sixty-one to nine

DH, Sydney and Larry arrive bearing beer and bantering in their thick, Northern Quarter accents. The game, in the absence of any European guests, takes on a secondary nature: the dwarves that Bateman has hired to interpret the action barely hiding their contempt for a noisy and distracted audience. I answer a knock to the door while over my shoulder continuing to speculate with our host about the probable effect of the cotton crunch on the price of olives. But even offering Dave Gorman the last sautéed shrimp won’t take the look of constipation from his unusually strained features.

‘What is it man?’ I ask, google-whacking him on the shoulder, ‘You look like you’ve seen our landlord.’

Dave begins to shake violently, whatever nibbles we offer him soon ending up all over the dwarves. Shielding him from their increasing anger, I assure him we’re all friends here.

‘They’re coming,’ he whispers, finally, ‘Coming to collect their winnings.’

‘Who?’ I snap back, finding out seconds later but not in an it-all-happened-so-slowly-like-in-a-dream kind of way. In actual fact – and in real time – events were about to unfold so quickly and bizarrely as to make gradual hair-loss seem comparatively normal.

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