Ilana Lindsey, author of Echolalia, is a graduate of the Faber Academy Write a Novel course under the tutelage of Richard Skinner and her short short story, Blossom, was published in formercactus, issue one.
Originally from Los Angeles, where she worked as a script editor at 20th Century Fox, she has lived in London for over twenty years.
Nice tie. Nice. Slick as a brick. Gucci, only the best. Cost a ton and a half, but worth it.
Highlights the suit. Swivel to the left, yeah, light catches the stitching just right. And the hair. A good cut. Feathered against the back of the neck, hanging over the forehead. Schoolboy. Youthful. Posh. Rudolph knows what he’s doing, bastard better had given what he’s paid. Smooth it back. Slick. Shiny. Cheeky grin, killer smile. Looking good, Jackie-o.
Slide in the tiepin, pierce the fabric, watch it part for the silver point, slide apart, like that. Like her skin, melting away from the thrust, so good. A semi now. Adjust. Slip it to the side. There. Doesn’t change the line of the trousers. Wouldn’t do at all.
‘Oh no. Oh God. Please.’
What’s that? Who’s talking? Walls are talking today. Fucking neighbours. Shouldn’t have to put up with it, meant to be soundproof, a flat like this. Talk to the manager. Again. What’s that fucker’s name? Gohar? Go whore? Skittish little fuck, no taller ‘n my shoulder, skinny as snatch. Face like a raisin. Fuck that, incompetent bastard. Useless lazy sod. Go straight to Thompson, owns the fucking place, proper British, get things done.
One last check. Hair, suit, shoes. Perfect. Time to get to fucking work.
Black leather sofa, slap and slide, and grab the Apple. Slick and silver, like Jack himself. Flip it open and power up. What’s on the agenda? Waiting, waiting, chimes, then charge! Logging in, password. Who’s a clever lad? You are, Jack. Well done. Hidden like a ninja. Yeah. Stealth in the night, fucking James Bond, slick as blood, sex on legs. Deep down in the dark net, Snowden shit. Hacker ninja in a grey designer suit. You’d never know. Never see it coming. Congrats, mate. Long way from Croydon.
And here we are. Dig right in.
‘For God’s sake!’
What the fuck? Voices again. Sounds like she’s in the flat, sounds like she’s right behind me. No one there, just you, Jack, all on your tod. Losing it. Brains turning to cheese, hearing fucking voices now. One scotch less a night, think about it, the brain goes and you’re finished.
Sounds like she’s in the flat, sounds like she’s right behind me.
Bollocks to that. Liver of steel, this, can take it. A man. Get an extra hour sleep, drink water. Supplements from the skinny snatch. Smelt like curry and eggs, wouldn’t give her one if she paid.
Right. Off we go. Tap, tap, tap… Click on the file, open the doc. Name. Address. Background. Photo…
Well, that’s different.
Really? What’s this, a kid? Teenager. No more than that. Skinny little shit, hair sticking up at the back. Something… Who are you? Rings a bell. Whatever.
Kid must know something. Stuck his nose in, should’ve kept it out. Fuck me, kids now. You’d think there’d be limits, but there ‘ain’t.
Huh. Better have a drink. Just a quick shot to start the day, breakfast of champions.
Scotch goes down like diamonds. Stretch the arms, cufflinks glitter in the track lights. Not to reason why, mate. Someone else’s business. Five minutes, let the drink take. Look out the window, wall to wall, slick, clear glass, view on the world. Here’s Jack, at the top of it. Building after building, thrusting up, steel and concrete cocks, what the fuck did they do to the skyline? Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Walkie Talkie. Used to be something. Can barely see St Paul’s anymore.
Time to go, then. Turn around, fuck, too fast. Sway and grab the wall. Something in the ear, putting off the balance. Something in the ear, tickling.
‘For god’s sake. Her name’s Annie, she’s only eight.’
What, more of this shit? Enough with the voices. Enough of it. Can’t be doing.
