Categories
Chapter

lundi

<<BACK

We fade in—-the smiling face of the chairman.

Robert Davis staring back at the portrait. He glanced down.

He asked, “And you’re cool with this?”

Amérique Nakamura came out from around a corner to the living room past the couch where Robert was at and sat at her workstation and said, “Everything under heaven is in utter chaos, the situation is excellent.”

“You call this excellent?”

Amérique fed a fresh sheet of paper into her Hermes typewriter and pressed a key and said, “You’re my editor Bob—-you tell me what you think.”

“It is utter chaos, is what I think.”

“A chaos in spectacle?”

“Just chaos, Amérique.”

She smiled and said, “Always appreciate your input.”

“I swear you do this on purpose.”

“Wasn’t an accident.”

He flipped through the manuscript with one hand and picked at his Afro with the other. He said, “Still—-this is not at all what I had in mind when I suggested changes. Something happen over the weekend?”

Another flip through the manuscript and then another. And then another. And then another and then Robert looked up and across the living room and said, “Amérique?”

Her back to him. Amérique tapping at the page.

He heard her say, “Robert?”

“Yeah?”

“Fetch me a smoke? Should be right next to you.”

Robert noted the pack at the other end of the couch. He reached over and grabbed it. There was a small red stain across the arm and seat and a smaller cigarette mark on the wall above the couch that did not register to Robert.

He asked, “Can I bum one?” to which Amérique said, “Do it and I’ll stab you in the throat,” and so Robert picked one out for himself and passed the box over.

She set the cigarette between her lips and lit it. Robert had a light for himself.

He returned to the manuscript and said, “Okay. So these changes. I said try and write for the pulps this time and you went off and did—-whatever the fuck this is.”

Amérique continued to type.

“I see what you’re trying to do here—-I mean do I get a kick out of it? Can’t say that I don’t—-but you’re not making my job any fucking easier, that’s for fucking sure.”

Amérique continued to type.

“And I don’t see the point of bringing back old characters if you were just going to do this to them. You looking to piss off your readers? And this ending—-would it really kill you to write something happy for once?”

Amérique continued to type and said, “Happiness as an end goal is useless. Happiness should only be the side effect in the pursuit of something greater.”

“That being what?”

She hit a key—-a letter—-D. She hit more—-Dialectics.

“Bob.”

“Amérique.”

“Do you know what the difference is—-between a book and a bomb?”

“Beats me.”

“There isn’t one. Not really. The only difference is in the condition necessary for an explosion. In the bomb, ignition. In the book, a reader. This is for a new Série noire. For a new Serial noire.”

“Cool, Amérique, very cool. But I can’t sell new.”

She hit a key—-a letter—-D. She hit more—-Détournement.

“You very much can Bob.”

“Again, you’re not making my job any fucking easier.”

Her back still to him. Amérique smiled.

Smoke in the air. Pages turned.

Robert sighed and said, “Got anything else for me?”

“Maybe. Maybe film criticism. Maybe an essay on the history of Afro Asian revolutionary politics. Maybe even a stage play.”

“Really? That’s it?”

She hit a key—-a letter—-D. She did not hit more. She would have the final word.

Amérique turned to look and stare directly back. She said, “There is nothing else. Art that does not call for new situations or new modes of producing itself for a new everyday life is dead. If you want however, we can have a Discussion.”

FIN.

<<BACK

Categories
Chapter

VIII. First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

<<BACK — FWD>>

The restaurant in full view when D opened the door.

Sitting in the back as if they hadn’t moved since the last time they were written about. They were all fat, they were all hungry, they were all white.

It was just them. Them, and what looked like a company man, and a man wearing a paper tiger mask nursing a highball.

D curled both hands into fists like a child because, in the final analysis, she still was one.

She closed in, they paid no mind to anything else but their own business.

CUT TO:

The crowbar dropped to the floor. Blood followed.

Styx’s arm hanging by his side. Between gritted teeth his laughter turned into strained wheezing.

He pushed on ahead.

A back section. Colder. Frozen products. More suits standing by a large metal door.

Styx fired before they saw him. Their final breaths visible in the air.

He stepped over the bodies. He tucked the gun under an armpit and put his good hand on the door handle. He was biting his tongue when he pulled the door open.

Hades dark, Cocytus cold, Styx peered within.

Meat hanging on hooks. Blood and bone. Clean cut and commodified.

They were huddled in the back corner, pigs feet hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles.

She was there between them. Shivering in the cold. She saw Styx and in a slit of light that caught her lips there was a gap in the teeth of her smile.

CUT TO:

The lights were on her like a stage. D unfurled her hands and set one finger on her neck, through the ring of the pin.

D’s pulse—-beating like Morse code to a telegram.

CUT TO:

Styx pushed the door open wider. They all got a good look at what was left of him.

She rushed out first. She wrapped her arms around him. She hugged tight and then hugged tighter.

Styx put his working hand on her head and fixed her beret. She pulled back and saw the damage it took for him to get there. Her eyes were wide.

The other two got up and joined them. Faces unfamiliar. He nodded.

A shot rang out. Styx fell.

The other two shrieked and split just like that. She stayed with him for a moment.

Styx caught the gun from under his arm and fired wildly out from the freezer. He paused and there was no return fire.

Styx chuckled and checked his side. The stitches broken, the blood pouring back out. The bullet lodged inside.

Styx was on his knees. He would not be getting up again.

He felt tugs at his leather jacket. He heard cries. He was losing his other senses. He was running out of thoughts to have.

The man called Styx pushed her away. He collected his gun and crawled into the freezer in order to feel something.

A blurry haze of her standing over him. Either he blinked or he didn’t but the haze was gone.

CUT TO:

SHAKE IN YOUR SHOES RICH PEOPLE STOP THE POWER OF THE YOUTH AND THE WORKERS WILL SOON WIPE YOU OUT STOP THE FUSE IS LIT THE PIN IS PULLED STOP THE FIRE EXPANDS AND THE COMBUSTION IS SUDDEN STOP THERE WILL BE NO MORE OF YOUR CRIMES STOP

CUT TO:

The man once known as Styx—-cold as a corpse in the freezer. Suits standing at the door, ready but staying put.

A faint breath visible between partly open lips.

The police came in. James Gomez watched his step.

He saw the body. He saw the gun—-a Colt 1903. He pried the gun free from frozen fingers and checked the clip.

The pigs and the suits all gave him nods. James Gomez nodded back. He aimed the gun and finished the job with a cautionary bullet through the spent body’s head.

Thus concludes a long poem of discouragement.

<<BACK — FWD>>

Categories
Chapter

VII. Les Enfants de Marx et de Coca-Cola

<<BACKFWD>>

D hit the black-and-white and sped out to the street. There was no discernable expression on her face.

Buildings and businesses passed her. Cafes and banks and video rental stores and an art house movie theater. D parked at the theater and snuck inside.

A restored film print of Vivre sa vie already rolling. D found an empty row and sat.

The film had already started. Anna Karina as Nana watching Renée Falconetti as Joan in Dreyer’s silent movie La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc.

Nana wept. D blinked hot tears and slouched and kept slouching—-getting shorter like a lit fuse.

CUT TO:

We DOLLY around a phone booth as Styx talks inside.

“Hey. It’s me. It’ll be done soon. Don’t worry about me anymore. Amérique. Goodbye.”

Styx hit the phone into the receiver. He stepped out the booth. He used the crowbar like a cane.

Someone passed him to the booth. They saw Styx. They backed up. They saw the blood and yelped and ran away.

Styx touched his side gingerly. It made him stop in his tracks.

He stood there for a moment. But not for a moment longer. He walked slowly back to his taxi and got back inside. The engine started.

CUT TO:

The shadows were longer when D stepped out of the theater. She slow-walked back to the black-and-white.

D sat inside and listened to the ringing in her ears that was still there but not as much as before.

She turned on the police radio. It buzzed. She played with the dial. Different reports coming in. She tested the extent of her hearing.

She caught several words. None of them worth reporting here.

She sat there. She took out the box again. She hugged it like any other little girl would hug a teddy bear.

An older couple leaving the theater passed. They saw her. She saw them.

D hit the horn for a very long time and then for a time longer. The couple startled away.

Then D laughed and kept her arm on the horn and then started yelling along with it. Then D wept. Then D pulled her arm back and felt something fall out of a pocket in her jacket.

She reached down by the pedal and picked up Santino’s planner.

Page flip—-page flip—-page flip—-page flip. Wet eyes landing on a point. D clocked the time.

She wiped her eyes. She lit up even more.

She reached for a button and the siren began to blare. She peeled out and was on the road as fast as this sentence stops.

CUT TO:

The engine died. The door slammed shut. Styx leaned against the taxicab.

Parked in the heart of America. The supermarket in front of him.

He stood there and sized up the building. He scratched at his beard. He felt the weight of the gun in his pocket and the crowbar in his hand.

The sun was fully up. A very long beat of him dwarfed by the building’s shadow. We hold on this frame, a hint of neon just barely tracing his outline.

Then Styx hobble-walked inside.

He passed the automatic doors, now under a high ceiling and harsh fluorescents. The sounds of everyday consumer monotony. Carts and footsteps and squeaking wheels and chatter and moving products and the entire movement of everything. The violence was deafening.

Styx labored ahead.

Eyes watched him. They kept their distance but they were there like vultures.

Styx stepped and was stopped. An older employee with grey in her hair and bags under her eyes that looked past him when she approached with caution.

She said, “Excuse me sir? There anything I,” and Styx moved right past her.

The employee called out again and Styx continued. More eyes on him now. More employees coming out from the aisles. More suits.

Styx kept on walking. They followed.

Girls’ apparel, cleaning products, produce and frozen items. The group of them grew, tailing Styx.

He was closing in on an opening in the meat section—-an employees only area.

Styx cut off. Beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.  All faceless and nameless and atomized by the suit and tie.

Styx saw all of this and smiled wide.

This held.

Then Styx reached for his gun and everyone scrambled like eggs.

CUT TO:

The Doppler effect on everyone that heard D speeding by. Passing so many lights—-like reading the same word over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

The scene came to her. She squeaked the tires to a stop and cut the siren and engine and slid out.

Across the street—-the facade of a ritzy Italian restaurant. D could see through the window and see the place busy with people inside.

