“You fucking bitch”, I hissed again, barely managing to stand straight. “You set me up.”
She looked straight at me with her light blue eyes, almost glowing in the dark. “I didn't mean for that to happen Marc. Really.” The cigarette dropped, ground out under a heel.
She walked over, offering her arm to help support my weight. I hesitated, then grabbed tight. I noted, with some surprise, an impressive amount of muscle tone under her coat. Given her build and weight, anyway.
“I'm sorry it happened this way, I really am. It all got out of hand so quickly...anyway, come to the Mitre with me. I can explain everything, really.”
“You'd better” I replied.
The Mitre was my type of pub. That is to say, quiet, with fast service, comfortable seats and, in the winter, excellent heating. Myself and Jenny slid into a spare pair of seats near the back, well away from the hubbub that surrounded the bar. She offered to get us both drinks, but I refused, telling her I could get my own easily enough. This wasn't strictly true, I thought as I limped to the bar, but I was damned if I was going to leave her alone with anything I planned to ingest, not until after the stunt at the Kings Arms was explained.
I slid her vodka across the table, then set down my diet coke. I needed the caffeine.
“Explain quickly”, I suggested to her. “I'm not in a very good mood, and may not like what you have to say. The less time you give me to recover gives you more time to get away.”
“Nice to see your temper is as fiery as ever” she smiled, her eyes showing her amusement. “I said you'd understand and I'm sure you will. Just hear me out.”
I made a motion with my hand, encouraging her to go on. It also conveniently covered a move by my other hand, as I palmed my trusty pen.
My pen is a near legendary item, among certain circles. It was an item of true beauty, master-work aluminium, no extraneous parts to snag in clothing, a very pointy end and a blunt one. OK, so it was no obvious weapon of terror, but I could carry it nearly everywhere and either end hurt like hell, when stuck into soft flesh with any speed. It was an unexpected advantage, one that could really be of help when you consider nearly everyone else is totally unarmed.
Jenny took my cue and ran with it. “I did set you up, I admit. I wanted to see how you would react with someone being angry and in your face, someone bigger and potentially more dangerous than you are. But I never really expected it to go to blows. I just wanted to see if you would back down, or instead do...well, something along the lines that you did.”
“Is this some sort of vanity thing? I've seen it before Jenny, pretty girls who like to get men fighting over them, to inflate their own egos. If not, please get to the point sometime soon.”
She scowled at me, then continued. It was true, however. There is a certain type of woman who, when her significant other is temporarily engaged, will proceed to flirt with anything with a penis, until he comes back. More often than not, both men will be heavily built and short tempered. The rest is pretty obvious. However, I just said that to wind Jenny up, as she was boring me and explaining little.
“The thing is, Marc, I have a problem. And I need someone's help. From what someone told me, you had the exact qualities I need. But it was idle banter, nothing really said or proven. So I needed to test you, to give me an idea of if it was true or not.”
“Or you could have, you know, asked me?” I replied, my voice filled with sarcasm.
“People lie. You of all people should know that.”
“I'm not sure if you just insulted me there or not. Oh go on then, I'll bite. But this better be worth it. What are these “qualities” that make me so special?”
“You're a very convincing liar. Oh don't scowl, it's true. You never fight fair, you can think without moving your lips, and you seem to revel in causing chaos.”
“Ah, flattery will get you nowhere. Interesting, that you gathered all this from idle banter, I should add.”
“Well, it was only a single sentence, but it led me to those conclusions, it's true. I'll level with you here Marc. 2 years ago, you punished several thieves, in your words. I need you to do something similar for me.”