Chapter 1, Supreme Sasha
Sleuth, sorceress, conceptual artist.
She\'s American. Her man\'s English.
Matt\'s starting to feel like America\'s latest warzone.
Deeply in love, but fleeing valid murder charges in two different countries, their mission is to expose a prominent Satanic Nazi. She relishes being part of the fetish Avengers. He\'s looking for a comfy chair and a nice sit down.
Sex, drugs, romance. Adultery, kidnap, murder.
All this and fetish morris dancing.
“Delightful.” The Guardian
“Agreeably distasteful.’ The Sunday Times
“Perverted, witty and absolutely hilarious.” Stuff
“Deliciously dark.” Desire
“Weird but great.” Front
“An excellent novel. Very, very,very funny.” Headpress
“Lashings of humour, generally of a hue blacker than a thigh-high leather boot.” Big issue
“We’ve got to find Miller,” says Sasha. “He’s the key to it all. Matt!”
I am groaning, head in hands. It was bad enough discussing our open marriage. And whether it was wise for her to murder my last lover. It may have been someone else’s ritual sacrifice but that doesn’t make it right. We are still speaking calmly and rationally. But it won’t take much for it to become the sort of discussion young drunks have while buying a midnight kebab. This could easily end with a call to the emergency services. And a long dreamless sleep in a wooden box.
My love’s hair stands up in little blonde and hennaed spikes. Her ever-changing eyes are little vats of simmering moon juice, maybe blue, maybe green. Her lips are red as her face is white - cute and comely in repose. Which they almost never are…
“Miller is the theory of Fascism,” she says. “And the street thugs put it into practice…”
While she stretches out that thread well past its useful life I have time to reflect that it is easy to fall out of love – especially once you get past the springtime and the shadows of responsibility deepen and darken. Huddling together through the long winter is the real test. Luckily Sasha still has cute little habits that bring spring back, even on a bitter Monday in early January. We are still in love, still committed to each other. And may the Goddess have mercy on us.
While we talk - while Sasha talks - she is working out. And my love boxing is cuter than puppies fighting over chocolate buttons on Xmas day. I lean into the punchbag urging her on, watching as a light film of perspiration sticks her red shorts and vest to her clear white skin. Her cropped blonde hair is foregrounding her lovely heart-shaped face. There is no sign of her lovely, dimply smile.
Suddenly, and inexplicably, she is weeping again. It’s hard to say what might have caused it. We have both led stressful lives. This international fugitive business takes it out of you.
We have committed heinous crimes in two different countries and must stay out of the glare of the spotlight. Which is cruel for Sasha, who imagines that fame will smooth life’s sharp edges.
I hold her for a while, feeling the fast flickering beat of her heart. She blows her nose hard enough to jangle some well-frazzled nerves of mine.
“My basil’s wilted,” says Sasha. This would have been a perfect line for Sybil in Fawlty Towers. She would have been referring to the perpetually irritated Basil Fawlty, a man as easily riled as I am. In Sasha’s American we get, “My Baysil is wilted.”
Like everything else round here our pot plants are finding the English winter inhospitable and unforgiving. Especially since our boiler packed up again. Leaving us to freeze.
“Supermarket basil doesn’t last long even if you water it,” I tell her, getting irritated now my homemaking skills are being questioned.
“You could nurture it,” she says. “Talk to it. Rather than talking to yourself all the time”.
That’s debatable. So contentious that I might well stroll up to Hackney Marshes where I can have a good old blather in the open air. I don’t even have to get dressed to go out. I’m already wearing a shimmery lilac houndstooth shirt by Thomas Pink, Jermyn Street’s finest shirtmaker, underneath which I have a bespoke black leather waist cincher – a rad new corset which enables waist training without sackfulls of MDMA, although you might as well get your snout into that trough just to make sure. Thin and loved up. It’s what the Goddes wants us to be. And useful for getting into female head space, forcing me to stand up straight, thus ensuring no creases in my charcoal trousers that seemed to cost far too much at the time. I could also wear my Ozwald Boateng jacket, darkest blue with a very fine red pinstripe…
“Stop preening!” says Sasha. As we know girls never dress up or
wish to be complimented so I can see her point.
“I’ll buy you some more plants,” I say, having no other idea of how
to get her off the subject of Miller.
“You’re staying here,” she says. “We have things to discuss.”
It might not be wise to argue with Sasha while she has boxing gloves on and I am still wound up too tight from recent events. However, for once, I am going to have my say.
“You murdered Kate!” I tell her, using a hoarse whisper that is ideal for quiet but intense argument. As this is a council flat in Tower Hamlets our neighbours may well have similar legal problems but we try to keep our nefarious activities a secret. I do anyway. My little Sasha doesn’t seem to care. She would rather be famous – even if it means doing thirty years – than live the rest of our lives in peace and tranquillity. Or as much as there may be available to people fleeing valid murder charges in two different countries.
“You killed her!” I say.
I’m not that bothered as Kate tried to have us both shipped off to America to face lethal injection. In a funny way this might have been poetic justice – for Sasha once helped her first husband take a deliberate overdose. She says it was euthanasia. The Police may have different views on this tricky ethical issue. They prefer mercy killing to be practiced on old or terminally sick people – if at all. Although Spider Black sounded ill – especially when singing one of his tuneless dirges about the misery of being alive - he was in fact suffering from nothing more than terminal narcissism and chronic drug addiction. Still, he got his wish. He wanted to die and Sasha saw that he did. But that was then. I’m more concerned about her most recent donation to the grim reaper. You may already have had enough of the accumulated weight of our recent slayings – it’s hard even for me to remember it all, particularly after all the even more recent MDMA and ketamine. We share a prominent junkie bard’s drug dealer, just up the road in up and coming Olympic Stratford, now dotted with already obsolete stadia, buildings as doomed as the poetic twit in the trilby, tabloid famous but who’s heard his Albion meanderings recently?
