dead dom – chapter 8

dead dom

chapter 8 – ubiquitous dom

And that’s when I do it.

That’s when I pull the trigger.

That’s when everything begins.

A lifetime’s passed since my finger first caressed that trigger; a lifetime spent thinking of these friends and the gift I’m about to give them all. I think of me and I scream and I fire.

The bang is loud, and I stutter off balance as the revolver’s recoil smacks into me and I’m showered with bits and pieces of Dom. He’s all over me and the boys; we look like swimmers emerging from the reddest sea. Skull flakes pepper my hair, but what do I care when I’m feeling like this? This is better than my first smoke, first coke, first fuck, best fuck. This is euphoria filtering through every murderous pore. This is-

This is, of course, not what happens.

Click. The most impotent sound imaginable.

Billy. Masonator. I trusted them both. I know nothing about the temperamental nature of my weapon; I asked for a gun and I expect it to work.

Dom’s beautiful blue eyes leer up at the gun, then shift to meet mine. ‘Accelerator’ morphs into Butthole Surfers’ ‘Sweat Loaf’, sludgehammer riffs nailing regret as Dom springs up fast and I tumble, useless gun spinning its way into the fold of Jon’s decaying pizza on the floor. I presume Jon, Lee or Billy will rescue and work the revolver, but they’re standing waxwork dumb and I realise I’m dead. It’s an easy move for Dom, bearing down glinting evil and tight-drawn grin. He shoots to his right and reaches between cheesy greased pineapple for the weapon. I’m an idiot and I deserve to die.

And now I understand why Dom wins his fights. The speed, the fluid movements. In the time it takes me to work out what’s happening, he’s straddled me porno-style, aimed the gun at the boys and left hand punched straight down four times. A crack hints that he’s bust my nose and I taste familiar metal. Fire shoots to my head and tears blur the view of my oldest friend. I want to plead, remind him it’s-

“Gary, Gary, Gary.” Dom looks at the others. “Can you believe what just happened, boys?”

I follow his gaze, see three kids who simply don’t know what to do. The plan has fucked up, to use a technical term, but we never agreed an alternative. Eventually they’ll work out that three beats one and jump to my rescue, but until then they’re useless.

“’s okay, boys,” Dom smiles, raising a reddening palm. “Stay where you are. I’ll handle this.”

My ever-amazing friends stand still and listen, as if calculating whose side to be on.

“Oh, Gary.” Dom leans over me, thighs clenching at my ribs, still raw one month on from their last attack. “What were you thinking?”

I try to snarl but blood bubbles from my nose and I cough. “What I’ve always-”

My legs buck to a punch vicious enough to loosen a couple more teeth.

“Rhetorical question,” he says. “No need to answer.”

I’ve managed to turn the defining moment of my life into the moment preceding my death. Jon’s music is too loud and I can’t think reason fight or reply, can’t breathe I seriously cannot breathe and my nose is screaming white pain, choking bloody drowning so I say one word and don’t know if I’m asking a question or pleading for mercy because I only get to say:

“Dom.”

Shut up!” This time he headbutts me, his grade-one dome slamming into my poor nose. As if it didn’t hurt already.

I scream and my friends finally wake up. I see movement, but Dom does not; he’s got the gun and he’s got things on his mind. He stares down at me; sweating, amazed and unhappy, my blood a red moon on his forehead.

“How could you, Gary, how could you? Me, your best friend, I’ve never done you any harm, have I?” He slaps my left shoulder, winks a mean little wink. “We’re like brothers, Gary. Pulling a gun on me’s like pulling a gun on yourself, but you’ve really gone and fucked it ‘cos I love you but how can I let this slide?…What, you want to fuckin’ kill me? You know it’s together forever, Gary, and never to part, Gary, but now, now you stupid cunt I have to sever our ties and-”

Smack.

