The afternoon edition of The Echo’s banner headline blared out at him:
‘Queenie’ Found Murdered
“Your ‘boat,’ Jock,” chortled Quentin Hogg, observing Jock’s facial expression from the end of the bar. Quentin turned and alerted the others to take notice.
Nothing about Jock Mahoney was small. He was massive in everyway. His eyes were piercing and intelligent on a canvass shaped by an earlier life in bare-knuckle boxing.
“What about it?!” growled Jock, owner of the Ringwood Pub, taking up his position behind the bar and still immersed in reading the front page of the paper.
“It looks like it’s been to the ‘deadly nevergreen’ and back, don’t it boys?”
Low muffled “ayes” and nods to the reference of “gallows” rumbled in unison from the patrons.
“Cheese it!” Jock bellowed as he slammed The Echo down. The room went still. “Now that you’ve stopped your ‘cackle,’ get off your ‘bottle and glass’ and gather round.” He pointed at the headline. “Read and weep. Crime’s takin’ us over, boys. Our Bournemouth’s goin’ to hell in a handbasket.”
The cook, Patrick O’Grady, a burly red-faced man, emerged from along the hallway that led to the kitchen. Above his shoulder, he carried a large circular brown tray. On it was a traditional full British breakfast of bacon, sausages, black pudding, hash browns, bubble and squeak, baked beans, fried tomatoes and mushrooms, scrambled eggs and coffee. Patrick placed the heavy load on an empty table and served the customer. Once he was satisfied that all was well, he joined the others.
Pavel Sudoplatov placed some bacon and a section of scrambled egg on a slice of his toast as he listened to the men gathered at the bar. As he ate, his trained eyes slowly scanned each nook and cranny of the tavern.
“She was no straight-cut, Jock. She got what she deserved.” Phil piped in making no bones about hiding his malice toward ‘Queenie.’
“She did, did she? And the two children too?” retorted Patrick.
On either side of the main entrance, tables and chairs each fronted a large window. Deep seated booths lined the side and back walls. Opposite the long wall of booths, the bar stretched from the front to the hallway opposite Pavel. Freedom of movement in front of the bar was afforded by an open space that was free of tables and chairs, while sawdust on the floor’s surface ensured an easier cleanup following the usual assortment of patron mishaps.
Three-quarters of the pub’s area was cast in a grey hue. Pavel thought that a mirror positioned behind the bar could have made better use of the natural light that flooded through the front windows. Though from his vantage point, the resulting shadow casted him in the proper light.
The darkened hallway opposite him, narrowed considerably by a variety of boxes precariously stacked to the ceiling along one side, led to the exit, washroom and kitchen. At the corner to this passageway was the sign: Wobbling Topples, Keep Your Wee Johnny in Line. Scrawled above Johnny, which had been crossed out, was Wee. Below the sign was a bucket of soapy water with a mop in it.
Patrick noticed Phil purloining Quentin Hogg’s whiskey glass and downing its contents. “You fockin’ burarco.” And he shoved Phil. “Guard your drinks boys,” he warned, his index finger pointing downwards and hovering above Phil’s head.
Quentin noticed his whiskey glass was empty and, clearly understanding Patrick’s siren complaint, turned to pummel Phil.
Jock stretched his muscular arm across the counter and grabbed Quentin by the shirt. “Pull back, Quentin, if you want two on the house.” Assured he had Quentin under control, he locked eyes with Phil. “Get the fock out! Now!”
Phil stumbled back, raised his hand to contend his forced expulsion, quickly thought better of it, and exited.
“Is he ever sober?” Patrick asked rhetorically, turning his attention to The Echo unfazed by what had just occurred.
“Uh?” Jock replied, distracted as he filled two whiskey glasses and placed them in front of Quentin.
“No matter. Here, did you see this, Jock? Three ‘bolshie’ murdered in their car. Shooter at large. Isn’t ‘tat on the same street where the Inspector lives?”
Shocked by this news, Pavel’s ears perked up and he stopped eating.
“Aye, so it is,” replied Quentin and Jock in unison as the others pressed in to read the article.
Pavel had no doubts that this was retribution for the explosion that killed Klaus Becker at the Cricketer’s Arms. His mind churned as he rethought his options. Now, only he and Anatoli remained. He noticed a black Wolseley pulling up outside. Reflexively, his hand pressed against the .32 automatic in his jacket. Dropping a guinea on the table, he surreptitiously slid out of his booth and along the hallway to the exit.
The sun’s brightness momentarily blinded him. Teary streams smeared his cheeks as he eased along the wall toward the sidewalk. Wiping his eyes clear with his shirt sleeves, he peered around the corner. Sergeant Snowden and Inspector Collier were waiting for Captain Hall to exit the Wolseley. After she joined them, a brief discussion ensued before they entered the pub.
Wishing he had overheard their conversation, Pavel earnestly began to scan the largely vacant street for Anatoli’s vehicle. He must have followed them, he mused. Unless he too…His eye twitched in a rare display of nervousness. He shook off the thought. But, where is he? A horn beeped. Too preoccupied in his surveillance, he ignored it. But, when two halting beeps followed in succession, it gathered his attention.