Reggie was sitting at another red light. That last customer had really pissed him off. He hated those people he picked up who told him a destination, waited till he was nearly there, then suddenly said “Actually, I need to meet someone.” Then you’d do a U-turn, only to find out when they arrived that they didn’t have quite enough money for the fare. He would never let that slip. What kind of a taxi driver just says “okay, that’s fine, just go; I’ll make do with being £3.10 short”? It was wasted time. He could have had three fares in that space. So then, he’d had to go and wait at a cashpoint whilst the lady had gotten some money out, and then yelled at him before throwing it through his window and storming off, like somehow this whole palaver was his fault. He couldn’t even find one of the notes; it had fallen down the side of his seat. So now he was fuming, sitting at the traffic lights.
He looked at the driver in the lane next to him. She was smart; blond hair, big earrings. Obviously an office job. His gaze moved back to the light. How long had it been on red? He wanted to get back to the busy streets he usually circled, to make up for that train-wreck of a fare. Just as he was starting to think the light was stuck on red, there was a loud knock on his left window; an angry knock. Reggie wasn’t in the mood for angry. He turned and looked, to see a man with a bald head and thick stubble glaring through the glass. He clicked a button and the door swung open. Another heavy-looking man piled in behind.
“What do you mean, drive?”
“I mean, get us the fuck out of here.”
Reggie really didn’t appreciate this man’s language, or his tone. “Don’t talk like that in my taxi. Where do you want to go? I need a specific destination.”
“Just drive.” He felt a jab of cold, hard steel against the back of his neck. Before he knew it, Reggie put his foot down, the light changing to green. He carried on straight down the road, still conscious of the sharp point against his spine.
“Not too fast, you twat”, came the voice of the bald man. “We don’t wanna draw attention.”
Reggie chanced a glimpse in his rear-view mirror, and saw the face of the bald man staring at him. “Eyes on the road, pal.” Then, in a sudden motion, he turned his head to look out of the rear window. “Shit.”
Reggie could see a black four-by-four flying up the road behind them. A lot faster, and getting bigger all the time.
“Increase your speed, now!”
“But you just told me to-“
“Stop getting smart, and floor it.”
Reggie pressed the accelerator to the floor. Thirty-five. Forty. Fifty. Things were beginning to blur in the corners of his vision. Then, in his rear-view, he saw the receding car turn off down a side street.
“Okay, start to slow it, pal.” Reggie lifted his foot from the pedal and applied the brake lightly. “He’s getting good at this, ain’t he?” The other man, who had remained quiet, grunted in response. “Okay, I want you to take the next left, pal.”
Within a minute, Reggie had come to a stop outside a shabby-looking hotel. There were shady alleyways on either side of the building, and dark figures he could just about make out.
“Okay, thanks for the ride mate. Wait here, we’ll be back in a second.” Baldy and his heavy mate slid out of the car. Baldy stooped by the driver window, and revealed a plastic biro. So that was the ‘knife’ he had been threatened with. Both men laughed, and receded into the shadows.
This was some fucking day. Reggie shook his head to himself. How could a day get this bad? Those guys were openly taking the piss out of him. He wasn’t normally the kind of person that would allow it, but he knew these guys were trouble. There was no point in retaliation, unless he fancied a good kicking. He’d been told to wait. He sensed that even though these men were trouble, they might have some decency. The old-school gangster. Honest business, even if it was illegal. They might pay him still. He took another look down the side-alley. There was a group of three men, one arguing to what looked like a prostitute, holding her firmly round the arm. Such a classy area, he thought to himself.
He could just about make out those two, talking to another guy. Was it a drug deal? He’d like to have them out of his car. He could just drive off. Why wasn’t he driving off? He knew why. These were the kind of men that didn’t forget a face. He began to imagine all the different ways these men might dispose of him if he betrayed them or left them. They might hop into his cab again one day, cut his throat from the back seat, with a real knife this time, put him in the boot and burn the car, or ditch it somewhere.
There was that angry knock again.
Reggie shook himself, and unclicked the lock once more. They had brought their friend with them this time, so Reggie thought he’d try to make a bit more effort.
“Alright guys, got your mate with you? What’s your name?”
“Shut the fuck up” said Baldy, this time slotting into the front passenger seat. He seemed to be the one who did the talking. There was the distinct aroma of marijuana that floated into the cab’s interior. Reggie guessed it was that slim dealer in the back, with the far-out, glazed expression. He looked a right nutter, not a heavy man, but covered in tattoos and piercings. “Drive on, pal. All you need to know is we’re going someplace, not our fucking names. Saying that”, he paused, and turned towards Reggie. “What’s your name?”
Reggie hesitated. Should he make one up? Why would he need to? They weren’t going to use it against him. Or were they?
“Erm, it’s Pete.”
Baldy looked amused. “That hard, was it? To remember your name? Right Pete, drive us over to the dockyards. You know where you’re going, you’re an old-school cabbie, got the knowledge ain’t ya? None of this fancy nat-sav bollocks or whatever the fuck it is.”
“Right. Yeah, the dockyards.” Aside from knowing that Baldy had guessed Pete wasn’t his real name, Reggie began to worry. The dockyards. Yeah, sure, they could be going there to do some business, a drug deal perhaps, or maybe just to meet some fellas for a chat. But there was water at the docks. Easy to dispose of a car, or much more likely, the driver.
