Grace Masterson is many things to many people.
As Kitty Kinetic, she has moved from in front of the camera to behind it, directing pornographic movies by the time she arrives in Marbella.
And before that, Grace spent ten years as a lethal weapon for the SUV – the Russian Special Services – specialising in hostage extraction and the termination of hostiles.
But most of all, she is a woman seeking to avenge the murder of her sister, Olga Antonova, a sex worker whose dead body was discovered on wasteland in San Pedro.
Sitting uncomfortably at the head of her list of six names, is the name of Richie Malone.
And it is no coincidence that Malone, a charmer and an inveterate womaniser, who has made a fortune writing erotic fiction under a female pseudonym, is Grace’s nearest neighbour.
Two years ago, Malone saved his skin by brokering a deal between Alexei Nikolaev – the godfather of the Andalucian Bratva – and Tom Dempsey, the Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA, and head of the Irish variety of skullduggery on the Costa Del Crime. (You can check out the full story by picking up a copy of Losing The Plot – Amazon No1 bestseller in the Erotic Mystery Fiction category).
But with both Nikolaev and Dempsey’s names on Grace’s list, the only way to remove his own is for Malone to confront these two villains one more time and find out who was really responsible for Olga’s death, a crime that was never properly investigated.
And this will not be easy because two of those on the list are already serving twenty-five-year sentences in the Centro Penitenciario in Malaga for a list of crimes significantly longer than the one Grace has compiled.
And with the final name on the list being that of Malone’s best friend, Maria Espinosa, he is left with little option other than to help Grace exact the vengeance she desperately seeks.
To make matters worse, Malone finds himself drawn to Grace in an unsettling manner that serves to threaten his playboy lifestyle.
The List, written in the first person, is best described as a mildly erotic, darkly comedic and satirical romp through southern Andalucía’s crime belt.
Now I know that Richie’s antics are not for everyone, and this is very much what one might term as “bloke lit”. I prefer the terms “transgressive” or “satirical dirty realism”, but I enjoy writing it and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Thanks, in advance!
There’s a noise downstairs.
I’m about to count either sheep or the units of alcohol I consumed last night, when I hear it. It’s the sort of noise that whoever made it would be acutely aware that they’d made it, but no one apart from someone trained to hear it would interpret it for what it is.
I glance at my phone.
There is someone in my Marbella villa that should not be in my Marbella villa.
And the probability is that that whoever has broken in has but one intention: to kill me.
Unfamiliar noises echo. A creak, a pad, the whoosh of a door opening, the hushed and muted fumbling of someone who doesn’t know their way around my gaff, but is adept at bypassing a sophisticated security system and should therefore be taken extremely seriously.
The power is off.
I know this from the absence of the soft thrum from the air conditioning. This is not a power failure; whoever has broken in is a pro. They have disabled a high-tech back-up generator, set to kick in automatically and maintain the state-of-the-art security system, cameras and alarm linked with the Marbella cop shop, in the event of an interruption of power.
I slip out of bed and I’m about to arm myself with the Glock 20 I keep in the bedside cabinet for such eventualities, when the door opens and my bedroom is single occupancy no longer.
I know this although it’s pitch-dark because I can sense the movement of air that accompanies human motion.
But before I can reach the cabinet and extract the pistol, I’m coshed on the head, and my world goes blacker than a Stygian crypt.
friday, after midnight … meaning it’s not thursday any more
I come to with a headache that reminded me of the good old days of amateur rugby.
You know, when real men didn’t moisturise, had proper jobs and therefore didn’t have the disposable time or money to have ludicrous haircuts or to cover their bodies with ink. An era when they punched each other instead of throwing handbags, after which the referee would make them shake hands and get on with the game.
That’s how my head feels right now.
I’m aware of three other things: first, the power has been restored – I know this because the bedroom ceiling light is adding to the intensity of my headache, and second, that I have been tied up. Closer inspection revels that I have been restrained by zip ties, each wrist anchored to the metal bed frame.
Call me unadventurous, but being chained to anything in the bedroom, or being tied up has never even vaguely appealed to me.
And the third thing I am aware of is that I am alone. My prognosis may have been wrong? Whoever has broken into my home and clubbed me may well have done so for financial gain. So, the crime may not be personal. But right now, I’m not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing.
I conduct a mental inventory of what I stand to lose, which part of it will be covered by insurance and which part will not.
There’s around one hundred and fifty grand in the safe, and although it would prove undiscoverable to your common-or-garden burglar, whoever my intruder-slash-assailant is, will probably find it in a flash. Opening it, I hope, may prove a greater challenge and allow me time to free myself and redress the situation with the Glock – should it still be there. Why so much money in the safe, I hear you ask? Because I don’t trust banks – other than my offshore one, whose coffers are regularly filled with the filth money – more on that later – so this won’t be covered by insurance.
Then there is the artwork, some of which is very expensive and irreplaceable. There’s also a lot of other stuff I’d rather not lose, such as antiques and personal shit of significant nostalgic and monetary value acquired over the years. But if worst comes to worst, this will be insured.
My mental calculations are interrupted by the light tread of footsteps coming up the stairs. Am I about to be offered the option of divulging the safe code or being subjected to another crack on the head?
The door swings open and the intruder enters and removes a balaclava.
‘You?’ I say. I’m gobsmacked. ‘Why the fuck—‘
‘Didn’t I just ring the bell? Of course, that was always an option, Richie. But somehow I don’t think you would have given me what I want.’
thursday lunchtime – this, by the way, is a flashback
So, my intruder-slash-assailant transpires to be a recent acquaintance, very recent, in fact, not that this does anything to explain motive.
