The Standalones

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Ken Preston

24 June 2024

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

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Chapter Twenty-Seven

It had to be here somewhere. It had to be!

Fred mopped the sweat off his face with his handkerchief. This was hard, dirty work, but it had to be done. Danny was lying to Fred. It was the only explanation. Last night they had a holdall stuffed full of twenty-pound notes, and today they didn’t. No-one had broken into the house during the night, Fred was sure of that. And Lexi didn’t know anything about it, so she wasn’t going to nick it, was she?

No, Danny had obviously decided to hide the money somewhere and keep it for himself. The traitorous rat. Once Fred had found the cash, he was going to make sure Danny got an earful. They were supposed to be mates!

He had to have done it sometime during the night while Fred slept. Which surprised Fred somewhat, as Danny had been falling over drunk by the time they got back; in fact, they both had. Fred hadn’t exactly gone to sleep when he climbed onto Danny’s sofa, he’d passed out. And he expected Danny had done the same, especially looking at the state of him this morning.

But who else could have stolen that money? Those stupid kids obviously didn’t know where it was.

Fred gripped the wardrobe in Lexi’s bedroom and leant his weight against it. The wardrobe barely budged. Fred mopped more sweat off his face. If only he wasn’t so hungover. Despite having closed the curtains, Fred was still wincing at the muted daylight spilling into the room. Every little noise seemed to be amplified to deafening proportions, and the headache tablets he had taken weren’t even touching the edges of the throbbing agony filling his skull.

And best not to think at all about the rumblings and gurglings inside his stomach.

But he had to get a move on. Lexi had left shortly after the kids had gone, but Fred had no idea how long she was going to be out for.

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Fred pushed at the wardrobe again and this time it shifted on the threadbare carpet. There, Fred had known it all along, Danny had excavated a hiding place in the wall behind the wardrobe. With his slim frame, Fred was just about able to slip into the gap between the wardrobe and the bedroom wall. Fred thrust his arm into the hole and found nothing.

Fred dragged himself out of the gap and mopped at the sweat on his face. His handkerchief was so damp he doubted it was any use now.

“What are you doing?”

Fred squealed with fright and leapt into the air.

Danny stood in the open doorway, regarding the mess that Fred had made.

“Nothing!” Fred exclaimed. “I’m not doing nothing!”

“Then what’s all this mess?” Danny gestured at the room.

“Err, umm…”

Danny’s eyes widened as he suddenly realised what was going on. “You think I’ve nicked the money and hidden it somewhere, don’t you?”

Fred held up his hands. “Now why would I think that, Danny, my lad?”

Danny’s eyes narrowed down to tiny slits as another thought occurred to him. “This is Lexi’s room. You think Lexi nicked the cash, don’t you?”

Fred thought quick. He had two options here; agree with Danny or disagree. Both seemed risky. If he said yes, Danny would wonder why Fred suspected Lexi of stealing their money, and he didn’t have an answer for that because he didn’t suspect Lexi. But if Fred said no, that might cement the idea in Danny’s head that Fred was accusing Danny of nicking the money.

Fortunately, in the silence created by the pause as Fred thought through his options, Danny came to his own conclusion.

“Who does she think she is?” Danny growled. “She prowls around the place like it’s her own, wearing all that stupid makeup, and showing off all those tattoos. I tell you Fred, a girl shouldn’t have tattoos, it’s not right.” He scrunched his face up for a moment, trying to get his thought processes back on track. “What was I saying?”

“The money, mate, she stole our money.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. How dare she steal my money?”

“Our money, Danny,” Fred said.

“Right, right, our money, Fred.”

“Let’s go find her right now, before she spends it.”

Danny suddenly looked very pale. “Later mate, later. I think I just need a lie down for a bit.”