(Thursday, 25th April 2002)
Spider got out of his car and walked around it, propping himself on the bonnet. What with him and the BMW, the girls’ exit was effectively barred. And the drug dealer would have made an imposing barrier by himself. He was wearing knee-length shorts and a Gold’s Gym muscle shirt. On anyone else the logo might have seemed pretentious or wildly optimistic; on him it seemed quite appropriate. As well as tattoos on his tattoos, he really did have muscles on his muscles. Heather wondered if he sold steroids as well as cocaine and heroin.
‘Hello, hello,’ he said mildly. ‘What’s all this then?’
‘We’re taking Carrie home,’ said Naz, getting in there before Heather could snarl at him.
‘Carrie.’ Spider chuckled. ‘So that’s her name.’
‘You bastard,’ Naz spat. Then, not satisfied with the strength of that insult: ‘You fucking rapist bastard!’
‘Rapist?’ He laughed. ‘She collared me in the street, asking if I’d seen Charlie. When I said he was at home in bed, she suggested a threesome.’
‘Look,’ Heather put in, surprising herself with her diplomatic tone. ‘Whatever Carrie’s been up to isn’t my business. But I’m sure she was willing enough. My friend is a bit upset, that’s all. And Carrie’s obviously had enough for one day. Don’t you think it’s time she went home?’
‘Does she want to go home?’
‘Of course she does.’
‘Oh yeah?’ Spider grinned unpleasantly. ‘Ask her then. See what she says.’
Heather and Naz simultaneously looked at Carrie. Her eyes were open now, but it didn’t look like anyone was home. If there had been something going on behind the blinds a short while ago, whatever it was had taken deep cover.
‘She told us earlier,’ Heather lied.
‘Like fuck she did,’ said Spider. ‘Carrie loves the ups but can’t take the downs. She’s been weeping and begging all day. “Give me more. Give me more and then fuck me and fuck me again.” She’s quite a case, is Carrie. I had to get help in at one stage.’
‘You fucking bastard!’
Heather glared at Naz. She completely agreed with her sentiment, but this wasn’t the time or place to express it. Naz blanked her, her attention fully focussed on Spider.
‘You’ve given her H, haven’t you? She’s got a coke problem and you’ve made it ten fucking times worse.’
‘I told her up front,’ Spider said levelly. ‘I didn’t have Charlie. We could go powerballing, if she wanted, but I didn’t have straight coke. She was okay with that. Actually, she was more than okay. She nagged and nagged while I tried to go about my business. In the end I knocked off early and brought her here. Shoving my cock in her gob was the only way to shut her up. And she could have left anytime she wanted. Was she chained to the bed when you found her?’
‘No,’ Naz retorted, ‘she was zapped out of her skull. And she must have been zapped to want to fuck you, you fucking disgrace. Zapped and desperate to score.’
Heather winced. ‘Look,’ she said, diplomatic again. ‘Let’s not fall out. Carrie’s had her hit and you’ve had your fun. We’ll just be on our way . . .’
‘No you won’t.’ Spider got off the bonnet and flexed his already bulging muscles, making his shirt ripple. The web on his neck fluttered too, as if caught in a breeze. ‘I don’t want her to go yet. And I don’t take lip from anybody. Especially not a Paki bitch.’
Heather let go of Carrie and moved between Spider and Naz. ‘Hey, racist,’ she snapped. ‘Just watch your mouth.’
‘Make that two lippy bitches,’ he sneered. ‘I’ll slip you both a length, when you’ve learned how to show me due respect.’
Heather was standing in a basic karate defence position. A tiny part of her brain was focusing on Naz, hoping she hadn’t dropped Carrie onto the gravel. The rest was concentrating totally on Spider. And he wasn’t nice to concentrate on. She had fought and beaten a sixteen stoner once before, but this wasn’t really a comparison. Mr Khan’s would-be robber had been obese and drugged out of his mind. Spider hadn’t an ounce of fat on him. Apart from the steroids, he didn’t look as if he indulged in his own merchandise. And, as well as being a notorious, violent thug, he was also probably a murderer . . .
Quite evenly balanced then, she philosophised. Chocaholic or not, I don’t have an ounce of fat on me, and I don’t do drugs. Shame about the ever-so-slight weight difference . . . all five stones of it!
Resisting the urge to flee she faced him, grateful she wasn’t visibly shaking. Mapping out her plan of attack for Spider wasn’t like mapping out a plan for a soft touch like Ross. In fact she didn’t know how or where to begin. If she rushed in he’d have chance to grab her. And if he got hold of her that would be it, Game Over, Player One.
Come on, she thought. Move on me. I’ll react automatically.
Another car was approaching, this one announcing itself by the grumble of its engine rather than the crunch of tyres.
