Actress on a Mattress
The first time I ever set eyes on Rosa she was gyrating on a wank-loop at Slattery’s Meat Market. At the back of the Market were three small ante-chambers known as ‘Lunacy Booths’. £20 bought you as much video nastiness as you could withstand. That day she was wearing nothing except cheap sunglasses and three-day bruises. I thought I could save her.
She told me afterwards that she had always wanted to be an actress. I told her that I had always wanted to be a drunk.
I guess both of us got what we wanted.
It is a Wednesday morning, and the Dirty Lemon is dripping with sweat and choked with smoke.
Meathook Mulligan is standing so close to me that I can see what brand of cigarillo he is smoking. Café Crème. Sounds like the name of a fucking brothel…
Meathook’s safari suit looks immaculate, apart from a few specks of stale blood on the left sleeve. He has a deep knife scar near his temple, and his skin is mottled.
He sips at his cocktail and leers at me, wordlessly. Some people call him a thug. He thinks of himself as a bareknuckle capitalist. Others call him a degenerate, but he sees himself as a hopeless romantic. People say that he learned all of his best chat-up lines in correctional facilities. I’m not surprised, but it takes more than a sick joke and a mouthful of second-hand smoke to get my trousers around my ankles.
He gestures at my beer bottle with the glowing tip of his cigarillo.
His mouth says: “Drink up, darling. We’ve got work to do”, but his eyes say: “I used to fuck men like you in prison”.
Meathook and I were introduced by a local pornographer called Caruso. He has a deep, chocolatey voice and a lazy, crooked smile. When I first met him he was organising gang-bangs for local politicians. He liked to have some hired muscle on site, in case anyone stepped out of line, and turned a blind eye after I snapped a fat man’s arm on my first day on the job. Last year he started producing one-off videos for anyone who could afford the asking price. Freaky shit, by all accounts, and I quickly distanced myself from his operation.
Last week he turned up at the Dirty Lemon one happy hour and he offered me a grand in cash to do a clean-up job for him, no questions asked.
As with most offers I receive these days, I was too drunk to refuse.
Caruso’s studio is actually the canteen block at an abandoned office complex on the outskirts of Paignton Yards. The building itself has been deserted since the employees started getting headaches from the slaughterhouse lagoon out back.
Despite the building being empty for over a year, the canteen still stinks of fried fat and stale piss. On the wall is a pornographic calendar, still turned to Miss January. I recognise her. She’s a local stripper called Cobwebs. Her picture is a full frontal shot, and you can see all of her tattoos – even the ones her mother has never seen.
The room looks like it has been abandoned in a hurry, and the lighting rig is still set up in the centre of the room. The camcorder tripod has been knocked over, and the lens is cracked.
Next to the tripod is a soiled king-size mattress.
The dead girl is lying face down. She has a deep suntan and a tattoo of an eyeball on her lower back. The mattress is splattered in viscera. The girl is wearing nothing except peach-coloured nylon underwear, stained at the crotch. Her left shoulder and a chunk of her neck have been ripped apart by a shotgun blast. I turn over the corpse.
“Friend of yours?”
I remove the half-bottle of vodka from my jacket pocket and take a deep slug. I don’t offer Meathook any, as I suspect he has Hepatitis C.
“More of an acquaintance, Meathook. More of an acquaintance…”
Outside, the waste in the slaughterhouse lagoon looks thicker than ever. It looks thicker than blood.
We finish loading Caruso’s equipment into Meathook’s transit van, when I start to hear voices.
A posse of dead-eyed, half-feral youths melt towards us across the tarmac. I scan the rogue’s gallery of deformed faces. At least one of these young men is a wrongly discharged mental patient. He’s big – wrestler big. He’s clutching a claw hammer and a burlap sack. They are all brandishing rudimentary weapons: pipes, bats and knives.
Things are going to get ugly. Quickly.
A small kid at the front of the group flashes us a skeletal bone-grin. Meathook dips into the pocket of his safari suit and comes out with a shotgun with the barrel sawed off. He levels the weapon at the kid and shoots him through the teeth. I look at him, disbelieving, and Meathook’s eyes seem to gleam with a lunatic sort of glee.
I feel the claw hammer judder against my ribcage as the sack is thrown over my head. I throw a wild punch and feel teeth crunch against my knuckles. I lash out again and make contact with bone this time. I hope it hurts him as much as it hurts me, because it really fucking hurts me.
I rip the sackcloth off my head in time to see Meathook blast the big boy through his left lung.
I retrieve a stray hammer from the tarmac, and turn it over in the palm of my hand. The handle already feels slick with blood.
I pass it from hand to hand, trying to work out who to hit first.
Then all hell breaks loose.