Sophie. Lovely Sophie. Lovely Sophie by candlelight. Was the candlelight too much? No, it was nice. Romantic. It showed that he was making an effort, appreciating her brief return from Bristol. Candles said Yes, I want to get my leg over, but I also want you to know that I care.
It was good spending some time together, actually in the same room as one another, instead all of that excruciating long distance awkwardness they’d had to put up with lately. This was much better. And she seemed pleased to be here. She definitely seemed pleased to be here. She was smiling. She had been knocking back the wine a bit though.
Mark’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the front door opening. Jeremy had promised. Jeremy had fucking promised he wasn’t going to be here tonight.
“Hi guys,” Jeremy called as he walked in. And then Mark saw her, Big Suze, standing by his side. “Just ignore us, we’re not even here.”
“That was the plan,” Mark muttered.
“Hmm?” Jeremy asked, raising his eyebrows and looking far too fucking chirpy.
“I thought you said you were going to stay with Super Hans tonight,” Mark said pointedly.
“Oh, yeah, that,” Jeremy replied. “Yeah, well, I was. But then I ran into Suze.” He grinned at her like a demented puppy who couldn’t wait to start humping her leg. She looked somewhat less enthusiastic. Mark couldn’t really blame her. “Oh, yeah, but then there was this maniac,” Jeremy continued, turning back to Mark.
“Maniac?” he asked carefully.
“A real psycho type,” Jeremy explained. “Knives and all sorts. Probably dismembered people. So, obviously, we thought we should probably get to safety.”
“It’s horrible,” Suze said, looking stricken. She pulled her coat tighter around her.
“And you saw this horrible, psychopathic maniac, did you?” Mark asked, raising his eyebrows in Jeremy’s direction.
“Well, no, we were lucky, we managed to get out of there in time,” Jeremy said.
“How fortunate,” Mark muttered.
“Sounds awful,” Sophie said. “Come and sit down. Do you want some of the wine?”
“I’m sure they’d rather just...” Mark began.
“That sounds lovely,” Suze replied, squeezing onto the sofa with Mark and Sophie. Mark sent a very irritated look towards Jeremy.
“I’ll get some glasses,” Jeremy said quickly, heading out of the room.
“I’ll help you,” Mark told him, following into the kitchen. He looked at Jeremy expectantly but Jeremy just sheepishly retrieved the wine glasses, refusing to meet his eyes. “How did you convince Suze there was a maniac on the loose?”
“There could be a maniac on the loose,” Jeremy said defensively. Mark fixed him with a stern look. Jeremy sighed. “Alright. I might have gotten slightly discouraged by the fact that she seems to have grown some self-esteem and paid a random man to invent a maniac sighting so she’d get scared and come back here with me.”
Mark screwed his face up in disgust. “Jeremy, that’s awful. That’s... Couldn’t you at least have gone back to hers and not ruined my evening in your immoral attempts to get your leg over?”
“Yeah, I know, sorry man,” Jeremy said, tilting his head and trying to look sincere. Trying. Smug bastard. “Look, after a couple of glasses, she’ll have calmed down enough to fuck me and we’ll be out of your hair.”
Mark cringed. As if the sounds of Jez and Big Suze fucking weren’t going to ruin his date even further. There was no way he could compete with that. No, he had to get rid of them now if he wanted to get anywhere with Sophie tonight.
Back in the living room, Sophie and Suze were sitting on the sofa together, talking quietly. Suze looked upset, in need of comfort. Mark gritted his teeth.
“Suze, you... you seem like you’d be happier at home,” he ventured. “Why doesn’t Jeremy walk you home?”
“Are you mad?” Jeremy asked. “After what we just heard on the radio in there?”
Mark turned to face him, bewildered. “What?”
“The sightings,” Jeremy said, his arms flailing slightly. “Of the maniac. On this road. It’d be like suicide going out there. I think it’s best if we all just stay here for now.” He sat down next to Suze, handing her one of the wine glasses.
