Started out as me trying to write funny (I can't, I've established this now) and ended up as a "why the heck was there a police file on Mitchell from Sheffield but nowhere else?" piece. Possibly the last from me for a while as my next two ideas will be longer and I can't post on the fly, but need things finished or nearly so before I post.
As always, if you like, please review - it gives me a bit of encouragement :-)
And also, as always, I'm claiming no credit for the BH universe. That belongs in its entirety to Toby Whithouse and the BBC. A couple of lines have been shamelessly stolen from textsfromlastnight - they were too good not to have Mitchell use them!
Mitchell tossed his newspaper onto the heap of discarded comics and papers on the floor and sighed melodramatically. His foot tapped out a rhythmic beat on the floor and his fingers drummed on his long denim-clad legs. He sighed again and snatched up the paper, scanning the columns with an air of desperation.
"That's the fourth time since you sat down that you've checked the TV pages." George commented over the top of the book he was reading. "The schedule won't have miraculously changed in the last ten minutes and tonight's telly was rubbish the other three times too."
His friend slouched back on the sofa, rubbed his eyes and stretched his legs out in front of him. "Bloody Die Hard again," he complained in his strong Irish accent. "It's half past nine on a Saturday night, I've got the day off tomorrow and I'm bored rigid. I'm a young guy, George, I deserve a bit of fun."
"Young?" George grunted. "Did you seriously just describe yourself as young?"
Mitchell raked his fingers through his long hair and flung his head back against the sofa in frustration. "All right, so I've a lot of years experience of being twenty four. But as far as everyone else is concerned I'm young, and I still need a bit of fun in my life. Weekends seem to be one long round of parties I can't go to in case anyone tries to take my picture, I spend all day mopping floors in a poxy hospital, my social life is down the pan and there isn't even anything decent on the telly when I get home. Jesus!" He fidgeted, flicking the flame on his cigarette lighter over and over until George rolled his eyes at him in annoyance. "Come on, George, it was pay day yesterday. Let's go out: have a few beers, eye up a few women. Come on. Get your jacket." He bounced to his feet, a bundle of nervous energy.
"What? But..." George's eyes were panicky behind his glasses. "Isn't it a bit late to be going out? I mean, I'd have to get ready. I'd...I'd...need a shower...and maybe a shave. I can't just go out at a moment's notice."
"Relax," Mitchell clasped his friend's shoulders. "It's only nine thirty. Live a little. Be spontaneous."
The look in George's eyes suggested he wanted to be anything but spontaneous.
They compromised; Mitchell would at least give George time to change, which still meant a good few minutes agonising over this shirt or that, while Mitchell grabbed some beers from the fridge and fretted in the kitchen.
George raised his eyebrows as he came into the kitchen to see his friend exactly as he had left him: hair lank, shirt crumpled and leather jacket showing signs of heavy use. "Glad to see you've made an effort. What's that?"
"It's a beer, George. Alcoholic beverage, flavoured with hops - remember?"
"And what's that?" He pointed at an empty bottle adorning the kitchen table.
"That's a empty bottle, George. Ah, come on, loosen up. You take as long as a woman to get ready and I needed a beer or two to pass the time. It's Saturday night for God's sake; I'm fully intending to get totally hammered." Mitchell passed George a chilled bottle, "Here, get that down you. We won't notice the bar prices as much if we've had a few beforehand."
"Some of us have work tomorrow," said George in his most disapproving tone, "and won't be getting 'totally hammered'. Not even staying out late."
"What? Since when? We were both supposed to be off Saturday night."
"Since Marlon asked me to swap shifts because his clashed with his Sunday pub side football fixture."
"So that's why the pissy mood. You can't get bladdered on a Saturday night and you're pissed off that I can? Never mind, you can have a couple and then see me safely home. You know I'd do the same for you." Mitchell slapped George across the shoulders and tried to steer him towards the front door.
