Rushing in from Bateman’s eleventh-floor balcony harry Larry, DH and Bron hand-in-hand and of a pale subsumed disproportionate to the ale consumed. Saving time before diving for the bedroom, with its hardy glass partition reinforced by mist, they use Larry’s highly malleable face to express their collective horror while Bron’s striking, actorly tones attempt to vocalize it. Only Sydney is left outside, finishing a roll-up while stroking his Darwinian beard; a man eternally fascinated with history even as he risks becoming it. The lip-licking presence about to send him to his maker appears highly amused by this stance, so much so that the man-sized, cat-like beast hovering opposite him on two legs (as if to hover on four would be innocuous!) begins to mimic his every action and expression, even leaning over to steal a filter tip at one point. Such reportage I establish while taking cover behind the tallest dwarf but soon I am no mere spectator, my collars being felt by long, intelligent fingers before I find myself lifted to the ceiling.
‘My money please,’ coos a smooth, calm voice, spiked with foreign.
‘Of course, the bet,’ I play for time but the chips are down.
Shaken from side-to-side with an almost apologetic cruelty I find myself wishing more than anything that my friends were circus strongmen, dragoons, axe-wielding hobgoblins, or at least into the equivalent role-play. Instead I hear Bateman offering our tormentor all the hair-restorer he requires. And is that shirt from Paul Smith it really suits you? Time for diversionary action.
‘I don’t have the money now,’ I splutter, ‘It’s in my own apartment, in the form of coal bullion. If you like I can take you-’
A third figure appears while the second remains unseen to me. At first his tweed suit and moon-shaped glasses reassure me somewhat. Could this even be an Englishman? He opens his mouth to display cracked and jagged teeth, the tonsils behind them bloody and pulsating. So far so good. But then comes his voice: educated and distinctly Eastern.
‘When he says your money,’ the odd-bod intones, ‘he means the money you’re going to steal for us from that double-crossing, TB-spreading Byron Badger.’
‘Oh him,’ I mutter, ‘he’s a right-‘
‘Or else,’ comes a purring from outside, ‘you end up like your landlord.’
And there is poor old Mister Vladimir – who wouldn’t impale a fly – strangled with his own rent book, dangling from the balustrade of the terrified young girls’ opposite.