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SZ Novella - Chapter Three


The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three - Putting Faces To Names

"You look...interesting." said Shackleford, peering over the top of his pint glass. "Have you come as a biro?"

Ricey ignored him and slipped into his seat as anonymously and discreetly as a man clad head to toe in bright blue can. He took a swig of beer.

"How's that bump on your head?" Shackleford asked. "Has the bleeding stopped?"

"What bump?" asked Ricey feeling at the back of his head and then suddenly wincing. "Gargh...I didn't even know about that. A bump...I just thought I was hungover."

"Had you been drinking?"

"No. No, I don't think so."

"Then why did you think you were hungover?"

"I don't know," said Ricey quietly. "I just assumed....when you wake up in an alleyway, that must be the reason."

"But you don't remember drinking?"

"No. The last thing I remember is sitting in my room, listening to music and checking up on ShrimperZone."

Shackleford's eyes flared up and he leaned over the table so quickly that Ricey's knee jerked upwards in surprise, spilling both pints on the floor.

"What do you mean you were checking up on the Shrimper Zone?" he snarled. "Who are you?"

Ricey's lower lip quivered.


"I don't know," wailed Ricey, and the tears came, not slowly, but all at once like canal water through a broken lock-gate. "I don't know where I am! I don't know what's going on. One minute I'm in my room and the next I'm in an alleyway and it's raining and my head's bleeding and Billy Ocean shouts at me and then you turn up and you shoot him in the back and I wet myself and I'm in a long, dark street where none of the buildings look real and there's a party and now a pub that looks like my local, but obviously isn't and now you're shouting at me as well!"

Shackleford sat back, looking impressed.

"Woah." he said. "How big are your lungs? You didn't even take a breath. That was extraordinary."

"You alright, Rusty?" asked Steveo from behind the bar.

"All under control," said Shackleford, as Ricey buried his head in his hands and sobbed. "Two more pints would be good though. And a cloth."

Ricey looked up and stared across the table, helplessly

"What is your name? You said it earlier, but I can't have heard it right."

"My name is Rusty Shackleford. And you?"

"What's his name?" asked Ricey, pointing at the barman.

"That's Steveo."

"Right! Right!," grinned Ricey with a manic look in his eyes. "And I suppose that bloke over there by the fruit machine, that's Pubey is it? And that one there, with the newspaper? A Century United? Ha! And who's that coming out of the bogs? MK Shrimper, yeah?"

There was a very long and very ominous silence. Ricey abruptly stopped grinning.

"MK Shrimper's dead, my friend," said Shackleford quietly. "And the only reason you're sitting here speaking to me is because of what he did. MK Shrimper doesn't hang around in bars, he never did. But he gave us the strength to be who we are. "

Steveo brought two pints over to the table and set them down, staring at Ricey all the time.

"Who's your friend, Rusty?"

"We're just finding that out, Steveo. He's new in the Zone apparently. What's your name, sunshine?"

Ricey looked blank.

"Quiet one, isn't he?" said Steveo. "Come on mate. What's your name?"

"Ricey. My name's Ricey."

Shackleford and Steveo looked at each other blankly.

"Never 'eard of 'im," said Steveo.

"Someone's heard of him," said Shackleford in a low voice. "They've heard of him."

"They?" gurgled Steveo, turning white. "They're...they're back?"

"I found him in an alleyway, staring down a bullet from Billy Ocean."

"Ocean? Billy Ocean? He's new, isn't he? Christ. How many of them are there?"

"One less now," said Shackleford. "Ocean is dead."

"This is insane," said Ricey standing up. "This is absolutely insane. You can't be Rusty Shackleford and you can't be Steveo. This can't be The Spread Eagle, that can't have been Billy Ocean and I can't be here. I have to go. I have to go right now."

"He's had a bump on his head," explained Shackleford.

"Ah," said Steveo, before taking a deep sniff of the air. "You seen my dog round here, Rusty?" he asked with a look of concern.

"That's it, I'm out of here," said Ricey defiantly, getting up out of his seat. "This is too weird. Too mental, I'm off."

Ricey marched across the pub floor, trying hard not to make eye contact with anyone, swung open the front door and walked straight into the chest of a tall blonde woman in a long brown coat.

"Are you the new bloke?" she said in a voice that sounded as if it had been up all night, working the late shift in a particularly smokey jazz club.

"Yes, " wobbled Ricey's head from between her breasts.

"Thought so. How about you get out from between my tits and we go inside and have a little chat. I'm the Old Blue Lady."