I was back at the factory in record time. Turned out the police avoided most of this district so I had it easy when I took my usual shortcut. I knew my luck would run out eventually so I decided on only leaving the factory when absolutely necessary. Then again, everything I did was an absolute necessity so yeah, there’s my problem.
In the bedroom, A.D. was back but she was piling things into a suitcase. I guessed it wasn’t spring cleaning so I asked her what she was doing.
“Leaving.” she said. Her voice was clipped and that usually meant we would argue. I hated it when she spoke to me like that and I had a bad habit of getting under her skin. “If you’re smart, you will too.”
I shrugged. Guess I’ll bite.
“Did you find your kid?” I asked.
A.D. responded by pulling out a rolled up newspaper and almost whacking me with it. She then unfurled it and shoved it into my face. The headline was particularly snappy.
HEADCASE JUNKER ATTACKS FAMED AUTHOR
Aleksander will write novel about vicious attack!
“Wait, I’m a head-case?” I asked. I must admit, that was a first. I’d been called a thug, an asshole, a snappy dresser and a third Polish but never a head-case. A.D. almost decked me. I’d never seen her so angry. I winced from her aborted attempt to slug me before a little concern softened her expression.
“You get yourself hurt?” she asked. I nodded.
“Fucking asshole hit me with Slugger. Old Man River now has it.” I replied. “I think I need to get her back but then the pigs are roaming round. You know his Grandson or whatever has a mobile phone?”
I paused for effect. A.D. lost interest so I sighed and sat on the bed. I watched her pack away before my thoughts drifted back to Joseph and his Grandson. The old sod could have attacked me yet he still cradled that wimp. My own Grandad was a racist who would complain every time Fresh Prince of Bel-Air came on television. How on earth was Joseph still alive? It made me feel things I didn’t want to think about.
“So, your boyfriend is writing a novel about me. I hope he gets my good side.” I said, looking over my remaining bats. None of them really appealed to me at this moment. “I’m a little too old for him aren’t I?”
A.D. clicked her tongue before turning away from her packing.
“You don’t get it, do you? You messed everything up and now you’ll be public enemy number one. Great job, honestly. Although with all the murders and GBH you’ve done I guess it was only a matter of time.”
I shook my head. What did she know?
“Hey, hey. All those people deserved it. You even agreed they did!” I fired back.
“Who are you to be judge, jury and executioner? What happened to our plans?” she replied before turning away. She was packing way too quickly and it showed. I mean, she had a whole fucking wardrobe in there. She slammed it shut and turned the lock but I still expected it to rain clothes.
“You need to find somewhere else. Maybe you should go into France or something.” she said, heaving the suitcase under her arm. Yeah, the strain was showing but that’s not for polite conversation.
“Let me get this straight. All the crap about your daughter and taking me with you? Utter horseshit so you could feel like the better person?” I said, getting annoyed. I blocked her path; I was going to say my piece if this was the last time. “Say what you want about me but I’m honest about who I am and what I do. Yeah, I kill perverts and Junkers but what about you? You play starving artist and judge me yet you lived with me all these months. Yeah, the Government’s pissed at me and so what? You just want to fucking make out you’re on the moral high ground but you’re no better than me. Why the fuck would you stay with me if you had such a problem with who I am?”
For a second, she looked rattled. Something in the pits of her eyes looked offended almost, but I couldn’t tell.
“You don’t get it, do you?” she said. Her voice was barely louder than a whisper and fucking unnerving for it. “The entire country wants your blood. This isn’t about your vigilante stuff, you attacked my favourite author and unlike that old man who paled you, this is gonna come back. His new novel about you will sell millions even if it sucks and NO ONE will forget you. You’ve seen how Fruit Unyielding has entered pop culture, right?”
I thought of all the girls who wore those love-heart dresses and bad sunglasses and I felt like throwing up. It was bad enough jailbait became a fashionable thing but people walking around with bats pretending to be me? Then getting killed by whatever no-name cop is lucky enough to plug me? I think being a part of someone’s fiction is bad enough, let alone so pervert enjoy reading it.
“We should bail?” I said. Hey, I can always start again somewhere new. Scotland has towns isolated from the rest of the Isles, maybe they’re worth a look.
“Don’t follow me. I’m serious.” she said, staring me down. She could be intimidating at times and I admit, I like that.
“Why not?” I teased. “They might drag me to Aleksander and you’ll get to fangirl all over his carpet.”
Boy, if looks could kill. I didn’t back down though. As petty as it was, I kinda enjoyed seeing her get so riled up.
“You can make him write his novel about you. Unless you’re too old for him.”
What happened next surprised me. I saw her fist twitch and then-CRASH. Something smashed outside our bedroom. We both left the room and raced down to see a brick had been thrown through one of the blacked-out windows.
“Oh great.” A.D. said. “It begins.”
