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Authors: R D Ronald

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BOOK: The Elephant Tree
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He pulled Angela to her feet. ‘Which room is yours?’

‘This way,’ she said, and he followed.

Scott didn’t know how long they had made love for. There had been a need in her orgasms, something that ran deeper than just sex. She had clung to him, legs wrapped tight around his waist. Fingernails and teeth bit down into his flesh during the final thrusts as she cried out his name before falling back onto the bed, panting and shivering.

As Angela went to make them both coffee Scott took in the surroundings of her bedroom. He’d been to the flat a number of times before but never until now had reason to come in here. It was much like the other rooms, not decorated in any particular style, no style at all really with the discoloured old-fashioned wallpaper that clashed horribly with the busy patterns on the carpet. It was undeniably Angela though. Posters covered a lot of the wall space. Knick-knacks and photos she’d accumulated over the years were strewn over all surfaces the same as the rest of the flat, giving it a warm lived-in feel.

Pushing the bedroom door open with her bare foot, Angela came back wearing only a large checked shirt held loosely closed by two buttons. She carried two mugs of coffee, one of them documenting her return from the kitchen with a succession of drips onto the ancient carpet. She nodded her head towards the bedside cabinet, indicating for Scott to move some of the clutter and make room for the steaming cups.

‘Thanks – ow,’ she said, putting them down and spilling some of the contents onto her hand in the process. Leaving the room again, she returned a moment later with an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels.

‘That’s for the coffee?’ Scott asked with a smile.

‘Yep, to make them Belgian.’

‘Belgian?’ Scott asked, with a laugh. ‘Isn’t that supposed to be Cointreau and stuff you add to do that?’

‘Really? I thought it was just something you said when you mixed alcohol into other drinks,’ she said, grinning as she broke the seal and unscrewed the cap.

‘I think I like your version better,’ Scott said, and drank a mouthful from each of the mugs, leaving room for the whiskey to be poured.

After filling them back up to the brim, and giving both a quick stir with her finger, Angela resettled onto the bed and kissed Scott on the cheek.

‘What was that for?’ he asked.

‘Just for being here, I couldn’t have handled spending tonight alone.’

‘This wasn’t just...?’

‘No Scott, it wasn’t.’

‘OK.’

‘I think it was pretty much going to happen anyway.’ She said it as a statement, but her searching eyes indicating it may have been more of a question.

Scott just smiled and nodded. Reaching over he picked up the whiskey-infused coffees and passed one, cracked handle first, to Angela.

‘You want to talk about Stephanie?’ Scott asked, taking a sip from his mug.

‘I don’t really know what to say. It’s all so horrible,’ Angela said and shivered.

‘Have the police any idea what happened?’

‘I don’t know. It was in the stairwell going up to her apartment last night. The entrance was locked so the attacker had to have been buzzed in.’

‘Was it rape, or just a robbery?’

‘She had money in her purse and they said she had no injuries consistent with a sexual attack,’ Angela said, staring mournfully down into her mug, her fingernail absently running up and down a crack in the porcelain. Scott watched her and felt a stab of guilt, unable to prevent his thoughts returning to the same fingernail being drawn down his back during sex not long before.

He didn’t remember falling asleep. He did remember them working their way through the bottle of Jack Daniels and talking for most of the night. Now he woke up with a headache and the bitter aftertaste of too much whiskey and too many cigarettes.

Angela still lay beside him, snoring softly into her pillow. Scott got up carefully so as not to disturb her, slipped on his shorts and went into the cramped kitchen to make coffee and find something for his headache. He went through the motions somewhat robotically, needing a caffeine kick to clear the fog from his consciousness and bring the morning into some kind of focus. The only window in the kitchen overlooked a shopping centre, and Scott paused for a minute, absently watching the progress of an old woman in a bright red woollen hat carrying two big bags of groceries. She was stooped over, either against the grey Monday morning drizzle or perhaps just with age. Attempting to concentrate on his task at hand, Scott then managed to drop the jar of Nescafe from the cupboard he’d discovered it in, onto the small countertop, which in the confined space resulted in a bang like a gunshot blast. Either that or the less than muffled curses which Scott had angrily erupted with as a result managed to rouse Angela from her slumber.

