Beast of Burden

Beast of Burden by Ray Banks Read Free Book Online

Book: Beast of Burden by Ray Banks Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ray Banks
steps towards her.
    She looks at me, obviously thinking about it. But wondering why I'm talking to her as if she's dangerous. Then she glances behind me, I hear some movement, and her arm straightens. I don't need to turn to know that Paulo just stepped out of the gym. If he thinks this is something to do with his lads, he'll be out to defend them, whatever the cost.
    “Which lads?” he says.
    “I can pick them out.”
    “Pick 'em off , more like.”
    “I don't know their names.”
    “But you know what they look like.”
    Confusion clouds her face, and she blinks. “There's … too many of them.”
    I hear Paulo breathe out. “Look, I'm trying to help you here, love, but you're not exactly making it easy for us, are you? You reckon you've got something to tell us about the lads in there, it'll be better for you if you get specific, know what I mean? Otherwise you're going to look like a fuckin' basket case.”
    “I'm not a …” She pinches her mouth closed, swallows the phrase. “Don't use language like that in front of me, please.”
    “He's sorry,” I say. “It's raining. He doesn't like … the rain .”
    She looks back to me. I extend my hand, start hobbling towards her. Nice and slow, deliberate movements, don't want to spook her. Make it obvious that I'm not going to break into a run or make a sudden grab for the pistol. Instead, I'm going to ask nicely.
    “C'mon,” I say. “Give me the gun.”
    She backs up, the pistol aimed at me. Rainwater drips off her nose. She sniffs some of it up one nostril.
    “We really want to help you, love,” says Paulo, and it sounds like a warning. “But if you're going to act like a care in the community, we can just let the police sort it out.”
    “Call the police,” she says. “I don't care.”
    “Alright.” I hear the door to the club get pulled open.
    “Don't, Paulo.”
    He stops. I turn and look at him.
    Shaking my head: “Don't.”
    Don't make this worse, mate. You bring the police into this, you up the ante, and things'll only go to shit after that. She'll probably start shooting again, and guess who's the nearest fucking target?
    My hand stays up, palm out. Again, don't shoot.
    She shakes her head. Tears mixing with the rain.
    “Come on,” I say.
    Want to say, don't be a fucking idiot, hand me the gun before this all blows up in your face. You seem like a nice enough biddy, but you give it a couple more minutes of this stand-off, and Paulo's going to pull out his mobile and call the police.
    That's if Frank hasn't already done it. It'd be like him to take the wrong cue.
    “Missus,” I say. “Please. Don't do this. It's not worth it.”
    She works her mouth. Looks as if the pistol weighs a tonne. Doesn't seem to know what she's doing with the weapon now, as if she's fallen back into her old librarian life. And when she lands, it's obviously painful. Her eyes are red-rimmed, her hand shaking.
    “It's okay. Just … you know.”
    She offers me the pistol. I take it by the barrel, lean forward as she pulls the rifle from her shoulder. Tears streaming down her face, her mouth turned in on itself, her entire body shaking with sobs.
    I take the rifle. Hand it and the pistol to Paulo and put one hand on her back.
    “Thanks.”
    And somewhere behind me I can hear Paulo saying, “Frank, while you're doing fuck all, mate, how's about you make us a brew, eh? Soaked to the skin out here.”
    ****
    The woman's name is Elizabeth Sadler. She's a history teacher at Buile Hill, which isn't that far from here, but still makes me wonder what connections she's made. Now she's sat in the back office clutching a mug of tea in both hands, she's noticeably more relaxed, even slightly embarrassed at all the fuss she's caused. The rifle's propped up behind my desk, the pistol on it, both of them out of reach.
    You never know.
    Frank asks all the questions, slightly louder than usual because of the rain that buckshots the windows. Since we got in, it's been coming down in

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