George stopped suddenly, raising a finger to Mitchell and blinking suspiciously through his glasses. "This isn't going to be like that other time, is it? When you got completely wrecked and started throwing stones at the pigeons roosting under the railway bridge? I distinctly remember you chasing after them as they flew away, pointing and shouting 'You used to be dinosaurs!' at them and laughing hysterically."
Mitchell snorted, spluttering beer down his front. "I said that? Excellent!"
"You might think it's excellent. Those pigeons were probably suffering post-traumatic stress for weeks." George sighed and tugged on his jacket then pointed at Mitchell's beer-stained shirt. "Are you going to change that? No. No, of course you aren't." With Mitchell in this sort of mood, he could tell it was going to be a long night.
They hit the town centre via the chippy, Mitchell working his way through a large portion of chips and scraps, which George hoped would at least help to soak up some of the alcohol. Mitchell was still licking the last of the grease off his fingers when they reached the bar they had settled on on their way down the hill. He screwed the paper into a ball and tossed it into a nearby bin, then followed George through the door.
The music was blaring as they entered: Duran Duran belting out The Reflex through tinny speakers behind the bar. "Crap, not an eighties night," Mitchell groaned with the weariness of one who had seen too many musical trends come and go, and hadn't appreciated many of them. "Spare me the cultural wasteland that was the eighties. Let's go somewhere else."
"We agreed on this one. Can't we just stay now we're here?"
"It will only get worse. Before we know where we are it will be Bucks Fizz and Rick fucking Astley and you know they make me want to jump off the nearest tall building."
Despite Mitchell's dire warning about the likely consequences of their musical backdrop they ended up staying: Mitchell determinedly necking the beers and George shifting to Coke after the first couple and thinking that he'd really have preferred a quiet Saturday night in with his book. They did their usual grousing about work – there was a new chap who had started in A and E who was pissing a lot of the staff off - and Mitchell tried to engage George in a bit of idle speculation about a group of girls at a table in the corner.
"So which one do you think? The little dark one or the redhead? Come on, they're checking us out, let's at least talk to them."
"I'm really not in the mood, Mitchell. And I think given what you've told me about your track record, you'd be well advised to steer clear, especially while you're drunk. Just because a girl checks you out doesn't mean you have to act on it, after all, or you'd be seeing half the nurses at the hospital."
"I suppose," Mitchell grinned, a wicked glint in his eye, "You know, you've either got it or you haven't and I, George, have got it. It's the accent; an Irish accent is the best aphrodisiac of them all – they can't resist it." He finished off his beer and got to his feet, swaying before getting his balance. "I need to pee," he announced and he headed for the gents with the exaggeratedly precise walk of someone who is drunk but trying very hard not to look it. George downed the rest of his Coke and put on his jacket. He was going home when Mitchell came back. Mitchell could come too or find his own damn way home.
The music had changed from Kings of the Wild Frontier to Reap the Wild Wind and Mitchell still hadn't returned. Where the hell was he? What was taking him so long? Surely he hadn't had enough yet to be passed out in the gents? No, this was Mitchell, whose capacity for alcohol was prodigious – he'd probably slipped outside for a smoke; he didn't go too long without a cigarette, as a rule.
Two men approached the seats on either side of George. "Ah. That seat's taken, actually. Oh..." George's voice trailed off as his senses prickled, recognising the tell-tale signs of another supernatural: vampires, then? This wasn't good, not good at all. He really didn't fancy becoming a vampire's punch bag: not with work in the morning. Where the hell was Mitchell?
The man to the right of George had blue eyes and short blond hair which was receding at the temples. He looked to be in his forties, but George knew that apparent age usually bore little resemblance to actual age where vampires were concerned. The man to the left had mid-brown close cropped hair and the air of a man who was used getting his own way. He looked to be close to George's own age: maybe mid twenties. The pair slid into the seats and leaned on the table.
