The white eye was a ghostly orb haunting my every step. I could still see it, as clear as the night when my world had ended.
Soon, I’d be seeing it again.
Perched on the industrial bin down the piss-stinking alleyway, I waited. It was the Friday before Halloween. The night air was cold and wet, but that didn’t stop me from sweating like hell. Back, forehead, the lot—everything bloody perspired.
Just one line of coke that was all I needed. It’d calm me down. Damn this twitching and shaking. Even after six months clean, the twitches still came, rising up to try and make me fall back into snorting white lines and feeling like king of the fucking world. Man, the buzz, that wave of bliss that could sweep away worries about any shadows hanging over my head.
Being scared out of my mind didn’t help with the cravings. Dressed in all black and hidden in the dark, I nervously picked at the obsidian polish on my nails. Then I got to biting them. A cigarette would be good right now, but I’d chucked those in too.
There was no light behind the closed-down kebab shop where I waited. Thank fuck for that. It was the perfect spot to wait, away from the road, deep in the bowels of this pocket of skankiness.
All the past year had been was waiting—so much bloody waiting and screaming into my pillow to drown out all the bullshit. Too much time had been spent to not get this done.
I reached beneath my jumper, fingering my half of a yin and yang pendant—a gift from Michael—for reassurance, comfort, to stop my balls from retreating back up inside me.
I was the yin to his yang, the dark to his light. The other half of the pendant had gone into the ground with him.
Deep breaths. One after the other, ever so deliberate and even. Jesus! I’d chewed my nails down to the quick. If I didn’t calm the fuck down, there’d be nothing left of them.
Whistling from the road.
It was him.
The silhouette of a man appeared at the bottom of the alley. Footsteps echoed, keys jangled, and the man whistled “Roll out the Barrels” with a very audible spring in his step. Tony always had a spring in his step.
This was it—step one. I killed the deep breaths and the nail-biting. Tony was closer. Just a few more steps …
I slid off the bin, landing right in Tony’s path.
“Holyfuckingcrap!” He lashed out with his keys but the movement was awkward and he missed me completely.
“Me, Tony,” I said.
“Jake?” Tony was short of breath. “Bastard hell! What you doing jumping out on me?”
“Come to see you.”
Tony chuckled, albeit breathlessly. He clicked on his phone, the screen lighting up his weasel features. Within seconds, he had the torch function on. “You have, eh? Knew you’d cave sooner or later. It’s the good shit—always brings them crawling back.”
“I’m not crawling. I’m clean.”
“Six months. Come tell me that in five years.” Tony snorted and brought up some phlegm, spitting it on the ground.
“Not here for that.”
“Then why you standing there wasting my time?”
Even in the weak light, I saw Tony’s face darken. He had a mean face, but it certainly went up on the arsehole scale when his buttons got pushed. “You want to get out of here now, while I let you?” he asked through gritted teeth.
“Why don’t you be civilized and let me get a word in first?”
“Piss off. You think you can get all high and mighty and pretend to kick the snow, then come asking questions, jumping out on me like a freak? Don’t think so, Jay, not on your pretty boy face.”
Man, I hated being called Jay. “Still bitter I wouldn’t shag you, Tony?”
Tony squared up to me. “I could fuck up that pretty face if you like.”
Tony and his shooting up and screwing anything that walks—mainly Sarah. Once, he’d wanted me so bad, in his words, to do me up the arse hard and fast while I screamed his name and called him Daddy. Yeah, bollocks to that.
“That halitosis of yours is a big problem, right?” I said.
Before he could answer, I grabbed him by the coat. Tony yelped as I slammed him into the wall, his phone clattered to the ground. All the jogging and the push-ups had always made me pretty damned awesome at slamming junkies against walls.
“What the f—”
“Shut up,” I said, bringing a knee up to grind into his groin. The squeak from him was a satisfying sound.
“Listen to me, and you listen good.” I slammed Tony again, just for some emphasis.
“I’m gonna f—”
“You’re gonna shut up and listen. Now, I know you know the white eye guy.”
