pub running, by getting a few down your necks.”
“Yeah, you’ll lose me as a customer if you carry on like that. Are you saying that I’m too pissed to know what I saw?”
Jimmy looked away and had another scratch, this time below the bar.
“All I’m saying is, who cares? We all hated the man.”
The man Spike swears he saw murdered ‘was’ a feared thug. Big Mac, a man who terrified the locals who, like Spike, earned a living dealing with down-and-out users of illegal products.
Spike was well known to the local ‘Old Bill’. He couldn’t believe himself, as he walked through the front door, unaccompanied and uncuffed, willingly to assist them with a report.
“You must be joking!” Spike had screamed at his girlfriend the night before when she suggested he should mention that he’d witnessed a murder. The look in her eye twisted his mind.
“Okay, I’ll talk to them.”
He soon regretted it. The police laughed at him.
Still fuming, he downed another pint.
“Come on, Jim. I’ll show you.”
Sliding his empty glass across the bar, he held the door open for Jimmy. The door boasted cracked and patched-up glass, a varnish that looked more like old sandpaper, and squealed in protest at its opening.
As usual, on a Saturday afternoon, the street was deserted. If they could walk they were already at the game if not, they were sleeping off last night’s excesses. People in hiding before sundown when they start again.
The bar owner puffed and coughed rancid breath to keep pace with the taller, fitter and younger man.
They ducked into a litter-strewn side-street and slowed to an amble as Spike signalled his friend into a decrepit drug den. Carefully, easing the smashed door away from a urine stinking puddle, they went upstairs to the back bedroom.
“Christ, Spike, is this where you bring your one-nighters?”
“This is where I make the dough that gets spent in your dump.”
Jimmy grunted as Spike pulled him forward to the broken glass and rubble that once was a window.
“Down there,” Spike pointed at a patch of flattened grass, “that is where they knifed him.”
“It looks like a patch of overgrown garden where two people rolled about.”
“One person rolled, for sure. The others stood over him and plunged and slashed curved knives into him.”
“Yes, sort of Ali Barb-a style.”
Jimmy mumbled, “Let’s go.”
“Don’t you want to have a look downstairs?”
“No, I’m going back to the pub.”
He was sweating and trembling before he raced down the stairs and on to the pavement. Spike wondered at the reaction and screwed up his face, followed Jimmy down the stairs. The older man was running as he hit the street.
Spike turned back at the foot of the stairs, climbed through a downstairs window into the weeds and broken glass garden.
“How is it there is no blood? I saw gallons of claret spurting from his throat,” Spike looked around hoping no one heard him talking to himself his customers would think he was using too much of his product. He pushed aside clumps of dead vegetation, studying the earth. No blood, nothing, bar trampled grass.
“Wait a ‘mo, what’s this,” his foot hit something hard.
Oddly, he cleaned his hand on his trousers before picking up the piece of decorated metal. Turning it over, eyeing the matching pattern on both sides.
Spike crouched and pulled a phone from his pocket.
“Do you remember what I told you last night?”
“Spike, for fuck's sake, it’s early. Let me sleep. Okay, it’s my round later.” Connection lost.
The mobile was busy again with a different number.
“Not now, for Christ’s sake. It's early.” Again the phone was turned off.
Edgy answered the third number, “Thank God you called Spike.”
“Why? What’s up?”
“Last night you told me that Jock bastard got knifed?”
“He was. I saw it happen.”
“He still wants the money I owe him.”
“What do you mean? He is dead.”
“Right, you tell him then.”
“I don’t understand?”
“He called me, just before you did.”
Spike was now sweating. Was he that drunk last night? No wonder the police laughed at him. Is his girlfriend is having a huge giggle with her pals? This thought did not sit well, he had an image to live to.
“Tell me about the call.”
Almost shouting at Edgy, stunned at the venom in his mate’s voice.
“I was in the can, checking tonight’s late matches. A call interrupted my picks. It was Big Mac, ‘I’ll break your fucking legs if I don’t get my cash tonight,’ and he means it. I need to borrow the money, okay? I’ll pay you back.”
“Are you sure it was him?”
“I’d recognise his voice, sure it was ’im.”
“So, he’s coming to the pub tonight?”
“Yeah, can I have the dosh?”
Spike stretched, loosened his knotted legs and marched back to the pub.
“Give me a beer, this time with a chaser,” said Spike.
“A chaser? You must have made a deal?”
“What did you say about the curved knife?”
“No, you ran off at the thought of it, why?”
“Listen, I and my family have lived here longer than you lot. Don’t go disturbing things, okay?”
“Big Mac is coming here later. How can he if he got knifed with an odd weapon? I want to know, how come?”
The bartender looked at his mate, deciding what to say. Whatever that was changed as Spike slammed the broken metal on the bar.
“Oh, God!” he croaked. He kept his balance by hanging on to the bar. He regained a semblance of strength, “Call my wife down. She can explain more.”
Spike moved behind the bar and called up the stairs, “June, you had better come down.”
Red and flustered she asked, “Don’t tell me he’s had a heart attack?” as she looked across at her husband, slumped across a table, head in his arms.
“No, no, he’s all right, we need you to clear something up,” said Spike.
June tutted, “What’s this about then?” as she pulled out a chair opposite Jimmy. Spike sat between them and put the metal on the table.
Jimmy looked across at his wife. She gawped at the object, then her husband, then Spike before she could speak.
“Where did you get this?”
Spike told her.
“Why did you bring it here?” she asked.
“Never mind why did I bring it here, what is it?”
June was deep in a thirty-year-old memory.
Shaking her head to clear the thought, a tissue appeared from her sleeve, dabbing her eyes.
“My uncle banned travelling gipsies from the bar. He threw them all out in the street. Later, after closing, they came back with weapons,” she trembled and clutched her husband’s hand. “They killed him, slicing and cutting, over and over again. I saw it all, blood everywhere. Christ, I was only twelve. I ran to the police station.”
Spike, on the edge of his seat, waited open-mouthed.
“I came back with the police. I got arrested for wasting their time.”
“Because… there was no body, no uncle, no gipsies and no blood.”
All three jumped as the phone rang behind the bar.
Jimmy answered, “It is Edgy’s girlfriend. She wants to know if he is with us?”