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Lion and Panther in London

Gama the Great is bored. Imam translates the newspaper notice as best he can while his brother slumps in the wingback chair. On the table between them rests a rose marble chessboard, frozen in play. Raindrops wriggle down the windowpane. It is a mild June in 1910 and their seventh day in London without a single challenge.

Their tour manager, Mr Benjamin, lured them here from Lahore, promising furious bouts under calcium lights, their names in every newspaper that matters. But the very champions who used to thump their chests and flex their backs for photos are now staying indoors, as if they have ironing to do. Not a word from Benjamin ‘Doc’ Roller or Strangler Lewis, not from the Swede Jon Lemm or the whole fleet of Japanese fresh from Tokyo.

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