This is a continuation of a short(ish) story by Nick Mann (me), part one is here and part two is here.  

The time had come. The man had to execute his plan. “Lexi, how would you like to get out of here? Seriously, this has got to be so boring for you. We could go for a drive, get some lunch? Have a drink or something. What do you think?” Lexi felt paralysed. Her mouth moved, and the only word she could form was, “yeah.”

Will was hovering in the background, nervously wringing his hands, his head bobbing like a bird. “Hello mate, we’re back on. They need you in make up. Hello Flexi are you havin’ a good day love?” Lexi looked confused, not needing to correct Will she smiled and told him that her day was great. The man stood up and walked over to the makeup trailer. On his way, he looked at Lexi, winked and mouthed the word later.

For two hours fake missiles flew into the air. Pyrotechnics exploded, and the snide helicopter rocked as a pretend plane was wheeled in. The man had to jump from one to the other. Stunt men pilots are thrown left right and centre and all the while the man did his best to look cool. It was exciting but at the same time ridiculously childish. Lexi loved every minute of it. The director called cut, and an assistant announced that they would break for lunch. It was time to escape.

Everyone had been watching the man all morning. Nobody’s eyes left him. Partly down to his stardom and charisma (when he entered a room, you couldn’t help but look at him), and partly for security reasons. He’d skipped rehab more than once, the call of the public house and his friendly neighbourhood dealer was irresistible to him. Hence this video shoot was up in the highlands and very far from anywhere. He didn’t know, but his rehab centre was just north of Aberdeen. So three hours north of Aberdeen put him very far from his local pub. He was stranded.

For the first time all day no one was watching him. You can be the biggest star in the world but when the dinner bell rings hungry tummies call the shots. Will had gone to the trailer to take a call, and the twin mountains were queuing up for barbequed chicken skewers and jewelled cous cous. The man made a beeline to Lexi, he took her gently by the elbow, and together they skipped then jogged to Lexi’s car.
“You drive up here by yourself?”
“Yeah.”
“Thanks. That’s dedication.”
“I keep having car accidents, my Mum and Dad would go nuts if they knew I was here. I won the competition online, kept it to myself and just drove up.”
“Well, I thank you. And I promise we will have a time to remember. Can you head to Liverpool?”

They arrived in Liverpool in the early hours of the morning. The man directed her to a farmhouse just outside of Southport. Impressive automatic gates opened up to a mansion that looked like it belonged in a DC Comic. The man had whispered into an intercom, and he instructed Lexi to drive up to the house. She recognised the man who answered the door. It was Puz, once a guitarist, now a music mogul in his own right with a TV show and record label of his own. There was a bit of argy-bargy, then a hug. Puz handed the man a bundle, Lexi assumed correctly, that it was money. The man ran back to the car, “Let’s get a hotel! Let’s have some music and let’s have a party!”

For two days he drank, she drove. They stopped now and again at exclusive clubs hidden behind inconspicuous doors that promised very little but delivered a lot. They took selfies, danced, dined and goofed off. The man partook of every indulgence. He drank, drugged and sniffed away the pain, his being a pain that no amount of partying could abate. He never spoke of it and never reconciled it. It was a secret he walked away from and never looked back on. A small act that is slowly killing him, day by day.
Lexi could feel that beneath the party there was something else going on. In moments and flashes, his face was awash with shame. Someone whom she had hero-worshipped, loved and admired has become a thing to be pitied.

They were overstaying their welcome at Glue, a members-only club just outside of Birmingham. The owner called for security, the man was loud now and bitter. Will was on their trail, but like proper fugitives, they managed to stay ten steps ahead of him. Lexi now felt that the moment had arrived when she had to call time on these proceedings. The man went ballistic. Firing insults like tracer bullets from an automatic weapon. Because after all his creativity, his brain was a weapon and one he had used to make millions. He screamed at Lexi and turned over a table. He snatched her keys and stormed out. He scoured the alleyway behind the club and spotted her car. He shook the keys found the fob and clicked the central locking. With all the grace of Stork on ice, the man slid into the drivers seat.

The car pulled away, slowly, and clumsily. It kangarooed, shook and shuddered then stalled. Lexi caught him up. “You can’t drive! You haven’t been sober for three days!”
“Of course I can. I’m an excellent driver. Get out of my way.” The man passed out. The club security arrived. They helped Lexi to lay the man down on the back seats. She buckled up, put the car in gear and headed for home. It took her about forty minutes to get close to home. She tested her parents frequently, but disappearing for a few days with no word was going to be a tough one to get away with. She decided to stop at the shops on the green to buy some flowers for Mum and some chocolate for Dad. That would ease the blow. As she handed over a handful of coins to Maz behind the counter, the shop rocked with an ear busting crash and the whine of twisting metal. Lexi dropped the flowers and chocolate and ran outside. Her car now twisted half in and half out of the chemist window. The driver’s side door cranked open. The man fell out.

Observers ran over to the car. No one seems to recognise the man; they just gathered around to see him stagger away from the car and onto the green. He fell to his knees and then backward onto his back. He looked up to the sky dazed and inebriated. A man ran over waving a mobile phone. He knelt next to the man and began to dial. As he did, there was a squish and pop. Blood exploded everywhere. The man with the phone was covered. His signal had set off a blood pack wired to squib that the effects guys oh his video had rigged two days earlier.

The man leaped up, “I’m ok! I’m not dead! Ignore the tweets they know nothing! I’m all good. I need Lexi, and I need booze! And I need them now!” Theatrically he pointed to the shop. The man with the phone looked on open-mouthed with gloopy claret coloured syrup dripping from his nose. Lexi was stood in the doorway. She watched as the man staggered towards her. Lexi stared blankly as her dreams and her private fantasies died right before her eyes. She’d had enough. With a heart heavier than a lead brick and a stomach churning as though she’d eaten dog kebab from a back street vendor in Chiang Mai, Lexi took one last look at what was now a pathetic spectacle. And with eyes welling and a frog in her throat, she went home.

The End

If you have enjoyed this particular canister of mind gas, please consider sharing it – Karma and my badself will thank you for it. The buttons are on the right, thank you kindly.

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