Benjamin Langley

Aren’t You Danny Mann?

The police officer looks like a young Ray Winstone and he might turn bad-cop if you don’t answer.
              “Name?” he repeats.
              “I’m not who you think I am,” you say, leaning in towards the twin-spool tape recorder.
              Ray raises an eyebrow. “Who aren’t you?”
              “Danny Mann. I just look like him.”
              “That’s bullshit, Danny.”
              “I’m a look-alike.”
As Ray stands the plastic chair scrapes against the tile floor. “What kind of idiot do you take me for? That nose? Those ears?”

#

              The similarity is uncanny. Two ugly bastards. Both sets of jug ears are natural, but the kinked noses result from separate accidents. Yours happened on a Saturday morning when you were seven. Your friend had thrown a Frisbee up into a tree. His name has slipped your mind, but he looked like a miniature Tom Hanks. As you were nimble you had no trouble climbing the tree, but with the Frisbee only inches from your reach you stepped on a branch that wasn’t as strong as it looked. It snapped and you followed it down, shattering your pelvis on impact as well as bending your nose out of shape. The doctors were so concerned about whether you’d walk again that the nose never got re-set and you were left with it smeared across your face.

#

              You look at the microphone. “I can’t even kick a ball properly,” you say. “I’ll prove it.”
              “Your face is all the proof I need.”
              “Honestly, I’m not Danny.”
              “So” says Ray with a smug look on his face, “how come you look so alike?”

#

              You’d wondered too, and it wasn’t hard to find the details. Danny had been in the public eye for little over a year, but there were several unauthorised biographies available, books which now filled bargain bins nationwide. He was playing football with friends. When sprinting to meet a cross, he ran into the goalpost. He got up and played on. It was on 18th June 1996 and Danny refused to be taken to hospital because he wanted to see England play the Netherlands on TV. He watched the game with tissue stuffed up his nose. It was the day after your accident, and you watched the same game from a hospital bed through a morphine haze, thinking it was some kind of wonderful dream when Sheringham made it 4-0. You were still in hospital when the Germans knocked England out on penalties eight days later. You’d had another unsuccessful operation and were in agony as German captain, Andreas Möller, stood with his hands on his hips celebrating their victory. You fell out of love with football. It was forever tarnished with the pain of that summer.

#

              Seventeen years later football returned to your life. Two weeks before the FA Cup Final, Wigan’s top scorer dropped a jar of pickles on his right foot and broke a metatarsal. You were in Mothercare buying a cot. The state of a striker’s foot had no immediate impact on your life, but it gave Danny Mann a spot in the FA Cup Final squad.
              You didn’t watch the match. When the game kicked off you were telling Amy how grateful you were for the way she helped you through the trauma of your parents’ death. You told her you wanted to be together forever when Manchester City scored. When Danny Mann was brought on as a substitute you were asking her what was wrong. As Wigan equalized with a header from a Danny Mann cross you were listening to Amy say that she didn’t love you. You sunk to the floor when the words “It’s not your baby,” hit you while Danny Mann chipped the ball over the goalkeeper. The sound of the door slamming was ringing in your ears as Danny Mann celebrated his goal. He ran to the opposite end of the pitch, slid onto his knees, pointed into the crowd at his girlfriend, Lauren, and lifted his shirt, revealing a t-shirt with ‘Marry Me’ written on it. He had to wait for the final whistle for a reply, and as Lauren said yes you were sobbing on your bedroom floor.
              You woke in the morning, still in your clothes, your right arm dead from having slept on it. You needed a cigarette. While cutting through the park towards the shop a football rolled into your path. Some kids asked for their ball back, then gasped when you kicked it to them. They huddled and after a moment an elected spokesperson emerged from the group and said, “Aren’t you Danny Mann?”
              That was the beginning. Everywhere you went, people stared. You didn’t understand until you picked up a paper. You looked at pictures online to study each of his features in comparison with your own. Within a couple of days you realised there was no getting away from it so every time you felt down you would go to a park or a shopping centre and wait for the open mouths and pointing fingers. The buzz of seeing faces light up when they thought you were Danny let you forget about Amy. If you spoke to anyone for long they realised the truth, but often suggested joining a look-alike agency. What did you have to lose? You found one online, filled in your details, attached a couple of pictures to the web-form and hit send. Within forty-eight hours you were travelling to meet the head of the agency.
              A short woman with blonde curly hair and thick-rimmed glasses was waiting for you.
              “You must be our Danny Mann,” she said as she led you inside. “We spoke on the phone. I’m Jane McTavish, but you can call me Sue.”
              After seeing your expression she felt the need to explain. “Hi-De-Hi?” she said and picked up a framed picture of herself dressed as a cleaning lady. “That’s me with Sue Pollard.”
              “I don’t know her, sorry,” you said as she pointed to a chair and sat down opposite you.
              She stared at you. “Good,” she said. “But the eye colour is slightly off.”

