I needn’t have worried about the roll as the die wouldn´t have had the time to caress the green table felt in the time it took for Mr. Maton to get close enough for me to feel his breath on my face. In a blink there he was in front of me so close our noses could´ve touched like two Inuks on a blind date.

He said nothing and I could physically feel the tension in the room which was as silent as Messina during a sirocco. I was about to say something, anything when he almost wrenched his head back without moving his body, bellowed a huge laugh, and said

“you just love making me laugh don’t you Jackie boy” and turning to a younger looking bloke built like a barn door with a tattoo on his neck who was standing behind him said”

“doesn´t he make you laugh Arthur?

“Yeah, a right card Mitch” said Arthur without changing his facial expression.

Calling Mr.Maton Mitch made me think that Arthur was more than just an employee but I didn´t want to lose the momentum so I jumped in.

“With respect Mr.Maton we agreed that I´d have control so if it´s OK with you I´d like to present my team.”

This seemed to flummox Mr. Maton as he said nothing but made a “hmmm” noise while rubbing his chin and as he did so his expression changed from an almost pratonising smirk to bemusement before pointing an open palmed hand in the direction of my “team” who were standing there like a group of 3CPOs only without the annoying repartee.

Thankfully Aria phoned a cab from the pub and the next thing I remember was waking up with her snuggled up to me.

Looking down at her at that moment made me forget my meeting with Mr. Maton but then it came flooding back to me.

Yeah, today was judgement day and I was hoping for anything but the black cap!

I removed Aria´s arm from my chest and got out of bed as quietly as I could thinking I´d managed it without waking her but as I got to the door on my way to the bathroom I heard her say

“you OK Jack? You like me to come with you?”

I went back to the bed sat next to her, took her hand and said

"it´s OK Aria. Go back to sleep” and kissed her on the forehead. A nice thought but I didn´t think showing up with my girlfriend to support me would enamor me to Mr. Maton.

I walked down the hall towards the bathroom and you could´ve heard a pin drop and I wondered if that is how it must have been for those taking the long walk to the guillotine. Well, except for the odd few hundred shouting “off with his head!”

Before I knew it the afternoon had gone and it was almost time to meet the lads in the Tree of Life. I decided to walk to give me time to mull over things in my head and as I made my way up Hermitage Lane it felt like my brain was gonna explode.

It wasn´t just trying to get the ideas clear in my head but also how I was gonna sell it to my mates.

To tell the truth I wasn´t even sure if I had things that clear but had convinced myself that there was light at the end of the tunnel after listening to Jimmy´s story. See, I figured if I could use the place he´d been with the whips and chains in New York as a theme only a tad softer we could make the club stand out. Clutching at straws maybe but that´s all I could come up with!

I turned into West Heath Lane which is about five minutes from the Tree of Life and could feel the butterflies flapping in my stomach so I started to do my breathing exercises. You know the ones you do to calm yourself down although I wasn´t calming down.

When I arrived at the front door of the pub I stopped and took a few even deeper breaths and straightened myself out hoping to convey an air of confidence. I pushed open the door and walked in just as the pressure of the gas lights dropped making them flicker and dim. Not a sign of things to come I hoped.

Luckily for me the first person I saw was Aria who was behind the bar pulling a pint of Benskins. She looked over and smiled and as she placed the pint on the bar she moved her eyes in the direction of the snug as if to say “they’re waiting for you.”

As I looked over there they were Finbar, George and Vinny sitting at a table near the fireplace chatting.

I spent the rest of the day lying on the bed staring up at the ceiling hoping more than a person who hoped a lot that the flash of inspiration I needed would hit me and give me the idea of a life time. A long life time ta boot!

But the longer I stared the less chance there seemed of anything slightly resembling an original idea entering my head.

In Sheffield it was relatively easy to get people through the door as there was little competition as all the mainstream clubs did exactly the same so it wasn’t that hard to look different but this was London. I mean, this was the Big Smoke, The Swinging City, the Great Wen and …..ughhh… other things.

Staring at the ceiling was having nil effect so I pulled myself rather reluctantly up off the bed and headed for the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. No sooner had I picked up the kettle when I heard a loud thumping on the door downstairs. After my experience with Stonker I decided the best policy was to ignore any knocking on the front door.

However, whoever was hitting crap out of it had other ideas and another loud whack followed.

I looked down out of the window to the spot next to the entrance of the flat where Benny kept the gloppitta gloppitta machine but there was no sign of anyone not even Benny or one of his potatoes.

“I know you´re in there” bellowed out a voice “open up will ya!”

Next thing I know I´m in hell and can see it’s flames licking all around me and hear the sound of tortured souls crying out for a respite from their misery.

My heart beat started to race and I could feel panic kicking in when all of a sudden a sort of serenity and calmness came over me as I realized this was too scary to be real and in fact I was dreaming.

As I awoke I looked at Aria next to me in bed who was fast asleep and seeing her reassured me that hell was the last place I could be but there was indeed a yellow pulsing light shining in from the window onto the bedroom wall.

I glanced around the rest of the room but couldn’t focus on anything and started to feel giddy. I’d felt OK when I got back to the flat with Aria in the early hours. Tired yes but not completely off my nut but waking up after a short time asleep made me realize I must have been rotten. The silence was broken by what sounded like a drill and then the brisk opening of a sash cord window.

“Excuse me mate but what do you think you´re doing?”

I knew that voice. Archibald the artful dodger from upstairs.

I pulled the curtain back a bit to take a look and saw him framed in the window like one of those pictures from Cosmopolitan in the 70s. You know, bare muscled torso decorated with tattoos and a gold chain reflecting the yellow light which after looking down I could see was coming from a pick-up truck in the street below.

I went back into the crowd towards where I´d left Aria with Parvis but couldn´t see them.

“Hey Jack, we’re over here” said Vinny who was holding onto the red head with one hand and waving over

at me with the other. Aria, Parvis and Trella were close by drinks in hand. I was about to go over to them

but before I could take a step I felt the grip of a heavy hand on my shoulder which stopped me in my tracks.

“Where´s you going Jack man?”

“Remembered my name now then have we?” I said as I turned around to find the hand belonged to Ossie.

“Now don´t be like that Jack. Mitch´s my boss and he likes things done like professional. You know what I mean! “

“Yeah, if mute´s the new professional” I said and turned to walk away but once again I felt the vice like grip on my shoulder.