The Card – Introduction – Part Two

Three Weeks Earlier

There was something so very wrong about sneaking out to the pub when he should have been trying to find a way to find the money he needed to find. The pub only made him owe the bastard more money, and he knew that by the end of the night he would be sitting at the bar ten pints in laughing like an idiot and cavorting with people he hadn’t even known three hours before. He knew he was an alcoholic, but there was this very dark part of him that simply didn’t care, as long as it got a pint or five poured on it, occasionally a gin or three, it stayed quiet and let Al do what he needed to do in his everyday life.

It was made even funnier when you learned was the accounts receivable clerk for a half dozen companies. A really good one at that. Loyal and honest and true and never once had he moved a number from red to black that shouldn’t have been moved. He did almost all of his work from home, mostly because he didn’t particularly enjoy wearing pants and offices frowned on that kind of thing. When he did go to the offices down on The North Colonnade, he was a sharp dresser and made sure that all of the ducks he needed to have set were in a row and he had a swig or two from the filigreed silver flask in his breast pocket.

He walked into the pub and took a deep breath and released every ounce of stress he had in his shoulders and his mind was at peace, or at least it would be when he got a couple in him to steady the nerves and hush that annoying inner voice that always seemed to want to get in the way of his fun.

He walked up to the bar and the barkeeper, Jake, shook his head as he saw him coming and lifted his arm and pointed to the smoky and mostly obscured back room of the pub.

“You go ask Loroche if you can a drink, not a damn drop from me until you do, understand you little fuck?” Jake’s right eye was swollen nearly shut and as purple like an aubergine. Loroche must have found out he had let Al top off a few pints last time after he had said he wasn’t allowed to drink anymore. Al held up his hands in surrender and nodded vigorously to the gatekeeper of his deepest desire.

“Oi, I will mate, I am going now.” Even as he said it he was walking toward the smoke, the walk of shame he liked to say. For a man to be so much in debt after getting himself such good jobs in life. It was pathetic, and that is precisely what men like Rochelle could smell in the air in every pub in London. Desperation and need, raw and hungry want. He walked through the thick smoke, it didn’t even sting his eyes anymore he had done it so many damn times. Loroche saw him right away and smiled.

“I thought I might be seeing you today lad, come and sit down and we will have ourselves a little chat.”

He was a gigantic man, close enough to two and a half meters than not and he must have weighed almost 29 stone. It wasn’t fat though. The man was made of muscle and all he did was accidentally flex the damn things one after the other. Antoine Loroche, or just Loroche, thought his first name was stupid and he hated the word Mister with a passion. So you addressed him like the comic book villain he wanted to be or you got to see all of those muscles moving in ways you never thought they could as they came toward you. Al sat down at the chair that had been vacated as the man spoke and looked at Loroche with as close to desperation as he could, which was good because the hunger for a nip of the Creature was getting to be fierce. Damn Irish blood.

“Al, my favorite lush. We have a problem that we need to take care of. You owe me a large bit of coin and I, in turn, owe that money to others. We all have our masters lad. Now, I will give you a few hundred quid credit for the night, you deserve to drink. You don’t get me the money I am owed, which is nigh on 240 thousand euro, by the end of the month, I will go to the house where you grew up and I will kill your mother, your baby brother, your blind as a bat gran. Your wee little sister will be sold to pay off your debt and I am pretty sure I don’t need to explain what that means. Now, get your ass out of here and make sure I have my money by the first.

Al got up slowly, his palms ice-cold, his face pale from what he heard from the demon-man and he walked to the bar and sat. Jake had one ready for him and as much as he wanted to be afraid, the Creature sang to him and he drank it and five of its brothers down as quick as you please.

“Excuse me, young man, would you perhaps be able to give me a light? I cannot for the life of me remember where I but my matches and I have this delightful cigar that I wish to enjoy and I cannot do much without a light, I am sure you understand.”

Al turned to the voice and he saw, well, the most ordinary-looking man he had ever seen. From his haircut to his loafers, he was the average bloke. He smiled and pulled a pack of matches from his pants pocket and handed them to the man without a second thought.

“I have been trying to quit for months, I don’t have the matches it can’t hurt the cause right?”

The man smiled and reached into the breast pocket of the jacket he was wearing and came out with the aforementioned cigar and a black business card.

“I thank you for your kindness stranger, so for you, I will do a service in return. If you are ever in need, call the number on this card and speak the words “Delightful Occurrences Happen For Reasons No One Ever Actually Imagines.” and then you will get the help you need.

Al took the card with a smirk and was going to come back with a witty remark but all he could do now was smell the faint smell of cigar as the man and everything about it was gone.

Shaking his head he shoved the card in his pocket and raised his hand for Jake to notice.

Fucking people are strange.

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