Elliot stuffed his hands firmly into the cavernous pockets of his Peaky Blinders coat, and clenched them in, then out and in again. As an attempt to restart his circulation, it wasn’t too bad, but a pair of thick gloves, an extra vest or layer of long johns would have been of more assistance, and he felt stupid for being without them. It wasn’t like him to be unprepared, but the night had been planned around dancing rather than hanging about at bus stops. And when the dancing was to be somewhere special (the Onedin Cellar) and with a particularly stunning young woman, he needed to be dressed just right.
But, after an hour and a half of standing at the edge of the road in the ice cold and foggy weather, Elliot had finally concluded that he’d been stood up. Still, what could you expect from a stunning woman like Hannah? She must have had her pick of far more eligible suitors. He looked down at his feet and wiggled his toes. Circulation was becoming an issue.
‘She didn’t turn up, then?’ The voice was husky and low, and Elliot recognised it immediately as his best friend followed the sound out of the freezing mist.
Elliot’s hunched figure squeezed itself in just that little bit more, and he sighed. Unusually for him, it was a sigh not bolstered by bravado. ‘She didn’t. And I waited for bloody ages, too.’
‘Sorry about that, mate.’ Artie shoved his own hands into his pockets. ‘We’ll go to the gig minus girls then. Mel didn’t turn up either. They are probably ill, or maybe they got kept behind. You know how much that bastard Mitson likes his waitresses to do constant involuntary overtime. Did you call her mobile? Or the cafe?’
Elliot shuffled his feet a little more and began to bounce gently without leaving the ground.
‘Maybe it is Mitson. Who knows, but it would explain why Hannah’s not been in touch. I don’t know the café’s number. Do you?’ Elliot’s feet were so cold that they were beginning to itch, and he wiggled his feet pointlessly inside what were his smartest pair of shoes. Unable to get any heat relief in one set of appendages, he tried with another set and shoved his hands up into his armpits under his coat.
‘I don’t know the café number either. And with us both being banned from the place, I’m not taking the risk of getting any nearer than we already are. You know as well as I do that Mitson doesn’t do anything other than watching through the windows, and he’s threatened more than once that he’s going to set the Doberman on us if we go near. We should never have done what we did to him. I reckon he’s turned the girls against us.’
‘You could be right, mate. But we’re all dressed up for nothing then.’
‘Still fancy The Onedin Cellar? Give it a try. We might get lucky there.’
The young men nodded decisively at each other and, glad to be moving again, began the walk down Armitage Road and past The Railway pub where inside, Mr Mitson watched their dejected forms and sniggered from his usual window seat, knowing that his two favourite barmaids were safe at last.
Safe and sound with him.
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