But something wrapped around the brick in faded elastic. It was a note! Fancy that. I opened it to reveal a scribbled note addressed to me of all people.
We want to help. O’Shea’s Pub in the afternoon.
No one else.
I turned to A.D. and held the note to her eye level. She remained on the steps as to not be too far from her luggage.
“And you said everyone wanted to kill me.” I smirked. I wave the note in her face but she wasn’t moved.
“It’s an obvious trap.” she said. “But, whatever.”
“I don’t think so. Shouldn’t the police be storming in or whatever?” I replied. “There isn’t a reward for me is there?”
A.D. shook her head. I know, I know. This seemed like an obvious trap but you gotta understand; the fact there’s people around here that can read and write was worthy of a visit. Plus, you know, the curiosity and the possibility someone was on my side. Hey, if I’d signed my own death sentence then what did I have to lose? I already lost one bat and I wasn’t hanging from a thread.
“I’m gonna check this out.” I said, pocketing the note. “Can you do me a favour?”
“What?” she sighed. “I’m late enough as it is.”
“You need to stay. Just for a few more hours.”
“No way. No, Oliver.” she said. She used my name, oh boy. No way on earth I was calling her by hers.
“Seriously. Just wait for me. I have a feeling about this O’Shea pub thing. It might be a way out for us both.”
I caught her eyes and something in them softened.
“Okay.” she said, at long last. I smiled and rushed up the stairs. Just one thing. I came out the bedroom with an old favourite: my ‘Slicer’ bat. Razorblades imbedded into the wood in four stripes. Lethal fucker but damn, you had to be careful carrying it or you’d shred your jeans. I made sure I held it away from myself as I left the factory. There was a weird expression on A.D.’s face that I honestly couldn’t explain; I guess this was her way of saying goodbye but then, why not say it?
The backstreets had this eerie silence that I suppose was better than a mob bearing torches. I realized that after that wise man broke my sunglasses, I replaced them with nothing and now anyone with working vision could see me and report me. Luckily, being in an area royally fucked by the Government, no one here had money for a mobile phone if you ignore the old guy from earlier. Some of the older generation were sensible enough to save up so probably that’s why; the 2020 recession hit everyone so the fact he that money to spend makes him either a criminal or a genius.
O’Shea’s Pub didn’t have any signs or even a clear entrance. In the old industrial district, it was the place to hide out if the pigs were after you for some reason. Anyway, let’s skip this part. You know it, blah blah I’m being watched. O’Shea’s Pub isn’t far so you won’t miss much.
So, I knocked on the heavy door of O’Shea’s Pub three times. Why three? It just feels right. I stood around like a mawkin until after what felt like forever, the door shunted outward. What looked like everyone’s thirty-something Geography teacher from Secondary School popped his head around and let me in. I’d have been scared but I had Slicer with me. Lethal bitch, I tell you.
Inside was dimly lit but that old pub smell of lager and fags that bought back old memories. I half expected to see my old Dad at the fruit machine.
“Oliver, right? I’m Nicky.” said the Geography Teacher who stuck out his hand.
“Oliver S. Kennedy.” I corrected him before saluting with Slicer. Nicky adjusted his glasses for some reason as he slunk behind the bar. I sat on a stool, resting Slicer by the taps of generic label alcohol.
“I’m sorry for the brick but my wife insisted-” he began.
“You gonna turn me in or what?” I asked. Nicky shook his head too eagerly which unnerved me slightly. I let my left-hand curl around Slicer.
A woman came out of the backroom with her eyes fixed upon me. Even with her dyed red hair and heavy eyeliner, I recognized her immediately.
“Fucking Hell, Selena. How long’s it been?” I said, not using my indoor voice. Nicky winced which made me wonder how this berk is still alive around here.
“I always said you’d manage to piss off the whole country. Congratulations.” she said, clapping slowly. I bowed as much as someone can whilst they’re sat on a stool. “You got our note then?”
I laughed. I kinda wished I’d kept it and the brick so I could have given it back. You know, for dramatic purposes. But I left the fucker back at the factory.
“We have a common goal.” she said. A fuck-ton of newspapers were strewn across the bar and all of them featured Aleksander with the same shit-eater smile and arm-cast. “We don’t like this twat or his message. He’s selling underage sex as some literary kink and we’re sick of it, honestly. Nicky, tell him about our daughter.”
“She’s dressing like the girl in the novel and quoting her. She’s only twelve and we don’t know what to do. We’re worried because there’s this creepy cult of older guys trying to live out the events of the novel.” he said, fidgeting with his glasses again. He looked to Selena for approval and got nothing.
I looked to her and wondered; Selena was essentially advocating for extreme censorship which was pretty fucking odd considering what I’m known for. Then again, we shared a common goal, even if our reasons were different.
