Jack wasn’t about to argue. With shaking hands he took the nearest bottle of spirits from the shelf behind him.
‘Cointreau! Are you having a laugh?’ The man glared at him
‘Sorry.’ This time he looked at the bottles. A superficial part of his brain noted the names. ‘Bacardi, Vodka, Jack Daniels.’ He grabbed the last and tentatively held it up.
‘Better.’ The man barked.
Jack’s eyes wander over him carefully, so as not to get caught. He was big, over six foot tall and at least twenty five stone. His head resting on massive shoulders with wild shoulder length hair and matching beard, framing his bloated face which reflected damp sweat in the dimly lit bar. Everything was silent around them.
Jack focused on controlling his trembling hands as much as he could. He took a short glass from below the bar counter and filled it to the top with the amber liquid. The man reached over with big dirty hands and swept the glass up. He drank it down in one gulp and slammed it back on the counter.
‘Another. And keep them coming’. Jack obliged. After the fifth shot the man flung the glass down, it shattered completely, scattering wide over the shiny, wood-effect, laminate.
He leaned back on his bar stool. Jack heard it creak under his weight, in the bigger silence left by the sound of breaking glass.
The gun remained on the bar top between them. Jack’s eyes kept flitting to it. The man leaned forward, with a sly grin. ‘Never seen a gun before?’ He roared with laughter. His thick black beard hid his lips and cavernous gaps showed between discoloured teeth. Jack’s eyes flickered back to the weapon.
‘Get me a beer.’ The man demanded. Jack turned his back on him to walk the three strides to the beer pump, the hairs on his neck prickled and his heart pounded.
‘Not that shit!’ He waggled his big hand in the direction of a glass fronted fridge on the floor. ‘I want one a them.’ Various bottles were lined up inside. Jack paused.
‘Hurry up!’ He yelled. Jack jerked open the fridge door, the bottles crashed around inside.
‘Any! Surprise me! But make it today!’ Jack grabbed a bottle, quickly opening it and placed it on the bar in front of the gun. Beer foam spilled out the top and slid down the bottle slowly. What if I just grab the gun now? Jack didn’t look up in case the thought showed on his face.
The man took a long draught from the bottle, nearly downing it in one, then slammed it back on the counter top. ‘That’s better.’ He let out a long belch as he studied Jack.
‘What about you?’ He curled his lips into something like a smile and for a second Jack wondered if he wanted him to join him in a drink. The man continued to stare at him.
‘I should kill you – you’re a witness.’ He drawled. Jack felt his bowels sink violently along with his legs. He gripped the bar for support, inches from the weapon.
He looked beyond the man to the room behind.
‘Don’t worry about that. I got friends in high places. They’re on their way.’ Jack swallowed hard and stared into the man’s eyes.
They had a wild animation about them as they roamed the bar shelves behind him.
‘Seriously, it’ll be like it never happened.’ He fixed him again with those eyes. ‘Course if I kill you I’ll have to get my own drinks.’ With a pantomime sigh, he dipped his head and raised his black brows. ‘Right?’ Jack nodded frantically.
‘Mind if I smoke?’ Jack almost laughed, the no-smoking rule consigned to a different world he no longer occupied. He shook his head vigorously.
As the man lit up, Jack glanced again at the scene beyond. Four bodies lay slumped in the nearest booth. Two lolled together, leaning into one another, the third had his head resting back into the corner of the black, leather clad booth and the forth lay sprawled on the chrome table. Like drunks asleep, except for all the blood. Jack had never seen so much.
‘Not seen dead bodies either eh?’ He took a long pull on his cigarette then slowly exhaled the smoke over the bar into Jack’s face. Jack blinked fast but did not move a muscle otherwise.
‘What to do with you Sonny?’ The man picked up the sleek, black, hand gun and aimed it straight at his face. Jack’s heart was a bird crashing against his ribcage and his insides felt like liquid. He watched, mute, his ears filling with white noise, as the man’s thick finger pulled the trigger. There was a hollow click.
The man burst out laughing. Tears sprang at the side of his eyes and still holding the gun, he cradled his big belly.
