It’s a glorious early July Monday afternoon, and all is well in the world of Richie Malone.
And although I don’t know it, they’re about to get even better in a totally unexpected way.
I’ve just had a meeting with Hal, my agent, the purpose of which was to sign a contract with a pretentious and aspirationally upmarket swingers’ magazine called The Big Tissue, to write a monthly piece which will gross me five thousand bucks a throw. That’s about forty smackers per minute, so it’s probably worth popping a champagne cork for.
If you’ve not met Hal, he’s about ten years’ younger than me, but doesn’t look it … short, pudgy-slash-running-to-fat, with a shaved head as smooth as a billiard ball.
Like me, he wears a uniform; whereas mine is black Tee and jeans (usually black) Hal’s is Ralph Lauren polo (usually dark blue) nut hugging Terry Towel type shorts or flannels, and blue brothel-creepers.
To the best of my knowledge, Hal is not a homosexual, but neither does he present as a guy who’s knee deep in a river of pussy.
I’ve known him for more than ten years, and I owe him a lot, but that’s a secret I’ll take to my grave. He was the first person to believe in my writing, but I repaid the favour handsomely, because he got fat on the fruit of my laptop when he left Mulberry, Smith & Owens and set up on his own.
I’d like to call him a friend but that would be stretching it.
But before I tell you what actually happens to transform my mood from good to stratospherically euphoric, let me tell you about my gaff, because it does have a bearing or what happens next.
My gaff is a five hundred square metre six-bedroomed and five-bathroomed manor right on the beach, nestling between the La Cabane Beach Club and Javier Bardem’s pad.
I must say, by the way, what a lovely person Javier is, and so is Penelope; I’ve had them over to dinner a couple of times, and they’ve reciprocated. Very genuine people … not Hollywood at all, and excellent company. However, about three months ago they moved out and a rental sign appeared. I’ll confess to being slightly apprehensive as to who may move in but, as it turned out, I needn’t have worried.
So, back to my villa … it’s got the obligatory infinity pool, a gym, cinema, four-car garage, is the pinnacle of luxury, and I think that’s about all you need to know.
Let’s just say that if I wanted to rent it – which I don’t – I could get maybe twenty thousand euro a week, which is probably somewhere in the region of what Javier is asking for his place. Okay, he’s marginally more of a celebrity than I am, so that will almost certainly add to the price tag.
The only problem is that you have to drive everywhere, and I do like going out. There’s a chic little chiringuito a five-minute walk away, which is very popular with the beautiful people, and I eat there a lot, but I’ll usually drive into Marbella and get a taxi back. Or drive, more often than not – if I’m still sober enough to get the key in the ignition.
So, Hal’s just left and I’ve just sat down to a light lunch of Isabella’s home made Croquetas and Pisto – which is basically the Spanish version of the classic French dish, ratatouille – when the gate buzzer sounds.
‘Go see who that is, Isabella, will you?’ I say, and I’m about to take my first mouthful of Croqueta when Isabella’s dulcet toned pidgeon-English comes through the intercom.
‘You have new neighbour, señor Malone, she visit you, say hola and bring some bottle of champagne.’
The words “she” and “champagne” engage my full attention, and the forkful of Croqueta returns to the plate untouched.
‘Show her in, Isabella,’ and I check myself in the hall mirror for reassurance that the old George Clooney-slash-Keanu Reeves visage is going to work its usual magic. On impulse, I fold down the silver frame containing a photo of Sam and myself at our wedding.
Of course, it’s something of an assumption that the bearer of what may or may not be champagne will be worth the wand of Richie Malone, but my day has gone pretty well so far, and I feel I’m on a bit of a roll.
I wasn’t wrong.
I drag myself away from the mirror and turn to see a young woman who is almost the double of Gigi Hadid right down to the full lips, high cultured cheekbones, the slightly catlike eyes and the chaotic hair that I’d give a year’s worth of my potential earnings from The Big Tissue to have cascaded over my groin.
There’s also something about her that strikes me as familiar but for the life of me, I can’t quite place it. Even Isabella’s ogling her, and it crosses my somewhat warped mind that my housekeeper – who has the potential to draw considerable attention herself – may well bat for both sides.
“Gigi Hadid” extends a hand and I take it with a firm press rather than a shake. It’s a Richie Malone thing I do with women, and not some weird masonic shit.
‘I’m Grace,’ she says with a more than engaging smile, ‘Grace Masterson.’ The accent is American; if I had to guess, I’d say Californian. ‘I’ve just moved in next door, and I saw you were home. Thought I’d drop by to say “hi”.’
‘Malone,’ I reply, ‘Richie Malone. And “hi” back. Nice to meet you.’ I welcome her into the open plan living-slash-dining room and proceed down the well-worn pathway I usually tread when introduced to a woman of exquisite beauty. ‘Do I know you? Your face looks awfully familiar?’ In this case, it actually does.
‘Perhaps,’ she replies a little coyly, which is code either for the implication that I’m fucking stupid, or that she hasn’t yet made up her mind which celebrity category to apply to herself.
She hands me the bottle; I’m relieved to clock that it is champagne – decent stuff: Dom Pérignon P2 Vintage 2002, which goes for around five hundred euro a pop. I hand it to Isabella, and tell her to chill it down. I also tell her to bring two flutes and a bottle of my Dom Pérignon Vintage 2009; not the shitty stuff – the Tokujin Yoshioka Limited Edition.
I sense Grace isn’t a woman it pays to go cheap on.
‘And what do you do, Richie … you know, for a living?’ she says, casting her delightful eyes around my home as if calculating how much I might be worth.
