By Peter Corris

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He’d dropped his gun and was scrabbling for it so I kicked it across the carpet into the corner of the room. Brian was keen. He came up off the floor like a thin lion after a fat Christian. I sidestepped and tripped him as he went past. He cannoned into a stand that held a five-litre bottle of Johnny Walker scotch. The bottle hit the wall and broke and the room suddenly smelt like a distillery. I was getting set to issue orders when Jason Wishart picked up a box of matches from the floor, struck one and tossed it onto the scotch-soaked carpet.

Harkness laughed. ‘You’re off your head. And I won’t touch him until I hear what you bastards are on about. ’ The man whose task it seemed to be to handle Harkness raised his fist. Buckawa froze him with a look. ‘Don’t be foolish, Leo. ’ Leo backed off. ’ Kelo hadn’t taken his eyes off me. He nodded and the choke-hold was released. I rubbed my neck and thought about turning round to do some nose-breaking. I could feel Sangster twitching beside me. The nurse opened a door and I could see through into an operating theatre-harsh lighting, gleaming chrome, an antiseptic smell.

You’ve got a point. ’ Butler was an actor I’d bodyguarded some years ago. I hadn’t seen his name in lights lately, but it’s always nice to be well-thought of, even by a has-been. Madeline Ozal was no has-been-she was big and getting bigger. ‘I had a bit part in one of his movies,’ I said. ‘I threw someone off a building or fell off myself. ’ She laughed again. ‘In Kurt’s movies it hardly matters. Look, the only people who know about my parents are my aunt and uncle and now you. ’ This sounded like the nitty-gritty, worth getting a contract form out of the desk for.

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Burn and other stories by Peter Corris

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