She held the box in her hands. She opened it. She activated the device and wrapped the band and pin around her neck like a choker.

The moon was fully up. The bomb blinking in the dark now. She set it back into her pocket.

The little girl then skipped toward the restaurant.

CUT TO:

One of the suits drew quick and fired first. Styx ran for cover.

He ran through the bread aisle. Customers in a panic now.

Suits coming in from the other end. He reached for his gun. He fired. He blew a hole through the suits and moved through.

Another aisle. Another. A maze of production and commodity and violence.

Customers running while pushing their carts. Cashiers at the registers running for their lives. Managers running after them with orders to return to their stations.

Styx whizzed by and a suit tried to follow with a bullet. It instead exploded the head of a customer who was springing for the latest model of a widescreen television. Their child crawled up into a ball and cried.

The masses were shrieking. Everyone fired up hotter than the inferno written about by Dante. The supermarket had removed its mask and became a madhouse. Styx was laughing at how funny he didn’t find any of it.

Another aisle, another suit. Seemingly endless, like attempting to imagine the end of capitalism.

Styx noted an emergency exit. It opened and more suits came through. He rerouted.

Back to the meat section. Styx shot at a suit who popped out and tried to trip him and his hair caught fire and smelled of bacon. The rest of the suits too scattered to stop him now.

He kicked wide doors wide open—-into the employees only area. Before they closed, a suit caught sight of him and fired and tore a hole through his right arm.

<<BACKFWD>>

Categories
Chapter

VI. On Contradiction

<<BACK — FWD>>

D followed the trail and got nothing. She stomped on the last drop of blood and whined about it.

“Lame!”

She felt the word leave her mouth and go outward—-everywhere but her ears. She sniffed the air and tasted exhaust. She eyed the ground and checked tire marks.

D fumbled and stumbled. The supermarket parking lot gave her no other clues. D rattled her noggin but only staggered when she tried. She collapsed to her hands and knees.

Her tiny body shook in fits of giggles. Then she turned and fell on her butt. She giggled again but the high ringing drowned it.

A beat. Shoppers walked by and saw her and did nothing else.

D settled and sat and thought about thoughts she couldn’t hear.

She sighed and wiped what could have been sweat, what could have been tears.

Then she got up and into what was once Tito J’s black-and-white and started it and drove off.

CUT TO:

Santino D’Angelo paced around his suite in the Lunar Tower. Forehead sweat-glistening. He didn’t pace too far because the cord was only so long.

His hand gripped the phone tight.

“The hell you mean he’s still alive? He knows—-you old fucks—-he knows! Do you know what that means? I still have business here in the city, I can’t just leave! You had—-you have a job, I have a job, we all have jobs and that’s why we do them because they’re jobs!”

He paused, shaking now.

“If they don’t get done then what’s the goddamn point—-look, look. Let me—-let me—-I said shut up! Let me run it through with these guys again. See if I can’t get another group of guys on his ass. Because it’s fucking—-you know what, you know what, fuck you. Fuck you, and thanks for the update. Call you later.”

Santino slammed the receiver.

He said, “Those old fucks,” then walked across to the bar and said, “Apollo!”

Apollo turned slightly, swiveling in his seat. Yet another man in a suit.

“Head down to the front desk. Tell Carina to get security to do rounds around the building, get your crew and join them. I want every floor and square inch of this place covered, from the casino to the fucking bathrooms. I want it so that Styx can’t stop to take a shit and not have someone up his ass.”

Apollo stared at Santino and blinked and then got up. He grabbed another handful of thin mints and ate them and then grabbed for his Colt 1903 semi-automatic pistol by the bowl. He said, “Sure,” and headed for the door.

Santino said, “I mean it too. I’m not trying to fuck around here, the second you see him, he’s dead. I don’t need to see the body. Just get it done.”

“Sure.”

And then Apollo was out the door.

Santino breathed—-not easy but he breathed all the same. He went to the bedroom and sorted through various suitcases, noting one that was there but will not be later. He went back out to the bar and sat and breathed not easy again.

After a certain length of narrative tension did the door knock.

Santino grumbled and got up and went to the door and opened it. His eyes opened wider.

“Fuck!”

Styx smiled with blood between his teeth.

“Sure.”

CUT TO:

She opened the door and the door hit the bell and the bell rang and came out muffled. She strolled inside.

The place was packed. People buying, people dining. Tita Lorene working.

She saw D. She said something but D heard nothing.

D took the closest available seat. D grabbed a menu. D pointed for a plate of rice and lechon and a bowl of sinigang when Tita Lorene passed. Tita Lorene nodded.

D waited. D stared listlessly at nothing and felt her eyes burn.

A shadow fell on her. Someone taking the seat next to her. D looked.

A woman—-the woman. The woman was sitting there. The woman had set a suitcase on the table. The woman was Amérique Nakamura but D didn’t know that until she had removed her Pierre Cardin sunglasses.

Amérique Nakamura smiled. She said something that D didn’t hear because her hearing was still shot to heck.

CUT TO:

Santino stepped back and took in the full view of Styx.

He leaned against the doorframe. Crowbar in one hand and Apollo’s Colt 1903 in the other. His tongue between his teeth in a smile. Dark splotches of blood on some parts of his skin and clothes.

Styx said, “Shall we?”

Santino gave him more room. Styx took his time walking in.

They moved things over to the main area of the suite. Styx walking slow and deliberate steps and Santino stumbling backward. Santino took to the mahogany chair and Styx the chair across from him.

They looked at each other.

Santino swallowed and clenched his jaw and then unclenched and said, “I can get you back the drugs. It’s just the phone call away. And the phone’s right there.”

“It’s a lot of drugs.”

“It’s a lot of money. But you know—-it’s yours. It’s always been yours but anyway—-we can—-we can forget about it. Okay Styx? We can do that right?”

“You have any smokes?”

“Oh good thank—-what?”

“Do you have any smokes?”

“I—-uh yeah let me—-”

“I’ll help myself.”

Styx stood, leaving the crowbar resting against the chair, gun still in hand. Santino stayed and said, “It’s by the—-by the television there.”

He moved over there all casual-like and found the box of Lucky Strike. He tapped himself a cigarette and set it between his lips. Santino still stayed and asked, “You need a light?”

Styx shook his head.

“You want some thin mints?”

Styx shook his head. He instead said, “Tell me how this goes down in your head. You call. You arrange for the drugs. What’s next?”

“I—-uh—-I call, like I suggested, I call up the company and tell them some shit went down and I need the drugs back. They’ll give me some shit for it but I’ll figure something out. I’ll have them drop it off back at King District or even at my club, it’s you know whatever you’re comfortable with. Then we’ll go over there and you collect them then bam—-we’re all square. Right?”

Styx was nodding, cigarette moving in conjunction. Then he walked back to the chair and fell into it. He grunted.

Santino said, “You alright?”

“I wouldn’t worry about my situation right now. We’re talking about yours.”

Santino zipped his lips.

Styx said, “So. That’s how you have it in your head. It’s a good story. Now how about I tell you mine, and we can have a discussion on which one we should—-what’s the word—-adapt.”

Santino kept mum.

Styx took the unlit cigarette out of his mouth and let it dangle between the fingers of his free hand. He said, “You can keep the drugs. You can keep the money. Could give a fuck about any of that this moment. Instead—-I ask you some questions, you give me some answers, and once all’s said and done I’ll have my smoke and I’ll be on my way.”

“And—-and that’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“And you want us to do what now?”

“From how I see things there’s about two ways this could go. Your way or mine. Your way would mean a lot of work on your part. Calling people up, going back on whatever deal it is you made, arranging or rearranging things, having to haul ass to wherever—-and so on. Mine would mean you would never have to get up from your seat. So which is it? You could say I’m trying to make it easier for you. I know you just came back from a long day of work, and you plan to have a few more this weekend. So. Which is it?”

“Well. In any case—-if that’s all you’re getting at—-then it’s fine by me. We’ll do it your way.”

Styx nodded slow and took that into consideration. And then he kept nodding.

CUT TO:

Amérique Nakamura had on a trenchcoat buttoned to the top. Her hair tied, her legs crossed. She wore a smile on her face with the natural expressiveness of a fox.

She said something to D again. D shrugged and pointed to her ears. She made an expression and tried again—-in American Sign Language.

“I hope you can bear communicating like this for the time being. I am a bit rusty.”

D beamed and signed back, “I’m rusty too!”

Amérique grinned and signed, “How are you doing D?”

“Rather die Ate Ami!”

Ate Ami frowned and signed, “Maybe this might cheer you up.”

She tapped the suitcase. D pulled it over and set it in front of her. She looked at Ate Ami and she nodded back.

D then looked to spot Tita Lorene from across the space and waved her over.

Tita Lorene joined them. She mouthed something that D didn’t catch—-and you get the gist. Instead D popped the suitcase open and turned it over for Tita Lorene to see.

A warm glow emanated from the thing. Illuminated Tita Lorene’s eyes. A glint off her teeth in her expression of either awe or terror—-we will never know for sure.

Then she blinked and slammed the suitcase shut and checked her left and right and back. No one else noticed.

Tita Lorene gave D a thumbs up and took the suitcase with her and retreated to the back.

To Ate Ami—-D signed, “It didn’t. But how’d you know—-”

“How do I know what I know? Knowing that would fill a hole in the plot, but if you’re asking that question, then you’re not asking the right questions, and you know that, don’t you D?”

“I don’t—-what?”

“I’m here on other business. Business that pertains to the business you’ve been caught up in this past weekend.”

D looked downward.

Ate Ami waved her hand in front of D’s face. D looked at her again.

“I’ll start off by apologizing. I was supposed to be of help to you, to Styx, but I didn’t do what I was asked to do in time, and Styx just went on without me so—-I’m sorry.”

“Don’t—-don’t worry about it.”

“Good, because I wasn’t planning to. But just because I couldn’t help Styx in time doesn’t mean I can’t—-”

“No.”

A beat.

“What was that?”

“I said—-signed no. I don’t want to hear or see or whatever his name anymore.”

“D—-”

“I don’t want to talk—-sign—-whatever. You know what I mean.”

“I know what you mean, but I can’t just let that be.”

“Well you’ll have to. And I’m not sorry about that.”

