The long-haired roadie finished setting up the band’s equipment and picked up a Sainsbury’s carrier bag that was propped up against a wall behind the drum-kit. He reached inside and pulled out a twelve inch record with a black and red cover, then walked up to the nearest table with it. He leaned over to talk to the people sitting there, a pair of hippies in their late twenties, and when one of them nodded he handed over the record and took some money for it. He moved on to the next table.
“Anyone want to buy an album?” the man asked when he reached Colin’s table. He held one out for them to see. Its stark black and red cover image showed two stencilled figures, a businessman and a court jester, staring at each other across a diagonal divide.
Colin read the lettering printed around the edges of the record sleeve and saw it was by The Astronauts, the band who were playing later. He took the album from the man and flipped it over to look at the song titles printed on the back. The first track was something about seagulls, the second a Dixieland blues song.
“Nah, you’re all right, mate,” Colin said, shaking his head, and put the record down on the table.
Becky leaned forward and picked it up. “How much are they?” she asked.
“Three pounds,” the long-haired man said.
“Giz a look then,” Brian said, and snatched the record from Becky’s hand. Kaz leaned over to look at it with him.
“You want to buy one?” the man asked.
Brian shrugged and handed him the record back. “Nah, not really.”
“Okay, fair enough. Catch you later, yeah?” The man turned and walked away to try his luck at the next table.
Colin finished off his beer and looked toward the bar. The two skinheads were still standing there, staring at him. One made a gun from his fingers and pointed it at Colin, then raised it to his mouth and blew imaginary smoke from it. Colin looked away.
“You want another drink?” he asked Becky. Becky smiled and nodded. Colin turned to Brian. “Get the drinks in, yeah? I’m just off to the bog.” He took out two pound notes and gave them to Brian.
Brian sighed, then rose to his feet. “You coming to help me carry them, Kaz?”
“See you in a bit,” Colin said, nodding to Becky.
Stiggy stumbled out of the toilet door just as Colin approached it, and staggered toward the bar. Colin went inside, frowned at a strong smell of solvents, and headed for one of the two cubicle toilets. After his experience in The Queen’s Head he didn’t want to take any chances, and bolted the door behind him.
He lifted up the seat and urinated into the toilet with a sigh. He zipped up and wiped his hands on his trousers, then slid back the bolt and opened the cubicle door.
The two skinheads scowled in at him from the doorway.
Blood rushed to Colin’s face. The earth lurched beneath him. He reached out for the cubicle wall to steady himself and gasped for air. His eyes darted from one skinhead to the other.
“What do you want?” Colin’s voice came out with a squeak.
One of the skinheads, the short one who had attacked Colin in The Queen’s Head, took a step toward him. “What do you know about our mate?” he asked in a gruff voice.
Colin took an involuntary step back and felt the toilet bowl press against the back of his legs. The short skinhead stepped into the cubicle. The taller one stood guard in the doorway, staring in. Colin wondered what his chances of pushing past them both and escaping back into the bar would be.
“Er … you what?” Colin asked.
The skinhead grabbed Colin’s leather jacket and pulled him out of the cubicle. Colin lost his footing and stumbled. The skinhead held him tight, pulled him back to his feet and dragged him across the toilet. He swung Colin around to face him, pressed him up against a wall, and raised a fist. It hovered before Colin’s face, ready to strike.
“I said, what do you know about our fucking mate?”
The taller skinhead stood behind him, a look of fury on his face. He clenched his fists and puffed out his chest, his eyes blazing.
Colin felt his knees weaken. His hands shook when he held them out before him.
“Look, I, um …”
“Well?” the short skinhead asked, and pulled back his fist.
Colin flinched and closed his eyes. “I don’t know nothing,” he said, quickly. When no blow came he opened his eyes. “Why, what’s happened?”
“One of our mates got done over. We think you know something about it.”
Colin shook his head. “Look, I …” He swallowed hard to clear his dry throat. “I don’t know nothing about it, honest. It wasn’t me.”
The short skinhead laughed. “Yeah, I guessed that. But I reckon you know who did do it, and I want you to tell me. Now!” He pulled back his fist again.
“Look, mate …” Colin began, holding up his hands. He heard the toilet door open and looked toward it. Brian and Stiggy stood in the doorway, looking in.
“You all right there, Col?” Brian asked.
The two skinheads looked around. The short one released Colin and stepped away from him. They both turned to face Brian and Stiggy, their fists clenched by their sides. Colin sidestepped away from them toward the urinal.
“Is there a problem?” Brian asked, looking at Colin.
The two skinheads looked from Brian and Stiggy to Colin and back, then glanced at each other. The short one shook his head slowly.
“No problem here, mate. We were just having a chat, weren’t we?” He glared at Colin.
“Is that right?” Brian asked. Colin shrugged.
Brian walked up to the urinal, keeping his eyes firmly on the two skinheads the whole time. Stiggy stayed by the exit, and when the two skinheads walked toward him he held the door open for them.
“Fucking yeti,” the taller skinhead said under his breath as they left. Stiggy let the door close behind them.
“What was all that about?” Brian asked.
Colin shrugged. “They said one of their mates got done over, they wanted to know if I knew who did it.”
“You didn’t tell them, did you?” Stiggy asked. He looked toward the closed toilet door.
“Nah, did I fuck. But I don’t think they’ll let it go, so you’d best watch your back from now on. And don’t go bragging about it to anyone else.”
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.