Kinski in the Attic

Rennie wants to kill himself, but things seem to keep getting in the way...

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10. TEN

'Holly?'

'Yeah?'

'What're you doing in that tree?'

'Hang on.'

She swings down in one motion. I hesitate to compare her to a monkey, but that's what it's like.

'Well, this is embarrassing,' she says, grinning. Camouflage suits her. Don coughs and daunders on ahead.

'Were you spying on me?'

For a moment she looks shocked; then her features settle. 'Aye. Yeah. That's what I was doing.'

I snort. 'I don't understand you. One minute it's “we need to not be around each other” and the next you're spying on me. Make a choice, Holly. I'm not your plaything.'

'Right. Yes. Sorry.' She watches her foot scuff the dirt.

'What do you want?'

She bends down to pick up the broken binoculars. 'I dunno. I'm confused. Listen, I better go.'

'Ok.' I place an arm on either side of her neck. 'Now, I don't want to look out the window later and see you perched in a tree again.' Her jaw muscles tense. She stares over my shoulder.

'Got it.'

'Alright.'

I leave her standing by the tree. Still won't meet my eyes. I think I'd be pissed off if I'd been caught spying on an ex.

'Women, mun,' I say once I've caught up with Don.

'What was she up to?'

'Spying on me.'

Don gawps. 'Serious? Never had Holly pegged for the jealous type.'

'Me either.'

We stare out over the golf course. A series of desperate thwacks resonate up from a bunker. Beyond, the sea twinkles.

'Why d'you think they let us go?' says Don.

'I dunno. I reckon Rob's losing the plot though. Him and Kerry must be on the rocks.'

'They knew we were on the course.'

'Cameras. What I don't get though is that they'd have seen our outfits – so howcome they didn't nail us for doing that thing the other night?'

We haven't concocted a sufficient reason by the time we get to Don's mum's house. The smell of bacon and sausages reach us at the gate. We leap up the path. Don throws open the front door and Charlie struggles to his feet, yapping half-heartedly. He waddles after us into the kitchen, where we find Janine, Ashley and a whole lot of smoke.

'Howcome I only ever see you when there's food involved?' says Janine. Her housecoat is patterned like that of a dairy cow; I remember Don showing me it one Christmas and being beside himself at finding such a hilarious gift.

'I'm here to see yous,' says Don, mock-offended. Ashley rolls her eyes and eats her cereal.

'Help yourself. Plenty left in the pan. Hi Rennie.'

'Hiya. Mind if I steal some food too?'

Janine shrugs. 'More the merrier.' She slurps from her glass of fizzy liquid. Don hands me a plate of sausages, bacon and eggs and we sit down to eat.

'Want a drink?' Janine asks.

'Nah. Bit early for me.'

'Come on. Have a drink.'

'He says he doesn't want one mam.'

'He's just being polite.' She fixes me with a gaze that is both distant and piercing. 'Aren't you?'

I protest through a clot of bacon. Janine fills a glass with gin and tonic and plonks it down in front of me.

'Drink.'

'Mam...'

Janine ignores Don. She stands next to me, arms folded. I take a sip and this seems to pacify her; she sits back down and raises her glass. 'Cheers.' We clink and she waits for me to take another drink before leaning back in her chair.

Don's quiet on the way back from his, kicking any stones he comes across.

'She's getting worse.'

I don't know what you're supposed to say to something like that so I opt for a solemn nod. Joe calls when we're down by the burn, watching litter swirl around the pebbles. Don listens with a mute disinterest and only tells me what it was about after I prompt him.

'Says we passed.'

'Passed?'

He shrugs. 'We've to meet him out at the woods tonight.'

'Christ.'

'What?'

'Everything those fannies put us through last night. It was some sort of test.'

Don shakes the glaze from his eyes. 'What for?'

'Saving the country.'

'Ach,' shaking his head, 'Joe was pished. We all were.'

'It'd explain why they just let us go.'

Rainclouds crowd the distant hillcrests. Something wet lands on my nose; I go to wipe it but there's nothing there. I hold out my hand but it stays dry.

 

My tyres skitter through the wet soil. Farther down the hill Don pants and shifts his bike into an easier gear. My thighs are numb with exertion.

We're late. Don wasn't sure what was appropriate country-saving attire. Turns out it's exactly the same as what he always fucking wears. Everyday hero. Through the straggly pines shine a set of headlights. The spectral air it has gives me a chill. My phone vibrates again. You'd think Cherise would've got the message by now. We round the bend, the bike nearly slipping from under me, and pedal, squinting, towards the headlights.

I get off and let my bike plop into the mud. No-one's about. The car purrs. One of its doors hangs open, leaking the faint sound of early 90s dance into the night air. That chill comes back. Don still hasn't caught his breath.

Something stirs out in the woods. I wheel round to see where it came from, squinting. Nothing. I can't see the trees for the forest so I shuffle out of the headlights into the undergrowth. One of my shoes lands in a puddle.

Behind, there's a brief flurry of movement. Don isn't panting anymore. Don isn't here anymore.

The wood closes in. Every branch and twig reaches out for me, yearning to scrape and scratch and pull me into the darkness.

I scramble out of the undergrowth back to the car. Now I'm in the headlights I can see what I stepped in.

Blood.

As I run to my bike the car clunks. Its boot opens. I have to look. Every step closer makes my legs even weaker. Lying in the boot is Joe's bound and gagged body. I manage a scream before someone slips in from behind and presses a wet knife to my throat.

'Shh.'

I shh and stay that way when the hood goes over my head, when I'm bundled into the back of the car and remain shh even when the car starts and we lurch off towards an unknown destination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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