Marty snorted another line; felt his senses heighten, his nerve ends tingling with anticipation. He turned to the girl with the gypsy look and long dark hair. ‘I’m ready now.’
He let himself be pushed back on the bed; she straddled him, arched her back and let out a low moan as he entered her.
She was accomplished. ‘Oh yes ... fuck me, darling. Fuck me.’
Her body moving against him felt so good; the work permit forgotten, the intended caution overlooked. But there was a negative side. Coke was expensive, and he was running out of freebies and favours at Cloud Nine. His creative expense claims had triggered raised eyebrows at the nick; he was pushing it to the limit. He had even tapped Hillock a few times; half a ton a pop, milking the bastard.
The girl was grinding harder. She started to shudder. ‘Give it to me, darling.’
Her words massaged his brain; made him respond with urgent thrusts. He felt himself explode inside his condom.
A double high.
But not for her. She seemed anxious to be shot of him; find a paying punter. She showered and dressed quickly – although dressed meant a bikini top and figure hugging shorts. A touch of make-up, and her pouting expression told him she was ready for the next one.
He glanced at his watch. Coming up to half past six; he would soon be off-duty. He said his good-byes to a disinterested “greet and meet” girl at reception who was filing her painted nails, and ventured out into the cold. An icy wind made him button up his leather jacket. As he walked along the footpath by the docks, the warm lights of the Black Swan beckoned. He went in. The bar was starting to fill with bearded anoraks, and pot-bellied men wearing baggy jumpers and baggy jeans. A lot of high-volume, jovial repartee.
He pushed his way to the bar and gave a nod to a lanky-haired, student type. ‘XB ... make it a pint.’
The student might have had brains, but he hadn’t a clue how to pour a good pint. Possibly masses of intellect, but no technique. Marty drummed the counter with his fingers while he waited for what seemed a lifetime. Eventually he received a self-conscious apology, plus a tawny bitter that CAMRA might have deemed passable - once through the excessive froth, loads of flavour; it tasted fine.
‘Mr. Hemming ...’
Marty could smell vermin lurking. He turned.
He saw the sly grin slide across Clipper’s face. ‘What’s it worth, Mr. Hemming?
He took a gulp of his pint. ‘What’s what worth?’
‘Information, Mr. Hemming.’
Marty just nodded. Kept a poker face and waited.
Clipper looked around. He seemed satisfied no one was listening, and kept his voice low. ‘It’s about you, Mr. Hemming.’
Marty tried to look unruffled, but he spluttered into his beer. He cleared his throat. ‘What about me?’
Clipper’s lips split, showing his tobacco-stained fangs. ‘Thought you’d be interested, Mr. Hemming.’
The bar was emptying as the quiz teams made their way upstairs to the room above. Marty motioned to a vacant table at the back of the bar. He pulled a fiver from his pocket. ‘Get a couple of pints in, and join me.’
Marty was apprehensive. Clipper’s information would be reliable; that’s how he made a living, slinking through the sewers, drinking with rats, feeding off boastful snippets. And Clipper had dubious connections in the police service; crime was not choosy what bedfellows it slept with – quid pro quo - money talked.
He sat down at the table and sighed. It would have to go on expenses – Clipper wouldn’t be happy with shrapnel; he was astute enough to bleed him dry. And so it turned out. The initial twenty notes loosened up Clipper’s tongue.
‘You better take care, Mr. Hemming. Word on the street ... the Creek brothers are looking for someone to send you a message.’
Marty didn’t like the sound of that; didn’t like mysteries. He slid a second twenty across the table. Picked up his pint and took a swallow. He puckered his lips; sour taste.
‘I want it all ... the full story.’
Clipper’s top lip curled, it was half way between a grin and a sneer. ‘Seems like your activities have touched a nerve. Work permits ... some girls have complained.’
Marty scoffed. ‘Is that all?’
Clipper tapped the side of his nose. ‘Creeks don’t like interference, Mr Hemming. Trafficking is big business ... and profitable. Word is; they had a quiet chat with Hillock.’
Marty sat up straight; his pint didn’t look as inviting. Wheels within wheels; debts settled? ‘And ...?’
There was an expectant silence that another twenty broke.
Clipper shrugged; stressed every syllable. ‘You are ... excess baggage ... you know what that means, Mr. Hemming?’
Marty could guess; collateral damage in a so-called gang war. If he landed up in hospital - or even worse - the police wouldn’t be arsed to bring the attackers to justice.
Which would suit Hillock very well...