Not Talking Italics is a sarcastic short story in which Mister Slidesmith – pardon me, Doctor Slidesmith – is interrogated about a crime committed.. a game of Texas Hold Em’ going terribly wrong but there is more to this story…

| Introduction | 

To celebrate the #PublicationDay of Russel Day’s book NEEDLE SONG on 30th April 2018 by
Fahrenheit Press, I am very pleased to share with you the author’s short story NOT TALKING ITALICS.

To whet your appetite for NEEDLE SONG, here’s what the book is all about:

Spending the night with a beautiful woman would be a good alibi if the body in the next room wasn’t her husband.

Doc Slidesmith has a habit of knowing things he shouldn’t. He knows the woman Chris Rudjer meets online is married. He knows the adult fun she’s looking for is likely to be short-lived. And when her husband’s killed, he knows Chris Rudjer didn’t do it.

Only trouble is the police disagree and no one wants to waste time investigating an open and shut case.

No one except Doc.

Using lies, blackmail and a loaded pack of Tarot cards, Doc sets about looking for the truth – but the more truth he finds, the less he thinks his friend is going to like it.

###

Now, without further ado, I present you Russell Day’s short story NOT TALKING ITALICS. Happy Reading!

| Not Talking Italics – Russell Day |

#1

“…at three fifteen a.m. Present are James Slidesmith, Detective Constable Stephen Barker and, myself, Detective Sergeant Christopher Wade. For the benefit of the tape, Mister Slidesmith would you-“

“I’m sorry?”

“It’s Doctor Slidesmith, not Mister.”

“My apologies. For the benefit of the tape, Doctor Slidesmith-“

“No italics.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You know, when you write something down you put it in italics to give it a certain inflection, make it sound sarcastic or patronising maybe. I hold a PhD in Psychology. So, just Doctor. No italics.”

“Doctor Slidesmith, for the benefit of the tape, will you confirm that you have been given the opportunity to seek legal counsel but, have chosen to waive that right at the present time.”

“Yes, I have waived the right to have a legal representative present during this interview.”

“Okay, would you care to tell myself and DC Barker what happened last night at number, five Elton Avenue.”

“Let’s see, me and Yakky got there around about quarter past ten.”

“Yakky being Andrew Miller, it that correct?”

“Mister Miller works for you? He tattoos at my shop and I take a percentage. Technically he’s self-employed.”

“Okay, go on.”

“We pulled up around quarter past, we were running a bit late ‘cos Yak’s bike was playing up again. They’d started without us. And it was already going sour.”

“Going sour?”

“Yes, going sour. Good use of italics. We’d been told we’d being playing limited-raise. When we got there, they were playing pot-limit.”

“And that was a problem?”

“You play Texas Hold Em’ at all Sergeant, you a poker man?”

“I know the rules.”

“How about Constable Barker there, no? Alright, for the benefit of Constable Barker and the tape, when you play Texas Hold ‘Em, the betting takes place in rounds and the players take turns. The first bet is compulsory and it’s for a pre-agreed amount, the second bet doubles it. That’s compulsory too. This is to get the pot started. From then on, if you want to stay in for that particular hand, you have to match the previous bet. If you think your cards are going to beat everyone else’s, then you’re going to want a bigger pot. So, you raise. If the game’s limited-raise the pot can only grow so fast, it limits the value of each hand. Limits what you can lose in one go. Pot-limit is slightly different, the max amount you can raise, is the size of the pot currently on the table.

Now, Constable, I’ll give you a piece of invaluable advice. Do not, I repeat not, take pot-limit poker games lightly. People hear the term no-limit and promptly wet themselves ‘cos they think they’re about to lose all their hard earned, and most likely they are. In a lot of no-limit games, hands are lost just because people can’t match the last bet. You can be holding five elevens, and still lose. But … people tend to do that once. They go in, all Johnny-Big-Bollocks, lose that week’s wages and the next month’s rent, then go home and cry about it. It’s not something a lot of people do twice. Now, if you looking to take someone to the cleaners, then no-limit’s all well and good, but if want a cash cow, a nice little Friesian that’s going to roll up for milking time and time again, you need pot-limit. Isn’t that right Sergeant?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Really? I thought you might. Nice watch by the way. Rolex?”