“That’s not all.” Selena continued. My face must have given me away because I was nodding the whole time. “Look at the papers. Notice anything?”
I looked down over the printed press I’d since ignored. Around 50,000 articles on Aleksander and his intentions of writing a novel about me, the odd snipped about crime and a particularly engrossing piece of Manchester Albion spending a billion on some Italian teenager. Huh, I did say money ruined football. I pointed that out to their annoyance.
“Look.” she said, prodding at the ‘Literary Bestsellers List’ on The Sun Express. All five spots were taken by Aleksander (of course) with Fruit Unyielding taking top spot. The rest were short story compilations and his first novel which I didn’t care to even describe. Something about violence in society. I don’t know, ask A.D. or someone.
“He’s top of all the bestseller lists. A lot of authors who disagreed with him are getting blacklisted.” Nicky said. “Duncan Ramirez was killing it a month ago and now I can’t even find The Golden Dog at the local Write Way.”
Selena nodded. It was subtle but I could see her light roots.
“We heard rumours and whatnot but everyone who hates this guy is being rubbed out. All because everyone likes his novel. I swear, he could rape someone on live TV at this point and it’d be passed off as some marketing stunt.” she said. She was getting more pissed off as she spoke. Two more people filed in which alarmed me. Either it was a surprise birthday party or it was happy hour.
“Friends of yours?” I said, picking up Slicer and pointing it at them. The duo froze before Selena waved them in. In came a haughty looking woman with the most tired looking eyes and a clean-cut dude who nodded at me. Both stood around me in an odd semi-circle
“Meet Priti and Hideo.” Selena said. I don’t know what she expected my reaction to be but I turned my back on them.
“Seems you have it all worked out. Aleksander won’t know what hit him.” I said, getting off the stool and making sure I brought Slicer with me. “Send me his head in a box, okay?”
“Fuck’s sake, Oliver.” Selena sighed. I could tell Nick was imagining me going apeshit. Not today. Maybe. “We need your help.” she finished, slamming her hands on the bar. Okay, she caught my attention.
“Why? This isn’t some Bond plot. I’m gonna keep hitting this guy with my bat until he dies.” I said. “Getting to him is another story.”
“We can help.” Priti said. Her accent was exotic and oddly pleasing to hear. “We found a way the back of his mansion. Easy way in and you won’t see any guards.”
The Japanese dude chipped in. “I have contacts within the firm that protects him. He’s made enough enemies for enough details to slip out, if you get me.”
Really now? This felt a little too convenient but hey, I was willing to let this slide. Whatever bullshit gets my bat within whacking distance of that prose prick is fine by me. I had to give Selena credit; finding a security firm in a corrupt city that was corrupt. Stroke of genius that was.
“Okay, fine. How do I get in?” I asked.
Hideo told me as Priti chipped in with information I’m surprised she had. This conversation went on until I asked them why they wanted in on this. They looked respectable yet they were in this pub in this district. I wondered of the middle class, I really did. Meanwhile, I noticed Selena and Nick had left the room with an air of satisfaction that really pissed me off but I couldn’t call them out on it.
“My daughter dresses like the girl in that horrible book.” shuddered Priti. “Like Selena’s. This cannot go on.”
“I teach at the local Secondary School and they wish for me to use it as part of the English curriculum. They’re threatening to end my employment if I continue with The Catcher in the Rye. Goddamn morons.” said Hideo, his fists balled like a child ready to throw a tantrum. “What are they going to learn, really?”
I shrugged but I guess I saw where they came from? To me, he was a pervert and needed his skull caving him. I didn’t really care for all their reasoning because what reasoning do you need when you have a baseball bat?
Selena marched back in. Knowing her, she was probably listening at the door for the right moment to barge in. The chunky television above the bar was turned on as the fat fucker’s face filled up the screen. The Prime Minister was stood beside him with a toothy smile on her face which made me wonder, how much bleach had to be on those choppers.
“…Prime Minister Sheba Herculus met with esteem author Aleksander regarding his recent attack and pledged to give him Government protection as long as the culprit, Oliver S. Kennedy as seen here, remained free. Aleksander said he plans to turn this latest event into a new novel; the proceeds of which would go to the charity for…”
They used that old photo of me from that bank raid I wandered in on some months ago. What? I don’t steal money. CCTV caught me whacking some Junker with Thumper. Man, I miss that bat.
“So, I can’t exactly stride in there then. Okay, I love a challenge.” I said, waving Slicer around. “I’ll slip in the backside and fuck his skull until it caves in.”
I started towards the exit. All of them were confused and I knew why. I didn’t bid farewell!
“Oliver.” Selena began before I cut her off.
“Oh, bye bye.” I said, smiling like a piranha. “I’m off back for my favourite bat.”
Hideo and Priti followed to my confusion.
“What? I think I’ll be fine.” I said.
