Читать онлайн "Beggars Banquet" автора Rankin Ian - RuLit - Страница 8


4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 « »

Выбрать главу

I think the chief reason people didn’t like Daintry was that he never made anything of himself. I mean, he still lived on the same estate as his clients, albeit in one of the two-storey houses rather than the blocks of flats. His front garden was a jungle, his window panes filthy, and the inside of his house a thing of horror. He dressed in cheap clothes, which hung off him. He wouldn’t shave for days, his hair always needed washing… You’re getting the picture, eh? Me, when I’m not working I’m a neat and tidy sort of guy. My mum’s friends, the women she gossips with, they’re always shaking their heads and asking how come I never found myself a girl. They speak about me in the past tense like that, like I’m not going to find one now. On the contrary. I’m thirty-eight, and all my friends have split up with their wives by now. So there are more and more single women my age appearing around the estate. It’s only a question of time. Soon it’ll be Brenda’s turn. She’ll leave Harry, or he’ll kick her out. No kids, so that’s not a problem. I hear gossip that their arguments are getting louder and louder and more frequent. There are threats too, late at night after a good drink down at the club. I’m leaving you, no you’re not, yes I am, well get the hell out then, I’ll be back for my stuff, on you go, I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction, well stay if you like.

Just like a ballet, eh? Well, I think so anyway. I’ve been waiting for Brenda for a long time. I can wait a little longer. I’m certainly a more attractive prospect than Daintry. Who’d move in with him? Nobody, I can tell you. He’s a loner. No friends, just people he might drink with. He’ll sometimes buy a drink for a few of the harder cases, then get them to put the frighteners on some late-payer who’s either getting cocky or else talking about going to the police. Not that the police would do anything. What? Around here? If they’re not in Daintry’s pocket, they either don’t care about the place anyway or else are scared to come near. Daintry did a guy in once inside the club. A Sunday afternoon too, stabbed him in the toilets. Police came, talked to everyone in the club – nobody’d seen anything. Daintry may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard. Besides, there’s always a reason. If you haven’t crossed him, you’re none of his business… and he’d better not be any of yours.

I knew him of course. Oh yeah, we went to school together, same class all the way from five to sixteen years old. He was never quite as good as me at the subjects, but he was quiet and pretty well behaved. Until about fifteen. A switch flipped in his brain at fifteen. Actually, I’m lying: he was always better than me at arithmetic. So I suppose he was cut out for a career as a money lender. Or, as he once described himself, ‘a bank manager with menaces’.

God knows how many people he’s murdered. Can’t be that many, or we’d all have noticed. That’s why I thought all the information I used to give him was just part of his act. He knew word would get around about what he was asking me for, and those whispers and rumours would strengthen his reputation. That’s what I always thought. I never took it seriously. As a result, I tapped him for a loan once or twice and he never charged me a penny. He also bought me a few drinks, and once provided a van when I wanted to sell the piano. See, he wasn’t all bad. He had his good side. If it hadn’t been for him, we’d never have shifted that piano, and it’d still be sitting there in the living-room reminding my mother of the tunes Dad used to play on it, tunes she’d hum late into the night and then again at the crack of dawn.

It seemed strange at first that he’d want to see me. He would come over to me in pubs and sling his arm around my neck, asking if I was all right, patting me and ordering the same again. We’d hardly spoken more than a sentence at a time to one another since leaving school, but now he was smiles and reminiscences and all interested in my job of work.

‘I just dig holes.’

He nodded. ‘And that’s important work, believe me. Without the likes of you, my car’s suspension, would be shot to hell.’

Of course, his car’s suspension was shot to hell. It was a 1973 Ford Capri with tinted windows, an air duct and a spoiler. It was a loser’s car, with dark green nylon fur on the dashboard and the door panels. The wheel arches were history, long since eaten by rust. Yet every year without fail it passed its MOT. The coincidence was, the garage mechanic was a regular client of Daintry’s.

‘I could get a new car,’ Daintry said, ‘but it gets me from A back to A again, so what’s the point?’

There was something in this. He seldom left the estate. He lived there, shopped there, he’d been born there and he’d die there. He never took a holiday, not even a weekend away, and he never ever ventured south of the river. He spent all his free time watching videos. The guy who runs the video shop reckoned Daintry had seen every film in the shop a dozen times over.

‘He knows their numbers off by heart.’

He did know lots about movies: running time, director, writer, supporting actor. He was always a hot contender when the club ran its trivia quiz. He sat in that smelly house of his with the curtains shut and a blue light flickering. He was a film junkie. And somehow he managed to spend all his money on them. He must have done, or what else did he do with it? His Rolex was a fake, lighter than air when you picked it up, and probably his gold jewellery was fake too. Maybe somewhere there’s a secret bank account with thousands salted away, but I don’t think so. Don’t ask me why, I just don’t think so.

Roadworks. That’s the information I passed on to Daintry. That’s what he wanted to talk to me about. Roadworks. Major roadworks.

‘You know the sort of thing,’ he’d say, ‘anywhere where you’re digging a big hole. Maybe building a flyover or improving drainage. Major roadworks.’

Sure enough, I had access to this sort of information. I just had to listen to the various crews talking about what they were working on and where they were doing the work. Over tea and biscuits in the canteen, I could earn myself a few drinks and a pint glass of goodwill.

‘How deep does that need to be?’ Daintry would ask.

‘I don’t know, eight, maybe ten feet.’

‘By what?’

‘Maybe three long, the same wide.’

And he’d nod. This was early in the game, and I was slow catching on. You’re probably much faster, right? So you know why he was asking. But I was puzzled the first couple of times. I mean, I thought maybe he was interested in the… what’s it, the infrastructure. He wanted to see improvements. Then it dawned on me: no, what he wanted to see were big holes. Holes that would be filled in with concrete and covered over with huge immovable objects, like bridge supports for example. Holes where bodies could be hidden. I didn’t say anything, but I knew that’s what we were talking about. We were talking about Human Resource Disposal.

And Daintry knew that I knew. He’d wink from behind his cigarette smoke, using those creased stinging eyes of his. Managing to look a little like his idol Robert de Niro. In Goodfellas. That’s what Daintry would say. He’d always be making physical comparisons like that. Me, I thought he was much more of a Joe Pesci. But I didn’t tell him that. I didn’t even tell him that Pesci isn’t pronounced pesky.

He knew I’d blab about our little dialogues, and I did, casually like. And word spread. And suddenly Daintry was a man to be feared. But he wasn’t really. He was just stupid, with a low flashpoint. And if you wanted to know what sort of mood he was going to be in, you only had to visit the video shop.

‘He’s taken out Goodfellas and Godfather 3 ’. So you knew there was trouble coming. Now you really didn’t want to cross him. But if he’d taken out soft-core or a Steve Martin or even some early Brando, everything was going to be all right. He must have been on a gangster high the night he went round to speak with Mr and Mrs McAndrew. In his time, Mr McAndrew had been a bit of a lad himself, but he was in his late seventies with a wife ten years younger. They lived in one of the estate’s nicer houses. They’d bought it from the council and had installed a fancy front door, double-glazed windows, you name it, and all the glass was that leaded criss-cross stuff. It wasn’t cheap. These days, Mr McAndrew spent all his time in the garden. At the front of the house he had some beautiful flower beds, with the back garden given over to vegetables. In the summer, you saw him playing football with his grandchildren.



2011 - 2018