28/03/2020 by Alan Crawford
Alice was trapped in her rented apartment 2204. The world outside is just that, outside, she is inside. The reason? A virus has arrived and despite claims from complete nincompoops it is serious and deadly to those that are weaker than others.
Not weaker has in can’t cope, did not vote for the most worthy, able to support their families, hold down a job or pay their obligations. No it was weak as in having a predisposition to health concerns such as their immune system or a range of pre existing disease. Combined with age, these brave folks that have managed to get as far as they have, are in grave danger.
Despite warnings from health professionals, the great unwashed seem to think it’s OK to stumble about doing what ever they want, whenever they want to. Alice applied, as did the more responsible amongst the population, the need to self isolate and that is exactly what Alice was doing. Looking out the windows and appreciating the balcony view for the 1,000 time, then returning to the tasks she had set herself.
Sadly Alice couldn’t work at home, she is a tattoo artist and body piercer and the shop she owns has been forced to close. The crew has been told the dreadful news that they couldn’t be paid until the shop reopens, but the Government had offered some support and Alice has helped her mates access that help in any way she could. The Government has applied a range of restrictions on small, medium and large businesses. Her’s a drop in the ocean and she wasn’t alone.
The knock on the door came as quite as surprise for Alice, especially as she lived on the second floor and hadn’t buzzed anyone in.
“Hello, who’s there” … she said as she peaked out through the peek hole. Why the fuck were those holes so difficult to see through.
“It’s only me Alice” … said someone.
“Sorry but who is me?” Alice didn’t have any idea and was not expecting anyone, she had told her family, her crew and that poor excuse for love making boyfriend that she was not “having people round”.
“It’s Roger” … mumbled Roger. The reason for the mumbling, was that the guy was struggling to hold onto a chloroform ladened cloth and a knife while appearing to be natural and friendly. “Your Mum told me to drop this box of food as I live on the 6th floor. Didn’t she ring you? Ruth rang me this morning and asked if I could drop this off, I’m also in the organic Co-op.”
Roger had made the mistake of talking to a friendly fellow while he was emptying his letter box. It had the unit number emblazoned on the door and provided no secrecy of where Roger lived as did the latest Organic Co-op newsletter that sat within.
Alice knew of her Mum’s passion for organic vegetables and her sometimes annoying participation in the co-op. Not annoying for Ruth of course, but she went on about it, sometimes to the sheer dread of any one in ear shot. Ruth had mentioned a long time ago and very briefly that there was a man living in her building who was in the Co-op, although she’d never met him.
“Hang on I’ll open up” … said Alice as she did so. She didn’t so much after the door was opened.
The man calling himself Roger was on her like a bird escaping the small cage it was trapped in, off with a fast blur and a breeze. The man’s name was actually James and he had nothing to do with organic vegetables, Roger who was bleeding out in the building’s foyer did, but James did not.
James simply wanted to kill Alice and retrieve the shop’s clients book. This book contained the name, address, payment method and what work was carried out. She normally had it safe and sound in her work bag, with an alarming collection of receipts, key’s, books, food, personal hygiene products, cigarettes, and sweets.
The Government some years ago had determined that all clients of tattoo shops had to provide identification and be over 18. The shop was required to record details of what work, how it was paid for and of course who the client was. Alice insisted that all these details were kept, she was a stickler for all matters of compliance. Hygiene, infection control, Police checks, references, training, artist certification, licensing and equipment calibration. Alice was known for being very precise. Her shop was also known as being one of the best.
This precision has led to her current situation, knocked out and bleeding from a gash on her forehead the door applied when it flew into her face. She was, after a short while, slowing coming to and regaining consciousness. James had begun his search for the clients book and was unaware that she had started to come around.
James had a role to play and a debt to pay. His current employer with not much to do as the nite club had closed, wanted to clear up some outstanding and almost minor issues. James had a hand in all sorts of cleaning, from vomit in the girls dressing room, blood, glass and alcohol in the main room, to killing people when Warren asked. James was an exemplary employee and a completely fucked up war veteran that Warren had served with.
Warren had survived, grew in reputation, bank balance and power with the drugs he shipped home, while James suffered from the same drugs and now had a new way of looking at the world. He was very dangerous and very good at his work, cleaning, killing, hitting and frightening anyone he was asked to or wanted to. It didn’t matter to him.