“Made in China.”

“Very convincing looks real from here. They’re clever these Chinse. Sorry, lost my train of thought, Oh yeah, pot limit.

Most people, at least most westerners, aren’t too good at maths. If there’s a few people playing, and there were five of us last night, pot-limit can increase the value of each hand very, very quickly. But, a lot of people won’t notice that. Take someone’s wages and their Rolex—fake or otherwise—in one hit and they tend to remember. When it’s delicately taken away bit by bit over the course of a whole night, they don’t tend to feel the loss so keenly. So, maybe your Friesian heads back for another try. Isn’t that right Sergeant?”

“So, why didn’t you walk away from the table?”

“I would have done if Li hadn’t been there.”

“That would be Ms Li Chang?”

“That’s right.”

“She works at your shop too, is that right?”

“She’s my apprentice, learning the ink.”

“And you had no idea she’d be there?”

“That’s right Sergeant. Only, I had No-Idea without the italics.”

“You weren’t aware she played poker?”

“A lot of people play poker, apparently, you play poker, that doesn’t mean I expect to find them sitting next to Billy Sinclair shuffling a pack of cards.”

“She didn’t mention it to you at work?”

“If you were playing poker with Billy Sinclair, would you tell your boss?”

“Okay, so you decided to stay and play with Billy Sinclair and Ms Chang. Was Mister Miller happy to play too?”

“No, Yakky dropped out. He just stayed to watch.”

Just watch.”

“That’s right. Nice italics by the way.”

“You think this is some sort of joke? A man’s died in case you’ve forgotten.”

“According to your Rolex—sorry fake Rolex—it’s now three twenty-four in the a.m. The wee small hours, when the human body is at its lowest ebb. I’d say by now, two men have died.”

“Did you know Ms Chang had a criminal record when you took her on?”

“Of course I did. Anyway, she was upfront about it.”

“It didn’t put you off employing her?”

“She served her time. And it’s not everyone can say that, is it fellas?”

“What’s that meant to mean?”

“I’m saying she’s paid her debt.”

“The man she stabbed might argue with that.”

“If she’d stabbed him two years earlier, she’d have been too young to have it on her permanent record and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

“You think she was being abused?”

“I think we’ve all got history, Sergeant. That all I’m saying.”

“Shall we get back to the events of last night? You said there were five people present, is that correct?”

“Not quite, there were six people. five of them, including me, were playing cards.”

“Who were they?”

“Myself, Li and of course Billy Sinclair were at the table with two other players. Yakky was somewhere behind me, watching.”

“Who were the other two?”

“I don’t know their names. One of them was the Bumper.”

“And the final man?”

“He was the guy who wasn’t meant to see the sucker.”

“And for the benefit of the tape?”

“But not for you, eh?”

“Just tell us what you mean, Doctor Slidesmith.”

“And we’re back to the italics. There’s an old saying about poker: if you can’t see the sucker, it’s you.”

“So, this guy was the sucker?”

“He was meant to be, well, we all were. Aside from Billy of course and the Bumper.”

“Doctor Slidesmith, for the benefit of the tape, would you explain what the term Bumper means.”

“Let’s suppose we three were having a game of poker, and Constable Barker is sitting there with a royal flush. That’s the top hand, Constable in case you don’t know, as good as it gets, cannot be beat. Only problem is the pot is next to nothing. You’ve got the best hand possible but all it’s going to get you is loose change. What would you do, Constable?”

“When it’s my turn to bet I raise as high as I can?”

“Why not tell him why you’re shaking your head, Sergeant Wade?”

“The thing is Barker, if you make a big raise you’re telling people you have something worth betting on. So, unless they’re holding something pretty good, they’ll just fold.”

“So, what you need is a Bumper. Let’s say you ask your friend Sergeant Wade here—oh, now don’t look like that, I’m sure he’s lovely—you ask Sergeant Wade to keep bumping up the stakes for you, a little bit at a time. You don’t need to raise at all, with each round you just put in enough to stay in the game.

Now, of course, I don’t know you’ve made this arrangement. I’m just seeing two players betting cautiously, as if they’re sitting on moderately good cards. So, I keep on playing, and if I’m a sucker, I don’t notice that the pot’s growing fat on my money.

