The Hidden Syndicate

MoreEllroy

Excerpt

Archie had what he considered a metropolitan problem. It was a metropolitan problem because it wouldn’t happen out in the boondocks. No American pop culture queen would have her head in an armlock in, say, Little Missenden. He doubted Little Missenden boasted a nightclub, being a locale of pubs, hayricks and farmers, as well as those well past their use by date, who call everyone Duck; a locale where one was more likely to be run over by a herd of milk cows than mugged by a junky looking for a fix. As such, there would be no call for bouncers like the man who was currently accosting the best thing to come out of the States since the Harvey Wallbanger, to quote a popular British music monthly.

Archie’s problem? Simple. Harvey Wallbanger’s closest competition was his client, and it was his job to protect her from louts of the type who had her in a choke hold, Archie supposed, just prior to bouncing her off the premises. In his opinion, the peroxide blond deserved to be removed using all means available, because doing a line of coke in a popular night spot in front of, not only her peers, but also the world’s Paparazzi, was at the least, highly irresponsible. On the other hand, she had paid Archie top dollar for his protection, and so he knew he had to act, if only to maintain his reputation.

No one except Archie had paid the man much attention as he walked towards the table. Something in his determined stride had put the bodyguard on alert, but when the bouncer grabbed his client, pulled her to her feet and turned his back on the table, Archie relaxed, realising the man was not a professional. A pro would have made sure of his surrounds. A pro would have at least assumed the men at the table would come to the woman’s aid.

As Archie positioned himself behind the bouncer, he heard him hiss something in his client’s ear, and decided it was, ‘I’m gonna do you, bitch.’ The words galvanized him into immediate action, because he believed women should be treated well, even when they were misbehaving. He kicked the assailant in the back of his left knee and was rewarded with a satisfying snap as the man went down. He watched the woman scramble backwards and the bouncer look up at him from his semi-crouch.

‘Do you know who I am?’ the man grunted.

Archie shrugged, crossed his arms under his chest and smirked at the idiocy of the question. In his considered opinion, those in the security business needed to have at least a small amount of gumption, but he was yet to meet one with any at all. In fairness, Archie had a much higher than average IQ, and so most of the men he met in a similar line of work seemed a little lacking.

‘Plod’s on the way Bunny,’ was shouted by one of the other bouncers who were in the gathering crowd and Archie’s smirk broadened. Not only was the man a moron, he had a name evoking images of a fluffy tail, floppy ears and shadowed gropes from men old enough to know better.

He’s got the wrong club, Archie thought, but as he assimilated the words, he frowned, feeling a little unsure of himself for the first time since the episode had kicked off. Plod was a term used by detectives in The Met to describe uniformed officers. I hope I didn’t just incapacitate one of London’s finest.

If he had, he would need all the help he could get while dealing with the aftermath. He hoped his client was not as flighty as her reputation would suggest, as he looked over to where he had last seen her, scrambling back from the man kneeling on the dance floor with a look of pain and hatred.

Archie sucked in a breath between clenched teeth.

There was no sign of the woman. She’d vanished, along with her bleached hair, black eyebrows, her entourage and about ninety percent of the club’s other patrons. Archie realised his weekend was rapidly going downhill. Not only had he assaulted a member of Scotland Yard, he would probably be accused of costing the club owner a night’s revenue. He could see the man, standing beside the DJs table with his arms crossed and a face like the only thundercloud in an otherwise blue sky.

‘Did you call him an ambulance?’ Archie asked the guy who’d called the injured man Bunny.

‘How d’you know he needs an ambulance?’

‘I’m a pro, I kicked out his cruciate ligaments. Believe me, he needs an ambulance.’

‘Oh, a pro is it. D’you know wotcha really are, mucker, yer in the clag up to your mincers.’

‘He’s right Fred, call an ambulance, me knee’s busted.’

‘Plod’s here, Bunny,’ Fred said, as he dialled 999 on his mobile.

Moses looked over his shoulder as the crowd parted and two uniformed police officers walked through, a sergeant and a constable. There was something in the way the pair approached him, which warned Archie his earlier suspicions about the success of his weekend had been correct.

‘You’re under arrest for assaulting a police officer,’ the Sergeant, said as she turned Archie around and handcuffed him.

‘Which police officer?’

‘There, on his knee, pulling a face like someone stuck their truncheon up his hole.’

‘He never declared himself to be a police officer and he ain’t in uniform.’

‘He’s a detective. He don’t wear a uniform. Besides, he’s not on duty.’

‘To all intents then, he ain’t a copper, is he?’

‘Well, let’s just say for a minute that that’s true, you still can’t assault him. It’s against the law.’

‘What about reasonable force?’

‘Wotcha mean, reasonable force?’

‘I was defending me client.’

‘From Bunny Thumper? Don’t buy it. He’s a Teddy Bear.’

‘A Teddy Bear who had me client in a choke hold.’

‘Where are they then, this client?’

‘She left.’

‘That’s very convenient, isn’t it?’

‘Wadya mean, convenient? How is any of this convenient?’ Archie shrugged his shoulders out from under the sergeant’s hand and pushed himself backwards.

‘Careful, now. Last thing you wanna do is add resisting arrest to your charge,’ the sergeant said, giving Archie a shove towards the exit.

For the duration of the journey in the Paddy Wagon Archie sat with his head down and his mind on what might happen. He was sure he would be okay, so long as the pop star made a statement. He could see her snorting coke in a nightclub might be a stumbling block, but she need not mention it, as her lawyers would no doubt instruct.

When they arrived at their destination Archie was manhandled up the backstairs of the station and brought to where the guests of Her Majesty were checked in for the night.

‘Search him and take him down to interview room six, will you,’ the Sergeant said.

‘What, not in the cells to cool off?’

‘Naw, straight down to six,’ she said as she went back out the door to continue her graveyard shift. Archie frowned at her retreating back and assumed the fun was about to start.

Interview room six turned out to be a hole, neon light, big mirror, uncomfortable chairs and a table, which had seen better days. It was compact to the point of claustrophobia. The custody officer shackled Archie to one of the chairs at the table and went and stood in the corner.

‘I’m entitled to a phone call,’ Archie said, staring at the constable. The man just stood in the corner, not even offering a response. ‘And a lawyer. I’m entitled to a lawyer. State provided.’

Due for publication, April 30th 2020.

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