These Toys Are for Tough Boys

K. A. Laity/Graham Wynd

‘But why do you want to kill him?’ Patrick tried to pay attention to the words instead of the way Simone’s low cut dress revealed her ripe breasts a little too evidently to the eye.
‘Does it matter? He has to be dealt with and I need one more in on the job.’ Simone gave him a look that made him feel both aroused and insulted. ‘Are you up for it?’
He knew what she was insinuating and he also knew that she was taking advantage of his lust for her. It had made him do stupid things before. But never killing someone. It was a big step up to go from a few shady grifts, a bit of petty larceny and the occasional minor break-ins to the ultimate crime.
Patrick had thought he could steer clear of that one. It wasn’t like they hanged a man for the crime. Anymore, that is. Back in the day that had provided the final exit for his old man. He’d sworn to his mam he’d never go that far.
But his mam had never met Simone. If she had she’d have clouted him round the ears and told him not to waste his time. ‘Water finds its level, find yours.’ How many times had she said that to him? Simone was not his level. An ocean of water lay between his expectations and her aspirations, yet somehow he thought his luck might hold long enough this time to see if she looked as good naked as his dreams had promised him.
‘I’m up for it. When do we do the deed?’
Simone smiled. It was so very cat-like that he almost expected her to purr. ‘We’re going to meet tomorrow night at the back of Chantey’s and talk the details through. No slip ups. This is well planned.’
‘Your plan or Shadey’s?’
Simone made a sound of annoyance. ‘Some from column A, some from column B. What do you care?’
‘Who else is in on it?’ Patrick thought it might be wise to know after all.
‘Not the usual lunkheads. You’ll meet them tomorrow. No need to get people yammering ahead of time.’
‘I’m silent as the grave,’ Patrick protested.
‘Is that the one your banshees howl over?’ Simone laughed. It was not a kind sound. Some women really shouldn’t laugh. They stabbed a sliver of iron into your heart whenever they did. Patrick stopped himself from making the sign of the cross, knowing what Simone would say about that.
‘Fancy a drink now?’ He thought it was a pretty smooth segue but she didn’t respond favourably.
‘I’ve got things to do. I’m no idler.’
‘Are you suggesting I’m some kind of layabout?’ Patrick felt stung but the truth was his plans hadn’t gone much further for the day than trying to talk Simone into having a drink. He figured if he just got her to let down those monumental barriers for a wee while, she might just discover his hidden charms and let him see some of hers more closely. He’d said as much to his sister Margret the day before. She had laughed too, then asked when he was going to be paying his overdue rent to her.
‘I don’t run a charity here. If you want charity, go see the Magdalens.’ Now there was a heartless woman. Of course she had been kind enough to have given him a room on the cheap, albeit in the noisy house with her sour husband and five children. On most days it was as good as a free ticket to an insane asylum without any of the comfort that suggested.
But if he could get a big score now — why, he could be his own man. It would be a novel thing. He’d been under his mam’s thumb until she died and lacking wherewithal after her funeral, his sister had grudgingly– so very grudgingly — given him a roof over his head. Literally, as his room might more properly be called an attic eyrie.
With nothing to occupy him, Patrick decided to pop along and check out the intended victim. Simone might look askance at the move, but wasn’t that what they called ‘casing the joint’? Besides the Nun & Dragon had cheaper pints than Chantey’s anyway. And far be it from him to disparage a fellow traveler but the lad at Chantey’s couldn’t pull a decent stout if his life depended on it.
Patrick chuckled to himself as he pushed the door in at the pub, unconsciously making the sign of the cross as he passed under the nun on the sign, squeezed in the dragon’s coils. He rather hoped that would be a foreshadowing of his time to come with Simone and lord knows he’d squeeze her tightly as any dragon might.
The Slovenian was behind the bar as usual, chatting to a couple of students. It was a bit off the beaten track for the uni but occasionally a few would discover the pub and try to make a habit of it for a few weeks, but they always went back to the cheap, loud vulgar places next to campus. There was only so far you wanted to walk when you were on the piss.
‘What can I get you?’ Borut had finally finished his tale of a water sprite that lived in the Black Lake. When Patrick was slow to answer, he immediately tried to convince him to order some Slovenian beer that was called something like Lash Co, with the funny accent marks that seemed entirely unnecessary. It was almost as bad as Irish.
He watched Borut pull the pint of Guinness and wondered again what the man could have done to get on Shadey’s bad side. He seemed the soul of affability with his genial air and halo of grey curls. Then again, he had to get out of Slovenia for some reason, too. At least Simone had hinted as much back in the day.
‘So why did you leave Slovenia to come here?’ He asked after the students had drifted away. ‘You always make it sound like such a paradise.’
‘It is! Mountains, vineyards, air you can breathe. Not like this city. Poisonous, isn’t it?’ Borut shook his head with regret.
‘Then why come here?’ Patrick insisted.
Borut laughed. ‘I fell in with a bad crowd and didn’t have an alibi.’ He shrugged as if that were somehow self-explanatory.
Patrick nodded. ‘Was there a woman?’
The Slovenian sighed. ‘Isn’t there always?’
Patrick couldn’t disagree. He figured all his own problems probably could be attributed to women from his mam to the elusive Simone. Probably his sister, too, as she was always nagging him to get a steady job and give up this hustling life. Let a man be. He drank his pint and imagined all the things he would do with plenty of money and Simone.
The next night they met in the back room of Chantey’s. There was Simone of course, Blue Jake, and a guy called Einar. ‘What sort of name’s that?’ Patrick asked with genuine curiosity.
‘Icelandic.’ The man gave him a challenging look that made him seem far more imposing than his height.
‘Oh, you fellas did all right in the cup. I was rooting for them when they smited England. Bloody brilliant!’
The Icelander gave him a broad grin. ‘I wish we had continued on the same. Alas, it was not to be.’
‘We’ll see what happens in four years. I know who I’m betting on. We’ll see some Renaldo tears yet—’
‘If you lads are done talking footie, could we get to the matter at hand?’
Simone sounded cranky so Patrick did his best to cheer her. ‘Anything for you, darling.’ She only made a face at that. Some women just did not appreciate his charm. But she would come around, he was certain of it.
‘Tomorrow night we are going to snatch the Slovenian. You’re not to hurt him at first if you can help it. You have to wait for word from Shadey. When we’ve got the money, then you can whack him.’ Simone smiled as if promising a story to kids at bedtime. ‘We’ve got a car that belongs to a little old lady from Lyme Regis who doesn’t even know it’s gone. You’re going to take him to a cottage just across the Welsh border — don’t worry, I’ve got the coordinates for the satnav.’
‘How will we communicate with you or Shadey?’ The Icelander asked.
Simone handed him a cheap mobile phone. ‘This is the only one. When it’s done you destroy it and chuck the sim into a river or some such place where it won’t be found. We’ll only call on this line so don’t lose it too soon.’
‘How do you know we won’t be seen grabbing him from the pub?’ Patrick thought it seemed like an obvious question.
Simone withered him with her glance. ‘That’s your job.’
They waited until closing. The night had grown rather chilly for September and they shivered a little amongst the bins and whatnot behind the pub.
‘What if he locks up and goes out the front door?’ Blue Jake asked in a too-loud whisper.
‘No, that his car there. See the Maribor sticker on the bumper? He’ll come out this way.’ Sure enough some minutes later they heard the door creak open and Borut came out, shrugging into his jacket and dangling a backpack from one hand while he locked the door with the other. They let him get over to his car and then stepped out of the shadows.
‘We need to take you somewhere,’ Patrick said, hoping he sounded like a movie tough.
Borut looked at the three of them without much expression. ‘Where?’
‘That information is what they call on a need to know basis. And you don’t need to know.’ Blue Jake tapped his palm with the tire iron he’d brought. It was an odd choice of weapon. They had to improvise. Patrick had through they’d all get guns, which alas proved not to be true. Only Einar got a gun which hardly seemed fair. When he’d protested Simone gave him a withering look. ‘Those toys are for tough boys.’
That hadn’t been kind, but he was determined to show her that he could be one of the toughs.
The Slovenian muttered something Patrick couldn’t understand then took a step toward him and swung the backpack at Blue Jake. Patrick had taken a step back just by habit when the man moved up and cursed himself at once for doing so. The backpack blocked the tire iron’s belated swing so for a moment Blue Jake looked quite put out, his one move already frustrated.
Patrick dove in to grapple with the man. When he slammed into him, he figured he’d go down but the man didn’t budge. Blue Jake threw himself onto the guy too and their combined weight knocked him back against the car. He wasn’t done though. The Slovenian brought up a knee and it connected with Blue Jake who made a sound like oof and doubled over. Patrick did his best to try to get a hold on the man’s neck just like Giant Haystacks. Kids always said wrestling was fixed and Patrick now had a feeling they were right because the smooth moves didn’t seem to have any effect at least not until Blue Jake once more added his weight and a volley of oaths to the attack.
