Read The Redemption Factory Online
Authors: Sam Millar
“Yes, but I’m not everyone. I’m your –”
“Best mate. Yes, I know the routine. Know the script. I’ll see what I can do,” said Paul. “Anyway, I doubt if I’ll be getting much cheap meat. Doesn’t look like a charity shop to me.”
“You’re entitled to it, mate. Stevie Foster told me that when he worked in there he was allowed as much meat as he could carry. Buckets of it.”
“I wouldn’t put too much credibility in any word Stevie says. Told the girl in the abattoir he had a two-pound dick.”
“A two-pound dick? A
fucking dick? Fuck the night! And I thought I was the lucky one!”
Paul smiled before relating the conversation with the strange girl in the office.
Now it was Lucky’s turn to almost choke. “Oh, shit. That’s great. A two-pound dick reduced to a two-ounce prick.”
“Just keep it to yourself. I don’t want to offend him.”
“Talking of Stevie, there he is now, walking in the door,” said Lucky, nudging Paul. “Shouldn’t you be buying him a pint, just to show your appreciation of getting the job?”
“Give me time. I’ve almost reached the limit of my sub from Terry. I’ll not have a penny in my pay packet, next week, if this keeps up.
Paul ordered a pint to be sent over to Stevie. A few seconds later, Stevie waved a thank you.
“Bet he wouldn’t be waving if he knew you were telling everyone he had a dick the size of a coin,” smiled Lucky, mischievously. “Little did he know it was a
to see if you would get him the pint.”
“Very funny. Drop it. Okay?”
“The next time we have a dispute as to who should go first in snooker, we should toss Stevie into the air.”
“Enough. Okay? He’s looking over here, in this direction. I want a peaceful night. No hassle.”
“That makes a
,” smiled Lucky, refusing to allow the topic of Stevie Foster’s penis to die.
Shaking his head, Paul grabbed the empty glasses and headed for the bar, hoping to avoid Stevie sitting at the far table.
“Thanks for that pint, Paul,” said Stevie, magically appearing at Paul’s side, an almost empty glass in his hand. Paul could see Lucky in the background, holding his hand down at his crutch, making a circle with finger and thumb, and pointing in Stevie’s direction.
Forcing a bubble of laughter back down his throat, Paul thanked Stevie for getting him the job. He decided not to mention the weird girl behind the desk, or indeed, any of the others.
“Another pint, Stevie?” asked Paul, knowing the answer before the smile appeared on Stevie’s face. “Three pints,
Terry glared at Stevie. Another pissy whore.
“Brilliant, mate,” said Stevie, ignoring Terry’s look. “I’ll see to you next week. I’m due a wee bit of money. Anyway, how did it go at the abattoir? Any problems? Hope you told them you knew me. I’ve got a lot of pull in that place. I knew that once you mentioned my name, the job was yours.”
“Yes, everything went well. I got to meet Shank. He gave me a tour of the place.” Paul thought it best not to mention the bloody bath ceremony.
Stevie’s left eyebrow curled into a hairy question mark. “You actually got to meet him? That must have been an experience?”
“An experience? Big deal. He owns an abattoir. Who gives a shit?” replied Paul, faking bravado as he removed a cigarette from a battered packet. He lit it, and it sizzled in the air, cracking and spitting with dryness.
Terry interrupted the conversation, placing the filled glasses on the counter, before walking away, shaking his head.
“Shank did time in jail,” whispered Stevie. “He never leaves the abattoir, they say, because he is wanted in other countries for murder and racketeering.”
Paul shook his head, believing this to be another of Stevie’s boasts. “Don’t talk shit. Yes, Shank is a scary and intimidating character – but a murderer? C’mon!”
Stevie sucked on his pint, then licked his lips, tasting the remnants of Guinness skidded on them, before continuing.
“You know the loan shark, Jack Daley?”
“Yes,” replied Paul. “Of course. Who doesn’t?” Daly was a thug in a league of his own. He was the high priest of violence.
Loved it. Loved its taste and sounds, its power and what it could do to those weaker. He was the type of scumbag that you could kill with a clear conscience, putting a smile even on the face of the gods. Few people in town had escaped his fists.
“Well, look upon him as a loan
when comparing him to Shank. Daly worships the man, fears him.”
Paul laughed. “Daly fears Shank? Come off it, will ye? How the hell would you know?”
Stevie glanced over his shoulder, making sure no one was in earshot.
“I remember years ago, as a kid, Daly coming to my house looking for my da. Apparently, my da owed money to Daly – as most people in town did, in those days. I remember peeping from behind our parlour door, watching Daly putting the heavy hand on my da, telling him he had one hour to come up with the money, or else …”
For exactly ten seconds, only the sound of snooker balls kissing could be heard while Stevie paused dramatically.