It didn’t take much longer for D’s food to arrive. The plate was set in front of her, then the bowl, then she grabbed for a fork and spoon and got to eating.

A spoon in her mouth—-Ate Ami waved again. D rolled her eyes and landed them back at the woman.

D set down her spoon and swallowed her sinigang and signed, “What now?”

“I have something else for you.”

“I already—-”

“If I let that stop me then I wouldn’t be doing a very good job by Styx. Or by you for that matter.”

Ate Ami unbuttoned the first few buttons off her trenchcoat. She reached in and pulled out something.

A small wooden box. D only looked at it. Ate Ami tapped it with a finger.

D moved slow when she opened it. In her periphery she saw Ate Ami signing again.

“You’re a comrade, and a comrade is as precious as a rice seedling. Also—-I’m a writer. And what Styx wanted me to write for him was a message. A message I think he’d want you to see.”

D saw what was inside the box. A band with a pin sticking out, a device unblinking.

CUT TO:

“—-a company. Real hush-hush shit so there’s no name, it’s just The Company, capital T and C. And the guy I’ve been in touch with, he’s just a company man. I don’t know shit else about him. Like personally. All I know about him and the rest is that they’re exmilitary or veterans or some shit, or homeless folk with nowhere else to go.”

“Taking who no one wants to take.”

“Exactly. I can’t tell you much else about these guys except where I come in. They got in touch about a month ago—-they wanted to open up some markets in the city. New types of drugs and some—-some other stuff.”

“They didn’t come to me directly.”

“Because you’re fucking you, Styx. You brought us all together when we were about to tear each other’s throat out in the art we call war. Brought changes and reforms that kept us stable for a minute. If anyone wanted to do business—-if they wanted to make a business deal—-they’d have to go to you, and you’d bring it to a vote with the rest of us. The second The Company hears about that they’ll stop whistling what they were whistling, and it was a fucking pretty tune let me tell you.”

“So they contacted you. The others. Everyone except me.”

“I hate to be the bearer of shit news Styx, but you got to bear with me. Your whole democracy project—-I mean it’s a noble thing and all that—-we aren’t banking nearly as hard as we did back in the day, ever during the war. And I’m sure you heard the old fucks say it themselves—-the only color that matters is green. With shit conditions like these, how long did you think it would last?”

Styx sat there and thought about this particular contradiction and contradictions as a whole. His unlit cigarette loose between his fingers.

Then Styx said, “You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking. Or I know I was idealist in my thinking, and I know in the final analysis—-that was fucking stupid.”

Santino shrugged and said, “I wouldn’t go that far, but it is what it is.”

Styx said, “What it is,” and breathed and then he said, “What it is—-let me ask you something.”

“Been letting you this whole time.”

“If it brought you here, in front of me today, was it worth it?”

“I—-what? The fuck are you saying?”

“Take your whole life into stock, see if this was worth the investment.”

“Out of respect Styx—-you are a fucking psychopath.”

“Foucault would have something to say about that—-anyway, no point getting to any of that. You’re a simple man Santino, I’ll give you simple questions.”

“Fuck you but okay.”

“Where is D?”

CUT TO:

D blinked. The device in the box did not blink.

She opened her mouth. Her fingers were floating over the thing. Nothing was communicated.

Then the box closed and Ate Ami returned it into her trenchcoat. D’s eyes followed. Ate Ami’s hands went to the coat buttons and D signed, “Styx said that?”

Ate Ami signed, “In order to resolve old contradictions and produce new things, a new condition is needed. Sometimes it comes in the form of open conflict. Or in our case—-ignition. Of course, how Styx went about it, I can only refer to Lacan and what he calls the passage a l’acte.”

D thought about what else to sign but couldn’t and only shook her little hands and ran them through her hair and then took a spoon and ate some rice and lechon.

Ate Ami moved her hands to her coat again and D dropped the utensils again and signed, “Why?”

Ate Ami signed, “Why in what regard?”

“Like why are you here?”

“Because I owed it to Styx—-”

“Like why you?”

Ate Ami paused. And then signed, “Because D—-you are one crazy coolie, and I mean that in the kindest way possible. You need someone checking in on you. A girl who slips banana peels under cops and takes photos of them tumbling and distributes them is a girl worth checking in on.”

D scoffed and signed, “Now you’re just making fun of me.”

“I’m just saying you should invite me next time.”

D smiled a little bit but only by a little bit. Then she frowned and signed, “Like there’s going to be a next time.”

“There is going to be a next time. You know why? Every authentic movement redeems all past failed movements. Styx isn’t here—-but you are. And so am I. Now. Shall we talk analysis?”

“Analyse what?”

“A political novel must analyse what it has discovered, just as Manchette analysed crime fiction, discovered by Hammett, and Marx analysed the theory of value, discovered by Ricardo.”

“I’m not really—-and I really mean not really—-in the mood for any of that right now.”

Ate Ami gave it a second. And then gave it some more. After that she said, “Okay. Sure. We can do that. I’m not here to tell you what to do or what to feel. I’m just here—-because Styx can’t be. And because Styx can’t be here, I’ll just have to be the next best thing. Or the thing next to the best thing.”

Ate Ami smiled. D didn’t.

They sat there for a moment.

Then Ate Ami broke to peep the menu. Her hands floating back up to the buttons.

D hugged Ate Ami.

They sat there for a moment. D felt a pat on her head. Soft. There were several.

Tita Lorene came back.

Ate Ami consulted Tita Lorene about the menu. D let go and patted and fixed her jacket and pockets.

Then D took another bite of rice and lechon and sinigang before excusing herself and getting up. She left the table before Tita Lorene could even pay her for her trouble.

D noticed her hearing coming back. This was because she heard the bell as she left the shop this time and heard Ate Ami calling for her—-D feeling the weight of the bomb in her hand.

CUT TO:

Santino touched his face and his forehead. He wiped sweat off his brow.

He said, “You know that supermarket off James Street? Of course you do but—-there. You sort of fucked up my usual storage space so I couldn’t go and use that. Had to improvise and move cargo around.”

“Cargo.”

“Yeah. I’m telling you—-it’ll be a bitch to get through. Guy like you, second you step in there they’ll be on your ass faster than I can say the rest of what I have to say.”

“Cargo.”

“Uh. Yeah. There a problem?”

“You see her—-you see people as cargo?”

“I mean—-what do you even want me to say to that?”

“I just want you to admit it to yourself. Give yourself this moment of clarity. While the opportunity is still afforded to you.”

“Fuck man—-I guess? I see cargo as cargo. I did what I had to do, and that’s all there is to it.”

“All there is—-is that your justification or just how things—-”

Styx winced. He glanced at his side. His wound more open than before.

Santino said, “So you are hurt.”

Styx only glared.

Santino said, “How about I ask you something?”

“That’s not where you’re at right now.”

“What I want to know—-I get everything else, I guess that was the particular risk in this particular investment, but I’m just curious why you give a shit about this girl so much in the first place? Why her? I just—-like I fucking hate her, let’s not have any illusions about that. But you? I never got it.”

Styx clicked the gun. Santino raised his hands slowly.

“Alright alright. I own a lot of businesses but that one ain’t mine to own. But I’m just saying—-lot of people saying shit because they don’t know the details.”

“Then let them be incorrect in their thinking.”

“That is such piss. Fuck you. Don’t give me that. You and I both know that shit cannot and will not fly.”

Styx breathed and felt the stitches stretch against the wound. He said, “Okay. I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you, and I’ll get to going.”

Santino breathed and felt back into his seat.

Styx sat straight and looked right at Santino and told Santino and only Santino.

A beat.

Santino blinked and blinked again. He said, “Are you fucking serious?”

Styx said and gestured nothing to that.

Santino shook his head and said, “Whatever man—-are we done here? Again Styx I apologize again for letting things go the way they went but at least we’ve come to an understanding right? I—-we promise from now on we’ll do it your way.”

Styx pulled the gun and shot Santino in the face. The philosophy of Santino D’Angelo’s thought met the wall and spilled behind him. His hair began to singe and started to burn and smell.

Styx stood and stopped trying to hide his limp. He moved to Santino. He brought his cigarette to a piece of sizzling meat and kept it there.

Then he brought it to his lips and smoked. He exhaled and tasted the flavor. Then he left.

<<BACK — FWD>>

Categories
Chapter

V. A Struggle on Two Fronts

<<BACK — FWD>>

She was forced into a chair. She was bound by the wrist. She was surrounded.

Three of them—-two interchangeable white men in suits, and one Tito J. They stood in silence and minded their own business—-their business being D.

She took stock of them. She tested her restraints. She sighed when she found no give.

To the dingy space of the supermarket storage between a crate of children’s toys and for whatever reason an open box of paper tiger masks D asked, “Any of you—-hello? Hello?”

She got no answer.

D frowned and tried at her restraints again and tried calling out again.

“I said hello? I’ll keep doing this until someone does something! Hello hello hello la la la la la—-”

A hard slap across the face. Her beret falling off her head. She went silent.

“Shut the fuck up!”

Then Tito J approached. He put a hand on the suit’s shoulder.

“Hey. How about you just take a seat over there yeah?”

The suit said nothing but moved along. He took to a corner and crossed his arms and stared with black marbled eyes.

Then D said, “I would if I could.”

Tito J turned to her and said, “And you. He isn’t wrong.”

“He isn’t right either!”

The suit flinched and took a step—-Tito J gestured and he took a step back.

“Hey!”

Tito J turned back around to D and asked, “What?”

“No one has told me anything about anything. Not last time and not now.”

The suit from before interrupted and said, “You want to know? There are a couple ways this could go.”

“Like what?”

“One—-we kill you and then sell you. Two—-we sell you and whoever we sell you to might kill you, might not. It would be at their discretion.”

“Um. Can’t say I’m too enthused about either.”

“Good thing you’re not in a position to say. How’s that for wanting to know?”

“Uh—-no?”

He grunted and crossed his arms and kept staring.

D sat and stayed sitting. She looked away from them to Tito J.

Tito J said, “No one’s getting killed here. In the off chance anyone forgot—-I’m still a cop.”

D said, “Yeah. You still are.”

He frowned and said, “You’re disappointed.”

“No. Not disappointed. Laying with pigs and all that.”

