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.

There were two burly guys standing next to a Vauxhall Corsa and one of them was removing the lock with a drill. The sound of tortured souls!

“You've had months to pay the fine and now we've got a court order to take your car” ‘said the bigger of the guys from the pick-up truck who was twice as big as someone who was really big.

“Ahh what! You can't take my car. I need it for work” said Archibald sounding like a dog whimpering.

“You should have thought of that before deciding not to pay your fines” said big bloke looking up from the street.

“How much is the fine?” said Archibald.

“300 quid!”

“Do you take cash? I´ll pay now.”

“Too late, the time's passed when you could've paid.”

“Ah don´t be like that mate. Can't we sort something out……please?”

“Like I said you had your chance and you blew it.”

““You're a fucking wanker” said Archibald emphasising the “ker” to give extra effect.

“Me a wanker?” said big bloke “ha, I'm taking your car!”

With that the window slammed down and I could hear Archibald running down the stairs to the street and when he arrived there was no more conversation or false whimpering ingratiation but just the sound of him punching big bloke in the month which knocked him sideways.

Archibald's anger wasn't satisfied and he moved in again to land another punch which knocked big bloke to the floor. I must say I was rather impressed as Archibald was like mince meat compared to big bloke steak.

I was expecting the other guy from the pick-up truck to help his workmate out but he was on the mobile undoubtedly phoning the old bill.

“The rich can steel all they want and not a glove' s put on them but you come around here to an honest working bloke's place to take his car coz he parked somewhere he shouldn't and as far as I'm concerned that's a wanker” said Archibald.

The honest working bloke was stretching it a bit I thought to myself but could see what he meant.

The other pick-up guy finished his phone call and stepped in between Archibald and big bloke in an attempt to calm things down.

“Listen mate we're just like you” he said “we need a job and have to take what we can.”

“What! Be a fucking bailiff?” said Archibald.

“It's not something we choose but we need a job just like the next bloke.”

Just then the yellow flashing light was joined by a blue one. A police car pulled up next to the pick-up truck and two coppers got out.

“Archie, Archie, Archie!” Now what have you been getting up to?” said one of the coppers with stripes on his sleeve whilst the other one attended the guy with the bloody face.

Archibald must have known them and started to explain how he was the innocent party reacting out of provocation which wasn't exactly impressing the two coppers but even in my drunken stupor it was noticeable that they weren't treating him as you'd expect. You know, like arm up the back, thrown into the back of the police car and an introduction to Tommy Truncheon.

“Sorry Archie but you're gonna have to come with us” said the copper as he put his hand on his shoulder.

Archibald looked resigned and walked over passively to the police car and got into the back on his own like he knew the drill.

The two coppers talked to the pick-up guys and jotted down some notes and then got into their car and drove off and after the bailiffs had hooked up Archie's car they did the same. I lay down and fell asleep.

God knows how many hours later I was awoken by Aria kissing my eyelids.

Now no one had ever kissed my eyelids before and I have to say it was more than pleasurable. Tender but at the same time sort of erotic. I lay there with my eyes closed for a good while enjoying her caresses but when her kisses moved down to my lips I thought she must've known I was awake and I opened my eyes.

She looked effervescent with sparkling eyes which was more than miraculous considering what she'd drank the night before. I opened my lips to say good morning but she placed her finger over my mouth and whispered ssshhhh as she continued kissing my lips!

I moved my arm to pull her towards me and as I did so I realized she was naked and as she pulled the sheet down I could see so was I!

I looked at Aria like “how did you manage to get all my kit off without waking me” but she just gazed back looking into my eyes with a wickeder than wicked smile and carried on kissing my chest.

As she moved down my torso towards my navel I held her and pushed her onto her back and kissed her on the lips and as I did so the sheets slide off onto the floor revealing her naked body.

She put her hands on my face pulling my head towards her and said “I love you Yack!”

I wanted to say “I love you too Aria” but was overcome and started to cry before I could let out a word. Tears slowly rolled down my cheeks which Aria caught with her tongue.

I don't know if you know what I mean or if you've ever felt like it but at that moment, that exact moment I knew I had to be with her.

Before I could get any more emotional my ecstasy was broken by the door bursting open. Aria quickly reached for the sheets and just as enough of us was covered to maintain our decency Finbar walked in.

“Oh sorry, didn't know anyone was here. Didn't interrupt anything did I” he said smiling.

“You could try knocking before entering a bedroom you know Finbar.”