Heard that one before, though. That was… What’s her name. Barbara Johns? Never forget a name, faces all one big blur. Dim bitch borrowed more than she could chew, delinquent with the payments, used up all her chances. Thought she could talk her way out of what was coming. “My baby, my baby. Think of her, all on her own.”
Should have thought of that before you took the loan, bitch. Why you telling me? Not my kid. Don’t give a shit. Better off without you, mums are anchors, nothing more, break the chain.
Stupid bitch. Annie. Who gives a fuck?
Scotch wants to come back up.
‘Tell him I’ll pay!’
More fucking voices! Is that coming through the door? Someone’s playing silly buggers, someone’s taking the piss. Kill the bastard. Think they’re funny, I’ll make them laugh through the slit in their throat.
Can’t speak. Can’t get the words out. Dry. Dry. Words stuck like pretzels, lump, clay. Fuck, mate. Get it out. Full, thick, choking, Jesus. Bend over, cough, hack it out. Aches, that. Rough and red. Blood? Nah. All in your head, mate. Need another drink. Wash it out, wash it away.
Yeah. There we go. The good stuff this time. Eighteen-years aged, from Scotland, proper. Smoooooth. Still burns the throat, but clears it. Clears the head too. Breathe. Breathe. Fuck you, schoolgirl! Who are you? Grow up, tighten up! Who the fuck are you? This ‘ain’t it, Jack. Sort yourself out.
Toilet. Mirror. Look at that face. A mother loves it, snatch always loved it. Pale now. Sprinkling of red around the eyes, tiny lines, broken open while coughing. Don’t you get weak, mate. Grey eyes, spot of orange in the left one. Tilly had a word for it. Spot of sunrise, she said. Lovely Tilly. Tiny bouncy tits, read me Yates. Fucking poetry. Me! Never meet another bird like that.
Skin ‘aint looking good. Also grey. Fuck is happening? Say it out loud, do it: ‘Fuck i–‘ ‘Fuck i-‘ Gagging. It’s right there, why won’t it come out? ‘Fuck!’ Okay. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuck, no you don’t, wide boy, I’ll have you.’
‘Fuck, no you don’t, wide boy, I’ll have you.’
‘Fuck, no you don’t, wide boy, I’ll have you.’
That comes out. What he said. That one, two three years past. Terrance. James. Manchester. One bullet to the head. Took him out right away.
‘Fuck, no you don’t, wide boy, I’ll have you.’ Voice is fucked from coughing, Jesus.
Took it like a man, that one. None of this girly whining, no wah wah, no please, please. Respect. You got to respect that.
Head popped like that watermelon. Haha! Splat. All over. All over. Had to incinerate the suit. Careless. Worth it, though. Splat!
Ribs ache. Coming down with something. Supplements weren’t worth shit. Fucking health food shop skinny arsed, B.O. stinking hippy snatch. I’ll see to her, I will. Freebie. Bitch. What’s in the things? All natural my arse. Nothing but a thief.
Fuck! Going to be late. Can’t miss this one. Repercussions. Reputation. Payments to make. How long? Half an hour, Jesus.
‘Wait, wait.’ I can say it: ‘Wait, wait.’ Okay. All right. Back to normal.
Mobile. Tap the buttons, manicure, nice. Slick. Vietnamese know what they’re doing. Give her a tip. Give her a tip, if you know what I mean. Small tits and tight body. Yeah. Sit and spin, baby.
No shit. ‘I- I-‘ Bastard block in the throat is back! ‘Wait, wait.’ That comes out. Brill. Tilly used to say, Brill, Brill. Posh bitch, got what was coming to her. ‘Jackie, Jackie!’
‘You there, Jack?’
‘What’s the hold up? You can’t screw this one. Don’t fuck around.’
‘No-‘ Fuck. ‘No- It’s-‘ Dammit! ‘No!’ All right. ‘I-‘ Fuck!
‘Jack! What the hell?’
‘Wait, wait.’ That comes out. Can’t base a conversation ’round it. ‘Just-‘ No. ‘Wait, wait. Wait, wait! Wait, wait!’
