The Rent Man

Swansea is just one British port in the grip of the ruthless Rent Man Gang. Police and Customs are baffled by the fear and secrecy which surrounds their international drugs and male prostitution racket. Charlie Llewellyn is a local sculptor with a shaky Cash flow, a taste for the beer and a divorce battle with the Bitch from Hell. But who are the men behind this brutal gang and why has Charlie really moved back to Swansea? When a young male prostitute is murdered and Charlie commits suicide, the scene is set for one of the most original and gripping thrillers in years. At times hilarious, at times terrifying, The Rent Man draws us through the trials and tribulations of everyday life and into the dark, psychotic world of the Rent Man Gang. The Rent Man is riven with deliciously black humour and the almost touchable caustic atmosphere of decaying urban Wales. The author’s ability to create rounded characters makes his book, despite its dark subject matter, a breath of fresh air.


8. Townhill

Naylor was parked six cars back from the white van when Llewellyn emerged from the building three quarters of an hour later.     He stared in amazement. It was like looking at a different man. There was no quickness in his stride. He made no attempt to pull his hood up, as if it no longer mattered if people recognised him. He looked beaten; utterly dejected and defeated. Naylor eased his camera up over the level of the dash board and fired off a couple of shots as Llewellyn fumbled clumsily with the keys and eventually opened the driver’s door. He turned and gazed at Naylor’s car for a moment, but his eyes were blank and unseeing. Whatever had taken place in that office had clearly knocked the heart out of him. Naylor wondered what on earth had gone on. He had a fifteen-year-old score to settle with Preece and now, seeing that haunted look and those stooped shoulders, his mind was made up. He wanted to see where this was going to lead.

                Again he kept his distance as the van headed further into town. Where was he going? The station? Quite unexpectedly his quarry turned left up Mount Pleasant and headed for Townhill. Soon they were heading down past the soulless, rotting terraces with their boarded-up windows and the house numbers daubed on the front of the buildings in white emulsion. Burst mattresses lay in gardens, broken doors were thrown into the street and cars with no wheels were parked on piles of bricks along the roadside. They turned left onto Gors Avenue, then down to the roundabout. Finally the van pulled up outside a pub on the Llangyfelach Road.

                Naylor continued past until he found a place to pull in out of sight of the place. He got out, locked the car and walked back. He was glad that his car looked such a wreck from the outside. This part of town was the car theft capital of Britain.

                The van was empty when he got there. Its owner had obviously decided to drown his sorrows. Naylor thought about going in, but decided against it. At this time of day he could be the only other customer in there. He strolled as slowly as possible back up the road and gazed in at the dodgy TV repair shops and less identifiable businesses that chiselled out a living there. It wasn’t long before people were gazing at him. They didn’t like unfamiliar faces. He wandered back down to the pub, and on past, to check his car. It was the start of a routine patrol. A woman carrying a black, plastic bag went into the pub and that was the only sign of life for an hour.

                Finally, Llewellyn emerged and got in the van. He looked none the happier for a drink or two. He headed off towards the Carmarthen Road as Naylor raced for his car. They drove towards town and turned left, then right at the top of High Street. They headed down New Cut and turned right along the Strand past the multi-storey car park, then right again as if they were going to enter it. To Naylor’s puzzlement the van carried on past. The road was a dead end. What did he want down there? He pulled in, got out and walked quickly down the road. The van was parked at the very end where there were no double yellow lines and Llewellyn was trudging back towards him. Suddenly he turned right. Shit! The tunnel under the railway which led back up to High Street!

                Naylor ran back to his car. He reversed back like a mad man and went racing into the multi storey. The tyres screamed as the car spiralled up to the top floor. He drove illegally out of the entrance across the bridge to the top level and pulled up outside the Station where the taxis parked. He jumped out and slammed the doors.

                ‘You can’t park there, butty!’ called one of the drivers.

                ‘Go fuck yourself!’ snarled Naylor, as he ran out onto the roadside and gazed frantically up and down the street, His quarry was nowhere to be seen. Think! Think! Where would he have gone? He’d started drinking and he didn’t look in the mood to stop. Now he’d ditched the van where it could be left for twenty-four hours or more, so it was reasonable to assume he intended to carry on. But had he turned right or left as he came out of the tunnel?

                He made a snap decision and turned right, pushing his way into the first pub he came to. He worked his way through the crowd of lunchtime drinkers from the local offices. He passed the bar and headed into the gents. He took the opportunity to relieve himself, and then made his way back through the scrum.

‘This isn’t a public toilet!’ shouted a red-faced barman as Naylor reached the door without buying a drink.

                ‘Fucking smells like one!’ retorted Naylor, nastily, as he squeezed through the doors and back out onto the street. He hesitated. He couldn’t leave his car where it was for long; the wardens were like locusts around there. To hell with it! He’d try the Adam and Eve. If he had no luck, he’d collect the car and try the pubs further up.

