‘The thing is, Bren,’ says Craig Hornby, kissing his bloody knuckles, ‘you’ve just got to face facts sometime. You might be a nicer bloke than your Tony. Well, in fact, you are nicer. Much nicer. But your kid is more likeable. It’s just one of those things. And that’s why he always ends up getting what he wants. Getting his own way. If he fell in the sea, he’d come out with a pocket full of fish. That’s him, eh? Teflon Tony.’
Craig walks over to the window and closes the blinds. The room turns black. Specks of dust float in a shard of sunlight that slices through a broken slat and spotlights a pool of blood at Bren Murdoch’s feet. Bren’s head pounds. Blood trickles down his nose and is soaked up by the socks stuffed in his mouth .He twists but the fishing wire cuts further into his wrists and ankles.
‘And that’s also why you’re here now instead of him.’
Craig’s heavy feet echo off the concrete floor as he walks over to the corner of the room and switches on the strip lighting.
Bren clamps his eyes shut.
‘That’s why you’re the one who has to take the consequences of the shit-storm your kid brother brewed up.’
The dining chair wobbles as Craig sits. He’s sweating like a pig. Dark semi-circles under his arms. He knocks back a can of Red Bull and kisses his bruised knuckles again.
‘It’s just one of those things. Something I have to do. I have to, I have no choice , really. Have to make an example of someone. You understand, don’t you?’
Bren understands all right. He understands that in less than a week his life has turned from shinola to shit. And he knows who to blame.
‘It’s bollocks. I can’t believe you operate like this,’ said Bren.
He looked pissed off as he dragged the wads of paper from the bread bin and spread them over the shop counter. ‘It’s all in here?’
Tony Murdoch smirked and sipped a can of Carling. ‘Aye.’
‘You keep all your paperwork, all your receipts, invoices, tax bills in a bread bin and you expect me to do your accounts for you?’
‘You’re the accountant,’ said Tony. ‘I’m the … entrepreneur.’
He leaned against a stack of ‘80s 12-inch singles that were marked down to 10p. Star-shaped, day-glow signs hung everywhere in the cluttered shop. It was always cluttered these days. Not with customers, though. The second-hand record business wasn’t what it used to be. Anyway, Tony made more money from organising coach trips to stadium rock gigs. And then there was the other little business with Craig. The import/export business.
‘Well, I’m not your accountant, am I? Thank fuck. What happened to that bloke you used to use? Stewie Shorthands?’ said Bren.
He got up from the counter and walked to the fridge in the corner of the room.
‘He went AWOL, didn’t he? Supposed to have drowned out near Seal Sands. He’s been missing without a trace for a couple of days now,’ said Tony.
Bren opened a can of Carling. As he clicked the ring pull, it frothed up, soaking his expensive suit.
‘Shit, are you still buying beer from News N Booze? The stuff that’s past its sell-by-date?’ he said.
‘It’s half price, man. Yer, canna wack it.’
Tony, the great business man, thought Bren. He’d always wondered how the shop, Tony’s Tunes, had kept in business for so long.
‘Listen Bren,’ said Tony. ‘I’ve got a little proposition for you.’
‘Oh, yes?’ said Bren. ‘And what might that be?’
‘Well,’ said Tony, handing his brother a small bar towel. ‘I’m in need of a little bit of creative accountancy.’
THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY
‘He’s worm meat,’ said Veronica Fleece.
‘Are you sure?’ said Tony, switching off the Tupac CD.
‘Well, I’m no Doctor House,’ said Veronica. ‘But look.’
Tony was trying not to gag as he looked down at Shorthands’ naked, flabby body, spread-eagled across the hotel bed. He had to agree with Veronica. The accountant had croaked. ‘What are we gonna do?’ said Veronica, pulling on a kimono.
‘We can’t exactly call an ambulance, can we? Not with all the happy-talc he’s got in him,’ said Tony. ‘Shit. Shit. Shit.’.
‘I told the daft, fat twat to take it easy with that stuff,’ said Veronica. ‘Eyes bigger than his gut.’
She collapsed onto the squeaky leather sofa.
Veronica and Tony both glanced at Shorthands’ stomach and burst out laughing.
‘Getting rid of him won’t be too hard. I’ll phone my dad. He’ll sneak him up to Jed Bramble’s pig farm,’ said Veronica, wiping the white powder from her nose.
Shit, thought Tony. He needed someone to prepare a set of accounts for him to give Craig, so that he didn’t know that Tony had been skimming off the top of the delivery payments. There was no other way, he realised. He’d have to contact Bren.
‘I’ve mellowed, Bren. I really have,’ says Craig. ‘I’m a granddad now. I play golf. I go to car-boot sales. I recycle. But if there’s one thing guaranteed to get my goat, to wind me fucking up, it’s someone pissing down my back and trying to tell me it’s raining.’
Craig stands and stretches, yawns. ‘And that’s pretty much what you and your brother did. Eh?’
He walks over to a cupboard in the corner of the room. Unlocks it.
‘But, it’s not so much that. Everyone has their fingers in the till here and there. It’s standard practice. But getting found out. Getting caught so the whole world knows you’ve been taking the piss. Well…’
He pulls a golf bag from the cupboard. It clatters over, spilling clubs over the floor.
‘Fuck,’ says Craig. ‘Give us hand, eh?’
‘Maybe a nine iron,’ says Tony Murdoch, putting out a cigarette and walking over. ‘That should do the trick.’
(c) Paul D. Brazill