Day Three: The Long Way Down (Part 1)

As part of this on going daily project, I plan to do a episodic short story. Here is the first instalment in this Raymond Chandler inspired tale. I hope to add to this at least once a week.

Possil Park sans high rise

Johnny darted out from between the high, stark walls of the alley leaving nothing but a trail of expletives and dust behind him, hitting the street hard, pounding it until the sounds of violence were out of ear shot and reached the comfort of his car. He ignited the engine and punched the accelerator, removing himself from the situation at great haste. As he navigated his sky blue Mondeo out of the labyrinth of the city centre, Johnny contemplated the events that had just transpired behind him and, as he put together some of the finer details, he realised, much to his chagrin, that he had left his briefcase behind as he made good his escape.

Exiting the city centre, Johnny relaxed a little and automatically piloted the car to its final destination. He parked with extreme caution, taking great care to check that he had not acquired some unwanted attention from the ex-acquaintances he had just left behind, and disembarked with the kind of slow and methodical grace of a James Bond villain – something which is difficult to achieve when you live in the part of town Johnny lives in. Possilpark is the kind of place where a man can lie low and attract very little attention. In between the dark, imposing high rise flats and the rows of identical tenements, it just oozes menace from every brick, every gutter; every fibre of its being. At night it gains a kind of sentience, and that menace it promises in daylight becomes manifest when the sun goes down. Johnny locked his car and ascended the stairs that lead to his particular block of high rise flats, jutting out the landscape like a black and grey brick prison where inside one can find any number criminals and degenerates living alongside the kind of people to whom the class struggle was over decades ago, realising that even if they are the nicest of souls, they have no place in the world beyond here. This weighed on Johnny’s mind as he entered the lift that lead to his fourteenth storey cell, where he knew he’d be safer. Or so he thought. Johnny exited the lift and crept into the oppressively dark hallway, the dingy off-white colour of the walls doing nothing to exorcise the penitentiary like nature of this place. Crossing the landing he noticed that the lock on his front door had been removed; knocked clean out. Cursing himself he knocked on the door and listened closely to hear if there was any life from within and after about a minute of silence, he let himself into his former home.

Strewn everywhere were his belongings, a lifetimes worth of possessions smashed and broken, moved and displaced, damaged and torn. Posters ripped from walls, CDs trampled and cracked. He made a quick pass of his living room before searching his bedroom to find that this had been similarly dismantled. Johnny only had a vague idea about what they might have been searching for, as nothing that was worth any value had been taken. Indeed, it looked more like a fight had broken out as opposed to any real attempt at ransacking his house and the more he considered the situation, the more it seemed odd to him. But the real shock was waiting in the bathroom.

It’s not often you find a dead body in your bathtub, Johnny thought to himself as he stood there shocked, as just about anyone would be, really. The macabre sight of the pale white figure dumped, unceremoniously into a cleaning receptacle was sickening. Above the bath, spray painted on the wall was a blue butterfly. The paint was still wet something which, naturally, lead Johnny to wonder if the corpse in his bathtub was freshly dead or not. He couldn’t bring himself to look again and pulled the shower curtain off its rail and covered the body. Leaving the bathroom, Johnny clamoured over his broken possessions, took a seat on his couch and started to contemplate just what the hell was going on here. He had, to be exact, just fled from some very angry and presumably dangerous gangsters, without the briefcase full of the finest white stuff this side of Columbia he had initially entered their establishment with. The reasons why are, at this point, irrelevant he thought, because by and large he reckoned he had kept his cover intact despite his spectacular faux pas in leaving behind enough coke to power a battalion of Soviet troops in the 30s, this contemplation was soon interrupted by his mobile phone ringing.
“Hello?” he answered,
“The police are on their way. You have three minutes. Do exactly what I say.” The voice from the phone commanded,
“Morpheus?!” Johnny asked, bewilderedly.
“I’m glad you have time to make light of the situation, but I fear that this is not a character trait that will allow you to explain away, to armed police officers, the dead girl in your bathtub.” Replied the voice, calmly.
Shocked, Johnny looked out the window and seen three police cars speeding down the street.
“Wait. Who are you? Why should I follow every word you say? How do you know the police are on their way?”
“I’m a concerned…colleague and you should listen to me because this situation looks bad for you. So you can either listen to what I have to say, or you can explain to the police the signs of struggle in your flat and the dead body in the bath,” spat the phone.
“How do you know about the dead bo-“
How I know this, is irrelevant. There will be time for questions later. Do you want my help or not?” the demanding caller asked.
“Right now, I have very little choice, do I?” said Johnny, stuck between a hard and even harder place. Everything about this was wrong, screamed his intuition but he had very little options at this conjecture.
“My thoughts exactly. Now, you have no time to wipe the place down. Did you touch the body?” enquired the phone.
“No, but I covered it with the shower curtain.” Explained Johnny, entering the bathroom to survey the body.
“Ok, grab that and get out of there. Take the stairs but do not go to the ground floor, instead go to the second floor and into flat 211. Go out the window in the kitchen and drop from the balcony into the rubbish bins below. Are you moving?” barked the mysterious voice
“Yes, I’m going. But who are you?” Johnny exited the flat, shower curtain in tow and hit the stairs, taking them two at a time.
“I’ll call you again in approximately two minutes.” The voice hung up.

Johnny reached the second floor and entered the flat as instructed. A quick survey of the barren rooms proved fruitless. Entering the kitchen, the window above the sink was open and barely big enough for a man to climb through. It occurred to Johnny that if this were America there would be a fire escape to use, however the Glasgow City Council had not the foresight to build external fire escapes on their buildings, and perhaps fitting one to the side of a 21 storey tower block would have been inconvenient anyway. Peering out of the window, he noticed a skip lined with bags and prayed they were soft, realising that walking away from this would be paramount if he was to make good his second escape in as many hours. The phone started ringing.
“Look across to the adjacent tower block, can you see a blue Transit van in the parking bay?” the receiver asked of him.
“Yes.” Replied Johnny.
“Get in the back of that and you’ll be safe.” Said the voice.
Johnny ended the call and, with just a slight hesitation, exited flat 211 via the kitchen window. The landing was awkward but he made it away with minor bruises. Taking a moment to compose himself he looked out of from the spaces between the wooden walls of the bin shed; the police had just pulled up and were removing themselves from their motorcade. He made a dash for the Transit van and, with a quick look behind him, opened the back doors, only to be greeted by a man in a ski mask and to be acquainted with his solid wooden accomplice directly on his left temple. Johnny’s world exploded in pain as everything turned to darkness.

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