The police walked in, looking for Dim Waghorn.
‘He ain’t here,’ Stef, the barman snaps.
‘Ain’t been in all day,’ Sly, one of his patrons adds. The other two fellas at the bar, Daz and Rootz shake their heads, as if confirming this fact.
Mickey Fleas, pissed, appears from the Gents. Half-finished pint of Guinness in one hand, another full one waiting for him at the bar. He tries to climb back onto his stool, but only half of his baggy backside makes any contact with the cushion. So, he slips. He regains his balance just in time.
‘Dim Waghorn? No, he ain’t here, but I might know where he is,’ he slobbers.
‘Where?’ the taller policeman asks, after a pause spent looking at Fleas in disgust.
‘The coffee shop on Portland Street.’
The two coppers turn and head for the door without another word. Can’t get out quick enough. The patrons all look, incredulously, at Fleas.
‘What?’ he shrugs, all innocent-like, looking at Sly. He finally settles on his stool.
Mickey and Dim have a criminal ‘partnership’. Mickey’s the ‘brain’, and Dim, well he ain’t called by that name for nothing. He ain’t the ‘brawn’, either. A ‘skinny runt’, or appropriate rhyming slang, is an apt description of Dim. He takes orders from Fleas. And the blame when the shit hits the fan.
The silence is then destroyed by the loud crack, smash and crash as Fleas, his new, full pint of Guinness and his vodka chaser plummet to the hard bar room floor. His scruffy plastic shopping bag spills its contents in a crumpled heap. His bar stool eventually joins the mess, landing on top.
‘Faarrckin’ ‘ell,’ he gargles.
‘You fuckin’ coward, you fuckin’ grass, you fuckin…’ Sly’s right fist is responsible for this mess, and his temper prevents him from completing his depiction of Fleas.
The police hadn’t made it to the door. They turn, assess, sigh and reluctantly trudge back and apprehend Sly. He accepts his fate like a man.
‘HE ASKED FOR IT,’ Sly protests he is led away. No defence; the police saw him bang Mickey Fleas hard. He manages to free himself temporarily from the grasp of the police and turns to point at his victim. ‘HE’S THE ONE YOU WANT,’ he screams.
Fleas just about makes it to his feet when he is hit by another punch so brutal it sends him flying a further five yards across the empty barroom, into a glut of tables and chairs.
This time it’s from the second patron. Daz Damage. Not his real name, incidentally.
‘We can do this all day, all day Fleas,’ Daz sneers, stalking the five yards over to Fleas. One cherry red Doc Martin boot eventually rests either side of Fleas strewn, portly body.
The cops look scared. They may now have a ‘situation’ to deal with. A violent ‘situation’. Involving the small-time gangster Mickey Fleas, and two local guerrillas about to knock the shite out of him.
Make that three local guerrillas. The toughest looking of the three, Rootz, gets up from his chair.
‘UNLESS, of course, you tell them what really happened. There’s no way Dim is taking the blame this time,’ Rootz suggests, acutely. His gravelly tones sound appropriate from a man six foot four tall. The flecks of grey hair protrude like tiny razor blades across his skull. His piercing blue-grey eyes and an anarchy tattoo on his neck give him a psychotic look that accompanies his menacing personality perfectly.
He stands over Fleas, next to Daz’s squat five foot ten, ripped and heavily tattooed frame. He has no hair whatsoever. Rootz towers over him, and in turn glares down at Fleas, flashing his gold tooth in the middle of his mouth in the process. Mickey Fleas literally pisses himself.
‘WHAT REALLY HAPPENED, FLEAS?’ Sly demands from the doorway.
The coppers, sensing they may have a bigger fish to fry than Sly, release him and head tentatively towards Fleas. Daz grabs Fleas by the ear and lifts him up.
‘No, no, no more,’ Fleas cries. Mickey Fleas is a bully. But he cannot take a kicking. He thinks the police will protect him.
‘I’ll come with you, just make them put me down,’ he cries. Seriously, tears are running down his sweaty, red, blotchy, drunk face. His receding brown hair is stuck to his forehead. He looks pathetic.
Of course, Daz smacks him once more. Just for good measure. Blood explodes from his nose, spraying Daz and making his white Lonsdale vest look more like some Jackson Pollock-based merchandise than regulation boxing attire. Mickey Fleas lies face down, breathing, barely conscious, blood dribbling from his temple to the floor under him.
‘No more,’ Rootz commands.