Silence down the phone. Then: ‘Jack?’
‘Fuck, no you don’t, wide boy, I’ll have you.’ Hadn’t meant to say that. Losing it. Tickle of sweat down the neck, fuck, ‘ll have to change the shirt, no time, no time. Scotch coming back up, hot and sour at the back of the throat.
The penny drops straight through my skull. Dropped from a skyscraper. I can say what they said. Naught else.
That one. Last year in Shoreditch. Bangladeshi bloke in a posh suit, too big, hung off his bones. Thought he could rabbit his way out, natter, natter, natter. ‘A little more time, please. Just a little more’ and that was the last thing ‘e said.
A deep breath, then into the mobile: ‘A little more time, please. Just a little more.’
Fucked. Totally fucked. Tickle down the back of the neck, fucking flood more like.
‘Fuck, no you don’t, wide boy, I’ll have you.’
Huh huh. What’s that Frank’s muttering to himself?
He’s gone. Rang off. Smug fucking American shit bug wring his neck break his fucking face, kick his head in, kick it, kick it, kick it till it smashes!
Shoe’s fucked now, scuffed the hell out of the leather. Toe smashed to hell as well. Hole in the wall. Gohar. Go whore. Fuck my life.
Shirt sticking, stink floating up. Like one of them, those grovelling fucks. Stink of fear. Repulsive.
Jack! Jackie! Who are you, mate? Who the fuck are you?
Get out. Get it done. Still in the game, no question. Just get it done, show that Yankee fuck what’s what.
Right, we’re off.
Out the door, double lock behind. Check. Check. Check again.
Lift down, glass window, watch the world come close. Window needs a wash. Fucking Go Whore.
Out! Finally. Do the job, go home, relax. Bit more scotch. Can taste it. Nice cigar. Scarface on the telly.
Grey day, wet and thick. Chill on the forehead, doesn’t seep through the suit. Too hot. Coming from the chest, rumbling heat, spreading to the skin. Fire inside. Guts are burning.
Piece in the pocket, thuds against the chest with each step. Semi-automatic. Heavy and solid, courtesy of Frank when I was no older than this kid that’s getting done today. Had it since the start. Jack’s best mate. Probably smuggled bit by bit in some bloke’s arse.
Step, thud, step, thud. There we go. Cooling down now. Do the job and go home. Scotch, cigar, Scarface. All’s well that ends with a slug through the brain, innit, mate? Fucking kid. No more than fifteen.
‘Whatch you gonna do with that, man?’
Fucking voices. Tickle in the ear, won’t stop. Piss off! Ignore them, ignore them, hearing things, can’t do no harm, pay them no mind.
‘Whatch you gonna do with that, man?’ That one was young too. Not a kid, but old enough to know better. Black lad, fancied himself a gangster. Thought he’d skim off top; should’ve just done his fucking job. Stupid question. Stupid bloke. Screaming, screaming, blah blah blah, ‘Whatch you gonna do with that, man?’ Bullet to the head, shut him up. Should’ve known better, nothing to do with Jack. Just doing the job, proper like. It’s when you get greedy, when you think you can cut corners and get away with it. Don’t fuck with Frank. Nope. Jack knows what he’s doing. A long way from Croydon.
Fucking Croydon, arsehole of London, full of nothing but shit.
Down the steps. Tube. Underground bullet, stuffed full of stiffs. Change. Rail.
Here we go: Croydon. Fucking Croydon. Starting to rain now, should have brought a brolly.
Google says straight, then left, then right, right, right. Ten minutes.
Long tall snatch on the pavement ahead. Dark blonde like. Sways back and forth, heels click on the pavement, tight skirt. Arse, half and half, up and down. Adjust again. Tickling at the back of the mind. Something about the swing of the hair, back and forth. Snatch turns, looks in the window. Ski-slope nose and wide lips.
Jesus, fuck me, no.
No! Naw. Not you. Fuck me, not you, Tilly.
Pull it together, mate. No time for seeing ghosts.
