Terry was in The Confessional. It was only lunchtime, but he was already on his fourth double.
His father was after him.
He drained the remainder and slapped the bar.
‘More whisky here!’ he said. He watched Sean pour another generous measure, then raised the glass to his lips. The warm fumes smelled like...like...something was missing...
‘I know!’ he said. ‘It’s time for a sing-song!’
The Confessional was full. Some of the patrons turned to look.
‘I am the spawn!’ he wailed, ‘Let’s be fair!’
He raised an arm, whisky lapping over the sides of his glass as he tried to incite the reluctant choir.
‘Of a shaman pathologica-a-lly vulgar!’
The babble of conversation, he was pleased to note, had begun to trail off.
‘And it’s all over!’ he laughed. ‘Now!’
Silence at last. He closed his eyes and let the appreciation wash over him. Yes, he thought. They love me.
The silence continued. His audience seemed to be waiting for something. Perhaps the second verse...they didn’t think he was a comedy act, surely? If it was a punchline they were expecting...
Oh, Christ, he thought, and turned carefully round.
Dennis McCleaver was standing right behind him.
‘Well, well,’ said Terry, the corner of his mouth suddenly trembling. ‘I’ve been expecting you.’
Dennis just stood there, all camel hair coat and sinister grins. Even though nothing was funny, Terry knew that things were about to get very sinister indeed. A cordon sanitaire was already forming. He managed to check the trembling in his lip, but his legs began to shake. ‘I suppose this is about my father?’ he said.
Dennis just grinned.
‘Look,’ said Terry, ‘you know, if he’s...’
Dennis just grinned. Then grinned some more. The only sound in the pub was Sean’s duster polishing a nervous hole in the counter. Terry knew he had to say something. To, what was it, take the initiative. ‘Sean,’ he said. ‘Fill a glass for my friend here.’ He would have asked Dennis if he had any particular preference, but when he looked at him all he could see was teeth.
A glass was pushed under the nearest optic.
‘God, no, not the Grouse,’ said Terry. ‘Top shelf...a drop of my usual, I think.’
Dennis leaned in slowly. ‘You’ve to get out of the flat,’ he said. ‘Give me your key.’
Terry did what he was told.
‘Thank you,’ said Dennis. He brushed aside the front of his coat and dropped the key into his trouser pocket. He was still grinning.
Terry risked a sigh of relief. He gestured at the glass Sean had just laid on the bar. ‘Your whisky,’ he said. ‘It’s from Jura, noted for its...’ He felt something skewer his thigh. He glanced down, his eyes wide, expecting to see the hilt of a knife buried in his leg. But it wasn’t a knife. It was Dennis’s knee. Terry’s chin bounced off it as he crumpled to the floor.
Dennis tipped back his whisky. ‘Let that be a lesson,’ he said.
Terry, rolling around quietly on the carpet, watched Dennis’s shoes disappear out the door. That it should have come to this. He had done his best to blend in among the Doctors, Lawyers and Professors who frequented the place. He was always immaculately dressed, and he had that essential Scottish Private School accent. They had kindly agreed to overlook the long hair and the fact that he was merely a third year student of Agriculture. What an embarrassment.
He groped his way up the front of the bar.
‘Justice!’ someone shouted.
A heckler? Terry thought, just as he got his elbows onto the counter.
‘You okay?’ asked Sean.
‘Never better,’ said Terry, and caught the eye of the Dean of the Faculty of Science, whose cutlery was poised over his bridie and beans. ‘As you see, Professor, The Lord and my father work in mysterious ways!’