The Heart Of The Matter – Part 2

He took a sip of beer and fidgeted on his stool unsure what to do next. A glance at Alfred told him he wasn’t going to get out of explaining himself. He decided to go on the offensive.

“Listen, I meant no offence to anyone. Really I didn’t.”

Alfred chuckled and took his pipe out and held it as if considering what to do. When he spoke it was with a hushed voice.

“Well now, the ‘friendly natives’ thing might well have passed but the ‘colourful history’, that’s something you should have thought twice about. Perhaps it’s your bedraggled state that’s addled you.”

James was beginning to feel annoyed. The character at the nearest table was again staring at him and he couldn’t help but feel he was being played a bit.

“Alfred, I didn’t come here to cause trouble, can’t you see that? I just wanted to get in out of the weather and have a pint. If my presence is unwanted I would appreciate being told so. I’ll leave if that would be in order.”

Alfred lit his pipe as he listened and seemed on the verge of reply when the man at the nearest table called out to him. He excused himself and went over and bent down to listen as the other man spoke. He nodded gravely and returned to the bar.

“James, my dear man, there is no call for you to take umbrage. No one here wants you to leave, although I dare say they wouldn’t care if you did, if you take my meaning. The matter of the history of the Carib people is contentious at best. I’m sure you had no way of knowing.”

James relaxed a bit and had some beer. He noted that the man at the table was still studying him intently.

“Well that’s too right Alfred. I don’t suppose you’d like to tell me what’s up with the strange bloke you just spoke to?”

Alfred puffed at his pipe for a moment. “Not sure I take your meaning James.”

“I mean, he’s been staring at me since I first opened my mouth and now he’s called you over for a chat. Forgive me if I’m being paranoid but I believe he had something to say about me.”

Alfred nodded. “Indeed, he did want to discuss your presence. You interest him, it seems. As to what he had to say, well, I’m afraid that’s confidential. I – “

A ruckus at the back of the room interrupted their conversation. Two men, both drunk, how sprung up from their respective tables and were shouting at each other in a language James could not understand. Everyone else in the room seemed to be rapt with the exchange of angry words. Alfred was frowning.

The man Alfred had been speaking to was now on his feet and seemed to be ordering them to stand down. If so, his orders were being ignored. Both of the men pulled out long-bladed knives and were now circling each other.

The bartender pulled a wooden club from under the bar and was shouting at the two but they ignored him. A circle had now formed around the combatants blocking everyone else’s view. The band has ceased playing and was now part of the crowd of spectators. Alfred and the man from the near table jumped up and ran toward the group just as a scream filled the air.

The bartender sprang over the bar and got there first separating the spectators. James stared in horror. One of the combatants was lying on the floor bleeding profusely; his attacker was standing over him in triumph. The bar had turned deathly silent.

Part 3 Tomorrow


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