The three of them hit the ground grumbling and writhing and then they all heard the click of a cocked gun. Looking up they saw Einar standing over them. ‘Get in the boot now.’ He looked dead tough standing there pointing that big shooter at them. Patrick was ready to get into the boot himself. He and Blue Jake let the Slovenian rise and sort of shouldered him into the boot of the Ford Festiva.
‘It’s a bit small,’ Borut said as he climbed in.
‘Sorry about that but we didn’t get to choose the car.’
‘Who did? Was it Shadey?’
‘You don’t need to be asking the questions.’ Blue Jake smirked and slammed the lid down with unnecessary vehemence. Naturally it popped open again without latching.
‘That was quick,’ Borut said.
Patrick closed the lid until it clicked. Then they all piled into the car. Patrick had made a point of declaring himself the wheelman which did t sit too well with Blue Jake who drew the back seat. ‘This back seat is about as spacious as the boot.’
‘At least you can see the sights as we drive along.’
Blue Jake snorted. ‘It’s the middle of the night.’
‘I think technically it’s past the middle of the night, if midnight is the middle.’
‘Shut up and drive.’
‘In two hundred yards turn right,’ the satnav bellowed.
‘Oh Christ, who set the voice to Brian Blessed?!’
‘He could almost hear Simone chuckling at that. Her sort of joke no doubt. There was no time to fuss with the settings. He’d make her pay for that later. For now he concentrated on getting them out of the city and on their way without giving way to the desire to shout, ‘Gordon’s alive?!’ It was difficult not to given in to temptation.
Blue Jake was snoring in minutes, a sound of infinite irritation. The Icelander, although awake, had little desire to chat. He might as well have been a Finn. It was flabbergasting how long it took to get across this country which most of the time seemed so small. Especially once they crossed the Welsh border and all attempts at order disappeared. If the satnav didn’t bark it’s orders now and then, Patrick would easily believe they were in the middle of nowhere.
Glancing off to the side where a good impression of the Hundred Acre wood surrounded them, Patrick suddenly saw a huge black dog keeping pace with them. Which seemed mad: what dog could run that fast. ‘Do you see that?’
The Icelander turned. ‘See what?’
‘That big dog. See there? Running through the trees. Look how fast it’s going.’
‘I don’t see it.’
‘Right over there. Not a hundred yards away. Going real bloody fast.’
Einar shrugged. ‘It’s probably your fetch.’
‘Fetch?’ Patrick frowned. Something lost in translation, no doubt. ‘Fetching what?’
‘No, your fetch. Your spirit animal. That’s what we call it.’
‘What, Icelanders are like Red Indians, I mean Native Americans, that’s what they say now, right? Or like Harry Potter, a whatsis.’
Einar shrugged. ‘I don’t know about all that. We say every person has a fetch. But you only see it when your fate is come.’
‘My destiny you mean?’ Patrick liked the sound of that. He was destined for greater things.
‘Your final destiny,’ the Icelander said. ‘It’s a premonition. A death sign.’
Patrick snorted. It was only because it was so late at night that he had even entertained the notion of some crazy folk magic. Silly kid stuff. ‘How do you know it’s not your fetch?’
‘I didn’t see it, you did.’ He lapsed back into silence. Patrick would have continued to question him but just then the satnav barked at him once more to let him know that the next right would bring them to their destination in one hundred yards.
The cottage looked like it had been abandoned by hobbits about a century ago. And they hadn’t got their security deposit back either. In fact to call it a cottage was a kindness it hardly deserved. Patrick supposed that was why Simone had warned them to bring torches. It hardly looked as if there would be any electricity in it, but sure enough when they staggered in and hit the switch, a feeble light shone in the dawn, hardly matching its brightness.
‘We can bring him in here,’ Einar said as they looked at the forlorn siting room, or what might at one time have been referred to in that way. They turned over what was left of the furniture and found chairs that would at least hold weight, unlike the table that fell to bits when they put it on its feet.
‘Mother Mary, I hope we don’t have to stay here long. We’ll all be covered in fungus by nightfall.’ Patrick shuddered at the thought. He had a recurring image from childhood of a corpse rotting under mushrooms in the wood that probably came from one of his dad’s stories from the old country. Or else his own criminal past. A shiver went through him again.
They went back out to the Festiva and opened the boot to hustle Borut out again. ‘Oh but I was so comfortable in there, please give me a few more minutes. I didn’t say good-bye to the toolbox. It would be rude after we were so intimate.’
The three of them shoved him inside. Blue Jake revealed the coil of rope he’d discovered in the back seat and they tied the Slovenian to the sturdiest of the crap chairs. He seemed resigned to his fate for the moment, though Patrick kept a wary eye on him.
‘I’ll call Simone,’ Einar said. ‘Hopefully the reception’s better outside.’
As he sauntered out the door nonchalantly the thought popped into Patrick’s head that there was something a bit fishy about that. What were the odds that the reception was really all that better? ‘You keep an eye on him,’ he told Blue Jake.
‘What the hell else have I got to do?’
Patrick stepped into what had been the kitchen before some epic conflagration and cocked an ear toward the broken window. Even with careful attention he couldn’t quite hear all that the Icelander said, though of course he was only getting half the conversation. But he heard one very important word: MacGregor.
Christ on a crutch, was Shadey going up against Ma MacGregor? Was he mad? The woman would skin him and all the rest of them alive and boil their briskets for Sunday dinner. She was ruthless. It made no sense. What possible connection could she have to all this?
‘You know, I think you may have made a serious error,’ the Slovenian said when Patrick stepped back into the room.
Blue Jake shook his head. ‘Don’t even listen. He’s mental, I swear. Says we’re going to hear from Ma MacGregor.’
‘Bollocks. What she got to do with you?’
‘Who do you think owns the Nun & Dragon now?’ Borut gave him a smug look.
‘It’s that other woman, Fox or something like that.’ Patrick could feel sweat break out under his arms despite the day’s chill.
‘No, not for months. I was brought in by her special to run the place. A favour owed.’
‘What kind of favour?’
‘If I told you that, I’d have to kill you.’
Something about the calm way he said it made Patrick see the great black dog running along in the back of his mind and he didn’t like it one bit. ‘Pull the other one, it’s got bells.’
At least when Einar walked back in it gave them a distraction. ‘Now all we have to do is wait.’
‘Is that right?’ Patrick said with as much sarcasm as he could muster. The Icelander just stared at him. ‘What did Simone say?’
‘That’s what Simone said. We just sit and wait.’
‘Wait for Ma MacGregor’s toughs to come after us?’
Einar stared at him with something that looked suspiciously close to pity. ‘Simone will took care with this gig. We’ll be fine.’
‘If I’d known you were going up against Ma, I’d have said you can count me out.’ Blue Jake shook his head.
‘No good will come of this,’ Borut said with mock sorrow.
‘Shut your gob,’ Patrick said a little too quickly. Why was the Icelander so chummy with Simone now? She was meant for him, she must have known that. Not some foreigner.
‘Hey, be cool now,’ Einar said, his voice as coaxing as any virgin’s promising tomorrow or the next day, any night but tonight.
‘Be cool? Who are you to tell me to be cool? I’m always cool.’
‘Hey, I brought snacks,’ Einar said, lifting a carrier bag full of groceries.
‘Snacks? What are we, five year olds to be bribed with sweets?’
‘Shut up, man,’ Blue Jake said. ‘I’m hungry.’ Einar doled out the crisps and Babybels along with cans of lager.
‘What about me?’ Borut asked.
‘You’ll have to wait,’ Patrick told him.
‘You could untie one of my hands,’ he offered.
‘Don’t you watch films? That’s how things always start to unravel. Not going to happen here.’ They munched their food in silence otherwise while the Slovenian sighed. ‘No, not going to happen,’ Patrick repeated.
‘I’d just like to eat before Ma’s guys get here. I may lose my appetite with all the blood on the floors.’
‘Shut up, you.’ It was a bit dull as insults went but Patrick couldn’t think of a good taunt against Slovenians. It wasn’t like he was a frog or a kraut. What did Slovenians eat anyway? Did they have some national dish that the people around them recognised at once? Like potatoes and the Irish forever inextricably linked. Maybe he could google it. But his phone didn’t get any service around here.
Wales: you might as well be in Antarctica except for the trees.
‘Right, we’ll take turns keeping watch. Since I drove I’m taking first sleep.’ Patrick waited for an objection but none came. He wandered around the small house. There wasn’t much left as furniture, so he took off his jacket and stretched out on the floor of a bedroom with it folded beneath his head like a pillow. He was asleep before he could remember the song that had suddenly sprung into his mind just then.
Patrick awoke from a dream of the huge black dog, immediately suspicious that all seemed so quiet when his head had been so loud. The giant gnashers flashed vividly behind his eyes and the growls made him shiver again in the cold room.
He scrambled up and went to the sitting room. Blue Jake was also asleep in his chair, head lolling like a puppet without strings. Borut appeared to be dozing as well. Einar was reading a book.
Who the fuck brings a book to a kidnapping? ‘What are you reading?’
Einar lifted the book to show him the cover. ‘This is a good one. One of the characters ends up in a bottle dungeon, which is just about the worst torture I can imagine.’ He shook his head in wonder.
