“Okay, okay, you two, break it up.”
Dix’s sneering voice sounded as if he were in the room.
Gloria slid away from me. She snatched up her wrap and
slipped into it.

I lay on the bed, paralysed, and stared around the room,
trying to see from where the voice had come.
“What was that?” I said. The words came out of my
mouth in a croak.

“Oh, shut up!” Gloria said, and went over to the mirror
and fluffed up her hair, then she wiped her mouth with the
back of her hand with such a grimace of disgust that it turned me sick to see.

“Who was that talking?”
“Who do you think, you dumb, stupid ox?”
I was off the bed by now.
“Was that Dix?”

She ignored me as she touched up her lips in the mirror.
My hands were shaking. I could scarcely breathe.

“Gloria! He’s not here, is he?”
“Oh, shut up!”
I went across the room and grabbed her by the arm,
pulling her round.
“Is he?”

She wrenched herself free and hit me three times across
my face so quickly and violently I had no change of avoiding the blows.

“Don’t touch me, you stinking lout!” she said shrilly, her
face white and as hard as granite. Her eyes looked like holes in a sheet.

I heard the door open and I spun round.
“Take it easy,” Dix said, coming into the room. “Okay,
Glorie, beat it. I want to talk to him.”

Gloria pulled her wrap about her and walked out of the
room. Dix shut the door behind her.

He was wearing his black suit with the white pinstripe.
His hat was thrust to the back of his head, and there were
beads of sweat on his face.
“Well, pally, you seemed to be giving yourself a good

Rage that I had never known before took hold of me. I
wanted to maim him, to tear out his throat, to trample and
stamp the blood out of his body.

I moved towards him, my hands thrust out, my fingers
“Better not, pally . . .”

I was within distance now. I sent over a swing to his face
that had every ounce of my weight and strength behind it. He moved his head a fraction and my fist shot past, bringing me on to a short punch that landed solidly under my heart. It made my knees buckle.

I closed with him, my hands reaching for his
throat, but he threw me off with one tremendous shove, and as I came in again, he dug his fist into my body under the heart and I went down on all fours. I felt as if my ribs had been pushed in; as if I had been kicked by a horse.

I remained like that for several seconds, and then I
slowly pushed myself upright He stood waiting, his hands
down at his sides, the sneering grin on his face, his eyes
watchful and gloating.

“I’m way out of your class, pally. Take it easy. I want to
talk to you.”
Those two awful body punches had sapped most of my
strength. I had trouble in keeping upright, but rage drove me towards him.

I wanted to smash his sneering face even if he
killed me while I did it
He let me come on, then as I hit out, he again swayed
away, and again his fist that felt like a mahogany hammer
buried itself into my body.

I went crashing over backwards and measured my length on the floor. I felt as if my body had fallen apart. I squirmed on to my knees, but that was as far as I got. I had no strength left to push myself upright.

I remained there on my knees, my head on my chest, my breath coming out of my open mouth in short, wheezy gasps. Three punches to the body had smashed me and reduced me to the feeble
helplessness of a child.
She had warned me not to hit him. Well, at least that
hadn’t been a lie.

Dix went over to the bed and sat on it. He took out a
cigarette, lit it and flicked the match into the fire-place.
“Take it easy, pally. There is plenty of time.”

I remained kneeling on the floor. I don’t know how long I
stayed like that, maybe ten minutes, maybe longer. Then
slowly I reached out and grabbed hold of a chair and pulled myself into it. Every movement sent pain through me.

I sat forward, bent in half, my arms folded across my belly. I had a h0rrible idea that if I didn’t hold on to myself, my guts would pour out on to the floor. “I’ll get you a drink.” He got up and went out of the room.

The radiogram continued to play. The whole business
was completely unreal: a deadly kind of nightmare. He didn’t
come back for some time. I vaguely heard a murmur of voices.

I sat there, holding on to myself, staring down at the white rug, my mind congealed and blank.

He came in after half an hour or so and shoved a, glass
of whisky into my hand. I took it and swallowed the whisky in
one long, convulsive gulp. My rage had drained out of me. All
at was left now was a sick horror of myself and a sicker fear of him.

He sat on the bed again.
“You know, pally. I thought you were going to turn out
smarter than you are. When you didn’t show up after Gloria
had ‘phoned you I began to wonder if you had spotted the
setup. I don’t mind telling you I got a little worried. Up to now the bait has never failed to land a fish. Well, never mind, better late than never. It worked in the end.”

The door opened and Berry came in. He was in his shirt
sleeves. He looked hot and his hair was lank with sweat
“Here they are, Ed. They’re still wet, but my stars! aren’t
they pippinst!”

He handed Dix a big white enamelled dish, gave me a
cold blank stare and went out, shutting the door behind him.
Dix examined the contents of the dish.

“They’re damned good. Here, pally, take a look. How’s
that for art?”
He came over and put the dish on my knees. The dish
contained three quarter-plate sized photographs, fresh out of
the hypo bath. When I looked at them I nearly threw up. I
didn’t have to look twice to see who the man was in the
photographs: it was me.

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