Part two of an original short story. Part one can be found here. Please enjoy.
Dex had been chattering nonstop, pointing out various parts of the city that had or hadn’t changed in the years that Streak had been away. Streak didn’t have to do much more than grunt as he stuck his cigarette out of the top of the window to flick his ashes, to prove he’d been listening. He wasn’t, really. For one thing, Dex had always annoyed the piss out of him. For another, he was thinking about Dave. Davina. Wondering whether or not it had been his imagination, or was she actually trying to give him her phone number. Why the fuck would she do that? Was it him or was it Will MacKenzie she was after? Christ, are you really that rusty?
The last hen he’d kept company with, who could even come close to being called a steady burd, had given him the brush as soon as Will had said hello to her. Well, it was a little more than hello. There was that one night he didn’t want to think about. In truth, Streak hadn’t much cared. For one thing, Catriona was crazy. For another…
“Streak? Hey Streak, you in there?”
“Why’re you yelling?”
“Where were you? I’ve been talkin’ to you!” Dex had pulled the car up to the gates and let the engine idle while he waited for one of Big Mac MacKenzie’s boys to come open it.
Finally aware of his surroundings, Streak looked out the windscreen, through the bars of the high wrought-iron fence and the trees that helped to keep prying eyes off of the house he’d grown up in. “Looks smaller.”
Dex laughed and punched him in the arm. “Get away.” They could barely see it from where they sat, but the big stone pile covered in ivy and Russian vine was the biggest house on the street, if not in this part of Glasgow.
The house, which was only about twenty years old, but had been designed to appear a few centuries older, was too big when Will’s mother had been with them. To Streak, without her it had felt like a mausoleum. But he’d have wagered a bundle that with him gone, there couldn’t be enough rooms between Will and his father.
Dex nosed the Rover through the gates and stopped to roll down his window for the man who’d appeared out of nowhere on his side of the car. He may have been smiling, but it wasn’t a natural expression and the jacket the man wore over his sweater had a bulge and a wear pattern under the arm that had the familiar shape of a 38. He leaned in and looked past Dex to his passenger.
“Awrite Streak, welcome home. What took you so long?”
Streak reached across and shook the older man’s hand. “Sorry Seamus. Lord Provost was givin’ me a key to the city.”
Dex laughed and both Streak and Seamus gave him a look. “I know, ‘Shut up Dex.’”
“Go on then. Bill’s waiting.” Seamus stepped back for the car to roll past.
“Let him wait.” Streak blew smoke out of his window then flicked the cigarette onto the driveway.
Dex dropped him off while he pulled the car around to the garages. At the door, Streak was met by a younger version of Seamus. Taller, and with more hair, but following the same dress code. Streak couldn’t remember this one’s name, not that it mattered. Without a word, he took his duffle and led him through the house, as if Streak couldn’t find his own way.
They were all in the back, in the billiard room. If he’d hoped for a low-key evening in which to ease himself back into life on the outside, he knew he had no say in the matter. In any case, the party had obviously started without him.
The air was thick with the smoke of a dozen cigars and twice as many cigarettes. As soon as he walked in, the whisky-fueled tumult of voices was abruptly silenced by a wave of a hand he could barely see. Streak blew out a breath and shook his head, thinking, and not for the first time in his life, that he’d wandered onto the set of a “Goodfellas” remake. Everyone in the room had a connection to John William MacKenzie – Big Mac or Big Bill depending on how long you’d known him and how much money you owed him. Streak never knew which came first, the nicknames or the Napoleonic complex they confirmed, since the man was only 5’ 8” on a good day. Lucky for his son Will, he favored his mother. To Streak, this motley crew of wide boys1, miscreants, fixers and self-styled hard men were what passed for family, especially Will, Big Mac and his right hand, John Trotter.
Amid the shouts of “Welcome home” and “Get him a drink!”, punctuated with slugs to the arm and claps on the back, John was the first to step out of the crowd to embrace him. “It’s good to see you. It’s been too long.”
“You, too, John,” Streak rasped. And he meant it. “How’s Mary?” Though he’d lived in the big man’s house, it was John and his wife who had been as close to surrogate parents as he could get. He looked around the room, but didn’t see her.
The older man’s smile slipped a notch. “We’ll talk soon.”
Fuck. He was afraid he knew what that meant. The knot that had loosened when he’d gotten off the bus this afternoon, tightened around his chest. Before he could question him further, John threw his arm around his shoulders and turned him around. As soon as he had, Will stuck his hand out. Streak took it and Will pulled him in close.
“Don’t. Not now.” Streak wasn’t about to let his ‘little brother’ go all sappy on him and sure as hell not in front of witnesses.
“Whatever you need…”
“What did I just say?” Streak shoved him away and glared.
