Losing The Plot

“’Girlfriend Experience?’ Did I want that? Heck no… a girlfriend experience is one where you face constant recrimination, curtailment of what you enjoy doing and endless nagging, so this was precisely what I did not want.

What I wanted was a prostitute experience.”

Richie Malone is an old-school philanderer, misogynistic playboy and writer.

Although he has yet to pen anything to attract literary acclaim under his own name, he has made a fortune writing pornographic novels under a female pseudonym.

Malone’s utopian world is shattered one Sunday morning when he wakes in his Marbella villa to find a girl he does not know in bed beside him. It’s not unusual for this to happen, but when he comes to beside a girl whose throat has been slashed his troubles are just beginning.

To make matters worse, Malone finds himself caught in the middle of a turf war between Irish racketeers, the Russian Mafia and a Columbian cartel.

And so he loses the plot.

But can he get it back before he loses everything… including his life?

 

PROLOGUE

NINE MONTHS AGO

 

I leave the Moet Bar feeling mildly pleased with myself.

And why not?

I have a new nickname — ‘Belfast Boy’ — which carries a certain gravitas, swinging precariously between intrigue and decadence.

I can’t remember exactly who it was that called me this but I didn’t sleep with her, which for me is quite unusual.

I’d been double-parking shitty Spanish beer with equally shitty cheap white wine for several hours, and truth be told, the prospect of sex somehow got shunted down the to do list.

But I remember she had the deepest green eyes I could swim in without drowning, long, tanned legs that I would gladly die between and an accent that located her somewhere near Belgrade.

I know these things; don’t ask me why. There’s the intrigue bit coming out.

Anyway, the point is that despite the fact that I would gladly have swum up the Lagan to hand wash her underwear, there were too many other attractive women in my backfield. To cop off with one would have diluted my chances of nailing the others at a future opportunity.

Tip number one: sometimes, amigo, it’s necessary to take a strategic ‘Did Not Bat,’ in the interest of the bigger picture.

Anyway, in addition to being a stunner, she had one of those quirky names that stubbornly wouldn’t stick in my mind. I’m pretty good at getting a bird’s name, but I’m struggling here?

I’m thinking, maybe Agata? The first and last letters were definitely ‘As’ so — I’m guessing — Agata would definitely be in the ballpark. Birds love it when you get their name, when you admire it, and show you’ve remembered but don’t overuse it because that’s just tacky, like sending flowers after the first shag. Or even worse, getting flowers delivered to a bar you know she’ll be drinking in with her mates. That’s stalking and it’s also tacky.

Okay, so this is how things finished up:

I insult the new waitress — who turns out to be the owner’s daughter — but repair the situation to the extent that I’m given a drink “on the house.”

I call a man with a small, bemused looking dog a drug-dealing homosexual, and he also offers me a drink.

I tell the doorman — who intervened after I had insulted the waitress — that if he continues to look at me in the disdainful manner appropriate for the English tourist, he will have to surgically remove my glass from his anus.

Maybe a little of this is lost in translation, but he also bought me a drink.

And so, all in all, things could have turned out a whole lot worse.

So what is it about me?

You see, I can’t go anywhere where I have an audience and behave anything other than badly.

Especially when young, attractive women scaffold my ego. They accelerate this fucked-up mentality that pushes the ‘twat’ button in my psyche.           It’s like a drug — I have attention, but I crave more.

 

****

 

My name is Richie Malone. Let me tell you a bit about myself, that is if you don’t already know me.

I’m fifty-two years old.

I’m incredibly good looking — think George Clooney-stroke-Richard Gere. Despite thirty years of depravity, my physical decline has been slowed by a fixation for running and the gym, which almost rivals my obsession with women, so I look much younger than my years.

I’m a writer and a sex addict.

Fuck, that was harder to say than I’d expected; the writer bit. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

I was married for an eternity and then I lived with a woman for almost ten years until last December when she decided to become a lesbian and moved in with her lover.

So then I moved to Spain, not because I have a love of bull fighting and the peel of church bells, but because even a total imbecilic fuck-wit can pull beautiful women. Which is pretty much all I’ve been doing since I moved here; I can’t beat them off with the proverbial shitty stick.

Until, that is, something went terribly wrong: you’ll know what when you’ve read the next chapter.

But now you know me.

Remember the name: Richie Malone.

Belfast Boy.

 

ONE

TODAY, 05.45

 

You’ve got to understand this. No one is what they appear to be. If they tell you that they are, then they’re lying.

And you’ll see exactly why I say this when you’ve read this sorry narrative.

For my money, all women are basically the same. The only ones I tend to remember are the truly dreadful ones. You know, the ones who bite you like some fucking Transylvanian freak or consider it’s witty to text that they don’t do anal on a first date.

