The Standalones

Chapter Forty-Three

Ken Preston

11 July 2024

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

The following morning, back at Mac’s Cafe with the others, Chloe tucked into a full English breakfast. After the shock of seeing all the money back in their possession, they had talked well into what remained of the night about what they should do next.

Chris, as always, had been of the opinion that they take some of the money and use it to pay for the repairs to Max Switchblade, get some much needed food and drink, and to pay for the use of the recording studio.

Scarlett, as always, had agreed with him.

“I mean, come on guys, it’s like it’s meant to be,” she said to Chloe and Matt. “No matter what we do or where we go, this bag of cash just keeps on coming back to us.”

Chloe had said nothing. She was reminded of what Scarlett had said earlier in the evening. That bag of money just can’t seem to stay in one place for long, can it? I swear it must have legs or something, and just runs away when it feels like it.

Even so, taking that holdall full of cash back was a bad idea. How many times could she keep repeating to them, But it’s not our money?

They just weren’t listening.

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Scarlett could see from Chloe’s silence she wasn’t happy, and turned her attention full on to Matt. “What do you think? There’s so much cash in there, we’ll just be using the tiniest amount, like a drop in the ocean, right?”

Matt stirred. “I don’t know.”

“Aww, come on Matt, what’s not to know?” Chris yelled.

And so it had been decided, they would use a little of the money, a drop in the ocean as Scarlett put it, to pay for the repairs and get a decent breakfast. Then, any money they made on the gig tonight they could use to pay back into the bag of cash.

Chloe wasn’t happy, and she could see that Matt had been pressured into it by the others, but here they were. And Chloe had to admit, it was a great feeling eating this delicious breakfast.

“Alright then Chris,” Scarlett said, “remind us where our gig is tonight, and please tell me there isn’t going to be a lion there, or a crowd of metal heads and bikers. I’d like us to finish a full set if we can.”

“This gig is going to be great,” Chris replied as he mopped up the remains of a fried egg with his toast. “We’re playing at a music festival in Brockwell Park.”

“That’s in Brixton, right?” Scarlett said.

Chris nodded. “It’s a two-day festival and tonight is the second one. We’re the first band on.”

“And you’re sure this isn’t going to end up in a riot like the other night?” Matt said.

Chris munched on his toast. “Trust me, Matt. When have I ever let you down?”

“No comment!” Chloe, Matt and Scarlett said.

Chloe finished off her breakfast and sat back, filled with a glow of satisfaction. “The only problem we have now is, where are we going to rehearse?”

Matt nodded. “We need to be tight tonight, especially as we’re meeting those record executives soon. We have to be at the top of our game.”

“I don’t see what we can do,” Scarlett said. “Max is far too small and squished for us to rehearse in.”

“We’ll think of something,” Chris replied, tucking into his bacon and sausages.

Chloe stood up. “I’m going to get a breath of fresh air. Meet you all outside in five minutes?”

Matt stood up, too. “I’ll come with you.”

“Ooh, kissy kissy.” Chris puckered his lips.

“Grow up,” Matt said.

Chris just grinned as he piled egg and bacon onto his fork and shovelled it into his mouth.

Outside the cafe, the cool breeze felt good on Chloe’s face. Matt slipped his hand inside hers and they walked down the road together in silence.

“I still don’t like it,” Chloe said eventually.

“No, neither do I,” Matt replied. “Once we get paid at this festival gig tonight, I say we replace the money we took and then take the bag of cash to the nearest police station.”

“Maybe,” Chloe said.

“What’s your hesitation?”

“It seems to me that there are some very bad people after this money, and I’m not talking about Danny Lamb and his mate Fred.”

“No, they’re more like Laurel and Hardy than a pair of gangsters.”

“And if we take the cash to the police, we’re going to get asked where we got it, and get drawn into this big investigation and we might even get noticed by the bad people behind all this.”

Chloe felt Matt squeeze her hand in reassurance.

“Don’t worry, I’ll look after you,” he said. “Nobody’s getting past me.”

Chloe dipped her head and looked up at Matt from beneath her fringe. “Like last night, my hero.” She giggled.

Matt stopped walking. “What’s so funny?”

“You and Danny Lamb rolling around on the pub floor in a puddle of beer, that’s what.”

“Oh, really? I was just trying to protect you.”

“I know, and it was sweet.” Chloe tilted her head back and gazed deep into Matt’s eyes. “I don’t know if you noticed, but I don’t need protecting.”

Matt’s eyes widened. “Oh yeah, that’s right! Those were some serious kung fu moves you showed last night.”

Chloe giggled. “It’s not kung fu, it’s karate. Kung fu is Chinese, and karate is Japanese. My father taught me.”

“Is he good?”

“He’s a Kyoshi, which means ‘Teacher of teachers’,” Chloe said. “He’s also a Seventh Dan.”

“Wow, not sure what that all means, to be honest, but it sounds impressive. What about you? I bet you’re a black belt or something, aren’t you?”

Chloe just smiled. “Maybe. Anyway, we were talking about the money, remember?”

“You’re changing the subject.”

“I say we replace the money we borrowed and then dump the bag outside the nearest police station. That way we are rid of it, but we don’t have to get involved in a long, drawn-out investigation and end up with our name in the papers and a target on our back. Besides, it’s not like we can help the police out, we have no idea who this money really belongs to or where it came from.”

“Didn’t you say it belongs to Frankie Henderson?”

“Well, that’s what Ratzo said, but we don’t know that for sure, do we? Besides, I think we’re better off not knowing.”

“I suppose you’re right, we can suggest it to the others in a minute.”

“What about right now?”

Matt pulled Chloe closer. “Oh, I don’t know. I think we can wait a little bit longer, can’t we? I mean, what’s the rush?”

Chloe wrapped her arms around Matt’s waist. “Really? What were you thinking of doing in the meantime?”

“This,” Matt said, and kissed Chloe.

Chloe kissed him back.

After all, Matt was right. What was the rush?