Stone had walked into the middle of the tunnel as though he had a purpose, and when he turned to face me I found out what the purpose was. He gestured to the bald Welshman, and to another man who’d been standing inside the entrance, and they grabbed my arms and held tight. I didn’t bother struggling.
‘Go easy, big fella,’ the Welshman said. ‘This won’t last long.’
I’d been watching Stone’s face and it was as if the muscles in his cheeks and forehead had worked themselves up into permanent outrage. He looked as if he might explode. The energy came out of his hands as he worked them open and closed.
‘You talked to my wife,’ he said. ‘I told you I didn’t know anything about this Hastings man so you go running to my wife and start bothering her and my child.’
I said, ‘We were in a public place. Isn’t she allowed to talk to anyone?’
‘She is. You’re not.’ He nodded at the Welshman. ‘Hold him.’
He approached me and I knew what was coming and I watched his weight shifting to see whether he was going for the head or the body. Unfortunately, it was the body, so I could do nothing but try to tense my stomach as his fist drove into it. He had a heavy punch that came from his wide shoulders.
The air whooshed out of me and the Welshman and his friend held me as I doubled over.
‘Easy, big fella. Breathe deep.’
I did as he suggested, largely because I had no choice.