August 29, 2015 by RJ
The first time I met Adrian Strange he was carrying a meat-axe.
It was never my intention to hospitalise his step-brother – things just got out of hand…
“I’m sorry, Mr Rey, have I arrived at a bad time?”
The man is prune-skinned, with long, creaking limbs. His voice sounds like blood sloshing around in a rusty bucket.
“Is there any other kind?”
He laughs sourly, abruptly.
“My name is Delaney. I’ve been told you can help me.”
I shrug. Maybe. Things must already be pretty bad for him to come and see me.
He passes me a photo. It’s a glamour shot. A teenage girl. I can see a hint of pubic curl beneath her underwear. I adjust my seating position to take a better look, but my ribs still ache from yesterday’s beating, and I slump back into my patched-up swivel chair instead.
“Don’t be obscene – what kind of man hands out pornographic photographs of his own daughter?! Loretta is my wife.”
I nod, like it makes sense.
“For reasons I would rather not go into with a stranger, she requires a new kidney. I would like to hire you to obtain a healthy kidney for me, Mr Rey.”
I shake my head.
“Sorry, Delaney – not interested. I don’t know what you have heard about me, but I’m not into that kind of shit.”
His claw-like, liver-spotted hand dips into his jacket pocket and brings out a wedge of cash the size of a house-brick.
My palms feel sweaty just looking at the money. I scratch irritably at the lumpy ridge of scar tissue on my left arm.
He nudges it across the scarred wooden desk with a yellowed finger.
“Wrong answer, Mr Rey. Try again.”
The north-easterly breeze carries the dead fish-stink of Paignton Harbour into the town centre. I turn up my collar and keep my head down. I generally try not to make eye contact with too many people on Winner Street: my life is a horror-show already, and I don’t need any more aggravation.
In recent years, my back story has degenerated into a cautionary tale, and while I have done bad things to bad people on a regular basis, my good deeds are far less memorable.
The procurement of human organs has never been particularly high on my list of saleable skills, and when I flicked through my shabby mental rolodex I came up sadly short.
The only medical professional I know is a disgraced gynaecologist named Marwood. He was struck off years ago, and now he drinks coffee liqueur for breakfast. I doubt he could find his dick after a drinking binge, let alone locate a spare kidney. Regardless, he represents the best chance I have of getting hold of Delaney’s fat stack of money.
The man who opens the door has a grey, sunken face and crooked little brown teeth. His hairpiece is two shades lighter than the rest of his hair. Fuck. He’s uglier than East Paignton in winter.
“Good morning, Marwood.”
He steps aside clumsily, and I walk down the dingy corridor into his kitchen. Second-hand daylight seeps through the gaps in the blinds. I place a fresh bottle of Tesco own-brand liqueur on the table.
“Breakfast. The most important meal of the day.”
His eyes gleam when he sees the label, and his trembling hands reach for the booze.
I snatch it away, abruptly.
“Talk first, drink later, Marwood.”
He visibly deflates. Shrinking beneath his ludicrous hairpiece.
“I need to locate a kidney at short notice. I have a buyer lined up, and he is willing to pay big. Enough to keep you in coffee liqueur for a whole year, at least.”
He looks up, curious. I’ve piqued his interest.
“Let me make some calls. I know a man. Very talented surgeon. Lax moral code. Dubious associates.”
I relinquish the bottle, and he grins, woozily.
As I stand up to leave he gestures to a nearly-empty bottle on the sideboard.
“There must be something in the water, son. You are my second visitor of the day, and I’m usually about as popular as a turd in a Jacuzzi…”
The sun is an orange blur on the horizon. I sip from my hip-flask as it slowly sinks into the sea. The hip-flask was an anniversary present from my ex-wife, Alouette. We didn’t make it to a second anniversary.
The stink of burnt animal fat lingers horribly in the air. There is no breeze up here, just rancid sky.
I seem to spend half my life trudging between these warehouses, peering behind corrugated sheeting and greasy plastic curtains, seeing the worst that this town has to offer.
I’m loitering outside the building that Marwood directed me to, stamping my feet to try and keep warm.
I’m dazzled by full-beam headlights as a transit van rumbles across the rutted concrete towards me. The van grinds to a halt.
I shield my eyes from the devastating glare as two silhouettes shuffle towards me. I hold my hands up, unthreateningly. The larger of the two men clubs me across the face. I bring my arm up to protect myself, but he beats me like a fucking drum. I feel my wrist crack, and drop to my knees. Then everything goes blank.
When I come round, I’m sat on raw concrete, handcuffed to a rusted steel pipe. The building looks abandoned. A rat the size of a cat glares at me from two feet away. I reach for my nose. It doesn’t just feel broken, it feels shattered.
“Bite his windpipe out, Adrian.”
Gareth Greene’s nostrils are flared. His piss-coloured eyes glow with fury. He’s a no-mark, a bottom-feeder – a henchman to the Strange brothers. His skin still smells charred, and large strips of his prison-inked flesh look red-raw. He is wearing mouldy-looking dungarees and clutching a billy-club.
Adrian Strange fondles his meat-axe lovingly. He used to do strong-arm work for Remy Cornish, back when Remy was still a man to be feared. Someone once told me that Adrian was mentally defective, but undeniably effective. I always hoped I would never have to find out.
He pushes his sellotaped National Health glasses up his nose and walks towards me, limping slightly in mismatched orthopaedic shoes.
“Herman needs a kidney, Mr Rey. He got burned up pretty bad in that explosion.”
His breath feels hot and vile on my cheek.
“He asked me to take one of yours.”
I laugh, in spite of myself. Those dumb motherfuckers handcuffed me to the pipe by my busted wrist. I’ve still got skin in this game.
I slowly start to reach for the pig-knife in my boot, laughing all the while.
One blade, two men: I fancy my chances.
One way or another, it’s going to be an interesting evening.