Drug use exacerbates paranoia but maybe we’d have it anyway. They really might be coming to get us. Or at least they should be, by now. What do you pay your taxes for?
“You killed her!” I tell her. “You said so!”
“I did not!” she says, “I just wanted to see your face. I was coming off Zerexotine anyway.”
This Prozac derivative was called something else but I’m not surprised she can’t remember. We’ve both tried various legal cures. And we’re both still sick - perhaps even sicker than we were before we started, now we have had our serotonin levels tweaked and twiddled by multinational pharmacists looking for a fat payday. And all those serotonin sweets in clubs. Even if it did seem nice at the time.
“I’m not depressed,“ she says, sounding far from jovial. This remark isn’t remotely true although she may believe what she is saying at the moment she is saying it. Whatever the veracity of this statement there will never be any space to point out the truth or otherwise. She is generally talking all the time I’m chatting with you guys, incidentally.
“…yeast intolerance can lead to…” Many, many things. And Sasha is about to tell me about all of them. So I edit some bits out. She’s not short of verbiage. And long on sudden aggression blitzes. Perhaps being short is the problem. She’s more of a diminutrix than a dominatrix. Another overcompensating short person who causes global havoc trying to compensate – Napoleon, Hitler, Spike Lee. And Madonna. If only she had been born just a few inches taller.
A flurry of punches hit the bag, sending shock waves through my weary body. She stares defiantly - facing down any remark I might have been intending to make. But for once, she might have a point. Citing her anti-depression medication may actually get you off most things up to and including murder. Side effects include aggression, paranoia, anxiety. I don’t know why they didn’t just name it after me and have done with it.
“You finished the book yet?” she asks.
Astonishingly, Sasha asked me to get an account of our lives down on paper – not a website, or a movie, but smudgy ink on paper. I enjoy doing this – the fiction that our adventures have a beginning, middle and end is comforting, or indeed imagining that anything makes sense. Unfortunately Sasha is under the impression I am taking down her every word for posterity. And apart from there being far too much of this stuff, half of it usually contradicts the other half. Then we contradict each other. She wants an adventure story – as she is fighting her female genes – and I want a love story – as I’m turning girly now my youth is fading.
“I’m just trying to find a linear thread to hang it on,” I say. Although I’m just trying to find out how I used to think straight. Before stress, chemicals and, worst of all, the internet, destroyed my attention span.
It could be because my working conditions aren’t ideal. Sharing a computer with a loved one is not easy, especially when they are girls and like to make things ‘nice’… I get distracted when animated sheep crawl out from behind my documents. When puppies tumble out from to-do lists which have been highlighted in glitter. And then Sasha’s recorded voice reminds me to do things at specific times. Before Goddess Sasha herself manifests in person to check her email. Best not start at all really, the method by which most writers work. .
The flurry of punches slows to a pitter-patter, her edgy dance round
the bag becomes a slow shuffle. She pauses to look out at the
white Art Deco factory opposite, her eyes filling with tears again. I
don’t ask what’s wrong for we are both very fragile right now. I stand
beside her, hugging her to me, whispering encouragement in her
“Good work, champ,” I tell her. She looks up, pleased. It’s all she ever wanted; encouragement, validation, a kind word.
The Art Deco factory has been converted to flats for anyone rich enough to live near the City. The few remaining Cockneys round here are occasionally audible – music-hall singalongs in the nearby pub - but the area is otherwise heavily Asian. No danger yet of my little Sasha adopting the veil. Although it is the one disguise that would keep us safe from whichever Police forces may still wish to interview us.
Our rented flat is now decorated with many pictures of my dear wife and far too many mirrors. They might make a small flat look bigger – and are essential for entertaining our clients - but the last thing I need to see is my face. In repose it’s not too bad but its usual mode is betraying the madness inside me - glowering, louring, grimacing and gurning. I used to think twits like Aleister Crowley were glamorous. Now I resemble him – and have inadvertently surpassed him in chaotic mayhem – I would give anything to be quietly suburban again. But you don’t retire from this life. It’s for keeps.
It is two weeks since we escaped from a fanatical Nazi cult – some of whom were Satanists and, what’s worse, Austrian. Then I found us a nice refuge in London’s East End, looking to lick my wounds for a while, also the sweet and savoury parts of my dear wife. Yet Sasha wishes us to chase after Gavin Miller - an old fruit who wishes to implement Hitler’s final solution, yet another bitter outcast calling for the liquidation of, well, it’s quite an extensive list.
“Everyone knows that Miller lives in the Yorkshire countryside with his collection of choirboy pictures,” I tell her, knowing I am wasting my frozen breath. A millisecond pause tells me that Sasha was not aware of this salient fact, but she’s soon back at me, nipping at my ankles like a demented little Pekinese.
“We’ve got to stop him putting his Nazi garbage on the internet!” she says. Where it will continue to be copied onto other sites till the end of time, whatever we do. But I see her point. Miller might just be a vicious old queen with a taste for vigorous young football hooligans but some words actually can kill. His rhetoric inspired some recent bombings. A young misfit paranoid about his own gay urges bombed a crowded Soho bar, killing and maiming those comfortable in their own skins. Miller has done time for various acts of serious violence over thirty years of Nazi activism, maybe even murder. He keeps hinting he’s done it, him and his dead hard Satanic mates. But anyone can talk a good fight on the internet. While I wouldn’t particularly miss Miller I don’t want to help my little attack dog kill him. I think she’s getting a taste for homicide.
She wipes some tears away and blinks at me for a while. Turquoise orJade... Emerald or Sapphire... Which will win?
And Sasha herself has no clue as to who or what is swimming around inside her. With the light from our anti-depression lamp bathing her face she appears to have sea green eyes, almost the match of the withering herb she is staring at.
“We need heat!” I tell her, “I can get us an electric heater.”
