Deleted Scene from The Missing Link, by M T McGuire, April 2022
‘You’re too soft, lad, you know that don’tcha? You gotta grow a thicker skin.’
‘Yeh, I know,’ The Pan looked up into the stern face and tried to read Big Merv’s expression. As usual, he couldn’t.
‘I understand that it don’t sit right. But in this game, sonny, when someone smacks you down and you have to get up, pronto, and get even. ’S a pity the world’s the way it is. You ain’t cut out for this.’
The Pan smiled sadly.
‘No I’m not,’ he shrugged. ‘Don’t get me wrong when I say that, I am grateful but … working for you, sir … it isn’t what I’d do unless I had to.’
‘I get that son, but we’re stuck with each other so you gotta learn.’
‘Or I could leave,’ said The Pan knowing as he said it, that leaving was impossible. ‘You’d never see me again.’
‘Except I would, because we both know you ain’t got nowhere else to go.’
‘I could find somewhere.’
‘Nah, you couldn’t. You’d just get in my hair again and then I’d get angry and I’d have to let Frank an’ Harry rub you out.’
He was right of course and they both knew it. The Pan’s only hope of survival was to stay in Ning Dang Po and Big Merv’s protection helped with that, regardless of whether or not it came on a voluntary basis.
‘Like you said, I’m not very good at this.’
‘Nah. I said you ain’t cut out for it. ’S a big difference because I reckon you can learn. You got something. Although I’m smecking blowed if I know what it is. That’s why you’re still around innit? Coz I wanna find out. I’m giving you a lot more slack than you deserve and the boys reckon I’ve gone soft. That means you ain’t going nowhere until I’ve got payback for my largesse. And you’d better not bleedin’ well let me down. You get me?’
‘Yes,’ said The Pan meekly. He looked down for a second and didn’t see Big Merv’s eyes soften, or the fleeting smile that crossed his face. Instead, as was usual in pretty much any conversation with his boss, The Pan found himself very much at sea. Was that a compliment, a threat or a joke? It was so hard to tell. By the time The Pan looked up at him, Big Merv’s expression had reverted to stern and uncompromising, so to The Pan, it seemed safest to take it as a threat.
‘Son, I like that you got morals, I got morals and all. But this is a dog-eat-dog world what we’re living in, and if you wanna survive you gotta learn to bite the other geezer before he bites you.’
‘I know,’ said The Pan sadly.
‘It ain’t easy and I get that it ain’t right, but it’s how the world is. Take my position? I got cash and power and influence but that means a lotta people want a pice of that. They wanna see me go down so they can step into my shoes. If I wanna stay alive I gotta hit ’em first. Marcella’s big and ugly enough to make up her own mind. She’s made her position crystal clear. She’s after Gary the Razor’s patch and she’s got the Grongles on her side and all. If she gets her way, it’ll upset the balance of power down that part of town. If I hadn’t got Bunday to spring Gary’s bunch it’d have been curtains for Gary. So it’s not like I didn’t give Marcella a chance. She’s made it effin’ plain that she ain’t gonna play nice. If she wants to ice me and be the boss that’s her choice. I doubt she knows what she’s taking on and I ain’t giving her an easy ride. You get that, right?’
‘Yeh. I do.’
‘Good. Coz that’s how the world works. What’s more son, if I go down, you go down,’ Big Merv jabbed The Pan in the chest. ‘If she ain’t gonna play nice with me, she ain’t gonna play nice with some high-maintenance little wuss like you, neither.’
That wasn’t something The Pan wanted to think about but it was true.
‘I know, boss,’ he said.
‘Sweet. I’m glad we understand each other,’ said Big Merv. Without waiting for an answer he strode across the room and opened the door. ‘Now get down them stairs and tell Johnno and Marlon to come up here,’ he stopped to think. ‘I reckon we’ll need Frank, Harry and Fists too. Tell ’em to meet me in the function room in half an hour. I gotta make some calls and discuss this with the wider business community. I wanna nip this in the bud and if I’m going to do that, we need a plan.’
The Pan knew where the function room was. He hoped Big Merv’s sudden decision to meet there, rather than in his office, wasn’t a bad sign.
Marlon and Johnno were waiting for The Pan at the bottom of the stairs and when he explained the situation to them, Johnno was kind enough to summon Frank, Harry, and Fists McDermot.
Shortly afterwards the group reassembled in the function room. It was sizeable room and was occupied, mostly, by a large boardroom-style table. Big Merv sat at the head, Harry and Frank occupied the two seats either side of him, facing each other, then Marlon and Johnno sat next to Harry, with with Fists McDermont next to Frank and The Pan of Hamgee next to Fists.
‘What do we know lads?’ asked Big Merv.
‘The new driver’s a bloke called Dwayne Pipe,’ said Frank.
‘Somehow I reckon that ain’t his real name,’ said Big Merv.
‘Yeh, although that ain’t a problem, coz we know where he lives, right Frank?’
‘Right, boss, number 63 Royal Gardens.’