It’s not the best punch he’s ever thrown, but Billy’s clip does the trick; Dom wobbles and, with a swipe, Billy has the revolver. He points it at grape-faced Dom, and I wipe blood and stinking spit from my face.

Click.

Slight problem.

Click click.

“Billy,” I sigh patiently. “I don’t think the gun works.”

Dom lets loose a little “Ha”. But rather than take advantage of this second reprieve, he gazes back at me, thighs still clenching my sides.

“I don’t understand, Gary.” Tiny shrug. “What’s this all about?”

He should be striking back, going for the gun, but he needs to have his say. His voice is quiet yet strained, a little girl’s whine. I’ve never heard him sound so…wounded.

“You planned this? Planned to…hurt me?”

I nod.

“I don’t know what I’ve done to upset you, Gary. I’ve always looked after you, made you laugh, helped you through the tough times…You, my best friend.”

I feel sick. See movement. Make it now. Make it-

“My own flesh and-”

Now.

The gun swings at Dom’s nose, but he ducks and Billy catches him on the forehead. My bloodstain is eclipsed by his own, red welling from a deep dent. He sways, and as I slide from his grip I kick hard into his ribs. His arms windmill for support but he’s over on his back. Billy leaps on top of him, smashes the revolver’s butt down on his head again and again until-

“Fuck are you doing?”

Billy’s face is warped malevolence, but this is my show. They forced me to lead the way, and I’m fucked if I’m missing the main feature now. My hand is round Billy’s wrist. He could slip free but instead he repeats:

“Fuck are you doing?”

I tighten my grip. “Give me the gun.”

Lee groans in the background. “Oh, c’mon, Gary…”

Billy laughs. “You’re joking, right?”

Face drizzled red, Dom giggles.

“I’m not joking,” I say, fear a fading memory. We’re – I’m – suddenly in charge.

Billy shakes his head but his body relaxes. “Unbelievable. Go on, then. Knock yourself out.”

With my other hand I gently take the gun, then release Billy’s wrist.

Jittery Jon slides between me and Billy. “What’s it matter who’s got the gun?”

I crouch to face Dom. I answer Jon but my eyes stay on target. “It matters, Jon. To me…”

I ram the gun handle-first against Dom’s nose as hard as I can. Blood sprays left and right and he cries out.

“…it matters.”

My hand’s back in the air, and I notice how surprised everyone seems by my attack. Even I’m surprised. So, this is what it’s like. To say you’re going to do something…and actually do it.

Dom’s uglier than he’s ever been and too stunned to rise. He’s not so cocky now but he’s smiling, showing off bloody gums. We all pen him in, courageous now he’s defenceless, but his voice keeps coming; high and thin and incessant.

“I’m warning you, you don’t know what you’re doing,” he’s hundred-mile-an-houring. “Get the fuck away from me ‘cos I will destroy you, you have no idea what you’re getting into and you’ll regret this for the rest of your short shitty lives…You can’t kill a friend! Kill me? Do you have any idea who I am?”

Lee can’t resist as he points. “Course we do. You’re Dom, Dom.”

Billy snakes an arm round Lee’s shoulder, a show of unity that warms my heart. “You’re dead, Dom.”

He shakes his head. “Me dead? Me? You’re gonna kill me, you useless cunts?”

We all nod slowly.

He looks at us all in turn. “Oh, I get it. Do it once and you’re experts. Kill a girl and you can take on the world.”

“Shut up,” Jon whispers.

“Or what?” Dom laughs. “You gonna do the same to me as you did to that poor woman? You think this is easy?”

“Shut up,” Jon repeats.

I’ve got to hand it to Dom: even under duress he knows how to manipulate, and now the boys are eyeing me up, aware I shared our darkest secret with the one man they didn’t want to involve.