"Well if it isn't a dog out without a collar. Do you think we should hand him over to the pound, Noah?" The brown-haired man's voice was husky and hoarse, like he made a habit of gargling with razor blades.
"His owner might be around somewhere." The man he had called Noah smiled coldly at George. "Maybe we should wait and see if he comes back."
"I don't want any trouble. I'm just on a night out with a friend. Surely you can leave me alone this once." George was having unhappy flashbacks to a previous encounter with vampires although that particular cloud had a silver lining – it had been the reason he had met Mitchell.
"A friend, is he? What call has a dog to be friends with a vampire?" Brown-haired man's words were softly spoken, but with his strange voice they came out like a snarl. "Herrick has let standards slip on his patch lately, seems to me. The famous John Mitchell, drinking with a were; I never thought I'd see the day."
So they wanted Mitchell then, not him? Good. Or at least, not good, he didn't suppose, but at least they didn't seem inclined to drag him outside and beat the crap out of him: not yet, anyway.
A commotion at one of the tables caught George's attention. He heard raised voices, Mitchell's and a female voice: an angry female voice. So that was where Mitchell had got to. He should have headed him off - Mitchell drunk and chatting up strange women in bars was a recipe for disaster. He made to go and intervene, but the younger-looking vampire laid a hand on his arm. The hand was gentle, but the threat was there. "He'll come in his own time, leave him."
The voices reached a crescendo and the barman watched closely in case there was any throwing out to be done. Even across the noisy room, George heard the slap of hand on face and Mitchell lurched towards George, rubbing his cheek ruefully. "Waste of a good chat up line she was. Told me she'd sworn off Irishmen, that we were all lying good-for-nothings and that as far as she was concerned Ireland should have been towed out into the Atlantic and sunk - preferably before I'd left it. Bitch!"
This was a use of the term aphrodisiac that George hadn't come across before, it appeared.
"I don't expect you told her you left Ireland in 1914?" the gravel voiced man commented wryly. Mitchell noticed him for the first time and the belligerent look that George had come to know well crossed his face. George had a horrible feeling it meant trouble.
"Shit, Lawrence Hamilton. Who dragged you in?" Mitchell's accent had become thicker with drink, and he drawled his words out. "I'd hoped someone had done the decent thing and staked you years ago."
"That's a nice welcome for an old friend and comrade that you haven't seen for years."
"Being in the same war doesn't make us comrades," Mitchell ground out through gritted teeth, "and I don't recall us ever being friends, especially after you stitched me up good and proper that time. If we'd all been really lucky the mustard gas would have got your lungs as well as your vocal chords. It should have finished you off before anyone got the chance to recruit you."
Hamilton turned to Noah, who had watched the proceedings in silence. "So, does he match up to your picture of him, this vampire you have decided to admire? Or was my description of him as a jumped-up little prick more accurate?"
"Ah, well, it's been nice meeting you, Mr...ahh...Hamilton," George blustered, starting to stand up. "I really think it's time we were going now. Come on, Mitchell."
"Sit down." The rasping voice had an air of command to it, and George's backside had returned to his seat before he realised what he'd done. Hamilton jerked his head at Mitchell, signalling him to a spare seat. "You too," and Mitchell tetchily dragged out the chair and flung himself down, folding his arms and sending a mute challenge across the table to Hamilton. George looked uneasily between them, willing one of them to break the silence.
Mitchell eventually did the honours. "This isn't a courtesy call, or if it is you've forgotten the courtesy." He raised his beer glass, found it empty and replaced it with a sigh. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm letting Noah meet the man he has idolised since he was turned. I hoped that if he met you he might come to his senses. I think finding you drinking with a werewolf might go some way to accomplishing that."
Mitchell scowled. "Who I drink with is my business."
"Well you know what I think of Herrick, but do you really think a lyco is an improvement? Your judgement is worse than I thought. Anyway, I didn't come here to talk about your drinking companions; I've come to ask you a favour."