That can go on for quite a while. Particularly if I’m holding what looks like a decent chance, the big casino sitting on a flush, say, or the dead man’s hand. And bad players quite often bet on mediocre cards, especially if they’ve put a lot in the pot already.”

“What are-“

“The big casino is the ten of diamonds, Constable. The dead man’s hand is two eights and two aces.”

“Well, well Sergeant Wade, it sounds like you know a bit more than just the rules.”

“‘Who was the sucker?”

“I told you I don’t know. He was a bloody awful card player though. He even had a lucky charm.”

“A lot of people have lucky charms.”

“People either have lucky charms or skill. I’ve yet to see a poker player with both. Anyway, not only did he have a lucky charm … he tapped it against the table when he had a good hand.”

“He had a tell.”

“He had more give-aways than Father Christmas.”

“And you don’t know who he was?”

“Never seen him before.”

“And the other man, the Bumper?”

“Never seen him either. Barely saw him when he was there if you know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t.”

“He was good at blending into the background. He was like a coat of beige paint.”

“Come in… For the benefit of the tape, WPC Gillian Web has entered the room at three thirty-seven a.m.”

“Can I speak to you outside for a moment?”

“Pausing interview at three thirty-eight.”

 

#2

“Interview with James Slidesmith, re-commencing at three fifty-nine a.m. Doctor Slidesmith, does the name Matthew Dolan mean anything to you? It seems Mister Dolan was the sucker. One of the Doctors at the trauma unit thought he recognised him. They pulled up his medical records and his widow has just confirmed ID. You were right, two men are dead.”

“It wasn’t much of a deduction. He’d lost a lot of blood before the ambulance got there.”

“A fair amount of that blood was found on Mister Miller’s hands and clothing. Substantial amounts on Ms Chang as well.”

“Li was beside him when the bottle went in. Sit near a served artery and your dry-cleaning bills get out of hand.”

“You told me Mister Miller was sitting behind you. He was covered in blood but you weren’t.”

“Yakky jumped in to do some first aid and I stayed out of the way.”

“You we’re happy to let him bleed? I thought you were a Doctor.”

“Doctor of psychology. I leave the organic stuff to other people.”

“People like Mister Miller.”

“He knows more about first aid than I do.”

“So, after Mister Dolan was stabbed you stepped aside while Mister Miller gave first aid. What time was this?”

“I couldn’t say exactly. I’d estimate a little after midnight.”

“You called the ambulance?”

“That’s right.”

“The dispatcher’s log records the time of your call as twelve thirty-seven a.m. That’s more than a little after midnight. Why the delay?”

“It took me a while to find a phone.”

“You didn’t have a phone with you? What about Mister Miller or Ms Chang?”

“Yakky and I didn’t take our phones. Billy Sinclair didn’t allow mobile phones at his table. Rules of the game. Both our phones are back in my flat. Why don’t you call the search team you’ve got there, they’ll confirm it.”

“Ms Chang?”

“Li was at the table so I assumed she wasn’t holding a mobile either.”

“You assumed?”

“She was helping to stem Mister Dolan’s blood loss. It wasn’t the time to ask if she had a phone I might borrow.”

“So, you sat and watched?”

“No, I went through Billy Sinclair’s pockets. I figured he’d still have his phone on him, it being his table and all.”

“And did he?”

“Yeah, it was in the back pocket of his trousers. Last one I checked because he’d landed on his back and I had to roll him over to get to it.”

“Searching Mister Sinclair’s dead body didn’t trouble you at all?”

“All the troubles I’ve had over the years have been handed to me by the living not the dead.”

“Billy Sinclair must have had a lot of pockets if it took you thirty minutes to go through them.”

“It took a couple of minutes. But his phone was locked, so even after I found it I couldn’t use it. I tore round the house looking for a landline.”

“You looked around the whole house?”

“That’s why your forensic team’s going to find my prints all over the place.”

“Did you find a landline?”

“In the end, I ran out the house and started banging on doors. No one wanted to answer.”

“Why not?”