‘What’s a bottle dungeon?’ The Icelander started to explain but Patrick interrupted him. ‘What’s the deal with you and Simone?’
He offered an innocent look. ‘It’s just business. Why?’
‘You sure about that?’
‘It’s not just business,’ Borut said quite loud. Apparently he had not really been dozing after all. ‘I’ve see them together. Quite chummy they looked.’
‘It’s a lie. He’s trying to manipulate you,’ Einar said, refusing to rise to the bait.
‘He was like a snake coiled around her. Or a dragon, you know.’ Borut nodded as if to verify the sight.
‘He’s just trying to provoke you,’ the Icelander said. ‘You’re not that foolish, are you?’
Patrick looked from one to the other. ‘I’m not sure I trust either of you.’
‘But you trust Simone, right? And she said stay here, stay quiet and just wait. All will be well.’
‘All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well,’ Patrick said with mock solemnity. The two men stared at him blankly. Blue Jake snored. Patrick grabbed another bag of crisps and tore it open. He didn’t really know what to think. But it was a challenge not to picture that Icelander groping his Simone. She’d probably like that hairy troll. Smiting indeed. He crunched the crisps much louder than necessary.
He had a bad feeling. Normally he might offer a wee prayer at a moment like this but the idea of appealing to Saint Jude irritated him for some reason, but nobody else came to mind immediately. There was always Brigid but somehow even she didn’t seem to suit the moment.
Einar’s phone rang again. He reached for it quickly, standing up and putting his book down. Before he could answer Patrick said, ‘Why don’t you take the call in here so we can all hear it?’
The Icelander looked at him with a little impatience. Patrick took unexpected pleasure in rattling the ice man a little. ‘If I lose the signal, Simone will be quite irritated.’
‘Let’s take that chance.’
He glared but tapped the phone. ‘Hallo?’ He turned away from Patrick and spoke quietly.
On impulse, Patrick jumped up and grabbed the phone away. ‘I want to talk to Shadey,’ he demanded. He was rewarded with nothing but silence at first. Then a familiar voice spoke to him with unfamiliar anger.
‘What is wrong with you, imbecile! Put Einar back on at once.’ Simone’s fury was audible. If she could have reached through the phone to throttle him, he was quite certain she would have done so.
‘I just want to know what you’ve got cooked up for us poor sods. Bugger me if I’m going to be cannon fodder for Ma MacGregor.’
‘You’re a moron you are, Patrick. I don’t know what you think is happening but you need to take a chill pill and let Einar do his job as well. You’re supposed to be keeping an eye on the Slovenian.’
‘Aye, well, Blue Jake has that covered.’ He hoped she couldn’t hear his snores over the connection, which come to think of it didn’t sound all that weak after all. ‘I just want some assurance from you that you’re not planning to abandon us in the case of trouble.’
A sigh, then, ‘Patrick, would I really go to all this trouble just to get you killed? If I wanted you dead I could have pushed you in front of a lorry on the high street. Now give the phone to Einar.’
Reluctantly, because he had no other bright ideas, Patrick handed the phone over to the Icelander. He got another glare in return. The ensuing conversation didn’t tell him much as it mostly consisted of Einar saying, ‘Yes, yes.’ At least it was mercifully brief. Maybe he had flown off the handle a bit. However, there could be little harm in letting Simone know what kind of man he might be underneath the easy-going exterior.
She had to reckon him a little higher on the scale now. He was a take-charge sort of fellow. Simone would see he was serious.
‘The exchange will be tonight,’ Einar announced as he thumbed the phone. ‘We have to sit tight until then. They will be phoning to make sure he’s alive.’
‘Surely now I can eat something,’ Borut said. ‘I’m really hungry. You wouldn’t want me to die of hunger before ten o’clock.’
‘You won’t die of hunger.’ Patrick was certain it could only be a ploy.
‘I also have to piss like a racehorse. Unless you want me to do it here.’ He looked ready to accommodate. Upon arrival they had all pissed up against the side of the cottage in turns. It was only natural a man would have to relieve himself, surely.
Einar finally said, ‘All right, but I am going to have the gun pointed at the back of your head the whole time. And he’s coming along to make sure nothing happens.’
‘I’m what?’ But Einar insisted so they all trooped off outside. They untied his hands and Borut amused himself with making elaborate designs on the side of the house. ‘That word? That’s what we call the English behind their backs.’
‘I don’t care,’ Patrick said. ‘I’m Irish.’
‘Are you the famous Saint Patrick? Well, you know what we call the Irish?’
‘Nothing.’ The Slovenian laughed heartily even as Einar retied his bonds. ‘The Irish are so unimportant we don’t even have an insult for them.’
Patrick felt flustered. ‘Well, we call you all Haribos. You know what they are, Haribo? Silly candy.’
Borut looked thoughtful a moment. Patrick thought the dig had got to him, but in the next moment he said, ‘But Haribo is German. We’re not German.’
‘No, don’t you get it? Maribor-Haribo. See?’
‘What if I were an Olimpija supporter?’
‘What? No, it doesn’t matter. You’re all Haribos.’
‘I think you need a little history of Slovenia. Come visit, taste the grapes, climb the mountains.’
‘What are you, the tourist board of Slovenia? Can’t we gag him?’ Patrick didn’t want to admit to being a bit nettled and went to kick Blue Jake awake while Einar situated their captive back into the one sturdy chair.
Blue Jake yawned. ‘When are we leaving?’
‘Not until late.’
Patrick wanted to do something. Mostly he wanted to hit somebody. He couldn’t decide between Iceland or Slovenia. Someone deserved it. And he was feeling peevish and rather tired. Driving all those hours and then barely getting any sleep. It hardly surprised when you got right down to it.
And hours of just hanging around. It was madness. It couldn’t last. He had a bad feeling about this. Mostly it was a desire to be in his own bed — yes, even the little twin bed in his attic room while the children shrieked below him and the television blared. He tried to imagine bringing Simone to his room. He made a face. That was not going to happen. It would have to be her place.
If it ever happened. Suddenly everything seemed rather hopeless. She probably would go with some jerk like Einar with his smooth Icelandic talk and that hair. And get that Borut. Was there anything worse than having a Slovenian laugh at you. It was bad enough being taken for English, but to have the entire island insulted as well! Never mind he hadn’t been back to the homeland since he was six. You carried your country with you wherever you went. Look at all those crass Americans, they surely did.
He blinked. Had he really seen someone through the trees? Patrick squinted into the gloom. It should be brighter by now. Bloody Wales: it seemed to have its own extra darkness that it called up whenever it was in the mood.
There! Definitely something blinking. It could be a tag on a dog or a cow, he thought but what were the odds, way out here in the middle of nowhere? At least it seemed like the middle of nowhere. He turned away from the dirty window. ‘I think we’ve got company.’
Three heads turned at once. Blue Jake hopped up and tried to look out the window with just one eye as if it somehow concealed him. ‘I don’t see anything.’
‘If it’s Ma MacGregor’s lads, you won’t see anything until it’s too late,’ the Slovenian said.
Einar shoved their captive back into a corner, away from direct view from the front. ‘One of you go run recon outside. See what you can see.’
‘Oh, one of us unarmed folks then? We should maybe run out there naked too.’ Patrick laughed. The sound managed to convey his mirth and a good bit of his anxiety too.
‘I can’t risk letting our only bargaining chip go.’
‘Well, let us watch him with the gun and you can reconnoiter outside. How about that?’
‘It’s not like I am asking you to fight hand to hand. Just see if you can see more, see what we’re up against.’
‘Oh for fuck’s sake, I’ll go,’ Blue Jake said, exasperated into action by their bickering. He ambled out the door and ducked behind the house. Patrick crossed to the back to follow his progress. To his surprise, Blue Jake lit out in the opposite direction from the road and crashed into the woods, running at a speed he’d never seen him attempt before. For a minute he just stared. Then he tried to imagine there was some sort of clever ploy the man was putting into play. But he didn’t reappear.
Bugger that, Patrick thought. He’s scarpered.
He went back to the sitting room where Einar still levelled the gun at the window. ‘He’s done a runner.’
The Icelander stared at him. ‘Who has?’
‘Blue Jake.’
There were only so many ways to explain the same thing. After a moment it would sink in, surely. He could see the moment when the penny dropped. Then the Icelander looked grim. ‘If I see him, I shoot him.’
‘He could be in Ireland by now.’
There wasn’t much to say to that. They both squinted out the window but there was nothing to see in the Welsh gloom. Patrick couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom. Should I stay or should I go? The song started looping in his head. ‘So, what do you think it is?’
‘Are you sure you saw anything?’
If he hadn’t had a gun, Patrick would surely hit him now. ‘Yes, I did.’
‘I bet he imagined it,’ Borut suggested.
He and the Icelander both told him to shut up. Einar frowned. ‘Well, if there is someone out there, how do we best defend ourselves?’
‘In the films they stack all the furniture up to make a barricade.’
‘Does all your experience come from movies?’
‘You got a better idea?’
