“Fucking hell, look at the state of that cunt.”
Colin swivelled in his bucket seat to see what Brian was pointing at. Stiggy lurched between the tables in the Woolworths café, heading in the direction of the toilets. His ripped Discharge T-shirt clung to his chest, his baggy green camouflage trousers were caked in mud. Water dripped from his uncombed mass of hair.
“All right, Stiggy?” Colin called out.
Stiggy looked in their direction, nodded, then veered toward their table. He took up a seat next to Brian, who wrinkled his nose at the strong chemical solvent odour on Stiggy’s breath.
“All right, Col. Giz a drink, I’m fucking freezing.” Without waiting for a reply, Stiggy reached out for Colin’s tea mug and cupped his hands around it. Colin saw his knuckles were bruised and scuffed. Stiggy lifted the mug to his mouth and breathed into it a few times before he took a drink.
“What happened to your hands?” Colin asked.
Stiggy put the mug down and stretched out his hands, palms down, on the table. He looked puzzled for a few seconds, then grinned and nodded. “Oh yeah, I forgot. Me and Mike found a skinhead on the way home last night and did the cunt. Battered him fucking senseless. You should’ve heard him beg, it were funny as fuck.”
“I wish I’d been there to see it,” Colin said. “What did he look like?”
“Like a fucking mess after we’d finished with him.”
“No, I mean before. Was he short?” Colin held out a hand. “About this high?”
Stiggy shrugged. “Dunno, can’t remember. Does it matter?”
“You’ll need to ask Mike about it then, I were out of me fucking head last night.” Stiggy ran his fingers through his wet hair, then wiped them on the front of his T-shirt.
“Is it raining out?” Brian asked.
Stiggy shook his head. “No, why?”
“You’re all wet.”
“Yeah well, I fell in the river, didn’t I?”
Brian laughed. “What, glued up again?”
Stiggy shook his head again. “Nah, were I fuck.”
“Come off it, I can smell it from here,” Colin said.
“Well, yeah, I were a bit,” Stiggy said. He looked down at the table, then looked back up at Colin. “But I weren’t tripping or nothing, so I knew what I were doing.”
Colin caught Brian’s eye and grinned at him. “So how did you end up falling in the river then?”
“Well, there were this bloke, and …”
“What, and he pushed you in the river?” Colin tried to keep a straight face, but it wasn’t easy when he saw Brian’s expression.
Stiggy shook his head vigorously, sending water spraying in all directions. “Nah, he had this big sack and he chucked it in the river, I don’t think he saw me at all.”
“So how did you end up in the river then?” Brian asked.
Stiggy looked at Brian blankly for a few seconds before replying. “Well I thought it might be some cats, didn’t I?”
“Some cats?” Colin asked.
“Yeah. It were all lumpy, like.”
“Why would someone put cats in a sack and throw it in the river?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Brian said, shaking his head. “There’s some really cruel people about.”
Colin shrugged. “Well yeah, but you’d hear them wouldn’t you? The cats, I mean. They’d make a right fucking noise.”
“Not if they were dead,” Stiggy said.
“Well if they were dead it wouldn’t really matter if they got chucked in the river would it?” Brian said. “Anyway, that still doesn’t explain how you fell in.”
“I were trying to get them out with a stick.”
Colin leaned forward over the table. “What, the dead cats?” He grinned at Brian.
“Yeah.” Stiggy nodded. “Then I went and leaned over too far, didn’t I?”
“You daft cunt,” Brian said. “What did you want with a sack full of dead cats anyway?”
“I didn’t say they were dead cats, I said I thought they might have been cats. Could have been anything really.”
“So what was in the sack then?” Colin asked.
“I don’t know. I fell in the river didn’t I?”
“Didn’t you have a look while you were in there?”
“I never thought of that. I just wanted to get out of the water, it were fucking freezing.”
Brian shook his head and sighed. “For fuck’s sake.”
Stiggy leaned on the table and rose to his feet, then shuffled himself out of the bucket seat. “Yeah well, I’m off to the bog. You two waiting here?”
Colin nodded. After Stiggy left Brian burst out laughing. “That guy’s a fucking head case,” he said.
Colin smiled and shook his head. “Nah, Stiggy’s okay when you get to know him. And if anything kicks off at the Cockney Upstarts gig he’ll be a good bloke to have on our side.”
Brian grunted. “He’s off his fucking head on glue most of the time. All that bollocks about bags of cats in the river and throwing pigs’ heads at people?”
“That’s just the glue talking, he’s pretty sound when he’s not on it. And he’s a right vicious cunt in a fight, you heard what he said he did to that skinhead last night.”
Brian frowned. “You think there might be some bother at the gig?”
Colin shrugged. “Dunno, maybe. They do have a big skinhead following. So the more punks who go along the better, really.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Brian took out his cigarettes and lit one. He blew smoke rings across the table at Colin. “He’s taking his time in the bogs, what do you reckon he’s doing in there?”
“Knowing him, probably getting glued up.”
“What, in Woolworths? He’ll get us chucked out.”
Colin smiled. “Well there’s only one way to find out.”
* * *
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.