THE GOLDEN SPRAY

First published on Broadcast Books: #TimeToRead (2020).

THE GOLDEN SPRAY

Of all the places to die, you would have preferred somewhere slightly cooler than a tanning salon in Liverpool. 

You always figured if you were gonna be killed in Liverpool, it’d be getting pummelled outside the Westfield parking lot at two in the afternoon by a bunch of rowdy lads in untucked uniforms and makeshift weapons from The Reject Shop. Being beat up by schoolkids sounds pretty pathetic but it sounds a hell of a lot better than being murdered in The Golden Spray on a Sunday morning.

Yet here you are, hands taped to the armrests of the receptionist chair while a guy with bricks for limbs squeezes your shoulders too hard and a guy with a greasy mullet loom over you with a knife that’s either caked in rust or dried blood. It’s hard to tell when you haven’t had your coffee yet.

The shop’s not even open today. You were just popping in to pick up the new leaflets for some door-to-door letterbox drops, maybe see if there are any biscuits or chips in the staffroom.

Next thing you know, you’re being punched in the face, strapped to a chair, and shouted at until your ears weep. Not exactly far off what was promised when taking on a minimum wage job, if you’re honest.

You tried to tell them they’ve got the wrong place. Barring that, they’ve got the wrong person. You’re the shop hand. All you do is hand out flyers on the main street. 20% off Brazilian Honey spray. 50% off if you bring a friend. This month only. While supplies last. 

‘Why’ve you got them things on your feet?’ Mullet asks.

You look down. ‘They’re skates. I’m telling you, all I do is hand out flyers.’

‘Why can’t you walk?’

‘What? I can, it’s just faster with —’ Why are you explaining leaflet distribution efficiency to the guy threatening to kill you? ‘Please, I don’t know what this is about. I really think you’ve got the wrong place. This is a tanning salon. We do spray-tan here.’ 

Maybe they’re looking for someone at Scream or Die Tattoo on Moore Street. There’re always bikers hanging out there, smoking and sharpening knives, probably — you try not to leaflet down there. 

Or maybe they want the twenty-four hour chip shop by the station? There haven’t been any stabbings there in over a month, but last week someone left a dead cat in a Coles reusable bag under the table. 

‘We’re right where we’re meant to be,’ the Brickhouse grumbles from above you. ‘This is The Golden Spray. Livo’s main base. The Sutherland Motherland.’ 

‘What are you talking about?’ You struggle against the restraints but they’ve used crappy parcel tape instead of gaffer tape like the movies, and it’s sticky and sharp against your wrists. 

‘Don’t play games, Wheels.’ Mullet grabs you by the jaw, squishing your cheeks as he looms in close, breath like death, eyes red and bulging when he whispers, ‘Monika Przybylski.’

It takes you a second to realise it’s a name. Monika. Monika P. Miss P. Your sweet little old lady, Miss P. Miss P who comes in with homemade makowiec and drożdżówka and ruffles your hair and tells you to wear gloves when you go leafleting so you don’t get papercuts. There’s no way she’s involved with criminals.

Well. She could be. 

And, come to think of it, you always thought it was weird this place managed to stay open so long considering the how little business it gets. Plus, Miss P has a really nice car, and, like, a holiday house in Byron Bay. 

‘I’m only gonna ask you once: Where does your boss keep the goods?’

You really wanna help, but this is your first time being held up by thugs. ‘Goods… as in, like, drugs?’ 

‘No, we’re here looking for Neopets,’ Mullet hisses. A bit of spit hits you in the eye. ‘Yes, the fucking drugs!’ 

You have no idea where Miss P would keep drugs. There’s four tanning booths, a bathroom and a staffroom. ‘Maybe in the storeroom?’ you guess. ‘It’s in the back of the staffroom — Hey!’ 

Brickhouse wheels you down the corridor and into the staffroom. The storeroom is packed full with cleaning products and unmarked boxes of tanning supplies. It’s a bit of a mess, not having been cleaned out since last year.

‘If you untie me I can help,’ you offer, only to have a knife stabbed between your thighs into the chair. 

The two thugs start ripping open boxes, pouring out bottles of Moroccan Bronze onto the floor, tearing apart shower caps and paper robes, sending SunMaster UV bulbs rolling across the floor.

While they do all that, you slowly and quietly wheel yourself backwards out of the room — a task that’s painstakingly difficult when you’re wearing rollerblades, but thankfully, not entirely impossible. By the time they realise you’re gone, you’re already rolling down Church Street shrieking for someone to call the police. It takes a good while for anyone to stop and help. 

You haven’t been murdered so it’s hard to complain. 

It’s only when you’re down at the station giving a statement that you remember The Golden Spray doesn’t have a solarium and sunbeds were banned years ago. The only way to get a tan in this country is with spray. It’s in the name.

So why the hell does Miss P have hundreds of UV bulbs in a box in the storeroom?