The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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The shop was empty other than two school boys and an old lady. Jase went over to the medicines, picking up two boxes of paracetamol along with some tampons on the shelf below. Next to those were a display of cookies on offer. For a moment, he hovered, just looking at them.

None of them were gluten-free.

Taking his handful of items over to the till he stood behind the little old lady that was counting change.

“I’m sorry,” the cashier smiled apologetically, “you’re three-pound short.” The lady barely came up to Jase’s chest, she was withered and fragile with quivering hands.

“Oh dear, I left my change purse at home. I’ll put something back,” she replied politely, clearly disheartened. Jase pulled a fiver from his wallet,

“Don’t worry love,” he said, handing it to the cashier. The lady turned around. Her hair was snow white and permed, and her weathered skin creased as she smiled with glee.

“What a charming young man, thank you kindly,” she cooed. Jase returned the smile.

“No problem.” She gathered her bag, shuffling past him.

“Strapping young man. If only I were forty years younger,” she was saying, making her way to the sliding doors. Jase and the cashier exchanged a snigger.

“Thank you for doing that, I hate telling people they’re short but my boss gets funny if I let things slide,” the girl winced, clearly hating having to tell people to put things back. Jase shrugged, placing his items on the counter.

“It’s fine, I’m sure people understand you’re just doing what you’re told.”

“You’d think that,” she scoffed.

“Thanks,” Madison said, pushing herself to sit up and accept the glass of water and two pills Jase was holding out to her. She knocked them back and laid back down.

“I got you these, too.” He placed the box of tampons on the desk, screwing the plastic bag up and putting it in his hoodie pocket. “I’ve got a couple of shots to drop today. I’ll leave the paracetamol here.” He put the foil packet down and left her, finding Sam in the kitchen, smoking and reading the papers.

“She’s still not in here,” Sam said, referring to Madison. It was odd that as far as they’d seen, she hadn’t been put on any missing persons notice boards or the news or anything else.

“I’d rather her not be in there than have her in there,” Jase mumbled, placing the other box of paracetamol in the cupboard. Sam nodded in agreement. “You coming to drop this money off to Ramon and do a couple of deals with me? I have a few ticks to follow through on as well.”

“Might as well, Janine’s still in bed.” Sam folded the paper and put his shoes on. “I think she believes you by the way,” he said as they got in Jase’s car. Jase looked in his rear-view mirror as he reversed off the drive.

“What do you mean?” he asked, reaching over and pulling his seatbelt across his chest.

“About your plan, leading her into a false sense of security,” Sam replied. Jase had considered it himself when she’d said about feeling safe around him but then, he was sure that was the drugs talking.

“What makes you say that?” He indicated, palming the steering wheel as he turned and with his free hand, reached across into the glove compartment. He took his switchblade out and put it in his jacket pocket.

“Janine said that Madison said you aren’t that bad.” Jase looked at Sam from the corner of his eyes and breathed out a small laugh but he didn’t say anything.

They pulled up outside the club and Jase ran in to drop the money they’d accumulated over the week off to Ramon. When he came back, he lit a cigarette, opening his window a few inches.

“Did she say anything else, Madison?” he asked after he’d taken a couple of drags.

“Not from what Janine said but I’d say after how she was towards you last night; Stockholm syndrome is a strong possibility with that one.” Jase hummed, running his thumb across his bottom lip. It was easier not thinking about it. Not thinking about her laughing with him the night before, not to think about her smile as she yapped away, not to picture her asleep after dropping a Xanax and actually feeling some tranquillity because she looked at peace.

But it was all that was going around his head. He couldn’t help himself but to think about it.

“Did you want to do drops or tick first?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Drops, save the fun for after,” Sam replied.

It was getting dark by the time the boys had finished their deliveries. They were at the workplace of their first collection, waiting in the car park out the back.

“How much does he owe?” Sam asked, looking around. There were boxed in by garages. Most of them covered in graffiti, none of it talented, mainly just childish tags.

“Only £60,” Jase replied, standing up straight from leaning on his car when he saw the guy they were waiting for walking out of the back exit of the building. Sam whistled to get his attention and Jase smirked at the familiar discomfort in his face. “You got my money, Chris?” he called.

“Yeah man, of course. I was about to run it round to you actually.” Sam and Jase exchanged a look. It was bullshit and they knew it but neither of them bothered calling him out.

“Looks like we saved you the hassle then,” Sam said as Chris approached. He pulled his wallet, taking out three twenties and handing them to Jase.

“Cheers, take care,” he said, getting back into the car and leaving for their next destination. An encounter that Jase had a feeling wouldn’t go so smoothly.

“Who’s next?” Sam asked, flicking his cigarette butt out of the window.

“Oliver.” Sam grunted in response, knowing all too well where this was going.

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