Jules watched apprehensively as Tobe’s chest rose and fell hypnotically in great heaving motions. He was well and truly out for the count, having had no inkling of what was about to happen to him. Time was running out fast though as any minute now Bill would come striding up those stairs, expected to find a dead lady and her cat. Tobe snorted noisily in his uncomfortable slumber, startling Jules and causing him to glare at the obese man in an almighty panic. Fortunately, it abated as quickly as it had started. There was no time for any lapse in concentration now. He had gone too far. He had to come up with a plan of action.
Jules moved steadily to one of the other doors on the landing and turned the long, brass handle. It opened with ease. The light switch was located to his immediate right though he thought it wiser to leave it turned off for now. After his eyes adjusted to the darkened room, he managed to get a clearer view of what was inside. A second bed hugged against the far side of the wall, not too dissimilar to the one the old lady slept in, with a lavish looking wooden wardrobe sitting next to it. A wide open area presented itself directly in front of him, save for a tatty looking stained rug on the ground. Perfect for hiding a large body, thought Jules.
He looked back at Tobe who was still lying unconscious on the floor. Praying that all the hours spent working out at the gym paid off, he bent down and gripped two chubby legs in both hands. His flesh felt like putty to the touch. With extreme caution and controlled lifts, he slid the dead weight, cumbersome slab of meat awkwardly into the room. The door had an annoying tendency to keep on closing on its own as he painstakingly dragged with all the power his forearms could produce. Drops of sweat splashed down onto Tobe’s trousers as one final thrust backwards sent Tobe’s entirety into the room.
Jules crouched down, gasping with exhaustion whilst dabbing at his damp face with the sleeve of his shirt. His gaze never left Tobe. If that didn’t wake him then nothing will, he thought. Now, to more pressing matters. He slinked quietly out of the room and shut the door behind him. Before attending to the problems downstairs, he took one last look into the old lady’s room. She was peering warily over one of the blankets, but shot back under the second she caught sight of movement on the landing. “Don’t worry, lady. Everything will be alright.” he muttered silently before heading back downstairs.
The lounge was just the way it was when he’d left. Rubbish was scattered everywhere. Now with a deeper focus than before, he could recognize more items making up the untidy clutter. Papers, clothing, boxes, utensils, light bulbs, all manner of trash was strewn all over the place. Jules wondered if Bill was right. Had it already been like this when they first arrived? He was too busy fretting about breaking into another person’s house on the same night to bothering paying any attention to it.
The heavy clatter of metal against metal rang out from behind the kitchen area where the backdoor was. A cold blast of breeze pushed its way in from the unseen cavity behind the wall. Whatever those two were up to out there was buying Jules precious time in order to better prepare himself. He spied a rusted looking hearth through the dimly lit space. As he approached, a blackened fire iron caught his attention. Soot and coal covered its heavy leaden coating. Jules reached down and picked it up gently so as not to disturb the surrounding mess. The handle was sticky to the touch, making his face screw up with disgust. He delicately moved away to straighten himself but his arm lightly brushed against a concealed vase on his left. It toppled over before Jules could stretch his hand out in time producing a loud crash, ripping through the stillness of the night.
At that instant, the modest commotion in the garden had stopped and low, muffled voices could be heard. There was no time to think. He bolted to the opposite side of the room next to the kitchen, back pressed firmly against the wall. The sticky substance seemed to fuse with his hand as he gripped the iron piece solidly. A shadow moved on the ground against the ghostly moonlight. Any moment now, one of them would enter through the black space next to him and receive an early Christmas present courtesy of Jules. Soft footsteps seemed to echo in from the kitchen as he brought the long fire iron up over his head, readying for the unavoidable act of violence. They were now the victims and he couldn’t help but let out a nervous smirk as to how the tables had turned. The steps were coming from just behind the corner of the wall, almost upon him now. Adrenaline tore through his body as a sweaty palm clasped onto the black metallic rod.
A dark figure meandered straight past him, not even noticing his presence. From the slender outline alone, he could tell it was Alf. Something had piqued his interest as he stopped in the middle of the room and crouched to the floor. A shrill howl of wind battered a flurry of leaves on a window to his left. This was his chance.
He pounced on him, bringing down the iron bar with full force on top of his head. Alf cried out in agony as he fell to his knees, clutching a gaping wound just above his left ear. A second less brutal blow was enough to send him to the ground, unconscious. A moment of grim satisfaction at the sight of the weasel helplessly draped over a pile of papers was met with a heavy crash behind him. Jules whirled around to see Bill hurtling towards him, probably having glanced down at the fallen body of his appointed deputy in charge.
Jules had quick reflexes, heightened by a fresh injection of adrenaline. He swung the sticky iron bar at Bill’s shoulder, striking into the fleshy area of his arm. He yelped in pain as his gathered momentum drove him thundering into Jules. A closed fist connected with Jules’s jaw as he felt warm blood pool around his clenched teeth. Various items flew into the air as the two men struggled noisily on the carpet to best each other. Bill found an opening and charged in with a deft head-butt. Jules anticipated this and cracked him flush in the mouth with his elbow, sending Bill flying backwards in a stupor. Not a second later, Jules was upon him, throttling a thick vein-filled neck with all the strength he could find.
