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Authors: R D Ronald

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BOOK: The Elephant Tree
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All of the drugs had been prepared the day before: ecstasy, speed, cocaine and cannabis all sorted according to price and weight and sealed up tight inside the plastic bags. Stitching their own pockets into the pants had been Scott’s idea a couple of years back. It made the stop and search policy of the clubs a lot more difficult for the doormen involved. Usually they’d only receive a cursory pat down to make sure no obvious weapons of any kind were being brought inside, but any enthusiasm from doormen to delve into pockets as well would turn up nothing but cigarettes, keys, a cell phone and wallet.

Scott watched Neil work his way around the room with a practised efficiency they had both developed over time, as he sipped on his beer and finished his cigarette. Within ten minutes Neil was back, all deals supplied and time to move on to the next bar.

They walked back up the stairs and outside into the cold December evening where a light drizzle had begun to fall. Scott pulled up the hood on his jacket, squinting against the intrusive glare from the streetlights and instinctively moved to walk in the shadow beside the rows of closed and shuttered shops. Neil talked enthusiastically about what the night may have in store for them, how much they’d make and which girl he might end up with. Scott was used to the process and just nodded and grunted his agreement at what seemed like relevant moments while keeping pace in the direction of bar number two.

‘I ran into Ferret earlier,’ Neil said. ‘He reckons he’s got a good contact for a load of ecstasy tablets way cheaper than we’re paying for them now.’

‘You know my position on that, man.’

‘Yeah, unless you know the source then we don’t switch. But seriously man with the saving we’d make on these you could pack in working for Jack and have a little more freedom.’

‘You remember what happened to Paige last year. I’m not having us in that position with some poor fucker. No.’

‘Paige was unlucky I admit. But that’s all it was. She got a contaminated pill but it wasn’t one of ours.’

‘Which is exactly why we stick with the supply line we have now. These shipments of ultra cheap drugs that hit the market every now and then, who knows what the fuck is in them. I don’t want someone’s death on my conscience just to make a little more cash.’

‘That could have happened to anyone though. People know the risks when they take stuff, isn’t like we don’t do our fair share as well. Sometimes bad shit happens but that’s the same with any recreation.’

Scott knew that Neil tended to get wound up on this subject sometimes so he just kept walking and figured Neil would get bored with his rant eventually.

‘Horse riding. More people die doing that every year than from taking X, but if someone falls off a horse and breaks their neck they don’t go blaming the guy who supplies the hay.’

Scott nodded and lit a pre-rolled joint he’d had stashed away with the other bags of drugs, and took a few hits.

‘And what about all the crap they put into food these days? Who knows what all that shit will do to us in years to come. And mobile phones? Portable radiation generators that we have glued to our heads for much of the day. Seriously Scott you worry about stuff way too much,’ Neil said, and took the joint Scott held out to him.

Neil did have a point though. Since Scott’s uncle Bob had killed himself six years ago, the mortgage and other bills for his cottage in the country had initially fallen into the lap of Jack, Scott’s older brother by four years. Jack was nineteen then and as there were no other living relatives he had been awarded custody of Scott. That was how the situation stayed for a while, but as soon as Jack managed to set up his own company he moved out to live in the city, leaving Scott on his own most of the time. He’d given Scott a little training and an unofficial position at his company but the wages allowed Scott to do little more than just get by. Scott didn’t care though, he liked the seclusion offered by country life and he’d managed to find his own way of supplementing his income.

Scott did have ambitions above and beyond the situation he was in, but his thoughts often returned to Paige. She had been friendly and pretty, but just another face in the crowd until after she died. He had been at the party that night and had spoken to her briefly a few hours before her death. They’d joked a little, just light-hearted stuff but she’d been happy. Scott had left the party a little after that and didn’t hear of her death until a few days later. Neil was right, the pill she’d taken hadn’t come from them, but it could have, and since then she’d become almost a talismanic figure to him. Scott hadn’t taken anything himself for a few weeks after, and hadn’t gone back to dealing for a few months, but once people found he wasn’t selling they just went and bought elsewhere.

