After he’d dropped Dave back at her place, Streak had called Will to make sure he’d be around when he got back to the house. He found him leaning over the billiard table, lining up a shot. Seamus was chalking a cue while a few of the other boys milled around talking and drinking.
“Hey Streak. Grab a stick. You can have next after I take Wee Mac’s allowance.”
“Seamus,” Will straightened up and grabbed the front of his jeans, “I’ve got yer allowance right here.” He pointed at him with his cue, “you call me that again and I will turn you into a fat Irish lolly.”
The older man cleared his throat to be heard over the laughter in the room. “No offense…Will.”
Will lined up his shot again then proceeded to run the table. As he pocketed his winnings he said, “All right go find the holes you lot crawl back into at night. I want to talk to Streak.”
The others filed out of the room and Will grabbed a bottle and two glasses from behind the bar. He poured for them both then handed one to Streak. “So?”
“So, I heard you had a visit today.”
Will laughed, “Yeah I did. He’s an odd-looking fucker, but I liked his offer.”
“You don’t know him. You should stay clear.”
“Seriously?” Will seemed genuinely taken aback. “Why the fuck should I do that?”
“So some mystery villain shows up on your doorstep, says he wants to drop a load of cash on you, set you up in business and you’re ready to sign on the dotted line, just like that?”
“I’m pretty god damned sure there’ll be no signing.” Streak failed to appreciate his humor. “No, not ‘just like that’. I’m not stupid, I know how to check his references, chief among those is you. What the fuck, Streak? I thought you’d be all over this.”
“I’ll tell you what I told Goldie – I’m not interested.”
“You telling me, that this deal was something the two of you had been talking about for…” Will narrowed his eyes and leaned out of his chair, “Are you trying to cut me out?”
Streak pulled his unlit cigarette from his mouth, “What?! No, I’m not trying to ‘cut you out’ of anything. Listen to me, Weems. I’m trying to tell you I’m out. And I don’t want him using you because of who you are…”
“Slow down! You’re out? Why? We’ve been looking for something to do on our own for a long time – even before…before you went in.”
“I know. And what Goldie told you was the truth. We talked about it. A lot. We had to talk about something, right?”
“You never thought he’d come through?”
“Not really, no.”
“So now he has. This could be the perfect set up.”
“Perfect? You think that’ll be Bill’s opinion?”
Will got up and started pacing in front of Streak’s chair. “Who says he gets one? Isn’t that the whole point? Besides, he never has anything to do with drugs – not the hard stuff. If he finds out, he can’t say we’re taking anything away from him.”
While that was at least somewhat accurate, Streak doubted Bill would see the logic. It wasn’t long ago that he might have felt it was worth the risk, but not now.
“Streak, c’mon. Do you have any idea how much we can make doing this for a year – maybe two?”
“Yeah, who says I’m gonna be here that long?”
That at least got Will to stand still. “What the fuck does that mean?”
Streak stabbed his cigarette into the ashtray,“It means maybe there are other places to be other than this house, this city.”
Will knew Streak wasn’t happy, God knew he had cause. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what, or who, had been making Streak a little less unhappy. “This have to do with Dave?”
“What if it does?”
“So you’re gonna what,” Will swept his arm around the room, “take her away from all this?”
“I should do what you’re so determined to do? ‘Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse’? Alone?”
Will stared at him for a beat, maybe ten until he said quietly, “You’re not the only one who wants out from under Bill’s thumb.” He grabbed the bottle by the neck and headed for the door. “When I set up the meet with Goldie’s people, I’ll let him know you won’t be joining us.”
Streak hadn’t slept through the night in nearly a week. Will was keeping his distance and Dave was in London again, visiting her mum and the markets, looking for stuff for the shop. At least she’ll be back tomorrow. Hell, it’s almost dawn. Make that today.
Bored with the books on his shelf and the film he’d been watching, he got up and got dressed and padded through the quiet house down toward the kitchen.
There was a light on in Big Bill’s study. Since no one went in there unless invited, he knew who else was awake. He thought about turning around and heading back upstairs.
“Streak, a word if you please.”
Shit. He let out a heavy breath and stepped into the inner sanctum.
Bill liked to think of himself as Laird of the Manor and this room certainly did its part to maintain that illusion. Dark, expensive wood paneled the bottom half of the walls, the top covered in the MacKenzie Hunting Tartan. It was decorated with brass replicas of family crests that hung next to paintings of horses, foxes and hounds gallivanting through the Highlands. Huge leather wingback chairs were tufted and peppered with studs and of course the focal point was Bill’s massive desk with its Moroccan leather top and matching accessories.
The “laird” was sitting behind it, his hands folded on top.
“How’d you know it was me?”
“You’re the only one who seems to have trouble sleeping in this house.”
Streak folded his arms, “What can I do for you, Bill?” He hadn’t been asked to have a seat so he was still standing in front of the desk.
Bill took a manilla envelope from a drawer. “I have a wee gift,” he said as he removed the contents and fanned out the photographs on the desktop.
“A what?” Streak leaned in, “It’s a little late for games isn’t?” It took him a few seconds to see what he was obviously meant to see.
His stomach lurched and he felt his face grow hot, unsure of what was worse, that the pictures existed, which meant this bastard had had her followed or what was happening in them.
Streak spent the morning driving around, waiting for the shop to open. He could have called, could have asked to see her, but even as he pulled up to the curb outside he still wasn’t sure what he planned to say.
Dave was up on a ladder again when he walked in. The smile she gave him dimmed at the look on his face. “What’s wrong?”