James wore his scars in the inside and outside, much like the current way of the world, he was practising safe distance but in his own unique way. Get in his way and you wouldn’t be. That was no surprise to anyone who ever got close enough, Warren, some of the club girls and Frank from behind the bar knew, but no one else. No one else would have even talked to him about anything other that a retail, taxi, any very limited type of a social interaction.
He had no friends, no family and didn’t give a flying rats arse about anything other than doing what Warren asked, and sometimes satisfying his own guilty pleasures. He had no need for sexual release or satisfaction. He was well past that after the Gulf War, the physical impact of the shrapnel in his groin saw to that. After 6 months he was able to walk, sometimes a brisk walking pace but he couldn’t run.
This vital impairment normally didn’t affect his duties but Alice found that it saved her life. She was coming around and realised she needed to do so ever so quietly and without any sudden moves. As she slowly opened her eyes, she caught a glimpse of a man rummaging through her desk and bag by the balcony doors. He was so intent on looking for whatever he was looking for, he missed her revival.
Alice was a fit young woman and James a much older boomer type with a selection of serious muscle that he would apply when required. He still had reasonable reflexes but not enough this last day of his life. He heard something, turned his head and tried to move out of the way, but no, it was boom, she was on him.
Alice had managed to get up ever so slowly and like a cat readying itself for the attack she steadied herself and pounded on James that hard and quickly it was like a Grid Iron tackle. He sprawled forward without time to react, be aware or avoid the smashing strength the young woman had hit him with.
He sailed over the balcony railing like a rag doll, like one that had been tossed out of a pram. In this case he was frantically waving his arms about like that bird escaping the cage, but James couldn’t fly, he fell.
The noise his surprised body made when it hit the concrete footpath below was rather like a turkey falling out of the fridge during its defrosting stage.
James had spread his internals all over the concrete walkway and luckily managed to avoid hitting anyone walking through.
It didn’t take long for the gap in foot traffic to be filled with people screaming and retracing their steps, backing out of the organic materials that were flowing out of James. The screams turned from horror to “get out your the phone and video this”. Some of the camera operators panned up to catch Alice looking over the edge. She was remarkably well, despite some blood flowing from her forehead. This looked much worse on camera of course and people started screaming again.
“Call the Police, level 2 can you see her’ … they cried.
The Police arrived and “hot yelled” it through the entire building trying to locate were James had come from. The ambulance and the remaining ( we’ll guard the scene until senior ranks arrive) Police sat with Roger in the foyer. Although he was bleeding from a major artery knife slice he was still alive. He was soon scooped up into an Ambulance and much to everyone’s amazement, he survived.
Roger had no idea why he was attacked. Alice talked at length many times ( and many more over the following weeks ) with the Senior Police who did eventually arrive. They started by blaming her for murdering the ever decreasing man who was expanding downstairs. Once they realised that they were really quite dim, they changed tack and tried to figure out what James was looking for.
It was only after 4 days when Bruce a government cleaner picked up and accidentally “scrutinised” some photographs that had fallen onto the floor of the operation’s investigation room did they learn the reason. Of course it took some lengthy child like explanations from Bruce to help them understand.
The photographs showed the table beside the balcony, what lay upon, including Alice’s bag and its contents. The opened client’s book was front and centre in one of the photographs. The cleaner who was part of a rehabilitation scheme for those minor crime prisoners on release knew the names of at least half a dozen clients. They weren’t from the local church group’s annual fete committee, they were from the City’s major organised crime network. Their names, their bank account details and their identifying tattoos were all in this book.
Ruth and Roger, for some rather odd reasons, at least to those in the group, gave up the organic Co-op. Roger because of the life changing experience and his newly acquired addiction to Morphine, while Ruth did so when she discovered that Warren was also a member of the Co-op. Warren had passed on his condolences, best wished etc to Ruth and in doing so let slip a minor detail that Ruth and Alice though very frightening. This stumble somehow connected him to James and his visit to apartment 2204.
Alice closed her shop “Marked for life” collected Ruth and moved to Spain’s Costa Del Sol. Sun, wine, tattoos, great food within an organic lifestyle and love for both as it turned out. Alice and Ruth were very happy, Warren less so. Apartment 2204 was let to a Police informant, of course no one knew this, except for Warren and the Police. He was sending some round to visit.