Discovering some Ibuprofen in a drawer, Scott popped two out of the blister pack as Angela appeared gingerly in the kitchen doorway. She was wearing only the checked shirt again, this time with no buttons fastened. Her right breast covered by the shirt, a long curl of her glossy red hair hung down over the left with her nipple visible between the strands. He looked down at her neatly trimmed pubic hair, blonde, her natural shade. Despite the hangover, Scott longed for her again. He felt conscious of his arousal pressing against the thin fabric of his boxer shorts.

‘A couple of those for me too,’ she said, squinting against the brightness from the kitchen window as she leant sleepily against the doorframe, seemingly unaware of his discomfort. Scott eased the last two tablets from the pack and handed them to Angela, along with the coffee he’d just made for himself.

Chapter 7

T
he rest of the week dragged endlessly for Scott. He’d worked on design jobs for Zebra from home but any connection he felt to the work was little to non-existent. Angela kept him informed of the lack of change in Stephanie by phone call and text message but there’d been no mention of them getting together in person. Neil had come by late on Tuesday evening to count up the weekend’s takings and divide up the profits. He’d been thrilled at how well they’d done and had talked of making the parties a regular thing. Scott had deflected the exuberance and felt none himself. He knew how ridiculous it would be for a drug dealer to regularly hold open door parties at the location of his stash of cash and narcotics, but knew that explaining this to Neil would only end in an another argument. Besides, depending how things turned out with Twinkle on the job, he might be calling time on the business relationship with Neil anyway.

The agreement with Twinkle was that there would be no contact until the day of the job. Twinkle assured him he would personally check over all the details to make sure everything would run smoothly. As sure as Scott was that Twinkle wanted to avoid jail as much as he did, he would still rather have been able to check through everything himself. Twinkle’s attention to detail could easily be sidetracked, as he’d seen a number of times in the past, and Scott was more than half convinced that the old man had managed to avoid jail for so long more by good luck than good judgement. However, this was Twinkle’s call, and having already agreed to take part, Scott just had to grit his teeth and go along with it.

The meet was scheduled for 11:30 on Thursday at a bar Scott knew by reputation but had never been into. The Weather Balloon was on the edge of the run-down housing estate where Twinkle lived. Or the ‘Eat Her’ Balloon as it was sometimes referred to by the younger patrons as the ‘W’ had long since vanished and probably sat now pride of place on someone’s mantelpiece.

Scott entered a few minutes early and ordered a pint of Coors at the bar. The interior walls were red and edged with what was probably once gold but now looked a sickly yellowish brown. The scuffed wooden floors reminded Scott of draughty school assemblies as a child. A large TV had been bolted to the wall in a corner and had been further secured with a chain. It appeared to keep the few customers at the bar placated with its endless broadcast of sports news. Scott was just about to retreat to a table with his drink to wait for Twinkle to arrive when he saw him emerge from the toilets, wiping his hands dry on his pants.

‘Alright Scott?’ Twinkle said and nodded to a table he’d previously been sitting at. An almost empty pint glass sat there which Twinkle drained the remaining contents from and went back to the bar for another. Scott felt edgy; he sat sipping his pint and spinning his Zippo on the table until Twinkle returned. Walking back to the table Twinkle fished in his pocket for something and, sitting down, he passed it under the table to Scott. He looked down and saw his own face looking up at him from a laminated ID card.

‘My ID card,’ Scott muttered in confirmation.

‘Yeah. Here do this,’ Twinkle said and Scott watched as he scrunched his own card in his palm. ‘Makes it look more authentic, like it’s been in your pocket for ages with keys and shit.’

Scott did as instructed and noted the look of pride on Twinkle’s face, presumably at how high tech his life had recently become. He probably thought of himself as some kind of working class mix of James Bond and Robin Hood. Scott just hoped the euphoria wasn’t causing Twinkle any oversights that they might both end up paying for.

‘Everything in place for today then Twink?’

‘All taken care of: paperwork, transport, route,’ Twinkle said, smiling as he ticked off each point on his fingers then patted his shirt pocket causing a rustle. Scott noted the strong smell of beer on Twinkle’s breath and wondered if it was only his second pint or if he’d been in since opening.