‘I’m a writer,’ I reply. Clearly I have no intention of spilling the beans about the filth I pen under a female pseudonym that pays for this villa, the Yorkshire estate, the Aston, the Porsche, the yacht in Puerto Banus and the chalet in Zermatt. ‘Mostly spicy fiction; but I ghost write as well. Oh … and I’m also a magazine columnist as of this morning. What about you … Grace?’
‘Oh, just an actor,’ she replies. ‘You know, special interest stuff.’
What passes for a brain of mine tries to process this and get the pennies at least lined up, if not to drop, as Isabella pops the fizz and pours. If you know me, amigo, then you’ll know that I’m notoriously slow on the uptake.
‘Cheers,’ I go. We clink and drink. ‘Welcome to the neighbourhood.’
‘Are you any good at screwing?’ she asks, the coyness departed.
This wasn’t the sort of question I’d been expecting so soon in our acquaintanceship, but being Richie Malone, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.
‘I’ve never had any complaints,’ I reply, wondering exactly what I might be getting myself into.
‘Good, because my production company has rented the villa and there was no furniture, so they ordered stuff you have to screw together from some weird Scandinavian store.’ She pauses, lights a cigarette, asks if it’s okay to smoke and continues. ‘Can you believe they actually expect me to put it together, like, myself? I mean, is this some sort of kooky European tradition?’
‘Ah … that sort of screwing.’ I reply, dejectedly. ‘Not my bag I’m afraid. But I’ve got a Polish guy who does my maintenance and he lives for opportunities like this. I’ll send him round.’
Half an hour passes pleasantly and my bottle of bubbly disappears as we bottom sniff. She tells me she’s from Monterey and she’s here to work. She’s shooting a movie, which will be exclusively filmed inside Javier’s villa, and this sort of arouses my curiosity-slash-suspicion.
I mean, what sort of movies are exclusively shot inside a villa?
I tell Isabella to fetch Grace’s Dom Pérignon and that’s when the proverbial penny finally drops and I know why she looks so familiar.
Now, amigo, I don’t watch porn. Okay, when I say I don’t watch it, I’ll admit that I do very occasionally dip into Pornhub, purely in the interest of research for a work of filth. I’ve nothing against porn, it’s just – truth be told – I’m more or a doer than a watcher.
And this is when I realise that this is where I’ve seen her before. At least, I think I have. Or maybe it was someone who looks very, very like her.
So this is a tricky one, amigo. I mean, have you ever had the need to ask a beautiful woman if she is the porn star you think she may be?
No? Didn’t think so.
But thankfully she reads my bewilderment and I’m spared the embarrassment.
‘You really don’t know who I am, do you, Richie?’ she goes.
‘Well, you do look familiar, Grace … if that’s your real name?‘
‘Oh but it is,’ she replies with a smile, ‘but you might know me better by stage name, Kitty Kinetic. My special interest movies appeal to a very broad congregation.’
‘Kitty Kinetic,’ I reply. ‘Now I’ve got you. You do adult–‘
‘Porn,’ she interrupts. ‘And I’m damned good at it. I played the lead role in Viagra Falls and it won the 2019 AVN best Hotcumer Award.’
My mind has literally gone into overload.
Viagra Falls was my fictional creation-slash-work of filth. Well, to be precise, it was that of my female pseudonym. Hal got me a sweet movie rights deal, but I must confess to losing all interest in the thing after the money hit my offshore account. I’m tempted to tell her that I wrote the novel, but then I remember insisting on a confidentially clause, therefore to do so would mean breaking my own terms and conditions.
‘Excuse my innocence,’ I ask, curious about what my baby had morphed into, ‘but what might be the AVN Hotcomer award?’
‘AVN darling, stands for Adult Video News. The AVN Awards are basically the Oscars for porn.’ She smiles at my naivety. ‘And Hotcumer? Well, you can probably work that one out for yourself.’
I’m also not sure whether it’s a good or a bad thing to be living next door to a porn star who is about to be shoot an actual porn movie just over my garden fence.
‘I see.’ Then another thought strikes me. ‘Does Javier know what his villa’s going to be used for?’
I pour more champagne and she lights another cigarette.
‘Who cares, darling? My production company is totally legit. And in any case, none of the furniture belongs to him, so if there are stains left everywhere it’s not going to come off the deposit. Pardon the pun’
‘No, of course.’ Time to lighten the conversation a little. ‘What’s the movie called?’
‘Oh, right … it’s called Custer’s Lust Stands, darling. It’s an orgy thing.’
‘Battle of the Little Bighorn?’ I suggest, ignoring the grammatical nightmare embedded in the title.
She laughs. Then a thought strikes her.
‘So, Malone … I have a proposition for you. You’re a good-looking guy. What are you like in bed?’
‘At the risk of repeating myself, I’ve got a nailed-on five star customer satisfaction rating.’
‘Good, ‘cos we might need to call on you if someone fails to show up – or worse still – goes limp on set. Would you be up for that? It pays really well.’
‘You mean as some sort of “stunt cock”?’
‘Precisely darling. That’s exactly what I mean. All totally anonymous, as only the business end is shot.
I’ll have to say it’s very tempting, but not the sort of “research project” I could sell to Sam. And the consequences of being discovered don’t bear thinking about.
‘I don’t think so, Grace’ I reply. ‘I’m a happily married man. But thanks for the offer.’
And with that her phone rings, she mouths ‘production company … must go’, kisses me on the lips and departs leaving spirals of beachy-waved hair trailing behind her.
I turn my attention to my Croquetas and Pisto, which have somehow lost the excitement they held three quarters of an hour ago.