Mark sighed a pathetic little sigh of defeat. There was no room for him on the sofa now, he couldn’t even sit next to Sophie, he was relegated to the chair. The lonesome chair of solitude. This was supposed to be his night and he couldn’t even sit next to his girlfriend. No, his romantic evening had been destroyed in favour of watching Jeremy hoodwink a vulnerable girl into bed by flickering candlelight. It was bloody typical really.
Not that Mark let it show. No, he was mature and accepting about the whole thing. He poured the wine and let the conversation continue and he didn’t really glare at Jeremy all that much. He might have been thinking of rather inventive ways to kill him, but he didn’t let it show. He was going to make it painful, he’d decided that much. Maybe he’d try out some of those medieval tortures that they used to swear by. The iron maiden perhaps. Or just a good old fashioned pecking to death by crows.
An hour dragged excruciatingly by, Sophie chatting away to Suze, catching up, apparently forgetting that he existed. Mark was beginning to wonder if Sophie really missed him that much at all. Jeremy was getting in on the act though, plying Suze with wine, moving in closer, being lewd and acting like it was a joke, as though he wasn’t actually that vile. He was. He was that vile and then some. Disgusting specimen of humanity. Mark tried to repress a shiver.
“I’m going to see if we’ve got any snacks,” he announced, getting to his feet.
“Yeah, good idea, man,” Jeremy agreed, following after him. Mark bit down on his tongue, rooting through the cupboards for some crisps. “Operation Fuck is going well,” Jeremy commented, looking rather pleased with himself.
“Operation Fuck?” Mark exploded. “You’re calling it Operation Fuck? Do you have even the slightest little sliver of conscience?”
“What’s the problem?” Jeremy asked. “You need to chill out. The sooner I score, the sooner we’re out of your way. It’s in all of our best interests for me to get Big Suze into bed.”
“No, Jeremy, it’s really not,” Mark said. “It’s in your best interests, perhaps. It’s not in Big Suze’s best interests, nor is it in mine and Sophie’s best interests.”
Jeremy grinned, crinkling his nose slightly. “Is this because I’m doing better with Suze than you’re doing with Sophie?”
“You are not doing better with Suze than I’m doing with Sophie,” Mark stated indignantly. “Sophie is my girlfriend. She’s here because she wants to be here, not because I invented a bogeyman to make her too frightened to go outside. Maybe you’ll be able to appreciate what that’s like one day.”
Slamming the cupboard shut Mark stormed back into the living room just in time to see Suze pulling her coat on.
“No snacks?” Sophie asked, looking disappointed. “I was starting to feel a bit peckish.”
Mark looked at her. “What? Oh...”
“Where are you going?” Jeremy asked, looking Suze over.
“I called a taxi,” Suze replied. “I just think I’d be happier at home, Jez. It was really sweet of you to bring me back here, but I’m going to get off now.”
She kissed Jeremy on the cheek. He looked absolutely despairing. Mark couldn’t help but smile. His date was back on. Mark 1, Jeremy 0.
“But, no, you, you can’t go out there,” Jeremy stumbled.
“What’s the matter, Jez?” Suze asked, looking concerned. Stupid, trusting Suze.
“Well, we, just, we saw him!” Jez exclaimed.
“You saw him?” Suze repeated.
“Excuse me?” Mark asked, finding himself swept up in a horrible feeling that he knew where this was going.
“Out of the kitchen window!” Jeremy stated, inspiration clearly taking hold. “Yeah, we went in there to get the snacks, like we said, and we glanced out of the window and he was down there, the maniac, the blood-soaked maniac.”
“Oh my God,” Suze said softly, putting her hand over her mouth. Mark gave Jeremy a dirty look, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“Yeah, he was looking right at us,” Jeremy continued. “And he had, like, dismemberment in his eyes. He was desperate for his next victim. We should probably check the locks actually. Board ourselves in maybe. We definitely shouldn’t leave for at least twenty-four hours. At least.”
“Jeremy...” Mark stated in a warning tone.
