‘I was in a circus once, with a girl from Cadiz.’
‘A circus?’ Her surprise was genuine.
‘Didn’t I ever tell you?’
‘No. Tell me now.’
‘It was only a couple of weeks. I was trouble-shooter in this little tenting circus. She was a trapezist, and ’er catcher went on the bottle, so I took over.’ He grinned, remembering. ‘Flying Francesca, they billed ’er. I could’ve told ’em a better word.’
‘You hung upside down on a trapeze and caught her?’
‘M’mm. It’s not too bad once you’ve got the timing right. We used to practise ’alf the night at first.’ He looked up from his work. ‘I bet I’m one of the only two men in the world that ever got seduced at three in the morning on a trapeze.’
Modesty stared. Then her shoulders began to shake and her face lit with laughter. ‘It can’t be done. It can’t, Willie!’
‘Honest, Princess. Upside down, like a bat. I don’t say it’s easy. You got to concentrate. But Francesca was crazy about it.’
‘Well … it’s new. But I can’t see it becoming a trend. Who was the other bat-man?’
‘Pedro. The catcher I stood in for. I think she was a bit too keen for ’im. That’s why he went on the bottle.’
‘And what about yourself, Willie?’
He rasped a hand across his stubbly chin. ‘I think it might lave grown on me,’ he said reminiscently. ‘But the third time, we fell off. Always ’ad a safety net for practice, but a double fall’s dodgy, even with a net. So I quit before I did meself a mischief.’
(A Taste for Death, chapter 16)