“Yeah,” Dom nods, red flecks flying. “I know what you all did. Gary told me. Gary tells me everything. We’re closer than you’ll ever know. You fucking animals. I hope you feel guilty, ‘cos when you kill me that guilt will double and eat away at you for the rest-”

“Wrong.” Billy grins at Dom and I know we’re back on track. “That was an accident,” he says. “This is on purpose. That was bad…and this is good.”

Simple.

“No. Nonono!” Dom screeches. “You fucking idiots, what’s wrong with you? This is wrong Gary you can’t do this I’m one of you and I love you all, so c’mon Gary you know who I am, c’mon just say who I am for fuck’s sake, oh Gary don’t you get it don’t you-”

Get this.

The butt slams into Dom’s open mouth and snaps back two front teeth with a sick click. Muffled howls replace rabid words and I’m upon him, left knee against his throat to hold him in place. I don’t know how many times I land the revolver in his face, I just keep going, pulverising bad looks and diplomatically lavishing attention on every inch of his face. Fine dark sprays me, but I don’t wipe a drop away. He’s choking then he’s crying and, when I later reminisce, I realise I’ve never heard that sound before. His cry is slight but it screams surprise and betrayal and a vulnerability I presumed he didn’t possess.

I hear Butthole Surfers hammering towards the inevitable as I work, but after a while the gun feels heavy in my hand and I toss it aside. I look down on Dom. His nose is double-swelled clotting purple, his cheeks show a rainbow of abuse. There’s blood pooling from his right ear and bits of teeth pattern the floorboards beneath his head. I know such sights should stop me dead, but all I can think of is the end so I bunch tired cut fists and pummel back down on the first face I remember seeing.

As I attack, Billy, Lee, and Jon follow my lead. It’s sweet, in a way: each has an area to destroy, and I fleetingly survey Jon on right limbs, Lee on left and Billy working over Dom’s torso, paying special attention to the groin. Working as a team, Dom doesn’t stand a chance. The music’s loud but we’re quiet as we work, sweating and grunting and doing what, in truth, comes natural to us all. My fist stabs down on his nose, forcing black from both nostrils, and Dom’s eyes close.

I stop but my friends continue. It’s as if they’re beating a sack of dirty washing; there’s movement but no life. I slowly stand, then crash to the floor with the head-rush realisation of what we’ve done. The boys stop attacking and look at me, concern wiping malice from their faces. I manoeuvre myself so that I’m sitting next to Dom.

“Think he’s dead.”

One by one they peel themselves from him. We group together and gaze at his corpse.

The post-mortem is not a pretty one. No matter where I look, I see red. I panic, then rub my eyes and realise Dom’s blood has sprayed my way and tinted everything I see.

Clear-eyed, the scene’s not much better: Dom’s splayed in front of us, jeans so saturated they’re rusty brown, jumper ripped and blacker than it’s ever been. The tip of his right trainer is red, the left lies discarded beside the table, no longer protecting a foot blue and snapped at the ankle. Fuck knows where the sock got to.

We’ve made quite a mess, too. Tell-tale spray on the walls, the sofas and the floor; the most primal painting you’ve ever seen. And little mementos remind us what we’ve done: a broken chair, spilt ashtray, upturned table and spirits seeping through the floorboards. Teeth scattered like flesh-tipped pebbles.

And us. As if we’ve been dipped in blood. Shirts, jeans and shoes, all DNA-dotted. We’re cut and we’re bruised and, now the excitement’s over, the pain in my nose cracks back like an electric shock.

Shock.

We’re in shock. That’s why we’re sitting here, looking at Dom as the music finds a soothing lull. Soon, we’ll panic and fall apart and-

“Look at the mess we’ve made.”

Lee’s voice is very soft. Observational, not judgemental.

“That’s why I wanted a gun,” I say.

Billy sighs. “We got a gun.”

“One that works.”

“Fucking Masonator,” is all he can reply.