‘Well done kid. Most people piss themselves.’ He reached up and wiped away the tears with his gun hand, while Jack became aware of an uncomfortable warmth, not felt since childhood.
‘Fetch me another beer.’ As Jack bent over to open the fridge door again, the man let out a snort.
‘Oh! Spoke too soon!’ The man choked out, his body completely over taken with a fit of helpless laughter. ‘Not a good look kid!’
Jack took out a different beer, opened it and placed it in front of him. The man continued to roar with laughter while waving his gun hand in pantomime fashion at Jack, as if to waft away the smell. ‘You stink.’
He glanced at the beer bottle. ‘Not THAT one.’ He pushed it over with his gun and beer fizzed over the counter and down to the floor. ‘The same as last time.’
Jack couldn’t remember. He glanced to where the previous drink had been but the bottle was gone.
‘Well hurry up! Think I got all day?’ Jack’s heart fluttered crazily again and his vision blurred. Through his panic he heard the muffled ring of a mobile phone. He looked over to where the noise was coming from.
‘Get me that beer NOW.’ The man had the gun aimed at him again, but at the same time he was edging off his bar stool. Jack grabbed another brand from the fridge, he struggled to open it.
Looking up he saw the man rummaging, with his free hand, in the inside jacket pockets of the first corpse. The body jiggled about, but somehow remained precariously balanced against his dead colleague. The pounding of Jack’s heart was a dance track, accompanying the macabre movement.
The sound of the mobile became crisp and filled the empty room as the man held it up to his ear. He answered it but said nothing. Far off, Jack could hear a man’s voice.
‘Hey, Mick. You there?’
The man levelled his gun again at Jack, a trace of a smile on his face.
‘Mick. Answer me!’ The man narrowed his eyes.
‘Mick can’t come to the phone right now.’ He said finally. Jack noticed the man was standing in a widening pool of blood, it oozed like black oil in the dimly lit room.
‘Cause....’ He smiled wide at Jack, like they were partners. ‘Well.......he’s gone.’ He winked at him. ‘Yeah, not here, anymore.’
Jack stared at the gun. Was it out of bullets or had it just mis-fired? He didn’t trust himself to run. And where too? The doors were locked. His watch read 03.03.
The man chuckled and hung up as Jack glanced at the security camera in the corner.
‘That won’t help you.’ He said and Jack wished they both didn’t know it was broken.
‘I feel sorry for you kid. I really do.’ Jack looked back at him. ‘Just doin your job and you get caught up in all this.’ He gestured directly behind him with his gun hand. ‘They deserved to die. You didn’t.’ He slowly raising the gun again ‘Sorry.’ Jack noticed he was still smiling.
He didn’t see exactly how it happened. The man blocked his view. Everything was so fast, and slow, at once. He saw the man’s trigger finger move once more and felt a sense of déjà vu. But the feeling was quickly replaced by surprise, because just at that moment, the man jolted forward as though pushed and the sound of gunshot ricochet round the room. Yet Jack was unharmed.
The man took a step, as if to compensate, big arms flailing and his foot skidded forward. A streak of red like a giant brush stroke, smeared the pale floor. For a moment, his huge frame was suspended mid-air. Then he crashed to the ground. Jack heard a heavy thud as the back of the man’s head hit the metal table on his way down.
He stared, open mouthed at him and the man returned his gaze, same expression, eyes vacant. An expanding mass of dark blood, framed his wild hair, and slowly joined up with the rest. Next to him, lying face down on the floor, was the crumpled body of the dancing corpse, Mick. He let out a moan; there was a gun in his hand. His dead companion lay flat in the booth, arm dangling to the floor, as though he’d tried to catch him as he fell.
Jack tried to control his breathing. He noticed the mobile phone; it had skidded towards the bar. Shaking violently he lifted the counter hatch and retrieved it, avoiding the glass that was everywhere. He knew he had no time to waste. He stabbed 999 into the mobile with trembling fingers. The seconds seemed endless. As he waiting he ran to the nearest door. He had to get away quickly.
‘Which service do you require?’
