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Monday, 13 July 2009

To Be Counted . . . . . . .

“You can grab your keys in the morning Nate.” The barman said draping the last towel over the lager tap and turned off the fruit machines with the master switch behind the bar.

“Thanks” Nathanial slurred, hopping from his bar stool, his head thumping from the hot crowded bar. He hadn’t had a drink for several hours, but he had had too much to risk the short trip home. Besides the walk would be good for him, he hadn’t been getting that much exercise recently.

The night air was cool and refreshing especially after being stuck inside for five solid hours. Nate took a deep breath, blowing the second hand smoke from his lungs, clearing his headache in the process. He only lived a few miles away, and even in his slightly inebriated condition it shouldn’t take more than forty-five minutes to get back. An hour at the most if he wandered rather than walked, and it was a clear night, all the major constellations were in view, so wandering was a distinct possibility.

The normal route he would have taken was closed for road works, and so Nate turned left instead of right, deciding that the quickest way back would be through the Groves. It was the bad area of town, predominantly council houses, with families living on various kinds of benefit, some of which were actually legitimate claims, but halfway down he could take a left, cross the fen park play area and cut through the woods – which since last winter had been lined with low power street lighting – it would shave about half a mile or so from the overall detour, plus it was still fairly light out, the moon was full and after the day he had had Nate felt invincible.

As he walked he whistled to himself, no tune in particular, but more a medley of the jukebox classics that had been assaulting his senses all night.

He crossed over the main road that successful dissected the town into North and South, and headed up toward the Groves. The houses, although given to the takers of society, were in good condition, many of them freshly refurbished and of course kept in good condition by the council who are responsible for their repairs. He hadn’t gone too far before he heard footsteps falling on the pavement behind him. He heard their murmured conversation and took nothing of their presence. Until a third person walked out from the shadows, holding in one hand a broken wine bottle or so it looked.

“Give me your wallet Man. Come on.” He seemed nervous, bouncing his weight from on foot to the other. His eyes not looking at Nate or to the two companions of his who had assumed flanking positions either side of him, but he seemed more intent on checking the road, making sure no police car happened to drive past and witness proceedings.

Not wanting any trouble, and happy to lose the twenty-five pounds in his wallet, Nate handed it over. He never took his cards with him when he went drinking, just as a precaution.

“What the fuck is this. Come on Granddad, give us the real cash, the cards. I’m not fucking kidding you.” The man, who Nate realized was not many years passed being classed as a boy was agitated, disappointment in his voice apparent.

“I don’t have anything else. It’s the end of the night. You’re lucky to jump someone with that much.” The rational answer seemed so obvious that it needed to be said.

One of the bodyguards then threw a strong punch into Nate’s ribs, doubling him over, the air rushing from his lungs in a long exhalation. He wanted to collapse to his knees but was being held up now. His body demanding air, but his lungs still too shocked to take it in.

“Just take it man.” The other flanker said. The threw the wallet on the ground, ironic as it was worth much more than the meager amount it contained, dropped Nate and carried on their way.
He remained on the floor, his knees on the cold pavement, scratched and bleeding slightly from the impact, his body was bent over the top of that. He was sucking air into his lungs in loud slurps.

He wanted to vomit.

The feeling passed and once he could breathe again, Nate rose to his feet, grabbing his wallet and continuing on his way. His pace somewhat quicker than it had been before.

He reached the point where he had could cut down a small side alley bringing him out in the woods. He could see the light at the end of the alley, and saw a man walking a dog cross his view. He heard more footsteps behind him. He turned and saw a group of four people heading up the street.

He took the Alley way, jogging over to the wooded path.

“Hey are you alright?” A voice asked, a young women, in her early twenties was standing leaning against a tree with a long joint sticking out of her left hand. Her face was shaded by the poor light and a large tree, but Nate could see her skin was covered with acne, it was clammy and her hair was thin and stuck greasily to her scalp. Her teeth were crooked, and some where missing, her gums bloody and sore.

“I’m fine. I lost my wallet that’s all.” His ribs still ached dully from the heavy blow he had been dealt. “But it doesn’t matter; It was only a small bit of cash. Are you ok being out here alone?” He asked, the fundamental principles he had grown up with coming through to take control. He looked at her, then at the joint. He could smell it from across the path.

He watched as she took a long deep drag.

“Want some?” She asked, coughing slightly as she laughed the smoke out of her mouth. She held the joint out. “It’s ok; cops don’t come down this part of town if they don’t got to.” She said it with a blasé attitude that screamed of mediocrity. She came away from the tree, her skinny legs covered with bruises and scabs. She was wearing a short denim skirt, which left too much to the imagination.

