© Danny Gillan
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TEXT THAT SHOULD BE IN ITALICS IS ENCLOSED IN ****. TA
Stalk and Cheese
“Who is that guy?”
Colette smiled. “That’s my ex. He’s fine, don’t worry about it.”
“Do you want me to get rid of him?”
“No honestly, he’s fine.”
“Just give me the word.”
“He’s fine, Joe, leave him alone.” She grabbed two bottles of Cava from the top of the cooler and headed back through to the restaurant, giving Craig a wave as she went. Craig Summers waved back, then returned his attention to the pint of Furstenberg Joe had just poured for him.
It had been a surprise to see Craig, and Colette felt bad that she hadn’t had more time to talk. He looked good, though she did wonder why he was out alone on a Saturday night. She’d told him to hang around till closing time if he wasn’t going on anywhere, and they would have a proper chat.
Joe, the bar manager, looked out for all the girls, and his concern was both sweet and appreciated, but completely unnecessary in this case. Craig was shy, nervous and decent, always had been. He was probably the least dangerous person Colette had ever met. That was what had attracted her to him four years ago and, ultimately, what had caused her to leave him twelve months ago. Craig was nice; that had been the problem, he was just nice.
She delved back in to the quasi-ordered chaos that was a typical weekend night in Gorman’s. Tables were double booked, starters were late, main courses were cold or undercooked, drink orders got messed up, chefs swore at her, themselves and everyone else, the kitchen porters were coked off their tits as usual and they all, staff and customers alike, had a great night. Sixty-five quid in tips didn’t hurt either.
It was close to one in the morning before she made it back through to the bar. “What happened to Craig?”
Joe looked up from the glass-wash machine, which he was dismantling for the night. “He kept asking about you. I ended up telling him you were away home just to shut him up.”
“Joe, for God’s sake.”
“Sorry, but he was bugging me. Seems a bit too interested anyway, you’re better off.”
“Aye, cheers mate.” Colette wasn’t really angry, just disappointed. She had been looking forward to talking to Craig. She didn’t love him, but that didn’t mean she didn’t miss him. Plus, she was curious about how his family were getting on. Craig’s mum and dad had always been good to her, and his sister Geraldine was a scream. Sad to say, but Colette missed them more than she did Craig. Ah well, he’d no doubt turn up again eventually. In the mean time, she had plates to polish.
As ever, there were a couple of parties happening after work. Party was probably the wrong word though, Colette thought. There were a couple of people willing to allow the rest of them back to their flats for a piss-up. Most nights she would have happily gone along, but she’d just done five split-shifts in a row and was knackered.
“Joe, any chance you could call me a taxi?”
Joe was still behind the bar, pouring staff drinks and finishing off his stock-take. “No worries. You going straight home?”
“Yeah, I’m the boring bitch tonight.”
“Hard working bitch, you mean.” Joe smiled as he lifted the phone beside the till.
Ten minutes later the phone rang twice, and was swiftly followed by a BEEP-BEEP from the street. Colette finished her wine and said her goodbyes to the other staff. Joe got up with her and unlocked the front door.
“I don’t think you dream when you’re in a coma, but cheers. See you tomorrow, Joe.”
The private-hire cab was waiting with its engine running, and Colette got into the back seat with a tired sigh. “Kingspark Drive please, number eighteen.”
As the ageing silver Mercedes pulled out and sped off along Bath Street, Colette noticed a figure standing hunched against the cold November night in the alcove outside Mr Chips, the takeaway shop of choice for her and her colleagues, plus the rest of the drinking population of Glasgow at this end of town. It was two doors along from Gorman’s and did a fine chicken pakora. The taxi accelerated too quickly for her to get a good look, but Colette was sure she recognised Craig Summers’ wiry frame.
“What’s your name?”
“Sorry?” Colette was used to taxi drivers being overly familiar, but this was unusual.
“Did you go to Holyrood?”
Colette had managed not to think about school for at least eight years. That was that buggered. “Yes,” she said as impolitely as she felt was polite.
“Colette Morgan, isn’t it?”
Oh bollocks. “Yeah.” She tried to make her lack of enthusiasm for this conversation as obvious as possible in her tone.
