'The first date' a chapter from my new novel 'And?'
Jocelyn De-lounge had not had a great deal of luck when it came to meeting men. The first accidental death she experienced during a blind date was in the Cafe Monte Cristo on the outskirts of Accrington. Barry, a tall man wearing a crisp grey pinstripe suit and a tulip on his lapel had just tweaked the door closed with his beautifully manicured fingers, when he was demolished by a milk float driven by a crack ravaged pensioner with a grudge against Italian waiters. It was difficult for Jocelyn to tell whether she would have got on with Barry given that all that remained of him was a huge crimson wall mural but she did like men in suits.
Choosing a slightly less ostentatious venue for her next foray into the tangled world of relationships Jocelyn had arranged to meet Shultz in The Anchor Inn in Walsall which had been voted the worst pub in the West Midlands for three years in succession. The date had started well - Shultz had survived long enough to introduce himself and offer to buy her a drink but before he could gain the attention of the barman his pacemaker had exploded with such force that it ripped a hole through the top of his head and imbedded itself in the nicotine scarred ceiling.
Justin ticked all the boxes. He had suggested the venue - a Mexican themed wine bar in Darlington town centre, he was wearing a tweed three piece and he had all his own internal organs. It was all going so well before Jocelyn's Smith and Wesson .38 special snub nose pistol had gone off accidentally in her purse and liquidized Justin's groin.
It would be fair to say that the very public deaths of Barry, Shultz and Justin in quick succession, had somewhat decreased the enthusiasm with which Jocelyn’s friends recommended that men should take her out. So it was that she found herself sitting in La Cage Chung a French/Chinese fusion restaurant in Basildon waiting for Alon, who she had arranged to meet through the unpromisingly named 'Desperate Romance' online dating agency.
Jocelyn had decided on the spur of the moment to have her hair cut into a bob especially for the occasion. This was partly to change her appearance so that the tabloids who had unfairly dubbed her the 'Angel of death' would not recognize her but mainly because it was easier to wash the blood out when it was shorter. Her normal stylist, Theresa was not available at short notice and her replacement, Feeownaar was, a passionate advocate of the experimental-revivalist school of hairdressing. Put very simply Jocelyn would only have been spotted by the tabloids if they had been looking for the 1981 version of Phil Oakey from Human League.
Alon was already sitting at a table and stood with military abruptness when Jocelyn arrived. His finely whittled features and recklessly titanic physique suggested that he was the progeny of an aging heroin addicted rock star and an elm tree. He was wearing a purple suede jacket from which the sleeves of a white cotton blouson protruded and his black leather trousers squeaked whenever he moved his buttocks.
‘I haven’t used a dating agency before’ said Alon, sweeping a curtain of curlsome blonde locks behind his ears where they remained despite their better judgment. ‘I have some difficulty meeting women so I thought....’
Jocelyn inhaled all that was Alon - he held the menu gracefully, his mannerisms were almost effete, his voice gentle but commanding. 20 years at the rock face of the Serious Crimes Unit allowed her to appraise the character of any person she met in a few seconds with 100% accuracy. One thing Jocelyn knew with certainty, Alon was the most lucid and balanced man she had ever met.
‘What do you do for a living?’ Asked Jocelyn confidently.
‘ I was a Consultant Cardiothoracic surgeon’ replied Alon.
Jocelyn eased back onto buttocks that were fully inflated with smugness.
‘And Faisal, a vacuum cleaner repair technician’. ‘The problem is that I am a severely delusional paranoid schizophrenic.
Jocelyn could sense one of her buttocks deflating so rapidly that she was dangerously at risk of capsizing onto the floor.
I was performing a transmyocardial Laser Revascularization on a 48 year old Accountant from Doncaster. I had just opened a channel into his left ventricle when I found myself searching for a broken blaster on his brush beater flange. I switched back to myself within a minute but not before Faisal had almost funeralised the patient. I thought I had a system in place - I was Faisal on Mondays, Thursdays and every other weekend, Faisal and I had shared my body that way for almost a decade. Whatever the internal system was that allowed me to control my schizophrenia was failing.
‘I tried upping my medication but that only made the switchovers more frequent. I had one choice - teach Faisal how to be a heart surgeon. But Faisal didn’t want to learn to be a heart surgeon and he didn’t want to share me with Alon. He wanted to move to Northampton with his girlfriend Verity and buy a reasonably priced high street electrical retail outlet.’
‘That is when things got a little complicated. Faisal and I met in the Duke of Wellington in Isleworth and there was a physical altercation. The police were called and they were arrested. Standing on a table in the middle of a pub quiz, calling yourself a fucking wanker and repeatedly punching yourself in the forehead is not enough to be charged with assault but it is enough to get you sectioned. That was three years ago. My wife divorced me and moved overseas taking everything we had whilst I was tied to a hospital bed and heavily sedated. Now I live in a 1974 Austin Allegro that I bought from a woman who I met in the Priory. She told me she didn’t need it any more because mermaids don’t drive cars.’
‘What happened to Faisal?’
‘I’m the same as Bruce Banner except that I turn into a vacuum cleaner technician if I become angry rather than the Incredible Hulk. I would have applied for a job in the Fantastic Four but I don’t think there are currently any vacancies. Now I work part time in a Newsagents in Kilburn.
“That’s it?’ Don’t you have any ambition to go back to surgery?’
“My ambitions? I’m just a little bit too insane for even the NHS to allow me back to practice as a heart surgeon. As I sit here right now, my ambitions are to try to avoid the level of stress that caused me to develop multiple bat shit insane personalities, to live in a larger car and somehow, if I have not already done too much damage, to discourage the woman who just sat down opposite me in this restaurant from to getting up and leaving.’
Alon picked up the menu as if it were a still beating aorta and put it down without reading it. When he looked up, Jocelyn was still there.
“I hunt down villains, brutalize them and put what is left in prison’ said Jocelyn, ‘in case you were wondering.’ I like a glass of wine or six of an evening and an occasional fag. I gamble on the horses, I have no patience whatsoever and I will resort to violence rather than asking questions. I fart in public because I can’t be bothered not to, I work until ridiculous o’clock every night and my colleagues have described me as a relentless attack monkey with no on/off switch. The men I meet are either long term criminals, the victims of long term criminals or policemen who aspire to be long term criminals. All the men I have met on blind dates have died horrifically during the first few minutes and no I’m not going to get up and leave although part of me is watching the clock to see how long you survive for. At least there is medication for what you have - the only treatment for what I have is either two bullets from a sawn off during a shoot out or retirement at the age of 60 if my liver has not exploded by then.’
Alon looked into Jocelyn’s eyes. There was danger and there was pain but beyond that, beyond the fear she was running from and the anger she was running towards there was something else. Perhaps it was hope, perhaps it was just more fear which was wearing hope’s jacket and trousers but it was worth hanging around to find out.
‘I had better order some food while I still can’ said Alon smiling in a way he could not remember doing since he was a child.