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‘Whatever colour this fellow’s hair once was, lad, I couldn’t say, but the day it was dark red, caked with blood.’

Jimmy stood looking up at the man, his mouth slightly agape. Then closing it, the words came dredged through his lips as he said, ‘Could . . . could I see him, this . . . this fella?’

‘Well. Well, I’ll ask the sister. Come on back onlinecasinosvizzera.com.’

‘Sit there a minute,’ he said a moment later, pointing to a polished wooden chair standing against the painted brick wall of the lobby.

Jimmy sat down, glad to get off his legs. He was feeling weak, faint, and frightened, very frightened.

The porter came back and beckoned to him. Then with his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder, he pointed and said, ‘Go down there, lad, to the end of the corridor, turn left, an’ you’ll see the sister.’

The sister was tall and thin. She put him in mind of John George. He had to put his head back to look up at her. She said to him, ‘You’re looking for your brother?’

‘Aye, miss.’

‘How old is he?’

‘Twenty-three, comin’ up twenty-four next month.’

‘There’s a young man in there,’ she nodded towards the wall. ‘He’s in a very bad state, he’s been badly beaten. But . . . but you may be able to recognize him, if he is your brother.’

She turned away, and Jimmy followed her towards the figure lying on the bed. It was very still. The head was swathed in bandages, the face completely distorted with bruises. He found himself gasping for breath. He had once seen a man taken from the river. He was all blue, bluey black and bloated. He had been dead for days, they said. This man on the bed could be dead an’ all. He didn’t know if it was their Rory. The sister was whispering something in his ear and he turned and looked dazedly at her. Then he whispered back as he pointed to his thumb. ‘He had a wart atween his finger an’ thumb towards the front. He’d always had it.’

The sister gently picked up the limp hand from the counterpane and turned it over; then she looked at Jimmy as he stared down at the flat hard wart that Rory had for years picked and scraped at in an effort to rid himself of it.

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