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Authors: Ray Banks

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BOOK: Gun
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"You know the
Leam
?"

Richie nodded.
"Been there a couple times."

"So you know how to get there and back in a day."

"Not that far, is it?"

"I know it's not. I'm wondering if you know.
So's
I don't get the
fuckin
' excuses later on that you didn't know where you was going and now you're
fuckin
' lost."

"I'm not like that." Richie raised his chin. "I been down there, I can handle it."

"Alright then.
There's a
gadgie
on the
Leam
called Florida Al. I'll write down the address." He pulled out a small pen, wrote the address on a used bus ticket he'd pulled out of his pocket.
Handed it to Richie – a house number and address.
Richie had an idea where it was. Wasn't that far from the Metro station, so he could probably walk
it.

When Richie looked up, Goose had a mobile phone in his hands.

"What's that for?"

"In case you get any bother."

"I won't."

Goose raised his eyebrows. "Like fuck, you won't. I know Al, and I know what kind of
fuckin
' bastard he can be. Anyone goes there on my behalf, he's going to try and skin you. Cunt thinks he's
fuckin
' special. But we all know he's not, and the
fuckin
' Jocks know he's not an' all. Lad couldn't even run a stand-and-
tan,
he's hardly the
fuckin
' Godfather. Anyway, you think he's trying something on, he gives you any shit, you give us a ring on that – the number's in the contacts, it's the only one
  –
and you put him on the
fuckin
' line. I'll straighten him out."

He barked a laugh, handed Richie the phone, who felt weighed down with all this stuff.

"He asks you what gun you've come to pick up, it's a
Brocock
ME38 Magnum,
right?
Al should've already procured and drilled the fucker. He should've loaded it an' all." Goose pointed. "You better check on that an' all, because he'll fuck us out of bullets if he thinks he'll get away with it."

"Okay."

"Either way, you get the gun, you give us a ring."

"Got you," said Richie. He straightened his
hoodie
, tried to pat the pockets flat, then made to leave.

"One last thing," said Goose.

Richie nodded.

"You know who I am."

"Aye."

"So you know what happens to people with notions."

Richie breathed out. Slowly, so Goose wouldn't notice. He knew what happened. He wasn't daft.
Them
lads down in Gateshead, that ginger dealer called Moses and his mate. Goose sent down a couple of
smackheads
with a hunger to take their fucking teeth out. That was the rumour anyway. And Richie wasn't about to question it.

"Aye," said Richie. "I know what happens."

"Good. Off you go."

He did as he was told.

 

 

 

2

 

Richie got the Metro through to town, then changed at Monument and headed south. When he got to
Heworth
, he checked his watch. He was supposed to go down the dole today, but this job from Goose meant it'd probably have to wait until tomorrow. His
Becka
would be disappointed, but that'd have to be the way it was. He couldn't make money and look for a job at the same time. She'd understand. She'd have to. It was the way he always provided.

"You're a skivvy," she said to him once she'd had a
skinful
. "You do that running around for these people like you're their
fuckin
' slave. If you
was
a
smackhead
, I could understand,
y'know
, you'd be
itching
about something. But you're not. And you still do it."

"It's a job."

"It's something
that's
gonna
fuckin
'
kill
you one of these days." And she'd get tearful, wave her hand and leave the room before he got a chance to calm her down.

Then he'd be sat there, staring at the telly, a can of Ace going warm in his hand. Thinking she was right, but there wasn't
nothing
he could do about it. A man had to work, and he made better money taking care of things for Goose than he ever did in a job-type job.

Still, it bugged fuck out of him that Goose didn't remember Hacky Curtis. Richie went to remand because of that twat, and it was all down to Goose that he did the fucking time. See, when the polis came round, knocked Richie up the morning after he put the boot to
Curtis,
it was Goose's name they kept saying. When they brought him in, Goose was all they wanted to hear about. And just before they shoved him into the eighteen month stretch, it was the same old questions, the same old
shite
.

Richie hadn't said a word.

He got on the 15 that took him to
Leam
Lane, took about quarter of an hour. He hopped off the bus and pulled at his
hoodie
. It was still morning, still had that chill in the air. And this place wasn't his usual haunt. From what he knew about the
Leam
it was notoriously territorial. Your face didn't
fit,
you shouldn't be hanging round for long. That was his experience of the place, anyway.

Richie took the address out of his pocket and looked at it. He had an idea where the street was, reckoned he remembered from the last time he was down here, and headed that way. He kept one hand in his pocket, tightly gripping the bundle of money. He stopped for a moment to light a tab,
then
he carried on, sucking in nicotine and keeping an eye out for anyone who might fancy confrontation.

Nobody did. But that didn't stop Richie's arse from tightening right up when he saw a bloke heading down the path of Florida Al's house, staring right at him. The bloke carried himself like a bouncer gone to seed, and looked as if all this standing outside a door on an empty street had made him slap-happy.

"Fuck
d'you
think
you're going?"

Richie pointed behind the bloke with his free hand. "In there."

"What for?"

"None of yours."

"Like fuck."

"See Al."

"Like
fuck
.
You?"

"On behalf of someone."

"On
behalf
?"
The bloke
smiled,
the word alien in his mouth.
"Who?"

