There was Callum, then the two men chasing us through the city streets, then the last night, starving in the city.
But first, there was the house party. Some friend of some guy, maybe. We’d portioned the afternoon into unmarked pills and silver bladders of alcohol, crunching up corners and leaking tiny waterfalls into our mouths, and when the streetlights came on we wandered, searching for women and laughter and people to listen to our stories. For women mostly. Then we came into this room full of familiar strangers and I got talking to a blonde girl with crooked incisors like fangs and she was smiling and tilting her head down and looking up at me then Callum came over, fell against my arm. I ignored him, kept talking to the blonde and Callum punched me in the ribs, probably harder than he’d meant, had he been in control of himself.
‘What the fuck, man?’ I said.
‘Dude, have a look at this place.’ It was an old inner city house, long corridor leading from the front door, staircase up to the second level. There were people sitting on the stairs, squeezing themselves to the sides to let people past. The lights were bleeding down the walls, screaming in my ears and Callum shoved me again.
‘Look at them.’ He said. People were talking in charades, communicating over the music. ‘We can take everything.’ I noticed money in a bowl on the bench. Mobile phones. I needed the money. I was living in my car, parking in quiet suburban streets and contorting my body across the back seat. And I wasn’t eating every day. I needed the money.
I blinked myself sober to keep a look out and Callum went on ahead and we moved through room by room, taking money and jewelry and phones. Callum started picking pockets, sitting next to people on couches and snatching across. None of them knew a thing. He stood at the top of the staircase while I went through the bedrooms, pulling back underwear and pushing aside books and getting whatever there was and our pockets were bulging and people were starting to ask if anyone had seen their phones and it was time for us to leave.
As we got down the front steps and into the leafy shadows swaying across the concrete path two guys came out from inside, ran to us.
‘Hey, stop.’ One of them yelled and we froze. I clenched my fist. ‘Yeah, this guy.’ The same one spoke again, pointing to my face.
‘You’ve been stealing shit, haven’t you?’ The other one said.
‘You fucking cunt, I know you.’ The man shook his head. ‘You’re stealing shit from your friends now as well?’ Which wasn’t true, I didn’t know any of these people any more than I’ve seen that guy before. But now I was tensing – I always overestimated my strength when I’d been drinking, then wilted when reality flooded back.
‘What did you say to me?’ I stepped forward.
‘We fucking know.’ The other man said. He was bigger, with a bald head that shined in the street light. His arms were sculpted in thick lines of muscle, made my testicles retract. My jaw ached in anticipation.
‘We heard what you did to your girl.’ The other one said and my heart shriveled inside my chest. Then Callum bolted, took off across the front garden and jumped a fence and gone. Then I scattered after him.
The guys weren’t giving up, gave chase through the darkness. Callum accelerated out onto the middle of the street and I looked back and I could see the two guys disappearing then re-appearing beneath each streetlight and we got onto a main road and the guys were yelling stop and that we were thieves. Callum switched down a side street, through a car wash, then jumped another fence. This was something he’d done before.
The guys kept up the chase as we ran along the street then they faded, further back, yelling, till we couldn’t hear them anymore. Callum turned into a block of Commission flats and jumped the gate and ran up into a stairwell, dashed up to the third level and we stopped. I could feel sweat crawling along my skin, my veins throbbing. I couldn’t get air into my lungs, kept sucking in breaths and Callum was up at the window, looking down on the street. The two guys weren’t there, must’ve given up. Callum turned and leaned his back up against the glass and squeaked down to the floor.
‘Fuck me.’ He puffed, sweat shining across his forehead. ‘Fuckers.’ He arched up to look back down at the street. ‘Well we better think about going into hiding, hey?’
I didn’t respond, still bent over, trying to take in air. A woman came past us in the stairwell, held her handbag to her chest as she went.
‘That was Danny Foye’s brother.’ Callum told me. ‘They’re gonna’ find us’. I didn’t know who Danny Foye was. I didn’t care. I looked out and saw the lights of a helicopter flashing against the distant night, up above the outlines of the buildings. Hours later I’d be hiding, watching on as they kicked Callum into unconsciousness. Hours after that, I’d be drifting along the freeway with no destination in mind, leaving forever the city and it’s memories. This was the last night.
‘Fuck it, hey?’ Callum stood up, dug into his pockets. He pulled out a handful of change, held it up to the light to see what he had. ‘Let’s go get fucked up.’
We crept along the backstreets and slunk into the shadows and we made it to a set of shops, buzzing in the night. We dragged armfuls out shining cans from the bottle shop then moved on to the 7 Eleven. Callum bought cigarettes and a packet of Malt O’Milk biscuits which he ripped open before he’d paid for them.
‘King of biscuits.’ He said, the crumbs rolling off his lips. I grabbed two pies and ate them quick and Callum looked at me like what the fuck?
As we walked out he dropped what was left of the change into my hand. Smiled. His eyes shifted down from my face.
We staggered along the middle of the roads and Callum was drinking and reading out other peoples’ text messages from the stolen phones and a car came by and I got off the road quick but Callum stayed, shuffled to the side. The car blared its horn and Callum turned to face the headlights. He held up his packet of biscuits, pointed to it. Then a phone was ringing. (Callum had switched all the stolen phones to silent and some had already been remote deleted either way). Callum pushed down into his pocket, pulled out his phone. It was one of the girls from the party. Callum was talking, saying all this was bullshit and a mix-up and he told them where we were and I pulled the phone away from him, hung it up.
‘You fucking idiot, you just told them where we are.’
‘Calm down, that was Sarah, she doesn’t know shit.’ I looked around for somewhere to hide and Callum kept at his biscuits, sat down onto a park bench outside a church, all lit up in the night.
‘We have to get out of here.’ I told him.
‘Relax, it’s fine.’ I ran over and hid just inside the church fence, down behind a bush and Callum stayed, his back to me, telling me what a pussy I was, asking if I was going to stay there all night, telling me I must have such a little dick.
The girls turned up after about twenty minutes and they got out and came over and they were talking to Callum and the blonde was with them and I came out from behind the bushes, straightened up my pants, pretended like I’d been pissing.
Callum told them how someone was stealing shit at the party and we saw the dude and we told the guys but they thought we were bullshitting and they thought it was us and Callum told the girls how we’d emptied our pockets and we had nothing but the fucking guys, they still didn’t believe us and they swung a punch then Callum hit one of them back and then we just bailed. Callum was talking about Danny Foye, saying how someone needed to tell him it wasn’t us and the blonde was there, right up by me. She smiled.
‘So you guys are okay?’ She asked. I nodded. She tilted her head down, looked up to me. ‘So we didn’t get to finish our conversation.’ And behind her head, way down the street, I saw a car turning in, headlights drifting towards us.
‘You told them where we are.’ I said. I looked to her, spoke through my teeth. ‘You told them.’
‘Told who?’ I wanted to slap her face, like in the movies.
‘Callum.’ I yelled. ‘They’re coming.’ Callum looked up at the car.
‘That’s not them.’ Callum said.
‘It’s fucking them. She told them we were here.’ The car slowed as it passed us, the passenger way down in his seat, looking out. And Callum put his hand on my shoulder.
‘Hey calm down, man.’
‘We’ve gotta’ go find them.’
‘We have to go sort this out. I don’t want this hanging over my head.’ I told him. ‘Let’s just go have it out with them, right now.’
Callum looked at my face. He leaned down to get a better angle on my eyes.
‘Alright.’ He nodded, keeping eye contact. Blue eyes, bright, even in the darkness. He smiled.