Читать онлайн "Beggars Banquet" автора Rankin Ian - RuLit - Страница 6

 
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Later that night, much later, as he lay along his sofa, the hi-fi blaring some jazz music from the sixties, his eye caught the day’s racing results on the paper’s back page. Gypsy Pearl had come home first at three-to-one. In the very next race, Gazumpin had won at seven-to-two on. Two races further on, Lot ’s Wife had triumphed at a starting price of eight-to-one. At another meeting, Castle Mallet had won the two thirty. Two-to-one joint favourite. That left only Blondie. Rebus tried to focus his eyes, and finally found the horse, its name misprinted to read ‘Bloodie’. Though three-to-one favourite, it had come home third in a field of thirteen.

Rebus stared at the misspelling, wondering what had been going through the typist’s mind when he or she had made that one small but no doubt meaningful slip…

Someone Got to Eddie

They paid me not to make mistakes. Not that I ever made mistakes, that’s why I was the man for the job, and they knew it. I was cautious and thorough, discreet and tight-lipped. Besides, I had other qualities which they found quite indispensable.

He was lying on the living-room floor. He’d fallen on his back, head coming to rest against the front of a leather armchair. It looked like it might be one of those reclining armchairs, you know, with a footrest and everything, an expensive item. The TV was expensive too, but then I don’t suppose he ever went out much. They don’t go out much, people like him. They stay indoors where it’s safe. The irony of this being, of course, that they become prisoners in their own homes, prisoners all their lives.

He was still alive, breathing badly through his wet nose, his hand sort of stroking the front of his T-shirt. There was a big damp stain there, and it was all his. His hair had gone grey in the past year or so, and he’d put on a lot of weight. His eyes were dark-ringed from too many late nights.

‘Please,’ he whispered. ‘Please.’

But I was busy. I didn’t like interruptions. So I stabbed him again, just the twice, probably in his abdomen. Not deep wounds, just enough to give him the hint. His head slouched floorwards, tiny moaning sounds dribbling from his lips. They didn’t want a quick painless death. It was in the contract. They wanted something that was both revenge on him and a message to others. Oh yes, I was the man for the job all right.

I was wearing overalls and gardening gloves and a pair of old training shoes with the heel coming away from one of them. Disposable, the lot of it, fit for little more than a bonfire. So I didn’t mind stepping in the small pools of blood. In fact, that was part of the plan. I’d put the overalls and gloves and trainers on in his bathroom. This was just prior to stabbing him, of course. He’d been surprised to see me coming out of the bathroom looking like that. But of course it hadn’t dawned on him till too late. Always watch your back, they say. But the advice I’d give is: always watch your front. It’s the guy you’re shaking hands with, the guy you’re talking to who will turn out to be your enemy. There aren’t monsters hiding in the bushes. All they hide behind are smiles.

(Don’t worry about me, I always ramble on when I’m nervous.)

I got to work. First, I dropped the knife into a plastic bag and placed the package in my holdall. I might need it again, but at this stage I doubted it. He wasn’t talking any more. Instead, his mouth opened and closed soundlessly, like a fish in an unaerated aquarium. You hardly knew he was in pain. Pain and shock. His body was going to wave a white flag soon, but the brain was taking a little time to understand. It thought it was still in the foxhole, head down and safe.

Aquariums and foxholes. Funny the things that go through your mind at a time like this. I suppose it’s to shut out the reality of the situation. Never mind virtual reality, this was visceral reality.

I was keeping the gloves on for the moment. I walked around the living-room, deciding how the place should look. There was a table in the corner with some bottles and glasses on it. They could go for a start. Hold on though, some music first. There had been no indications that any neighbours were at home – I’d watched outside for an hour, and since coming in had been listening for sounds – but all the same. Besides, music soothed the soul, didn’t it?

‘What do you fancy?’ I asked him. He had a cheap little midi-system and a couple of dozen CDs and tapes. I switched the system on and opened the drawer of the CD player, slipped in a disc, closed the drawer and pressed ‘play’. ‘A bit of Mantovani,’ I said needlessly as strings swelled from the small speakers. It was a version of the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’. Good song that. I turned the volume up a bit, played with the treble and bass, then went back to the corner table and swept all the stuff on to the floor. Not with a flourish or anything, just a casual brush of the forearm. A couple of wine glasses broke, nothing else. And it didn’t make much noise either. It looked good, though.

The sofa was next. I thought for a moment, then pulled a couple of the cushions off, letting them drop to the floor. It wasn’t much, was it? But the room was looking cluttered now, what with the bottles and cushions and the body.

He wasn’t watching any of this, though he could probably hear it. His eyes were staring at the carpet below him. It had been light blue in colour, but was now looking like someone had dropped a mug of tea (no milk) on it. An interesting effect. In the films blood always looks like paint. Yes, but it depends what you mix it with, doesn’t it? Red and blue would seem to make tea (no milk). Suddenly I felt thirsty. And I needed the toilet too. There was milk in the fridge. I poured half a carton down my throat and was putting it back in the fridge when I thought, What the hell. I tossed it towards the sink. Milk splattered the work surfaces and poured on to the linoleum floor. I left the fridge door open.

After visiting the toilet, I wandered back into the living-room, took the crowbar from my holdall, and left the house, closing the door after me. Checking that no one was around, I attacked the door jamb, splintering wood and forcing my way back inside. It didn’t make any noise and looked pretty good. I closed the door as best I could, tipped the telephone table in the hall on to its side, and returned to the living-room. His face was on the floor now, deathly pale as you might imagine. In fact, he looked worse than a few of the corpses I’ve seen.

‘Not long now,’ I told him. I was all but done, but decided maybe I should take a recce upstairs. I opened his bedside cupboard. Inside a wooden box there was a wad of folded banknotes, tens and twenties. I slipped off the rubber band from around them, chucked it and the box on to the bed, and stuffed the money in my pocket. Let’s call it a tip. It’s not that I wasn’t being paid enough, but I knew damned fine that if I didn’t pocket it, some dozy young copper first on the scene would do just the same.

It was a pretty sad little room, this bedroom. There were porn mags on the floor, very few decent clothes in the wardrobe, a couple of empty whisky bottles under the bed along with an unused pack of vending-machine condoms. A transistor radio lying on a chair with some dirty laundry. No framed photos of family, no holiday souvenirs, no paintings on the walls.

     

 

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