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by Tom Leins

Hugo fixes me with red-rimmed eyes and pops another caffeine lozenge into his mouth.

“There are some good scams cooking on Winner Street.”

The words seem strange trickling out of his lipstick-painted mouth.

“There always are.”

On Thursday nights he dances at the Honeybucket under the name ‘Coco Chavez’.

Hugo peels off the knee-high alligator skin boots and kicks them off, revealing wide, sweaty feet.

“Too much, right?”

Tattooed across his left foot are the names of all of the men he has ever loved. On his right are all of the women he has been in love with. The lists are about even. He slips into a pair of intimidating-looking spike heels instead.

He’s a nice guy, but he hasn’t been the same since he caught a glimpse of his little sister in a local skin magazine called The Gentleman’s Handshake.

“You interested, Joe?”

“Will it pay well?”

Hugo is missing a side-tooth when he smiles.

“Hell, yeah.”

“Will I have to hurt anyone?”

“That’s up to you.”

He fixes his elaborate blonde wig in place.

“How do I look?”

Cheap — like a Torbay Road sex cubicle.

I give him a thumbs-up and he melts from the room.

***

Two days later. Paignton Yards.

Remy Cornish is built like a Turkish restaurant — low and squat. His deodorant smells like cigarettes.

Remy’s secretary is arrestingly pretty. She has long auburn hair. She is wearing a white blouse and a tan skirt.

I once heard a rumour that she let him burn off her pubic hair with a cigarette lighter.

“The sissy recommended you. Assured me of your credentials.”

I shrug.

“Johnny Angelillo. An in-and-out job — quick and dirty.”

He passes me a handgun, wrapped in burlap sack-cloth.

“The durable polymer frame provides for a solid grip. There are moulded back-strap serrations, textured grip panels and an oversized trigger guard.”

That shit bores me, so I stop listening.

Last week I fucked Johnny’s aunt, Marie Andretti. I have no intention of doing Johnny any harm, not any time soon.

He passes me a grease-spotted Thighs & Fries takeout bag, crammed with cash.

We shake hands. His are surprisingly small for a fat man.

“Don’t let me down, young man.”

***

Two weeks later.

The man with his boot on my neck is called Robert John Hershey.

Johnny skipped town. I always knew he would.

Hershey has a complexion like rotting car upholstery. The last time I saw him I hit him across the eyes with a car antenna. He clearly hasn’t forgotten.

The bags under Franco Moretti’s eyes are so deep that they look like they have been carved with a Stanley knife.

“Where’s the body?”

His voice sounds like he is chewing coffin nails.

“I’ll send you a fucking map.”

He chuckles.

“Comedian, huh?”

A stooge passes him a cut-down baseball bat with nails sticking out.

I close my eyes.

Bad memories hang in the air like cigar smoke.

Bloody phlegm oozes from my mouth.


Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Sein und Werden, The Carnage Conservatory and Thrills, Kills ‘N’ Chaos. He is currently working on his first novel: Thirsty & Miserable. Get your pound of flesh at Things To Do In Devon When You’re Dead.

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