By Jay Stringer
I'm putting together a free ebook prequel to OLD GOLD, a collection of short stories that lead into the novel. The finished book will be going out to people on my mailing list first, but I wanted to put this one up on DSD before all that. It's a slightly different take on an old flash fiction piece, and for people who connect the dots it sets up the first scene of OLD GOLD. One thing- this piece comes with a language warning. I'm never shy about swearing on DSD, but this one carries a word that I've never used on the website. If you don't like sweary people in your crime fiction, be warned.
The Lost Profits
Tony was watching his hand move. No kidding, he’d been doing it for twenty minutes. Ever since Fuller had arrived. Word was he’d been drinking the punch, which Bobby Buddha had said was safe. Bobby’s a cunt like that. The only time Tony paused was to cock his head to one side to say, hey, “what’s that noise?” But nobody was listening to him.
Adele Wright had been taken home an hour before, she’d been found in the kitchen, pale white with a bloody needle in her hands and cling film tied around her forearm. Nobody had ever seen the cling film thing before, what was it, a celebrity diet? Someone, maybe it was Toast, bundled her into a car and drove her home, and Bobby handed out a few more drinks to get the party going again.
Most people were crowded into the front room, the one Alex had turned into a games room. A crate of lager and a stolen air hockey table made for the best games room in the street. Alex said, “I’ll always have the coolest flat in the street, even if I have to move.” It was one of those parties.
Fuller wasn’t really there to listen to Alex, or to watch Tony’s hand move. He was there for Lee Owen. Owen had turned up at the start of the evening and set up camp in the bathroom, calling it his office. Then, except for some thoughtless idiots who needed to piss, he spent the night selling to everyone who walked in. Tens and twenties, black bulls and stingers. He promised it was the good shit, that your belly would melt after taking it, and nobody came back to complain. Bobby Buddha backed him up, said, look what the bull did to the punch.
Fuller was usually the guy who turned up and sold at these parties, but he was low key, he’d sell a few bags out of his coat pocket then party. Owen’s business style just messed things up, attracted attention. Fuller stepped into the bathroom and shut the door before saying, “Hey, what the fuck?”
Owen looked around the room, making a show of it, then, “I dow see your name anywhere?”
“So that’s how you’re going to be?”
Owen shrugged, “No choice.”
“Oh, aliens controlling your brain again?”
Owen softened, handed Fuller a bag and said, here, on the house. Then he opened up a little more, “I’m in a corner here, I owe Claire Gaines seven grand.”
“And If I dow have it by the end of the week, she’s gonna rip my dick off, she says.”
“Did you hear the part about my dick?”
“Yeah but I’m ignoring that, it’s a mental image I don’t want. Shit, seven grand? Why’d you borrow that?”
“I didn’t. Remember the thing I used to run at college? You give me a fiver at the weekend and I’ll bring you back 30 from the bookies?”
“Sure, I used to like that.”
“Way it worked, there was this guy I followed, good tipster. I’d win 50, keep twenty and give you thirty.”
“Well I been working on that, only then it was, you give me 100 and I’ll bring you 400, like, or you give me 500 and-” He shrugged, “I’ve been pretty good at it.”
“So what happened?”
“Gaines came to me, said she wanted to raise some money quick, wanted to invest in something without her family knowing, to prove she was better than her sister or something.”
“She has a sister?”
“Yeah, older. Anyway, she gave me a grand, said she wanted to see four back, I said that was cool. I been following this tipster on twitter, see? And he’s better than the old guy, never fails. So I laid all the money out, but not one of the fucking bets came in.”
“So that covers one grand.”
“No, see, she said I’d guaranteed her four, so she expected that back. Then she said, if I was making her four then I was making myself at least two, so she added that in because she says I must’ve ripped her off, and that if I don’t stump up she’ll do some ripping off of her own.”
Fuller laughed, “Oh shit, you’re in it. Look, you sell, I'll go chill with Alex.” Then he left Owen to it in the bathroom, saying under his breath, “It’s just one of those parties.”
The kind where they played MC Hammer remixes all night to sound hip and ironic, but really just ended up enjoying the music and dancing.
Fuller nodded at Tony on his way past, before he got to the games room. Tony looked spaced, he wasn’t going to respond, but then he grabbed Fuller by the arm and said, “Serious, what’s that noise?”
Fuller cocked his head and listed, humoring the space cadet, but then he heard it. Radio squawk, chatter through static. For the first time he noticed the strobing blue light coming in above the front door, through the pane of frosted glass.
Looks like Adele Wright may have been a little more trouble than everyone thought. Fuller handed Owen’s free sample to Tony, then emptied his stash out of his pockets and into the coats that were hung up in the hallway. He zipped up his coat and quietly let himself out the front door, nodding to all the officers that were lined up outside, ready to bust in.
They stared at him for a second, caught off guard, then rugby tackled him to the ground while the rest of them ran on into the house shouting, “police.” From inside, Fuller could hear the cops banging on the bathroom door, and heard the toilet flushing.
Lee Owen was going to have to find another way to come up with seven grand.