Scott appreciated the futility of the situation. People were ultimately going to do what they would do. But despite this he had grown a social conscience because of Paige’s death. He snorted a short laugh at the notion, the morally aware drug dealer.

‘You seen Twinkle tonight?’ Scott asked.

‘Not yet but he’ll be out. Not being out last night was a miracle, but two nights in a row? No chance,’ Neil replied with a laugh.

That was true enough. Twinkle was generally out somewhere every night. Even when the clubs were closing he was always looking for somewhere to go on to afterwards. Scott could understand that. Some people couldn’t be by themselves for too long. Solitude led to retrospective thinking, and if the past is what you are trying to get away from, then constant distractions in the present were needed.

Twinkle was an ageing drug dealer that they’d known for years as a regular around their most frequented drinking establishments. He’d taken a shine to Neil early on, which allowed them to get good prices on the speed and ecstasy they’d take whilst clubbing. Quickly becoming regulars themselves, they’d started buying a little more each time and made a little cash selling them on inside the clubs.

The Highlander was their next stop. Among others a lot of bikers hung out there, especially at the weekend. The function room upstairs played a variety of rock and metal so the clientele were a pretty mixed bunch. It was a lot brighter than the last bar. The landlord was conscious of the drug dealing and taking that went on, so he kept the place relatively well lit to stop it being too blatant, forcing all deals to take place under the many thick oak tables scattered around both upstairs and down.

They switched roles this time, Scott surveying the place for customers while Neil went to buy their drinks.

When Scott had finished he made his way back down and through the crowd by the bar, glancing around the room to see where Neil had ended up. He spotted him at a table near the back of the room beside the pool table, and made his way over.

The air was thick with smoke, and empty glasses and bottles were piled up on tables and ledges all around them. Neil, playing around with his phone, looked up and saw Scott returning, took his feet off the stool he had been saving and pointed to a bottle of Budweiser on the table.

‘Listen Scott, I kind of need a bit of a favour,’ Neil said, leaning in towards Scott and resting his elbows on his knees. ‘This Emma bird, the one from Jam.’

‘Apparently it’s Gemma,’ Scott chipped in.

‘Yeah whatever. Well I kind of told her that we were having a party back at yours and there’d be loads of people going,’ Neil said.

‘What did you do that for?’

‘She wasn’t up for clubbing tonight and I kind of wanted to spend some time with her. It’s still early though, we can round up a bunch of people and get shot of everything back at your place instead. What do you think?’

‘Alright man, but this is your project. You invite everyone and make sure you don’t go vanish with whatever she’s called before your pockets are empty.’

‘Thanks Scott, I owe you one,’ Neil said, happily tapping away at his phone again. ‘Looks like there’s someone we can invite straight away.’

Scott followed Neil’s gaze and saw Twinkle and another guy he recognised but didn’t know the name of, walking into the bar.

‘Alright Twinkle, you heading to Blitz later?’ Scott asked, when they came across.

Twinkle was probably around fifty, Scott reckoned, although depending on the severity of his current drinking and drug taking binge he could appear ten or fifteen years older. He was below average height with a mass of dark curls flecked with grey that spilled down his head, usually obscuring much of his deeply lined face. Years of substance abuse had left his frame very thin and frail looking. If the onset of wrinkles in middle age were referred to as laughter lines then to look at him, Scott thought, Twinkle’s life must have been hilarious. He had sharp eyes that often seemed to visually contradict the lack of intelligence that could be derived from listening to him talk. There might not be a lot to respect in Twinkle, but Scott liked him. He just didn’t want to end up like him.

‘Maybe yeah, just got some stuff to do first,’ he said to Scott before turning to his associate. ‘Dom, why don’t you and Neil go have a game of pool.’

Neil curiously looked up from his phone but went along with what he’d suggested, allowing Twinkle to sit in his vacated seat, leaving him and Scott alone at the table. Twinkle looked at him with squinted eyes and a pained expression, as if operating under the weight of a heavy hangover.

‘You look a bit rough mate, big night last night?’ Scott asked innocently, but for a moment felt Twinkle’s gaze sharpen.

‘Was up drinking, pretty late yeah,’ Twinkle said evenly, composing himself.