And sometimes I get confused between my ex-wife and my X-any-number-of-women I’ve slept with because it all breaks down into that dreadful caldron of white noise that is the catharsis of any relationship; and doubtless they think the same about me but that’s not really the issue right now.

The issue right now is the dead girl lying next to me.

Just the bare facts would do for now, like who is she, how the fuck she got here and, of course, what is she doing being dead.

 

 

 

 

 

TWO

EIGHT YEARS AGO

 

I found my genre somewhat late in life, and quite by accident.

For ten years I’d struggled to write passable fiction, you know, the sort of stuff that guys who don’t read would read.

Robert Harris once wrote: “In the absence of genius, there is always craftsmanship.” Genius certainly hadn’t come knocking on my door, so mediocrity would have to do. But please amigo, by all means, feel free to challenge that comment.

I chose, for my template, the style of James Patterson. If you know him: trademark big print — so no more than three hundred words to the page — plenty of dialogue and page breaks and no chapter ever takes longer to read than the time you’d take to have a crap. Sorry James, genius didn’t walk up your pathway either, but there are few better who craft functionality so well.

Respect.

I digress.

And so, before I discovered my genre, I’d had three novels published, two of which sold passably well. The third, written under a pseudonym for reasons I’ll explain later, staggered into the Amazon Bestseller list; but I would freely admit that I popped the champagne cork a little too early when a well-known publishing house took a punt on this work of satirical fiction based on the Irish Troubles, that just about returned them their advance. It was no Harry Potter; no release from the doldrums of teaching Creative Writing to wannebe disillusioned undergrads, after eighteen years in the Royal Marines.

It was pure coincidence that I started to write filth.

Filth sold; filth bought me the Aston Martin, the villa in Marbella with the yacht in Puerto Banus and the chalet in Zermatt. Filth was good to me, and I was good at filth.

It is most unlikely that I would ever have penned the word ‘pussy’ were it not for Mandy. We met, on a residential ‘writers’ retreat’ in the frozen Scottish Highlands one January twelve years ago.

We were instantly attracted to each other; I’d like to say that it was love at first sight but, in all honesty, it was lust at first sight. She’d just left her husband, and my marriage was as dull as the fiction I wrote.

But, truth be told, Mandy is one of only two woman I’ve ever been in love with, and I suppose if I’m honest, until this all happened, I still was; truly, madly, deeply.

One afternoon, bored with the pretentiousness of our fellow residents and the drabness of the workshop, we went for a long walk in the snow. Eight hours and as many pints later, we were in bed screwing each other’s brains out.

Within a year, she was divorced and I’d left home. The sex was terrific, but more than that, Mandy had liberated me.

For years I had unwittingly carried the burden of a repressed childhood: the awful relationship with a despotic mother, the early years at boarding school, being buggered senseless by Twiss, the near-blind music teacher. My social isolation, and the introversion that closed everything away behind the locked door of my subconscious mind were in complete lockdown.

The Corps had been the only outlet from the emptiness of this emotional void; most of my colleagues were as repressed, as cold and detached as I was. It was what had made you an effective killer.

Mandy coaxed it out of me, gradually teasing me with a mixture of bluntness and ridicule that no psychiatrist would have even contemplated, let alone practiced. But it worked; it was cathartic, and gradually I began to offload the past, as my new life brought new meaning; brought new but welcome chaos out of my old, dull order.

My rehabilitation began with the emails, which were, to say the least, pretty graphic, both of word and image. She lived in Hull and I lived in Cornwall so time together was a challenge. Despite leaving enough clues, it took almost a year for my wife to hack into my email account, discover the relationship and kick me out.

Mandy’s honesty about sex was like a breath of fresh air. She’d had many partners, mostly before she was married, and claimed to be bi-sexual. Rupert, her husband, had filed for divorce on the basis that he considered her to be a frigid lesbian.

Wrong, Rwoopardo, old boy; wrong on both counts.

At least, certainly at that stage.

 

****

 

It began by writing down our fantasies.

She used to subscribe to a ‘swingers’ magazine called Carnal Desire, and she took a few back issues on our first holiday to Antibes. The publication ran a competition each month for ‘readers’ erotic fantasies’ with publication and the princely sum of £50 for those considered worthy.

‘They’re mostly shit,’ she’d said disparagingly, ‘my grandmother could write better. Most people think that to write erotic fiction you only have to write cunt, jism and spurt enough times on each page, chuck in a bit of woman-on-woman and a splash of anal and, hey-presto, you’ve got something that holds the reader. But that’s just bollox; you have to have a hook, Richie,’ She said, hooking the groin of my Speedos with her middle finger.