Mitchell raised his eyes, glowering out from under heavy eyebrows. George figured Hamilton's chances of getting his favour were slim to none, given the tone of the conversation so far, but he was interested to hear what he had to say. Hamilton glanced across to Noah, who was watching the argument between Hamilton and Mitchell with barely concealed unease. "Noah, would you fetch us some drinks, please? Looks like Mitchell here is drinking beer and his...friend...is on Coke. I'll have my usual."
As Noah left to join the scrum at the bar, Hamilton rested his forearms on the table and leaned into the conversation. "He's been looking forward to meeting you." He gestured with his head towards the bar.
"Yeah, well, the man he admires doesn't exist any more, so your little hanger-on can find someone else to hero worship. I never asked to be a role model."
"On the contrary," Hamilton shrugged and rolled his eyes, "the man he admires is the new John Mitchell. The New Age, give peace a chance John Mitchell. For some inexplicable reason, he likes Vegetarian John."
Mitchell risked a cautious glance at George, who gave a little 'I dunno' type twitch of the head. "He wants to go clean?" asked Mitchell unbelievingly.
"He was turned ten, eleven years ago. Of course everyone still talked about Big Bad John even then, but the first big news Noah hears is that you are holed up in Vienna with Carl: that you're in detox, trying to go without blood. I'd heard rumours you were trying it late sixties, early seventies maybe, but we all figured it wouldn't last, of course, and it didn't but Noah thinks it's grand, noble – decides he wants to do the same. He's struggling, Mitchell, and every time he fails it kills him a little bit more. He wants to come and live with you so that you can help him kick it."
"Let me think about that. No. There you are, you've had your answer. I wish I could say it's been nice seeing you again, but it hasn't. See you around."
"I might be able to do you a good turn in exchange."
"He's not staying with us, end of." On the other side of the table George was distinctly relieved. Another vampire in the house? Not bloody likely. One was quite enough for him to cope with.
"You weren't so coy about hanging out with vampires in the past, Mitchell. You and Herrick were quite the team back in the day. I bet I haven't heard the half of what you got up to."
"We didn't get up to so much. It's been exaggerated." Mitchell looked uncomfortable, glancing at George who was peering at the vampires in concern.
"You're too modest. You and Herrick were famous – for all the wrong reasons. You were always on your little weekenders somewhere leaving a mess behind for someone else to clean up."
Mitchell tossed his shaggy head as if to attempt to shake some sense into it and when he looked at George there was more clarity behind his eyes. "George, I think you should head home. Tell Annie I'm fine and not to wait up. I'll find my own way back."
The reason for Mitchell's edginess suddenly occurred to Hamilton and he glanced from Mitchell to George in amusement. "He doesn't know, does he, your pet? You've not told him."
George looked as if he was about to protest at being called Mitchell's "pet" but Mitchell flashed him a warning glance. "Not all of it, no," Mitchell grudgingly admitted. "He knows I was a bit off the rails for a while, but..." He looked imploringly at George. "Please, just go home now."
Hamilton laughed heartily, mischief twinkling in his eyes. "Oh, is he in for a treat." He turned to George, a mocking smile on his face. "I can't believe he's not told you. This fellow here was a legend. Does your friend here know how dangerous you are, Mitchell? He probably thinks he's safe – that the smell of his blood means you'd never kill him," he leaned towards Mitchell with a nasty leer on his face. "Does he know that you don't just kill people to drink from them? That sometimes you just do it for the joy of it? That you get a kick out of the screaming and the begging? Do you think for instance we should warn him about having ceramic pots in the house; I seem to recall one making a handy murder weapon. But of course it's debatable whether she actually died from the head injury or the blood loss, isn't it – you fed from her as well as trying to bash her brains out, didn't you?"
"Shit!" Mitchell spat the word out and wheeled towards George. "George, listen to me. Go home. Now!"