They moved some of the ramshackle chairs and what was left of the table to block the window and give them some cover. The approach from the road seemed the most likely direction as that’s where Patrick had seen whatever it was he saw.
‘Can you at least give me some cheese? I’m really hungry.’
Patrick glared at the Slovenian. Though fair enough, he probably was hungry. Einar stared intently through the broken table top. What harm could there be? ‘You’d better appreciate this,’ he said while he peeled the wrapper off the cheese.
‘I promise not to bite,’ Borut said with a smile.
Just then the window shattered. Einar swore and tried to get the broken glass out of his hair. More bullets flew.
‘How many of them are there?’ Patrick crouched below the window, waiting for his heart to drop back down from his throat.
‘I can’t see a fucking thing. This country has too many fucking trees.’ The Icelander shook the blood off his hand.
‘Well, why don’t you shoot someone and at least make it less?’
‘I’ve only got six bullets. I can’t waste any of them.’
‘Six! Mother of god, why only six?’
‘Fuck you, I didn’t get an option. We were just supposed to be watching this guy until we iced him. I wasn’t going to need more.’
‘We need them now.’ More bullets rained in on them. It was hard to tell how many people were shooting but at least they were all coming from the front. ‘Hey, you don’t suppose they trying to distract us while they send someone in the back?’
‘That’s what I’d do,’ the Slovenian said.
‘Shut your face.’
It didn’t faze him. ‘I get chatty when I’m hungry.’
‘Maybe you should go check,’ Einar said.
Muttering a prayer to Saint Jude after all, Patrick made a crouch run through the bombed out kitchen and took a quick look through the broken pane and yelped.
The enormous black dog stood at the edge of the forest. Its head was massive. The body was easily as large as a Shetland pony’s. The great white teeth shone in the gloom. It had to be real.
After a moment or two Patrick realised the Icelander was shouting at him. ‘No, no one out this way.’ The big black dog stared as if it were waiting on something. Patrick couldn’t tear his eyes away. All of the sudden it turned tail and left, disappearing between the trees
That’s when the shot hit him. The force of it spun him around. He thought his shoulder had exploded. ‘I’m hit!’ A hundred war films flashed through his mind like a macabre kaleidoscope. Patrick staggered into the sitting room. ‘I’m hit,’ he repeated. Then he fell to his knees.
‘Untie me. I have medical training. I might be able to save him.’
Einar hesitated. Patrick lifted a hand to his neck where he could feel the blood pouring out. He felt dizzy. Swearing, the Icelander untied Borut and then turned back to his post. The Slovenian kicked Einar so he crashed into the broken furniture, dropping the gun. There was a brief struggle that ended with a shot. The Slovenian rose and waved his arms. The gunfire stopped at once.
He walked over to where Patrick lay. It was getting harder to concentrate. ‘Can you stop…stop the…’ he couldn’t remember what he was going to say.
‘I’m sorry. I lied about the medical training.’
Patrick began to sob. ‘Simone…’
‘Yes, she and I thought this would be a good way to get Shadey out of the picture. It seems to have worked.’ Borut patted him on the arm. ‘Sorry about this. But she’s kind of got a thing for me.’
Patrick heard a buzzing in his ears. He wondered if it came from outside. ‘Is she here?’
‘No, no. These are Ma’s guys. But she approved of the plan. Can I ask you one last thing?’
Patrick coughed. His mouth felt very wet. ‘What?’
‘Do you know how to change the voice on the satnav?’
Patrick closed his eyes for the last time.


Te igrače so za žilave dečke

K. A. Laity/Graham Wynd

“Ampak, zakaj bi ga rada ubila?” je skušal Patrick posvetiti pozornost besedam namesto temu, kako je Simonina nizko odrezana obleka razkrivala njeno bujno oprsje na oko nekoliko preveč očitno.
“Je to pomembno? Obračunati je treba z njim in za to potrebujem še nekoga.” Simone mu je naklonila pogled, ki ga je obenem vzburjal in žalil. “Si dovolj pokončen za to?”
Vedel je, na kaj namiguje, vedel pa je tudi, da izkorišča njegovo strast do nje. Zaradi tega je že prej počel neumnosti. A nikogar še ni ubil. To je bil velik korak naprej od par dvomljivih golufij, nekaj neznatnih tatvin in občasnih manjših vlomov do dokončnega zločina.
Patrick je mislil, da se bo lahko temu izognil. Saj ni, da bi obešali ljudi zaradi zločinov. Se pravi, ne več. V preteklosti je bil to njegovemu staremu zadnji izhod. Mami je obljubil, da ne bo nikdar šel tako daleč.
A njegova mama ni nikoli srečala Simone. Če bi jo, bi ga oklofutala okrog ušes in mu rekla, naj ne zapravlja časa. “Gliha vkup štriha, najdi svojo.” Kolikokrat mu je to rekla? Simone ni bila njegova gliha. Med njegovimi pričakovanji in njenimi prizadevanji je bil ocean, ampak nekako je mislil, da bo njegova sreča trajala dovolj dolgo, da bo videl, ali je gola videti enako dobra, kot so mu obljubljale sanje.
“Dovolj pokončen sem. Kdaj bova to opravila?”
Simone se je nasmehnila. Tako mačje, da je skoraj pričakoval, da bo zapredla. “Dobila se bova jutri zvečer za Chanteyem in dorekla podrobnosti. Nobenih napak. Vse je dobro načrtovano.”
“Tvoj načrt ali Shadeyev?”
Simone je spustila nejevoljen zvok. “Nekaj iz stolpca A, nekaj pa iz stolpca B. Kaj te briga?”
“Kdo je še zraven?” Patrick je mislil, da bi bilo vseeno modro vedeti.
“Nobenih običajnih butcev. Jutri jih boš spoznal. Ni treba, da bi ljudje vnaprej jamrali.”
“Molčim kot grob,” se je uprl Patrick.
“Tisti, nad katerim se derejo srake?” se je zarežala Simone. Ni bil prijeten zvok. Nekatere ženske se ne bi smele smejati. Kadar koli se, ti zmeraj zapičijo drobec železa v srce. Patrick se je premagal, in se ni križal, ker je vedel kaj bi na to porekla Simone.
“Si zdaj za pijačo?” To se mu je zdel precej gladek prehod, a njen odgovor ni bil pozitiven.
“Opravke imam. Nisem lenoba.”
“Bi rada rekla, da sem delomrznež?” Patricka je zbodlo, ampak v resnici njegov načrt dneva ni predvideval nič več, kot da Simone prepriča, da gre na pijačo z njim. Predstavljal si je, da bi, če bi jo prepričal, da vsaj za trenutek spusti tiste monumentalne zapornice, mogoče le odkrila njegov skriti šarm in mu dovolila, da si jo pobliže ogleda. Tako je povedal tudi svoji sestri Margret dan pred tem. Tudi ona se je smejala, potem pa ga je vprašala, kdaj ji namerava plačati najemnino, s katero je precej zamujal.
“Nisem dobrodelna ustanova. Če bi rad usmiljenje, se oglasi pri Magdalenkah.” Brezsrčna ženska, ni kaj. Seveda je bila dovolj prijazna, da mu je dala poceni sobo, čeprav v hrupni hiši s svojim zagrenjenim možem in petimi otroki. Največkrat pa je bilo kot brezplačna vstopnica za norišnico brez kakršnega koli udobja.
Ampak, če bi mu zdaj ratalo – potem bi bil neodvisen. To bi bilo nekaj čisto novega. Bil je pod maminim nadzorom, dokler ni umrla, in ko je po njenem pogrebu ostal brez sredstev, mu je sestra nerada – tako zelo nerada – ponudila streho nad glavo. Dobesedno, saj bi se njegovi sobi bolj prav reklo podstrešno gnezdo.
Ker ni imel pametnejšega dela, se je Patrick odločil iti zraven in preveriti predvideno žrtev. Simone ga je morda pogledala nekoliko nezaupljivo, ampak ali ne pravijo temu ‘čekiranje terena’? Poleg tega je bilo pri Nuni & Zmaju pivo cenejše kot pri Chanteyu. In daleč od tega, da bi omalovaževal svojo sopotnico, ampak tip pri Chanteyu ni mogel naliti poštenega piva, pa če bi bilo od tega odvisno njegovo življenje.
Patrick se je zasmejal pri sebi, ko je porinil vrata pivnice in se podzavestno pokrižal, ko je šel mimo nune, ki se je stiskala z zmajem na označevalni tabli. Upal je, da je to znamenje, da bo prišel čas zanj pri Simone in gospod mu je priča, da jo bo stisnil tako močno, kot bi jo kateri koli zmaj.
Slovenec je bil za šankom kot ponavadi in klepetal s par študenti. Bilo je malo odročno od faksa, ampak vsake toliko jih je par odkrilo pivnico in se skušalo nanjo za par tednov navaditi, vendar so se vedno vrnili v poceni in glasne vulgarne prostore v bližini študentskega naselja. Samo toliko daleč si bil pripravljen hoditi, ko si šel popivat.
