The Dead Borough #3

Jack woke up face down on a revolting, vomit-stained carpet in the middle of a squalid drug den at Mile End. He groaned as soon as he realised that and instructed his arms to push him away from the filth. Oddly, they refused to cooperate.

What the fuck? He ended up rolling over to his side like a beached whale. He had to crush his palms behind his back to figure out that he was tied up.

’Shut the fuck up,’ someone growled from the back of the dingy room. A hoarse, angry voice, but Jack couldn’t see the man.

‘You shut the fuck up!’ Vic shouted back. She was sitting next to Jack with her legs crossed and her back against the wall.

There was a thud, then steps. ‘What did you say?’

An emaciated young man wearing nothing but an open leather vest and jeans emerged from behind the sofa that stood in the middle of the room. He bent over and made Vic flinch as he flashed a crooked row of rotten teeth right in her face.

‘Say it to my face you fucking cunt!’

Jack could see the disgust contorting Vic’s face. She was holding her breath, pulling away as much as the wall behind her allowed her. He grabbed her jaw and held her in front of him.

Suddenly, he had a knife in his hand. Vic’s massive survival blade.

‘I’ll cut ya.’ He brandished it in front of her neck.

‘Mick?’ another man called firmly from the kitchen.

‘What?’ Mick snapped.

‘Come here.’

‘She fucking killed Ian,’ Mick screamed, his eyes glistening.

‘It’s your turn,’ the man said.

Mick’s eyes brightened. As if nothing had happened, he scurried away from Jack’s view.

‘Psst!’ Jack had to do that twice before he got Vic’s attention. ‘Are you all right?’

She squinted at him and nodded. ‘Get up,’ she whispered.

Jack’s eyebrows shot up. And even that hurt. Get up? How was he supposed to get up?

‘Get your bloody back against the wall.’

Alas, he didn’t have a better idea what to do, so he might as well listen. If they were going to get out of this alive, Vic was their best bet. Jack tried hoisting himself up several different ways without success. Ultimately, he found a way to push himself upright using his elbow. The zip tie cut into his wrists as he shuffled on his arse towards the wall.

Vic shook her head and rolled her eyes.

They were in the same flat that Vic and himself had broken into earlier that evening. A drug den, but much less abandoned than they thought. Two tall candles supplied the room with a flickering glow that crawled through the ubiquitous beer and vodka bottles and up the charred walls.

Jack gasped when he saw the third man that sat slumped on the sofa. His clothes were soaked in red. A wet smear lead from his feet to the broken door. The tissue that used to make up his head hung in bloody tatters on his chest. Ian. Poor bastard must have caught Vic by surprise.

Mick returned from the kitchen. To Jack’s horror, he started relieving himself on the wall next to the entrance. That explained why the place reeked so much.

Outside, it was pitch black. A moonless night in the Dead Borough. The streets were empty under a strict curfew, enforced by sentries—huge patrol drones that would bring death upon anyone who dared to disobey it. The barricade sirens howled in the distance, announcing more pointless deaths. Every now and then, when the shrieking stopped, Jack could hear the soft, periodic clicking of the camera he had set up in the window to get evidence that people were entering and leaving the quarantine.

Mick sauntered towards them when he was done. He had short curly hair. His ginger beard looked even more patchy when he grinned. His eyes were glazed, lids half-closed. Whatever they were taking, it worked very quickly.

‘Why so serious, love?’ Mick chuckled at his own stupid joke. ‘Can I show you some good time, lady.’ He grabbed his crotch, tittering. Then he ran a finger gently under Vic’s jawbone.

Jack held his breath. It was over. She was going to bite his index finger off, and then they would kill them on the spot. Shit. Shit. Shit.

Vic looked up and smiled. Jack was incredulous, and even Mick hesitated before laughing again. What the hell was she doing? Mick started moving his hand slowly down her neck.

‘Back off, mate,’ the other crackhead said. He walked out of the kitchen with Vic’s Glock in his hand. Jack remembered the toothless grin all too well from their previous encounter. The frantic eyes and an unkempt beard. He looked much younger than Jack assumed he would be.

‘Why?’ Mick snapped like a child. ’She wants it.’

‘We’re taking her to the market tomorrow. She’s gonna have us sorted for a long time.’

’But Andy, that means that I can play with her until then, innit?’

Andy leaned impatiently forward. ‘Tell me, Mick, can you shoot up a bag of smack and then sell it on the market the next day?’

Mick looked confused.

‘You touch her, and I’m gonna cut your dick off and make you eat it.’

Mick muttered a volley of angry curses and stepped back.

‘Sleeping Beauty here’s now woken up. You can fuck him if you must.’

Down on the vomit-stained floor, Jack swallowed dry.

They lounged on the couch, drinking beer together. Except for Ian. Andy lit up a fag using one of the candles. He savoured each drag in his lungs before puffing the smoke out. These things were rare and prohibitively expensive inside Dead Borough. Jack wondered how people that pissed in their own living room had access to tobacco and alcohol in such quantities?

‘Who are you working for?’ Andy asked.

’That’s none of your business,’ Vic said.

