Gather round, boys and girls, it's time for your bed-time story!
It was the sort of pub frequented by university students, although it was nowhere near the campus. One of any number of similar buildings with slate roofs and leaded windows that would not have looked out of place in a fake English village. Fashionable was fashionable because it was fashionable and along with the students came the hangers-on: arty types, middle-aged men looking for lost youth; and a few of the old regulars.
The regulars were there because that was what the word regular implied, this in spite of the fashionableness and because it was a cold night and a wonderful place to be.
Low ceiling, heavy, fake beams, as old English as Chaucer; English beer on tap; absolutely perfect! And if cigarette smoke and loud talk could be considered atmosphere; loads of atmosphere! In any other city in the world, this place would have been considered artificial.
In Joburg, it was considered artificial.
Warm light spilled out of the windows onto the pavement as a babble of voices and the sounds of raucous laughter washed out of the doors and windows, the occasional male epithet followed by a peal of female laughter. Interminable pop music blared from the hi-fi behind the bar, necessitating in everyone having to shout in order to make themselves heard.
More atmosphere. Cars were parked up on the pavement so as to prevent blocking the narrow road. It was extremely popular. And not only with its regular clientele.
‘Bloody spoiled, rich bastards!’ said Richie under his breath as he and his friends crossed the road to the pub, threading their way between the parked cars. They were a typical gang of skinheads, out to have a good time their way; by spoiling it for others: studded black leather jackets, skin tight black jeans and calf-length Docs.
As Richie walked past the parked cars, he ran the point of his knife along the side of a BMW, gouging right through to the metal, leaving a shiny silvery scar. He wiped the curled paint shavings slowly and deliberately off the blade of the knife, then wiped his fingers on his jeans.’ Okay, boys, let’s go have some fun!’
They barged through the doors and stood for a moment, looking around, asserting their presence, then pushed their way up to the bar, cutting a swathe through the assembled good-timers, whose conversation died down to a murmur. Richie jostled a man who spilled his drink. ‘Hey! Do you mind?!’ the man said, angrily, half-turning.
Richie shoved up against him, trapping him against the bar. The man squirmed and tried to break free. Richie put his face right up against the man's. ‘Have you got a problem, sonny?’ Richie sneered.
‘You spilled my drink!’
‘Shame.’ Richie turned back to the bar, ‘Barman, give this man another drink! What are you having, pal?’
‘Holstein,’ the man said, visibly suppressing his irritation. He would just finish his drink and leave; any pleasure he might have had this evening had already been spoiled.
‘La-di-dah! Give the man a Holstein, and Black Label for me and my buddies. And a dash of speed!’ Richie's friends laughed, they were already having a good time. And why not? The night was young and they were going to enjoy the evening to the fullest.
The barman pushed the drinks over to them.’ A hundred and twenty four Rand sixty, please.’
Richie turned to the man. ‘You heard the man, pal. Pay up.’
‘What! You spill my drink and you expect me to buy a whole round for you and your buddies! Are you mad?’ the man said, incredulously.
‘Are you insinuating my sanity is not quite up to scratch?’ Richie said in a high, mincing voice. ‘If so, I shall have to ask you to step outside,’ he continued. Richie’s friends laughed hysterically, they were having such a goood time! Richie may have been joking, but the threat was very real.
‘Look, I don't want any trouble’ the man said, suddenly realising he'd been set up and that there was no way out of the mess he was in.
‘I scheme it's a little bit late for that, China. You can't tell a man he's mad and get away with it, because, you know what? Now I'm fucking mad!’ He picked up the Holstein. ‘Here's your drink, China.’ And poured it over the astounded man's head. ‘Now, sonny, do you want to make something of it, or are you going to be a good little boy?’
The man stood and looked at Richie in disbelief, rivulets of beer running down his face. ‘You bastard!’ he shouted, lunging at Richie. Richie stepped back and kicked him hard under the kneecap, and he dropped to the floor with a howl of agony.
Richie put his boot on the man's face and slowly leaned his weight on it. ‘What's your name, sonny?’ The man groaned in pained silence, trying to maintain some shred of dignity by remaining silent. Richie slowly ground his boot into the man's face. ‘I asked you a question, China. I'm getting the moer in. You don't want me to get the moer in, do you?’
‘No,’ he croaked.
Richie ground his foot down even harder. ‘Your name, fuckhead!’ he rasped.
‘My name's Norman,’ the man said, squirming.
