Goliath stands up and stretches his considerable frame. He scratches his jaw and loosens his neck. There’s something about him that is familiar, but it remains hidden in the fog of my brain.
“What’s wrong with you?” Goliath asks, his voice a low rumble.
“Lots,” I reply, “but now’s not the time for a counselling session. I have a deal for you.”
Goliath laughs, then looks at his fingers as he clicks them one by one. “You got balls. I’ll give you that!”
He puts up his fists and bounces on his tiptoes.
“I win, you get my cut of the winnings, but we talk,” I blurt as he runs at me. I dart out of the way, and the crowd laughs at my apparent flight.
“You ain’t going to win,” Goliath barks.
“But if I do?”
Goliath shakes his head. “Fine. You win, we talk. Now stop running and fight me.”
“One moment.” I take my jacket off and hook it through the cage. I don’t want to put it on the filthy floor. I’ve only just had it dry-cleaned. Goliath watches me, bemused. He’s about to charge, so I hold my finger up, and he stops and waits whilst I roll up my sleeves. It’s a white shirt, and I don’t want to spill any blood on it.
“Okay, I’m ready,” I tell Goliath.
Confused at my dithering, the crowd is silent, and the excitement seeps out of the event. “Come on, Goliath, get it over with!” someone shouts.
Goliath makes ready, but I put my finger up again. “Sorry, just a second.” I loosen my hips by making big circles with them. Then I stretch my chest by pulling my elbows behind my back. Even a Titan needs to warm up before engaging in exercise.
“Enough!” Goliath bellows as I try to touch my toes. He marches towards me, his face red, and his jaw clenched.
Rash. Angry. Powerful. Intimidating. Now I know who he reminds me of…
I’ve not seen a human with his height and strength for a long time. Biceps and triceps bulge from his arms. Pectorals dance on his chest. His deltoids have a life of their own. Whilst his physique is impressive, all humans have their weak spots. As the architect of humankind, I know every one of them.
Sandwiched between the nipples and the top of the abs sits the solar plexus. No matter how long you spend in the gym, no muscle will protect it. It’s a Clapham Junction of nerves. Hit it right, and you will cause your opponent’s diaphragm to spasm. That will stop them from breathing—always handy in a fight. The key is to transfer your weight into the punch, striking through the solar plexus as though you’re trying to reach your opponent’s spine. You must commit. Otherwise, you’ll just bounce off them.
As Goliath bears down on me, I stand my ground. I want him to be close. His right hand swings wildly towards me, and I spring into action. I plant my left foot, using my momentum and body weight to propel my arm forwards. The palm of my right hand strikes Goliath on the money-spot, and he crumples, his arms falling harmlessly to the side.
I step forward again, using my left elbow to strike under his fallen chin. His head snaps back, and his body is airborne. The floor shakes as it greets him, and a collective gasp resonates around the room.
I look around at the shocked faces and smile.
And then something strange happens. Unthinkable.
Goliath gets up.
No human should be able to get up from that. I didn’t unleash my full Titan force, but certainly enough to leave him shaking for at least a week.
He looks at me as his breathing returns to normal. There’s madness behind his eyes. It’s animalistic, like a Pitbull trained for fighting. He bares his teeth at me. They are sticky with blood. He spits a lumpy substance onto the floor. It’s his tongue, or at least part of it.
I’m too stunned to react as Goliath dances towards me. He easily fools me with a right feint, then plants a left hook on my temple. My teeth rattle, and my vision blurs. For a moment, my legs falter, but I stay standing. No mortal should be able to punch so hard. Now, it’s Goliath’s turn to stand bewildered. Normally that would be a fatal blow. He grunts, puts me in a bear-hug, then tries to squeeze the life out of me. I do the only thing I can. I head-butt him. I feel his pug-nose squash against my forehead. His grip loosens, and I knee him in the groin.