Fucking Masonator. I mean, lookat this mess. Yes, there’d still be carnage with a bullet in his head, but the blood would have been confined and cleaned with relative ease. But this

It’s my fault. I should’ve known it would be like this. I’m well aware of what happened. I – we – could’ve strangled him. That’s bloodless. Could’ve smothered him, electrocuted him, poured bleach down his throat. But no. We used…ourselves. We didn’t want this aftermath but-

Wrong. We wanted this. For it to take time. For it not to be a bullet wound but a thousand separate assaults. For it to hurt.

But still, would it have killed Masonator to get this right? Two things we depend on him for, and one he royally cocks up. We’ve been friends with Masonator for years, but Billy’s known him most of his life. His link to him is almost as deep-rooted as mine is to Dom and, within weeks of befriending Billy, I’m also hanging with his next-door neighbour. I’m told his first name but forget it, because he’s Masonator: three years older and already wider than I’ll ever be, a sandy hair explosion taking him over six foot. Capacious hands made to clutch and caress. He’s taller and tougher, so we listen to him as we grow. We trust and rely on him, and that’s why when Billy gets a gun from him, we all assume it’ll do what it’s supposed to.

I plan nearly everything about tonight. For all their bravado, I know my friends are in essence the same children I met nearly fourteen years ago and impossible to rely on. Apart from Billy: he’s itching to be of use to me, but organisation’s not his key skill and he feels redundant. So he asks what I need that I cannot get. I tell him I need a gun. And Billy barely thinks before deciding that Masonator’s the man for the task.

Masonator can get anything. It’s usually peddled, but whatever we’ve ever needed – from video nasties to electrical goodies, fun-time coke to ill-advised porn – Masonator’s big-handed our way. The gun was all he could get hold of with scant notice and funds, and I’m an idiot; I should have tested it. Shot some cans and bottles, like they do in the films. But I trusted. Why should we doubt Masonator? His track record’s faultless and he wants Dom dead as desperately as we do. There’s no clear reason for Masonator to hate him; he simply shares our pain.

Now, I’m on the floor, red and half-dead thanks to Masonator’s fuck-up…and still I can’t bring myself to hate him. He’s always looked out for me and it’s not as if he’s been completely useless. Because we’ve requested two things of him tonight and I’m praying that, on the second point, he does us proud.

Masonator’s our alibi.

I admit we’re hardly the envy of the SAS, but I have thought this all through. I’m convinced we’ll get away with murder because right is on our side and it makes no sense for us to suffer for this sin. Besides, I’d rather spend my life in prison than as a free man festering in Dom’s shadow…And yet we need to cover our tracks, give the police, our friends, family and associates no reason to believe we’ve made mincemeat of our mate. And that’s where Masonator – once again – comes in.

Because, really, where are we tonight, Wednesday 8th February 2006? Are we sprawled around our lounge, picking insides from our ears? No, we’re not. We’re two minutes down the road at Masonator’s, because it’s Poker Night and the stakes are high.

So right now, as we stare at our ex-friend, Masonator’s home alone, music pumping, cards, kitty and shot glasses lined up, making the mess of five people for our benefit. At least I pray he is. If asked, he knows to say that the four of us arrived at eight, and left around five in the morning. That he lost plenty but Jon cleaned up. That Dom was invited but never showed.

We’ve made a big deal of this poker night over the last week. Between the four of us, we’ve told anyone who’ll listen how Masonator stung Jon a few weeks back, how we’re now going to bankrupt the fat fuck in his own flat. Regulars at The Dark Horse and The Spider’s Web know where we’re supposed to be, and know that Dom’s supposed to be playing with us too. Because, though I publicly invited him along last week, I only told him about the ‘change of venue’ to our flat this afternoon.

