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Sep. 16th, 2005 | 12:00 am

~*~

“Deedee”

“Good evening,”

She calls me by my name then, which comes as a shock. My name gets used so rarely these days it is as if she is referring to another person. It takes me a while to register that is me, that she wants to talk to me, and maybe, it is a term of endearment.

I’m sitting on the floor of a phone booth, pulling the receiver down as far as it can go, resting the side of my head that isn’t a bloody mess against the side of the hissing and clicking column where the phone wires are.

“I’ve been shot in the head.”

There’s a two second pause before Deedee, good girl that she is clicks into her professional mode.

“Where are you?”

“Phone booth. Flushing.”

My head is singing. There’s a hot, burning sensation running along the right side and sparks keep blustering before my eyes.

“Can you see a number on the phone box?”

“Yes.”

“Give it to me. I’ll try and call you back in ten.”

“Okay.”

“And -,” she used my name again. It felt like we were in on a secret. “It’s going to be alright.”

I’m nearly sick standing up again to get the number. Something fleshy falls from my shoulder to the floor. I give Deedee the number then rest my head against the phone and vomit.

“What’s happening?”

“I’m puking.”

“Ah. Okay. While your doing that I’m going to call an ambulance on the other line.”

I make some wet gasping noise with my mouth full of returning treacly coffee. It’s very, very quiet even out on the Broadway. There seems to be no noise of cars, no headlights searing through the dark. Or maybe there are and I can’t see them anymore. It got dark, while I was with Baines. It’s so quiet without Deedee’s voice. You’d think I’d think less with my head like this, but my thoughts are racing. I want to know what state I’ll be when this is over, when the bleeding finishes and the hospital send me home. Will I be blinded, or deaf or paralysed? Will I not be the person I am now, but someone else with slower thoughts and little memory? Are these the last minutes I’m going to be myself? My right side already feels stiff and cold, but that maybe the blood dripping on it, must be the blood and the night air and my imaginings, surely.

I used to be a soldier and would face this every day. My lover died like this on the battlefield, with his head split in half, and I have tried in my worst hours, in the clammy midnights when man was young and went to bed early to rationalise this. To go into what he must have thought as his self fled, his eyes dimmed, as thinking itself became impossible and he stopped feeling the blood trickling through his nose and mouth. I wonder what is the last memory to go? Not me, I doubt it, something much more primal, much more deeply locked inside. Maybe that first forgotten glimpse of the world from the hands of the midwife, that same moment of shock and terror ends everything as began it all.

You can’t think about that on the battlefield of course. It was only ever the slow night watches that allowed for such maudlin thoughts. You cannot think at all of what will be after when you are in combat. You have to take everything, rationalise it, and leave consequences for tomorrow. So, I suppose it must be now.

I sit back on the floor avoiding the dark pool of vomit as best I can. In this new spirit of rational investigation, I pick up the piece of me that is lying on the floor and turn it about between my fingers. It’s reassuringly hard and gristly, thankfully lacking in gooey texture of grey matter. It’s altogether an odd little triangle of tough flesh with a little fold down the far side.

Then it dawns on me I’m holding most of my right ear.

~*~

“I have an undercut.”

Deedee is fussing over me across the far side of my bed. It’s true. From two inches above the ruin of my right ear my thick, red braids, my life saving braids if the doctors here are to be believed have been shaved to nothing. There’s a wide, bruised graze along the right side of my head where the bullet flashed past it, close enough to burn, close enough to fracture if my head wasn’t so well padded with spiders web steely alien hair.

“I look like a goth.”

I have not yet forgiven myself from my moments of weakness on the floor of the phone booth and am taking it out on everyone now with a completely reprehensible attack of the sulks. It’s a most terribly immature behaviour from someone older than the ice age, but there we go. Vintage does not necessarily sweeten, and I am as flawed as anyone.

“Come on Deedee, lets go.”

She looks shocked. I realise I haven’t even thanked her for getting me to hospital.

“You need to stay here and rest.”

“I’m an unregistered alien, someone here is bound to notice at some point.”

“At the moment, that is rather a secondary issue.”

“I’m not going to die.”

“You’re concussed and need to rest while your brain settles down.”

“My brain feels fine.”

“That’s because it is being gently washed in the 20ml diamorphine permeating every tissue of your body.”

“I’ve got to find Kit.”

“Tomorrow.”

“Really.”

“Yes really. The quest is over for tonight. You were the one who was panicking about being brain damaged.”

“I’ve obviously got a thick skull.”

“I’d hardly be the one to argue with that. But your heads been through quite a trauma and if you don’t rest it, you could end up with internal bleeding.”

“Doctors know all the best threats.”

“Of course.”

“Deedee.”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for everything.”

I think, although I can’t be sure, maternal gestures are generally not in Deedee’s modus operandi, she smoothed the blanket over my shoulder, but I couldn’t tell anymore. I never dream you see, haven’t at any time in my life, but in this strange white environment, nestled in the cosy calm of the painkiller, I can almost get there.

If I shut my eyes, I am on the icy walls of my once was, now lost mountain kingdom, watching the icicles grow in grottoes from the shelves of bare rock. The sky is shaking down snow and Kit is beside me with snowflakes on his eyelashes, wrapped deeply in a chocolate brown fur coat.

“Funny to see you here.”

It is funny for Kit to be here, because when I think of snow, in the winter iced cake of Central Park, or the Styrofoam landscapes of Macy’s Santa World, if I think of anyone, I think of my first lover, the one who wasn’t much for kissing but was very much for holding my arms behind my back and taking me in the long grass. He used to write me poems, sometimes, although never about me. I was not his muse. He wrote very well, as I remember, scenes from nature, a wild swan rising from the clear water of a mountain lake, the bones of a tree on the horizon. They were always short, brief and melancholy, and he showed me because he was embarrassed to show anyone else.

