‘Och, Mikey.’ She opened her arms, a tentative smile on her lips. ‘Ye canna be too sure. No these days.’
Extract by Runaway
By Claire MacLeary
Published by Saraband
The voice was frighteningly familiar.
‘Mikey?’ She squinted through the security spyhole. ‘That you?’ She hadn’t been expecting him.
A distorted face glowered back. ‘Who the hell dae ye think it is, Clint Eastwood?’
‘N-no,’ she faltered.
‘Well, open the door.’
Jean Meston eased the door a fraction. She peered through the crack.
The safety chain strained under the man’s weight. Jean unlatched the chain from its housing. ‘Och, Mikey.’ She opened her arms, a tentative smile on her lips. ‘Ye canna be too sure. No these days.’
Mike Meston stormed past his wife.
Gingerly, she pushed the door to, followed his dark shape down the hall.
‘Christ’s sake.’ He whirled to face her. ‘This how ye’ve been living?’
Covertly, Jean ran her eyes over the disordered settee, the stained carpet, the ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts. ‘I’ve no had the time, what wi one thing an…’ Her voice trailed off.
‘I’ll gie ye time,’ Mike thundered. ‘Wean in bed?’
‘Naw.’ How to explain Willie’s absence? ‘He’s at his Gran’s.’
‘Get us a beer, then. Ah’m gaspin fur a swallow.’
She stood, immobile.
There was silence, then, ‘There’s nae money fur beer.’
He cast her an evil look. ‘An ye ken why.’
Jean struggled for an excuse. ‘Benefit’s no in.’
‘Benefit, my arse.’ Mike stood, hands on hips, legs straddled. ‘I’ll tell you why there’s no beer. My income’s gone up in smoke.’
‘Well,’ she ventured, ‘if you’d stuck wi what you were used to…’
‘Puntin the odd nicked phone or carton o fags? Widna keep a roof ower our heids. Too many other punters on the game.’
‘But… drugs, Mikey?’
‘That’s where the money is. An it’s no as if it was heavy stuff, like, heroin or naethin. Onywye,’ – his lips formed a thin line – ‘it’s your fault it’s gone down the tubes.’
‘Fur no keepin a tight rein on thon laddie o yours.’
‘Yours an aw,’ Jean shot back.
‘Aye.’ Long pause. ‘Mebbe.’
‘You’ve a neck.’ She drew herself up. ‘The way you sent the loon roon pub doors, an him the age he is.’
‘Bastard might as weel be occupied if he’s no at the school.’
‘He wullna go tae the school.’
‘That’s at your door an aw. He widna get the chance tae skip school if you wurna blootered in the mornings.’
‘Ah wisna blootered. The wean widna get oot o’ bed. An wi nae man in the hoose Ah couldna mak him.’
Mike flexed his biceps. ‘Ye couldna get a wee loon on his feet, is that what ye’re tellin me?’
Jean took a backwards step. ‘Aye, that’s the God’s honest truth. If Wullie’s set his heid against it, naebody could. No me. No the teacher. No the Schools Inspector. No the Social. An…’ She was grasping at straws, now. ‘Ah dinna ken how ye’re layin the blame at ma door. Wisna down tae me ye landed yersel in the jail.’
‘Dinna even go there, ya idle cow.’
‘It’s down tae thon Fatboy.’ Jean moved to mollify her husband. ‘If Willie hudna got in tow wi him, nane o this wid huv happened.’ When, the previous year, Mike had been sent down, he’d dispatched ten-year-old Willie to act in his place as runner for local drug dealer Christopher Gilruth, who went by the name Fatboy.
‘Aye. Weel, he’ll no be botherin onybody fur a while.’
‘How d’ye ken that if ye jist got oot?’
Mike puffed his chest. ‘Jungle drums.’
Jean quailed. If her husband knew about the outcome of the Fatboy affair, what else had he heard? She cosied up to him. ‘Hiv ye hud yer breakfast?’
‘Naw. Couldna wait tae get doon the road.’
‘Come in aboot.’ She took him by the sleeve, led him through to the kitchen. ‘Ah’ve no long made a fry-up.’
‘Is that what ye’d call it?’ Mike Meston eyed the plateful of food. ‘Twa eggs an a puddle o beans? Whaur’s the meat?’
‘There’s nae money fur…’
‘How d’ye fancy that fur a fry-up, then?’ He grasped her by the hair, shoved her face into the plate of food.
She fought for breath as the congealed egg yolks filled her mouth and nose, the still hot beans scalded her skin.
‘Be my guest.’ He pushed down harder.
Desperately, Jean scrabbled for the edge of the table. She tried to brace herself, push back, but his grip was too strong.
‘Fit ur ye sayin tae it now?’ He yanked her head up.
She brushed the back of one hand across her face. Gobs of egg and clusters of beans dropped to the floor.
She stuck two fingers into her mouth. Cleared her throat. ‘Naethin.’
He threw her the evils. ‘Canna hear you.’
She took a breath. ‘Naethin.’
It was then he put the boot in. Jean felt the searing pain as one of her ribs cracked. Maybe more than one.
She drew her knees up to her chest.
Covered her head with both hands.
Runaway by Claire MacLeary published by Saraband, priced £8.99