The Shambles Club (extract)

Ok. I know it’s Thursday and I only posted a short story Sunday (It’s about a man and a fatal scone!) but I decided that I like this little extract too much not to share right away. It’s from Eboracvm (which won’t be out for a long time) and I hope you like it as much as I do. Feedback is also appreciated.

THE SHAMBLES CLUB

Extracted from EBORACVM by James Churchill

As Boston said, I mustn’t forget to live. The day had been a mentally taxing one and I was in the mood for letting my hair down now that it was done. I was in the mood for going out on the town and getting plastered, maybe getting off with someone. I wanted to forget about Roman towers and the dodgy practices of York council and people trying to kill me. Dylan said he was too busy to show me around so I decided that my best bet was to just head back to the centre, find somewhere to eat and then follow the crowds. Eventually they would lead me, I considered, to the most popular nightclub in the city.

I did ask Boston about where to go but his response was to mention that nightclubs weren’t his sort of thing. Then he asked, in return, if I intended to bring ‘a lady’ back to the apartment that evening. I commented that this would be rather rude of me, especially as he had been living in the place for the previous twenty years and it was, logically speaking, more his home than mine at that point. I had thought that if I had got off with someone that night I would go back to her place to avoid putting Boston any further out of his place. He wasn’t showing it but I figured that he must be pretty disconcerted by my sudden arrival on the scene, claiming what was rightfully mine after all the years of effectively having the place as his own. When I mentioned that it would be rude of me he brushed me away, saying that it was my own personal right to bed any lady I wished to in my own apartment provided it was within the level of the law and ‘safe.’ He also added that I would not likely disturb him as when he first bought the place dad had had the foresight to soundproof the walls in order to prevent any such disturbance. I learnt something new that evening and it was something I didn’t want to know. I knew that I was loud when it came to sex as each time I did it in a hotel room the other guests complained and I knew that Corwen was loud, having heard him and his various conquests going at it thanks to Cythry’s stupidly thin floorboards. It turned out, from what Boston said, that this was a family thing. I really didn’t wish to hear this but he recalled that dad had a tendency to sound ‘like a howling hippo’ and that ‘Miss Lily was like the raging Boadicea.’ I prevented him from saying any more. In fact I ordered him to NEVER tell me any more of my family’s sexual habits or exploits.

I still considered, whatever happened, that I wouldn’t take a girl back there that night. I’d let Boston get used to having me around before I started bringing women home. I bid him goodnight at eight, instructing him that he needn’t wait up for me, and went back into the city to first look for food. I crossed over the river to the castle and then walked slowly through the city in the general direction of the Minster whilst looking for somewhere to eat. I passed all sorts, pizza places and coffee shops and bars and restaurants, but didn’t really find anywhere I fancied until I came to a Georgian mansion type building with lots of parasolled seating outside, on Petergate it was, and Italian. As if the fact that it was an Italian needed stressing anymore there was a big Italian flag hanging from the wall about the first floor. It was called La Vecchia Scuola or ‘The Old School’ if you want that in English. If you want it in Welsh, though there is very little need, there’s very little need to have it in English actually, its ‘Yr Hen Ysgol.’ But whatever, it was a very upmarket place. It was so upmarket that the names on the menu weren’t even in English. It was all in Italian- And this was posh, real Italian food I’m talking about, food with names like Costolette di agnelo and Filleto alla vecchia. Even the Spaghetti Bolognese was called Spaghetti alla Bolognese. And just to give you an idea of prices the lowest priced main course was £12.95 but they went much higher than that. But you get your money’s worth, or at least I did. I splashed out on a full three course meal, a starter of Funghi Gorgonzola (Mushrooms in a cheese sauce) Spiedini di Carne for my main course (A massive platter of meat with chips) and Affogato di Baileys (Coffee flavoured ice cream with Baileys poured on top.) It cost me a good thirty pounds, and that was before I added in the two glasses of prosecco I drank to start off my night of drinking. It was damn fine cooking, almost as good as my own Irish stew, and I would have stayed there all night had I not already been set on loud music and nightclubs.

