Guilty Hands by Charlie Wade

He paused at the rooftop door. Deep breath. Last chance to focus. Last chance to think about quitting. The breath held, he opened the door.

Bent over, he ran towards the edge. Body low, almost on the ground. Like a snake hugging the roof. At the edge he sat, pulled the rucksack off his back. Black box inside. Two foot by one. He opened it, pulled out the butt, sight and barrel. Assembling was easy. He’d done it blindfolded before. Clip of bullets rammed home. Pull back the lever. One in the chamber. A look down the sight, and he was ready.

Another deep breath. Nerves had come from nowhere. Stomach in tatters, slishing and sloshing around. He held the breath, counted to ten then released.

He put the cover on the sight: the sun would reflect as he moved position. One last check of his watch. Sixty seconds to go. He turned round, rifle leaning on the roof edge. Barrel pointing roughly at the door. Butt into his shoulder. The sun to his left; he’d leave the cover on until the last second.

Sixty seconds. Ten deep breaths. A million thoughts through his head. Still not too late to quit. Five seconds left. Still not too late. One second…

The door opened across the street. The sight’s cover removed. One eye closed, looking down the barrel. Target in his sights. Cross hair on his chest. The target walked out, towards the car.

He followed him, the cross hair moving from his chest to head. Two steps away from the car, his finger found the trigger. Squeezing softly, he found the bite. The cross hair over the target’s left eye, he squeezed harder.

Immense noise. He saw the target’s head crack back, saw the line of blood shoot up, saw him slump to the floor.

Muscles that had been tight for an hour relaxed. He replaced the cover, laid the rifle on the ground.

A voice in his ear. “Target neutralised. Good work, Goody.”

Goody stood up, looked down at the street. His fellow officers were moving into the bank. The poor girl the target had used as a shield was being led away by another officer. She was in danger, that’s what he told himself. When he’d opened the car door and she’d broke free, he had to shoot. The robber would have shot her otherwise.

He turned, sat down and willed his shaking hands to remove the bullet clip.

 

 

Route A66 by Charlie Wade

Becky was restless as hell as we pulled into the diner. I was fed up with Little Chefs and MacDonalds so when I spotted the Route A66 Diner sign in the Pennines, I was hooked. Place looked old but well kept. American theme obvious, but not overdone. An old car painted on the side wall, Caddy or Mustang or summat, just added to it. Kind of felt like we were meant to stop there. An omen. This whole thing’s like a road trip across the west.

“Can we eat inside this time?”

Her wide and bright eyes left me no choice. She knew it too. Knew I couldn’t resist when she did the eyes.

“Course.”

We went inside. Low, single storey building, fifties jukebox playing Love Me Tender about filled the back wall. Chrome tables, chessboard floor, Route 66 signs, waitresses with pretty dresses and the counter stretching across the room. Was almost like we’d crossed the pond and stepped into a real Diner.

Becky chose the middle table. No other customers, but we’d have sat there anyway. Centre of attention without knowing it, that’s Becks.

“Get you a drink,” said the waitress. Hint of Geordie to her accent nearly killed what the place had. I looked at the chef, turning over food on his grill for non-existent truckers. He shrugged and went back to flipping.

“Coke,” I looked at Becks, she shook her head

“Strawberry milkshake, please.”

“Anything to eat?”

“I’ll have the King Burger and fries,” she said.

I looked at her. We been eating burgers since the south coast. Four hundred miles of burgers, fries and coke. We find somewhere different and what does she want?

“Is your apple pie good?” I asked.

“Damn finest in the county.”

Her accent didn’t work. More Durham than Dallas. She knew it too.

I looked at the menu: Elvis themed. Hound Dogs – chili-dogs with sides, His Latest Flame Grilled Burger – big, but not as big as Beck’s King Burger and Jailhouse Roc – battered fish, fries and peas.

“I’ll have the Hound dogs, mam.” Don’t why I said mam, just seemed to fit in.

She took the order and poured our drinks. Becks was looking round, taking it all in.

“We could go to America,” I said. “Drive across, one side to the other. Like we’re doing now, only bigger. A lot bigger.”

She nodded before heading for the jukebox. I thanked the waitress when she bought the drinks over and sipped the coke. Cool and fresh. I looked at Becks, bending over the jukebox. Lost for a moment choosing songs. Almost happy again.

She came back, “Not much there, but I put a few on.” The King was still on the mike but the song was ending. I guessed her choice would be next.