Even she can’t argue with that. Although she soon starts up again about the possible design and colour I should select.
“Make sure it’s red…”
Large parts of the world are now sick of being told what to do by Americans and, living with Sasha, it’s not hard to see their point. She’s almost enough to drive me back to 12 step again.
“…and not white. Definitely not white…”
My A.A. is Americans Anonymous. Sasha, look on my works, is small, thin, lovely and far too clever. So much so that I sometimes have cause to contemplate Hitler’s views on the appropriate partner for a man who fancies himself a bit. “A highly intelligent man should take a stupid woman for a wife, pre-feminism). “Imagine if, on top of everything else, I had a woman who interfered with my work.” It is a shame that Sasha was not around in the thirties to tell him that brown is not an appropriate colour for clothes. Yes, we all know how good certain black uniforms looked. But the German army thought brown was the new black. No wonder they lost.
“…as small as possible. Minimalist…”
Her father was just about old enough to be drafted at the end of the war – an experience that did him no good at all. Watching your friends being blown to pieces is no way to spend your adolescence. Neither is finding villages full of strung-up corpses. He didn’t need the internet to commune with the forces of darkness. Neither did he have to call himself a ‘Satanist’ to be daring. Unlike his daughter.
“…black is just so over…”
Papa then worked as a spy for the Americans in Vienna of the fifties and there we lose track of his shadowy activities until he blew his brains out in front of the two of us. Fathers-in-law are a drag at the best of times but I sort of preferred the type that restricted themselves to verbal abuse. Our relationship was cursed with Papa’s dying breath – and a splatter of grey tissue on a farmhouse wall.
Well, close but no cigar, Daddy. We are still here, still in love, and still driving each other raving mad on a daily basis. We are also still married – ten times over if you include two Pagan ceremonies and a drive-in quickie in Las Vegas. We have been married many times. It’s a hobby of Sasha’s. We have done most religious and pagan ceremonies by now. But not one I think may be the most appropriate. Instead of a priest or registry officer we should have a referee. Each party should bring a second and the happy couple should take ten paces, turn and fire at each other with a paint ball, or some other harmless but indelible proof of marksmanship. Whoever is judged to have fired the fatal shot shall then be allowed The Last Word on any subject.
Well, I can dream. But I have a feeling that, after I had won this part of the contest, the rules would continue to change in favour of My Little Sasha. Our marriage is like roulette. It’s biassed in favour of the house. You can’t win so you’d better work out how to enjoy losing.
“…and don’t come back with…”
Something boils up in my stomach and chokes me with bitter steaming rage.
“Right! That’s it!” I tell her. I stumble upright and stagger out, blundering through the door after hitting one of its sides on my first attempt. Inside her voice continues, as it always has done, as it always will. I clatter down the stone stairwell and scurry through the courtyard. The streets are deserted as is the slate grey sky. I remember our last pagan marriage ceremony. Was it entirely wise to extend our commitment beyond this life time? We are now wedded in each and every one of our possible future incarnations.
Rage on towards the hotter side of the sun.
The sound of a broken nose heard internally. Especially when triggered by a whisky bottle thrown by one’s wife. The Ketamine Book of Neologisms.
January. Proof positive that the festive season is behind us. Not much consolation though as the cruel wind howls down the Hackney Road. I’m almost tempted to visit Ruby, our gorgeous new landlord. Not to commit adultery, just to get warm somewhere peaceful. A poster on a crumbling wall announces an evening of Dark Edge Euphoria – nu dance niche which will stay on trend for, maybe two weeks? Before it becomes ‘Classic’’? I like that stuff as a background in the chill out/ meat market/ drug refuel room at fetish clubs – rather than being herded into a concrete barn with over-excited civilians. But there’s no telling young people that. They know best.
My mobile rings. It’s Sasha. Well, we have been apart for at least two minutes.
“Williamson has booked another appointment! More foxy boxing!”
This will entail clambering into a makeshift boxing ring and standing there while Sasha lays a few punches on him. He needs his head examining. At least he will by the time he has done a few rounds with Slasher Sasha.
“That’s quick work, kid,” I tell her. She smiles. She loves her Bad Dad.
I’ve had my eye on an East German greatcoat and a warm air blaster in one of the many local Charity Shops. Once inside this tough yet elegant double-breasted coat I am ready for whatever Sasha will throw at me on my return. But she doesn’t mind me getting a white fan heater. It wasn’t an argument about domestic appliances anyway.
“Good coat,” says Sasha, perking up instantly, as the thick flaring lapels have given me a surrogate barrel chest. The top half flatters your shoulders while the lower half flares gracefully down to the mid shin bone. When I put it on Sasha stands on tip toe to brush some imaginary fluff off my shoulders. Something inside her has melted just at the sight of a man in uniform. It’s worth remembering that this is the easiest way for men to look good, certainly a better bet than showing up at an orgy looking like a rubber mutant. It is a tribute to the power of the overcoat that it prevented Sasha from looking at the stuff I bought for her. For about twenty seconds. One fond peck on my cheek and she scampers off to where some plastic bags are full of girl clothes. She once would have chided me for not taking a cloth carrier bag with me but I think even she’s given up saving the planet now. And nothing is as important as dressing up and showing off. For a while she is genuinely happy – parading up and down in front of the mirror in several pairs of new shoes.
Then she notices a musty old hardback book with a stained, faded cover. ‘Slightly foxed’ they say in the antiquarian book trade. ‘Completely fucked’ would be a more accurate description of this edition of The Oxford Book of English verse 1250 –1900. There are also pressed flowers inside and newspaper clippings which have turned brown. Many of these clippings relate to one family’s history, which I found poignant, not having one of my own to play with any more.