‘Thought after you weren’t out last night that maybe you’d been picked up by the cops for something.’

Twinkle took a swig of the beer Neil had left on the table before looking at Scott again and answering, ‘nah, I’m not holding anything, mate, so nothing they could get me for.’

‘It isn’t like you to come out with empty pockets Twink. You got other stuff going on?’

Again Twinkle took a long drink from the bottle and for a few seconds seemed to carefully select his words before answering. ‘There’s gonna be a chance to make some good cash coming up, Scott. The kind that need someone who has their head on right, not some daft fucker.’ The look Scott got from Twinkle told him this was no longer just a conversation. He had the feeling of being weighed up, like he had accidentally walked into a job interview for a position he didn’t want to fill.

‘ To be honest, maybe it would be better if I didn’t hear anymore,’ Scott said, backtracking while he felt he still could.

‘I know you’ve got ambitions above shit like this,’ Twinkle said, waving the beer casually around the room. ‘I’ve heard you trying to get Neil to step up for bigger deals in the past. Fair enough, I won’t say anything else now, but if you decide you want to hear more, come find me and we’ll talk then.’ He finished with a smile that suggested he knew what Scott’s response would be, before adding ‘just don’t take too long.’

Twinkle finished Neil’s beer, fetched his friend from the pool table and they both left.

‘What was that about?’ Neil asked as he sat back down, but Scott just shrugged. ‘I don’t know what Twinkle is up to but he wants to watch mixing with people like that.’

‘Who was the other dude then?’ Scott asked.

‘Dominic Parish. You heard of him?’

‘The name sounds familiar, who is he?’

‘Supposed to have been a decent boxer in the day, middleweight I think. He got mixed up in some shit after he retired from boxing and did some time inside. Now he’s pretty tight with Paul McBlane and that crowd. What I heard was that he could have avoided jail pretty easy, but kept quiet and maybe did McBlane a favour.’

‘Twinkle always was looking to move up in the world, maybe this is his chance,’ Scott said, and swallowed the last from his bottle. It was true that Twinkle had always been looking to swim with the big fish. He craved the notoriety that life as a gangster would provide; the same notoriety that Scott had worked so hard to stay away from.

‘The only moving up in the world he’ll do is if he gets the top bunk during a ten year stretch,’ Neil said, and they both laughed.

‘I’ll get two more,’ Scott said, and went to the bar.

Twinkle was a close associate in a circle that both Scott and Neil preferred to keep small. A bigger network would mean better prices and better selection when it came to their buying power, but it also meant bigger risk. Twinkle might want to turn heads when he walked into a room, see people whispering as he went by, ‘
Do you know who that is?’
but that was the last thing Scott wanted. Any progression Twinkle might hope to make through the ranks made Scott nervous and he didn’t like it.

He saw that Angela was serving and edged around to her section. She wore a pair of faded jeans that had worn so thin in a couple of places on the thighs that areas of pale skin were visible beneath. Her current hair colour of choice was a deep red and was held back loosely in a pony-tail, with just a hint of her natural blonde roots beginning to show through. She was smiling a polite rebuttal to the slurred flirtation of a customer, but when she caught sight of Scott her smile became more natural and touched her eyes. She handed some change to the guy and turned to Scott as he eased through to the front.

‘Hey Scott, what you having?’

A neon sign advertising Heineken buzzed steadily behind Angela, so Scott ordered two of those. He reached into his pocket to extract a note while watching Angela saunter over to the bottle fridge. All the other guys at the bar watched her too. She opened the fridge and crouched to pick the bottles from the bottom shelf. Scott noted the thinly veiled looks of disappointment from some of the spectators that she hadn’t bent over to get them, leaving them with a colourful memory to take home that night. Angela was a beautiful woman, anyone could see that, but she wasn’t the type to gratuitously flaunt it just to make more money in tips.

She exchanged the uncapped bottles with Scott as he handed her a ten. He held her gaze for a second before she went to make change, and grinned at the glint he saw in her eye. She knew the power she held over these guys, but for her this was just a job, and none of them would ever get more from her than a cold beer and a warm smile.

BOOK: The Elephant Tree
6.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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