CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32EPILOGUE

“Hey,” Right Stuff says in to his phone, “It’s me,”

In a dark room somewhere in Farlow a man sits in shadows and murmurs something into the phone.

“It’s on,” Right Stuff says, “Yeah, he went for it,” he pauses as the man says something, “Yes, it’s at the Big Copper, just like you thought it would be.” Another pause as he listens, “Ok, I’ll see you then.”

It’s only a little while later and the man is out on the street. He stops and looks at the picture on the side of the building of a small orange pot. It’s the Big Copper. He looks from side to side, scanning the street. Finally he spots a doorway in shadows, further down the road and walks towards it. He should be able to see the pub from that spot. There’s a view through the window into the back room where Right Stuff told him that Judd and Obo would be meeting. The man settles himself into the chilly corner of the doorway. He sends a warning glare at a homeless man who tries to take shelter there. The man turns his attention back to the Big Copper. Excitement is bubbling in his stomach, he can barely keep himself still. He watches as the patrons of the pub pour out, time called for the evening and last orders drunk down. He sinks deeper into the shadows as bleary eyed customers stagger and stumble off in different directions, heading home or to other places. He doesn’t know and he doesn’t care.

It’s not much longer after that before Obo appears at the pub door and knocks. The three short raps echo down the deserted snowy street loudly. It would have made the man jump if he hadn’t known they were coming. The door is opened, spilling light out onto the street and Obo disappears inside. The door closes and everything is dark again. Right Stuff appears by the door a little while later. He doesn’t knock straight away, instead he looks around. The man knows he is hidden, very well hidden, but he also knows that Right Stuff is actually looking for him, unlike the others. Right Stuff looks towards the doorway and gives a nod towards the man before he too disappears inside.

Now the man is left waiting, filled with anticipation. Judd still needs to arrive and then he will see at last how Judd and Obo settle things. He hopes that it will go to plan but there’s no way to tell.

Judd walks down the empty street, pulling his coat closer around himself and shivering with the cold. It’s not snowing at least and for that he’s thankful. His phone beeps and he checks it, fingers numbing quickly in the wind. It’s a text from Right Stuff, telling Judd to use the side entrance of the Big Copper, not the main entrance. Judd thinks it’s a little strange but he shrugs and decides to do as he’s told.

When he knocks on the door it swings open to reveal Right Stuff. The other man looks scared and nervous. He keeps glancing over Judd’s shoulder, out in to the street, looking up and down it. Eventually he nods and steps back, letting Judd in to the small bar. Judd nods at Obo who’s sitting at the back, cradling a drink. Judd turns to look at Right Stuff and unwinds his scarf from around his neck.

“What’s with the spy stuff?” he asks. When Right Stuff looks at him with no comprehension of what he’s talking about Judd snaps, “You know, looking up and down the street like you’re trying to make sure no one’s following me. What’s up with that?”

“It’s just the way I am,” Right Stuff says shrugging, “It’s the way I’ve always been when I’m in new places.”

Judd nods slowly and turns away, only half convinced by the explanation. It looked almost as though Right Stuff had been looking for someone. He looks at Obo who’s watching him intently.

“I’ll keep my coat on if you don’t mind,” Judd says to him, looking down his nose at the other man, “It’s a bit cold in here. Couldn’t you convince your mate to keep the heating on a little longer.”

“No.” Obo said simply. “Sit down,”

He kicks out the chair opposite him, almost catching Judd in the groin with the back. Judd jerks out of the way just in time and glares at Obo. Right Stuff sniggers and takes a seat at the table. Judd turns his glare on him and Right Stuff falls silent, looking at the table a little embarrassed.

“I said sit,” Obo snaps.

Judd raises an eyebrow but takes hold of the chair and pulls it out further. He slowly sits down, edging closer to the table. Obo sits up a little straighter when Judd’s hands disappear. It’s an almost imperceptible move but Judd is watching Obo closely. The other man seems to relax when Judd’s hands reappear and he decides to test something.

