by Paul D. Brazill

The sirens wail in the distance and a buzzing street light flickers as I run into the darkened alley, the black rucksack with the broken strap bouncing against my dodgy back. They’ll never catch me, though. They never do but I’m getting too old for this cobblers, for sure. Almost fifty and still on the friggin run. My chest feels like it’s going to explode. My legs about to buckle under me. I’m sweating buckets, gasping for breath. I pause to puke. Start running again.

I’m back at my mother’s pock-marked terraced house within twenty minutes. The lights are already on.

I open the front door, pull off the balaclava and walk up stairs, still wheezing.

“A nice shower will sort you out, pet,” shouts my mother from the living room. “And a cuppa with a snifter.”

I go into the bedroom and drop the rucksack on the bed. Open it to check that the money’s still there. Flick the dirty notes. Take off my blood-stained clothes and walk into the bathroom. A short, sharp shower.

When I get out, I hear my mam singing along to The Beatles’ She’s Leaving Home and getting the words wrong, as usual. Feel comforted.

I pull a suitcase from under the bed and stuff the rucksack into it. Put some clothes over the top.

I get dressed. Black suit and tie. Crisp white shirt. Diamond shaped cufflinks. Shoes shiny enough to see your face in. The full clobber. I slap the after shave on, Henry Cooper style. Pick up the suitcase and walk downstairs.

“Only Captain Morgan left,” says mam, as she hands me the mug of tea that is generously laced with rum.

“Should still do the trick,” I say.

I knock it back in one. Feel a glow, like one of the kids in the old porridge advert.

Mam’s dolled herself up in her new black dress. Earrings. Necklace, the lot. She finishes her drink. Puts on her coat and hat. Picks up her new handbag.

“Best get going. The stink of that petrol’s playing havoc with my chest,” she says.

I nod.

“Want to do the biz?” I say.

She frowns.

“No, you best do it. You know I can’t get the hang of them Zippo things. Not with my rheumatism.”

“See you in the car, then,” I say.

She picks up a small bag and heads out the door.

I fish in my jacket pocket for the Zippo. Set the corner of one of the cushions alight and pick up my suitcase. Walk outside as the living room starts to burn.

Mam has already started the hearse’s engine. I get in the passenger seat.

“Just like the old days,” she says. “Just the three of us.”

I put the suitcase on top of dad’s coffin. Mam stalls and then starts the car. I close my eyes.

It’s going to be a long haul.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton and The Neon Boneyard. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime 8, 10 and 11, alongside the likes of Ian Rankin, Neil Gaiman and Lee Child. He has edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit (with Luca Veste). His blog is here.