“Is that true, Mark?” Sophie asked nervously. “Did you see him?”
“Of course he did,” Jeremy said before Mark had a chance to speak up. “I mean, Mark’s not the kind of person who would lie about seeing a maniac in the street. Are you, Mark?” he asked pointedly.
“Well, no, of course I’m not the sort of man who would lie about something as sick as that,” Mark spat back.
“My point exactly,” Jeremy stated smugly. “So then it must be true.”
“God, Mark, are you alright?” Sophie asked, getting to her feet and moving over to him. It was the first interest she’d shown in him since Jeremy and Suze had arrived and Mark had to admit it was nice. “What did he look like?”
Mark glanced at Jeremy, feeling uneasy, but he felt himself caught in the lie. “He looked sort of, you know, maniacal.”
“He’s a bit shaken up actually,” Jeremy stated, putting a hand on Mark’s shoulder.
Mark turned to give him a look. Why did he have to be the one who was shaken up? Why did Jeremy get to be the fucking hero? Probably because Jeremy was writing this fantastical bullshit.
“Maybe you should go lie down for a bit, mate,” Jeremy suggested.
“Yeah, let’s go to your room,” Sophie agreed. “Have a lie down.”
“Well, that... that might be nice,” Mark agreed. He watched Sophie leave before turning to Jeremy with a look of wonder.
“See,” Jeremy said, nodding. “It’s a faultless technique.”
Mark decided he very much wasn’t going to dignify that with an answer, following after Sophie. She was sitting on the edge of his bed and he closed the door before going to join her. This was more like it. Just the two of them.
“Was it scary?” Sophie asked.
Mark hesitated. He should steer the conversation away from this very dodgy ground. Except he got the distinct impression that he wasn’t going to. He was going to milk it. It was harmless really. Sort of. God, he was a total total shit.
“It... it was a bit scary,” he conceded.
Sophie nodded, pushing his hair back from his face. That felt nice. Subtly intimate. Definitely on their way to shagging now. Was this wrong? They would’ve shagged anyway, this was in no way on the same level as what Jeremy was doing with Big Suze. And Mark at least had the decency to feel a bit bad about it. A bit.
Sophie leaned forward, tilting her head, and Mark closed his eyes, letting himself get swept up in the kiss. Sophie’s soft lips. Mmm, yes, bit of tongue there too. He wanted to be poetic about it, but if he was honest, she just tasted of wine, slightly bitter and a little bit tart. Not that he’d ever tell her that. No, girls didn’t react well to that kind of thing.
They pulled back, looking at one another. Mark offered her a tentative smile, glancing at the pillows. “Do you want to maybe...”
“Get comfortable?” she suggested, smiling and moving back to lie on the bed.
Mark moved to join her, leaving a small gap, something to work on. You didn’t want to throw everything you had at a girl all at once. They didn’t like that. Sophie reached out, touching the side of his face and pulling him in for another kiss. More soft lips, more alcoholic aftertaste. Mark pushed his tongue deeper, edged his body closer, felt that familiar stirring in the trouser department. Yes, definite positive development going on there.
A banging at the front door interrupted his train of thought slightly. No, he wasn’t moving. Let Jeremy get it. The least he could do was make himself useful seeing as he was here. The banging continued however, the authoritive tone of it forcing Mark to sit up.
“I better just...”
Sophie nodded. Mark went out in the hallway, Jeremy nowhere in sight, and opened the front door with no small amount of irritation, only to find himself faced with two police officers. He stared. It was funny how uneasy he felt in front of officers of the law when he knew he hadn’t done anything wrong.
“Can... can I help you?” he asked.
“Yeah, we got a call about some kind of maniac,” one of the officers said. “Apparently there’s witnesses at this address.”
Maniac? Was there really a maniac? Maybe Jeremy hadn’t invented the whole thing. He turned at the sound of Jeremy’s bedroom door opening. Jeremy walked towards him, stopping in his tracks as he saw the policemen.
“What’s going on here?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at Mark.