#

              That’s it. The eyes.
              “My eyes are a different colour to Danny’s,” you say.
              Ray snarls. He looks at you and then at a photograph of Danny on the table. “No they’re not.”
              “It’s only slight – mine are jade green; his are amazon.”
              Ray sucks air through his teeth. “Enough,” he says and leans in close. “You can’t keep this up forever.” His breath is hot against your face. “If you’re not Danny, prove it.”
              You stare blankly at him. He storms out and slams the door behind him. You could give him Jane’s number. She’d warned you about taking it too seriously. She’d told you about her Britney Spears. “Poor girl copied everything. Shaved her head. Started flashing her foo-foo at clients.” She looked down at the floor. “She’s in an entirely different line of work now. Very sad.”
              You promised it wouldn’t go to your head.
              After several bookings in a couple of weeks, interest waned in Danny and Lauren. It looked as if you were going to have to return to reality. Amy ignored your calls. You only wanted to know if she wanted the cot or the clothes you’d bought. You left a message with one of her friends. “She doesn’t want any of your shit,” was posted on your Facebook. Someone you considered a friend replied with ‘LOL’, and you deleted your profile.
              You opened the door to the spare room for the first time in weeks and put your foot through the side of the cot, splintering the slats into pieces. You dragged it into the courtyard, scraping your knuckles on every doorframe on the way. You gathered up all of the clothes you’d bought, grabbed a can of lighter fluid and went back outside. The lighter fluid made your eyes water as you squirted it over the clothes. You sparked up your lighter and set alight one of the baby-grows. The dinosaur print melted away, and then the wood took, and the flames danced away with your dreams.
              The neighbours complained. Someone called the fire brigade. They doused your bonfire, gave you a lecture, and left you sobbing over charred and soggy bits of wood and tiny remnants of fabric.
              Danny Mann started the next season on fire. Four goals in the opening three games of the season earned him a place in the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers. Jane was calling regularly to keep you busy. As the end of August approached, transfer talk was linking Danny with Tottenham. Arsenal’s fans were demanding they sign a creative player and his name was thrown around. Jane called when a Camden sports-bar, A Pint of Two Halves, wanted you as celebrity barman. You spent the afternoon catching up on the world of Danny Mann.
              The bar manager looked like Keith Chegwin with a lazy eye and deeper voice. He tossed you a Tottenham shirt.
              “I think you’d look good in this,” he said and winked with his good eye.
              Throughout your shift, customers chatted about Danny and how he’d be perfect at their club.
              “So where do you think he should go?” you asked one chap who looked like a young Roger Moore.
              “Whoever offers him the most money, am I right?” he said.
              “He’ll go to Arsenal,” chipped in a Will Smith with an excessive over-bite. “Bigger club, suit his ego.”
              “I don’t want him there,” slurred an older man.
              “Why not? He’d be perfect.”
              “Temperament,” said the old timer, who looked like a weather-beaten Anthony Hopkins.
              “There’s nothing wrong with his temperament. You haven’t got a clue, mate,” said Will Smith.
              “Mark my words.” His head shook uncontrollably. “One of these days that boy’s gonna blow his top and get himself sent off. Cost his team a game.” He looked directly at you. “Now tell me I’m wrong.”
              News broke the next day that Danny Mann had been released from the England squad to have talks with Tottenham. Later you read that Arsenal had matched the bid. Jane called with more bookings, another corporate gig and more bar-work on the night of the England qualifier. You decided that if Danny Mann was on the move you were too. You put your house on the market and started looking for property. It was time to start over.