“Hah, I thought so! I’m Darren Boyle; we were in the same year. I was in your place there for a drink the other day and thought I recognised you.”
Darren Boyle, Darren Boyle. No, he wasn’t one of them, one of the ones who . . . no, he wasn’t one of them. “Oh, right. How you doing?”
“Well I’m driving a taxi, that says about all you need to know. How about you?”
“Oh, you know. I’m doing okay.” Colette had no recollection of Darren Boyle, good or bad. She didn’t remember the name, and she didn’t recognise the back of his head, or the brown eyes that were paying far too much attention to her in the rear-view mirror and nowhere near enough on the road.
“You look good, Colette, you do. Do you ever see anyone from school?”
Colette shuddered. “No, not so much.” She cringed. “What about you?”
“Oh yeah, I see loads of the guys. School days were the best, don’t you think?”
“Not really, no. This is me here.” They had arrived at Kingspark Drive.
“Number eighteen was it? I’ll take you to the door.”
“No, you’re fine. Just let me out here.”
The car pulled over and came to a halt. Darren turned round and grinned at Colette, placing his hand over the top of the passenger seat. She still didn’t recognise his face, but she more than recognised the look it held. “I remember you from school, Colette. You were a good laugh. If you ever want to go for a beer, give me a call.”
“Nice wedding ring, Darren.” She threw a tenner at him and got out of the car, slamming the door behind her. Jesus, she dealt with enough horny wankers at work, she didn’t need it on the way home.
Colette kept walking as she heard the BEEP-BEEP of the horn and the squeal of the tyres.
It took all of five minutes before she was in bed, clothes and worries left in a trail from her front door to be dealt with in the morning, or, rather, in the early to late afternoon.
She was sinking, sinking into a comfortable pit of marshmallow; her sheets were clean, her mattress was
soft yet firm, her alarm was very definitely switched off and she was on the verge of tipping into a garden of cosy, welcoming delight when the phone rang.
Colette kept her eyes closed, hoping the horrible noise would go away. BIDIBIBREEP-BIDIBIBREEP. It would be Sharon, she knew. At a party somewhere; drank too much, smoked too much, snorted too much; needing a shoulder to puke on.
She stumbled out of bed and into the hall to the phone table, flicking the light-switch as she went.
“Hello.” Colette’s eyes scrunched against the painful white glare from the bare sixty-watt bulb. “Hello, Sharon?”
“Oh for Christ’s sake, go home and sleep it off. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Colette hung up and traipsed back through to the bedroom. Thanks a lot Sharon, she thought. As usual when she was disturbed falling asleep, it was at least thirty minutes before she nodded off again.
Gorman’s didn’t open for lunch on Sundays, and Colette didn’t start till five. She woke at eleven, but lazed in bed until her bladder forced her to get up just after midday.
After a hot shower and a hotter coffee made her feel almost human again, she dialled Sharon’s mobile.
“Hey, Col doll, how you doing?” Sharon sounded remarkably bright.
“I’m fine, no thanks to you. Thanks a lot for waking me up.”
“I think you’ll find you just phoned me. Are you still pished from last night?”
“Aye, ha ha. So you were so out of it you don’t remember calling here at three this morning?”
“Sorry to burst your bubble, love, but I was well snuggled-up by then. That was my first Saturday off for months, I’m not going to waste it phoning you, no offence. Me and Harry had a quiet, yet surprisingly noisy, night in. I might have been awake at three, but I’m afraid you were a pretty lengthy distance from my thoughts if I was.”
“Oh right, sorry,” Colette said, embarrassed. “Must have been a wrong number.”
“You in at five?”
“See you in there, doll.”
“That guy Craig was in at lunchtime looking for you,” Joe said the following Wednesday when Colette arrived to start her shift.
“Really? Shit.” This was the first weekday she hadn’t been on a split for ages. Trust Craig to make another appearance today. “What did he say?”
“Nothing much, just asked if you were in then looked miserable when I said no.”
“Did you tell him I was on tonight?”
“He didn’t ask.” Joe smirked as he turned back to stocking the gantry.
“You’re a right twat sometimes Joe. He’s a nice guy, get off his case.”
“Just looking after my ladies.”
