Friday, 6 November 2015

Keeping up with the Joneses

Donnie and Adam are twins, born in the rolling hills of rural Wales. You would expect two boys, born in such an idyllic setting, to grow up pleasant and well balanced, but you'd be wrong. Their father was a bigoted, hate filled, sack of pus. Every hardship, real or imagined was blamed on whatever racial stereotype happened to jump into his mind first. I'm not even sure he can be actually called a racist, because he hated most of the native population of Wales with just as much venom: the smart, the educated, the wealthy, the powerful, the police, the teachers, the social welfare people, the health care people, all apparently had it in for Mr Jones.

Hardly surprising that he upped sticks and left such a den of vipers, choosing to move to the much more carefree environs of Ireland, dragging his wife and twin toddlers with him. It wasn't long before he recognised his mistake. If anything, Irish employers, and social establishment, were even less understanding of his lazy attitude toward work. Mr Jones was fired from every job he managed to get, within days. The years passed and Mr Jones accepted his forced retirement, content to pass on his particular view of the world to his lucky sons.

Donnie and Adam, as it transpired, inherited their father’s nasty manner and aptitude for laziness. By the time they were sixteen, they were out of school, and running-a-muck on the streets they called home. When not spitting abuse at anyone that caught their eye, they were getting drunk or doing drugs in an abandoned house they called home. Dole money didn't go far, not when you have an expensive lifestyle of drink and drugs to account for. Naturally, they never considered working for the money, when they could just take it. If a break-in happened within twenty miles of the Jones's shack, the police knew just where to go. 

One particular evening, Donnie and Adam turned their attention on a neat little, end of terrace house, in an old part of the town, No fancy lock-picking for these boys, they just rammed a crowbar in the front door and ripped the lock from its housing. Inside a small Jack Russell began barking wildly. Donnie pinned it into a corner and began kicking the poor little thing savagely. By some miracle, it managed to dodge to freedom and race out the front door, howling in terror. Inside, the house was as neat as a pin, the two brothers ripped it apart, smashing whatever came to hand not worth nicking. To their rage filled indignation, there was nearly nothing worth stealing in the whole place, except for the flat screen TV.

"Nothing but worthless shite!" screamed Donnie, smashing photos and ripping apart furniture, looking for hidden cash.

"Come on, let’s grab the TV and go," said Adam from the sitting room. Donnie went in and took one corner of the set, still fuming at the audacity of the owner for having nothing valuable in the house.

They were in the hall when Donnie said, "Hang on a minute," and put down his end of the set and ran back into the sitting room.

"What the fuck are you doing," asked Adam, following him. When he looked in the door he was greeted by a vision of Donnie, squatting in the middle of the sitting room, squeezing out a runny crap, all over the carpet.

"Serves them bloody right," snarled Donnie, hitching up his trousers and leaving his present behind. They loaded the TV into their van, and left.

***

An hour later, a tall middle aged man stood before the ruined door, the key held in his rock steady hand. For a moment he did nothing, just listened, then he quietly pushed the door open with his fingertips. He slipped into the hall noiselessly, he moved through the house keeping close to the wall, he ducked his head around each door, making sure the house was empty before he eventually called out,"Jessy." 

He listened but heard nothing.

"Jessy, here girl," he said louder, whistling this time. Still nothing. The man went from room to room calling the name "Jessy" all the time. He stopped in the sitting room, staring down at the stinking pile of human waste in the middle of the floor, before walking from the house. For hours, the streets rang out with that name, called over and over again, "Jessy."

***

Two days later, Donnie and Adam were in the middle of the town going to score some hash, when Adam became aware of a tall man standing across the road, glaring directly at them. He was about six foot one, fit, but not big. He had a neatly trimmed beard and his grey hair was buzz cut. Adam locked the van and looked over at the guy again. He was still staring at them.

"What the fuck you looking at, Queer?" shouted Adam. The man didn't flinch or look away, just kept staring right at him.

"What the FUCK!" said Adam, raising his hands, the universal sign inviting a fight but Donnie was itching to score, so pulled him away.

"Asshole FAGGOT!" screamed Adam, over his shoulder as he left. The man never moved an inch. When the boys got back to the van, they found it sitting on all four rims, all the tyres having been slashed. After ten minutes of cursing, kicking and shouting they had no choice but to walk back to the squat.   The evening was getting dark and they didn't notice the tall man tailing them expertly.

