“Three or Four in a Bed”

Shang-Hai

A short story in three parts for the weekend.

London Road, late, early hours of the morning, a cold December, not a soul to be seen, just a quiet Lucozade-lit road that Keith drove along to where an hour before he’d bashed Ricky Moran over the head with a brick. He crossed the railway line and pulled into the disused coal wharf that would in time house dozens but was for now a fresh and shallow grave for one.
Keith stopped the car, gathered his thoughts, turned off the engine and got out to crunch the icy puddles and find what he came back for.

Earlier that night, he sat quietly in the corner of the Leopard, sipping his pint, watching and listening to three men at the bar. The first, an Englishman called Derek, was regaling a Scotsman called Willy and yes it’s true an Irishman called Michael, with stories. The stories were nothing of import or value but rich in fantasy, such as when Derek slept with a prostitute in Amsterdam, the first of hundreds he’d since fucked.
“Does your wife know about all these assignations?” asked Michael, seemingly in awe.
“Of course she doesn’t!” exclaimed Derek, “And it’s going to stay that way or your life’s not worth living.”
“I’m saying nothing anyway,” assured Michael, knowing secretly that if there was a secret to be kept, he was the last person to keep it.
“Me neither,” agreed Willy, knowing secretly that if there was a secret to be kept, Michael was the last person to keep it, your man was not to be trusted.
From his quiet corner, Keith took another sip of his pint, knowing secretly that if anyone was going to tell Derek’s wife he used prostitutes it would be he, Keith. But not tonight. Tomorrow perhaps? No, the day after, which happened to be a Sunday when Derek’s wife would as was her wont go to church and pray for those less fortunate. It would have to be Sunday because he was to observe the rule of four victims that with good reason he’d earmarked for this journey of destruction, starting with the next person who darkened the door and then in order he deemed fitting…
By the time Keith had ordered and half-imbibed his second cider, the three men at the bar had been joined by Ricky Moran, a bigshot American who’d come across the pond in the Sixties and made his living breeding racing horses, several of which had been big winners including The Derby and The Grand National. It was no secret in the town that Ricky was rich and the house that stood on the edge of it was as ostentatious as the man himself, who was to be seen flashing his loud suits, shiny jewellery and money around in this pub on a regular basis. It was Ricky to whom Keith had gone about four years ago to ask for a job, having been made redundant when the coal wharf closed, and been turned down, the first in a long line of rejections that kept growing until this day. It was not the rejection that got to Keith so much as the manner of it.
“You want me to hire you when you look like this?” Ricky had said, “A man looking like he crept out of the garbage can? Who’d scare the horses so much as look ’em in the face?” And then he’d laughed and told Keith to be on his way.
Now, Keith was eking out his pint, watching and listening as Ricky joined Michael, Willy and Derek at the bar, wafting a wad of twenties and telling them he’d had a good week, and deciding finally that yes, this was the man who was to be first past the finishing post.
Knowing that Ricky always walked from the pub to his home because he was once done for drink-driving, and that London Road was the way, Keith silently finished the rest of his pint and slipped out into the frosty night.

Two hours later, Keith was in the living room of the small terraced house he shared with his mother, making a cup of tea and four pieces of toast. Taking these from the cramp dark kitchen into the living room and setting them down on the settee to cool, he then took the bundle of money from his pocket and placed it behind the clock on the mantlepiece, then fished for the bracelet he’d gone back for. Enjoying and smiling to himself at the smoothness of its platinum, he then flicked at a dried map of blood he spotted on his coat, picked up the three darts from the sideboard and threw them hard into the board he’d screwed to the back of the door. Thunk, thunk, thunk. Then he plucked one dart from the cork and with it pinned the bracelet into treble 20.
By now he was tired and hungry and all of a sudden felt the cold. Clicking on the gas fire, he returned to the settee and sat to eat his meal. Just then, however, there was the sound from the floor above – thunk, thunk, thunk.
“Coming mum,” he called, but didn’t get up.
Thunk, thunk, thunk.
“I said alright!”
He knew he’d have to go up, but not yet. First, because for Keith everything even his mother had to be taken care of in order, he’d eat his supper.

To be continued…

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