He sighed and realised he’d been doing that a lot lately. Reminded him of his mother. He shivered and looked at his Rolex. It was almost opening time at The Golden Fleece.
Father Tim left the church and took a short-cut across the park, avoiding the attentions of the drug dealers, drunks and prostitutes that congregated there, even at this time of day. He was almost at the rusty wrought-iron gate that led to the high street when a dishevelled, shambling figure stumbled from out of the bushes. He was tall, gangling. Dressed in what had once been an expensive suit but was now tattered and torn. Covered with dirt and excrement. Another city boy down on his luck, maybe. A twat for sure. The pallid skin and glaring red eyes gave him the appearance of a vampire on the prowl.
He reached out a bony hand.
‘Spare a …’
Before he could finish his sentence, Tim punched him in the throat and guts. The junkie barely screamed as he stumbled to the ground.
Tim glanced around but no one had noticed. These days, no one had any interest in what happened to a drug addict in a city that was infested with them. Tim dragged the unconscious junky into bushes and headed across the street and into The Golden Fleece.
‘The usual, Father,’ said Niall, the Golden Fleece’s wiry and obtuse barman, who had the annoying habit of never looking anyone in the eye.
Niall poured a pint of Stella Artois and placed it on the sticky bar. Tim sat at the corner of the bar watching an old black and white television that was showing a cricket match that seemed to have been dragging on for an eternity.
Niall usually refused to allow a television in his pub but today was a cricket tournament that he felt he just couldn’t miss. Tim had no interest in sport, especially cricket, and was almost catatonic. Apart from Tim, the rest of the customers in the pub were weathered and weary old men that were gathered around the bar watching the match like gargoyles at the front of Notre Dame Cathedral.
‘This must be what purgatory is like,’ said Tim.
‘Eh?’ said Niall.
‘Nothing,’ said Tim.
The multi-coloured lanterns that adorned the bar area and the dingy pub’s few tables flickered as the front door opened. A tall blonde in a fake leopard-skin coat walked in. She grinned.
‘Father Cook,’ she said. ‘Just the bloke I’ve been looking for.’
Magda grasped Cook’s hand and shook it vigorously. An old, overtly masculine habit from the days when she was known as Marek.
‘Let’s grab a table,’ she said. ‘I have some info that’ll blow your cobblers off.’
Although Marek had learned a little English whilst serving in the Polish army, Magda’s far from sentimental education came from hanging around Liverpool bars just as classy as The Golden Fleece, and even less sophisticated establishments.
They took a seat in a dark corner of the room, beside a broken quiz machine. The small table was illuminated by a shimmering red lantern. Magda took off her coat. She was wearing a sparkly black dress. Her fingernails and lipstick were blood red.
She put her black leather handbag on the table. Groans of disappointment emanated from the bar area.
‘What are they watching?’ she said.
‘Paint stay wet,’ said Tim.
Magda rummaged in her bag. She placed a few items on the table: a knuckle-duster, a small gun, a lipstick. And then she took out a Samsung Galaxy S4.
‘Have you heard of the motivational guru Nathan North?’
‘I have heard of him. There are billboards about the city for his Wembley Arena show/ performance or whatever they call it but who exactly is he?’
‘It’s an everyday kind of story. Nathan North was once a television chat show host. He was kidnapped while recording a TV programme in Colombia and had some sort of mystical revelation. He eventually set up a series of self-help courses ‘The North Method.’ And sold books and films of course.’
‘Looks like he’s doing well for himself’.
‘Hold on. There,’ she handed Cook her smartphone. ‘Have a gander at that while I go and get a drink. Want one?’
Tim looked at his watch.
‘Yeah, why not.’
Tim tapped the smartphone screen and a small promotional film appeared. A load of blah blah blah about empowerment and the like. North was a real smarm-bag but if it made him the dosh, Tim couldn’t fault him.
Magda sat down as the film was ending.
‘Fascinating stuff I’m sure but …’
‘You missed it didn’t you?’ said Magda. She took a big slurp of her Guinness. ‘Rewind.’
Tim handed the phone back to her.
‘Here, you do it. I hate using other people’s phones.’
Magda tapped the screen and froze it at the point she was look for.
‘There,’ she said, and showed the picture to Tim. Nathan North was shaking hands with a weedy man who looked like a vampire.
‘You want to find Ron Moody, there you are.’
He handed the phone back to Magda.
‘Well spotted, Maggie May. A nice little bonus will be coming your way.’
Paul D. Brazill is the author of Cold London Blues, The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has also edited a few anthologies, including Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, and True Brit Grit.