It’s raining; it always rains on pickup day. Especially on this estate, and especially onto these blocks of flats. No wonder they are all coloured grey, any colour has long washed away. It’s as if God himself is pissing through the clouds onto this scum, this rundown neighbourhood of degenerates. The rain is falling so hard, my windscreen wipers are doing their best, but I can hardly see a damn thing. If Mikey steps off the pavement, the first I’ll know is when his face bounces off the streaky glass in front of me.
Heavy rain is perfect for my day: the noise; the overcast light; the fact most people stay indoors, out of it (in both senses of the meaning). The only downside is they can see me coming, the lone cob-head out for his fix. Of course, I’m never the only purchaser climbing these towers to nirvana, I just hope the rest stay in bed this morning.
In my regular college gear: stylish trainers, striped trackies, zipped up waterproof sports hoodie and well-stocked backpack, I feel out of place in this ghetto. There are no on-the-beat constables it’s a strict no-go area, any skirmishes dealt with armed riot police.
I pull into a parking space, and out of horizontal sheets of water steps Mikey. By the time he gets to the car he’s soaked. Grabbing my backpack and pulling over my hood, I step out and greet him.
‘Hiya, Mikey. What’s with the shit weather?’
‘Fuck knows, man, but I still gotta check you boys in da pissin’ rain. I could get pneumonia, or somethin’, and no one give a shit.’
‘Great seeing you, Mikey, even in this shower.’
Two years I’ve known Mikey ever since picking up my first fix of Cobalt; how naïve I was back then. We embrace for a second as old friends. A Costa Rican illegal, short but stocky, with a big smile and matching muscles, he’s one of Faquesta’s chaperones.
‘I’m told you gonna see the big man,’ Mikey says and pats me down. ‘You gotta present or somethin’ in that bag?’
‘Nope, just college stuff and my lunch,’ I say, knowing he’ll check it anyway.
‘A can of coke? That stuff’ll rot your teeth, man.’
‘Yeah, and the Cobalt’ll do the rest.’
We laugh and he finishes searching and frisking.
‘Come on, let’s get out of this shit,’ he says, and jogs off the only way a body builder can, with the look he’s shat his pants.
‘Man these places stink,’ Mikey says entering the grey concrete underpass. He’s right, puke, piss, shit, and something burnt, but least it’s dry. We leave a trail of raindrop splashes, as the weather drips from us, and head for the lift core. Ubiquitous neon lights flash at different rates along our route. A shriek echoes in the distance, it doesn’t faze Mikey, and just makes me glad that after today I won’t need to come back to this anti-social cesspit.
My unintentional dawdle means by the time I get to the lift door Mikey holds it open.
‘Hurry up,’ he says, in a muffle of jacket, held over is mouth and nose. The reek stabs at me as I enter the lift, and I raise a damp sleeve to my nose to filter the worst of it.
Not a millimetre of the metal lift car lining is spared from spray-paint and graffiti, floor buttons likewise, however, Mikey finds one for the top floor. We say nothing as we rise. The paint covering the light dulls the lumpy and sticky contents of the floor. A camera hanging from the ceiling is the only item not defaced; Faquesta knows we’re on our way.
Out of the lift, up a flight of dark stairs to an access door, where we find another associate there to frisk me a second time. When I finish my explanation about the college books and my lunch, Mikey looks into an eyeball recognition camera and the door opens. We’re all out on to the roof, back into the rain and taking deep breaths of fresh air.
Ahead is the curved-roofed glass structure I’ve heard so much about. The Crystal penthouse suite with unobstructed views over the city, inaccessible, and built without planning council approval, but who’d object to Faquesta. We all trot across the roof to sliding doors, more recognition and we’re inside a dry draft lobby–cameras are evident as are faces behind glass walls.
‘This way gentlemen,’ a cute long-blonde-haired girl instructs us. We follow. A semi-automatic hangs from her shoulder; the autocratic state of Faquesta.
We’re ushered into Faquesta’s inner domain and there with the backdrop of the city skyline he sits, puffing on a large Havana and gloating in his ill gotten wealth; the raw face of abuse and gangland scarring. This old-school man had not got to where he was without a number of scraps.
‘So, my friend, you want to work for me,’ the man says, straight to business, ‘is that right?’
Faquesta, sitting; body guards standing either side, poised with fingers on triggers of similar semis to the girl; me, between Mikey and another henchman, standing three in a row.