‘Oh, go on Richie, write up last Saturday night. I’d be a laugh.’

I did, but I’m not going to share this narrative with you, amigo.

Sorry.

I won £50, submitted a few more which swept aside the opposition and then was invited to become a ‘contributing editor’.

Within a year I had a five-book deal with Randy House under a pseudonym — a name which you will certainly be familiar with but, sorry amigo, that goes to the grave with me — and a six-figure advance on my first novel: ‘A Pussy Way to Die’.

I had made it in filth, and nobody even knew my name.

And this should have been enough to make me happy, and doubtless it would have been lesser mortals. But all I’ve ever wanted to do was to publish a novel in my own name; a novel so well received that people would actually know who I am.

Pathetic, isn’t it… but true.

 

THREE

TODAY, 05.49

 

So, by now amigo, maybe you’re wondering two things?

Maybe even three things, but I’ll come to the third one later.

First, what about the dead girl? Who is she?

Come on, Richie, you write an opener like that and then you take us on a sideshow road trip where the view from the window’s some boring backstory about your past? Cheap trick — even for a porn writer.

Ouch… that hurt, but sure, you’ve got a point.

And, by the way, while we’re still engaged with this… did you kill her?

Well, I hate to tell you this, but I don’t know the answer to either question.

And of course you’re probably wondering how do I know she’s dead?

Let’s clear up the last one first. She’s dead all right. You don’t have to have seen eighteen years’ active service, mostly covert shit in Northern Ireland and Iraq, to recognize a dead person when you see one.

Trouble is, right now I seem to have some sort of short-term memory loss.

Try as I might, I cannot remember where I was or what I did last night. So until I can figure that out, I can’t figure out what to do about the girl I woke up next to.

And the only way I can figure this out is through the shit that I can remember. It’s an old trick I picked up in the Corps; useful after you’ve just witnessed your corporal get his legs turned into toothpicks by an IED and you don’t recall shit about what led up to it.

Trouble is… clock’s ticking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOUR

NINE MONTHS AGO

 

So what happened to me and Mandy?

Nearly twelve years together then you split up?

Tell you the truth, she was only one of two women I ever really loved, but maybe I loved her so much because I loved my wife so little.

Your wife?

Okay, my wife? Let’s get that one out of the way first. I met Susie while I was an officer cadet at Sandhurst Military Academy, the toughest forty-four weeks of my life. Occasionally we were granted an exeat, and so one night I’m enjoying a drink with a few mates in the Bird in Hand, when I clock her behind the bar. Slender with shoulder-length black hair, an arse to die for; green, intelligent eyes — she could easily have passed for Italian, had she wanted to. She was one of those women who you could justifiably describe as ‘petite.’

We got chatting.

At Sandhurst, women and alcohol are pretty much off the radar if you want to pass out with a decent commendation, and my goal was the Sword of Honour. Top Dog.

So if you ever got the chance to cop off while out with mates who go through hell with you and for you on a daily basis, you have to be pretty certain that it’s going to be worth it.

It was.

Long story short, I passed out as Second Lieutenant, winning the Queen’s Medal; second Top Dog — of course I was gutted it wasn’t The Sword.            Susie completed her law degree at LSE and we got married the following year. Between ‘85 and 2000 I did four tours of undercover shit in Northern Ireland where I blended in working for the Force Resistance Unit, a unit so secret that even the Home Secretary didn’t know it existed.

Then I had a walk-on part in Desert Storm followed by three tours as part of the so-called ‘Peace-Keeping’ mission in Iraq, whose role it was to perpetrate and shoot the fuck out of insurgents, or anyone who looked as if they may become in insurgent.

After that, I’d had enough.

But for Susie and me, all this time apart meant that our time together was, shall we say, difficult.

By the mid ‘90s she’d become a senior barrister for a firm specializing in medical negligence litigation. No problem with that. But we both knew by then that children were off the agenda, thanks to her career and my absenteeism. No problem with that either.

But when she was recruited by a firm specializing in delegitimizing the Iraq war, and chasing the ambulances that lads from my unit were shipped out in, the foundation stone of our precarious relationship seriously began to wobble.

Still, we tottered pointlessly on for a decade or so, mainly because I wasn’t around that much.

When I left the Corps, a mate got me a job with a clandestine outfit that ‘stabilized’ warzone situations that were far too delicate for legitimate government agencies to dirty their hands with. You’re thinking ‘mercenary’ aren’t you? Well I suppose you’re right.

We were pretty good too, taking down a handful of big players holed up in caves in the Hindu Kush that the CIA hadn’t even heard of. Trouble was, they were so far off the radar that there wasn’t even a price on their heads.