Nate swallowed hard.

She held his gaze as she walked towards him, placing the joint in his hands before he even knew what was going on. He raised it to his lips and inhaled. Only a little at first, but when he lowered it, she took it from him, took a long drag and kissed him, blowing the smoke into his mouth. Almost immediately his world lost its sharpness and he felt a strange sensation wash over him as if he were lying on the beach just below the shoreline.

He collapsed to the floor, his lungs burning, he choked as he coughed and the girl simply smiled at him.

“I’m Melanie.” She smiled at him.

“Nate” He said, standing back up. Melanie was young enough to be his daughter, he saw that in her face, but he was drawn to her.

“Nice to meet you,” She handed the joint back to Nate who took it and dragged greedily on it.

“You fancy walking for a bit. I never like to walk around here alone.” She said, pouting as she finished the sentence.

Her nipples were poking through her shirt, she wasn’t wearing a bra and two buttons were missing.

“Really, I thought this was your neighbourhood.” He said, keeping hold of the joint as they automatically began walking, following the path that took them deeper into the woods.

“It is, but I’m no gangbanger, those guys own the place now. It’s not safe. I met them once a few nights ago.” She stopped suddenly, as if embarrassed, or shy. She took the joint back and finished it.

“I guess they were the guys that took my money then” Nate spoke to himself, although inadvertently out loud.

“Those guys are ass’s why are you walking around here anyway. You don’t seem like the type for this place.” She continued the friendly conversation; a happy buzz circled them both, as they moved between the rings of light and areas of shadow from the overhead lights

“I close a good deal at work today so was out celebrating. Had to leave my car and walk.” Nate said, bothered by the sudden change in her demeanor. “What happened to you? What did those guys do?” He quizzed her.

“Nothing. Don’t worry about me. I can survive.” Her voice suddenly cheered up. “Hey you want to have a bit more fun.” She had stopped walking. She was looking at Nate with wide eyes. Her hands picked subconsciously at her shirt.

“I should probably get going.” He said hesitantly, unable to break his gaze with Melanie.

“Ok, well maybe I’ll see you around.” She said with another smile and she walked off the main path, down a small alleyway, there was no light there and she was soon swallowed up by the dark.

Nate stood for a second and followed her.

She was waiting for him.

She kissed him, and this time he kissed her back, he found a sudden passion burning inside him that had been lost. His wife hardly spoke to him, she spent her time watching TV, reading gossip magazines or out and about shopping in various outlets for whatever she saw. They hardly spoke, and he had actually stopped wearing his wedding ring some days because he found it annoying.

“Follow me. Let me speak, my friend is a bit wary of strangers.” Nate’s hands were gently squeezing her breasts, they felt so firm to his touch, his erection pressed against her inner thigh.
She disappeared, it seemed as though the night had simply swallowed her whole. The wooden gate swung shut behind her and clicked gently against its latch. Moments passed and as the initial wave of pleasure began to disappear, Nate started to question what he was doing.

She isn’t coming back. Come on, go home, sober up. You’ve got a lot of work heading your way.
He was busy talking to himself when Melanie returned, pulling him by his shirt sleeve into the yard. It was overgrown and filled with junk, but Nate didn’t think about it.

He followed Melanie in through the broken door which led them directly into the kitchen, which was filled with the buzz of electricity, the worktops were filled with brown glass bottles, piping, and glass flasks, several Bunsen burners were also present, and in the corner of the room, barely visible in the darkness was a number of Gas Cylinders.

“What are we doing here?” Nate asked, uneasy about his new surroundings.

“Well, firstly to have a bit of fun, but also if they are on the streets, then I don’t want to be.” Melanie said.

“I should probably be getting back.” Nate stammered. His heart was beginning to race and he didn’t think it was because of the dope.

“You can’t go, you can’t leave me. It’s not safe out there.” She said, suddenly craving the closeness of another human being.

“Well the police are driving around so surely you can make it home.” Nate said. They had left the kitchen now and entered the living room. A number of low wattage light bulbs burned overhead, there was a thick cloud hovering just below the ceiling and children’s toys littered the floor. There was a long tattered leather sofa that stretched the entire width of the far wall, and two armchairs which looked as though they had been rescued from the dump. A glass table took the centre stage.

