Passing the Bar

No sooner had I…freshened up, did they have me before “The Crown”.

So there I was, in a city within a city. I had passed the bar, literally not metaphorically, changed my underpants, and now stood, flanked by smartly dressed policemen, before a table of middle-aged businessmen that had globally taken to calling themselves The Crown.

The head of the table was the first to speak. ‘Lord Game, I believe?’

‘Do you?’ I retorted then eyed them all, individually. Thirteen of them in total, excluding my chaperones.

The speaker looked just a smidgen uncomfortable. ‘Congratulations on a job well done.’ He appeared to be both the youngest of them, and the leader.

A smattering of affirmations croaked around the table. The speaker continued, ‘however, the realm faces greater peril from this side of the Atlantic and…well, your country needs you.’

I smiled, wider than usual, which is why I think there was such a long pause. It was all I could do not to laugh at them and their professional seriousness.

‘The war with America had to stop!’

I wasn’t sure if he was pleading with me or the rest of the table.

I cleared my throat. I think they were expecting me to say something. I looked at each face and made up a nickname for each one; the process must have taken me at east fifteen seconds and yet they waited, baited. ‘Carry on.’

All eyes redirected back to the speaker, who began to colour a little in his pasty cheeks. ‘The embargo on our Atlantic trade was just too great.’ He searched his acquaintances like a man soaked in gasoline might look at an arsonist. ‘Napoleon is the real enemy.’ His words dropped flatly against my heavy sighs.

He looked to his compadres desperately, pink faced, sweating. He stood, all formal like. ‘Did you really need to hurt our officers? Given all that we have done for you, I would expect a little grat-‘

‘Dr Kratzenstien. It, that was you…lot?’

Silence was their confirmation. Sometimes the body speaks a language that words cannot quench. And it was subtle but noticable, the gentlemen at the table all seemed to grow an inch or so at my mention of the tongue-less surgeon.

‘How, where was I?’

‘Many places. It took a long time Lord-‘

‘Don’t call me Lord.’ I was just about sick and tired of this charade now. ‘Just tell me why.’

‘Why we exhumed you?’ Chortled the speaker, sweating profusely at this point.

I must have taken a step forward because the clicking of holster poppers behind me resonated. I didn’t fancy getting shot in the back. I needed to sit down. Fuck I was tired.

‘Yeah, and, also what took so fucking long?’ I pulled out a chair and plonked my arse. ‘And please, sit down, you’re making me fucking nervous.’

‘Well, Mr, Mr, Game,’ he sat down smartly. ‘Truth is we uncovered your, ahhh, location from the French. I mean, of course we knew the legends, but…’

‘Well, none ov us believed zem,’ said the stick of a man with a distinctive beard on my left. His accent sounded Germanic. His breath smelt of sausage.

‘Not until that Claric fellow showed up,’ clarified the main speaker. ‘Spoke in riddles did that joker!’

I brought my fist down on the table and gripped my dagger ready beneath. ‘Claric died fighting your war you fucking trumped up twats!’

The speakers eyes widened over my shoulder, his brows furrowed.

A boot struck the polished stone floor behind me.

The speaker shook his head as discreetly as possible, beads of sweat flicking this way and that.

Another step. I stood, sending my chair skating back and into the officer advancing.

I turned just in time to see him fold over the heavy block of chair, my dagger stuck him just beneath his ear. Cartilage and bone clicked as my blade unlocked his jaw permanently and unzipped the flesh of his cheek down one side.

I withdrew my weapon as the other officer took aim on me and I crouched to leap forward-

‘Stop!!’ echoed around the chamber. ‘For Christ’s sake, Henry we need you. We’re allies, our interests are aligned…’

I straightened up, dagger-tip dripping.

The officer with half his jaw cut off, choked and twitched, then dramatically toppled back from the chair and all over the expensive floor with a squelch.

‘Edvards, gets him out ov here!’ Ordered the bearded stick.

The officer hesitated for a moment before re-holstering his pistol and hurrying over to his fallen comrade.

I turned my attention back to table. ‘The French? You want me to stop this Napoleon bastard?’

‘Help us do zis and ve are square.’ The stick man sure did have a deep voice for such a wisp.

‘Square? We’re already square for what I did in America, for Claric. No, I do this and you fucking owe me. Agreed?’

I wiped the blade clean on the table cloth as they conferred, then I re-sheathed, all civilised like. My seat was soiled with that officer’s blood. I remained stood up.

The speaker stood up and nodded then started toward me, hand offered before him. ‘Welcome to The Crown, Henry Game, welcome. You have an agreement. Destroy Napoleon and we will owe you!’

Thing is: I’d happily kill the French fucker, payment or favour aside. The French owed me a debt of blood. And I was cashing it in one way or another.

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