‘It was clearly named after the street but that didn’t prevent me from imagining that its name was a signifier for the seediest kind of nightclub, the kind where the bouncers are rough and men will bottle each other in the face whilst arguing over a girl who is usually drunk and has half her breasts hanging out.’I asked the nice waitress lady where the best place to go was, as I left, and she recommended the Shambles Club to me. It was a short trip back down Low Petergate in the direction of the castle and at the head of York’s oldest street, The Shambles. It was clearly named after the street but that didn’t prevent me from imagining that its name was a signifier for the seediest kind of nightclub, the kind where the bouncers are rough and men will bottle each other in the face whilst arguing over a girl who is usually drunk and has half her breasts hanging out. I was imagining the place to be a literal shambles but it turned out to be quite the opposite. It was a good night club, don’t get me wrong but it was hardly anything seedy. They had a dress code for one thing and if the bouncers, who were far too jolly and nice to be bouncers in my opinion, were quite strict about who they let in. If your breasts were hanging out, or liable to hang out at any point during the evening, you weren’t allowed in. The men, meanwhile, had to look as though they weren’t going to bottle anyone in the face. I had earlier changed into my blazer and dress pants and put on my not blue suede shoes so I was let in without a fuss. The bouncers even complimented me on my dress, in actual fact, one asking where I got the blazer and stating that it was ‘so stylish and fashionable.’

With a seedy nightclub you spend your whole night navigating bottles, fag ends (yes, even despite the smoking ban) and bits of broken glass. You have to dance around these things and if you want to sit down then you have to go to another club entirely as the seats are always one whole mess of sticky spilt alcohol. The air is thick with a something, not smoke exactly but a kind of unidentifiable, sweaty tang. There was none of that stuff here. The floor was clean, as were the red leather booth seats set against two of the walls and as was the heaving dance platform in the middle of the place. The third wall was the bar, a long one crowded with people clamouring for drinks, and the fourth was the DJ booth. Even from the entrance I could hear the thumps and thuds of the dubstep music coming from that booth and by the time I had climbed the stairs to the club floor it was ripping right through my ear drums. Like the restaurant it appeared to be a very upmarket establishment but I was not too bothered. A club was a club. The music was loud and provided I could find someone to dance with I would be happy enough.

I first made my way over to the bar and jostled into a position at the back of the crowd. In some nightclubs it takes you half an hour to get to the front and a further ten minutes to get served but here they had it down to a fine art and nobody was there for more than five minutes. Whilst in the crowd I was able to get a good look at the other clubbers and they were a fairly well sprung sort. They were all in their early twenties or late teens, around my own age. The girls had long hair and big earrings whilst the men had short, swept back and gelled hair with buzz cuts around their ears. Their clothes looked expensive, like they came from Milanese fashion designers, both the men and the women. Those men were also square jawed and clean shaven and by comparison I felt out of place because I was neither square jawed nor clean shaven. At least I could say that my clothes hadn’t been cheap. I wore cheap clothes all throughout my childhood and now that I have money to burn I make sure that whatever I wear costs nothing less than thirty pounds. Even the socks I was wearing had cost me fifty pounds.

“I like mead,” I said honestly. “I used to have this mate called Sam and his dad used to brew it and then sell it to all the kids who lived around where I used to live.” The policewoman gagged.
“You know that’s seriously illegal?”
“It was a rough neighbourhood,” I confessed.
I was thinking about what I might want to drink, looking up at a list of cocktails above the bar. I had decided to go for an Iced Jorvik Spectacular, a mead based cocktail, when I noted that the woman standing next to me was someone familiar. It was the policewoman who had accosted me earlier in the day and in my warped imagination I thought it would be amusing to talk to her and see if she remembered who I was. I gently nudged her arm got in close to her ear and gave her an ‘alright.’ She turned to see who I was and then grinned.
“Pretty boy!” she cried out happily. She was already on the way to being drunk “I didn’t expect to see a criminal like you in a place like this.”
“What can I say? I have expensive taste,” I joked.
“In that case you can buy me the drink you were asking about earlier… I’ll have the Iced Jorvik!”
“Nice choice. I was going to go for that one myself.”
“You should. It tastes really nice. Mead on its own… YURCH! But the cocktail… Whooo!” She threw her hands in the air and waved them around.
“I like mead,” I said honestly. “I used to have this mate called Sam and his dad used to brew it and then sell it to all the kids who lived around where I used to live.” The policewoman gagged.
“You know that’s seriously illegal?”
“It was a rough neighbourhood,” I confessed. She punched my arm and chuckled, shaking her head as if she weren’t sure that I was telling the truth.
“I like you pretty boy… You might be a criminal but you aren’t afraid to admit it.” I didn’t know whether to be offended or not so I told her. She laughed.

