“Well, I guess the proof will be in the pudding. Or not. Here y’go…” Mac bent over the side of the bed and grasp the neck of the guitar to settle it across Joe’s legs. “I really would like to hear you play…”
“Okay…in a minute. Mac, can we buy a kite?”
“A kite,” Mac repeated, nonplussed. Even bearing in mid who’d mooted said kite it was still one helluva random response to having a guitar land in your lap. Try as he might, he couldn’t fathom a connection if his sanity depended upon it.
“I want to go kite flying on Primrose Hill.” Joe beamed, midnight eyes aglitter with delight. Starry with anticipation. Infectious.
“Okay…where did you rustle the kite up from?” Mac grinned, despite himself.
“I didn’t. I haven’t got one, that’s why we need to buy one. Let’s go to Harrods, we can get a posh one with two handles and fluttery ribbons to whirl in the wind…’Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaaaring’…” he warbled, all-but bouncing in his seat. “I haven’t been for soooo long, to Harrods, I mean, nor kite flying for that matter. I can’t remember the last time I did something just because…it struck my fancy all of a sudden. Not without being told I can’t. Or all sorts of caveats chucked in…and a babysitter t’boot. There was no one I wanted to…do stuff with, but now? There’s almost nothing I’d rather do. It feels like Christmas.”
“It’s May.” Mac chuckled. Dementedly.
“I know that. Well, sort of…it was March last time I checked. It must have been, I had my birthday…my thirtieth, I think. Crikey, no one saw that coming. Can we go, can we, Mac? Pleeease?” Huge pools of liquid darkness, like black gloss paint, agleam with wonderment. Impossible to disappoint—or dream of doing so—lethal. But, comparatively safe…the shopping, at least. Of all things Joe might’ve been struck by a sudden yen to do? Happy hour in Harrods sounded about as…innocuous as it got. Downright normal—unextraordinary—in fact. Unless perhaps, you were Joe Fitzgerald. Who was lit up like the festive season itself; as exuberant as a wee bairn off to see Santa. With Han Solo…on the Hogwarts Express. Mac had lost his marbles. A fact so blatant that Joe’s grin widened to ear-licking capacity. “Yay! Ooh, I can’t wait now, when will I be able to go?”
“Tuesday? Unless we set out first thing, if you want to do Harrods before rehearsals?”
“Let’s go now,” Joe had shoved the guitar off his lap and scrambled off the bed before Mac had chance to reason why the fuck not.
“Now?” he found himself repeating, instead. With all the ingenuity of a parrot.
“It’s what…eleven p.m.? Harrods is shut. It’ll still be shut when we get there,” Mac pointed out.
“So, we can go first thing. We can stay in a hotel, a posh one, by Harrods. We’ll be the mostest. I shall wear a top hat. C’mon, pour yourself into your slinky suit, I’ll just-um, pack ‘n’ stuff…” Joe stood, starkers; hands on skinny hips in the middle of the room, head swivelling meerkat style, biting down on his too-plush bottom lip. “What do I need…stash, smokes, journal, guitar, socks, crunchy-nutters…ooh! I can get a white tux while I’m there, it will save asking Adam. C’mon, Mac! Get your glad rags on…”
“I need a shower!”
“Y’can have a posh one later. I’ll play for you in the car, if you still want me to. Hurry up…chop chop.”
“Chop chop?” Mac couldnae do a damn thing to stop his shoulders quaking. What the fuck?
“What!?” Joe demanded, as if Mac had said something demented.
“You! About thirty seconds ago, you conjured a kite from fucknows where. Now we’re on our way to London wearing top hats!” Mac spluttered, swinging his legs around to clamber to his feet.
“Ooh, good point, I’m glad you reminded me…I might have forgot. Hats. I bet you’re glad you never bothered unpacking now….okay, right. Clothes would be good. You’re very nearly naked by the way, hmm…where was I? And very distracting…” Joe was pressed to Mac in an instant, winding everlasting arms around his waist.