“What did you get this for?” asks Sasha, pointing at the dusty tome, as horrified as if I had bought a guide to shedmaking or radio-controlled model aeroplanes. It was partly for the poetry but if I tell her that I bought an old book mostly because there’s a dedication to Betty from her Dad, (Xmas 1925) she would be ringing for someone to take me away. But I found the dedication moving, also the idea that something might survive after we have die (probably next Sunday, if Sasha has her way…). Piecing together the family history from the brown newspaper clippings inside the book also got to me. Until I decided that weeping more than two tears in a charity shop would be unseemly.
Maybe the mini-weep was because we would all like to keep a family together somehow. Despite what we all know about the likelihood of that happening. And there are less stressful pastimes. Such as Sasha’s hobby: getting away with murder.
“I’ve been digging out old stuff too,” she says. “I want to do a retrospective.”
You would never know we have enemies. Legal and illegal. Some of whom might be looking for us. Now that Sasha’s type of art is quite popular – twenty years after she started doing it – there might even be some interest in her used tampon collages and the rest of the rubbish. Particularly as she could easily shout or shag her way to the top of the Hoxton heap. I’d sooner go on the game myself than have to meet any of that lot. It is never quite the right moment to tell Sasha of my deep and enduring hatred of cack-handed contemporary art. And we have been together far too long for rational debate in any case. We start at boiling point now.
“An exhibition? You’re out of your fucking mind!” I tell her, the, later,
“You’re insane! You can’t…” and futhermore
“”I’ll show you…” finally,
“Look, you little…” The debate degenerates here almost to the level of our elected representatives. After some shouting and swearing and Sasha’s usual recourse to tears (well, she is a girl) there is a pause in which I wonder why I don’t kill myself. I have no children – except Sasha. What I am hanging about down here for?
A deep eternal silence seems to descend as I contemplate the answer to that question. I sit head in hands for a while, while Sasha keeps up a barrage of self-pitying and manipulative weeping. Such tactics used to rip my insides up till I noticed she tended to win arguments by bursting into tears at strategic moments - the default position of the ‘superior’ sex.
“Sasha, Sasha, Sasha,” I say, exhaling deeply afterwards. She smiles, perhaps recognising that I am praying, slowly intoning the name of the Divine One. If you kept on doing that - slowly intoning the name of God while giving your brain a good oxygen wash - you are likely to feel closer to the great mystery. Almost as good as actually hanging yourself, another way to soar through the extra-terrestial world. But I’m not quite ready for all that serenity. All that death time. Not just yet. I still like pointless bickering and the occasional laugh. I still want to see the moon through another few cycles. And I still like telling Sasha stories that make her happy. Little legends that keep us afloat just that little while longer. I take a deep breath. And swim out to sea.
“You are, quite literally, divine,” I tell her. She’s stops sniffling and wipes her nose. Someone has finally got where she’s coming from. “But you dwell in the darkness. Your mystery can never be revealed. It should never be revealed. Your art was its own statement. You should not worry about applause”.
Her face morphs back into wildcat mode.
“You’re just a coward!” she says. “I want to exhibit my work! Do you
really think the FBI follow the artworld? Nothing will happen. We’re
free. Home dry.”
“If you step into the light you will become human,” I tell her. “All too human perhaps. You will be one of us. The seekers, the worshippers, the congregation. Isn’t it better to be worshipped?”
There is no answer. Perhaps she really is divine now. For you never get so much as a peep out of you know who these days. Correct me If I’m wrong - I like a bit of that - but it’s not often you get a message from our creator. Surely he could manage an apology?
After a cock up of these proportions. Whereas his jealous child – My Lord Lucifer, The Petulant Prince – he seems to have no trouble getting his message across.
“Look, babe,” I tell her. “You’ve probably obsessed some real cop somewhere. They would have left Howard Marks alone if he hadn’t have written a book helpfully explaining that he was a mastermind and the Police are idiots. They don’t seem to like that very much. Same thing with the Kray Brothers. ‘Look at us we’re master criminals.’ ‘So you are,’ say the powers that be. ‘Here’s thirty years’.”
She lets me prattle but I can tell she is not convinced. After several decades of wrapping men around her little finger, and grinding them underneath her six inch heels, she just knows she can get away with whatever lunacy she is planning next.
But I am not going to jail to satisfy her insatiable, and childish, desire for approval. I can’t kill her - well I can’t, can I? It wouldn’t be right.
It might be convenient.
But it wouldn’t be right. And it’s nearly time for tea. Brewing up should keep me from justifiable homicide – until we run out of Twinings Assam anyway.
“What happened to the television project?” I say, as you would throw a kitten a ball of string to keep it busy.
“It’s called Queen Bee,“ says Sasha. “We get three hunky guys who have to compete for my affection.”
“Sounds like last Wednesday night,” I tell her, still slightly miffed at having to share her with two other thrusting young blades.
“You’re not hunky,” she said. She sees something flicker across my face. “You’re deep, dark, dangerous. And you are everything to me. Hunky means a male bimbo.”
I nod, somewhat mollified by this complete and utter lie. Which at least proves she can still be bothered to make stories up for me – not always a given after eight years together.
“And anyway, these guys should need to lose a little weight. It’s a diet show you see.“
My head is starting to fog up but I keep nodding at her. At least this is still just a theory. And not yet the suicide mission she has set her heart on.
“The guys compete to make me happy,” she says, giving me the little imp beam. “I feed them just what they need to survive. We weigh them before and afterwards and whoever loses the most weight is the winner“. She holds her hands out on either side of her waist. She has a winning smile.
“That’s great!” I tell her. Because it actually is. And also because she needs more applause and reassurance than a thirty nine year old actress.
“We should pitch that,” she says.
Yes. If I ever get out of this chair. Queen Bitch might sell to women eager to see men humiliate themselves. There’s a massive crowd of bitter wives and angry singletons, all needing revenge for failed relationships, all bruised and battered by this endless gender blitzkrieg. Actually, that’s all me and I’m a bloke.
