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He walked into the club like a man with the devil on his heels.

Sat at the end of the bar, twisting and turning the ring on his right pinkie finger, nodded his head ordered a beer and whisky chaser, sat there, eyes fixed on the mirror that hung on the wall looking at the reflection of the door. And there he sat. Hunched, gargoyle like. His face just as grey, just as stoney.

Bessie was on stage, big black bold and brassy play it smooth with the band, a real class act even when the place was as quiet as it was. You could have a packed house or three men and a dog in the joint but she and the boys would play like it was Carnegie Hall, play it with pride and play it loud. Voice full of blues sound full of soul all of it from the heart. Man, I kid you not; I’ve seen grown men, hard men, enforcers, cry like mewling babies in their mothers’ arms when Bessie got it on.

But for all the sound coming from the stage, he just sat there. Fixed stare. Still in his coat, still in his hat. I looked over at the stage, Kid Whiskers on the skins, always one for eyes on the crowd, he’d picked up my vibe. Kid didn’t even miss a beat, seen me reach under the bar, seen my looks. He’d unhooked his waistcoat, never missed a trick, never missed a lick.

Song finished.

Smattering of applause. Bessie took her bow.

Kid tapped the snare, harsh staccato, Bessie took the cue, looked at Kid, looked at me. I flicked my eyes to the wings. She didn’t need to be told twice. She got out of there as the band started up fast and loose.

And that was when the door opened.

It had to be the one guy I never want to walk into my place that was the guy who walked in  shoulder to shoulder with his usual henchman now. On his left you had the tall heavy set boxer ‘Dim’ Danny Finn, on the right was the thin faced grey eyed evil that went by name of Mister Hare.

And there he was.

Smiling a smile you just wanted to punch even in the knowledge that it would be the last thing you did.

Benedict de Boine – Benny Bones.

The moment the guy moved his hand from his drink Benny’s boys reached but had their hands stayed by their bosses as I put the shotgun on the bar. The band stopped playing. Replaced by the sound of people ducking for cover. When he spoke his voice was pure south side grease, ‘Easy boys,’ he nods my way, ‘not here to cause a fuss.’ Gives the gargoyle a glance, which is returned in the mirror his hand sill half way from his glass to his pocket, hanging in the air like everyone else’s fear.

The band are standing still and I know full well by the way that Kid is sitting that that ain’t no drumstick in his hand resting on his snare. I keep mine on the shotgun, finger on the trigger, pointing their way.

Benny knows it.

He takes his hands form his hoods and they relax but still not enough for my liking.

‘Just here for a word with,’ he coughs, dry, sarcastic and as unpleasant  as his slick smile, ‘my friend here.’

The gargoyle breaks his gaze from the mirror, glances my way.  Down at the shotgun. His hand moves back to his glass and raises it to his lips. Drains it. Orders another as Benny sits down beside him. His boys back off and sit at the other end of the bar.

Slowly I Put the shotgun back under the bar but still keeping it within quick reach. I pour some drinks for all concerned, give Kid the nod. The band strike up a tune. Some leave and some stay, but everyone’s now watchful and keeping out of the way.

This could go any way.