And Wednesday isn’t a random choice. We’re the middle flat in a block of three, and above us live four students who pub quiz it every Wednesday without fail. So, right now, they’re out guessing Elton John’s real name and nowhere near a murder. As for downstairs, well, I reckon they’re in but couldn’t care less. Harry and Edna are seventy-odd; he’s practically deaf and I’m sure she’s got Alzheimer’s. They’ve lived here for years and are too nice to deserve us as neighbours. She used to bake us cakes before she forgot how to turn off the oven; he still greets me with a mumbled “Stayin’ outta trouble, son?” and twists pained lips as he fails to hear my reply. They never complain because – no matter how loud the music, how rough the fight – he hears little and she remembers less.

But, still, we leave nothing to chance. And that’s why, minutes after Dom’s arrival, Jon primes up the stereo and blasts out a compilation of punked-up aural pleasure. Maybe Harry has cleaned out his ears, maybe Edna’s having a lucid moment. No matter. They won’t recall screams or thuds, simply the devil’s music.

So, credit where it’s due, we’ve done all we can to minimise repercussions. This decision’s been brewing for years but it’s only taken us four months to get here. We agree to make our dream a reality in October. By December we’ve requested the gun. By January we’ve hidden it behind the Playstation and DVD player, fearful of its significance. Then Dom helps me crack some ribs and I accelerate the inevitable. After hours spent on a bright-light casualty ward fobbing off the police, I hobble home. Billy, Lee and Jon coo round me like Jewish mothers, so I ignore my loose-wire toothache and tell them it’s time to make life better for everyone and time for Dom to die. I tell them when and I tell them where, and somehow ignore my heavy, heaving heart.

And now Dom’s dead I feel there is nothing – nothing! – we can’t surmount. All we need to do is clean up this horrible-

“Meeeurrrgh!”

We scream like girls as Dom jolts back to life. He somehow twists forward, cuts squelching, and coughs a phlegmy wad of blood all over Lee. The cough becomes a retch, then Dom’s dribbling teeth and tongue on thin pink trails.

And all the while we’re screaming, scrambling to get away because he’s dead, we killed him and this cannot be happening.

Dom looks down at his ruined body and starts moaning, quiet but shrill. We think we’re facing a ghost and we’re scared shitless. But then I realise why this is happening. Universally despised but uniquely robust, cockroaches are near indestructible. Unless you crush them. Stomp the life out of them.

“Fuck’s he saying? What the fuck’s he saying?”

I refocus and my heart lurches. Lee’s shiny red screaming at me.

Dom’s ripped lips are moving and sounds are coming out. He’s torn tissue, ruined joints, can barely move his blue-hued jaw. He shouldn’t be alive.

“Row…Row…Rowww…”

Jon shakes his head. “This is so fucked. He’s dead!”

Dom giggles but really gurgles and blood bubbles from his mouth. Coughs, rolls his eyes and…tries to sing. A baby-like mew, a macabre stab at melody with half-formed words.

“…Weerfamareeaahgararmabrahaswimay…”

Lee shakes his head. “I can’t stand this, what’s he singing, what’s he singing?”

“I don’t know,” I lie. I’ve always had a better ear for music than my tone-deaf friends.

We are family I’ve got all my brothers with me.

He’s smiling right at me. Good old Dom. Such cracking wit. I shiver, choke back sick.

Time to stamp out my cockroach.

Before he can sing again I’m in his face, I’m down his throat. I am so desperate to stop his brotherly references that I’m ramming my right hand in his mouth and grab grabbing at that nasty swollen tongue. It flicks away from me and Dom’s eyes burst wide incredulous. He bites down and I scream as skin’s pierced by chipped stalactite teeth. My left palm jams against his sticky forehead, but he’s holding fast like a stubborn dog and my yelps spur the others back into action. They repeat past crimes and flood Dom’s body. His jaw locks tight, though I’m sure we broke it earlier. I left fist punch his face, but each impact vibrates white-hot on my right hand. Blood pours from Dom’s mouth but this time it’s mine. He bites harder and I ram my left hand back to his face but half-accidentally sink my thumb into his right eye. Like testing jelly, I feel the slightest resistance then my thumb’s in. I wiggle it free and it’s coated in translucent paste that masses under my nail. Dom screeches animal pain and releases my hand. He thrashes around, left eye fixed on me with sky blue fury, his right crying almond orange. I wipe my thumb on my jeans, note the fine slices running from knuckles to wrist on my right hand.

