Protected Species

“D’you like to dance? Good for the soul, dancing.”

Maurice Winchester didn’t practice dad dancing, this was closer to great-grandad dancing, his laughing red face even ruddier with the whisky being sloshed. He had the East End clip of Caine, while his brother Albie aped the slur and two fisted panther stalk of Connery.

Jack reclined on a Knoll sofa watching these two old robber barons prance before him. This surreal pantomime was unexpected, he wondered if he was the one being played, half-expecting henchmen to burst in any second and put a bullet in his head.

Albie staggered forward, pouring Balvenie 40 year old single malt into a glass he shoved into Jack’s hand. “You try this lad. Finest bit of Scotch you’ll ever have. Shust be shure you don’t waste none. Worth more than you are.” Drops splashed onto the Noguchi glass top table as he lurched away.

Connery and Caine. Not the actors, but thieving rogues Danny and Peachy from The Man Who Would Be King high-stepping off the screen. However, instead of being flung to their doom or exiled, these two were allowed to grow old, plunder and murder their way to even higher ground, a nation of greedy cap-doffers easier to swindle than proud tribesmen.

Now, they boozily gyrated to bad EDM pumped through B & O ceiling speakers in a sleek penthouse, polar opposite to the dusty cloisters of Foxglove. Polished walnut floors, marble fireplaces, modern art, over priced sculptures, wrap around terrace. All the trappings of luxury fine living, rich enough to buy the taste they did not possess.

He thought of Rosie cutting out interior design magazines, selecting classic furnishings for her dream home, many of which stocked the modern chic of his current setting, and the bitter whisky only strengthened the memory. It tasted of burnt meat.


“Leo may have been rubbish at continuing my legacy, but we’ll be damn good at continuing his.” Maurice’s smirk revealed his disdain for the dead son he still didn’t care for. “It may have been a stupid idea, but it made us laugh.”

“It’s time to go bigger,” said Albie. “Most dangerous animal on the planet. Bloody polar bear, piss all over the brown one we’ve got in the Great Hall. You just need to run in the snow.” He threw boxing jabs at the air. “One, two. When we go fishing, we don’t catch trout, that’s supper. Great white shark, get a big one to hang over the fireplace. Hope you know how to swim lad.”

“Gorilla,” said Maurice. “Don’t forget a bloody gorilla. Get one for Leo. Shove a broom stick up his arse and see how he dances.” His beetroot face roared.

A piece of paper landed on the coffee table. “Is that enough for an adventure?” Albie’s beady eyes stared at Jack as he watched the baitman finger the note. He always enjoyed the chill silence money brought over those who didn’t have it. That was power. “Take some time, I need a leak.”

Maurice patted his brother on the back as they staggered out onto the terrace. “Let’s take one together.”

Jack held the private bank draft in his hand. It was more than Leo had paid, more than his flat was worth, more than any insurance settlement. Enough for a new life. Money could buy anything, so the Winchesters believed, as experience had proved time and again.

They gave a tip to those who passed the screening process, judged servile enough by other sycophants. No longer a threat, they would pay him to run, jump, fetch, maybe just pay to watch him die, whatever whim. He was theirs, had been for years, vengeance but a veil over his bondage. That was how the Winchesters ruled so long, potential enemies neutered by purchase into friendship or serfdom, forming another layer of protection around their ruthless species.

The tumbler clinked loudly onto the glass table, missing the coaster, whisky unfinished. Jack picked up the glass, sipped the burnt spirit, then smashed it down again louder, enjoying the cheer of glass on glass. He stood up and followed the brothers out onto the terrace.

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