Rob is settled in a great relationship with Stuart, but his past catches up with him in a startling way. Photographs of Stuart engaged in sexual acts arrive in the post, sending Rob into turmoil. Stuart denies cheating, so who is the man in the pictures? Rob aims to find out, discovering someone from his past has a side to him even Rob finds hard to swallow.
The two men turn into amateur detectives and soon realise they have stumbled into something far more sinister than they could have imagined.
We follow down various streets, heading into the heart of Grebe. We’re talking a nasty place here, where a bloke being shanked on a street corner goes unaided by heroes. Who wants the hassle of a gang on their back should they intervene? Youths remain silent around here too—I saw and heard nuffin’, mister.
The streets are a tangle, a maze of roads that only a Grebe resident born and bred would know how to navigate. I don’t know where the fuck we’re going or how to get out if we have to go back the way we’ve come. We’ll have to rely on those two up ahead to lead us back to the outskirts where they live.
“Got a bad feeling,” Stuart says.
I can only nod; not feeling too bright myself. The brief thought of fucking off comes to mind, but a stronger force pushes me forward. Intrigue and, if I’m honest, downright nosiness makes me put one foot in front of the other in a place no one should be unless they have no choice.
The tunnel entrance looms ahead at the end of a cul-de-sac. Traffic from the main road behind it creates whooshing noises—tyres on a rain-slicked road, jetting along at speed. The houses either side of us give way to ratty scrubland, all knee-high grass growing out of an uneven, pot-holed surface. It skirts the whole of Grebe, a no-man’s-land of rough terrain the council didn’t have enough cash to fill with homes. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few dead bodies rest there, residents neither knowing nor maybe even caring whether they do. Just another day in the life of people struggling to mind their own, with perhaps a thought or two for the day they can pack up and leave—go somewhere the air isn’t tainted with the stench of death and violence.
“Shit, here we go,” Stuart mumbles, hands out of his pockets now as Dave and Muscle Man head into the tunnel unevenly lit by rectangular orange lights.
Patches of gloom hang between each illumination, and the tunnel bends halfway down, curving for about a hundred metres before the exit. That would bring us out, funnily enough, to the edges of the estate we live on. I’ve been through here once before, and let me tell you, it was enough. Just glad I was pissed at the time. It didn’t seem so sinister then, but it shit me up all the same.
Back to back, the two estates couldn’t be more different. At least on our streets we can almost guarantee help if it was needed. Folks round our way try hard to pretend Grebe and those living in it don’t exist.
We wait a minute or two at the entrance until the two round the bend. Fuck knows what we’re going to find down there, but with the mention of a gun and my suspicions about drugs, I have a damn good idea.
“You sure you want to follow?” Stuart raises an eyebrow, fists clenched at his sides, and shifts from foot to foot. The first light shines on his face, making him look the colour of a pumpkin.
“Uh, yeah. You?”
“Not really, but we’ve come this far so…”
“Right.” I breathe out and look down the tunnel. “Let’s go.”
Grit beneath our tread seems to shout our existence, the sound amplified in the confined space. I walk lightly but may as well not have bothered—a shouted “Oi, Davey!” rips through the tunnel, resounding until it dies out. A ripple of adrenaline spears my gut, filtering through my body, bringing me to a stop.
Should we go forward or back?
I glance at Stuart, who halts, arms rounded beside him, chest puffed out.
“Fuck!” He stares at the bend ahead then back to me. “Shit!”
He takes off, and I follow, heart beating like a bastard, my legs wobbly. Various scenarios flash through my mind, none of them nice, and we reach the curve and peer around it.
Dave and Muscle Man stand a short way ahead with their backs to us, legs apart, body poses those of men readying themselves for an attack. Some guy in front of them—I can only see his face between their heads—scowls, brows so low they almost obscure his eyes. His hair hangs lank and long—needs a bloody good wash—and an unkempt, scraggly beard and moustache cover the lower half of his face. The light they stand under brightens his red hair several hues.
“You got my fuckin’ money?” Redhead’s chin juts out, and the thin, tight line of his mouth disappears inside all that facial hair.
“No,” Dave says, hands clenching and unclenching beside him. “But I’ll be getting it Tuesday.”
“Tuesday. Right. And I’m meant to believe that, am I?” Red cocks his head to the side, as though listening really hard for the sound of bullshit. He sniffs. “And you got me here to tell me that.” Bland statement. “Right.” He widens his eyes and leans his head forward. “Anything else?”
Dave steps back—reckon that man’s breath must stink if his appearance is anything to go by—and slides a hand in his coat pocket. “Yeah.” He shrugs then rounds his shoulders, body jerking. “Uh, I need some stuff.”
Red throws his head back and laughs. I give Stuart a sidelong glance; he looks ahead, jaw rigid, body poised to flee, his face half in shadow.
I stare ahead again and whisper, “Get your phone out.”
In my peripheral, I see him do as I ask. He presses some buttons. Hopefully he’s got the camera ready to go.
Red takes a few paces backward, bringing into view his filthy grey coat, his hair laying over a multi-coloured scarf around his neck. “You want me,” he laughs again, “to give you some gear when you owe me ten grand? Give me a fuckin’ break!”
“I need it.” Dave eases his hand out of his pocket, snaking it behind him.
Jesus Christ, he’s got the gun.