“Kaj vama lahko ponudim?” Borut je končno zaključil svojo pripoved o povodnem možu, ki je živel v Črnem jezeru. Ker si je Patrick vzel čas za odgovor, ga je takoj skušal prepričati, naj naroči slovensko pivo, ki se je imenovalo Lash Co ali nekaj takega, s čudnimi narečnimi poudarki, ki so se zdeli povsem nepotrebni. Zvenelo je skorj tako grozno kot irščina.
Opazoval je Boruta, kako naliva Guinnessa in se znova spraševal, kaj je lahko človek napravil, da se je tako zameril Shadeyu. Zdel se je prijazna duša s pozitivnim pridihom in svetniškim sijem sivih kodrov. Ampak Slovenijo je moral zapustiti z razlogom. Vsaj Simone je toliko namignila pred časom.
“Torej, zakaj si zapustil Slovenijo, da bi prišel sem?” je vprašal, ko so se študentje umaknili. “Vedno govoriš, kot da je nekakšen raj.”
“Saj je! Hribi, vinogradi, zrak, ki ga lahko dihaš. Ni kot to mesto. Strupeno, ne?” Borut je z obžalovanjem zmigal z glavo.
“Zakaj bi potem hodil sem?” je vztrajal Patrick.
Borut se je zasmejal.
“Zapletel sem se v slabo družbo in nisem imel alibija.” Skomignil je, kot bi bilo to samo po sebi umevno.
Patrick je pokimal. “Je bila ženska?”
Slovenec je vzdihnil. “Kaj ni vedno?”
Patrick se je moral strinjati. Razumel je, da bi vse svoje težave verjetno lahko pripisal ženskam, od mame pa do izmuzljive Simone. Pa sestre najbrž tudi, saj mu je vedno težila, naj si najde redno službo in se odpove prosjačenju in goljufijam. Pa pustite človeka. Spil je svoje pivo in si predstavljal, kaj vse bi lahko počel z ogromno denarja in s Simone.
Naslednjo noč so se dobili v zadnji sobi pri Chanteyu. Tam je bila seveda Simone, Modri Jake in tip po imenu Einar. “Kako ime je pa to?” je vprašal Patrick z iskreno radovednostjo.
“Islandsko.” Možakar mu je namenil izzivalni pogled, zaradi katerega je bil videti še bolj impozanten kot zaradi svoje višine.
“Ah, dobro vam je šlo na prvenstvu. Držal sem pesti za vas, ko ste nabili Angleže. Briljantno!”
Islandec se mu je široko zarežal. “Ko bi vsaj nadaljevali v istem tempu. Pa žal nismo.”
“Bomo videli, kaj bo čez štiri leta. Jaz vem, na koga bom stavil. Še bomo videli Renaldove solze.”
“Če sta končala razpravo o fuzbalu, potem bi se lahko pogovorili o zadevi?”
Simone je zvenela tečno, zato se je Patrick potrudil, da bi jo razvedril “Vse zate, ljubica.” Samo spačila se je. Nekatere ženske preprosto niso znale ceniti njegovega šarma. A si bo že premislila, prepričan je bil v to.
“Jutri bomo zgrabili Slovenca. Na začetku ga poskušajta ne raniti, če vama bo uspelo. Počakati morata na to, kar bo rekel Shadey. Ko bomo imeli denar, ga lahko razbijeta.” Simone se je nasmehnila, kot da bi otrokom obljubljala pravljico za lahko noč. “Imamo avto neke stare ženice iz Lyme Regisa, ki niti ne ve, da ga pogreša. Zapeljala ga bosta v kočo nasproti meje z Walesom – ne skrbita, imam koordinate za navigacijo.”
“Kako bova komunicirala s tabo ali Shadeyem?” je vprašal Islandec.
Simone mu je podala cenenega mobilca. “Ta je edini. Ko končata, ga uničita in zabrišita kartico v reko ali kak kraj, kjer je ne bodo našli. Samo tega bomo klicali, zato ga ne izgubita prehitro.”
“Kako pa veš, da nas ne bodo videli, kako ga vlečeva iz pivnice?” Patricku se je vprašanje zdelo samoumevno.
Simone je s pogledom povzročila, da je ovenel. “To je vajino delo.”
Počakali so, da se zapre. Noč je postala precej hladna za september in tresli so se med kantami in drugo kramo za pivnico.
“Kaj pa, če zaklene in odide skozi glavna vrata?” je preglasno zašepetal Modri Jake.
“Ne, to je njegov avto. Vidiš mariborsko nalepko na odbijaču? Prišel bo semkaj.” Čez nekaj minut so zaslišali škripanje odpirajočih vrat in Borut je prišel ven, z rameni zlezel v jakno in zvonil z nahrbtnikom z eno roko, medtem ko je z drugo zaklepal. Pustili so ga, da je šel proti avtu, potem pa so stopili iz sence.
“Nekam te moramo odpeljati,” je rekel Patrick in upal, da je zvenel dovolj filmsko.
Borut si je vse tri ogledal brez kakršnega koli izraza na obrazu. “Kam?”
“To je informacija za tiste, ki jo morajo nujno vedeti. In tebi ni treba.” Modri Jake ga je potrepljal po rami z železom za snemanje pnevmatik, ki ga je prinesel s sabo. Čuden izbor orožja. Morali so improvizirati. Patrick je mislil, da bodo dobili pištole, a se je žal izkazalo, da jih ne bodo. Samo Einar je imel pištolo, kar se je zdelo nepravično. Ko se je uprl, ga je pogledala tako, da je ovenel. “Te igrače so za žilave dečke.”
To ni bilo prijazno, ampak odločil se je, da ji bo pokazal, da je lahko eden od žilavih.
Slovenec je zamrmral nekaj, česar Patrick ni razumel, potem je stopil naprej in zavihtel nahrbtnik proti Modremu Jaku. Patrick je stopil nazaj čisto iz navade, ko se je tip dvignil, in se v trenutku preklel zaradi tega. Nahrbtnik je prestregel zapozneli zamah železa za pnevmatike, tako da je bil Modri Jake za trenutek videti precej razdražen, ker je bil njegov edini gib onemogočen.
Patrick se je vrgel na tipa in se spoprijel z njim. Ko ga je sunil, je predvideval, da ga bo podrl, a tip se ni niti premaknil. Tudi Modri Jake se je vrgel nanj in njuna skupna teža ga je prevrgla proti avtu. A še vedno ni bil sesut. Slovenec je dvignil koleno in ga povezal z Modrim Jakom, ki je izpustil nekakšen uf in se preložil. Patrick je dal vse od sebe, da bi se obdržal na tipovem vratu kot Velikan Haystacks. Otroci so zmeraj govorili, da je bila rokoborba dogovorjena in Patrick je imel zdaj občutek, da so imeli prav, ker gladki gibi niso imeli nikakršnega učinka, vsaj ne dokler ni Modri Jake napadu še enkrat dodal svoje teže in salve kletvic.
Vsi trije so zadeli tla med tožbami in trpljenjem in vsi so slišali klik napete pištole. Ko so pogledali gor, so videli Einarja, ki je stal nad njimi. “Zdaj pa se spravi v prtljažnik.” Videti je bil na smrt žilav, ko je stal in meril svojo ogromno pokalico proti njim. Patrick je bil pripravljen, da se spravi v avto. Z Modrim Jakom sta pustila Slovencu, da je vstal in ga nekako z rameni spravila v prtljažnik forda festive.
“Nekam majhen je,” je rekel Borut, ko se je stiskal vanj.
“Se opravičujem, ampak avta nismo izbrali mi.”
“Kdo pa ga je? Shadey?”
“Ni treba spraševati.” Modri Jake se je zarežal in zaloputnil s pokrovom z nepotrebno vehemenco. Seveda se je odprl, ne da bi se zapahnil.
“To je bilo pa hitro,” je rekel Borut.
Patrick je stisnil pokrov, da je kliknil. Potem so se vsi zgnetli v avto. Patrick se je razglasil za pristojnega za volan, kar Modremu Jaku, ki je dobil zadnji sedež, ni najbolje sedlo. “Ta zadnji sedež je prostoren kot čevelj.”
“Boš vsaj lahko občudoval znamenitosti, ko se bomo vozili.”
Modri Jake je prhnil. “Sredi noči je.”
“Tehnično smo že mimo sredine noči, če je polnoč sredina.”
“Utihni in vozi.”
“Čez dvesto metrov zavijte desno,” je zarjovela navigacija.
“O, kristus, kdo je nastavil glas na Briana Blesseda?”
Skoraj je zaslišal Simone, kako se je zahahljala. Njene vrste šala, brez dvoma. Ni bilo časa, da bi se gnjavil z nastavitvami. Bo že kasneje plačala za to. Za zdaj se je osredotočil na to, da jih spravi iz mesta in na pot, ne da bi podlegel želji in zavpil “Gordon je živ?!”. Skušnjavi se je bilo težko upreti.
