Sunday, August 2, 2020

Issue #66 - August 2020

By Steven Berry

I was drinking whiskey from the bottle at two in the afternoon. I was having a bad day, that’s all. I had caught my wife fucking the bloke from across the road.

My phone rang. I thought it’d be Karen calling to somehow explain but it wasn’t, it was Damien Jones. I wasn’t gonna answer and I really wished I hadn’t.

“Chris, you there?”

“Yeah, I’m here.”

“Got us a job. Gonna make us both a few quid,” Damien said.

I took another swig of whiskey and gritted my teeth at the burn in my throat. “What’s that then?”

So far, the whiskey hadn’t done what I’d hoped and blocked out the image of Karen and that bloke on my couch. I drank some more.

“This guy has all this gear, all pucka stuff.” Normally if Damien had found a job I’d quiz him, but I couldn’t be bothered. “The Krays. Proper stuff from the Krays.”

“And you believe him?”

“Yeah, I do.”

I downed another large gulp of whiskey.

“Trust me on this, will ya?”

“Why not,” I said and ended the call.


A few nights later, we were sat outside a maisonette on the other side of Gospel Green Lake.

“Here we go,” Damien said, sitting up, grabbing my arm. “There he is. Kept an eye on him for a few days now,” he said, as we watched our unlucky friend walking down the road and out into the night.

I checked the time on the dashboard clock. 9.46. Damien watched me, awaiting instructions, even though he was apparently in charge of this one.

I got out of the car, went to the boot and grabbed a crowbar and a roll of black bags. “Carry these.” I chucked him the bags.

The maisonette’s door led into a stairway that smelled of cigarettes and floor cleaner. Damien pointed at number eighty-one.

While he kept watch I worked on snapping the lock. It didn’t take me too long and without much noise either.

“Get in here,” I said to Damien, who was still lingering outside. “Hurry up and close the door.” I switched on the hallway light.

He followed me through the first few rooms, checking cupboards and drawers and cabinets. The living room was our meal ticket.

I’ve always been quite observant when working—never been one to dive straight in. The lamp in the corner of the room was bothering me. Tall thing with a green shade. It should’ve been switched off.

Damien emptied a cabinet. He called me over to show me a framed painting of a meadow with a sunset sky. “It’s only signed by Reggie Kray.”

I opened one of the glass doors on the cabinet and picked out a photo of three men, pretty much everyone knew them as Ron and Reg Kray. The other man was known by some people, mostly around Gospel Green, and he was as ruthless as they came.

“That the bloke in the pub? That him? Is this his house?” I held the photo up.

“Dunno, nah, he was a lot older than that.”

The only rational thought I could piece together, we-gotta-get-the-fuck-out.

“Damien, we’ve gotta go.”

Damien shrugged me off and carried on shoving paintings and letters and photographs into the black bag.

“Put it all back, you fucking idiot.” I grabbed the bag off him.

We both heard it.

He was home.

We were fucked.


The living room door opened.

Damien grabbed my arm.

A scrawny man with thick-lens glasses was standing in the doorway with a handgun, grinning, his tea-stained teeth on display. Alan Peters.

This was the last place in the world I wanted to be.

“Alan, please, let me explain.”

He looked at me. His eyes were huge behind his glasses. The gun was still aimed at Damien. “What’d we have here then?” he said.

“We got the wrong house,” I said.

His smile tightened. “You did. On the couch, sit down now.”

Alan closed the door. He looked at the cabinet. “Thieving little bastards. Gifts from Ron and Reggie—and you little pricks think you can come into my home and take the lot.”

We sat down on the couch. I went to say something but he lifted the gun and I shut up. “You’re only sorry now I’ve caught you.”

Alan sat down opposite us. “Gonna play a game.”

“What’d you mean a game?” Damien said.

“Is your friend an idiot?” Alan asked. Believe me, we both were. “Has he never played a game before?” Alan took off his glasses and cleaned them with the sleeve of his shirt.

I looked at Damien and I knew what he was thinking. His eyes were glued to the gun in Alan’s lap. I shook my head.

“Let me explain what’s gonna happen. You, you little snake, I remember you now. I was only drinking with you the other week.” Alan shook his head. “I’ve never harmed anyone who didn’t deserve it.”

That’s not what I knew, but okay.

“Look, mate, is there nothing we can—”

Alan gestured for Damien to be quiet. “I’m not your mate.” Alan’s eyes darkened. “Now listen carefully. We’re going to play a very simple game, you answer correct, you’ll be fine. Get a question wrong and you get hurt.”

Sounded fun.

“So, my lovelies, I think it’s only fitting that we use Ron and Reg as our subjects… the wonderful Kray twins. Snaky can go first. I’ll start easy. Ready, boys?”

He clapped his hands together.

“What was the twins’ older brother called?”

Alan’s eyes didn’t move off Damien. “I’ll give you chance to think,” he said, bobbing his head from side to side. “Tick… Tock… Tick…”

“How am I meant to fuckin’ know?”

Alan stood up. His teeth clenched.

I don’t know,” Damien cried.

Alan belted Damien with the butt of the gun. Damien’s skull cracked. Like hitting a coconut with a hammer.

He fell back into the couch, grabbing his head. Blood trickled through his fingers.

“Wrong answer.” Alan cupped his hand on my shoulder. “Your turn.”

I was expecting something outrageous like what was Ron’s fucking star sign or what was Reg’s mom’s favourite biscuit.

“Who were the Krays’ main rivals?”

