©Ian Gosling 2011
– 1 –
The door isn’t locked, but he kicks it in anyway. He finds it an
effective and satisfying way of announcing his presence and one that adds a
touch of theatre to the otherwise mundane task of taking people’s money.
The room is in semi-darkness and he
sees only a collage of grey shapes. The pale shadow of a startled man leaps from
the bed. He laughs as the shadow darts across the floor and ducks down behind
the armchair. Narrow rays of yellow light from the street lamps outside are
straying thorough the chinks in the window blind and dancing on the pale
The uninvited visitor stands in the
open doorway; filling the aperture. The startled man, peering from behind the
chair, sees only a dark shape defined by a pale halo of thin yellow light
borrowed from a bare 40 watt bulb down the hallway.
The visitor’s voice booms, and echoes
around the small room, ‘I can see you, Janek. Come here. You really don’t want
me come over there and drag you out.’ As the visitor steps over the threshold,
more light from the hallway invades the room revealing Janek Lekowski’s
nakedness as he crawls out from his hiding place.
The door closes, restoring the
darkness for a moment. The visitor stands with his back against the door and
flicks the light switch. The fluorescent tube flickers into life and then Janek
screws up his eyes against the harsh white light. When he opens them again he
sees the man he knows only as the Taxman.
The Taxman towers over the naked
man. Heavy boots and a full face helmet add a few more inches to his already
significant stature, and the long black drover’s coat, worn over his vintage
leather jacket and jeans, completes the picture; drawn to make scumbags like
this shit themselves, and show proper respect. He raises the visor and gets
straight to the point. ‘It’s Tuesday, Janek and your tax is long overdue.
Where’s my money?’ The thick padding inside the helmet muffles and distorts his
Janek mumbles, ‘I don’t have it,’ as
the Taxman advances.
‘Where’s your wallet?’ he demands.
Janek retreating, bends down by the
foot of the bed, picks up his trousers and takes a black leather wallet from the
hip pocket. He opens it and holds it out towards the man.
The Taxman takes the wallet and looks
inside. ‘Only ninety quid, that doesn’t even cover a day’s interest. Where’s the
‘I told you I don’t have any money.’
Janek is lying – big mistake – his
face is revealing the truth.
The Taxman chooses to ignore the lie.
He puts Janek’s wallet into his own pocket and laughs, ‘I see you’ve got
‘No… only me.’
The Taxman laughs again. ‘Put your
dick away Janek, it’s dripping on the carpet. Now where’s the girl? Or have you
been playing with yourself?
‘There’s no one here,’ says Janek;
The Taxman says nothing. He just
laughs again, amused at the sight of the scrawny Pole – so used to playing the
hard man – scrabbling to pull on a pair of boxers and putting both feet through
the same leg opening.
Leaving Janek to
perform his ridiculous pirouette, he walks across the shabby hotel room to the
bed and pulls back the crumpled duvet.
A young girl is cowering in the
centre of the mattress.
‘So who’s this, then?’ he demands.
‘Leave her out of it,’ Janek shouts.
‘It has nothing to do with her.’
‘It’s got everything to do with her,
and the others. How many girls have you got now? Seven… a eight… more… am I
‘No. You have it wrong. I deal some
drugs sometimes, yes. But…’ Janek postures, open handed, shaking his head. ‘But,
I tell you last week, no girls, not me… someone else maybe with name like Janek.’
‘That’s not the word on the street.
They tell me out there that if you want a young girl you just have to call Janek
Lekowski.’ The Taxman isn’t laughing any more; he uses his voice like a weapon
and lashes Janek with his words. ‘And that’s you, unless you have an identical
piece of low life shit for a bastard twin brother, and a whore of a mother who
was too stupid to think of different names for you. So… no more lies. How many
are there, Janek?’
The Taxman grabs the girl by the arm
and drags her to her feet. She can barely understand a word, but she is getting
enough from the man’s tone to know she should be scared. She doesn’t make a
sound. She knows better than to risk a beating; the penalty for not keeping
quiet is something she has learnt from Janek.
‘Not much of her is there?’ She looks
no more than sixteen – maybe younger. ‘Are they all like this one? Personally I
like a bit more meat on mine.’ He lets go of her arm and she falls to the floor
like a rag doll.
‘What’s her name, Janek?’
‘Kazia,’ Janek mutters.
The Taxman speaks to the girl,
‘Kazia. Don’t be scared. I’m sorry if I hurt you. Now go clean yourself up and
get dressed.’ He motions towards the bathroom door.
She gets up onto her hands and knees
and gathers her clothes from the floor. Then she stands and looks towards Janek,
as if for permission.
He snaps at her, ‘Do as he says. Go!’
‘Right, back to business,’ the Taxman
says nonchalantly, when the girl has gone.
‘You’re a businessman Janek so you’ll
understand the laws of supply and demand. You know how it works. I demand and
you supply. I need more money Janek, so as of now I’m afraid your tax
demand has just gone up. I want to be fair to you, so let’s work it out
together. Just nod if you agree with the numbers; shake your head if you don’t.’
He reaches forward and gives Janek a
little slap on the cheek, and behind the mask he’s smiling to himself as he
says, ‘But, if you know what’s good for you, you won’t shake you head.
‘Ok.’ Janek murmurs uncertainly. The
Taxman’s voice has taken on a tone of indifference, with a subtle and sinister
edge; a combination he finds very unsettling. At least you know where you are
with out and out anger and aggression.
