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The set up by Danny Wallace


A 300 word short by ShortList collumnist Danny Wallace

Felix ‘Dark Heart’ Drinkwater fumed as the cab roared away from the small third-floor office he rented on Sunset and Larrabee, and through the city he now knew as a city of darkness, this city of fatal girls and private dicks, this city of killers and curses, strangers on trains and fast-moving targets, and most of all – more than all of it, more than any of it, more than the rest of it put together – this dark and dangerous city that had crawled into his brain like a spider through a plughole, this city that knew him better than he knew himself and reminded him of it every time he passed a low-down dirty rotten gin joint, this city that wouldn’t let him relax without a loaded Colt 1911 or the Tommy gun he kept strapped to the underside of the bold oak desk old Grantham had left him – Grantham, who loved his liquor almost as much as Drinkwater, sure, and who left the desk, yes, but who also left the debts that went along with it – and it was this very city of choking smokers in smoggy bars and foggy thoughts of dancing girls with numbers scrawled on hotel matchbooks that he could not let beat him; because to be beaten was the threat that hung low and constant above his head, ever since that day, that first fateful day he took a cab just like this one, he thought, finally pulling up at Frolic’s, instinctively checking his pocket for his gun, his badge, his cigarettes, his lighter: his tools for operating in this city of darkness.

And then Felix realised he’d forgotten his wallet and had to go all the way back again.

“I’d forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on!” he said, seeing the funny side.

Danny Wallace’s novel, Charlotte Street, is out now (Ebury)



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