Charlie

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A fictional story about Charlie Drummond, the former crime kingpin in Calder's Edinburgh, now washed up junky who is trying to make ends meet whilst avoiding new found enemies such as the psychotic Jason Raynor after a 2-year stretch inside.

The frail and decrepit figure wandered across the room and peered wearily out the window of his dingy high rise, the territory below now terrorized by youths, some as young as twelve, craving violence, always on the steal. Most of them reported to one man, Jason Raynor. Raynor was a fearsome tower of a man, an unpredictable, psychotic and deeply paranoid maniac.  The word was he wanted Charlie run out of the Calders for waltzing back in after his latest stretch and daring to sell hash under his nose without offering him his cut. Charlie had to do something to supplement his giro though.

After two-years for a foiled robbery, during which Maggie finally left him, all Charlie had left was his destructive heroin habit and a reputation which had reached its sell-by date in the late Nineties. The only people still around to share his shrinking existence were his simple step-brother Gary and his thirteen-year-old son Charlie junior. Having claimed custody of their two daughters, Ellen and Nicole, Maggie had washed her hands of the uncontrollable Charlie junior who reminded her too much of his father.

The thick, grey clouds looming above the Calders had never looked more ominous for the once notorious Charlie Drummond.

“What the fuck happened Gary man? Ah used tae rule this roost. Every cunt round here feared ma name.”

Gary had solid, square spectacles, greasy hair and constant sweat patches underneath his armpits that reeked of stale B.O. He was a robot, programmed with the basic functions of picking up Charlie’s hash, rolling Charlie’s joints, collecting Charlie’s messages, getting Charlie’s smack, collecting Charlie’s giro and agreeing with everything that came out of Charlie’s mouth. That was the main reason Charlie kept him around, apart from the fact that there was no-one else left.

“It’s that smack that’s done it Ah tell ye. Fuckin does ye in efter aw these years. If Ah could just get that that shite oot ma system Ah’d soon be back on top.”

Charlie took great pride in the fact that, despite being a heroin addict for many years, he had never injected once. He saw himself as one of the great survivors of a time when heroin had exploded onto the scene, crippling Edinburgh’s poorest areas and rendering it the Aids capital of Europe.

“Rolled that fuckin joint yet?” Charlie began coughing and spluttering, stumbling back from the window-sill and falling into his arm chair. Physically, he was a wreck. He had chronic chest disease through years of heavy smoking and his body had deteriorated beyond its thirty-eight years.

“Charlie you awright?”

“Ah’ll be just fuckin dandy when you git that joint rolled.”

“Jist roachin it Charlie.”

Charlie pulled himself forward in the chair and picked up a crumpled, half-drunk can of Tennents. “This the last fuckin can?” he asked before swallowing it down, enduring the stale, tinny taste for the sake of having some kind of alcohol in his stomach.

“Ah think so Charlie,” Gary replied nervously.

“Fuck sake! Nae smack and nae bevvy. Pass that joint and git yer arse roond tae Leckie’s fer a scorebag. Ye can stop off at the shops fer mair Tennents tae.”

“But Charlie, Ah’m quite st-stoned.”

“Well it’s aboot bloody time you started standin up fer yersel. And besides, if ye can sit here and smoke aw ma hash, an drink ma fuckin beer, ye can git ma messages, right?”

“Aye Charlie.” Without his gear Charlie was getting more irritable by the second. On the other hand everyone knew Gary was Charlie’s stepbrother, meaning the streets were just as dangerous for him as for Charlie. Only weeks before Gary had been set upon by ten kids and viciously kicked all over the pavement right outside the stair, while Charlie peered out the window.

“Neeeeuw! Bang bang! Ha ha! You’re deed Gary! Bang bang!” Charlie junior burst into the room with a toy aeroplane in one hand and his dad’s replica pistol in the other, firing off imaginary shots as he went.

“Give me that pistol ya wee shite! What have Ah telt ye about runnin aroond wae that?” yelled Charlie as his laddy bolted around the living room.

“Bang bang Dad, you’re deed tae!”

Charlie stopped the wee man in his tracks with an almighty slap round the side of the head, sending him tumbling on his arse as Gary looked down at the floor nervously. “That’ll teach ye tae disobey ma orders! How many times have Ah telt ye no tae play about wae that pistol!?” Charlie junior’s bottom lip began to quiver. “Aw ya wee fuckin cry baby, jist like yer mammy! Ye no got any dolls in yer room ye can play wae? Eh?”

”Fuck you dad!” The boy threw up his middle finger before bombing it for the door.

“Hey you ya little shite!” Charlie  picked up the pistol and hurled it at his son, missing him by inches as he escaped out of the door. “You stey in that room aw night! Come oot an ye’ll catch a fat lip ye hear me!?” Charlie snatched the joint from Gary and took a long hard draw. “Wee bastard.”