And then I took a bullet in the chest, three in the gut and one through my arse. Would you believe it… it was the first time I’d been shot? Everyone was so sure I was going to die that even Susie flew out to see me. Said we could patch things up when I got home, hell… we could maybe start a family.

But I didn’t die, and we didn’t start a family.

When I got back to Blighty around a year later I somehow managed to get a job lecturing Creative Writing to undergraduates at a Holloway Road University so dreadful it was ranked bottom of the Sunday Times’ Good University Guide. No names, no pack drill, amigo. Doubtless I didn’t improve it, but I’d used my convalescence to knock out two very average works of fiction and that classified me as an author.

Then I got a little too friendly with Amy, my Head of Department.

So friendly, that when I was caught fucking her across her desk by the Vice-Chancellor, I was invited to take a sabbatical. A very long sabbatical, one endorsed with a P45.

But then I had a stroke of luck.

In fact, I had three strokes of luck.

First, I managed to keep the whole sordid business hushed up. Second, Susie put in for a transfer to her firm’s Exeter branch, which was a gimme.         ‘Transfer me,’ she told them, ‘or I walk.’

We were both tired of London — don’t buy that Samuel Johnson bullshit about when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. My life was just about to begin.

And the third stroke of luck?

Well, you see, I kept on seeing Amy, at least for a while. She really was a terrific fuck as well as being a pretty good Guardian columnist. And she persuaded a friend at Falmouth University that I was what they were looking for. The whole thing worked seamlessly, except that I never saw Amy again, after the move.

Don’t ask me how, because although I claim to know many things, I would never to claim to have even a rudimentary understanding of how the female mind works. But I knew that Susie knew, and the bastard that you’ll come to know as Richie Malone wasn’t quite ready to leave her yet.

Yea, but what about you and Mandy? Isn’t that what this chapter was supposed to have been about?

For sure. I’ll get to that in a bit.

But right now I’ve still got to figure out what to do with the girl on my bed.

 

 

 

 

 

FIVE

TODAY, 05.51

 

Ok, so how do you know she’s dead?

            Let me check back… you woke up, according to your narrative… you woke up at 05.45, it’s now 05.51. So, let me see… that’s around six minutes ago. Have you checked her pulse, maybe tried a spot of good old CPR? It’s possible to survive for five to ten minutes — you should know that — before serious and possibly irreversible brain damage, and then death occurs.

Oh, she’s dead all right.

Sorry, with all my trying to work the intricate details the fuck out, I must have neglected to mention that what actually woke me up was the lake of blood that slicked across the bed and onto my face.

Odd isn’t it, but for a soldier who’s had to do more than a little bit of knife work in his time, I’ve never been that good with blood.

It was the smell that hit me as I opened my eyes. Like the smell of raw meat, a sweet metallic pungency that’s always made me want to heave.

I’m covered in it.

So I make the mistake of rolling her over and I see three things.

First, that her throat has been crudely slashed from ear to ear, so death wouldn’t have been quick, and second, lying beneath her head, which for an instant I fear will become detached from her body, is the murder weapon.

My bread knife.

And the third?

Oh yes, the third. Good point. Her face… her face was a face I’ve never seen before. I’d have known if I had. Her eyes were shut, and that suggests to me the likelihood that she’d been drugged before her throat had been hacked open.

She must have been a looker, when she wasn’t dead. Young, somewhere between twenty to twenty-five, perfect bone structure with high feline cheekbones that suggested Russian or Eastern European heritage, a straight nose and full lips that would have sealed the deal for me before they turned blue; straight jet black hair with a bob, a little too shiny to be her natural colour. I don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to confirm this — a glance at her lower abdomen revealed that what little hair she has in this region was blonde.

Oh… you didn’t say that she was naked?

Well she was.

Height?

Difficult to gauge a person’s height when they’re lying down, particularly when they’re crumpled and dead, but she was tall, I’d say a good five foot nine, maybe even taller.

And her body type?

This sounds a bit pervy. I’m not one for giving marks out of ten to dead women, but she certainly would have been a ten. No doubt there; the body of a model… maybe her breasts were a little too full, so make that a lingerie model. Oh yes, had I come across this one while she still had a pulse, I’d have moved heaven and earth to bed her.

So what did you do, call the police?

Be patient, I’m coming to that. Ok, this is too much, I think, so I kick myself into action and paddle though a pool of blood that has now seeped off the bed and is spreading across the floor towards the bathroom.

Do you know how much blood the average human body holds?

Eight pints, give or take… everyone knows that.

Actually, you’re wrong, it’s somewhere close to one point two to one point five gallons.

Ever spilt a pint of beer?

