1. On how being the gold dust royally sucks arse

My brother Roy has trouble with women. The latest one, this dainty little Tiffy Lee character, is scheduled to die on Monday. He tells me this over a crappy pub meal in this little dive by the canal. He tells me this, and he looks at me, begging.

I choke on my pie a bit, cough up an ugly scraggle of cartilage and stare at it.

"I mean…she's really neat, Seymour," he says, changing the subject to something softer. Luring me in with a friendly smile and a jerk of his cigar, like I haven't noticed how red his eyes are – how he hasn't smoked in three years, but here he is now. "Don't you think?"

Tiffy's on stage now, singing wisps and twanging strings. The golden tumble of her hair swings in and out of dusty lines of light as dopy moths bash against her polka-dot stockings. She hypnotises us, hypnotises me. I don't even like girls that way, and I feel caught forever. Like she could drive a knife through my ribs right now, and I'd be cool with it. Because, fuck, Tiffy Lee's someone you need. She's got this sparkle in her eye, and soon as you see it, you know she's life. And in this run-down shithole, with its damp smell of mildew infection, life's dandy.

I shrug and fork up the last of my greasy pie, squirming as I swallow the tepid mess of it. Gristly, grey-brown meat drowns itself in my throat. Philomena, my Siamese, would turn her nose up at this stuff. Well. Her food's better.

"Seymour…" Roy prods.

I cast another look at Tiffy Lee. "So…she's got a hit on her? Someone wants her dead?"

Roy fondles his cigar. "Heard it when I was spying on the Red Knives gang. Before I met her. You hear someone wants to off a beautiful woman, you have to look into it. So I did."

Tiffy Lee lights a cigarette, drumming on her guitar with one hand. Her bracelets jangle down her wrists, she exhales 'O's.

I draw sad faces in my filthy gravy. "Well…shit, Roy." And she will be the fifth person I know to get assassinated this year. Gangs've been busy, of late. Damn bloody scary. "Why?"

"I don't know." He smiles sadly, brown eyes wet. "It doesn't matter."

"It doesn't matter?"

"It doesn't matter."

Roy looks serene through the sadness, and damn, I don't understand him. Should by now, though – should by now – because Roy's constantly getting himself into these damn japes. The guy's a private detective, and apparently specialises in criminal espionage. Roy hears things. Bad things. But instead of hushing up and getting on with his job like any normal person would, Roy goes and gets himself distracted. And Roy meets troublesome women, and Roy falls for troublesome women, and Roy becomes obsessed with saving troublesome women. Last girl was a babe named Honey – real name, I kid you not. Obviously, she was a stripper, and obviously, my brother gave her access to his savings account to help her 'escape' her abusive boss. So off Honey ran into the sunset, never to be heard from again. Meanwhile, said boss turned out to be a lovely old lady called Gwen, who ticked Roy off about befriending 'harlots', and now pops over once a week for tea and biscuits.

I don't know much about much, but I know when someone wants someone else dead, they want it for a reason. And given Roy's taste in women, Tiffy Lee's a fucking serial killer.

I groan.

"Tiffy's different," he says stiffly, sipping his beer. And his hooded brown eyes tell me that he believes this absolutely. "She could be the girl I marry, Sey. I'm falling in love with her."

My brother 'falls in love' at least three times a year. It's very annoying.

"Right…"

He frowns. "See, Sey – ha, see Sey – see… I wonder if…"

"You want something," I say blankly. I should have known when he paid for dinner.

Roy smiles, gets out a little black book, and flicks through it. "As you offered so nicely, my kindly hombre… The assassin's name is Fisher. His front is a mechanic's shop round by the Woodbury estate. Just down the road from your place, actually!"

His smile turns a little mad. Oh God.

"I have the address somewhere…" Roy goes on, leaning forward in his chair, elbows on the table. That smile is big and shiny now, like someone's gone and had his cock gold-plated, in a nice way. There are boys in Brixton who get that done, I think. Roy told me about it once.

"So…"

"So I've been round there hundreds of times, but the odd dick won't see me. Soon as I come close, some gentry cove bastard is approaching me and being all…fucking threatening, I'll leave it at that. Fisher must recognise me from my private dick work. Maybe my public dick work, too. I got arrested once for seeing this lady in the park round Woodbury – tits like fucking mangoes, Sey, and that tight little pussy…"

My brother the idiot winks, and his face is chirpy for just a second. When it falls, though, the tragic hero sighs something deep and seemingly endless. Then, he puffs on the end of his cigar and runs a hand through his sandy hair.

"I really fucking need your help, Sey," he mutters.

I pick up my stale pie crust and nibble it like a little mouse.

"All you need to do is go down there and ask Fisher how much he's being paid to kill Tiffy. Then I just need to work out some way to pay him more not to, right? Simple bribery!"

I raise my eyebrows. "Didn't that girl Honey steal –"

He raises his hand – sore subject – and looks over at Tiffy with his eyes warm and gooey. "I'll find a way."

I swallow hard dead pastry, and feel a little bit like hiding. I admire Roy's blind and bloody belief, but he'll get killed for it. Or I'll get killed for it. I mean, who the hell goes off to make friendly conversation with a contract killer? Big scary men, I tell myself. Big scary men with big scary fists and big scary wallets. I look like Mary's Little Lamb, got lost on a trip to school. I eat cat food and coal and pieces of chalk. I've only ever had one boyfriend, who cheated on me regularly, then dumped me for his dentist. I haven't had sex for seven months, two weeks and three days. I'm pathetic. Too pathetic. And even Roy knows it.

But I still can't tell him no. Because my eyes hover over to Tiffy again – her with her guitar and her cigarette. She shoots our table a shy little smile, and I feel like shit. Like the worst kind of runny shit, scraped steaming from the pavement. I look down at my soft hands, then look up at Roy. Roy looks scary in comparison to me, and he looks like a big blonde Labrador retriever. I'm sort of awkward. I sort of linger. Plus I'm dirty blonde, and dirty blondes are nearly always sort of mushy and almost never dirty; I'll tell you that for free.

"There's no one better?" I ask.

He shakes his head. "He knows everyone I know, and won't talk to them either. You, though, you're the unknown quantity. You're the gold dust."

I don't think I like being 'the gold dust' very much.

"But it's a big ask," says Roy. "I understand." He claps me on the back, the act heavy with love, despite my obvious ineptitude. "Don't feel like you have to do anything."

And we both know right now that I am going to cave, like I have since we were little, when I covered for his smoking, his drinking, and his masturbating over the women in Mama's underwear catalogues. I was smacked blue when Mama found me with her actual porn – the stuff with big hard cocks in it – but I'm sure Roy would have covered for me, had I been a little less obvious. And Mama's in the dirt now, isn't she? The cancer got her three years back, so now it's just Roy and me. More than ever, we should look out for each other.

I bite my lip. "Uh…Where is this mechanic's place again?"


Next time: Seymour meets a green-eyed criminal.

Yeah. New story! This is mainly written for fun, so it'll probably have buckets of smut and killing in it. Lemme know what you think about dear Seymour! Love and cookies to anyone who reads/reviews/likes love and cookies.