My brother’s reputation went before him. His epics on me, though never fawning, were the leading fashion in poetry for the best part of four hundred years. Mags was always one of those deeply unselfconscious people who told the truth always, in perfect clear droplets and perfect rhyming stanzas. He would never consider softening the icy tower of truth, even to escape a charge of treason. And I loved him so much for it, I would never think to. He lost me in the end and maybe that was punishment enough. The worst he ever got from me was a cold shoulder across the dinner table. He never understood why, to the point of being almost comical.

All Quendi are born with wide eyes, a trick of nature so I’m told, to increase our beauty so parents do not abandon the inquisitive, mewling, attention grabbing little fools that children are. I say this as someone who has raised six brothers and is rather fond of children. Mags’ eyes never quite shrunk to adult size, and to me it was sometimes hard to regard him as anything but the lonely little creature who I protected from a distance in the forest where we grew up. I realise that is perhaps a somewhat patronising approach to a younger brother who grew into very much his own quende, but it is the first feeling that comes into my heart on hearing his name.

Mags’ eyes are so big because he sees everything, I remember thinking once, and it was true. He saw everything in the world except what was under his nose. However scathing about my conduct in the last skirmish he had been, it would not take long before some stranger at my table mocked him discretely for being a simpleton and I would rally to his side once more, leaving him as confused as ever.

I’m pretty sure he thought I was unstable a long time before I might have given him more obvious reasons for such a conclusion. We’d retire to bed and talk until the sun rose over the cold plains of the north, and the black tower of the Necromancer was a clawed finger against a blood red sky. Mags, I remember, never really drunk wine even though I was probably quite sloppily verbose by that time. I do not think he understood it. He inspired almost universal adoration amongst the Quendi under his command. I loved him more than I have ever loved anyone, and I do no resent a good evening’s thinking about Kit being invaded by the soft warm memory of one of the few truly good hearted beings I have ever met.

But still, I preferred my lovers fragile little poems.

I twist on my side. I’m untubed and unbandaged, so can move around freely, which I take to mean that Deedee’s worries about my condition are mostly unfounded. Sniffling in another noseful of pillow, I try to retreat back to Kit in his fur coat on the mountainside. I feel very warm towards him, very affectionate, although I’m sure this is a side effect of the morphine, I’m not going to waste a good evening of feeling happily horny. I don’t get many holidays such as this in life.

It occurs to me I’ve never taken Kit on vacation, and that maybe I should. Somewhere away from the trade and the bustle of the city, where we could spend a week just innocently enjoying each other. It’s the wrong continent to be innocent on, I think. The grass is wrong; it’s a different colour, a far more bluey-green than the grass I remember from my days of true innocence. The mountains tend to brown rather than grey and the woods are filled with alien species, not the sweeping beeches I made my first clumsy gropes for another’s body beneath.

Fin, lying beside me, moaning. Me rather embarrassed and slightly amused that we could get such a result from each other. After all, this was the business where Neri and Nesse or whatever we called boys and girls back then got together and made babies. We didn’t know that two boys could do it together for fun, although our panting and our hardness told us we must be doing just that. We’d lie there and rub against each other, hands on each other’s cocks, clothes discarded, saying the dirtiest things we could imagine to each other. Some were biologically impossible, but we were innocents and just thought to say the rudest thing that entered our heads. Others, we discovered later, were with a little practice and a little lubricant perfectly possible. But for a while, we thought this tugging and touching and gasping of obscenities was all sex was. At the time, I recall us being quite happy with it.

Kit, I think. Kit. Kit opens up the dark fur jacket and is perfectly naked beneath. He smiles up at me and I remember him telling me he was ashamed of being seen naked. I pull him downwards and shrug the coat from his shoulders so it becomes a thick rug for us both to lie on. I kneel beside Kit, still fully dressed, letting him rest against me as I stroke one pale protruding hip.

He kept his clothes on he said, unless they were total strangers he’d never see again. What am I, then? He’d laugh and kiss me, reaching up to put both hands around my neck.

“You’re a dream,” he said. “Your not real.” And then softer, between kisses, “You understand me.”

I don’t claim, even distantly, to understand him. What he means perhaps is I don’t judge him. I’ve been around for too long to put much store in ropey teenage suicide attempts and their attendant scars and slashes. After twenty years of sex work in New York, I assumed it was some coming of age rite. It barely occurred to me there were plump and sheltered teenage boys who lived behind white picket fences and got to adulthood with their wrists intact. To me it seemed like the strange, cutting rituals of the first humans, the boys who waited in hillside caves for death to claim them or the sun to rise.

Kit’s scars are no weirder to me than those on the arms and legs of his ancestors, who would notify me of important events and occasionally made visits to my castle. I had a cousin who specialised in them. If he hadn’t been another war casualty, he could have founded the science of anthropology. He died and man was unaware of the science of itself for many millennia more.

My mind slides back to Kit. He’s blinking at me happily and the high altitude has frozen the smell of smoke from his skinny body. I reach over his hip to trail my fingers through the dark curls between his legs before I touch on what I want. Kit’s quite hairy down there and I was a little amused by how arousing I found that. Quendi generally aren’t, and up until I was first confronted by Kit with his trousers undone, I found the excess of human hair rather repulsive.

Kit arches his back against me with his arm flung over my shoulders. For a while, I just watch him, breathing heavily into his neck, watching the cold air tighten his nipples to tight little berry coloured buds. I adjust Kit’s position against me to suck one, to torture him delicately, hot mouth and cold air alternately on each nub, until he claws at my arm gently for being evil.