Richie didn't know if he was allowed to name-drop. He figured what the fuck.
"Goose."

The doorknob looked at him for a long time after he heard that word. Richie reckoned he'd hit a nerve, jogged a memory.
Maybe both.

"Alright then, son.
I'll bring you in."

The bouncer led the way, opened the UPVC door a crack and shouted through, "Got one?"

"Aye," said someone from inside.
"Got the call."

The bouncer nudged the door open, and Richie stepped inside the house to the smell of pizza. His gut bubbled at the thought.

"Straight up," said the bouncer.

Florida Al was in the living room, sitting in the couch like he'd fallen and couldn't get up. Next to him was a massive, quarter-eaten pizza. He wore a silk Aloha shirt that framed chilled, pale skin and clung to a spare tyre that belonged on a monster truck. Richie stood in the doorway, didn't know if he should clear his throat or something. Al seemed intent on the television.

Then Al's eyes flickered to Richie. "Who're you?"

"I'm here to pick something up for Goose."

"I didn't ask that. What's your
fuckin
' name?"

"Richie."

"Good."

Al struggled to sit up, nudged the pizza box with his ample thigh in the process. Richie tried not to watch. Al sucked his teeth and muted the television.
Waved one hand for Richie to come further into the room.
He did, and when he glanced at the telly, saw the two naked blokes going at it like dogs.

Al was watching him, with half a smug smile creating more chins. "You mind if we have this on? Or is it too distracting for you?"

"Nah,
y'alright
," said Richie. "Don't do
nowt
for me."

"So what was it you were picking up?"

Richie sniffed. Wondered why this fat poof was testing him so much. "How, look, Goose sent us, right? He told us to go pick up a
Brocock
ME38 Magnum, drilled and loaded."

"Right, so he's already paid for it, has he?"

Richie stared at Florida Al and shook his head.
"Nah."

Al smiled wider now, revealing teeth that belonged in the middle ages. Richie was positive he could see green in there. Al moved his head slowly, and Richie caught a little movement in his peripheral. He glanced that way, saw a cracked door to what he guessed was the kitchen. There was someone in there, watching.

When he looked back at Al, there was a gun on the coffee table. Richie guessed it was the right one – certainly
looked
like a Magnum. Al jerked his chins at Richie.
"Money."

Richie removed the banded notes and put them on the table next to the gun. Made a move to pick it up and got Al's thick hand on top of his, pinning him to the table. Richie tried to move, but the big lad had some strength. Still, he didn't want to
  be
bent over in a poof's house any longer than necessary. And it was only necessary for a fraction of a second at the most.

"Leave the gun for a second. Let me count."

Richie nodded,
then
whipped his hand back, straightened up as soon as he could. Watched the fat fuck pull the bands off the money and count each note, his lips moving. When Al finally gave him the nod, Richie had to stop
himself
lunging for the gun and running out. Instead he lifted the weapon and looked at it.

"It's loaded, right?"

Al looked up from the money. "Aw, you don't trust us, do you?"

Richie shook his head. Thinking he should probably call Goose because this was just the kind of
shite
he was talking about. But also thinking, fuck
it,
he could handle one obese arse bandit. He raised the gun and pointed it directly at Al.

"Now what's that supposed to prove?" said Al.

"I can't open this thing up," said Richie. "But I can pull a
fuckin
' trigger
nae
bother."

"I get you. And you reckon you can do that before my man Stanley peppers the
shite
out of you from the kitchen."

The cracked kitchen door.
Right enough, Richie's instincts were spot on about that. They were spot on about this, too. This gun wasn't loaded. If it was, even if Al did have Stanley in the kitchen, he'd still be thinking about his fat arse getting splattered all over that cheap sofa, so there'd still be a twitch or something.

Richie thought, fuck it, and pulled the trigger.

Click.

There was still a jump, a wave running through Al's body caused by a single tiny flinch somewhere under the Aloha. He breathed out through his nose,
then
he shifted around, pushed aside a cushion and brought out a small plastic bag with six bullets inside. He tossed it onto the coffee table.

"There," said Al.

Richie scooped up the bag, stuffed into his pocket. Then he slid the Magnum into the back of his
trackies
and smiled at Al. "Thanks."

"You tell Goose to send someone else next time, alright?"

"Aye, alright."

Richie sauntered out the room, down the hall and was met at the open front door by the bouncer. The bouncer looked over Richie's shoulder at Florida Al before he got out of Richie's way. When he did, Richie squinted against the light. Behind him, he could hear the grunting of blokes fucking turned right up.

He walked back the way he came, heading for the bus stop and pulling his
trackie
bottoms up every five minutes. Reckoned he'd have to do something about the gun. He didn't want to be walking somewhere, lose his pants
and
the weapon.

Richie leaned against the side of the bus stop, checked the times. Another hour or so, he'd be back at Goose's place, getting paid.
Might be able to get down the dole for the afternoon at this rate.
He pulled out his tabs, lit one. When he lifted his head, he saw a gang of
charva
lads coming his way.
Three of them, wearing that same uniform of stripy jumpers and
trackie
bottoms.
One of them had a
Berghaus
over his jumper. Another one wore a cap, had box-whites on his feet and a hare lip. One of them, a lad with bad acne and worse teeth, saw Richie was smoking.

BOOK: Gun
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