There were a few early tables in the book, and Colette got stuck into setting the restaurant up in time for the evening arrivals. She’d been thinking about Craig a lot since Saturday night. She had finally accepted that it wasn’t just his family she missed, but him, too. Had she been too hasty a year ago? Did his turning up here mean he thought the same? She still had his mobile number in her phone, and texted to invite him in for a coffee before she started her shift at four that coming Friday.
“Any more from your stalker?” Sharon arched her eyebrows and leered from behind the pass, where she was polishing cutlery.
“Huh?” Colette paused from slicing crusty bread and looked over at her friend. Craig hadn’t answered her text yet, and she was a little distracted.
“The mystery phone-demon?”
Colette laughed. “I still reckon that was you.”
“Hey, I admit it when I’ve been a tit.”
Joe came through the swing door from the bar. “I forgot to say, Colette. You’ve got mail.”
Joe gave her a sarcasm-laced look. “You have a letter,” he said extremely slowly. “Do you understand?” He held up a white envelope.
She looked the envelope over before opening it. Her name and Gorman’s address were typed on the front. The red-ink of the postmark crossing the second class stamp showed it had been sent on Monday. Why would anyone send mail to her here? She didn’t think she was that far behind with her council tax, it couldn’t be a wage arrestment could it? No, that would have come to the flat. She opened the envelope and pulled out a typed note. She read it through, then had to sit down quickly.
“Hey doll, you okay?” Sharon crouched beside Colette and put a hand on her shoulder. Colette handed Sharon the letter, who read it then gasped. “No fucking way!”
Colette grabbed the letter back and scanned it again, even though she could remember every word.
You look so unhappy.
It’s obvious that you want me as much as I want you.
We’ll be free to be together soon, I promise.
I don’t make promises lightly, Colette.
Cross my heart and hope you die.
“It’s a lot of crap, Col. You know that, yeah?” Sharon rubbed Colette’s shoulder.
“Did you read the last line?” Colette’s head was whirling as she looked at Sharon.
“Freudian slip?” Sharon smiled hopefully.
“I think that only works when you’re speaking, not typing. Jesus Sharon, what the hell do I do with this?”
“Throw it in the bin and forget it. It’s just some sad weirdo.”
“Yeah, some weirdo who knows where I work.”
“Okay. Maybe …” Sharon fell quiet.
“What?” Colette said.
“Maybe he knows your phone number too.” Sharon’s face crumpled. “Sorry!”
“Cheers, you’re really making me feel better here.”
“I know, I’m rubbish, sorry. Tell you what, Harry’s off tonight. I’ll get him to pick us up after work and you can stay at ours tonight, okay?”
Relief soaked through Colette’s mind. “That would be good.”
By the end of her shift the following night Colette had managed to put the letter to the back of her mind, sort of.
Ewan McGregor had been in for dinner with some other actors she vaguely recognised and left her a thirty-pound tip, which had cheered her up a fair bit, especially when he winked at her and agreed to sign a menu before he left. E-bay here I come, she thought as she wiped down the last couple of tables and re-filled the salt and pepper shakers.
“You having a drink, Colette?” Joe called through from the bar, where everyone else was already settled for their post-work come down.
“Anything that isn’t chardonnay,” she shouted back.
Two hours later it was taxi time, and Colette was as merry as complete physical exhaustion would allow.
BEEP-BEEP. “You’re first on the list, Col,” Joe said, raising his pint in the air. He threw his keys to Sharon. “You get the door, I’m a bit pissed.”
“Lazy bastard,” Sharon said, trundling to the door ahead of Colette and unlocking it. “Night-night, love.”
“Yeah, night— “ Through the half-opened polished-steel door Colette saw that the car outside was a silver Mercedes. “Eh, on second thoughts I reckon I could use another drink. Why don’t you take this one?”
“You sure?” Sharon looked puzzled.
“Yeah go on. Wake Harry up and give him a treat while you’re still capable. I’ll get the next one.”
“You’re a star.” Sharon kissed Colette’s cheek and skipped out to the pavement.
Colette locked the door and returned to the table. The last thing she needed was another leering session from Darren Boyle. Sharon would break his fingers for him if he tried anything on with her, Colette knew.