Dom’s eye fried egg-slides down his cheek as he baby shock cries. ‘Sweat Loaf’s back and bad and loud and, wherever Harry and Edna and our quizzers may be, Dom’s noise is well smothered. I punch six times and the crying stops. Lee, Jon and Billy show off their dance moves, beating to the beat. I grip Dom’s head in my hands and slam it against the floor again again again. One of them, I think it’s Billy, stomps Dom’s ribs and forces cheesy gasps. There’s a trickling sound and Dom’s left leg is warm wet. That public toilet smell mixes with something sweet and acrid and I know that Dom’s body has finally given up.

We’re not so much raining feet as unleashing a fucking storm. We’re kids again ruining Billy’s dad’s new beanbag, and when our feet touch Dom they sink right in. No more cracks, simply wet kiss kissy sounds. We never look at each other because we don’t want to see our reflections, eyes brutal glazed, lips thin and maybe smiling. The music’s fading and we hear grunts of exertion and the sticky tack of our shoe soles clotting with Dom’s insides. Face caved-in, there’s a crater where his nose should be, deep dented forehead and a dark hole for an eye. Someone has clipped him so hard that his lower jaw hangs only by a flesh hinge.

Now I’m certain.

Blood dribbles from his ears, wells purple beneath his crushed neck. Dyes Dom’s jumper, his jeans, his one remaining trainer. Syrup-trails his backsnapped right arm and dead spider hands. Glosses the two ribs piercing his chest.

Dom on the walls, in our hair, on the floor. Dom under the table and the soles of our murderous feet.

Dom Dom everywhere.

And now he’s dead I really should stop.

Like bouncing off a piss-stained mattress. My trainers squelch pleasingly. I turn. See Billy, Jon and Lee detaching themselves from Dom.

“Now he’s dead,” I dry-mouth, because I have to say something.

All I hear are our own breaths, four motors humming. Lee’s covered in Dom’s blood. Jon passes a shaking hand over his head, streaks his blond hair strawberry.

Billy snorts a hysterical giggle. “Fuck have we done?”

Jon spasms and throws up. Just misses us.

No matter. We can handle this, I’m certain of it. I have to be. Because my friends aren’t sure of anything anymore. They’re pacing and heavy breathing, swallowing hard and scratching heads. Panicmonkeys discovering how primal they really are.

I’ll lead them. Clean their problems away.

We planned for mess. Less mess than we’re faced with, but we’ll have to adapt. We also prepared for the aftermath. Knew that we’d have to painstakingly remove all traces of the pain we’ve caused, and at the bottom of my wardrobe, wrapped tight in bin liners, is all the equipment needed to vanish Dom. By the time we’re done, we’ll be able to eat microwave-ready dinners off the floorboards. All we have to do is keep calm. Don our gear and clean up Dom.

Between the four of us, I reckon we visited every supermarket and DIY store in the area to buy supplies; if nothing else, this murder’s earned us shed loads of loyalty points. We’ve pooled our minds and meagre funds and covered all bases. There’s mess, but we can handle it. We’ll be thorough.

We will not be caught.

Yes, I know, we’ve committed a murder here and it feels very odd and I’m more than a little nervous, my guts growling lion-like…But I’ve dreamt of this moment most of my life and the good overrides the bad and-

“Why are you smiling?” Lee whispers, voice trembling like his hands.

“Wasn’t,” I say, straightening my lips.

Lee’s voice rises. “You think this is funny?”

“What’s your problem?” I shout back, fan a hand at Dom’s body. “This is what you wanted!”

Jon chucks up again, this time down his T-shirt. Bile saturates red.

