Blaise loved the taste of rice pudding. It was the combination of the creamy taste caused by the milk and the lovely sweetness of the sugar. The skin on top was his favourite part, and he relished the way it coated his front teeth as he scraped off from the rather fine piece of silverware he held in his hand.
Custard was another dish that he loved, almost as much as rice pudding. There was nothing – apart from rice pudding of course – that could beat custard poured all over a lovely, crisp on the outside slice of jam roly poly. Not many people could afford such a dish in these hard times, but there were ways and means. He’d recently been about to tuck in to just such a meal, before it was rudely interrupted.
Not many people could afford, or even find, the ingredients for the beef Wellington he had just consumed. Every bite, every spoonful, had been accompanied by the metaphysical crying of angels.
The beef had been perfect, with the coating of pancake and mushrooms making each and every mouthful a spiritual and physical delight.
With heartfelt regret he looked at the last spoon of pudding, ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow.’ he popped the spoon into his mouth, holding it there as he sucked every last bit of flavour from the spoon, turning it over so that he could scrape the skin off with his tongue.
The man opposite smirked, folding his arms as he leaned back to look at Blaise through the smoke drifting lazily into the air from the cigarette hanging loosely, stuck to the ever-wet lips.
Blaise couldn’t stand him. Not only did he always have wet lips, he constantly dabbed at his watering eyes, lifting his bottle-thick glasses in order to do so. Scars around them showed that he had at least done his bit for the country. Gas burns, especially when the seal on your gas mask isn’t tight.
‘That was a very nice meal. Fine food, fine wine and shit company make for what looked to be a cracking evening into a royal fucking waste of time and money. This is the second pissing meal I’ve had spoilt in the recent past. So tell me, please, to what do I owe the pleasure of the pain building in my arse smithy?’
Smithy winced at the tone in Blaise’s voice.
‘Sergeant Warner,’ he cleared his throat as his voice wavered, Blaise was one of the most hardened members of the intelligence community, and a cold-blooded killer at that. Everyone knew that he was most certainly not a man you crossed.
He started again, ‘Sergeant Warner says that there will be another shipment tomorrow, Orange docks. One ton of drugs, booze and weapons.’ Blaise smiled as Smithy licked his lips, and then took a gulp of water, his mouth obviously dry.
Blaise looked Smithy over. Poorly made suit, hair unkempt and dirty. A pencil-thin moustache that needed trimming and stubble that needed shaving. His fingers were not only nicotine stained, they had the black staining characteristic of Bliss, a new drug that was starting to make its presence known on the streets.
Ever since the opium wars in the last century, drugs had been an issue, but nothing like the trouble they were causing now. Many survivors of the front – both at home and in France – had turned to the drug to try to erase the memories that constantly forced them to relive the war. In some of the poorer areas, it was starting to become an epidemic.
As he had said the last sentence, Smithy had cast his eyes up and to the right. You lying bastard. You’re as good at lying as you are at being a crook.
Blaise slowly reached into his jacket pocket, being careful not to spook the two heavies who stood behind Smithy. Using two fingers, he pulled a folded piece of paper out, and then unfolded it, keeping the printed face towards them.
‘Funny that Smithy, I have a note here saying that Warner was arrested two days ago.’ He crumpled the paper into a ball as he spoke, ‘Which means that you’re lying to an officer of the Empire.’
As fast as he could he flicked the ball of paper towards the two goons. As they reacted automatically and flinched away, he lunged across the table and drove the end of the spoon into Smithy’s right eye.Before the goons even had time to react to the blood-curdling wails that sprang from Smithy’s mouth, he was on them.
The largest of the two was already battle-scarred, his lip curling upward as if he had a hairlip. Blaise snatched a trifle dish from the table next to him and smashed it into the man’s face with bone crunching force, most likely doing the wretch a favour, he’s so fucking ugly. He knew prison surgeons were renowned for being able to stitch almost any wound together with consummate skill.
