Simon took a step towards the open door, trying to block her view as Gloria leaned to peer past him into the grim interior. Stephen Hardcastle was slumped against the wall. “What the hell are you doing? How did you get in?”
“Down the back alley, the side gate. It doesn’t matter!”
“I didn’t know there was a back alley.”
She screeched at him, “I said it doesn’t bloody matter – What the hell is this?”
Simon turned his head to glance at the mess behind him, he didn’t know how to begin. In the time he took, Gloria reached out and picked up the butcher’s knife. “No, it’s okay, you don’t need to do that – really you don’t it’s okay.” Fear came from her in waves, fear and anger.
“Okay – how can this be okay?” She had taken several steps into the room by now and was an arm’s length away from where Simon stood, struggling for words.”
“It’s not as bad as it looks.” He stopped, he sounded ludicrous. He reached a hand towards her. She raised the knife. “Why are you here Gloria, why have you come?”
“You didn’t bring a coat, I watched you walk down the alley and then it began to rain. I brought a coat.” Tears filled her eyes as she spoke to him, she brushed them away with her free hand and glanced around. “You haven’t done anything. You haven’t decorated, where’s all the stuff that you ordered? It’s just the same.”
Any answer that he might make was negated by a bout of coughing from Stephen behind him. Gloria slid past, still holding the knife in front of her. She flicked her glance between the semi-conscious man sagging against the wall and Simon who raised his hands, palms towards her in helplessness and surrender.
She knelt now beside Hardcastle who appeared to be drifting in and out of consciousness. “Bloody hell, what happened to him?” She glanced up. “He stinks, he’s shit himself. We need to get him to the hospital, we need an ambulance. What happened to his head? He’s got concussion or something.” She reached out to take Stephen’s hand and it was only then that she noticed the cuffs, the chains. “What the hell!” She pulled at them, jangling and shaking the metal links. “My God, what have you done? What the hell have you done?”
“I can explain, I can. I’ll tell you all about it. It’s not what you think.”
“How the hell do you know what I think – Christ even I don’t even know what I think! Who is this, who is this bloke?”
A faint whisper slipped between Stephen’s lips, “Help me, please. Don’t let him kill me, don’t leave me.”
“Shush, shush, it’s okay. Don’t worry I’m not leaving you. I’m going to get you an ambulance.”
“No. No don’t – just take me home. I’ll be okay if you just take me home.” Simon had moved forward to stand beside Gloria, she still gripped the big knife and raised it as she leaned back to peer up at him.
“I can explain Gloria. I was going to take him home. I just needed him to tell me first.”
“Tell you what?”
“Can we talk later? Look I’ll get him home now.”
“What do you mean?”
“How are you going to get him home. Are you going to ring a taxi, are you going to take him on the bus? Look at the state of him.”
“I need a van, I was going to go and…”
“Ah, just going to go and get a van, and some poor sod was going to have his vehicle stolen.”
“Well, I hadn’t expected to be doing this now. Look I know it looks bad, shit it is bad, of course it is but let me try to explain.”
“Tommy, Tommy take me home – please.”
“He’s delirious, he doesn’t know who we are. We really need to get him to the hospital.”
“No, he’s not delirious. It’s me. I’m Tommy. They changed my name, when I came out.”
“Oh, oh okay. Yeah of course they did. So, you’re Tommy – Tommy Fulton or? …”
“Webb, I’m Tommy Webb.” He watched as she sifted through her memory, saw recognition dawn and listened as she whispered his name.
“Tommy Webb – Sandie Webb’s brother.” There was nothing for him to do now but to nod and give her space to let the knowledge sink in.
The silence stretched between them until it was broken by another groan from Hardcastle as he tried to push himself into a more comfortable position.
Gloria turned to him and then spun her head back towards Simon. She jagged the knife at him, go and stand over there. Go and stand in the corner. Does this thing,” She reached and jangled the chain, “have any keys or whatever, how do I get them off him.”
“I’ve got them, here let me.”
“Don’t try anything, I will slash you, just move slowly. Unfasten him.”
“It’s okay, honestly Gloria, it’s okay. I won’t hurt him. I won’t hurt you. I promise.”
“Unfasten him then. Unfasten him and then take those stinking clothes off him.
“Right, right. Okay.”
The job was nasty and difficult for them all but in the end Stephen was laid on top of the blankets with towels wrapped around him. The blood had been wiped from his face and though he still shook with tremors he was calm.
Simon kicked the wet and stinking clothes in towards the wall. “No, pick em up.”
“Pick those up and stick em in that plastic bag.”
“There’s no need. I can sort them out later.”
“Either pick them up now or you’re going to have to sit in that mess.”
Simon shook his head, his face creased in puzzlement until Gloria’s plan became clear. “Sit in the… No, look Gloria there’s no need. Honestly I promise I won’t hurt you, I won’t hurt him.”
She jagged the knife at him, “Move the mess and then sit down. Give me the keys for those things, what are they, shackles? Cuffs? Anyway it doesn’t matter, just give me the keys.” He held them out towards her.
“You don’t need to, really.” But as he spoke he kicked the things together and then, bundled them into a bag.
“Sit down.” He turned and began to speak again but as she stood before him, her legs braced and the knife held at arm’s length he just shook his head and lowered to the floor.
“Right, put those things on your feet.” He clicked on the shackles. She threw the key to him, “Lock them.”
“Gloria, please. Look I promise I’ll stay here, I won’t move unless you tell me to.” She stopped, began to take stock of the whole situation. She realised that leaning towards him and forcing his hands into the cuffs and then locking them afterwards was going to be too dangerous and probably impossible for her to achieve.
He saw confusion now in her eyes and the wrinkle of the skin on her brow. “Gloria, let me help you, let me help you get him home.” She glanced down at Stephen, the bulk of him, his semi-conscious state.
“Okay, okay.” My car is in the road. Where is the key for this place?”
“It’s here in my pocket.” She held out her hand.
Her choices were limited but the main thing was to get help for the sick man. “I’m going to get the car.” She ran from the room now and the two men heard the locks thumping into place. Hardcastle whimpered, now that he was alone with Simon, the fear resurging.
“It’s alright Stephen, you’ve been bloody lucky. She’ll help you now.”
He could take her. He could hide behind the door and when she came back in, he could have her in a heartbeat but Simon sat on the floor and listened as her car rumbled into the yard. He waited until Gloria came back, holding the knife before her, a hammer from the car’s toolbox another weapon in her other hand.
She kicked open the door and let it bounce against the wall and only when she saw that he was still on the floor did she move into the room.
“Right let’s get him to the hospital. Help me take him to the car.”
“No, not the hospital. I don’t want to go to the hospital.” Hardcastle knew the hospital would involve the police and he obviously wanted to avoid it at all costs. “Take me home.”
“You can’t go home.” She turned her head, “Who is it, what’s his name?”
“Stephen, Stephen Hardcastle.”
“Look Stephen you can’t go home. Tell you what, why don’t I take you back to my place.”
“Yes, oh yes please.” He reached out and gripped her hand, he was obviously becoming stronger and at the end of the day it was his choice.
“Okay, come on let’s get you in the car. We’ll go back to my place. Come on Simon, give me a hand, but I’ve still got this, and I’ll use it.” She waved the knife in the air in front of her.
“It’s okay Gloria, I promise. It’s okay. I’ll help you now.”