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by Paul D. Brazill

Gareth Jones had been sober for a little over six months when the royalty cheque came, out of the blue. Just like that. He licked his lips and then sighed deeply as he prepared himself for the inevitable crash that was to come.

For the last few months, Gareth had been living frugally and working on the follow up to his first novel, which was now, it seemed, becoming something of a success. The writing had been quite productive, too, but with the arrival of the cheque the situation was sure to deteriorate rapidly.

However, Gareth had a strategy for situations like this.

First he paid the cheque into his bank account. He was told it would take ten days to clear so he withdrew all the available cash he had, except for the obligatory emergency tenner.

Next was a trip to Patel’s general dealers where he cleared his grocery tab and paid a sum in advance. He did the same at the off-license, the Railway Café and the King John’s Tavern. He used what was left of his money to buy bottled water, bread, pot noodles and cheese slices. He had ten more dry days to prepare for the bender that was to come and he spent that time reading Dickens, listening to Miles Davis and writing furiously.

On the eleventh day, Gareth got out of bed, showered and dressed in his best clothes. He put his completed manuscript in a padded envelope and posted it to himself with no stamps so that it would be returned to him safe and sound in a few weeks. By then he should be sober and wouldn’t destroy it in a fit of drunken rage, as he had done to his writing in the past.

He walked to the cash machine and checked his balance. The cheque had cleared. He took out twenty pounds, knowing that he’d be back soon enough. The first stop was the Railway Café where he lined his stomach with sweet tea and a full English breakfast. After reading the morning papers, he wandered off to the King John’s Tavern with a swagger in his step.

Patsy the pasty faced barmaid smirked as he walked to the bar.

“Long time no see, Gareth,” she said.

“Long enough,” said Gareth.

He ordered a pint of Guinness, a Jack Daniel’s chaser and a packet of pickled onion crisps. He polished off the drinks in no time and ordered another round.

Six days later, he awoke covered in bandages and handcuffed to a hospital bed, feeling like he’d been run over by a bus. As he waded through the fog of painkillers and blurred memories, a tall policeman fired questions at him.

“What I don’t understand,” said Detective Sergeant Ronnie Burke, “is why? Why did you kill the bloody postman?”

Gareth shuffled and groaned, pinpricks of the past cutting through his memory.

“The thing is. The thing was … the twat was two days early,” croaked Gareth, closing his eyes and letting the darkness enfold him.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of Cold London BluesThe Last LaughGuns of Brixton, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc. member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German, and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has also edited a few anthologies, including Exiles: An Outsider Anthology and True Brit Grit.