Coffee with Ronnie.
Ronnie had got his order wrong. He was having none of that.
Mr Iqbal, shaking with bit-back rage, surveyed the smashed glass and pooling booze aftermath of the four-minute blitzkrieg.
Ronnie snatched his twenty Benson - (I said twenty! twenty not ten! Cunt)- off the counter, shoved his clenched fists hard down into his suit pockets - a cheaper jacket would have given out - and struck out from the shop, putting his head down and his best shoulder forward, ploughing into the oncoming crowd. Shopping bags, small dogs, hats and little old ladies fell by the wayside.
Further up the street, onlookers wisely stepped into the road.
Out my way out my way.
He shouldered into the café door as if he bore it a grudge. The street relaxed; big men felt free to glare at his wake with no fear of reprisal.
Ronnie hade a sense for it…
I’ll come out and kill you before you can even blink. Mugs.
I’ll kill ‘em.
I’ll slice ‘em. Nicey slicey up and down.
…but on this day he chose ignore it. He did pull one hand out of his pockets and slipped it under the flap of his suit, closing it round the handle of the breadknife sticking out of his waistband.
But it was just in case. Just in case someone does…you know….
Ronnie went through his breathing exercises. He took his hands out from their respective hiding places, let his arms hang loose and wiggled his fingers, at the same time shaking his head, letting his lips flap loosely.
Two fresh punters were wedged up at his back, Graham and Lillie – nice young couple they were. They took one look at the wiry little sharp-suited gentleman (the one shaking like a wet dog), and decided to wait.
They’d guessed: Ronnie was a nutcase.
Ronnie elbowed himself a place at the counter, snarled and twitched a bit of space either side.
“Avoid any situation that might over stimulate you Ronnie.”
That was the shrink. Session 9. Before they’d let him out the door.
I’ll have a nice coffee.
“And no stimulants…”
Just coffee then.
Fuck off. I’ll have… a big old double latte extra-shot stick some chocolate on it where’s the sugar don’t make me wait don’t make me come round there and…
“Can I help you sir?”
Ronnie blinked at the skinny barista hopping about behind the counter.
“Coffee!” he blurted.
Ronnie bared his teeth in a baboonish grimace. If you looked hard enough, as the barista did, you could make out Ronnie’s eyes oscillating slightly.
Ronnie shut his mouth, opened it again, to speak this time: “Fu...fu…fu…
in the neck. Swishy swish.
The barista took two long minutes to knock up his coffee but Ronnie managed to snatch his cup and spin away without grabbing the man’s hand and biting the tops of his fingers off.
Lucky lucky lucky you are.
Lucky lucky lucky.
(Shut up Ronnie stupid kylie song).
Fuck off Fuck off I’ll kill you stabby stab.
Ronnie scuttled off to the basement, rodentlike.
Now way before Ronnie had steamrollered up the street, even before his assault on Mr Iqbals’s corner shop, a more timorous procession had picked its way up the perilous highway.
Thomas liked having his hand held. More than ever right now. If Jane and Sue hadn’t taken one each, he’d have bolted.
They gently tugged him out from their restaurant doorway base-camp and into the tricky currents and eddies of the fastlane pavement.
Sue was keen, efficient. This was work.
What she wanted, more than anything, was to move up the social-sector ladder, be a big noise in decision making. Have an effect. Leave a mark.
Jane, god bless her, what she wanted, more than anything, was to help. Anyone or anything. Especially the less privileged (the poor mites). She had, after all, been so lucky.
What Thomas wanted, more than anything, was to run back home, to the home, and climb into the wardrobe.
“Come on Tommy,”
“It’s Thomas,” he whispered into the traffic’s roar.
They were either side of him, coming up to his shoulder and his bumfluff chin They frogmarched him to the café, where Thomas’s whimpering intimations persuaded them to take him down below, where it was darker.
Thomas tippy-toed down the wooden staircase, his face smudged up to the shiny magnolia side wall, his hands squeaky-sliding over the tightly gripped banister. Jane was behind him, Sue was in front - a solid social-care bodyguard.
And they got him to the bottom and they got him to a table and they got him on a chair and they asked him how he was and he said:
“I want to go to the toilet.”
Somewhere small. Somewhere safe and warm. No people.
“Off you go then dear. Be alright on your own, will you?”
Thomas sat on the toilet with both lids down. The light was sick-yellow, oppressive and intrusive, it bled into every crack and leached out all other colour and life.
But a warm hum exuded from the cupboard to his right, a throb that pulsed through to his bones and wrapped round them, warm and comfy. Thomas wanted to step into that throb, let it smother him, hold him safe and warm. It would be safe there. It would be very nice.