“They’re, uh, they’re here about the maniac,” Mark explained.
“The maniac?” Jeremy repeated. He looked at the policemen. “Can you just give us a sec?” He took a step away, talking to Mark in a strained voice. “Maniac? There’s a maniac?”
“I don’t know,” Mark responded, trying to keep his lips still as though he were talking for a ventriloquist’s dummy. “I thought you made it up.”
“I thought I made it up as well,” Jeremy replied. “Maybe I didn’t. Did I make it up? It’s hard to remember.”
“Jeremy!” Mark hissed.
“Alright, don’t get at me,” Jeremy complained. “Look, who the fuck called them?”
“I did.” They both turned to see Suze. “He needs to be caught. Witnesses are vital.”
“Are we ready, lads?” one of the officers asked.
“Ready?” Mark all but squeaked.
“We need to take your statements,” the officer explained. “Get a description. We’ll split up so it’ll only take half the time.”
“Split up?” Mark asked, feeling the panic rising up in him. “Can’t we give a joint statement?”
“We find it’s more accurate if we take separate statements,” the officer said. “Shall we?”
Mark felt sick, a hot flush rising on his face. Was he really going to lie to an officer of the law. Yes it felt very much like he was. He threw a mournful look at Jeremy.
“Don’t worry, Mark,” he said. “Just tell him all about that awful hoodie we saw.”
Mark nodded, taking on board the not so subtle hint, and led the older of the two officers through to the kitchen. They sat down at the table.
“Right,” the officer said, taking out a notepad. “If you could just tell me exactly what you saw.”
“Exactly?” Mark asked. The officer stared at him, waiting. “Right. Okay. Well, he was wearing a hoodie. A hooded top. And he had the hood up, so I didn’t really get a good look at his face.” Mark nodded, feeling pleased with himself. This was great, they couldn’t wrongly convict someone on that description.
“What colour was it?” the officer asked.
“Colour? Uh, black. It was black.”
“It was black,” the officer repeated. “And yet the phone call we received suggested that you were able to notice, from this window, that he was covered in blood.”
“Yes, well, uh,” Mark fumbled. “It was open! It had a zip and it was open!”
Did that sound too triumphant? Sounding pleased with himself was an obvious indication that he was lying his arse off. The officer wrote something down and Mark tried to lean forward to see what it was, but the officer looked back up again, forcing him to sit back.
“Anything else?” the officer asked. “How old did he look?”
“Well, with his hood up, he really could’ve been any age,” Mark stated, making an effort to sound solemn. And regretful. I’m terribly sorry, officer, I wish I could help, but this is all the information I can offer you.
“What else was he wearing?” the officer asked.
“Looked like jeans and trainers,” Mark responded. “White trainers. There was some blood on them too.”
“Blood on the trainers,” the officer repeated, jotting down the details on his pad.
Was Mark starting to get too specific? Had to make it believable without giving too much away. Had to leave himself an out, like this could all have been a terrible misunderstanding. Oh, that was spaghetti sauce he was covered in? Well, that explains everything.
“Did you see a weapon on him at all?” the officer asked.
“Weapon?” Mark replied. “No, not that I saw. Maybe it was concealed. Or he could’ve dumped it already.” He forced a slight incline into his tone of voice at the end of the sentence, a subtle questioning tone, attempting to give the impression that he was just desperate to be helpful, but simply couldn’t be sure. Wow, he was really fucking good at this.
The younger officer came into the room, leaning down and saying something to the other officer. They put their pads together, comparing details. The officer looked back up at Mark again.
“There seems to be some slight discrepancies with your statements.”
“Well, it’s... it’s dark and we didn’t get a good look,” Mark told him. “It’s tricky to say anything for sure.”
“Your friend states that...” he looked at his colleagues pad, “...the man was in his late teens, dressed all in white, and wielding a machete.”
Mark could feel himself flush positively scarlet. There was too much saliva in his mouth. Was it a crime to throw up on a police officer? “Well, like I said, we didn’t get a great look,” he blustered.