‘Sweet. Is he there now?’
‘Yer. And we got people watching who’re going to signal if he moves. Right Fists?’
‘’Sright,’ said Fists.
‘Good work lads,’ said Big Merv. ‘Once our mate Dwayne gets into his commercial snurd, we’re gonna follow him,’ he swung round and pointed suddenly at The Pan. ‘That’s your job.’
‘D’you mean, in my snurd?’
‘You got to be kidding! Johnno and Marlon, there,’ Big Merv waved a hand at The Pan’s recent partners in crime. ‘They reckon you can’t drive for toffee,’ everyone laughed and The Pan smiled weakly. Big Merv waited until the laughter quietened down again, ‘yeh, and I can believe it and all. Bob’s gonna drive you in the runabout.’
The runabout was a small snurd which was used by the staff of the club, usually to pick up supplies from the cash and carry. It was tinny and slow and designed for smallholders and farmers to take their wares to market, the name of the model was a snurd Dobbio.
‘Your job, sunshine, is to watch where he goes while Bob drives. The pair of you are gonna follow this Dwayne geezer in his commercial snurd and when he stops to make the pick up, you’re gonna tell us where.’
‘How will I—’ began The Pan.
‘Will you shut it ’til I’ve finished talking you pranny,’ said Big Merv. ‘When he gets to the pick up point, it ain’t gonna take him long so we have to move sharpish. That’s why you’re gonna wear a headset one of the new ones the staff use at the club.’
‘Yeh. You’ll be talkin’ to me while Bob drives. That way, I know exactly where you are an’ I can tell the others.’
The Pan wasn’t as knowledgeable about technology as he’d have liked, mainly because it was expensive and very little of it was available to non-Grongles, but he knew about headsets. The security forces had used something similar at one time.
‘Is that going to work?’ he asked. From what he recalled, the headsets the Grongles had used had about three hour’s battery life and a limited range.
‘Why won’t it?’ asked Big Merv.
‘The Grongles used to moan about them all the time. The battery life is quite short and they don’t work if you’re too far away from one another.’
The Pan had frequently listened, from hiding, to Grongle patrols grumbling as they recharged the battery packs for their headsets on a special patch of fabric sewn into their tunics. They’d also complained volubly about the short range. These days the Grongles seemed to use their phones, with some kind of upgraded ear piece system which allowed them to talk to each other from anywhere. Then again, the Grongolian upgrade could only be a good thing, because it meant Big Merv’s radio systems wouldn’t end up inadvertently using the same frequency as the ones worn by the Grongles. Oh hang on, The Pan realised Big Merv was talking.
‘Are you payin’ attention, you little scrote?’
‘Yes,’ said The Pan quickly.
‘I said, for the benefit of those of us who wasn’t listening,’ he glared at The Pan. ‘It’s got a range of a mile and a half.’
‘OK,’ said The Pan. Was that enough? He wasn’t sure. Clearly he was looking doubtful.
‘What more do you want?’ Big Merv demanded. ‘The Grongles only complained because they’re a bunch of high-maintenance puffs. Arnold’s trousers! How hard is it to rub the effin’ battery box on your head for a few minutes every couple of hours?’
‘Well they use a patch of—’
‘Don’t you start! You know what I’m talking about. Them Grongles don’t want these no-more and took them away to be incinerated. Just so happens that a whole bunch of ’em fell outta the bag. Shame that, innit?’
‘Yes, very sloppy of them,’ The Pan agreed.
‘Yer. We still got a couple of walkie-talkies behind the bar and in the cloakroom and places, just in case, but rest of the staff has been wearing these headsets for a couple a weeks now,’ said Big Merv. ‘It’s all encrypted so we won’t get no nosey parkers tuning in for a listen.’
‘Oh, I see,’ said The Pan.
‘Good. I’m glad you do.’
‘How does it work?’ asked The Pan, before he could stop himself.
‘Arnold’s chuff! Have you got to know every single bleedin’ little detail?’
‘Yes, because that’s how come nobody catches me, Big Merv, sir; knowing stuff,’ said The Pan.
‘You giant nerk. Alright, ask one of the lads. I s’pect Marlon’ll tell you. Right Marlon?’
‘Yes boss,’ said Marlon.
‘Yes. Thank you, Big Merv sir,’ said The Pan.
‘Good. About bleedin’ time,’ Big Merv grumbled. ‘Since we’re on the subject. Because I know you an’ I know how crap you are, you’re gonna have a back up option. If the headsets don’t work, or if we can’t hear you, this is plan B.’ Big Merv held something up. Arnold’s socks! It was a mobile phone. Woah. ‘Then you can still bell me, or send me a text message.’
‘I- I’ve never used—’
‘Yeh, I know you ain’t hardly never seen one chum. Johnno’s gonna show you how it works, and the headset.’
‘OK,’ said The Pan doubtfully.
‘Any more questions?’
‘Not right now,’ said The Pan.
‘Good. It’s about bleedin’ time you shut up!’
