Authors: Colin Bateman
Tags: #Mystery, #Humour, #Fiction
Copyright © 1999, Colin Bateman
The Author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work
This novel is entirely a work of fiction.
The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are
the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is
For Andrea and Matthew
Death came to the village set on the banks of the great Niagara. It arrived with the autumn and liked it, so it stayed on into winter.
The Indians prayed and they made offerings to appease the great God Hinum, but the deaths continued. The witch doctors were summoned. They put on their masks and rolled their bones and after many hours cried in one voice: 'A great sacrifice must be made!' Although in Indian.
And so it was that on the eve of her marriage to Sahonwadi, the beautiful princess Lelewala, daughter of Chief Eagle Eye and Najaka, agreed, eventually, to sacrifice herself.
Her betrothed, Sahonwadi, bravest of the braves, labouring over his wedding canoe on the edge of the village, was not told.
Lelewala, her heart heavy, could not even say farewell to him.
But he saw her setting out into the current in her canoe. He raced into the village and only then discovered the awful truth. She looked back and saw him climb into another canoe and paddle after her. She screamed at him to stay, but he would not. He was in love.
He was strong and soon drew level with her. But it was too late. They were in the grip of the great Niagara. Even as the river sucked them over the edge of the Falls he reached out to her and she to him and their fingers almost, almost touched.
And then they were gone.
The Artist Formerly Known as Pongo was off his head on coke again. He lolled in the rear of the white Cadillac as it embarked on its third trawl through the backstreets of Niagara Falls, occasionally breaking into backing vocals on one of his own songs as it rattled out of the speakers, but soon trailing off, bored. It had been a quiet and unsuccessful night, and his driver, 'Uneasy' Rawlins, was hoping it would stay that way. His eyes flitted occasionally to the sad wreck in the back and not for the first time he regretted the fact that there were no weekends in rock'n'roll. He was still waiting for his day off. Even God rested on the Sabbath, although he probably didn't have an album to finish.
'Here,' Pongo yelled from the back, 'stop here! This is the place. I can
Rawlins muttered to himself as he pulled the car off the road into the car park of a rundown-looking diner. They'd exhausted the regular bars already. Now they were reduced to diners. As a last resort it would be the brothels. Rawlins would do the paperwork, credit cards and confidentiality agreements, Pongo the screwing. It was satisfactory for neither of them. In the bars he couldn't drink because he was driving, in the brothels he couldn't screw because he was married and loved his wife. At least in Texas Slims he could maybe get something to eat while he checked the place out.
Rawlins, as per usual, parked the Cadillac far enough from the main window to ensure that everyone inside had a good view of it. While Pongo set about organizing another line, Rawlins hurried across the car park.
It was a little after midnight. There were a dozen customers in the place. On first look, none of them appeared to be in the required range. Four fat bikers squeezed into a single booth. Three elderly black women at separate tables. A young guy asleep beside some school textbooks. Another booth with two couples, holding hands, laughing. Rawlins took a seat and ordered a coffee, glanced back at the Cadillac, then added a hamburger to the order.
As the waitress finished writing, she nodded through the window at the car. 'Who's the bigshot?' she said.
Rawlins's eyes narrowed.
Maybe. . .
she was stick-thin; she was chewing gum; her hair was short and dark; her complexion pale; the only make-up she wore was some badly applied eyeliner.
'Can't say, miss.'
She looked back to the vehicle, then turned and passed the order through to the kitchen. She returned a moment later with his coffee. 'Somebody famous?' she asked. Rawlins gave a little nod. 'Like,
famous, or just
famous . . . ?'
He shrugged. 'Depends, miss . . . y'know, on what kind of music you like.'
'Music? Hey, is he a . . . I like all types . . . gimme a clue? Is he, like, on MTV or something?'
Rawlins nodded again. 'All the time.'
Not that he was, not for a few years, but people presume, once you get that household name.
Her eyes were wide now, the starry look he'd seen a thousand times. She wasn't far off being hooked. A cute kid. Working late in a diner to keep her in cheap clothes or to pay school fees. Smart enough to serve hamburgers, not smart enough to ask herself why the hell a rock'n'roll superstar needed to trawl second-rate diners for dates.
Jesus, that was the word Pongo used. It was quaint and old-fashioned and totally inappropriate. He shook his head. He shouldn't even bother. Say there was no one suitable. Throw her back in the river.
'How's that burger doin'?' Rawlins asked.
'Few minutes. Go on, who is he?'
'He doesn't like to cause a fuss. Hates crowds.'
She crept closer. 'Won't say a word,' she whispered.
'Look, miss, I really . . .'
She virtually squealed it. The bikers looked round. Rawlins summoned a pained expression. Hell, it was what he was paid for. Part of it, anyhow. 'Shhhh now. . .' he said, all cute and folksy, 'what did I say? Hates a fuss. OK, if I tell you, you won't shout and scream?'