There’s a terrible problem with me and Kit you know, for all he claims I am his one true soul mate and muse, and all he really means is I am the one who is not afraid to go down into the cellar to fix the fuses after the lights have blown. We’re both terrible submissives and we both want more than anything someone hard and heavy to stick it in. We’ve found numerous answers to this dilemma over the months we’ve been together, involving among other things well shaped pieces of battery powered plastic, my modified anatomy, our own unique gifts for talking very dirty, fingers, and on one memorable occasion me watching Kit being taken by an open minded other.

I didn’t find that as enjoyable as I’d liked, or rather, perhaps I found it considerably more enjoyable than I liked. I got the feeling the open minded other would have enjoyed it more if I had wanted to join in, which I didn’t. Then there was the feeling of uncomfortable arousal, too unclean, and too like what my tricks can sometimes inspire in me that did not abate until I was bending Kit over the cold chrome grab bars on the subway, giving him his second exhausting stuffing of the night.

It’s a shared joke between us how we’re both hungry for a good fucking, and we often find if we talk about that for long enough one of us can usually oblige to help out the other. But tonight, at altitude and in my kingdom, it is no difficultly at all to provide Kit with the long stiff cock he begs for, thrust between his thighs. I bend him over and watch his arsehole quiver in the artic breeze, hold him by his belly and admire how his balls hang between his legs, before I lube him gently and take him so hard he cries out.

Kit can come just from fucking if the moment is right, and when it’s my turn to take him, I often play this little game with him, holding his hands away from his cock, making him concentrate completely on my thrusting inside him. He whimpers a little at first, but soon appreciates the discipline. He forgets the aching of his stiff prick stretched out in front of him and we concentrate totally on what is going on behind him. He pushes against me to get the angle right, eyes shut, cheeks flushed, sweat dripping off his body into a world white with snow.

I lick a drop of sweat from his forehead. On the horizon, the dark tower still looms, now like a burnt tree stump against the iron hills. I know he still watches me in my mountain kingdom, my stalker before the word was in existence. Who built a tower on the hills so he could see me, all day every day, the one who escaped. Of course, that was the heroic age back then, when dysfunctional behaviour was how we all got along, but still. I do wonder if he ever saw me like this, legs spread, bent over, one remaining hand holding me upright while Fingon tugged at my cock.

Call me kinky, but I hope he did.

The tower has fallen, the merciful gods thrust it down, in the time that they still bothered with the earth’s feeble docu-drama, before it al became repeats and they reverted to high art. The tower is gone, but the foundations still remain, even as I’m holding Kit and smelling his damp hair, I know. I know from the boys of the Hacienda, even from the dead-eyed attention seeking of Snowball, that tower was not unmade. Perhaps we all at some point dream we are up here, lewdly spayed, showing the dark pinnacle we still know how to fuck.

Kit comes in my arms with a cry. The deep brown fur wraps around us, and I am drifting into a distant and dreamless sleep.

~*~

I wake with what could probably be best described as a mild to moderate hangover. It takes me a while to remember that I am I hospital, I was not drinking the night before, that the ache in my neck is probably caused by it being forced backward rather quickly by a speeding bullet, and that I’m feeling warmly fuzzy in spite of all of this because I drifted off to sleep enjoying a little morphine induced reverie involving me and my naked poet on a mountainside. My poet who is, at the present time still missing.

I stare groggily at the ceiling and compile my morning’s to do list.

1) Find a cup of decent coffee.
2) Ring Hacienda; pull sickie. Shot in head should suffice.
3) Kit?
4) Hair – Henna
5) Hair – rebraiding.
6) Who the fuck is Poley?

I’m just persuading my neck to hold upright when Deedee comes blustering in. I’m getting a feeling that it was lucky I hadn’t required more than morphine and stitches last night. It looks like what could be politely described as a field hospital in Zimbabwe circa 1952. I’m cramped into what looks like an iron framed ex-army cot, the paint is peeling, the brown tiles on the floor have the scuffed colour of twenty five years of ingrained dirt.

“Deedee?”

I’m wearing a white hospital tunic accessorised by my own blood and am still easily the best dressed person in here.

“Red,”

“How you doing this morning?”

“Fine.” I pause. “Hungover,” I add. “Also, having a bad hair day. Could I have some more morphine?”

Deedee shushes me in a manner that suggests if I hint that morphine shots are up for grabs everyone will want one. She tips my head on one side and inspects the wound where my ear was.

“Any dizziness?”

“Not when my head’s right way up.”

“Nausea?”

“Nope.”

“Deafness?”

“Pardon?”

“Ha-ha”

Deedee let go of my head and started wiggling her fingers in front of my eyes until I feel both nauseous and dizzy.

“Deedee, yes I can see that. Forgive me, but I believe most hospitals don’t operate on a bring your own doctor basis. Yes I can see that too. Does this place not have staff?”

“It has staff. I believe it has two Doctors, Ellie and Anno, and some part time locums who cover for sickness and leave and help out when they can. That’s me, by the way. I’m not currently being utilised, but Ellie deserved a break. The nursing is done by nuns who are mostly at prayer at this time in the morning.”

“For how many patients?”

“Only about thirty seven.”

“What?”

“We’re not a very fashionable cause. But we don’t ask questions.”

“Can I go now?”

“Ideally you need at least twenty four hours bed rest and observation with a head injury.”

“Or how about some ibuprofen and a double shot espresso. You can observe me if you wish.”

Deedee clucked.

“I’ve got a jailed writer and still no clue as to a defence case. Plus I need you to help me fix my hair.”

“Hair injuries aren’t actually covered in Medical School, you know.”

“It’s alright, you have plastic dishes, you have latex gloves, it’s all you need. Where are we?”

“Stuyvesant Town.”

“Oh good grief, well if we can manage to get out of here without being shot-,”

“You did okay at getting shot in suburban Queens.”