After that night, whatever luck the Jones' brothers had, it ran out. Unexplained things started to happen. One night all the clothes hanging on their washing line were soaked in petrol and set on fire. A few days later, the front window of the house was smashed in and a sack full of rats were dumped inside, dozens of the stinking things. Every other night the tyres on the van were slashed or the windows were broken, and that was only the beginning.  They returned to the squat one evening to find both their beds soaked in gallons of blood. 

The following night, Donnie went missing. Adam didn't think too much of it, but by three in the morning, there was still no answer on Donnie's phone. Adam started calling all of their friends but nobody had seen him. Donnie was found early the next morning, beaten, naked, and handcuffed to a building site fence near the middle of town.

Adam raced to the hospital, where he found Donnie being treated in A&E.

"Who did this to you?" he demanded, even before he asked if Donnie was hurt.

"That tall, queer fella from town, remember last week," said Donnie.

"Jesus, did he..." said Adam, nodding towards Donnie's crotch.

"NO! Well, I don't think so. I can't remember much. He came up behind me when I was walking home and jabbed a needle in my neck. I remember his face but after that, not much."

"He must have said something," said Adam.

"Yea, he did. He said he wants his TV back."

"What!"

"I know, but that's what he said."

***

Adam walked out the hospital exit and was amazed to see, that very same tall man, standing in the middle of the car park, staring at the A&E door.

"You must have a death wish!" yelled Adam, and ran at the man. The tall guy stood there, as cool as a breeze, watching a snarling Adam rush toward him. When he was a few feet away, Adam launched himself into the air, his foot aimed straight at the man's chest, he still hadn't moved, he even had his hands in his pockets. It was a complete mystery to Adam how, but he seemed to stop in mid-air, flip upside down and be rammed head first into the hard tarmac. All around him the world swam, and his ears buzzed. Two punches crashed into his jaw, and he felt something crack in the side of his face. Pain shot through him but his scream came out garbled. The tall man flipped him onto his back and leaned over Adam. The man's eyes were as dead as lumps of coal, he looked spaced-out.

"You took my TV, I want it back," said the man quietly.

"I have no idea…" mumbled Adam, but the man didn't wait for the end of the sentence. He moved with lightning speed and fresh pain raced up Adam's arm and into his brain.

"JESUS!"

The man held up Adam's severed little finger, so he could see it, and the blood soaked garden shears he had used to amputate it in the middle of a hospital car park. "I'm going to take one a week until I get my TV back." The man dropped the finger on Adams chest, straightened up, walking casually away.

***

When the boys got out of hospital, and the police stopped laughing at them, five full days had passed. Adam was sure the guy must live in the little terrace house they had knocked over, because it was the only one they had taken a TV from in nearly two months, jewellery and cash were much easier to hide and sell. Donnie went to find out who the guy was, but when he came back, the news wasn't good.

"He's only a bloody Ranger!" said Donnie.

"Like special forces Ranger?" asked Adam.

"Yea but worse. He's a Ranger who was sent home for being off his rocker. That was his mother’s house we knocked over, but she's dead now," said Donnie.

"Since the break in!" yelled Adam, understanding why the guy was trying to kill them, if they had accidentally knocked off his Ma with the shock of finding the house done over.

"Na, years ago, it was just him living there," said Donnie. They both said nothing for a long time, each of them running things over and over, looking for a way out of this.

"Let's get the fuck out of here," said Adam at last.

"Good idea," said Donnie, jumping to his feet. Ten minutes later, their van was a speeding blip on the edge of town.


They crashed at a friend’s place in Limerick for a few nights, until, in the middle of the night, a scream tore through the house. Adam rushed into the sitting room, throwing on the light, to find the tall Ranger with a knife to Donnie's neck, and the place covered in blood. Adams mate came running down the stairs but as soon as he got a look in the sitting room, he ran straight back up again.

"Week is up," said the man, throwing Donnie's little finger across the room.

"Look, just tell us what you want," said Adam, feeling his bladder come dangerously close to letting go.

"I want my TV. I've told you that already," said the man in an ice cold voice.

"All right, all right. I'll get you a bloody TV, just take that knife from his throat," said Adam holding out his hands toward his brother.

