A FOUL SMELL
The acrid scent of stale cigarette smoke billowed through the open door, as Marlon McFarlane entered the dimly lit office. His face was weathered and worn, yet somehow wise and knowing. His hands were callused and rugged, yet somehow soft and gentle. His eyes were mean and cruel, yet somehow loving and affectionate. His feet were … quite small.
Private detection was a man's game, and McFarlane played it by his own rules. At least he would have done, if he'd been the type of guy to follow rules and regulations. But he wasn't. Mcfarlane was the type of guy that broke all the rules. Even his own rules. Which were the only ones he played by. Even though he didn't.
He was an anarchist, a rebel … with such an air of raw sexuality, that strong women were known to have melted at the mere thought of his underpants. Even hardened feminists would rip off their clothes in the middle of the street and immediately reach an earth-moving climax, if Mcfarlane so much as flicked a cigarette butt in their general direction.
But he wasn't interested in women.
Not that he was interested in men, either, you understand, but the point I'm trying to make is that he was a loner. An outsider. The only mistress he'd ever had was sweet lady liquor.
And boy, did he love her.
McFarlane had been drinking all day. Alcohol numbed the pain, and Marlon had a lot of it. It was at times like this - drunk, depressed, wandering alone through his dark, cobweb infested office - that thoughts of suicide would enter his head. But that would've been the coward's way out. And Marlon McFarlane was most definitely not a coward. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
He slipped off his coat, placed his trilby on the hat rack, opened the grime encrusted office window, and jumped out of it.
The acrid scent of stale cigarette smoke billowed through the open door, as Marlon McFarlane limped back into his dimly lit office, convulsing with spasms of extreme pain. He sat down in the large leather chair - wincing as his buttocks came into contact with the seat - and retrieved a bottle of scotch from his desk drawer.
He'd have to stop jumping out of that window.
It was only a first floor office.
He'd started to swig the whisky, only pausing for the occasional gasp of air, when there was knock at the door.
"Fuck off!'' shouted McFarlane, spitting out a mouthful of hard liquor. "I'm not at home to visitors!"
His polite request was politely ignored. A moment later, the door opened, and she walked in.
McFarlane took the bottle away from his lips, and stared at his guest with nothing less than trouser-bulging awe. She was the type of woman that made you want to force your right hand into an early retirement, or at least buy it a more revealing dress. She had eyes as blue as swimming pools, never once tainted with the urine of children and incontinent senior citizens. She had lips; two of them; one on top of the other. She had an hourglass figure: Flat-bottomed, transparent, and filled with sand.
"Who are you?" said McFarlane. "And what do you want? Can't you see I'm trying to get shit-faced?"
"The name's Shayknvac," said the vision. "Lavinia Shayknvac. And I need your help."
McFarlane took another mouthful of scotch. Shayknvac, he thought. Unusual name. Eastern European, perhaps?
"No, actually. I'm from Birmingham."
McFarlane spat out another spurt of booze. He was sure he hadn't said that out loud.
With the grace of a newly born gazelle, Lavinia walked over towards the desk. She removed her hat, and flung it towards the hat stand, without taking her eyes off him for a second.
McFarlane was impressed.
"Detective," she said, removing her coat and picking up the hat. "I believe we've met before."
'"Maybe," said McFarlane. "Then again, maybe not. I've been a lot of places, sweet-cheeks, met a lot of interesting people. What makes you think you're so special?"
"It must be five years ago now," she continued, lighting up a cigarette. "We met at Joe's Bar."
Joe's Bar. The very mention of the name sent a shiver down his spine.
"I'm sorry," he said, trying to avoid eye contact. "I don't remember."
"No?" she said. "Maybe this'll jog your memory, big-boy."
She threw an envelope across the desk. McFarlane picked it up, his hand shaking like a disturbed jelly. He ripped it open, and gazed with nostalgic horror at the photographs that lay within.
"Remember me now?" said Lavinia.
He did indeed. He remembered everything, with perfect clarity. The night, the place, the needless pain and suffering. But most of all, he remembered the heartache; the misery and loneliness that followed.
If only he could turn back time.
His lips trembled, as he tried to form the shape of the words with his mouth. "Karaoke night?" he croaked, the blood draining from his face.