                As he entered the pub he spotted his quarry sitting on his own in a corner at the top end of the bar. He had a large whiskey in front of him. He was staring blankly into space. A barmaid stepped forward.

                ‘What can I get you, luv?’

                He held his hand up.

                ‘Just popped in to see if I left my hat here last night.’ He lied.

                It’ll be up there, if you did,’ she replied, nodding at a row of pegs on the wall. He made a pretence of looking, and then shook his head.

                ‘Not there now. Thanks anyway, luv.’ He turned on his heel and walked out. He raced back up the road to the station. The traffic warden was putting a parking ticket on his windscreen as he arrived.

                ‘For Chrissakes, I’ve only been gone five minutes!’ he exploded. The warden shrugged.

                ‘It’s strictly no parking by ’ere, sir, and you’re causin’ an obstruction.’

                ‘The fuck I am!’ shouted Naylor, beside himself with rage.

                ‘If you use anymore language like that, I’ll do you for threatnin’ be’aviour too.’

                ‘Go on, book the twat!’ shouted the cab driver he had exchanged words with earlier. Naylor stormed toward, fists clenched, but found himself confronted with half-a-dozen burly drivers and thought better of it. With an effort he spun round and strode back to his car, snatching the ticket off the windscreen as he got in.

                He parked the car in the pay-and-display car park across the road from the station, and bought a ticket for the rest of the afternoon. He made his way back down High Street and staked out the pub. Nearly an hour later, Llewellyn emerged, just as Naylor was beginning to wonder if he should check that he was still in there. It seemed as if an aura of even greater depression clung to him as he crossed the road and disappeared into The King’s Arms.

                It was mid-afternoon when he left The King’s Arms, but this time he headed down High Street and turned right at Castle Gardens. He called in at The Office then headed down to The Quadrant Gate near the market. Naylor tried to decide if he looked a little unsteady on his feet. He wasn’t sure, but there was no mistaking his air of deepening gloom. He followed him into The Gate and treated himself to a half of larger and a bag of peanuts.

                Some boys had obviously been at it all afternoon and a row broke out near where Llewellyn was sitting gazing at the wall. One bloke went down and took several kicks in the face before a barman got between them and told them to leave. Llewellyn didn’t even look round.

                It was getting on for six when he drained his glass and walked out. He cut down between the theatre and the bus station and walked under the underpass, still deep in thought. Naylor watched from a distance as he entered The Swansea Jack. He thought about it and decided to wait fifteen minutes before following him in. He was almost a hundred percent sure Llewellyn hadn’t clocked him in The Gate, but there was no need to risk it. Instead he scuttled across the dual carriageway and sat down on a bench to review the situation.

                It was possible that his quarry was a monumental piss-up, brought on by that meeting in Uplands. In fact, it was quite probable, but Naylor couldn’t help feeling that that wasn’t the whole picture. His intuition told him that Llewellyn was killing time. And what was the significance of his choice of pubs, if any? Suddenly the answer came to him. He dismissed it as fanciful at first, but it wouldn’t go away. Llewellyn was saying goodbye. Nonsense! He hadn’t spoken to any bugger since he’d started drinking. Some farewell that was! But Naylor knew that wasn’t the point. These were landmark pubs in Swansea. Places where Llewellyn could have drunk his first pint. Places full of memories.

                He glanced at his watch and got back up. Time for a half in The Jack and a check on his man. He scuttled back across the road and into the pub. The only difference was the pub itself. Llewellyn was sitting with a whiskey in front of him staring into the distance. Naylor couldn’t help wondering if he’d still be sitting there, or in some other haunt, come closing time. However, as the clock reached half seven, he stirred and beckoned to the woman behind the bar.

                ‘You okay Charlie, luv?’ she enquired as she moved nearer. He nodded ponderously.

                ‘I’m alright, Helen, just a bit rat-arsed. Could you be a darlin’ and call us a cab?’

                ‘Sure, where you going?’

                ‘Just local, tell ‘em.’

                She nodded and went to make the call as Naylor knocked back his drink and sidled out of the pub. He pulled out his mobile as he hurried down the road. He stopped about twenty yards away and pressed a pre-programmed button. A voice at the other end answered:

                ‘Rapid Cabs?’

                ‘Barry Naylor here, Evening Post. I’m outside The Jack and I need to follow someone who’s just called a cab. Have you got anyone local?’

                ‘Hang on a second Barry, I’ll ’ave a word.’ Naylor could hear the controller radioing the drivers. He came back on line.

                ‘I’ve got someone droppin’ at The Brunswick right now. He’ll be with you in a few minutes.’

                ‘Thanks pal, I owe you one. Stick it on account will you?’

                ‘Okay. Ta ta now.’

                ‘Cheerio.’ Naylor broke the connection with a grin. He always got a tingle of satisfaction when he got a free ride because some dozy sod in The Post’s accounts department still had him down as an employee.