It was almost half an hour before the second cab arrived, its horn-blast rousing Colette from the sleepy stupor Joe’s rambling had induced. Everyone else had already left, some living within walking distance and a few gamely opting to go clubbing.
“That’ll be you, Col,” Joe said.
As he opened the door for her Colette groaned, spotting the same silver Mercedes at the edge of the pavement. Sharon’s flat was only about three or four miles away, so it wasn’t all that odd that Darren had ended up responding to both calls. Thursday was a busy night.
Colette pushed the door closed quickly, much to Joe’s apparent confusion. “Hey, I’m flattered and that …” he began.
“Oh piss-off, Joe. I know that driver, he’s a prick. Any chance you could phone a different taxi company?”
“Oh, right. Aye sure, no worries. Any preference?” Joe looked a bit flustered.
“Just get me a hackney, it’ll be quicker. The number’s …”
“I know the number, Col. Numbers, I’m good at.”
The Mercedes was still there when her hack arrived ten minutes later, but Colette made a point of looking the other way as she got in and gave the driver her destination. Let Joe deal with Darren if he complained. Joe was a big guy, he could handle it.
The idea that it might be Sharon didn’t even cross Colette’s mind as she stood in her hall and stared at the ringing phone. It was four-thirty, and she had only been asleep for twenty minutes before the shrill tone woke her. She clasped her arms across her chest and shifted her weight from one foot to the other, despite it being unusually warm for November.
‘Cross my heart and hope you die’. The words were once again front-and-centre in her mind. Let it ring, she told herself. Better yet, just unplug the bloody thing from the wall. You don’t have to answer it, it can’t hurt you; it’s only a phone.
Suddenly another phrase burst into her head. This one had been spoken, not written. She heard the arrogance, the total lack of . . . humanity, as clearly as if it was being said to her now. She hadn’t - she had managed to avoid - thinking about it for almost ten years.
**** “C’mon, gie’ us a look, Morgan,” Alan Torrance had said, his two idiot mates behind him as he edged towards her, forcing her closer to the cubicle door. “You’ve fair filled out this year, Morgan.” His gaze dropped pointedly to her chest. “It’s no’ very fair, teasin’ us like that. You owe us a look.” ****
But that was then, that was in the past. In the present, the bloody phone was still ringing.
Ignore it, she told herself again; unplug it. Yeah, then spend the rest of the night crapping yourself, too freaked out to close your eyes. Go on, be a victim. Bugger that.
She lifted the receiver.
“What?” She put as much defiance into her tone as her trembling diaphragm would allow.
“. . . “ Despite his silence, Colette could sense him at the other end of the line.
“Look, if you’re planning on doing the whole ‘heavy breathing’ thing you can piss off, okay? It’s not going to work, you’re not going to—“
The voice was odd, unnatural. Not electronically altered like in films, just weird. The Glaswegian accent was evident, but the speaker was obviously making an effort to alter his tone. The croak, the gruffness, was a blatant affectation; the deep timbre clearly not his normal pitch.
It reminded Colette of the voice she, and everyone else, adopted when they phoned in sick to work for alcohol rather than ‘actual flu’ induced reasons. She smiled. This twat was nothing to be scared of. He was just a moron putting on a stupid voice.
“Yes, hello,” she said, emboldened. “I take it you’re the pathetic arsehole who sent me that letter the other day?”
There was a pause. “That wasn’t just a letter, Colette. It was a … formal introduction. Or perhaps I should say re-introduction.”
“Yeah okay, fine.” She wasn’t sure if it was the wine or the fatigue, but Colette was almost starting to enjoy this. “So what’s the point of all this, exactly? Do you think you love me or something? Or do you think I love you, is that it?”
“I’m not an idiot, Colette.”
“You could have fooled me.”
“I know you don’t love me.”
Colette’s smile faltered. “What?”
“Would you like to know what I do know, Colette?”
She shivered. “No.” She slammed the phone down. There was a difference between not being a victim and being naive.
The thwump of the post hitting the hall carpet at eight-forty in the morning coincided with Colette lighting her last available cigarette of the night.
The prospect of having to leave her bedroom was, for the first time ever, welcome.
