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This month, Malik makes a promise to a dear friend….
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Season 2, Episode 4
As Justin pulled into Moonlake hospital’s carpark, he seemed on alert, scanning entrances and exits and tapping his thumbs against the steering wheel distractedly. ‘This is me,’ he said with the car still idling.
‘You’re not coming in?’ Malik asked, already half out of the passenger door.
‘Nah, I’ve actually got a deal on later I need to prepare for. I don’t know how everyone else is going with their share, but after today I should be through my split of your last shipment.’
‘Ah, right.’ Malik looked around, suddenly on high alert himself.
‘’Sides,’ Justin continued, ‘Elise needs to see you. I don’t even really know her.’
True enough, Malik thought, and reflected for a moment on how different from the rest of his gang Justin was. An out-of-towner, Justin Burrows had no real childhood connection with Moonlake, Malik, or anyone else in town he knew of. He finished high school somewhere closer to the city, moved in for work, and dropped serendipitously in Malik’s path a couple of years ago when Tim was still just a freshly-minted member himself. At Malik’s gym one night, a few skin-headed troublemakers—probably actual neo-Nazis if Sergeant Matthews was correct—had decided to take advantage of Damien’s temporary absence to make a scene: yelling racist slurs and pushing things over. There were enough of them to have been a real handful at the time, and things probably would have gone much worse for Malik that night had Justin not disengaged himself from the equipment he had been using at the far end of the gym, walked up behind one of the intruders and announced himself by wordlessly slogging him over the back of the head with a small gym weight. Introductions to the gang were made afterwards, and Justin advanced to become Malik’s second-in-command just as gang business was becoming complex enough to warrant one entirely on his merits: a cool temper and a business brain who could fight scrappy when necessary.
‘You do what you gotta. Thanks for the lift, man.’ Malik waved and shut the car door behind him, letting Justin take off, and turned to face the hospital, which in turn seemed to face him in judgement. The particulars aside, Malik knew he had played a large part in Elise’s condition.
Grayson certainly thought so. As Malik walked into Ward 3A, Elise’s cousin remained seated beside the bed, muscular arms folded in front of him, intently following him with his cool blue eyes without acknowledging his presence in any civil way.
Meanwhile, she was beaming a bright smile at him in deliberate defiance of all the hostile testosterone in the room. ‘Malik!’
Malik did his best to ignore Grayson for the moment as he took a seat on the opposite side of Elise’s bed from him. ‘How are you feeling?’
‘Oh, you know me.’ Elise modulated her voice to sound exaggeratedly old and sick and held both thumbs up with a mock-tremor. ‘Amazing all the time.’
Malik chuckled softly, and almost reached out to Elise to brush her face, before remembering her cousin and his ice-box glare. ‘Before I say anything else, I’m…sorry.’ Malik’s eyes briefly flicked up to Grayson. ‘To both of you.’
Keeping his expression otherwise frozen, Grayson’s eyebrows shot skyward. ‘That is a good start. But what are you going to do about it? You know, being a drug pusher?’
Elise began to chide her cousin with a pained expression, but Malik stopped her. ‘I’m actually glad you asked, Grayson. I’m going to stop.’
Malik paused to allow Elise and Grayson to react to his declaration, which they did; the former with wide-eyed confusion, the latter with an incredulous ‘pig’s arse.’
Malik continued, ‘You heard me. Once current supply is spent, no more angel dust from me. I’m also going to find the source of whatever it was you took on Friday night and shut it down with extreme prejudice. That’s why, if you’re up to it, I need you to tell me everything you can remember about that night.’
Elise let out a long breath. ‘Hoooookay. I guess we’re about to find out if I seriously have a PCP addiction, huh.’
‘I’m sorry if it’s too late to avoid some withdrawals, but I can’t keep making the situation worse. And look at it this way: right up until now I never supplied you with more than a milligram at a time, which was still enough, and not even every weekend. I think you might have a prospect of coming off it without too much discomfort from withdrawal.’
Grayson snorted. ‘I get that you’re trying to help now, dude, but that’s not a medically educated opinion. The doctor knows why Elise is in here.’ He trained his glare on Malik again before darkly adding, ‘Says he sees it a lot.’
‘Elise. Please,’ Malik appealed to his uncomfortably squirming friend. ‘Before I put this puffed-up princeling in that hospital bed over there.’
‘Grayse. Let him do his work. You don’t understand how it works here yet, but the police can’t help me.’ Elise shut her eyes and sucked in another deep breath. ‘Here’s what I can remember, but please bear in mind, things are a little hazy on account of what I’d already taken from you starting to kick in—’
‘You weren’t mixing with alcohol, were you?’ Grayson cut in with wide-eyed concern.
‘No. I never have. I was with you, Malik, for the first few hours of the party, until you and Cuz here came to blows over my life choices. You went off after Danni, then your cock came back to join us, with you following a minute later—’
‘Uh, yeah, that’s right. I’d had a weird sorta fight with her—’
‘The sort that causes a spontaneous erection,’ Elise interjected with a giggle.
‘…and then I came back and hooked up with uh…that redhead.’ Malik squinted in an agony of recollection. ‘Cindy?’
‘Courtney.’ Elise supplied flatly, then sighed. ‘I do hope you’re paying more attention when you go off investigating this, man. So far, you’re trailing the O.D. patient one-nil.’
Malik pushed ahead, pointedly ignoring Grayson as he snickered. ‘And this man who supplied you the extra dust, he approached you after I’d left with Courtney, right?’ He turned to Grayson. ‘Where were you?’
