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Sep. 16th, 2005 | 12:05 am

~*~

“What brings you here?” asks Treacle, after I had rounded into the alley beside the movie house, narrow and filled with overflowing trashcans giving off the sweet sickly reek of discarded burger buns and lettuce, avoided the beady gaze of the furred and sleek rats out for a feast, and made my way up the rusting fire escape on to the roof.

“Deedee knows,” I say, curiously unwilling to bring the events of the day back by repeating them.

“I saw you get taken away,” she said softly. “I didn’t know what happened after that.”

Treacle sniffs.

“Why the disguise, Maedhros?”

“I do not wish to be observed.” I sigh.

“People are watching me. People I knew nothing about until this afternoon. That rather makes you wish to hide.”

Deedee nods. We are sitting on the rooftop around the mean glow of a red fire. In the distance, Deedee’s herb garden throws shadows around us like jungle, grey, huge and crazy. Three elves sit around a campfire and we could be on border patrol anywhere, at any time, guarding the boundaries of our kingdom against the ever-encroaching mortals.

Kingdom is perhaps the wrong word, because I was never really a king. Well I was briefly, but I was asleep for most of it. Principality sounds like a mid western bank.

“What did they say?” Deedee asks.

I bite my lip and recount the events of this afternoon. I seem to talk forever. Deedee’s sharp grey eyes seem to follow every word, but Treacle looks away, preparing supper. He hands me a strange green tinted drink in a tiny cup that smells somewhat of thyme, but tastes of warmth itself. We eat the crumbly elf-bread that Deedee makes, from an ancient recipe from the forest kingdom. It’s not bread by any human standards, for one, it probably contains beechnuts, but I doubt it contains wheat, because elves never got the hang of stable agriculture. It’s very wholesome, but it takes a little getting used to after the easily consumed sugar and spice diet of New York City. There are memories in every bite, but also the rather odd culinary sensation of chewing the forest floor.

“Do you believe them?” Asks Treacle.

I look down and suddenly realise what my feeling of unease in the back of the taxi had been.

“No.”

“Why is that?” Treacle was well named by those first humans. His voice coils around the air like smooth sticky black fluid.

“I don’t know. Kiss and tells are common enough. And all political parties employ armies of muckrakers these days. It’s how Kit paid for his ticket over here. All the candidates get snooped on.” I sigh

“It just seems like they went to an awful lot of trouble.”

Treacle and Deedee both nod. Elves are very attentive listeners. After a while Treacle speaks.

“What else have you got to give people?”

“Nothing. No influence, no money, just a small flat and a few knickknacks,” I reply.

“What else?”

“I do not know.”

“You have immortality, Maedhros. That, if someone became aware of it would be sufficient reason for mortals to try all sorts of unusual tricks.”

“How would my being immortal help other people?”

“You are being wilfully obtuse now.”

He sits backward. From somewhere far below a police siren wails.

“They will assume it is something in you. Something that can be refined an extracted.”

“I’ve often wondered if really it was.”

Treacle laughed softly.

“You think so?”

“It would rather mess things up wouldn’t it, if all our greater spiritual awareness or whatever it is we were supposed to be granted as the first inheritors of the earth was really lots of collagen and some really nifty regenerative cells.”

“I think,” said Treacle, “you are confusing the ends with the means. What you describe as greater awareness is a product of being around a long time, not vice versa.”

“That’s never been proven,” said Deedee thoughtfully.

“That is because you have not dissected any elves,” says Treacle.

“But nobody knows,” I say. “I’ve told no-one, not even Kit.”

“Someone may have guessed.”

“No, humans would say they were mad before they admitted they’d seen an immortal.”

“Anything strange happened recently at the club?”

I pause.

I know the answer.



~*~

It’s too early for the Hacienda to be open, but the metal grille is already half way up. I wonder if I could finally catch a glimpse of our invisible cleaners. But I feel uneasy, I can smell treachery in the air like I can smell the ghost of other men’s lust on Kit’s body. Then I realise it’s not treachery I smell, but blood. Blood and smoke and an uncanny presence in the air as if the law of physics itself had been bruised.

