Delay

He could feel the sweat trickling down his back. He had forced himself to sit down to prevent him from pacing up and down the platform. The metal bench was uncomfortable and he had mistake of leaning back against it. His shirt stuck to his sweaty torso. Now he was sitting bolt upright. He reached inside his suit jacket, twisting his arm to pull at his shirt, freeing it from his clammy skin.

His mouth was dry and he had a headache. Paranoia was creeping into his mind as he covertly observed the other people on the platform. The woman with a big pram. Was there really a baby inside it or was she an agent? The old couple smiling at each other, what was their story?

His suitcase was on the ground next to the bench. He thought it would seem suspicious if he was clutching it tightly to his chest. He kept glancing down to make sure no one had stolen it.

It was a business suitcase for travel and it had wheels that made an inordinate amount of noise so he had to carry it. He had bought it a week ago. It still looked new. Too new. Maybe he should have scratched or scuffed it to give it an appearance of being well-travelled.

He had something from the business inside it. He had plucked up the courage to steal the item after months of careful planning and waiting for the right opportunity. The plan was good – structured and logical. The reality of carrying out the plan was another matter. It was terrifying. He had not anticipated how shredded his nerves would become.

The train was three minutes late. Bloody trains! Or were they on to him? Maybe there was not going to be a train at all so they could see what he would do, who he would contact?

Brothers

The front door slammed. Gary bustled in and planted himself at the head of the kitchen table. A place has been laid for him. Peter paused from eating his breakfast and raised his left eyebrow.

“You’re late.”

Gary sneered.

“The world doesn’t revolve around your watch.”

“Pity. Otherwise you would have been on time. Shall I cook something for you?”

Gary thumped the table with his fist.

“I’m not here to eat fucking bacon and eggs!”

Peter shrugged.

“Just offering.”

“Do you have it?”

“No.”

Gary is half out of his seat in disbelief.

“Are you fucking joking?”

“It is not time yet.”

“Yes! Yes, it is!”

“You rush into things.”

“What do you mean?”

“You are reckless.”

“And you drag your heels. Peter, the patron saint of detail.”

“Miaow.”

“I’m glad you think this is funny. You’ll be laughing right up until you have a bullet in your head.”

“It will work out fine.”

Gary almost to himself.

“They’ll kill us.”

“That is not part of my plan.”

Gary raises his voice.

“The plan was to secure the package this morning.”

Peter looks at his watch.

“It is still morning.”

Gary throws his empty plate and it smashes up against a cupboard.

“The Russians don’t give a shit about semantics! They’ll blowtorch our balls off!”

Peter sips his tea.

“The Russians are not the problem.”

Gary is confused.

“Then who is?”

“You are.”

“What…what do you mean?”

“I know what you have done. The Russians do too.”

Gary is ashen-faced.

“You’re making a terrible mistake!”

“My mistake was trusting my brother.”

Breakup

Peter steps out of the lift, level one of the car park. He is smiling to himself. He stops in his tracks. Wendy, his wife, is standing by his car and her blouse seems soaked. Peter quizzically looks beyond the stone columns and sees he is correct, it is a sunny day, no rain at all. They have been married for twelve years so Peter can read Wendy’s body language easily enough, she is pissed off.

“Wendy, what are you doing here? Has something happened?”

Wendy slaps him hard in the face.

“You bastard!”

Peter staggers back. Wendy pummels and flails at him with her fists. He grabs her arms.

“Stop, just stop! What the hell is wrong with you?”

Wendy gazes into her husband’s eyes, she is crying.

“I know about her!”

Peter feels the fight drain out of his wife.

“Her who? You are making no sense.”

Wendy frees herself from his grasp.

“Your slut of a secretary!”

“Nadine? She is on holiday in the Algarve.”

“No, she isn’t! She is floating face down in our bath.”

“Have you lost your mind? You have started drinking again, you promised you would stop!”

“Typical love cheat! Blame the wife, it’s always her fault, she wasn’t paying me enough attention so your zipper had to be loosened elsewhere. Exactly how am I to blame if you stick your cock inside another woman?”

“Please tell me this is one of your episodes because you are drunk? You know the term ‘ugly drunk’? That’s you down to a tee!”

Wendy shows Peter her phone. There is a photo on it. Peter retches.

“Oh my God, what have you done?”

“Twelve years. TWELVE! I deserved better than this! How old is she? Half your age? You sad pathetic twat!”

Peter is not listening. He is dialling his phone.

“Hello?! I need an ambulance sent to 46 Forest Green Avenue. Possible drowning in a bath.”

Peter hangs up.

“Wendy, you are ill, you need help…”

“Fuck you! You’re the one that needs help!”

Wendy pulls out a kitchen knife and Peter starts to run…

Crazy Eye

School was out! All the kids galloped for the gate in case the headmistress, Crazy Eye Jeffries, was lurking. Every student lived in mortal terror of her. The nickname came about from a mistake, a kid misheard crazy for lazy.

