The hand written advert Blu-tacked on the front door of Mulholland’s Pool and Snooker Hall said:
Cleaners required for occasional work.
Involves some heavy lifting and rubbish disposal.
Some night work.
Hourly rate exceeds Minimum Wage Limit.
GSOH and discretion essential.
Ask for Bull
There were no lies in the job description, but in hindsight he asked for Bull, and Howard Lawson got plenty of it.
‘I could just eat a bacon sandwich.’
‘You’re one sick puppy, Rod,’ said Howard, pulling his T-shirt over his nose and mouth. He tried to breathe only through his mouth.
‘I always heard that burning human flesh smelled like roast pork.’ Rod Spencer jammed the shovel he was wielding in the guts of the man hanging over the fire and gave it a gentle nudge. Intestines spilled out, plus fluids the colour of bile.
‘For Christ’s sake!’ Howard turned away as a fresh waft of evil-smelling, ash-laden smoke billowed around them.
‘What’s up, Howsey? Haven’t you the guts for the job anymore?’ Rod grinned, showing the gap between his front teeth. His gums were too yellow to be healthy.
‘Stop poking the bloody thing,’ Howard snapped. ‘It stinks to high hell and you aren’t helping.’
‘It’s not the meat that stinks; it’s the cheap fucking tracksuit our boy was wearing. Smells like smouldering plastic. Whadda they call it again? Bakelite or some such shite?’
Howard was trying to avoid smelling the burning corpse, let alone look at it. But his gaze went back to it: what was left of Gary “Spacker” Adams.
‘Maybe we should’ve stripped him first,’ he said. Spacker’s tracksuit had melted and now clung to the stumps of his legs, arms and chest as a black, dripping mess.
‘You some sort of homo?’
‘Fuck you and your sick mind,’ Howard said.
‘Always thought you were a bit of a Nancy Boy, Howie. You have to be a man’s man to do this kind of work.’
‘I didn’t sign up for this kind of crap.’
Rod offered a malicious grin. ‘You want me to tell the boss you want out? I’m sure he’ll give you severance pay.’
With that he lunged at Howard’s throat with the head of the shovel.
Howard flinched, but the steel edge had stopped an inch from his neck. Rod grinned again. ‘Made you jump, chump.’
‘Just fuck off, will ya?’
‘Ha! I’m only messing with you. Not as if I’d really chop off your head.’ Rod winked. ‘Not unless the boss asked me to.’
He wasn’t kidding. Howard had watched him cleave Spacker’s skull with the edge of the shovel earlier. Punishment for smoking away some of the profit from the drug deals they conducted on behalf of Bull Mulholland. Spacker claimed it helped calm his frequent epileptic fits but Bull didn’t give a fuck.
‘Let’s just get this done and get the fuck out of here.’
‘Throw some more of that petrol on ol’ Spacker. He’s going out.’
Howard complied, dousing the corpse with more fuel from a jerry can. Flames roared, a huge plume of black smoke reaching for the tops of the trees rimming the abandoned quarry.
‘Hey, go easy on that stuff,’ Rod moaned. ‘Don’t you know how much it costs a fucking litre?’
‘You siphoned it off from your lawn mower,’ Howard pointed out.
‘Yeah, and what’s left’ll go back in it. Got me mam’s front lawn to do tomorrow.’
Howard shook his head. He couldn’t picture Rod The Vicious Bastard Spencer performing any menial chores like gardening. Shit, the only landscaping he was used to was when he was burying what they couldn’t burn in a shallow grave.
‘Have to watch out for my profits,’ Rod went on. ‘Less beer money for me if I have to buy more petrol.’
‘You charge your own mum for cutting her lawn?’
‘Fuck yeah. What do I look like, a fucking charitable institute?’
‘No. You look like a greedy twat.’
Rod laughed. No offence taken. He knew exactly what he was.
Spacker was now a charred cinder hanging from a discoloured chain. Howard brought the hatchet. Time to get on with the real dirty business.
Rod unhooked the chain and what remained of the corpse fell in the ashes. He dragged it out with the shovel. ‘Get your chopper out and do your stuff, Howsey.’
Howard clutched the hatchet, staring down at the shell of humanity, all which remained of their former colleague. ‘I can’t believe it’s come to this, Rod. It’s fucking evil.’
‘Speaking of evil, what they say isn’t true, y’know,’ Rod pointed out. ‘Money isn’t the root of all evil, it’s the lack of money that forces us to do such shit jobs.’
Howard didn’t answer. He was beginning to think that no amount of cash was worth what they were doing to Spacker.
‘I mean,’ Rod continued putting thought to his warped sense of morals, ‘who’d fucking cut grass if they weren’t being paid?’
BIO: Matt Hilton quit his career as a police officer with Cumbria Constabulary to pursue his love of writing tight, cinematic American-style thrillers. He is the author of the high-octane Joe Hunter thriller series, including his most recent novel ‘Rules of Honour’, published in February 2013 by Hodder and Stoughton. His first book, Dead Men’s Dust, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers’ Debut Book of 2009 Award, and was a Sunday Times bestseller.
Matt is a high-ranking martial artist and has been a detective and private security specialist, all of which lend an authenticity to the action scenes in his books.