John and Sarah were holding hands. Occasionally Sarah's bracelet, big and plastic, would bounce against John's wrist. He hated this but Sarah had to walk on his left, his choice, and had to wear the bracelet on her right wrist, her choice.
“Thank you” said Sarah.
“Bringing me out today, I know how hard up you have been. Taking me shopping was very sweet of you.”
John smiled and squeezed her hand, but said nothing. The couple continued to walk with the flow of people past shops and cafés. They stopped at a cross roads and waited for the lights to change.
A group of three girls stood talking, two oriental and one asian; much taller than the other two. Her nose was tipped with a smooth point and had a slight inwards curve. It smoothly connected to her eyebrows and forehead in one continuous 'S' curve.
One of the oriental girls caught John's eye, she looked just like a reject doll who's ears had come out of the mould too large. The other, who had her back to the couple, wore a heavy knit jumper and a floral green and white satin scarf. All three girls smiled at each other and talked in turn, they all had tight pony tails with a variety of fringes.
“Down there.” Sarah said, and pointed. There was a wallet lying on the pavement. John pinched his trouser leg at the knee, stooped and picked it up; he didn't let go of Sarah's hand. The wallet's leather was old and worn, lighter at the corners, with a pop fastener. John stood up and held the wallet with both hands. A woman with a pram came up to the lights and waited with them.
“You should hand that into the the police.” said Sarah.
“Where is the police station around here?”
“Do you think we should give it to a shop then?”
A bus pulled away from the traffic lights and turned. A waiting cyclist kicked off at the same time and wasn't seen by the bus driver. The cyclist had to swerve onto the pavement to avoid being knocked off. On the pavement the cyclist missed the pram and ran into the group of girls; one of the oriental girls cried out and they all ended up on the ground.
Sarah and John and the other pedestrians all stood and watched. Sarah was the first to move.
“Come on” she said and pulled John forward. John pushed the wallet into his back pocket and went to the group. Sarah helped the girls up and John checked on the cyclist. No one was hurt and everyone blamed the bus.
“You haven't opened it yet?”
“No, with everything that happened, I just forgot about it.” John took the wallet out of his back pocket and unclipped the popper. They laid out the contents on the kitchen table.
“There is no money in it. Which is dodgy.” Sarah said.
“Why dodgy? There are bank cards.”
“Dodgy because the owner could say there was. If there was some, it would be easier for us to prove it.”
“Sometimes I think you were a criminal in another life.”
“I am, in a parallel universe. And you are gay.”
John laughed and looked at the name on one of the bank cards. “Mr K. R. Lingot. Where do you reckon that he is from?”
“Lingot is a kind of berry in Sweden. I saw a Jar of them in Ikea.”
“Nothing else in here that looks like an address, so I suppose I will drop it in at the bank on Monday.”
They started to repack the wallet, John picking up the bits and pieces and Sarah slotting them back in.
“It's got some kind of button inside. Makes it hard to get the last card in. Weird.” said Sarah. John look it from her and tried it himself. The button wasn't a button at all, John took it out of the card slot. It was a disk of metal with a pale red light on the top. The light faded on and off slowly. John turned this around in his fingers. He fitted the final card back into the wallet and slid the metal device down behind it. He stood up, flipped the wallet shut, snapped the pop fastener closed and left it next to his keys on the side board.
They both sat on the sofa staring at the TV. Sarah flipped through the channels and John made himself a nest in the cushions.
“We got any wine in?” he said.
“Yeah, under the stairs.”
“Why is it there?”
“There was a special offer, so I bought a box of six.”
John got up and wandered out into the hall and rustled about under their coats to find the bottles.
“Are they all the same?”
“Are all the bottles the same?” he said again, louder.
“Yeah, special offer.”
John and Sarah nested together in front of a back to back sitcom special with their bottle of wine as the sun went down.
“Did you hear that?” Sarah said jabbing John in the ribs. She had woken up with her head on his chest. John made a noise like a goat.
The noise came again.
“What is that?” John woke up this time and lifted Sarah's head so he could stretch.
“What is what?” he said. His question was answered when the noise came again. A ringing thump from the kitchen. John stood up and listened.
“Something is banging on the window in the kitchen.”
“That's very specific, how do you know it is that? Go and find out what it is.”
John scratched himself and went out of the room. Sarah sat up and smoothed down her hair. She heard John swear in the kitchen. He then shouted something. Then there was the noise again.
In the kitchen Sarah screamed.
There was a face at the window. The eyes, which had been staring at John flicked up and fixed on Sarah. A large hand slapped hard against the window shaking the glass.
“Who the fuck is that?” Sarah said, her voice more angry than scared.
“How the hell should I know?”
“Fuck off!” Sarah said, raising her voice and gesturing aggressively at the figure.
