Dear Readers, Writers, and Precious Patrons,
Today on All Authors Blog, we’re pleased to feature Barbara Scott Emmett, author of The Man with the Horn.
When Jezebel and Magdalena, a couple of whores of indeterminate sexuality, try to persuade her to host a sex party – ‘not an orgy, that sounds so vulgar’ – high class call girl, Passionaria, is none too keen.
But when trumpeter Sal Pinksy puts her in touch with Kid McLean, a former child popstar, and Kid becomes her client, the party takes on a greater significance.
Passionaria is a devotee of the pagan god Dionysos and the god needs a sacrifice periodically. Kid McLean – sexually abused as a child – needs to atone for what he believes are his sins.
Perhaps all these events can be combined?
Friday evening and Sal Pinksy is a happy man. He has managed to lure his darling out to the pub on the corner of her street. Who knows where this could lead. The sun is dropping down behind the plane trees, the pub garden noisy with revellers. He smiles to himself as he holds his beer up to the light and watches the particles settle. Then he turns his head and lets his loving brown eyes rest on Passionaria, sitting next him on the wooden bench. Her body is inches from his. He surveys her with a grin, his old-young attractive-ugly face soft at the nearness of her.
The casual clothes she is wearing remind him of the first time he ever saw her. That day, meeting her on the stairs at the house in Kilburn, his life changed. In an instant he fell in love. She was wearing jeans and a suede jacket then too—of course in those days it was a beaten old up brown thing with fringes down the sleeves, not the butterscotch designer number she’s wearing now. A brown and gold bandanna had encircled her head and she’d worn huge bronze earrings. That was in her New Romantic phase. Sal’s eyes glaze as he recalls her thigh-high buccaneer boots. Buccaneer boots! Whatever happened to them?
Jimmy Bellman, already paunchy and florid, had stumbled down the stairs behind her. Sal knew him from the betting office.
‘Hi, Jim,’ he said, nodding.
‘Hullo there, Sal,’ said Jimmy. Passionaria merely smiled. But Sal stood transfixed on the echoing landing long after the front door banged shut behind them. He had come face to face with the Goddess and she had smiled down at him. She had smiled down. At him.
From the mail that arrived from her parents in some German BFPO he learned that her name was Jane McSween. He swooned in secret over Miss McSween and fantasised about her when alone in his room. He could hear the rows and the passion of Bellman and McSween through the wall and died the little death every time he heard her reach orgasm. They got to know each other over shared pots of tea in the communal kitchen. He became her official consoler the night Jimmy Bellman gave her a black eye, and her rescuer ten months later when Bellman finally ditched her and she ended up in the Royal Free. Hard to believe the brittle, porcelain Passionaria could ever have been that vulnerable girl. He smiles at the memory of her.
‘What’s amusing you?’ the current version says, nudging him in the ribs and bringing him back to the pub garden. ‘You’re miles away.’
‘Just thinking about Jimmy Bellman,’ he says, taking a sip of ale.
‘Bellman?’ she says, incredulous. ‘That creep. What’re you thinking about him for?’
‘Just remembering the first time we met.’ Sal reaches into his pocket for his Golden Virginia. ‘You and me, I mean.’
‘Bastard,’ says Passionaria. ‘To think I had my stomach pumped for that man. Aspirins and Cinzano—what an idiot.’
‘Just as well you didn’t take too many,’ says Sal, patting her hand. ‘Aspirins can really damage your insides.’
‘Yes, I know.’ Passionaria gazes off into the distance. ‘Appalling taste in alcohol too.’ She turns to look at Sal. ‘Jimmy Bellman. Wonder where he is now.’
‘He’s married, isn’t he?’ Sal pauses in the construction of a roll-up. ‘I hear he’s got two kids.’
‘Serves him right.’ Passionaria screws up her nose. ‘You were my saviour then, Sal,’ she says. ‘I’d have gone crazy if it hadn’t been for you.’ She places a slender hand on his knee.
Sal’s tongue traverses a Rizla but his eyes are fixed on those pale fingers. He lets the silence lengthen to see what she will do next. She sighs and takes her hand away.
‘Talking of creeps,’ she says at last, ‘I phoned that McLean guy last week. He came to see me.’
‘Yeah?’ Sal’s eyebrows lift. ‘What did you think of him then?’
‘He was okay,’ says Passionaria. ‘You said you played in a band with him once, didn’t you?’
‘Yeah—years ago. The Troubadours—I’ve told you about them. But McLean was famous well before that—as a kid. Hence the name.’
‘I gathered that.’
‘So how did you get on?’ Sal, froth-lipped, savours another mouthful of the mellow ale. Metal chairlegs grate on the paving stones of the pub garden, and the sun filters obliquely through the whispering trees.
‘I’d rather not go into detail, Sal—’ Passionaria, her eyes hidden behind her sunglasses, turns away from him. ‘—since he’s a client now. Let’s talk about something else.’
‘Sorry.’ Sal puts down his pint and bats away a fly. There is a long pleromic silence. ‘It’s just that I’m curious,’ he says eventually, ‘because I know him, you know. I just wondered—if you got on.’
‘We got on,’ says Passionaria. ‘I always get on with clients. As long as they aren’t totally obnoxious.’ She pauses. ‘He wasn’t totally obnoxious.’
‘But you didn’t like him?’ Sal’s eyes light up.
‘I don’t have to like him.’
‘I don’t like him much either.’ Sal wipes his lips and twitches his eyebrows at Passionaria. He’s relieved she’s not enamoured of McLean. That’s a great weight off his mind. It was always a risk. A slender one, but a risk nevertheless. ‘Still and all, Pash,’ he goes on, ‘given that he’s an old acquaintance—and that I brought the whole thing about—I’d be interested in hearing how it went.’
Passionaria heaves a sigh and puts down her drink. The evening breeze rustles the leaves of the trees as a cloud passes over the sun.
‘Nothing happened,’ she says.
‘Nothing happened. With McLean. He couldn’t get it up.’
After many years travelling the globe, Barbara Scott Emmett now lives back in her home town of Newcastle upon Tyne. She writes in a room overlooking the river where she can enjoy the sight of colourful sailing dinghies, kittiwakes and dark clouds rolling in from the sea. She lives with her husband Sandy, aka crime writer Jimmy Bain, and their cat, Kitty.
Her first novel, The Man with the Horn, originally published by a small press, is now available as an ebook. Don't Look Down, a thriller, and The Land Beyond Goodbye are both available as ebooks. Her latest novel Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion, published in association with Triskele Books, is now available in paperback and ebook formats.