“That’s rich. Boy have you got a lot to learn. The pigs don’t give a fuck about us. This neighbourhood is hardly visited during the day let alone at night. They leave us here and hope we will all just take care of our own problems. Its quality policing at its finest, contain the trouble and it makes the figures for the whole town look better. “Melanie dropped onto the sofa and patted for Nate to sit next to her.

“You don’t believe that do you?” Nate asked, his faith in the system had been instilled from growing up in the upper echelons of the middle class, going to private schools and two brand name universities.

“Well hello, Mel says you like to play rough. So what you say about gettin’ this here party started.” A squeaky voice entered the room before its owner. A tall, severely underweight man entered, he had a straggly beard and a wrinkled face that made him appear much older. He smiled as he finished talking, his teeth ranged in colour from yellow to black, his gums receded to the point where the root’s of the teeth were almost visible. Some had already fallen out, but he didn’t seem to mind.

He threw a small ball of tin foil at Melanie, she opened it and poured the contents onto the table. Nate watched in silent shock as she pulled a razorblade from inside her book and cut 4 neat rather chunky lines on the table. She quickly snorted one and sat back. She stared at Nate, and he saw her eyes widen, and a glassy look descended over them like a curtain coming down on her reality.

“The cops don’t care about us. Where were they tonight when you got mugged? I mean only a few feet away from the main street and they don’t give a damn.” She motioned to the remaining lines. Nate faltered, unsure what she was suggesting. His mind beginning to fog over as the alcohol buzz gave way to the heady after feeling and the other high continued to lessen.

“That was just bad luck” He said, defending the institution because it was the right thing to do.
She snorted another line, moaning this time as the high hit her. She lay back on the sofa, her shirt stretching against her chest as she arched her back. “Ok, but where were they when those some of those fuckers raped me? Why didn’t they listen when I reported it?” She asked. There was venom in her words but it didn’t come out in her expression.

“What?” Nate asked.

Melanie sat back up. She gazed at him. “That’s right. I reported it, I even went up there, but they wouldn’t even listen to me. Just sent me back outside.” She passed a cut of piece of plastic straw to Nate and directly him to the line.

“I’m not sure.” He began to say, his mind was whirling from the sudden revelation. He refused to believe that the police didn’t care about a rape.

“Just because I’m a junkie they don’t give a fuck. If I live three streets further over then they would have done something about it. I’m telling you. This whole town is dirty.” She continued to talk. Nate noticed the dealer also take a seat in one of the arm chair, his shirt was now missing and he had a rubber hose tied around his arm.

“That’s just the beginning of it man.” He said to no one in particular.

Before he knew what was happening, Nate snorted both the lines of powder one after the other. It hit him like a right hook, his world exploded. His body tingled and he could feel every individual pour on his body gasp; millions of tiny mouths opening for air. The wave crashed over him again and again. He fell back into the sofa.

Drowning in an ocean of ecstasy and loving it.

“That’s not right.” He said, mumbling the words over and over again. “How can they let that happen? Fuck that.” He shouted it and beside him Melanie laughed.

“That’s just how life goes.” She said dismissively.

They sat on the sofa together, and as they went through several more lines, the conversation continued and Nate found himself getting angrier and angrier about it. The lack of police units in the area, the blind eye they always seemed to be cast in their direction.

“Someone needs to take a stand. Take it to the government, the media, anybody who will listen. You can’t let this happen.” Nate was ranting, and with each line he snorted he thought of a bigger and better method.

“It’s not worth it. It happens a lot, but you get used to it.” Melanie said. She was now sitting in Nate lap, her shirt open, and his fingers were tracing small circles around her hardened nipples. They kissed, a passionate embrace and seemed to melt into the sofa with each other.

After they finished making love on the stained, tattered suite, Nate took a line of cocaine that Melanie had drawn onto her stomach. Starting just above the small tuft of public hair and finished on the point of both her nipples. He fell back and watched as the room exploded, and his head floated away from his body.

“It’s not just here man. It’s everywhere. Places like this just get ignored. We don’t get a chance in life because we are in a bad state. I mean, they just want to control us man.” The dealer – who Nate found out was called Eddie – spoke suddenly. Until that point he had been almost unconscious in the chair.

“I know, why don’t you come and meat The Beef. He can help. He used to be a big shot. He doesn’t live far; it’s like 20 minutes from here.” Melanie laughed as she spoke. She liked nothing better than to fuck while she was high.

“Maybe he will know people then. He could help us get this out to the public. They need to know what goes on here.” Nate stood, defiant.

