Beginning to Disintegrate: Webb
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‘I ain’t interested, mate,’ Webb says, even though he knows it’s a mistake to piss Crawford off. Crawford throws the car around the corner.
‘Don’t remember sayin’ you had a choice.’
‘I don’t do stuff like that anymore. I told you, I ain’t getting involved.’
‘You’re fucking useless, Webb,’ Crawford yells at him, flicking his cigarette butt through the half-open window. ‘It’s safe as houses, this is. You ain’t going to get no grief, and you ain’t giving me no grief either.’
‘You said that last time. Look what happened then.’
‘Wasn’t my fault. That was Kenny. Nothing to do with me.’
‘Kenny was stitched-up. It was everything to do with you I heard.’
‘Then you heard wrong.’
Crawford cranks up the volume of the stereo to drown out Webb’s noise. It also drowns out the sound the car’s knackered exhaust that makes it sound more like a bike. The windows are rattling with all the noise, vibrating in time with the relentless thumping bass. They stop at a red light. Some old woman looks at Crawford and shakes her head despairingly. He gives her the finger and yells at her to fuck off.
‘Thing is,’ he shouts at Webb as they start moving again, ‘if you don’t do this then Al’s gonna get really fucking mad, and you know what Al’s like when he’s mad. It ain’t gonna be my fault if he comes knocking at your door asking why you let him down . . .’
‘Al’s got better things to do. He ain’t gonna knock at my door.’
‘You’re right about that, mate. He won’t knock, he’ll kick the fucking thing down. You heard about what happened to Marky when he pissed Al off after that fight at The Gallery last week? I seen his brother down the precinct. He said Smith still can’t feed himself. They don’t know if he’s gonna . . . Shit!’
‘What’s up?’ Webb asks, nervous. Crawford’s looking in the rear view. Webb turns around and sees a police car hanging on their back bumper. ‘Just take it easy,’ he says, ‘you ain’t done nothing wrong, have you?’
Crawford’s sweating. ‘This is one of Al’s cars,’ he says.
‘Well Al don’t buy his fucking cars, know what I’m saying?’
Webb looks around again as the blue lights on the roof of the police car start flashing.
‘What you gonna do?’
Crawford looks scared. Big man’s not so brave now.
‘What you gonna do?’ Webb shouts at him again. There are sirens now.
At the last second, Crawford crosses from the inside to the outside lane, squeezing through a gap between two cars moving at different speeds. He turns right, then does a U-turn across the other carriageway, doubling-back on himself and leaving the police car stuck in traffic. All they can do is watch Crawford disappear.
‘Nice one,’ he says under his breath, feeling smug. He puts his foot down again and really starts to move. The streets are busy. He weaves around parked cars and pedestrians and almost knocks a cyclist off his bike. The cyclist shouts something at him but he’s long gone.
‘They’re still following,’ Webb says. He can see the blue lights behind them. They’re not giving up. They’re way back but they’re getting closer, fast. Crawford’s fighting his way through the traffic but it’s moving out of the way for the law and the gap between them is getting smaller by the second. ‘What you gonna do?’ he asks for a third time.
‘Back to Al’s.’
‘Fuck off,’ Webb says, sounding scared. ‘I’m not going to Al’s.’
‘Looks like you are.’
‘He’s gonna be pissed if you turn up there with the law behind you.’
‘I’ll lose them.’
‘You won’t. Fuck off, Crawford. Let me out!’
‘What, you want me to pull over and drop you off? Prick.’
‘Yes! Fucking let me out.’
‘With the fucking police right behind me?’
‘Fuck off!’ he says again.
The police car is close behind, blue lights filling their mirrors. Crawford’s trying not to panic. He can’t think straight. Does he head back to Al’s or keep going into town and try losing them? Does he just dump the car and run? There’s another gap in the traffic. He swerves left and takes a fork in the road and drives up and over a fly-over which leads right into the heart of the city . . .
. . . and the backed-up, rush-hour grind.
‘You fucking idiot,’ yells Webb. ‘You’ll never get away from them now. Traffic’s too heavy. They’re gonna have your bollocks, mate . . .’
‘Our bollocks, mate,’ he says as they begin their descent. Down through a short tunnel, under a busy interchange, then back out into daylight. They hit the centre of town and the snarling queues. Halfway down Temple Street and the already crawling traffic has slowed to a stop. Crawford slams on his brakes, over-revving the engine and nudging forward as he looks for a way through.
He gets out of the car and starts to run along the pavement, crashing into people. Everyone else seems to be walking the other way and he has to fight his way through the tide. Crawford’s goes to follow him but stops. There’s a sudden pain in his throat. A sharp, searing pain like someone’s slicing him with a knife. He starts to cough. He can’t breathe . . . and now the police officer hammering on his window isn’t his biggest problem. He’s choking now. He can taste blood in his mouth . . .
The policeman turns around and looks back at his colleague who’s just fallen out of the patrol car. He’s lying in the middle of the road, writhing around in agony. A couple of passer-bys start to move towards him but before they can do anything they’re both suddenly grabbing at their own throats, feeling intense, inexplicable pain. Both police officers are down now. The first has rolled into the gutter, his body convulsing, gripped by oxygen-starved spasms.
Webb keeps running until the people around him start dropping to the ground. He slows down but keeps moving, weaving through the ever-increasing carnage, side-stepping the bodies as they fall, not knowing what else to do. He looks back over his shoulder and sees that everyone else is down. Crawford’s not moving and neither are the police. Neither is anyone else. He’s the only one still standing.
Webb stops running and his bottom lip starts to tremble like a kid that’s just been shouted at by the hardest teacher in school. All around him people are dead or dying. Cars are crashing. The world is falling apart, and none of it makes any sense.
He smells food and his belly starts to rumble. He’s standing next to a burger bar. Everyone’s dead inside and the food in the kitchen is starting to burn. He’s fucking terrified but his mouth is watering and he needs a drink. Maybe it’ll help calm his nerves, he thinks. Maybe it’ll help him think straight. He goes into the burger bar, picks up a tray and helps himself to everything he can find behind the counter that’s cooked. He steps over dead and dying staff as he grabs a load of burgers, fries and drinks. He leaves the restaurant, shaking with nerves but still trying to look cool as a fucking cucumber, then walks back to Crawford’s car, looking up at the buildings on either side of the street so he doesn’t have to look down at the bodies. He puts the tray of food on the passenger seat then shoves Crawford’s body out and gets behind the wheel. He can’t drive but it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t know where he’d go if he could. He shuts the doors and locks them then winds up the windows and turns the music up so fucking loud it hurts. For now, the food and the noise stop him thinking about anything else.
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