Anyone for cricket?

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL-LOTTExcerpt from chapter 7 of Lie of the Tiger.

‘HELLO Oodles.’ The old man got a whiff of beer breath from Freddy Cuthbert. ‘Didn’t I tell you to expect me and Gordo to come calling again!’

‘For Christsake.’ Oodles could feel his heart starting to race again. ‘Are you trying to intimidate me with those bats?’

‘Intimidate you?’ Freddy twiddled the bat handle in his fingers. ‘Fuck no. You don’t get off as lightly as being intimidated. Not after what you and Wish-Wash did what you did at the funeral?’

Oodles’ fear gave way to anger. ‘You two are nothing but thugs.’

‘We just want a friendly chat with you.’

Oodles slammed the door behind him, sucked in his stomach and thrust out his chest. ‘Why do you need those bats? My turn first, then Wish-Wash’s?

‘Wish-Wash?’ Freddy smiled leerily. ‘Everyone knows he hasn’t got any money?’

‘I told you. I’m not expecting a brass razoo from Birty’s will. He would have left anything he had to his son and grandkids.’

‘You must already have a few bob, Oodles? Did Madge have a life insurance policy?’

‘You’re a bastard, Freddy. You’re a nasty bastard.’

‘Ooh, I’ve hit a nerve.’ Freddy exchanged glances with Gordo and laughed.

‘You’ve got another thing coming if you think I’m going to let you extort me.’

‘I guess we’ll soon find out,’ said Freddy. ‘Amazing what people will say when they want the pain to stop, eh Gordo?’ He eyeballed Oodles again. ‘Old blokes like you always have money stashed under the mattress.’

‘You’re wasting your time if that’s what you think.’

‘Oh, I don’t think so,’ said Freddy ‘Nice house, nice car, you’re often digging into your pocket at the cafe, I’m told. Do you ever let Wish-Wash pay?’

He grabbed the top of Oodles’ left arm and Gordo grabbed the right. ‘Let’s go somewhere a bit more private, shall we?’

They frogmarched the old man to the back of the building where they heard a yelp coming from the shed.

‘What’s that noise?’ Gordo turned his head to hear.

Before Oodles could answer, Paddy appeared around the corner.

‘Well, look who’s here?’ said Freddy. ‘The cavalry. Aren’t you going to introduce us to your brave friend, Oodles? Is this the big Irish git everyone is talking about?’

Paddy had heard the beginning of the conversation at the door. When he saw through the glass Oodles being forcibly escorted towards the back of the house, he had followed.

Paddy rose to his full height. ‘I run this museum.’

Freddy swished his cricket bat, making a whistling sound in the air. ‘Why don’t you just bugger off, pretend you didn’t see any of this? They’ll be no witnesses to say anything different.’

Jimbo barked again, his yap echoing from the shed.

Freddy made a tut-tut sound. ‘Have you got a dog in there? Naughty, naughty. You do know it’s against the law here?’

‘You must be hearing tings, fella.’

‘You don’t mind if I take a look then?’ Freddy started moving towards the door but Paddy blocked his path.

‘I do, actually. This is private property.’

‘Oh very brave,’ said Freddy. ‘Looks like you want some of what Oodles is going to get? Eh, Gordo?’

The other man laughed. He looked familiar but Paddy couldn’t place him. He was not as tall as Paddy, but he looked much heavier.

‘So you have some more fellas coming?’ said Paddy.

Freddy frowned. ‘Other blokes?’

‘Well, I can’t see you two being able to handle it on your own.’

Freddy’s smile turned into a snarl. ‘Oh, very cocky. You should have left while you had a chance. You and this old bloke against us two? In case you haven’t noticed we’re the ones with the cricket bats.’

Paddy scratched his head. ‘You know, I tink you’re right. We need to even up the odds a bit.’

Freddy smirked.

‘If you let Oodles go, it’ll be two of you against one of me. Give you more of a chance, like.’

Oodles’ face reddened. ‘I’m not going anywhere, Paddy. I used to do some boxing, you know?’

‘Did you hear that, Gordo?’ said Freddy. ‘He used to do some boxing? Olden gloves, you think?’

That’s the last thing he said for a while because Paddy hit him with an uppercut. Freddy toppled backwards.

Before Gordo could even raise his bat, Paddy was upon him and hit him on the side of the jaw. The fat man sank to his knees, a stream of blood dribbling from his mouth as he bowed towards the ground, his bum crack showing. Then he spat out some bits of teeth. ‘You bastard,’ he groaned. Then he vomited.

Freddy staggered to his feet and shaped up again.

‘Are you kidding me?’ said Paddy, and he unleashed another flurry of punches which put Freddy back on his arse.

Paddy picked up one of the bats on the ground and twiddled it in his right hand, feeling its weight, before gripping it with both hands like a cricketer about to face up.

Oodles stepped in front of him. ‘Don’t do it, son. You’ll end up in jail.’

‘Jail? That all?’ Paddy looked at him in disbelief. ‘They had the morgue in mind for you.’

Oodles held Paddy’s gaze but didn’t reply.

This was one of the few times in Paddy’s life he didn’t have a cheer squad egging him on to inflict greater injury. He threw the wooden bat down on to the ground. It bounced between the groaning men.

‘This happens to be your lucky day, tanks to Oodles. But if I ever hear you fuckers have even raised a finger against this ol’ one, I’ll be coming after you. Now fuck off.’


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