“You sound like your campaigning or some shit. People don’t care about us. Society turns its back on us every chance it gets.” Eddie spoke; his comments seemed to echo the Melanie’s thoughts.

Nate laughed. The very idea seemed ridiculous. “I’m not politician, I’m a advertising man.” He said, his mind was melting, he could feel it, he was so thirsty, and hot he couldn’t think straight. “Let’s go outside then. I’m burning up in here.”

The three of them stood, Eddie taking somewhat longer to get to his feet than the others. “Yeah dude. Road trip. Let’s go see The Beef” He said with a voice filled with the anticipation of child on Christmas morning staring down his pile of presents.

The three of them set off this time, venturing through the front door, which was blocked by a twin pushchair and new packet of Huggies. Stepping out of the door, the first thing Nate noticed was that the world looked much darker, dirtier somehow. A few clouds had appeared in the sky and the moon seemed to cast an ghostly light on the ground.

The air was cooler that it had been, or he was hotter, Nate wasn’t sure which. He felt something on his skin, walking over him like a mobile itch, five creeping legs climbing over his flesh. He looked down; thinking about pulling away but not sure if it would be any use. It was only Melanie locking her fingers in his.

The journey took them further into The Groves, and with each step the shadows of night seemed longer and more menacing, the houses seemed grimier, windows cracked and dirty. The new cars in the driveway had more chips in their paint and the tax discs seemed to edge closer to expiration with every side street.

Nate gripped Melanie’s hand, lightly at first, enjoying the way her smooth skin seemed to melt into his own. He could still smell their love making on her skin, - and quite possibly his own - and so he squeezed tighter, in the amber spotlights cast by the streetlamps Nate found himself gazing at her. Her hair seemed to bounce as she walked, her skin seemed smoother, to shimmer not from grease and pus filled pimples, but with glamour and youth. She looked healthy to him. As if sensing him looking at her she stopped walking and turned to face him. Her breasts pushed pertly against her shirt, her legs were solid and sensual to his scanning eyes.

“Not long now man. The Beef is a big guy to know. Trust me. Then your world will really change.” She smiled at him and carried on walking, the graceful curve of her thighs and buttocks swaggered away from him.

He followed.

The wind buzzed over his skin, it was electric, the hairs on his arms stood erect and screaming, howling at the overcast night sky.

“Where the fuck are we walking to?” Nate asked.

Melanie giggled but said nothing.

“Just up this hill man.” Eddie answered, somewhat distantly.

They had stopped walking. Nate looked up and saw a long steep road that wound to the right and out of view, still climbing as it did. “I didn’t know they had fucking mountains in here.” The others laughed, Melanie even snorted. She was becoming quite infatuated with the older man. He wasn’t the best lover she had ever had, but he seemed to be responsible. “I should really be getting home. Fuck. Where the Hell are we?” He asked pulling at his already disheveled hair.

“You all in trouble muvafukkas” A street bred voice jumped out at them. A group of three men, each wearing vests and bandanas over their mouths stood with their arms by their side, blades glinting.

“We don’t want no trouble.” Melanie spoke first, she had already taken several steps closer to Nate, slipping her arm within his.

She was shaking.

“Shut up bitch. I thought we told you to get out granddad.” The turned their attention to Nate and took a few steps forward.

“Let’s go” Melanie whispered.

Eddie was standing behind them both, almost unaware that anything was going on. He was so high that the concept of danger no longer entered his mind. “Hey” His single contribution to the conversation.

“That’s no way to talk to a lady. Now we were just moving, um going somewhere. We don’t want to cause problems.” Nate continued, not really thinking the words, the just seemed to be falling from his brain. He was a natural talker whatever his condition apparently and so he just let it go.

The three men took another step closer, the gap narrowed to less than 2 meters. Too close to run away. Melanie squeezed Nate’s arm tighter.

“Well it’s a bit late for dat” The middle figure spoke. He was a large man, muscled and overweight at the same time. A large tattoo ran down his right arm. He was the new addition since Nate’s previous encounter.

With no further warning the two flankers sprung. One grabbed Nate and the other Melanie, a fist hit Nate in the gut like a pneumatic piston; he doubled over and vomited on the floor. Before he could right himself a knee came up into his face. His lips slit and his nose began to bleed, the blood falling like rain drops on the pavement. Black drops of shimmering oil in the night time scene. The hands let him go. He fell.

“Hey. That’s not cool man. Chill out.” Eddie re-began his negotiations. He was soon knocked out by the same man that assaulted Nate.

