Excerpt from Chilled to the Bone

13 July 2010

‘Hæ, Baddó. Long time since you’ve been seen around here.’

He spun round to confront the soft voice and found that as he looked into the shadow of the stairwell, a stocky figure emerged and a hand grabbed his collar from behind just as a swinging kick swept his feet from under him, leaving him sprawled face down. The wine bottle smashed on the concrete floor and its aroma flooded the lobby as it soaked into the dust.
Baddó thrashed furiously as a knee was planted securely on his neck and one arm wrenched high up his back.

‘Stay still, Baddó. No point arguing, is there?’

He thought fast. These weren’t cops. The police would have cuffed him by now. He lay still for a second and could hear someone leaning over him. There had to be two of them. Or maybe three? With his cheek crushed to the floor in a rivulet of wasted Chilean merlot, it was hard to tell.

With a feeling of dread, he recognized again the metallic click that had alerted him to start with. It took him by surprise that the cut as it sliced into his cheek wasn’t painful. It was only once the carpet knife’s blade was clicked home again that he felt it begin to sting as drops of blood dribbled onto his lips and to the floor to mingle with the rich red wine. He blinked sweat out of his eyes and screwed his head round as far as he could to get a sight of his attackers, but saw only faded combats and black boots.

‘This is payback from an old friend, Baddó,’ the soft voice hissed in his ear, cut short as a burst of cold air told him that the outside door had opened. He could feel the pressure of the knee in his back relax as its owner was distracted. Baddó twisted with all his strength, taking the man by surprise and as he rolled and kicked out. He took in the shocked face of the elderly woman from the flat below María’s in the doorway, staring at the tableau in front of her.

‘Shit...’ the soft voice snarled, momentarily distracted and giving Baddó an opportunity to scrabble for the remains of the wine bottle, pulling himself onto all fours and catching hold of it by the neck just as the smaller of the two barged the woman to one side and was gone. Baddó was fast enough to swipe with the smashed bottle at the heavier, slower man as he followed his friend out and was rewarded with a howl of pain and surprise as the glass slashed deep into fabric, skin and muscle.

Baddó leaned on the door frame and watched as a blue 4x4 that had seen better days skidded to a halt and the two men tumbled into it, one trailing drops into the snow behind him, the leg of his trousers already soaked dark with blood, his face alight with agony and alarm.

The elderly woman picked up her shopping bags.

‘Are you all right?’ he asked once he managed to steady his breathing as his legs turned to jelly under him.

‘I’ll be all right, young man,’ she replied in a voice of schoolteacher severity. ‘But you aren’t.’