You Don't Want What I Get | Audio
By Michelle Ann King
Michelle Ann King was born in East London and now lives in Essex. She writes mainly SF, dark fantasy and crime fiction.
Links to her published collections of short stories can be found at http://www.transientcactus.co.uk
The others don't like me. Partly because I'm a girl and partly because I don't like them either, but mostly because I'm treated differently.
When they go up to collect their cut I stay where I am, sitting on the table. Smoking. They don't like that either, some of them. Bunch of tough guys, worried about lung cancer. Crazy. I tell them I need the cigs for anger management purposes, and the boss backs me up. The boss gives me a lot of leeway, especially with my anger management issues. Something else they don't like.
You'd think they'd be pleased, wouldn't you, that I don't take anything out of the pot. Means more for them. But they don't think that way. They wonder what else it is that I'm getting. Wonder if it's something better. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised; paranoia and suspicion are survival tools in our line of work.
Richie's the first one to get into it. I thought he would be. He's young, and impetuous. Insecure, too. It makes him front harder. I don't know if he's got a genuine problem with women or if that's just part of the show. All amounts to the same thing in the end, I guess.
He flicks his fingers at the money, like it's nothing, and plants himself in front of me. Folds his arms to make his biceps pop. I'm tempted to use one to stub out my smoke, but I don't. Escalation isn't classy at my age.
The other guys shuffle. Some want to see it go down, some just want it to go away. Professionalism, or just another age thing? Maybe that doesn't matter either.
'Take your money and go home, boy.' That's Oz, who's been around a long time. Long enough not to ask questions.
Richie's not playing along. He's got a different script in his head, written a different ending.
'Fuck you, old man.'
He carries on looking at me when he says it. Disrespectful. Any regret in Oz's face hardens out. Richie's strong, fast, skilled with a blade. He could have been useful. But he wants more than that. Wants too much, too soon. Sometimes it shakes out that way, with the good ones.
Oz shoots a look at the boss. That's the difference, right there. Oz knows what he wants, but he also knows that isn't what counts.
The boss looks Richie up and down. Kid doesn't even notice. How could you not feel that? But he's all about me. Getting closer, puffing up. He's got a foot and a half on me anyway, and that's without me sitting down. He's not quite big enough to do it on sheer physicality, but he's got the eyes, too. There's a look that sells it, and he's close. Another few kills--more measured, more deliberate--and he'd have it down.
Shame. I hate waste.
But maybe I'm being too quick to judge. Too eager to find Richie wanting. It's possible; I've been wrong before. Sometimes they surprise you.
Oz looks at the boss. The boss nods.
Oz looks at me. Shrugs.
What will be, will be.
I slide off the table. 'Let's go,' I tell Richie, and head out the door.
For a moment I don't think he's going to follow, but he jogs down the hallway after me.
'So you don't like money?' I ask him. 'You don't want to get paid?'
'I don't like getting cut out,' he says. 'There's something you got going on, and I want in.'
'No, you don't,' I say.
I stop, so that he runs into me. His upper chest hits my shoulder.
He spins on the impact but keeps his feet. His eyes widen and his hand goes to his chest before he jerks it back down again.
I wait. If he backs out now, I'll let him. The good ones know how to follow orders but the best ones know how to calculate and adapt. There's no shame in being beaten, only in not realising it.
But Richie's script has too deep a hold. I can see him process, assess and dismiss in almost the same moment. Superiority bounces back into his face and stance like elastic.
So be it, then.
I walk on. He hesitates for a fraction of a second but again follows. We both take the stairs two at a time.
'Where you going, bitch?'
'To get my cut,' I say. 'You want, I'll split with you. Fifty fifty.'
'Hell yeah, I want. But maybe I'll say what the split's going to be.'
I look back at him. 'Maybe.'
We hit the lower floor. When this was a real meat warehouse, it was cold storage. It's not so different now. Just not so cold.
The way Richie's looking around, I can tell he's never been down here. He must have heard the rumours, though. Everyone has.
'What is this?' he says.
I key in the code for the inner door and open it up wide. 'Files and Records.'
He gags, his upper body spasming.
'Whew,' I say. 'Those files sure get ripe in the summer, don't they?'
He hangs back, one hand covering his mouth. A cloud of flies boils out from the back, where the hooks are. Richie swats at them with his free hand. I stick out my tongue and let them land.
'What the fuck?' he says. Or at least, it sounds something like that.
He bends over and retches. I slip behind him and shut the door tight behind us.
'Jesus fuck,' he says, and pulls the knife out of his pocket. A switchblade. A bit dated, but still effective. In the right circumstances.
'You won't need that,' I tell him. 'Most of this is so tender by now it'll slide right off the bone.'
'Jesus fuck,' he says again. 'What the fuck is this?'
'Not that you want to neglect the bones.' I yank an arm off the nearest hook and crunch on it. 'They're an excellent source of calcium. Good for the teeth.'
I show him mine, as proof.
He screams and scrambles backwards, his feet sliding on the floor. His back hits the door and he holds out the switchblade in front of him. His hand is shaking so badly that it's just jittering up and down, but at least he tries. He hasn't pissed himself yet, either. Points. He might still come out the other side of this. I'd like that. He does have potential, after all.
I finish the arm and pull off a nice plump thigh. 'Thing is, Richie, everyone knows when the job's been done and the books are balanced, and the boss doesn't really want to keep any files or records hanging around. He wants them gone. So his needs and my needs intersect quite nicely. We're a good team.'
I step closer to Richie and he drops the knife. 'You wanted to be on my team, didn't you, Richie? You wanted to share?'
He closes his eyes and murmurs something. I think it might be a prayer.
I take a bite out of the leg and chuck the rest into his lap. 'All yours,' I say.