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Tales from the Hanged Man Club

......And I feel Fine

They were a quiet bunch these days, The Hanged Man Club. The membership used to number into the hundreds before (they whisper the words, for fear of remembering too much) The Fall. The club itself sat at the exact address that it always had, which was a comfort in itself: Right at the end, just past the last light. The door was as secure as ever. The furnishings as luxurious as those inside could afford (and, therefore, extremely luxurious indeed). Several (very) carefully chosen doormen watched attentively at the portico, guarding as if the World itself depended on it. Which of course, in a manner of speaking......

Jackson wandered in and ordered a gin and tonic, Sam wasn’t too bothered about work tomorrow (even though, by definition, it would be her first day), so she pulled a bottle of vodka from under her coat tails and topped up a half empty cherry cola that appeared to have been left on the bar. The bartender gave her the look of general disapproval, but he owed her money, and therefore scarpered fairly quickly to serve someone else at the other end. At this point the thousand year old Buddhist nun in the corner of the room (the one in the red cloak, not the one in the blue trouser suit) imploded.

Sam finished off her vodka and cola. “I told you we should have got the later tram!”

Jackson looked at his shoes nodding, realising that he’d worn odd ones again, “Yep, you did.”

Calumny Jacobson pushed his way in through the fire escape and joined them at the bar. His coat was soaking wet and the broken umbrella pooled water onto the floor as he struggled to get up onto the high stool. He brushed his greying hair out of his eyes and nodded to the others. The bartender pushed a martini forward. Calumny Jacobson riffled through his various pockets with a lessening degree of effort until Sam finally sighed and paid for the drink. Some things never changed.

“Thanks. Has the game started yet?” Several of the club staff had begun clearing away the remnants of the nun and Callumny Jacobson waved at them as they swept and mopped.

Sam ordered another cherry cola with that weird finger pointing up and down thing that bartenders seem to be able to interpret perfectly well every time. “Not yet. The Absurd has only just arrived. Her Train was late apparently.”

Jackson flicked a piece of dried chicken off his lapel and examined the end of his finger with growing curiosity. “Lincoln and The Burmondsea Collective arrived quite early, which may be a good sign.”

Calumny grinned as he sipped his first drink of the hour. “Indeed my boy, it may. But let us not presume too much, for the game is long and the stakes are the highest possible. Talking of Steaks, I’m starving.” Callumny Jacobson spun around and addressed the other members of the club who were in the bar for this most auspicious of evenings.

“Does any one of you useless ingrates happen to have a steak sandwich about their person?”

Each one of the other club members suddenly became engrossed in their own conversations, or found a massively interesting article in the newspaper they were pretending to read. Each had, on at least one former occasion, been subjected to Callumny Jacobson’s quests for food, money, lodgings, or Presidential nominations. The list went on and on. No one came off the better in these things, saving Callumny Jacobson himself of course.

Jackson picked up his hat from the floor and looked inside it. “Here you go” He pulled a small turquoise paper bag from the hat and handed it to the small dripping man.

Sam chuckled “That’s a skill that is J. You should go far with that”

“I once went all the way to Pickerninnie. I didn’t like it.” Jackson ordered another Gin and Tonic.

Callumny Jacobson picked a small morsel of steak from his teeth (at least, he now considered them his. He had won them fair and square after all). “We might as well get comfortable, that game in there is going to take a while.” He nodded towards the oak double doors at the other end of the bar, the doors which led either to the Inner Sanctum of the Gaming Room or the toilets, depending on which aspect of the Chinese calendar it happened to be. “Who’s dealing, do we know?”

Sam had given up all pretence of hiding the vodka and filled her cherry cola to the top. “Gilgamesh I think.”

“Jeese, this is going to take forever. Which is the whole point I suppose.” Callumny Jacobson jumped down from the high stool and handed the empty turquoise paper bag back to Jackson, who then folded it carefully and placed it back inside his hat.

“I’m going to get some shut eye. Wake me when anything interesting or debauched occurs.”

With that Callumny Jacobson rolled up his wet coat and headed off into the billiards room, where he ensconced himself beneath the table and began to snore lightly. The two Prussian officers ignored him and carried on their game.

Jackson pulled a small battered cardboard box from inside his hat and waved it in front of Sam’s face.


. . . .

“Cunnilingus” said Callumny Jacobson, which made Sam jump slightly. “On the triple word score.”

“Thanks, I’d spotted it.” She put the letters down and smiled at Jackson triumphantly.

“How long was I asleep?” Callumny Jacobson stretched to his full height of four feet and seven centimetres and yawned.

Jackson started to clear the board away, carefully scooping the letter tiles into the turquoise velvet bag.

“About half a summer’s width and twice as long as usual” The box slid neatly back into his hat.

“Really? Wow, that’s quite good for me!” Callumny Jacobson brushed his lush ginger hair out of his eyes and nodded to the door. “Any word?”