Crazy Eye had the supernatural ability to manifest from thin air when someone was misbehaving. Forget his first kiss behind the basketball courts or asking Casey-Anne to the prom, Joey’s scariest moment from school was being summoned to Crazy Eye’s office.

Joey was sweet on Casey-Anne ever since the paper fortune teller she made revealed a red love heart. Brad Dubichek was the school bully. A hulking creature who glared or punched whilst extorting lunch money or sweets.

Joey and Casey-Anne were walking to the library when Brad blocked their path. Before anything could happen, Joey heard Casey-Anne speak.

“Brad Dubichek! Aren’t you just the most horrible boy in the ENTIRE school!”

Nearby students gasped. Brad blinked like she had punched him in the face. No boy had ever challenged Brad. The slightest resistance resulted in a busted lip. A girl going up against Brad was huge, bigger than an 80s perm. Joey didn’t speak because his mouth was completely dry. Brad couldn’t speak because his brain was trying to catch up. A defiant Casey-Anne, hand on hip, followed up with another nuke.

“You going to get your big butt out of the way?”

The tension was unbearable. A girl half-screamed then fainted. No one went to help her. Forget about average grades or pushy parents, this showdown would make the whole school year worthwhile.

Brad rebooted, his right hand batted Casey-Anne’s left shoulder so roughly that a book fell out of her bag. Brad sneered.

“I’m gonna dump your book in the toilet!”

Joey saw red and gave Brad a two-handed shove. Brad toppled over like an upside down windmill. “Oh crap!”

Brad pinned Joey to the wall, ready to pound him back to the future.

“Dubicheck, Stevens, my office, now!”

Crazy Eye dispensed with Brad quickly.

“Today was your last strike. You are expelled, clear out your locker.”

Then it was just Joey. What was he going to say to his parents?

“Joey, I suggest you make up for the lost study time.”

“What?”

“Are you deaf, young man?”

Joey skedaddled.

****

It was a hot summer. Pa Stevens drove all the way with the windows down. Their family cabin was near the water. There were other cabins by the lake and more within the woods.

Joey ran down the slope to the jetty. As usual, Jeb was sat at the end of it with a fishing rod. Jeb was a grizzled old man who looked after the cabins out of season. He was also Joey’s friend, Jeb had taught him how to fish. Joey handed over the bottle of rye from his parents. Jeb chuckled and ruffled Joey’s hair. Joey told Jeb about Brad because it was his biggest news ever.

“It takes guts to stand up for someone, you did good, champ!”

Joey decided to explore the woods on the far side of the lake. It was a fun adventure until he discovered an isolated cabin. He could see animal skins pegged out. It was real creepy. He was sure someone was watching him. Joey panicked and started running. He tripped over a rotting log. Then he saw Brad standing over him with a large stick. He started beating Joey with it. Joey was hit in the face, he could taste blood, he was crying.

The beating stopped. It was a miracle. Crazy Eye had grabbed the stick from Brad who fled with a scream. They walked back to the lake in silence. Jeb waved at them from the jetty.

“Miss Jeffries, don’t tell my parents I was beat up. I’ll say I fell from a tree.”

“We will make a deal.”

“Okay.”

“Will you stop calling me Crazy Eye?”

Joey blushed.

Three days later, a deputy was stood on the porch talking to the Stevens. Joey was sent to his room. He opened the door to eavesdrop. Brad Dubichek was missing.

The next day Joey confided in Jeb.

“If someone did something bad, should I tell?”

“Kid, you’re at that age where everything changes, nothing is ever the same again. Have a swig of my rye, don’t tell your Ma!”

The drink tasted foul and stung Joey’s throat. They baited the hooks. The fish loved it.

The sun was beginning to dip in the sky when a voice called out.

“Jeb, let the kid come over to us!”

Jeb and Joey looked over their shoulders. The Sheriff and a Deputy both had their guns drawn. Joey could see his parents being held back by two other deputies.

“Best take your fish and be with your Pa and Ma. I won’t be around next summer. You remind me of my grandson. He was bullied at school, threw himself into this lake and drowned. I returned to the state years later, found out who the bully was, got him real drunk and drowned him here. He had a family cabin in the woods. It was ruled an accidental death. A murder wears a man down. I was trying to scare the boy, he had a bad streak in him just like his dead Pa, history repeated itself. Run along now, son!”

Joey walked with wobbly legs. The Sheriff and Deputy charged towards Jeb. The cooler next to him was knocked over as they put on the handcuffs, lots of ice and a severed arm spilled out.

The Stevens sold their cabin. Too much bad voodoo had happened.

Summer was over. Joey had an almost untouchable status among his peers in school. Brad had been chopped up by a killer who was Joey’s friend.

Miss Jeffries was walking down the corridor, Joey was by his locker, he smiled at her, she smiled back. Joey had never noticed what a pretty smile she had.