56. Wah Wah

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Authors note: This chapter contains violence and bad language. Strong stuff, a lot stronger than I normally write! Viewers of a nervous disposition may want to turn away now!

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You made me such a big star
Being there at the right time
Cheaper than a dime

Frank Heath steps up to me. I move my eyes from Joey to him. His expression is hard, blank, but I'm too stunned to move away from him. He slaps me across the face. I put my hand to my cheek, still staring at him.

'You were hysterical, miss,' he says to me, apologetically.

Was I? I think I did scream but I can't...

I look from him to Ronnie as he turns away from me. They don't even seem all that bothered. They're not the least bit panicked or horrified at their actions. They appear annoyed, mildly inconvenienced.

Time has slowed down. Everything seems detached from me, like this is just a scene from a play I'm watching. I'm not part of it. I want to kneel down by Joey. I want to touch him and see if there's anything that can be done, but I can't move. I'm cemented to the spot.

Ronnie prods Joey's body with the toe of his shoe, checking, but he's gone. Joey's gone. I start to cry, covering my mouth with my hands. Ronnie looks at me, his gaze distant and removed. He and Frank speak to each other. I can't take the words in. Frank glances back at me.

'I don't know what it is about you,' Ronnie says. 'You can't seem to do anything without an audience.'

'Bobby wouldn't like it...'

'Like I give a fuck about Bobby fuckin' Teale?'

'And she's Rick's wife. He only needs put the call in to his uncle. It's not the same as with...' He jerks his head towards Joey.

Ronnie shrugs and looks down at Joey where he lies on the ground. Joey stares back at him, eyes glassy and unseeing.

I feel sick. As soon as I've acknowledged it, I know I'm going to throw up. I turn away as retches shake my body violently. I put a hand on the wall to support myself and bend over. Ronnie and Frank just watch me.

'Reg would be upset,' Frank says. 'She's his star turn, ain't she? Reg isn't even all that happy about the kid.'

Ronnie purses his lips. 'Fine, then,' he says with an exasperated sigh. 'Get this sorted,' he steps back towards the house, then turns back to Frank. 'You tell them, tell them all, this is what happens. Dead men don't talk.' He casts a cursory glance at me. 'You remember that too, darlin'.'

Ronnie goes back into the house. Frank crouches down to Joey's body and turns him over. I turn away and heave again, but my stomach is empty.

Frank stands up again. We look at each other. There's spots of blood on his shirt, a smear across his cheek.

He takes a step towards me and I stare at him, too stunned to react. 'What are you still here for? You heard him,' he growls. He continues talking but the words are unintelligible.

I don't move. I don't understand what he's saying. I think he's pointing at me but then I realise, it's not me, it's the back gate he's pointing to. He's telling me to leave, to go. He's talking loudly - shouting - but the words go over my head, unheard.

I suddenly find the use of my limbs again and bolt for the gate. Frank doesn't try to stop me, but I don't pause to close it behind me. I run down the back ginnel, stumbling more than once on the cobblestones, wet and slippery from the rain. I pause at the end and look over my shoulder. No one is following me.

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