Frightened, not by what had happened… but at what might have…

Here is an except from my book Night Vision. Neil and Beulah are living temporarily with his cousin Austin who has driven them into town to meet friends for dinner:

Austin was driving and dropped them in the car park at the back of the small plaza where the restaurant was.
“Have a great evening,” he said, eyeing Beulah in a way she’d never noticed him do before.
Was her dress too short, her heels too high?  She’d lost weight with all the visits to the gym and she’d put her hair up. She adjusted Neil’s bow tie and he pulled her to him and gently kissed her.
“Watch my lipstick,” she said with a giggle.
“Hey mister!”
Beulah gave a start and jumped away from Neil. Watching them from the municipal shrubs edging the car park was a filthy man; his hair was long and matted and he seemed to be dressed in rags.
“Got the price of a cuppa?” he growled.
“Give him something, Neil,” Beulah murmured.
The man was crouched like a feral creature, wild-eyed and threatening. Neil handed him some coins and took Beulah’s arm to move away.
Two more men stood between them and the passage through to the plaza.
“Got any change, brother,” said one of them, skeletally thin and with a dirty pony tail hanging over one shoulder.
“Sorry, no,” Neil answered aggressively.
“Let’s go, Neil,” Beulah urged quietly.
“Come on, mate,” said the other man, he had a huge fat face which had lost its muscle tone so the flesh hung down like drapes, his skin wan and seamed.
“Sorry, mate, I’ve no more change,” Neil was holding Beulah firmly by the forearm but he would thrust her away from him and rush at the vagrants if need be.
The men crept towards them and Neil moved past with long strong strides, keeping himself between them and Beulah.
“Come on mate, la-di-dah, you can afford it!” one of them called.
“Keep going, don’t look round,” Neil ordered.
“I’ll be turned into a pillar of salt if I do,” Beulah muttered, clinging to him as she tottered along on her high heels.
She wanted to run, suddenly vulnerable, as if her clothes were too thin, too tight, too short to offer any protection. They entered the passageway and Neil glanced back and slowed. “It’s OK, they’re walking off towards the shops over there.”
“God, Neilly, that was scary,” she was shaking.  “I know they’re pathetic but they look so manic, you can imagine they’d be madly strong,” she shivered.
“Thanks, I’ll remember that next time it looks as if I’m going to be mugged.”
“Or they might have a knife or an axe or something,” Beulah said, frightening herself now.
“Yeah, keep on, scare the pants off me why don’t you,” and Neil laughed weakly. “Oh, Jesus no.”
Coming towards them was another tramp, stocky and roughly bearded. He was wearing a shabby coat, faded jeans and a cap on the back of his head. He stared at Neil wide-eyed as they approached.
“Keep walking, Bee,” Neil muttered. “Don’t look at him. I’ll give him some cash or a bunch of fives.”
Beulah was very frightened. The man’s eyes were piercing, staring unblinking at Neil.
“Keep walking.”
As they got near, the vagrant took a step backwards and opened his mouth as if to speak then thrust his hand out as if he wanted to shake Neil’s.
“Don’t walk by me, brother,” the tramp begged in a low trembling voice.
“Give him some money,” Beulah whispered but her voice hardly emerged from her quivering lips.
Neil pushed past the man, determined not to give into the unspoken threat but the tramp grabbed his arm, yanking him back.
“Don’t walk by me!” he said again.
Neil spun round and swung his fist at him, and the man staggered back, his face screwed up with anger. Beulah screamed and Neil shouted to her to run.
She didn’t want to leave him – she should get help, but running towards them were two more men, one had a wide black moustache, a bandana and sunglasses, the other had a beard almost to his waist and a cap pulled down over his eyes.
Terrified Beulah turned back to Neil as the tramp’s fist connected with his face. The other two men rushed up and grabbed the tramp and dragged him away towards the car park.
“Bloody maniac!” Neil yelled. “Fucking bloody hell!” He held a handkerchief to his mouth but blood had splashed down his shirt.
They hurried out of the alley, both really frightened, not so much at what had happened but at what might have.

Does this intrigue you? Who was the tramp? Who were the men who rescued Beulah and Neil? Here is a link to my book:

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