#

              Ray returns to the room with a mug of coffee. It sloshes onto the table as he thumps it down. He raises an eyebrow. “Well?”
              “Call Jane McTavish, from Famous Faces. She knows me.”
              Ray takes a notepad and pen from his inside pocket and pushes it your way. You scrawl down her number and he leaves again. Jane will remember you. How could she forget after what happened with Lauren?

#

              Jane had added a Lauren look-alike to what she called, “the Famous Faces roster of stars.” She said you’d make more money as a pair. Your Lauren was prettier than the real thing. Her nose turned up slightly at the end and she didn’t have that little gap between her two front teeth so she had to keep her mouth closed during photo-shoots. In every other way she was identical.
              You were put in half a dozen suits and Lauren in a dozen wedding dresses as Hello Magazine predicted the look of the forthcoming wedding; Heat had you both scantily clad to promote a new range of his and hers undergarments; and OK! shot a photo-story titled, “Danno and Lol – How They Met”. And no, those nicknames did not catch on.
              Your big day was a mockery of Danny and Lauren’s. Hello Magazine had the official rights to the wedding day pictures, but Heat wanted to beat them to it. They’d tapped-up wedding planners, florists and venues to find out everything. They were going to stage their own version of the celebrity wedding and run the pictures a week early. The photographer snapped a fake Wayne Rooney and a fake Joe Hart, who both looked on with forced smiles. You were pictured with the fake best man and fake registrar as the photographer asked you to look nervous, then happy, then happier still.
              When your Lauren started walking down the aisle littered with rose petals your smile was genuine. She was stunning. Your palms started to clam up. Then the photographer pulled you out of the way to get a better shot of Lauren. After that she was dashed to the front and the falconer was called in. The best man held out a red velvet cushion. The falconer whistled and from the beams a white owl swooped down and placed the wedding rings on the cushion.
              “Again” cried the photograph. “Could you make him swoop down lower so I can get a better angle?”
              After five more takes the photographer was happy. Your Lauren fidgeted and complained that the fake dress was itchy.
              “Won’t be too much longer, love,” said the photographer. “Now, can we have the kiss?”
              You didn’t think. Even with all of the re-shoots you were still thinking that this was your big day. This was real. The kiss was real. You put your arms around your Lauren, closed your eyes and kissed her. You kissed her until she broke away and slapped your face.
              “I don’t blame you for giving it a go, mate,” said the photographer with a wink.
              She wasn’t your Lauren. This wasn’t your day. None of this was real. Arsene Wenger was too short. Joe Hart’s hair was too dark. Wayne Rooney was too fat.
              Fake Lauren had stormed off. You had a few more photos to do, but she refused. You did some with the best man and some of the fake footballers, but the photographer got sick of trying to force you to smile. Lauren was eventually persuaded to have some photographs taken with the bridesmaids, but she made it clear that you wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near.
              When you got home there was a message from Jane. She said she was taking you off her books for a while as you needed some downtime. She said that you were lucky that Lauren didn’t want to take it any further. You didn’t feel lucky.
              With no bookings you started hanging around in a football kit, desperate for someone to notice you. People didn’t believe in a Danny that wanted to attract attention though so you looked through your scrapbook and studied the types of clothes he wore, the baseball caps and sunglasses. You headed to Camden Market in search of the most convincing knock-offs and once kitted out you kept your head hidden beneath your cap and your eyes behind sunglasses and let the nose and ears do their job.

#

              “No answer,” says Ray as he re-enters the room.
              “Has anyone ever said that you look like Ray Winstone?” you say.
              “You taking the piss?” says Ray.
              “You do.”
              “What’s your point?”
              “Don’t you wonder – how come he got to be famous?”
              For the first time he looks at you as if you’re telling the truth. “We can’t all be superstars,” he says, “and I’ve got your agent’s number if I want my fifteen minutes of fame.”