“Ouch. Can’t say I’m surprised, so I won’t.”

“Can I ask why?”

“You can.”

“Okay. Why?”

“Money’s tight. That’s about all there is to it.”

“Okay. So all that talk about wanting to help me was just what then?”

“Oh. That was all genuine. Believe me when I say you should believe me. It’s just—-it’s just you kept pushing, I gave you multiple chances and you didn’t take any of them and I did have this so—-here we are.”

“Okay. You wouldn’t actually happen to know anything about the Sublime Object would you?”

“I wouldn’t actually, no.”

D nodded slowly. She caught those eyes still staring at her and asked, “Okay. What about him?”

Tito J glanced back at the suit staring daggers in the corner and asked, “What about him?”

“What’s his deal?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know anyone’s deal. I’m just here on a job.”

“He looks like he has a deal.”

Tito J shook his head and looked at the other suit leaning against a crate and asked, “Hey. You.”

“What?”

“You know what his deal is?”

“How the fuck should I know?”

Tito J looked at D and shrugged.

“You want to know what my deal is?”

Everyone looked at the suit.

D said, “It’s why I asked.”

The suit jumped out his seat and straight-lined to D. Tito J stepped to him and he stopped but he was close.

“Your psycho crazy comrade killed my brother, that’s what my deal is!”

D blinked and looked at him and said, “I don’t know who your brother is.”

“Bob!”

D blinked and kept looking at him and said, “I don’t know who Bob is.”

“Ah fuck you!”

He raised his arm—-Tito J caught it and said, “Hey. Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough the first time. You got in a lucky hit—-once. You’re not getting lucky again.”

He yanked his arm out of Tito J’s grip. He said, “What the fuck do you know?”

“All I know is we’re staying put until we get orders otherwise.”

The other suit said, “Then when the fuck is Santino getting here?”

Tito J didn’t say anything and then D said, “Oh.”

The other suit said, “What?”

D said, “Oh my god.”

“What?”

“You didn’t tell them did you Tito J?”

“Not right now D.”

“Not right now what?”

Tito J glanced at the suits. He said, “It’s nothing. Well—-not nothing but—-Santino’s dead.”

“He’s what?”

“He’s dead. Santino’s dead.”

A brief beat between all of them.

D clenched her jaw until it hurt. Between tight teeth she said something.

The other suit asked, “The hell you mumbling about?”

Then D blew up like a bomb—-she was cackling. Shaking and fighting against the restraints—-hard enough that they loosened somewhat.

The other suit, “Christ.”

Tito J said, “She finally fucking lost it.”

Then the suit jumped and rushed to D. She kept cackling.

He reached to his side and pulled out his gun. The other suit and Tito J jumped and went for theirs. D didn’t stop.

He pointed it at D. They pointed theirs at him. D in the center of a standoff of the Mexican variety.

Between fits D said, “So you do have a real one Tito J!”

He ignored her and kept his sights and his aim on the suit and said, “I’d ask you what the fuck do you think you’re doing—-but I don’t think you’re thinking.”

The suit said, “Give one good reason why I shouldn’t plug that fucking flapping thing she calls a mouth.”

“Because that’s merchandise and you don’t damage merchandise!”

“Fuck that—-she’s caused me too much grief to be worth shit now.”

Between chattering and cackling teeth D said, “Mister—-I don’t even know who you are!”

The other suit said, “Hey! Aren’t we supposed to be fucking professionals? The hell are you losing your cool for?

“Only thing I’ve lost is my patience for this bitch.”

“Fucking goddammit—-just drop the gun, man!”

“I’m not dropping shit until she drops dead. Santino’s fucking dead anyway—-what’s the point in holding onto her? We can find another one—-we can get more than one, just like that. We do it all the time. There’s a reason there’s a market—-because there’s a market.”

Tito J said, “Fucking fine—-but this isn’t about that. This is about you fucking escalating this shit for no fucking reason. You’re willing to kill a kid, shoot her in her fucking face? For what?”

D laughed only harder.

The suit kept his aim right between D’s eyes. The others kept their guns trained on him.

“You’re not getting another warning.”

“Good. Because I’m tired of getting them.”

And then the guns went off.

D closed her eyes shut.

The blasts. The shrieks. All shrill.

And then—-silence.

D opened her eyes and saw—-

Tito J—-down and out. The other suit—-dead as Dillinger. The suit—-a red trail leading to the box of masks now spilled to the floor and everywhere and then to the door out the storage.

D blinked and shook her head. Unhurt and—-untouched.

She got to her feet. She tugged at the rope. She squirmed her way out and hugged herself.

She snapped her fingers. She shook her head. She recognized the gesture but she could not hear it—-like reading words on a page.

She rubbed an eye and felt it wet. She looked at the other suit. Holes riddled them bloody.

She looked at Tito J. Still breathing but breathing shaky. Holes riddled him bloody.

D slow-walked over and pulse-checked him. A beat. Then another one but slower.

His face—-blank. Sweating. Eyes glazing.

D smiled slightly. D brought out a hand. D caressed his cheek.

Tito J hand reached but went limp.

D pulled her hand back. D put her hand in Tito J’s coat pocket. D pulled out a finger gun.

Tito J closed his eyes and opened them.

She brought her thumb down like a hammer.

Tito J closed his eyes and he did not open them again.

D went to go get her beret and checked her jacket and skirt and then followed the trail of blood.

CUT TO:

A philosopher once wrote that ‘Systemic violence is thus something like the notorious ‘dark matter’ of physics’. Let us investigate such dark matter.

‘Manila’ is a 2009 film directed by Raya Martin and Adolfo Alix Jr., written by Adolfo Alix Jr. and Ramon Sarmiento, and produced by and starring Piolo Pascual. A film split into two main stories, day and night, both stories being stark and stylized statements on the city itself, an unblinking look at seedy scenarios and the people forced to navigate through them.

The film opens and ends with style, portrayals of everyday life in the city of Manila, jazz music blaring as if to fight for the foreground. The first story involves William, played by Pascual, who, after escaping from a police raid on a massage parlor, wanders the city in a pensive state, both trying to score some drugs while also hoping to find someone, anyone, who could take those drugs away. The second story centers on Philip, also played by Pascual, who works as a bodyguard for a politician’s son, who is forced on the run after a night on the town goes horribly wrong. Both are poor, both are products and victims of a systemic violence that leaves them with really only two options, sink or struggle until you sink, and all we can do is watch in 16mm black and white, marked with cinematography that is as bleak as it is beautiful.

Several scenes across both stories are made clear in this analysis. William, after failing to score, finds his mother at a hospital, where she is visiting someone else in recovery. His plea to make amends breaks down into tragedy, violently rejected by his own mother over his perceived worthlessness, and escorted out of the building. During this, a man passes them, rushed on a stretcher, bleeding from some other horrific event. There’s a system in place to help the obviously injured man, but the resources to help addicts like William are functionally non-existent. The audience becomes prescient the moment William dries his tears and wanders again into the streets of Manila. The effect is like watching a bus about to plunge off a cliff after the emergency brakes have failed.

The second story is highlighted by Philip’s misplaced faith in his employer Barry and by class struggle. Despite having saved his life after an altercation by a rival gang, the resulting violence causes Barry to cut off from Philip, leaving him only some pesos to hold him over until the morning. Philip is left to fend for himself, unable to go home so as to put his family at risk, and unable to buy himself the kind of protection afforded to someone like his employer. Instead he flees to an even more destitute part of town, where routine police raids complicate matters even more.

The violence that both men are subjected to lay bare the prevailing ideology. The film provides no clear reason for William’s drug addiction, as if to say a reason doesn’t matter, he is a drug addict and must be cast off, as seen in his being rejected by his mother. A system that prioritizes the usefulness of a person to that system will shape the average family’s understanding and handling to anything that undermines such things, in turn affecting any potential institutions for support and creating a culture that perpetuates a continuous downward spiral. Philip, seeing Barry as his ticket out of poverty, maintains his loyalty to a member of the ruling class, despite being called a dog by the film itself, and as such is punished. He gets caught in the police raids and is treated like trash, or in the eyes of the system, as he really is, among others of his own class. Thrown away by Barry, Philip dies his first death, a tragic death, although he doesn’t realize it. His role in the eyes of Barry, a worker to be exploited, has concluded, and only when Philip escapes to the slums and falls into the hands of corrupt police, or rather just police, realizing his real role in things, is he allowed to die his second death, a farcical death. This is but one example of the Hegelian theory of repetition in history.

The film’s structure also reflects this repetition, two main stories, Pascual as both leads. His tragic downward spiral as William, and his farcical hopes being dashed as Philip.

The total of Manila as a film serves to put to light the world around it, the city itself, while centering things with grounded performances. A perfect visual metaphor for the film as a whole would be the crash of a taxicab, framed with a cold distance, with passersby able to do nothing but watch and make comments.

The fight ends. Styx wins out against his attackers. Beaten and bloody all. Still standing, Styx asks once more of D’Angelo’s location. The old men, more interested in their food, decide to give D’Angelo up. Styx warns them, that this isn’t over, though the old men understand that, even if every single one of them were to be wiped out, so long as the system survives, so too will the violence it inherently produces.

Styx turns to leave, stepping over the bodies, leaving the restaurant, wincing and limping along the way.

<<BACK — FWD>>

Categories
Chapter

IV. On Practice

<<BACKFWD>>

D sat atop the black-and-white. Tito J leaned against it and chewed at one end of a lit cigar.

She watched over the domain of the supermarket. People going in, commodities going out. The machine running all hours, all hours running the machine. It was already business as usual.

Tito J said, “You ready to go?”

D let the wind ruffle her hair and gave no response.

“Better on time than late.”

The wind through her hair again. D rubbed at an eye and then rubbed at it for longer than she really needed to.

Then she said, “Yeah we can go.”

D hopped off the cop car and went off. Tito J dropped his cigar and stepped on it and followed.

They moved right inside. Everything flat and artificial. They stalked through the aisles and aisles and aisles of surplus-enjoyment and saw the men, the women, the children, the workers, the students, the scientists, the painters, the poets, the hungry, and heard among them was the whisper—-organize, unite!