‘From memory, probably washing my own blood off my face,’ Grayson responded coolly.
‘Do you remember what he looked like at all?’
Elise deflated against the pillow supporting her back. ‘Hardly anything. Average height. Brown hair. Slightly bulky build, I think? Sorry, I know I’ve just described the appearance of half the town’s young male population. Like I said, already a liiiiittle bit high by this point. One detail has come back to me, though. I remember noticing his ears prick up when we started talking about what’s going on with Taylor.’
‘“We”? Malik asked. ‘Who is “we”?’
‘Me and—’ Elise suddenly brightened as another memory shook loose. ‘Kami! I was talking to Kamran when this guy came over! He might remember him better! Maybe even know something about him!’
‘Nice. I’ll follow that lead,’ Malik promised. He remembered instantly who Kamran was. The Pakistani kid—actually from Pakistan—in the year just below him in high school, who started copping the brunt of the racial abuse from bullies after Malik started fighting back and winning.
‘Nicely done, Cuz!’ Grayson parroted with more enthusiasm. ‘The O.D. patient goes two-nil up!’ he declared, eliciting laughter from two-thirds of the room’s occupants.
Glancing up, Elise beamed again. ‘Danni!’
I should go, Malik thought to himself as he hovered just out of sight of the door to Elise’s room. Give them some privacy. I shouldn’t be around Danni right now anyway. Anyone could be watching—
A bit of Danika’s voice filtered through Malik’s ruminations ‘…can I ask you a personal question?’
Dammit. Now I have to stay.
From their vantage point at an unused picnic spot uptown, Malik’s gang all took in their surroundings in varying degrees of awe and disgust. Over twenty-four hours had passed since his trip to Elise’s hospital room, and a boring, customer-free day at the workshop had filled him with anticipation for this stakeout.
Damien whistled. ‘I seriously had no fuckin’ idea there was so much money in this town.’
Stepping across the main road splitting Moonlake was like crossing a sovereign border into a new country with its own economy. Malik, along with his gang and almost all his friends, lived Southside, with its gym, dodgy shopping centre that was just a row of graffitied roller shutters after dark, and the public school they had all gone to when they felt like it.
Their current view was far removed from such familiar sights: manicured lawns, two-storey houses that looked like they belonged beachside in the Mediterranean somewhere, and the pricey private schools whose alumni included such distinguished charmers as Danika Henderson and Hayden Archer. Even the scale of financial excess was no surprise to Malik as he reflected that it should come as no shock to Damien either—private schoolkids flush with more cash than they know what to do with in a country town. Where does he think most of our drug money ultimately comes from? Hell, the Henderson household even has a butler. Malik could also see the uptown garage that was technically in competition with Ginny’s Auto—one of those franchise outlets owned by a major department store chain or something. They must be doing pretty well out of the whole dartboard scandal right now. Malik had always believed that these places, with their 9000-point safety check or whatever it was, were getting away with the same thing Chris had been doing for his own amusement by dressing it up as company policy.
‘Heads up—got a couple cars I recognise,’ Brian interrupted.
It was on Brian’s intel that Malik’s crew were trespassing in such unfamiliar territory. For a few months running, Brian had noticed some of his old rugby mates—including Paul—heading uptown at about the same time every Thursday but had never thought it worth investigating further. Even as it stood, they had no real evidence linking the old team to anything more than that altercation the previous week, for which they had already been made to pay in blood and bruises, but Malik couldn’t let his suspicions go. Paul, in particular, seemed to turn up everywhere lately. Familiar to Elise, and slightly taller than average with his closely-cropped blonde hair, he was a seriously unlikely candidate to be the one slipping Elise any drugs without being recognised. Someone else on the team, maybe…?
Even Malik recognised Paul’s car—a Subaru sedan in a gaudy red that Malik had dubbed ‘Compensatory Crimson,’ but Brian supplied the names of the other five as they rolled in to one leafy, perfectly landscaped street cut into the side of a small hill, and parked close to one of the biggest houses on it.
‘Snacks?’ Tim asked rhetorically as he dumped what looked like about a hundred dollars’ worth in chips, lollies, and soft drinks onto the picnic table they were gathered near.
‘Uh…Tim? That’s not what we’re here for,’ Justin chided incredulously.
‘Well, what do you want people to see if they happen to pass by? Five guys enjoying a picnic or five guys obviously peeking at a house over a hedgerow? The soy ones are your favourite, right?’
‘…Yes.’ Justin accepted the proffered bag grudgingly.
‘We’d stick out like dog’s balls anyway if anyone actually noticed us,’ Brian pointed out. ‘I probably shouldn’t even be using that sort of language out here.’ He thought for a second. ‘Canine testes.’
‘Still sounds a bit rude for this end o’ town,’ Tim opined.
‘Well, I’ll be,’ Malik almost whispered.
‘You’ll be what?’ Justin asked. ‘Do you know that house?’
‘Fido’s crown jewels,’ Brian tried.
‘Why’s the garage so fucken’ huge?’ Damien piped up, having zeroed in on the house they were looking at. ‘They keepin’ a fucken’ tank in there?’
‘It’s the only house on this street I do know,’ Malik replied. ‘That belongs to Police Chief Fred Wall.’
‘Hey, what are we all looking at? Can I look?’ A voice behind them cut in, causing Malik and his gang to turn around.
‘Ah, bitch sack.’ Brian growled.
Copyright © 2022 L. Starla & J. Wake
Stay tuned for Season 2, Episode 5, coming 11th November 2022.
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