‘Police! Ambulance! Please hurry! A man is dying. There’s been a shooting.’ He gabbled. ‘There’s four dead.’ He pushed his shoulder into the heavy emergency double doors that led onto a side street. They were stiff at the best of times, with three large siding locks and a key.
‘More men are coming with guns! Help! Please!’ Jack felt a rush of cold night air hit him as he prized the doors apart.
‘OK sir. Remain calm. Officers are on their way. We have your location.’ He dropped the phone on the floor and bobbed his head carefully out the door, looking right and left. Then taking a deep breath, he ran.
He stayed close to the walls of the buildings and out of the lamp light. And he ran as fast and as far as he could. He did not see the big black 4x4 silently pull up outside the bar. Or the five men with guns exiting and they did not see him.
Fiction - Sunday Girl By Harry Fenwick
So, it's a Sunday afternoon and it's heat haze, wobbling in the dips in the road, and you've been playing cricket at Broadgate with your mates in the gardens there (first one to tip it into the newt-pond wins outright - you'd never be allowed, these days, what with them being a protected species and all) and you've stowed all your gear in your bag and strapped it onto the rack at the back of the Honda 90
Fiction - Nowhere Man By Nick Quantrill
No one should have to stand at Humberside Airport's arrivals gate, name board in hand, waiting for Mr Van Der Kerkhof to arrive. Not at five in the morning. Groups of youngsters barge past me, shouting to each other at the top of their voices, excited. I can spot the cheap package holiday crews a mile off.
I don't understand it. If you work for months in an office or factory, why not enjoy your time away a bit more wisely? My brother tells me
Fiction - Returned To The Dark By Nicky Ellam
It's dark in here. That's because I live at the bottom of the jewellery box along with the other outcasts: the tangled necklace with the broken lobster claw and teddy pendant she got for her eleventh birthday, along with the bracelet that's missing a couple of gem stones.
She always says she will have them repaired but never does, preferring to spend the money on more fashionable pieces instead that imitate Asian and Oriental designs.
Fiction - Deep Waters by Gary Clark
The English are not a nation comfortable with the heat. An August afternoon in the city with the sun baking the pavements, overheating not just the diesel engines on the buses as they thundered by in a cloud of dirty fumes and dust, but the irritable people with fried tempers. Blaring car horns, sweaty armpits, uncomfortable in the heat. Manners and courtesy boiled away. Midsummer madness.
Fiction - 'Olde' Hull By Christopher Skolik
Martin sat on the wall, low, it was covered in graffiti; a matrix of over written names and messages to some dead junky, written over and over. Felt as though the sentiments were actually holding the place together, the place made up of the memories of those who knew Matt Kirk. Martin didn't. But he still felt the depths of this place.
Was there still enough of Old Hull left to lead Martin back into a better past?
Fiction - A Clever Use of Bins By Frankie Lassut
An uplifting, 'ultimate' romance fantasy.
Colin was the world's most romantic man, it was official.
Well, ok. His wife, Jean, had written into the local radio station, Hull Online, and told the presenter guy what he did for her i.e. washing up, ironing, rubbed her feet, was always telling her how lovely she looked (especially each time she bought a new dress), took her out for meals regularly etc.
She had won hands down.
Fiction - A Nice, Romantic Man By Frankie Lassut
Men! All the same! But, all I want is a nice one! All he has to do is be interested in me, and throw rose petals in my scented bath (which he ran) just like in American Beauty! Not much to ask is it? I deserve it.
She walked in the countryside with him, hand in hand; there was plenty of energy in the new romance.
Love was in the air! Wildlife could sense this. Birds sang, grasshoppers rasped, and butterflies just did what they do.
They came across a copse.
Fiction - All The Fun Of The Fair By Nick Quantrill Photographs by Darren Rogers
Jimmy held his hand out to the old man lying in a bed of wet cardboard boxes. 'Help you up, there?'
The old man took the hand. 'Good on you, son.'
Jimmy took the strain and pulled. 'No problem. You might want to get your face looked at, though.'
The old man took a tissue out of his pocket and wiped the blood from his nose. 'Don't worry about me, I'll be fine.' He laughed and wiped his hands on his trousers. 'So who are you, then?'
'New around here?'