This story is one that i submitted for the Alibi search for a new crime writer. Unfortunately it didn't make it to the final, but that does mean that i'm now free to post it up for your reading pleasure. Or so i hope...
“What you need to understand, Bobby, is that every action has a consequence. For example; here you hang, only a few feet away from a cold, wet death. Were it not for the fact that you killed David Fletcher in cold blood, this wouldn’t be happening now. That’s consequences for you, my son”.
Bobby Draper looked up at me in terror, or down, depending on your perspective. He was hanging from a rope tied around both ankles, swinging slowly from side to side under the pier as I stared out over the railing above him.
“I didn’t do it guv!” He cried, terror roughening the edges of his voice and raising it an octave or two, making him sound like a choir boy fighting against puberty.
I’d known Bobby for years, on and off, and I have to say that I’ve rarely met a less worthwhile excuse for a human being.
At thirty four years old he already had more form than half the rest of Brighton put together, mostly for robbing, raping and stealing his way through the series of fuckups he laughingly called a life.
He’d made a living from making other people’s lives hell, so I felt it was almost poetic that he should be hanging under the very pier that he’d dragged so many of his victims under to have his wicked way, like a sex-crazed hermit crab pulling its prey into its stolen shell.
Looking out over the water, I measured the distance to the pebble-strewn beach and judged it to be about thirty yards, maybe a little more.
If I cut the rope, even if he managed to undo it from his ankles before he drowned, he was unlikely to make it to dry land in one piece. The dirt that encrusted his skin and clothes would probably drag him under before he even made half that distance.
And if it didn’t, I’d still be waiting for him by the time he hit the shore.
“One more time, Bobby. See if you can tell me the truth. Why did you kill David Fletcher?” The sound of the waves crashing against the shore made me strain to hear his reply.
“I didn’t, honest!”
“And here was me about to doubt you, but seeing as you tacked ‘honest’ onto the end of that sentence, I’ll haul you up”.
“No, not really. In fact I’m going to let you drown”.
I undid one of the knots I’d so carefully tied and he dropped a couple of feet, jerking to a sudden halt with his head that little bit closer to the dark water below.
He started to scream then stopped abruptly. I guessed he was probably remembering the rules of the game we were playing, rules that I’d been very clear about.
Rule 1; you scream you die.
Leaning my elbows on the railing I lit up a cigarette and blew smoke into the predawn air. The hazy glow of streetlamps was bathing the Georgian seafront buildings in a gentle orange light that looked peaceful and utterly normal. A far cry from the sweating, stinking piece of street scum I had swinging below me.
“Last chance, Bobby”.
“Okay, okay, pull me up and I’ll tell you what happened”, he croaked as the smell of shit assailed my nostrils.
“Uh uh, doesn’t work like that. Talk and I’ll let you up. If I believe you”. He swung for a few moments more and I dared to hope that he was catching his breath rather than thinking up some bullshit he thought I might swallow.
“Okay, it’s like this”, he began just as I was running out of patience, “we was all in Beano’s squat. You know Beano, right?”
“Who doesn’t?” Beano was one of about a million heroin dealers who plied their trade on Brighton’s busy streets. Like half of them he was a Scouser who’d decided to make a living leaching off the poor and dispossessed who roamed the city like kleptomaniac ghouls in desperate need of their next fix.
“Well anyway, we was all round there, and then Beano tells us that he’s got something special. Proper special, you know?”
“Not yet, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me. And who’s we?”
“Me and big Tom and Dave. You know, Dead Dave”.
“I’m assuming that’s a new nickname?”
“Uh, yeah. So Beano tells us about this shit. Turns out it’s white heroin, real strong. So he offers us some as a taster, you know, to show us how good it was”.
“Go on”. I finished the cigarette and flicked the butt downwards, scoring a goal as it bounced off Bobby’s chin, making him squawk.
“Ow, that hurt!”
“My heart bleeds. Get on with it”.
The briny smell of the sea was reminding me of holidays when I was a kid and I had a sudden irrational hankering for fish and chips.
“So we all try a bit and Dave, well he goes mental, all frothing at the mouth and screaming and shit. We wasn’t sure what to do so we tied him down on the sofa, then sat on him. Next thing we know we’re all passed out and we wakes up and he’s dead. No idea who dunnit guv”.
“You really expect me to believe that?” If he hadn’t done it himself he knew who had. There was no way they’d all slept through one of the most brutal murders the City had seen in fifteen years.
