Authors: Owen Laukkanen,David Siddall,CS DeWildt,Eric Beetner,Joseph Rubas,Liam Sweeny,Scott Adlerberg
He opened his eyes. Capo had left the room. On the couch, Tricia had kicked off her sandals and folded her legs beneath her. Ricky followed the contours of her body and focused on her pasty thighs. Like a pair of albino pythons, they slithered up her skirt. He felt a throb in his groin. It spread through him and his mind played with the sweet fantasies he had conjured on many a lonely night in his room. He should take her now, put his hands on those supple, soft titties, and fuck her like she’d never been fucked before.
Tricia saw him looking.
Ricky grinned, felt the buzz of the white powder surging through his veins. This was it, the moment had arrived. And he knew with absolute conviction that all he had to do was say the word. All he had to do was…
The gun landed on the table beside him. He jerked back, eyes filled with an image of chrome and steel. “Fuck’s sake Capo.” He came down quickly. “Thing could have gone off.”
“Don’t think so. It’s not real see.” He looked over at Tricia and winked. “Unlike me, it only fires blanks.”
Ricky leaned forward and scrutinised the revolver. “Looks real.”
“That’s the point. Wave that in someone’s face and they’re liable to give you what you want.”
Ricky pursed his lips. He could see Capo’s point.
“Borrow it if you like.”
Ricky looked from the gun to Capo, wondering if he was winding him up.
Tricia barked a laugh. “Him? He hasn’t got the bottle.” She went over and ruffled Ricky’s hair. “Have you love?” She kissed his ear, then went to Capo and put her arm around his waist. “Not like you, is he?”
Ricky felt the heat in his face, burning with the indignity of having Tricia ridicule him in front of Capo. Reaching forward he picked up the pistol. It was different from what he was expecting, almost like an extension of his arm.
Capo whistled. “Look at him. He’s a natural.”
Ricky gazed at the sleek, silver weapon in his hand. “I could y’know.” He closed one eye, levelled the gun and swept it around the room. Here was power, a power he had never felt before, and he saw himself in the foyer of the bank where they had knocked back his loan application. The thought of pushing the gun into the backs of those smug suited vipers, while Tricia—Bonnie to his Clyde—rushed from till to till stuffing bags with cash, filled him with a kind of ecstasy. A fast getaway, a night on the town, then a hotel room where she’d open her arms and legs and tell him he was a hero.
Sweet. He gazed into the distance, lost in a dream of what could be. He jumped as Capo slapped his shoulder.
“’Course you could,” he said. “You’ve got the balls.” He stood back and gestured to the gun, “The means, and with your experience it’d be like…”
“Taking candy from a baby.” Tricia beamed.
“Yeah,” said Capo and winked at her. “That’s it. Just like that.”
Ricky looked up to see his friends grinning at him like he’d won the lottery. “You mean I should do it?”
“Bookie’s on High Street. Thought about it meself but,” Capo wrinkled his nose, “if you want a piece of it.” He made that same open-handed gesture Ricky had seen so many times and was as genuine as Katie Price’s tits.
“What’s in it for you?”
“Hey, we’re pals.” The hurt in Capo’s voice didn’t wash with Ricky so he waited, waited until Capo grinned. “But I’m supplying the gun. So if you want to give us a little bonus…”
Ricky nodded, saw Capo and Tricia exchange glances and frowned. There was something not quite…
He shook his head. No. Ricky turned the gun in his hand. Its weight was a comfort, its threat awesome.
“Just go in there and do it?”
“You wave that bit of kit and there’s no one going to stand in your way.”
Tricia came over and stroked the nape of his neck. “And with the score you’re gonna make, we could have a good time.” She whispered in a way that could have only one meaning. “A
Ricky’s doubts evaporated. His heart skipped then beat to a new rhythm—that of opportunity. “So this bookie’s,” he said. “When’s the best time to hit it?”