Richie lifted his foot. ‘OK, sonny, you can get up now. But you better fuck off, before I change my mind.’ Richie faked a kick at Norman and Norman scurried out of the pub, dignity forgotten. Richie's friends collapsed in peals of laughter. ‘Hey, Anthony,’ he said, ‘pay the man for the drinks!’
The barman said, ‘I want you to finish your drinks and leave!’ Although he spoke quietly, by now the pub was so quiet that everyone heard the exchange. There was an expectant silence.
Richie turned around slowly, almost theatrically. ‘Who the fuck are you talking to?!’ he hissed, leaning across the bar.
‘Look! I don't want trouble. Just finish your drinks quietly and leave.’ The barman tried to sound reasonable, but authoritative.
Richie turned around, looking at the other people in the pub. ‘Can you believe this oke? Just like that, hey!' “Will you please leave?”‘ Mimicking on the last bit. ‘Do you people want us to leave?’ he asked, challengingly. People looked away and shifted nervously in their seats, not wanting to meet his eye.
‘See, it's fine. They don't want us to leave.’ this last to the barman.
‘They're not responsible for the pub. I am.’ The barman put his hand on the phone, ‘Either you finish your drinks peacefully and leave, or I call the police.’
‘Ya? And when do you scheme they'll get here?’ Richie held up his hands in a placating gesture. ‘Okay, I'm only joking, don't shit yourself!’ He turned back to his friends, ‘Some places! You can't even have a drink in peace! You come in, some ou looks for shit, you defend yourself, and you're the doos! Rog!’ He turned to one of his gang, ‘D'you smaak this place?’
Rog looked around, ‘Ya, there's some nice birds here. I scheme that one smaaks me.’ He sauntered across to where a woman sat with her companion. ‘What's your name, baby?’
The barman said, ‘That's it, I'm calling the cops!’ He reached for the telephone.
Richie turned to one of his gang, ‘Anthony, if he goes near that phone, break his neck. This old doos is really pissing me off! I'm all for respecting old people, but they must mos show you some respect back, you know what I mean?’
Rog said to the woman, ‘You haven't answered my question!’ He leaned against the table and lifted her hair, cupping her face in his hand. She shrank back from him in horror.
Her companion stood up, ‘Leave her alone!’ He pushed his chair back, ready for action.
Rog stepped back from the table. ‘Oh! Is she with you?’ he said mockingly. ‘Sorry, sir, I didn't realise! Please, sir, accept my apologies!’ Rog held out his hand. The man ignored his hand.
‘Hey, China, don’t ignore me when I apologise!’ Rog held out his hand again.
The man leaned forward and reached out, grudgingly, to take his hand. ‘That's alright,’ he said and Rog pulled him forward and head-butted him. The man fell back with a clatter, chairs and tables giving way beneath him, blood pouring from the split in his forehead. He groaned in pain and held his head, rolling from side to side.
‘See what happens when you ignore me?’ Rog turned back to the woman ‘You still haven't answered my question, doll!’ he said, stroking her face and smiling lewdly.
She looked at him, wide eyed with fright. ‘Please! Just leave me alone, okay?!’ She shrank back from him, trying to push his hand away.
Rog shoved his face up against hers. ‘Are you fuckin' deaf?!’ he roared. ‘Am I talking to my fuckin' self here? What's your name, bitch?’ Her drink spilled over the table as he gripped the edge of the table and lifted it.
She fell back from him, ‘Please, just leave me alone!’ she wailed. She was terrified now and dripping wet, her eyes round as saucers.
He grabbed her by the shirtfront and pulled her toward him, the delicate fabric giving way under the rough treatment. ‘You know, Richie, I don't smaak this place! These people scheme they're too larney for us. I scheme we need to teach them a bit of a lesson, hey?’ He looked askance at Richie.
Richie mimed a Papal blessing. ‘Go for it, Rog my son, you have my blessing.’
The gang again erupted in raucous laughter. ‘Yes, my son,’ they chorused, ‘but leave some blessing for us, hey!’
Rog turned back to the woman, ‘Now, your ladyship, tell me your name.’ He dropped her torn blouse onto the floor.
‘Monica.’ she stammered, her eyes huge as she looked up at Rog, fearing the worst. How could something like this happen in such a crowded, decent place?
‘See? That wasn't so hard, was it?’ She shook her head mutely, looking askance at her companion, struggling to get off the floor. He took her hand, ‘Come here, doll, I'll give you something that is hard.’ She looked at him in terror, shaking her head. ‘No..no..no!’