‘This ain’t just about me being the Boss, this is about the whole business community of Ning Dang Po. And because that’s how it is, I’ve sent word out to some of my fellow business beings in business.’
‘They coming here, boss?’ asked Harry.
‘’S right. So far we got Marion Smith and her mate Mattie the Bingo. We got Joyce the Bolter—she’s Gary the Razor’s number two. Gary’s understandably concerned about leaving his manor unattended tonight. Then we got, Ron Smirk, Crusher Hilton and Growler Dingle from Big Dangerous Mike’s manor in Upper Right and Elsie (Sex Kitten) Baines who runs the docks with Mrs Tremaine.’
‘Is Elsie still going?’ asked Frank, ‘I thought she was dead.’
‘Nah, she’s knocking on a bit but she’s still around.’
‘I reckon she’s seventy three if she’s a day,’ Big Merv shrugged.
Someone knocked on the door and then Bob the Blaggeysomp walked in.
‘Your other business colleagues have arrived, Big Merv, sir,’ she said.
‘Sweet, show ’em in.’
Everyone stood up politely as a diverse group of beings walked into the room. First to introduce themselves were Marion Smith, Joyce the Bolter and Mattie the Bingo, Marion was tall with white grey hair cut into a neat Bob, Mattie was shorter and what Gladys and Ada would have described as ‘well proportioned’ or possibly ‘big boned’. Next to introduce themselves was a Galorsh called Ron. He had a massive scar up one cheek which gave him a lopsided expression, though so everyone called him Smirk. He arrived with two others; a Swamp Thing who looked even larger and more buff than Big Merv—a feat The Pan hadn’t believed possible—who was called Crusher Hilton. He was the standard green rather than Big Merv’s unusual orange. Third in Smirk’s party was a Spiffle wearing one of the most ornate hats The Pan had ever seen, who went by the name of Growler Dingle.
Just when The Pan thought that was everyone, a very tall elderly woman swanned in. She was wearing a long flowing dress with a smart shawl over the top of it and a lot of make up.
‘I’m Elsie,’ she said in a deep booming voice, ‘Letitia Tremaine sends her apologies and says she’ll do whatever she can to help!’ she swept round the table to The Pan bringing a strong aroma of patchouli with her. ‘Well, you’re a handsome young man! I haven’t seen you before! You must be King Milo’s successor!’ and then before anyone, least of all The Pan, could get a word in edge ways she leaned forward, put her hand up to her mouth and in a very unsubtle stage whisper said, ‘Are you looking for a date? If you play your cards right you can have me and I won’t charge.’
‘Elsie, behave yourself!’ said the well-proportioned lady who’d arrived with Joyce the Bolter.
‘Oh but come on! Mattie! Look at him!’ said Elsie and turned back to The Pan. He smiled shyly at her, ‘Elsie’ was wearing make up, a lot of make up, in a way that reminded The Pan of a pantomime dame. What with the deep booming voice and her age, of course, he couldn’t one hundred percent tell if she was a lady or a man. Then again, he supposed it was hardly an issue since it was abundantly clear that whatever her biological gender she knew she was a lady.
‘Hello ma’am,’ said The Pan
‘I’m Elsie,’ she said somewhat redundantly.
‘Elsie (Sex Kitten) Baines?’ asked The Pan before he could stop himself.
‘Indeed!’ she blushed. Blimey, she was quite old to be a kitten, nearly as old as Gladys and Ada by the looks of it. Then again, Betsy Coed who ran the brothel on Turnadot Street was probably about the same age as Gladys and Ada. Yes, The Pan decided, Elsie had probably retired from active service and become a madam. Well …unless there were people who liked— no, he thought, no need to go into detail.
‘It’s lovely to meet you,’ he said inclining his head to infer a bow. He couldn’t actually bow without head-butting her because she was standing so close.
She moved back and looked him up and down. ‘Have you ever thought of a career in film?’
He could almost hear the inverted commas round ‘film’. She meant porn, obviously. Before The Pan could reply for himself, Big Merv interrupted, ‘No he ain’t.’
‘Oh but you should. She pressed one finely manicured finger to The Pan’s chest and gave him a smouldering look from under her eyelashes. ‘You are the perfect boy-next-door type,’ she told him before turning to address the room. ‘Who is this dashing young man?’
‘Your grandson?’ said someone.
‘None of that you cheeky fellow!’ said Elsie with a tinkly laugh.
‘Oi! Elsie!’ Big Merv had to raise his voice to get her attention.
‘Yes, big man,’ said Elsie, turning and fluttering her eyelashes at him.
‘Leave the little scrote alone, sweets. There’s a good girl. He’s staff.’
‘Oh deary me,’ said Elsie. ‘I’m afraid that means you’re off limits! You can’t work for Big Merv and me!’ She blew The Pan a kiss and sashayed round the table to an empty seat, between Smirk and Marion Smith, where she sat down.
‘Arnold! Give me strength,’ muttered Big Merv quietly before adding, at normal volume. ‘Are we ready to start?’
–o0The End Of This Bit0o–