A short walk from the tat and tatties of Notting Hill Market, the house is a labourer in a family of lawyers. Its garden is lost to the wilds and no light passes through the high bay windows. On the driveway, an old, gold Volvo sinks to its wishbones before a steel door crowned by oxidised thoroughbred and cradled in Buddleia sired by the giants of Ladbrooke Grove. More scout hut than statement, it squats, almost in protest, between pristine, stucco-fronted town houses. It is not owned by glowing numbers many miles away; it is owned by Jack, and Jack has a map.
Duffor is frying insects with the remains of a digital watch when he gets a text from Munton saying he’s just seen old Jack wheeled backwards into an ambulance.
“We should get round there,” he says, popping a wasp in his mouth, “they reckon he’s worth millions.”
“Millions,” scoffs Thanton, “last time I saw him, he was up the butcher’s begging for beef skirt and marrow.”
“I know different,” says Duffor, “heard he could read the hooves like a song sheet and when the bookies heard him whistling, they knew they were fucked.”
“But the man resembles a totter’s Sneg,” says Thanton, taking a drag on a canister of whipped cream.
“They say he never spends a penny. Cursed, I suppose. Winning like that, he just can’t bear to lose.”
“Maybe we should get round there, then.”
“Maybe we should,” says Duffor, standing and spitting out two charred wings.
Jack returns home, places fish fingers in an empty freezer and turns on the TV. Today he will watch reruns of Tommy in ‘no pasta; I’m plastered’, then Tommy in ‘either the bus goes, or I do’. He no longer laughs, but remembers how, as a boy, he’d roared at Tommy’s routines; punctuating each of his silly jokes with the biggest, wettest raspberry. And how his mother scowled, and the more she scowled, the more he roared. And then later, how he cried as she read his obituary aloud; her eyes glowing as she described, with words and hands, how a freak storm slammed his Cessna into the icy peak of a Mont Lachat. Sometimes Jack thinks of her and how he’d spent her funeral in the pub. He wishes he’d had the sense to realise he was living in the past and ,of course, Tommy always reminds him; he holds up pictures of her, dressed in ballet shoes and tutu, or at the pub in a fascinator his father would have hated. Then Tommy stops and leers, and Jack tries to leave, but nothing moves.
When they find him, Jack’s body is stiff as wood, but his head, sustained by some strange inertia, still moves slowly backwards and forwards.
Jack in a box, he thinks as they heave him into the ambulance.
“This scare’s topped with gold. I can feel it,” says Duffor.
“We’re long overdue a decent scare. But the house looks derelict.”
“Perfect place to hide your hoards, then,” says Duffor.
Thanton checks up the street, and Duffor pushes open the wooden gate. They beat a path to rear of the house, and, taking a putty knife from his sock, Duffor jimmies open a window.
They drop down into the kitchen and freeze, listening. Once certain the house is empty, they move on.
“Smells of dead fox and gravy,” says Thanton.
“That’s the stink of old man’s tears,” says Duffor, creeping into the lounge.
Thanton climbs the stairs and enters the bedroom. The room is empty except for a bare mattress and a mahogany Davenport. He lifts the bed and finds nothing. Holding out little hope, he searches the desk and inside finds a tattered map of Highgate Cemetery. Lifting it to the light, he sees a faint, dotted line, leading along pathways, past reformers and deformers, to a grave marked with a cross.
“What do you make of this?” says Thanton, entering the lounge.
“No idea,” says Duffor, “but what do you make of this?”
He lifts back the corner of a rug to reveal line after line of fifty-pound notes.
“Bullseye!” says Thanton, and, placing the map carefully in his pocket, he falls to his knees and starts to grab them up.
Both men become lost in the rhythms of this illicit harvest until Thanton is dragged from dreams of what feasts might follow by a sudden sound.
“Did you turn the TV on?” he says.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Duffor and they both turn. On screen, a man wearing a Stingy Brim stands and smokes as a boy digs at the roots of a yew tree. A distorted voice rattles out from the set’s speakers.
Jack pushes boards apart and finds a place to hide. Jack feels it on his face and lets it crawl inside.
“Turn it off, for fuck’s sake, will ya,” snarls Thanton.
Duffor grabs the remote and jabs it toward the set.
Jack wakes when darkness and silence are entwined. Jack rides his bike to the cemetery each night.
“It’s not working; the batteries must be dead.”
Thanton follows the power cord and rips the plug from the wall. The screen blazes with light.
Jack peels the fields apart and bags ol’ Tommy’s bones. Jack’s always best at doing just as he is told.
The screen switches to Live at the Palladium: in the wings, a man in a Stingy Brim watches as Tommy struts the stage followed by a young woman in a tutu and ballet shoes. As Tommy turns, he sees him and trips, taking the woman with him. They tumble sideways and the audience rocks with laughter.
“This is brilliant!” says Thanton.
“Gives me the funnies,” says Duffor, pointing to his belly.
They forget the money and sit down.
“Lots to do,” says Duffor.
“Lots to do,” replies Thanton, smiling, “but I think we’ve earned a break.”
“Wasp?” Asks Duffor, fishing in his pocket.
Thanton doesn’t answer. He settles back in the chair, his eyes fixed ahead, arms falling loose at his sides.
GJ HART currently lives and works in Brixton, London, and is published or upcoming in The Harpoon Review, 99 Pine Street, The Jellyfish Review, Foliate Oak, The Legendary, The Eunoia Review, Scrutiny Journal, Yellow Mama, Near To The Knuckle, Spelk Fiction, Schlock Magazine (UK), Horror Within Magazine, Three Minute Plastic, Literally Stories, Fiction on the Web, Shirley lit mag, The Unbroken Journal, The Pygmy Giant and others.