Irresistible temptation. A prompt from 642 things to write about.
With a voice and face like his, Joe Crash was born to be a star. Those baby blues peering out from a slightly weathered and shadowed face, a sly smile on that square-cut jaw. He could have been a poster-boy, but he employed a little select facial hair and a just-out-of-bed, tumbled, longer hair to turn him into just enough bad boy.
Anyone who’d ever seen him perform had quickening pulses at the fluidity of his svelte hip gyrations. His voice brought tears to eyes, brought people to their knees, had them frothing with sexual excitement. Even critics had problems finding flaws in his work and governments everywhere worried that his notes might be turned against them.
Joe created hysteria where ever he went. Not since The Beatles had people lined the streets. Of course, he waved with unconcerned casualness, signed all manner of autographs and generally kept to himself. Occasional dates with other celebrities ended up splashed on the tabloid pages but his private life remained remarkably private and he kept his past in the shadows.
Meredith had used all her industry favours to get a one-on-one interview with the man himself, while he was on tour in Sydney with his band, The Crows. She’d done her research and she was ready.
She took in her look in the mirror. Her dark hair was tousled, the outline of her eyes a smoky haze and her tight black pants and sweetheart spotted bustier topped it off. She slipped her red cropped jacket around her shoulder, splashed her favourite red on her lips and strode out the door.
Backstage she waited for an hour while Joe played a long encore for his fans. She could hear the distorted sounds of the band. She heard the click of his boots as he strode down the hall, the sounds distorted by the shuffle of another’s foot. Meredith was waiting next to a pillar, as still as the shadow that covered her. Joe saw her last minute and startled. Quickly, he collected his cool, and turned to the dainty blonde who he was leading backstage.
“Cleo, you’re going to have to excuse me. I forgot that my agent set me up with an interview.” He stroked her cheek gently as her face fell into a pout. “I’ll see you at the after party, sweet.”
Deftly, he slid the rectangular invite into her jeans pocket. She couldn’t have been more than 20, with this man whose age was pinned at around 35, and when she turned away, she looked dazed and confused. Joe whispered in her ear and she shuffled down the corridor.
“Helps with the image,” Joe shrugged as he entered the dressing room, gesturing to a spare chair for Meredith. “If you people want to be with you, or be you.”
With a clean pull, he yanked off the stage-sweaty t-shirt, of course deliberately giving Meredith the unadulterated view of his lithe body. He smirked and remarked, “I probably should have asked first. Sorry, not used to having professionals here after my gigs.”
Meredith waved it off, made a deliberate effort to get out her notebook. “But you are used to having women in here after though?”
Joe’s grin turned predatory for a moment before he dialled it back to an expression they used in her business called “boys being boys”; a fake apologetic grin followed by a look of helplessness. “I’m single, hopefully they are too. Life is too short for hang-ups, Miss…”
“Meredith.” She leaned forward, extending her hand, so he had to come to her. The stiffness in his back afterwards showed she was ruffling his feathers a little bit. He turned away from her to wipe his face with a towel and shrug into a shirt.
Joe buttoned up the wrinkled, grungy collared shirt, before flicking his hair up in the mirror and turning back to her. The wickedness was gone; clearly this time he was going for the open and honest assault. “So, I guess we’re here to talk my tour and the upcoming album.”
Meredith’s smile was correspondingly warm. “I thought we’d actually have a chat about the little chits you’ve been killing.” She watched Joe’s eyes harden as she continued, “I guess Chloe, or was it Cleo, is your next mark.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His voice held a threat equally as deadly as the hissing of the cobra.
“I know who you are Mr Crash. Or should I say, more specifically, what.” Meredith leant back, her eyes never leaving the singer.
“And what is that?” His arms crossed, surprisingly well-muscled for a man of his weight.
His laughter was too loud, too hard and too sudden. “I think you might just be mad, Meredith.” He picked up a phone. “Last time I do any favours for Stan.”
As he dialled, Meredith played a video. One she’d paid a lot of money to get her hands on. The edge of a show, about two years prior, a girl escorted from the crowd. In the darkness at side of stage, you could see him. His face in picture perfect quality. And as they turned away together, he transformed, becoming the monster she knew he was.
“Killing James McGrath without having the proof was sloppy,” she said as she stroked her iPhone and he put the phone down. “But leaving a trail of missing girls behind your tours is worse.”
“That is fraud, that video,” he said, his exterior calm a signal to let her know he was getting ready to attack.
“It’s no fake, Joe, or should I say Okeanos.” She did not fail to see him start. “It’s a long way to fall from Olympus.”
Meredith stood, near the door but close enough to strike if needed. “Not enough sacrifices to keep you in these times?”
Joe turned back to the mirror. “A God has to survive somehow.”
“So you know the truth.” He turned again, flung his arms out wide. “You know, now I have to kill you.”
“You can try.”
Ever so softly, Joe sung as he circled. Meredith recognised the ancient words; he was singing of weakness and frailty, appealing directly to her human body. He didn’t recognise then, the jewellery she work, the ear cuffs that protected her from the beauty of his song.
She came back at him, singing the song back, twisting the melody back on him. He began to slow, looking tired and old. When he realised, he threw a chair, which Meredith nimbly dodged, causing it to crash and shatter the mirror behind her. She sang further, weaving the molecules of his body out, pushing the supernatural to his periphery. She would get only one shot at him.
His lunge came, his hands aiming for her throat. She dodged and he went sprawling on the ground. Swiftly, she pinned him there, fastening him tight.
“What are you?” he whispered into the tiles, still in disbelief at where he was.
“Once, I was one of your many slaves. One of the beautiful women your seas stole and turned into the nymphs, the sirens.”
“When your power dwindled, it freed me. But I never forgot the horrors you made me watch, the sailors you made us drown in your incessant drive for power.”
“I promised myself that when I escaped, I would find you.” Meredith gently stroked his hair back from his face. “Don’t worry, your end will be a lot less painful than theirs.”
Meredith opened her mouth and began to sing. The story of the thousand ships, of the lives ebbing beneath waves escaped from her. She went on to talk about the drawing of power, the stealing of a soul.
He was grey beneath her when she stopped, his chest heaving with his last breaths. A faltering smile crossed his face before it stilled forever.
Meredith removed herself, taking the back passageways out. No one would remember she was here, that she got this interview; her melodies had made sure of that.
When the news reported Joe Crash’s death of a heart attack the next day, Meredith leaned back with a smile, feeling his invincibility in the singing of her blood. Today, her revenge was complete.