We’re just beyond the lights from the factory, and the air’s heavy with salt water and industrial fumes. The Boss’ Merc idles to one side, driver wearing shades. The Boss himself is by the rental car, flanked by his two lieutenants. He opens the boot, and they all peer in.
I stay back, not wanting to see the body again.
“Can you explain?” the Boss says.
I shrug, shake my head. “Like I told Frankie, no idea.”
“You recognise him.”
It isn’t a question, but I peer closer anyway, see all that naked, pale skin, feel my own flesh creep. “Sort of looks like Malone.”
One of the lieutenants—don’t know his name, but think of him as Beanpole—snorts. He might look skinny, but he could snap me as easily as a pencil.
“Sure looks like Malone to me,” the Boss says. “How long’s he been here?”
There are dark stains on the blanket under the body, but they’re already dry. The hole in the head is a dark dot, right between his eyes. Blue, like his brother’s.
He looks cold.
I shrug. “Dunno. Picked the car up two days ago, for that run to Crowther.” I pause. “You got the stuff okay, yeah? Nothing wrong there?”
“Right. Maybe someone put him there when I stopped.”
“Thought I said no stopping.”
“Had to pee.”
A horrible silence descends, broken only by the muffled thuds from the factory, and water sloshing against the dockside. I try not to think of the black, oily water.
The Boss steps away from the car. His second lieutenant—Grumpy—is by his side, one hand inside his jacket. Grumpy doesn’t take his beady eyes off me.
“So why d’ya kill him?” the Boss says.
“What? I didn’t! I found him like this, and called Frankie straight away.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“That I had an issue with the car.” I swallow. “That I thought it involved Malone.”
“So you knew who it was.”
“I wasn’t sure. I’m not used to bodies. I didn’t look too close.”
I’m babbling. The Boss’ cold stare shuts me up.
“You want me to tell his family?” Beanpole asks. “Cute sister. Might need consoling.”
“I’ll send someone.” The Boss smiles. “You can tell his broad.”
Beanpole pulls a face. The Boss still eyeballs me. “You know Jeannie?”
Everyone believes she’s Malone’s girl, but I can’t say that. Can’t mention his brother, either. It’ll be good if people still reckon he’s travelling round Asia.
I don’t lie well.
The Boss steps forward, places a hand on my shoulder, stubby fingers digging in. He leans in close enough for me to smell his aftershave, and he takes a deep breath.
“You’ve not disappointed me before,” he said, almost a whisper. “Always ready when I contact you. I appreciate a man with no ties. Makes my life so much easier.” He pauses, lets the threat sink in. “But you’re causing me trouble now. I don’t like trouble. Any trouble, I like to deal with it straight away, make the problem go away.”
Grumpy lets his jacket fall open so I can see the gun.
“It wasn’t me. I swear!”
“Hands’re tied,” Beanpole says, eyeing the body.
The Boss nods. “Professional hit.” He moves his head from my face, and I breathe again.
Beanpole waves a hand at me. “He’s just a kid.”
The Boss lets me go, then holds a hand out, palm up. “Keys.”
It takes me a moment, but I dig the car keys from my pocket. They almost slip from my damp fingers, but I drop them in his hand.
He tosses the keys to Beanpole, who catches them with ease, before straightening out his jacket.
“Malone’s away on business,” he says. “Need-to-know basis. Might take some time. Jeanie won’t care—she’ll end up with one of her other fellas anyway. His sister’s not interested, won’t be bothered if she never sees him again.”
He turns to Beanpole, the first time he’s taken his eyes off me since he looked in the boot. “Get rid of the body, destroy any evidence. Return the car in a fit state.”
Then he turns back to me. “I can smell lies. You know that, and you’re smart. But just because you didn’t lie doesn’t mean you told the truth.”
I force myself to hold his gaze. He’ll expect me to be nervous, which is good, because I don’t think I could stop my body shaking.
Grumpy still has his hand on his gun.
“You’ve done well out of me. You’re careful with money—lots of savings. You’re a smart kid.”
The way he looks at me, I know he’s got exact figures, probably has tabs on my bank accounts. I wonder if he can track all those withdrawals, figure out the account they’ve gone into.
Too late now, though.
“Take this as an opportunity,” he says. “Travel, live a bit. Find somewhere to settle down. Somewhere far away.”
“You’re letting him walk?” Beanpole asks. He’s closed the car boot now.
“He didn’t kill Malone.”
“So who did?”
The Boss takes a long breath. “Just dispose of the body. And deal with the car.”
I stand there as the Boss heads back to his Merc, as Grumpy closes the Boss’ door before getting in himself. Beanpole climbs in behind the hire car’s wheel.
I don’t move as both cars drive away. The pressure in my bladder eases once the tail-lights disappear.
And then I smile. I can’t wait to tell Malone how well it went. Can’t wait to see him again. His beard’ll be longer, and he’ll be in those new clothes we bought. I still don’t know what colour he’s dying his hair, or how he’s getting it cut.
At least now, every time I look at him, I won’t be reminded of his twin brother
Where Does The Time Go?
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