The Standalones

Chapter Twenty-Three

Ken Preston

20 June 2024

Silhouette of a rock band against a spotlight and the words The Standalones

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Chapter Twenty-Three

Hospital. He needed to get to hospital as soon as possible. If he didn’t get some medical attention soon, he was probably going to die. Maybe he should dial 999, demand an ambulance. Paramedics. This was an emergency.

Danny Lamb had never been hungover this badly before.

He rolled over and immediately regretted it. Thin, hot needles pierced his brain. Tiny worms wriggled in the thin, greasy soup that had collected in his stomach. Danny kept his eyes screwed shut. If he opened them, he knew he would be permanently blinded by the harsh morning daylight.

For a brief moment, Danny remembered that Fred had come back with him last night, preferring to sleep on one of Danny Lamb’s tattered, broken settees than go home and face Irene’s wrath.

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Surely Fred was suffering just as much as Danny? Maybe even worse, him being a lot thinner than Danny. A lot smaller.

Nah, forget it. Fred can look after himself.

Danny burped. Wiped a greasy sheen of sweat off his face with the palms of his meaty hands. How many pints of beer had he downed last night? And then had they moved on to vodka and whisky?

Danny groaned as another wave of nausea rolled through his vast stomach and up into his chest and throat. Someone twisted the hot needles in his head, ratcheting the agony up to another level.

Please, someone call an ambulance!

“Danny? Danny, mate, wake up.”

Danny Lamb screwed his eyelids down even tighter. Unless it was a paramedic, he wasn’t getting up for anyone.

“Danny, mate, I know you feel rough, but you’ve got to wake up.”

Was that Fred? What was he doing up and about? Had he called for an ambulance, perhaps?

Danny cracked his eyelids open, just a touch. At first he couldn’t see a thing, the room was a blur. Slowly, he made out Fred’s outline and then his features.

“Danny, we’ve got a pair of visitors.”

“Are they paramedics?” Danny croaked.

“Eh?” Fred scratched his head. His hair was standing on end like the bristles on a brush.

“I’m dying, Fred,” Danny groaned. “Call an ambulance, would you?”

“You should get up, Danny. Like, now, mate.”

“Frankie wants his money back.”

Danny squinted at the voice. He didn’t recognise it. Or them, because he could have sworn there were two people speaking in unison. But that didn’t make any sense, did it?

Opening his eyes a fraction more, Danny Lamb noticed the two figures standing behind Fred. They had to be twins. They both had shaved heads, and were wearing identical grey suits and black bovver boots.

“What money?” Danny croaked.

“That’s what I said.” Fred looked like he could bolt out of the door at any moment.

“Frankie’s money,” said one of the twins.

“He wants it back,” said the other one.

Gritting his teeth together, Danny hauled himself slowly upright. The hot needles piercing his skull were suddenly replaced by a thumping drumbeat. Danny winced. He wasn’t sure which was worse. The worms in his stomach wriggled and squirmed, and then thankfully grew quieter again.

Fred was staring at Danny like he was trying to send him a psychic message. Looked about ready to pop a vein in his forehead.

Danny licked his dry lips with a tongue that seemed to have swollen to twice its normal size while he slept. “I told you, I don’t know anything about Frankie’s money.”

“Ratzo told Frankie that Fred took it,” the first twin said.

“We went to talk to Fred, but he wasn’t there,” said the second twin.

“Irene said he was here,” the first twin continued.

“Frankie wants his money back,” the second twin intoned.

They might have been twins, but Danny suspected they only had one brain cell between them.

He held up a trembling hand. “Listen, lads, I’m not really in the mood for any of this nonsense, alright? Go back to Frankie and tell him he’s got the wrong end of the stick. We ain’t got his money.”

In unison, the twins each produced a black cosh.

Danny shrank back in his bed. “Here now, I don’t want any funny stuff, alright?”

“We’ll be back tonight,” the first twin said.

“Have the money ready for us,” said the second twin.

“Or else,” they both said in unison.

Danny and Fred watched them leave.

When he heard the front door slam closed, Danny turned on Fred. “We’ve got to give them that money when they come back tonight, Fred. I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy getting roughed up by those two.”

Fred wiped a hand across his mouth. “Ah, yeah, the money.”

“What about it?”

Fred looked like he was about to be sick. “It’s gone. The money’s gone.”

“What do you mean, it’s gone? It can’t be gone!”

“Well, it has gone, Danny. It’s good and gone.”

Danny Lamb groaned and lay back down on the bed. Perhaps he should dial 999 after all, because even if he didn’t need to go to hospital right now, he would certainly need emergency medical attention by the time the twins had finished with him.