“That barmaid’s a bit of all-right isn’t she?” Willie leered at us across the crowded table in the bar of the Dog and Duck. “I wouldn’t mind giving her a right seeing-to!”
“She’s my girlfriend,” snapped back my friend the Reverend Robin Gargle, who was sitting opposite, glaring at him.
“Sorry, no offence meant, old mate.” Willie didn’t look in the last sorry, for his big face was split into a huge grin. “Take it as a complement, eh? You wouldn’t want a girl with a face like a duck’s arse, who no one else fancied, would you?”
None of us answered—in fact since he’d joined us an hour ago it was hard for any of us to get a word in edgeways.
“Right, I’ll just go and splash my boots, as we used to say when I was in the mob,” Willie said, getting up and pushing his chair back. “Get us in another pint, eh Jack? And how about adding a whisky chaser? Not every day you meet up with an old school friend, is it?”
When he’d gone to the gents the rest of us stared laconically at each other. Dean normally likes to chat about football, Robin often tells us about village events, Stuart often airs his left-wing views, and we also chat about current affairs or put the world to rights. On the whole the four of us are pretty average guys, who chat about boring things, and always enjoy each other’s company, even if we’re just sat in companionable silence.
“Why is he always on about the mob?” Dean asked. “If it’s some kind of elite Special Forces outfit, why not just say so, instead of all this macho innuendo?”
“I once worked with a bloke who was an ex para,” Stuart joined in, warming to our theme. “He was a really agreeable guy, chatted about everything under the sun, everyone liked him. It was only after he left that someone told me he’d won lots of medals for gallantry, but he never said a word about what he did. He was just a nice friendly relaxed guy.”
“Yes,” Robin agreed. “Come to think of it, all the ex-servicemen I’ve ever come across in the homeless shelters are just ordinary blokes who are usually pretty sociable—they never boast about their exploits.” He took a sip of his beer. “Tell me Jack, was he an obnoxious prick when you were at school together?”
“Well I haven’t seen him since he was ten, I don’t really remember much about him,” I confessed.
Willie returned, a bit fed up with the fact that I hadn’t got him another drink, so he’d gone up to the bar to get it himself. Despite Robin telling him that Rose, the barmaid, was his girlfriend, we could see him flirting with her.
“I reckon your bird fancies me,” he said to Robin when he came back, smirking from ear to ear. “No offence, she can’t really help it, see? I give off this kind of ultra-masculine aura, you see, pheromones or something, I reckon, I just can’t help it. The birds pick up on it. They can’t resist a man of action. They love the idea of a guy who can be violent.”
“So where did you see all this action?” Stuart asked, forestalling Robin, who looked as if he wanted to hit the taller man.
“Sorry, sorry.” He held up his hands in front of this face. “I’m not allowed to talk about it.” He gave another fatuous smile, then held his hands up even higher, flexing the fingers. “See these hands? They’re lethal weapons. Special training, do you get me? No offence, mate, but if I was to get involved in a fight, it wouldn’t be like one of you guys, maybe blacking someone’s eye, or bleeding a nose, oh no, my combat mode would kick in. Whoever I hit, mate, they never get up again. I signed a secret paper, see, when I left the mob, that I was never to use my fists in anger. I just hope I’m never tempted, because if the old temper takes over, who knows what might happen?”
Suddenly at the other end of the bar there was a lot of commotion, and we all looked around. A gang of black-leather-clad bikers had come in, and were making a noisy entrance, high-fiving each other and commandeering the area.
Two girls who had been sitting together at a nearby table looked nervous when the Hell’s Angels gathered around them and started talking to them.
We looked across and wondered what to do, as the girls started talking to them loudly, moving their chairs around.
Diminutive bespectacled Robin was the first to get up and go over, and Stuart and I followed him, with a reluctant Dean behind us.
“Look,” Robin addressed the black-leather covered back of one of the huge men. “Leave these girls alone. They’ve just come in for a quiet drink!”
There was dead silence, as the huge biker slowly turned around.
To my surprise, the long black hair that fell to his shoulders framed a thin pale face, and the eyes had a heavy dose of green mascara, and his lips appeared to be covered with lipstick.
“We aren’t bothering them honestly, my friend,” the biker said in a rather lisping voice. “Sorry, I can see how it might have looked. It’s just that Harry knows Jane’s sister, you see and we were just asking them about the new fashion boutique she’s opened. We all got a bit carried away.”
“Yes, that’s true,” one of the girls chimed in, leaning towards us. “Honestly, they’re not bothering us, but I could see how it might have looked that way. I really appreciate you nice guys coming to our defence, but we’re all friends, we really are.”
That’s when I noticed that several of the other bikers were also wearing make-up, and the one with the biggest beard and a chain around his neck appeared to be wearing some kind of kaftan over black sequinned stockings.
So the confrontation never happened, and in fact we’d made some new friends. The leather-clad men settled down quietly in the corner, even offering to buy us drinks, “To make up for all the confusion.”
When we got back to the table we were surprised to see that Willie had disappeared.
Just then the nice biker that Robin had been speaking to came across to our table.
“Was that Willie, who was with you just now?” he asked. “Tell him sorry that we missed him at the club last week. I think he vanished because he’s a bit miffed with us—you see his partner Barry had a fling with John, and it was hurt feelings all around I guess, handbags at dawn! Oh well I guess it’ll all end in kisses and cuddles!”