Well imagine spilling ten to twelve pints of beer. And then transpose it into the deep red, slippery plasma that we don’t even think about, coursing through our bodies keeping us alive. And most of this is now either on the bed or on the laminate floor where I’m slipping and sliding towards the shower, leaving a trail of crimson behind me.

I shower, water as hot as I can stand it then dress and begin to mop up he blood. Christ, this is gross and it takes forever.

How the hell were you ever a soldier?

Different ball game when someone’s trying to kill you.

I’m sweating and covered in blood once more so I shower again, bundle my blood-soaked shorts and Tee into a bin liner then look at her one more time — fuck, what a waste, she really was a stunner — and then I cover her with a sheet.

 

****

 

So at this point, amigo, a couple of things occur to me.

First, I’m interfering with a crime scene. I’m not just interfering with it; I’m actually destroying it. Yes, you’re right, what I should have done was to have rung the Feds the moment I woke up. For sure, they’re not going to look any further for the murderer. All the evidence they need to convict me is right in front of them: the girl’s on my bed with her blood all over it — or what I’ve not managed to dispose of — and why would I dispose of it anyway if I’m innocent? She’s been hacked to death by my bread knife and my prints are all over it. Open and shut case.

But what about motive? If you don’t know her, why would you have killed her?

Ah yes… my short-term memory loss. Possible explanations for this: maybe I’ve suffered an aneurysm… maybe even a brain tumour, a head trauma or concussion. The last two are highly unlikely, as I have no pain. I’ll rule out the first two, purely because of my machismo: Richie Malone’s still stupid enough to think he’s indestructible.

How about a seizure, epilepsy, heart bypass surgery or depression?

Nope, this isn’t getting me anywhere. So that leaves the most probable cause: I’ve been a victim of or have witnessed a traumatic event such as a violent crime or accident.

And the second?

Second what?

The second thing that occurred to you after you did your best to dispose of or contaminate the crime scene. Get with it, Richie! Christ man, you really are losing the plot.

 

SIX

NINE MONTHS AGO

 

I want to talk about Mandy.

Why, what possible bearing can that have on your present predicament?

Look, I’ve told you… by recalling intricate details from the past I may be able to trigger some fucking recollection…

Conjectural. I want to hear about the other thing that occurred to you as you were mopping the blood of the woman you claim neither to have known nor to have killed, and for whom you’ll almost certainly do a life sentence in some Spanish dungeon unless you can get your shit together.

Overruled.

I’m going to talk about Mandy, because actually… I want to, this is my fucking narrative. And, since you ask, this strand of memory does have a bearing on my recent whatever-the-fuck you called it.

I sigh, sit down at the dining table and light a cigarette. I’ve not smoked for years. Marlboros, some bird must have left behind; always hated them but that’s how bad thing are right now. I inhale, and then think I’m going to die from a coughing fit.

Fuck.

Okay… Mandy and I and this big dopey red setter of hers called Gordon — who the fuck would call a dog Gordon? — lived in something approaching domestic harmony until last November. Note harmony… not bliss.

I’d spent a bit of time in limbo after Susie hoofed me out, and then after a year or so — on Mandy’s say-so — and just when I was beginning to believe that things may just fizzle out and she might even actually consider going back to Rwoopardo, I packed my bags and headed north. Probably stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but do I regret it?

So… first I rent this twee little three-bedroomed Victorian terrace in a village called South Cave, six miles west of Hull.

Hull, if you don’t know it, is a fucking shithole… in fact — and I know this may well cause upset, but in my book most of the North of England ticks that box.

So, finally her divorce comes through. Rupert, the soft sap, discovers some backbone when the accusations start to fly and makes things as difficult as he can. Although actually, truth be told, I don’t really blame him, as Mandy had totally stitched the bastard up. Rwoopardo’s only faults were to be boring, gullible and — anecdotally — to possess a dick the width of a pencil.

But even some pretty pricey silks couldn’t save him from coughing up half of the one point five mill he declared each year from his architectural firm, half the proceeds from the sale of the Chateau in the Dordogne, ditto the chalet in Zermatt, and half of a pension fund that would have funded NASA for a decade.

And, just for the record, because I like to tell it as it is, Rwoopardo’s firm was based in London, not Hull, which is where he’d had the three affairs and numerous liaisons with prostitutes — correspondence bearing graphic details of which Mandy had entered into a ‘fake’ email account he didn’t even know he had.         Mandy, in addition to being a terrific ride, was what can only be described as a scheming bitch, added to which she was also a dab hand at those techy sort of things.

There were no kids involved, and the only thing that Rupert and I had in common was that neither of us wanted the bloody dog.

