CHAPTER 1 (section)

 

 

The Fatman pointed at the boy in leather, who'd pulled up a chair and flipped it round, and now sat quietly straddling it, all bulging crotch and faded denim.

"That one's Joe, as you're asking. My boy," he said, "my Joey-boy."

He leaned across and cuffed him lightly on the head. Joey-boy, with his pale blue eyes and his near-black hair. Looked like such a wild young man. You looked at Joe, and you wouldn't know that he lived in a basement flat, and slept in a single bed, and ate from tins and paper bags, and held his essence in his hands, and loathed himself with the pure and utter certainty of one who knows he can't be wrong. But he looked like such a wild young man.

"He's everything to me. That right, lads? My driver, gofer, faithful friend. He's the baseline, the constant point of reference, my poor but honest Joey-boy. He's where I started from, and I keep him by my side to measure just how far I've come."

The flesh of his neck seemed to quiver slightly when he turned his head, as though it were almost liquid, as though you could almost spoon it up and have it for dessert.

"Will you look at her watching, eh? Giving us the eyeball. Like she thinks she'll sum us up. You've told her all our little secrets, have you? Filled the girly in? Because she's looking pretty eager, frankly, looking pretty hopeful. So what I'm wondering, see, is does she know we're bad boys? Think she knows that? Eh, Joe? Eh?"

He leaned his bulk towards her, and she was suddenly aware of a milky smell, an infant scent surrounding him that made her think of baby food and nappies.

"D'you know that, sweetheart? They tell you, did they?"

The pale, grey tongue between his lips. The odour of milk and drooping age.

"Speak to me, darling. Just open your mouth."

She slowly uncrossed and recrossed her legs, taking her time, for she's in no great rush. A single, fluid movement in black, velvet skirt and sling-back shoes. She stubbed out her fag and looked at him. For the very first time since he'd come inside, she took a good look at the Fatman.

"Hello, Henry."

"Hello, sugar."

"You saying you're bad?"

You could see him relax, you could feel him unwind.

"I'm fucking evil."

"What's your line, then?"

"Have a guess."

"You're sort of in business."

"Well put there, darling, because sort of in business is what I am."

"What kind of thing, exactly?"

"Little bit of this," he said.

"Little bit of that."

He removed the cigar-butt from his mouth and rolled it between his fingers.

"Let's just say that I'm involved in various enterprises, I have my finger in various pies, I've pushed my thumb in a number of rectums."

He paused to search for the perfect phrase.

"Venture capital, kind of thing."

"Like a bank," she suggested.

"That's right, sweetheart. I lend people money, then I ask for it back."

She plucked a speck of cotton from her sleeve.

"Is that called financial services?" "No, darling."

He shoved the cigar-stub back in his mouth.

"It's called demanding money with menaces."

He bent towards her. The small, wet mouth beside her ear.

"I don't need the money," he confided. "I do it for the menaces." 

 

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