The Flamingo Club, Liverpool England…
Mike Brand sags, and topples from his bar stool. Not gently, not gracefully, but painlessly, unconsciously and most of all, heavily.
I fucking hate gravity…
His head strikes the tiled floor with a muffled thump, followed quickly by the half-full whiskey glass, which shatters next to his head. The stool follows, first wobbling uncertainly, then toppling onto his prone form, sharply punctuating another disastrous, alcohol-sodden day. On either side of the gap he left behind him at the bar, patrons peer down curiously through the dappled half-light, shrug, and continue with the night’s drunken monotony.
‘Fucking hell, Mike…not again!’ The barman leans over the counter, glaring at Mike’s prone form. He shakes his head, summons assistance from the over-muscled, tuxedo-clad bouncers. ‘Squint…Dozer…get him out of here….’
‘It’s alright ladies and gentlemen,’ he reassures no-one in particular. He needn’t have bothered. The juke box maintains its country-western dirge, the cheap discotheque lights sustain their garish, nightmare projection into the smoky shadows, and the clamorous babble of the old, the bold, the desperate and the confused, continue unabated.
‘What a bunch of fucking losers…’ the barman mutters in sudden disgust.
The bouncers drag Mike to his feet. ‘Stand up you stupid bastard,’ the smaller, cross-eyed one snaps. Mike grunts. The larger bouncer, Dozer, slaps him – hard. He remains slumped between the tuxedos, utterly unresponsive.
‘Get him outside,’ the barman yells, ‘and no rough stuff – you hear me? In fact, get the bastard a cab – here…’ He scribbles an address hurriedly on a scrap of paper and reaches into his pocket, withdrawing a twenty pound note. ‘Make sure the cabby gets him through the door…’
The bouncers nod in resignation, ‘Okay Phil…just like you said.’
‘I’ll take him…I know him…know where he lives,’ a high-pitched female voice intrudes; a cloud of cheap perfume and an overly made-up sexual mirage following in its wake. Mara snaps the note from the barman’s hand. He glares at her for a brief moment, shakes his head in disgusted resignation. ‘Whatever…just make sure he gets home in one piece – and keep your grubby hands out of his pockets – he’s no good to you tonight.’
‘Fuck you Phil,’ Mara shouts, as she turns and walks towards the door, clearing a path through the jostling crowd as she goes. The bouncers follow, dragging Mike’s bulky form between them. Mara opens the door, shivering as a gust of icy wind douses her in rain, penetrating her chiffon blouse and short cotton skirt in an instant. The alley is dark, dangerously dark and completely deserted.
‘Shit!’ she wails, and turns just in time to see Mike unceremoniously dumped onto the pavement. ‘Call a cab you bastards! You heard what Phil said.’
The bouncers turn without comment, slamming the door hard behind them.
‘Jesus Christ!’ Mara screeches, ‘Call a fucking cab you evil bastards…you fucking squint eyed queers, it’s freezing out here.’ The door opens abruptly, spilling the bar’s cacophony of noise and colour into the cold darkness. A hand lunges at her throat, tightening painfully as she is pushed further back into the street.
‘What did you say?’ the bouncer asks through an eager smile that promises only violence. ‘What did you say, you fucking whore?’
Mara claws at his eyes in helpless desperation, but the bouncer’s reach is too long, his strength unbearable. Her vision dims. As consciousness slips away, the pavement rushes towards her unprotected head like a runway. She raises her hands sluggishly in defence. The club door slams shut again. She struggles to her knees, gulps for breath from the seething, rain sodden air. Her skimpy clothes are completely saturated.
Mike groans, waking slowly to the misery of rain and cold and darkness. He rises to his knees and throws up violently. ‘Oh god…’
Mara kneels beside him, throws an arm across his shoulders. ‘Come on Mike…we’ve got to get you home, honey…’ He throws up again. For a brief moment, the harsh glare of car lights frames them.
‘Here, Taxi…’ Mara shouts desperately. The cab slows for a moment, but pulls away again at speed.
‘Bastard!’ she screams into the night. ‘Come on Mike, for god’s sake get up.’
‘Mara?’ he whimpers, ‘Mara?’
‘Yes, it’s me Mike, Mara…now get up will you?’
Mike remains on his knees, retching violently. Mara breaks down, weeping in desperation. Her tears mingle with the stream of icy rain that pours relentlessly from the pitiless, pitch black sky. ‘Dear god, Mike, get up you useless, drunken slob…’
Strobe lights flash blue and red. A siren sounds briefly as a police vehicle pulls up alongside the helpless pair and Mike stands painfully, leaning heavily against the rough stone wall. Two burly figures emerge from the strobed lights of the vehicle. A radio squawks through the hissing sleet as the policemen approach, cautiously. Mara waves them away.
‘Please officer…we’re fine…we’ll be fine…’
‘Charley Tango Four to base.’
‘Go ahead Charley Tango Four.’
‘Charley Tango Four to base – we’re at one-two-four Lord Street. Approaching two drunks outside The Flamingo…I think we’d better bring them in.’
‘Roger Charley Tango Four – out.’
‘But we haven’t done anything,’ Mara pleads.
Mike lunges ineffectually at the nearest policeman and crumples at his feet; ‘Bastards!’
The second officer holds Mara firmly by her right arm – ‘In the car please…and don’t you dare struggle…I’ve had enough already tonight…be a good girl and just get in the fucking car!’ Suddenly cowed, Mara lowers her head, allows herself to be guided into the rear of the vehicle. At least it’s dry…
‘Mara…Mara?’ Mike mutters from his semi-comatose state on the pavement.
‘Let’s have you on your feet lad.’ Gently but firmly, the policemen pushes him into the car next to Mara, where he promptly throws up again.
‘For god’s sake…’ the policemen protests, give us a fucking break, will you?’
To be continued...