He lets out a groan, and I free myself from his embrace. Then I use my heel to smash his knee backwards. Goliath makes a pitiful whine and collapses. This time he stays down. After a few seconds, a solitary clap sounds from the audience, then others join in. Tentative at first, then rapturous. They’ve lost money, but they know they’ve witnessed something special. The fall of the giant.
“The winner is Prometheus!” the MC announces, with a slight inclination betraying his disbelief.
I collect my jacket, dust myself off, then kneel next to the groaning giant who is clutching his leg. “You’ll recover,” I promise, looking at his injury. “Now, where should I meet you for our chat?” I ask.
“Fu’ you!” he sputters, unable to talk properly with a mouthful of blood.
“Now, now. A deal’s a deal. You don’t want tonight to be completely fruitless.”
He sits up, assessing his options. It takes him a while, like he’s turned on an old computer to find it littered with updates. “Dog and Whistle. One hour,” he manages.
“Dog and Whistle, one hour,” I repeat. Goliath nods. “I’ll give you your money after we talk.”
The Dog and Whistle is a derelict bar located a short stroll away from the munitions factory where the fight took place. As I open the door, the frame shakes, and debris falls onto my head. The bar is empty save for Goliath, who’s sitting in the corner with his arms crossed. His leg is heavily bandaged. He has it laid out straight across a horrible mint-green chair, which was probably fashionable back in the sixties. A pint sits next to him, but he hasn’t touched it. A crutch lies carelessly on the floor. He looks away as I enter, the muscles on his arm tensing for a moment.
“I’ll keep this quick,” I tell Goliath, as I sit down on a wooden chair next to him. The quicker I can get away, the better.
He sips his drink but doesn’t respond to my arrival.
“I need some information on Jimmy Crease.”
He looks at me plainly, then looks away. He would make an excellent poker player.
“Where do I find him?” I ask.
Goliath laughs and shakes his head. I kick the green chair, and his leg falls onto the floor. His scream causes the bartender to poke his head into the room. He quickly disappears when he sees me, fearing trouble.
“Where do I find him?” I ask again, this time hovering over Goliath’s leg menacingly.
“Why?” Goliath asks through clenched teeth.
“I would like to speak to him.”
“You won’t get close. There are cameras. Guards. Walls. He likes his privacy, does Jimmy. And they’ll be waiting for you. I’ll make sure of that.”
“Then you won’t mind telling me where he lives, will you?”
Goliath spits at me, so I press his knee with my foot and watch him recoil.
“You won’t make a very good bouncer with one leg.”
Goliath takes a deep breath to settle the pain and flashes me a look of hatred. He’s clearly unaccustomed to someone dictating terms to him. “He has a villa overlooking the lake,” he whispers, staring at his drink.
I know where he means. The villa is hidden away, but it’s huge, so easy to spot. “Tell me more.”
“No-one gets in without an invite.”
“What’s he planning?”
“How the hell should I know? I’m his bodyguard, not his business partner.”
“Everywhere he goes, you go.”
“He goes some places without you? Why?”
“I don’t know. He has other people. I do as I’m told. I don’t ask questions. You think he lets me in on things? I didn’t even get invited to his Christmas party. Seven years I’ve been watching his back and does he thank me? Do you know how many times I’ve saved his skinny ass?”
“Yeah. He’s having a Christmas party at his villa in a few days. Going all out. Mainly to please his missus, I reckon.”
“Next Saturday. Can I have my money now, please?”
I dig out the wad of notes that the MC handed me. I’m sure he kept most for himself, but I didn’t quibble.
“One more thing. Do you know who the Piano Man is?”
“The Piano Man?” Goliath thinks for a moment, then shakes his head. “Not a name I’ve heard. There are a lot of new people coming and going at the moment, but I’ve not heard anyone called that.”
I throw the wad of cash at Goliath, and he pockets it.
I stand up to leave.
“If I see you again,” he threatens, “I’ll kill you. Tonight you got lucky. You won’t again.”
“Night, Goliath,” I say and smile. If he’s not one of Heracles’ descendants, then I’m not the God of Forethought, but I’ll pull at that string another day. I have another party to go to.