He was tall, strong, confident, good looking, with a fine head of healthy hair. Jeremy was everything Jack was not, and he had Jill’s phone. Jack was overwhelmed with a burning desire to kick the creep in the balls right there and then.
“Oh, Jeremy, this is Jack. He’s here to pick up Jill’s phone for her,” said Claire.
The creep didn’t miss a beat, flinch or lose his smile. “I’m sure he is, and I guess this is Jill’s phone, but I don’t think Jack should have it.” He turned to Claire. “They’ve split up, so I don’t think it’d be appropriate to hand over her phone to an angry ex.”
Claire’s eyes narrowed, suspicion returning as she looked at Jack. Not just a bad boyfriend, but a conniving stalker too. “Is this true?”
“Well, technically we’re not, uh…” Jack looked back at Jill, who was motionless in shock before her killer. “We are still friends. I’m just doing her a favour. Honestly. If I could just take the phone and go.”
Jeremy’s smile broadened even more as Jack stepped forward with an outstretched hand. He pulled the phone back to his chest. “I don’t think so.”
“No, neither do I,” said Claire. “I’ll take the phone. You can tell Jill you tried, but I’ll keep it safe for her.”
Jack’s cheeks would’ve been blushing if they weren’t so ruddy with alcohol already. They were right, that was the rub. He was caught redhanded in a moment of duplicity and lacked any nous to talk his way out of it. He could’ve just lied, decried Jeremy’s version of events and fronted it out. Once upon a time he would’ve done.
If Jeremy knew about their split, that meant he’d seen Jill yesterday. But nagging doubt clawed at Jack and froze him. He was on a mission ordered by a dead girl. That was crazy enough, but the alternative was completely loony tunes. Following a figment of his imagination, possibly an outlet for his own guilt.
Jeremy smugly handed the iPhone to Claire. Murderer or not, he was definitely a massive knob, so giving him the higher ground was even more churning.
“Well, I…” said Jack.
“Perhaps you should be leaving now,” said Claire, pocketing the phone, and sideways smiling at her colleague. “We get busy here soon.”
Jack held up his heads. “Okay, nice to meet you. Thanks for the soup.” Great line Machiavelli, you sure know how to play the game.
He slumped against a brick wall outside. If he had the energy he’d hit his head against it.
“What the hell was that?” said Jill. “Well done fighting my corner.”
Jack took a swig from his flask. “I need to clear my head and think about this,” he said.
Jill snorted. “Yeah, that’s the way to do it.” She mumbled under her breath, something about Lassie.
“You’re not real,” said Jack with a sigh. “You’re just in my head, aren’t you?”
Jill stifled a cry. “My God, that’s probably the worst thing you’ve ever said to me.” Jack had told some doozies in the past. “I’m bloody dead, yet you still manage to hurt me.”
“Right back at ya kiddo.”
He didn’t know what to do next. How did you console a ghost spitting tears and venom? Not as though words could make anything better. She was dead.
How could you stop seeing an imaginary lover? How could you stop her hating you, when she was controlled by your own self-loathing?
How could you catch slick Jeremy out, when every move would only incriminate yourself further? Or would you really be accusing an innocent man of your own crimes?
When all else fails, just see what happens next. Jeremy exited the church by a side door. He had his arm around a young girl with dirty hair and a parka, carrying her rucksack chivalrously.
“Deja vu,” said Jill. “That’s Jenny. She’s a regular here. That was me yesterday. He’s doing it again.”
Jack lurched up from the wall. “Then screw it,” he said. “The game is on.”