‘Shit!’ hissed Mickey. ‘Shit, shit, shit!’
Three figures piled out of a flashy new import and crossed towards Heaven. Even against the rain-slicked roadway there was no mistaking who it was – Billy Bone. With four of them, he’d be worse than useless; at best it would be a kicking – he could take a kicking, hand them out too – worse was the river. Rumour was they’d filled a rival’s pockets with stones and pushed him off the embankment.
He ducked into a shop doorway and peered out. The import was still idling in a ‘No Standing’ zone. A crowd of clubbers had emerged and were drifting away in twos and threes. Billy Bone stopped here and there to speak with individuals.
Money changed hands. Always one-way: into the pocket of Zac Halfpenny, Billy’s cousin and bagman.
Time to go.
Mickey flicked his ciggy into the gutter, glanced towards the club and headed down the street past the tattoo parlour and the all-night convenience store, where he crossed towards the alley and the partially restored ’59 Chevrolet pick-up he’d spotted earlier. He liked those old vehicles, they had style – and their locks were a push over.
His phone clattered in his pocket and he stopped.
‘Bro.’ He pulled a face. ‘No – you’re s’posed to be here. No, Noddy boy, where the hell are you, where’s my money? Billy Bone’s on my case.’
The Chevy’s chrome glinted at the rear of the alleyway.
‘You any idea how many messages are in you in-box? Too busy screwing Jenny or Jackie or whatever her friggin name is to call me. Noddy? Noddy!’
A figure stepped from beneath the fire escape.
‘What the hell you’se doing here?’
Mickey brushed past his kid brother towards the pick-up.
‘Something’s up,’ Gabe said. ‘For Chrissakes, man, Billy Bone is one seriously screwed up individual.’
Mickey pulled out his wallet, folded a fifty and jammed it in the pocket of Gabe’s jeans.
‘Piss off back home. Take a taxi.’
‘C’mon Mickey? Mum’s practically out of her mind.’
He sniffed. ‘She ain’t my mother in case you’ve forgotten.’
Gabe screwed the note into a ball and threw it at Mickey’s feet.
‘Don’t catch a cab then.’ Mickey retrieved the money and lit a cigarette. ‘Maybe I’ll just leave you here for some smacked-out, no-hoper to roll.’
‘Why don’t you listen to yourself, bro?’
‘She sent you down here, didn’t she, eh?’ He jabbed the air with his forefinger, closing the gap between them. ‘To check up on me … Claire, always checking up on her wayward grandson?’
‘If you must know, it was Monica. She knew about Billy.’ Gabe shoved his hands in his pockets and hunched his shoulders. ‘Mum – she’s – those tablets the doctor gives her. She needs to know you’re okay.’
‘I don’t do pretend anymore, bro, I only do real.’
‘Ah, real. Of course, I was forgetting real, which would account for you being shit-faced most of time.’
Mickey raised his eyebrows. ‘You seem to be forgetting something.’
‘Okay, it was a shit way to find out but that was Gran’s doing – not Mum’s.’
‘See, all the let’s-pretend-happy-families stuff doesn’t count for shit.’
Mickey crushed the half-finished cigarette beneath his boot, pulled a piece of baling tape from beneath some rain-sodden boxes and walked to the Chevy. He looped the tape and shoved it between the glass and the weather seal.
The lock popped. He slid in across the bench seat, reached under the steering wheel and pulled free a wiring loom.
‘You’re mad.’ Gabe stood by the open passenger door, his eyes flicking between the entrance of the alley and Mickey. ‘And if we get caught?’
‘You wanna lift home or not?’
The engine rumbled into life. Mickey adjusted the mirror and squinted at the street. It was a ‘left turn only’ out of the alley, which meant passing the nightclub. Sure, he could turn right, but four cop cars had crawled by in the space of the last hour. Rumour had it that Billy paid off some of the local cops. No, he’d have to drive past Heaven.
‘What’s it to be, bro?’
Gabe hesitated and then slid in beside him.
Mickey nudged the floor shift and gunned the truck down the alley.