Cloudy gets on like a house on fire.
Cloudy kept an eye on the driver. He moved Jane’s hand away from his cock and placed it on the side of his thigh. Her tongue was down his throat and he felt the schoolboy thrill and fear he was going to ejaculate in his Y-fronts, but with the adult worry he wouldn’t be able to get a hard on again that night. Her hand spidered across, regaining a web of lost territory. He shoved it firmly away. And he pushed down on the seat to give himself leverage to stand up. His body tilted, and she slid sideways and backwards. He caught her bony back and arse, the disappointed look in her eyes as he lifted her.
‘Almost home,’ he manhandled her into the seat beside him.
The cab took a sharp right pass shuttered-shop front, and flung them closer together in the back of the cab. She smoothed crinkles in her Santa dress and crossed her legs. Flicked her fingers through the wig of her hair to straighten it, he still couldn’t see the joins. She pouted and refused to look at him even when he rubbed her knee and moved his hand higher up her thigh.
‘Sugar and spice and all things nice,’ he whispered and licked the lobe of her ear.
Her face turned towards him, and he pecked at her lips, before jerking back and mouthing, ‘Jesus Christ’.
The eerie glow of revolving neon lights marked a convoy of fire engine and police cars that parked on and off pavements and half way up the street. Two firemen trailed a hose from inside his blackened front door and hallway. One of them carried a long-handled axe. Smoke mixed with water and ash left a pungent stink that caught in the back of his throat.
The cab driver parked behind a red Nissan Sunny. ‘That your house?’
‘Aye,’ he pushed a tenner and some coins into his hand. ‘Keep the change.’
Angry at him. Angry at the world. Angry at the words and sentiments, ‘Peedo killer.’
Daubed in red and white paint on the front windows, he was irked by the spelling error almost as much as the way his neighbours milled outside their front doors. Wrapped in blankets, dressed in pyjamas and nighties, and hastily pulled on bomber jackets and raincoats. Old sandals and untied shoes on their feet. They sipped tea and exchanged gossip. Waited for him to arrive, and explode, adding something spectacular to their dingy little lives.
The cab pulled away with a toot of its horn, and the driver had the decency to hold a hand up and wave farewell. Jane felt for his hand and he batted it away.
‘Better you fuck-off now,’ he spoke out of the side of his mouth. ‘And remember, I don’t know anything about you. We’re strangers. I just gave you a lift home… Go now. Beat it.’
Two plain-clothed cops in long coats, and polyester brown matching suits, swished with a surge of static across the road to meet them. He recognised the older cop, leading the way.
DI Harvie crooked teeth settled into a gurn when he spotted Jane. She had her head down, arms folded, looking through her forward falling hair. He stepped in front of her, as is if it was a fortuitous accident.
He was a small, balding man with a pockmarked head and the purple-veined sprawl of a boozer’s nose. He yawned in her face.
Even from a few feet away, Cloudy turned his head and face towards the embers of his burning home. He almost felt sorry for the young cop with the beginnings of a trendy black beard standing next to him. Guarding him.
‘Hi,’ he shouted at DI Harvie. ‘Your breath smells like shite. Always has.’
Cloudy saw that it hit home by the expression on his face. The half-smile of recognition from the cop standing next to him.
‘Wait ‘til I get you back to the station,’ he growled at Cloudy.
‘You’re a fuckin’ nob,’ Cloudy stretched up to his full height. ‘I’m the victim here, ya prick. That’s smoke coming out of my side windows. That’s my carpets gone again. You know I can’t replace that stuff…and it’s no’ the first time.’ He got himself worked up and in a louder voice so his next-door neighbour, Ken, could hear him, ‘I mean, whit sort of person does that thing? ... I mean I’m the victim here… I’m the fuckin’ victim… And you’re talkin’ about arresting me.’
He ducked so the cop beside him jerked backwards. Held out his long arms in a Frankenstein pose. ‘Go on put the cuffs on me, ya prick. Go on, I dare yeh?’
‘Can I go?’ Jane asked in her little-girl voice.
DI Harvie waved her away and stepped towards Cloudy. The DI turned his head to check if anybody was watching before rabbit punching him in the side.
Cloudy felt the connection and toppled over like a Rangers striker in the Celtic penalty box. His head to the ground, he watched out of the side of his eyes, Jane turning the corner, and past the chapel. She’d be able to get lost after that in a network of side streets.
‘Police assault. Police assault,’ Cloudy squealed. He rolled about another few times and checked to see if Ken the curtain-twitcher was gawking at them. He held his leg and pointed at DI Harvie. ‘Police assault. Police assault.’
The young cop’s shiny Doc Marten boots shuffled beside him, and he heard his tired sigh.
Cloudy rolled up into a ball, clutching his knees. He screamed, ‘Go on then, boot me! Boot me. Police brutality. Police brutality.’
The firemen got into the cab and with lights flashing, but no siren it pulled away, leaving soft darkness. His neighbours drifted away in dribs and drabs, but Ken, good old Ken, stood watchman.
DI Harvey leaned over Cloudy, a hand went cupping his mouth, and his bloodshot eyes darted around to check nobody could here. He spat out through stained teeth, ‘Next time I hope you’re in the house. Because you’re a paedo. We all know. You killed that wee lassie. Just because we didnae find her body.’
He stepped back to aim a boot, but the younger cop nodded his head in the direction of Ken. He twisted his body and spat on Cloudy, but it landed on his leg.
‘Police brutality,’ he raised his head and tutted. ‘I’ve got DNA evidence now, yah prick.’
‘Next time it’ll be me, personally, pouring the petrol though the letterbox,’ DI Harvie warned him, before backing away. The younger cop following behind the flapping tails of his colleague’s coat.