‘Let’s take a walk and you can tell me all about it then,’ Scott said, eager to get them out of the bar and into fresh air. Twinkle looked reluctant but grudgingly gulped down the rest of his drink and stood up, slightly uneasily Scott thought, but hoped it was just his imagination.

They walked past a fast-food place and Scott ran back to get them both some lunch. He hadn’t been hungry himself but thought getting some food into Twinkle would help to sober him up. Walking to the nearby park, they both ate in silence. It was a cold morning and the schools had yet to break up for the Christmas holidays, so other than the odd dog walker it was fairly deserted. The hot greasy burger tasted good to Scott despite his initial lack of enthusiasm and Twinkle was putting away a fair amount himself, which helped ease Scott’s concern. Coming to an empty bench in a secluded area dense with yew trees and rhododendron bushes, Twinkle threw the carton and paper containing the remaining fries into a bush and sat down.

Twinkle took a cigarette from his pack and lit it, pulled his jacket tightly around his gaunt frame and took a deep inhale. Taking another quick look around, Twinkle slid a hand inside his jacket and removed the papers from his shirt pocket that the rustle had hinted at back in the bar. He handed them to Scott and exhaled the smoke.

Scott looked them over. There was a customs form, already filled in with what he supposed the relevant reference numbers, and the name and an address for the firm they were to collect the shipment for. On a separate sheet was a printed street map with a route marked away from the docks, onto a highway and then off again a few miles north to what looked like a collection of farm outbuildings.

‘What about the van?’ Scott asked after looking over the papers for a third time.

‘Supermarket car park,’ Twinkle said, turning his wrist to look at his watch. ‘It’ll be dropped off there in about an hour; I’ve been shown where to look. Once you’ve got the escape route memorised, you’ve to burn that sheet.’

‘Escape route? You make it sound like we’ll be fleeing with a dozen squad cars chasing us,’ Scott said, shaking his head. Watching Twinkle carefully, Scott held his lighter below the customs forms, as if about to burn them by mistake instead of the evidence of their intended destination. Twinkle made no move to stop him. Scott knew then that Twinkle’s mind wasn’t remotely focused on the job and that he could only count on himself. If it came down to it he’d just have to leave Twinkle behind.

‘You know what I mean though Scott,’ Twinkle said with a grin as Scott set fire to the correct sheet of paper. ‘Back to the pub for a few pints while we wait then?’

Having managed to keep Twinkle away from any licensed premises during the next hour, they arrived at the car park. Being so close to Christmas the place was overrun with avid shoppers looking to stock up for the holidays. The arrangement had been to park the van in as far away a spot from the supermarket as possible, to ensure there would be a free bay. Twinkle led the way through the rows of parked cars to a dirty four year old white Transit van in a remote corner of the lot. A company logo was emblazoned on the side reading: ‘D. Mearns Electrical and Engineering Ltd.’, matching the name on the customs forms that were now in Scott’s pocket.

‘What do you think then?’ Twinkle asked as they approached the van. ‘Pretty impressive, isn’t it?’

‘Well it’s a van with a name on the side, so as far as that goes, yeah I’m impressed.’

‘You can mock now Scott but come tonight you’ll be thanking me for this shot when you’ve got a pocket full of cash,’ Twinkle said and cackled.

Twinkle let them both into the van with a spare door key he already been given and Scott found the ignition key under the driver’s seat where Twinkle said it would be. The interior, unlike the paint work outside, was spotless. All surfaces looked like they had been professionally cleaned. Scott imagined the van was stolen and would have had the plates swapped out but no trace remained of who the previous owner might have been. Buckling up first, Scott turned the key in the ignition and the van started up first time. Twinkle was saying something else about how well everything would go but by now Scott had begun to tune him out. Scott took the paperwork out again, familiarising himself with it and running through in his head any possible questions that they may be asked when collecting the shipment, until he felt confident he could handle any queries without nervously having to think up an answer on the spot. He checked the petrol gauge and wipers and adjusted the mirrors, then set off for the road towards the Eastland docks.

BOOK: The Elephant Tree
7.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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