I closed my eyes and tried to remember the film with the Kray brothers. They were in the scrap metal game. No smack over the head for me.

“Richardsons,” I said and Alan cheered.

“Clever boy.” Alan turned to Damien. “Which brother killed George Cornell?”

Shit, even I wasn’t sure of this.

“You’re not very good at this game, are you?”

Damien shook his head. Tears and blood ran down his cheeks. “Please, I’ll do anything.”

Bang. I felt my bones rattle. I jumped up, my ears ringing from the gunshot. Damien screamed, grabbing the shattered remains of his left kneecap. Frayed jeans and fragments of bone. Now I had something in my head that would clear out the image of my wife fucking that bloke.

Damien collapsed onto the carpet.

Alan’s humour had soured off. He was still aiming the gun at Damien and I believe he would’ve killed him if I hadn’t had piped up.

“Isn’t it my go?” I said.

He looked at me with bulging grey eyes.

“That’s right.” He smirked, wiping spit off his lips. “Remember, they’re going to get harder.”

I nodded, glancing at Damien scrunched up on the carpet. Surely someone had heard the gunshot… perhaps saw the state of the door and used their heads. Maybe someone needed to hear another shot. My skin crawled at the thought. Damien couldn’t take another bullet. I think he was already losing consciousness.

“It’s a tricky one. What was the name of the pub Ron shot Cornell in?” Alan’s eyes brightened.

I almost came out and said it, and only held back because I glanced at Damien on the floor, slumped in a pool of blood.

I stood up, running my hands through my hair, trying to drag this out.

“I’ll give you a bit longer but not too long.”

“It’s on the tip of my tongue.” I held back the urge to say the Blind Beggar.

“It’s literally on the tip of my tongue.” I closed my eyes and the muscles in my neck tightened. This was it. My only hope was someone in the block would hear the gunshots.

“I can’t think of it,” I said through gritted teeth. I grabbed the door handle and squeezed it, preparing myself to be shot. The gunshot rang out, filled my head, blotted out the pain in my shoulder for a moment.

I fell to the floor. Now I felt it. Waves of hot, wet pain.

My eyes blurred but I could still make out Alan standing over Damien.

“Wakey, wakey, Snaky, question time? How old was Ron when he died?”

I crawled to the sofa. No doubt in my mind Alan would still shoot him if he didn’t answer the question.

“How did you meet the twins?” My voice didn’t sound like my own. I had managed to pull myself up. Felt like I was swimming in fog.

Alan looked over at me. He seemed confused. “What?”

“How did you meet them?” In my blurred vision I made out Alan pointing the gun at me. “You’re a long way from London, how’d you meet them?”

He lowered the gun.

“I worked down there in my day and got to know to Ron through people, asked him for advice.”

I took a deep breath. The burning in my shoulder was making it difficult to breath. “Advice about what?”

“I wanted to know how I should tell my old man I was gay. Even when they got put away, I still spoke to them in Broadmoor, Ron mainly.

“I have the letter. I have all the letters.” Off he went to the cabinet. “I kept everything they gave me,” he said, rummaging through one of the bottom drawers.

Damien was still breathing.

Alan returned with a pile of handwritten letters.

“I went to visit him, too.”

“I bet you’ve heard some right stories.”

“I’ll show you some pictures.” Alan hurried to the cabinet; most of his stuff was in the bags on the floor. This stalled him further.

I wiped the sweat off my forehead before it got in my eyes. The handgun was on the armrest. Alan fished through the black bags.

I grabbed the gun.

Alan turned around with his hands full of photographs. He laughed.

“Get the fuck away from me,” I said, finding it difficult to hold the gun steady.

Alan took a couple of steps closer, unfazed by the gun.

“I’ll do it.” I swallowed a lump the size of a golf ball.

“You’re too lovely to shoot me.”

I pulled the trigger. The recoil sent me reeling backwards. Alan crashed into the cabinet and hit the floor, among his scattered photographs.

I was breathing heavy and expected him to get up, like you see in the films. They always get up. Not this time though, and I wasn’t waiting around. I staggered out of the flat. The cool air kissed my burning skin. I lost my balance and fell over on to the pavement.

I looked back at the flat, thinking of Damien.

“YOU FUCKING CUNT,” Alan screamed, charging out of the maisonette block, holding a kitchen knife.

I lifted the gun and fired again, missed. I scrambled to my feet, but he crashed into me, knocking the gun out of my hand. He slashed the back of my neck. I screamed.

Alan climbed on to my chest and lifted the knife. I swung my head back and butted him on the nose. Blood splattered across his glasses. He stumbled off me, holding his face.

I crawled towards the road, searching for the gun. Blue lights flashed across the street, followed by the sweet sweet melody of sirens.

Never thought I’d ever be grateful to see the police.

You spineless little cunt,” Alan screamed. I heard his footsteps trampling towards me, but I had nothing left.

The coppers were shouting for him to get on the ground. Alan kept screaming.

“Stay still, let the paramedics help.” I think it was a copper standing over me; it was hard to see.

“My mate, he shot him… in the flat.”

I looked up and could just make out two coppers dragging Alan towards a police car.

I’ll see you inside, my lovely.”

Steven Berry has published short stories in print and online with various magazines since his early twenties. He is currently working on a novel. He lives with his wife, daughter and son in Birmingham, England.


  1. Love how Alan is this little, withered guy and the one to be worried about. Best to not judge books by covers...and ask more questions about the job

  2. Glad you found Alan interesting, TG Wolff. Hope you enjoyed the story?