Wanted, Companion - part three of three
By lisa h
Three days passed before Mr Saunders knocked again. “I care for a young lady tonight. Please bring her by for seven o’clock.” He turned on his heels, without further word.
“No probs, gov,” Joel replied even though he knew the old man had gone. He might open up a bank account with his next bonus. Start clawing his way into normal life. Maybe get a debt card. He left his flat after lunch, and caught the train into Reading. Just past the back of Waitrose, he spotted the yellow police tape of a cordoned off zone. He wondered if there was more to the death than the papers had reported.
Clouds blanketed the sky, dribbling rain down as he walked to one of the seedy areas of the town. He found a young white girl first, with short spiky black hair, and enormous pupils. She staggered towards him, and flashed her tits. “Want some-a-this?” she asked. Then she doubled over and puked on the pavement.
“Classy,” Joel mumbled, and passed her with a wide berth. Mr Saunders advice came back to him now. After a shave and the purchase of some nicer clothes, he’d have no problem picking up girls. With a change of direction, he headed back into town. He’d not bought anything new in a long time. His clothes were Oxfam and Help the Aged specials – or nicked from bags left in the charity shop doorways overnight. He decided on BHS as his mum had shopped there when he was little. The men’s clothes were upstairs. He felt the cameras spin to follow him as he ascended to the upper floor on the escalator. He tucked his head down, and ignored the plains clothes security guard who came out of an unmarked side door, and hovered a short distance away.
He felt like showing the cameras his cash, and telling the security man to bog off. Maybe next time he came, after a trip to the barbers and wearing reasonable attire, no one would even notice him.
To the side of Joel was a rack of jeans. He stared at the labels for a few minutes, realising he’d no clue of his size anymore. He pulled at the waistband of the stained and ripped pair he currently wore. Then he took three pairs off the rack.
After some experimentation, he discovered he had a slim twenty-six inch waist. He chose the twenty-eights after some thought. He’d be having regular meals now, chances were he’d be gaining weight. Before he left the cubicle in the changing rooms, he pulled out the envelope from his pocket. He’d taken two hundred with him. Counted it twice before leaving his flat. But he licked a finger and recounted one last time. He didn’t want to get to the counter and find he didn’t have enough. The jeans were thirty pounds. He redressed his own scruffy clothes, and returned to the sales floor. After a small amount of consideration, he picked a polo shirt and a jacket that looked like suede, but wasn’t. He tried that on in front of the mirror at the end of the rack. Satisfied it wasn’t too baggy on him, he smiled at the security guard, and made his purchases. Before departing, he visited the disabled loo and changed his clothes to the new ones. Feeling almost like a new man, he shoved his old clothes in the BHS bag, and left the shop.
Even though he knew his hair was messy, and he had four-day stubble that was almost a beard, he noticed immediately the change in attitude towards him. Other pedestrians didn’t avoid him as usual, their eyes normally lit on his hands, and grabbed securely at their wallets and bags as he passed by. Today, he garnered a couple of smiles from some ladies. He glanced skyward, and thanked Mr Saunders silently, and then made his way towards an area with some nice pubs. Maybe he could find a classier companion for the boss in one of those.
He met Louise in the Monk’s Retreat. Tired from work but fascinated by his self-titled role as butler to the wealthy Mr Saunders, she agreed to come back to the Holly House. She’d been a little tipsy when he found her at the bar, and wrapped herself around him in the back of the taxi. They had an hour before she needed introducing to the boss.
“Nice flat,” she said as she stumbled inside, giggling. Louisa opened the door to the bathroom, peaked in, and then opened the bedroom door. “And what a bed!” she shrieked, and tumbled onto the mattress.
“Very comfy,” Joel said, and slid one hand under her shirt. He kissed her hard on the lips, then more softly as he followed the soft curve of her neck.
“Just a minute…” She struggled with the buttons on her blouse, popping them open one by one, her hands clumsy. Each time more of her shirt fell open, he caught sight of more of the milky white skin beneath. She unhooked the front of her bra, and let her small, pert breasts free.
“Mmm,” Joel lowered to her, licking and teasing the nipples with his tongue.
Louisa had her hands on the waistband of his jeans, pulling at his belt. “I’ll help you, shall I?” He unbuckled, opened the top button of his jeans. Then pulled her skirt up and her panties off. “Hold on…” He reached over to the top drawer of his dresser. The day before, he’d bought a box of condoms. If this was to be his line of work, then he’d better make sure he’d protected his assets. The rubber rolled down easily, and he eased into her seconds later.