"Yes," said Lavinia, lighting up a cigar. "Karaoke night."
"But why?" he asked. "Why, after all this time? Just when I was getting my life back together ..."
"It was difficult for all of us!" she cried. "But that's all in the past now. We've got a new problem."
"What?" asked McFarlane, a hint of terror in his voice. "What is it?"
"Do you remember Charlie Wong?" said Lavinia, puffing on a pipe.
"Of course I do," he snapped back. "How could I possibly forget?"
"Well," she muttered, leaving a dramatic pause of precisely the correct length. "He's back!"
"No," muttered Mcfarlane. "God help us all."
"We have to start making preparations," she said, buttoning up her coat. "Meet me at Joe's tomorrow."
"OK," said McFarlane. "OK, I'll be there."
"Sorry to ruin your day,'" she said, spitting out a large lump of chewing tobacco. "Try to be strong."
A few seconds later, with the grace of a golden eagle soaring majestically above the mountain tops, she left the room.
McFarlane was alone. And afraid ...
Joe Pigtrough was not a man to be taken lightly.
McFarlane had had trouble with Pigtrough and his friends before. A man of Sicilian origins, Joe had links with Mafia bosses across the country, and the one thing he hated more than anything, was private detectives.
Except, perhaps, for mimes. He really hated them.
Mimes, and ventriloquist's dummies. They really got on his nerves.
Actually, those carnival horses were quite annoying, as well.
Joe had a reputation as something of a madman. Every Sunday he would give lectures on the dangers of breast-feeding without a bicycle. He also believed that bacon and cheese scones would one day run for government. The final proof of his mental instability came in 1980, when he publicly claimed to be the inventor of Oxygen, also stating that his ambition was to raise a small family of puff-adders in Aldershot.
Anyway, none of this really matters. He's not in this story.
He did, however, own Joe's Bar, the place where Marlon McFarlane now sat, awaiting the arrival of Lavinia Shayknvac.
And he had met her before. In this very location.
On Karaoke Night.
Karaoke night had been organised by Charlie Wong, the manager of a local entertainment agency. The word on the street, was that he'd emigrated to Barbados to do missionary work.
But if he was back …
Karaoke night had transformed McFarlane into a frail, wrinkled, greying, poor, smelly, slightly less attractive, shadow of the man he used to be. He'd stayed there that night, for an hour or more, listening to highly inebriated versions of Staying Alive and How Deep Is Your Love? Until finally, he had cracked.
A part of him had died that night, and he was determined to resurrect it.
And then, she walked in.
With the grace of a proud warthog, wallowing in a mud-bath on a sunny but overcast day, she sat down.
"Detective," she said, scratching at the nicotine patch on her neck. "You made it."
"Enough of the sweet talk," said McFarlane. "What do you want with me?"
"Look over there," she said, fiddling nervously with a pen. "See anyone you recognise?"
McFarlane couldn't believe his eyes. It was Charlie Wong.
"My God, he's got some balls showing his face around here," said McFarlane. "I should march over there right now, and give him a piece of my mind."
"He's busy organising another Karaoke night," said Lavinia, munching on a banana. "I called on you, because somebody needs to stop him."
"But why me?" said McFarlane.
"I'm not entirely sure," she replied. "But somebody has to, and this is only a short story."
McFarlane looked down. Lavinia was right. It was a very short story, and they were getting closer and closer to the bottom of the page.
He'd have to act fast. He rose from his seat, and started to make his way across the room, over towards Charlie Wong.
"Mr Wong?" said McFarlane, tapping him on the shoulder. "I must let you know that I strongly object to your Karaoke night idea, and I urge you not to go ahead with it."
"OK," said Charlie Wong.
So there was no Karaoke night, and everyone lived happily ever after.
Well, relatively happily ever after …
You see, McFarlane and Lavinia eventually got married, and had three children: Jonathan, Christopher, and Bob. But when Jonathan was about sixteen years old, he started hanging around with the wrong crowd. Drugs, booze, bestiality ... you know how teenagers can be ...
And then there was Christopher, with his wandering eye, his gangrenous toe, his obscene buttock crack, and his twenty-seven nipples ...
And Bob? Bob was just a complete douchebag ...