“We could use your music,” she says brightly, although she is aware it contains knobbly bits that might jolt the listener awake. ‘Listener’ is probably not right in this context. And my stuff doesn’t fit well with pictures so it’s useless. So they say, although it still sells all over the world in many formats. And the chances of getting the correct royalties for its use are about as good as they ever were – slim, no chance and, ‘I’m sorry. He’s in a meeting’.
“Queen Bee,” I say, nodding and smiling. “It’s got something.”
“Do you think so?” she says, suddenly prepared to accept my advice. After a grim few days of endless bitching.
“It can’t fail. Except that we need to actually do it. Not just talk about it“.
“Well you can talk…” she starts, before the bossy madam who is the voice of AOL tells Sasha she has mail.
“The Black Order have sent that money!” says Sasha, whooping in delight. Her fingers blur over the keys as she writes another email. The beauty of the internet is that she is able to tell many other people what to do at any time of the day or night, at any location anywhere in the known universe. And there is such a lot to do, as she is now head of the Black Order, although pretending she isn’t – perhaps for the purpose of keeping our marriage going.
I was hoping that the bad boys we played with over Xmas might have reconsidered their decision to let her run things. Nazis don’t really like women in charge of anything, except kitchens and families. Although some of them prefer female authority during certain intimate therapeutic procedures that once made Sasha and I a good living. And now we are setting up shop once more. We need the money, and our clients most certainly need the therapy. I think a full appointment book will be good for her. And it will certainly stop her mounting any more expeditions into the dark heart of the English countryside – where Miller and his creepy mates reside.
“Williamson is coming soon,” she says, thrilled at meeting one of her old slaves again, one she inherited from Ruby. As it happens. She really does care about her clients and the therapy they receive – far more so than some Freudian charlatan who cares about nothing other than his fee and how itchy his beard is. Incidentally, I always thought that the facial hair adapted by many of these frauds is a cover up. Even they are ashamed of what they do for a living. ‘How do you feel about that?’, they sometimes say. Overcharged, mate. That’s how I feel about it.
At least Sasha gives value for money. If you can afford her she offers psycho-drama, role-play, extremes of mental and physical torment, supervised volcanic releases and hot sweet tea afterwards. You can have cuddles and comfort too - if you’re that way inclined. We don’t turn people away. We don’t judge. There’s just one thing puzzling me about her new advert, which offers a comprehensive range of services.
“What’s Roman Showers?” I ask, always eager to learn.
“Are you quite sure about that?”
I’m not worried about the clientele, who should be proud to receive such an offering, but the therapist herself should not be returning to the binge and puke tactics that nearly killed her as a teenager.
“You worry too much,” she says. Which even I couldn’t dispute.
“Have you rung a repairman?” she asks.
“Yeah,” I say, gloomily. We might have got away with murder, now and again. It doesn’t mean we can get a boiler fixed in January.
“How did Ruby get her boiler fixed?” I ask, mentioning our landlord, a lovely big Welsh lass. Although also a working Dominatrix she likes pretending to be a simpering girlie in civilian life, a strategy Sasha finds contemptible.
“Oh Ruby. The mad Catwoman,” says Sasha, rather cattily herself, “She just seduces them. ‘You’ve got to wear a low cut dress to get anything done these days,” she says, putting on a breathless girly voice that adequately invokes Ruby. And therefore cracks my frozen face. This smile is inappropriate. But Ruby's blonde hair could thatch a cottage. Her shy Princess smile could melt what’s left of the Antarctic. Then there’s her breathy childish voice. Which doesn’t quite chime with her cavernous cleavage. Or her outlandish red velvet corset. Once she has bunched up her formidable breasts into a humoungous wedge of creamy white flesh all she ever sees is the top of men’s heads. They know they are not supposed to be behaving like that but they just can’t stop themselves. I stop daydreaming about Ruby and awake to see Sasha's cold, suspicious, critical face.
“They used to train women to speak like that,” she says. “So men would find them helpful and accommodating!” Evil, isn’t it? When they really should be spitting venom at men, the hated army of occupation.
Ruby is not a serious rival to Sasha, no-one human could be. But she’s all smiley and nice. And most people you’ve lived with for this long aren’t. Not any more. Ruby brings out the noble knight in me. He who would serve women, regardless of whether there might a fuck might be in question. Although it may help that Ruby is an adept at all known forms of Dressing Up and Mucking About – my new term for s/m. I am tired of our hobby being named after a French maniac and a shy Polish doormat. (The sick De Sade and the sickly sweet Sacher-Masoch.)
“I want to do my stuff when you’ve finished with the computer,” I say, somewhat optimistically, perhaps. Sasha’s fingers flick fleetly over the keys. Clickety-clack. Zippety-zap.
“Use the laptop,” she says, condemning me to a horrid old box,
stuffed with junk and about to crash for the very last time.
But I fire it up anyway and set to work on my website. Like any kept partner I need a gig. To prove I’m not just a pretty face and a dedicated homemaker. Besides, as this is to promote a dance track Sasha is singing on, it might keep her away from going after Miller.
"You could do past life therapy again," says Sasha, unintentionally eliciting a wince, as I remember when New Age nonsense filled the gaping hole left by giving up alcohol. Beware getting off drugs or drink – some catch Scientology in the process. I escaped with a passionate attachment to astrology – which is at least a sort of karaoke poetry we can all do. Staring up at the silvery moon, catching a little of its lustre.
"I’ll stick with music, dear,” I tell her. “I'm not listening to a bunch of blokes all telling me they were Nazi generals in their last lives again. I blame the History Channel. "
'”The Hitler channel', remarks Sasha, honouring the old gag. But why not actually call it that? As this cable channel never seems to run anything else.
We clear a space in the living room and hang up some sporting looking regalia – towels, a bucket to spit teeth into, and some ropes on stanchions which can look like a boxing ring. If you are willing enough to suspend disbelief.