“I need to get my hair fixed Deedee. I used to be a Noldorin warrior and it’s still deeply ingrained in me.”

Deedee laughed.

“You know, I have never heard anything quite so ridiculous in all my medical career.”

“Well, you always have your braids done rather nicely, not that it’s your place to wear them, I should add.”

“Why ever not?”

“Braids were traditionally worn by soldiers Deedee, to keep their hair out of the way when going into battle. You are a healer and they traditionally wore their hair loose.”

“I take it Quendi healers of the heroic age had less qualms about getting their locks entwined with someone’s perforated intestine,” said Deedee dryly.

~*~

I’m sitting on Deedee’s roof terrace. I cannot claim she is completely happy with the idea I am going to douse my freshly stitched scalp with a concoction that looks like a liquefied cow pat and does not smell much better. Between the three gloved hands we have at our disposal, we manage to get as much mixture onto my hair, and as little onto my shoulders, neck, forehead and remaining ear as possible. Deedee wraps it in plastic cling film and then I wash my torso in a bucket beneath the cinema’s fire hose. Deedee lends me a shirt of Treacle’s, slightly too tight and deep red.

“Did you think all that blood suited me?” I ask.

“Red’s better than black,” Deedee said, “For today anyway.”

Most of St Tecia’s wardrobe is black. He takes being a dark elf a little to seriously. Of course, if Deedee had half an ounce of cruelty in her, she could dress him in whatever colours she liked. He was blind as a bat, blinded by the venom of snakes before the sun rose, and now he can tell very little except the grain of light and dark. But Deedee is always respectful of his wishes and brings back clothes for him in the deepest hues of midnight. Except this tunic, I thought, which probably explains why it is still neatly folded and laundered. Not that Deedee and Treacle were anything but neat.

“Autumn’s coming,” Deedee said.

I hadn’t noticed. I had perhaps attributed the new greyness of the skyline to the insulation blocks and burnt lots of the housing project I had emerged from the hospital at. Deedee had provided me with some ibuprofen and some surprisingly good fairtrade instant coffee from the doctors’ private stores. My head stopped feeling so fuzzy, but there was a sad air to the day, a feeling of irritation with any way I walked or went or held my body. If I was on the subway, I wished to be above ground, if I was on the streets, I missed the rattle and the bright light of the subway. Nothing really felt right until I put my head down in the damp, sweet air of Deedee’s roof garden and thought yes, indeed, autumn is indeed coming.

When I woke, it was about noon. The sky had already cleared, but a chiding breeze from the north worried about the cotton clouds of mid-summer and the trees danced in it, ready to give up their heavy mantle of leaves. It was still warm, still over thirty degrees, I’d reckon, but there was a freshness to the air that wiped the day clean, lifted the smog and spoke of rainshowers and winter. I was still groggy when I woke up, a little thirsty. I sniffed around for water and painkillers before I could move my legs.

~*~

Constantinople is a Turkish Diner on 40th, the wrong side of the Port Authority bus terminal. It sells espresso so strong a spoon stands upright in a cup, as well as doing the best hash browns, scrambled eggs and fried bacon in our corner of Manhattan. It was also not the sort of place to be unduly concerned that one of their regulars has turned up for breakfast in the mid afternoon with his hair wrapped in a beach towel. It would not, necessarily, be anything they had not seen before.

I had just remembered that I hadn’t eaten all day yesterday and was in the middle of my eggs benedict when my quarry, as so often happens when one waits long enough, turned round and started looking for me.

“Red?”

The man had an English accent, educated, if I guessed correctly and was wearing a grey cashmere sweater with a check shirt beneath over jeans. His face had a rather too healthy tan to it that made his lips look somewhat purple and emphasised the encroaching thread veins on his nose. There was an ill-judged streak of peroxide at the front of his dark hair that may have been intended a compliment to his sun kissed skin, but looked more like a misjudged attempt to cover grey. He sat down beside Deedee, who scowled at him, with the look of a man making every effort to be friendly.

I look at him.

“What do you want with me?”

At this a large, blonde man sits down beside me. The hair is thinning around the crown, I notice from my superior vantage point. He’s a gone to seed a little, a fighter, slackened with age perhaps, so the tone of his muscle has vanished beneath the solidity of flesh. He is either deeply unfortunate in his genetic inheritance or his nose has been broken. He is clearly here as some kind of enforcer. I suspect, he is intended to instil fear, but all I really get is a nasty, satisfied sort of feeling that in ten years time this will be Kit’s big boned pretty professor.

“I thought we could do business.”

“Well, if it’s that you’re after you better ask for me at the Hacienda. Three blocks down off Second.”

He did not blink but carried on as if some frivolities were beneath his notice.

“I believe you have been making enquiries as to the wherabouts of one Christopher Arthur?”

“He is a friend of mine.”

“You told Baines he owed you money.”

“I lied, although I hardly think Baines is in too much of a position to complain, seeing as he shot me.”

“And of course, you will be reporting this to the Police Department.”

“I’m having breakfast. Loosing large quantities of blood is a hungry business. I’ll contemplate what I intend to do about Mr. Baines afterwards.”

“You won’t do anything about Mr. Baines.” The blonde man added. His accent was also English, although for some reason it felt commoner, and seemed to remind me of jangly popular music. A strong waft of peroxide hooked itself around my nostrils then passed on.

“That’s rather presumptuous of you.”

“You won’t go to the Police because you’re an illegal.”

The smaller man raised his hand evenly across the table as if he wanted to put aside the other’s rather indelicate comment.

“We who find ourselves beneath the law, must make the laws for ourselves.”

Finally, I look up and give him my full attention. I give him a stare that benefits from twenty thousand years of being somewhat on the wrong side of the law. Kit calls it my “Hello Medusa” look. The small man wriggles in his chair a little.

