1: The dead girl


She screamed through the flat grabbing clothes, books and oddments, stuffing them into her rucksack randomly, a whirling dervish of fury and determination. Jill was leaving him, and the more she told him, the less Jack understood why.

He was old before his time, lacking drive, ambition and zest, cynicism prematurely soured to bitterness when it should have blossomed into resolve. Apathetic, critical, suffocating. He lacked empathy, stuck in his own bubble, at least autism would’ve been an excuse.

“Nothing but a useless misanthropic mindfuck.” She looked so sexy when she was angry. “You’re not even going to try to stop me are you?”

Jill hoisted her pack over her shoulder and threw the keys at him. Anything she’d forgotten he could shove up his arse. Jack moved to catch them, missed and scrambled down to pick them up off the floor, toppling clumsily. When he was upright she was already down the stairs.

The pooch stared up at him, the usual look of disdain in his big brown eyes. He had bought the speckled mongrel, but Jill got the licks, while Jack received only the nicks and shit in his shoes.

Jack looked down at the little fur ball and sighed. “Et tu Brutus?”

The mutt would’ve shaken his head if he’d cared enough, or knew Shakespeare, instead he bolted out the door, catching his mistress up past The Marlborough and obediently trotting at her heels. Jack sighed as he watched them disappear across the road from the first floor window that almost had a view, before they were lost in the midday crowds around Brighton Pavilion.

She didn’t turn around once. Pity. Before her explosion it looked like it was a going to be a beautiful day. He really needed to sort his head out. He looked back around the living room, magazines and detritus scattered in disarray from the dearly departed tornado. It wasn’t going to happen indoors.

When Jack’s head was this sore a trip to the local juicatorium normally sorted him out. Half an hour relaxing with a Merry Berry Detox listening to laid back dub was what his spin doctor ordered. His heart was pumping when he hit the streets.

Tramping through the North Laines the buzz of the city was a drill in his head. Happy people, happy lives, going places, joie de vivre all around him. It made his head spin, stomach churn, legs ache, eyes bleed. Even by the standards of Jack’s moods this was a bad one. He knew what would dull him down, but that was the last thing he should take.

When Jack walked through the door of Guarana Paradise a gang of trust fund hipsters in the corner were being awesome way too loudly for his liking.

His friend and health barista, Barry had a smile extra wide that morning. “Hey amigo, ready to put the world to rights?”

“Just myself.” It hurt Jack’s mouth to smile.

“Ah, you look like a man in need something of stronger than usual mon frere. I recommend a Green Lizard Wank. Extra chocco.”

Jack nodded, paid and waited for Barry to mix his magic. Behind him, over enthusiastic voices prickled the hair on his ears, as he prayed they wouldn’t turn their attention to him. God wasn’t listening.

“You want to sign this mate?”

Jack shook his head without looking round. He knew how rude he’d get if he did.

“What, you’re not interested in the planet?”

Jack turned. “You want to know what I think of this planet you…”

His feet stumbled on the pavement but he didn’t fall, Barry made sure of that when he propelled Jack straight out the door. “Come back when you’re feeling better amigo, but take those opinions somewhere else for today.”

Jack barely remembered what he’d said, the torrent had just spewed out of him. He looked down and saw he was holding a plastic takeout of green goodness in his hands. Ah well, at least Barry wasn’t going to let him go thirsty. Maybe he needed that as much as he needed this. He raised the cup to his lips, mock salute at the ready.

Halfway to his face the gunk exploded over his T-shirt, brushed out of his grasp by a passing unicyclist. “Oops, so sorry old chap.” The rabid moustache didn’t stop as he laughed his apology.

That was it. Final straw. Donkey’s back. Jack wiped the juice from his eyes and the gleaming portal of the nearest pub glistened in the light. Laser vision guided him to the bar. Guinness and a shot of Maker’s Mark. He had purpose after all, no matter what Jill claimed. So intent on that purpose he didn’t notice the girl and her dog sneak out the bar when they saw him enter, a gentleman chivalrously carrying her rucksack for her.

He looked down at the shot, took a deep breath and raised it to his lips. Pain. Fire. Blood. Screams. He woke on his Chesterfield, ribs stabbing their way to his guts. His hands and clothes were black and covered with blood, the tips of his fingers were peeling, his head was flaking with dried blood. What the hell?

As dawn broke a new day in on the seafront, clubbers presumed the girl was passed out on the bench and left her alone. Just another victim of too good a time, and the city had kissed many that way. As the sun rose, she was just another tramp, body tightly wound around her backpack.

By midday, Mick noticed she hadn’t moved since his shift had started and walked over with a coffee from his stall under the arches to entice her to move along, lest she stink his lunchtime trade away. When he nudged her shoulder, the corpse rolled off the bench, revealing a face so bruised it would take dental records to identify Jill.

As he called the police, the crowd didn’t stop moving past, living their lives to the full now the sun was out. Speakers were pumping out some good tunes on the beach and some were already starting to dance. It was too good a day to waste on just another victim.



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