“So…” Obo says slowly as Judd rests his hands on the table top. “We all know why we’re here,”

“To plan to take over the world,” Right Stuff cries out, “Mwhahaha,”

“Not the time mate,” Judd says sternly. He raises one hand to scratch at his head, the other to rest on his thigh, beneath the edge of the table. Obo gets tense again and his eyes keep flicking between both of Judd’s hands.

“We know why we’re here,” Judd eventually says.

“Ok. Good,” Obo says. “Let’s talk business then.”

“Fine,” Judd says, cocking an eyebrow, “Where do you want to start?”

Obo doesn’t say anything. He looks at Right Stuff and waves a hand. Apparently they’ve discussed this already and Judd isn’t actually that surprised. He expected something like this.

“Alright,” Right Stuff says with a shrug, “We all know that there’s a big problem here and part of it is because Charlie’s gone missing. The rest is because, let’s face it, you two hate each other,”

“Oh I don’t know about hate,” Judd says. He lifts his hands on to the table and crosses his arms, leaning forward on his elbow, “Hate is a pretty strong word. I’d say it’s more that we intensely dislike each other,”

“Hate, intensely dislike, whatever,” Obo snaps, waving his hand around. “Let’s talk business.”

Judd sits back, leaning against his chair. His hands are resting on the table, clasped together. He notices that Obo keeps flicking his gaze towards them, staring. It’s like he’s expecting Judd to reach for something at any moment. The man is on edge, shifty. Judd wonders whether he knows about the gun which is pressing, cold and heavy against the small of his back where he tucked it into the waistband of his jeans. It isn’t easy to get to but it’s hidden and for Judd that’s the most important bit. Judd taps his fingers on the table rhythmically and he watches as Obo relaxes and sits back in his seat. There is definitely something going on there. He catches Right Stuff glancing at Obo, waiting for him to take the lead.

“Oh just get on with it,” he snaps, “I know you two have already talked about this. Stop trying to act like you haven’t. Clearly Obo’s got to you Right Stuff, just like he got to Emmet,” Obo looks at him in surprise and Judd grins dangerously. “Yeah, I know about that. A better friend than Emmet told me. You’re welcome to him mate. Just remember, we’re old friends and he turned his back on me without a second thought. There’s nothing stopping him from doing the same to you,”

Obo looks away, clearly disconcerted by the realisation. Emmet’s loyalty is clearly questionable but there is nothing that he can do now.

“Get on with it,” Judd snaps. He wants to get out of there as soon as possible.

“We’ve been talking,” Right Stuff says hesitantly, “We sort of made an arrangement.”

“What white boy here’s trying to say is he’s ditching you for me,” Obo says. He grins maliciously, “Just like Emmet did,”

Judd’s nostrils flare for a moment and his mouth tightens to a thin line. Inside his head he counts down from ten, letting the anger flare up for a moment before he fights it back down. It’s clear that he doesn’t have the upper hand here.

“We’ve done a deal,” Obo says, still grinning, “From now on I’m gonna be supplying him, not you. And you are gonna keep on your patch. You stay there, keep doing your thing and I won’t trouble you. You keep your boys in your territory and I keep mine in my territory. Easy peasy. No one steps out of bounds, no one gets hurt.”

“That won’t be hard,” Judd says, shrugging, “We do that anyway. Sticking to the boundaries isn’t anything new for my boys. They do as they’re told. But what about Charlie’s patch? What are we going to do with that.”

“I’m gonna look after it,” Obo says, smirking now, “For the next 7 days I supply everyone in Charlie’s patch. Charlie’s guys work for me and Mr Big deals with me.”

“Hold on!” Judd cries, “Right Stuff came to me, he asked me to do that. You can’t just waltz in and take over because you want to.”

“You don’t have the balls to stop me mate,” Obo snarls, “You’ve shown that already. I’m gonna run my patch, and Charlie’s patch until I say otherwise.”

“And what if Charlie comes back?” Judd asks, “What then? Are you just going to roll over and hand the reins back to him?”

“Of course,” Obo says.

But the other man isn’t looking at Judd. He isn’t looking at Right Stuff either. He’s staring at Judd’s hands again, his gaze only flicking up to meet their’s now and then. Judd knows that it won’t be as simple as Obo is saying. He knows that if Charlie comes back something serious will happen and someone will end up dead. It will probably be Obo.