Bint glances my way with the wrong eyes and it’s over. Shake the head, clear it out. Not her, ‘course not, couldn’t be. Long time dead.
Years ago in Brighton. Tilly. Posh hotel, courtesy of daddy. Cocktails, pink, green, yellow. Tilly liked it sweet. Cherry in her navel. Hands in my hair. Gentle, soft. Warm and safe. Fucking snatch should’ve kept her mouth shut.
Move on, job to do, what the fuck, Jack, getting old now? Losing the plot?
Job to do. Piece hangs heavy in the pocket. Soft thuds against the chest. Step, thud, step, thud. Won’t be long now, air in the lungs, focus, focus.
Tilly, you bitch, why’d you make me? Shouldn’t have said it. You knew. Knew I’d bust my nut. All shit since then, never let a bird… Fuck you, Tilly, why?
Soft, soft skin, all the best creams and lotions, smelled like flowers, like powdered diamonds. Looked after herself. Wide mouth. Things she could do with it, yeah. Fingers through the hair, purring like a cat. Tilly, Tilly. Should’ve kept that wide mouth shut.
Hum in the brain. Won’t stop. Must be the supplements. Stinky bitch is next on the list. ‘Jackie, Jackie!’ Shut up!
Where’s this now? Right, right, around the corner, then… Where the fuck is this? Shitty tower block, muggers and addicts, get in the way, make a mess, can’t be doing with this crap.
Hell! Get it over with.
Wind though the pavement. Rusty playground. Swings tied in knots.
‘For god’s sake. Her name’s Annie, she’s only eight.’
Listen, bitch, you need to shut the fuck up.
Brown grass. ‘No ball games.’ Snort. Kids too busy fucking and fighting and shooting up. Look at this place. Trash on the ground, burger wrappers, empty bottles. No place like home.
Orange brown bricks ten stories high, colour of dog shit. Not meant to be back here. Said goodbye. Years ago. Never looked back. Mum was an anchor. Bye bye.
Nothing for it, in we go. Dirty smeared glass door, broken lock, walk right in. Good sign. Easy peasy. Lifts’ fucked, ‘course it is. Deep breath.
Flickering lights and graffiti. Stairs stink of piss. Live like animals.
Mum still alive? Still pulling pints all hours? Stank of lager, sick in her hair, racoon eyes. Wouldn’t recognise me now. Hah. Little Jackie. Not so little any more. Wonder if she’s still alive.
Nah. She’d only want dosh. Skin me for what she could take, used up old bitch. Mums are nothing but anchors.
Right. Flat 1523. Here we are.
Door’s open, SHIT. Pull the piece and listen. Too late? Terry couldn’t’ve been that quick. Wait! What’s that. Footsteps. Soft laugh. Someone’s in there. Someone’s moving around. The kid?
Do or die, innit? In we go. Close the door after, quiet like.
Flat is empty as fuck. Not a stick of furniture. Wires where the fridge was, stains on the carpet. Smells of cat. There’s that sounds again, soft laughter from the next room.
Piece out, pointed forward, hard in the hands, cold metal. Move. Listen. Move.
What is this job? Empty flat in the city’s arsehole. Frank’s fucking me. Slimy Yankee shit.
Bedroom’s empty too. No bed, no nothing.
And there, in the corner, there ‘e is.
Skinny little streak of piss.
Spots me and grins, cheeky sod. What? Fifteen? Sixteen? Having a laugh. Just a lad. Backed in a corner. Ready and waiting. Knew what was coming? Not even scared. Stupid kid.
Glad ‘e’s cheerful. Nice for a change, should go down smooth, no pomp and bother. Look at this fucker, all smiles and stretched cheeks. Bright eyes, bushy tail. Gonna wipe that grin right off. Shame, really, kid’s got spirit, see it in his eyes. A waste.
Hair sticking up at the back. Cheeky grin.
Eh. Fuck it. Job to do and do it.
‘Look at you,’ says the kid. ‘All grown up.’
What the fuck.
