Tony was hysterical and almost hammered the door off its hinges. He pushed past Stevie and collapsed on a chair in the sitting room.
"Tony that message can't have been from Lingsy. It just doesn't make any sense." Stevie tried.
"He was the only one who handed something over the counter, Stevie. Are you going to do something useful, Andrea? Get the kettle on." Tony snapped.
"I'm going to the shop. I need coffee. Put it on yourself." Andrea marched out of her flat before an argument emerged. She could see James' flat from the road and reasoned he'd be at work. Not that she'd have been stupid enough to go there just now. The local shop was an ugly grey box with steel bars over the windows and door. It stocked the basics and no more. The woman who shambled over to get Andrea's coffee was probably in breech of health and safety in her own right. Outside, the watery sun was trying to muscle through the clouds, not very successfully. Andrea wondered how long she could make a trip to the shop last.
"Andrea!" Stevie came striding round the corner. "You on go slow?"
"You that desperate for a coffee?" Andrea felt very fed up indeed.
"Bugger the coffee. I've just got a text and I don't know who off. It says 'keep Collins in order'. I've also got one off Gaz telling me Lingsy just came out of the post office using his phone." Stevie showed Andrea the texts. "I have to go and see him, sis. No one knows what the shit is going on!"
"No! Stevie he'll clobber you! Why do you have to go and sort him out? This is Tony's fault, not yours." Andrea said in panic.
"Calm down, I'm not going to sort him out. I need him to know that Tony really has no idea what he's done to piss him off. Maybe if Lingsy tells me, I can sort Tony out. I have to go, Andrea. Trust me, Lingsy will make a mess of Tony and I mean a real mess." Stevie said seriously. "Now I've warned him and threatened him with a toeing from hell so he won't lay a finger on you ..."
"Hey! No Stevie!" Andrea shrieked. "I'm not being a bitch, I swear I'm not. I don't want him battered to a pulp even though he's a knobhead. I don't want anyone battered, myself included! If this Lingsy psycho tracks him down, what am I going to do, slap him with my handbag? He seems to know Tony, you, the Railway Arms and the newsagents so he'll probably know where I live!"
"Andrea calm down." Stevie grabbed her elbows. "Shh. I'm sorry I didn't mean to scare you. Listen to me. Even if Lingsy walked past your flat six times a day, he'd never bother you. If you ran out and smacked his face for him he still wouldn't bother you. I'll take Tony and deposit him in the pub with Gaz and Terry. OK?"
"I think would be a better idea Stevie, yes." Andrea nodded. "How do you know where Lingsy will be?" They started walking back to Andrea's flat.
"I don't. I'll just make myself obvious and hope he sees me, or I see him." Stevie shrugged.
"What if he starts with you Stevie? I feel like kicking the shit into Tony myself." Andrea followed her brother into her flat. Tony followed Stevie like a lost child. Andrea felt a bit sorry for him, he was terrified, but she also saw how pathetic he was. He was also spineless enough to hide and let Stevie tackle this man. This ex-professional thug who's been stabbed, shot, ran over and thown in the river to drown. "Don't forget to phone me Stevie." Stevie nodded and left with Tony.
Andrea fretted herself to tears for four hours. At last she couldn't stand it and dashed out of the flat, headed for James' flat. She knew the library closed at three so he was probably home. She ran straight into Stevie.
"I couldn't find him." Stevie propelled her back into the flat.
"I was just going to get the bus down there." Andrea lied. "Any more messages?"
"None. I left Tony playing darts with Scott. He seems a bit calmer now. He says he's going home soon." Stevie told her and she just nodded. "That pleased eh?"
"I'm pleased he's not hurt." Andrea said defensively. "Believe me or don't. I am pleased he's not hurt. I could never bring myself to be happy about anyone getting a hiding, not even Tony. I don't want him back with me, Stevie. I know he's having a rough time of it but that isn't a reason for me to be interested in him. I'm not."
"This new boyfriend must be impressive." Stevie shrugged his shoulders.
"Don't start with that Stevie, please. He hasn't had chance to be my boyfriend yet with all this crap going on. You think about it. I'm twenty one years old and my private life has been put on hold until everything's good with a pack of adult blokes. Why? Do I really have to clear everything with you lot? Seriously?" Andrea was getting upset again.
"Don't cry, sis." Stevie gave her a hug. "Them lot, no. Me, maybe. I'm your brother and I want to know who I'm trusting my sister to. I'm about fed up with it all, Andrea. Friends are friends and that's all well and good, but this shite? They're all expecting a fight between me and Lingsy just because we're two gang lads. The fact that neither of us has anything at all against the other doesn't come into it. Oh don't worry, there'll be no fight. I honestly don't think Lingsy's back on the gang scene. He'd have to be bloody insane. My own Crew are expecting me to lose. Arseholes. Heather's pissed off to Billy Frost and Liam's been talking to the SBC kids by the river. Oddly enough, Tony is the only one I'd trust completely just now and that's because he knows blood better."