#

              Danny had exceeded his fifteen minutes, but it didn’t look like it would be ending soon. He made the World Cup squad, so the wedding had to be postponed until August. This would have been a good time if you were still on Jane’s books. No one would mistake you for Danny if they knew he was away with England, but then you realised, you didn’t need Jane. You headed into A Pint of Two Halves. Keith Chegwin looked puzzled until you offered your services as a barman throughout the tournament. Keith jumped at the chance. The customers knew you weren’t Danny, but they’d still speak to you as if you were an expert, and they made you feel like someone worth being.
              The press were saying that England could better any team in Europe on their day and were odds-on to not only win the tournament, but to do so in style. A draw in the first game did nothing to halt the wave of excitement. Danny Mann had set up England’s goal with a clever through-ball and they would have won but for a bad refereeing decision costing them a late goal. It got better in the second game, an easy 2-0 win. Danny scored the second goal. The whole bar erupted into noise and a crowd dashed towards you. Keith had a promotion, if Danny Mann scored, pints were half-price. The place was rocking for the rest of the night. Everyone was asking you if England could really do it, and you promised that they could.
              A draw would be good enough to put England into the second round in their final game. England went a goal down early in the second half. The mood in the bar had soured and people were giving you dirty looks as Danny Mann misplaced a number of passes. His frustration boiled over with a wild challenge that earned him a yellow card. The England manager had his substitutes warming up. Knowing he might not have long left in the tournament Danny Mann attempted a ridiculous lob from the centre circle. The keeper clambered back towards the goal, only to see the ball sail over his head. Danny was denied a wonder-goal when the ball crashed back off the crossbar. Luckily for England, Wayne Rooney was quickest to react and he smashed the rebound into the net to level the game. The manager still took Danny off. He kicked a water bottle on his way to take his seat on the bench and looked on nervously as England held on to go through to the next round.
              Despite letting in an early goal England managed to win their second-round match thanks to two strikes from Danny Mann. The patrons of A Pint of Two Halves hauled you over the bar at the final whistle. They raised you up above their heads and whooped and cheered. Keith gave you the rest of the night off. You had your back-slapped, your head-rubbed and your hand-shook by a crowd more than willing to fill you with drink and you woke in the morning with aching cheeks from excess laughter and a pounding headache that was more than worth it.
              Germany were waiting in the quarter-finals, but the press insisted this was England’s time. From the first half it appeared that they were right as England raced into a two-nil lead with Danny Mann setting up both goals. Then a German attacker made Danny Mann look daft by putting the ball between his legs and Danny pulled him back to give away a free-kick. The goalkeeper had no chance to stop the ball curling in to the top corner. At 2-1, England were still favourites. Danny Mann seemed certain to score when the ball was headed down to him in the box until he was barged off the ball. The England players screamed for a penalty, but the referee waved play-on. Danny punched the ground. As the German team raced towards the England goal Danny Mann got up and shoved an opponent in the back. The referee didn’t see it. The manager sent his substitutes to warm up. Germany were coming forward again looking to equalise. When Danny was tricked again by a clever flick of the ball he turned and swept away the legs of his opponent who threw himself to the floor, rolled three times, clutched his ankle, and screamed in agony. The referee pulled out his red card. Danny left the pitch to a chorus of boos and trudged down the tunnel.
              You watched the rest of the match in shock. The bar was near silent. The English defence repelled attack after attack, but eventually they folded. The keeper dropped a shot in the final minute and Germany equalized with a tap-in. The rest was inevitable. England held on through extra-time and then lost the penalty shootout.
              Someone dropped a pint glass. It may have been an accident, but it started a trend. Then the crowd turned their attention to you.
              “You stupid bastard,” said a middle-aged bloke in a stained and yellowing England shirt. A pint glass crashed into one of the mirrored panels, showering glass onto you. You ducked behind the bar as a barrage of bottles and glasses hurtled towards you. A gallon bottle of vodka erupted above you when hit by a projectile, soaking you. You edged towards the backroom with glass pushing into your palms as you crawled forward until you made it to safety. Keith had already called the police and was clutching a baseball bat in case anyone else decided to venture in. The rest of the bar-staff had left by the rear exit.