“I’m guessing Billy wasn’t a very neighbourly person. When you start interviewing people, I think they’ll tell you he wasn’t too considerate about keeping the noise down and wasn’t too pleased if people complained. I burst out of his house at gone midnight and started shouting the odds. It took a while to find someone willing to talk to me.”

“So, you’re at a table where a man has just had an artery served. While he’s spraying blood over Mister Miller and Ms Chang, you conduct a body search and a body roll, on a man who’s just been shot. And yet your hands are totally … clean.”

“Again: good use of italics.”

“You’re not as funny as you think, or as clever. Three pairs of black latex gloves were found in your jacket pocket. Care to explain that?”

“I’m a tattooist, I use latex gloves when I work. Black’s the favoured colour because they hide smears of blood and ink. It saves upsetting squeamish clients.”

“And you took three pairs to Billy Sinclair’s house because?”

“I ride a nineteen seventy-eight Sportster. When you ride a machine getting on for forty years old, you expect to be fixing things by the side of the road from time to time. Latex gloves keep my hands … clean.”

“Did you wear a pair of these gloves when you searched the body? I think you did. I think that’s why your hands don’t have any blood on them. Or any powder burns from the shot gun.”

“I didn’t need to put gloves on, and when you get the lab reports, they’ll tell you my prints are all over Billy Sinclair’s phone. He took both barrels right between the eyes. He’d have been dead before he landed and dead people don’t tend to bleed. The mess was behind him, it wasn’t dripping into his pockets, it was dripping down the wall. The reason there’s no powder burns on my hands is simpler still. I didn’t fire the gun.”

“When WPC Web asked me to step outside a moment ago she didn’t just inform me that Dolan was dead. She told me the team currently at Sinclair’s property reported finding a pair of black Latex gloves, with blood on them.”

“Cool Hand Luke.”

“What?”

“Bad poker players, guys that remember winning once but forget a dozen losses, they have a favourite film. It’s either The Cincinnati Kid or Cool Hand Luke. With you, it’s Cool Hand Luke, the bit where Paul Newman’s got a handful of bugger all and bluffs his way into a win. You can only bluff certain people at certain times. And, Sergeant, your bluffs are as clear as glass.”

“So, tell me what happened.”

“We’d been playing for about an hour and a half. In my experience, that’s when the sharks come out to play and feeding time starts. Most players can’t play well for that long, they think they can but they’re wrong.”

“So?”

“So, I started cranking it up a little. Since I’d made the Bumper, I kept my eye on him. I couldn’t spot the signal he was getting to start upping the pot but I could see when he started betting and when Billy held back. Dolan was building up the pot quite nicely. So was Li. They were both losing money hand over fist.”

“That bothered you?”

“Li works for me, I know what I pay her and I know what she can’t afford to lose. Once she’d lost all her stake money, and that was more than a month’s earnings, Billy said he’d open a line of credit. That bothered me, a lot. It bothered Yakky too.”

“Does he have the hots for her?”

“Yakky’s not as mean as he looks, he’s got a weakness for lost souls. They bring out his maternal side.”

“What happened?”

“I told Li she’d do well to fold her cards and call it a night. Billy reminded her how much she’d just tipped into the pot and said it would be a shame to give it up without a fight.”

“How much was in the pot at that point?”

“Just short of three thousand. Of that Billy had put in less than two hundred. I’d largely coasted it but Dolan and Li had followed the Bumper and had both put in about a kay.”

“You thought that was enough?”

“It’s never enough if you stand to win. I don’t know what Billy had but I was holding David, Alexander, Julius and Charles.”

“What-“

“He means he had four kings, Constable.”

“I was happy to let the hand carry on. I win, I keep the pot and use a chunk of it to pay off any debt Li might be about run up with Billy. If I’m feeling greedy I just buy the debt and stop it from her wages. Either way it’s in my interest to keep the pot going.

Yakky, doesn’t know what I’m thinking and tells Li to walk away. Billy doesn’t like him butting in and tell him to shut it. Li is getting pissed off at me and Yakky, for telling her what to do. She tells both of us she can take care of herself and then tells Sinclair she’ll take the credit. Billy takes out this address book, he handles it with a certain flair, pale blue leather and obviously very expensive. Then he pulls out a fountain pen, opens the book at C and, very carefully, writes Li’s name down.