A clue. OK?'
'His last album was called
Her brow furrowed. She glanced out at the car. 'Michael Jackson?'
Rawlins shook his head, grinned over the rim of his coffee cup.
'Bon Jovi? Bruce . . . ? Michael Bolton?'
He kept shaking. He set the cup down.
Here we go.
He began to sing, his voice poor, the volume low, but the chorus virtually a national treasure:
'I got the ice/You got the heat/I got the groove/ You got the meat. . .'
'Shhhh! Jesus, girl . . . I told you to keep it. . .'
At our diner!' She slipped into the seat opposite him and pressed her face to the window. 'He's in there? God!' She put her soft white hand on his arm. 'Could I meet him?'
'Oh please, please . . . just for one minute . . . please. Just let me say hello. Get his autograph. I have all his records. Please. I'm his biggest fan! Please!'
Rawlins rolled his eyes. 'Well. . .'
'He really doesn't like . . .'
He hunched forward conspiratorially. 'I tell you what. You bring me the burger. If it's good I'll go out and have a word with him. If, and I mean if, he says it's OK, I'll bring you out to see him, OK?'
'Oh God . . . would you!' She was half laughing, half crying. 'Oh God.'
'What's your name, miss?'
'Katharine, Katharine Stewart.'
'How old are you, Katharine?'
'Uh . . . fift . . . seventeen.'
'OK, I'll see what I can do. The burger?'
'Comin' right up! God, I can't believe I'm going to meet Pongo.'
He stuck a finger out at her, cute folksy to stern uncle. 'One thing, Katharine. You must never refer to him as Pongo. If you have to use a name at all, you call him The Artist, OK?'
'The Artist? What's the . . . ?'
'Just do as I say, OK?'
'OK!' She slipped out of the seat and hurried towards the kitchen. 'God,' she whispered dreamily, 'I'm going to meet Pongo.'
Katharine had her top off and Pongo's cock in her mouth.
As he drove Rawlins had one eye on the road, one on the mirror. She was stoned, of course. A couple of lines of the finest Colombian did that to most of the little ones; if they'd used drugs before, and most of them had, they certainly weren't of such quality. Usually they didn't take much persuasion. Katharine certainly hadn't, which was a good thing as Pongo was well beyond using his communication skills. He'd barely grunted at her awed
merely sat her down, pulled down his zip and shaken his penis at her like it was the polite way of saying hello. And there she was, working away at it like it was an honour to be asked. Rawlins shook his head. Maybe it was.
He mouthed at Pongo in the mirror. 'Home?'
Pongo shook his head and thumbed out the door.
Rawlins nodded. Back to the diner within thirty minutes and just a bad taste in her mouth to remember him by. Not even an autograph. Usually they didn't remember until they were out of the car. Other times he signed with the disappearing ink he had shipped in from a joke shop in Brooklyn.
There was a low groan from the rear. Then the customary awkward silence. Pongo was looking out of the window, bored, not even bothering to zip himself up. The girl was deciding whether it was love or lust: swallow or spit. She decided on love. She looked up at him, still star-struck.
'Gee,' Katharine said, sitting back, wiping her lips, 'I sucked Pongo's cock!'
Pongo's head rolled towards her. His eyes were bloodshot, his nostrils flared. 'I'm not fucking . . .
She giggled, not sure if he was serious or acting. Rawlins had seen his one movie effort,
Dance Little Sister,
and wasn't sure either. She squeezed his knee, then moved to rest her head on it with the undoubted intention of looking lovingly up into his eyes. Except, she said: 'You'll always be Pongo to me,' as she brought her face down.
Pongo screamed: 'I'm not fucking Pongo!' and brought his knee up, catching her under the chin, ramming her jaw closed and forcing her teeth into her tongue. She leapt backwards, hitting the passenger door with force.
The door shot open. Rawlins yelled as the girl disappeared. He turned, could see just her legs on the back seat. She hung precariously out of the door, her head just a couple of inches off the road. Pongo just looked at her, a half-vacant grin on his lips.
Rawlins slammed on the brakes, but knew immediately it was the wrong action. The girl's legs bounced off the seat and out. As the wheels locked her head crashed off the asphalt with a sickening thud. Pongo's head rebounded off the front passenger headrest. He sat back as the car came to a halt, peering forward to check his face for damage in the driver's mirror.
'What the fuck you doing, man?' Pongo shouted, hand to his nose. There was a drop of blood on his hand. Just one.
Rawlins looked to his mirror, just in time to see a Coca-Cola delivery truck round the bend and crush the rest of the poor little waitress to pulp.
'Oh shit,' Rawlins said.