“Joe, I’m not here to fuck you over. If you’re straight up with me, I’ll keep them off your back as much as I can…but that works both ways. If you’re dead set on fucking me over, then there’s no point… ”
Well, that was a turn up for the books. Mac-the-knife was proving to be the most mind-boggling scoundrel who’d ever set foot through the front door. Joe didn’t know quite what to make of him. When Adam announced that they’d procured the meanest mo-fo on earth (or thereabouts) to dog Joe’s days ‘n’ nights, he thought he’d find himself landed with pug-faced pugilist, fond of folding his arms to show off his bulging biceps. Fluent only in grunts ‘n’ glowers. JustMac was so far from this caricature, Joe had been left scrambling to superimpose the strangely elegant, but deadly dangerous reality, atop it.
Joe had expected to be stuck living with the enemy, not shacked up with a sadistic sex-god who’d promised to keep the bastards off Joe’s back…if he played ball. The list of things-not-to-think was fast assuming printer-spewing proportions. Ah well, with a bit o’luck, Joe’s brain would be kept too busy scuttling Mac-hiavellian machinations to cook up catastrophes with quite such dedication to the cause.
Mac clearly kept his cards so close his chest they were secreted beneath sunkissed skin, so Joe decided that his best bet would be to ‘play ball’ until he’d had a bit of a forage. A sentence destined for the top of Joe’s list if e’er there was one. The craving was something chronic, gnawing his guts with steel-trap tenacity but Joe was strangely reluctant to cave in with the stakes so high. Clarity had never held quite such a potent hand…
“’Kay. D’you want another drink?” Joe asked, because Just(partial-to-a-wee-dram-or-three)Mac had knocked back the first two as if it was closing time at the last-chance saloon.
“Okay? That’s it?” The scoundrel looked a smidge staggered…even a bit disappointed. Had the bad-ass had been spoiling for a spot of sparring? Or, just partial to pressing buttons as foreplay to polishing off the resulting ruckus with his knuckle dusters? JustMac would have to hold his horses, at least till after the weighing-in. Meanwhile, Joe wanted to watch those glinty greens at work so…’twas time to don his tour guide hat.
“Should I show you around, so you know where everything is? You can choose a room to put your stuff in and—” He stopped short when Mac speared him with an expression as incredulous as if Joe had switched to Klingon, mid-sentence. “What’s that face for?”
“You seriously think I intend to leave you to your own devices overnight?”
Yeeesss actually…I’d been counting on it.
It was more than a mite obvious where Mac intended to kip, the presumptive scoundrel, but still, Joe pressed on. Curious to discover if he’d have the decency to ask—even as a pretence to treating Joe like a hooman—as opposed to a junkie who’d traded his right to privacy for a baggie of smack.
Mac did not, just pointed out that Joe had answered the door so scantily clad he couldn’t claim to be Mr Prissypants, or something such. Mac-the-knife did have a point, but blimey...sleep in my room? If Joe thought for a second that there were nefarious designs on his person afoot, then he’d roll out the red carpet…but that was about as likely as Mac having a rubber duckie in his bath.
“’Tis customary to ask before you go inviting yourself into someone’s bed, Mr Cocky pants.” Joe attempted a lofty sniff. As it prob’ly only qualified in the literal sense, he’d never been as glad to be so bloody tall. Mac was…a shade under six foot? But built like…oops, the rest o’that is heading nowhere but the list any time soon… Shaw. Rather than Hobbs, that would do. The McBadass might not be a towering man-mountain of muscle but the reality felt somehow more lethal. Mac-the-knife was a lean, mean, fighting machine, as sharp and finely-honed as his moniker. Oh help.
“To Sleep.” Mac clarified. Emphatically. Bugger. Or not.
“Sadist.” Joe huffed. Instead of the pithy retort he’d been expecting, Mac just scorched his retinas with Kryptonite green before turning to…Strewwth.
Joe stood, staring—eyes pinned wide ’nuff to plop on the parquet—as Mac swished off to fetch his stuff. Oh, for a remote control button to rewind and re-view that. In slo-mo, cos Joe’s mo-fo had the baddest-ass on the planet. I have to watch that wiggle its way ’round the house for two whole days? This was taking cruel and unusual punishments to previously unscaled altitudes. Watch it wiggle? It was going to be snug as a bug in Joe’s bloomin’ bed.
Someone was having a larf. At Joe’s expense. Well, not literally, because the record company was footing Mac’s mega-bill, but really… If they’d decided to exact revenge for past misdemeanors and mishaps, they couldn’t have rustled up a better plot if they’d had Kafka on board.