The games still on. Three more rounds, by now its big money just to stay in and Dolan’s nerve finally breaks. He folds then the bumper bows out and I tell Billy I’ll see him.”

“And you nail him with your picture show?”

“He is not a happy bunny at this point. Yakky puts his oar in again and tells Li she should walk away, again. Billy tells him to shut the fuck up. The atmosphere is not what you’d call pleasant. Little-Boy-Beige sitting all alone starts getting a bit jittery and drops his cards. Trouble is they land face up and Dolan sees what he’s been betting against for the last twenty minutes.”

“And it looks wrong?”

“Very wrong, Mister Bump was holding nothing. Dolan was a lousy player but he wasn’t green. He twigged he’d been set up. He looks at the Bumper’s cards then at Billy and it’s obvious all hell is about to break loose. I should have just walked away there and then.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“The pot. There was over seven grand on the table by then. And it was mine.”

“Dolan didn’t see it that way?”

“To be fair, he didn’t know who was who at that point. As far as he could tell, everyone at that table was in on the trick. I go to take my winnings and he stands up and tells me to keep my hands off. I tell him okay and back off, but he’s working himself into a state. There was a bottle of Scotch on the table, best Hollywood traditions and all that. Dolan grabs it, smashes it on the edge of the table, then walks around to Billy calls him a cheating piece of shit.”

“What are your people doing all this time?”

“My people?”

“Mister Miller and Ms Chang.”

“Me and Yakky were having a lad’s night out playing some cards. Li being there was a surprise. They’re not my people.”

“Alright, so what were Mister Miller and Ms Li doing?”

“Li was trying to edge away from the table. Yakky was behind me, so I couldn’t say what he was doing. Probably bricking it, same as me.”

“And Billy?”

“He was laughing. Laughing at the sucker. It didn’t do anything to improve the situation.”

“If Dolan’s the one holding the broken bottle how did he come to get cut?”

“Billy and Dolan were to my right. The Bumper was on my left, putting him almost opposite them. And he wasn’t only bumping, he was playing body guard. That’s partly what tipped me off that he was on Billy’s pay role. I couldn’t see Billy Sinclair having people in his drum and not having a heavy at hand.”

“The way you describe him, this Bumper doesn’t sound like a heavy.”

“Well, pulling a gun lent weight to his point of view.”

“So, tell me, how is it Dolan ends up bleeding out with a chunk of glass in his neck and Billy Sinclair gets a face full of shot from his own man?”

“As I say, the Bumper’s a smallish guy but the gun he’s holding makes up for that. He leans across the table, over all that money, and tells Dolan to put the bottle down. Dolan does as he’s told. He puts the bottle on the table, moves slow, keeps his hands where Bumper can see them. He wasn’t stupid.

When Billy stands up, the avuncular river-boat-gambler act is over. He sucker-punches Dolan in the ribs, folds him in two, then takes hold of the bottle. Dolan was doubled over with his head almost on the table. Billy grabs his hair, I think he was planning to give him a few scars to remember the evening by.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to kill him. But Dolan was panicking and thrashing about. He twisted at the wrong moment. Instead of his face, the bottle goes into his neck. That’s where Li picked up most of the blood stains. It was like a hose pipe. A fair amount of it goes over the Bumper too.

Dolan’s still thrashing about and, by chance, grabs the barrels of the gun. I expect Bumper just tugged on reflex, only his finger’s on the trigger. Boom, he’s unemployed. And very unlikely to get a reference.”

“So, it was all a big mistake?”

“That how it appeared to me. But what does it matter? It’s too late to say sorry, they’re both dead.”

“Then what?”

“When Billy got shot he went over backwards and let go of Dolan’s hair. Dolan slides off the table and that’s when Yakky started doing his Florence Nightingale act. We didn’t notice what he’d done to his knee until later.”

“And the Bumper, and you?”

“Neither of us moved for a second. Rabbits in the headlights, you know? Then Bumper looks at what’s left of his boss and starts moving again. Once he’d got his wiggle on I unfroze too, but I didn’t do anything other than watch him for a moment. For all I knew he was about to reload.”