Custard, cream and fruit-laced jelly mingled with shards of glass, blood and flesh as his second victim snapped his head away from the inescapable pain, wailing just like Smithy was, clawing desperately to clear his vision.
The last member of the trio was faster. A dueling scar on his cheek indicated that he was not your average run-of-the-mill thug. Only the most privileged members of the Prussian high-born go to the sort of school that encourages duelling. Rich prick fallen low.
Even the way the man moved showed that he was a member, or former member, of the Prussian Officer Corps. A member of the ruling elite and a skilled and therefore deadly opponent. How far this chap’s fallen, to be working for a shit like Smithy!
Blaise felt his blood run cold as he barely managed to dodge a sudden stab to his stomach. He snatched at a bottle on the next table and clumsily parried a slash at his face. A quick slap to the face with his free hand rocked the Prussian back a step and gave him time to see what he was up against.
The knife that his opponent held was an old trench weapon. A combination of knuckle dusters knife and hammer, it could be used to strike from any angle and still cause grievous injury. Even a punch from the hand that wielded it could smash his bones to powder.
The Prussian blurred forward with a stab and slash combination, forcing Blaise to draw his stomach back and immediately snap his head back as the slash cut at his face. A stinging sensation under his eye told him that he had barely escaped. Bastard’s lightning fast.
A waiter appeared behind the Prussian, his mouth open as if he was shouting. He most likely was, but the adrenaline coursing through his veins meant that Blaise had only eyes and ears for his opponent. The waiter laid his hand on the Prussian’s shoulder, mouth still moving, and pulling on the man’s shoulder. A sharp backward elbow to his face sent him reeling away, the Prussian darting forward once more with a forehand-, backhand-slash, stab combination.
A quick sway and the forehand was avoided, the bottle crunched into the Prussian’s elbow on the backhand and the stab, considerably slower than it should have been was parried to the outside. Breathing deeply, Blaise went on the attack, desperate to get off the back foot and take the initiative away from such a skilled fighter.
Blaise stepped in, reversing his grip on the bottle so that the neck projected towards his attacker. A quick thrust to the ribs sent the Prussian back, folding forward as his body registered a shattered rib before the pain even reached his brain. Air blasted from his lungs with a long ‘whoosh’ sound.
A quick lead slip forward, and Blaise brought the bottle smashing down onto the back of the man’s head. There was a sound, not unlike that of an egg being cracked, and the Prussian slammed face-first into a table before finally crashing into the floor, fine porcelain and glass tinkling to the floor in a cacophony of sound.
All of a sudden, sound buffeted Blaise’s ears as the adrenaline slowed to a trickle. He wiped a shaky hand across a sweat-dampened brow. The after effects of the adrenalin were making him wish that he hadn’t eaten such a heavy meal. Breathing hard he quickly scanned the room for further threats. With nothing obvious, he surveyed the scene in front of him.
Smithy and the other goon were still screaming. The noise grated on his very soul as if the devil was scratching a black board. Memories sprang – unbidden – into is brain, his mind’s eye replaying scenes of death from the hell that was the Western Front. He shook his and, casting his eyes down to the Prussian, saw that the man was not only still breathing, but that he was still trying to get up.
Tough bastard, and I think you’re probably the real boss out of this crowd. He skipped forward and snapped a kick into the side of the Prussian’s face, knocking him senseless once again. With a grunt of satisfaction Blaise pulled his Webley from inside of his jacket, pulled the hammer back and then shot Smithy in the face.
The second thug turned at the noise, raising his free hand as if to shield himself from the bullet that passed through it like a hot knife through butter, snapping his head back and sending brains onto a diner’s plate, like a large dollop of steak tartare.
There was a shocked silence, broken only by a faint snoring coming from the Prussian and sobbing from some of the more sensitive female diners. Clearing his throat, Blaise looked over at the nearest waiter.
‘Could I have my bill please, and a telephone?’ he smiled as the waiter dumbly nodded, and then sat back down at his table, nodding and smiling politely to the couple next to him.
‘Sorry about all that, I just can’t abide having my meals interrupted.’