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I’d already spoken to Gene, Joe, Dave, Carlos and Miles before Harvey slammed himself down – a flesh coloured obelisk – opposite me and grinned with a mouth that seemed to be randomly stuffed with painfully bright tombstone slabs. The previous guys were nice enough, but not bright enough (barring Joe who had some promise in fact, but he wasn’t what I was after that night).

Harvey however, had an impressive CV. I know this because the first thing he did was hold it up a few inches from my face and say “I’m the most intelligent man you’ve ever met”.

I paused as he downed the last of his Foster’s and eyed me up, awaiting my response. The vision before me was more bison in shape than human, I decided. Upon his head there sat a bleached-to-the-bone barnet which consisted of a straight fringe that flopped lazily over one huge pale blue, watery eye, whilst the back and sides had clearly spent some recent time with a number two razor at the barber’s. He also had more eyebrow than I have ever seen . . . singular intentional on my part, though presumably not on his.

“A clever clogs, is it?” I said, and plucked the CV out of his pale, banana-like fingers, reading aloud after a quick scan:

“A degree in Rocket Science, an M.A. in N.A.S.A Biological Engineering, five years as head of the DARPA Inventions and Innovations team in London, and presently working at a top-secret cybernetic AI corporation for the military . . . Very impressive Harvey.”

He gurned, showing all of his teeth, and I mean all of them. Yes, definitely a graveyard by moonlight if ever I saw one. I assumed he was aiming for a smile instead of the grim visage that presented itself, and so flashed some molars back as he pulled gingerly at his rather-too-enthusiastically fixed bow tie. It was white and crammed with spiralling Tweety Pies. Nice. It went fetchingly with his short-sleeved, pink and green Hawaiian shirt, and yellow ochre chinos.

I’d had one hell of a day – one hell of a week. Fuck it, one hell of a decade if truth be told, and my research at work of late was taking its toll, so I was looking forward to stopping off at the Crafty Flag cocktail bar that night for a much-needed alcoholic beverage in the ‘gee and tea’ line.

I found myself in the midst of a throng of people standing ’round the perimeter of about twenty tables; they shifted, looking fiddly; nervous laughter filled the cellar-like space, and most were negotiating how to sip from glasses decorated with foiled umbrellas and more fruit than Carmen Miranda’s headgear used to sport of an evening. The sign on the wall said –

‘After a Marathon Love? Fancy a Flash minus the Pan(ts)? Then join us HERE on Tuesday the 17th of October for our Internationally Successful Speed Dating Night – ‘Hook, Line and Sink-her!’

I emitted a barely concealed gag at the gross and exceptionally offensive invitation, parried away any thoughts of a sedate gin and tonic Errol Flynn style, and ordered a double Jameson’s instead – no ice, instantly downed in one whilst my left hand signalled the barman to pour me another.

Twenty seconds later a lilac-haired, crumpet-shaped woman wearing leopard-skin print everything stepped forward with a microphone and bellowed (quite unnecessarily), “Laydeeez and Geezers. Let us begin! Misses ready for kisses? Please take a seat at a table.”

A Miss for a kiss. Is this the seedy level civilisation has dragged us to I wondered? A cattle market, the major difference to my eyes being that I actually respect cows. I sat down at one of the tables, my third double in hand, opened up a small antique compact mirror and slowly applied some bright red lipstick, aware that I’d had enough alcohol by then for a lack of care to easily enter the arena swaying carelessly. I was aiming for something in the Rita Heyworth line, effect-wise, rather than Ronald MacDonald on crack.

Back to Harvey. He’d clocked me asking when the next vegan specials were likely to be on the menu and so sprouted forth his own love of greens and animals, his utter disgust at those who pay to have beasts killed for the sake of their own selfish wants rather than needs, regardless of cruelty. I nodded and noted a half-eaten pepperoni sticking out of Harvey’s satchel. I nodded again, this time to myself.

On he went, a booming bore with the face of a beaming boar. Eight minutes had passed and up until this point Harvey had not once asked anything of my life, my thoughts, my work, my anything. He was really very taken with himself – a peroxide narcissist of the highest degree. But then he asked my opinion on smoking tobacco.

I replied that I abhorred the stuff, and was about to elaborate when he buffered my words away and jawed expansively of his own hatred of nicotine and its vast compendium of evils. His shirt pocket bulged with a rectangular packet that was unmistakably a pack of twenty fags. I nodded some more and waved at the barman for yet another fill-up.

He next enquired as to my own line of work. “I’m a product tester for Biocet International. Today I was trying out a new brand of toilet paper which claims to whiten your bum-hole with every swipe.” I said.