“But he didn’t?”

“He pulled out a handkerchief and tried to wipe the gun down. I don’t know how well he did it. Then he dropped it on the floor and started stuffing my bloody winnings into his pockets, when they were filled he stuffed the rest down his shirt front.”

“And you let him?”

“He didn’t look like he’d be easily dissuaded at that point. Anyway, once I was happy he wasn’t about to start putting the witnesses away I was more concerned with finding a phone.”

“That was when you went through Billy’s clothes?”

“At first, I was looking around the room for the landline that didn’t exist. I didn’t think of checking Billy’s body until I saw Bumper go over to him and take that fancy blue address book out of his pocket.”

“And this Bumper character disappeared?”

“I heard the front door slam.”

“So, he just left, covered in blood, carrying seven large in cash?”

“All the cash … and Billy’s little blue book.”

“We’ve yet to find anyone to corroborate this story. None of Mister Sinclair’s neighbours report seeing the man.”

“If you had Billy Sinclair for a neighbour I expect you’d keep your curtains closed too. That’s why it took me so long to make the nine-nine-nine call, remember? No one wanted to put their head outside their door.”

“Mister Miller’s story differs substantially from yours.”

“Word of advice Sergeant Wade, one card player to another: some people are harder to bluff than others.”

“Okay, tell me again-“

“I’d liked to take a break”

“I’m sorry?”

“I said I’d like to take a break. I’ve cooperated fully. I’ve answered all your questions. I’ve listened to your veiled accusations and I’ve done all that without a lawyer being present. Now, I want a break and a cup of tea.”

We’ve nearly done here and I think-“

“I don’t care what you think. I have a right to remain silent and if I don’t get a cup of tea that’s what I’m going to do. Then I might exercise my right to legal representation. And you see, Sergeant Wade, if that happens it’s likely to ruin the delightful rapport you and I have. Once I start dealing with an up-right and conscientious member of our great legal system we lose the intimacy, you see? Things, once revealed, may have to sit out there in the cold light of judicial scrutiny.”

“Are you refusing to answer any more questions?”

“Yes, unless they relate to tea.”

“Constable, nip out and get us some teas eh? See if you can scare up some biscuits too, I’m starving. For the benefit of the tape, Constable Barker has left the room. Interview suspended at four forty-three a.m.”

 

#3

“And then there were two.”

“You know something Doctor? You’re full of shit.”

“Now the tape’s not running, we could drop the formalities. Why not just call me Doc? You could drop the italics then.”

“The papers are going to love you. All this clever-clever talk and call-me-Doctor patter is going to go down a storm in the press gallery. But I’ll tell you something: juries don’t like smartarses. Neither do judges. If you’re lucky, with good behaviour, you’ll be out in under twenty. If you’re lucky.”

“Twenty years for calling an ambulance? That seems harsh. What do you think they’ll give Yakky for administering first aid?”

“I see it less as first aid, more as interfering with a crime scene. Was slicing himself open in the process part of the plan, bit of a sympathy ploy?”

“Plan?”

“I’ll tell you what I’m looking at Doctor. I’m looking at a room with three people in it, one of them with a history of putting a knife into somebody. Two of these three are covered in blood and just happen to work for the third. There’s a baize-covered table in the room, playing cards scattered all over the shop and two dead bodies on the floor. All the markings of a high stakes poker game gone very, very wrong. All expect the money, which isn’t there. What I’m not seeing is hide nor hair of this mysterious Bumper who vanished, pausing just long enough to take the money and wipe any prints off one of the murder weapons of course. While he was doing that, your man Yakky manages to kneel on the broken bottle. And, because we can’t lift reliable prints off a pile of glass fragments, that destroys any evidence of just who used it to kill Dolan.”

“That’s what you’re seeing is it?”

“It is. I think the only Bumper there last night was Ms Chang. You and your little crew went over to Billy Sinclair’s with the intention of skinning him alive. Only you over played your hand and underestimated the dangers of taking money off villains. Or maybe you didn’t underestimate them and that’s why Mister Miller was there along with a shot gun. In case it went sour, to use your words. Now, the three of you are up to your ankles in blood. So, while Billy’s bleeding out, you gather up the money and come up with this cock and bull story about needing to scour the neighbourhood for a phone. Only you’re not looking for a phone, you’re looking to hide the money somewhere so you can collect it later.”