The gang chorused, ‘Go on Rog, show her how you treat a lady,’ and again erupted in hysterical laughter. Rog grabbed her bra and pulled it off. She tried desperately to cover her breasts, but he pulled her hands away. ‘Come, darling, I just want to look at your titties.’
As she reached up to cover her breasts again, he ripped off her skirt. Now the gang was roaring! ‘See, darling, if you didn't keep covering your titties, I wouldn't have pulled your skirt off.’ His eyes widened at the sight of her flimsy, transparent panties. ‘But you must have known I was going to be here, hey! Otherwise, why did you wear such sexy broeks? Let me check what's inside those broeks!’
Rog reached out to grab her panties, when a shot rang out, echoing through the close confines of the pub. ‘What the fuck was that?!’ he said as his head swivelled to find the source of the sound.
A woman was standing at a table five metres away, a still smoking pistol in her hand. ‘Step back from her, and get out. You and your friends.’ She didn't raise her voice. ‘There's obviously not a man in the house, so I'll have to be the man. Get out.’ She waved the gun, indicating the door.
Rog raised his hands placatingly. ‘Sorry, lovey, just having some fun.’ He studied her and said, ‘Now listen, I have to get past you to get out, so don't shoot me, okay.’ He started to move slowly towards her his hands still raised. ‘I'm moving slowly, so be careful with that…’ and he pounced! And collapsed on the floor with a bullet through his kneecap, writhing in agony. ‘Shit! The bitch shot me: do something!’
She looked down at him coldly, ‘You’re lucky I didn’t put the bullet through your head.’ She looked up at the rest of the gang. ‘Anyone else want to try his luck?’ They looked at her in silence. ‘I thought not.’ She looked at them with contempt. ‘Take this piece of scum and get out of here. And don't think of trying your luck; the next one will be a head shot.’
Two gang members sidled over and picked Rog up off the floor. He started swearing bitterly, clenching his teeth and groaning in pain. They carried him out, leaving a trail of blood across the floor, and Richie stopped just inside the doorway and looked at her; a long, challenging stare ‘This isn't the end of it.’
She gave him a level look. ‘You'd better hope it is.’ She dismissed him and turned to Monica. ‘Are you alright?’ she asked. Monica raised a tear-streaked face to her. ‘Yes, I'm fine. Have you got a cigarette for me?’
The woman smiled at her. ‘Sorry, I don't smoke; I'll get you one.’ She looked up at the crowd of people staring at her in stunned silence. ‘Does anybody have a cigarette?’ There was a chorus of yesses and she got one for Monica.
‘There you are. Can anyone lend her a coat?’ One man got up and removed his jacket. ‘Here you are,’ he said, offering it to her. She took the jacket and helped Monica into it. ‘I'm Terry, by the way.’
‘Yes, I heard.’ Monica smiled ruefully. ‘How's your boyfriend?’
‘He's badly hurt,’ said Monica, looking over to where her boyfriend lay.
Terry smiled. ‘It looks worse than it is. It bleeds profusely and hurts like hell, but he won't even need stitches. Can you drive? 'Cause he won't be fit to.’
‘I'll be fine, thanks. Really, I promise I will.’ She tried to smile, but failed, the tears coming unbidden to her eyes now the danger was over.
‘Give me your phone number, so I can call you and see that you're okay,’ said Terry.
‘Okay,’ said Monica, and took her phone out of her bag. They exchanged numbers.
‘Now, you're sure you're alright?’ Monica nodded. ‘I'd better walk you to your car,’ said Terry, getting up and putting her bag over her shoulder. ‘Let me go and get that guy's number, so you can return his jacket.’
Monica leaned down to her companion, who was sitting up, groggily. She put her hand on his shoulder. ‘Are you feeling okay?’ she asked. He nodded mutely, seemingly far away, his hand clamped over his forehead. ‘What's wrong, Alan?’ she asked. No reply. ‘Alan? What is it?’
‘Nothing,’ he mumbled.
‘Alan, what is it?’ Monica became increasingly concerned; she hadn't known Alan for long, but in the time they'd been dating, had become very fond of him, and he had tried to protect her. ‘Tell me, love. What's wrong?’
He looked utterly miserable, unable to meet her eyes. ‘I'm married, that's what's wrong! How am I going to explain this to my wife?’ indicating the cut on his forehead, the blood on his clothes. She looked at him in amazement.
‘You bastard!’ she said, ‘The perfect ending to a wonderful evening. God, you must have been laughing at my stupidity!’ She felt tears start in her eyes again and suppressed them.
