DOWN ON YOUR LUCK
Daniel Barker sat quietly in the darkest corner of the most secluded room he could find. The dark, brown fluid swirled around the bottom of the whiskey glass as he rotated it in the air, thinking about how everything had gone so spectacularly wrong.
He had built a career off the backs of his friends; for every speech they were there to support him. Behind the scenes they formulated plans and schemes, spread fear and distrust, herded people to Barker’s cause. But none of them were here now. They were off celebrating in the bright lights and drunken throes of victory. With the glee of triumph had come the bitter pill of defeat, bringing with it momentary pats and kind words of sympathy before they all gallivanted off into the night to enjoy their success.
Anonymity was Barker’s only friend now. The only friend he even wanted. The wolfhounds of the tabloid press, his one-time allies, were surely out there now, hounding every pub and bar from London to Edinburgh to find him. To break his soul even more than it had done already. He hoped that, for a time at least, the seclusion would somehow shield him from the rest of the world, keep him hidden until he was ready to stir out of the dark and emerge to fight once again.
But it wasn’t enough.
The route through to the next room had no door to close and the sounds of the early morning drinkers drifted in, contaminating his safe haven. One by one, they crept up to the doorway and peered inside, nudging one another gleefully and daring their friends to be the first to step through. Out of the darkness, Barker’s once approachable eyes glared out with ferocity. He sucked hard on his cigarette, breathing the toxic smoke deep into his lungs. He removed the cigarette from his mouth and, with a great jolt of exertion, forced the grey smoke out and towards his observers who, rather than retreating in fear as he had hoped, giggled quietly as their hyena-eyes preyed on him.
Recoiling further into the shadows, Barker scratched at the whiskey glass as the ice tapped rhythmically against the side. When he could bear their curious looks no longer, he threw his head back and tossed the whiskey down his throat, barely allowing his tongue to taste the liquid as it cascaded down.
The glass hadn’t touched the table before he felt the familiar, dull pain of his throat seizing up.
He clutched hold of his neck and instinctively jumped up from his seat, smashing the table as he did so. The domino-wave of disturbed furniture sent a single bar stool skidding towards the door. The spectators backed away a little as they watched Barker cough the liquid back up again. No one was interested enough to come to his aid, but none of them turned their backs as Barker, face purple and contorted, struggled to regain control of himself.
After all, they might be about to witness history - perhaps this was to be the end of the Barker Story.