Modri Jake ja v minuti zasmrčal, zvok neskončne nadležnosti. Islandec, čeprav buden, ni čutil neke želje po klepetu. Prav lahko bi bil tudi Finec. Bilo je šokantno, kako dolgo je trajalo, da so prečkali deželo, ki se je večino časa zdela tako majhna. Še posebej, ko so enkrat prečkali mejo z Walesom in so vsi poskusi reda izginili. Če ne bi navigacija vsake toliko zalajala navodil, bi Patrick brez težav verjel, da so sredi niča.
Ko je opazoval stran, na kateri jih je obkrožala impresija gozda Hundred Acre, je Patrick nenadoma zagledal ogomnega črnega psa, ki je lovil korak z njimi. Kar se je zdelo noro: kateri pes lahko tako hitro teče. “Vidite tole?”
Islandec se je obrnil. “Vidimo kaj?”
“Tistega velikega psa. Vidiš tam? Teče med drevesi. Glej, kako hitro gre.”
“Ne vidim ga.”
“Točno tam. Niti sto metrov stran. Prekleto hiter je.”
Einar je skomignil. “Verjetno je tvoj ulov.”
“Ulov?” Patrick se je namrščil. Nekaj se je nedvomno izgubilo s prevodom. “Ulovil je kaj?”
“Ne, tvoj ulov. Tvoja duhovna žival. Temu mi tako pravimo.”
“Kaj ste Islandci kot rdeči indijanci, mislim, ameriški domorodci, saj se jim zdaj tako reče, ne? Ali kot Harry Potter, one.”
Einar je skomignil. “O vsem tem nimam pojma. Mi pravimo, da ima vsak človek svoj ulov. Ampak vidiš ga samo takrat, ko pride tvoja usoda.”
“Mojo usodo misliš?” Patricku je bilo všeč, kako je to zvenelo. Usojene so mu bile večje stvari.
“Tvoja končna usoda,” je rekel Islandec. “To je slutnja. Znamenje smrti.”
Patrick je prhnil. Samo ker je bilo tako pozno ponoči, je gojil predstavo o nekakšnem norem ljudskem čarovništvu. Neumne otroške zadeve. “Kako veš, da ni tvoj ulov?”
“Nisem ga jaz videl, ti si ga.” Znova je zdrsnil v molk. Patrick ga je hotel še nekaj vprašati, a je prav takrat nanj znova zalajala navigacija z obvestilom, da jih bo naslednji desni zavoj čez sto metrov pripeljal na cilj.
Koča je bila videti, kot bi jo pred sto leti zapustili hobiti. In tudi are niso dobili nazaj. V resnici si prijaznost, da ji rečeš koča, komaj zasluži. Patrick je domneval, da jih je zato Simone opozorila, naj prinesejo svetilke. Ni bilo videti, da je bilo kaj elektrike v njej, a ko so se opotekli noter in pritisnili na stikalo, je v zoro zasijala slabotna luč, ki se je komaj ujela z njeno svetlobo.
“Lahko ga prinesemo noter,” je rekel Einar, ko so si ogledali zapuščeno dnevno sobo oziroma čemur so včasih tako pravili. Preobrnili so, kar je ostalo od pohištva, in našli stole, ki bi vsaj lahko prenesli težo, za razliko od mize, ki je razpadla na kose, ko so jo postavili na noge.
“Mati Marija, upam, da nam ne bo treba dolgo ostati tu. Do noči bomo vsi prekriti z gobami,” je ob tej misli streslo Patricka. Od otroštva se mu je prikazovala podoba trupla, gnijočega v gozdu pod gobami, kar je bilo verjetno posledica ene očetovih zgodb iz stare dežele. Ali pa njegova lastna kriminalna preteklost. Spet je zadrgetal.
Vrnili so se k festivi in odprli prtljažnik, da bi potegnili Boruta ven. “Oh, pa tako udobno mi je bilo tu notri, pustite me še, prosim, par minut. Nisem se poslovil od škatle za orodje. To bi bilo nevljudno, potem ko sva bila tako intimna.”
Vsi trije so ga zrinili noter. Modri Jake je pokazal zvitek vrvi, ki jo je odkril na zadnjem sedežu, in zvezal Slovenca na najrobustnejšega med zanič stoli. Zdel se je za trenutek sprijaznjen s svojo usodo, čeprav ga je Patrick budno opazoval.
“Poklical bom Simone,” je rekel Einar. “Upajmo, da je sprejem zunaj boljši.”
Ko se je nonšalantno sprehodil skoz vrata, je Patricku padlo na pamet, da je tu nekaj sumljivega. Kakšna možnost je bila, da je zunaj dejansko kaj boljši sprejem? “Imej ga na očeh,” je rekel Modremu Jaku.
“Kaj hudiča pa bi lahko počel tu?”
Patrick je stopil v prostor, ki je bil pred epskim požarom kuhinja, in usmeril uho proti razbitemu oknu. Kljub vsej pozornosti ni prav slišal vsega, kar je Islandec povedal, čeprav je seveda ujel samo pol pogovora. Ampak slišal je eno zelo pomembno besedo: MacGregor.
Kristus na bergli, se je Shadey spravil na Mamo MacGregor? Kaj je zmešan? Ženska bo odrla njega in vse ostale in spekla zrezke iz njihovih prsi za nedeljsko kosilo. Bila je neusmiljena. To ni imelo nobenega smisla. Kakšno zvezo bi lahko imela ona z vsem tem?
“Veš kaj, mislim, da ste se resno zmotili,” je rekel Slovenec, ko se je Patrick vrnil v sobo.
Modri Jake je zmajal z glavo. “Sploh ga ne poslušaj. Psiho je, prisežem. Pravi, da jih bomo slišali od Mame MacGregor.”
“Sranje. Kaj pa ima ona s tabo?”
“Kdo pa misliš, da je zdaj lastnik Nune & Zmaja?” ga je samovšečno pogledal.
“Tista druga ženska, Foks ali nekaj takega.” Patrick je čutil, da mu je kljub hladu vrel znoj izpod pazduh.
“Ne, že več mesecev ne. Pripeljala me je posebej za to, da bom vodil lokal. Usluga, ki ji jo dolgujem.”
“Kakšna usluga?”
“Če ti povem, te bom moral ubiti.”
Nekaj je bilo na tem, kako mirno je to povedal, da je Patrick v mislih spet videl ogromnega črnega psa in to mu ni bilo niti najmanj všeč. “Potegni drugega, zvončke ima.”
Končno se je vrnil Einar in ju zmotil. “Zdaj moramo samo še počakati.”
“A res?” je rekel Patrick sarkastično, kolikor je šlo. Islandec je samo bolščal vanj. “Kaj je rekla Simone?”
“To je rekla Simone. Samo sedimo in počakamo.”
“Počakamo na gorile Mame MacGregor, da pridejo po nas?”
Einar je strmel vanj s pogledom, ki je bil sumljivo blizu pomilovanju. “Simone bo poskrbela za vse. Vse bo v redu.”
“Če bi vedel, da se želita pomeriti z Mamo, bi vama rekel, da ne računajta name.” Modri Jake je odkimal.
“Iz tega se ne bo izcimilo nič dobrega,” je rekel Borut z narejenim obžalovanjem.
“Drži gobec,” je nekolikanj prehitro rekel Patrick. Zakaj je zdaj Islandec tako ljubezniv do Simone? Namenjena je bila njemu, to je morala vedeti. Ne pa nekemu tujcu.
“Hej, zdaj se pa ohladi,” je rekel Einar z glasom, mamljivim kot devica, ki obljublja jutri ali dan zatem, samo ne nocoj.
“Ohladi? Pa kdo si ti, da mi boš govoril, naj se ohladim? Vedno sem hladen.”
“Hej, prinesel sem prigrizke,” je rekel Einar in dvignil vrečko polno živil.
“Prigrizke? Kaj smo petletniki ali kaj, da nas odrasli lahko podkupijo s sladkarijami?”
“Zaveži, človek,” je rekel Modri Jake. “Lačen sem.” Einar je razdelil čips in mini sirčke skupaj s pločevinkami piva.
“Kaj sem pa jaz?” je vprašal Borut.
“Ti boš pa moral počakati,” mu je povedal Patrick.
“Lahko bi mi odvezali eno roko,” je rekel.
“Ne gledaš filmov? Tako se stvari začnejo razpletati. Tu se to ne bo zgodilo.” Žvečili so svojo hrano v tišini, medtem ko je Slovenec vzdihoval. “Ne, to se ne bo zgodilo,” je ponovil Patrick
“Rad bi samo jedel, preden pridejo Mamini fantje. Lahko, da bom izgubil tek, ko bodo tla vsa krvava.”
“Utihni že.” To je bilo malo topo glede žaljivke, a Patrick se ni mogel spomniti ničesar, s čimer bi se lahko posmehoval Slovencem. Ne da bi bil žaba ali zelje. Saj res, kaj pa jedo Slovenci? Imajo kakšno nacionalno jed, ki jo ljudje naokoli v trenutku prepoznajo? Kot krompir in Irci, ki ga neizmerno obožujejo. Morda bi lahko poguglal. A njegov telefon tu naokoli ni imel sprejema.