“I’m counting on it,” he sighed. A long-suffering one.
“That could prove a smidge unseemly, if you intend on following through,” Joe grinned, unabashed. “You’re a bad influence, Mr McBadass.”
“Me?” Mac snorted, “…and you can take that look off your face, y’monster. I am not stripping off in Harrods…so don’t even think about it.”
“Shurrup and kiss me…then get your arse into gear, if you’re expecting me to drive to London at bloody midnight.”
“We didn’t wake up ’til five, so it’s mid-afternoon by my reckoning…nevertheless, that’s an order, so I’d best be obliging…” Joe murmured at Mac’s mouth, about a sharp intake of breath before doing as directed. For once.
Shutting Joe up had fast become one of life’s great pleasures. Alongside listening to whatever the fuck those lips unleashed next. Therein lay the problem. Why the hell wasn’t he heeding the shriek of his own instincts? How had it proved possible for such soft, dulcet tones to drown them out?
On the plus side, far from Mac’s strongest suit, Joe’s plan was…even an advisable course of action. Almost logical—in the right light—viewed with a squint that blanked the elephant crammed into the back of the Jag.
It made sense to head to London now; ensuring that they would, at least, be there tomorrow. Bypassing the need to drag Joe out of bed and frogmarch him to the car in order to make it to rehearsals by four p.m. If, of course, you ignored the fact that wrangling Joe to Camden by four wasnae a dead cert, even if they set off from Finsbury Park at midday. Last week. On the contrary, arriving in London at three a.m. would give Joe thirteen hours of merry hell to raise. Rather than a mere one, or two.
F’fucksakes. It wasn’t as if they were heading to London to trawl tawdry brothels and crack-dens. They were, apparently, going to a ‘posh’ hotel, shopping in Harrods…and kite flying. An itinerary that couldnae be considered untoward by the bloody Duchess of Cambridge herself, but then she only had three nippers to keep out of mischief. If only a cheeky tongue poked at the Press was Mac’s greatest concern. Joe could cause chaos in a sodding Portaloo. At least the ‘leggy lovely’ had deprived the press pack of that particular headline.
“I have no memory of this incident. It was a complete fabrication. That’s my story and I’m stickin to it…Just like its floor.”
What chance in hell did Mac have?
He wasnae thinking all this while luxuriating in Joe’s silence, that would’ve been impossible. Reasoning bit the dust the moment those lip—Christ, who was Mac trying to fool? Free-falling into hungry black holes dead-set on devouring his sanity was quite sufficient. There was a point half an hour a go, Mac was sure of it…
He was pondering all this while having a swift wash ‘n’ brush-up in the bathroom. Before driving to London at the drop of a top hat for a trip to Harrods. To buy a kite. F’fucksakes.
“Beats me why you’re bothering…” Mac told his reflection. “You’ve never felt this alive unless staring down the barrel of a bloody gun, and y’know it…”
His veins were thrumming with an insistent buzz, as if he’d mainlined adrenaline. All-too similar to the one sparked when the shit hit the fan; the full-throttle rush that made whatever-the-fuck-was-necessary possible.
Get your arse into gear, McCafferty. Recognising that he’d have much to thank that for—if he, miraculously—managed to pull this off? Wasnae Mac’s finest moment, it must be admitted. After fastening the waistband of trousers, Mac turned away from the mirror to glance over his shoulder at his reflection. Christ knows what the fuss was about, but he was more than willing to play dirty, should the need arise. In fact, he was counting on it. Mac never could resist a challenge.
“Good grief, how much stuff d’you need?” Mac gaped from the attic doorway. There was a mountain of miscellaneous fucknows what, heaped in the middle of the floor. His immaculate towers had been obliterated by hurricane Joe and added to the pile of…books, hats, shoes, cds, sundry odds and sods, trinkets and treasures. One guitar, more books…with three sunshine yellow boxes teetering on top.