“But,” Obo says, leaning forward and holding up an unnecessary finger to quiet everyone, “If Charlie don’t come back soon we’re gonna have to have another talk,”

“When?” Judd asks, “And don’t say in a month. I’m not going to sit back and watch you get more and more power so you can take over my patch. I’m not an idiot.”

“Never thought you were,” Obo says with a shrug, “Balls-less, sure. A little weak and cowardly, definitely. But stupid, I never thought you were stupid and I still don’t. You wouldn’t have lasted as long as you have if you were stupid.”

“Glad to hear it,” Judd says, nodding his head.

Strangely hearing those words from Obo makes him feel better about himself. Obo is known for being cruel and ruthless with those who wrong him. If Obo thinks that Judd is cowardly that’s a good thing. Obo’s opinion of what makes people brave is far from normal. The weak part though is a little worrying. But Judd knows that this could make Obo underestimate him, make him think that Judd won’t do anything if pushed. That gives Judd the bonus of surprise if push comes to shove and he needs to act.

“So how long are we gonna wait before we meet again?” Right Stuff asks, looking between the two men. The tension is palpable and he doesn’t want to get caught in the middle. The sooner he’s out of the pub the better in his opinion.

“Seven days,” Obo says. “We wait seven days, I look after Charlie’s patch, and then we have another meeting if he still isn’t back by then,”

“And I bet you’ll still be in charge of Charlie’s patch,” Judd says with a sneer on his face.

“Not really,” Obo says, “I might get bored of all the shit involved. If it’s too much hassle I might just hand it over to you and keep Right Stuff doing the deliveries.”

“Or we could let me run Charlie’s patch,” Right Stuff says. “After all, I was his second hand man,”

The two other men look at Right Stuff in a strange mixture of disbelief and mockery. Judd pats him on the shoulder.

“Sorry Right Stuff but I don’t think so,” he says kindly. “You’re a good man but you wouldn’t last two minutes in Charlie’s place. You’re too nice.”

“Yeah mate,” Obo says apologetically, “You’re great man, really, and I like you a lot but you’re not cut out to run the operation.”

Right Stuff looks at the two men before he sits back, rolling his eyes. He knew that they would say that.

Judd feels something vibrating in his trouser pocket. It’s his phone. The sound of a ringtone comes out, one that he knows he’s set for someone but he can’t remember who it is. Obo smirks as the words of the pop song fill the room. Judd wonders who could be ringing him at this time, everyone important knows that he’s busy at the moment. He reaches for his phone, leaning back and looking at his leg. A clatter of wood on wood suddenly sounds out and he looks up. Obo is scrambling to his feet, reaching in to his jacket. Right Stuff kicks himself backwards, rolling away from the table. Judd jolts to his feet. The pop song continues to play from Judd’s pocket.

“What you reaching for?!” he snaps, “You reaching for that gun you bought off Jonny?”

“I’m trying to get my phone.” Judd shouts, holding out his hands, palms open, towards Obo, “You can hear it ringing,”

“How do I know it’s a proper call?!” Obo demands, “How do I know you’ve not just got someone to call you at some point so you can go for your gun without us noticing?”

“Because you’re a paranoid moron?” Judd suggests, “Why the hell would I go to all that trouble?”

“Because you’re a smart arsed bell end,” Obo snaps, “I don’t know what goes on in your head. You probably wanted to get me distracted so you could shoot me without noticing.”

“I think you’d notice me shooting you,” Judd says, “People tend to notice when a massive hole opens in their chest.”

“Shut up!” Obo snaps, waving his gun at Judd, “Just keep your hands where I can see them,”

“I’m going to get my phone,” Judd says slowly, “I need to end the call because the song is doing my head in,”

“Don’t do it man,” Obo says warningly, “Don’t you move,”

Judd ignores him. He looks away and reaches to his pocket. Obo yells and Judd looks up. Obo pulls his gun out from inside his jacket and levels it at Judd’s head. Everything feels like it’s moving in slow motion for Judd. He can see Obo’s finger slowly squeezing the trigger. He can see Right Stuff mouthing something, saying something. The gun is pointed right at his head.

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