“That’s not friendly,” he said.

“I do not mean to be. I take interruptions during breakfast badly.”

“We are merely concerned,” continued my oilier dining companion, “that one of our associates caused you considerable distress last night and we wish to make it up to you.”

“Do you work for Poley?”

He looked taken aback but then narrowed his eyes and replied with the happiness of a habitual liar who can finally latch onto a fragment of truth.

“I do not.” Then he smiled. “Ingram Frazer, Private Secretary to Lord Walsingham of Scadbury.”

“One does meet a better class of illegal here these days.”

Ingram smiled with a cold ghost of pity in it.

“Oh no. Our documents for this trip are very much above board, aren’t they Nick. It’s just one does remember the days when one was not quite so legitimate.”

“Gentlemen,” suddenly it was Deedee’s eyes who flashed, and her that was speaking, setting her coffee mug down on the table with a clink. “This is fine drama. You are obviously excellent students of Mr. Scorcese and Mr. Tarantino. Now, could you make your request and go before my toast gets cold?”

They were both silent for a minute, then Ingram looked at Deedee darkly.

“We have an invitation to discuss business from an interested party, one who may be able to assist you in returning your missing friend.”

I laughed. It’s a good laugh and it’s certainly stood by me in worse situations than the present.

“Do you know how I lost this?” I say, holding my stump in the air. Both men look faintly shocked, which Ingram turns into a mild scowl, as if I’d shown bad form. “By answering an equally shady invitation to a business discussion where my interests were at stake. You might have been able to lure my younger self down dark alleys with impossible promises, but I am afraid now my limbs are precious.”

“I am sorry you have had such previous unpleasant experiences,” soothed Ingram, although he did not sound particularly sorry at all. “However, the matter we have to discuss is not one for third avenue diners. Or for all ears.” He gave Deedee a wary look with his frosty blue eyes.

“My ears are getting somewhat exclusive too.”

“As I have mentioned, you have our apologies. We wish only to be able to demonstrate how sorry we are for our colleague’s misconduct.”

“You could be demonstrative then leave,” hissed Deedee, but I am already feeling the slight jab of a metal tube against the side of my back.

“I see. What part of me will you be blowing off today?”

“Oh, I should hope it will not come to that. When we have a chance to discuss this fully out of the sight of prying eyes I am sure you will find our interests run in common.”

“You’re not exactly giving me a lot of choice.”

“Mr. Smithsson, being given fewer choices only makes it more likely the right decision will be made.”

I’m rather busy contemplating the exact reasoning for that sincerely stated truism to be nonsense as my companions throw a fifty-dollar bill down onto the table. Nick sidles between myself and Deedee, clearly meaning us to be separated, while Frazer leads the way. Rather unsurprisingly, there is a black hire car waiting outside from a private firm, one with darkened windows. These men have certainly gone to a lot of trouble to get their props right, I think.

~*~

Nick sits in the back with me and pulls sunscreens down over the windows to my left and right despite the noticeable lack of sun. The sky is grey as I’m bundled out quickly and through a side door in an alley. Nick nudges me to move quickly so I cannot see where I am, but I would guess from the scent we are near central park.

I’m lead to a lift. Whoever I am visiting in this hotel is higher in the world of vice than my informant police chief. The hotel has a rich grandeur to it, like a claret that has aged well. The interior has a healthy, rosy glow that could have been furnished for the season, a thick old New England interior for a day that turns one’s mind to midwinter. Everything glistens with polish and smells deeply of pine. The plants are tall and slender leaved, like delicate green skeletons, and look in the finest of health. The lift comes complete with a mahogany seat and deep red cushion. The buttons are authentic, little knobs of piano ivory with black numbers. A dial strait from the cartoons informs us of our progress towards the roof. Peroxide still curls viciously in my nose and every so often the man called Nick jabs me a little in te back.

“Hello Nick, I’m Mephistopheles. You must be the boss round here,” I contemplate saying, but Nick does not look the one for obtuse jokes. His face is pudgy, like it has been mis-moulded and I could not imagine the slack muscles of his jaw exerting themselves enough to break into a smile.

We stop at the Hyacinth Suite. It feels a little too much like lavender and old lace, the quilted wardrobes with the ornate gold handles, the violet valance and lace canopy on the enormous white satin bed. It could be the room perhaps that Grandma’s would dream of, that no matter what the price should always be accessorised by a jar of cold cream and a crystal bottle of glycerine and rosewater. It was a room, completely at odds with its one occupant, a woman sat at a writing desk in a neat, tight fitting pinstripe trouser suit.

It looked expensive, the material had no hint of shininess to it, and the stripes were narrow and discrete. It could possibly have been tailored. Neatness and composure seemed to be her most characteristic feature in fact, and I wondered if she had a little Quendi blood somewhere down the line because of the smoothness with which she moved.

“Ah, Red.”

She had a voice like Nerwen. It did not suit her small frame.

“Mr. Skeries,” she added to the plump man behind her, “I think he can sit without your assistance. Perhaps you could bring me some tea.”

She spoke with a Seven Sisters accent that was perhaps a little too cautious around rough O’s and R’s. A scholarship girl perhaps, or an aspiring PA keen to bury her roots. The lights in the room, a veritable wedding cake of a chandelier reflected of her nails as she put down the paper she had been reading and looked into my face.

“You must want to see Kit?”

I stare at her for a moment, this being so completely unexpected. There is concern in her voice, a little catch of worry. Considering I was expecting to be interrogated, I am more than a little confused as to how to answer.

“Of course.”

“Then I suggest you wash, whatever it is you have, off your hair in the bathroom and do so.”

I look around wildly as if she might have him locked in one of her wardrobes.

“Where is he?”

