After his change ran out, Paul decided to go back to his flat, find his bottle of Scotch and continue. He drove home carefully.
When he looked up at his window and saw his living room light bright, he sobered up considerably. He took a deep breath of cold air and skulked upstairs. In front of his door he paused to release the safety catch on his gun. It never occurred to him to call for back up.
“Ok there, freeze!” he called from the door. “Don’t you know this is a policeman’s flat?”
“What difference does that make? Or do you expect me to make a complaint to a magistrate about you driving after imbibing alcohol?” It was Marcus’ voice, rough.
“Are you ok?” Paul stepped forward carefully, then started coughing. “What the hell is this?” He had walked into a veritable wall of smoke. This time it was him opening the windows. He looked at Marcus, who was sitting in his favourite chair glowering at him, an already overflowing saucer serving as an ashtray next to him. From the look of it, he must have been here some time. “I would never have taken you for a smoker!”
“I find it actually serves to calm me down if I use the poison in large enough doses,“ Marcus said.
“Ah”, Paul said not really listening. He was rummaging around his bookshelves, wondering whether he’d put the whiskey behind Nietzsche or Sartre. He found it behind Burns and gestured to Marcus: “Want some?” hoping he didn’t. He hadn’t wanted to get drunk so much since his divorce years ago. Why had he let Naomi get to him so much? He’d only met her five days ago after all.
Marcus shook his head. “You ought to know by now I don’t drink. Can you stop fidgeting and sit down?”
“No problem”, Paul said when he hit the back of his knees on a chair and sat down involuntarily. With the exaggerated care of the drunk he found his way to the sofa and set to work with glass and bottle.
When Marcus spoke again his tone made him look up. “If you ever do something like that to me again, I’ll cheerfully tear you limb from limb and sing while I do it. You hear me?”
The quietness of Marcus’s voice made Paul believe the threat. He examined Marcus’s expression: furious and pained at the same time, his dark eyes blazing. He looked downright frightening. But why? “What exactly did I do to you then? I left you alone with her, didn’t I?” Had she …? No, he had seen the admiring looks Naomi had given the tall man, the interest in her eyes when he’d talked about travelling.
“That is the point! Didn’t you see how she was looking at me?”
Paul felt the same stab of jealousy he’d felt at Naomi’s house. “Yes, that’s why I left”, he retorted, gulping down a rather large whiskey and tried to ignore the burning in his throat.
Marcus had lit up again. “You think I wanted you to leave? Do you take me for some kind of saint? I can assure you I’m definitely not that! I barely managed to tear myself away from her fifteen years ago, and now this is getting even harder, which is completely ridiculous, because for once she was falling in love with a good man like you before all this started.”
Paul blinked at him and retorted sarcastically: “I really don’t know what your problem is!”
Marcus snorted exasperatedly. “That is painfully obvious. Listen, tomorrow night you take her out.” That was not a question.
“She won’t come unless you’re in, too”, Paul said bitterly, filling another glass.
Marcus took the glass away in one swift motion and squatted right in front of Paul’s seat, fixing his eyes on him. “You call her tomorrow, after you’ve sobered up and all that, and tell her you’ve got two tickets for Tori Amos at the Hammersmith Apollo. She wanted to go there but couldn’t get any tickets.”
“I don’t like Tori Amos”, Paul protested drunkenly.
“Neither do I, but that’s irrelevant. You take her out for dinner before or afterwards, or whatever your generation likes, and make this evening as pleasant as possible. She really likes you. That should work.” He sounded as if he was convincing himself.
“You must be joking”, Paul said, “Why would she fall for me when she’s in love with a rich guy with movie-star looks, who has read all the right books, travelled around the world, and even plays the fucking piano.” He was wallowing in self-pity by now. “By the way I don’t have any tickets for Tori Amos either.”
“You will have by tomorrow night,“ Marcus said, returning to his seat.
“Ah, so that leaves only the small problem of her coming along at all if you’re not around,“ Paul said in a sarcastic tone.
“I’m not an option!” Marcus roared in frustration. “Get that in your head, will you?” He got up to let himself out and called back from the door, calm again, “I’ll be round here tomorrow. Good night.”
Paul was fast asleep by the time the door closed behind Marcus.