It would be fair to say his eyes goggled at me. “No fucking way? Hahahaha. Really?”

“Really”, I replied, amazed at how gullible some people can be. I sank another double and savoured the fumes from the glass.

“Does it work?!” He looked unhealthily excited at the prospect.

“Yes, but I don’t recommend it for watching any weepy films or wiping your knob on. Elf and Pastry, and all that,” I replied.

In mid-mouthful of a new pint, he lurched, laughed and choked violently – the beverage reappeared, making its entrance via his left nostril, accompanied by a hefty dose of snot. Smooth.

How could any woman resist?

I’d spent the best part of the two weeks prior to this night recovering from surgery to implant a mechanised port within my upper chest. Going under the knife was a necessary infliction in order to receive as many sessions of chemotherapy as I might ultimately need, the veins in my arms and hands being so utterly destroyed from recurring bouts of a disease that had marched forwards, guns-a-blazing, only then to retreat, simmering quietly for a while before it geared up again for another onslaught, that eventually no needle could possibly find purchase. Two wires were threaded from the back of the port into my body – one through an artery directly to my heart, the other to my jugular. The port raised the profile of the area between tit and collarbone on the right hand side of my chest just ever-so slightly, and revealed itself as a coin-shaped disc with a small dome at its centre.

Harvey had made no attempt to hide his interest in my cleavage for those past few minutes I’d spent with him. I drained my tumbler and said “Fuck this, fancy a blow-job in the loo?”

He once more paraded his lucent molars, this time in shock, swiftly followed by some incipient drool, and nodded like a bobble-head on the rear shelf of a 70’s Ford Cortina racing at break-neck speed over a road riddled with potholes. Keen as mustard, pants to match.

We surreptitiously exited the table quick smart at the next break and made for the women’s toilets. Once in a booth, we stood smiling in silence until finally, all the chattering, lippy-marking occupants had returned to the marauding meat market that was the bar.

His hands immediately ranged over my breasts and hips, all fingers and thumbs on my bum. My top had been chosen specifically for the way it framed my décolletage whilst concealing the portacath’s site; Harvey dragged the scooped neckline to one side and then stopped.

“Er, if you don’t mind me asking love, what’s the lump all about?”, he said, pointing at the portacath. At this moment my phone set off a reminder I’d precisely set earlier that day as I run like clockwork – continuously, necessarily so. The alarm tone I’d chosen for tonight’s activity was that of ‘The Twilight Zone’.

Harvey jumped and I said “it’s an implant. A bullshit detector. And you’ve just set the bastard off.”

I pulled a muffled Glock 42 out of the mid-rear of my pants, shoved it deep into his groin and did just as I had promised. I blew his cock off. Blew it off big-time, plus his balls as an added extra; then, as he screamed to the blaring vocals of Right Said Fred’s “I’m too sexy”, I blasted his debatably clever brains out through the back of his stupendously fat head.

Harvey Gould – not a man who would recognise a woman who had worked alongside him in a lab developing biological weapons for five years, but then again I had lost three stone, and was wearing a lustrous, flowing red wig, (now swiftly shoved into my shoulder bag), and I’m not the woman I was in more ways than fifty these days either.

I knew Harvey loved his redheads; he’d gone on at length about it one day, bellowing across the lab each detail of his previous night’s encounter. The dismally unfortunate woman had been roundly lambasted before we all found out that at the end of his tender attentions, he had one final piece of advice. She needed to dye her hair red, or fuck off. What a prize our Harvey was.

He was one of three scientists who created the virus that is eating me from the inside out. I watched both my parents and my younger sister Jill die slowly, cruelly, before the authorities finally approved a chemotherapy drug that might suppress its assault long enough to keep a victim alive whilst an antidote was being created. And it’s my lab that’s been working on the antidote.

The virus has advanced so far within me now that the treatment can give me at best only another five years, such is my prognosis. I’ve had my own punishment for dabbling in biological warfare, and in spades, I can tell you. Not much more digging left for this particular dabbler to do though. Harvey didn’t contract the disease. Lucky boy’s had his last Foster’s now though. Five years is plenty of time to track down the other two bastards mind you, and ladle out some homegrown justice.

I picked my bag up off the grimy, bloodied floor, gave Harvey a ‘so long sucker’ kick in his recently vacated groin – just for luck, you understand – tucked my G42 back in place, slapped some gaffa tape and a sign saying ‘Out of Order’ upon the cubicle door, (just which of us this appellation fitted best may be a bone of contention), and crawled out of the bathroom window, heading off to catch the last tube home.

I still have Joe’s number, maybe I’ll give him a call . . . seemed like a nice bloke. Perhaps speed-dating isn’t so bad after all.