Some fucker was shining a floodlight straight into Sam’s eyes. He opened them, very slowly, and was horrified to discover that self-same fucker had poured sand under his eyelids.

And shat in his mouth.

Morning, Sam discovered, had broken. And then buggered off to make way for afternoon. Which was why the sun was shining into his room.

“Bastard Sun.” His voice was raspy and his throat hurt.

He remembered screaming and howling into the night. He looked around is trashed apartment and winced. Not through shame, but because of the crushing hangover he had.

He had to move, and shifted to hands and knees. His hands screamed. The knuckles were swollen and bleeding.

Her remembered taking his argument to something…he scanned the room and found some bloody pock-marks in the wall.

Christ – he hoped he hadn’t broken his knuckles. He couldn’t afford to have them fixed.

He lay on the floor and moaned. Everything hurt. He needed medication.

Relief was a hobble to fridge. He screwed off the bottle top and took a swig, the cheap alcohol burning its way down.

He coughed and toasted. “Get up at the tree you fell down by.”

And took another, long, swig.

***

It didn’t help so much.

But neither did throwing up and shaking. Sam was running out of constructive ideas, so he abandoned the disaster area and retreated to a shower, where he huddled in the corner and let the rain pour down on him.

He couldn’t do it anymore. Going out, cutting deals, getting beaten, keeping his friends alive. There had to be another way.

The system’s house phone rang. Sam let it run to the secretary. It was a slight expense, he had a hacked version, but it was more personal than an answerphone. Well. Everyone pretended it was, and interacted with the personality differently.

It was a potential date. He had no desire to see her. He’d call her later and feed her some lie to get off the hook.

Something struggled in the back of his head. It felt like an idea.

“Hello” His voice sounded like shit. He coughed and tried again. “Hello.” Not quite.

For the next 20 minutes he worked on his hello. Gravelly, old, cynical. He added a twang. He tried it with a coffee, to make sure he could carry it off with liquid. When he was happy he got his secretary to dial one of his friends through an anonymous proxy.

***

“Yeah, who is this?”

“Is this Edward?” Sam asked, voice as good as it was going to get.

Eddie laughed. No one called him Edward. “Yeah, yeah. This is Eddie. Who is this?”

“Ok, Edward. I’m asking the questions here. I’m cawling from the local precinct.” Sam paused, took a loud slurp of coffee. Eddie had stopped laughing. “I understand there was a little…altercation the other night, with you and your buddies. Is that right?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t think I know what you’re talking about officer. How did you get this number?”

“It’s Detective Sergeant to you, scum-bag. And let me remind you that I am still asking the questions. Why wouldn’t I have your number? You think it’s too important to have out there or something?”

Sam milked the call for about 10 minutes before hanging up. He was on Eddie’s speed dial. It wouldn’t take lo-

“Yallo.”

“Shit. Sam. I was just on the phone to some hard arse detective. He was grilling me about the other night.”

“How’d you know?”

“What do you mean, how did I know. He told me.”

Sam paused. Wondering when to tell him. “Pick up Allan and come over. You probably don’t want to talk about this on the phone.”

***

15 minutes, and a half arsed attempt at tidying, Sam sat with his two friends.

Eddie had been going on about the call since he got in, pausing only to notice the mess. “Bad night, huh?” And then back into it.

“So, what are we going to do, Sam? Are they onto us? Is this worse?”

“How’d you know it was a cop, Ed.”

“He said so.”

“How’d you know.”

“He SAID so. Shit, Sam. You fucking gone deaf?”

Sam tried on his new voice. “Let me remind you that I am still asking the questions, Scum bag.”

There was a moment’s silence. Then Allan was laughing and Eddie had launched across the room. Sam had expected this and placed the biggest amount of shit in his path. Eddie went down.

“Stay down there unless you want trouble. This is our fucking way out. We’re going topside.”

And for the rest of the day Sam laid out his plan.

It was audacious. It was epic. It was the most dangerous, fool hardy thing he had ever tried.

“How long do you think this will take, Sam?” It was probably Allan who asked. To be fair – it didn’t matter at that point.

“Two weeks to get it in motion. And then we fast track. I don’t want to be old, or dead, here.”

Which is how, two weeks later, Sam found himself sitting opposite the most dangerous man he knew, laying out his plan.

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