“Or else?” said Paul, eventually, irritated by Stevie’s drama.
“Or else Daly would have to work him over, put him in hospital for a few days …”
A few more seconds elapsed.
“Is there a end to this story? Or do I guess it?” asked Paul, becoming more irritable.
“Well, I couldn’t quite hear every single word, but I heard one word and that one word changed not only the features of Daly’s face, but the entire direction of the conversation.”
“And that one word …?”
Paul laughed. “I see where we’re going with this. Shank
then takes control of your da’s payments and your da ends up paying double to Shank, in the long run. Smart da,” laughed Paul, sarcastically.
“No. Not exactly. It seems my da saved the life of Shank’s cousin during the war – he even got a medal, or something like that – and Shank couldn’t do enough to help. We never had another visit from Daly again. In fact, any time when Daly saw my da walking down the street, he would cross over to the other side, fearful of offending a friend of Shank. Now, do you understand the power of Shank?”
“I wished you hadn’t told me all this. Now I’ll be crapping myself every time I see Shank.” Paul took a taste of his cigarette, allowing it to burn inside his lungs.
Stevie laughed. “You’ll never see him again. That was probably a one-off encounter you had. All the time I worked in there, I only saw Shank once.” Stevie took a longer sip of the pint before continuing. “What did you think of Violet?”
“Oh, right. Yes, quite a pleasant person.”
Stevie chuckled. “Now, I know she’s not too great to look at, but you should see her in bed! Fuck! Couldn’t get enough of me. The only real problem with her is she can get quite nasty at times. That’s why they call her Violent Violet. She’s as charming as a crocodile. Her vocabulary begins with the first four letters of the alphabet – as well as the sixth, of course.”
“I’ll be honest. She put the shit up me more than Shank did.”
“She would, wouldn’t she? Being Shank’s daughter, and all.”
“Shank’s …?” Paul was relieved that he hadn’t made any derogatory remarks about Shank in her presence.
“You know, she was almost killed in a car crash a few years ago, as a kid. Went right through the windscreen of her uncle’s car. Fortunate to be have survived. The plastic surgeon did a great job on her face but was unable to remove all the millions of tiny fragments of glass encrusted in it. You noticed that, didn’t you?”
Paul had a horrifying flashback to the office, Violet sitting there. Now he remembered, the strange texture of her skin, how it seemed to … gleam.
“I’m not kidding,” enthused Stevie. “When you turn the lights off, her face turns into one of those mirror balls you see floating from the ceiling in the old disco movies.”
An image of Stevie doing his impersonation of John Travolta flashed in Paul’s mind.
, more likely. He wondered if Stevie had any info on Geordie?
“There’s a girl in there, in charge of the butchers. They call her Jeanie or something,” said Paul, trying to sound casual, deliberately mispronouncing Geordie’s name. “Know her?”
Stevie paused for a second. “Jeanie? I’m trying to think. Can’t remember any Jeanie. It’s been a couple of years since I worked in there. Probably all new workers. Can’t say I know any Jeanie, mate. Sorry.”
“She … she … seemed to have bad legs, I think. Walked funny.”
“Walked funny …? Oh! You mean Geordie, not Jeanie. Fuck, how could you forget her, once you’ve spotted her? Walks like Long John fucking Silver with woodworm.”
Paul smiled, hating himself for its falseness, his silent
acceptance of Stevie’s words.
“Hmm. Yes. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I think her name
“No thinking about it, mate. The devil broke the mould when he created her along with her sister.”
“Yes. Violent Violet. Not notice the resemblance?”
Paul thought for a moment. “I never got that close.”
“Good. Keep it that way, mate. Two real fucking nutcases – just like their da. Biggest mistake I ever made was going out with Violet.” Stevie shivered, involuntary. “Keep this to yourself, mate, but that fucker threatened to slice off my dick when I told her I no longer wanted to see her.”
“That was the main reason for leaving. She made my life a living hell, in there. Just keep away from her – from the whole lot of them, mate. They’re a strange family …”
Before Paul could interrogate Stevie further, Lucky began to signal frantically that a table was free.
“I’ve got to get back over to Lucky. Thanks again for the help in getting me the job, Stevie.”
“Any time, mate. Just keep your distance from the Sisters Grimm and keep your dick in your pocket.”
“Doctors will have more lives to answer for in the next world than even we generals.”
“Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”
ATHLEEN SENSED BRIGHTNESS
and felt her face getting warm. She awoke, as if from a coma. Her head was throbbing from painkiller dregs; dregs her body was finding increasingly difficult to tolerate. Finally, focusing her eyes, she was somewhat startled to see a young man standing at the side of her bed.
“Who the hell are you?” she asked, looking suspiciously at the man. “And what are you doing in my bedroom?”
