As promised/threatened, here is the first chapter of ‘Goons’. But first, many thanks are due to my beta reader Katherine Highland for helping me improve this story. As well as being an excellent beta reader, she’s also a remarkable writer. So if you fancy reading some #ownvoices fiction that explores autistic experiences of life in the Scottish highlands, you should totally check out her books.
329 days until takeover
Bossman is turning 30 soon and he doesn’t like it. I suppose that’s normal. When I tuned 30, I hadn’t done half the things I wanted to do. I’d never been to Asia or tried magic mushrooms or learnt to cook risotto, so that was all pretty disappointing. Bossman’s ambitions have always been loftier than mine though, which is why I think he needs to chill out about achieving them on schedule. He wanted to take over the world by the time he’s 30, and he’s still struggling with taking over Bristol.
The problem is, he’s always comparing himself to other people. Not the people around him – he barely notices them – but the big men of history like Alexander the Great, who apparently ruled a huge empire by the time he turned 25. I once tried giving him a little pep talk, telling him to “Look in the mirror – that’s your competition!” and he threw a book at me. It missed, and broke the mirror behind me, and then he took the cost of a new one out of my salary. It didn’t matter much because my salary is fucking huge and I don’t know what to do with half of it.
The three of us – me, Bossman, and Em – are driving to a pharmaceutical laboratory in Avonmouth to steal some shit. Bossman can easily afford the chemicals and various bits and bobs he needs for his work, but ordering them online means they sometimes take forever to arrive. Bossman is impatient and, as previously mentioned, behind schedule.
I drive the van and Bossman sits on the left. Em sits beside me, her big frame squashed into the middle seat and radiating irritation. It is her six-month anniversary with Gillian and she would rather be eating a fancy, Marks & Spencer dinner, watching one of those historical dramas with a lesbian love story, and having a lot of sex. But Bossman insisted that he needed us both, and that there is no such thing as a six-month anniversary because the prefix “ann-” mean annual, so an anniversary can only apply to a certain number of years, not months.
I get why Em is annoyed. She is still doggedly trying to have a personal life, and maybe I ought to be doing the same. But when I consider the plentiful charms of dinner, a film, and sex with someone I’ve already been shagging for several months, I think I’d actually rather be robbing a pharmaceutical laboratory. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I turn forty.
As we park the van and head towards the lab, I can’t help but worry that we are a conspicuous bunch. Em’s hair – short, slicked-back and bleach-blonde – practically glows in the dark. Bossman is pretty luminous himself, with naturally pale skin made even paler by spending too much time locked up in the lab. The two of them seem to be reflecting every bit of light pollution and starlight available. Me, I’m pretty ordinary looking, apart from being six foot nine. Being six foot nine has its benefits in the daytime, but it makes you a suspicious, threatening figure at night.
We know the location of every camera. Bossman might be impatient, but he knows he’s impatient and so he plans ahead for situations like this. We approach the lab from the back, creeping down a grassy verge with brambles snarling around our ankles. Then we stick close to the side of the building, staying in the camera’s blind spot until I’m close enough to reach up and spray paint over the lens.
We reach the front of the building and Em swiftly picks the lock of the outer door, then we all slip into the foyer. An alarm sounds, loud and shrill, but Bossman dives at the alarm panel and holds up a small, black, keyfob-looking thing. The alarm stops, and I can hear my own heart beating giddily in the quiet it leaves behind.
“One and a half seconds. We’re good,” Bossman mutters, to himself more than me or Em.
I take it this means he stopped the alarm in time and it won’t send out a signal. He pockets the keyfob-looking thing and goes to work on the keypad next to the inner door. This proves more complicated than picking the lock or stopping the alarm, and Bossman has to take it apart and fiddle about with it for four and a half minutes. I want to ask him what he’s doing, but now is obviously a No Questions time.
Finally, the inner door is unlocked and Bossman pushes it open triumphantly. We rush through a darkened office, not bothering to switch the lights on until we reach the laboratory. As the place is illuminated – white walls, blue flooring, chrome everywhere – Bossman smiles his big, rare smile. He looks like a kid in a candy store. Sweet shop. This is how I know we spend too much time together – I am catching his Americanisms.
“Okay, let’s be methodical about this, people,” he says (he often calls me and Em “people”, as if there are ten of us). “Jay, you find the flammables cabinet. Em, go see if that door over there leads to a store room.”
It starts out methodical enough. I find the flammables cabinet. Em finds the stores. Between the three of us, we find every item on Bossman’s list and a handy trolley for stealing it all. But then Bossman gets distracted by a cold storage room full of things he likes, such as cell culture media and horse blood agar plates. While he is figuring out how to transport these at a suitable temperature, me and Em take the opportunity to do some shopping of our own.
“Are these really made of platinum?” Em says, scrutinising an unremarkable looking cup.
“Well the label says they are, so they must be. I think they’re for melting stuff in, like over a Bunsen burner.”
“I’m taking one for Gillian. I’ll melt it down and make something pretty for her, and then I reckon I’ve got at least another month before she notices I’m never around and chucks me.”
Part of me wants to reassure her that she’s a catch, and Gillian ought to appreciate her even if she’s not available 24/7. Part of me wants to tell her that if something is used for melting stuff in, it won’t be easy to melt down. The two parts cancel each other out and I say nothing.
Soon, we leave the lab with our ill-gotten goodies. Bottles and tubs of chemicals, polystyrene boxes lined with ice packs to keep the temperature-sensitive stuff cold, and a couple of boxes of pipettes because you can never have too many. We load it all discreetly into the van and drive home. To Bossman’s home, that is.
Thanks for reading! Chapter 2 coming soon, i.e. tomorrow.