He shook his head, ‘No! It really wasn't like that! I really care for you. I would never do anything to hurt you!’ He looked at her pleadingly, trying to make her understand.
Monica shook her head. ‘You can make your own way home, you bastard, you're not going with me.’ She turned to Terry, who was trying not to overhear the conversation. ‘Can you give me a lift home, Terry?’
‘What about him?’ Terry indicated Alan. ‘He's in no fit state to drive.’
‘He can catch a fucking taxi as far as I'm concerned!’ Monica said heatedly.
‘He did stand up for you,’ Terry said, mildly. ‘That should count for something.’
‘The bastard's been screwing me for three months now, and now he tells me he's married! Fuck him! He can phone his wife to come and fetch him; or he can walk.’ With that, she turned on her heel and walked to the door, where she turned to look at Terry. ‘Are you going to give me a lift or not?’
Terry stood and looked from Alan to Monica. ‘Just hang on a moment.’ she said. She walked over to the bar and spoke to the barman, ‘Can you see that he gets home in one piece?’ she asked.
The barman looked across at him. ‘Ya, I'll see he gets into a taxi.’
‘Thanks,’ said Terry, and turned to Monica. ‘Let's go.’
Terry stepped out into the street. ‘Shit! Shit! Shit! The bastards!’ Cars up and down the street had been vandalised, hers included, tyres slashed, wing mirrors broken off, paintwork extensively scratched.
‘Well, old girl,’ she said to Monica, ‘It looks like we'll be sharing a taxi with Alan.’
Richie was sitting in his flat, feet up, listening to Carcass on full volume, dirty clothes strewn all over, a smell of stale sweat and dagga in the air, when Rog hobbled in on crutches. ‘Rog! My mate! How's it going?’ he said, getting up out of his chair, throwing a pile of dirty clothes off a chair and onto the floor. ‘Grab a pew!’
He studied Rog for a moment. ‘So, how's the leg?’
‘Fucked! The doctor says I'll walk with a limp for the rest of my life,’ Rog said morosely, dropping heavily into the chair ‘That bitch fucked up my whole life!’ He stared off into the distance. ‘I wish I could catch that bitch, I'd show her what happens to you when you fuck up a man's life!’
‘Serious? Well, I've got some good news, China. I've found out where she lives. How's that, hey?’ said Richie, triumphantly and passed Rog his joint.
Rog smiled, an oddly sweet and gentle smile. ‘You know what? I feel better already.’ He took a long drag on the cigarette, keeping the smoke in as long as he could, before exhaling slowly. ‘I'm going to show the bitch! She's going to be sooo sorry she got in the way.’ He leaned forward and said, ‘Here’s your zol, Rich.’ Rich took a deep drag. ‘So tell me, where does she stay?’ Rog asked.
‘Bryanston, China, Bryanston! One of those clusters, with the security.’ They burst out laughing.
‘Hey, I only smaak those places with security systems!’ said Rog. Then he sobered up. ‘But how am I going to get in, my leg's stuffed! I'll never climb a fucking wall with this leg!’
‘Don't worry, China, we'll get you in. When do you want to do it?’ Richie asked, ‘You want to go tonight? Can you make it?’
‘I reckon tonight's as good as any time.’ Said Rog, ‘I feel lus for some action. I haven't had a woman in weeks.’ He took another long drag on the dagga cigarette. ‘Hey, Rich, haven't you got anything stronger? My leg is killing me!’
Rich looked at him thoughtfully, ‘Ya, I've got something a lot stronger, but how will you cope tonight?’
‘I'll be fine, Rich, I can hold my own any time, even when I'm stoned,’ Rog said, seriously, ‘and this time I won't be stoned. I want to enjoy this bitch.’
Rich nodded ‘Okay! Let me get you something!’ and went to go get something stronger.
Terry sat up in bed and switched on the bedside lamp. She frowned; Why had she woken up? She listened intently, but heard nothing. She debated getting up to check, but it was cold and the bed was cosy. She listened for a few moments more, then relaxed and lay back snuggling under the covers again.
Suddenly the lights came on and she dived for her pistol in the bedside cabinet, but Rog was on her before she could get to it, wrestling her away from the cabinet.
‘Hey! Is that any way to welcome a ou?’ Rog slapped her and threw her back on the bed. ‘We're going to have some fun, aren't we? And when we're finished, my buddies are also going to have some fun. We're going to teach you to fuck up a man's whole life!’ He put his face against hers.
