‘How are we gonnae dae it?’ The idea feels jaggy, sticking in Bruno’s gullet. He shakes his head, wets his mouth with saliva and begins again. ‘I mean how are we gonnae poison Jaz if he’s got a big, massive, gun?’
‘He sometimes sticks it under his bed when he goes to sleep.’ Angela thinks and speaks at the same time and her mouth hangs open in case she’s going to say any more.
Tony pats her on the head. ‘You can take off your jacket the now, pet, and fling it on the bed. It’s boilin’ in here.’ He glances at the window and the snow outside gently drifting down.
Angela unpicks the toggles on her jacket and a flouncy white dress pokes through. She hands her tan duffle to Tony to deal with as if he’s a cloakroom attendant. She jiggles up and down, refuses to sit on the bed. ‘It’s too sore,’ she says, shivering and hopping away from his outstretched hand guiding her.
Tony gives in and flings her coat on top of his bed and sits beside it. He picks up the book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales by the cover and starts to flick through it. ‘If we could just make ourselves invisible,’ he mutters and stares down at the etching of a wood-cut drawing of a woman with golden hair her face pressed to the side of a spinning wheel. ‘We could nip in and out and nobody would ever know.’
Bruno looks over his shoulder his mouth running ahead of his thoughts. ‘We could hide under the bed. Wait until he’s sleepin’ and then poison him.’
‘But the poison goes in the chicken curry,’ Tony says, in a querulous tone, because he thinks it’s his job to come up with the answer. ‘If he’s too drunk and sleepin’ he’ll no’ be hungry.’
Bruno yawns. I’m always hungry. ‘We could hold his nose and glug the poison down him before he wakes up.’
‘Shut up.’ Tony slams the book shut.
‘Or shoot him.’ Bruno spins in a tight arabesque. ‘Bang, bang,’ he points a finger at the racing car posters. ‘Cause the gun will be lying about and we could steal it and take it under the bed with us and hide it.’
‘Let’s go out and play,’ Tony says. ‘We could make a slide from the top of the street to the bottom. Maybe even go up the park and see if we can make a sleigh and slide down the slope beside the duckie. That’s whit all the big boys do.’
‘I want on a slate,’ Angela cries.
‘It’s a sledge,’ Bruno giggles. ‘Not a slate.’
Tony laughs too. ‘Put your jacket back on Angel and we’ll see if we can find you a slate to play on. I’m sure there’ll be something lying about we can use. We should go an’ get Pizza Face, he’s good at findin’ they kind of things.’ He stops and grows suddenly serious, wedging his thumb in the corner of his mouth and chewing a half-moon of skin pink ragged and spitting out a splinter of nail. ‘It’s Pizza Face’s birthday on Monday. We could take the poison to the house then and sneak it upstairs.’ Spits out another splinter. ‘Your mum would let us play in the house if it’s Pizza Face’s birthday party wouldn’t she?’ His voice seesaws up and down and he looks to Angela for confirmation.
‘Only if Jaz isn’t there,’ she huffs through her nose.
‘But he willnae be there,’ Bruno says. ‘He’s always at the pub, gettin’ steamin’.’ He laughs his false laugh and shuts up when nobody joins in.
‘Then one of us could hide under the bed and wait for him to get in.’ He swivels his head and Bruno avoids his eyes. ‘But you’d need to be very quiet, hardly be able to breathe.’ He stands quiet and still and his voice grows quieter as if he’s already under that bed. Bruno and Angela cock their heads and listen, growing serious, waiting. ‘And if you got caught,’ Tony frowns, ‘then you could just say you were playin’ hide and seek and fell asleep.’
‘I could lie under the bed with yeh,’ Angela says, nodding. ‘Kid on I’m invisible too.’
‘No,’ shrieks Bruno. ‘You cannae dae that. You’ve got to act all normal. And wait ‘till night-time until Tony sneaks out. Then you can keep watch for him.’
‘I can keep watch,’ Angela says in a solemn voice, repeating what he’s said and nodding her head in agreement.
‘Nah,’ Tony sighs, screw his face up. ‘Would never work.’ He goes towards the wardrobe and pulls out his duffel coat and pulls it over his shoulders and shrugs it on.
‘We could still run away,’ Bruno says in a cheery voice.
‘Shut up with the running away. It’s freezin’ out there and you wouldnae last five minutes.’
‘We could go under the water,’ Angela says, peering up at Tony, her blonde eyelashes blinking and eyes filled with tears. ‘Where it doesnae hurt.’
Tony kneels on one knee and pulls her in close. ‘No goin’ under the water, pet,’ and his eyes fill with tears too. He remembered time evaporating when he buried himself in the house waiting for his da to turn up and for the key to turn in the door. The social worker had said it must have been two or three days entombed with the smell of his da, the sense of his da, and him just being out of reach and he was sure he’d heard him talking. ‘I’ll lie under the bed wae the poison,’ he says. ‘I know I can dae it. I’ve done it before. And I’ll put it in his curry when he’s no lookin’. I’ll make myself invisible.’
‘I’ll help you,’ Bruno says. ‘I’ll hold the gun.’