Will glared back then poked a molar with his tongue, trying not to laugh, until he gave up and grabbed him again.
After allowing a few more seconds of the embrace, Streak said, “All right, leave off, ya big girl’s blouse.”
“Now that’s more like it.” Bill was at their elbows, having decided it was his turn. He looked between them – one fair, one dark, Streak just a shade under Will’s six feet, three inches and towering over him. “Both my boys under my roof again.” For Bill that was positively effusive.
Streak accepted a drink with one hand and shook Bill’s with the other. “Good to be back, sir.”
Bill touched his glass to Streak’s, “Drink up. Enjoy your evening. Tomorrow we have work to do.” Streak looked at Will who just rolled his eyes.
Several hours later, after everyone else had gone, Streak and Will were kicked back, their feet up, and savoring some of Big Bill’s best single malt.
“What’s he got goin’?” Streak asked around the cigarette he was lighting.
“Streak, man – you just got back.”
“Yeah and it must be big if he had to say somethin’.”
“I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me.” When Streak made a noise that suggested he didn’t believe that, Will shrugged, “You know how he is. Let it go for the night.” He reached for the bottle and splashed another two fingers into their glasses. “So no shit, what took you so long?”
Streak honestly couldn’t tell if Will really didn’t know what his father was up to or he thought it was something he wouldn’t want to hear. That alone was worrying. He pushed it away and got up to find the bag he’d left with his jacket. “Here. I missed yer birthday.”
Will looked up at him and words stuck until Streak dropped the bag next to him on the sofa. “You missed the last four.” He cleared his throat. “You wanna talk about it?”
“No, I fuckin’ do not. You gonna open that?”
Will looked at the outside of the bag. “You went to Weir’s?”
Dex, who’d wandered in from the kitchen where he’d obviously helped himself to a plate of leftover party food, laughed, “He was chattin’ up some broad.”
Streak shot him a malevolent look. “Shove some more a’ that in yer gob and get the fuck outta here.”
Will looked at Dex then jerked his head toward the door. After watching him go, he shuffled through the stack of vinyl Streak had chosen for him, clearly pleased with the selections. “These are fantastic!” He held up a used copy of Level 42’s “World Machine”. “I haven’t heard this one in years. Hey, remember that old video?”
“The one with – what was her name – from that film – Excalibur…”
“Yeah that’s it!”
“No. Don’t remember.”
“Baw bag.” Will went back to looking through the albums.
Streak stared at the amber liquid in his glass and asked, “You remember Weirdo’s sister?”
“Davina? Sure. She was gorgeous. A year ahead a’me I think.”
“You ever take her out?”
“Why,” he put the stack aside and appeared to consider it. “You think I should?”
“Fer fucks sake, do they all belong to you?”
“Excuse me,” Will held up his hands in mock surrender. And then as if the thought had just occurred to him he asked, “That’s who Dex was goin’ on about? You’re right, I should.”
“Fucker, I can still take you…”
“You sure? You look kinda soft around the middle.” He feinted a jab at said middle. In truth, it looked like Streak had packed on a lot of muscle. Since it was obvious Streak wasn’t having it, Will asked, “So you gonna call her or what?”
“You think I should?” Streak got up to stretch his long legs and rubbed a hand over the short choppy cut of his hair.
Will was about to light his own cigarette, took it out of his mouth and gave Streak a look that let him know what a ridiculous question he thought that to be. “Why the fuck not? You need to get laid, that’s obvious”
“You have no idea.” He looked over at Will, watching as he blew out a breath and used the fingers of both of his hands to push the thick dark waves off of his forehead and knew that was a huge understatement. Whatever. “I think she wanted me to – call her I mean.”
“Fer…why is that a shock? You’re okay. You could use some sun, but…” He stopped himself before he mentioned Streak’s jailhouse pallor.
Streak’s turn to pour, except he forgot Will’s glass and knocked back another slug. “Is it too soon? Maybe I should wait.”
“Wait? Wait for what?” Will sat up, took the bottle and poured for them both. “Streak man, I don’t get you. You and women. I swear, sometimes you act like you’re afraid of ‘em.”
“No, fuck you. That’s what we’re talkin’ about here.” Will finally lit his cigarette and squinted at Streak through the smoke. “Seriously. Most of ‘em only bite if you ask them to.”
“That’s it.” He’d missed this more than he could have put into words, but Will would be disappointed if he let him have the last word. He finished his drink then for good measure picked up Will’s and finished that one, too. “I’m goin’ to bed.”
To be continued.
1 term for a man who lives by his wits, wheeling and dealing. (The word “wide” used in this sense means wide-awake or sharp-witted.) Generally used to describe a petty criminal who works by guile rather than force.