Daz stops, looks up and points directly at both coppers, his finger moving from one to the other. ‘If you think all these robberies are down to Dim Waghorn then you are miles off. This is the guy you want. The mastermind, the dumb brains. The selfish cunt. The three of us are ready to give statements, plus we have a witness at that coffee shop on Portland.’
The cops exchange uncertain glances, and nod.
‘Dim Waghorn? Where’s is he then?’ the taller one asks.
‘He ain ‘t here. We told you.’
‘Where’d he go?’
‘Dunno. He sure went fast.’
Cue an uncomfortable, lengthy silence. All parties looking straight at each other, daring any of them to elaborate.
Eventually Rootz breaks. ‘Fleas … ‘
Mickey Fleas painfully peers up from the corner of his bloodied eye.
‘It just ain’t your day. You’re going down.’ Rootz turns to the ginger copper, and then to the taller one. It’s as if he is directing the two of them.
‘C’mon Mickey Fleas, we’ll take you down the station and have a chat,’ the ginger policemen states, helping Fleas to his feet. His nose is clearly broke, and an imprint of Daz’s sovereign ring is beginning to show on his forehead. Ouch. Rootz, Daz and Sly stand and watch expectantly. It appears the coppers are doing nothing about the various assaults on Fleas that they have just witnessed. Then again they are outnumbered three to two. And the three are violent men, evidently. The police themselves outnumber Fleas two to one. Plus, Fleas can barely stand. Easy decision, really.
They drag Mickey Fleas across the bar, knocking chairs over as they do so, struggle through the exit door, and get stuck in the process. Eventually they make it out into the sunny spring day and force Fleas into the back of their police car, which is parked directly outside.
When the coast is clear Stef the barman shouts down a flight of stairs, located behind a door to the back of the bar.
‘Dimmy? They’re gone.’
‘Gone?’ a high-pitched, feint voice is heard.
‘Yes mate. Come up.’
A pale, unshaven, thin male emerges from the steps. You’d have thought he had been down there for weeks judging by his dark, greasy, unkempt appearance. But no, Dim Waghorn always looks this way.
‘Mickey too?’ Dim’s voice is as puny as his body.
‘Yeah. Didn’t you hear the commotion?’ Stef asks, vacating the bar and heading across the bar room to straighten up the tables and chairs.
‘I heard a few bangs and crashes, yeah. Hello fellas.’ Dim waves a nervous hand in the direction of Rootz, Daz and Sly, who are still standing where Mickey’s body was slumped until about two minutes ago.
Mickey Fleas ‘owned’ Dim Waghorn after he got him out of a scrape a couple of years back. Dim was on the hard end of the sex-trafficking industry. A victim. He was used and abused and was in a bad way when Fleas happened to walk in on him in an uncompromising position. Fleas was collecting a debt from Dim’s client, see. Mickey Fleas then ‘rescued’ Dim from the clutches of his sex-trafficking pimp.
He led him into small-time petty theft on his behalf. Dim is a nimble, silent operator. Excellent for light-handed, skilful burglary. But he’s a bit slow on the uptake, and doesn’t think on his feet very well. This led to him being caught several times and earnt him several brief stopovers in prison. Fleas became his new pimp.
Rootz, Daz and Sly got wind of this one day in Stef’s bar as they overheard Dim talking to Mickey Fleas. Football hooligans, long-time members of the local ultras. Or ‘squad’. Anything that cannot be sorted with fists isn’t worth sorting at all, in their book.
They felt for Dim. They don’t like bullies who feed off people considerably smaller than their own size. Small-time gang theft is better than being a victim of sex-trafficking, mind. The ultras were not aware of Dim’s past and Fleas part in it.
Therefore, Dim Waghorn has now been commandeered by the local ultras. Pride ‘n Loyalty, is tattooed on their left forearm. If he has any sense, Dim Waghorn will either get out quick, or get initiated quick.
Either way, it should be another potential step away the gutter. Depending on one’s viewpoint.
Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His first novella, ‘Donny Jackal’, a kitchen-sink coming of age drama set in English punk rock suburbia in 1978, is out now both in paperback and as an E-book. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published shortly, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Can of Worms’, ‘Spade, Rose and Blood’, ‘Revenge can be Sweet’, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More Season’. He also writes flash fiction, including ‘Hollow Love’, ‘Wedding Shot over the Wire’, and ‘Family Guy?’ His fiction has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, Brit Grit Alley and Unlawful Acts.
He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.
Paul also writes articles on music, in particular on the punk and new wave movement, and is a regular contributor for We Are Cult, Punkglobe, Razur Cuts and Something Else magazines. See https://paulmatts101.wordpress.com/ for more details, and to subscribe for updates.