“Let me go. Fuck you.” Melanie called out, raking her nails down the face of one of the men, kicking him in the knee at the same time. He hollered in pain, but the other one had then joined in and wrapped his arms around her, crushing her fragile ribcage in his strong grip.

The leader of the group still hadn’t moved, he was holding his knife in both hands, admiring it that way an collector looks at a painting.

“You like dit whore? Hey, you want it again. Come on scream, open your mouth and take it bitch.” He moved forward with the knife, the blade aimed at Melanie’s mouth. He pushed the tip between her lips. She cried with her lips pursed so tightly together they almost disappeared from her face.

The man who held her laughed, his grip lessened slightly. Meanwhile the other one was now on his feet. Limping, blood drawn down the side of his face, but he still smiled, his dark skin revealing white teeth that shone in contrast to his body. “I’m gonna enjoy this.” He said as he unzipped his trousers. “Just don’t give me nothing.” He added almost as an afterthought. Melanie struggled but the knife was still delicately placed and so she calmed.

“Leave her alone” Nate called, his voice lacked power as he still struggled to get his breath.

“Shut ya trap Old man. I’m sure you will get your turn.” The big guy spoke. “Bend her over for me boys. They did as he asked, and he pushed her skirt up exposing her to the world. “Fuck me. This stink like a fucking fish factory, I’m not gonna put my dick in that.”He said, pulling his trousers back up. “But my fist is ok.” He shoved with his arm, a sudden and powerful thrust.
Melanie screamed. It was a blood curdling horrible scream that would be permanently etched into Nate’s mind.

In all their excitement they had forgotten about Eddie and Nate, who had regain their feet. Both charged, falling into the men rather than anything more aggressive. Still, it was enough to knock them off balance and they all fell to the floor. Eddie was pounding away, his aggression silent, his lips pulled back, fists soon covered with blood. He didn’t know what he was fighting, but he felt as though it was necessary.

Nate, being not naturally aggressive wasn’t throwing many punches but more swinging with his eyes closed. He felt hands grabbing at him, his balance being overthrown. Thinking fast, he grabbed the mans head, lifting it from the floor and dropping it suddenly to the floor. The sound echoed into his mind. The sanity he had left him as the red mist descended. He pushed the man’s head into the concrete another six times before realizing he was dead.

“Melanie” he called. His world was dark, he saw nothing, everything was a mass of lights and sounds, the rage coursed through his veins accompanying the coke as it ravaged his body. He felt invincible. “Melanie where are you?” He called again, hearing her sobs coming from somewhere nearby.

She was lying on the floor, curled up against the small brick wall that was the boundary of someone’s garden. Someone who, like the rest of the street hadn’t even turned their lights on or peered through the curtains at the commotion.

She was lying in the fetal position, her skirt still pushed up her back, blood trickling from between her legs. He was shaking, gripping herself so hard her nails were drawing blood on her arms.

Nate found her and he pulled her into him. “It’s ok. They won’t hurt you anymore.” He whispered to her.

Hands clamped down on the back of his shirt and lifted him into the air. “You is gonna pay for this.” The leader of the men spoke. His knife blade flashed as it swung through the air. Melanie jumped just in time, she sank her teeth into the man’s thick neck. She felt hot acidic blood in her mouth. She let go as the man dropped Nate and grabbed at her. She had fallen back to the floor. He rubbed his neck which was bleeding profusely, turning to face Melanie, Nate reacted quickly, grabbing the knife from the floor and burying it in the man’s side. He withdrew, the man remained standing so he stabbed again, and again, still unable to control his actions. The rage did all the talking. “Fucking Rapist. This is what you god damned deserve. Justice. Fuck You.” He spat the words, bloodied saliva spilling from his lips. The man fell to the floor in a convulsing heap.

“Jesus Man. Come on, run before the cops show up.” Eddie spoke, his mellow self once more.

“Something like this will bring them here in droves” He added as he hustled them both up the street. “Number 857, come on. Move it man.” The hurried off.

They stood breathlessly in the shadow of the house they were looking for, a shadowy figure on the other side was busy working a number of locks and chains to let them in. Behind them the sound of police sirens grew louder as more cars and ambulances added to the flashing blue background at the base of the hill.

“Come on Beef. Let us in man.” Eddie muttered urgently. He had done all the talking. Melanie was in no condition to argue and Nate didn’t care. He was too busy worrying about what he had done. Images coming back to him like the morning after a big night out.

“Shit. What did we do?” He asked, staring from Melanie to Eddie and the door. “What. Oh God. Oh God.” He muttered.

