I took a gulp of freakwater and busted Lafferty’s gutter-mouth with a half-brick. That fat piece of shit just didn’t know when to shut up. He was obsessed with his dead wife, Carol-Anne, and talked about her incessantly. I stared at the grey meat that used to be his face, and felt something a bit like guilt. It didn’t last long. I had a job to do.
I was deep in the guts of Paignton; the living entrails. Heaven’s Basement was a strip-club run by a guy called Harry Warsaw. He had a taste for teenage crack-addicts, and a penchant for cherry cigars. In Heaven’s Basement even the nice girls had gash-rash. People used to say that he had seventeen Pepsi bottles full of human blood in his office – one for every man that he had killed. I wouldn’t know: I mostly just tended bar.
It was a Tuesday night, slow by anyone’s standards. Soft-rock oozed out of the speakers as a young girl with a crooked pelvis went through the motions on stage. Harry had warned me that there might be trouble, but I had my doubts. There had only been one fight since I started work there, and that was the night the fire broke out at the gypsy camp. I took one hell of a beating until Harry emerged from his office with a scattergun and shot three men, one of whom was an off-duty cop.
I was polishing glasses when I heard an erratic spluttering of viscera over the top of the tape-deck, like someone shitting blood. The first body dropped, as bullets sprayed the room. The triggerman opened fire again, and turned the chamber of shrieks into a curtain of gore and skin. A hot, moist stench filled the room. He stepped in the blood-loss and traipsed black footprints across the linoleum, towards Harry’s office.
I edged out from behind the bar and slipped my butterfly knife out of my boot.
“Put it away, kid. I’ve got unhealed fractures older than you.”
His name was Garry Eastlake. Word had it that Ray Coody used him for the grim jobs that nobody else was willing to do. His fat, petulant lips were plastered in apricot lipstick. His skin was the colour of clotted cream. His semen-sticky fingers caressed the weapon, and he leveled it at my face. I closed my eyes and counted to five.
I felt the splatter of skull-meat on my face before I even heard the crack of the scattergun.
Two weeks later the cops discovered Garry’s mouldy corpse after rousting a shit-shack near Winner Street. What was left of his blood had soaked into the threadbare carpet.
I quit my job shortly after, but someone told me that Harry Warsaw had a new Pepsi bottle on his shelf.
By Tom Leins
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