“Shall we get Ruby to referee?” I ask.
“No!” says Sasha, with unnecessary force.
“I only asked…”
“If you want Ruby. Go and get her. Her and her big fat bum. Otherwise shut the fuck up.”
That seems to cover that. I used to referee foxy boxing myself - but I found the white shirt and bow tie fitted me all too well. It is the role I'm usually playing - standing in between Sasha and the rest of world. Trying to call her off before she kills someone.
At two p.m. precisely Mr Williamson arrives. His woeful demeanour proving that the meek do not inherit the earth. They just get a bit grumpy as their bodies start to wear out.
Once he is stripped down to a pair of comical knee length football shorts - retro kit that is probably worth a fortune to some demented collector - I leave them to it. It's tempting to shout 'Oi, tin ribs!' at Williamson but it's Sasha's job to demolish him.
He looks at me with a mixture of contempt and fear – old people like him see guys like me as ‘pimps’. And not as therapists’ personal therapists, as we actually are. Mr Williamson might look inoffensive, if you are not offended by brown shoes and an off-white gentlemen’s raincoat, but there is a sleeping beast inside such men. My job is to shoot the poison darts should it ever awake. I retire to the bedroom where I can edit Sasha’s dance track ‘The Dark Goddess’, in other words, my dance track to which Sasha has contributed a few words. The laptop is groaning under the weight of the unreasonable demands Sasha and I make on it. Our digital maid is burdened with music and art programmes and about one trillion of Sasha’s e-mails. I keep the volume down, partly because a decade of clubbing has fucked my ears my nerves and partly because I need to hear a call of distress should there be one. I'm still nudging samples of Sasha’s voice around the track when I hear the call.
My real name. Not to be used in front of clients. As we are fugitives.
As I keep telling her.
Louder and more urgent. It sounds like something bad has happened. Or is happening. I reach for my medicine kit; amyl nitrate and a lead-weighted cosh. Something to waken the dead; and something to deaden those who are a little bit too awake. I knew something bad might happen with a high risk contact sport like foxy boxing. Extreme submissives are also extremely volatile. The worm sometimes turns. It might be time to stamp on one. All this during my down time. I don't have to fake the rage as I kick the living room door open.
Mr Williamson is face down, flat out.
"I told you this would happen!" I tell her. Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t
help. Neither does the amyl or slapping him around the face.
"You might have killed him!" I tell her. I can't feel a pulse. He seems very cold. But then these old gits often are a bit chilly. Rehearsing for the coming big freeze.
“Don’t you ever get tired of killing people?” I say.
"You can talk," she says. “You’ve done it with one punch.”
This is a reference to a drunken brawl I once had, a bit of a mismatch really. I will never know what happened but the other guy started it anyway. He did. The fight consisted of the punch; perhaps a snapped neck, or a fatal pratfall or a blood clot or a heart attack. He was very drunk, very unfit and, incidentally, fuck him. He was a nuisance alive and even more vexing once dead. None of these memories are comforting. Not while trying to slap some life into a scrawny old man who is out cold.
We had to leave the country that time, not wishing to hang around to discuss whether the deceased had had a weak neck, whether I had been provoked or whether the landlord should take responsibility for having a poorly designed pub. It was obvious that you shouldn't have hard walls or concrete floors anywhere fist fights are likely to take place. With that sort of clientele he should have had rubber walls and fluffy cushions scattered around. A padded cell would have been best.
"Do something!" insists Sasha. She is frightened. As well she might be. Mr Williamson is married. We can't just bundle him into some bin bags and stick him down the rubbish chute. Or can we? I put the bottle of amyl under his nose and lean on his chest a few times.
"That's way too dangerous," says Sasha, stamping around in her shiny red boots. It would be easy to get distracted by this view, her perky breasts rising and falling with each excited breath. The wiggle of her firm little bottom. The fleeting glimpse of...never mind. Let’s get on.
"This could be much worse than those slave reparations," I say. Although it's not an appropriate moment for a jest. This little gag of ours has been running ever since some African nations decided to ask for compensation for the slave trade. Which was practised well before Western nations got involved and is still practised today – mostly in Africa, as it happens. Without the help of the evil white devils. Perhaps descendants of those English and Americans who laid down their lives to stop this barbaric practice might expect a cheque from certain African nations. Perhaps not. We once calculated the sum Sasha might have to pay to her slaves should they all demand compensation for her rigorous but invigorating therapy. Another reason to flee the country. I clump off to the bathroom in my heavy boots, restraining myself somehow from giving the prone Williamson a good kicking.
A bucket of freezing cold water might do the trick.
Or at any rate dousing the old fool would certainly do me some good. For once, something goes right. The shock of it revives him.
“Hallelujah!” I say, and then wonder if we will ever be free of our childhood Xtian conditioning. I slap him around the face a couple of times. More for my benefit than to complete his resurrection.
Sasha says some soothing words while I grind up some dark demonic coffee beans. Bolivian High, from a shop for coffee fanatics. And it’s almost as bad for you as cocaine.
“There’s a party tonight,” says Sasha, once we are slumped on the floor cushions with the bitter brew. Williamson gets supermarket own brand tea, without the milk he requested as neither of us use it.
Apart from the unacceptably high level of calories in milk Sasha sees it as evidence of the exploitation of cattle. She is fanatical about animal welfare. It’s just human beings she doesn’t mind disposing of. Actually, she just likes a scrap, whatever the cause.
I sometimes think she should have a job in one of those boxing booths at the fair. Come and have a scrap with Slasher Sasha, the little beauty with the big, big punch. She thinks I find this endearing. I don’t. Not any more. And it’s hard to remember why I ever did.
Something’s changed. Is this the personal growth that Sasha’s always demanding? Have I finally tired of bombastic little Americans who know everything better than we do? But we have a more valid reason than most to stick together. She can testify against me for the crimes we have committed.