By the time seven o’clock came round, he’d finished with her. Her tipsiness seemed less pronounced, but the sex had made her jolly and compliant. He took her to the lounge door and knocked.
“Good evening,” Mr Saunders said as he opened the door. He sniffed slightly at the air. For a moment, Joel wondered if his boss could smell the sex. The old man took one of Louise’s hands and kissed the back lightly.
“Hello,” she said. “Nice to meet you.” Her eyes met the old man’s, the gaze holding. She didn’t even glance back as she was led into the room. The door snapped shut behind her, leaving Joel alone in the hall.
For the first time, he felt a pang of jealousy. He liked Louise, thought she’d felt the same for him. But the boss had taken her away, and she’d not so much glanced over her shoulder at him to say goodbye. He waited outside the entrance to his flat, listening, waiting. Maybe the old guy’d be quick, and she’d come back to him.
As he retreated into his own space, he heard a muffled thud from the lounge. He froze, half in the flat, his ears tuned towards the main house. A suppressed scream followed a second thump. Joel crossed the hall in two strides, his hand up, ready to bang on the door. He was not supposed to disturb the boss, no matter what. Not enter his space, not disturb him in any way. Joel backed away. Then a thought came to him. Outside, night had fallen hard, the overcast sky taking any hope of starlight. A yellow glow from Reading bounced of the clouds, and through the dense layer of trees and bushes at the front of the house, the glow of a streetlight attempted to pierce into the garden. Joel picked his way around the perimeter of the house, stopping by the windows to the lounge. He stood back, sheltering behind the trunk of a young oak tree. The old man was sat in one of the large armchairs, dabbing the sides of his mouth with a handkerchief. On a sofa beside him, Louise lay asleep on the cushions.
Huh. He must of tired her out. Joel peered around the room, looking for signs of a struggle. On the sofa, Louise rolled over. Mr Saunders turned to her, got up from his seat, and kneeled awkwardly on the rug beside her. He lent down over her. Joel backed away as a kiss was placed on the side of her neck. In that soft spot that smelled of Sunflowers. The place he’d kissed not an hour before.
Back in his flat, lying on the bed he’d shared with Louise and Maz, Joel wondered what he’d got himself into. He was going to have to exercise some restraint with the companions he fetched back for the boss. He stripped down to his boxers and crawled into bed. Sleep came fast, a dark dreamless state from which he woke with a start.
An envelope had been shoved under his door. On the back, words, written in the spidery text of the old man, read: Thank you for last night’s companion. Louise was indeed a sweet young girl. I have included a small extra on top of your bonus. Buy a razor and cut your hair.
Joel stared at the note, turned over the envelope in search of a signature or anything else. But no. Just the thanks and an order. He counted the money, and found an extra twenty pound bill. He pocketed the cash, and left for Tilehurst train station.
He returned a few hours later with a short back and sides, a new Gillette and a pack of blades, and another bag of clothing, this time from Marks and Spencers. He hadn’t been followed this time, as he chose new underwear and a set of pyjamas. He picked up a cooking book from Waterstones, and resolved to learn to cook in his spare time.
On his week’s anniversary, Mr Saunders pushed his weekly allowance under the door, a note scribbled on the back. He required company for the night.
As Joel passed by the front of Reilly’s Pool Hall, Smithy came out the entrance, and bounded down the concrete steps to the pavement.
“Hey, buddy,” Joel called out.
Smithy nodded, zipped his jacket against the wind, and turned in the opposite direction.
“Oi, Smithy!” Joel reached out, and grabbed at him.
“What the fuck you want?” his friend wrenched from his grasp.
“It’s me, you wally. Joel.”
“No,” Smithy said, and squinted at him. “What the fuck happened to you, mate?” He stepped up to Joel, and gave him a back slapping hug. “Been missing you, had some skunk the other day. Had to smoke it with Jeremy, and he spent the whole time going on about Alex. You know what he’s like. But look at you. Did you win the lottery or what?”
“Got my self this butlering gig up in Tilehurst. Helping out this old geezer. He’s a bit of an eccentric, but he don’t ask much of me.”
“You? A butler?” Smithy let out a roar of laughter. “You’re fucking kidding me!”