This was an everyday occurrence. Charlie could barely look after himself let alone a thirteen-year-old boy who’d spent half his life staring at his dad behind bars, a volcano of anger and neglect welling up inside him.

“Ah asked fer a carry-out an a bit of smack, no the end of the fucking world. You goin tae the shops or what?” barked Charlie, as Gary squirmed awkwardly in his seat, nervously adjusting his specs.

“Aye Charlie.”

“Here, there’s twenty sheets an a bit eh change. You can cover the rest eh? Dinnae take forever. Fling ees that pistol on yer way oot. Ah’ll stick it under this couch, stop that wee cunt fae gettin his hands on it. Aw aye an Gary...?”

“Aye Charlie?”

“Get fuckin fags an aw, Ah’m jist about oot”.

Charlie sank into the armchair, staring at the bare grey walls of his shitty half-decorated high rise flat. The tough mask he had been wearing slipped from his face leaving a bleak sadness in its place. Charlie rarely, if ever, left the house these days. Since his release he had grown into a paranoid recluse. Frequently he would wake in the middle of the night sweating, in a crazed panic, grasping for the blade underneath the mattress. He suffered from the most vivid nightmares about local nut-jobs bursting through the door, baying for his blood, nutjobs like Raynor. Pit bulls and rottweilers coming at him as he scrambled to escape a locked room. Maggie coming through the door in a violent rage.

Nowadays the only thing that really gave him comfort was remembering the glory days. He would drift into a daydream and picture himself patrolling the grounds around the flats in his Armani leather coat, ruling the high rise blocks with an iron fist. He would reminisce about the time he single-handedly took on five radges from Sighthill in a coked-up frenzy. Stanley knife in hand, he swiped and slashed at them like a crazed demon while the young team stared on in amazement.

Charlie jerked out of his daydream. A couple of seconds later he nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of something shattering against the window-sill. He peered round the curtain to see a young laddy who couldn’t have been more than fourteen disappearing behind the back of the supermarket. He felt his heart hammering and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his trembling hand. If that had happened fifteen years earlier he would have been down the stair and into the street, chasing the culprit with an axe. Changed times. He was but a shadow. A stalked shadow. He felt an itch burning underneath his skin. He was growing restless, clucking. He was beginning to itch for a hit. He looked at his watch. Gary had only been gone five minutes. “Fuck sakes.” He sank further into his chair, sighed heavily and slowly drifted off again, feeling his body jerking as he went.

The clap woke him in an instant. He locked his eyes onto Gary sitting by the wall. His teeth were chattering, his eyes wide with fear. It looked like there was a very present menace inhabiting his trembling body.

“Charlie. Over here.”

Another loud clap and Charlie looked across the room to be confronted with the terrifying sight of a smiling Jason Raynor swallowing up the chair with his Stone Island clad frame. Charlie felt the blood roaring in his ears. He had never met the man they called The Bully but there was no questioning that’s who he was looking at.

“Charlie Drummond. The legend that time forgot eh? Heard you used tae be a right player roond here back in the day that right?”

“Was a-a long time ago, ken?”

“Very modest. Aw Ah almost fergot, ye were lookin for somethin? Here.” Raynor pulled a bag of heroin from his jeans pocket and tossed it across the room. “Found yer stepbrother here in Leckie’s scorin yer bag, thought Ah’d come an introduce maself. Name’s Jason Raynor. Somethin’s tellin me ye know that though. Aw, ye don’t mind do ye?” Raynor leant down and pulled a can from the carry-out, not for one second taking his eyes off Charlie who was just waiting for Raynor to turn. He began to feel his own body tremble just like Gary’s. This guy just needed to throw a smile across the room to put fear into you.

Raynor gulped down the can in one go, crumpled it, dropped it on the ground and wiped the beer from his jaw with his sleeve. His eyes were like stones now. The smiling exterior had vanished. “So. What’s the deal wae this hash then Charlie? Now the pleasantries are over eh.” He opened up Charlie’s packet of fags and lit one up before tossing them across the room and insisting he take one.

As Charlie reached down to pick them up his panicking brain grasped for anything he could possibly use to appease this eerily calm beast of a man.  “Ah’m just tryin t-t-tae keep ma heid doon. Score a bit eh money on the side. Ye ken how it is wae the giro an that.”

“How would Ah know how it is? Ye sayin Ah’m some kind eh gyppo like?”

“N-n-naw, n-no at all Jason.”

Raynor burst out laughing. “Ah’m kiddin ye on ya cunt! Naw seriously now how is it, that you felt the need tae sell drugs in this area, my area, without comin tae me first? An askin ma permission?” Raynor sat forward, locking his large hands together, clearly in anticipation of some kind of explanation Charlie wasn’t able to provide.

“A-a-ah’m sorry. Ah didnae mean any disrespect. Ah’ll stop, Ah will.”

