Blaise pushed himself away from the table in order to give his stomach some extra room. Happily full of horse steak, baked potato and red wine, he was relishing the thought of the jam roly poly and custard to come.
“Damned fine meal sir, thank you.” Thatcher looked just as pleased with the meal they’d just completed. Both Blaise and Thatcher were of a mind that after a hard day’s work policing the scum of the British Empire, there was nothing better than a bloody good meal, accompanied with a bloody good drink.
Rubbing his stomach gently, Blaise looked around at his fellow diners. There were the usual fat-cats, businessmen who had managed to thrive despite – or even because of – the hardships caused by the war, their slut mistresses – women who were only with the fat old men for one thing – the gangsters, men who were more than open about their lifestyles and whose money greased many palms, and finally the Germans.
Fucking bastards, rubbing our faces in it every day. Having fought the Germans face-to-face, cheek to jowl, Blaise knew he would never be able to rid himself of the hatred he felt for them. Losing to them had been one of the biggest blows to British moral in history. Even now his stomach churned at how he and his men had been forced to stand down and submit themselves to processing at the cessation of hostilities.
Cessation of hostilities, absolute bloody farce. He’d personally witnessed Imperial German Army stormtroopers shooting British soldiers as they emerged from their trenches, hands above their heads. The official claim had been that because of the vagaries of time-keeping, it had been “impossible” to ensure that hostilities ceased at the same time.
He forced down the thoughts with a conscious effort, mindful to keep his face clear of his thoughts. If any German officer felt that he was being challenged, or threatened, the results for the Britischer doing so ranged from a split lip to a firing squad, all with complete impunity from being prosecuted for the German.
“Ah, dessert.” He watched as the waiter gently placed a bowl of jam roly poly in front him, and then served Thatcher. A second waiter placed two small jugs of custard in front of them in turn.
“Tuck in, Thatcher, this is going to be the best jam roly poly you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Better even than your beloved mother’s I dare say.” Blaise lifted the jug of steaming custard and gently poured it over the jam roly poly. To him, there was no finer pudding in the British Empire. Absolutely nothing compared to the delight of the mix of textures or flavours a spoonful could deliver. A bowl was a gift from heaven.
Firstly, there was the hot custard. Sweet, lightly flavoured with vanilla, and smooth, it was as if a carpet had been laid upon his tongue. Secondly there was the roly poly. Delicate, soft in places and just crispy in others, it offered an amazing counterpart to the custard. Thirdly, there was the jam. Often bitingly hot, its tart sweetness and the pips in it mixed with the first and second parts in such a way that the taste buds revelled as if being bathed in the tears of angels.
There was a burst of laughter from the Germans, some of them banging their hands as a red-faced and slightly chubby Major gave a speech, extolling the virtues of those at the table, to the detriment of the defeated British Army.
“Forget it sir, it’s not worth it. Those buggers will get theirs in the end. Don’t do anything stupid. Please.” Blaise dragged his eyes back to Thatcher as his comrade gently placed a hand on his.
“Sorry Bill. Even now the bastards are spoiling things. No matter, I’ll just have to drown my sorrows in custard.” He forced a laugh that even to him seemed hollow. He started to raise his spoon, custard dripping from the bottom. A sudden bout of shouting from the maitre d’s desk caused him to pause.
“Bloody hell! Can’t I eat my bloody supper in peace?” He dropped his spoon back into his bowl and, like many other diners were starting to, stood up to look at what was going on. He had barely reached his full height, when a shot rang out. Instincts finely honed in the trenches sent him dropping to the floor before his conscious mind even realised what was happening. Thatcher was a split second behind him.
More shots rang out and women screamed. As he reached for his own pistol, Blaise peeked around the corner of their booth. There was a surge of movement as three men barged their way into the main room of the restaurant, guns raised. He ducked back quickly, unwilling to draw attention to himself too soon.
“Saint George for England!” Blaise cursed as he heard the battle cry of the English resistance.
