“The fuck’s this?” he said.
Stauner touched his head.
“No . . . the cunts!” They’d shaved his head. Not a scalping, but a fine going over with the number one.
“No. No. No,” he cried out. He slapped palms on the pub floor, tried to gather up as much of his long locks as he could.
“The cunts . . . the fucking bastards, this is out ay order.”
The blond curls unfurled with every touch, already caught up in the shards and blood, there was no way back for them.
He looked around, was The Moorings, he could pick the place any day, his old stomping ground. Pulled some gash in here, he thought, he'd even renamed it, The Hoorings after his successes.
“How the fuck’d I get in here?”
The last thing Stauner remembered was handing the Adidas holdall to Monique. She’d kissed him, fucking hard he'd thought, even for Monique. Then she’d grabbed his crotch and asked what he’d been feeding that bad bastard on.
“French lassies!" Stauner said.
“You are teasing with me, darling. Always you are teasing, no?”
No teasing about it, he’d thought. He meant every word he said: “I’m your man, hon . . . happy to supply the meat for a wee French roll anytime!”
She liked that, he thought. She spun round and flicked her long black hair in his face. He could still remember how it smelt as she backed on to him, grinding in her “petit derrière”.
“Later, mon amour . . . I have to take this to safety. You did well, yes? No-one was hurt?”
They were in the clear, there was a phrase, “Went like clockwork,” he said.
Monique snapped: “How much?”
“Like we thought, hon, ten-large.”
Hurriedly, she unzipped the holdall, tipped her head towards the contents and tucked her shiny black hair behind her ear, all in one smooth, and very French, motion.
“Ah, it is all good,” she said.
She leaned forward, touched Stauner’s chin and adjusted his glare towards her, “Always you are looking to the ladies!”
“Only one lady for me, hon,” he said, reaching out to place a slap on her behind.
She smiled coquettishly, leaned in even closer, “My ladies’ man,” she said, then ran off, slinging the holdall over her arm.
****Stauner steadied himself on one of The Mooring’s Formica-topped tables. His head spun. There was a metallic taste in his mouth and his ribs ached from a solid, sustained beating.
Somehow, he found the ability to negotiate the darkness towards the bar, and put on the lights. The brightness made him feel like acid had just been flung in his eyes. He felt his guts heave, then he hurled, violently all over the bar counter.
"Fucksake . . .”
Stauner put his hands out, seemed to settle. There was a McEwan's bar bucket, full of water, some melting ice. He raised it, tipped the contents over his head in a oner.
“Hell fuck . . .” he said. The chill rose on his neck, pushed tributaries down his back. In a few seconds, however, it had the desired effect: he was beginning to function again.
He recalled getting into Franklin’s motor. Franklin, fuck me, he thought - Frank the Plank, Frank the Wank - or any other of the hundred-and-fifty piss-takes he’d came up with for the wee poof over the years.
“Where you off tae, Stauner?” Franklin called out.
“Eh . . . station, how?”
“Jump in, I’ll give you a fastie. Save waiting for the bus, eh.”
“Eh, aye, suppose.”
If he’d been smart, he’d have smelt a rat there and then. What the fuck was Franklin doing given the likes of me a ride for fucksake, thought Stauner. Christ, he’d been done for riding the guy’s wee sister when she was thirteen or fourteen. Couldn’t see him forgetting about that, even though it was when they were back at the school.
“So, what’s the Hampden Roar, Stauner?”
“Just asking . . . bit edgy there aren’t you?”
He looked at the Next Man carriers Stauner had stuffed at his feet, the other side of the gear stick. They were chock-full of new clothes . . . for Paris.
“Splashin’ out, Stauner?”
“Next, though . . . had a win on the ponies?”
“Business is good, y’know.”
Franklin laughed, “So I hear.”
That’s when Stauner realised they weren’t headed to Waverley Station; then he felt the Nylon rope round his neck.
Stauner grabbed a glass from behind the bar, pushed it under one of the optics and filled it up with Famous Grouse. The whisky burned on his cut gums, but the feel of it surging down to his stomach was pure bliss.
He hit the optic again, settled another score with his cravings. As he looked around The Hoorings, Stauner saw the place was a tip. Looked like a bomb had hit it, as his old mam would have said. The curtains had been pulled down, ripped to pieces. Hardly a stick of furniture was left standing. The slot-machine had a table leg through the front, and worst of all, the sin of sins, the pool table’s baize had been slashed to pieces.
“What is this?” he said. “I must be fucking missing something.”
He’d been worked over. Got that bit. Properly robbed, understood. But dumped in The Hoorings - the place, trashed - had him scoobied.
Stauner belted down another low-flying birdie, then staggered towards the door. Sure as shite, he wasn’t hanging about. His bags were gone, and the ticket; but, Paris was still on his mind as he tried the door handle.
It was locked. Bolted and shuttered from the outside.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
Stauner kicked out, slammed his boot into the door. He managed to keep it up for about a minute till he realised that he didn’t have the strength to dislodge the shutters.
He leaned against the wall, the bare plaster felt cold against his back. He felt his knees buckle, and he slid down towards the floor. Through the window he saw headlights coming, illuminating the carpark. Then he heard the sound of tyres on the gravel.
Stauner stood up. Hit at the door again, but it didn’t budge an inch. He ran to the other side of the bar, tried to lift a window, but they were all painted down.
What’d the fucking Health and Safety have to say about this? he thought.
He could hear footsteps running up the path to the front of the pub. Panic jumped in him. He felt his chest start to heave. His mouth dried over. His head was a furnace.
The remains of a chair was to hand, Stauner picked it up and threw it at the window. It smashed as loudly as gunfire, instantly covering the floor in glass.
He could hear the keys turning in the locks, and, voices.
“Fuck . . . c’mon!”
Stauner tried to reach out, to open the shutters, but his hands were too big - wouldn’t go in. He was trapped, like a fucking big rat, he thought.
As the pub door swung open two old pugs the size of brick shithouses walked in and stood, square-footed, before him.
“The fuck’s this?” said Stauner.
The pugs didn’t answer. Didn’t utter a word. Then in walked Rab Hart. The Wee Man was the last person in the world Stauner wanted to see.
Hart walked slowly, his expensive shoes crushing glass beneath his every step. When he came level with the pugs, they took a step backwards, stood behind their Guvnor and clenched fists.
For a moment no words passed between them, then Hart spoke: “Slight matter of ten grand of mine to discuss, Pretty Boy.”
Stauner tried for words, but none came.
“Robbing off me’s one thing . . . fucking up my boozer’s quite another. You‘ll be lucky to get out of this alive, Stauner.”
“No, Rab . . . you don’t understand, was the French lassie, she fucked me over.”
Hart laughed: “Fucked you over . . . that not your style, Pretty Boy?”
The Wee Man’s laughter hit off the walls, sending blades into Stauner. The pugs joined in, their vast chests making tremors that set layers of bling jingling.
Hart tipped back his head, he removed his glasses, and one of the pugs suddenly halted all laughter and rushed to his side with a hankie.
“Fucked you over . . . I like that, no, I do, really I do,” said Hart.
“But, you don’t . . .”
“Understand? That what you were going to say? Oh, I think I do.”
Hart nodded to Stauner, and the two pugs sprung like thoroughbreds, “Understand this - you’ll see a good fucking now, laddie!” he said, “bastardin' sure you will.”