They turned and found themselves among a section of books. There was a saleswoman and D went right to her, who bore a stunning resemblance to Dorothy Malone. D told her their business. She told D the place they were looking for was right across from them. Tito J accosted D and as they left D told the saleswoman that she was very pretty. Dorothy Malone nodded and said, “I know.”

D and Tito J finally came across their destination. Customer service.

D nodded to Tito J and went up to the counter.

The woman at the front—-the spitting image of Sonia Darrin.

Her eyes on a book, barely lifted for D.

“Can I be of any assistance?”

“That’s what you’re selling your labour power for aren’t you?”

The woman gave her a look. She set her book down and got up from the counter. Taller than D, almost as tall as Tito J.

She looked at Tito J and said, “Yes sir?”

Tito J gestured to D.

D said, “I’m a friend of Santino D’Angelo—-well not friend really but you know I don’t think he hated me or anything—-anyway he had an appointment here to fill in some records, checking inventory or whatever but he couldn’t make it so he had me—-us—-come in instead.”

She showed the pocketbook planner to the woman. The woman only returned steely eyes.

Finally she said, “Follow me.”

The woman walked around the counter and deeper into the store. D and Tito J followed.

She led them to the back part of the supermarket and through a hall and into an office. Antiques on antiques. Light filtering through dusty venetian blinds.

A bookshelf on one side—-stacked and smelled of aged pages. Stacks of books and other things in other places. A record player spinning an old jazz standard. It Could Happen to You.

D eyed the rows and rows of book and bit her tongue but took a seat in front of the desk. Tito J stood by a corner.

The woman said, “You can wait here while I gather the records. Coffee?”

Tito J said, “Please. Without cream if you don’t mind.”

“We don’t have cream. We can do coffee without milk.”

“Never mind then. Can I smoke a cigar?”

“Won’t be a problem at all.”

D asked, “Can I get a hot cocoa?” but the door was closed on her firmly. D shrugged and hopped out of her seat and snatched a book from the shelf. A classic crime novel. She sat back down and flipped it open.

Tito J worked his next cigar. He lit it. The smoke wafted and danced in the dust. Venetian stripes on the both of them.

He said, “We should talk strategy.”

D kept her eyes on the page and said nothing.

He said, “We should talk about something.”

D flipped a page and that was it.

Tito J blew smoke like a dragon and said, “Fine. I’ll talk about something. And the thing I want to talk about? Why you are what you are.”

D looked up from her book and asked, “And what am I?”

“A pain in the ass.”

D went back to her book and flipped a page.

Tito J moved from his corner to D, obscuring her in his shadow. He leaned down slightly and smoked. He said, “No. Seriously. D. I want to know. I want to know what makes you tick, I want to know why you’re here—-here of all places—-doing this and not doing literally anything a normal kid would do—-the kind of thing that doesn’t involve me walking into an expensive ass suite and seeing you sitting in front of a man who has had half of his brains blasted out of his skull and onto the wall behind him. I want to know why.”

D flipped another page. She looked from the page to Tito J. It was quiet.

She said, “There’s nothing to know. There is no why. Sie wissen das nicht, aber sie tun es.”

“So you don’t want to think about it. Is that it? Is that why? Because you’re here and being here hurts too much—-and yet you’re still here?”

Back to her book—-another page flip.

She said, “No.”

He said, “Definitely reads that way to me.”

“I said what I said and I said no.”

“Then I’ll say this. You have one last chance D—-just walk away. That’s it. Just walk out that door and move on with the rest of your life. We can just let this whole thing slide.”

“Letting things slide is the first type of liberalism. So nope.”

Tito J chewed at one end of his cigar. His jaw tensed up. He said, “I’m helping you right now because I know you want me to. Because I know that you know that you’re going to find yourself in some shit, and you think you want me there to bail you out, even if it means shit for me. That’s the help you think you want. But I know that this isn’t the help I know you need. And I’m not the person who can give that to you. I don’t even know if that person even exists. You need help, D. You do. You can’t keep doing this—-being this. Not even—-”

“No.”

“Not even Styx.”

“No!”

D kicked at the air like a child because she was one. She slammed the book closed and hugged it like a teddy bear. She shut her eyes.

“You don’t know anything! You don’t know Styx! You don’t know me!”

After a very long beat of a still silence D only heard, “You’re right. I don’t. And that’s the problem.”

“Shut up! I don’t want to hear it! I don’t want to hear any of it anymore!”

D kept her eyes shut and didn’t think about any of it anymore.

She only opened her eyes when she heard the door open again and when she felt her chair being flipped over.

She squeaked and she fell out of her chair. Through her blurry and topsy-turvy view of things she saw Tito J standing there at the door—-his hand shaped to a finger gun.

He said, “Got a real one by my waist. Real thing of beauty. Colt 1903. Used by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep.”

She said, “Um. Okay?”

“I gave you my warning. You didn’t listen. So this is on you and I’m going to have to ask you to come with me and come with me quietly.”

D breathed and said, “Only because you’re being very courteous about it.”

CUT TO:

They were already eating when Styx got there. They were all fat, they were all hungry, they were all white.

One of them slurped up a noodle and noticed Styx and said, “Whoa boy—-slow your roll there,” and then noticed the crowbar and then said, “And what do think you’re going to do with that?”

Styx said, “Nothing if you tell me where Santino is.”

“Sonny? Haven’t seen that son of a bitch in a coon’s age. Have you?”

Another one of them said, “Can’t say that I have. You?”

Another one of them said, “Not me. How about you?”

Another one of them said, “Nope.”

The first one then looked back at Styx and shrugged and went back to eating.

They were all sitting in the far back booth of a ritzy Italian restaurant. It had just opened. The ring signaled the door opening and Styx glanced—-a man in a suit taking a seat nearby.

They kept eating when Styx said, “None of you know where he is?”

“You know how it is with you young folk—-running around playing young folk games. Nobody tells us nothing no more.”

“This is no game. Whatever he’s up to—-it fucks us all.”

“We’re old men, Styx. We’ll take any action we can get by this point.”

Another ring. Two of them this time. They took another booth.

Styx said, “I don’t think you get it. One of your own is doing business on the side, and if you don’t keep your feet firm this whole thing is going to get swept right from under your feet.”

One of them broke off a piece of bread and ate it. He said, “No—-I don’t think you get it boy. Our feet are firm with our asses in our seats right here. Maybe it’s you who could take a second look at where you’re standing.”

Another ring. Another suit. Another booth.

Then another, then another, then another.

The restaurant—-packed.

Styx gripped the crowbar tighter.

Another one of them said, “So. Okay. You put us in a rather precarious position, but we’ll give credit where credit’s due. Couple years ago—-ten years ago or something like that I don’t remember anymore—-we were in a real bind. Our families had our—-disagreements, it got a little hairy from time to time.”

“It was an all-out turf war.”

“Right. Sure. And we appreciate you stepping in when you did. You really saved our fat asses on that one.”

“And you’re willing to throw that away—-for what?”

“For what else is there boy? A writer once wrote—-everyone needs money, that’s why they call it money. It’s been good ever since you came along, you know, all democratic like, but the growth hasn’t really been there, and that is what’s really important. The growth.”

“Whatever it is you think you’re trying to achieve here—-it’s not going to go down the way you think it’s going to go down.”

“Maybe, maybe not, but there’s always a risk in an investment, isn’t that right?”

Another one of them said, “Right.”

Another one of them said, “Yes sir.”

Another one of them said, “When’s someone passing the goddamn butter?”

“See?”

Styx closed his eyes for a moment. He didn’t see.

One of them said, “The thing you have to understand my boy is this—-you’re talking risk, then you should have known it would come to this eventually. Someone with bigger pockets than any of us would come and buy it all up, and you either ride that wave or you drown. And believe you me, we’re not good for swimming as it is. What you proposed ten years ago, what we’ve been working at, it’s like, like—-it’s like putting up a safety net. But we’ll still need a fall guy. And that’s just how it goes. Because, you know what they say about business—-”

Styx said, “Yeah. I do.”

“You’re as bright as ever my boy! So you know what’s next. We need a fall guy. So fall.”

Styx turned around and those who had come in got up. With the crony capitalists behind him—-though what was the difference?—-he was cornered.

He charged regardless, and they hit the backfoot.

<<BACKFWD>>

Categories
Chapter

III. Marvelous Landscapes Greet the Voyagers

<<BACKFWD>>

Pigs oinked the whole joint down. Their systemic stink worse than the stink coming from Santino’s decaying body.

D leered with her nose turned upward, then turned to reach for a bowl of thin mints across the suite’s minibar. She had to hop and set her stomach flat, legs dangling. She went to snacking.

One of the cops approached from the other side of the bar. Portly and in plainclothes. A thick mustache resting on his upper lip. James Gomez, Chief of Police.

He said, “D.”

She, with a mouthful of thin mints, said, “Tito J.”

“Who—-fuck it. What are you doing here?”

“Like right now right here? Or metafictionally?”

“I’m asking as a courtesy. You can still walk out of here without handcuffs.”

“Courtesy is a ruling class ideology.”

“So you want to be arrested?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“What are you going to say—-the answer to my original question? Finally?”

“I’ll answer your question with my question—-you don’t seriously think I had something to do with that do you?”

Handful of thin mints, D gestured weakly toward Santino.

Tito J said, “I seriously think you should take this seriously.”

“Boo. Lame lame lame.”

Tito J breathed. Then he pointed toward the bedroom and walked. D jumped down from the bar and finished her cookies and fixed her skirt and followed.

He did not slide the doors closed. Out of view from the pigs, Tito J said in a whisper, “D.”

“Tito J.”

“I was at the other scene when I got the call here. I saw the body. I’m sorry.”

D opened her mouth and closed it again. She looked down and her beret covered her eyes.

He said, “If you want, I can have someone escort you out, or you can just leave and leave this alone. You can forget about this and go. For your own sake.”

D looked up at Tito J again.

She said, “I’m here on a job.”

Tito J raised an eyebrow.

“What job?”

“I was asked to come here to pick up something. Some kind of stupid object.”

“What—-what object?”

“Don’t ask me. It’s a petit-bourgeois thing.”

“No—-what I mean—-what are you saying?”

“You asked me what I’m doing here. I just told you.”

“That’s not what we’re talking about right now.”

