Remi lit a cigarette and moved to the window. Below, on the opposite side of the street, an old man in a sheepskin coat was emerging from the Tesco Metro.
Remi’s phone buzzed. As he reached into his pocket he glanced at Steve. Steve made a strangled sound through his gag. He was in his underpants, tied to a chair, nose bloody.
Remi cupped his hand behind his ear.
“Eh? What’s that? Can’t hear you mate.”
Steve’s eyes were huge and wet.
Remi opened the message. It was the code word. He was glad, he’d had enough.
Outside the old man stopped by a bin and took something from his pocket, a scratch card. Remi watched him take a coin and work at the silver, revealing the numbers, tight with anticipation. Remi couldn’t stand it, watching someone do a scratch card. There was something awful about it. The dream, the momentary pleasure in the possibility that life might improve. He hated it, the lack of dignity, the false hope. There was nothing more depressing. For a moment the man was motionless, checking, double checking. Remi could almost see the last grains of delusion running out, the inevitable realisation as his shoulders slumped. The man tossed the card on the floor and shuffled away, breath white in the cold air. Remi noticed he was wearing slippers. Loser. Buying disappointment. Why did he bother? Surely he knew it was nearly all over? Remi stubbed his cigarette on the sill and sighed.
Funny, he thought turning to Steve. That was exactly what he liked to see when he was working. The hope in their eyes. It made it so much more… worthwhile.
He looked at the message again.
Jackpot. He looked into Steve’s pleading eyes and smiled. Steve wet himself.