“He’s being held on Rikers awaiting deportation. I have,” she said, returning to her papers, “a pass here for you. Police Department. You will not make such a good police officer, but I am sure you can talk well in difficult circumstances.” She gave me a reassuring smile. Her teeth were very strait and white.

“Will you not be coming with me?”

“No, I have a car at my disposal that will take you and bring you back.”

“But what if I don’t return.”

“You will return Mr. Smithsson, because if you do not, Kit will be deported on a flight tomorrow evening.”

“And if I refuse to see him?”

“What good would that do?” She seemed genuinely perplexed.

“I’d like to know why you are offering me this?”

“ A goodwill gesture from somebody who may want your assistance in future.”

“What sort of assistance?”

“Nothing it will cost you to highly to provide.”

“How do you know that?”

“I know the price of most things, Red.”

I was getting nowhere. Skeries, he looked more of a Skeries than a Nick, more of a butler than a devil, brought in a wooden tray on which was placed a cornucopia of silver tea things. The woman poured out the amber liquid like a girl scout at a homemaking demo, stiffly, neatly, trying not to look as though it was as unfamiliar as it was. I found it hard not to smile.

She put two perfect white cubes of sugar into the rusty, clear fluid before her with a set of tiny silver tongs. The stream used to run that colour back in the copper mines where I was born. They said my mother’s family got our hair colour from always washing in the orangey water.

The woman catches my face reflected in her cup. She watches me for a moment, then adds with a half smile,

“I have a dairy intolerance.”

“Do you work for Poley?”

She gives me a strange look then, as if I have committed some terrible social faux pas, mentioned the war, or sworn in front of her grandma. She did not reply, but took one of the miniature silver spoons and stirred her drink counter-clockwise.

~*~

It was a cell just like in the movies. The right side of Kit’s face was bruised and he looked up at me angrily as the door opened. I willed him as hard as I could not to register shock at my arrival. The secretary had granted me a police pass, fifty unadulterated minutes with my poet before he was bundled onto a plane. The documents said I was here to question him. I do not look much like a serving officer with my long braids and blood red tunic however the staff here did not question me. They never do.

Kit held still while the custody sergeant stood beside me. I registered her hip at my elbow, the contrast of the cheap nylon slacks with the heavy steel of the chains and keys. She had a set of handcuffs in her back pocket that seemed like an unspoken threat, and a loose thread hanging from her waistband where the material had bobbled and pulled. It seemed a moment for noticing such things. I looked away into Kit’s face. His mouth opened slightly, so there was a black line between his lips.

The woman turned to go. I stood still, as if I had been frozen while I hear the door clang behind me and her rubber-soled boots echo down the walkway. I count twenty foot falls then pitch myself forward so I am kneeling before Kit with my arms around his waist and my head pressed into his belly.

“Your hair is damp,” said Kit. The lavender scent of the hotel shampoo fills the acrid smelling cell as he lifts up a line of my hair and lets it fall down on us like a veil.

“I love your hair loose.” He adds.

“I got shot,” I say into his stomach. “Baines.”

“That dirty little bastard.”

“Did you used to wind him up a lot?”

The cell is grimy and the light is too. Kit is in his own clothes as a remand prisoner, but they still look strange here, out of place. I could still swear I saw Kit’s mouth kink in the dark.

“You did.”

“He was an arsehole, always banging about drunk and shouting at me. He stood on the bottom landing and shouted at me for half an hour one night, blazing on the top of his voice about being un-American. ”

“Had you bought a date back?”

Kit looked down at me a little ruefully.

“I thought you said you didn’t mind?”

“Not now, Kit,” I say and pull myself up onto the plastic bunk beside him. I kiss his lips softly. “Not now.”

“God, I’ve got a headache.”

“I wasn’t going to take advantage.”

Kit rests his head on my shoulder and I kiss his temple. He shuts his eyes and despite myself I think of him as I saw him last night, naked on the mountainside.

“What did you do to Baines to piss him off so badly he gave the Police an affidavit swearing you were virtually a new recruit to Al-Quaeda?”

“Where do you want me to start?”

“This isn’t helping your defence Kit.”

“I hate Baines.” He sat up and rubbed his forehead wearily, gently prodding at the battered patches of skin. “I hated Baines since the first week I moved into that flat. To tell you the truth he reminded me of my Dad, you know, a big drunken bully.” Kit smiled. “Only this time, I was big enough to knock him down, and he knew it. So I could say to him what I damn well liked.”

“And you did.”

“You know me.”

“Yes Kit,” I say, running my thumb over his exposed collarbone, “I do know you.”

Kit smiled into the gloom.

“Who did Baines know that could get you into this kind of trouble?”

“As far as I’m aware, he didn’t know anyone. Well, anyone except the all American streetwalkers he’d sometimes bring back. He skimped on tips, you’d hear them calling him a cheap fucking cocksucker twenty minutes after he went in.”

He paused, I run my hand gently over his thigh like I would in those all night diners.

“And the girls he had working for him of course.”

“He was a pimp? He said he was a private detective.”

“He was a serial fantasist. He used to specialise in seduction jobs. He had about two or three pretty college girls on his books. You know the idea, he advertised his services as a way for women to test their partners fidelity, they’d be worried about their man, he’d send round a pretty girl to do her damnedest to get into his pants.” Kit smiled. “Only of course, Baines cut it both ways, he made most of his money from the errant menfolk paying to hush things up.”

“Doesn’t really sound like a man with contacts in high places.”

“You’d be surprised who has contacts where. Most of the big shots in politics started in the muck, didn’t they? You make some strange alliances to get on, alliances that don’t always leave you when you’d like.” Kit’s arm is snaking out to me. I realise we only have a short while left of concentrating on the issue at hand and do my best to order my thoughts to get in the most important questions before the inevitable distraction takes over.