She could smell his foetid breath, see his pinprick pupils; he was high as a kite! ‘You should of minded your own business, doll. You’re going to be fucking sorry when I’ve finished with you!’
He put his hand into the neckline of her night dress and ripped down with all his strength, leaving her completely naked, her nipples hardening with the cold. Rog looked at her nipples. ‘Hey! You only smaak a bit of dick, hey!’ He pushed her down on the bed and she tried to scramble away from him. He grabbed her arm and slapped her again. ‘You better lie still, you bitch, or you're going to shit!’
She lay still, watching him the way a rabbit watches a snake, her chest rising and falling rapidly from the exertion. A muffled voice came through the door, ‘Hey, Rog! You alright?’
Rog didn't take his eyes off her. ‘Ya, I'm just teaching the bitch a lesson.’ He took her arms. ‘We can do it the hard way or my way. Either way, you're fucked; so you might as well have some fun, lovey.’
She visibly relaxed. ‘Okay. We might as well be civilised about this.’ She opened her legs, sliding lower down onto the bed. ‘Come here.’ She reached for his groin with her hand and made a sudden grab for his testicles.
‘Bitch!’ He slapped her hand aside and punched her in the mouth. Her vision starred and she felt herself momentarily blackout. He was as strong as an ox!
‘Rog?’ A muffled voice again, ‘Everything okay in there?’
‘Ya. The bitch just tried to grab my balls.’ He smiled, ‘I'm really going to enjoy this.’ He undid his trousers and stepped out of them, brandishing his knife. ‘Now, girlie, we're going to play this game the right way, or I cut your face. Understand?’ She nodded. ‘Good.’ He held the point of the knife against her eye.
‘You want to play with my dick, now you can do it. Properly. Nicely.’ She took hold of him. ‘Now, bitch, put it in.’
She closed her eyes and guided him in, wanting to cry with humiliation, but preventing herself from doing so. She couldn't guide him in, as she was too dry.
‘What's the problem, bitch? Now I'm not good enough?!’ He spat into his hand and put the spit between her legs. ‘Now put it in.’
She guided him in and he started rutting and grunting like an animal, watching her all the while and seeing her start to respond. He smiled. ‘You smaak it, hey?’ She shook her head frantically, but pushed back, thrashing around. ‘Ya, you do!’ He increased his efforts. ‘ She smaaks it, guys!’
He put his hands on the pillow, relaxing his grip on the knife, shunting even harder, eyes glazing with passion, and was dimly aware of her arm flashing up and an excruciating pain in his neck. He put his hands up to his neck, pulling out a nailfile and watching in disbelief as huge gouts of arterial blood issued from his carotid artery. ‘You bitch!’ he croaked, ‘you've done me again.’ And fell off the bed onto the floor, and died.
She made a dive for the bedside cabinet, opened the drawer and got her pistol out as the door opened and the gang came charging through. Richie was the first to die, the bullet taking him in the chest, knocking him back, a look of puzzlement on his features, a stream of blood coming out of his mouth.
Jackie took the next one in the throat, the back of his head exploding in a red spray over his friends.
Anthony tried to turn, but the bullet took him in the sternum, tearing him apart inside. He fell down in a heap, trapping Johnny at the bottom of the pile. Terry got up off the bed and walked over to where he lay. She pointed the gun at his head.
‘Take a good, long look. This is what your friends died for. Do you think it's worth it?’ He looked at her in terror, unable to speak. She fired the gun into the floor next to his head. ‘Answer me, you piece of shit! You've got a big mouth when there're five of you against one of me, but now you can't talk! Was it worth it!?’ she shrilled, getting hysterical. She rammed the gun into his groin and the blood drained out of his face.
‘I think I'm going to castrate you. I think it's a good idea, don't you?’ He shook his head, eyes like saucers. She backed into the bedroom, keeping the gun trained on him and slipped into a robe. She waved the gun at him. ‘Get up. We're going downstairs to call the police.’
He struggled out from under the bodies of his friends and staggered ahead of her, heading down the stairs to the lounge.
‘Lie down on the floor,’ she said. ‘Face down. And if you move, I'll kill you.’
She picked up the phone and started dialling, and while she was speaking, he caught sight of the trophies on the mantelpiece:-
National Pistol Award: Sharpshooting 2006/2007
National Snapshooting Award: 2004/2005/2006/2007
There were more, but he didn’t bother to read them. He slowly put his head down and buried his face in the fibres of the carpet.