                ‘Keep your distance!’ ordered Naylor as his driver followed Llewellyn’s cab out onto the docks. As they proceeded further their destination became clear. They were headed for the Swansea-Cork Ferry. The ship was already loading and Naylor could see Llewellyn’s tall frame some way ahead as they queued for tickets, then shuffled up the gangway. Naylor made a snap decision and joined the queue. He was not surprised when his quarry headed for Paddy Murphy’s bar. Another large scotch from the look of it. Christ, this bloke could put it away! His face was bleak and set hard as he made his way over to an empty table. He looked a little less steady on his feet.

                A bunch of rugby boys came bursting in. They crowded into the tables next to Llewellyn.

                ‘For fuck’s sake Bear, mun, get ‘em in! We wanna be wankered by the time this thing leaves!’ yelled one. Up went the chant: ‘Get ‘em in, get ‘em in, get ‘em in... .’ from the rest. The aptly named Bear lumbered off to the bar, while the others fooled around.

                By the time the ship sailed at nine they had achieved their objective and the singing was getting louder and the songs bawdier. The Bar Manager went over and asked them to turn it down and mind their language.

                ‘Whaddaya mean mind our fucking language?’ slurred a hefty looking forward.

                ‘What’s wrong with our fucking language, you twat?’ demanded another.

                ‘Listen to yourself and you’ll work it out.’ Replied the manager evenly.

                ‘We’re not hurting anyone, having a sing-song you miserable bastard!’ protested a third, swaying with more than the motion of the ship.

                ‘No, but you’re drowning out the music and no one does that in my bar.’

                ‘Stick your music up your arse, mun. I can’t stand that diddly-dee crap, anyway.’ Suddenly the mood had turned nasty. The boys were getting to their feet, sensing trouble. Then a new voice cut across the tension.

                ‘I’d do as he says if I were you.’ They turned to stare at the man they had crowded in on. He too had risen unsteadily to his feet. Naylor slid across a couple of seats to watch what was happening. The one called Bear stepped forward.

                ‘What the fuck’s it got to do with you?’

                ‘You’re pissing me off. That’s what it’s got to do with me.’

                ‘Go on Bear, deck the fucker!’ encouraged one of his mates.

                Bear hesitated. This bloke was taller and broader than he’d look sitting down. He looked dead mean.

                ‘For Chrissakes, butty, batter the wanker!’ added another, who was not on the receiving end of the man’s hard stare. Bear was trapped. He couldn’t back down. He swung a fist.

                The next thing he knew he was laying on the floor, puking up beer and doubled up in agony. He hadn’t even seen the man move, but it felt like he’d been hit in the solar plexus with an iron bar. The bar manager broke the silence.

                ‘Now why don’t you lads take your mate out on the deck for a breath of fresh air? You can all sing to the seagulls if you’re still in the mood.’

                 A couple of boys bent down and helped Bear to a crouching position. They got him semi-upright and steered him out of the bar. The man sat down and continued staring at his drink. The manager nodded.

                ‘Thanks pal, I was feelin’ a bit lonely there for a minute. What would you be drinkin’?’

                But Charlie had sunk back into his thoughts. He made no reply. The manager shrugged.

                ‘I’ll get a mop,’ he muttered and headed back to the bar.




They had been at sea for an hour and the rugby boys had obviously found somewhere else for their revelry. Llewellyn hadn’t moved. He hadn’t even bothered to renew his drink. He had simply sat and stared at the floor in front of him. Suddenly he stood up as if he’d reached a decision. He straightened his shoulders like he was defying a firing squad, then headed for the exit. Naylor slipped out of his seat and followed him. He had to move surprisingly quickly to keep up.

                Llewellyn made his way to the upper deck and crossed to the starboard side. Naylor could see the lights of the Pembroke coast twinkling in the distance. Soon they would be out of sight. Was this the final farewell? A last chance to say goodbye to Wales before moving on to start a new life.

                Could Naylor’s article in the paper have had such enormous ramifications?  Naylor shrugged. Hardly. The man was obviously being set up for adultery. Perhaps he wouldn’t have had to leave Swansea without Naylor’s contribution, but so what. He was a reporter, an observer, a passive participant in the drama.

                Llewellyn had moved up the front of the ship. From the shadows, Naylor could see him silhouetted clearly against the clear night sky. Hang on a second! What the fuck was he doing? Jesus wept! Naylor started forward as his quarry stepped over the railing, paused for a moment, then jumped. He reached the side in time to see him hit the water and vanish into the dark, swirling waters of the Bristol Channel.

                He opened his mouth to shout for help, then shut it again. Who was he to interfere if the bloke wanted to top himself? Besides, in Barry Naylor’s line of business, a successful suicide was news, a failed one wasn’t. He watched to see if Llewellyn surfaced, he didn’t. He glanced at his watch and decided to wait ten minutes before raising the alarm. By then any potential rescuers would be searching in quite the wrong place. 

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