The stars seemed to be moving oddly. Some of them flew by quickly while others stayed still. One or two were circling around each other. Some of them were quite big and then quite small and some trembled and some wobbled. There were orange ones and purple ones and green ones and he thought that was odd too. There were smells: mothballs; petrol; blood.

He opened his eyes and saw a scuffed and scruffy wheel arch that was once white. It was now various shades of finger-printed grey. His face was on the floor of a vehicle close up against the metal of the wheel arch. It was so close that he could see little else apart from a dirty brown cloth or blanket that his head was laying on. He didn’t know what he was doing there. His mouth tasted bad. He tried to open it but something had been stuck across it and it pulled his skin when he tried to speak. He lifted his head and the stars moved even more oddly, dancing like flies in evening summer sunlight. He felt sick.

He tried to get up but he couldn’t move his arms. They were behind him. He felt something tight around his wrists that stopped him from trying to lift himself up off the floor. He tried using his legs but they’d been tied at the ankles too. His jaw hurt badly. He began to feel panic and to breathe heavily through his nose. He rolled onto his side and saw a man with hair spread out like a halo all around his head. The man leaned forward and punched him in the mouth. He punched him harder than he’d ever been hit in his life.

When he woke, the stars came back again and moved around even faster. He felt dizzy and even sicker. The hairy man leaned forward.

“Wanker,” he said in a whisper. “Listen to me, wanker. Every time you move I’m going to hit you. Do you understand? Every time you make a sound I’m going to hit you. OK? Do you understand me, wanker?”

He nodded and the man hit him again, on the side of his head, as hard as the last time.

“You nodded,” said the hairy man. “I told you I’d hit you if you moved.”

The man’s voice seemed to echo, as if it came down a tube or a drainpipe.

He lay on the floor of the van, his head bursting. He was trying to keep down the bile rising at the base of his throat, trying to stay still and to keep quiet. He closed his eyes and tried to work out how he’d got into this mess.


Get the full story in Steel Works.

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