She sipped her milkshake through a straw, rattling her legs back and forth like she was twelve again not twenty five.

“Good?”

She nodded as Return to Sender started. “Can we go to Scotland next?” she asked, whipping the froth on her shake with a straw.

“Course. We’re near the border now.”

Her eyes caught mine, her mouth opened like she was about to start talking, like she was about to tell me everything. But she stopped. The waitress came over with the food. Real bad timing.

I was going to ask her after we’d eaten, but I didn’t. I figured Becks was close to it and would tell me in her own time.

 

I keep thinking that and it’s been two weeks now. Two weeks living in hotels, eating in roadside cafe’s and touring the country, east to west, north to south.

One day she’ll explain. Hopefully before the money goes, I only got a hundred left. It’ll come. One day she’ll lose that smile and tell me who the man is lying in the boot of my car, covered in knife holes and polythene.

She’ll tell me what happened, why she killed him and kept on stabbing him for five minutes after he was dead. She’ll tell me. We might even bury him then. It ain’t gonna be easy when she tells me, but she will.

Until then, we’ll just keep driving.

 

The Boiler Room by Charlie Wade

“Hello is that Mr. Fife?”

“Urm, yeah.” He sounded apprehensive.

“Mr. Fife, this is Cal from Global Opportunities. We’re holding a very small amount of a great stock. It’s tipped for high gains. I know you’re a man who wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity like this.” I didn’t take a breath, been saying it all day. After a few hours it really does roll off the tongue.

“Urm, who is this? How did you get my mobile number?”

“I’m Cal, Mr. Fife, Cal from Global Opportunities. Your lawyer Mr. Gringault passed your number to us. He said you’d be interested. We’re an international firm of share brokers and we’ve got a great pharmaceutical start up that’s almost guaranteed to treble your money in weeks.”

“I’m not really into stocks.”

I laughed. “Your lawyer said you’d say that. Look, Mr Fife, I’ll let you into a little secret. You don’t need to know anything about stocks to make money. You see, this company just needs to raise start up capital. Once it’s floated and people realise what the product is, all the big players will want it. Every one of them. That’s when you sell. Just a few weeks to more than treble your money.”

He paused. He was thinking, definitely thinking. Strike while the iron’s hot.

“I’ll level with you Mr. Fife. I’ve got a list of a hundred more investors here and the stock’s running out. I could sell it ten times over. If you get in now, and quick, I might be able to let you have more than the normal allotment.”

“Who, what’s the company?”

“Copharm Industries, Mr. Fife. It’s a medical research company based in Oxford and, well, let’s just say the cure they’ve researched is going to change the world.” I held the phone away from my head. “What’s that Jeff, you just sold two thousand? How many’s left?” I put the phone back to my head. “Mr. Fife, this is going faster than I thought. I can’t guarantee I can hold these much longer. I’m gonna have to rush you for a decision now.”

“What, what, who…”

He was rattled. Pound signs were flickering in front of his eyes.

“Mr. Fife I can do you five thousand shares for fifty pence each, that’s only two thousand five hundred. Within a month you’ll be looking at ten grand. Ten grand?”

I waited. It didn’t take long.

“Okay.”

I confirmed his full name, address and said I’d send over the documents. Told him we don’t take payments over the phone, we’re not that sort of company. We’re respectable, there’s all sort of sharks and dodgy brokers out there. We make our money from repeat business, not one trade. He thanked me and put the phone down. I guess he was already working out what to spend the money on.

I threw down the phone and looked at Steph. My beautiful daughter, sleeping. Just like when she was a baby. Her face was still pale though. The pain still there despite all the drugs. Her lifeless body lay in the wheelchair as it had ever since the accident. Except it weren’t an accident. That bastard Fife had been drinking. I know it was him driving, not his wife. I know it was him. Fancy pants lawyer persuaded the court she was driving and got her off. Six month suspended for careless driving. Six months? Six months for killing my wife and doing that to my daughter. Suspended too? No one’s paid for it. No one.

Of course he moved, went into hiding. Changed his mobile, too. Took me months to get it. Got a friend, works for a phone network, he did some overtime at the weekend and traced the calls he’d made to his lawyer. Address he gave the phone company was false though.

I packed the cable ties, pliers and knife in my bag, next to my lunch box. Maria, the care worker, will be here soon for her ten hour shift while I go to work. Except today, I’m not going to work. Today, I got other business.