Maybe it was this morning, perhaps yesterday morning; I can’t be sure, as due to the bang on the head my brain is running even slower than normal, and I seem to have lost all connection with time.
But in order to explain my surprise, I need to introduce the trespasser.
Anyway, back to whenever it was.
I’d 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 happened, let me tell you about my gaff, because it does have a bearing on this.
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, and as it turns out, I was right to be 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.
Hal’s 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. Isabella is my housekeeper, by the way. More about her later.
‘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 pigeon-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.
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 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 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 of 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. 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, with a teasing smile.
‘Well, you do look terribly familiar, Grace … if that’s your real name?‘
‘Oh but it is,’ she replies with a smile, ‘but you might know me better by my 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 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, Grace, 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.’
‘Up for that?’ I laugh. ‘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.
‘Wouldn’t I need an Equity card?’
‘I don’t think so. This is a branch of the movie industry that isn’t troubled by union issues. Strikes aren’t really an issue. Apart from in S&M, of course.’
I’m tempted … very tempted, but having never done the business in front of a camera, I not sure I’d trust myself sufficient to avoid performance anxiety. And anyway, where’s the romance in that?
‘I don’t think so Grace,’ I reply. 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.
And that, amigo, was how I met my assailant.
friday, after midnight… don’t know when
So, she’s in my bedroom now, dressed in a stereotypical black leather catsuit, shaking out her hair as if she’s in an L’Oreal Paris commercial.
Maybe it’s an actor thing?
I’m so absorbed in admiring this that it takes me all of five seconds to notice that she’s holding a gun.
My gun, or so it would appear.
‘Nice suit,’ I say. ‘From the set of Viagra Falls … Kitty?’
‘I would not be so flippant, Malone, if I were chained to a bed, a gun pointed at me,’ she says, and as if to emphasise this, fires the bloody thing. The bullet passes an inch above my head and embeds itself in the wall, causing an avalanche of plaster to pour over my face and into my eyes. I regain composure sufficient to notice the sonorous Californian drawl has been replaced by what I would take to be a Muscovite accent.
There are too many questions I want answered, but experience has taught me that interrogating someone pointing a gun at you is not such a bright idea.
For a moment she just stands and glares at me.
‘I should kill you right now,’ she says, walking towards me and shifting into a shooting stance. ‘But before I do, I will give you an opportunity to explain your actions.’
‘My actions? What do you mean? My actions … since lunchtime?’
‘You know vey well what I mean, Malone. I am referring to my sister.’
And this is when I realise why she looks so familiar. Okay, she could pass for Gigi Hadid, and we’ve already established her movies are on every teenage boy and his dad’s list of masturbational fodder, but there is something else awfully familiar about her, and I’ve finally worked out what it is.
‘Olga Antonova,’ she says, confirming my suspicions. Olga Antonova was my sister. Does the name ring a bell?’
‘Of course it does, I reply. ‘You have my sincere condolences.’
The gun is pointed at me, and I now sense that this could go either way. After all, she has gone to a heck of a lot of trouble to set up this intimate little interview.
‘Condolences … what empty words. Her murderer was never brought to justice, nor was her death investigated fully. But one fact that did emerge was that her body was in your bed … right here.’ She lowers the gun sufficient to gesture, as if gesture were needed. ‘And that you transported her body to some wasteland in San Pedro. And then you dumped it there, you bastard.’ A second bullet passes inches over my head, this one making contact with the metal bedframe, triggering shock waves that pulse through my wrists like a high voltage current.
‘That could have gone anywhere; you do realise that? The ricochet, I mean,’ She shrugs.
‘I didn’t kill her,’ I continue, ‘and – yes, I did transport her body to San Pedro, but I was under the influence of a drug called–‘
‘Scopolamine,’ she interrupts. ‘I read the court report. That was what you claimed.’
‘I had a toxicology report that confirmed it. I still have it somewhere. I’ll get it for you, if you don’t believe me.’
If you don’t know what Scopolamine is let me tell you about it. Colloquially known as “the devil’s breath”, is an odourless and tasteless Columbian drug that eliminates free will and can wipe the memory of its victims. It’s the deadliest drug in Columbia, and that in itself says quite a lot. Scopolamine turns people into complete zombies and blocks memories from forming. So even after the drug wears off, victims have little or no recollection as to what happened. And that was exactly what happened to me.
There’s a bit of a silence, which suggests she’s planning her next move, which will hopefully not involve firing the bloody gun again.
‘Okay, Malone.’ Her mood appears to lighten incrementally. ‘I’ll make a deal with you.’
‘Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t make deals with people pointing guns at me.’
‘Part of the deal is that I’m not going to shoot you. At least not just yet.’
‘That I can sign up to. How about you stop pointing that gun – my gun, I assume – at me, and take these ties off?’
She flicks the safety on, removes the magazine which she throws out of the window, replaces the gun in the cabinet, and deftly retrieves a knife from a neckline pouch in her cat suit, and cuts the ties.
Impressive, I think, as she moves in to unfetter me. A subtle hint of Chanel No.5 Eau de Parfum wafts across the bed and her hair spills across my face. Under normal circumstances, amigo, I would have moved heaven and earth to get this divine creature beneath the covers. And as she removes the cuffs, I’m tempted to go for broke until I remind myself that – until a couple of minutes ago – she had been threatening to kill me.
Sometimes life can be so unfair.