By the time Dax managed to get a cab and head to Ouroboros that night, it was already ten thirty. As the cab pulled up outside the club, there was already a crowd – not exactly a line – outside, all dressed for a night out, all talking, laughing, shouting. The rose-coloured neon sign overhead cast an eerie light over their faces, especially the club’s signature, a snake biting its own tail.

Paying the driver, Dax scanned the crowd. He hadn’t been quite prepared for there being quite so many people – well, Ouroboros was popular, and if nothing else, he knew for certain that it had a monumental sound setup. Maybe if he tried to slip in behind that group of girls…they were giggling loud enough to distract –


Shoving her way through came a small, gleeful young woman, wearing an electric blue T-shirt and tight jeans. Her black pigtails bounced as she grabbed Dax and hugged him. “Dax! How are you? Haven’t seen you since Ricky’s party –“ She poked him in the ribs. “And it looks like you haven’t eaten since then, either! Skin and bones!”

“Hi, Rita,” said Dax, with a grin. Despite the fact his migraine was present and correct, it would take more than a headache to stop Rita Sayle’s ebullience being infectious. She was a Radio 1 DJ who had her own show late on Thursday nights, and had a kind of relentless enthusiasm that Dax really needed just now. “Happy birthday. Where’s Cal?”

“Inside, with Trisha and Sam and everyone.” Rita linked her arm in his and started leading him through the crowd. “Looks like he needs a night out, poor baby – he’s almost as pale as you are. Like I said to him –“

Dax let his mind wander pleasantly as they shouldered through the crowd towards the doors, listening to Rita chat on while glimpsing the faces on either side, people out for a good time. Then he turned his head and looked again, frowning.

A man was leaning comfortably against the wall of the club, to the left hand side of the door. He didn’t seem to be with anyone, nor did he meet anyone’s eye. He was about Dax’s age with thick black hair, and was smoking a rollup held between his first and second fingers. Dax wouldn’t have looked twice, except for the way he was dressed. Over a dark corded sweater and black combats, the man was wearing an odd dark red jacket with grey strips on the cuffs and shoulders and had, for some reason, a piece of black cloth tied around the top of his left bicep like an armband.

Dax peered closer. There was something not quite right about the way the jacket was pulling against the man’s ribs. Something –

Is that guy carrying a gun?

“Come on!”

“Uh!” Dax was yanked by his arm, towards the music and lights of the club. He sneaked a quick glance over his shoulder, but in the confusion of the people outside he couldn’t see if the man with black hair had gone or not.



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