Chapter II

Gin O’clock

A few hours after breakfast, walking on a full belly but an empty head, he found himself swinging his legs on the edge of wall, overlooking the Thames. Not too far from the Imperial grandness of Whitehall. Stark contrast with the turgid water beneath his swinging feet and the two mud larks he spied, knee deep in water. His mind brought him to more pressing matters, that Slack Jack he thought, a wild drunken fella he can be, but this takes the ship’s biscuit.

Napoleons Bust could have come from anywhere and from somewhere that it shouldn’t have been taken from. People go looking for stolen luxuries like that, made even more so by the Little General’s death a couple of years before. If it were made by a master then it could fetch a handsome price, or indeed a handsome punishment, just having the thing in their possession could be fatal.

It would be Murphy’s Law, for sure, now that things were coming good for the lot of them. With more jobs, more profit and more scheming than they had ever had before; now with something that could make it all come crashing down. Why, Tom was doing so well he was planning on taking his young family to New York, where a land of prosperity supposedly lay, and riches only a young man can dream of.

As far as Gary could see he only had two choices, find a suitable buyer, quickly or destroy the bloody thing. Heavy the bust was and heavy his head felt, enough to drive a man to drink before noon. Not that Gary needed an excuse to do that. Rather he concluded that having a gin at 12 would be Gin O’clock and included the necessary requirements to aid his decision making.

Still staring at the water beneath him as it pooled and swirled, he decided that the air was cleaner here than back in the pit of St. Giles, where the smoke and smells could over power you. But you couldn’t buy a cheaper more tasty gin anywhere in the city that was better than the brew from the slum thought Gary. All sorts went in it and all sorts it made people feel, whether it was actually gin is another matter entirely.

Half the city was sodden in the stuff on a daily basis and Gary was no exception, although it was easy to drink when you’re surrounded by poverty, mess and despair. No wonder people are sailing for the new world in their droves, to escape the overcrowding of the cities and the lack of opportunity.

Smacking his lips and hoisting his legs back to land, he found himself staring at the chest of a rather large man, who he had the unfortunate luck of knowing which man the chest belonged to. With a groan he said ‘Not you again, Pulver, you’re always popping up like an unwanted wart’

‘Ain’t missed your smart mouth much, Gary’ his new companion responded.

‘Well it’s a wonder why you keep coming back, then, muggins!’ snarled Gary.

The two weren’t on the best of terms, they had been once upon a time but after a drunken spat and a broken tooth, things had gone a bit sour. Gary didn’t like the fact that Pulver had somehow managed to follow him all the way down here without him knowing. He didn’t think his old acquaintance would be taking a leisurely stroll by the river and happen to bump into him.

‘Look, Gary, I only want to ask if you would like a cut on a big job I have lined up?’ Pulver got to the chase.

‘What do you mean big job? You mean you couldn’t do it without someone else’s help, and I am guessing you picked me because you know me and my crew can just about pull off any kind of job there is,’ smiled a sarcastic Gary.

Pulver sighed at Gary’s cold retort.

‘I don’t care what you think, just a simple yes or no will be enough. Meet me at the Red Lion at 2 this afternoon and we can talk more.’ Pulver turned a big shoulder and walked down river, whistling green sleeves as he went.

Gary shook his head in disbelief at the encounter, knowing that it was selfishness that brought his old friend to him again. Plus he didn’t trust him an ounce, anything could happen whilst on the job, it could even be a set-up, if old grudges still burned in the memory. Although the two hadn’t spoken for a number of years, Gary doubted the man would go to such length to stitch him up.

He paced his way back into the city, walking through contrasting neighbourhoods, through clean wide streets and tall townhouses with white stone, red brick and traditional families. All the way he felt the black heart of St. Giles, pulling him to it, he sensed it through buildings, through the ground. Its heart beat cut threw him, and he was back in the alleys and crooks of the ramshackle streets, houses leaning so far forward they nearly touched the roof opposite and wily women managing to string washing high above the filth beneath.

Naturally he headed back towards the hide out but after the mornings pondering, he thought he would go to the Red Lion a bit earlier, muse over a gin cup for a while. That he considered, was gin o’clock.


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