So their mansion in Hull got sold and, a year later, when I’d signed the book deal and had a nice little nest egg sitting in my Swiss bank account, I bought a small estate in a better (more rural) side of South Cave — which, to be honest, by now I’d actually begun to think wasn’t quite such a shithole — and Mandy and dopey fucking Gordon moved in, and then the perfect order of my perfect life was turned on its head.

Living together, amigo, simply fucks things up. Trust me on this.

Well, a couple of years later I start spending more and more time abroad. I’d bought the villa in Marbella by then and this had become my writing base.

Yes, of course the climate was more conducive, but there was so much more to inspire me in Andalucía; remember I’m writing filth and a writer needs inspiration, and there was certainly no shortage of it in Marbella and Puerto Banus. Hell, some of the Brazilian girls even carried their own card machines to home visits, so it was also tax deductible. I won’t bore you with the details here, but let me just say that paying for sex isn’t such a bad idea. We all pay for it, one way or another, anyway.

You actually paid for sex? Jeasus… No, please… do bore us with the details.

            Okay, if you insist. And it does have a certain relevance, as to discover how easy, guiltless and downright convenient it is to pay to have sex with beautiful young women only served to fuel my sex addiction.

 

****

 

The first time I had sex with a call girl was certainly right up there as one of the best days of my life.

And how exactly did you find this… what do we call her, a hooker?

Hooker will do. Internet of course.

Marbella boasts more high-end hookers, or escorts as they’re generally referred to, than anywhere else in Europe, in fact probably anywhere else in the world.

So eventually I found this website called Eurogirlesescort.com — not the most original name but it does what it says on the tin.

I was still quite naïve back then and I hadn’t a baldy what some of the services they advertised were: Girlfriend Experience? Did I want that? Fuck no… a girlfriend experience is one where you face constant recrimination, curtailment of what you enjoy doing and endless nagging, so this was precisely what I did not want.

What I wanted was a prostitute experience.

Anyway, I picked out this Brazilian. Twenty-six years old, silicon boobs, bisexual, CIM — which I learned stands for Cum in Mouth, Golden Shower, anal if you want it…

We really don’t need all this detail, thank you.

Well you did ask for it.

Anyway, I remember the day as if it was yesterday. I awoke without a hangover, ran for an hour then went to the gym for a heavy weights session, out-bench pressing this big black fella wearing the Man United shirt.

Irrelevant detail.

Scene setting, amigo.

I’d already decided what was going to happen later — or, in reality, I’d made a decision that would trigger a certain course of events — therefore I wanted to look my best for it.

So I put on my white wife-beater and stroll down to The Meeting Point where I work on the book for a couple of hours. During this time I’m messaged by four women who want to have sex with me — okay… I joined one of those dating sites purely for experiential reasons — but this cuts no ice as I have plans for later.

It’s now six o’clock, I’m home and hosed and she’s not here yet, so I message the agency and ask where the fuck she is?

‘On her way,’ I’m told, then she texts to say she’s stuck in traffic.

I’m actually quite nervous because this in my first real prostitute experience and I’m not really sure how it’ll go… which, is actually the reason why I’m doing it? I did pay for the services of a hooker once before but that was for different reasons which I’m not going to divulge, as it has no relevance to the story. And before you even think it… it was a she, and one with all the right bits in the right places.

But I’m anxious because I don’t really understand the etiquette for this sort of thing and there’s no way to learn it — even with the help of Mr Google.

I think about having a drink but I decide against it for two reasons: a) I’m not sure if it will affect the Viagra, and b) I don’t want her to smell alcohol on my breath, which I know is illogical because she wouldn’t give a fuck.

So, she texts to say she’s lost and I have to go out and walk the streets to find her. I’m sorry, but shouldn’t this be the other way around?

Ten minutes and twenty texts later I clock her walking towards down the hill towards sea and I have an opportunity to appraise my purchase.

And I know it’s her because her tits should have their own postcode.

So far so good… she’s a stunner and as described on the website although, truth be told, I’m a little underwhelmed by the simple white dress. But I’m happy to forgive this because the difference between high-end “escorts” and street prostitutes is that the former don’t need to advertise the fact that they’re available for sex whereas the latter do.

She’s impressed with my villa and we have a glass of wine on the terrace and engage in a little small talk. She says she’s a lawyer but I very much doubt this as, a) she couldn’t find the street I live in, and b) when she leaves she can’t work out how to open the gate.

I tell her that I’m a writer and I’m doing this so that I can get inside the head of my central character, who spends much of his time in the company of call girls. She doesn’t, of course, give a flying fuck as long as I part with the cash, which is my next duty before the action commences.

I’m kind of hoping that she’ll stuff the three hundred Euro into her bra but she counts the wad of cash then puts it carefully into her purse. She then signs my receipt and that gets the business out of the way.