“Do you know a woman called Poley?”

“Never heard of her.” Kit runs his hand over my neck. It’s still sore, and his fingers feel alien and strange on the hot grazed flesh. He pushes my hair back and gasps.

“Oh God.”

“Told you I’d been shot.”

“Your ear.”

“I have another one.”

“That’s becoming your catchphrase.”

“Isn’t it wonderful how the body produces such duplicates.”

Kit runs his tongue down the side of my face.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were still studing?”

“Didn’t seem relevant somehow. You always distracted me.”

Kit’s hand is working its way down the waistband of my trousers. I suddenly become very resentful of all this necessary talking, for eating up the time I could just spend on his lips.

“Did you fuck that jock lecturer of yours?”

“Lewis, Oh God no.”

Kit’s hand slips inside the waistband of my trousers. Suddenly I feel much less resentful towards everything. Kit looked sheepish.

“I used to try it on something rotten, but he wasn’t interested. Too right too. You’ll never guess who his partner is.”

“Daniel Newman”

“You know that band Patch is really into – wait, how do you know.”

“I wasn’t always your muse, Kit.”

Kit blinks.

“You weren’t Patch’s?”

“No, I was Danny’s.”

Kit’s eyes widen, presumably in surprise at having his hand on the cock that Daniel Newman had stroked before him.

“Connections in low places, indeed.” Kit looks like he could quite happily spend the next twenty minutes of our precious last hour together swapping Arch gossip, so I decide to distract him.

“I dreamt about you last night,” I say without thinking.

“You don’t dream.”

“Well, thought about you very hard while lying down.”

“Mmm?”

Kit’s pulling at my hips, trying to pull me onto his lap so I can straddle him. I realise I only have one question left.

“Who pays for you to be here Kit?”



~*~

The Secretary observes me as I return to the Hyacinth Suite. She knows I have had sex, and the room suddenly seems to have taken a high moral tone on that. It puts me on the wrong foot, somewhat.

Well, Missy Secretary, what did you expect me to do? I feel like asking, but it seems like I have conceded too much already. She knows my desires, that I’m guilty as anyone of the weakness of wanting. And she knows what Kit means to me, I’ve proved it to her as easily as if I had entered the room wearing a placard declaring my love for him.

I bite my tongue slightly, which still tastes of Kit, salty flesh. If that was our last moment together, I do not intend to ruin it with the memory of a betrayal of Kit afterwards.

“Shall we return to business?”

“We could do, if I knew what business was.”

The woman unlocked one of the delicate white draws underneath the writing desk with a click and pulled out a manila envelope. There’s a picture inside of a pale, freckled man, a well groomed forty something, with his mop of chestnut hair looking somewhat in opposition to the pallor of his face.

I knew him. We used to call him the cleaning man. He liked to do menial chores in his wife’s underwear. He got the rooms sparkling beautifully, much better than the regular cleaners at supplying the elbow grease. His only stipulation was us boys leant around and watched him. He paid us all with crisp hundred dollar bills, even the ones who had just observed.

I’d actually say Patch was his favourite for his post clean up refreshment, although I’d done him a few times. He had a small prick and huge balls, framed by the ginger hair he was so ashamed of, but apart from that was unmemorable.

“David Sanderson.”

“Should I know him?”

“He’s due to stand as the Democrat Senator for New York.”

“How ambitious of him. Should this concern me?”

“He comes to the Hacienda. I’m representing the interests of those who would like him not to stand.”

“Where do I come into this?”

“Simple, I’d like a statement ruining this man’s career. From what I heard, you wouldn’t need to lie.”

I looked into her eyes. She had rich brown pupils that in the chandeliers light seemed shot through with red. The room having a light on in daylight made the heavy sky look even greyer.

“I don’t trust you.”

“It’s a simple kiss and tell. You go on record explaining Mr. Sanderson’s peculiar habits and you get Kit back.”

“Why me?”

“Pardon?”

“There are a twelve boys who work out of the Hacienda. Why pick me.”

“Because you were the one we could exercise leverage with.”

Something about that statement jars. It is true, they do have Kit, they do have leverage, I do know this man they claim to want to frame. But they could just as easily use Patch. In fact, they probably would have more leverage with Patch, considering Kiki’s delicate legal position.

“How long do I have to think about it?”

“You don’t.”

~*~

I’m not too bothered about staling the ginger trick’s political career. Although it’s supposed to be a break in whores’ code of honour to run to the papers, to be honest if one I prepared to be professionally buggered on a daily basis, one probably never had much honour in the first place. I have no problem with delivering Mr. Sanderson into the well-polished talons of the woman before me.

I’m bothered that it’s that she really wants.

~*~

“So, if I say yes, what would you have me do?”

“I have a friend,” she said softly in a voice that probably didn’t know the meaning of the word, “he works for the New York Post. I’d like you to talk to him, have your photograph taken that kind of thing.”

She sounded dismissive but I sensed she was speaking through a smile.

“We have a car waiting.”

~*~

The sky has mellowed to a sullen white and there is a hint of damp foliage in the air, the way there always seems to be when the wind is from the west. Although where it blows from I don’t know. I used to think it came from the gardens I grew up in, the white courtyard where I’d chase my brothers. They were bigger now, we’d left the woods and come to town, although we still played outdoors. Well, all except Maglor, who hated the city and stayed indoors dreaming he was back under the scraggly pines and the sharp cliffs of the mountains.

It’s gone now of course, forever in the case of Mags and I. The only thing west of us is California.

It’s that odd thing about one’s nature, perhaps I should say heritage although it sounds such a long word for what is simply the noises and smells one grew up with. They’re locked into your bones. One’s identity is harder to kill than the cockroaches that joined us a few years back in the Hacienda. Just as you think you have crushed it beneath a new life, and new clothes and a layer of mannerisms designed to deflect ones true self into an opaque pool of generalised otherness, its dying form is laying it’s eggs in your mind which will hatch and jerk you backwards when you least expect it.