“See the thing is Charlie, yer a has been. We all know it. Yer old hat, washed up. Like one of those straggly old mutts that wanders around wishin it was still king eh the racetrack, that just won’t lay down and die. But when you slide yer way back intae the area after two year in the tinpale and start sellin smoke, what does that say tae me? That next it’s gonna be coke? Or yer own drug of choice, smack? Cause after all, that’s the way it wis back in the day wasn’t it Charlie boy eh? You were like Billy fuckin big balls, had it all sewn up. You’re no thinkin you’ve got any chance of bein the Daddy round these parts again are ye? WELL!? THESE ARE MA FUCKIN HIGH RISES NOW!”

Charlie jumped in his seat at Raynor’s bellowing voice and wild paranoid eyes. His whole demeanor had changed in a heartbeat. His frame widened in the chair as his neck muscles tightened. Charlie thought of the boy. And what this lunatic might do to him once he was finished with himself and Gary. He just hoped he could talk him down somehow. He sat forward and raised his hands, pleading for mercy. “Look Jason Ah’m no tryin tae take your patch. Ah promise ye. Ah’m done, right? Ah’m done. Ah’ll walk away. Ah’ll leave the area. Ye’ll no see or hear from me again, Ah promise ye. Ah promise ye.”

Raynor stood up and began pacing. Gary pulled himself backward and curled into a small heap against the wall, rocking, whimpering like a boy. “Get him tae shut up.” Growled Raynor.

“Gary. Gary!” Charlie sat further forward in his chair, trying to get his brother’s attention, as his muffled whimpering developed into a wailing.

“Shut him up.” Growled Raynor again.

Charlie crawled over and grabbed Gary by the shoulders, desperate to get through to him that his panic was unsettling the monster, the Bully. Useless. The more Charlie, tried the more frantic Gary became. He hadn’t had one of his turns for years and this was a big one. Within seconds he was banging the back of his head against the wall, beginning to  let out a high pitched squeal. His eyes were frantic.

Charlie didn’t see it coming. The butt of the hammer crashed into Gary’s temple, caving in his skull like an Easter egg. Charlie fell back in shock as his step-brother slumped to the deck. Now his wide eyes were gone. Lifeless. Empty. Charlie rubbed at the blood that had sprayed his face before looking up at the hulking man now towering above him. Survival started kicking in. The old smarts were coming back in the face of imminent death. As he pulled himself up he clutched hold of the pistol before standing up straight and taking aim at Raynor who was just a couple of metres away. “Stay back! Stay FUCKIN BACK! OR AH’LL SHOOT YE! So help me God Ah’ll put a bullet right through that big dome.”

“Finally grown a set eh balls have ye? Had a flashback tae when ye were somebody? No just a dirty fuckin junky sellin hash on the sly. We could have maybe talked this through if that cunt hadnae started freakin me out. Look what he’s made me do!! EH!”

“Brave, Very fuckin brave. Just a simple bastard, daft as a brush! Nae harm tae nae cunt!” shouted Charlie. He could see the big man’s eyes shooting all over the place, his face growing red as he glanced across at Gary’s caved in head that was now literally oozing brain fluid. “He was a daft simple bastard. But he was mine!! Ma only fuckin friend in the world!!”

Charlie’s hands began to shake. He couldn’t lose it now, but he couldn’t help the feelings that were overtaking him. His son. He hadn’t given a second thought to anyone other than himself in years. That’s how he lost Maggie. That’s how he lost his daughters. And now he was going to lose his own life before even getting the chance to try and make things right. And Gary. Poor fucking Gary. He had never said a single kind word to him.

Raynor was beginning to calm himself — and the calmness was more frightening than the anger. “Well go on then bigshot. SHOOT!” he grinned as he tightened his grip on the bloody hammer. “Ma bet is either that’s a fake, or you don’t have any bullets. Which is it? Prove me wrong. PROVE ME WRONG CUNT. Just as Ah thought. AAAAAAAAHHHH!!”

Suddenly Raynor seized up, the hammer dropping from his hand and falling to the floor. Charlie looked on bewildered as the monster seemed to go into spasm, his face contorted with pain. Was it a heart attack? If so Charlie would be a believer from this day forward. Within seconds the big man’s legs gave way and he fell forward, the floorboard cracking underneath the sheer weight of his tree-trunk thighs — to reveal the wee man himself. There Junior stood, clutching a giant kitchen knife in his tightly clenched hands, teeth gritted to crumbling point. As Raynor lifted his head and went for the hammer, clearly trying to make sense of what had just occurred, Charlie junior brought the knife up at an angle and plunged it deep into the side of his neck, sending the massive man crashing to the floor.

As the Bully rolled about on the floor clutching at his neck, blood spraying out of a main artery, fading fast, Charlie and son looked at one another and grinned. For the first time ever there was a real connection.

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