20. Do You Want To Know A Secret?

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Closer,

Let me whisper in your ear,

Say the words you long to hear --


Dropping George's hand, I run towards the hotel room. 'Minnie?!' I call as I reach the door. It's been left ajar, so I push it, but it hits something directly behind it.

As I squeeze inside, I find Minnie standing behind the door, next to John. She's pulling on John's arm, and John's arm is holding Minnie's boyfriend - or rather her ex-boyfriend, Howard - up against the wall by his shirt.

'What's going on?' I ask, but they all ignore me. I step into the room, moving back from them.

John grips the collar of Howard's shirt, choking him. He's red-faced, spluttering something. George arrives and stops abruptly, looking firstly at them and then me.

'John, let go of him,' Minnie says, struggling to keep her voice level.

John ignores her and tightens his grip on Howard. Howard tries to say something but he can't manage to get any intelligible words out. He tries to swallow instead, but the tightness of his shirt collar stops him. I can see he's panicking but John is eerily calm, serious and deliberate, a furious look on his face. I always thought there was a nasty side to John, below the sarcastic comments and supposed jokes, there is a real vile streak in him. When he left Hamburg, when he came to say goodbye to Minnie, he seemed different and I thought perhaps I'd misjudged him, but this proves my first impression of him was correct.

'Stop it, now,' I say to John, my voice wavering. Howard isn't small but he's smaller than John. I don't think he'd be much of a match for him, but there's not a violent bone in his body anyway. John is a typical bully, picking on someone weaker.

Minnie lets go of John's arm. 'I didn't need your help,' she says, gritting her teeth.

John glances sideways at her, briefly loosening his hold on Howard. 'What did you scream for then?'

'Um, John, some people don't like that,' George says, dryly.

John snaps his head round to George, only now noticing him. He lets go of Howard, almost as a reflex, and Howard stumbles with the release of pressure, nearly falling over. John steps back. 'What are you doing here?' he says to George.

'I could say the same to you,' George replies.

'Get out,' I say to John. His eyes flick to me briefly, but other than that he ignores me. 'No one wants you here, John. If you don't go, then I'll call the police.' This threat only elicits a hollow laugh from him.

'Hannah, shut the hell up, please,' Minnie says, turning to me.

Howard takes a step towards her. 'Minnie, you are - ' he starts, reaching his hand out to her. Minnie darts backwards to avoid him. She moves behind John but Howard makes a lunge for her and she yelps. The unexpected sound makes me jump.

John turns back to him and without pausing, draws back his fist and punches Howard in the face. Howard flops like a burst pillow, falling backwards onto the carpeted floor and landing squarely on his butt with a dull thud. He clutches his nose.

'John!' George exclaims, shocked. 'For fucks sake -'

John glances at him, flexing his hand like he's hurt himself and gives George a brief shake of his head. George steps past me, aligning himself at John's side. 'What's happened?' he asks him in a low voice, looking down at Howard who is prodding at his nose and checking his fingers for blood.

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