              “You’d better wait here,” said Keith as you headed for the door. “Unless you’ve got a bag you can put over your head.”
              The rabble grew rowdier. Keith’s face sunk with each crunch, each smash, each cheer, until sirens brought a momentary hush. You listened to the crowd flood onto the streets.
              After some time, a team of police officers entered and called out. Keith went to meet them but was stopped by the extent of the devastation. You followed him and smashed glass crunched beneath your feet. Seats had been slashed. Sporting paraphernalia had been torn from the walls. When Keith saw that his signed Gary Lineker shirt had been taken from its casing and was left in shreds on the floor he wept. He looked at you, eyes full of hate and shook his head before hiding his face behind what was left of the shirt. One of the police officers turned his head from Keith to you and did a double-take. You were used to that, but the sound of air being sucked between teeth was new.
              You turned away and caught sight of your face, distorted in the cracked mirror. While the police officer was taking a statement from Keith, who had managed to let go of the Lineker shirt, you picked up a broom from the backroom.
              “Leave it,” said Keith.
              “We should start clearing up,” you said.
              “Just go!”
              “Let me help sort this out.”
              “No!” cried Keith, “I can’t bear to look at you.”
              The broom fell from your hand.
              “Get out!”
              You shuffled towards the exit until an arm tugged on your shoulder.
              “I can’t let you out there looking like that,” said another police officer. “Wait in the backroom. I’ll give you a lift when we’re done.”
              As you crashed out on your sofa you thought back to 1998 and the hanging effigies of David Beckham after he was sent off in a World Cup match. The nation had forgiven him. As you drifted off to sleep on the sofa while still in your alcohol-soaked clothes and with glass in your hair you comforted yourself with the thought that Jane had three Beckhams on her books.
              In the morning you switched on the TV to see sports reporter Brendan McWhinnie standing in an airport lounge with a black-eye.
              “So he attacked you for no reason?” asked the presenter from the BBC Breakfast couch.
              “That’s right. I asked how it felt to know that he’d let the whole country down and he jumped over the barrier and struck me.”
              “And he had to be physically dragged off you?”
              “Yes, two of the other squad members pulled him away before the airport police arrived and took him.”
              “Thank you Brendan.”
              “To recap for those joining us late,” said the co-presenter, “England footballer Danny Mann has been arrested for assault this morning after striking our reporter Brendan McWhinnie as the England team were making their way home following their elimination from the World Cup last night.”
              You needed to get some air. Outside, you waited alone by the bus stop. The driver gasped as you got on. Bus chatter was concentrated on Danny Mann. A small boy pointed at you and whispered to his mother. She held him closer.
              You got off at the nearest shopping area. Life had been sucked from the place. There was no wind, almost no air at all. The England flags that had fluttered so proudly the previous day now hung limp. Heads hung low until you passed, and then eyes would trail you. You thought you heard hissing.
              You took refuge in a newsagent’s. You hid behind a copy of OK! in order to avoid a confrontation from the feral young men standing by the fridges and stumbled upon an article, ‘The Curse of the August Wedding’. It was a warning to Danny and Lauren, listing celebrity couples who had married in August and subsequently divorced. There were pictures of Danny and Lauren arguing. You knew your Lauren, you couldn’t mistake that nose, but Danny was all wrong. He had the hair and the complexion, maybe the mouth was close enough, but the most distinctive features, the wonky nose and the jug ears were absent. You felt sorry for him.
              “This ain’t a library, mate,” came a shout from behind the counter. You looked over your shoulder at the shop-keeper. He looked like an unwashed Ricky Gervais.
              “You gonna buy that?” he said, his face screwed up, weasel-like.
              You stared at Ricky and scrunched the magazine into a ball then drop-kicked it into the greetings cards. As Ricky flapped his arms, you stomped towards the exit and knocked a display of Wispas to the floor.