“Can you see this?”

“Your hand?”

“Yeah, my hand. Notice something?”

“It’s trembling, you starting to worry Slidesmith?”

“The story I told you is as genuine as your fake Rolex, Sergeant. Think about that. When real players see another player pick up a card and get the shakes, they know it’s time to fold.”

“Meaning?”

“You tremble when the danger’s past. All the adrenaline as nothing to do, so it wanders round your veins and jangles your nerves. When a player picks up a card and trembles, it’s because he’s got the card he needs. He’s relieved, not worried.”

“What have you go to be relieved about?”

“You didn’t mention the blue address book. You see, Sergeant Wade, players, real players, don’t talk about tells, or know the fancy nick names for the cards and they don’t talk about luck. What they do is remember all the times they win and forget all the times they’ve lost. And they lose a lot. And that costs a lot. And the minute I saw you, I knew the only way you’d ever see the sucker at the table, was if someone handed you a mirror.

We’ll stick with the story about the Bumper but let’s add a twist. Maybe he didn’t run away with the money and the blue leather address book. Maybe I took the blue book. Billy had written down my apprentice’s name in it and I really didn’t want her name connected to a dead north London villain, not in writing. And maybe, being the curious sort, I spent a moment flipping through that book.

There were a good few names. people owing Mister Sinclair money, or favours in lieu. One of those names was Wade. Wade DC, to be exact, next to some very big numbers. DC? Darren Colin Wade? Dave Charles Wade? Who could know? Then guess what? I find my interviewing officer is a Detective Sergeant Wade. And DS Wade knows the silly names losers give to playing cards, talks about tells and thinks he has a talent for bluffing. So, I’m faced with a man who talks like a piss poor card player and wears a watch worth three kay. That he pretends is fake. So, I wonder—and please set that tape rolling again any time you like—if DC might stand for Detective Constable. Of course, that would mean DS Wade has been in Billy Sinclair’s pocket since before he was promoted. That would mean DS Wade has been losing money for quite a while. And that begs the question, where does a man who has on-going gambling debts to a local villain find the money to buy a Rolex? A Rolex he tells people is fake. I believe you, about juries not liking smartarses. Now, believe me; they like bent coppers even less.”

“Good luck proving any of this Doctor Slidesmith.”

“Oh dear, back to the italics are we? I don’t really need to proof it though, do I? I don’t even need to plant the-seed-of-doubt, because it’s there already, in someone’s head. I’m not the only one who can tell a genuine Rolex from a copy, and you can bet I’m not the only one to wonder about it.

If Billy Sinclair’s little blue book, as described on that tape over there, should turn up on someone’s desk, certain wheels might start to grind powerful small. Better it’s not found, better it stays lost, along with all the money.”

“And do you think this Bumper character is likely to keep it somewhere safe, where it’s not likely to be found?”

“Oh, I’m sure of it. I’m also sure that when DC Barker comes back with our tea, we’ll resume the interview. I’m also sure that, for the benefit of the tape, Mister Miller, Ms Chang and my good self will be praised for our attempts to save the unfortunate Mister Dolan. And then we’ll all walk out of here; free and clear.

And Sergeant Wade, when I say free and clear, I’m not talking italics.”

###

| About the Author | 

Russell Day Author Image

Russell Day was born in 1966 and grew up in Harlesden, NW10 – a geographic region searching for an alibi. From an early age, it was clear the only things he cared about were motorcycles, tattoos and writing. At a later stage, he added family life to his list of interests and now lives with his wife and two children. He’s still in London but has moved south of the river for the milder climate.

Although he only writes crime fiction Russ doesn’t consider his work restricted. ‘As long as there have been people there has been crime, as long as there are people there will be crime.’ That attitude leaves a lot of scope for settings and characters. One of the first short stories he had published, The Second Rat and the Automatic Nun, was a double-cross story set in a world where the church had taken over policing. In his first novel, Needle Song, an amateur detective employs logic, psychology and a loaded pack of tarot cards to investigate a death.

 

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