“Sorry Jack, it's just the last thing I expected to find was you in bed with a woman that's all. Fancy a cowboy downstairs?”

“I very angry” said Aria which I knew by now meant hungry so I said

“yeah, we'll see you in there. Seeing as you've woken us up why don't you see if Sean's up and about. He might wanna come.”

“OK” said Finbar “I'll knock him up.”

“Be discreet” I said “I bumped into the girl with the piercings on the landing last night and she was heading into his bedroom."

“Fooking 'ell “said Finbar “something in the water last night?”

“Nobody drink water last night” said Aria.

As me and Aria got out of bed we heard Finbar shout “no one's in Sean's bedroom. I'll go and get us a table in the café, see you downstairs.”

“OK” I shouted back.

“I shower very quick” said Aria.

“OK” I'll wash my bits in the sink while you shower as it's not big enough for an anorexic stick insect to move in the shower” as I grabbed a towel for Aria to use. Touch I had a clean one!

We got ready and then went downstairs to the café. When we went in Benny saw us and greeted us with his usual “you young, you happy.”

“I'm great Benny. You OK? Let me introduce you to Aria, she's from Rome.”

When he heard the word Rome Benny's eyes lit up and he started speaking in Italian to Aria.

“We're over here” said Finbar and when I turned around to where our favorite table was in the corner next to the window I could see Sean was sitting with Finbar finishing off his cowboy.

When Aria had finished talking to Benny we went over and sat with Finbar and Sean.

“Good night then Sean” I said “getting your nipples pierced later on are we?”

He looked at me and said “don't!”

“Don't worry” I said “they'll grow back. “

“Something you're not telling me” said Finbar turning to Sean.

“Me also” said Aria.

“No, no. Just a private joke between me and Sean” I said.

“Well, it won't be private for long then” said Finbar.

“Ahhh! That was lovely” said Sean “rubbing his stomach as he finished off his mug of tea and then as he got up said “right, I'm off. Promised I'd see her off at the station. She's going back to Sheffield with her mates today.”

“OK” I said and just as Sean was about to leave the café I shouted over “just enough time for a last old one two.”

Sean stopped for a second but didn't look back and then went on his way.

“One two?” said Aria.

“What you on about Jack?” said Finbar.

“Nothing, like I said it's a private joke.”

“Well, tell us then?” said Finbar.

“It wouldn't be private then would it” I said “but anyway we've got more important things to discuss.”

“What could be more important than getting the juice on Sean's night of passion?” said Finbar.

“Life and death. My death specifically” I said.

“What you on about?” said Finbar.

“While you were busy whipping the young northern lass off her feet last night me and Frank were meeting with a very interesting character.

“I wondered where you went. Who's this character then? Must be worth a listen if you found him interesting.”

I looked around the café to make sure no one was close enough to us to hear our conversation and whispered “his name's Mitch Maton and people call him Mitch “Mad” Maton. “

At that Finbar doubled up and in between howls of laughter said “you drank too much last night……. who's called things like that these days?”

“Keep it down will ya” I said “this is no joke. If you'd have been in his office you'd have needed a butt plug.I told Vinny last night and he's heard of him and told me to keep my distance.Only trouble is he gave me a job last night starting Monday so now he's my boss hence Mr. Maton and distance won't be a possibility unless I move to the Hebrides.

“Don't worry” said Finbar “it's only a job, Just resign if you don't want to do it.”

“I don't think you're getting it” I said “Mr. Maton …..” but before I could finish Finbar interrupted me.

“What's with the Mr.? You’re talking like he's some important Mafioso type or something.”

“Now you're getting warmer” I said.

Finbar paused and just stared at me not saying anything for what seemed like an age.

“You alright” I said but still he said nothing.

“Mr. Maton and by the way that's how he told me to address him, told me he's bought a club in St.Martin´s Lane that he wants me to run. Apparently, Frank told him I know all about turning money loosing dumps into thriving talk of the town places to be seen and for some reason I can' t fathom he seems to believe it.

Eventually Finbar seemed to come out of his coma and said “what you gonna do then?”

“Well here's the rub Finbar, it's not what I do but what we do.”


“Yeah, we! The only way I've got any chance of pulling this off is reforming the team from Sheffield. Me, you, George and since Zach's gone to lentil heaven I was thinking Vinny'd make a good addition.

“Me!” said Finbar “you've just told me this guys mob and then in the next breath that you want me to be involved. I mean he doesn't know me now so I've got nothing to worry about have I?”

“You could look at it like that…” I said.