‘Actually, my offer is for you to work for me,’ I say, cutting him dead.
There is a pause until Faquesta laughs out loud in a cloud of cigar smoke, revealing his nerves.
‘Look around you, my friend. You are in my Crystal, surrounded by my men. I am Faquesta, I’m the law and I work for no one, but myself.’
‘That’s a shame,’ I say, and reach into my bag.
‘Stop!’ One henchman shouts and raises his gun.
‘Relax,’ I continue, hand raised slowly dipping into my open bag ‘it’s just a can of coke. Your hospitality is lacking, Faquesta, I had to bring my own drink.’
‘You’re not impressing me, my friend. If you have nothing else to add, my men will help you off the premises; and it’s a long way down.’
I move behind Mikey as I talk. ‘There’s no need for that, my friend.’
Obscured from view, my hand reaches into Mikey’s jacket pocket and retrieves the handgun I placed there during our embrace in the pouring rain. Before anyone realises my pick-pocketing skills, I’ve raised the gun and shot one of the gunman in the chest. As he goes down and everyone kicks into action, the second bodyguard befalls the same chest shot; armour plated shells make a real mess. The henchman raises his firearm as I grab Mikey and place the barrel of my gun against his temple.
‘Drop it, or Mikey dies,’ I say, pulling Mikey to the glazed roof and city backdrop.
‘What the fuck, man!’ Mikey says.
‘You’ve just made a massive mistake, my friend,’ Faquesta stands, his cigar smokes, as if he pulled the trigger.
The girl bursts into the room with her weapon poised to shoot. My back is to the window and Mikey acts as my shield to the others.
I whisper, ‘Get ready to run, Mikey.’ Then out loud I say, ‘No mistake, Faquesta.’
‘So, why not shoot me?’ Faquesta says.
‘Because I’ve done my homework, my friend. My intell informs me you’ve full body armour underneath that designer suit, besides, this coke …’ I begin to shake the can in front of Mikey my arm across his chest. ‘… this is for you, mind the fizz when you open it.’
All eyes on the can of drink as it spins across the room.
My gun flicks back.
The can lands under Faquesta’s desk.
I shoot the glass behind me.
In expectation, he jumps away from his desk.
The plated shells do the damage on the reinforced glass, it shatters and a sudden cold and moisture laden draft washes in.
Nothing happens to the decoy can as it rolls to a stop.
Cubes of glass scatter on the flat roof and over the edge of the building’s parapet wall.
I let go of Mikey.
A little confused with recent events he hesitates, but I don’t. I’m through the opening, running fast into lashing rain, along the edge of the roof towards the fire escape staircase, trying not to slip. Mikey turns, still between me and the girl’s gun, and draws his revolver.
‘After him!’ Faquesta shouts, Mikey follows at last, the whipping rain hinders any chance of a shot.
Timing is perfect. As one of Faquesta’s men opens the door, my speed carries me through. A kick to the door smashes the guy in the face and topples him over the stair balustrade. I jump through the door and it slams on the rebound behind me. A dead weight thumps down the stairs below. I turn and take a peek through a gap in the door. Mikey is waddling towards me, soaked and pissed-off. Faquesta is frantic, shouting at the girl behind the missing piece of his cracked Crystal.
Mikey enters the staircase fist first with his gun held tight and dripping water. A quick grab and I’ve pulled him in with arm twisted behind his back.
‘You took your time, Mikey,’ I say.
‘He’s gonna kill you, man.’
‘I doubt that,’ I say and let him go. ‘Let’s take a peek shall we.’
As I push the door ajar again, the drizzling rain continues as does Faquesta’s ranting. The girl and another one of his henchman climb through the window frame on to the roof and into the downpour.
‘That can of coke!’ I say.
‘It wasn’t coke was it?’
Chemicals are my thing, and I don’t mean just cooking up crystal meth. Several rocks of calcium carbide, drop of water and a good shake. Faquesta’s cigar will do the rest.
As the two run towards us we hear a muffled pop and watch the ensuing fireball explosion. Faquesta and his Crystal penthouse are blow to pieces, spraying glass and contents high into the air, out over the estate, along with the henchman. The girl clings to a parapet and claws ruffled and bloodied back on to the roof before collapsing.
With my main competitor spread all over this shitty estate, I turn to my old pal.
‘Looks like you’re out of a job, Mikey. How’d you like to come and work for me?’