He clawed at the gap between the cupboard doors, pulling on the tiny silver handle with finger and thumb. The lightest of tugs prised it open with a click.
Amongst the warm foil extraction tube and humming box of wires, and dirty barista aprons, Thomas crawled, folded himself onto the shelf like a discarded marionette, and clicked the cupboard door shut.
Ronnie had downed his coffee…
in one, in one
…and was now vibrating on his stool, gripping the table like it might run off.
It was stifling down in the basement. Loud getting louder, filling up. Tinny girlie voices vied for his attention with horsey laughs and an awful:
“Actually darling James and I are working on a project together and he’s bringing in the big money...”
from some cunt some cunt shut up big money big wanker straight across the face…
And now came the thumpity thump.
“When you hear the thumping, find yourself a nice bit of space, somewhere peaceful with no distractions, and breathe slowly.” More pearls of wisdom from the shrink.
Getting out was not an option; there were hordes trolling down the stairs, swinging pointless baggage, trendy little bags that couldn’t hold half a sandwich and a notepad.
Ronnie reasoned that it wouldn’t end well if he made his exit just then.
Someone will die.
Swishy swish and down the stairs with you.
He locked on target.
The toilet door, yards away.
A clear run.
And he did run, crashing through the two doors and into the cubicle.
Ronnie stood tensed to breaking, legs splayed, staring at the cistern. The locked door was at his back.
He held the knife up by his shoulder, white-knuckled grip ready for the downward plunge.
And Ronnie was holding his breath.
A weedy word of the shrink’s advice struggled to bubble up and break the surface, but Ronnie stamped it down and smothered it.
Fuck the cunt.
Rockhard Ronnie-statue stood like that for one whole minute - Man With Knife Who Wants to Use It- and then:
The cupboard door clicked open.
Ronnie’s eyes flicked to it.
A thin bony hand emerged from the gap, groping at the air, followed by a reedy moan, like a cheap Haunted House funfair gimmick.
Ronnie jerked to his left, tugged open the door…
And then some.
“Where’s our Tommy then. Bless him.”
“The poor love, must still be in the loo…”
Ronnie folded the gangly corpse back into the cupboard like a throwaway marionette, and clicked the door closed.
It clicked back open and out flopped an arm.
He folded it back in.
It flopped out.
…fold it back in…
Out flopped a leg.
chop chop chop chop
Ronnie got the leg in.
But there was blood enough, and Ronnie scanned round the toilet for other means.
His eyes settled upon the bogbrush.
He wedged it through the cupboard handles and hey ho… no more floppy limbs.
For the next ten minutes Ronnie used up the generous supply of industrial-size wheels of toilet paper to soak up the claret.
He was just reaching for a last splash behind the cistern when there came:
at the toilet door.
Kill swish stab kill swish.
Just a thought. He was all done for now. He did
some required breathing, straightened his dark jacket that hid the stains, turned and opened the toilet door, pushing past the impatient young man outside.
Graham - what a nice man - had drained his third macchiato Americano. He generally went for a slash for every one he downed, and it was on him once more.
“Gotta go again,” he said to Lillie. (She was a nice girl).
Having pushed past that twitchy man in the suit – the one from upstairs, he was sure - he stood in relief, releasing a torrent of crystal clear liquid down the pan.
He heard the hum.
Looked at the cupboard.
Now, he was such a nice boy, but a bit nosy, like.
“What do they keep in there, I wonder?”
And he pulled out the bogbrush.
A mess of blood and bodies, arms and legs – some of them moving, some of them not, splayed out over the toilet floor.
Bobby crawled out from the under Thomas’s corpse, had a good look at it, saw that it was just what he feared it was…
And vomited all over it.
Ronnie was still vibrating on his stool when the toilet door crashed open. In the doorframe stood a bedraggled, blood-stained, piss-drenched, spew-stinking wild-eyed fright of a man.
“Eeek!” squealed a tinny voiced girlie behind him,
“That man’s still got his willie out!”
As the rumours of the horrors in the toilet spread through the downstairs clientele, jerking them into panicked action, Ronnie seized the moment, elbowed and snarled a path up the stairs, one hand slipping under his jacket to grip the slippery handle.
Swishy swish. Out the way. Swish?
Well, they got him in the end, and they gave our Ronnie a good talking to: a two year programme of it. And in that time they only let him drink de-caff.
They laid the blame on the wrong sort of drugs, prescribed by the wrong sort of therapist, who had said all the wrong sort of things to poor little Ronnie. They had all failed him.
And that boy Thomas should never have been in that cupboard. Silly boy.
And so, in the fullness of time, there did come that day when…
…it was Day Release time again.
“My name’s Jane…”
“…And my name’s Sue. What would you like to do today Ronnie?”
“I thought… we might… go… for coffee…”