"I said, I want my TV, not a TV. I want the one you took, and I want it brought back to my house before this day next week," said the man, as calmly as he would if he were ordering a salad.

"Yea! No Problem! Just let him go, please," said Adam, his eyes beginning to mist over. Just like that the man let his brother go, and walked out the front door and was gone. In the distance, sirens were just starting to grow, Adam's friend must have called the cops from upstairs.

In the end, Adam and Donnie told the coppers nothing. Just said it was a stupid accident. They knew this Ranger was nuts, and there was no way the police were going to stop him, if he decided he wanted to get one, or both of them. The only option was to do what he asked.

***

The next Friday, Adam and Donnie turned up at the little terrace house with the stolen TV held between them. The door opened before they had a chance to knock, and the tall man stepped to one side allowing them to bring in the set. The house was back to the neat way it had been but some items were missing, broken beyond repair. The twins put the TV on the counter and turned to face the man.

"Plug it in please," he asked, politely. Donnie plugged in the TV and turned it on, as Adam kept a close eye on the mad bastard. Once he had flicked through the channels, the man turned the TV off, and smiled at Adam.

"That's it, we're done so?" Adam asked.

"I want my dog," the man said, his eyes dead.

"I don't have your dog!" yelled Adam, not believing it was starting all over again.

"I want my dog."

"Seriously, we haven't got it!"

"Her."

"We haven't got her, she ran out the door and was gone. If we had her, we would give her back. I swear! You can cut off all my fingers, cut our throat's, but we can't give you what we haven't got." said Adam. From the corner of his eye, he could see Donnie start to shake, this was going very bad, they never should have come inside the house. The tall guy walked over and shut the sitting room door standing between it and any hope they had of freedom, of life.

"Ah, Jesus. Please," cried Adam, tears starting to come. The man just shook his head and started to advance on them. They both backed up until they felt the wall behind them.

"We will do anything else, just name it, anything. Please," blubbed Donnie. The man stopped and looked at them for a second, his crazy mind running behind his dead eyes.

Okay, give me justice so," said the man.

"Sure, no problem. You want us to confess to the break in, we will do it right now, over the phone so you can listen if you like." said Adam, the prospect of a few months behind bars was nothing compared to having fingers sliced off.

"Not that. Twelve lashes each, in the town square. Tomorrow, midday," said the guy, his eyes gleaming.

"Twelve lashes?"

"Yea, on the bare back. Deal or no deal?" asked the guy.

"With what?" asked Donnie.

"Don't worry about that, I will bring the lash. Is it a deal?

"Deal, deal," said Adam, just wanting to get out of the house

***

The next day, just after mid-day the twins edged into the town square. In the middle of it stood the raised statue of a mounted soldier, surrounded by a tall metal rail.

"Take off your tee-shirts," the man said, when the twins stood in front of him. They did as they were told, attracting lots of looks from the passing shoppers.

"Grab on to the rail, this is going to sting a bit," the Ranger said to Adam, with a smile. Adam turned around and gripped the metal bars. From under his coat, the Ranger removed a short leather whip, which split into a nine braided tails, each tipped with a tiny metal orb. He threw the whip at Donnie's feet and said, "Twelve of the best, please."

"Me?"

The man said nothing. Donnie picked up the whip and looked at his brother's bare back. Realising that it was Donnie going to use the lash, Adam relaxed a bit. 

The first blow was savage and drew blood, Adam screamed, and everyone in the square stopped in their tracks, but Donnie drew his hand back and let fly once more. Blow after blow fell, each more severe than the last, Donnie's natural evil, rising to the surface. After twelve, Adam dropped away from the fence, his back in ribbons, his face contorted in rage and pain.

"Now you," said the tall man to Donnie, indicating the fence. As soon as Donnie's fists closed around the metal bars, Adam grabbed the whip and went to town on his brother. Adam quickly reached twelve and was about to issue number thirteen when the tall man said, "That is enough."

Adam dropped the whip, panting. Donnie fell to the ground, moaning, and the tall man walked up until he was inches from Adam's face. He bent, and picked up the lash, and said, "Now, find my dog."

The tall man walked away, having to push his way through the gathered onlookers. Behind him the Ranger heard Adam scream in frustration, and he smiled for the first time.
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