After being served we took our drinks (and she was right about the cocktail, it was ‘whooo,’) over to a booth where she had friends, five of them. Two were male and the other three female.
“This is pretty boy,” she introduced.
“He certainly is,” one of the women licked her lips.
“Actually my name’s Marco,” I blushed.
“Marco… Nice to meet you.” One of the men, a bespectacled fellow, reached out and shook my hand. He spoke with a plum voice and looked like he might be a restaurant critic. “Are you the same ‘pretty boy’ Victoria picked up in St Helen’s square? She told us about you… She said you tried to chat her up to get away with parking on double yellows.”
“Actually that isn’t true… I only started chatting her up after I had agreed to move my bike. And I wasn’t parking… I was leaving it there for a second.”
“That’s what they all say,” Victoria, the policewoman, stuck her tongue out at me. I stuck mine back out at her and then we sniggered over the moment.

“You single pretty boy?” the plum fellow asked me. His nickname was Plum as it turned out. His real name was Peter. I had taken a sip of my drink and nodded my head with the glass to my lips. I swallowed before responding.
“For about six months now… Since my last girlfriend caught me in bed with her best friend. Nothing happened between us… I didn’t even know she was in the bed until my girlfriend woke us up with a bucket of cold water. Before I could even grasp what was happening she had told me that it was over and stormed out. Personally I think it was a set up!”
“If she didn’t give you a chance to explain then she wasn’t worth it pretty boy,” Victoria stated. I agreed with her, though I had only come to that conclusion myself about a month after the relationship had ended.
“We should get you a new girlfriend,” one of the other women suggested. Her voice was high pitched and childlike.
“Anyone in the club take your fancy pretty boy?” Plum leaned over to me and pushed his spectacles up his nose. Together we looked about. I couldn’t see anyone at that stage but the night was still young.

Then we all jabbered over the noise of the club for a while and Plum went off to chat up a girl at one stage, failing so that he came back with his tail between his legs. The other man was called Twinkle… Like ‘Plum’ it was a nickname, but I never learned his real name. The three women were Chrissie, Maddox and Nelly. They formed a kind of trio and I got the impression that they weren’t that interested in speaking to Victoria, only jabbering to us men. Not that Victoria seemed to mind. She was having a perfectly good time by the looks of things. The trio got up to dance at certain songs but they never asked the rest of us. We all got a bit annoyed at this and so one time when they did this and then returned the rest of us (myself, Victoria, Twinkle and Plum,) immediately got up to dance.

‘That last phrase should have been a warning to run away as fast as possible… She must have been unhinged to come up with something like that.’We were all jamming together when Victoria turned me around and pointed to a wallflower who was watching me. She was doll like, with porcelain white skin, brown hair and round eyes. I liked enough of what I saw to think she might be worth asking to dance but decided I’d give her a miss this time. Victoria had other ideas.
“Go ask her to dance pretty boy…” She pushed me off the floor and I almost knocked the porcelain girl over. She laughed at my misfortune, as did Victoria who carried on dancing.
“Are you alright? What happened? I saw your friend push you…” I brushed myself off and grinned.
“Yeah. Fine… I was just being hesitant.”
“Hesitant? Why?” Porcelain girl asked.
“She thought I should ask you for a dance but I wasn’t so sure… It’s not that I don’t like you. You’re a good looking girl… I just thought I should wait until the song ended and then got to know you for another song or two first.” As far as introductions go that was a bad one and usually such introductions end up in disaster but not this time.
“You can ask me to dance any time,” Porcelain girl said, showing me her teeth which looked enormous. “I’ll always say yes.” That prompted a witty remark. A witty remark was extremely necessary at this stage.
“Even if your legs had been chopped off in an unfortunate threshing accident?” Ok… So it wasn’t that witty in the end. It was actually pretty terrible and disgusting.
Especially if my legs were chopped off in an unfortunate threshing accident! Even if it killed me… I’d want you to dance with me whilst I died!” That last phrase should have been a warning to run away as fast as possible… She must have been unhinged to come up with something like that. Phrases like that are usually a bad sign that a woman is clingy, that they’re obsessed with you. My brother could have told you stories about clingy, obsessive girls that would make your hair turn white… Their sort aren’t good news. But run I certainly did not. I did the opposite, I stayed. In fact, I was bold. I told her outright that what she had just said made her sound a bit weird. “Did it? Sorry… I didn’t mean to sound weird… I do that sometimes.” I chuckled.
“It’s no matter,” I told her. “It’s good to be weird sometimes… Unless you do it for months on end like my cousin… For the last three months he’s been locked in his office at home doing lord knows what. He comes out for meals but that’s about all.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s an architect,” I lied. “We both run an architect’s practice.”