George shook his head uncertainly, his eyes troubled behind his glasses. "I'm staying. I don't know if I'll be any help to you or what they want from you, but I'm staying. I knew what I was getting into when I took up with a vampire and I think they'll find that I'm harder to shock than they imagine." He gulped and pushed his glasses firmly up his nose, squaring his shoulders in an attempt to convince himself that he meant it. "And it strikes me they are just old-fashioned bully boys. Two against two evens the odds up."
"A very brave and noble mutt, indeed," Hamilton gave him a mock bow and cracked his knuckles. "So, the incident in question...1960, wasn't it, Mitchell? Or 1961? No, it must have been 1960. Late in the year though, I'm thinking. I seem to remember freezing my bollocks off on that investigation."
"December. December 24th, 1960."
"Christ, was she that memorable? She must have been one hell of a lay, Mitchell, for you to remember the date this many years on. Oh wait – December 24th, you say? Of course, it was a Christmas tree pot, wasn't it? Some family had a miserable Christmas that year... thanks to you."
George looked stricken at Mitchell, who couldn't bear to meet his eyes, fully aware of the horror and disappointment he would find there. George knew Mitchell had changed – was trying to change – but reminders of his past would keep coming back and smacking him in the face.
"That's what the vampire network was for...is for, for God's sake. So that any slip ups could get covered up. So that the humans would never find out." Mitchell mumbled into his jacket. George's eyes were boring into him – he could feel them.
"Slip ups, yes. Not arrogant jackasses like you and Herrick doing a tour of Britain, leaving your trail of carcasses as you went. But we had to put up with it because you two were famous, weren't you? Not just for your killing, of course, but famous for your disregard of form. London, Sheffield, Newcastle: we all had your leavings to clean up. Leeds, Manchester – is there a city in the country you haven't killed in, Mitchell? Did you keep a tally? Like those geeks who collect football grounds – did you collect cities? Week on Saturday, Nottingham – put it in the diary." Hamilton was in full flow: face flushed and agitated by the time he paused for breath.
"It wasn't like that. And you stitched me up! Right there - that's why I hate the sight of you, you little shit."
"You assumed someone would be there to pick up the pieces – clean up after you and smooth it all over so that you could go on your sweet way."
"But you didn't, did you? Everywhere else sorted it: every other town and city in the country apart from fucking Sheffield. You had to be different. Murder enquiry, the full works, wasn't there? Is there still an open police file somewhere with my fingerprints in it? You gobshite." Mitchell wasn't in any mood to pull his punches and Hamilton was getting him really wound up.
George looked worriedly between the pair. This didn't seem like the sort of conversation you should have in a bar with people within hearing distance. So far they had kept their voices down, but the two of them were getting enraged enough that someone was bound to overhear soon, and words like "murder" and "vampire" weren't ones you wanted overheard if you were trying to keep things secret.
"It kept you away well enough. No more random vampire killings in Sheffield after that. Precious few anywhere, if I remember correctly. You seemed to stick to your own turf, you and Herrick. That was when you settled in Bristol, wasn't it? Set up your own network instead of relying on everyone else's all the time. There were those two in London of course – nice try at cleaning up, Mitchell, but your prints were all over there too." Hamilton leaned across the table and laced his fingers together. "We tried to talk London into keeping the file open, you know, but that would have meant risking some bright spark linking the two and the old serial killer hysteria starting up so they got all antsy and covered it up anyway."
"You bastard." Mitchell's tone suggested that discussion was over, but Hamilton persevered.
"That's where my favour comes in, so at least hear me out. That girl, that open file, it could all disappear, you know."
"What are you on about?"
"It's nearly fifty years, Mitchell. Pretty soon it will be up for review. You know, do we leave it open – an unsolved murder case still – or do we close it? Shuffle it to one side, consign it to a basement somewhere, quietly forget about it. It would be as if she never happened. No fingerprints on file. We could run your prints through the system and nothing would show up. John Mitchell would be squeaky clean. I could do that for you, if you took Noah in."