“God’s honest truth”.
“Well either he’s a liar or you are, and I suspect it’s probably you. Goodbye Bobby”.
“No, wait, wait!” He screeched loudly as I undid another knot and he fell a few feet more, banging into a barnacle encrusted stanchion as his frantic writhing set him swinging.
Shining my torch at him I saw the dark slickness of blood on his face where he’d struck. He was whimpering quietly to himself now, half crazed with fear.
“Okay Bobby, last chance, and I mean it this time. Who killed David Fletcher?”
“Okay, okay, it was me, I did it!” He was dangerously close to breaking rule 1 but I let it slide.
“Because Beano was letting him deal instead of me. He made almost fifty quid a day! I needed the fucking money, alright? Everyone else was off their faces and I saw my chance and took it. I know it was wrong, but I’m really sorry!”
I hauled him up, dragging the rope over the railing inch by laborious inch, pushing aside the rush of anger his words had ignited. I needed him to be up here and facing me, man to man, before I decided what I was going to do.
Several sweating and grunting minutes later he was lying in a heap at my feet, stinking of his own shit and cowering as I dragged him up.
His knees refused to work and he sank back down.
“Tell me again what you just told me”, I growled, the anger coming back now that he was within strangling distance.
“I... What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to listen to you telling me again how and why you killed David Fletcher. You know, Dead Dave, my fucking brother”.
He whimpered as the penny finally dropped, clawing at the painted iron scrollwork of the railing as if he could work his way through it and away from my building anger.
“Shit, I didn’t know he was your brother, how could I? I mean, who would have guessed?”
“That’s kind of the point. Now stand up or I’ll cut your fucking ears off”. Using the railing for support, he hauled himself to his feet and stood in front of me, one arm half raised as if to ward off a blow.
“I’m sor...” I cut him off with a sharp gesture.
“You say sorry again and I’ll turf you over the edge”.
“Okay, I’m... er...”
I looked down at the man who had killed my brother over a measly fifty quid a day, and I knew that I’d be staining my soul forever if I killed him in return. The man was a piece of shit, the kind of sick scum that stained the streets of the city that I still tried to love.
But then I’d only had one brother.
Bobby was crying now, tears laboriously forcing their way through the dirt that stained his cheeks. Huge, silent sobs wracked his chest as he faced me, looking up at me from under his lashes like a naughty schoolgirl.
“Please, please don’t kill me”, he begged.
That he could stand here and hope for my sympathy, my mercy, made the anger flare up, so fierce and hot that I could taste it, feel it pouring from my skin.
I took a step forwards, grabbing Bobby and forcing his face into the wet, slimy boards.
I’d been waiting for this moment for weeks, pushing at the hurt and the anger like you probe a sore tooth with your tongue until the pain becomes commonplace.
I’d needed to be calm enough to do this without the rage, just another dirty job that I’d look back on with the satisfaction of knowing it had had to be done, but being here, now, was driving everything out of my head but the anger.
Lifting him up as if he weighed nothing, I smacked his head against the railing, hearing it crack as he cried out in pain, struggling vainly to break free.
Twice more I smashed his head into the weathered wood, his brain rattling around inside his skull like a pea in a cup as the bone cracked and blood spattered across the boards.
His body went limp and I shoved him over the railing, his body disappearing into the darkness with a heavy splash.
My last sight of Bobby was his arms raised above his head as the tide caught him and pulled him under the pier to smash against the supports until he was unrecognisable, just another dead-end junkie who’d had enough and ended it all in the soothing embrace of the sea.
I’d thought that I’d feel something when the time came. Relief, guilt, anger, catharsis.
Instead I just felt numb, as if I’d smeared myself in novocaine instead of blood. Shrugging, I looked at my watch and saw that it was almost 4am. Just time to nip home, change into something less bloody and then get back to work before anyone noticed I was gone.
I’d almost made the foot of the pier when my phone rang.
“Sarge, it’s Mark. Just wanted to make sure everything was ok. I know things have been tough recently and, well, you said you were just popping out for some air and that was an hour ago.”
Looking back at the pier, the bloodstained railing just a dark smear in a darker sky, I shrugged and forced a cheerful tone.
“Thanks for the call, Mark, but everything’s fine”.
As I walked away from the place where I’d administered the only real justice my brother would ever get, I realised that it was almost true.