“For fuck’s sake.”

“Can’t help it, Gary,” Jon retches. “I can’t deal with this. And the smell…”

It does stink in here.

This isn’t what we wanted,” Lee cries, gesturing around the lounge.

I lurch towards him, get right in his face. “What did you want then, Lee? We wanted him dead…Now he’s dead!”

“I know,” he mutters.

“So what’s the-”

“It’s the way we did it,” Jon manages from the floor. “Like animals.”

I nod at them all. “Well, you are animals…Fucking cockmonkeys, the lot of you. I don’t see the problem.”

“Problem?” Lee shouts. “Look at him. We did that.”

“Yes. We did,” I reply.

“Why isn’t this…affecting you?”

Jon and Lee are draped in Dom’s internals, yet they’re looking at me like I forced them to act out their basest urges at gunpoint.

“I am affected,” I stress, stepping over Dom. “It’s just…we’ve got to hold it together. Of course this is bad, but think about it: our lives, instantly improved.”

“Not if we’re caught.”

“Exactly, Jon, exactly. I’m staying calm because I want us to get away with this.” I believe myself as I speak and swell with pride. “It’s natural, this…swirl of guilt and fear. And, later, I’ll feel the shock. But now is not the time to panic.”

“I’m not panicking.” Lee smiles uneasily.

I turn away from him. Realise Billy has kept silent.

“And what about you?” I ask.

Billy shrugs. A rivulet of blood courses down his cheek, spatters wooden floorboards. “I’m not panicking.”

“I can tell. Are you alright?”

He nods. “We did the right thing…”

See?” I jeer at Lee and Jon.

“…even though it feels wrong.”

I’m tired and I’m pissed off, and I know now that if I depend on my mates we’ll soon be tasting prison mash. So, for all our sakes, I take an executive decision.

“Get out,” I whisper.

“What?” Billy asks.

“Get. Out. All of you.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’ll sort everything out.”

Billy steps towards me, flashes a smile to remind me we’re friends. “Come on, Gary. We’ll all do this together.”

I smile back. “Seriously, things’ll go smoother if I do them alone.”

“Whoa,” Jon says. “You think we’ll cock things up?”

“No, Jon.” I’m really trying to stay calm. “It’s just better if I clean up alone. I’m fine, you’re all…tired. You’ve done enough.”

“No can do, Gary, it’s all for one and-”

“Get out!” I scream. “Get the fuck out this flat! I’ll do it. Me! Me! Me!”

“Gary-”

“Out!”

They stare at bloody feet and mumble “Okay”s.

My eyes dart around the room, brain racing thinking can I do this? Can I? Clean up every spot of blood and remove the body and cut it into tiny pieces?

The stereo’s still raging. I irritably stab the power off.

“Please. Guys,” I say, soft and slow. “I can handle this. Been planning it for years. It’ll be better for everyone.”

“Where do we go?” Jon asks, lips blood and bile-crusted.

Everything left to me. I sigh, then my eyes pop wide. I’m a genius. “All of you, go see Masonator!”

Billy grimaces. “You sure?”

“Yeah, yeah! It’s perfect. Go round, tell him what’s happened and…and have your poker night as planned! Play your games and kip on his floor.” I clap my hands. “Boys, you’re going to make our alibi watertight!”

They all look at each other, realise how easily they can dodge their grim responsibilities.

“Just one thing…” Lee says

“What?” I say through clenched teeth.

“Look at us. We need to get clean.”

Good point. “Fine. Let’s do as we planned. Dump your clothes here. Get showered. Quickly. I’ll chuck Dom’s clothes on the pile too, then burn the lot.”

They strip to their boxers. Billy, somehow the least stained, carefully fetches towels from each of our rooms and leaves them in the bathroom. Within half an hour the boys are all clean, standing in the hallway in fresh clothes. They bunch up their boxers and toss them on the pile. I notice that Lee has chucked out his brand new Diesel jeans, that Jon’s beloved DM’s are poking from the mound.

