Excerpt. First Draft.
(Close to the London Docks 1880)
The man was red, the sort of flushed crimson that comes from a combination of working, no make that toiling, in the sun, and of broken blood vessels on the face and nose. If he were to roll up his sleeves past his biceps, which despite a healthy layer of fat, were still hard and cruel from lugging dockyard sacks filled with stones apparently for all their weight, one would have seen a poorly etched tattoo of a lion, upon lightly haired pale arms. His face appeared puffy and abnormal and that wasn’t just because of the new shiner that he’d just taken from a sailor, and the copious sweat on his forehead could have been soaked up with a rag, squeezed into a flagon and would still be as good an ale, with as robust an alcohol percentage as when he first drank it. It certainly couldn’t be any worse than the pigswill that the Bonny Jack usually served.
The sailor who’d punched him in the eye wasn’t really paying much attention to how the man looked though, the common room they faced each other in, was too murky and loud to make out more than the general shape and size of an opponent. Grimy layabouts pushed close, screeching their bets, while puffs of pipe or cheroot smoke and glinting eyes in the dim reaches of the tavern, were all that could be seen of men, every bit as hard and dangerous as the two now circling each other.