Wales: lahko bi bil tudi na Antartiki, če odšteješ drevesa.
“Okej, izmenjavali se bomo na straži. Ker sem vozil, bom spal prvi.” Patrick je počakal na ugovor, a ga ni bilo. Sprehodil se je po hiški. Ni ostalo kaj dosti pohištva, zato je slekel suknjič, se raztegnil po tleh spalnice in si ga zložil pod glavo kot blazino. Zaspal je, še preden bi se lahko spomnil pesmi, ki mu je ravno takrat prišla na misel.
Zbudil se je iz sanj o ogromnem črnem psu in takoj se mu je zdelo sumljivo, da se vse zdi tako tiho, ko pa je njegova glava tako glasna. Ogromni čekani so živo zasijali za njegovimi očmi in zaradi renčanja ga je spet streslo v mrzli sobi.
Spravil se je pokonci in odšel v dnevno sobo. Modri Jake je tudi spal na svojem stolu, glava se mu je zibala kot lutka brez vrvic. Tudi Borut se je zdel, da drema. Einar je bral knjigo.
Kdo pri pizdi prinese s sabo knjigo na ugrabitev? “Kaj bereš?”
Einar je privzdignil knjigo, da bi mu pokazal naslovnico. “Ta je dobra. Eden od likov konča v tajni celici v grajski ječi, ki je najverjetneje najhujša muka, ki si jo lahko zamisliš.” Začuden je odkimal.
“Kaj je tajna celica?” Islandec mu je začel razlagati, a ga je Patrick prekinil. “Kaj imata vidva s Simone?”
Ponudil mu je nedolžen pogled. “Samo posel. Zakaj?”
“Si prepričan?”
“Ni samo posel,” je precej glasno rekel Borut. Očitno sploh ni dremal. “Videl sem ju skupaj. Videti je, da sta se lepo ujela.”
“Laže. Hoče te zmanipulirati,” je rekel Einar, ki ni hotel prijeti za vabo.
“Bil je ovit okoli nje kot kača. Ali pa zmaj, saj veš.” Borut je pokimal, kot bi želel potrditi podobo.
“Sprovocirati te hoče,” je rekel Islandec. “Saj nisi tako butast, ne?”
Patrick je gledal zdaj enega, zdaj drugega. “Nisem prepričan, da zaupam kateremu koli od vaju.”
“Zaupaš pa Simone, je tako? In ona je rekla, naj ostanemo mirni in počakamo. Vse bo v redu.”
“Vse bo v redu in vse bo v redu in vse sorte stvari bodo v redu,” je rekel Patrick z narejeno svečanostjo. Moža sta odsotno strmela vanj. Modri Jake je smrčal. Patrick je pograbil naslednjo vrečo čipsa in jo razparal. Ni zares vedel, kaj naj si misli. Ampak moral se je truditi, da si ni predstavljal Islandca, kako otipava Simone. Verjetno ji bi bil všeč kosmati trol. Zares udarno. Z zobmi je drobil čips dosti glasneje, kot je bilo potrebno.
Imel je slab občutek. V normalnih okoliščinah bi v takih trenutkih malo pomolil, ampak ideja, da bi se pritožil svetemu Judežu, ga je iz nekih razlogov vznemirjala, čeprav mu nihče drug trenutno ni priše na misel. Vedno je bila tu še Brigita, a tudi ona nekako ni ustrezala trenutku.
Einarjev telefon je znova zazvonil. Hitro ga je pograbil, vstal in odložil knjigo. Preden je lahko odgovoril, je Patrick rekel: “Zakaj ne prevzameš klica tukaj, da bomo vsi slišali?”
Islandec ga je malo nestrpno pogledal. Patrick je nepričakovano užival, da je ledenega moža rahlo spravil ob živce. “Če izgubim signal, bo Simone precej jezna.”
“Pa tvegajmo.”
Srepo ga je pogledal, a je prevzel. “Prosim?” Obrnil je hrbet Patricku in govoril tiho.
Patrick je spontano skočil in pograbil telefon. “Rad bi govoril s Shadeyjem,” je zahteval. Bil je nagrajen z molkom na začetku. Potem je znan glas spregovoril z neznanim besom.
“Kaj je narobe s tabo, imbecil?! Takoj mi daj Einarja nazaj.” Simonin bes je bil slišen. Če bi lahko segla skoz telefon in ga zadavila, je bil prepričan, da bi to tudi storila.
“Rad bi samo vedel, kaj si skuhala za nas, uboge reveže. Vtakni mi ga v rit, če bom topovska hrana za Mamo MacGregor.”
“Res si kreten, Patrick. Nimam pojma, kaj misliš, da se dogaja, ampak moraš se skulirati in pustiti, da tudi Einar opravi svoje delo. Ti bi moral imeti Slovenca na očeh.”
“Ja, no, Modri Jake ima to pod nadzorom.” Upal je, da prek žice ni slišala, kako smrka, kar pravzaprav sploh ni zvenelo tako šibko. “Rad bi samo nekakšno zagotovilo s tvoje strani, da nas ne nameravaš zapustiti, če bi prišlo do težav.”
Sledil je vzdih. “Patrick, bi res šla skoz vse te komplikacije samo za to, da bi te ubila? Če bi hotela, da umreš, bi te lahko porinila pred tovornjak na glavni ulici. Daj zdaj telefon Einarju.”
Nejevoljno, ker pač ni imel drugih bistrih zamisli, je Patrick predal telefon Islandcu. V zameno je dobil še en srepi pogled. Pogovor, ki je sledil, mu ni kaj dosti povedal, saj so ga v glavnem sestavljali Einarjevi “Ja, ja”. Če drugega ne, je bil vsaj milostno kratek. Mogoče je šel malenkost predaleč. Po drugi strani pa tudi ni moglo škoditi, če je Simone dal vedeti, kakšen moški je bil pod sproščeno zunanjostjo.
Zdaj se je na njeni lestvici moral malo povzdigniti. Bil je tip, ki prevzema odgovornost. Simone bo videla, da je resen.
“Izmenjava se bo zgodila nocoj,” je oznanil Einar, ko je odložil telefon. “Do takrat moramo potrpežljivo čakati. Poklicali nas bodo, da se prepričajo, da je živ.”
“Potem lahko zdaj kaj pojem,” je rekel Borut. “Res sem lačen. Saj nočete, da umrem od lakote pred deseto.”
“Ne boš umrl od lakote.” Patrick je bil prepričan, da gre za zvijačo.
“Pa poscati se moram kot dirkalni konj. Razen če hočeš, da se poščijem tukaj.” Videti je bil pripravljen, da se razkomoti. Vsi so se izmenično poscali na zid ob strani koče. Gotovo je bilo edino naravno, da se moški olajša.
Einar je končno rekel: “V redu, ampak ves čas ti bom s pištolo zadaj meril v glavo. In on gre z nama, da se ne bi kaj zgodilo.”
“Jaz grem kam?” A Einar je vztrajal, da se vsi zberejo zunaj. Odvezala sta mu roke in Borut se je zabaval z risanjem premišljenih oblik na stranski zid hiše. “Katera beseda je že? Ki jo uporabljamo za Angleže za njihovimi hrbti.”
“Briga me,” je rekel Patrick. “Jaz sem Irec.”
“Si ti znani sveti Patrick? Veš, kako kličemo Irce?”
“Ne kličemo jih.” Slovenec se je navdušeno smejal, čeprav mu je Einar ponovno vezal roke. “Irci so tako nepomembni, da zanje sploh nimamo žaljivk.”
Patrick se je zmedel. “No, mi pa vas kličemo Hariboji. Saj veš, kaj je to Haribo? Neumni bombon.”
Borut je za trenutek zamišljeno pogledal. Patrick je mislil, da se ga je zbadljivka dotaknila, a je Borut že v naslednjem trenutku rekel: “Ampak Haribo je nemški. Mi nismo Nemci.”
“Ne, ne kapiraš? Maribor-Haribo. Vidiš?”
“Kaj pa, če bi navijal za Olimpijo?”
“Kaj? Ne, to sploh ni pomembno. Vsi ste Hariboji.”
“Mislim, da potrebuješ lekcijo iz slovenske zgodovine. Obišči jo, poskusi grozdje, splezaj po hribih.”
“Kaj si ti Slovenska turistična organizacija? Ga ne smem zajebavat?” Patrick ni hotel priznati, da je postal rahlo živčen in je šel Modrega Jaka brcnit iz spanja, mendem ko je Einar spravil ujetnika nazaj na robustni stol.
Modri Jake je zazehal. “Kdaj gremo?”
Patrick je hotel nekaj narediti. Najbolj si je želel koga udariti. Ni se mogel odločiti med Islandijo in Slovenijo. Eden si je zaslužil. In bil je razdražen in precej utrujen. Vse te ure vožnje in potem komaj malo spanca. To ni nobeno presenečenje, če smo iskreni.
