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by Tom Leins

It has been a long, hot summer, and Paignton town centre looks withered and faded. Cherry stands in the corner of my room, rearranging her underwear, smiling to herself. She is still a little breathless from the sex and does a crooked little dance. When she climaxed she bit down hard on my bottom lip and my jaw is still splattered in blood.

She kisses my bloody lips.

“Working hard today?”

I shrug.

“Hardly working.”

***

Last month I was hired by a local businessman named Alan Lombardo to track down a consignment of amateur blue movies. He said that a family from Plymouth called the Grinleys were selling obscene videotapes of his daughter at car-boot sales around Devon. Scumbags with bumbags, he called them, which made me laugh. Then he showed me the video, and I stopped laughing pretty quickly.

***

The pub is small and smells of piss. The barman has sharp rat-like features and his face is crudded-up like a smack-spoon. He is so slow that I consider taking his pulse. Jesus — my liver thinks that my throat has been cut. He glares at me and I smile politely.

David Cummings is sat behind the cigarette machine. He has a small cadaverous face and a vaguely sinister charm. He has a cigarette tucked behind each ear, and the tattoos across his right knuckles spell CAROL, in tribute to his mother. I haven’t seen him since he was arrested for offering drugged cigarettes to tourists on Torbay Road last year. He looks feeble, but I once saw him beat a man’s skull against the bar-top in the Dirty Lemon until it went soft like jelly.

He passes me the address of the warehouse and I pass him a thin wedge of Lombardo’s cash.

***

The taxi-driver wouldn’t take me as far as Paignton Yards, so I got dropped off at the Sunshine Cafe and walked the rest of the way.

Judging by the deep, crooked gash across his face the man guarding the warehouse is Maxwell Grinley. His left arm is withered into a stump, and he tries to light a crushed cigarette one-handed. It takes him two attempts. I edge through the rubble towards him.

Up close, his thick, black hair is the colour of burned plastic. His eyes are the same rot-brown colour as his teeth. There are patches of grey stubble on his badly-shaven cheeks. He stinks like a fish in the sun.

He notices me too late, and I get a face-full of hot, sticky blood as I hit him with my pickaxe handle. I stand over him, and he starts trembling like a shitting dog.

***

The videotapes are stacked floor-to-ceiling. I’ve never seen this much suburban pornography in one room. I light two matches and drop them onto a pile of amateurish-looking calendars labelled “Doll Parts”.

As I walk out into the scorched blackness of the night I swear I can feel Paignton’s hot breath on the back of my neck.


Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun HoneySein und WerdenThe Carnage Conservatory and Thrills, Kills ‘N’ Chaos. He is currently working on his first novel: Thirsty & MiserableGet your pound of flesh at https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/.

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