She mustered the wherewithal to go out to the hall and pick up the mail lying at the foot of the front door. Bill, another bill, credit card statement (basically a bill, then), a small booklet with a picture of The Virgin Mary on the cover above the words Jesus Loves You, and a white envelope with only her name on the front and no stamp.
She wandered into the kitchen and made a coffee almost in a trance, the white envelope in her hand, unopened.
This was a two spoonfuls of Nescafe and three sugars job, and she took a scalding mouthful as she sat at the small breakfast table.
She told herself that it was lack of sleep and caffeine that made her hands tremble as she tore the letter open, but she didn’t believe herself for a second.
There was a single piece of folded A4 inside the envelope, and a single line of type on it:
I know where you live. And I know you live alone.
Colette crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it across the kitchen. She almost wished she believed in God, so she could call him a very rude name for allowing this kind of crap to happen.
Instead, she called the police.
**** “Gie’s a look then, Morgan,” Alan Torrance said. “We’ll not tell anyone, promise. Just a wee look for the boys.” Paul Schofield stayed to guard the door of the girls’ toilets as Torrance and Bobby McDade moved slowly towards her, backing Colette into the cubicle until the toilet seat forced the back of her knees to bend. “Maybe a wee feel as well, eh?” Torrance said. ****
“Joe? It’s Colette. Listen, I’m not going to make it in tonight.”
“How come?” Joe said. “Did you end up partying last night, after all?”
“No, it’s not that. I just need to wait in for … workmen. My central heating’s buggered again.”
“That’s a shame,” Joe said. “That Craig guy’s in looking for you again. Guess I don’t need to lie to him this time.”
Craig had never answered her text, but he had apparently decided to take her up on her invitation. “Shit! Listen Joe, please tell him I’m sorry and I promise I’ll catch up with him soon.”
“Yeah, no bother.”
“I’m serious, Joe. Promise me you’ll tell him I’m stuck at home and it’s not my fault, okay?”
“Okay, I promise.”
“You’d better, or I’ll kick your thing that rhymes with ‘hunt’ in.”
“You’re such a sweet talker, Col.”
“And that’s why you love me. Just do it. Bye.”
It was only a 200mg jar, but Colette still felt bad about totalling all of the Nescafe as she waited for the police to arrive. She’d dialled 999 at nine (funnily enough) that morning, and they said someone would be round to take a statement as soon as possible. When they still hadn’t arrived by three she’d phoned Joe, accepting she had no chance of making it into Gorman’s by four, if at all.
An extremely bored looking officer finally appeared at five-thirty. “Ms Morgan?”
“Yeah, come in. Busy day?”
“Not particularly. So what seems to be the problem?”
Colette took a deep breath and started at the beginning.
“Uh huh,” the officer said when she had finished. “And you have the notes here?”
“I threw the first one away, sorry,” Colette said. “But the one from this morning’s in the kitchen. Give me a sec.”
She was still trying to smooth the paper out when she returned from the kitchen. “Here you go.” She handed it over. “See what I mean?”
“Is the creasing down to you or did it arrive like this?”
“Eh, no, that was me I’m afraid. Is that a problem?”
“It may have compromised potential forensic evidence, but we’ll get it to the lab and see what we can do. Do you have the envelope?”
“Yes I do,” Colette said definitely. “Eh, give me a minute.” What the hell had she done with the envelope? She rushed back through to the kitchen to search, but found nothing. She remembered that one of the few normal things she’d managed to do that day was take the rubbish out. Surely she wouldn’t have, would she? She distinctly remembered hearing the bin-lorries do there pick-up that afternoon, too. Crap.
“I may have to forward that to you,” she said, returning to the living room. “I seem to have misplaced it.”
The young policeman looked at her dubiously. “You’ll probably want to track that down if you want this case to go forward.”
“Is that code for ‘you don’t believe me’?”
“No, Ms Morgan. It’s code for ‘try not to lose important evidence that might lead to the capture and conviction of your persecutor’.”
“Oh, right. So what happens now?”
“Well, from what you’ve described this person clearly knows your movements. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was someone you know personally. Has anyone reappeared from your past recently, or has anyone you know started to act differently around you?”
“And he is?” The policeman opened his notebook and held his pen in the go position.