What the fuck now! More shots rang out and he glanced across at the Germans. They were slow to react. It was clear that many of them were occupation troops, the dregs of the Imperial German Army, with the creme de la creme being sent to the Eastern front. Barely half of them had managed to draw their own pistols, and it looked like none of them had a clue about how to co-ordinate their actions.
“Keep down Bill, let’s hope these bastards take a few of the krauts down before things get too out of hand.”
“Too bloody right sir, those fat schnitzel-eaters can die screaming for all I care.” He couldn’t have chosen a more apt expression, for the dying had already started. One of the Germans was down, clutching at his stomach and screaming ‘hilfe’ to anyone looking in his direction. The rest of the Germans were blazing away with their own pistols. Booze, adrenalin and too little practice meant that they were snatching at their triggers, or just blazing wildly over the top of the table. Bullets flew in all directions, sending diners diving to the floor, as well as cutting them down as they sought cover.
Blaise took another peek to see where the resistance fighters were. Nothing more than boys, they were just as inexperienced as the Germans, and had taken cover behind tables in the centre of the restaurant. One of them was frantically trying to clear a jam from his Annihilator sub-machine gun.
A woman tried to break from the booth next to his, drawing the fire of both sides. Blood puffed from her body, and she screamed before slamming face first into a table, bouncing of it in a shower of glass and cutlery. Things are getting bloody out of hand. As a member of the British Secret Intelligence Service, Blaise was not only a sworn servant of the King of England, but he was also a sworn servant of Kaiser Wilhelm. This meant that – no matter how hard he fought it – he was duty bound to assist the German officers in fighting the resistance. To not do so, especially as there were so many witnesses, would result in close friends and acquaintances asking very hard and painful questions of him, something that he wanted to avoid.
Still, he didn’t want to jump in too soon, as the resistance fighters had finally got their act together and drilled another two of the Germans. A flurry of shots was exchanged and there was a sudden crack just above his head. Scalding hot liquid poured over his head.
“Bloody bastard hell!” he swiped at his head, convinced that he had been shot in the head. He looked at the yellow liquid on his hand, confused as to why it wasn’t red. He cautiously licked his hand. Custard. Thank God! the relief that came with that realisation set him to laughing.
He was still laughing as he stood suddenly and snapped off two shots at the closest resistance fighter. As he popped down he saw that both shots had hit the man in the arm, Make your excuses and leave, you silly sod!
Thatcher had joined in, popping off shots over the top of the booth, and making an absolute mess of one of the ceiling supports. Blaise glanced over at him, to see that he was laughing as well, obviously relishing the site of his boss covered in custard.
“Laugh it up you cheeky bastard.” Blaise couldn’t help grinning back, macabre it might be, but being caught up in a gunfight whilst covered in one’s dessert did add a certain humour to the whole affair.
He snapped off another shot, this time aimed at a particularly brave officer. The heavy round took the man in the side of his head, showering one of his colleagues in blood and brains. As the body slumped to the ground, his colleague attempted to rise and move away from the sudden lack of shelter his friend had created. There was a burst from the Annihilator, rounds stitching their way across his chest, and sending one of his jacket buttons pinging across the restaurant.
Another burst of fire took the legs from yet another German and Blaise felt his stomach churn as the knowledge that he would now have to actually try to kill the resistance forced its way through his stubbornness.
“Thatcher, on the count of three, pop up and blaze away. If we can drive these stupid buggers away, we can hopefully avoid killing any of the silly sods.”
Thatcher nodded, and rose with Blaise as the reached ‘three’. Together they snapped off carefully aimed shots towards the resistance fighters, lead slamming into wood, plaster and glass with bare inches to spare, not one round hitting any of the resistance.
There was a sharp whistle, and the resistance fighters let rip with a volley of their own, before they upped and ran for the exit. Blaise forcefully pushed the memories that the sound of the whistle brought to the back of his mind and stood fully.
Cooling custard slowly slipped down the front of his face, and he ruefully stared at the remains of his pudding.
“Don’t suppose we’ll be able to get seconds? Customer spillage and all that?” he hopefully asked a trembling waiter, he shrugged when no answer was forthcoming, “No? Damn.” With a heart felt sigh, he set about the business he was paid for.