According to Capo, the best time was now, while the idea was hot and the body willing. And while Ricky prevaricated, rubbed his chin, and said he should think about it some more, Trish and Capo had pushed the point to such an extent that here he was, outside Ladbrokes, with a gram of coke inside him and a shooter in the waistband of his kecks. His heart began to race. But what else could he have done? Just for once, Tricia had looked at him like he was the
So Ricky took a deep breath, pulled up the hood of his jacket, and walked in. He stopped by the door and scanned the room. It felt like everyone had their eyes on him: the guy making his selections, the two studying the Racing Post, even the old-boy sitting in front of the TV. And then there was the girl in the booth—the girl with a Baywatch body and a Crimewatch face—she most of all.
Looked like she was almost expecting to be robbed.
Ricky swallowed. He knew what he should do. He should walk to the booth, stick the gun in her face and…
His heart thumped. A guy had come in, and placing a hand on his shoulder, eased himself past. Ricky mumbled something incoherent and stepped aside. The big guy went straight to the booth and pushed his betting slip beneath the window.
Ricky shook himself. That was the way. He took a pen off the shelf, pretended to study the runners and riders then went to scribble on a betting slip. His fingers twitched, could hardly hold the pen. He clenched his fist. Better. He wrote big then put the pen down. A voice in his head said do it. He stared at the booth and brushed the gun in the back of his pants. But what was once natural and comforting now felt alien and hostile. And all the while his brain screamed at him to be a man. Ricky breathed deep. Do it, do it—the words in his head matched the rhythm of his steps. Closer now, so close that the glass-fronted booth filled his entire vision and the girl was Charon at the river, and he knew that once he had made that crossing, he could never, ever go back. He paused while she regarded him with eyes dull as dishwater and waited for him to pass her the betting slip.
With a hand moving independently of thought, Ricky laid it before her. The girl glanced at the note, frowned, and read it again, her lips moving in sync with the words. He guessed she was trying to interpret what ‘
GIVE ME THE MONEY
’ actually meant.
Ricky waited till she looked up and brought her eyes level with his. This was the moment to make his play. Reaching back, he pulled at the gun. The barrel caught, and as he fumbled it clear of his pants, he dropped it on the floor. “Shit.”
The girl groaned. This wasn’t the first time. In fact Ladbrokes had been held up so many times, it carried the unfortunate sobriquet of the Toxteth Cash & Carry. She closed her eyes, pinched her nose and let out a low sigh. Why did it always happen to her?
Ricky retrieved the pistol from the floor and pointed it through the gap in the window. Surprised when the girl didn’t shit herself or fall over backwards, he gestured her to hurry.
She placed an elbow on the counter, cupped her chin in her hand, and looked at him as if he were some kind of pond life. “What?” She thrust the word at him like a dagger.
Ricky cleared his throat and tried to sound mean. But when he opened his mouth, it came out all high pitched and whiney. Like a girl. “The money,” he said. “Give it to me now.”
For a moment she didn’t move, then with a style of languid disinterest, the girl opened the till, went first to the twenties then the tens, and finally the fives. She gathered them together and placed them in three separate piles. Ricky’s eyes widened. So much. He grinned. There was so much he almost forgot where he was. He just wanted to stand there and gaze upon that filthy money forever.
Ricky snapped out of it. The gun had drifted in his hand until it rested on the counter. He jerked it at the girl, gestured her to push the cash through the window. There were so many £10 notes she had to use both hands and squash them flat. Ricky went to grab it and stopped.
It wouldn’t fit in his pockets. Not all of it. And he was left with the thought of running away with a stream of the Queen’s currency following him like a public school paper trail. A bag. He needed a bag. Why hadn’t he brought a bag?
Shit, shit, and shit.