The key to putting up a good lie is speaking with confidence and authority and for the next ten, maybe fifteen minutes we talked of architecture and building design. I had picked an easy subject to bluff and she didn’t know anything about it so my lie was able to pass unhindered. In the course of that conversation I learned that her name was Diana and that we both had a loathing for modern architecture and a love of the neo-gothic style. I told her I was helping to refurbish a place in Wales, half true, and that I had plans to add all sorts of gothic features. The latter half was a completely new idea but I decided that I would run with it whenever I got home so that one ended up being true by proxy.

Before I knew it we had gone up to the bar ordered the weirdest thing on the menu, a chocolate flavoured Bloody Mary which was absolutely disgusting, and we both thought so. And then we were dancing. It was a heavy dance, a slow mover, and we both got in real close to one another. We didn’t touch but I could feel her breath against my face, it hanging with the smell that Bloody Mary- Athough now that it was coming from her lips it was intoxicating rather than disgusting. Our eyes were blinded to everything but each other and the rest of the room did not exist. It was only the two of us and nobody else. Our bodies gyrated, pelvises circling and coming close together before backing off again. It was a sexual dance, a mating dance, one of those dances were a kiss is inevitable and the only thing preventing the dancers from stripping each other off is the drilled in desire not to expose themselves in public.

‘I got lost in the dance and the mating ritual and there was no way that I could stop. There was only one way it could finish. It would finish with a deep, filthy and unromantic kiss, a kiss of pure sexuality.’As the dance wore on and the music changed several times we got closer and the dance became more sexual, more intimate. Diana wrapped her arms around my neck and now the rest of our bodies made contact. Our pelvises brushed and our hands wandered over each other, exploring to the rhythm of the music. Her chocolate breath was strong now and I could see her lips right up close to me, quivering imperceptibly against her enormous teeth. The desire to go in further was strong but I held back, letting the tension build up between us so that when it finally broke the moment would feel so, so good. I forgot where I was, everything about the Roman tower and all I had discovered during the day and I got lost in her, Diana. I got lost in the dance and the mating ritual and there was no way that I could stop. There was only one way it could finish. It would finish with a deep, filthy and unromantic kiss, a kiss of pure sexuality.

When I couldn’t stand the tension any more I pulled Diana away from the dance floor and pressed her against the nearest wall. I didn’t need to ask for I knew she wanted it too. Our passions were reaching fever pitch and the dance had pumped us to a point where we had no other choice. I placed one hand on the wall besides her head and then got in close. I paused, staring into her eyes, and then I started to go for it. I was millimetres away, I could already feel her chocolate Bloody Mary breath inside my mouth and I knew that this was going to be a good one. It was going to be incredibly sexual, incredibly filthy and anybody watching would have probably been disgusted by us. The bouncers would have thrown us out onto the street for such an act I am sure.

A hand on my shoulder put an end to it. I was snapped straight out of the fantasy and back to the reality of the nightclub with the loud music and the dancing people and the steady flow of alcohol. I was incredibly pissed off and annoyed at this. The hand on my shoulder broke the moment, the passion. It sent my desire to kiss Diana through the floor. I turned around, ready to sock whoever it was but refrained when I saw an equally pissed off Victoria. If I had socked her she would have socked me right back. She would have likely socked me harder than I socked her as well.
“Pretty boy… What the hell is going on?” she demanded.
“I’m getting my groove on… What does it look like?”
“Not that. Some goon has just come over and told us all to stay clear of you unless we know what’s good for us.”
“What? Which goon?” Victoria nodded over her shoulder, without looking, and through the dancing throngs of people I saw precisely the same man who had been watching me earlier in the day, precisely the same gorilla like thug in a suit, eyes focused solely on my personage and nobody else. This was all kinds of not good. I didn’t yet know about being observed outside the museum but having already seen this guy watching me outside the service station was enough to know that him being here in the club was bad news. Clearly, he was following me. He was spying on me. For whom? That I had yet to find out but it wouldn’t take me long.

