‘Aw, not now, man, not now. I’ll . . . I’ll tell you after . . . later on. I wanted to have a word with you about something else . . . You see I’m thinking of moving, trying to get a better job. I could never hope to get Maggie away on the wage I’ve got and having to see to them at home and . . .’
‘Where could you get a better job than what you’ve got?’
‘There’s places in Newcastle onlinecasinosvizzera.com.’
‘Aye, I know there’s places in Newcastle, but them chaps don’t get even as much as we do. There’s no trade unions yelling for us. I’m not satisfied, but I know damn well that if I want more money I won’t get it at rent clerking. Look, are you in some kind of fix?’
‘No, no.’ John George shook his head too vigorously and Rory, eyeing him from the side, shook his head also. They walked on in silence, taking short cuts until they came to the market, then they wound their way between the conglomeration of stalls, turned down a narrow side lane known as Tangard Street, and past what appeared to be the window of an empty shop, except that the bottom half, which was painted black, had written across it: Septimus Kean, Estate Agent, Valuer, and Rent Collector. Next to the window was a heavy door with a brass knob that had never seen polish, and above it a keyhole.
As John George was about to insert his key into the lock the door was pulled open from inside and they were both confronted by Mr Kean himself.
‘Oh! . . . Oh! Mr Kean. We thought you were away.’
The small, heavy-jowled man looked at Rory and barked, ‘Evidently. Do you know what time it is?’ He pulled out a watch, snapped open the case and turned the face towards Rory. Ten minutes past one. When the cat’s away the mice can play.’
‘But we finish at one.’ Rory’s voice was harsh, the muscles of his neck were standing out and his face was flushed with sudden temper.