The Hollow Crown
By the Rashomon Gate
It’s human to lie. Most of the time we can’t even be honest with ourselves. Commoner from Rashomon
Finnegan’s Wake – Friday 2nd February 2001
The snow is bitter as it bites into the face on the street. Everybody entering the venue is a strange mix of bleached out faces from shorter days and rosy cheeks branded on by the wind. Another group of freshmen enter the bar, as the band commence warming-up. The sudden movement to warmth trigger shivers of excitement and plumes of misted breath from them.
The band on stage are tuning up a variety of instruments suggesting they could play anything from Sex Pistols to the Dubliners or possibly both at the same time. Judging by the crowd gathering, they have a strong local following in the campuses and rock circuit. The motif of the band continues the odd blend, a heavy metal skull surrounded in shamrock green coiled writing.
A stringy-haired man sits alone in a booth towards the stage. His biker leathers boast the blood red patch of the Massachusetts Irregulars RMC. Even without the reputation for physical violence that the bring with them, others are giving his booth a wide berth. He stares distractedly out of the window towards the street. The drink in front of him is untouched, the ice in it long since melted to water, his fingers tapping out a tattoo on the table. The beat seems more martial than anything a rock band would lay claim to, and the heavy staccato can be heard in the booths nearby, despite the PA system. Its difficult for those nearby to avoid listening to its hypnotic beat, a few of the heavier drinkers at the bar also seem to be tapping in harmony with it.
A man in a dapper suit strides across the threshold, diverting the attention of those nearby. Looking perfectly at ease in this environment, despite his clothing being more expensive than the patrons average monthly rent, he commands attention towards him. The band preparations pick up an urgency, their tuning of their instruments becoming a melodious harmony rather than a discordant wail, and they begin with ‘Fortunate Son’ an unusual choice for them. The gentleman throws his eyes quickly across the bar, settling on the back booth. He glides across the floor, capturing the mis-balanced drinks tray of a waitress and effortlessly handing it back to her with a smile. He slides into the booth across from the biker, hands held out in front of him.
‘Your choice?’ the voice of the biker is gruff, direct from the back streets of Boston’s Southside. He angles his head towards the band. As the band finishes the song, they move to a more intense song, ‘Deeds not Words’, accompanied by skirling pipes and a heavy drum beat. The band members are trusting in their lead singer’s reading of the room as he departs from the agreed setlist.
‘Hardly, but if you will play this game. Shall we let the world know what we are?’ the next song that comes on begins with the line ’We’re going to die when the sun comes up/ no doubt about it/ can’t live without it.’
A faint trace of a smile passes over the biker’s mouth ‘I thought I was the rebel, what about your precious little pretence?’
‘A song about alcohol in an Irish bar! I find myself shocked, shocked to find out that drinking is going on here!’ with an overly theatrical voice of surprise and roll of the eyebrows, he catches the attention of a waitress, who comes over with two new whiskies. In the interim the first drink seems to have been downed with alacrity by the biker. The music grows louder, drowning out any chance the conversation will carry across a table, ‘I was sorry to hear about Joshua’.
‘Just another soldier shot down by the rich SOBs that run this place. He was a good man.’ They both raise their glasses, quickly draining them. ‘How did it happen?’ he looks directly at him, ‘I doubt you’ve got anything to do with it, or you’d not have the balls to be sitting there.’
‘So that’s why he left sanctuary?’
‘I think so, whilst no violence occurred, he looked rattled.’ the biker nods, indicating for him to continue. ‘Shortly after that Johannes and his whelp discussed something, it seemed to involve the new boy in town. I didn’t hear what they were discussing’
‘This would be the Narc?’ whilst phrased as a question, its clearly a statement. ‘On which, to absent friends’ a third round of whisky has been dropped by the obedient waitress.
‘Yes. He left shortly after with a determined look, if I didn’t know better I’d swear he wanted to kill something. Either way he muttered something about wanting to get something to eat to the stuck up English cow they hang about with. She then talked to your mother, who asked Tweedledum and Tweedledee to look for Joshua.’
’That’s consistent with what she said.‘ Internally Hardcastle breathes a sigh of relief at this. Whilst he isn’t convinced that Jogger can identify his turtles from his jays, he has no doubt that he could bodily rip him apart if he so choose. ‘So what’s your take on it?’
‘It could all be an unfortunate coincidence.’ He pauses, weighing his next works, contemplating the outcome, ‘but it seems convenient. They also had time when he was brought back to talk with him alone. It would seem he made his choice then and it would seem unusual for Johannes brat not to know the consequences of his choice.’
‘True. This sounds like the Arab’s doing. It would be typical of his ilk to arrange such an action, to strike against me, whilst not appearing to act.‘ He looks at his drink, ’To other matters, how goes the research into the Shay estate?’
Hardcastle slides across a manila folder, ‘I have a leading expert preparing the work as we speak. Here is her preparatory findings as Hardcastle leans back, he tries to contain his elation, as the singer moves onto ’I am Shipping up to Boston.’
GM note as far as I know this is an entirely made up motorcycle club- apologies if I’ve accidentally referred to a real MC. I’ll be happy to amend it.