I left Diana and Victoria and went straight for the man. I wasn’t going to let him get away with spying on me or intimidating people and I was determined to find out who he worked for. He saw me coming, saw my intention, and moved into a charge. The dancers and clubbers scattered and we collided in the very centre of the room. Things went into slow motion for a fraction of a second before we connected. I went with my fists, right for his face, but he went for the gut. I got his right cheek but he got me in the chest with one massive fist. It took me a moment to recover but in that time the man had me by the shoulders and was pinning me to the ground. He snarled at me and his teeth flashed like those of a rabid dog. He was trying to intimidate me but it didn’t work. I’ve fought nastier beasts than him in my time and it takes more than some flashing teeth to get me quaking in my not blue suede shoes. Those flashing teeth just encouraged me to smash them out, which I did by twisting one arm free from his grip and forcing it straight up into his jaw. I was then on my feet again and as I came up I round housed his gaping maw and made his teeth dance across the floor. The bloody gums he was left with made him angry and he now came for my neck with both of his hands. Before I could dodge or react they had started to choke the life out of me.

‘When that failed to release his grip I had but one option left- To get in close and personal with his genitalia.’It takes ages to strangle someone to death but this wasn’t just a strangling. The man was crushing my neck at the same time. I could feel the pressure on my windpipe, feel its walls closing together and almost touching, blocking off all air to my lungs. Most people would panic in a situation like that but the thing is that you really need to keep your cool. Stay calm. Panicking uses up oxygen and that makes life easier for the strangler. The second thing is to act quickly and that is what I did, within seconds of feeling that man’s hands digging into my skin. I first did what is called the ‘square horse stance,’ placing my left foot behind my right at shoulder width. Then I twisted to the left, bringing my right arm straight up into the monkey’s face. He didn’t let go so I tried again, twisting further to the left and bringing my foot into contact with groin. When that failed to release his grip I had but one option left- To get in close and personal with his genitalia. Without hesitation I gripped at where they should have been, where they were, and I used every one of my near oxygen starved muscles to crush the shit out of them. He made a noise like a child soprano and finally I was free.

Whilst he fell to the floor, clinging to the spot on his trousers where blood was spreading out from his former testicles, I staggered backwards and retrieved my breath. He wasn’t getting up from that. The music was still blaring, as loud as ever, but nobody was dancing or paying it any attention. They were all staring at myself and my fallen, bleeding opponent. I turned at a hand on my shoulder, Victoria, and she was worried.
“Pretty boy… There’s more of them.” I looked beyond the crowd staring at me and to my horror I saw that more monkey suited goons were approaching from the edges of the room, at least seven of them. They all looked pissed and I didn’t particularly want to tangle with all of them at once. I could have done it, taken them all on, but the chances of my being beaten into a new dance floor were higher than victory so I figured the best route was to beat a hasty retreat- Get away and find out who they were and what they wanted before I dolled out any more impromptu vasectomies.

I took Victoria by the hand and seeing Diana nearby, grabbed her too. Then as fast as I could I made for the exit. We three all fell down the stairs to the exit and then out into the dark, ancient lamplight of the Shambles. Where the bouncers had gone I have no idea but they were nowhere in sight. Those men would be following us and so without waiting I pulled Victoria and Diana out into the street. Neither of the women were wearing high heels so running was easy. We hurtled along the uneven, cobbled surface and the closely built old medieval buildings took on a deadly aura. The upper floors overhung the street and all the lights were above this level so each entranceway became a dark pit, like jaws that would swallow us up and eat us whole. What during the day is a pretty, picturesque tourist attraction now became somewhere dangerous, somewhere to flee from. All the tacky souvenir stores that you can see down there were no longer anything of the sort… They were places of death. We could not hide here on this street for here we would find no safety. I was intent on running all the way down and as far away as possible before stopping but half way down the street I felt Victoria pulling me down a side street and I went, dragging Diana along with me.

We flew across a wide expansive square, where they have York city Market, and stopped on the other side, panting.
“Which way is it to St Helen’s square?” I gasped before I could even get my breath back. My immediate thought now was to get back to the office, lock the gates and bolt the doors with myself, Diana and Victoria inside. With any luck we would be safe from the monkey men in there.
“Not far. It’s just at the top of Parliament street.”
“Good. I’ll let you lead the way.” With all three of us holding hands we once again ran.

Shambles, York


 

Thanks for reading. If you liked this you can keep up to date with the latest news on it through my facebook page- facebook.com/jamespchurchill

The picture above is an old one from my Flickr page. That’s worth checking out as well.

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