Mitchell leaned back and folded his arms. "For one, I'm not stupid enough to get arrested so no-one will be taking my prints any time soon. For another, nobody's going to be looking for anyone for that murder now anyway. They'll be figuring whoever did it is dead or geriatric by now." Noah returned with the drinks and Mitchell took a long draught of his beer. "And for last, I don't think you'd be prepared to blow the existence of vampires wide open to the world, no matter how much you hate me. So the answer's still no, but thanks for the beer anyway. Cheers."
Noah broke his silence. "Please, Mitchell. I really want to do this and I don't think I can do it without help. You've had people to help you, and you're managing to stick to it. I've never wanted anything more in my life."
Mitchell shook his head, "I'm sorry mate, really, but another vampire in the house is more likely to make me fall off the wagon than stay on it, and I think you'd find that too. And I don't take kindly to Hamilton here trying to force my hand with some kill fifty years ago that everyone has forgotten but him and me." He downed some more of his beer, "Now, if you gentlemen would excuse me, I've got some serious drinking to get on with. I intend to see the bottom of a good few glasses yet."
Hamilton looked sadly at the quiet and dejected Noah. "I had a feeling you might say that, so I warned Noah not to get his hopes up." He sighed. "I know you don't have a lot of time for me, Mitchell, but I always had a grudging respect for you. I really hope this doesn't come back to bite you."
"It won't," said Mitchell, "you can count on that."
Hamilton and Noah left, drifting through the patrons towards the door, and George remembered that he still had his jacket on and had been planning to go some time before. Mitchell was intent on staying and went to sit alone at the bar, grimly downing what looked like Jack Daniel's .
"What the hell is the barman doing serving him?" muttered George, "He's clearly drunk already, so why is he serving him?"
Hamilton appeared at his shoulder, watching Mitchell too. "It's the hint of menace."
"Some humans can sense it, even if they don't know what it is. The feeling of danger: the prickle on the back of the neck. The barman can feel it and he knows it's in his best interests to keep the drinks coming." Hamilton considered George carefully. "Were you shocked? Back there, when I was telling you what he had done?"
"No, no, no. I'm...a man of the world. Both worlds. My world and...and your world. I don't shock easily."
"He was formidable, you know. He and Herrick made worthy adversaries; we admired them, even when they were making our lives difficult. They had an enthusiasm for it –we all kill to feed, but they made it into a game: an art form almost. I was there once, after one of his sprees. He doesn't know I was there; he was out of it, blood drunk and raving, all rolling eyes and bloody teeth, but there was something great about him - majestic, in a macabre sort of way. He was embracing a vampire's true nature, not letting it be suppressed by hiding and fitting in." Hamilton sighed and shook his head sadly. "It's almost a shame to see him like this, you know: neutered and broken, a shadow of what he was."
George suppressed a shudder. "I don't think he'd see it that way. Why are you telling me this?"
"There will come a time, George, when you will see him like that. I can guarantee that New Age John won't be here for ever – you'll meet Big Bad John one day and you'll recognise him when you do."
Noah was waiting patiently in the street, watching them talking. George nodded towards him, "You obviously think a lot of him, if you were prepared to let him try this new lifestyle of Mitchell's. Not many sires would do that, I'm thinking."
Hamilton smiled sadly. "Ah, but maybe grandsires would." He watched George's face as his meaning sank in. "Yes, I sired him, but he's my grandson too. His father was two when I was turned – I was dying of complications of the gas attack that did this to my voice so I jumped at the chance. I watched them, from a distance, saw my son grow up and marry and have a son of his own." Hamilton's face was blank and George couldn't decide whether he had felt anything for these people who were his family, or whether they were just his last connection with his human part. "Noah never married, you know – preferred to stay with his parents and make sure they were cared for, so when he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia I introduced myself and gave him the same option I'd been given. He made the same decision." Hamilton's husky voice faltered and he stared hard at the ceiling for a few moments.
