I hesitated before I answered my mobile, it was my sister again.
‘Tomorrow… perhaps’ I said curtly.
‘Andrew, you need to come now. John and I don’t care if we never see you again, but Mum would forgive you everything if you walked through that door now.’
I didn’t go the next day. I don’t like hospitals, my sister is better at that sort of thing and John has always been the reliable one. In the pub that evening no one asked how my mother was; no one there knew I had a mother.
Somehow conversation veered from sport and women to the end of the world.
‘It’s tomorrow… perhaps’ said Sean. ‘6pm according to this American bloke. I don’t know why you’re laughing Andrew. It’s not going to be the end of everything, it’s the Day of Judgement; the righteous will be taken to heaven and the wicked left in torment till the world really does end.’
‘How much have you had to drink?’
Ben had reached the maudlin state. ‘Sean’s right, I read it in the paper, not tomorrow perhaps, but soon, all the signs are there. Look at the news; every day a giant earthquake, flood, fire or volcano, we’re not even surprised any more.’
‘Not in England, the world’s not going to end here. If there was a day of judgement we’re all sinners, you two are no angels. Come on I’ll get the next round.’
They knew I’d done some bad things in my time; all my family, friends, if you could call them that, my colleagues, acquaintances and my enemies. They all thought they knew what sort of person I was, but each of them knew only a part of my life. Only I knew all the crimes and sins committed and people I’d hurt. That was the good thing about being an atheist; I was accountable only to myself. If the end of the world did come it would be by the careless hand of man and in the meantime I was going to enjoy myself. When Sean and Ben went home to their long suffering wives, both of whom had sought solace in my arms, I went to my club; the club I owned in everything but name. I needed to check if the new pole dancer was settling in.
The next morning I did my laundry, at the bank, then strolled out into the sunshine. I contemplated visiting the hospital, but first I needed to pop back to the club to finish some paperwork while it was quiet.
My mobile rang, it was my brother.
‘I’m on my way, give me half an hour.’
‘Andrew, it’s too late.’ His coldness sent a chill even to my stony heart. ‘If you have any grain of decency left come and collect the letter mother left you.’
Before I could reply, a shot rang out. I looked up shocked; it was broad daylight and no one I knew. A man was standing over a woman lying in a pool of blood, then he noticed me, he fired a wavering shot to warn me away. An eerie silence had descended; everyone else had melted into doorways or down the subway steps; except for a young woman who had tripped or dived for cover onto the pavement, now paralysed with fear.
I’m no hero, if the man actually knew how to aim a gun I would be the next victim. A few paces and I could dive down the steps into my club; the only obstacle was the woman. The muscles I used for strong arm tactics came in handy for rescuing a fallen woman. I locked and barred the door behind us and whisked her into my office. She was too frightened to speak, but I could feel her heart thumping. Through my shirt I could also feel her warm breasts pressed against my chest, soft, not a hint of silicone. Perhaps there would be a chance of grateful sex later, but suddenly any carnal thoughts left me, I felt cold inside. I only looked the gunman in the eyes for a second, but what I saw in those eyes terrified me; he wasn’t mad, nor was he drugged up. Anyone who saw his expression would know that we are all accountable for what we do.
The woman spoke. ‘I don’t know how to thank you; it’s not just me you’ve helped, I was widowed recently, it would be unbearable for the children if they lost me as well.’
Now she’d started talking she couldn’t stop. ‘Are we trapped in here? I need to pick the children up from school. Do you think we were caught on CCTV or someone’s mobile, my mother will be frantic if she sees me on the news, I’d rather no one knew this has happened…’
I put on my best vulnerable woman approach and hugged her gently.
‘Shsh, it’s okay, I’m CID.’ Lying came naturally to me. ‘We did a raid on this place, I know another way out. I’ll put a report in, say you left without giving your name.’
Outside I found a cab for her and gave the driver cash. Then, I don’t know why, I also wrote down my ‘safe’ mobile number. She was sensible enough not to give me her number.
There are two types of women I like; the hard ones who play by the same rules as me and the vulnerable ones who I can play with. But I knew I would treat this woman with respect, if I ever saw her again, a novel feeling for me.
I went to the hospital and met my brother in the corridor; he handed me the letter, I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing, turned on my heel and walked out. At home I put the letter on the table, I would open it tomorrow, perhaps. I watched the news; the gunman had surrendered, too scared to kill himself. My phone rang, it was her.
‘I didn’t thank you properly, or tell you my name, Beth. This has really shaken me up, I can’t talk to anyone; just say no if you don’t want to, but it would be good to meet for a coffee while the kids are at school tomorrow.’
What will tomorrow bring? Find out next Friday.