“It’s rude to go off topic and yes it is.”

“D—-”

She stomped her foot, muffled against the velvet rug. They stood in silence.

Tito J breathed again. He crossed his arms. He held for a beat. Then he asked, “So what’s your plan here?”

D smiled a gap-tooth smile. She said, “Still got a job to do, and Santino was part of that job. I didn’t do him in, and I know you know that, so now I have to find who did.”

“Meaning you want me to help you.”

“It’s why I called—-or rather let the cleaning lady call. I knew you wouldn’t resist coming down here.”

“I can’t believe this.”

“Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“Fun is not the operative word here.”

“Consider it then a fight against the spectacle, a situation—-a revolution against your everyday life!”

“Long as I’m not the Miles Archer to your Sam Spade.”

D turned and skipped back toward the crime scene. Tito J right behind her.

Some of the other pigs were close, snapping photographs. D made wide arcs around them. Tito J shooed them away.

D inspected the body and said, “Whoever got him knew him. Look how he’s sitting or sat or—-you get it. Relaxed. Didn’t see it coming. No weapon around and no sign that he tried to spring for one in his final moments.”

Tito J said, “First, Miss D-for-Detective, we have to establish the facts.”

“As Nietzsche once said—-there are no facts, only interpretations. Shall I interpret a world?”

Tito J thumb-jerked toward the body. D eyed the torso.

She said, “Something’s sticking out of the breast pocket.”

D began to reach—-Tito J grabbed her wrist.

He said, “It’s already going to be my ass that you’re still here.”

Tito J took a pair of gloves from a passing pig—-he put them on and began to reach and went for the breast pocket and removed a small black pocketbook.

Tito J stood straight and flipped it open. D got on her tippy toes and jumped to see.

“Come on, what’s it say what’s it say?”

“Doesn’t say anything—-just a bunch of notes scribbled in. Names, addresses. Sonny never had great handwriting. The poor fuck.”

D jumped and took the book out of Tito J’s hands and she flipped through it. He let her have it.

She said, “It’s a planner. Here. Looks like he had somewhere to be later at noon.”

D then nodded. She closed the planner and went off.

“What—-D—-hey!”

D turned and asked, “What?”

“What are you doing?’

“What do you mean what am I doing? I’m walking out of here. No handcuffs.”

“And where the hell are you walking to?”

D raised the planner and said, “Santino had some place to be. Now he can’t be there anymore. But I can.”

“You’re walking all the way there?”

“Course not silly. I’ll take a taxi.”

“What happened to you wanting my help?”

“I got it from here.”

“No.”

“No?”

“No. Someone needs to keep an eye on you.”

“And you think that someone has to be you?”

“I think it has to be someone.”

D laughed and said, “Fine. Watch closely—-in big super CINEMASCOPE 70MM,” and they moved to leave the suite.

CUT TO:

Exterior. The factory. The sun barely peeking over the jagged city skyline, distorting and breaking the light.

Styx sitting at the front of the taxicab—-missing the driver and five hundred dollars in cash.

He sat and waited. He checked the rearview mirror. He saw something not unlike what Ferdinand saw in his rearview mirror in the 1965 film Pierrot le Fou directed by Jean-Luc Godard—-a man about to drive off a cliff at sixty miles an hour.

His eyes darted—-mirror to street. A man coming out the side of the factory and walking along a chain-link fence. Closer to the lone streetlight—-an ill-fitting suit.

Styx saw him approach, he reached and switched the light at the top of the taxicab back on. The man started coming for him.

Styx sat back and waited. He heard the door open and the man sit behind the passenger side.

“Domain Apartments at—-”

Styx went for the crowbar resting on the passenger side and turned and pressed the thing against the man’s throat. The man choked and sputtered.

“How many inside?”

“What?”

“How many inside?”

“Three—-no—-two. Two others.”

“What’s in there?”

The man said nothing.

Styx said, “Start counting to ten.”

“What?”

“Start counting to ten.”

“One, two, three, four—-”

Styx swung the crowbar across the man’s head and knocked him against the window and the man went quiet.

Then Styx switched off the top light. Then Styx got the cab. Then Styx went around the cab and opened the door and the man fumbled out.

Hands around the loose tie, pulling up against the gullet. Styx held this position until he saw the tongue flop out. He then dropped the body and rolled it under the taxicab. Crowbar in hand, Styx moved to the factory.

He followed along the chain-link fence. He approached the factory with his back straight and shoulders relaxed.

The side door unguarded, Styx let himself in.

A hall with faint light through cracked windows. Styx moved quickly and calmly.

Then someone turned a corner and stopped and peered through the dark and saw Styx coming.

“Who in the fuck—-”

Styx swung before they could finish. He heard the jaw crack. He saw the fucker bleed.

They fell back through doors, into the main factory floor. Styx followed through.

He swung down again. They didn’t get up again.

Styx stepped over the body and maneuvered through the dark, the harsh shapes around him. The smell was rank—-ranked bad to even worse. His eyes adjusted and then he saw.

He saw the cages. He saw the parts. He saw the blood.

Most of the bodies had no pulse. But they were all equal in their nakedness.

Styx scanned over everything. He remained quiet. He moved on.

A butcher’s table by some machinery. The surface clean. A bucket by the one of the legs stained.

Styx hit the opposite end of the factory floor. Car parts hanging on hooks like dead meat. More cages. Those who could call out to him did. He continued in his stealth.

Stairs to an overlooking floor. He took them. He ascended in a spiral.

Up. He moved across a wing. Railings rusted or missing.

A blast from the other side, Styx dove and almost tumbled off the whole thing.

The gunshot ringing, then more. Styx kept low and saw where the bursts of sound and light were coming from.

A metal door for cover, an office above the factory floor, a large panel for a window missing. The shots fired and the room illuminated.

Styx timed the shots and moved in accordance and stayed in the dark and got closer and closer.

Cover behind a box. Shots banged out and pinged off walls. Styx checked his side. The stitches still there. His jaw still clenched.

He heard a shot—-then he rushed. The gunman using the door for cover. Quiet but Styx moved quick—-he kicked the door down.

Flipped the other way—-crashed into the gunman. Styx entered the office and watched him tumble.

He fell over a desk and chair. Papers flying. The gun slipped out of his hand and under a desk.

Styx lowered the crowbar. The un-gunned gunman scrambled back to his feet and panicked to find something.

Hands searching in the dark, something heavy and metallic. Fingers clasped and the gunman raised it.

A ring of keys jangled and Styx walked up to him.

The gunman panicked again and jumped back and slipped on a loose paper.

He was thrown off his feet. He crashed over something. He got caught by the raised wall and fell through the windowless panel.

The impact was muted. Styx went to look over.

He had landed on one of the cages. Arms spread, the keys hanging off a finger. Styx saw a bony hand reach between the bars and take them.

A beat, then a phone rang. Styx turned and saw it—-a rotary phone.

It was incessant. He went over and picked it up.

“Hey Bob. Sonny again. How close are you to closing up?”

Styx said nothing.

“If your crew’s still there I can send up another shipment. Just one piece—-a small piece—-a fucking annoying piece—-but I think you can get something pretty off the thing. And don’t forget my new percentage off the top. Hello?”

Styx said nothing.

“I know I’m fucking your shit up right now—-you want to go home and fuck your wife or some shit I don’t know—-hello? Bob you there?”

Styx said nothing. Then he said, “I don’t think Bob is here anymore. But I got the message—-Sonny.”

There was a short pause in the communications until Styx heard, “Then who in the—-wait a fucking minute—-that you—-”

Styx hung up and stared down at the phone. Then he stepped out the office and across to the stairs and down and through the factory floor and past the open cages and discarded chains.

<<BACKFWD>>

Categories
Chapter

II. No Investigation, No Right To Speak

<<BACK — FWD>>

Sitting on a stack of phonebooks, feet stretching for the gas. D drove over to the Lunar Tower.

She parked the taxi up front and got out. The valets gave her confused looks—-she hopped and skipped inside as if she didn’t notice them because she didn’t.

The lights were garish. Gold chandeliers hung from the ceiling like bait. Grand grand pianos and whitewashed jazz. We invite you to instead put on one of Three Songs About Lenin, or a Lenin Symphony.

She skipped past the front desk. A woman with pearl earrings eyed her. D ignored her too.

The elevator, the doors, the button, the tenth floor. D went up quick.

The doors opened and she found the suite easy. She skipped over and knocked. And knocked. And knocked again.

D tried again and said, “Hello? Porter here to pick up and deliver one Sublime Object.”

Nothing.

D scratched her head and thought about this. Then she turned around and saw a housekeeping cart. Still doing rooms.

A floor keycard set on the cart. D snatched it real quick and went back to the suite door.

Key to lock—-click. Unlocked. D tossed the key back to the cart and let herself in.

The space was wide. A wider window overlooking the city. The rising sun peeking through.

A bourgeois interior. Intricate and decadent patterns. D wrinkled her nose as if she smelled something foul—-until she realized she did.

D followed the trail.

By the corner lounge. She smelled it before she saw it. And then she did. And to that she said, “Ew.”

Sitting across from her in a luxury chair, a mess of red ruining the white and the gold and the mahogany. Red soaked into the upper part of the suit. Hunched over, what was left of Santino D’Angelo’s head hanging forward at an awkward angle.

D held her breath and stared at the body. She rubbed her chin.

She said, “Santino. Santino? It’s D. You wouldn’t happen to—-guess you wouldn’t. Okay fine. Don’t mind if I take a look around.”

D took a look around. She inspected drawers and cabinets and shelves. In the bedroom she found some suitcases, arranged as though one of them were missing. She rummaged through them and found nothing sublime or objectionable.

Then she heard a scream.

D hurried back to the lounge. She rushed toward asking Santino’s corpse, “What? What?” as if it could answer but it couldn’t because it was of course a corpse.

She looked across the suite. The housekeeper had come in and saw things as they were. What was left of Santino. D.

Silence between the two still alive.

Then D said, “I was definitely going to call someone. But you know—-feel free to get the head start.”

The housekeeper got the head start. She knocked her cart over in rushing out the suite. D said, “Hey,” then went over and picked up after her.

CUT TO:

Styx stepped out to the alley by Amérique’s apartment—-he ducked.

