‘Jesus!’ shouted his mother, clutching at her very ample bosom.
Mrs Crow bolted upright and as she did so, her false teeth that had been protruding from under her hairy grey lip, popped back in her mouth.
‘Jesus?’ she asked. ‘He won’t be able to help you, not after what you’ve done.’ She threw her head back and cackled.
Lola, who had, up until this point, been lying quietly across Mrs Crow’s lap, sat up and began to howl in accompaniment. It sounded like an orchestra from hell. Joe noticed that the hairs on the back of Lola’s neck were standing on end but there was no aggression in the dog as her tail was waving enthusiastically.
He looked over to his mother who looked like she was about to have a heart attack. Joe suddenly started feeling very cold. He remembered something from the night before, at the cemetery, when Mrs Crow seemed to simply step out of the darkness. Like Death. Death? Was he going mad, or what?
But what if? What if she was Death and she’d come for his mother? That wasn’t why she was here, was it?
Not that he loved his mother. He didn’t. But then, that feeling was reciprocal. He just didn’t want her dead.
Mrs Crow stopped laughing abruptly. She looked up at Joe and said, ‘Don’t be stupid,’ almost as if she was answering his unspoken question, ‘it’s not time. Yet. No, I’ve come for you.’ She pointed a long crooked finger at him.
‘Me?’ he said, taking a huge step away from her. He didn’t want to die. Not yet. Not even with his shitty life.
‘Of course, you! Who else would I be here for? No one else is trying to get a job with me, are they? And as you had a very late night last night…’ Her eyes snapped shut again, she flopped back onto the sofa, and she began to snore loudly. Again.
‘Are you sure you’re working for her?’ asked his mother. ‘Only she doesn’t look very -‘
‘What?’ screeched Mrs Crow, jerking awake again.
‘Er…nothing,’ said Joe’s mother taking in the murderous look on the old woman’s face. Joe was impressed; it was the first time he’d ever seen his mother short for words.
Lola jumped from Mrs Crow’s lap. The room darkened.
‘And,’ said Mrs Crow, suddenly appearing right in front of Joe’s mother, ‘it’s a live-in position, so he won’t paying you rent.’ She added, under her breath, ‘Or money for fags and booze or for your good-for-nothing boyfriend.’
‘What did you say?’
Mrs Crow placed her hands on her hips. The top of her head only just came to Joe’s mother’s chin. ‘I said, you won’t be stealing no more cash from Joe. He’s leaving. TODAY.’
‘How dare you -‘ She stopped. Her breath was escaping from her mouth in wisps. The room had turned to ice. And Joe’s mother seemed to shrink as Mrs Crow expanded and seemed to impossibly take up half of the room. The living room went as dark as the look on Mrs Crow’s face.
Mrs Crow towered over her.
‘Joe,’ she said, but never taking her eyes off his mother.
‘Get your things. You’re leaving.’
‘But…But what about the trial?’
‘No trial. I’m taking you out of here,’ said Mrs Crow, finally looking at him, ‘besides, we’re desperate.’