Now, you may well… or then again, you may well not… be wondering two things: is this legal and what does she look like?

Firstly, it is legal. I am actually paying for her time, and should I choose to clean my apartment while she sits and drinks Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champán con crianza on my terrace is no less legal than having sex with her.

Secondly, she is very, very good-looking.

Let me tell you a bit about her.

Lena — obviously not her real name — was built for sex.

She’s Brazilian — I was tempted to go Russian — but I’d decided I’ll build up to this — around five foot six, olive-skinned with long blonde hair, green eyes and an arse you could land a helicopter on. If you’re thinking Gisele Bündchen here, you’d not be far wrong. Maybe a tad shorter and with bigger tits?

It’s actually her skin… I kid you not, that I find most attractive. It has the feel of velvet; her entire body is unblemished and it goes without saying that it benefits from the absence of ink.

‘Do we kiss?’ I ask, and she responds by pushing her tongue gently between my lips.

‘I only kiss men… or women I’m attracted to,’ she goes, and of course I buy this.

Now amigo, I know this will disappoint, but I’m not going to go into the sordid details of our hour together. But let me tell you that it was one of the best hours of my life, and probably the best three hundred bucks I’ve ever spent.

Recent research suggests that eighty-five per cent of men engage the services of a call girl for oral sex and I can now understand why.

For almost forty-five minutes this divine creature keeps me on the cusp of ecstasy. She is a pro in every sense of the word and controls the tempo of the engagement as expertly as Nigel Owens controls a rugby international, and I don’t even get penalised for a crooked put in.

So when it’s over she showers — she even asks me politely if it’s okay to piss in the shower… and no, amigo, I categorically did not want a Golden Shower — kisses me and leaves and I’m left to reflect on my experience.

Do I have any regrets?

NO.

Do I feel any guilt or shame?

A categorical NO is again the answer.

There was no emotional connection; sure it’s likely that I’ll book her again — which I do — because once you open a packet of crisps you don’t just have one, do you?

And that’s actually quite a good analogy because I felt a heck of a lot more guilt after eating half a tube of Pringles before I went to bed that night than I did for having an hour’s sex with a hooker.

So what else was good about that day?

Let me tell you.

Once Lena’s gone I shower, dress, drive into town and meet my good Spanish friends in the Moet.

We have a few drinks and I am on sparkling form and why wouldn’t I be?     I’ve just contained myself for almost an hour in bed with a beautiful young woman and she’s offered me a freebie as a mark of respect for my (Viagra assisted) performance — okay, I’ll accept that this may be a little like a Boots loyalty card, but what the heck? I’m sharing a drink and good humour amongst friends, and no one but me knows what I’ve just been up to.

I feel that I’ve earned a steak, so I treat my good friend Maria and myself to a slap up dinner in my favourite restaurant, The Orange Tree.

The meal costs almost as much as the sex but again its money extremely well spent, and — please excuse the cliché — you can’t take it with you, can you?   We have a laugh and I drive home drunk and happy to eat Pringles and fall asleep on my terrace.

So let me tell you something that may help to explain why that day was so great and the seismic effect it has had on my future thinking.

Relationships, amigo, are a total waste of time.

To pay for sex… terrific sex with one woman, and to hang out with another woman, or maybe even other women — as good friends, is the way to go.

No commitment… no complications… no heartbreak and no recriminations. And there’s neither “happy ever after” nor “not happy ever after” because there is no “ever after”.

And so I’m left wondering why on earth hadn’t I worked this out decades ago? I would have saved me a fortune… if I may paraphrase George Best: the rest of my money I wasted.

 

****

 

So, back to Mandy.

It wasn’t long until I realized that we were pretty much on the same rocky road as Susie and I had been.

And then another thing happened — two years ago, Mandy finished the book she’d been writing ever since I met her, got the red carpet treatment from Christopher Little — the agency who finally let Harry Potter out of his weird fucking cage — and hey presto, her face is suddenly everywhere.

She’s on the back of every bus, every hoarding; she’s on telly, being interviewed by Melvin Fucking Bragg, is invited to appear on Loose Women (ironic that one) and is suddenly bezzy buddies with Janette Winterson, who six months ago, she’d said she couldn’t fucking stand.

The highlight though was having her book big-upped as the most significant work of narrative feminism since Germaine Greer’s On Rage by that ghastly woman who writes a column in the Saturday Times, and still thinks it’s cool to wear cut-off jeans over black tights. Billingsgate market on a hot summer’s day comes to mind for that fashion disaster, and certainly not what someone in their late forties should be seen dead in.

Tell me I don’t detect a hint of jealousy here?