Though the dark would not allow it, Jules could almost see his face turn a sickly shade of blue as the air was slowly squeezed out of him. A hand suddenly grabbed weakly at his ankle. Jules twisted round to see a long shadow tugging at his foot. He could make out a bobbing motion of his head indicating he was breathing heavily. Alf was seriously hurt. Jules kicked fiercely at the pale hand whilst pressing Bill’s windpipe all at the same time. It would have seemed that Jules was having a fit of some sort, but in actuality he was now fighting for his life.
The lean figure began clawing at his trouser leg, pulling himself horizontally up towards him. However, Alf was still delirious with shock and pain. A short, sharp kick to the facial region from Jules sent him flying back into the darkness. Bill had a little fight left in him as he repeatedly struck Jules in the mid-section, but it was clear to see who had the upper hand. The room spun into a foggy vortex as the oxygen supply to his system began shutting down. Unconsciousness was imminent.
Jules never knew what hit him. A sizable whack to the side of his head sent him reeling to the floor. Bill coughed and spluttered bringing up huge chucks of phlegm and vomit. He held his throat tenderly as air exploded back into his lungs. Jules looked up wearily as a flabby pair of hands grabbed a clump of his hair.
“You sneaky bastard.” a cold voice said, breathing heavily with an odorous stink. “Try that ever again and I’ll crush your skull with my bare hands.” As if in a drunken state, Jules could just make out that was the familiar tone of Tobe. The damn beast must have woken up with all the commotion down here.
A firmer, much stronger set of hands hoisted him off the floor and dragged him to the other side of the room. Bill still felt nauseous and faint on his feet, but was recovering fast. He went to check on Alf whilst Tobe finally put the light on in the room. A shaded lamp burst into life, illuminating the horror within. Jules had torn viciously into Alf’s scalp as blood dripped profusely from the wound. Bill turned back to Jules, eyes burning with maddening rage.
“You’re so dead, man. You better start making your peace with God coz you’re about to meet him any minute now.” Bill signalled toward Tobe who then lumbered stumblingly up to Jules. He looked down at him with utter contempt. “I thought we were friends, man.” Even at this late hour in their relationship, he still had time to play the friendship card. “Now what you gonna do, huh? Can’t sucker attack me now, can you?”
All of a sudden, Jules felt a moist, gluey substance on his hands. He looked over, exhausted and lost. All the aggression and energy from before had all but vanished. A pale green secretion clung to the ends of his fingertips. The fire iron, he thought. As he achingly turned his neck back, Bill was standing in front of him, panting like a rabid dog. In his right hand was the rod, two piercing metal points jutting out at it's end.
“Game over, Jules. Your ass is mine now.”
Bill’s face fell. A look of bewilderment that quickly transformed into full-on hysteria. Tobe frantically paced to the hallway, a look of unmitigated despair plastered onto his face. Jules, in a flux of disorientation, took a few moments to figure out what was going on. Several seconds later, the penny dropped. A faint siren blared in the background growing louder with each passing moment. He scanned the room again in a dream-like haze. His ex-team members had both fled and all he could do was sit there, staring at Alf’s bleeding cranium. He smiled weakly, dribbling a string of brown liquid down the side of his chin. His plan had worked out after all and not a second too soon.
A policeman lifted him delicately to his feet and escorted him out of the front door. Three squad cars lined the large compound that now looked very different under the lighter shade of a breaking dawn. Blue and red lights flashed brightly atop all the cars as Jules was led down the narrow path. A dark red hue decorated the sky casting a glorious vision of beauty. Jules could not have wished to be greeted by a prettier sight at that precise moment.
The door opened and he sat down in the backseat. As the officer was about to head back into the house, Jules called his attention.
“Officer, can you tell me what happened to the other guys?”
“Were they your friends?” the policeman asked curiously.
“Ex-friends more like. Turned out they were just a bunch of assholes looking for a good time, that’s all.” Jules looked dolefully down at the gravel below him.
The officer studied him, trying to figure out what he was thinking, trying to get some quick answers to last night’s rumblings. “Well, we’ll have plenty of time to talk down at the station. We caught them trying to run off toward the old mill. They didn’t get very far though. One of your other friends is hurt quite badly on the floor in there. We’ve called an ambulance which should arrive shortly.”
“It was just a scuffle that turned into a…”
The officer held up a stiff hand authoritatively. “As I said, at the station…”
“One more thing, sir. Please tell me the lady is OK. I mean, she ain’t hurt or anything, right?” he asked with the innocence of a small child.
He stood up and nodded his head. “Mrs. Carson, yes. We all know her very well around here. She’s been bed ridden in that old house for years now. A group of carers come round daily to tend to her needs, but she's just about coping I’d say. She was scared out of her wits up there. I don’t know what you boys did to her, but she isn’t even letting anyone talk to her right now.
Jules broke out into a wide smile, smug with how the night had turned out. Had he not had the foresight to ring emergency services after dragging Tobe into that upstairs room, who knows how differently things may have panned out.
At that instant, another officer strode down the path and hastened toward the squad car. He stared at Jules with a look of concern on his face. “The old woman is refusing to give a statement, young man." he said in an official sounding voice. "She said she’ll only talk to the boy in the white t-shirt...."