Some people you meet have an immediate look of trouble about them. One such is Harvey Bailey.
There is only one Bailey on the passenger list, so this must be the self-same, snoop of a Bailey, who introduced himself so smoothly to Velma the other day.
Bailey was in the Vesuvius Bar this evening with his cronies (an equally repulsive, ragtag-band of miscreants). The evening inevitably soured as they claimed the bar as their own, and weren’t shy about letting everyone know about it. The more decent passengers pretended to ignore the loutish posturing, tar-black curses, and the threatening aura that permeated the whole bar, though, oddly, the barmen and waiters didn’t seem to mind. I hadn’t noticed just how blasé they were, until now – their ignorance was strange in itself, and bad form for the rest of us paying customers.
When he wasn’t drinking, or posturing, jacket-over-shoulder, with his friends, Bailey had a distant look about him. Like the old train wrecks who hang about in bars all day – staring into the middle distance, thinking on happier times, or staring down the black well of their own mistakes.
There is much about him that is unsettling. He looks to have come from money, what with those tailored cuffs, lapels and creased pressings of his – out of fashion as they are. He has a dirty kerchief splodged like a white rag into his lapel pocket. But I judge he’s had some accident of fortune, much like the meat of his face, which is blushed to ruddiness with too much drink, and the rest of it has been twisted by a sour disposition that doesn’t seem to fit one so young. His jaunty, little moustache, looks quite stuck on.
Something about him is tantalizingly familiar, but I don’t know what, nor do I care to know – it’s a thought that, quite frankly, makes me feel slightly queasy. But he continues to be of interest for one, singular reason: he was at that soiree which no-one will talk about, and from which Velma has yet to return.
I watched Bailey for a good hour or two, wondering if I should speak to him, force him to tell – wondering if I should, or even could.
Velma, what are you up to?