‘That’ll be my new back-up team,’ Spider said without turning to check. ‘I’ll be off Mersin Eskort
out in a bit. Can’t leave you girls without a supply of hard cock, can I?’
Heather could see it was their taxi arriving, not a back-up team. Keeping a poker face, constantly aware of Spider’s body language, she watched Majid get out and stare at the tableau in the driveway. Her heart sank as he reopened the taxi’s door.
Can’t blame him, she concluded ruefully. How many times did I tell Naz to be ready to run?
‘There’s two ways we can do this,’ Spider said, facing Heather, maybe a little cautious of her battle stance, but not much. ‘You can go down on your knees and kiss my feet. Or I can kick shit out of you, then you can go down on your knees and kiss my feet.’
‘You’ll kiss my arse first,’ Heather said defiantly.
Then her heart rebounded and started pounding. Majid hadn’t turned to flee. He’d turned to tool up. Now armed with a large adjustable wrench, he was creeping up on Spider. Shifting gravel underfoot let him down at the last, but even so he had the edge when Spider spun around.
‘Open your fat mouth and I’ll brain you,’ Majid said. He sounded very convincing. Very, very convincing. Then, to Heather, ‘Get your friends in the cab.’
Spider stayed where he was, the wrench hovering inches above his head. If he attacked he’d get hit, no doubt about it. And that wrench really was large. A blow from that would smash the thickest of skulls.
More dragging than leading, Heather and Naz got Carrie to the taxi. Getting her in wasn’t so easy. Somehow they managed it without banging too many bits of her on the doorframe. And then, leaving Naz to babysit, Heather hurried back to Majid’s side.
Spider looked as though he hadn’t moved since God was a lad. His eyes were firmly rooted on the wrench. His mouth wasn’t so rooted, however. He was venting a never-ending stream of threats and insults.
‘I’m seriously considering braining him,’ Majid said to Heather. ‘Involuntary manslaughter is when you just crack and do something outrageous, isn’t it? Something out of character and justifiable. There isn’t always a prison sentence when you’ve been provoked. I’m sure there isn’t. And boy, have I been provoked!’
‘I’m not sure of all the ins and outs,’ Heather replied. ‘So I wouldn’t risk it if I were you. I’d hate it if you ended up sharing a cell with Mr Big.’ Then, to Spider. ‘Turn around, or I might offer my friend different advice.’
Spider’s eyes finally moved away from the wrench. Heather was used to being looked up and down but Spider took it to new levels . . . and not all of them sexual. Sheer evil radiated from him. Without even trying, he emptied her spine and refilled it with crushed ice.
‘Turn around,’ she repeated, forcing the bravado.
Sneering again, Spider obeyed. Heather took the wrench off Majid and tapped it on the bald bastard’s pate. ‘I’m holding the wrench now,’ she said. ‘And I don’t give a shit about different degrees of manslaughter. My girlfriend’s a top barrister. She’ll get me off no matter how many times I brain you.’
That was a teeny-weeny white lie. Mary Rose hadn’t graduated yet, never mind started her LPC. She would be a top barrister, though. She always overachieved. Knowing her, she would end up good enough to have got The Ripper off with time served on remand.
‘Go on, Majid,’ Heather said. ‘Go start your motor. I’ll be there two seconds after you toot your horn.’
Majid dithered. ‘Are you going to?’ he asked finally, nodding towards Spider’s shiny head.
‘Not unless I have to.’
Majid hurried back to his taxi. Staring almost wistfully towards his front door, Spider said, ‘It’d be funny if my back-up arrived right now, wouldn’t it? Just when you think you’ve won.’
‘It’d be fucking hilarious,’ said Heather, mentally summing her recent verbal “fucks”. She had probably used up a whole year’s supply in the last week. And it wasn’t even May.
‘I like alpha females,’ Spider went on. ‘And I bet you’d eat Xena for breakfast.’ Even his laugh was ugly. ‘I bet you’d like that, as well.’
‘I would, actually.’ Heather tapped his pate a little harder. ‘And that’s all you’re getting from me.’
‘Is it? Not even a quick blowjob?’
Majid’s horn tooted.
‘Okay,’ said Heather. ‘I can cover ten yards in less than two seconds. And I’ve got eyes in the back of my head. You have to stand stock still until I’m gone. If you move an inch I’ll be back. And I’ll come swinging. Are we on the same page?’
‘I’d prefer the blowjob but yeah, I get the message.’
Heather wasn’t sure exactly how fast Maurice Green would have been over ten yards of loose gravel, and from a standing start. She’d have beaten him that afternoon anyway. And by quite a distance. Perhaps a whole second after leaving Spider’s muscled arse she threw herself in through the already open passenger door. Majid took off immediately amid clouds of exhaust fume and dislodged muck and stone.
‘Anyone after us,’ she gasped, pulling the door shut.