The Taxman continues, ‘So we’ll
assume you’ve got eight girls, shall we?’
Janek nods his head, slowly in
agreement; the real number is eleven.
‘Fine, now we’re getting somewhere.
And after expenses you make… oh, let’s call it five hundred a week from each
Janek nods again, agreeing perhaps a
little too eagerly, with the Taxman’s underestimate.
‘Yes I know, it’s a lot more, and
then there’s the money from the drugs. But you’ve got a big habit to support so
I’ll be generous. But not as generous as I’ve been so far, I’ve reassessed you
and a grand a week isn’t nearly enough.’
‘What do you mean, generous. I’m not
making money like that… So why don’t you… AAGH!’
Janek didn’t see the punch coming. He
doubles up and falls to his knees. Before he can get up a black-leather,
steel-capped, biker-boot kicks him over onto his back and then stamps on his
chest, pinioning him to the carpet.
‘When I want to hear you voice, I’ll
tell you. Smart talk me again and this boot will be inside your fucking skull.
Like I said I’ll be generous. I don’t want you going out of business, but a
little incentive might make you work a bit harder. I won’t even take half. So
let’s call it fifteen hundred a week, for now, and see how it goes.’
‘Fifteen hundred pounds… you’re
fucking joking, I don’t have… AAAGH!’ Janek doesn’t get chance to complete the
lie. The toe of the boot finds a soft spot, just below his ribs.
‘No joke, Janek and you already owe
me for last week…with interest.’
‘Interest? AAAGH!’ The heel of the
boot leaves its mark on the back of Janek’s outstretched hand.
‘Three hundred quid, twenty percent,
a day; so that’s fifteen hundred, plus nine… I make that twenty-four. But you
haven’t got it, so I’ll be back tomorrow. That’ll be another three. And I want
this week’s in advance. So how much is that?’
‘What, I don’t...’ Janek mumbles.
‘What do you mean?’
‘How much do you owe me? And speak up
I can’t hear you.’
Janek mumbles again, ‘I don’t know,’
then shrieks in pain, ‘AAAGH!’ The boot has found his right kidney again.
‘Come on, you might be a stupid
little cunt, but they must have taught you to add up at school. Fifteen, plus
nine, plus three and another fifteen, easy isn’t it.’
‘Ok, ok,’ Janek splutters, ‘four
thousand, and two hundred.’
‘Very good, but I don’t like odd
numbers, so let’s round it up to four a half, and then something for all my
trouble… shall we say another fifteen hundred?’
‘What? AAAGH!’ The boot makes contact
with the side of Janek’s head.
‘Don’t interrupt when I’m talking.
That just cost you a bit more, so now it’s seven grand. Tomorrow night at nine
o’clock, I’ll be at the dog track. Bring the money in a plain envelope. Be there
Janek. Book your usual table in the restaurant. Nine o’clock sharp. If you’re
late it goes up another grand.’
As the Taxman turns away, Janek
starts to gets up. ‘AAAGH!’ He falls back as the boot finds his groin.
‘Stay there!’ snarls the Taxman. ‘You
get up when I say.’
Taxman calls out to the girl. ‘Kazia, come here,’ his voice is commanding, but
The girl appears at the bathroom
door, she is trembling.
‘It’s ok, Kazia,’ his voice softens.
‘You’re coming with me.’
‘What? You take the girl too … AAAGH!’
This time the cry is accompanied by
the crack of breaking bones, as the boot stamps on Janek’s ribcage.
‘Christ Janek,’ the Taxman exclaims
in exasperation. ‘You really are more stupid than you look. Why don’t you just
learn to keep your fucking mouth shut?’
‘AAAAGH!’ The boot is on target
again; this time tearing into flesh.
‘She’s collateral. You want her back
… you know where I’ll be.’
‘AAAGH!’ Janek acknowledges the
receipt of another kick in the face.
The Taxman takes Kazia by the hand
and leads her towards the door.
She pulls back. The man on the floor
has hurt her, many times, but she senses this man could kill her without a
He senses her fear and says, ‘Don’t
worry; I’m not going to hurt you.’ He strokes her cheek to reassure her.
She nods and says, ‘Ok.’ She knows he
isn’t lying. She can’t see his face but he has just let her see into his eyes.
He opens the door, and pushes her out
into the corridor. ‘Wait here, don’t move.’
She does as she’s told; as if she
He goes back into the room and bends
down over Janek’s battered body. She can’t hear what he is saying; only Janek
groaning, ‘Ok, ok.’
doesn’t try to run away; doesn’t dare. Without a word, she follows him to the
end of the landing, and out onto the fire escape.
The metal toe and heel caps of his
boots spark as they clatter down the steel staircase.
The bike is waiting at the bottom of
the stairs, where he left it ten minutes ago. He hands her the spare helmet, and
closes the visor of his.
She still hasn’t seen his face.
Without being told, she climbs on
behind him and, as he presses the starter button, she wraps her arms around his
The big v-twin engine rumbles into
life. The exhausts burble lazily as the taxman weaves through the side streets,
taking a route that he knows has no cameras. He avoids places where the police
are likely to be patrolling, but keeps his speed below the limit, just in case.
He opens it up as soon as he reaches
the Parkway and the bike roars as it accelerates down the slip road. By the time
they join the dual carriageway the bike is doing ninety and still accelerating.
Kazia is hanging on for her life; she’s more scared of this than of Janek.
Mercifully he slows down as the rain
starts to fall.
©Ian Gosling 2011