              As you wandered through the deflated streets of London, people still stared but now they were devoid of excitement. No one came trotting up to you, scrabbling for a pen and paper. It was a shame you carried on your face. It stirred memories of defeat and wrong-doing. People tutted and shook their heads. Your face had been tarnished and every harsh stare hit you like a punch in the nose.
              Once you got home you took a pair of scissors into the bathroom and looked at the face in the mirror. You wanted to smash it. The quiff had been fashioned just like Danny’s and remained solid with gel as it hit the basin. Handful after handful of hair fell to the floor as you got busy with the scissors. When it was short enough, you grabbed a razor. You dragged the blade through what was left of your hair, ignoring the burning in your scalp. You turned on the shower and climbed under the hot water hoping it would wash away the stink of last night. Then you turned up the temperature to see what else you could wash away.
              When you got out of the shower you wiped the condensation from the mirror. Your skin was pink and steaming and it was agony to wrap yourself in a rough towel, but you felt clean. You knew your ears would always stick out like Danny’s and the nose would always be bent like his, but you were no longer identical. You realised that all you had to do was stop trying to look the same. Shrug your shoulders when people mentioned your doppelganger. All you had to do was let go; the difficulty was going to be finding something else in your life worth holding on to.
              You switched on the TV that evening to find that he’d been released and was allowed to travel home. The press were waiting at the airport from a safe distance behind the barriers. It was as if a serial-killer was arriving at Heathrow, not a footballer guilty of assault and what the tabloids consider a greater crime, letting the nation down. They used terms like “animal” and “thug”.
              As Danny emerged through the arrival gate, there was a roar of disapproval from the gathered crowd. You looked at the dark circles around his eyes, certain that yours were the same. Sympathy swelled within you, and before the public lynching commenced, you switched off.
              Your sympathy disappeared when you put on the TV the next morning to see another battered face. With her lips split and swollen and one eye forced closed, you almost didn’t recognise her.
              “The whereabouts of Danny Mann are currently unknown,” said the newsreader. “Neighbours reported that they heard arguing in the early hours of the morning, shortly after Danny arrived home, and later heard a car speed off.”
              You switched off the TV and held your head in your hands. You closed your eyes but Lauren’s battered face was burnt onto your retinas. You screamed. You picked up the TV remote and hurled it at the wall. Nothing could make the picture fade. From the fridge you grabbed a bottle of lager and pulled the top off with your teeth, slicing your lip in the process. You didn’t taste the blood that mingled with the beer. You kicked a cupboard door and thumped the worktop before pulling on a pair of shoes and stomping out.
              You walked down countless streets and through parks, hoping that someone would say something and give you a chance to react. Maybe it was the haircut, or maybe it was the madness in your eyes, but no one gave you the ‘aren’t you Danny Mann’ look. You walked until your feet throbbed. Designer shoes were not made for distance. You perched on a bench, tore them off, and chucked them into the bin. People caught your eye as they wandered past. It was if the creations of Madame Tussauds had broken free and were wandering around London. There were a couple of girls who could have been supermarket-brand versions of Bond girls. There was a chubby Daniel Radcliffe. A miniature Chris Evans was walking his dog. Sitting on the bench opposite was a Kim Kardashian with a splash of grey hair. She was reading a copy of Heat which promised to reveal the beauty secrets of whichever celebrity clothes-horse was icon of the week.
              You couldn’t sit and watch the conveyor belt of clones any longer. With the hard ground piercing your shoeless feet, you walked on and looked down at the ground to avoid the mass of identikit faces. You glanced up when you reached the road for long enough to locate the nearest pub.
              The Merchant and Branch was poorly lit and illuminated only by a TV behind the bar. It was perfect. It was the kind of place where it was not only acceptable to come in and drink alone, but expected. Ordering at the bar was done via grunts and nods.