“Yeah, that is the way I'm looking at it” said Finbar “and if it's alright by you I'd like to continue looking at it like that.”

Aria had been sitting there in silence just listening but suddenly said “you and Yack friends Finbar?” looking straight at him.

Finbar looked at Aria, at me and then back at Aria and fixing his gaze on her said “OK. I'm in Jack. When do we start?”

I said “thanks Finbar, I appreciate it” and then turning towards the counter shouted over “Benny can you bring us the usual” and then looking at Finbar said “well, we can't work on empty stomachs now can we. Do you like the full English breakfast Aria?”

“I like very much” she said.

“OK. What do you think of Vinny joining the team? He looks great, knows lots of people including media boats as he calls them and being from London knows the territory.

“No brainer if he wants to get involved. Might not be that easy if he knows the territory as you put it.”

Just then Benny came over with our cowboys and mugs of tea. At least for me and Finbar that is as he brought a big cappuccino, cakes and some cookies for Aria. As he turned to go back to the counter he said “colazione, buon appetito” and smiled.

“Please keep me some bacon and a toast” whispered Aria making sure Benny didn't hear.

“Fan of the full English then Aria?” said Finbar.

“Sshhh. I no like to hurt the feelings of Benny. He very kind.”

OK back to the matter at hand” I said “I'll phone Vinny and George later to meet tonight” and turning to Aria who was eyeing my breakfast said “are you working tonight?”

“Yes” she said practically salivating as I ate a bit of black pudding.

“Meet at eight in the Tree of Life then” I said to Finbar who nodded.

"Right let's get stuck into the cowboy while Finbar tells us what happened after he disappeared with the girl he was with in Cuff Links" I said.

“I no have cowboy” said Aria pointedly.

“Don't worry Aria” said Finbar “I'm sure Jack'll share his sausage with you.”

“Let's get back to your northern lass shall we” I said.

“Ah, don't mention last night. didn't turn out like I'd hoped” said Finbar.

“What you hoped for didn't have anything to do with licking eyebrows did it?” I said to Finbar.

“Why you lick your eyesbrow Finbar” said Aria.

“Nothing else to lick” said Finbar smiling.

I turned to Aria and said “it's an expression, I'll explain later. Come on Finbar don't keep us hanging here. What happened?”

Finbar broke off a piece of toast and dipped it into his tea and closed his eyes as he popped the soggy toast into his mouth,

“Lovleee! Anyway, where was I?”

“You weren't anyway, get on with it before I lose interest will ya.”

“Ah, yeah. Well, I went back with her to her hotel room and things were going swimmingly.”

“The hotel have a pool?” said Aria.

Finbar ignored Aria's question and went on “anyway we're getting on like a house on fire and I've you know….”

“You what?” said Aria.

Finbar looked at me as if he needed my approval to continue but I just looked back widening my eyes as if to say you´re on your own son!

“Well we've started to make love and...” but before he could go on I interrupted with “you stuck it in then?”

“Do you want to hear or not?

“OK, I'll shut up” I said.

“So I've stuck it in as you so charmingly put it and am making love and she starts crying” said Finbar.

“Where did you say you'd stuck it” I said.

“Never more than a minute away from smut with you” said Finbar and continued with “so I ask her why she's crying and she says “you remind me of my ex boyfriend. I really loved him and can't get the image of his face out of my mind.”

Bear in mind I've still got it stuck in as we're talking.”

“Bit grubby innit?” I said.

“I didn't think so. So I ask her what happened and she says “he left me.” Thinking it'd be more appropriate to stop I laid next to her and said I was sorry to hear that, making out as if I was sympathetic and then asked her if there was anyone else involved and she looked at me and said “yeah….my father. He ran off with me fooking father!”

“Christ! What can you say to that?” I said.

“The boyfriend with the father?” said Aria spilling her cappuccino.

“Couldn't think of anything to say so just looked at her.”

“Suppose that put a dampener on things then?” I said.

“Not really. She grabbed me and we carried on like nothing had happened. Couldn't resist asking her if she had any uncles as I left though. You know she actually laughed.”

“What a night!” I said.

When we finished our breakfasts I walked Aria to the tube as she was going back to her flat and me and Finbar went back to ours. After I talked to George and Vinny and explained my predicament they agreed to meet later in the Tree of Life and I spent the rest of the afternoon jotting down ideas of how we could live up to Mr. Maton’s expectations.

How does the expression go? You can´t see the wood for the trees.Well, at that moment the only wood of any kind I could see had six sides and six handles.

I needed inspiration and I needed it fast!