The piranha baggies were starting to look a lot like a jolly jape in comparison. I have to sleep in the same bed as that butt? As if that wasn’t painfully hard enough, said rear was residing on a glinty-eyed sex-god carved from Scottish granite and drizzled in runny honey.
Skag? It would take a sledgehammer to knock Joe out under such duress. Behopes the McBadass had one in his boot—and some bromide—or it would be a veerry long night. This was torture so extreme it would make Joe’s stint in Thai Rehab feel like bloody Butlins.
P’raps he should sleep in his chair instead. Joe had done just that for a few months, before he got around to buying a bed. As he p’raps tended to forget stuff he didn’t want to remember, chances were he’d flinched from such a…commitment to the house. He’d been too spooked to admit he’d found somewhere he felt…a tentative sort of (inconcevable) calm. Shimmering in the air, settling around him. Soothing the clawing ache that clutched at Joe’s chest. A glimmer of impossible peace, hovering on his horizon, if he could just… Joe had never been able to finish that thought. P’raps…one day, he might not need to. He would just know. Know he’d found it.
After three months kipping in his chair, Joe was half-crippled so he surrendered to the inevitable and ordered a bloody bed. By which point, he was so enamoured with his bolt-hole hideaway, they pretty much had to prise Joe out ‘n’ about with a crowbar. It was the best of both worlds, he had the idyll he’d always dreamed of but there was plenty o’room to invite a few folks ’round for a soirée. A far less risky prospect than venturing out to feed the press some lurid headlines. Again.
Sleep in my chair? Joe would have to be stark, staring mad to turn down the opportunity to snuggle up to his McBadass. As safe as safe can be. Whether he actually survived the experience sane? Was a whole other kettle of kippers…
“Blimey, are you stocking up for a siege…?” Joe gaped, when Mac returned a few minutes later toting two bulging black holdalls. “Or, is one for clothes and one for your torture kit?”
“Oh, I didn’t think I’d need clothes. We’re heading back to London on Monday, don’t forget.” Shrugged with deadpan élan to die for, while kicking the door shut behind him.
“Hmph…a likely story.” Joe sniffed. “If I’d known you’d come to play Santa, I would have offered you a mince pie and glass of sherry.”
“S’kay, I’d rather have scotch. Now, where d’you want me to put these? I’d hate to clutter up the place…” Mac smirked. Oooh.
“Are you casting aspersions on my housewifery?” Joe sniffed, shooting him a squinty side-eye.
“No. I’m saying it looks like a bloody bomb’s gone off.”
“It’s homely,” he huffed. “Besides, I might’ve tidied up, if I’d invited anyone to come and stay.”
“You’re lying.” Mac fixed him with the flinty glint that felt like being X-rayed.
“Well, I would have intended to,” Joe amended. “’Tis the thought that counts. Bring them upstairs then, if you must be so par-tic-ular about it. I may as well show you ’round…” He was turning to lead the way when one word stopped him in his tracks.
“Joe?” Whisky warm, Mac’s voice had lowered to lethal purr; as hot as hell and too persuasive to ignore.
“Yeah?” Steeling himself, Joe swivelled on his heel, turning toward Mac.
“I’m not here to torture you.” Mac ensnared Joe’s eyes with a green as insidious as absinthe. “I am not your enemy…you can trust me. All you need do, is be you…and leave the rest to me, ’kay?”
How Joe wished he could let himself believe Mac. Beset by paranoid suspicions he might be, but he’d have to be downright demented to allow himself that luxury. Joe knew all too well what was rocket fuelling such fears but they still had very real foundations. It seemed that everyone he’d trusted to take care of stuff that felt like falling face first into a nettle patch…were somehow those who’d become most hell-bent on shoving him into it.
The only time Joe could secure any sense of comfiness was the early hours of morning, when those first slivers of dawn stole the darkness away. Pottering about as he pleased, weaving words and melodies, adrift in blissful solitude. Wishing he could stay forever suspended in that hazy half-light, lazy with promise of an impossible peace.
“ Well, I hope you’re better at your part of that bargain than me, or we’re done for…” Joe stretched his lips into a smile best described as creaky.
“It’s a bloody tragedy if you really believe that, but maybe you do…” Mac sighed, raking a hand through the fronds of fringe flopping over laser beam green. “The truth is, you’re too good at being you. Too good for your own good. That is the problem.