              Hours passed and you’d built a barricade of pint glasses. One was half full. You downed it and nodded for another. As the barman delivered it with a grunt, a familiar face stumbled through the door. Her hair was shorter and she was wearing more make-up than usual. The short skirt and the low-cut top made you realise what was so different about her. She wasn’t pregnant anymore. It had been over a year since you’d last seen Amy.
              You shuddered as a wave of revulsion passed through your body. She stumbled and her hands slapped down on the bar saving her from an embarrassing fall and getting the barman’s attention at the same time. She slurred her order for a cheap bottle of white wine.
              You were hiding behind your pint glass. Amy was distorted. She turned her head to look down the bar. A bulbous eye stared at you. You drained your glass and through the bottom of it you could see only a mess of colour closing in.
              “So this is where you’ve been hiding,” she said as she skulked towards you. She smiled in a way you would have once found seductive. You felt queasy.
              “How come you left without saying goodbye to anyone?” she asked. She took a tiny sip of her wine followed by a large gulp.
              “So what’s your address?” said Amy. She poured herself another glass of wine then rummaged in her handbag for a pen.
              Amy’s friend pointed up at the television behind the bar. You looked up to see a face much like yours, now also sporting hair just like yours.
              “Mate, could you turn that up?” said one of the other drinkers to the barman.
              “Danny Mann was spotted on CCTV earlier today at Thurrock services. He was wearing a grey hoodie and has shaved his hair. He is wanted for questioning by police in connection with the assault…”
              Amy was poised with a pen. “Your address?” she asked and leaned towards you. Her perfume was sickly.
              “Why do you need my address?” you asked. “You made it clear you were finished with me.”
              “Child support,” she said.
              You saw yourself collapsed on the floor of your bedroom. Her words rang in your ears again.
              “You said it wasn’t my baby.”
              “DNA test says it’s not Tony’s. Must be yours.”
              You stared into her eyes and rage swelled within you. The pint glass fell from your hand and exploded into shards upon impact with the floor. You thought about grabbing Amy around the neck and squeezing until something snapped. You thought of Danny Mann and Lauren’s battered face. You thought about the pain Amy had made you suffer and the months you’d lost with your child. Your temples throbbed. A scream wanted to escape from your brain. You took a deep breath and told yourself you weren’t like Danny Mann.
              “It’s my baby?” you said.
              “Yeah,” she said. “Ruby. She’s got your ears.”
              Then the barman was between you. He grabbed the front of your shirt in one hand, tearing the cheap fabric. He tucked his phone back in his pocket with his other hand and said, “You gonna clean that up, or will I have to spread you about the floor too?”
              You held up your hands and muttered an apology. “Stay there,” he said as he grabbed a broom from behind the bar. He shook his head at you and as he thrust the broom into your hands you couldn’t help but think that his completely bald head and his wobbly cheeks made him look like a giant baby. He pointed at Amy and yelled, “Get out”.
              As Amy traipsed towards the door you said. “What colour are her eyes?”
              You were pretty sure she said green, but the bartender was yelling too loudly for you to be sure. You chased most of the glass into the corner while the barman stood over you. He tossed a dustpan to the floor and you swept the glass into it and shoved the broom back. As you headed towards the door, he grabbed you by the arm and said, “You ain’t going nowhere, Danny”.
              “I’m not Danny,” you said and through the doorway stepped a police officer that looked like Ray Winstone.
              “Danny Mann,” he said, “would you mind accompanying us to the station?”

#

              There’s a tap on the door. Ray goes out into the corridor and you start to wonder about Ruby. Ray returns but he doesn’t look so much like Ray Winstone anymore. He stops the tape.
              “Guess who we’ve found?” he asks.
              You shrug.
              “Danny Mann.”
The police officer returns your possessions and walks you to the exit. You blink as you emerge into the afternoon sun. You can’t remember when you last listened to birdsong. It’s interrupted by a siren and you watch the birds scatter until the police car pulls up with its blue lights flashing. A police officer climbs out and adjusts his hat before opening the rear-door. They were right; you do look like Danny Mann. The police officer leads him towards the entrance. Danny stops when he sees you. Confusion spreads over his face and as the police officer drags him away he says, “Who are you?”
 

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