Colette recounted her uncomfortable reunion with Darren Boyle. “He said he’d seen me in Gorman’s a few days before; that would have been just before the first phone call.”
“Okay, that’s worth looking into. Anything else?”
Colette hesitated. “No, nothing else I can think of.”
“Are you sure? There’s no one else?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” It couldn’t be, could it? No.
The officer gave her a quizzical look as he stood up. “We’ll look at Boyle and see what we come up with. In the mean time I’d suggest that you keep everything locked, and maybe stay with friends for a few nights.”
“Don’t worry, that’s the plan.” Sharon didn’t know it yet, but Colette had booked her couch for the foreseeable future.
She closed the door behind the constable and sighed.
Let it be Darren, she said to herself. Not—
Her buzzer went. Colette stared at the plastic handset perched on the wall next to the door. The policeman had only just left, maybe he’d left his pencil or something. But she wasn’t that lucky, was she?
Not naïve, but not a victim, she told herself. This was her house, it was her door and her bloody buzzer. Not answering your own door was about as big an admission of fear as you could get. Fuck that.
She lifted the handset. “Hello?”
“Colette? It’s Craig.”
No, she thought. Just … no! She’d moved flat three months after they’d split up, there was no way he should know where she lived. No.
“Colette, are you there?”
“I’m here, Craig,” she said.
“Can I come in?”
Colette bowed her head. “I suppose you’d better,” she said, pushing the entry button. “First flat on the left.”
Something happened inside Colette as she waited for Craig at her open front door, something both calming and terrifying.
**** Colette sat cornered on the toilet as they approached her. “Aw, you want us to take your shirt off for you,” Torrance said. ”That’s okay, Morgan. I know how to work a bra.” ****
“Hiya,” Craig said.
“Hi. Come in.” Colette stood aside to allow him entry.
“Cheers.” Craig held up a Haddows bag. “I brought a bottle, just in case you fancied a drink.”
Colette nodded as she took the bag from him. “I’ll stick it in the fridge.”
Craig looked puzzled. “No need, it’s red.” He looked around the hall. “Where are we?”
“The living room’s through there.” Colette pointed. “I’ll meet you in there.”
Colette waited until she saw Craig go through the living room door, then went into the kitchen and pulled the bottle of wine from the bag. Rioja 2006, it was a pretty decent vino. She stepped on the pedal at the foot of the bin and dropped the bottle in. Nice wine, bad merchant.
She steeled herself, and marched through to the living room. Craig was perched on his haunches in front of her CD rack.
“You haven’t bought much in the last wee while,” he said, with a definite smirk.
“Don’t worry, I have moved on. I just download now, that’s all.”
“Right, lucky you. I’m still on dial-up, takes forever to get what you’re looking for.”
Colette was standing in the doorway, unsure what to do, or where to go, next. Craig stood up and turned to face her.
“Are you coming in, then? What happened to the wine?”
“I’m in early tomorrow, sorry,” Colette said, keeping her tone as measured as she could. “Maybe we should do this another time.” She wasn’t scared, necessarily, but everyone’s life would be easier if Craig took the hint and just left.
“Aw, really? I was hoping we would get the chance to talk.”
“We will, maybe just not tonight, eh?”
Craig sighed with what appeared to be disappointment. “Okay, fair enough,” he said. He walked purposefully towards her, and it was all Colette could do not to visibly cringe. “How about a wee hug, then?” He spread his arms in expectation.
Colette took a couple of steps back into the hall to avoid his arms. “Look Craig, you need to get the hell out of here now, okay? No hugs, just get out before I call the police.”
Craig’s arms quickly dropped to his sides. “What? Why would you do that? What are you talking about?”
“I know it’s you, Craig, okay,” Colette said, backing further into the hall. “With the letters and the stupid bloody phone calls, I know it’s you.”
Craig took another step towards her. “Look, Colette. I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, but if you’re in trouble I want to help. What’s going on?”
“Stay away,” Colette said. “Stay the fuck back.”
**** Alan Torrance kept coming towards her; until he was so close she could smell the chip vinegar on his breath. “Don’t worry, Morgan. We won’t hurt you.” ****
“It’s me, Colette,” Craig said, moving closer to her. “I won’t hurt you.”