The man was checking something scribbled on a pad while
his fingers negotiated a pen. The pen rolled with a life of its own, back and forth between his fingers, magically, like water over pebbles in a stream.
Trying desperately to shake the lethargic feeling in her reluctant body, Cathleen wondered if Philip had put sleeping pills in her soup. “I’ll ask you for the last time. What the hell are you doing in my bedroom?”
If he heard her, he didn’t acknowledge it.
“Are you deaf? Who the hell gave you permission to enter my room? That bastard downstairs, no doubt.”
The man looked at her, shocked, not accustomed to be spoken to in such a manner. An hour ago, Cathleen had used the bedpan and the look of disgust on the man’s face could not be hidden. The foul smelling stench of dead cigarettes and cold, greasy food mummified the room competing with the rancid reek that oozed menacingly from the bedpan.
“No, I’m not deaf, Mrs Kennedy. If you would be kind enough to have some patience, I’ll be able to speak to you directly.”
“Speak to me directly? Speak right now, or get the hell out of my room. How’s that for patience?”
The man’s face flushed. He couldn’t believe such impertinence. Surely even these people had basic manners?
“My name is Doctor Ferguson. I have been asked by Doctor Moore to attend to you while he is at a conference. Now, if you don’t mind …”
“But I do mind,
. You’re not a doctor to me. You look like you just left school. You’ve still got pimples, for god’s sake. Show me some identification,” she insisted. “For all I know you could be the window cleaner, or a burglar.
You’re probably working for that bastard, Philip. Come to poison me, eh? Think I’m that stupid?”
Moore had warned Ferguson about Cathleen Kennedy; yet, he found her lack of respect shocking and intolerable.
Why hadn’t Moore allocated the weekend shift at the RVH to me, instead of this old dragon’s lair? Revenge, no doubt. Teach me a lesson in humility. Moore has more in common with the dragon and his precious working class background, than he does with me.
“Are you deaf or simply as stupid as you look?” quizzed Cathleen, wondering why he was staring at her, his mouth saying nothing. She glared at him with an expression of tested tolerance on her haggard face, like a schoolmistress about to administer the cane.
Ferguson’s face had turned from an exasperated pink to a furious reddish-purple. Reluctantly, he removed a card from his wallet and held it out for Cathleen’s inspection.
“No-one has come to poison you, Mrs Kennedy. We are all here to help.”
“Help? Don’t make me laugh.” Barely satisfied, she granted him permission to continue with his reading of the pad and his nervous trait with the pen.
“I see you’ve had three of your toes amputated, Mrs Kennedy,” said Ferguson, his eyes never leaving the pad. The pen in his right hand scribbled something, and then went back to snaking between his fingers.
Cathleen forced a movement in the bed and quickly flashed her right foot.
“Wouldn’t it be better if you actually
at the offending foot,
” She wiggled the remaining two toes – the big toe and the tiny one – at Ferguson’s face. The remaining toes
resembled the ‘v’ sign.
Disgusted, Ferguson scribbled more.
“Moore claimed that by amputating I would remain one step ahead of death, but if he removes any more of my toes, I’ll not be able to step in any shape or form,” said Cathleen, wryly, her eyes glued to the face of the young doctor. He reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t quite put a name to it …
“If you do not stay active, Mrs Kennedy, or watch your intake of carbohydrates – especially liquor – the sugar in your blood will eat your insides. Your veins and arteries will deteriorate, shrinking, preventing delivery of blood throughout the body. We should be grateful it was the other leg that was injured.”
Wonderful. It was a hard-hitting speech, but one which was needed. He was determined to appear professionally detached at the expense of normal human demonstrations of emotion. No doubt, Moore has been filling her head with hopeful scenarios, where none exist. Sometimes, a good kick up the backside is all that is needed.
Sensing he had Cathleen’s undivided attention, Ferguson continued, loving the fact that he had now taken full control of the old dragon. Slain, a more appropriate word.
“Mrs Kennedy, what you see now is the result of ignoring all the warnings given to you throughout the years. Parts of you – the farthest parts – the toes, have succumbed first. If you continue to ignore our advice, soon your fingers are going to die because the blood no longer brings oxygen or flushes out waste matter – or brings white blood cells to fight infection.”
Satisfied with his prognosis of a poor quality of life, Ferguson snapped the writing pad shut. The pen went to the top of his tweed jacket, peeping out from the lip of the pocket. The patient would appreciate all he had said – perhaps not now, but certainly later. Moore had a lot to learn from modern doctors. Upfront. On the chin. All the time.
“Have you finished blabbering,
” said Cathleen reaching for a cigarette.
Ferguson was taken aback by the venom in her voice. He was about to chastise her for smoking, but quickly decided against it.
“First, I don’t drink
. Never tasted it. So what gives you the audacity to assume anything about me – especially consuming
“Well, I certainly didn’t meant to –” Ferguson was flustering.