Watching her hands as she climbed down, he noticed that the tips of her fingers were painted the same color they’d been that first day. “Can we talk?”
She blew out a breath, as if she’d been expecting this moment, “Of course,” and stashed her feather duster beneath the counter.
Streak slid a photograph across the red formica surface, “Who’s this?”
Dave’s jaw dropped, staring with wide eyes at the image. Finally she managed, “A man. A man I know in London…”
“No shite. I’m not blind. What’s he to you?”
“He’s a friend…”
“You kiss all your friends like that?”
She lifted her eyes to Streak’s, “Where did you get that photo?”
“Who is he Davina?”
“Answer the question!”
“Why? You’re not answering mine.” Streak was surprised that his level of calm seemed to be rising with her growing agitation.
“Did Big Mac have anything to do with it? He did, didn’t he? We’ve known each other a couple of months. I’m surprised it took him this long!”
Streak was confused by the outburst and not a little ashamed, both of Bill and himself. “What does that mean?”
“Did he ask about my mother? Does he still carry a torch?”
“Davina, what the hell are you on about?”
“Bill likes to take things that belong to others. Ask Wee Bill’s mum – oh you can’t, can you? She’s not here anymore either!”
The door to the shop opened and two teenagers stepped in. One look from Streak and they decided to go elsewhere. Dave walked over and turned the lock then flipped the sign on the door over to “Closed”. Having that to do coupled with what she’d just unloaded seemed to calm her down a little. She braced her back against the cool glass panes and watched Streak’s face.
Bill MacKenzie and Margaret Weir? Jesus. Streak remembered what John had said to him about Bill and Charlie Weir, “I don’t remember why they fell out.” Bullshit old man. Who’d you think you were protecting?
He looked Dave in the eye, “I didn’t know.”
“Didn’t think you did,” she shrugged. “I just thought it might be something we had in common – hating Bill.” She waited for him to deny it. When he didn’t she pressed, “Why are you still with them? With him.”
‘It’s complicated’ would have been an understatement. “What if I said that can change? What if I said I want something else?” He pointed at the photo on the counter. “Tell me about this.” When she lifted her chin and he saw the firm set of her mouth he added, “Please.”
“I’ll tell you. I wanted to tell you when I got back the last time I went down. But you walked in carrying a rose and then things just got out of hand…”
“Out of hand?!”
“Let me finish.”
“Is that what that was? What this is?”
The way she’d said it, left no doubt it wasn’t his. Streak slumped against the counter as if someone had just pulled the last Jenga brick from his spine. “How…how long…”
“Why didn’t you just tell me there was someone else?”
“Like you were so forthcoming with me?”
He was staring out the window of the shop. “I’d have walked away. Never would have bothered with you.”
“It’s not like I had any sort of a grand plan. You walked into the shop – I wasn’t expecting you.”
“So now will you tell me?”He asked quietly, though his tone was hard as a rock. “What’s his name?”
“You don’t know him.”
He whirled on her, “How do you know who I know? What’s his name?”
“Why? You going to have him beaten? Or worse?” The look he gave her made it seem as if the temperature had just plummeted. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“What’s it matter? Keep going.”
Dave swallowed the lump in her throat,“I met him at University. He’s got a good job, a flat, he want’s to take care of me, of us. He’s not…”
“Not like me.”
“I didn’t say that!”
“But it’s what you meant.”
“Not for me,” Streak shook his head while he folded the photograph to stick in his back pocket.
“Streak… talk to me…”
“What, Davina? What exactly should we talk about? Baby names? The pattern for the wallpaper in the nursery? You’ve got your life – and a very happy one I hope it is.” With his hand on the door knob he added, “And I’ve got mine.”
In the car he pulled out his phone and punched a number. “You around?”
A couple of hours later, Will found him hunched over a cup of coffee in a small shop not far from the house. “Why couldn’t we go to the pub? You on the wagon?”
Since I found out I need a new place to drink. “I wanted a coffee.”
“Good for you. What’s going on Streak?”
“When’s the meet?”
“Why? We here so you can offer me more sage advice?”
“I changed my mind. I want in.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“What’s changed?” Will could guess, but he sat back and waited for Streak to tell him.
“She says she’s closing the store and moving to London.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“Maybe you should go with her. Different house, different city and all.”
“Nah,” Streak frowned and found other things to look at besides Will. “What the fuck would I do in London? Sell insurance? Work in a bank?”
“I don’t know. You’ve always been the brains. You want to go, go.” Will knew now was not the time to go over the intricacies of truly making that happen. “What about Dave?”
“One, stop believing everything that rotten bastard tells you. You’re as smart as me, and you’re sure as hell smarter than he is. And two, what about her? We just met. Besides, it was a foolish notion that I could just walk away, see how the other half lived. What the fuck does a burd like that need with the likes a me? I don’t owe her anything, but I couldn’t actually leave you to fend for yourself. Not again.”
Will flicked a packet of sweetener at him, “Fuck you.”
“Fuck you, too. Let’s do this.”
Three years later, in a flat in the Kensington section of London, Davina Porter pours her first cup of the day then goes to pick up the Times from her front steps, as she does every morning, to set beside her husband’s place at the breakfast table.
On this morning, however, she stands in the hallway reading a small story below the fold. Her son Liam howls, unnoticed, at the sound of the china cup hitting the parquet floor.
“Glasgow Explosion Kills 1, Injures Many; Drugs Dealer Turned Hero Clings to Life”.
Thank you for reading and sticking with this story!