‘Nothing Mersin Escort Bayan yet.’ Naz said. ‘Nothing yet.’ She was looking out of the rear window, immune to the bumpy slaloming as Majid tried to avoid the bigger craters, his suspension loudly complaining in-between ominous thunks.
Heather wasn’t quite so immune. She gripped the overhead grab handle with one hand and the edge of her seat with the other. Facing forward, bracing her feet against the front of the footwell, she shut her eyes. And prayed.
Dear God, please fasten my seatbelt for me. I’ll never sit in a car without one again, not even Stuffypants’. And that’s a promise.
‘We’ve done it!’ Naz cried as they turned onto a decent road surface. ‘Free at last!’
‘Still nobody after us?’
‘Nope, we’ve got clean away.’
Heather could feel the vehicle decelerating. Most roads in this part of town had strict 30 mph limits. And Majid obviously valued his licence. Cautiously, she opened her eyes.
‘Which one are you, Starsky or Hutch?’ she said, grinning at the taxi driver.
‘More like one of the Dukes of Hazzard,’ Naz put in.
‘I’m far too young to remember any of them,’ said Majid. ‘And where are we going, by the way?’
Heather let go of the grab handle and peered into the back. Naz was sitting directly behind her. Carrie was sort of slumped across the whole seat, her head nestled in Naz’s lap. Her eyes were closed again and she seemed to be sleeping peacefully.
‘What do you think, Naz? Does she need to go to hospital?’
‘Her breathing’s fine and she’s not burning up. I checked her pulse and that’s normal. She just needs watching while she sleeps it off.’ The Asian girl looked at Heather meaningfully. ‘I think the hospital would ask us awkward questions. We’d best keep them out of it, unless she takes a turn for the worse.’
Tearing her gaze away from the loveliest brown eyes she’d ever encountered, Heather dialled out.
‘Rita? It’s Hev. We’ve got her.’
‘You’ve got Carrie? Where is she? Is she all right?’
There was a commotion at the other end of the call, possibly even a quick wrestle for control of the phone, then Alex took over.
‘Where is she? Is she all right?’
‘She’s here with us, in a taxi. She’s a bit out of it, I’m afraid, but she’ll soon sleep it off.’
‘I need to see her.’
‘Alex, trust me, not only can you see her, you can have her for keeps. Tell me where you want her and she’ll be there before you know it.’
He gave her his home address and she relayed it to Majid, who nodded and took the next left.
‘Ten minutes,’ he said.
Sure enough, ten minutes later they pulled up outside a terraced house. They were definitely in the right place because Alex, Rita and Eleanor were out on the pavement, waiting for them. Alex opened the rear door the second they stopped.
‘Carrie,’ he chided. ‘Look at the state of you.’
Showing considerable strength, he picked her up and lifted her out of the cab, not banging her on the frame even once. Without uttering another word he set off with her towards the house. Heather held up five fingers to indicate they were staying in the taxi for a short while. Rita and Eleanor nodded and followed Alex inside.
‘That’s a relief,’ the taxi driver said, ‘I was sure she was going to throw up in the back.
‘Told you he’d think that,’ said Naz, chuckling.
‘Majid Khan,’ Heather began. ‘You are my hero. Here.’ She thrust a twenty pound note at him. ‘Be warned: if you try to give me any change I’ll batter you with your own wrench.’
‘You’re my hero too.’ Naz patted Majid on his shoulder. ‘I thought Hev was going to have to beat up that horrible man.’
Majid turned in his seat so he was looking at both of them. ‘You know who he is, don’t you?’
The girls nodded.
‘He doesn’t know me,’ Majid went on, ‘I keep well away from men like him. And I don’t think he realized this is a taxi. He only saw it from the side and it doesn’t have any markings. So I have probably got away with crossing him. What about you two?’
‘He doesn’t know us,’ said Heather. ‘And we won’t be going to the Cat’s Whiskers again. Not that that’s any great loss.’
‘He can’t know much about Carrie,’ Naz added. ‘The bastard didn’t even know her name until I blurted it out.’
‘So we’ve all got away with it,’ Heather concluded. ‘Although you’ll have keep a look out for him, Majid. We’ll have finished our exams and moved on in a couple of months. You have to share the same town as him. You might even get him as a fare.’
‘Our firm barred him a long time ago. I’ll make sure he stays barred.’
Impulsive as ever, Heather kissed the taxi driver full on the mouth. ‘Tell your uncle that you’ve repaid the debt he never owed in the first place. And don’t dare forget. I’ll be going in his shop on Monday, to make sure he’s been told.’
She got out of the car then hesitated. Naz was still sitting in the back, a strange expression on her face.
‘Naz, what is it?’
‘I can’t go in there. Mersin Escort I don’t really know those people.’
‘They’re very nice people. Even Carrie’s not too bad, deep down. And we are in this together, remember? Friends to the end.’
Naz shrugged and got out of the taxi.