A crash of glass behind him. Shards spilling into the access hall—-the door yet to close.

Styx rushed toward the violence, sudden and prepared.

He threw an arm out and caught the wrist, swinging down, a crowbar in hand. With the other arm he caught his attacker’s throat—-he looked very much like Elisha Cook Jr. if you happen to be familiar.

Styx slammed his head into the man’s nose for good measure.

With a muffled cry the man went to the ground. Crowbar dropped—-both hands over his nose.

Styx went around the man and grabbed him by the back of his shirt. He dragged him across the alley and past Styx’s 1933 Indian Four. All black, all sleek, all beautiful.

All dead. The tires slashed and the engine innards gutted out.

They moved to a trashcan—-graffitied on the side were the words THIS IS OUR IDEOLOGY BON APPÉTIT.

Styx threw him against the thing, a bang and a thud.

Time wasted zero—-he put a heavy boot to the man’s head and asked, “Who sent you?”

“Broke my fucking—-”

Styx stomped on his head. A whimper.

“Still have over two hundred to break. Let’s try again. Who sent you?”

“I—-ow fuck—-like I’d give you shit.”

“Better give me something. Or I’ll cut you like a movie trailer.”

“We—-we take orders from him, but we don’t know shit about him.”

“Who is he?”

“Nothing but a company man.”

Styx nodded. Then said, “A company man. That’s a good name. And where was this company man based?”

“There’s more than one base. Could be anywhere.”

“Then I only have two more questions for you. Question one, where’s the girl?”

“What fucking girl?”

“The girl.”

“Shit. I don’t know. Could be anywhere. Could be with him. Could be with whoever he passed her onto. Which brings me back to could be anywhere, bringing me back to I don’t know.”

Styx nodded. Then he said, “Okay. Question two, do you have a light?”

The man spat blood and said, “Right pocket.”

Styx searched him and found it. Styx took out his Gauloises and lit it. He tossed the light away.

The man said, “You fuckin’ motherfucker.”

Styx ignored him, puffed and then said, “Okay. I’m going to give you ten seconds starting now—-now. I’m counting in my head. Answer question one or I’m sliding this cigarette into a nostril and stubbing it out on greymatter.”

“What—-Jesus—-okay okay wait! There’s a factory on the west end. Used to be a factory anyway. Who knows what the fuck you call it now. You can try there.”

The man breathed heavily as if he had just finished a marathon.

Styx said, “Thank you,” and proceeded to shove the Gauloises up the man’s nose regardless. The man struggled but failed and so screamed in agony. Styx then picked up the crowbar and left the alley and caught a cab and told the driver his destination.

<<BACK — FWD>>

Categories
Chapter

I. One Divides into Two

<<BACKFWD>>

She opened the door and the door hit the bell and the bell rang. She strolled inside.

Imported movies on a stand, a narrow row of imported snacks. She took a bag of fried shrimp crackers and proceeded to the restaurant farther back.

D said, “Morning!”

“I heard the bell, that’s shrill enough okay?”

D giggled and sat at a table closest to the kitchen. Open window for a peek through. Tita Lorene prepping food.

“How’s your Sunday treating you dear?”

D popped the bag open and munched on one cracker and then two and then said, “Better than Saturday.”

“I can see that. What in the world happened?”

D scratched at her eyebrow—-at the edge of a cut that ran from her temple to her ear. A thin scab running down a cheek. Hair messy under her dry-muddied beret, bomber jacket torn.

“You super don’t want to know. I don’t even want to know.”

“What are you—-is everything okay?”

“Is everything—-what—-is that what you’re asking me, is everything okay?”

“Is it?”

“No. Course not. Why would it be? Why would everything—-why would anything be okay?”

“I don’t know why. Just a question.”

“Yeah well it’s a terrible question. Everything’s too crazy in this world. It sucks.”

“Or it could mean that everything’s going great.”

D blinked and considered that for a moment.

“I already have a headache Tita Lorene.”

“Okay.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“No I’m sorry.”

“I said it’s—-you want some halo-halo?”

“Yes please.”

Tita Lorene went to work prepping the dessert.

D popped another cracker into her mouth and fixed a loose strand of hair and breathed in and breathed out and said, “Tita Lorene.”

“Yes D?”

“It true your family used to call you Princess?”

“No.”

“No?”

“It’s not true that my family used to call me Princess. It’s true that they still do.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re family and that’s what families do.”

“That must be nice. I totally need a nickname.”

“Is D not a nickname?”

“It’s a letter, it’s less than a name.”

“Do you want to be called something?”

“Me?”

“Who else?”

“I don’t know. No? Not really.”

“What do you want then?”

“Um. I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.”

“Then I can’t help you there.”

D propped an elbow and leaned.

“I’m hungry.”

Tita Lorene reached over and set a quick mix glass of sweetened red beans and canned fruit and gelatin and evaporated milk and ice cream—-halo-halo.

“That I can help you with.”

D took the glass and a plastic spoon and went to snacking. She breathed.

Tita Lorene said, “Speaking of things I can help you with—-you have the van?”

“Taxi.”

“Taxi?”

“Part of that long story I don’t want to get into. Parked out front.”

“Okay. I’ve got something for you then.”

“Something even tastier than your halo-halo?”

“A job. If you’re up for it.”

“Hmm.”

D took another bite.

“Sure. What you got for me Tita?”

“It’s more what I want you to get for me. The Sublime Object.”

“The Sublime what?”

“The Sublime—-”

“I know what you said, I’m just processing it. What the heck is the Sublime Object?”

Tita Lorene fumbled with some kitchen tools in the back then said, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t—-”

“I mean I won’t know until you get it and bring it here.”

“Do you even know why you want whatever this thing is?”

TIta Lorene said, “Of course I do,” and offered nothing else.

D then said, “That doesn’t sound sketched out.”

“I wouldn’t send you if it did.”

“I was being facetious. Like when Marx said that capitalism is great actually and we should keep doing it until it melts the earth.”

“He didn’t—-”

D looked at Tita Lorene.

Tita Lorene said, “It’s a quick thing. Go over and pick it up and come right back. I’d go myself but I have to watch the shop. Plus you look like you need something to do.”

D straightened herself and grabbed the glass. She finished her halo-halo, glass pointing to the ceiling. The glass hit the table loud.

“I really look like that huh?”

“You look like that to me.”

D moved back to the shrimp crackers. She chewed and between bites said, “Okay. I’ll go get your Subliminal Whatever.”

“Thank you little one.”

“Yeah yeah. Where am I going?”

“Lunar Tower downtown. Before you ask who—-a man named Santino.”

“D’Angelo?”

“You know him?”

“I was just at his club with—-never mind. Continue?”

“Okay. He should be up on the tenth floor suite. Can’t miss it.

“I’ll try not to.”

“He’ll be expecting someone. Should be easy.”

“Should be?”

“Will be.”

Tita Lorene gave D a smile. D returned a smaller one.

Then D hopped out her seat and finished her bag of crackers. Tita Lorene took the glass.

D said, “Alright, guess I’m off to get this whatever. Whatever.”

“Be good.”

“Not in this lifetime.”

“Wait. D.”

D half-turned on her way out.

“Yeah?”

“You have plans tonight?”

“Yes! I plan to plan on how to trick the workers into running their own state!”

“Excuse me?”

“I—-um—-if by plans you mean curling up in bed and doing nothing then yeah—-I’ve got some.”

“Come over for dinner tonight. I’ll cook pancit.”

D pressed her lips slight. She shook her head.

“I think I like my plans better. Sorry.”

“I’d feel better if you didn’t think that. That way I’d know where you are. Wouldn’t have to worry about you hanging around that you-know-who.”

“Me-know-who?”

“You know who and don’t make me say it out loud.”

D pressed her lips tighter. She shook her head.

“Thanks but no thanks Tita Lorene. And you don’t have to worry about you-know-who anymore.”

“Meaning?”

D turned and crumpled the bag of crackers and tossed it in a nearby trashcan. The door hit the bell as she left.

CUT TO:

There were several knocks before the door opened.

“Yes—-Styx?”

He fell into the apartment, into the arms of Amérique Nakamura.

She caught him and dragged him inside, past a large framed smiling portrait of Chairman Mao. She set him on the couch. He bled into the furniture and her sleeves. She said nothing.

Instead she said, “Talk to me Styx.”

“Amérique.”

“Where?”

Styx opened his leather jacket slow. Skin already exposed. Muscle and meat too.

“Christ.”

“That bad?”

“Could be worse. Could be dead.”

“Not yet.”

“Like hell. Here.”

She grabbed a cushion to prop him up some.

“I’m going to get what I need to patch you up. Keep talking to me Styx.”

She moved.

Styx blinked and moved his eyes to the ceiling. The lights were low. His eyes fell upon the portrait of the chairman. Styx smiled back—-more of a sneer.

He followed the source of the low lights. Lamps over an angled workstation—-that of an artist. Hermes typewriter. Stacks of papers with lines across.

“I said talk to me Styx.”

“What’s on the desk? You working on something?”

“I was for the night. Manuscript. Cleaning it up for my editor on Monday.”

“Still got some time then. It’s only—-only—-”

“Saturday.”

“It’s what?”

“It’s Saturday.”

“Is it?”

“Yes.”

Styx looked up and thought about that.

“That’s right. Yeah. It’s Saturday.”

Amérique reappeared with a first aid kit. She opened it and got the needed materials and went to work. Styx took it with a laugh.

“Stay with me Styx.”

“I’m not going fucking anywhere.”

“You sure aren’t. You want a smoke?”

“You have one?”

“It’s why I offered.”

“Sure.”

Amérique sidetracked to her workstation. She took a box of Gauloises by the typewriter. She lit one and pressed them to light the other. She went back and handed the cigarette to Styx. They smoked with the coolness of reading a crime novel.

Styx inhaled and exhaled smoke and then asked, “What’s the manuscript about?”

“I’m much more interested in your story. Nine by nineteen?”

“Yeah.”

“The bullet still in you?”

“Like I’m pregnant.”

“You’re lucky your guts didn’t spill out on the way here.”

“Luck for shit. This is out of the pan and into the fire shit—-and getting out of that too.”

“What happened?”

Styx consulted his Gauloises. It glowed.

“Drug deal gone wrong. Gone wrong because I wasn’t there to deal it.”

