Four

Franklin got into his car, an ’80s model VW Citi Golf, rusted on the doors from age and exposure in the sea air. Although it wasn’t yet 11 am, the bar section of Eldon’s strip club would be busy. That’s where his team hung out between gigs.

Upon entering the club, he walked towards the counter where JJ, as usual, was manning the bar counter. As expected, Errol and Roscoe weren’t there. But Franklin felt a sense of dread, as though the few regulars were expecting him but quietly hoping he wouldn’t come.

‘So, Franklin, what can I get you?’ JJ asked, looking up from where he was standing behind the counter busy shining a beer glass.

‘I think that you know what I want, JJ.’

‘What will that be?’

‘Don’t act like I’m stupid. I’m looking for Errol, Roscoe and Buti,’ he said.

JJ looked up, with a fearful look in his eyes.

‘No idea, sorry.’

Franklin grabbed the skinny JJ by his shirt and easily lifted him over the counter to his side.

‘Stop,’ JJ said, breathlessly. ‘There’s a rumour that Buti was killed when the three of them went on an ATM job. Buti planted the dynamite but was blown up when he couldn’t get away in time. Errol and Roscoe are around, nobody knows where, they don’t want to tell or face you.’

Franklin felt the blood draining from his face and started sliding down the side of the counter. JJ grabbed him under the shoulders and eased him to the floor. He stood and poured a glass of water from the jug on the counter, bent down and handed it to Franklin who took a sip.

After a while, Franklin’s eyes started to come back into focus. He felt a migraine coming up.

He slowly got back on his feet, supported by the bar counter and JJ. He hadn’t eaten for a while, the meth pipe sufficient nourishment. He took a deep breath.

‘Give me a Coke,’ he said.

JJ jumped over the counter to his normal, safe position, opened a can, and placed it and a bowl of peanuts in front of Franklin.

‘You need to eat something.’

Franklin swallowed half of the cold drink and took a handful of peanuts. He felt the light-headedness disappearing, but the migraine was getting stronger.

‘Why did Errol allow Buti to handle the dynamite?’ he said.

JJ wiped the counter with a dishrag like a person with OCD.

‘Speak up!’

‘Errol and Roscoe didn’t want to go on the ATM job, you not around and such …’ JJ’s voice trailed off.

‘And?’

‘Apparently they phoned Eldon and he told them you will all pay if they didn’t make a plan. He said you fucked up one too many times. Despite their complaints that Buti is not experienced and he’s only the getaway driver, Eldon said something about Buti protecting his family’s honour. I’m sorry, man.’

Franklin drained the rest of the Coke, turned around, and stumbled in the direction of the exit.

He slowly got into his car. He knew JJ was right about Buti being killed. It’s all my fault. He looked up and saw a familiar looking, gold-coloured BMW M3 pulling up in front of the strip club. The driver got out. He looked like a blown-up Lego action figure, everything square and big. He hurried across to open the passenger door.

Eldon got out. He wore a white Armani jacket with a grey shirt collar showing over the lapels. He looked down and shined his black pointed shoes on the back of his white pants and entered his club.

When JJ saw Eldon, he dropped his gaze and started wiping the bar counter.

‘So, JJ, what’s up?’ Eldon said.

‘Nothing.’

Eldon turned and took in the dailies. They were staring at him like he was the president who just stepped into the place.

‘Franklin,’ the closest sitting barfly said. ‘Where is he?’ JJ shrugged.

‘Just missed him.’

Eldon pivoted and slapped JJ on his cheek with his open hand. His head whip-lashed backwards.

‘He knows there’s a warrant out for him from me. It’s his fault the ATM bombing was a fuck-up and now the police are asking questions and I have fuckall to show for it.’

Eldon regarded JJ, who was now using his rag to wipe the blood from his nose.

‘And now Buti is fucked as well. I had a special fondness for the boy.’

Eldon habitually licked his lips and removed a tube of lip balm from his jacket pocket.

By that time Franklin had slipped back into the bar, looking for his car keys that had fallen out of his pocket when he slid down the counter. He overheard Eldon’s last sentence.

Unpremeditated, he stormed towards Eldon and tackled him like a rugby prop. They flew over the counter, flattening JJ in the process. Franklin landed a punch on Eldon’s face before he was pulled off Eldon by his driver-cum-bodyguard-cum-Lego Man.

Eldon slowly got up and spat some blood. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his Armani jacket and stared at the stain.

‘You fucked up my jacket.’

Lego Man grabbed Franklin from behind in a bear hug and, with ease, lifted him off his feet. The air rushed from Franklin’s lungs and his eyes felt like they would pop. He felt and smelled the warm and pungent breath of his attacker on his neck.

Franklin was out of shape after his recent binges, and realised he had to get out of this tight spot quickly, otherwise he would be squeezed out like a tube of toothpaste.

Lego Man looked at Eldon who said, ‘Throw him like you did in your WWF days.’

Lego Man grinned but was breathing deeply, not as fit and in shape as he was in his wrestling days. He plunked Franklin down and released his arms to get a better grip of his torso to lift and fling the smaller man. But now Franklin’s arms were free.

Franklin forcibly pushed his hips backwards, hitting the big man in his crotch. He gasped but still kept his grip on Franklin’s sides. Franklin lifted his legs off the floor and immediately transferred his weight forward. Lego Man, still on his feet, was now unbalanced from being pulled to this forward position. Now upside-down but using his momentum, Franklin forced his weight forward and placed his hands on the floor.

The big man was still holding onto Franklin’s sides, but effectively supporting Franklin to indirectly help him execute his next move. Holding his push-up position, Franklin let go of his left hand and, keeping only his right hand on the floor, used the free hand to grasp Lego Man’s right heel. Using forward momentum, he ducked his head and rolled forward, like a ball, pivoting his full weight while pulling with both his hands against the attacker’s heel. The movement caused the big man to slip and fall on his back.

Franklin, still holding onto the heel, dropped on top of Lego Man’s upper leg with his full weight, bent the big man’s knee the wrong way, and turned it with all his remaining strength.

There was a sound like a dry twig breaking as Lego Man’s knee snapped. Franklin jumped up and finished the knee off by stamping on it twice.

‘Another fucked knee, join the club,’ he said.

Franklin ran, leaving his car on the street.

 

Later that evening, JJ got a call on his cell. It was Franklin. ‘Eldon isn’t here,’ JJ whispered. ‘They’re looking for you.’

‘Good,’ Franklin said. ‘Get everybody out and close the club early.’

 

The blast that shook the club in the early hours of the following morning was powerful, but not as forceful as the one from the botched ATM attack.

Errol and Roscoe saw the explosion from a few hundred metres away.

‘Stop drooling and let’s get outta here,’ Errol said.