WARNING: the story contains references to drugs and strong language.
His chest really hurt.
From the sink, Ryan had managed only a few paces before he had to sit down again, placing himself on the steps at the entrance of the Gents.
Once again his predicament had him despairing he would ever get out of there.
He weighed his options. He had no mobile phone and no money, but could reverse the call and phone Lola. Maybe she would send a cab for him. He just had to gather his strength and walk to the nearest public phone. Where that was, he had no idea, hopefully not too far, as moving was painful.
He was starting to feel faint again and had to lean against the wall. Everything was coming to him at once, broken ribs, cough, fever, cravings. He was sweating and shivering at the same time, his head felt hot, but his hands were freezing cold, and he was aching all over. He could not remember ever feeling so ill and he had gone through some really rough times in his life.
He squeezed his eyes, fighting the tears.
“Please, help me.” His voice was a feeble squeak. “Someone…”
Had Hailey cried for help too, the day she had died?
Once again the thought of her filled his mind and he wondered if she had felt death coming, if she had been scared.
The last time he had looked into her eyes there was nothing. If she had felt one last emotion, no trace of it had been left behind.
Perhaps it had all been too quick, just like switching off a light, one click and a plunge into darkness.
It didn’t seem to be going that way for him. Death was taking his time, having fun torturing him first.
How much longer?
Please, make it stop. Just switch me off.
He shivered as he felt the hands of Death on his shoulder, then slipping under his arm to lift him up.
Ryan… He called him.
Ryan coughed and moaned. He wasn’t very strong, Death. He pulled, but couldn’t lift him.
“Come on, help me out. Pull yourself up.”
Ryan opened his eyes and breathed fast.
“George?” He croaked.
“Yes, I’m here.” George’s voice echoed beside him. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
With great effort, Ryan stood up, George’s arms under his armpits giving him the push. His ribcage shook, sending him into a spasm, and he groaned loudly.
“I think… my ribs… must be broken…” he panted.
George eased his grip.
“They really made mince meat of you,” he observed, as he helped Ryan up the steps and out into the open.
The fresh air hit Ryan like a shot, making him alert, but he was soon limping again, wheezy and feverish, leaning over George, mechanically following the man to his Ford Focus, parked on the opposite side of the road.
George helped him into the front seat, before taking his place behind the wheel and starting the engine.
“Are you comfortable?”
Ryan nodded in silence, though he wasn’t. He caught his reflection in the windscreen and was shocked by his own appearance. His face was so bruised and swollen, he struggled to recognise himself.
His mind had started to race, filling up with confusion and questions.
“How did you find me?” He finally asked, his head slumped on the headrest.
George cleared his throat. “I followed you.”
“Followed me?” Ryan was finding it difficult to speak, to think, even. His body temperature had increased, he could feel he had a fever, and it was getting harder to focus, now that his cravings were taking hold of him.
He closed his fists to try and control the shaking of his hands.
“Followed me?” He repeated. “How? When?”
George’s eyes remained fixed on the street ahead.
“I know where you… work.” His voice was only faintly coming through above the engine’s noise and the buzz that rang in Ryan’s ears. “I know which area you walk, to find customers. I looked for you. I found you. I saw you with that lowlife, entering the toilets…” He tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “You disgust me,” he hissed.
Ryan forced himself to remain alert, though his head was getting heavier and more dazed. “Are you taking me home?”
“No,” George’s mouth creased at the corner. “I’m taking you back to the hotel. You’re sick. You need rest.”
Ryan crossed his arms over his chest; talking hurt. “I need to shoot.”
George remained silent.
“I need it now, George.”
“You have no money.”
“That’s my problem. Just take me where I can get it. I’ll tell you where.”
“You’re not getting that rubbish, not anymore.” George almost whispered. “I’ll get you cleaned.”
Ryan’s tremor was now uncontrollable.
“What are you talking about?” He was starting to panic. “You want me to go cold turkey? Do you know what that’s like?”
George didn’t answer.
“I have seen it,” Ryan continued. “It’s hell.”
“You can do it.” George’s voice was unemotional.
“I can’t! And you can’t make me! Don’t make me go through that, George. Just let me get some, please!” He cursed himself for begging that way.
George shook his head.
“I’ll help you,” he said. “I’ll save you.”
“Fuck you! Who asked you for anything? Why did you follow me?”
“You robbed me.”
“Stop the car.”
“You owe me over a hundred pounds. I’ll make you pay every penny. But first I want you clean.”
“Stop the fucking car, George!”
In his panic, Ryan didn’t notice George’s hand moving until he felt it hitting his face.
“Stop shouting.” George sounded surprisingly calm. “It’s for your own good.”
The slap had not been especially hard, but it took Ryan a few minutes to come around, in his weak state. He was being kidnapped, he realised.
What was he going to do now?
He started to look around, searching for a way out.
And that’s when he saw it. George’s jacket on the back seat and, peeping out of a pocket, George’s wallet.
“Your wallet,” he noted. “You have your wallet.”
George went rigid. “I told you to be quiet.”
“You fucker!” It was surprising how lucidly he could think, Ryan reflected, considering the state he was in. Everything was as clear as daylight. He held his broken bones to speak again. “That’s how you knew where I was. You got that scum to do me in. You sent them to find me!”
“You needed it.” George replied, softly. “Your parents didn’t beat you enough, if you ask me, and sense has to be beaten into you.”
“Beat me into submission, you mean.” Ryan had to pause and inhale to fight the strain. “That’s what you always wanted, to break me.”
“I can mend you… and break you again.”
“You are crazy! You’re a fucking lunatic! Stop the car!”
George turned to look at him, a cold glint darting from his small eyes.
“Be quiet.” He moved his elbow and hit Ryan in his chest, causing him to howl with pain.
The car was cruising through the early morning streets, and Ryan was scared. He could not stop George, he didn’t have the strength to fight him. He was ill, injured and weak.
There was only one way he could get out of that nightmare, but he had to act fast.
He breathed in and out a few times, gathering the last bit of energy he had left. Then, with his heart thumping madly, he quickly moved his hand to the door handle and pulled it.
“No!” George’s scream reached him as he rolled out of the vehicle and hit the tarmac. He heard more cracks coming from inside him and for a few seconds he lay at road side, wondering if he was really going to die, this time.
He lifted his head when he heard the screeching noise of George’s car coming to an abrupt halt and saw the reversing lights breaking through the darkness.
Yes, that was it. The end. Run over like an animal, crushed and left to bleed.
He closed his eyes and waited.
Continues in Part Five