‘Ian was a good lad,’ Andy went on after a while. ‘Dependable. He knew his way around the street. We worked together from the beginning. You two cunts had to break in and ruin everything.’

‘We didn’t mean to cause any harm, we were just—‘ Jack stuttered.

‘Shut up,’ Vic snapped.

‘I don’t really care, to be honest. I’m just wondering where do we send the head when we’re done with Beauty here in the morning,’ Andy said. Mick produced a sly chuckle.

Vic burst out laughing—an outright, contemptuous cackle. ‘You two? Please. I bet Mick can’t even get it up.’

Jack almost shat himself when a bottle hit the wall mere inches above his head and shattered into pieces. The shards then showered his back.

‘What the fuck was that, Mick?’

‘She was asking for it!’

Andy sighed. The resigned look on his face suggested that Mick had been an ongoing source of frustration. He pointed the Glock at Vic.

’Tie her to the radiator,’ he said. ‘Don’t worry, love. We’ll let you watch.’

Vic pursed her lips and gave Jack a meaningful look. Andy tracked them with the barrel of the gun while Mick moved her under the window and fastened both her arms to a pipe with more zip ties.

Jack finally understood what Vic was doing. He already held a piece of broken glass in his hands, trying to hack away at the plastic strip that held his wrists together, working as inconspicuously as he could.

‘I’m gonna get my tools. Remember what we talked about.’ Andy pointed his finger menacingly at Mick before he left. This was their chance.

‘Don’t listen to him, he’s a pussy. Why don’t you show me who’s the man here, Mick? Uh-oh?’ Vic said.

Mick stared absently into the black outside the window. ‘You shouldn’t have killed Ian. Andy’s really, really pissed.’

Jack was struggling. He couldn’t grip the shard well to use enough force against the zip tie without cutting himself. It was like trying to fell a tree with a nail file while riding a unicycle.

He only noticed the whirring when it became too loud to ignore. A sentry was coming, its propellers cutting violently through the air. Mick stepped towards the window, mesmerised.

Jack arched his back so that he could put more pressure against the shard, trying to complete the cut. When he looked at his progress, he found out that he barely scratched the surface. He had the wrong shard. He couldn’t grip it properly. The edge was too blunt. He let it go and scrambled to pick up another one that could do the job. The drone rounded the corner and was moving away. That’s when the panic really set in. He would never be able to do this in time.

Then a low rumble sounded from the outside. A few seconds later, the engine of cars as they came through the gate.

‘You wouldn’t let a lady down, would you, Mick?’

Jack was desperately looking for another large piece of broken glass on the floor.

‘Nice try,’ Andy said, making everybody freeze. He placed a saw, hammer and an assortment of knives on the sofa. ‘Picking up tools’ clearly wasn’t a euphemism. ’Don’t worry. Tomorrow, you’ll meet plenty of perverts that will make Mick look like boyfriend material.’

Mick sniggered. He undid his belt buckle flirtatiously as he walked towards Jack who was trembling. His mind refused to focus. The shard slipped in his hand. It was over. He considered using the shard to slit his wrist and cut short the wicked games that the junkies were about to inflict upon his body. His body pumped all the adrenaline it had into his blood. He took a staggering breath and clenched his teeth together. He was no longer worried about cutting himself. He forced the shard at the zip tie with as much strength he could muster. The glass dug deep into his palm. He groaned. The pain was excruciating, but he kept going. His arms cramped, making him wrench them away from each other. That was when the zip tie snapped.

‘You like that?’ Mick said, pulling his trousers down.

Jack kept his hand behind his back for a few more breaths, waiting for the right moment, his palm bleeding copiously. When Mick’s trousers hit the floor, Jack reached around his ankles. He ripped Vic’s survival blade out of its sheath. He held his legs together and pulled Mick down before stabbing him into the stomach. He rolled behind the sofa just in time before the first shot came out and the bullet drilled into Mick’s chest. Jack cut the other tie that held his knees together. His heart was racing. He would’ve been completely paralysed by fear, had he thought about any of this. Fortunately, there was no time to think.

‘Come out, you fucking prick!’ Andy bellowed. ‘Keep your hands where I can see them.’

Jack stuck both of his blood-covered hands under the couch and lifted it with him as he got up. Ian’s body slid off before he threw himself along with the filthy three-seater at Andy. Two more bullets drilled into the plastering before Andy found himself pinned to the floor. Jack stomped on his wrist, forcing him to release the Glock.

’Stay where you are,’ Jack screamed, pointing the gun at him. ‘Don’t fucking move. You hear me?’

Andy wriggled out, forcing Jack to fire. It took him three rounds.

Jack put the gun away to cut Vic’s bounds using her survival knife. When they walked in, he would’ve never guessed that they could possibly leave this place in a worse state than they found it. Now there were three dead bodies on the floor.

‘Clever move with the sofa,’ Vic said.

‘Thanks.’ Jack handed Vic her Glock back. Then he wrapped his bleeding palm in a piece of cloth.

‘I thought we were dead,’ she said, grinning.

Jack gave her a bitter look. ‘Tell me about it.’

‘Did the camera get anything? We could wait until the convoy comes back.’

‘I don’t care. We’re going.’

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