The hand slapped the window again. Sarah picked up the phone and hovered her thumb over the numbers.
“Get lost or I am calling the police.”
The face at the window disappeared.
John came over and put his arm around her. She was shaking. They both looked at the window.
“Should I call the police anyway? That was too weird.”
“If he comes back we definitely will.” John said and wrapped her into a full hug. “I can feel my heart going like the clappers.”
After about fifteen minutes Sarah and John left the kitchen. Sarah put the phone back in it's cradle on their way into the hall.
“Check the front door's locked sweetie.” She said and hung back by the stairs to watch John do it.
“I am sure I locked it when we came in.” John laid his hand on the handle and felt in his pocket for his keys. He pushed down.
The door wasn't locked. The handle went down all the way, opening the door.
John was knocked to the floor as the door was shoved hard from the other side. A large figure barged into their home. He looked down and saw John on the floor. In one motion he swung the door closed behind him and put his boot down on John's neck.
“Move and I crush him.” he said, pointing at Sarah.
Sarah stood like a statue, struck dumb.
John choked under the boot and pulled at the man's trousers, trying to get a grip.
“Stop squirming.” The man leant on John's neck and forced him to choke again, squeezing out phlegm onto the hall carpet.
“What do you want?” Sarah said.
“You have my wallet.”
“You can have it back, it's just in the other room.” her voice was high pitched and panicked.
Lingot laughed. He raised his foot and John gasped for air his hands raising to his throat. The boot came down again hard, stamping John's head on the floor. He went out cold. Sarah moved unsteadily towards the two men; more reaction that conscious effort.
Lingot raised his foot again, just above John's throat.
“I said 'Don't Move' woman.”
Sarah's mouth hung open and she dropped to her knees, buried her face in her hands and started to cry.
“Going to call the police now are you?” Lingot said and bent one knee. He hooked his fingers into John's collar and dragged him down the hall towards Sarah. When he reached her he used his other hand to grab a handful of her hair and yanked her backwards.
John woke up facing the kitchen window.
“Damn my head hurts. How many bottles did we drink?” Sitting under the window, opposite him Sarah was crying and looking over his shoulder. “What's wrong? Why are you...” he was cut off by Lingot's fist on the back of his head.
“Who the hell are you? What do you want?” Sarah said in a small voice. “Please, don't hit him any more.”
“What do I want?” Said Lingot. “You have my wallet.”
Lingot Laughed, a squeaky sucking sound, turning the leather fold over in his fingers he flipped it open and fiddled out the metal disk.
“Oh, so you had a look at my tracker then?” he said squeezing the disk between his fingers. He slid the wallet into his back pocket and put the tracker in a front pocket. Patting the pocket and smiling with his teeth at the couple.
He picked up the phone and walked over to the table where the couple sat. Turning the plastic handset over he unclipped the back cover and took the batteries out. He threw them across the room. They hit the cupboard behind John and made him flinch.
“Your husband is such a pussy for someone with such a big mouth.”
Sarah looked at the large man. “Husband? We are not married.”
Lingot looked down at Sarah's hand.
“Where is your ring?” he said. There wasn't one. John was staring at the intruder, who was looking around the room slowly.
“OK, time for business.” he said.
John and Sarah looked at each other. Questioning with their eyes. Both shrugged.
“Tell me Paul.” Lingot said “Why did you think you could get away with it?”
“My name is John.” Lingot whipped out a hand and slapped the smaller man across the face.
“You think I am fucking stupid? You think I would fall for that?” He slammed both hands down flat on the table between the couple.
“You take our mutual friends money, Paul. You didn't make your payments. Then, when I come and ask you for it back nicely, you lie to me.” he leant down and put his face very close to John's. He was about to speak when Sarah cut him off. He voice was high pitched.
“His name is John. Not Paul.” Sarah said. “Honestly!” Lingot raised his hand and glared. Sarah flinched and bowed her head.
Lingot walked round and stood behind John's chair. He pushed on the back, hard, pinning John to the table. With his free hand he patted down John's pockets and found his wallet.
He took out every card one by one and checked them front and back. He looked around the room and found a couple of unopened letters. John's name was on everything.
“Fuck.” Said Lingot. “You are some unlucky fucker having that face in this town today.” The big man left the kitchen.
John and Sarah heard their front door slam. On the table between them was John's open wallet and scattered cards.
“Your bleeding.” Said Sarah. “I am calling am ambulance. And the police.” She stood up and started searching for the phone batteries.
“Wait.” Said John. “Just an Ambulance, I don't want the police involved.”
“Why they hell not? That man assaulted you.”
“There is something I need to tell you.”
Sarah came back to the table. “What?”
“I used my middle name.”
“For what? You never use it, you said....”
“I used it because I needed the money.”