Thursday, 14 June 2018

Cuttin' Heads by D.A. Watson

Aldo Evans is a desperate man. Fired from his job and deeply in debt, he struggles to balance a broken family life with his passion for music.

Luce Figura is a troubled woman. A rhythmic perfectionist, she is haunted by childhood trauma and scorned by her religiously devout mother.

Ross McArthur is a wiseass. Orphaned as an infant and raised by the state, his interests include game shows, home-grown weed, occasional violence and the bass guitar.

They are Public Alibi. A rock n’ roll band going nowhere fast.

When the sharp-suited, smooth talking producer Gappa Bale offers them a once in a lifetime chance to make their dreams come true, they are caught up in a maelstrom of fame, obsession, music and murder.

Soon, Aldo, Luce and Ross must ask themselves: is it really better to burn out than to fade away?


In this chapter, we meet Ross McArthur, hospital porter by day, bass player with Inverclyde rock trio Public Alibi by night. Here, at his day job, Ross is dealing with a man causing a disturbance in the A&E waiting room, a man who Ross suspects is abusing the young child he came in with.

      He knows the punch is coming. He’d known it the second he looked into the guy’s eyes, and sure enough, Donaldson’s face twists, he leans back slightly and raises his fist.
The punch never comes though. As soon as the prick’s arm’s up, Ross’s left hand clamps into the exposed armpit, his thumb planted firmly into the brachial plexus nerve. In an instant, the expression on Donaldson’s face changes. He makes a strange wheezing noise and immediately collapses to his knees. Crouching and keeping his thumb pressed into the man’s oxter, Ross leans in close. “This is what you call a pressure point, fannybaws,” he says affably. “Now, we’re walking.”
      Quickly stepping behind him, Ross sets his left hand with a fistful of Adidas polyester and his right on the back of the father’s neck, his talented fingers deftly finding the sensitive little hollow just behind and beneath the man’s right ear. He thinks of the bruises on wee Jamie’s neck and presses a little harder, making Donaldson cry out in agony.
      “There we go,” Ross says, “Uppsy daisy.” Despite the man’s size, Ross coaxes him to his feet with a slight twist of the fingers working his greater auricular nerve. Donaldson emits a strangled yelping sound and stands up in a hurry. Unceremoniously frogmarching the big ned towards the waiting room exit, Ross glances back over his shoulder at Duncy Brown. The old veteran is smiling broadly and softly applauding.
      “I’ll just be a minute, Duncy,” he says.
      “Take yer time, son,” Duncy replies. “I’ll look after the wee yin.” He gets up from the wheelchair, spry as a man a quarter his age, and goes to sit beside the scrawny kid, Jamie, who’s now wearing a priceless look of awe on his face as he watches his arsehole of a father dragged about like an empty binbag.
      Outside, Ross propels the other man round the corner to the rear loading area of the hospital. He looks left and right, checking there’s no one around, making sure he’s out of sight of the CCTV, then pushes the larger man against the wall. Donaldson starts to slide down the brick surface. Ross again takes hold of him, keeping him on his feet, this time with his right hand clamped around the man’s windpipe. Donaldson’s eyes widen in alarm as his air’s suddenly cut off. His hands claw ineffectually at Ross’s fingers.
      “Now you listen to me, ya fuckin prick,” Ross says. “You’re gonnae to go back in there, apologise to Linda in reception, then you’re gonnae sit on yer arse and shut the fuck up. Agreed? Nod if you agree.”
      The man nods, his face now turning a definite shade of purple. Spit hangs from his lips as he gasps and croaks for air. Ross takes just a little pressure off. Just enough so the cunt can squeeze a breath in, then brings his face closer, so close their noses are almost touching.
      “And if I ever see that wean in here again with bruises in any place they shouldn’t be, I swear to Christ I’ll find you and I’ll break your legs. I know your name. I know where you live. We clear? Nod if we’re clear.”
      They’re clear.
      When they return to the casualty admission room a few minutes later, Ross finds Duncy Brown sitting next to young Jamie, who’s looking up at the old soldier, enrapt as Duncy entertains him with the story of how during the 1943 invasion of Sicily, armed with only a half empty pistol, a dagger and a few well-aimed rocks, he single-handedly took out a nazi machine gun nest in the foothills of the volcano Mount Etna while there was an eruption going on. Ross had heard the story. Was a belter.
      Ross stands close behind the now contrite father as he mumbles an apology to Linda before sitting down. Quietly. It might be Ross’s imagination, but the kid’s demeanour isn’t quite so whipped anymore as his father slumps down into the plastic seat beside him, a sullen look on his face as he by turns rubs at his armpit, neck and throat.
      “Right, big man,” Duncy says to Jamie. “I best get on. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. What’s our motto?”
      The boy smiles, then says shyly, “Nemo… me… im… impune… lacessit.”
      “Excellent pronunciation,” Duncy says. “And what does it mean?”
      “No one attacks me with impunity,” Jamie says. And Ross definitely reckons there’s a bit less fear about him now. Then again, talking to Duncy Brown could make you feel like that. Duncy’s also looking at Donaldson, that thousand yard stare of his in full effect.
      Ross can’t help but smile a little as he brings Duncy’s wheelchair over and the old boy groans dramatically as he shuffles into it and gets himself seated.
      “Take care, buddy,” Ross says to the kid, “and just holler if you need anything, okay?” He makes a point of flicking his eyes in the father’s direction on that last point. Jamie Donaldson smiles and nods, and Ross tips him a wink before turning away and wheeling Duncy out of the waiting room.
      “Nicely done there, son,” Duncy compliments him as they continue to roll on down the corridor to X-Ray. “You know your stuff.”
      “Just hope the wee man’s alright. You see the marks on his neck?”
      “Aye. Cruel big cunt. Well, whatever you said to him outside, looks like you’ve put the fear of God into him.”
      “Hope so.”
      His blood’s cooled, the anger’s passed, and now Ross McArthur just feels depressed. He knows putting the frighteners on the father was no guarantee of Jamie Donaldson’s long term safety or happiness. At most, he’d probably given the wee guy a reprieve, and maybe, hopefully, a little heart. Likely, though, his dad would chill for a few weeks, maybe as long as a month or even a year, then continue smacking his son about, right up until the day Jamie was big enough to fight back. Ross had once shared a room with a boy who’d been very much like Jamie, and on the day he was big enough to fight back, he’d stabbed his father to death.

Author Bio:

Prizewinning author D.A. Watson spent several years working in bars, restaurants and call centres before going back to university with the half-arsed plan of becoming a music teacher. Halfway through his degree at the University of Glasgow, he discovered he was actually better at writing, and unleashed his debut novel, In the Devil's Name, on an unsuspecting public in the summer of 2012. Plans of a career in education left firmly in the dust, he later gained his masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Stirling.

He has since published two more novels, The Wolves of Langabhat and Cuttin’ Heads, a handful of non-fiction pieces, several short stories including Durty Diana, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016, and the Burns parody Tam O' Shatner, which in 2017 came runner up in the Dunedin Robert Burns Poetry Competition, and was a competition winner at the Falkirk Storytelling Festival.
He lives with his family in Western Scotland.

"The Christoper Brookmyre of horror. Readers will be very very afraid."
- Louise Welsh, bestselling author of the Plague Times trilogy

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