“Now go,” I say.

Billy bunches fists in frustration. “Gary-”

“Go.”

And they go.

And I’m alone. Well, kind of.

I look at my watch. It’s smashed red dead. Wipe the DVD player’s display panel clean. Just gone nine. Plenty of time.

No need to rush.

It’s quiet. I hear a faint drip drip coming from somewhere, but it’s not intrusive. I’m so used to noise, but for once there’s peace. I breathe in. I breathe out. This is nice.

The quiet forces me to face what I’ve done. Part of me wants to jump for joy; part of me wants to lie down next to Dom and join him in hell. I know how someone who’s done what I’ve done should feel but I-

I don’t know how to feel, and that scares me.

Before I know what I’m doing, my hand’s fumbling and there’s a cigarette in my mouth. I taste blood on the filter. Lighter shaking in my hand, I spark up some relief. Gaze around the room as smoke dissipates. I hold my right hand up, see nasty holes caused by Dom’s broken teeth. Knuckles on both hands near fleshless. Ribs pinch as I inhale. Every last tooth feels loose, and all over my body bruises are blossoming. And yet my pain is minimal. I’m simply standing here, smoking and-

Tired. I’m very tired.

I drop the filter in a pool of Dom’s blood and it fizzes.

There’s something I’ve wanted to do since he stopped breathing, and I know I shouldn’t but I crouch and slide down until I’m alongside him. My whole body warms as his blood seeps through my clothes. I place hands under his armpits and tug him towards me. He flops forward and reveals an eggshell crack down the back of his head. The wound offers glimpses inside, white and pink and grey. I put my left arm around Dom, rest his dented head against my heart. A final moment alone with my oldest friend. He’s still warm and I feel hazy, fadey…

I notice the bulge in Dom’s right jean pocket. I hesitate, then my hand’s in there, fishing out his wallet. It’s brown leather and blood-greasy. I scan the range of blunted stolen cards, fix on the messily crammed-in notes. Pinch them out. There must be five hundred quid. I stuff the lot in my pocket.

I fan through the wallet’s many hideouts and find Dom’s wrap. Drop the wallet and hold the package up in front of me. I hook my left arm tighter around Dom and he snuggles up to me. I tremble-finger the wrap open and see that the coke’s saturated pink. There’s a fair bit left, but Dom’s blood has caused it to congeal. I lick my finger then pile-drive into the wrap, rubbing globs of cocaine around my gums, pinching big pink crystals to my bust nose and snorting hard.

Almost immediately I’m streaming, my eyes are wide and I’m ready for anything. My teeth grind but I don’t feel them as I clamp my mouth tight and swallow coppery phlegm. I stare straight ahead through the door and into the hallway. I see the long mirror Billy spends half his life winking at, I see me and Dom in our bloody embrace.

I smile at my image. I smile because I’m wired and happy. I’m posing for our shot but Dom’s ruining the moment, his caved-in face showing no joy. My hand moves to his cracked jaw.

“Come on, Dom,” I say. “Give us a smile.”

I try to force a grin but it’s not easy. His lips are bloated and there are jags instead of teeth. A simple touch pumps blood from the snapped jaw line.

“Oh, don’t be so moody, Dom,” I hear myself saying. “Think of the good times we had.”

I manipulate his flesh again.

“The things that made you laugh.”

Click his jaw up and back.

“The things you did.”

Fingers to the edges of his mouth.

“To us. To me.”

Done it. He’s smiling. It’s the most nightmarish smile anyone’s ever seen but it’s still a smile.

We’re ready for our close-up now.

Click click.

And there we are, brothers in arms forever. I’ve never felt so loved. Dad would be so proud if he could see us now. I’m a good son, a good friend. And I’ve taken care of my brother. Even put a smile on his face.

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