On hints of trouble

A prostitute grinned at me from a near toothless mouth and took my hand in an iron grip.

She whirled me about till the end of the song, before I prised her fingers off mine, one by one. Her friend whispered a coquettish greeting in my ear. She seemed friendly.

‘Where are you from?’ I asked with schoolboy innocence. ‘Colombia’, she huskily returned, while seeming to say a lot more with her eyes and lips.

‘What kind of work do you do?’

Masajes,’ she replied, after giggling inadvertently and swallowing a smile. Lips slightly parted, she encircled my middle finger with a firm hand before applying a stroking motion. ‘Tu quieres masajes?’ I did like massages, but I had no aches and pains, so declined politely.

Morgan tutted disapprovingly at our undignified frivolity. ‘You guys should have standards,’ he said with a grimace. ‘We’re just dancing!’ I laughed.

‘Hmm.’ In his mind, other business was afoot. He had already warned Stewart.

‘See the fucker in the red shirt, huh?’ What do you think that fucker’s waiting for? He is strong, yes, but I would take… him… down.’ It was remarkable how many sentences this good-hearted Scandinavian could end with this apocalyptic phrase. And tonight, as prostitutes drifted across his vision, supposed revellers shifted position subtly about and around the dance floor looking, no doubt, to gain some strategic advantage when it all went off. He remained vigilant, assessing the threats, weighing up the real tough guys from those with muscles vainly sculpted in gyms, those that he could ‘take down’, if called upon now, as he’d done many times before.

All around, the crowd danced, sang and drank, as if there was no threat, no undercurrent of destruction bubbling up beneath the apparently innocent surface impression.

The club closed at two. Nothing had gone off. This time. Only Morgan knew how different it might have been. We departed to our beds peacefully, and blissfully ignorant. Somewhere close by, a small light blazed, illuminating the unsleeping sentinel, who is our ears and eyes.