As she looks good, the only possible measure of worth these days, apart from money, no jury will convict. Added to which, I am a man, so it must automatically be my fault, whatever it is.
“I think we deserve a celebration,” says Sasha.
So we do. We have pure ecstasy in powder form and this might be just the time to take it. To affirm the miracle of life. The power of love. And a bit of a knees-up somewhere the sex-positive go. Preferably somewhere without Williamson and his kind.
“Let’s go to the Cauldron“, she says. A club where sad submissives are all too prevalent. Oh well. Ruby will be there. We listen to Williamson babble for a while. He loves his Sasha. Perhaps even more now. I despise him for a while, thinking of how dumb he is for letting himself depend on someone like her. And then I catch sight of myself in the mirror. And wonder who the real sucker is.
With Williamson gone there’s still time to see Ruby before going to
“There's nothing like a big woman," said the part-Cherokee but mostly Texan saxophonist Jim Pepper. At that time I thought he was a gross fellow with debauched tastes - which was perhaps why we got on so well. He was overfond of wrestling crucifixes off Bavarian guest house walls when drunk but I won’t judge him too harshly for that. “You get the best lovin’ from big women,” he said, more than once, not that I minded, being a drunk myself in those days. Trophy women might be all right if you’re in show business or care what normal people think. But sex should be about tastes and odours, the feel of things. And not just being seen with some overdressed stick insect. Big, beautiful women offer more of everything; more curves, more heat, more scent and, often, more heart. They are hard to resist. Especially after what I have just been through. Your average warrior returning from a particularly arduous conflict is looking for strong ale, sizzling steaks and a buxom wench with a saucy smile. He does not seek a thin chain-smoking misery with a head full of dieting tips. I cannot ever recall a locker-room or pub conversation where men say, “Yeah, look at the ribs on that!” “Too true, mate, they’re sticking right through the skin.” “Great bones! And the way her breath smells because she never eats anything…brilliant!”
Big people often tolerate the quirks or foibles of others. And I have quirks and foibles to spare. This is a very long way of excusing sneaking out to see Ruby who, though not large enough to qualify as big and beautiful, is certainly buxom and beautiful. With bells on. As Sasha is aware that Something Is Going On, I have been expressly forbidden to see her. Perhaps it was the expressly forbidding bit that determined me to go to Ruby’s. I’ve had enough forbidding for now.. Besides, we need our boiler fixed. Ruby is our landlord. This is a business trip. It is. Honest.
She will probably be in the middle of an eight hour trawl of the
internet. She likes to relax by looking for true love in various
chatrooms. Sometimes discovering that she’s already had the
person in question who is now operating under a new name. And
she still has to elbow her mates out of the way to get at the fresh
blood. Dominatrices circling around a new submissive man make a
shark’s feeding frenzy look like a vicarage tea party.
It’s a short walk from our new place to Ruby, who has a basement flat in an anonymous street near Victoria Park. A car full of wreaths, photos and memorabilia devoted to ‘our beloved son’ gives me a jolt as I stride briskly up her street. There are far too many shootings in this neighbourhood. Sasha would chide me for being afraid of ‘diversity’. As the last ‘diversity’ murder took place twenty-five yards from our lovely new home it might be prudent to be afraid occasionally. It’s nature’s way of enabling us to stay alive a little bit longer. Do Sasha and I agree on anything any more? I’m not sure two drama queens make a good couple. Or two people who love to argue. Sasha disagrees, of course…
Ruby answers the door looking distraught; lower lip trembling, the
great warm wedge of her firm bosom heaving up and down.
Her abundant blonde hair has been ranged into some sort of hippy
haystack on top of her head. It reaches her waist at the back and
also frames her big, round face. It’s the sort of hair a princess could
trail out of a tall tower if she wished for a noble knight to come and
“Matt! My boiler’s broken down!”
Lovely Welsh lilting voice.
“You too? Oh dear,” I say, the best I can manage.
There is only one problem with the chivalrous role I have decided fits me; at least with Ruby. I can’t slay dragons and I can’t fix boilers – or indeed anything else. Mind you, neither can the people you pay to repair things, much of the time. Sasha and I might have a pact with the devil. It doesn’t mean we can get some Darren to do what he’s paid for.
“I have no heat!” says Ruby.
“Poor you,” I say, and stumble into her epicly bedraggled flat, wading through a tangle of bondage and s/m tackle. Her gear is black, just like everyone else’s, which is why you can never find anything in fetish clubs at chucking out time. I’m treading slowly and carefully, trying not to disturb any sleeping cats. I remember doing the birthcharts for these mystic moggies some years ago. One is Pisces, one Virgo and the other Scorpio. I could find no astrological reason why they refuse to kill her mice.
Perhaps they have been hanging round the Bhuddist Centre in Bethnal Green too long. Perhaps they inhale the skunk she keeps smoking. Or perhaps they steal her Prozac while she’s not looking. I think the little vermin are spirit doubles of the absolute rotters she chooses as partners. Unfortunately there’s no telling her that. She would deny it, but she wants to be hurt. Sometimes, anyway. And there is no shortage of spiteful inadequates who will do that for her.
“Nice boots!” says Ruby . I’m flattered. Also relieved, as these shiny black Rockit boots aren’t as individual as my trademark red patent leather Docs. Even though I chide Sasha for being too conspicuous I still bought the patent leather Rockits as opposed to the more typical matt black model. The height and weight of these technopagan boots give you a spring in the step, a glide to the stride – although their bulk and chunkiness means that I can now wreak even more unintentional havoc. In addition to crushing anything valuable left on the floor, as usual, I managed to wedge the boots underneath the back of a car seat the other day. As it was during the sleepwalking phase of ecstasy comedown it seemed an eternity before I could get that sorted out. Even though I had the help and support of three women hooting with laughter.