“I’m warning you, Craig. Stay back.” Colette’s back met the wall. “Just stay back.”
Craig stopped a foot or so away from her and raised his hands in surrender. He took a step backwards. “Okay, no bother. I’m sorry. I’m not sure what I did, but I’m sorry.”
“You are such an idiot, Craig,” Colette said, finding courage in his retreat. “I actually wanted to see you again, can you believe that? I was honestly thinking that maybe we should think about getting back together.”
“Me too.” Craig’s hands were still in the air.
“But no, you had to turn into Mark Chapman, didn’t you.” Colette was shocked to discover that she was crying. She shook her head quickly from side to side, trying to dislodge whatever she was feeling. She didn’t know if it was anger, disappointment, disgust, or a mixture of all three.
“Wow, wow.” Craig’s hands came down from above and pushed at the air in front of him in a peace gesture. “I now have no clue what you’re talking about, but wow. Calm down.”
**** “Calm down, Morgan. This won’t take long.” ****
“Don’t you tell me to calm down!” Colette suddenly wondered why she hadn’t picked up anything sharp when she’d been in the kitchen full of pointy knives. “Just get out, now.”
Craig’s hands went back above his head. “Okay, not a problem. I’m going. I don’t know why, but I’m going. If I can help you at all let me know, Col. I’m sorry, and really confused, about what’s happened here tonight, but clearly I need to leave, so that’s what I’m going to do. I hope we can talk soon.”
“Get out of my fucking house!”
“I’m going, I’m going.”
Craig kept his hands up, in quite a foolish looking way, and backed slowly towards the front door. Just as he got there and was about to turn and leave, the buzzer went.
“Should I get that?” Craig asked, after a while.
Colette didn’t have an adequate answer to hand, and stayed silent.
“I’m going to take that as a no,” Craig said. “I should still leave, yes?”
“Yes,” Colette said.
“Fair enough.” Craig turned the latch and was about to open the door when it was shoved at violent speed into his face from the outside, knocking him back into Colette’s hall and out of consciousness. He sprawled on the faded carpet and groaned, his eyes closed.
“Hi gorgeous,” Joe said, powering past Craig’s prone body towards her. “Missed me?”
“Oh, fuck off,” Colette said. “You?”
“Couldn’t have that wee bastard moving back in on you now, could I?”
“Seriously, Joe. You?” Colette knew she was in a potentially dangerous situation, but for Christ’s sake, Joe?
He slowed his pace as he approached, and stopped a couple of feet from her. “It was all fine playing games with each other when we were single, Col. But when that wee twat appeared, I had to do something.”
“Joe, what planet do you think we’re living on?” At the back of her mind, Colette knew that the sheer familiarity of Joe was preventing her from taking this as seriously as she should, but still. “I have never, ever, fancied you.”
“You say that,” Joe said, smiling.
“Because I mean that,” Colette replied. She looked over at Craig, lying on the carpet in front of the door. She hoped to Christ he was okay, and was relieved to see his head move to the side and his left arm slide along the carpet a little.
“You know,” Joe said, still smiling. “Deep down, you know.”
“I know you’re a prick.”
Joe’s expression changed. “Why would you say that, Col?”
“Because you’re a prick, I thought that was obvious.” Bravado was all very well, but Colette had to acknowledge that Joe was at least twice as heavy as she was. Why the hell didn’t she lift a pointy knife when she had the chance?
“You’re talking as though you don’t want this, Colette.”
**** “You’re pretending you don’t want this, Morgan,” Torrance said. “But we know different, don’t we? We all know what you did for Jamie Burns.” ****
“Listen, Joe,” Colette said. “You’ve obviously picked something up that I didn’t mean to drop, and I’m sorry about that. But this is never going to happen.”
“Aye right,” Joe said. “That’s your way, do you think I don’t know that?”
“I was there when you went home with Damien Foster, I remember.”
“I went out with him for six months, Joe.”
“Okay, so what about Raymond Baxter, you didn’t go out with him for six months, did you?”
“D’you know what? You’re right, I did just go home with Raymond for one night. So what? What business is it of yours?”
“He’s not the only one.”
“You need to be careful. You could end up with a reputation.”