The door opened and although hesitant at first given the fact that they were all covered with blood, The Beef – aka Alan Johnston – let them in. Closing and bolting the door behind them.
The Beef was a thin man, nothing like the figure Nate had created in his mind, he had thinning hair, was probably only a few years younger than Nate was, he wore a long dressing gown with a Chinese dragon travelling the length of it. His eyes were hazy and his face was, like Eddies, sallow and clammy with sweat. They sat in silence, Eddie was lounged back in an arm chair similar to his own, Alan was fidgeting with his legs, pressing on the nerves in his feet to keep the legs bouncing, or so it seemed. Melanie was curled in a ball, staring into the distance clinging still to Nate’s arm. Nate was reaching into his trousers, behind his back. He produced the blood covered knife he had killed the man with moments before. He set it on the table.

Nobody spoke. They all stared at it.

Nate sat back, “Fuck” He called.

“Wow Dude. Get that fucking thing of my table before I rip your fucking face off with it.” Alan The Beef snapped. He rose to his feet, his eyes jumping from the three of them rapidly.

“Easy man, He’s one of us.” Eddie spoke as it from his sleep.

“Oh, Okay then. I’ll just put that away for you.” He picked up the knife and walked into another room with it. He returned several minutes later and they all sat in silence again.

It was Melanie who spoke first. “I can’t believe it.” Her voice was that of someone whose spirit had been broken.

“I know What the hell did we do?” Nate said again. He was on the point of tears suddenly and unable to bring himself back.

“You were a hero. You took care of it just like you said you would do. You deserve a medal. You saved us.” Melanie said, wincing in pain as she shifted her position slightly.

“Hell yeah man.” Eddie added. Still staring at the ceiling.

“I killed people. I murdered them. That doesn’t help things. It makes it fucking….Shit I don’t know. I killed two people.” He burst into tears at that point. He was shaking. He felt as though his world was collapsing around his ears.

The night seemed to be lasting forever, everything frozen outside until he ventured back out into it.

“You are a hero man. It’s about time someone took a damn stand. You’re a good guy in my book.” Alan said, his eyes finally fixed on Nate. “Where you from anyway?” He asked, not recognizing the face of the man sitting opposite him.

“Um….Over in Havenfields. My wife is probably worried sick.” He said, thinking about her for the first time that night. “I need to go, turn myself in or something.” He spoke to himself.

“No man. Fuck that shit. You are a hero here now. I’m gonna call you the peacekeeper.” Alan spoke. “Don’t you see it Peace, this is the Bad Lands. No man’s land stuck between the trenches. Nobody really gives a shit about what goes on in here. Trust me, I used to belong to that world too. Where you’re from. Then my woman left and this is where I ended up. It’s a different fucking world Peace. We need people like you to help clean the streets. Show them that they can’t just leave us to the jungle and expect us to go quietly. You’ve got a few of them here now. All we need to do is wait it out. Get them searching a bit; draw their attention and then bam. The media will be here and they gonna have to clean this place up. You know how hard its been to shift my goods since those faggots moved into the streets. Wannabe tough guys with no business sense.” Alan finished preaching, but the conversation felt as though it hadn’t travelled all the way yet.

“You wanna take a hit with me Peace. Celebrate a little.” He asked Nate after a few seconds. “He offered the small bag around. Eddie was asleep and Melanie, who moved in acceptance shrank away as the fire continued to burn between her legs. Nate looked at her, the way her smooth and delicate face was contorted in such pain. The tears that stained her cheeks, and the blood that was now beginning to crust over on her lips.

“They shouldn’t have done that to you.” He said.

“Damn straight,” Alan answered “They shouldn’t have been on the streets after they did it the first time, but who cares right.” He snorted one of the three lines he had quickly and chunkily drawn on the table. Nate quickly grabbed the straw and took the next two without waiting to be asked.

“Then I guess it’s a good thing someone acted then.” They both began to laugh.

Alan rose, claiming that he had something to show them all, something to take it to the next level. He came back later with a pistol. He put it on the table for them all to look at. Only Nate did. The weapon seemed to hover above the table, bathed in a bright light. “You like that Peace. I can see it in your eyes. Take it. I’m sure you gots a idea. I see you one of those intelligent ones.”Alan slid the pistol close to Nae who picked it up.

“I guess I could get this area a bit more attention. You know help us all out a bit.” He smirked and glanced over at Melanie. “Make things up to you a bit baby.”

