I was coming back from the kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee and yesterday's croissant, sat on a plate and reheated, when I felt a curl of cold air around my ankles. Instantly wary, I peered round the study door and felt a little silly when no-one was there. I put the cup and plate down on my desk and then jumped out of my skin as someone tapped on my shoulder.
I turned my head, my hand reaching for the letter opener, and saw the ruined, smoky face of MacArthur. I still kept reaching for the letter opener, but I relaxed.
"I scared you," he said, his voice growling hoarsely like a dog with laryngitis.
"Of course you scared me, you were intending to!"
"Yeah well, it's nice to know I succeeded."
"Why were you trying to scare me? That's not a nice thing to do, Mac. And I write your biography."
"Keeps me in practice. Keeps you on your toes. And that's what I've come to talk to you about."
I retreated to the other side of the desk, gripping the letter opener like a talisman, and sat down. The high-back leather chair squeaked slightly and drifted on its castors. I put my feet down on the floor and pushed it back.
"You found another writer?"
"No, but I don't feel you're doing me justice."
"How on earth can I be selling you short, Mac? You're about as low as you can get on this planet and still be on the surface. Vermin point you out to their children and tell them that they'll end up like you if they're naughty!"
He shrugged, which seemed to involve his whole body and caused a lot of unhealthy-sounding clicking from his joints.
"But you never tell anyone about the other side of me. You never tell people about the evenings spent at home, drinking quietly and watching television."
"Your last quiet evening at home resulted in a one-legged tap-dancing girl having to hop home with a nail driven through her only shoe. And you don't watch television because you're too cheap to pay for the electricity. And to top it all off, Mac, you don't even own your own home, you part-share with a rent-boy who you don't pay any rent to!"
He paused, then spat. Brown mucus started to soak into the carpet, and I just knew that the stain would be impossible to shift.
"Maybe that's a bad example."
"I'm kind to animals. You've never mentioned that."
"You don't keep any pets... that's certainly a kindness. I don't think I've ever seen you interact with an animal. Well, a non-human animal at least."
"I donate to charity."
"Mac, last year you donated firearms to Dr. Barnardos and then tried to claim it as a tax deduction. The firearms were stolen from the crooks who'd stolen them in the first place, and had live ammunition. You caused a bloodbath in an orphanage, and you think that this will show the nicer side of your character?"
Mac sighed heavily and I wondered for a moment if it was possible for the wind to get rusty. If so, that's how it would sound.
"Fine, well I'll leave you to your evening then," he said, and there was almost a hint of melancholy in his voice. "Enjoy."
And then he was gone again, and my croissant had somehow disappeared.