Another slam, a deeper grind in the balls. “Don’t fucking lie to me.”
My right eye twitched.
Just one line of coke, just the one.
“Get your hands off me!”
Slam, grind, one more slam for him not getting it. “You enjoying this, Tony?”
“Gonna be sick.”
Tony heaved, and I let him go on instinct. Acting on the instinct of not wanting spew on me was the action of an idiot. Tony got in a headbutt. Pow, right on the forehead. The bloody stars came out, brain did a loop, and I staggered back.
I went for Tony again. Blood ran down my face, my head pounded, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me from beating some info out of the slime.
Tony, however, true to his weasel self, got in there first with a jab to the stomach. He followed it with a firm kick right in my nuts. Talk about karma having a sense of humor.
I doubled over and fell on my knees. My skull throbbed and my gut roiled. While I cradled my aching balls, Tony dragged me by the back of my coat. My hip scraped over the wet pavement until he pulled me inside a building I’d not graced with my presence for a while.
Before I could make an attempt to regain the upper hand, he had me bundled into a lift with the same delightful scent of urine as the alley.
Tony delivered a back-handed slap across my face. More stars—the frigging cosmos was alive behind my eyes!
“Move and I’ll cut your throat.” Tony pointed a key at me. “You know I’ll find a way to make it work.”
And he would. Tony was a resourceful man. He’d cut down a tree with those keys if given the chance.
The lift was old, not happy with being pulled upward in the days of its impending passing on to Lift Heaven. But it got up to that one and only floor, as it always did.
The poxy building was lucky to have a lift. It was above a row of mostly empty shops—save for a launderette and a greasy spoon café. Scum like Tony brought down an area full of pretty decent people with his drugs and whoring. The few remaining residents were scared to come out of their barred doors when the sun went down. But then, I’d been one of those junkies, hanging out at Palais de Tony, getting fucked up on the white stuff at parties.
Once a junkie, always a junkie. I would forever be on the edge of the pit.
I’d burn down this building if given the chance.
The cracked walls and hallways of pain held too much memory from the dark days.
Let the flames have it.
Tony dragged me through the door, across the stained carpet, and dumped me in the living room. A lamp without a shade was lit in the corner. Stale tobacco and sweat were the fragrance of the flat. Wrappers and cigarette dog ends were everywhere, as well as piles of junk. The sofa’s springs were long-knackered, and the fabric was torn and stained with bodily fluids. The room had never smelled this bad back in the days when I was on the euphoria train my addiction had often taken me on. That’d been a cloud covering everything, blinding me to the reality of this den, obviously. Now, I could see and smell and even taste the tang of filth.
“Bit of bleach wouldn’t go amiss,” I said, wiping the blood from my eyes.
“You need to keep that mouth shut.”
Tony rustled around in a set of drawers, tossing things out.
Just as I was about to get up, recovered from the nut-crack and head-butt, Tony spun and threw an ashtray. It missed my head by inches, but was enough of a distraction for Tony to deliver another kick to my groin. The pain was so bad there was no room for expletives. My groans were enough.
The bastard rolled me onto my stomach, pinning my arms behind my back, binding them with cable ties. Same with my legs. A cloth was stuffed into my mouth—it tasted of onion and dust.
Man, I couldn’t breathe from the ache in my balls. I just wanted to grab them in that auto-reaction way us blokes did.
Still, it didn’t stop me from writhing and kicking out. My words were muffled by the gag, but I called him every name under the sun.
This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go down.
Tony crouched down in front of me. I lifted my head, pouring all my hate into the best death-glare I could muster.
The junkie grabbed a handful of my hair and twisted. In his other hand was a needle, loaded with what had to be heroin. “I should stick you with this, Jay. Then what would you do, eh? No more clean boy, no more high road. Prick. You think you can come here and demand something like that?” He held the needle close to my neck. “This is what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna give a certain someone a call and you’re gonna, well, wait there ‘cos you don’t have no choice. Got that, Jay? Good.” He pinched my right cheek. “So bloody cute.”
He got up and left the room.