Thursday 4 – Saturday 6 June 2015
This story is the result of a writing prompt posted on Facebook by my friend, writer, advocate, and all-round nice gal, Valerie Brooks.
The only place for my face was buried deep into my hands. Barely able to maintain any semblance of regular breathing, I shook my head, disgusted with what I’d seen in the photo. It was all an act, of course. I needed Jerry to think that I was just as concerned with the events of that night as she was. My acting skills were about to be put to the test.
‘I thought we agreed – no photos,’ I said.
‘We did, Charlie, but I’m telling you again – I did not take this photo. I would have remembered taking a photo like this, but I don’t. Therefore, I didn’t take it. Someone else must have got hold of my phone and taken this.’
‘Oh, come on, Jerry. There are four hours that neither of us can account for, so how the hell do you expect to remember taking that photo?’
‘Well, I . . .’ Jerry mumbled.
I decided, whether Jerry wanted to or not, we’d have to go back over the night’s events. Again. For the umpteenth time today. Perhaps writing it all down would help us to reconcile that night, and for me to gather the information that I needed. I fished about in the old sideboard in the dining room for some paper and a pen, and by the time I returned to my seat, Jerry was sobbing helplessly.
‘What’s up, mate?’ I had to be careful with Jerry. Discussions involving emotions and feelings didn’t sit well with her. Ever. Some would say she was a cold fish because, for the majority of the time, she was kind of hard to read.
‘I’ve just remembered about the cab driver. Did I really snog him for a cheap ride?’
‘Oh sweetie, sweetie, sweetie, you were the cheap ride!’ I couldn’t help but laugh at my own joke, and Jerry’s ability to step straight into a double entendre. ‘But to answer your question, yes, you did snog the cabbie for a cheap fare. However, in your defence, he was awfully dashing, and reminded me of a young Robert Redford. So there is that. Make you feel any better?’
‘Not really,’ Jerry replied, ‘no. Actually not at all. I just feel like a brazen hussy.’
After a moment of laughter, I thought it was time to get down to business, and we listed everything that we could remember about that night.
* We took a mystery flight and ended up in Kiev for the weekend. (Some mystery flight.)
* Hit 5 clubs in an out of the way party area of the city, each club looked shadier than the last.
* In the 5th club, we got settled, struck up a conversation with the bar tender, who happened to be from London originally, and he gave us a few free drinks, and we promised not to tell his boss, and to hang around the club until his shift was over. Then we have a blank in our evening. This is where neither of us knows what happened. Can’t remember a thing. Nothing at all.
* Jerry and I ended up waiting outside for the bar tender. The club suddenly felt too hot. I think either Jerry or I may have vomited in the gutter. Probably both of us.
* Some homeless guy asked us for a light. Jerry gave him her lighter. He gave Jerry a pack of cigarettes in exchange. Why the hell would she do that? More to the point, why did she have a lighter, or accept a pack of cigarettes when she doesn’t even smoke? I want to say that his face looked familiar. I think I’d seen him earlier in our evening, but I can’t be sure.
* The bar tender came out of the club, gave us his address, and told us that his boss wanted to see him. He didn’t know how long he’d be, so he suggested that we catch a cab, and go wait for him at his apartment. He sent the homeless guy on his way.
* A cab turned up as if by magic. Apparently, we got into the cab, and Jerry snogged him because he said he’d give us a good deal on the fare if she did.
* We ended up at the bar tender’s apartment, but it looked like a really dodgy building, so we convinced the cabby to take us back to our hotel.
* Spent the day after at the hotel spa and in our rooms trying to recover from the atrocious hangovers we had.
‘Okay, so that’s everything we know. Or at least, that’s everything that we think we know,’ Jerry said. ‘Two things though . . . One, I’m never, never drinking that much alcohol ever again, and two, that’s the last time I listen to you when you say that we should buy one of those mystery flight packages.’
I scratched my head. ‘I never said we should buy a mystery flight package, Jerry.’
‘Then how the hell did we end up buying one?’
I shook my head, acting a little confused by her question. ‘We didn’t. It arrived by post, address to you and I. I thought you’d won some competition and the mystery flight was the prize.’
‘Charlie,’ she slowly replied, ‘I haven’t entered any of those competitions in twelve months. Not since you told me they were all a sham, and that no one actually won anything.’
I allowed the fear of God or some other deity that was just as terrifying and powerful washed over me. ‘So where did the tickets come from?’
This new revelation somehow fed directly into the weirdness of that night. It had to. Everything else about that night and those events were just beyond plain weird. Jerry was a wee bit frazzled now, more so than she had been a few moments ago. The pressure was getting to her, just as I had thought that it would. I really needed to start pushing more of her buttons.
‘I know it’s a far out suggestion, perhaps a little bit weird even,’ she spoke with caution either in the hope of not alarming me or maybe herself, ‘but do you think those tickets were sent to us because someone was trying to set us up?’
I thought about her question for a moment. I think I managed to look suitably concerned, but I didn’t know how much longer I could keep applying this pressure or how long I could keep up the act.
‘I guess it’s possible. I don’t know why anyone would try to set us up. It’s not like we’re important people or anything, I mean, we’re just ordinary, average people. It’s not like we’re the President or anything.’
Of course, I wasn’t exactly telling Jerry the truth. Her job might not have been incredibly important, but according to my employers mine was, and my number one priority was to get as much information out of Jerry that I could get. She was proving to be a harder nut to crack than I’d first considered. But, orders were orders, and I’d stay here until I got the information that I needed. In truth, I knew perfectly well what had happened in those missing four hours.
I’d been playing Jerry from the moment we’d met. It had all been planned, from our friendship to this night that we were tearing ourselves apart to remember. All to get information because in this day and age, that’s were wealth was. In information. Worlds could be bought and sold by what you knew, and lives could be built up or destroyed in an instant. And people like me, well, we’re paid a great deal of money to acquire information on behalf of, let’s call them entrepreneurs.
Everyone involved in that night that Jerry was trying so desperately to remember was a part of my assignment. The two shifty looking guys at the door, the bar tender, the club owner, homeless guy, and the cab driver, all my colleagues, and all focussed on getting every ounce of information that we could from Jerry. And the photo on her mobile phone? A simple device to use in the event that we might need leverage. My employer needed the information that Jerry could provide, and I was charged with getting it.
‘So, Jerry,’ I sighed, ‘let’s go through this point by point and see if we can elaborate on our mystery night out.’
. . . The end . . .