“Someone tried to stiff you out of supervising?”

“They tried. They didn’t do a good job of it.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“And what happened after that?”

“It’s not what happened after. It’s about what happened when we got there.”

“And what happened when you got there?”

Styx flinched as the needle passed through.

Amérique said, “Excuse me.”

Styx said, “What happened when we got there was bloody fucking chaos. Both gangs already dropped dead. Money and drugs—-gone.”

“Then how—-”

“Did I get got? Easy. They hadn’t left.”

“They being?”

Styx sipped his cigarette. Then he said, “I don’t know who they were. They knew me. I didn’t know them.”

“You’re a hard man to catch as it is.”

“Supposed to be the idea.”

“Do you have any leads?”

“I’m working on it. Will be working on it. Just fix me up first.”

“You need more than just a fix up if you want to do what you want to do.”

“I don’t have time Amérique. I don’t know who these fuckheads are, outside of the fact that they’re pros. Fed-type assholes would be my guess.”

“Feds moving under our noses where we can’t smell them. That’s trouble.”

“That’s shit is what it is. And someone has to—-”

Styx flinched and tensed and groaned between gritted teeth.

Amérique held the bullet between her thumb and forefinger and said, “Congratulations. A healthy baby boy. They’re expensive you know. You can’t afford another one.”

Styx said, “Someone has to clean that shit up.”

Amérique set the bullet aside and started working the stitches and said, “You’re ignoring me. You can’t do shit how you are now.”

Styx said, “How I am now is how I’ll have to be.”

“Why?”

“They got away with this. But only because I’m not there to remind them that they haven’t.”

“You don’t have any leads.”

“I’ll get a lead.”

Amérique gestured to the bullet and said, “You got lead is what you got. You want a lead? You stay and rest.”

Styx said, “I don’t have time to do either. Right now, all I know is that I don’t know. And that pisses me the fuck off. The old men voted me in—-it’s my job to handle this. And I—-”

He flinched as Amérique pulled a stitch.

“I am going to handle this.”

A beat.

Amérique held the cigarette between her lips. Her words were muffled slightly as she said, “I don’t have to repeat myself.”

“I know you don’t.”

“To throw your analogy back at you, you’re jumping back into the fire.”

“You repeated yourself.”

“Blindly I might add.”

“Which is why I want to say—-I need your help.”

“More than what I’m doing already?”

“Yes. You’ve been staying low, wanted by several foreign governments. I want what they want you for.”

Amérique looked at Styx and said, “No.”

“I need it Amérique. Consider it a manifesto.”

“Consider resting, which is a temporary thing. What you’re asking me is more—-not temporary.”

“Can you do it by the end of the day today?”

Amérique blew smoke in his face. Styx held his breath.

“Screw you Styx. You know I can. But that’s not the question here.”

“It is and you know it.”

“It is because that’s what you want it to be. And I said no.”

“Amérique.”

“What?”

Styx stubbed out his Gauloises against the wall above the couch. Amérique said nothing.

He said, “I need it because I’m not the one who doesn’t have time.”

“What do you—-wait. You said when we got there.”

“Yeah.”

“We.”

“Yeah.”

“Did you—-”

“She insisted.”

Amérique tugged hard at a stitch and Styx moved toward an absolute recoil.

“You are a bastard.”

“They took her.”

“They took D?”

Styx nodded.

Amérique leaned back and took a deep and then deeper breath. Smoke billowed from her nose.

“Just this once Styx.”

“Thank you.”

“Just this once.”

Styx leaned back into the cushion. Amérique finished off the rest of the stitch and patchwork. She gave him a bottle of pills from the kit. He popped them all.

She said, “I’ll do what I can. I’ll find you when I’m finished.”

He said, “I’ll expect nothing less.”

“I have to say—-it’s been some time since I’ve seen this side of you. It’s almost a treat.”

“Don’t savor it too long.”

Amérique smiled.

Styx looked once again at the chairman smiling back at him.

Styx said, “The world is yours, as well as ours.”

Amérique said, “But in the last analysis, it is yours. Styx—-when you bring her back, I expect you too.”

Styx stood up and checked the stitches. It held well enough. He took another cigarette and went out the door.

<<BACKFWD>>

Categories
Chapter

vendredi

<<BACKFWD>>

We fade in—-a worm.

Fred Milton tied to a chair. Room dark. Black as Monogram Pictures.

Club music through the walls. Booming bass. Neon flashes from a far window caught the blood on his chin.

He coughed, body shaking against the restraints.

He coughed, he coughed again.

He coughed—-

“Do that one more time and I’m splitting your chin in fourths.”

Fred seized his throat. He choked and his body shook even harder.

From the back of him—-he walked around the chair. Tall, bald, bearded, Afro-cuban. A shadow over his face like the September 1929 cover of Black Mask. A leather jacket and no shirt that betrayed ribs. Black slacks and heavy boots.

Fred shook—-tears forming. Choking.

The other man laughed.

“Not in half—-no. That would be too easy. Too little work. And someone like you—-nothing like real and honest and hard work to do you some good.”

Fred clenched his jaw and bit his tongue. He blinked tears away. He choked.

Then he coughed, near vomited.

A harsh kick—-Fred hit the floor. Head spinning. More kicks to the head. More cries. More laughter.

Hold on this violence for a beat.

Fred caught what little breath he had left. He blinked tears away. He blinked blood.

His chin throbbed on four taps. Fred winced.

“See? One, two—-three and four.”

The weight of the chair on Fred, his body folded.

His mouth half-open when he said, “Please, why—-I already—-”

“You already did shit Mr. Milton and don’t you forget it.”

Fred’s lungs whistled as his only response.

An arc of light swinging open—-sudden. A shadow against a far wall. Through blood and tears Fred saw the outline.

A beret, a heavy bomber jacket, a skirt, boots. Hands on hips. The image towered Fred.

“Hey!”

The voice—-high in pitch and young. Tiny stomps in his direction and the shadow became smaller.

She hopped over Fred’s body.

He watched with fading vision how the little girl pushed and knocked into the taller man.

“Hey! Hey!”

“Yes.”

“What the heck—-you started without me?”

“I start when I start. With or without you.”

“That’s so not fair.”

“Well—-time is what they say is money. Isn’t that right Mr. Milton?”

The man kicked again. Fred cried again.

“Isn’t—-that—-right?”

Head—-slammed—-to floor. Fred bleeding and bleeding out.

“Gosh—-that’s enough don’t you think? Get him up.”

Hands on him—-handled without care. Fred back to a proper seating arrangement.

He blinked away blood and sweat and tears.

The little girl sat on his lap. She touched his face. Fred flinched.

The faint neon illuminated like philosophy. She looked at him and he looked at her.

He saw that she was young. She could be played by an actor from the Peking theatre. A red star emblazoned across her beret.

The little girl said, “Pauvre chou. You really did a number on him.”

The taller man, “I did. The number four.”

That laughter again. Even the little girl cracked a smile—-a missing front tooth.

Then she said, “So.”

“So what?”

“He talk?”

“Oh he did more than talk. He screamed, he yelped, he cried, he blubbered, he drooled, he spat, he wailed, he hollered, he shrieked—-he even sang.”

“Wow. Just kick me out of bed next time will you? Hate missing a show.”

The taller man didn’t answer.

The little girl touched Fred’s cheek then chin. Fred groaned and tried to pull away but couldn’t.

“He even know where he is anymore?”

Fred groaned and tried to answer but couldn’t.

“Looks like a nada. Okay. You. You’re in the back office of a club—-Panorama to be exact. And who are you? You’re a wealthy man, a powerful man. Add those up and you get what our really spectacular society calls a good man. Ce qui apparaît est bon, ce qui est bon apparaît. That’s who you are.”

Fred slumped in his seat.

“How did you end up here? Well—-that doesn’t really matter, not in the way you’re probably wondering. The better and more interesting question to ask would be—-why are you here? And that I can answer. Unless mon ami already got to that too.”

“Nope.”

“What? You sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Yes! Okay. The reason you’re here mister uh—-”

“Milton.”

“Mr. Milton. Right. The reason you’re here Mr. Milton is precisely because of that wealth and power you have accumulated up until today. Because that wealth and power has made you into a commodity. And we’re going to spend you so hard it’ll make your head spin—-if it hasn’t already.”

Fred’s lips opened slightly. He pushed only a breath out.

“The—-the hell are you people?”

The little girl flashed a childish glare and pout.

“You stepped over a lot of people to get where you are and we’re the banana peel that makes you slip and crack your neck—-that is who the heck are we people uh—-I flubbed it.”

Fred bled and drooled a bit more.

The little girl patted his cheek and wiped her hand on his sleeve and leaned back and said, “How are we on time?”

“Late.”

“I meant—-you know what I meant, Styx.”

The taller man—-Styx, glanced at the little girl.

“Hour to midnight, D.”

“Where we headed?”

“Trailer lot at King District.”

“Oh that’s a great place for a big time drug deal. You’ve got good taste Mr. Milton. Guess you can buy that too.”

The little girl—-D hopped off his lap and the chair.

“Alright—-well I’m bored. Can we get going?”

“Almost.”

“Almost?”

“Almost. Still have a mess here.”

“Leave it to the night guys.”

“Wouldn’t be fair to them now would it?”

“Then you clean it up. What you get for starting without me.”

“That so?”

“It is.”

“Last chance to go home.”

“I’m not even going to grace that with a proper response.”

Styx shrugged then moved around D. Standing in front of Fred now.

“Mr. Milton.”

Fred raised his chin—-weak. He said nothing.

Styx said, “I would apologize, but then it would be personal. And I just wanted to tell you—-make sure I made it perfectly clear for you—-it isn’t. You knew the rules Mr. Milton. You want to do business in this city, you have to do business with me. Otherwise—-you’ve seen how it turns out. Because—-you know the thing about business?”

Fred Milton blinked once and saw the tall man above him. Styx. Hand on neck and grip tight and tightening. He blinked once more and saw the little girl lounging back. D. She was sitting on a far table and swinging her legs freely. She was smiling her gap-tooth smile.

He no longer had the air to breath, to answer, to live.

“It’s business.”

The worm wriggled weak—-we fade to black.

<<BACKFWD>>