The launch for our collaborative novel, Circ, is on 28th November. But, if you can’t wait until then, we’ve got a little treat for you. Circ author, Jason Holloway, has allowed us to publish a bonus story featuring his Circ character, Bobby “the Baron” Thomas.

This bonus snippet acts as a wonderful prologue to Circ and introduces us rather nicely to the most sinister of criminals in town…

“I don’t think he speaks English, Bobby,” Marcus said in disgust.
Everyone speaks English, my old son. It’s the lingua franca of our times,” Bobby replied with perfect equanimity. “Yet I can’t help but wonder how you expect him to communicate in any language while choking on that rag you so expertly shoved down his throat.”
“He was making a hell of a racket, Bob,” Marcus replied a touch defensively.
“No doubt, my friend, no doubt. But you did snatch him off the street unawares and I expect you didn’t install him in the passenger side luxury of your meticulously maintained late model Jaguar?”
“I put him in the boot, Bob.”
“And right you were to do so, old friend. Your judgment in these matters is rarely to be questioned, but from the looks of him, he seems to have been in there no little time.”
“I had errands.”
“Of course you did. Your time is precious, Marcus. I’m not at all certain what you do with it, but I often feel that’s for the best. Now, why don’t you toddle downstairs and close the arcade. The punters have been thin on the ground today and there’s no harm in packing it in a bit early. A bit of solitude with our guest is the thing we want now.”
Marcus turned to leave Bobby’s office, but not before shooting Bobby a reproachful glance.
“What it is, Marcus?” Bobby sighed.
“I don’t think we should do this here. We should take him out to the beach chalet.”
“At this time of night? Christ, Marcus, I wouldn’t go out there with our old platoon, much less just the two of us.”
“Bobby the Brave Baron,” Marcus sneered.
“Fuck off, spook. Go close the arcade,” Bobby replied, ignoring the insubordination. He’d heard worse from Marcus in his time. He turned his attention to the matter at hand.
“Well, aren’t you just the cliché?” Bobby asked the duct-taped wrapped figure seated before him. “The Eastern European gangster type,” Bobby sighed. “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
“You should know you’re sitting in one of my favorite wingchairs, by the by. I’d be grateful if you tried not to bleed overly much on it. Of course, that’s largely up to me isn’t it?
“A cliché for a cliché, I suppose. Did you know that many of my younger colleagues view beating a man with a rubber hose to be cliché?” “I, however, consider it to be a classic. Timeless, you might say, in its simplicity and efficacy.
“I’m not averse to moving with the times, mind you,” he continued, crossing his office and removing a battered leather cabin bag from a credenza better suited to the office of a Fortune 500 CEO than a small time racketeer. Bobby prided himself on his impeccable taste.
He sauntered back and set the bag atop his equally tasteful desk and removed two feet of heavy black rubber hose from it. “Let no man accuse Bobby the Baron of a hidebound adherence to outmoded methods. I am, I like to believe, nothing if not open minded. The merits of waterboarding, cattle prods, stress positions, and pressure points are not lost upon me. There are some blokes out there doing some really cutting edge work in the field. That sort of vision demands respect.
“But, at heart, I’m a fairly simple man. Give me a pair of pliers, a good blade, and a few other simple tools and I’m content. You don’t want to get caught up in fretting over the things you don’t have instead of appreciating the things you do,” he solemnly imparted to his captive audience.
Bobby slid an ottoman in front of the man and gently propped his bound legs on it at an angle to expose the soles of his feet. “You might think, my Slavic friend, that I don’t like white people,” he said as he carefully untied his shoes and removed his socks. “And, to a certain degree, you’d be right.
“But what I can’t tolerate, to any degree, IS CHEAP SHOES WITH A GOOD SUIT,” he screamed and brought the hose down on the man’s soles (and soul, Bobby thought somewhere in his dementia) again and again, until his arm began to cramp. It was only then he noticed his victim had passed out sometime during the beating.
“Oh, well done, Bob. So much for him walking out of here under his own power,” Marcus said from his seat behind Bobby’s desk, upon which he had his own feet propped.
“You want to tread lightly right now, friend,” Bobby said staring at Marcus’ spit-shined leather captips on his desk.
“Tread…nice one, Bobby,” Marcus replied, slowly removing his feet from the desk.
Bobby suddenly felt exhausted. “Let’s just find out what he knows and get him out of here. God help you if you’ve wasted my time, Marcus.”
“I have some ammonia salts in my car, I’ll get them.”
“For fuck’s sake, Marcus, should we run him by the hospital after we’re done, too?”
“That’s not an especially bad idea, Bob. We can’t send him out the front door with a boot up the arse, can we?”
“Have it your way. You can roll him out of your car right into the fucking lobby for all I care. Now, wake him up.”
“The old-fashioned way?”
“Yeah,” Bobby grinned, “But I want to do it. Give me your lighter.”
Marcus took a gold Zippo from his trouser pockets and tossed it across the desk to Bobby.
“Oh, this takes me back. You ready?”
Marcus nodded, a smile playing around his mouth.
Bobby lit the Zippo and held it under the man’s nose. All hell broke loose.
Bobby and Marcus howled with laughter.
The stench of burning flesh and hair filled the office, almost as overwhelming as the barely muffled screams of the tortured man writhing in pain before them.
“That made my day,” Bobby said, tears of laughter running down his face. “I take it back. Even if he’s nobody, you haven’t wasted my time, Marcus. I haven’t felt this young since….,” Bobby stopped, suddenly confused. Young? He couldn’t remember being young. Surely he’d been young once? Something didn’t feel right, but he shook the feeling off. Time to wrap this business up.
He ripped the duct tape from the tortured man’s mouth and gingerly removed the saliva soaked cloth Marcus had jammed halfway down his throat.
“A gym sock, Marcus? Really?”
Marcus shrugged. “When needs must the devil drives.”
Bobby froze, rooted in place by sudden fear.
“What did you say?”
“It’s just a saying, Bobby. You’ve gone all pale, if that’s possible.”
Bobby laughed in spite of himself.
“You’re like school in the summer, Marcus,” he said.
“How’s that?”
“No class,” and they both laughed, thick as thieves (which they were) again.
“Alright,” Bobby said, catching his breath between laughs, “Time to spill, sunshine,” he addressed the burned and bloody man inhabiting his favorite wingchair who, very reasonably, had been sobbing uncontrollably while Bobby and Marcus bantered back and forth.
“Lewis,” he said in a thick Hungarian accent. “Lewis the pimp. He wanted meeting. I came. All I know. Please.”
“All you know, is it?” Bobby asked, all trace of laughter fled. “A good thing for you it’s more than I want to know.
“Get him out of here, Marcus. To the hospital and straight back here. We’ve unpleasant work ahead of us, I think.”
Marcus nodded his agreement.
Bobby turned away from the Hungarian.
“Oh, I’m sure you understand that you injured yourself falling down the stairs when the police ask, as they most assuredly will.”
“Yes. Bad fall,” the man answered dutifully.
“They always are, my friend,” Bobby replied. “You’d do well to remember that.”


 This story has been written and published in remembrance of Kelvin Clemons, 1972 – 2014