October 2026. 17.10. “PLEASE, MIKE” Mike reappeared and poured another Doom for Combat Dave, 70. “Nearly finished out the back, Dave, another 10 minutes and I’ll come and have a chat. Put it on your tab? “Uh, yes, but can I pay my tab off now, please.” Didn’t want to leave his tab for Mike to pick up. He paid up in cash. “Can I borrow your mobile, please, Mike. Batteries are flat and I need to check some E-mails.” “Yeah, no worries, mate.” Mike handed Dave his mobile and popped back out to the kitchen. Dave waited a minute and slipped round behind the bar. And unplugged the pub’s phone. He sat back down and rolled another ciggie. And reflected. Deep Purple were playing on the sound system. “….she‘s a highway, she‘s a highway starrrrr…..” Bloody hell, Mike, you pick your timing.
Over the last couple of months he’d been having tests for a backache and stomach problems. The results had arrived last week. He had cancer. Not just lungs, say, or liver. Oh no. Everywhere. Aggressive. He had been given about 3 months, maybe 6. The results had arrived on his birthday.
Happy birthday, Dave.
He wasn’t afraid. He’d told his partner, Susie, not to worry. There was no way he would be a burden on her. He wasn’t intending to go for the long game. It would just happen unannounced to her, and he wouldn’t tell her when. Didn’t want to get her into trouble with “the authorities”.Assisted suicide and all that.
Roger and Tristan were talking business. Both had their I-laptops (Apple 11.7) on the table, with projected future targets on a graph.
Tristan was 22 and said he was something “big in the city”. He didn’t say which city, Swindon, Bristol, Exeter? No, just “the city”. No-one knew what he did, either. “An executive”, he’d say. Or “A trainer. I train trainers.” “An ideas man.” “Consultant.” So, he did nothing then. And earned shit loads for not doing it. He’d left Uni and had no idea what to do. He was unemployable…..until his Dad spoke to Roger.
Roger was 47. He’d been an officer in the Royal Logistics Corps. Once he reached Major, he was posted to Abbey Wood to be a Project Manager in an IT project. His junior staff were just about sick of bailing him out when the early retirement scheme came up. Roger took the money and ran. He found himself a job working for a consultancy firm he’d worked with at Abbey Wood. So, lump sum, Major’s
pension and a salary from the consultancy. Just under £100k a year. Until the consultancy found out that he wasn’t very good at IT or projects and let him go. For a huge lump sum, obviously. A lot of ex-Army in the firm. Couldn’t let old Rog down, could they? And now Roger was an “Ideas man” “Trained trainers.” You know. Roger also did nothing. For shitloads of money. It was for this company that he’d “headhunted” Tristan.
On and on it went. “Yah, yah, I think we need to target a broader people spectrum, Tris.”
“Absolutely, Rog, widen the scope to say people like….”
Dave didn’t need to look. He knew that Tristan had just nodded towards him.
<<People like…him. Dave. Smelly little oiks who sat in the pub every night talking utter rubbish. Never been an “executive“. Probably never achieved a profit target or top sales award in his life. Goes home to wifey. Watches X factor. Spend all day on cliquey websites spouting UKIP rubbish.>> They didn’t know Dave at all. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
“Exactly, Tris. As…“, he whispered, “….nauseating as they are, they could make us a tidy sum.”
“We’ll sort it tomorrow, Roger, my old son. Milk the bastards.” ***High fives***
“Kerching, Tristan, ker-bloody-ching!”
“What the hell is this crap music playing?”
Tristan looked up. Combat Dave was stood looking back at him. “How’s your Buttcombe, Roger? To your liking? I prefer Doom Bar myself.” Roger let out a “pffffff” and shook his head, patronisingly.
Tristan started, “Look, I don’t know who you are, but…..”
Dave was calm, “I tripped over your scooter in here, Tristan. When you were 12.”
Tristan tried again, “Oh, WHATEVA! Get over it, girlfriend….” and turned for Roger’s approval.
Dave pulled a handgun complete with silencer from his pocket, put it against Tristan’s temple and said quietly, “SHUT” ***ptffff*** “UP” ***ptffff***. Tristan shut up. He had no option really.
Roger’s face drained, “What the fuck?” He stood up ***ptfff ptfff*** and then sat down again. He had just joined Tristan in God’s waiting room. Dave pulled a wankpuffin sticker from his jacket pocket and attached it to the jacket lapel of Tristan’s cheap creased suit. And sniggered.
Dave tipped the peanuts into Roger’s man bag and carried the empty bowl back to the bar. He detached the silencer from the gun and placed it back into one of his pockets. “Bloody handy, combat jackets.
Loads of pockets for all my shit” He sat on a barstool, placed the gun on the bar and rolled a ciggie.
“Right, all done”, said Mike. Followed by, “JESUS CHRIST”.
“Pour two whiskeys, will you, Mike. And join me for a drink and a chat.” “Coming up, Dave.”
Mike wasn’t afraid for his life. He’d known Dave for, what, 10 years now? He and Dave were like-minded people and ran on the same wavelength. He saw the gun, but Dave wasn’t going to shoot him. He just needed to limit the damage. Bring this to an end. Yeah, he was worried about the interviews, the paperwork, the court case, but , hey. Keep calm.
“On the house, my friend.” And joined Dave on the other barstool. Dave lit up his ciggie.
“Ironic, isn’t it, Mike.”
He blew smoke out and nodded towards the gun. “How I always said immigrants were good for nothing. But they are. £500 in Bristol.” “Five rounds, too.” Just to let Mike know…
Mike pulled out a cigar and lit it. The two smoked for a bit. Then Dave took out Mike’s mobile and dialled 999. “Hello, police please……yes, hello. This is the landlord of the Three Tuns. I have a man here who is smoking in the pub. I’ve asked him to stop, but he refuses. Can I have some assistance please. OK, thank you.” He handed the landlord his phone back.
Mike handed Dave a cigar. His rollie was finished. The peanut bowl made a handy ashtray. They both puffed away. Chatting shit.
“Here they are”, said Dave. Blue lights flashed through the frosted glass in the front door. He glanced round the curtain. “Crikey, 3 units. One dog van and two panda cars. Serious shit.”
The door rattled . “Hello, hello, anyone there?”
“Better open the door now, Mike. Thanks for everything..”
The PCSO walked throught the door first and vomited right where he stood. Never seen a sight like that before. Two regular policemen followed him in, a sergeant and a constable.
“Crikey, Sarge, that body’s got a wankpuffin badge on it.”
“So it has—–“ then corrects himself—“Shut up, constable, and get on with the job in hand.”
Dave picked up the gun.
“Could you just put that weapon down, please, sir?”
“To be honest, officer, no, no, I can’t.” The officer looked scared witless.
“Relax, Mr Policeman, I’n not going to waste a bullet on a Common Purpose stooge. You’ll only be replaced by two more.”
Dave continued, “There’s been a heinous crime in here, Officer. Yes, terrible. A man smoking in a pub.
Only one way to deal with people like that.”
He finished the whiskey, stubbed the cigar out in the peanut bowl.
“Smoke on the waaaaater…” Deep Purple still. The timing was immaculate.
He placed the gun muzzle in his mouth. His whole life flashed before him.…it was TRUE. But it was going backwards??? And suddenly it slowed down, 1980.…1979.…and finally it stopped. 1976. Dave smiled. A contented smile.
“….fire in the skyyyyy….”
And the black dog in Dave’s head started to bark.
Then he blew the top of his head off.
The corpse formally known as Combat Dave lay splayed out on the floor. Next to him lay the gun, muzzle still smoking. Smoking. In a pub.