Extract

Keep still. Nothing I can do. He’s too strong and I’m too weak. He’s going to rub me out or he’s going to take me. One or the other. Can’t stop either right now. So keep still.

Got to act like I’m blown out, like I’m no trouble. He might just hesitate and give me a slot. Keep my lids low, peer up. I can see the shape of him, just. No sign of the other two.

He leans down. He’s wearing a doc’s coat. Keep my eyes glazed. Make like I’m drugged, like I’m stumpy in the head. I might just get a chance to do something.

But there’ll only be one slam.

Got to act like I got nothing in me. Then hit when I can.

His eyes are close to mine. He’s drilling me, peering in. Roll my eyes, let ’em mist up. But I got a good shot of him now. Tall gobbo, thirty odd, ice cold. Never seen him before today.

The knife’s moving, stroking my throat.

He likes this. He’s having fun. I stay glazed, go on acting limp. He keeps his other hand tight over my mouth, leans closer, whispers.

‘Time to get you out of here.’

And then he moves, fast. Hands flip back but before I can make a sound, he’s got tape squeaked over my lips and round my cheeks. Next moment he’s ripped the needle and drip out of my arm, and the knife’s back over my throat.

He’s chill, this gobbo. And he’s a pro.

He checks the doorway. Nobody there, no sounds in the corridor. He looks back, gives a little grin. Strokes the blade over my skin, grabs me by the hair, eases my head up from the bed.

‘No point acting,’ he murmurs. ‘You’re wide awake.’

I keep my eyes glazed. Got to keep doing it, whatever he says. Got to make like I’m spaced. Got to bide my time, keep my strength, wait for the moment, take him by surprise. And it won’t be easy. He’s no dumflush dreg like Paddy’s gobbos.

He sits me up, his eyes close to mine again. I can feel him peering hard. He’s searching inside my head, trying to click onto me. I stay glazed, limp.

Feel a sudden shock.

My body jerks forward. Can’t help it. I know what he’s done. He’s dinked me with the knife. Just a little one at the base of the spine to shake me up. And now he’s peering inside my head again. Keep glazed, keep limp. Hang down in his arms.

He’s not bluffed. He knows I’m playing dog-eye with him.

‘Won’t work,’ he whispers.

Another dink of the knife. I jerk forward again, into his arms. He pulls my head in close to his, and there’s his eyes searching my skull again. Somehow I keep glazing back. He’s getting impatient now. Or maybe he’s starting to wonder a bit. Got to hope he is. Got to make him feel I’m no sweat. Got to squeeze a lapse out of him.

He straightens up suddenly, pulls me by the hair towards the edge of the bed, gets his arms round my legs and twists them so I’m sitting there, slopped over.

‘Put these on,’ he mutters.

He’s found some clothes. Or brought ’em.

‘They should fit you,’ he says.

I slump back on the bed.

‘Sit up.’ He’s getting angry now. ‘Or I’ll make you.’

I don’t move.

He yanks me upright again, his eyes dark. Whips the knife in front of my face, flints it from side to side, trying to make my eyes follow. Blade glints but I keep glazed.

Suddenly he flings me back on the bed. He’s crouched over me, dead close, too close. I try to open my mouth. It’s no good. Tape’s on too tight. And now he’s pulling off my hospital gown.

I hate this. I got pictures from the past flashing by. I want to squirm, fight back. But I got to go on playing dog-eye. Got to stay limp, stay like I don’t know what’s going on.

He’s got the gown off me now. I’m naked on the bed, gobbo bent over me, knees either side of my body. And he’s touching me again. Only thank Christ, not that other way.

But it’s still bad.

He’s pulling the shirt on me, and then the sweater, and the pants and trousers, and socks and shoes. He’s quick and clever, and suddenly I’m dressed and he’s looking round at the door.

Still nobody there.

He’s off the bed now, picking me up.

‘Time to go,’ he mouths.

And he’s carrying me towards the door.

I stay limp, let my arms hang loose. He doesn’t bother about them. Feels confident he can handle me. And he can right now. I feel like I got no strength at all. I’m just hoping I can find enough to do the business if I get a chance.

And I got to make a chance.

Cos once he’s got me outside the hospital, it’s over.

He won’t be working alone. I told you. There’s lots of grinks after me. There’s the ones who want to rub me out for what I did. The enemies of my enemies. And there’s the ones who want me alive. But that’s only so they can torture me for what they want to know. And when they got that, they’ll rub me out too.

So either way, it’s bad.