In ure visenja naokoli. Norišnica. To ni moglo trajati. Imel je slab občutek. Večinoma je to bila želja, da bi bil v svoji postelji – ja, celo v tisti mali enojni postelji v njegovi podstrešni sobi, medtem ko so spodaj vreščali otroci in je donel televizor. Skušal si je predstavljati, kako pripelje Simone v svojo sobo. Spačil se je. To se ne bo zgodilo. To bi moralo biti pri njej.
Če se bo sploh kdaj zgodilo. Naenkrat se mu je vse zazdelo precej brezupno. Verjetno bo šla s kakim kretenom, kot je Einar s svojim gladkim islandskim govorjenjem in tistimi lasmi. In potem še ta Borut. Je še kaj hujšega, kot da te te zajebava Slovenec? Dovolj je že, če te imajo za Angleža, da pa mora užaliti še cel otok! Pa kaj potem, če ni bil v domovini od svojega šestega leta. Svojo domovino nosiš s sabo, kamor koli greš. Poglej samo te prostaške Američane, oni jo gotovo nosijo.
Pomežiknil je. Ali je res med drevesi nekoga zagledal? Patrick je škilil v temo. Zdaj bi že moralo biti svetleje. Prekleti Wales: videti je, kot da ima čistvo svojo posebno temo, ki jo prikliče, kadar koli se mu zazdi.
Tam! Nekaj se je definitivno zabliskalo. Lahko bi bila pasja ali kravja ovratnica, je pomislil, ampak kakšne so bile možnosti tukaj sredi ničesar? Vsaj zdelo se je kot sredi ničesar. Obrnil se je proč od umazanega okna. “Mislim, da imamo družbo.”
Tri glave so se istočasno obrnile. Modri Jake je poskočil in skušal pogledati skoz okno samo z enim očesom, kot da ga je nekako zakrivalo. “Nič ne vidim.”
“Če so pubeci Mame MacGregor, ne boste videli nič, dokler ne bo prepozno,” je rekel Slovenec.
Einar je porinil ujetnika nazaj v kot, stran od neposrednega pogleda s sprednje strani. “Naj eden od vaju preveri zunaj. In pogleda, kaj se da videti.”
“O, en od naju, ki sva brez orožja? Mogoče bi morala steči ven naga.” Patrick se je zarežal. Zvok je izražal njegovo radost in dobršen del zaskrbljenosti.
“Ne morem tvegati, da bi naš edini pogajalski adut odšel.”
“No, potem pa ga bova midva pazila s pištolo, ti pa lahko pregledaš okolico. Kaj praviš?”
“Ne gre zato, da bi vaju prosil, da se tepeta z golimi rokami. Samo preverita, če lahko vidita več, ugotovita, s kom se spopadamo.”
“Ma, kurac, grem jaz,” je rekel Modri Jake, ki ga je v akcijo pognalo njuno pričkanje. Sprehodil se je skoz vrata in se sklonil zadaj za hišo. Patrick se je premaknil nazaj, da bi videl, kako napreduje. Na njegovo presenečenje se je Modri Jake pognal v nasprotni smeri ceste in zgrmel v gozd s hitrostjo, s kakršno ga še nikdar ni videl teči. Minuto je samo strmel. Potem si je skušal predstavljati, da je to nekakšna bistra zvijača, ki jo je skušal izvesti. A se ni več pojavil.
Jebeš to, je pomislil Patrick. Stisnil je rep med noge.
Vrnil se je v dnevno sobo, kjer je Einar še vedno meril proti oknu. “Zbežal je.”
Islandec je strmel vanj. “Kdo?”
“Modri Jake.”
Število razlag ene in iste stvari je bilo omejeno. Čez nekaj trenutkov bo gotovo jasno. Lahko je videl trenutek, ko je končno skapiral. Potem se je Islandcu zmračil obraz. “Če ga vidim, ga ustrelim.”
“Lahko je že na Irskem.”
Ni bilo kaj dodati. Oba sta s priprtimi očmi bolščala skoz okno, a v valižanski temi ni bilo videti ničesar. Patrick se ni mogel otresti občutka neizogibne pogube. Naj ostanem ali grem? Pesem se mu je začela vrteti v glavi. “Torej, kaj misliš, da je bilo?”
“Si prepričan, da si kar koli videl?”
Če ne bi imel pištole, bi ga zdaj Patrick zagotovo udaril. “Ja, sem.”
“Stavim, da si je samo predstavljal,” je rekel Borut.
Patrick in Islandec sta mu rekla, naj utihne. Einar se je namrščil. “No, če nekdo je tam zunaj, kako se bomo najučinkoviteje ubranili?”
“V filmih naložijo vso pohištvo na kup in naredijo barikado.”
“Si se čisto vsega naučil od filmov?”
“Imaš boljšo idejo?”
Premaknila sta nekaj razmajanih stolov in kar je ostalo od mize, da bi zablokirala okno in imela kritje. Dostop s ceste se je zdel najverjetnejša smer, saj je Patrick imel občutek, da je prav tam videl, kar koli je že videl.
“Mi lahko data vsaj malo sira? Res sem lačen.”
Patrick je srepo pogledal Slovenca. Čeprav je, če smo pošteni, najbrž res bil lačen. Einar je pozorno strmel skozi polomljeno mizno ploščo. Pa saj ne bo nobene škode. “Glej, da boš znal to ceniti,” je rekel, medtem ko je odvijal ovoj s sira.
“Obljubim, da te ne bom ugriznil,” je rekel Borut z nasmeškom.
V tistem trenutku se je razletelo okno. Einar je zaklel in skušal spraviti zlomljeno steklo iz las. Priletelo je še več nabojev.
“Koliko jih je?” Patrick je čepel pod oknom in čakal, da se mu srce spusti izpod grla.
“Pizda, nič ne vidim. V tej deželi je preveč jebenih dreves.” Islandec je stresal kri z roke.
“No, zakaj potem koga ne ustreliš, da jih bo vsaj manj?”
“Samo šest krogel imam. Ne morem jih zapravljati.”
“Šest!” Mati božja, zakaj samo šest?”
“Jebi se, nisem imel izbire. Samo tega tipa bi morali paziti, dokler ne zmrzne. Ni bilo potrebe, da bi jih imel več.”
“Zdaj je potreba.” Še več nabojev je padlo proti njima. Težko je bilo oceniti, koliko ljudi strelja, a vsaj vsi so prihajali s sprednje strani. “Hej, misliš, da naju skušajo zamotiti, medtem ko bodo poslali nekoga z zadnje strani?”
“Tako bi ravnal jaz,” je rekel Slovenec.
“Drži gobec.”
Ni ga ganilo. “Zgovoren postanem, kadar sem lačen.”
“Mogoče greš lahko preverit,” je rekel Einar.
Mrmraje molitev svetemu Judežu je Patrick čepe stekel skozi zbombardirano kuhinjo, na hitro pokukal skoz razbito šipo in zastokal.
Ogromen črn pes je stal ob robu gozda. Njegova glava je bila masivna. Telo je bilo veliko kot šetlandski poni. Veliki beli zobje so se svetili v mraku. Moral je biti resničen.
Čez trenutek ali dva je Patrick ugotovil, da Islandec vpije nanj. “Ne, v tej smeri ni nikogar.” Veliki črni pes je strmel, kot da nekoga čaka. Patrick ni mogel odmakniti pogleda. Naenkrat se je obrnil in izginil med drevesi.
Takrat ga je zadel strel. Sila ga je zasukala okrog. Mislil je, da mu je rama eksplodirala. “Zadet sem!” Sto vojnih filmov se mu je odvrtelo v glavi kot grozljiv kalejdoskop. Patrick se je opotekel v dnevno sobo. “Zadet sem,” je ponovil. Potem je padel na kolena.
“Odveži me. Študiral sem medicino. Mogoče ga lahko rešem.”
Einar se je obotavljal. Patrick je dvignil roko proti vratu, kjer je čutil, da mu odteka kri. Vrtelo se mu je. Islandec je zaklel, odvezal Boruta in se vrnil v prejšnji položaj. Slovenec ga je brcnil, da je zgrmel na polomljeno pohištvo in izpustil pištolo. Kratek boj se je zaključil s strelom. Slovenec je vstal in pomahal z rokami. Streljanje je v trenutku prenehalo.
Stopil je proti ležečemu Patricku. Težko se je zbral. “Ali lahko … ustaviš …” ni se mogel spomniti, kaj je hotel reči.
“Oprosti. Lagal sem glede študija medicine.”
Patrick je zaihtel. “Simone …”
“Ja, mislila sva, da bi bil to dober način, da zradirava Shadeyja. Zdi se, da je uspelo.” Borut ga je potrepljal po rami. “Žal mi je. Ampak nekako je zagreta zame.”
Patrick je zaslišal brenčanje v ušesih. Spraševal se je, če prihaja od zunaj. “Je tukaj?”
“Ne, ne. To so Mamini pubeci. Ampak Simone je odobrila načrt. Te lahko še nekaj vprašam?”
Patrick je zakašljal. Usta je imel polna vlage. “Kaj?”
“Veš, kako se zamenja glas na navigaciji?”
Patrick je zadnjič zaprl oči.