“That’s my man. Now that’s what Im talking about. A bit of proactive thinking going on here.
This calls for a celebration." Alan reached into the pocket of his gown and pulled out a small leather case that crudely looked like a book. He opened it, revealing a small vial of liquid and three syringes. “Just enuff.” He said.

Nate began to protest but soon relented as he watched the peaceful look wash over Melanie’s face. She wiped the tears from her eyes and held his hand. Held it like a lover rather than a refugee hugging the troops that liberated them. He held his arm still while Alan wrapped the yellowed rubber tube around his bicep. He watched in blissful silence as the veins in his forearm sprang to the surface, bulging through his skin. It was Melanie who shot him up that first time, stroking his arm with her nails as she empties the syringe into his veins. He collapsed to the sofa, almost missing it and heading straight to the floor. He had no idea how long he was unconscious, but when he came to Eddie was awake again, and just taking the tube away from his arm.

Melanie was holding him, her clothes had been changed, her face washed. Her eyes was distant but Nate felt her with him.

“Welcome back sleeping beauty. I want you to meet a few friends of mine.” Alan said, sweeping with his arm to the group of half a dozen people standing behind him. They varied in age and build from strong and bulky to scrawny. “They heard about what you did and came to help us.” Alan continued. Nate heard the words but didn’t respond. His head was pounding. He felt sick, to the pit of his stomach. He began to wretch but nothing came up.

“Don’t worry man. Just take another hit, you’ll get used to it.” Eddie said, handing him clean needed and the rubber tube.

“Who are they?” Nate asked, noticing the people for the second time but only really seeing them for the first. “Friends. My friends?” He answered his own questions. Then, coming back to him he felt the cold metal of the pistol against his skin. The gun was tucked into the back of his trousers. Very professional he thought to himself.

“They are now.” Alan said. Melanie leant over and Kissed Nate passionately on the lips. “You’re crazy. I love you.” She spoke in the moments their lips were parted. “I can’t believe you did it but Oh my god. What a statement.”

Nate pushed her away at that point. He looked outside and noticed that it was light; the sun was high in the sky heading towards noon. He looked down and saw his clothes that also been changed, his hands were black however, bruised and bloodied at the same time.

“What, What did I do?” He asked unable to remember anything yet sensing he did something terrible.

“And how romantic, doing it for me. Just because of what they did. Fucking Pigs, you’re right you know. I’m a person; they should have listened to me. But you showed them. Fucking hell we showed them.” She continued to speak as Nate surveyed the room. It was then, as the new faces parted as if following his gaze, he saw the large dining room table. Laid out on it, arms’ dangling either side like a sacrifice on the altar was a body, dressed in police uniform.

“Is that what I think it is?” He asked, rising from the sofa and walking towards the table. The body was pale, even the darker skin on the back had begun to pale. There was a bullet hole in the woman’s chest, another it seemed in her abdomen – although it technically was a knife wound from the same weapon that killed the men the night before. – and the left hand side of her face from the cheek upwards was missing. The bullet still lodged inside her skull. The other eye was open and stared accusingly at Nate.

“Oh god. What’s wrong with me, Jesus Mother . . Oh god. Fuck, shit, fuck, cocksucking. . . Ahhh Bollocks” He screamed the obscenities at the room. He felt another wave of nausea coming over him, and was unaware that he had already wet himself.

Melanie was soon by his side. “We did it. We started the war.” She whispered in his ear. Placing a cigarette between his teeth. Or so he thought -

- She lit the end of the glass pipe and told him to inhale. He did and his chest caught fire. His heart began to race and his skin crawled, tightening over his entire body like his arms after a gym session. He instantly felt better, his worries seemed to leave, he fought hard to remain standing. He took a second his and shared the pipe with Melanie. He was aware of his erection pushing against his trousers, and scooped her into his arms.

“We need to get rid of the body.” Nate said walking back into the room still fastening his trousers. “Somewhere public. Really let them know who’s in fucking charge now.” He stood in the doorway looking through the group. Another few faces had joined them, two woman and two men; the women who had similar looks in their eyes as Melanie had. They need not tell him anything else; he welcomed them into the house; which was rapidly becoming his. “You two.” He pointed at the two new men. “Dump the body somewhere nearby, make sure people see you doing it. Understand. Nobody else takes credit for this.” He sat down, and a few seconds later Melanie walked in.

They all ate and chatted while the body was removed and dumped. The sound of gunfire came back to them confirming the dump was successful. A few moments later the two men returned. One was injured.

