His flight to Tokyo had been cancelled until further notice. Not a fan of waiting at the Airport bees nest, Antoine had left his luggage at Heathrow, and then felt free and weightless exploring the darker side of London: Soho.
Not used to the rude crowds and always getting in the way of busy smugglers- “je m’excuse, je m’excuse“, his smartphone was ringing inside his pocket, but he was too absorbed as an outsider to hear it or feel it vibrate. The co-founder of his Fur Fashion company needed his e-signature desperately that morning.
Comics shops, sex shops and betting shops seemed to wink at his presence.
Until he spotted a trace of blood on a short-cut alleyway. A rush of excitement got his heart pumping and taste buds alive and greedy.
Wasn’t he the enfant exemplaire, the perfect husband, father, citizen, cart racer? Not today.
He looked around him, and looked down to the relish stain again. He hadn’t seen any cops patrolling. The stain drew a line, jotted with little burgundy spots like French wine, and he just followed it.
Through a window above, the four Romanians quickly took their leather jackets off.
A door. A broken door.
-“Hi! I know you from somewhere. You want girls?”, asked a strong bold man with golden chains, smiling as he knew all Antoine’s sorrows, longing and achievements to the gut.
-“Ah, me, no, I’m just a businessman from Toulouse”.
-“Come have a Whiskey then!”
Antoine saw that the trace of blood disappeared at the door step, and not knowing why, what or when, he followed the bold bouncer up the narrow stairs. He would never have done this on a normal day, but the Bouncer had caught him off guard.
-“This is Alex, Dumitru, Constantin and I’m Victor. You?”
-“Err.. Antoine Salesse.”
-“Noroc!” All four cheered, almost forcing him to sit down and giving him a drink.
-“The cat is Maya, but be careful- she’s dangerous! Ha, Ha, Ha!”
On the walls there were pictures of the Beatles on Tour which made him feel safer. The coffee table was unusually low, but the sofas squeezed his behind oh so comfily. He had been walking alone for two hours already and so he appreciated the company.
Maya the cat sat on Antoine’s lap as the men were conspiring with looks and secret signs.
-“You been to London Dungeon?” said Dumitru. “Makes the kids strong for this bad life!”
-“A long time ago. Does it still exist?” And they all laughed. Alex played “Help” by The Beatles on a very old cassette player.
-“We best customers of London Dungeon. Do you have enemies?”
-” Enemies? Why do you ask this? Every successful man has enemies. It’s Life’s Law.” Antoine helped himself to another drink, reminded of the thought of Animal Campaigners who had made him relocate his business elsewhere, almost making him bankrupt and mad.
-“You wearing fox scarf? Nice one!” Victor touched his glasses which meant the other three could proceed to opening business.
-“You want to buy some? We produce three thousand a year!” Antoine suddenly felt very proud, goal driven and very at home in this little derelict flat. The cat was staring as he stroked her.
Dumitru got to the point.
-“We are your friends, Antoine! You tell us what’s the problem, we make one call, fix stinky problem- and then you go party with very young girls! We have our own little private London Dungeon here.” They all looked very serious. “Nobody takes the piss from us. It’s Life’s Law“.
If Antoine would have followed a different path in life, he wouldn’t be mesmerised by their offer. He could only think of Belinda Millson, the top Animal Rights Campaigner from Amsterdam who shamed him on Social Media, took him to Court and almost ruined his health.
Were all those useless foxes really worth the hassle of stressing Antoine Salesse, the French Aristocrate who had won the Paris Cart competition at age ten only, And paid his mother’s Bingo debts to save the family House with the prize?
“Help” by The Beatles played once again.
-“One more whiskey please my friends.”
Victor poured more whiskey into his glass, and then brought a yellow piece of paper.
-“I have only one bitch enemy”. Antoine bit his lips.
-“The good news is if she’s on Facebook, then we take her to London Dungeon. Ha, Ha, Ha!” All four strangers laughed.
Antoine’s mouth watered, but something at the back of his mind was taking him sixteen years back in time -and telling him off badly. Those poor animals. But the whiskey was getting into his system quickly, and Temptation of Revenge was growing as strong as an airplane taking off.
-“Sign here, give us a check and go.” Alex was fatherly.
Antoine signed thinking today was one of those once-in-a-life awesome days people talk about on their deathbeds.
As he pulled his check book out, there was a misunderstanding over the currency. Now these men turned into Foxes. The Foxes his firm had been slaughtering for almost two decades.
But Antoine was now bonded. The paper had disappeared into Constantin’s jacket who had quickly left the flat.
After a struggle, and showing a prowess of matter-of-life-or-death strength he never knew he had, Antoine was running the streets of Soho, pushing passers aside and making cars pull the breaks very loudly. He sheltered himself at a Museum and camouflaged into the queue. What a fool, they hadn’t even been chasing him.
What a fool. What a fool.
-“It’s eleven pounds fifty pence for a single adult” said the blonde, baby-faced cashier.
As Antoine reached his pocket, the National Gallery metamorphosed into the London Dungeon. Because he had left his Wallet, Cheque Book and Boarding Pass at the flat.
-“Are you injured, Sir?” asked the Museum’s Security Guy. “You are leaving blood footprints all over the floor!”
More humor here.