10:37am - May 28th, 1987
Room 204, The Merano Mountain Inn, Merano, Italy
“Well, you’ve certainly made an impression.” John throws a pile of newspapers onto the coffee table and sits down to read them.
Jim doesn’t even look up from his comic as he sprawls across the bed, lapping lazily at the lollipop he’s holding. “Anything good?”
“The Times say you’re deliberately unpleasant because you enjoy it. Le Monde are calling you ‘the shame of chess’.”
Jim huffs and rolls his eyes. “Not my fault the residents of this town thought I’d be interested in their stupid dance.”
“I don’t think they were very impressed when you dropped that Coke can. Or, in fact, when you ignored the entire welcoming party in order to showboat for the press.”
Jim swings his legs round so that he’s sitting on the edge of the bed. Folding his arms, he says, “They’re all in love with that idiot. I was attempting to make a point.”
“And what was that, then?”
“That it doesn’t matter what I do because they’re only interested in the drama I bring. They couldn’t give a shit about chess.”
John simply raises an eyebrow before looking back at the newspaper in his hands. They almost make it to a whole ten seconds of silence before Jim huffs again, adding an indignant sniff on the end for effect.
“What is it now?”
“They’re saying I’m immature and that you’re basically my carer!” he whines, not looking up from the paper as he carries on reading.
“They’re not far wrong there,” John replies with the sole intention of winding Jim up, though his words are backed up by the fact he’s now untying the laces of Jim’s discarded Converse to speed up the process of getting him ready for the press conference. “Look, I know you don’t like the Russians very much but try not to offend too many people at the conference, please?”
11.22am - May 28th, 1987
Outside the town hall, Merano, Italy
Jim leans against a pillar, using one hand to hold a cigarette to his lips and clutching the other to his chest. John pries it away from him to inspect the damage and sighs with relief to see nothing more than a few slightly grazed knuckles.
“You punched a reporter,” he states, receiving a face full of smoke in return as the hand is removed from his grasp. It’s only years of practice that mean he’s able to avoid coughing when he speaks again. “Then there’s the fact you managed to give insulting or offensive answers to every single question before that.”
Jim shrugs and takes another drag, clenching and unclenching his injured hand carefully. If John listens carefully he can still hear the commotion going on inside and he doesn’t want to hang around to meet the angry crowd when they emerge. Gesturing for Jim to follow, he trudges through the snow and starts to head back up the hill to the hotel.
They walk for several minutes, the only sound the crunch of snow beneath their feet. Jim tosses the cigarette end aside, laughing as he hears a couple of passing locals gasping in shock. He’s vaguely aware of John’s attempts to placate them but he doesn’t turn to look.
“D’you think you’re going to be able to behave yourself for an hour while I go to the delegates’ meeting?” John asks once they’re back in the hotel room. His head is pounding already so he takes two paracetemol while he waits for Jim to make a decision.
“Hmm... perhaps.” It’s clear Jim isn’t really interested and that the comic has his full attention again. John picks up his folder and sits a can of Coke out on the dressing table, because if Jim drank it straight after taking it out of the fridge it’d be John who’d have to listen to his whining about cold teeth.
“Try not to get yourself deported while I’m gone. And don’t be late. You need to leave here at six o’clock, absolute latest, okay?”
John is almost glad to meet Walter de Courcey in the foyer. Ordinarily, he’d do anything to avoid being alone with Freddie’s manager but at times like this it was almost preferable to any more time with a belligerent champion.