The Standalones

Chapter Three

Ken Preston

31 May 2024

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

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“What’s this, Ratzo?” Frankie Henderson said, holding up a hairbrush. “You planning on growing your hair back, are you?”

Ratzo yanked the holdall fully open and stared incredulously at the pile of clothing. “But, but, where’s the cash gone?”

Frankie Henderson let the hairbrush fall to the floor with a clatter. “That’s exactly what we’d like to know, isn’t it, boys?”

The two men, twins by the look of them, nodded in unison. “Yes, Frankie.” They spoke in unison, too.

Ratzo wiped a hand across his mouth. “It was here, Frankie, I swear it was. I packed it all up myself this morning.”

Frankie shook a cigarette out of his pack of Benson & Hedges and placed it in his mouth. He took his time finding a match and striking it. Once he had the cigarette lit, he took a deep drag and blew the smoke in Ratzo’s direction.

“Well, it ain’t here now, is it?”

Ratzo began dragging the clothes out of the holdall and throwing them across the warehouse floor. The money had to be in here somewhere, it had to be! He yanked out a sheaf of papers and rifled through them. What on earth were these? Song lyrics?

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Frankie snatched the sheets of paper off Ratzo and examined the top one.

“Come on baby, it’s cold in here, let’s get the heat on, and drive out the fear.” Frankie lifted his gaze from the song lyrics and gazed at Ratzo, raising an eyebrow. “You taking up writing poetry or something, Ratzo?” He turned to the twins. “Poetry, lads. Nice, innit?”

“Yes, Frankie,” they said in unison.

“My aunt Edith used to write poetry,” Frankie said, still holding the sheets of paper. “Mind you, that stuff was filthy, you couldn’t read it out in public, not like this. This is nice.”

Ratzo held out his hands. “Frankie, I swear on my mother’s grave, I have no idea what’s going on here.”

Frankie swiped Ratzo across the head with the sheaf of papers. “Don’t you go swearing on your mother’s grave, she was a fine woman, she was.” Frankie looked at the twins. “Wasn’t she, boys?”

“Yes, Frankie,” they both said.

Frankie turned back to Ratzo. “Now, where’s the money, Ratzo?”

“I don’t know, Frankie! I swear on… I mean, I don’t know, honestly, I—” Ratzo scrunched his face up in thought. “Wait, it was that girl at the station. She had the same bag as me, and we collided, got in a right tangle. We must have picked up the wrong bags!”

Frankie smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile. “Well, now we’re getting somewhere, aren’t we?”

Ratzo didn’t like it when Frankie smiled. It usually meant trouble.

“I’ll find her, Frankie! Alright, I’ll find her and I’ll get your money back, all of it, every last penny.”

Frankie grabbed Ratzo’s shirt collar in a massive hand and yanked him up close until they were face to face. The smile had disappeared and been replaced with a snarl. “That’s right, Ratzo, you will. And you’d better do it smartish like, because I want my money, and I want it now.”

Ratzo nodded as enthusiastically as he could manage while being held by the scruff of his shirt collars.

The only problem was, how on earth could he find one girl in a city the size of London? Ratzo had to find her though, and quick, otherwise Frankie would be very disappointed in him.

And if there was one man in this world you most definitely did not want to disappoint, it was Frankie Henderson.