“Is there a city-wide shortage of crunchy-nut cornflakes in London?” Mac asked, ignoring the taint in the air for the moment.
“There might be…it wouldn’t do to go short,” Joe grinned. “Speaking of, I had a toot while you were titivating. You told me tell you, so y’can keep track…um, I didn’t shoot up? But my guts were griping and you might’ve stabbed me by the time I got to London cos I was driving m’self demented. As y’can see…I’m fine. Just a smidge less…frisky.”
“Thank you…” Mac hadnae expected that confession, not straight up. Despite the scorched tin foil on the desk. Joe had shrugged aside his assurance that Mac woudnae stop him yesterday, then scuttled off the second the opportunity had presented itself. That was progress on the trust front, at least? Now who’s clutching at straws? “Aren’t you bringing any Christmas decorations?” Mac found himself asking, for want of anything…sane, to say.
“In May? Have you been snorting my bathroom stash?”
“No, strangely enough. I figured you’d packed for six months. I’ve got a Jag, not a ten-tonne truck.”
“A Jag? Ooh, you had me at hello, but blimey. It’s a classic, isn’t it?” Joe beamed, glee glinting in those goddamn eyes.
“What makes you so sure?” Mac shrugged, poker-face in full force.
“Instinct? Could you be anymore perfect? Methinks not. I’m gladder than glad we’re setting off now. It’s an E-type isn’t it?” Joe bent to scoop up a pile of…stuff and dump it into an open suitcase. Circa a similar era to Mac’s car. The sort a bear might be found sitting on at Paddington Station.
“Is that a flute case?”
“Yup. It wasnae going to contain a sawn-off shotgun, was it?” Joe cackled.
“Why ever not…” Mac sighed. “Are you quite done?” he wondered, watching Joe attempt to cram the lid shut. He soon gave up, huffed in disgust and plonked his butt on it to bounce it into submission.
“Errr…yup. Almost…just one more case, then I’m ready to go.” The miscreant announced in satisfaction after fastening the second leather strap. Brown. To match its corners. The case itself was beige…ish.
“Naked?” Mac noted, lifting an eyebrow aloft.
“Oops, I forgot. I have my hat on, tho.”
“I noticed. You’ll have to glue it on and stick your head out of the window if you intend to wear it in the car.”
“I figured I’d use a staple gun,” Joe shrugged. The most concerning part of that particular quip? It seemed entirely feasible Joe might intend on doing just that, if not for the grin. And the irrepressible twinkle. “Daftie. I’m only wearing it so I remember. Yours is on the chair.”
“You said, ‘now we’re on our way to London wearing top-hats’…”
“You don’t seriously th—Joe, I have spent the best part of a decade flying beneath the radar. If you think I’m about to start cavorting on Primrose Hill with a fucking kite, and saunter around Harrods dressed like Screaming Lord Sutch you nee—”
“Ooh…cavorting? Crikey, I didn’t dare hope for a spot of that. We’d better go at dusk then, or you might get arrested…wouldn’t do to cause a blip on your radar. ‘High as a kite: Junkie Joe buggered by bad-ass at Twilight Barking.’
“Joe, please finish packing before I feel compelled to start digging a moat.”
“I’m not sure there’s a shovel in the shed…so you’d have to go and knock up the vicar’s wife.” Joe tittered, springing off the vanquished suitcase to scoop up an armload of books. “Okay keep your hair on…won’t be a jiffy.”
Mac didn’t know whether to laugh or die. So he grabbed the cigarettes off the bedside table and lit up, seeing as whisky wasn’t an option. Being stopped for drink driving was the last thing he needed. If only on account of his cargo…and the sodding smack.
The crunchy-nutters sure as shit wouldnae fit in the second suitcase. Mac’s life was swiftly morphing into a comedy caper starring said cereal, smack, and sex. Eyes and legs. Bananas. Not…a bad gig in all, Mac had to admit. He could kill for a bloody curry though.