Reggie drove on in silence for around five minutes, this time making no rush. He hadn’t been told to speed, plus it gave him a chance to think about the situation, and calm himself a bit. Though driving was the last thing that calmed him usually, better known as he was by his mates back at the cab firm as ‘Mr Rage’.
“So you had any trouble with his men?” Tat-face made Reggie jump, breaking the silence so suddenly.
“Yeah, actually, but nothing serious” Baldy said. “They saw us jump into this cab, and for a while gave chase in that black, fuck-off Vogue. I dunno what happened after that, they seemed to slow down and turn off somewhere. Maybe trying to cut us off, but we stopped to get ‘em off the trail.”
At last Reggie had been given a clue. So these men, according to Baldy, were heading somewhere at the docks, and the men in that black Range Rover were trying to stop them. Not that it made much more difference to Reggie’s situation.
They drove on a little further still in silence, until they were around five minutes away from the docks. This time it was Reggie’s good friend in the front who spoke up.
“So, Pete”, said Baldy, as if preparing him for some news. “I realise that you’re a busy man, and at the end of the day, you got us away from those guys, and you’re kind enough to drop us off.” Like he’d had a choice. “I really appreciate that. We all do, don’t we boys?” The response was amazing. Heavy-bloke grunted, though with slightly more effort, a new personal best in conversation. Tat-face smiled, looking through the ceiling with his unfocused eyes, and uttered a small thanks. Reggie flicked his gaze back on the road. He could sense a ‘but’ coming.
“It’s no problem, I’m happy to help. So am I right in thinking that once I drop you off, I won’t be needed anymore?”
Baldy smirked in the corner of his vision. “Well, see that’s the problem I have. You’ve gotten to know us a bit, got a look at our faces. You know we’re involved in some… let’s say ‘dodgy’ business. I don’t know if I can trust you if I let you go. That means the only other option would be killing you.” He stopped to let it sink in.
Reggie gulped. “Well, I mean, that wouldn’t be necessary guys. I’m a trustworthy person. People tell you a lot of things, as a cabbie, but I haven’t ever passed on anybody’s secrets.” He knew he sounded a bit desperate, but it was the only reason he could think of for being spared.
”Well Pete, this is a bit different. I mean, it is a ‘secret’ if you will, but a big one at that.” He paused again, as Reggie stopped at a red light. He turned to face Baldy. He was smirking, evidently liking to watch Reggie sweat. “But, do you know what? I think I trust you. In fact, I like you quite a bit, Pete. Me and you, we’re not that different, are we?” Reggie failed to see the similarities. “Both working all hours, trying to earn some decent money. We get to know people for a living, though I’m probably a bit more hands on, and, let’s face it, we’ve had quite a bit of banter over all, ain’t we?”
Reggie sensed a glint of hope. “Yeah, we have actually. It’s been quite a pleasure to drive for you all as well.” He couldn’t wait for these guys to get out of his taxi. He didn’t even care he wouldn’t be getting paid; he just wanted to get the hell out of there.
“Right, pull over at the roadside here, pal.” They had stopped in the industrial estate by the dock-side. “So, before we go, you gotta promise me you won’t tell no one about this.” Baldy had gone serious.
“Trust me, mate, no one will find out about this. I’ve forgotten it already.” Reggie forced a smile.
Baldy smirked slightly, and then went back to serious mode. “Good, cause if I find out you’ve been saying things, I’ll find you and fucking kill ya.” Reggie got the picture. “Here you go, mate” said Baldy, rustling round in the inside of his jacket. “For your trouble. We really do appreciate it. Don’t make me regret this.” He threw a bundle of notes into Reggie’s lap, and in a moment, the three were gone.
Reggie couldn’t believe it. There must have been about 500 quid here. He laughed out loud. There was no way he would speak a word about these guys. He drove off and quickly found another fare. Two drunk blokes, wanting to go on to another pub. It was half-two, and they were already paraletic. Still, at least they were harmless.
“The Coach, purleasse”, said one, the other falling into the cab behind him. He assessed their state, one thing on his mind. Puke. Every cab driver did this test.
“Is your mate gonna be alright?”
“His fiyne, mayte. Trusts me, he’ll be alriwt.”
Reggie decided he would be okay, and set off. This was gonna be an easy day from now. He could sense it. Things were looking up.
He didn’t see the Range Rover until it was right in front of him. He had no time to react.
Reggie opened his eyes slowly, and tried to wake up. His neck was killing him. The world looked strange, different shapes and colours everywhere. As far as he could tell, he was slumped over the wheel. Or rather, the wheel was slumped on him. Then he realised the car was upside down. He looked to his right and saw a blurry face, a man crouched on the floor, his head through the smashed windscreen.
“I’m sure this was the cab they got into, it’s got the same number plate”, he shouted out to someone behind him. “It’s just two drunks.” Reggie heard the two blokes behind him, moaning. They must have felt really dizzy, having just summersaulted through the air.
“Ah, I told you to follow the cab, you fucking twat.” Another voice outside the wreckage.
The crouching man pulled his head out of the window, and Reggie wriggled forward to see the Range Rover, with a huge dent, but largely protected by the bull-bar, fly off down the road. He assessed himself. He could feel everything, and miraculously, the two in the back looked okay.
Of course. The day had continued to get worse.
© Copyright 2021 Mitchell Essom. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Humor
Short Story / Mystery and Crime