Out of Darkness – part 2

Fife beach

Fife beach

Three hours later Spencer pulled up outside a minimart selling crabbing nets and buckets and spades. The sky was gunmetal and a stiff wind had the trees and hedgerows bowing as if in prayer. There were floats and snorkels for sale, but they should have been handing out medals for paddling. A copper bell jangled when Spencer pushed through the door. A Sikh in a faded tracksuit top was leaning on the counter, elbows hemmed in with starred special offers, scanning the Daily Record. He looked Spencer up and down. Mr Blue Sky was playing on a tinny transistor.

‘You got any hot food?’ Spencer said.

If you wanted information you usually had to pay for it. The shopkeeper lifted the lid on a glass cabinet of pies in foil trays. They were the type you used to see in comics, with a thick wall of crust and a steaming hole in the middle. Spencer nodded pointing to a steak and kidney he’d no intention of eating.

‘Seems quiet,’ he said.

‘You’re not a reporter, are you?’

Spencer snorted. ‘I’ve told lies, but I don’t make a living from it.’

Spencer walked the narrow aisles, chucking digestives, chocolate and milkshakes into his basket.

‘Is Harry still around?’ Spencer said.

‘Harry who?’

‘Harry Bishop,’ Spencer said, doubting Bishop still went by his old name.

The shopkeeper stared at him. Spencer paid him, hurrying out into the night. He probed the pastry with a fingertip. It was cold and lay in folds over the steaming gravy. He left it on a wall and watched the gulls swoop in. He followed the road down to the harbour, the steep slope lengthening his stride and forcing him to a slow jog. He sat on the harbour wall, clocking the surroundings he’d witnessed on the TV. The cottages were painted pastel shades. Lobster pots were stacked on the flagstones. A gleaming Mercedes was parked tight against the front of the fish restaurant.

Spencer was licking a cigarette paper, tapping the last of the tobacco from his tin, when he heard laughter. He ducked into an alley as Bishop turned the corner, waving a hand. Bishop was whistling ‘Dixie’ without a care in the world when Spencer stepped out, legs astride, blocking the alley. Bishop had a carrier bag with the minimart on it. He didn’t look surprised to see Spencer. He waggled a mobile phone between his fingers.

‘Jot called and told me someone had been asking,’ he said.

Jot meaning the manager of the minimart.

‘We need to talk,’ Spencer said.

Bishop shrugged. ‘So talk.’

Rain slanted in from the sea soaking lines of overalls pegged out to dry.

‘It’s always like this,’ Bishop said.

He sniffed, wiping his nose with the back of a hand. His palms were cracked, rimed with dirt like the folds of an ancient map. Spencer toenails dug into his soles.

‘OK, let’s not piss about. Where’s the money, Harry?’

Bishop fiddled with his beard. ‘I knew you’d come, you know.’

‘Where’s the money?’

‘I knew you wouldn’t give up. How long’s it been?’

Bishop told Spencer to follow him. Spencer stayed a few strides back, cautious as they climbed between fishermen’s cottages on a steep, winding alley. Rainwater rushed in gullies each side of the path.

‘We can talk in here,’ Bishop said, pointing to a cleft in the rock. It was surrounded by cottages and yards piled high with rusting machine parts and fishing nets. A cast iron gate guarded the entrance.

‘You live in a cave?’

Spencer gnawed at his cheek, nipping a fold of skin and tasting coppery blood. Men with serious money in the bank didn’t wear battered coats and live in damp caves.

‘I’m the custodian,’ Bishop said.


About richlakin

I write about things that interest me
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