“What the … Christ … are you talking about? What age am I? What age are you, for God’s sake. You’re telling me I should feel bad because I’ve had a couple of one night stands that didn’t lead to anything? Is that what you’re saying? How big a wanker are you?”
“You never had one with me. Everyone else, but never me.”
Colette couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Everyone else? What the fuck are you talking about? Are you saying I’m a slut, but not a big enough one for you? Is that what you think of me, Joe?”
“The truth’s the truth,” Joe said. “I reckon I deserve a turn.”
**** “We all deserve a turn, Morgan. It’s only fair.” Alan Torrance leaned towards Colette, who was sitting on the toilet, having nowhere else to go. “Close your eyes and think of, I don’t know, think about whatever you like, I don’t really care.” His hand reached towards Colette’s chest. ****
Joe reached a hand towards Colette’s chest.
“One more inch, Joe,” she said. “One more, and you’re in trouble.”
Joe looked back towards Craig, who was still lying unconscious on the carpet. “What? Is your boyfriend going to beat me up?”
**** “One more inch and you’re in trouble,” Colette said.
“What, do you think Jamie Burns is going to rescue you?” ****
“No, not Craig,” Colette said to Joe.
**** “No, not Jamie,” Colette said to Alan Torrance. ****
“So who, then?” Joe asked, amused at Colette’s impertinence.
**** “So who then?” Torrance asked, confused at Colette’s defiance. ****
“Me, you stupid bastards.”
Colette grabbed Joe by what little hair he had and pulled his head down to meet her knee, which was rising rapidly upwards.
**** Colette grabbed Alan Torrance’s shirt collar and pulled his face towards her forehead, which was moving rapidly forward. Her skull met his nose, and the crunchy-squelchy noise she heard would become a lullaby throughout the rest of her days. ****
Colette let Joe’s hair go and, as he stood up and began to wail, kicked him in the balls, with a serious amount of conviction. His wail took on a new, higher, tone.
**** Colette let Torrance go and he staggered backwards, clutching his face. She smiled at Bobby McDade, who quickly ran away. Paul Schofield had disappeared through the door as soon as she’d lifted a hand to Torrance’s collar. Colette stood up and brushed herself down. It was just the two of them now. ****
Joe staggered backwards, and fell through the open living room door. Colette followed.
Joe had one hand on his face and the other on his groin, writhing on the floor as Colette approached. With Craig unconscious, it was just the two of them, now. She had time to go to the kitchen drawer.
Craig woke up before the ambulance arrived. Colette was just finishing up with Joe when she noticed him steadying himself against the open doorway.
“What happened?” Craig said, his legs barely capable of holding him upright.
Colette rushed over and wedged her shoulder under his armpit, reaching an arm around his waist as she took his weight. “Come on and get a seat.” She led him carefully past Joe and onto the sofa. “How do you feel?”
Craig looked blearily around the room. “Not the best,” he said. “What happened to him?” His eyes had settled on the figure of Joe, lying unmoving on the floor.
“He thought he knew me,” Colette said, sitting beside Craig and rubbing his back. “He got that a bit wrong.”
“Okay,” Craig said. His head was swaying and Colette guessed he probably had a concussion. He was clearly confused. “Is he all right?”
“No,” Colette said, her voice like stone. “No, he isn’t.”
“He’s not …?”
“Oh piss-off, Craig. He’s tied up with clothes line and I’ve stuffed a pair of extremely used and unwashed tights in his mouth to keep him quiet. The police are on their way to lift him.”
“Okay, that’s … good?” Craig’s eyes closed slowly, then opened again. “Colette?”
“Why did you throw me out earlier? What did I do?”
“You knew where I lived,” Colette said, suddenly remembering this fact. “How did you know where I lived, Craig?” Surely there couldn’t be two of them?
“I looked you up in the phone book,” Craig said. “Why?”
Colette closed her eyes in relief. “How’s your sister?” she asked.
“Eh, yeah, she’s fine. Asks about you all the time.”
Colette smiled. “Hopefully I’ll be seeing her soon. Incidentally,” she said, stroking the back of his head gently.
“What?” Craig asked.
“I only french-kissed Jamie Burns. And only the once.”
“Okay. Who’s Jamie Burns?”