“If you can keep the noise down, you can come over one night. I’ve a stellar pad. Got me own flat and all.”
“Always the quiet ones.” Smithy took a box of cigarettes from his pocket. “Want one?”
Joel stared at the box for a second. “Oi, you seen Maz around?” He took a Camel from the pack, and popped it in the corner of his mouth.
“Funny you ask. She’s not been at work all week.” Smithy lit his cigarette, and tossed the lighter over.
“She having problems at work?”
“Naw. She’s a waitress down at Chili’s in the Oracle. Far as I know, she loves it. Gets to flirt with guys all day. I went down there yesterday, with some grass she’d ordered. Found out then. Why, when’d you last see her?”
“Tuesday.” He dragged on the Camel, wondering where she’d been for nearly a week.
“I gotta go, mate. See ya round.” Smithy left him by the steps to the pool hall, smoking and thinking. Smithy let out a cackle as he rounded the corner of the street. “A butler,” he said loudly, and laughed again as he walked out of sight.
Joel wandered around Reading for over an hour, trying to figure out where to pick up a girl. Maybe he should take some of the cards from a phone booth, and call one of the numbers. Maybe search in the Thompson’s for massage parlours and escort services. The boss had mentioned prostitutes, so he must be expecting to pay. Finding himself going in circles, Joel stopped in front of a pub on the corner next to the Oracle. He opened the door, hoping to get lucky one more time. He checked his watch, he’d better hurry up if he was to make the seven o’clock deadline.
The first woman he ordered a drink for said thanks, picked up her drink, and retreated to the opposite end of the pub. But the second, a slightly older lady, with long loose hair, and a smart suit, accepted, and patted the stool next to her.
“I’m Lyn,” she said, and extended a hand.
Joel wasn’t sure whether he should kiss the back or shake with her. An image of his boss came to mind, and he chose to pull her hand to his mouth and touch his lips gently to her flesh.
“A gentleman.” She smiled, and sipped at her drink, her eyes fixed on his.
She was easy to get into a taxi, convincing her she must meet his employer a little harder. She wanted to jump him, and he had a suspicion she thought he was for hire. At Holly House, he left her mesmerised by Mr Saunders, dashed back into his flat, out the front door solely for his use, and out into the shadow of the oak.
In the lounge, Mr Saunders had taken Lyn by the arm as he escorted her through the maze of chairs towards the fireplace Yellow light flickered on the pair and his boss took her into his embrace. The old man withdrew. Joel rubbed at his eyes. Surely not? He moved a little closer, not believing his eyes. Mr Sanders had changed. No longer was his face a map of laughter and frown lines. At least, not that Joel noticed. The eyes of his boss glowed cat-yellow. Lyn’s head lolled on the old man’s shoulder, sleepy and compliant. Mr Saunders opened his mouth, revealing two long, sharp teeth. Then he lent over the woman’s neck, his mouth closed over her flesh.
“Holy shit.” Joel stumbled backwards, and tripped over one of the oak tree’s roots. He ran back around the house, and into his flat, his heart thumping hard. He locked the door, and threw the security chain. Then he checked all the windows, and before he dared attempt sleep, braced one of the kitchen chairs against the door he shared with the main house.
Despite his precautions, Joel rolled about in his bed, replaying bumps and suppressed screams he’d heard from the woman he’d delivered to his boss, the murderer. Early the next morning, the familiar swish of the envelope being pushed under his door came to his ears. He gave up on his attempt at sleep, and fetched the money. On the back, a note: I require another lady for tonight. I am still hungry for companionship. Inside, the bonus in twenty pound notes.
Two weeks ago, he’d been living day to day in a shitty little bedsit. No one would hire him because of his criminal record. He spread the money from the envelope on the table, touching each crisp note in turn.
He boiled the kettle, and fixed a cup of tea. He took his time drinking, staring at the twenties the entire time. By the time he’d drunk his tea down to the grainy last sip, he’d made his decision. His new faux suede jacket hung in the hall cupboard. The interior pocket had been jammed full of cards. He took these out, tidied away the money, and laid out the cards instead. He closed his eyes and held out the index finger on his left hand. Slowly, he lowered the finger until it touched something. He opened his eyes, and read the text on the card.
“Well, Dani. Looks like today is your lucky day.” A smile grew on his face as he took the handset from the cradle, and dialled the number under her name.