Finger’s stiff on the trigger, what’s that about. Just a kid. Just a cheeky little fucker, fifteen, sixteen. Go home, kid. Go home and hug your mum.
‘Wait… Wait…’ Not much of a conversationalist, me.
‘You don’t say.’ Kid bounces on his feet, hair wafting up and down.
Don’t think. No fucking about here, Jack. Pull the fucking trigger. Tickle in the ear, can’t concentrate. ‘Fuck, no you don’t, wide boy, I’ll have you.’
Enough of that.
‘Tell him I’ll pay.’ Shut it. ‘For god’s sake. Her name’s Annie, she’s only eight. Jackie, Jackie… No, no, noooooooo! Whatch you gonna do with that, man?’
Shut it! Crowding me out. Focus! Need to focus.
‘For god’s sake. Her name’s Annie, she’s only eight….’
Kid’s shifted. Arms out. Big, black piece like a porn star’s cock, pointed straight ahead. Straight at the head. Jack’s head. Where’d it come from? Materialised out of thin air, what the fuck, Jack, you took your eye off the ball.
Tighten the fingers on the piece, but…
That’s not right. Nothing there. Piece is gone, vanished. Empty hands, shaking hands. Who are you?
Kid’s still smiling. ‘On your knees, Jack.’
Different, this. Other side of the equation. Can’t like it. Can’t knock it either, rush and pump of blood through the skull, skin humming like a flock of birds.
Dizzy. Down on the knees, like a good boy. Thud. That’s going to leave bruises.
Flock of birds, flock of voices: ‘Wait. Fuck. For god’s sake. Jackie. No. I’ll have you. Tell him I’ll pay! Her name’s Annie. Jackie. Wait… I’ll have you. No. Please. Please. Please…’ Spinning round and round, pinball in the brain.
Big, black piece pointed right at the head. Click of the safety.
Ha! I’ve got one: ‘Whatch you gonna do with that, man?’
Didn’t think ‘e could smile any wider, but there you go. ‘Say it again.’
‘Whatch you gonna do with that, man?’
Kid’s staring like a mental, that grin. Stop it. Big grey eyes, reminding, reminding, grey and round, spot of orange in the left one. That’s– He’s–
It’s like looking in the mirror, take away ten years. Who is this kid?
‘Tell me more,’ says the kid. ‘It’s fascinating.’
I’ve got nothing.
Curled in Mum’s lap, fingers in my hair, singing, singing, fag smoke making my eyes sting. Bobby Shafto’s gone to sea, silver buckles at his knee.
‘No more skiving off school,’ she said. ‘Won’t get anywhere in life without A levels. Look at me, all night at the pub, hands up my skirt, scrubbing drunkards’ piss off the floor. You want to end up like that? A worn out nothing? Get to school.’
He’ll come back and marry me, bonny Bobby Shafto.
Show’d her, didn’t I? Got somewhere. High-rise flat, Gucci tie, diamond cufflinks, steak tartare for fucking breakfast. Shirt sticking to my back. Bitch didn’t know what the fuck she was on about.
Shitty carpet digging into the knees, going to ruin the trousers.
Kid goes on: ‘Time’s running out. I haven’t got all day.’
Frank. Must’ve been Frank. Set me up.
Set me up. Six years ago, arm around the shoulder down The Swan. ‘Buy you a drink, lad? Sparkle in your eye, I could show you a thing or two.’
‘Stay away from that one, Jackie, he’s no good. Set you down the wrong path.’
Mums are anchors. Left her behind and floated away, floated right up, straight to the top.
‘Last chance, mate,’ says Little Jackie. ‘What you got to say for yourself, Jack, Little Jackie, Jackie-o? Any last words?’
I open my mouth.
Nothing comes out.
‘Jackie, Jackie!’ floats through the brain, Tilly’s wide lips, fingers through the hair, scratching behind the ear, purr like a cat, oh Tilly. Why’d you make me? Will you, will you, will you be there when
Pale finger twitches on the trigger. Bang!
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