I allowed my hand to rest against the bulge of the Cobra Patriot 9 mm in my trouser pocket, to reassure myself that it was still there. A superb little weapon: light, accurate, deadly – and completely reliable. I could fire it without taking it out of my pocket. Often that was the best way.
I sipped my beer with eyes downcast to the newspaper that I wasn’t reading, totally alert to everything that was going on around me. At the far end of the room a television chattered out the commentary to a football match, all but drowned by the murmur of conversations in the intervening space.
I don’t suppose any of the other customers noticed the middle-aged man in the brown jacket with the fur collar when he shuffled in and pulled himself onto a high stool at the far end of the bar. He was in his sixties, which meant that he was too old to attract a single glance from any of the young businesspeople who drank here.
The bartender was older still, but his position imbued him with enough status to have struck up a conversation with two over-made-up office girls perched on bar stools, trying to make their gin and tonics last until the arrival of someone else, whose name I had picked-up as ‘Cynth’. He finished the story he was telling and smirked for a moment in appreciation of their polite giggles before strolling down to address the newcomer.
“Evening, Jed. Will it be the usual?”
Jed nodded and saluted smartly. It was some kind of private joke. Already he looked like a fixture, an extension of the dented old stool on which he sat, silent, as though everything he had to say he had already said, many times. It seemed that his only reason for being here was the meagre company of these indifferent, self-absorbed young folk.
Pulling the straps of my holdall over my shoulder and lifting my almost empty pint, I made my way to the bar and stood next to the newcomer.
“Good evening. I think we know one...