Identity, just like a cockroach. It’s a good job I left the poetry to my brother really. I don’t think I’d win many laurels for that metaphor.

Still, the newly autumnal city flashes past, and I swear I can see the tips of the tired trees turn golden. It’s August thirteenth.

I smile, and suddenly Kit, and the Hacienda and even the car I am sitting in seem a terribly long way away. I feel like I have pushed my hand downward and touched the fabric of the earth, which I might well have done. I have one of those flashes of lateral vision that at once calms me.

In a hundred years time they will be gone, but I will still be here.

You cannot go through life thinking like that of course. One would go mad. But it doesn’t hurt to remember that once in a while. Whatever happens, the word keeps turning, and I shall watch it spin until it breaks into the dust of the cosmos it was made from.

~*~

Suddenly, I know I want to get out of the taxi. It comes through me like a reflex, like being sick or needing to faint. Certainly that is what my guard, because yes Mr plump and Mr. Skinny have accompanied me on this trip think. My sudden shifting from perfect detached calm to scrabbling at the car door has Frazier worrying for his smart suit. Skerries doesn’t seem to care.

“Door’s locked,” said Skerries.

“I’m going to be sick,” I say, sounding thoroughly convincing.

“Tough.”

Frazier clicks under his breath. He at least objects to spending the next half hour of a muggy day in a car full of vomit.

“Do it out the window,” he says.

As if the car obeys his voice, the cool glass to my right glides perfectly downward. I lean my head out, and they both seem ready to politely avert their eyes. When they look back, I am already out the window.

Quendi really can fit into the smallest spaces when pushed. We have flexible skeletons, Deedee says, like rats. Rats and cockroaches and other things that live in the dark, I don’t make my species sound too beautiful, do I?

We are, of course. It’s in our nature. Too beautiful, too still, too perfect. Too fond of seeing things in the long perspective. We’re so beautiful people assume we are good, and that is where they make a mistake.

~*~

I wait in my apartment until evening. I half expect someone to break the door down, but no one does. I make sweet tea and wait for nightfall, which obligingly seems to come a little earlier today.

I’m standing with my fingers covered in what looks like blackberry jam, covering up, inch by inch the distinctive glint of my red hair. I have not done this for years, over ten thousand years to be exact. It was the last twilight in a land that soon would be known only as a memory, a place beneath the waves, that in time sunk to legend.

My brother’s scared and mud blackened face appearing through the walls of my tent.

“It is time”

All the stars were behind him. That was the last time I saw the magnificent jewelled sky of Beleriand. We’d picked a night with no moon.

Then we stepped out into the darkness. My blackberry smell followed behind me. I have never been able to stomach the fruit since, and it’s said that the Quendi will not eat them after late August because they belong to the souls of those that did not return.

I’m not sure they might not mean me by that, if so the gesture is in vain. I can’t stand them. They remind me of treachery.

Tonight though, I believe I look quite imposing in disguise, my hair tied loosely away from my face, wearing the baggy black clothes that usually see the light when I spring clean. A burgundy halo dances over my hair in the fluorescent light of my kitchen. I turn the light of and head out once more into the dark.

~*~

It’s no later than nine in the evening although it feels like midnight. The sky is its usual muddy soup, a struggling planet, Venus, makes its way through the murk. I smile. It is my night, and the luck of the Feanorians is with me.

The luck of the accursed damned by the gods.

~*~

Treacle is standing on the rooftop of the Richeloux cinema, a tall thin figure dressed all in black. If one was fanciful, one could imagine the body hard as stone, the spare flesh clinging to the bones by some great act of will. Treacle is possibly the oldest thing alive on this earth.

He’s Avarin, a wild elf, what us dwellers in great white cities used to look down upon sneeringly. He refused the lure of Gods, preferring the simple creatures of the woodlands that were before people. As such, he never had to live through the Gods turning out to be a sore disappointment. He’s blind as a bat now, but that has nothing to do with age, because like me he was once a captive and like all of us he had to leave something behind to escape.

Peculiarly, he is the only Quendi I have ever met who has received sainthood. Some time in the early sixth century, the humans of a wide tidal estuary got Christianity, and decided to bring their ages old practice of wandering across the mud to a tidal island at sunrise to seek cures for their woes and aliments from the blind hermit who lived there in line with their new faith. They created Treacle St Tecia of Archenfield.

Deedee comes to stand beside him and rests her blonde head on his shoulders. I don’t know how they met. On the road, they tell me, the only place where exiled spirits can be at home now we have outlived the culture that made us.

The city coils and flows beneath them in a thousand filaments of light. Headlights and Neon and the little man on the corner selling multicoloured fibre optic glow sticks for two dollars to the children out late, all swirling along in its chasm beneath the rooftops of Forty-second Street.

Treacle and Deedee stand above them all in the cool darkness. I do not know if that is why no one ever notices them in their rooftop home, I’ve heard human eyes adjust to the darkness only slowly, and blinded by the glare around them it would be hard for them to make out any shadows.

I see Treacle and Deedee. I see them more clearly than the pink front of the Disney Store or the glittering entrance to McDonalds. They are the only things on this street that are solid, and real. Besides that, they shimmer faintly with a pale white light against the autumn sky.

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rosie mcdaid

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from: bandonbanshee
date: Sep. 19th, 2005 05:13 pm (UTC)
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Guh. Finally got around to reading this. I don't even know where to begin with the effusive praise! Obviously, I love the wee mentions of Lewis but also the reference to Fingon and Maglor. :X

All of these characters are so vivid- which is purely down to your writing, you realise.

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