Continued from Part 1
It opened straight into the living room where, twenty feet away at the end of the room, the olde-worlde wood burner blazed in a perfect New Forest inglenook. Have you ever entered a room where the fire was burning in the grate yet it still feels cold? Well that’s how it was, and I sensed it immediately. But whether it was just the draft following me in front the front door or whether Charlie-boy the bet-loser had arranged the special effects, I knew I wouldn’t be taking off my coat that night. I glanced behind me to see if he’d followed me in. I got the shock of my life to find him standing no more than six inches from me as I turned, his eyes intently staring down the ten-inch height difference to mine. “Hey!” I exclaimed. “Don’t do that! You could frighten a man away from his bet like that, ya know.”
Charles looked at me with that same distant expression on his face, almost as if English was no longer his first language and he was straining his little grey cells to understand me. “Davy,” he started slowly, clearly fighting for words now, “I’d… really… appreciate it… if you would … err… cancel our little arrangement. Marcie needs the money now. You see… I have no… insurance.”
He had my attention now. You know how much I love Marcie. She and I have always been there for each other. And even if I didn’t approve of her choice of marriage partners, she was still my sister and very high up my list of priorities. Anyway, blood is thicker than gin and tonic as Charles was always fond of saying. I studied his face carefully before replying. There was something not right, but I still couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe things had been going worse for Charlie-boy than I thought. Perhaps all this had been bravado and he really was worried now that I’d collect on the bet and put him under financial strain in so doing. I considered my answer carefully. “Charles,” I started, “I know perfectly well you would have covered this bet with insurance if you’d been able to find anyone at Lloyds willing to take the risk on it for you. If you haven’t that’s your problem. And I really don’t see how your inconvenience over the fifty grand or so I’ll be collecting on this little beauty can have an implication for Marcie. For you, yes. But you’re not my sister, ol’ chum. And as far as I’m concerned a bet’s a bet. So throw your worst at me. I am not moving from this house until daylight. And as soon as the sun lights up your white and worried face tomorrow morning, I expect you to cross my palm with fifty k’s worth of silver. Period.” It was only as I said the words that I realised just how white Charles’ face was – almost like all the life was slowly draining from him. Clearly, it was one seriously worried city broker that stood before me.
I turned and walked to the sofa, a maroon leather Chesterfield that matched the stripes in the curtains. My footsteps echoed a little on the floorboards that were fashionably devoid of carpet. Settling myself down less than comfortably (actually I can never get comfortable on Chesterfields – no idea why people bother with the bloody things). I picked up the sports pages of the Sunday Times that someone had conveniently left in the magazine rack for my reading pleasure. I waited for the show to begin which I was quite certain Charles had arranged and wondered only why he didn’t leave me to suffer on my own. Charles, however, stood motionless, exactly where he was. Though I wasn’t listening closely, I heard him mutter to himself something like, “It may be ok if…I.. just.. stay indoors.” I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about and I didn’t really care. All I wanted was £50,000 or so of his money.
To be continued