"Stevie I'm sorry." Andrea said miserably. "So they're all turning against you? After you've wiped their arses for over ten years? Bloody Liam Harrison! Pfft! I could turf him over on my own! Little creep. Heather's always been a trollop, you're better off shot of her."
"Not turning against me, no. They're just edging their bets when it comes to a hard bastard like Lingsy. Yes, Heather's a trollop." Stevie laughed. "Isn't this shite eh? Should we move to France or somewhere?"
"Good idea. Can ..." A loud hammering on the door terrified Andrea and had Stevie on his feet.
"Tony for shit's sake! Knock a bit louder!" Stevie snapped as Tony barged in. "Hey you! Settle down. I mean it. Stop charging about. What's up?"
"Why don't you ask this slag here?" Tony yelled, pointing at Andrea.
"My sister you mean? Watch it pal, I'm warning you." Stevie growled quietly.
"Do you know why she ditched me? Do you? She has another bloke, Stevie." Tony shouted.
"Tony you didn't think you'd grow old together, did you? It's no big deal, really. She didn't cheat on you with this bloke." Stevie said calmly.
"She dumped me! Stevie she dumped me for a four eyed pouff nerd bloody fairy. Rose Ford told me she saw them together. I'll kill him. How bloody dare you, Andrea?!" Tony roared and Stevie pushed him so he had to sit on the couch. "Stevie ..."
"Cool it." Stevie ordered. "Cool it or I'll bust your nose and turf you out of here. Yes I do mean it. Nerd?" He lifted his eyebrows at Andrea who snarled and marched off into the kitchen. "Nerd."
"That's an insult and you know it Stevie. A bloody specky geek! Don't say it doesn't matter, you know it does. If Billy Frost was a fairy uni boy you'd have ripped his face off by now, and Heather's." Tony said angrily.
"Stop making lame comparisons Tony. For one thing, our Andrea has a brain and can use big words. Heather's as dull as a badger's arse. They're welcome to each other. Listen, just let it go. Andrea will keep out of the way with him and you don't even have to bother about it. Bugger me, Tony, don't you think you've got bigger things to bother about just now?" Stevie sat down. "Kettle Andrea!" He shouted.
"Knackers!" Came the reply.
"Good girl!" Stevie nodded. "How can I get to know why he's after you? I honestly don't think he's out to mash you otherwise you'd be mashed by now. He's putting the wind up you for some reason."
"He has to have the wrong bloke." Tony said desperately. "It can't be me."
"I agree with you." Stevie nodded. "I could set him right if I could get to talk to him." Stevie exhaled loudly. "Andrea I need a favour."
"Depends." Andrea gave Stevie a mug of coffee and glanced swiftly at Tony.
"I could do with you down the Railway Arms, sis. Normally, Heather squawking on and calling me shit would be laughable but I don't need it just now. I need to sort this crap out. If she starts in the pub, have her outside and crust her one."
"I'll tell her to pipe down, yes." Andrea said moodily. "I'll have to use my phone first."
"OK." Stevie nodded.
"Well? Naff off then! I'll catch you up at the bus stop." Andrea glared at her brother who took the hint and dragged Tony out with him. Andrea was so happy to hear James' voice on the phone.
"I was going to call round until I saw Stevie getting off the bus." He said.
"Well Tony's here too and I hate them both just now." Andrea quickly gave James an update and explained that Stevie wanted her to keep Heather in line if she started talking crap about him. "Pathetic, I know already so don't say it. Stevie's been good about me and you, James. He puts Tony in his place."
"That's good. So he should." James sounded far from happy. "As long as you're with Stevie I suppose you'll be OK. I've a mind to crash into the place and waste the bloody lot of them."
"Umm ... yes." Andrea had to smile at the image that conjured up. "I'll be fine and I'll phone you tomorrow. Stevie just needs this Lingsy shite sorted out then it'll all settle down. I hope."
"Don't worry about Stevie and Lingsy, Andrea. Stevie will be fine and so will Lingsy I'm sure."
"No one knows what he wants, James. Stevie thinks he's got Tony mixed up with someone else, like I said."
"Don't worry yourself over it. Leave it to the rest of them, Andrea. Phone me tomorrow, OK? You can stay here tomorrow night if all is well." James suggested.
"I'll make it well. See you then." Andrea grinned widely and ran out of her flat.
"Where's she going?" Tony saw Andrea striding across the road by the shop and not headed for the bus stop at all. "Should I ..."
"No you bloody shouldn't. This should be good." Stevie snickered and nodded towards Andrea. She hammered on a door with her fist and didn't stop until Rose Ford answered it. As soon as she opened the door, Andrea headbut her straight in the face, sent her sprawling, slammed the door and marched to the bus stop. "Smoothly done Andrea." Stevie complimented.
"Thanks. Slag arsed old boiler." Andrea sniffed and stepped forward to stop the bus.
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