The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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Most people had left the house by six in the morning. Jase was trudging around, tossing empty beer bottles in a black bag. Once the kitchen had been cleared of the mess, he lit a cigarette and stood in the doorway of the living room. Janine was asleep, her head resting on Sam’s lap, his hand placed affectionately on her hair. Madison was at the other end of the sofa, also asleep. She’d pulled the sleeves of her knitted jumper over her hands and curled up into a ball. He stood watching them for a minute before he called her name quietly.

“Madison,” she hummed in reply, “come on, go get in bed.” Gradually, she managed to hoist herself up off the sofa. He then woke Sam and Janine. When they’d all gone, he laid down, finishing his cigarette and eventually drifting off.

“I think we’re going tonight. I’ll ask Jase when he wakes up,” Adam said. The sound of cans being crunched and bottles being carelessly chucked on top of each other disturbed Jase from his slumber. The noise wasn’t helping with his pulsing headache.

“Going where?” he mumbled, removing his arm from over his face. The living room was now awash with white, sombre daylight. Gentle rain tapped on the glass of the window by the table, as if a manicured hand was knocking to get in.

“We know where Mitch is; he hangs around in a pub, The Leather Boot. It’s about half-hour away,” Adam replied. Jase’s head continued to thump, his eyes stinging the second he opened them. He wasn’t in the mood to go straight there.

“You reckon he’ll be there tonight?” Adam sniggered,

“He’ll be there in a few hours I reckon mate, liven up.” Jase was the main negotiator where Ramon’s business was concerned. He carried out most of the dirty work. It allowed him a more significant chunk of money than the others. Undertaking the odd job here and there, such as meeting with people that were tampering with the way things worked, and offering outsiders jobs was something he was accustomed to. No one to worry about so much if they were all on your side. If this Mitch McKinney had any sense about him, he’d jump at the chance to work with them rather than against them.

“Alright, I’ll be ready in a couple of hours.”

Madison rolled over on the bed when Jase walked in. His hair was still soaking wet. Beads of water dripped from his curls onto his bare shoulders and down his back as he rummaged through his wardrobe for a t-shirt.

“My lip hurts,” she said. Jase nodded.

“You probably chewed them a bit last night. Cocaine makes you do that.” He pulled a black t-shirt, deciding if things got heated, blood was less likely to show up on the dark material.

“I don’t think I want to do cocaine ever again,” she mumbled, she was dehydrated. Her body felt as though it had a mild vibration running through it. Jase smiled a little.

“That’s a comedown. You’ll be alright in a few hours,” he assured, pulling the top on and turning to face her.

“Where are you going?” She didn’t really expect an answer. Last night was from drugs and alcohol. That’s the only reason he’d allowed his tongue to loosen. Even if he had admitted why he let her go, Madison had realised he probably shouldn’t have said that... or he had ulterior motives. Either way, he’d exposed his human side.

Not a sensible move in the world they were living in, not in his position.

“Out,” he replied stiffly, now rummaging through the draw beside her head. His eyes flickered to her. “Last night, you don’t repeat those conversations to anyone, understood?” Madison scoffed.

“Who would I even tell? Besides, it’s not like you being halfway friendly with me is a new move in this house, look at Sam with Janine.” Jase pulled out a new packet of cigarettes, putting them in the back pocket of his jeans.

“Watch your mouth, Madison. There are plenty of things going on here you don’t know about.” She took the warning and didn’t bother pressing on anymore. She had already made the observation after seeing Sam and Janine last night, Benny was the one most against the men being pleasant to the girls, not Jase.

It was a front, she decided, he was putting on a front.

People’s thoughts were less filtered when they were intoxicated, not necessarily honest but leaning towards it. From what she could gather, Jase wasn’t necessarily a terrible person. Albeit he did terrible things but he wasn’t as stone-cold as Janine had mentioned, or as he made out to be. At least, not with her. Last night, his true character managed to seep through, just a snippet but it was there and she had picked up on it.

Jase was difficult but not impossible. If he meant what he said about letting her go then he had a softer side and she would continue working on appeasing that. But she needed more information about him. People didn’t just end up working in places like these and they were rarely born like Jase. This wasn’t nature.

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