“I’ll drive you.” Priti replied. “You’re not getting to the Poshie district alive.” Hideo nodded as she spoke.
“Oh Hermione, I’ll be fine.” I waved Slicer like a wand. “I have an invisibility spell.”
“Don’t be an idiot.” Hideo said. He stuttered slightly on ‘idiot’ but I let that slide. You can’t mock the speech impediment lot, you know. “We can get you there tonight. In and out. There’s a blindspot and it won’t be a suicide mission. Then you can go back to whatever you do.”
“I kill people.” I said with a smile. But I got his point. I did have a clear schedule and this was a fun way to spend a Saturday night. Besides drinking whisky and wishing myself dead, of course. And before I knew it, I was joining them in Hideo’s shitty car that looked probably looked second-hand when it was new. Oh, what fun I had.
Priti drove with Hideo in the passenger seat. I was in the back under a tarp which they insisted lest they be caught with the most wanted man in the country. I guess I could relate; I once train hopped with a guy who once poisoned his entire workforce after being fired. Man, he was pissed when I left him for the cops. They spoke in the front seat in a hushed tone that really annoyed me. I mean, I was right here. So, I let it be known.
“Are we there yet?” I asked.
Priti sighed. Hideo gave me his most composed glance before answering.
“Good. I’m getting falling asleep under here.”
The car stopped with a screech and I was thrown into the back of the front seats. Good thing I kept Slicer under the thicker part of the tarp or I’d be speaking out of a second mouth.
“What the fuck?” I spat, pushing myself up. I looked out of the window screen and saw nothing but black. Like pitch fucking black.
“Oh dear.” Hideo breathed. “What if it spreads?”
It then sunk in. My factory was on fire.
Before I knew it, I’d dived out of the car and I ran straight to the entrance. People were piled around watching this unfold but I didn’t care. The front door was wedged shut but I shunted into it. My shoulder bashed into the metal covering but it only budged an inch. Boy, I fucking lost it. I began swinging Slicer into the opening even as the wood began to splinter and the razorblades dislodged. I shoved the wooden piece into the crack of the door and shoved it open. Slicer broke apart from the strain but I didn’t care. I ran in and boy, I wished I didn’t.
Inside was a choking mass of acrid smoke. Whatever was wedged against the door hit the ground with the strength of a fissure. Through what little I saw, I spied the old containers filled with unknown chemicals sputtering with orange flames as a plume of dense gas cloaked the ceiling. I couldn’t fucking move for it. I called out for A.D. but my words were absorbed by this chemical wasteland before me.
I tried to push on but I couldn’t. I kept imagining A.D. in the bedroom, perhaps unconscious and unaware of the fire that was about to consume her. I felt a strange force at the back of my collar pull me back into the sun. Clean air washed over me but I didn’t care. At that moment, I wanted to run back in and be burned alive. Just fucking kill me and let that be it.
Priti slapped me across the face, her eyes wide with an electricity I couldn’t fucking understand.
“We need to go.” she said.
I became conscious of all the people around me and I followed her lead.
“Don’t wipe your face off until we’re back in the car.” she muttered.
“One second.” I said, confused at her last comment. I had one last thing to sort.
I’m not gonna lie, it didn’t really hit me. I knew she died in that factory because I told her to wait for me. My selfish fucking need, huh? As I hurried through the back entrance of the abandoned smelting factory, I felt like the biggest asshole on the planet. Seriously, if you heard the shit I was telling her, you’d wonder why she’d want to stick around. I have this wonderful fucking gift for scaring people away. I really do. I don’t want to think about this anymore.
I may as well go out with a bang, shouldn’t I? Give the people what they want and all. I always kept my best hidden away because you never know if things ever go to shit like this. My best bat was hidden in the trap door beneath the foreman’s office of this other factory. Don’t give me that look; this is an industrial area and there’s abandoned factories all over. Read up on what a recession is and then come back to me.
I picked up the old cello case and snapped it open. God Killer awaited me.
God Killer was a fun old bat, really. It was an aluminium bat with four serrated blades imbedded in the tip. The body was patterned with razorblades and rusted nails, for that tetanus touch. I met Hideo and Priti around the corner and dived back under the tarp. I made sure God Killer had a place under Hideo’s seat cause no way I was faceplanting that. I’m happy the way God made me, you know? Even if my named my bat after something that could kill Him. Or Her.
“Oliver, I’m sorry.” said Hideo after what must have been the world’s longest silence.
“No, you’re not. You don’t know me. I lived alone.” I stammered. I didn’t care if he believed me or if he knew about A.D. because I wasn’t fucking talking about this.
“You need to talk about these things.” Priti offered but I shook my head.
“Nope. Aren’t you the ones trying to lead me to Aleksander so your kids don’t have to read his novel?” I fired back. I was getting annoyed and being under this fucking tarp didn’t help.