BLOOD ON THE CONCRETE HARDWOOD CH.5 - GRAB CLIVE
By James McShane
Clive is a blubbering mess on the living-room floor. You know you’ve made a deal with him, but your gut instinct (the one that told you that there was no way that girl was over 18) is knocking on the door and wants in. Seeing that you didn’t listen to it last time out, you think maybe it’ll do you no harm to find out what it has to say.
You’re being played for a patsy, ya schmo, your gut says. Momma Feeb has done a runner and I think she knows more than she’s letting on. Peck Clive some more!
“Don’t mind if I do,” you reply.
“Don’t mind if you do what?” Clive says, his face barely recognisable under a sea of blood and tears.
“This!” You jump on top of him and peck some more, opening new wounds and reintroducing old ones to a bright new world. You are immune to his screams for help, his struggling only adding to the excitement. You wonder why you never dressed up as a chicken before and figure there might be a spot in the WWF for you. You’re a natural.
Big Daddy Beak. You like the sound of that.
Then sanity returns, as it often must. Clive’s face is pure pulp. You take a deep breath and consider what line of questioning will work for you.
“Where’s your mother off to, Clive? Tell me the truth and I’ll call you an ambulance. Lie to me and I’ll call the morgue.”
“Phhhhkkkrrrr!” Clive splutters. “Phhhhhhkkkknngg klllll yooooo.” Clive’s left hand twitches like someone attached it to a generator.
“You’re gonna have to come up with something better than that,” you say. You can feel the bloodlust returning. Clive has only moments to spare himself another possibly fatal pecking. “I won’t be held responsible for my actions anymore.” To make your point, you touch your beak to what’s left of his nose.
“Owsh Ows,” Clive manages to say.
“What? Say that again – only this time with feeling.”
“Owsh Owse. Owsh Owse. Owth Owse.”
“OWTH OWSE!” Clive cries out.
Now you have it. Clive’s mother has gone to Outhouse, an illegal gambling den by the docks. Why the hell has she gone there? you wonder. She wouldn’t cut it as a croupier. I better check it out. You get off Clive and head to the bathroom. You strip out of the chicken suit and find some of Clive’s clothes hanging on the shower door. He’s a size or three bigger than you, but needs must. He even has a hat. You like hats. As you leave the bathroom you cast your eyes longingly at the chicken outfit.
“I’ll be back for you later,” you say.
You throw a towel at Clive. “Clean yourself up, Sinclair. You look like you went twelve rounds with an emu.” You run out the door and head for the docks.
The Outhouse is run by the Bassoon Brothers, a shifty pair of greasebags from Chicago. You had a run-in or three with them over the years, sending at least a dozen of their staff to Sing-Sing. Needless to say, you won’t be getting something nice on your stocking this Christmas, unless you consider a garrotte a perfect Yuletide present. You’ll have to tread carefully.
The door is guarded by a gorilla in a suit. No really, it’s a gorilla. The Bassoons own shares in the city zoo. You don’t want to even think where they’ve put the sea-lions. If you want to find out what Mad Mel Sinclair is up to, you’ll have to take an indirect route. Maybe the back door is clear. You remember your training, so you crouch down and slither along the grass, watching out for escaped snakes. It wouldn’t do to get bitten in the ass by a rattler. You make the door in good time and get up slowly. You hear a voice from behind.
“Call my son a nancy-boy, do you?” It’s Mad Mel, and unfortunately for you she’s not alone. “That’s my prerogative, not yours.”
You’re not looking at Mel. Instead you’re throwing a wary eye at her bodyguard. He’s got at least two feet on you and he’s carrying what looks like a baseball bat in his feathered hand.
“When I said it was hard to find a good chicken these days,” she says, “I didn’t say it was impossible. Isn’t that right, Floyd?”
Floyd Bassoon. In a chicken suit. Carrying a baseball bat.
Your hands are pulled behind your back. You smell salt water and turn around. “So that’s what you do with the sea-lions,” you say.
“Go get him, Floyd,” Mel shouts.
As the blows rain down on your head, as Floyd’s beak pecks out your eyes and ruptures your inner ears, the only thing you can think of is, who’s gonna feed my cat now?