“Didn’t mean to my withered arse. You meant ever word uttered from your arrogant little mouth. But let me tell you something,
. A couple of dead husbands called mistakes and a hundred boyfriends called rattlesnakes have given me the universal knowledge of dealing with little pipsqueaks such as you. Coming in to my home with your snobbery and hatred of your own so-called profession does not give you the right to think you are superior to me in any shape, shit or form. My amputated toes know more about medicine and doctors than you will ever hope to learn,
To Ferguson’s relief, Cathleen stopped talking. He felt exhausted, as if he had just fought some terrible battle with the dragon. He could smell smoke and didn’t know if it came from the cigarette dangling from Cathleen’s sneering lips or
from his arse being set on fire from the dragon’s flame.
“I am only here to help you, Mrs Kennedy. That fall you had could have been fatal. Fortunately, your husband was home at the time. He has informed me that he intends to replace the old carpet on the stairs. That’s good, but as I told him, there are more fatalities in households than all the plane crashes combined …”
Blah blah blah
, thought Catherine, ignoring the endless statistics escaping from the young doctor’s mouth. If he intended to give her advice, it wasn’t working. The only thing he was giving her was another headache.
Cathleen lit another cigarette, groped about the bedside table for an ashtray, fully aware of how much Philip disliked her smoking in bed. Something beneath the surface, a quality that was addictive, enjoyably perplexing but never reassuring, made her feel at times a sensation bordering on destructiveness, but a destructiveness that was positive – at least for her. And that was all that mattered: what was positive and beneficial for Cathleen Kennedy.
“You’re Lizzy Ferguson’s son, aren’t you?” she said, spitting a loose splinter of tobacco from her mouth. It landed on Ferguson’s beautiful tweed jacket, just below the magical pen peeping from above.
Puzzled, Ferguson hesitantly replied yes. He was aware of silence now, but entirely the wrong kind of silence. It was the silence of calm waves waiting their turn to swallow ships whole before demolishing them on the hidden rocks.
“Yes, indeed,” said Cathleen. “It took a while for my memory to come to my service, but I knew that eventually it would arrive. You all think that old Cathleen’s days are
numbered, but there’s still a lot of fight in the rusty old wreck.”
This had become a nightmare for Ferguson. Moore had deliberately sent him here to be ambushed and humiliated by this … this creature.
“Lizzy McCambridge was her name back then. One of my regular customers, was Lizzy. God, the stuff she brought me …” Cathleen’s eyes seemed to glaze at the fond memory. “Funny how you mentioned liquor, earlier on,
Ferguson, but Lizzy was quite fond of it. Yes, indeed. There was even rumours of her drinking, late into the night, shouting at shadows and ghosts. She rarely left the house, in those days. When she did leave, it was only at night via the back streets to the rear of the pub, to purchase some cheap whiskey – brandy being a luxury she couldn’t afford in those days. That was before she met moneybags Harry Ferguson, your da. She swilled whiskey straight like a sailor then. You could smell it in her piss.” Cathleen chuckled. She should have been a comedian.
The heat in the room was becoming unbearable for Ferguson, who was slowly loosening the top button of his sharp, starched shirt, trying feebly to release the tie that had become a snake squeezing the life out of him. The collar felt like a blade against his throat.
“I remember one day when she came to my shop, crying. She hated that journey into night, hated the young, arrogant barman who told her not to worry, her wee secret was safe with him.”
Ferguson saw the door calling to him, telling him to leave now, while the choice was his.
“Does Lizzy still walk the docks,
used to be her old hunting ground. Loved the men, did Lizzy, and wasn’t a bit shy with them, if you get my meaning.” Cathleen winked, a sneaky knowing wink that said: don’t you worry, sonny. Your ma’s wee secret is safe with me. But perhaps not for long …
“Well, I never in all my life …” mumbled a devastated Ferguson.
“Unlike Lizzy, eh?” grinned Cathleen. “Always be careful of where you crap,
. You might just walk in it, one day.”
Ferguson slammed his briefcase shut and walked quickly towards the door.
“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run run run!” shouted Cathleen, laughing after Ferguson while he ran down the stairs. “Watch the door doesn’t hit you up the arse!”
Eventually, Cathleen stopped laughing and decided that today’s meeting of minds was the best tonic she had had in ages. To hell with all doctors.
God, she had enjoyed the look on that arrogant little bastard’s face, loved deflating it with the sharpness of her tongue, wondering if he realised he actually is a bastard?
Hmm. Hopefully, I can enlighten him on that if he ever shows his face again
. In the meantime, she would get Biddy to change the sheets. Laughter truly is the best medicine, she agreed, realising the bed was soaking. She had proven that by literally pissing herself.