Balls in the air. Juggle juggle juggle.
These people, these places, these projects. Each has its own mass, its own weighting. Subtle variance of spin and velocity.
Arcing back over each other, in and out of turn.
The light and the air and the grease and the gumption.
One thing you could say about being a lifestyle guru/private investigator – it's a test of your co-ordination.
August had already intervened with flash floods that dismantled a long-term house makeover. Bloody Boscastle. One ball down. Another had gained mass with reports of animal skeletons turning up in the Highlands.
It was with research in mind that Johnny visited his local corner shop to buy his Sport, Mail, Independent, Murder Casebook and Crochet partwork.
It was animal butchery he was pondering as he sauntered around Lidl grabbing all the bargains, virtually on autopilot.
It was corruption in sport that tested him during his tour of Victoria Park, zig-zagging around virtually on autopilot.
It was malfunctioning software that bored him to sleep.
August 20th. Two things of note happened to Johnny that dark, muggy day. Firstly, he chanced upon a wrongly-placed book in the Humour Dept. Secondly, an unexpected visitor rang his doorbell.
The misplaced volume was Secrets of Core Pulse Tone Love, by Bruin.
The unexpected visitor was a man in a karate suit.
Gaunt, sweating disgustingly, glasses slipping down his bony nose, he propped himself up against the alcove as Johnny cautiously pulled the door back.
A painful intake of breath. Two words: “Help me.”
Johnny's features softened into a fatherly smile.
Five words: “Help me kick his arse.”
An eyebrow duly raised.
The volume had regained Johnny's glance as, having skimmed around the section, he found himself trying to make out what the hell that title meant. Picking it off the shelf, he scanned the blurb and was none the wiser. It was clearly a double-espresso read, if not triple. The pages thick with gobbledygook. Back on the shelf it went.
The man gulped back his second hi-ball of water while Johnny took notes.
When the words came they were thick and fast and garbled. There were slogans and retreats and deadlines and mocking laughter. And for Johnny, there was a lightbulb switching on in his head as he connected the man now dampening his cheapest armchair with something that had happened back in May.
It had been a light, tantalising early Summer day and JC was in SoHo amassing material for a show about alternative lifestyles. The kind of thing they lap up on Blighty. He was filming a bunch of Koreans wrapped in dayglo bulbous cartoon costumes, when his attention snapped onto a hubbub nearby in Leicester Square. A group of men in light karate outfits performed stunts and poses for an appreciative female audience. One chap was handing out broken bits of slate together with calling cards. Intrigued, Johnny took one and frowned at its message:
“You seek the truth through all these things. You call 0898 800 1800. Zen Zen UK UK”.
He found a payphone and dialled the number, ignoring the stale urine stench.
“Hello? I was wondering if Zen was around … I've got lots of questions about the meaning of life and I've heard that Zen has all the answers … Hello? I want to talk to Zen!”
That day Johnny had been forced to give up, the card left to languish in a jacket pocket stuffed with sandwich receipts and ladies' scrawled addresses. He had never found out who this Zen was, or why he wrote his own name twice.
Now he understood.