Crime short story – In the Box Seat
Lang looped his coat around his shoulders and wriggled down into the seat. He didn’t hear a peep from Fisk. They took turns to sleep or stare at the moonlight reflecting on the flat, wet fields.
Darcy was getting impatient. They had a number for Lang but it kept ringing out. Bates begged to be let loose, but Darcy preached caution.
‘He’ll come,’ he said. ‘He’ll want more money, they always do.’
Bates hammered his fist into his palm, liking the slap of polished leather. He’d plug Lang in a concrete drainage pipe beneath the M6 or bury him head first in the forest. They wouldn’t find him this century, but maybe the next. Darcy was suggesting a visit to Lang’s mother, some ‘gentle persuasion’ when the buzzer sounded in reception. They saw him on the CCTV, staring up at them, bug-eyed, lugging a holdall.
You don’t look the type
‘You’ve taken your time,’ Darcy said, when Lang strolled through the door.
Lang shrugged. ‘I had to find him first.’ He set the holdall down at his feet.
Darcy stared at the bag. ‘I didn’t know you enjoyed tennis. You don’t look the type.’
‘The rest of my fee,’ Lang said, holding out his palm.
‘We had an arrangement. Proof was required,’ Darcy said.
Lang dropped to his knees.
‘I didn’t tell you to come here,’ Darcy said. ‘You were meant to meet up with Gerry. Have you heard of text messages, emails and things like that?’
Lang unzipped the holdall. Bates stepped forward, suspecting a gun or grenade. He reckoned Lang was unhinged, didn’t like the boss dealing with him. He had his gun trained on Lang’s temple. Lang took out the wooden box he’d carried with him on the train journey. It was painted with royal blue gloss and had a padlocked clasp.
‘What’s this?’ Darcy said.
Lang lifted the lid and took out a black plastic bag. Something toppled inside, weighty and bulging against the plastic.
‘What the hell’s going on?’ Darcy said.
‘Patience,’ Lang said.
Lang produced the blade and slit the bag. He peeled back the plastic and set Fisk’s head down on Darcy’s desk. Darcy’s eyes widened. His chair screeched as he leapt back against the wall. Gerry bawled at Lang, horrified, telling him to get back. Lang stepped away from the head, hands raised. Gerry had the gun raised, pointing at Lang’s head. His eyes flicked between Fisk’s head and Lang, who was grinning.
‘You’re crazy,’ Darcy said.
He stood back, keeping the desk between him and Fisk’s leaking head.
‘He owed you money,’ Lang said. ‘He owed me a life.’
Darcy’s voice was hoarse, throaty. ‘You could’ve taken a photo.’
Fisk’s eyes were open, bloody and dark. His hair was matted with blood at the collar.
‘The head symbolised power for the Celts. If you take your enemy’s head-’ Lang began.
Darcy moved into the corner. ‘I’ve got news for you, Lang. You’re not a bloody Celt. You live in a flat on the Meadows estate. You’ve got a satellite dish.’
‘You slash the throat and take their lifeblood. You take the head and you take the power.’
‘Take it away,’ Darcy roared.
‘I’ll kill him, boss,’ Gerry said.
Darcy shook his head. ‘I want him out of here, now.’
Lang held out his hand. Darcy snatched an envelope from the drawer, throwing it at Lang.
‘Get out and take it with you.’
Lang dropped Fisk’s head into the bag, but it tumbled out where he’d cut.
‘Have you got a bag?’
Lang held Fisk’s head by the hair, like a war trophy, pocketed the envelope, and set off down the stairs.
‘What do we do boss?’ Gerry said.
Darcy ran his hands through his hair. ‘You clean my desk.’
At 10.23am a man walked into Boozy Tuesday’s off-licence holding a severed head in his hand, asking for a lighter and 20 Benson & Hedges. He was served first. Fisk was silent, no longer in the box seat.