Fuck no — anonymity does it for me, to hell with celebrity.

Anyway, I’m going to digress for a moment and get on my soapbox.

Is this really necessary? Remember, the clock’s ticking.

Yes. Fuck it… yes it is.

I light another Marlboro and manage to take it down without violent protestation, my body welcoming the nicotine this time.

I always think it’s so bloody unfair how women writers always get the nod over men. I know this to be true, because the filth I write is published under a female pseudonym. As I’ve already said, you’ll know it, of course. And who do you think suggested this? The publisher, naturally.

Have you ever read that dreadful book by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train? You know, the one where there are about four different narrators and not only are they all unreliable, but they all have the same voice to the extent that you constantly have to keep referring to the start of each chapter to see who’s point of view you’re reading. And to top it off, even a total dullard could work out who dunnit after thirty pages. How did that ever get into print, let alone become a best seller I ask you?

And then there’s the little wizard himself. If I ever feel a pang of regret that I’ve not had kids it’s instantly extinguished by the surge of relief that I never had to read that shit about broomstick hockey and disappearing railway platforms to them at bedtime. But if I’d written that, it would have stayed where it belonged — on the slush pile.

Ok, doubtless JK Rowling is proud of that shite in the same way that I stand by the porn I’ve written and — God willing — will continue to write, but only a woman could have got that load of utter tosh into print.

And then there’s Fifty Shades. E.L James — go on, have a guess… man or woman?

There you see, my point entirely.

 

****

 

The thing about Mandy was that she was the only woman I’ve ever known who could walk into a room and every man without a white stick would instantly want to fuck her.

Well, apart from her gay hairdresser, of course. Ever old Bob in our local, who couldn’t piss further than his slippers, would have wolfed down a couple of Viagra if he’d had a sniff of a chance. You could describe her as brazen, but I think ‘dirty’ is a better fit.

In all honesty, she wasn’t actually that great looking. Good body, nice carriage and a mischievous rather than beautiful face, which centred on her top lip. A friend once said that she had the perfect cocksucker’s mouth and who was I to argue?

But she oozed sexuality in a way that Ian Paisley oozed Free Presbyterianism. It was utterly magnetic. She was totally incapable of walking into a bar without flirting, without being the centre of attention. At the beginning it sort of bothered me, and then I realized that it was just the way she was and, in any case, jealousy is the most unattractive facet a partner can have. So, of course, I flirted back; flirt and counter flirt. It never led anywhere, until — that is — I copped off with her best mate one night two years ago. Ha! You never knew about that Mandy, did you? To tell the truth, it wasn’t really worth the effort.

And then, last November, she dropped the bomb, and that was it.

Look, this is all very interesting but can we please get back to the other thing that occurred to you as you were destroying the crime scenes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEVEN

TODAY, 05.58

 

Oh yea, that.

Ok.

This is going to sound a bit weird, but let’s face it, the day hasn’t got off to a start that you would call entirely normal, has it?

Well?

Well… it just occurred to me, you know, odd how all this stuff’s come to the forefront of my mind when I should be wracking my brains for some recollection of last night.

So?

So, it’s almost as if someone wants me to recall this shit, wants me to trawl through my past recollecting intricate detail after intricate fucking detail.

What are you suggesting?

I don’t know… look, I know this sounds fantastical but it’s almost as if someone’s somehow implanted these memories, maybe embedded some sort of… I don’t know — chip? So that everything I remember reinforces who I think I am, whereas, in reality, this isn’t me at all. Maybe I’m not even Richie Malone?

And, tell me, what would be the point of that?

Maybe the point of it is that I’ve not got to the critical bit yet. Maybe this memory implant or whatever the fuck is like a train journey where you just jump on a random train… maybe in some weird place like Poland, where you can’t understand a fucking word because everything’s formed entirely with Zs and Xs and the staff who should be there to help you are all washing cars in the North of England; you don’t check where it’s going and then when you realize you’re headed in totally the wrong direction, you have to figure out how to get back.

So when this memory implants plays to the end, what happened last night will be in there, and of course I’ll remember who she is, what we did…

And probably how you killed her?

Probably. Possibly. I don’t know.

I’m beginning to feel defeated as well as anxious-stroke-borderline scared?

Sounds highly improbable to me, like something out of James Bond. Feel your head, man, look at it… can you find any evidence of your “implant?” Or maybe you were hypnotized? Wouldn’t have been the first time you’ve fallen asleep in the Moet, would it?

The Moet? I was there last night? How’d you know that?

Oh, just a wild guess. Or maybe because — like the homing pigeon after crumbs of pussy that you are — you end up there virtually every night.

            You know what I think?

I think I’ve been drugged.