I have somewhere to live, though I share. I don’t actually spend my life drifting between bars, attempted homicides and the overflow morgue, for all it might seem like it. I headed there now, figuring that if it was dawn then I had a few hours to get some sleep before I had to leave.
I live in a quiet, residential neighbourhood where the matrons twitch net curtains to see who’s coming and going, tend their roses in the front garden to get a better look at the goings-on, and hang their washing out in the back gardens to gossip quietly across property-lines and over fences. They twitch just as much when they see me, as they worry that I bring the tone of the neighbourhood down, and I can guarantee that most times when I come back there’ll be freshly laundered everything out on the lines by the time I wake up again and leave the house. For all they disapprove, they never stop talking about me. Even now, just after dawn, as I walked down the street, my footsteps syncopating with my heartbeat and my knees cracking like a castanet showroom during the Flamenco season, net curtains twitched gently and spasmodically while shadowy figures who surely can’t have spent the whole night waiting for me to return track my every move with beady, bird-like eyes.
I unlocked the door with my key and went in. The house was quiet. None of it is exactly mine. It all belongs to my room-mate, who’s a high-class rent-boy for clients with exotic, and therefore expensive, tastes. He occasionally does gigolo work as well – I asked him what the difference was once, and he shrugged and told me it all came down to how tight the underwear needed to be – and from time to time he’ll pass himself off as an escort and put a suit on for some fancy function. The deal we have is that I’m not here when he needs the bed, and that I change the sheets after I’ve finished using them. Most people would expect that it would be other way round, but it turns out that I’m less fussy and make more of a mess.
I put the bedleg in the airing cupboard, along with the other twelve that were in there already. I’m not quite sure how we’ve come to acquire so many bedlegs over the course of four years, and some of them appear to have unusual wear-patterns, but we do. So I hid the evidence in plain site and felt slightly smug. Then I staggered up the stairs to the bathroom, where I literally peeled my clothes off into a heap on the bathroom floor, and contemplated the shower.
It’s a great shower, it has power, and overhead rainfall functions, and room for four. There’s a cleaner who’ll clean anything I haven’t obviously touched, and she keeps it spotless. You can spend half a day in there without realising, until you come out and look like a prune in the hot weather. It was also going to hurt if I tried standing under falling water, partly from the standing and partly from the bruising I already had, so I sat in the bath, put the plug in, and ran the water around me.
After two minutes I turned the taps off, drained the black water out, and tried again. It took four goes before I was clean enough for the water to just turn the off-grey of old dish-water, and I lay back in it, letting the heat soak into flesh that felt like it had been mortified, and let my thoughts drift. The bath’s not as comfortable as the slab down at the morgue, but it is warmer. And there’s slightly less chance of me being mistaken for a fresh organ donor.
“Mac?” My room-mate poked his head round the bathroom door. When he saw that I was in the bath he came in and closed the door carefully behind him. That tipped me off that he wasn’t alone, though the fact that he was wearing hotpants with transparent panels was another good clue.
“You’re working late,” I said, sighing with the luxury of the warm water.
“Special occasions,” he said with a wink. “Sorry to do it to you Mac, but I’m going to need the whole house.”
“Special indeed,” I grunted. “Do I want to know how many?”
“Do I want to know what you got up to last night?”
We both smirked. “Fine,” I said, sitting up. “I’ll dry up and be on my way.”
“I’ll get you some clothes.”
“Mine are right there….” I pointed, but what had been my suit and the remnants of a once-good shirt had smouldered into a heap of warm embers.
“I don’t know how you do it,” he said, winking again. “You’ve got talents, Mac, if only you’d make use of them.”