‘Friends to the end,’ she said, bumping knuckles.
They waved Majid off then went to the door, which had been left ajar. Heather knocked on it before going inside. Although this was her first visit it wasn’t the sort of place to easily get lost in. Following the sound of a voice, she quickly located the lounge. Eleanor was in there alone, pacing up and down, talking into her mobile. She flashed a smile in their direction and kept on pacing.
Heather and Naz glanced at each other. Somewhere between pavement and lounge they’d joined hands. Holding hands had happened a lot today. In fact they’d been tactile all through the afternoon. It was nice. Heather only hoped Alex’s mother wouldn’t take offence.
At last Eleanor finished her call.
‘Mrs Hart,’ Heather said, ‘this is Naz Hussein. She’s been absolutely brilliant. We would never have found Carrie if it wasn’t for her.’
Eleanor’s eyes had narrowed at “Mrs Hart”. She’d noticed the hand-holding and probably had Naz down as more than a friend. Already. She didn’t take offence, though. Her eyes widened and twinkled as she approached the young Pakistani and surprised her with a hug.
‘I’m “Eleanor” to girls who save my daughter’s life,’ she said. ‘If there’s anything I can ever do for you, please get in touch. And I’m not just saying that on the spur of the moment. I mean it with all my heart. The same goes for you, too, Heather.’
Heather felt as awkward as Naz looked. ‘Where is she?’ she asked, changing tack. ‘Carrie, I mean.’
‘Alex and Rita are putting her to bed.’
‘She could probably do with some supervision.’ Heather’s lips twitched wryly. ‘I’m sure she’s going to be all right, I’m just being thorough. And now I think about it, I’m sure Alex will be supervising her for weeks.’
‘He’ll supervise her tonight. Tomorrow she’s going in that clinic.’
‘Is she? I thought that would have been called off when she . . . er, discharged herself.’
‘It’s a private clinic. I had to shell out a sizeable deposit last Sunday, when Dr Strickland first rang them. Thank Goodness for Amex, eh?’
‘You didn’t cancel?’
‘The deposit wasn’t refundable, so I didn’t even try. Instead, I went to church for the first time in fifteen years and prayed that Carrie would turn up. God must have been listening. He sent two of His most beautiful angels to find her for me.’
‘Eleanor, please! That’s way over the top.’
‘Would you rather be superheroes than angels? Supergirl and Wonder Woman, say?’
‘Heather’s more like Jessica Jones,’ Naz observed.
Heather didn’t understand that and strove to be practical. ‘What about transport to the clinic?’
‘North West Ambulance Service will pick her up tomorrow at ten o’clock. I was finalizing that with Dr Strickland when you came in. He was going to cancel it this morning, but I asked him to keep the booking open.’
‘Eleanor, you’re blushing! Are you sure you asked? You didn’t persuade?’
‘He baffled me with talk about NHS budgets, if you must know. I made a donation to a local charity of his choice and . . . bingo! . . . the problem went away. I only wish Scandinavian budget holders were so easily dealt with.’
‘Well,’ Heather said after a brief lull in conversation, ‘I suppose that’s it. We’d better be on our way.’
‘Aren’t you going to say goodbye to Alex and Rita?’
Heather was only too aware that Naz was uncomfortable. She’d clearly had enough undying thanks from complete strangers for one day. ‘They’ll have their hands full with Carrie,’ she said. ‘I’ll catch up with them later.’
‘You haven’t told me where you found Carrie. She was doing something to be ashamed of, wasn’t she? Earning her drugs like a common prostitute, no doubt.’
Heather smiled her most diplomatic smile. ‘She’s home and unharmed, Eleanor. She’s back with people who love her. Tomorrow she’s going to start to get cured. In a month’s time she won’t have an addiction to lead her astray. Do you really need to know any more than that?’
‘No, I suppose I don’t.’
‘I’d lock my suspicions away if I were you,’ Naz volunteered. ‘Like a genie in a bottle. Do not open for a thousand years.’
‘I’ll try exactly that. Thank you, Miss Hussein.’ Eleanor didn’t seem to want them to go. Or maybe she was winding them up. ‘Can’t I take you both out for dinner?’ she said. ‘I’ve found this lovely little Italian place. The owner couldn’t possibly be more attentive.’
Heather’s smile stretched into a grin at that. ‘We have to go back to university, I’m afraid. We left a bit abruptly this afternoon. We’ve apologies to make and things to collect.’
‘So this really is goodbye?’
‘No,’ said Heather, swallowing a lump that had appeared out of nowhere in her throat. ‘I’ll keep in touch. In fact you’ll get sick of hearing from me.’
Eleanor gave Heather a hug and, for good measure, hugged Naz again too. ‘You make sure Heather gives you my number,’ she said. ‘And ring me if you need anything. Even if it’s only a chat.’