“Good. Well done.” Nate rose, Alan stood to his left, Melanie held his hand on his right and behind them Eddie also stood, although his attention still seemed to be elsewhere. “Now we make them think they are winning.” He said and promptly shot the injured man in the head.

“Sweet Fuck, Peace. What you do that for?” Alan asked.

“Simple Beef. We keep them playing the game. We kill ‘em all too quick they’re going to leave and we are back to square one.” Nate pushed the syringe he had hanging out of his arm a little deeper; enjoying the slow moving rush that was sweeping through his body.

By the afternoon of the following day, Nate had assumed control over twenty-five locals who all wanted a better place to live and spend their unemployed days in peace. Each one agreed that this was the best course of action.

Several had died, along with six more police officers. Whose weapons had been taken also; including three shotguns found in the boot of their cars. The house was growing too small for them all, and the plan was to move out that evening. However, the arrival of the armed response unit, and three vans of riot police had pushed their plan up. The resulting gunfight culminated with heavy casualties on both sides. Including Eddie whose head was taken off by a sniper when he bent down while crossing the road to rescue a snail he thought was in distress.

None of them really cared.

That evening they were taking fire from both sides of their new headquarters. The police were preparing to mount a charge from the front while the gang whose initial mugging had started it all had regrouped and were foolishly planning to attack from the rear once the sun went down.

The news had also shown up along with many protestors from the outer parts of The Groves, many of whom had wanted to join but found themselves cut off by the police offensive line and had therefore retreated, only to return armed with banners and signs picketing the ranks of highly padded and protected police officers.

The gang made the first move and in a simple encounter they were overpowered and sent back out through the front door where they were successfully massacred by the waiting police units, whose trigger fingers were beginning to cramp after being prone for several hours already.

With a large proportion of their ammo spent Nate and his group were running out of options. The snipers were multiplying on the roofs above them and while the protestors were also growing they were about as dangerous as Eddie had been, and not quite as dangerous as he now was. It was then that One Eyed Walter, a strange and rather quiet man spoke up. He was the owner of the large business premises where they were stationed.

“Will this help some?” He asked with genuine question. He opened a trapdoor built into the floor and pulled out a box filled with grenades. “They is pretty old but I guess they still got a pop in ‘em. Just been waiting for the right time.” He paused. “Now seems as good as any other I’ve been presented with.” He slid the box along the floor to Nate.

“Well Ladies and Gentlemen. I think we have reached out destination. The media are here, the police have arrived. So let’s go out in style.” Nate said rising to his feet.

His words were met with looks of puzzlement from most of the faces; especially those who had joined later. The only ones who truly understood were Alan and Melanie who even at that moment could think of nothing else than a quick final fuck before going over the top as it were. The pair looked and Nate and smiled. “You’re a fucking genius Peace. Genius. Cause a mess and let them clean it up. The fuckers!” Alan laughed. It was a maniacal laugh that echoed in the unfurnished shop.

The grenades were shared out, two each for Nate, Alan and Melanie, who was approaching orgasm just holding her two charges. The others split the rest and with their remaining ammunition the doors were opened. The initial burst of police fire took out a few troops but nothing too serious. When the firing stopped Nate gave the signal, he pulled the pin from his grenades and threw them through the door.

The flew into the first wave of officers who were approaching the building and scattered their various limbs and organs over a large radius.

“Charge” Nate screamed. Placing the cracked glass pipe back between his teeth, it was already lit and he breathed deeply. He was the first one through the door, Melanie just slightly behind. The ice-pipe still between his teeth, and a half filled syringe hanging from the crook of his left arm. The fight didn’t last very long after that. Nate’s face exploded, covering Melanie with spurts of a different warm liquid. Several grenades were thrown from the back, while several others gave up and ran away, taken out by the snipers as they fled. The police forces stood their ground, the grenades taking several but not as many as the initial strike had done. When the battle was over the air was thick with smoke. Fires raged in several houses and flood ran down the streets like a autumn flood. Nate and Melanie were lying dead, arm in arm, a strange smile on their faces, and the shards of a glass pip still sticking from Nate’s mouth, the other end forced back by the force of the bullets that it embedded deep in his gums.

The protestors were arrested, charged and released with a caution; paper work was done, statements taken. The fires continued to burn, the emergency services never called. Sixteen houses in total were destroyed as the fires raged for almost two days, many others were damaged during the fight.

The still stand to this day, in their decrepit state, no longer housing those who cannot or will not work. They had long since been moved to the new estate build on the outskirts of town. Further away from the rest of the population, the working people, and the police station.

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