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by Tom Leins

“Thank you for agreeing to meet me, Mr Rey.”

I shrug.

My time isn’t precious — far from it. I’m grateful for the distraction — however queasy it may prove to be.

Michael Mobius is a hard man, albeit one who is aging particularly badly. He doesn’t scare me, but his cohorts do. Especially the ones with the swollen knuckles and sunken eyes. He gestures towards a bored-looking woman in fake fur.

“Do you remember Charmaine?”

I nod. Mobius’s third wife. Last year he hired me to trail her, after he suspected her of cheating on him. She hadn’t strayed, but Mobius didn’t care. He strung Charmaine’s cousin Miles up from a heating pipe and whipped him with a car aerial for nearly an hour.

“Hard to forget, isn’t she?”

I grunt, bad memories unravelling like old videotapes.

“She still fucks like a bloody gypsy!”

Charmaine scowls, while Mobius and his cronies cackle like bandits.

He stops laughing abruptly.

“Come on, boy. Let’s talk business.”

***

Caruso’s dead face was cracked like an old piece of linoleum. One of his eyes was half-shut, the other was totally destroyed. Whoever did it wanted him to see it coming. I found his elderly bodyguard in the downstairs toilet. He had been bound with plastic zip-ties and shot in the back of the head.

Mobius told me the house would be empty. He didn’t tell me that there would be a body-count.

He asked me to find a video. The kind of video filmed at the North Atlantic Motor Inn after dark. I was careful not to traipse Caruso’s blood across the white shag-pile carpet.

Charmaine worked for Caruso very briefly — long before her and Mobius were married. She only made one video: “Pain-Teens in Pain-Town.”

Each year, on their wedding anniversary, Mobius made Caruso an offer for the master copy. The offer increased by £1,000 each year. This year the offer reached £9,000.

I guess Mobius’s patience finally ran out.

***

When he sees me, Slattery grins through ruined teeth.

“Rough day?”

“Is there any other kind?”

It is tea-time, but the Meat Market is mercifully quiet.

When I first met him, we were both working cash-in-hand at Paignton Yards, unloading crates of black-market cigarettes for the Andretti Family. Not long after, he got a job supervising the night shift at Pete Cooper’s Glue Factory. He cashed in his pension last year after having a minor heart attack while masturbating in the handicapped toilet. He invested the proceeds in this wretched place.

Something hardcore is playing on the TV behind the bar.

“Import?”

“No — Winner Street. Her name is Rosa. She could give a corpse a hard-on.”

I nod.

He gestures at my bloody boots.

“Did you hurt someone?”

“Today? No, they were already … hurt.”

Slattery clamps a meaty hand on my shoulder.

“Listen son, for every winner there is a loser. For every gain there is a loss.”

He lights a cigar and turns back to the porno.

“May God have mercy on our dirty little hearts.”


Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun HoneyNear to the Knuckle, Revolution John and Spelk. He is currently working on his first novel: Thirsty & Miserable. Get your pound of flesh at https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/.

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