I subside into the couch. A flurry of yelping fur solves the mystery of one of her cat’s whereabouts.
Ruby is wearing thin black leather gloves decorated with various alchemical symbols in red. She might have just had a client as she is sheathed in a shiny rubber body stocking. The black mohair jumper is a relic from her punk days, when she is reputed to have nutted one of the ignorant little gits who was famous at the time. He’s a cabbie now, mini-cab of course. ‘Doing the Knowledge’, might have meant actually learning something.
Her room is stuffed with relics of most major magical traditions; the Egyptian cat-Goddess Bast, a Mayan sacrifical knife, a huge shamanic bass drum, and lots of skulls. There are also double-headed dildoes, whips, crops, quirts and sundry other teasers and tweakers. And this is just the living room. The dungeon is next door. Heat is coming from a noxious gas cylinder stove, next to which a pile of poetry paperbacks teeters precariously.
I’m not usually interested in masculine hobbies, apart from
the taking of human life, which has happened to me a few
times now. All right, I killed a few people, if you’re going to be all judgemental about it. But I prefer feminine pursuits like Ruby’s twenty square feet of books on magic.
There's Practical Astral Projection. That must be as opposed to Hopelessly Impractical Astral Projection. There's an Atlantis Primer, so you can sort whether you were an angelic light bringer or one of the bad buggers who misused The Force. There was apparently something analogous to a nuclear catastrophe and then we were left with the parlous state of the earth these days; no more Atlantis and far too much of Birmingham. Just as I’m getting absorbed Ruby stomps in and starts to curse.
“Little Stevie said he would fix everything,” says Ruby, rather peevishly. “But he’s useless!”
She was a princess while growing up. She is a Goddess now. Also a Dominatrix with a full diary. She wields power over people. But the most vicious dictators and tyrants still rely on their underlings. And you just can’t get the staff these days.
“I thought you liked Little Stevie,” I said.
“Do I really have to care about someone’s emotional well-being just to get my dishes done?” she asks, perfectly seriously.
“You might as well be married,” I tell her. Not that it helps particularly.
“Can you order Little Stevie to come to ours afterwards?” I ask. “Our boiler’s gone too.”
“Really?” she says, hitting on an asthma inhaler. No sign of the crutches she sometimes resorts to but I see she has wrapped an ankle bandage around her fishnet stockings.
“He’s very knowledgeable, Little Stevie,” I say, hoping she will lend him to us. “I suppose that’s what comes of living with your mum. Plenty of time for night classes.”
"He's very anal," said Ruby.
"Aren't we all?"
"Yes, but there's anal with empathy".
"You could charge a fortune for that,” I tell her.
After a giggle that sounded to me like the chimes of some celestial glockenspiel she mentioned Sebastian, her worthless Daddy figure. This great steaming toad is not a lover, merely a replacement for her father. She just wants to be ignored and misused by an older man. It is hardly unknown for ice-cold pro-dommes to look for a cold bastard in their leisure hours. Could there be something in Freud's female masochism theory? Well, I'm not enough of a male masochist to put that to a female. These women have weapons. And they’re not afraid to use them.
“It’s just that Sebastian….”
“Get rid of him! You don’t need him,” I say, more of a despairing suggestion than firm advice. It doesn’t quite work when I try to be Daddy with her because her real father buys her cars and houses. I enjoy the occasional line of her poetry but it’s not quite the same as showing up with a new car. And I’m too needy, requiring therapeutic chastisement from time to time. I don’t always like the wife doing that – it makes her even more bossy around the house.
“Must find my glasses,” says Ruby . “I can’t see a bloody thing, my dear. ” Ruby has been blinking at me, which I took to be flirtatious. I recall how Mr Williamson dogs my little Sasha’s steps and wonder if I look the same to Ruby. Just another sub. Always taking and never giving. She finds a pair of large glasses which hide a good portion of her face. She’s also fond of hiding her intelligence behind a breathless, simpering girliness, not that I have any objection to this, of course. You can have too much rigorous debate in a relationship.
“How’s Sasha?” she asks.
“Obsessing about some Nazi called Miller. Wants to find him and fuck him up somehow.”
“Great!” says Ruby . “I was raped by some skinheads.
They got me after an Anti-Nazi league demonstration. We kicked the shit out of them. First. But they got me on my own. Must have followed me home. Two teenagers.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. “That’s terrible.”
She’s staring into the distant past now, maybe her skin is paler or maybe I’m imagining it. It seems colder. Evil always does that to me. For no reason I can see she suddenly snaps back into the present with a broad smile.
“I’m sure I’ve known Sebastian before. We have a very deep past life connection. Not just once but many times. And I’m sure he’s tortured me before. I’ve been on the rack, you know. Burned as a witch. Broken on the wheel.”
“And you still won’t shut up,” I say, risking some dire curse or other. But she just laughs. Down to earth one minute and dancing with the Druids the next. You never know where you are with Ruby.
“What are you reading?” I ask, nodding at the piles of books wedged next to her couch.
"Browning,” she says. I look at her soundless television which is playing a horror dvd as it often does.
"Whenever I hear of culture I reach for my Browning, as Herman Goering said," I say. And by the time I've said it, I realise I should have given her the version ending; I reach for my revolver. Ruby might not know that a Browning is also a gun. And I've just told someone who has been raped by fascists one of the few known Nazi jokes. No wonder everyone hates me. She looks through me for while then says, “I’d like to get a gun and help Sasha with this Miller guy. Good for her! We should all do something for a change!”
I can hardly tell her that we have just finished a dangerous and
terrifying anti-Nazi mission which would have been barely credible as a
blood-spattered horror movie. What we need is mindless euphoria,
and plenty of it. We live in the world centre of pointless hedonism.
And I’m surrounded by bloodthirsty women.
“You have just been doing some
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