"What you have to realise is that while Mitchell and I rarely saw eye to eye he's one hell of a vampire. Of course I tried to talk Noah out of this idea – it's crazy, after all – but if I were to trust my grandson's safety to anyone, John Mitchell would be high up the list. Even after all that he's done a thread of decency runs through him, and he's strong enough to protect Noah if he were to need it, in the same way that I'm guessing he has set himself up to protect you. Shame it won't happen now."
George shuffled uneasily, "That file...Could you...?"
"You want me to close it anyway?" George nodded. "No. I'm not going to stick my neck out for him unless I'm getting something in return. I don't need anyone wondering why I'm taking a particular interest in a fifty year old murder case. Anyway, like he said, the chances of anyone resurrecting it, or linking him to it now are remote. It was just the only leverage I had over him so when he said no out of hand I figured I'd try it at least. No harm done."
George watched the two vampires disappear into the night, then cast a quick glance back to where he knew Mitchell was still intent on drinking himself into a stupor. He shrugged and headed back towards the sanctuary of the pink house.
The further he got from Mitchell, the more his shoulders stooped and the heavier his footsteps felt. He stopped with a sigh and leaned against a wall, resting his face against the cool bricks. Muttering low curses under his breath he turned and retraced his steps. He'd see Mitchell home safely, whatever state he was in. After all, that was what friends did, wasn't it? Watched out for each other?
Annie came to the foot of the stairs carrying the teapot and called up, "Mitchell? George? George?"
George appeared at the top, a damp towel slung over his shoulder. "What is it?"
"Would you come down here a minute?" She stood to one side as George came through the kitchen door after her and pointed with the spout, "Why is there a chair tied to the fridge?"
"That was Mitchell last night. I was trying to get some black coffee down his neck when I got him home, but he insisted that the chair was spinning and needed to be tied to something heavy to stop it, so he tied it to the fridge handle with the dish towel."
"Oh," Annie considered a moment. "So can I get some milk out?"
George took a cup of tea through to Mitchell who was where he had left him, out cold on the sofa. George had got him as far as the house the night before, but had drawn the line at carrying him upstairs. One bleary eye opened as George set the tea on the table within arm's reach. Mitchell groaned. "Did you get him?"
"Whoever it was hit me in the head with a brick." He felt his forehead cautiously, as if reassuring himself that any damage was purely internal.
"The person we met hit you with something, but it wasn't a brick." Had hit him with something, George corrected himself. Had hit him with a reminder that the man he lived with had killed more people than George could imagine, and however much George had wanted to forget the conversation it had replayed in his head throughout the night as he tossed and turned and tried desperately to sleep.
"We met someone? Who did we meet?" Both eyes were open now, and Mitchell's hand reached out for the mug of tea and the paracetamol packet George had propped up against it. He took a swig, washing the tablets down with a grimace.
"Don't you remember?"
Mitchell swung his legs over the side of the sofa, then groaned and rested his head in his hands. "Christ, why didn't you stop me, George? I feel like death."
"Well that's appropriate. So you don't remember what happened?"
Mitchell frowned in concentration, then shook his head gingerly. "I remember the chip shop, and Duran Duran...was it Duran Duran?"
"So you don't remember the girl who hated Irishmen? Or the...couple of guys we got talking to?"
Mitchell had lost the rest of the evening, looking blankly at Annie when she asked about the chair. Probably for the best, George mused. It was bad enough that one of them would remember that conversation about the girl in Sheffield, the "weekenders" and Mitchell's black past. It would get pushed into a corner of George's mind – the part labelled "to be forgotten about". He would concentrate on his mate Mitchell – the mate he got drunk with, watched The Real Hustle with, ate pizza with – and try to forget he had ever been "Big Bad John".
But something that Hamilton had said preyed on his mind.
"You'll meet Big Bad John one day and you'll recognise him when you do." George hoped that day was a long, long way off.