“That’s quite a difference of opinions,” the officer said. “Your friend also stated that the man in question ‘stared right at us with these sort of dead looking eyes’. Interesting when you said yourself that you couldn’t see his face at all.”
“I suppose you could see it a bit,” Mark said desperately. “And he did appear to be looking upwards.”
“So you’re sticking with your story of the ‘maniac’?” the officer asked. “Despite the fact that, if it did turn out you and your friend were lying, I could charge you with wasting police time.”
Mark felt his eyes go wide, a blind, screaming panic clawing up from inside him. “Alright, alright, we might have made it up a little bit. But, look, it wasn’t my bloody idea. Jeremy’s the sicko, I’m just another victim of his depravity.”
“You made it up?”
Sophie. Shit, Sophie was standing in the doorway, looking at him like he was absolute scum. Which he was, sort of. But only by association. Why the fuck had he ever gone along with any of this? Oh, right, because it made Sophie feel sorry for him. Yeah, he was about as scummy as they came. Why couldn’t he have a nice best friend, someone to offer him noble ways of getting a woman into bed? There had to be noble ways of doing these things.
“Sophie, no, it was Jeremy, Jeremy’s the twat here,” he insisted. “He was just trying to get Suze into bed.”
“Funny how you never managed to mention that to me,” Sophie stated. “I’m leaving. Maybe Suze will let me stay at hers until I have to go back to Bristol in the morning.”
“Sophie, wait, Sophie!”
She walked away, into Jeremy’s bedroom, and Mark smiled awkwardly at the officers as they listened to the shrieked words and the slap of Suze’s hand against Jeremy’s face. He had that one coming. Jeremy walked dejectedly into the room, rubbing his cheek, the front door slamming in the background.
“The girls have gone,” he stated.
“Yeah,” Mark agreed.
“Listen, I’m not going to charge you this time, but you should be very ashamed of yourselves,” the officer told them, getting to his feet.
“We are,” Mark insisted. He glanced at Jeremy who was sticking his finger in his ear and then examining the contents. “Well, I am.”
The officer nodded. “We’ll show ourselves out.”
As soon as they heard the front door open and close again, Mark stood up, turning on Jeremy. “Machete? He was wielding a machete? What the fuck were you thinking, Jeremy?”
“I was trying to make it sound scary,” Jeremy shrugged. “You have to admit that a machete wielding maniac does sound pretty fucking scary.” He was pleased with himself. The stupid twat was actually pleased with himself.
“How the fuck were our stories going to match up when you say ridiculous things like that?” Mark demanded. “The key was to keep it vague. A hoodie, it was dark, you couldn’t tell the details, that kind of thing. Not a machete wielding maniac who was, for sound confounded reason dressed all in white. Who the fuck dresses all in white.”
“Now, hang on, he had to be dressed in white so we could see the blood,” Jeremy defended. “I did think about that.”
“I think my reasoning of a black zip up hoodie with a lighter coloured top underneath rang far more true to life,” Mark said.
“Zip up hoodie?” Jeremy asked with disgust. “If anything, that’s what tipped them off, Mark. Zip up hoodie? That’s like hoodie light. No real maniac would be caught maiming in that.”
Mark rolled his eyes. “Well, thanks to you and your fantastical imagination, my romantic evening had been ruined and my girlfriend’s going to go back to Bristol angry at me. Another lovely evening fucked up by you. You really do have a gift, Jeremy.”
He stalked off, sitting down on the sofa. Jeremy followed after him and Mark gritted his teeth as he sat by his side.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sure Sophie’ll forgive you. Send her some flowers in Bristol.”
“I suppose,” Mark agreed. “I just wish for once that something would go right.”
Jeremy nodded, looking around. The candles were still flickering, their glow warming and calming and really quite nice. Still, it seemed to hammer home to Mark the fact that he was now spending his romantic evening with Jeremy. Was this really all that life had in store for him?
“Nice candles,” Jeremy stated. “Romantic.”
Mark turned to glare at him. Bastard.