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by Paul D. Brazill

Gary Lister knew it was Tuesday when he woke up because he didn’t feel like puking. He usually stuck to stout on his Monday night drinking sessions, since sipping Guinness took the edge off the weekend’s indulgence without ripping his guts out, even if he did overdo it a bit sometimes. He was again overwhelmed by a great sense of relief. Like he’d been given some sort of reprieve. He was a kick in the arse off sixty, after all.

As Gary prepared himself for work, little pinpricks of discomfort jabbed his consciousness. As far as he could remember, he hadn’t done anything too daft the night before. Just the standard drunken nonsense. Or so he thought. Until he found the wallet on his bedside table.

It was a battered and stained brown wallet and there was something about it that gave him stomach cramps. He was sure that the stains were bloodstains. He dressed and stuffed it in his raincoat pocket. Decided to have a think about it over a hair of the dog when he finished work. As he left his crumbling semi-detached home he was overtaken by the urge to double-lock the front door, even though he had nothing inside worth stealing.

Gary stood outside the call centre half an hour early for his shift and decided he had time for a swift half in The Essex Arms. It would take the edge off work a little.

“Alright, Gary,” said Pasty, the barmaid. “A little eye-opener?”

“Aye,” said Gary. “Half of Guinness, please.”

Patsy poured his drink.

“Thanks, pet,” he said.

Gary took his drink and sat near the front door. It was slightly ajar and he could see a line of sour faced mourners filing into the church across the road. He even recognised a few of them.

After a sip, Gary decided to check the contents of the wallet. His heart leapt when he saw the wad of money stuffed inside. He pushed it into his pocket, went to the bar and ordered another drink. His head was spinning.

“What a night, eh?” said Patsy, putting the drink on the bar.

“What’s that?” said Gary.

“Last night. Jacqui and that Polish bloke? Remember?”

“Not a lot.”

“A couple of coppers came in with some big Polish bloke who said Jacqui had rumbled him on the train and nicked his wallet.”

“Rings a bell,” said Gary, the fog lifting a little.

“Yeah, that’s when Jacqui started snogging you. She had her hands all over you.”

Gary cringed.

“What did the coppers do?”

“Nothing they could do since they couldn’t find the wallet. The Polish bloke looked well pissed off. He had a shiner, too.”

She chuckled to herself and started filling the fridge with Red Bull.

Twenty minutes after that, Gary had phoned in work sick and was chasing his second pint with a double Glenfiddich. Maybe his luck was changing at last.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of The Last LaughGuns of Brixton, Cold London Blues, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Polish, German and Slovene. He has been published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. His blog is here.