His tongue felt like sandpaper in a mouth worn dry by his stupidity. Just for a moment, he dared turn his head. Now all eyes
watching him. Laughing at him. Watching him with a quiet ambivalence that defied the fact he was holding a gun. He wanted to shout, pull the trigger, shake them out of their stupor and watch them cower beneath the tables and chairs. Ricky’s eyes darted from one to another, his anger growing with each dumb face. He clenched his teeth and swung the gun in a wide arc. Why weren’t they scared? Did they know it was fake, a clone masquerading as the real thing? Did they know he was? His heart hammered, his breath came in heavy gasps. From the TV, the commentator’s voice rose to a climax. Red Bobbin entered the final furlong a nose in front of Stargazer and at last Ricky’s spirit soared as he saw his own winning post in a plastic bag lying on the floor.
“Give me that.” He pointed the gun at the old guy.
Ricky jabbed the gun. “That.”
The old guy looked at him with the rheumy eyes of a man who’s seen it all before. He frowned and peered beneath his chair. “This?” He lifted the Tesco bag off the floor.
“Got a hole in it you know.”
“I don’t give a flying fuck if it’s got a hole.” Ricky’s voice rose until he was almost screaming. “Just give it to us will yer.”
The guy held it out.
Snatching it from his hand, Ricky turned back to the booth. The money sat there like three birds ready to take flight. He swept the money into the bag, then watched as a bundle of notes fell through the hole. Ricky cursed. Why did everything always end in a fuck up? He put the gun between his knees, tied a knot in where the hole was, then went down on all fours to pick up every wayward note. Not one was going to escape, not one fiver was going to get away. Not after he had worked this hard.
Mumbling to himself, he pushed the last inside before remembering where he was. Ricky jerked upright. He waved the gun around in case anyone was thinking of being a hero. They weren’t. In fact they were impatient for him to fuck off so that they could get back to the more important events of the afternoon: the racing at Exeter and Newmarket. Ricky curled his lip into his finest snarl and backed away to the door. Reaching behind, he pulled it open and slipped outside. A cold wind chilled the sweat on his face.
He had done it.
Ricky closed his eyes. Jesus Christ, he’d really done it. The rush was better than anything, ever, and that included the skag Capo had sold him last week. But there was no time to bask in glory, he had to move. Looping the plastic bag around his wrist and pushing the gun in his waistband, Ricky started to walk. Past the burger bar and newsagent, past the off-licence and chippy, and all the time he was waiting for somebody to start screaming, somebody to point and yell thief. Nothing happened. He glanced back. All quiet. Cars rolled towards town. Women gossiped. People came and went from the supermarket. It was almost like a Sunday when he went to fetch the papers for his dad.
He quickened his pace, headed for the lay—by where Capo said he would be with the car. A cold chill ran through him. It wasn’t there—
wasn’t there. Ricky slowed and looked again. There was a car but it was a different colour and make and no one sat behind the wheel. Fear began to spread like oil on water. He had a bag full of cash and a gun in his pants. And even if it was a fake, would the bizzies know? He sneered at himself. What if they did? A no-mark like him, it’d be shoot first and ask questions later.
Thoughts raced through his head. He could dump the gun and leg it. Tell Capo he lost it in a struggle or that he got jumped. Then again he could just fuck off and not go back. He bit his lip, weighed his options before a police patrol exiting the street next to Kwik-Save made everything simple. Ricky’s breath caught in his throat. The squad car paused at the junction. Too soon. The Jacks couldn’t know, not yet surely? And then a thought forced its way into his head. Maybe that was it. Maybe Capo had seen the patrol and took off. The squad car indicated and turned away. No time to think, he had to move.
Passing between two parked cars he crossed the road and headed in the opposite direction, towards the pebble-dashed walls of the housing estate. Every instinct told him to run, but even as he heard the siren, even as his heart skipped and his breath came in ragged gasps, he forced himself to walk. ‘Don’t look, don’t look,’ he said, repeating the words over and over until his self-serving mantra was lost in the siren’s scream and he at last risked a glance behind. Ricky’s legs almost gave way. The patrol car hadn’t stopped. It hadn’t gone to Ladbrokes or stopped to ask the witnesses a thousand stupid questions. It had swerved the scene of the crime and left the details for some other blue-nosed cunt to define and was bearing down on him like a Banshee from hell. Self-preservation kicked in and Ricky ran.