Ducking under the shutter I get the full measure of it. The Hacienda reeks like a butchers shop. The air is clammy as if the damp has been summonsed to protect the stairs. The sweet smell of burnt flesh coils within the acrid smell of old smoke. Somewhere in the shadows, behind the ebony painted cash desk from when the Hacienda was The Sunset Strip, is the damp sucking sound of someone breathing in blood.

“Snowball?”

There’s no reply. The sucking continues. I can see well enough in the dark, even in colours, look behind the desk. There’s a trail where he crawled up the stairs from the cellar, black on the burgundy carpet, sticky like the trail of a giant slug. Maybe he was trying to get out, then forgot himself and curled up to die. He’s wrapped up in a semi-circle in his work clothes, torn skinny jeans and a dirty t-shirt, a blood stained bandage on his elbow. He hates jeans, but he knows what the tricks expect, what they’re looking for in street trade.

The t-shirt is burnt into his skin. His left shoulder gapes, the flesh hangs back in livid yellow rinds around the deep, slimy pink crater of the burn. It runs up to his neck where his hair has caught and down below his waist. They’d cut his face, horribly. His hands were still tied behind his back and I don’t know how long they’d held him downstairs for. It’s dawn now, just gone six thirty, I wonder how long they hurt him for. Hurt him, stabbed him, set the club alight and left him in there to die.

Still ghosting over the stench of the blood, the faint tang of peroxide.

I go downstairs and call Deedee. There’s a small patch of ash above the door to the storerooms, but apart from that, the club is unharmed except for the eerie, chilly congregation of water molecules in the air. The phone rings off the first two times. I feel my stomach tense. The blood smell oozes down the stairs. I leave sticky red footprints on the back room tiles. She sounds breathless and cross when she finally gets on the line and hisses, crossly.

“For the second time in fucking three days, dial nine one one.”

“But he’s illegal.”

Deedee utters a very un-elven wail, rather like the warrior cry of a herd of police sirens.

“Better deported than dead.”

“He might not think so.”

“Well, he can commit seppuku in hospital then. At least that way he’ll have a choice.”

I have an instinctive dislike of calling any authorities to the Hacienda. It feels like a betrayal of the clubs trust, a forcing of the hitherto secret realm into the public eye. But the mortuary smells drag me on and I make the call, feeling like my limbs are moving through a thick veil. I’m amazed to here the operator log the location, amazed it exists on maps and official plans when it is so studiously avoided by the rest of the world.

And then I leave the brisk, confident, unflappable voice on the end of the phone and return to the boy in the dark. Some flies, out early in the muggy morning have gathered for a feast on the congealing blood. I swat them away.

He swallows roughly as if he is coming round and emits a slow whimper. The top of his jeans are sopping, he’s been sliced deeply. That would be the last wound, the one they left him to die of. I untie his arms, which flop awkwardly downward, and try and put as much pressure as I can on the wound in his stomach. His eyes flash open in pain, very wide grey eyes, a shock to see such perfect eyes in the mess that was his face.

“Ssh,” I say. “Ssh. I’ve called a doctor.”

That doesn’t shush him. He squirms beneath my arms becoming even more disturbed.

“They’ll make the pain go away.”

He whimpered into my arms, then started sobbing. Racking, dry sobs that sometimes brought up mouthfuls of blood. I’ve seen him cry before, Patch and me sat with him the couple of times the tricks were too quick for him. We used to give him sweet tea and aspirin.

“Come on, come on, try to shush. That’ll only make it hurt more.” I hum softly under my breath. I’ve heard Quendi singing can act as an analgesic to humans, although I was never very medically minded. I was more into the taking life side of things. He relaxes a little anyway.

“I told them,” he hissed, “told them you’re immortal.”

“I know,” I say, “It doesn’t matter.”

“Matters to me,” he whispered.

“It’s alright, the most important thing is you try to keep calm now until the ambulance comes.”

“They gave me money, as a loan”

The sneer has been cut into his mouth forever, his upper lip flaps, slit in two over his broken teeth. He slithers beneath my fingers like chopped liver, or some other dark and bloody meat that Kit will not let me prepare in the house, whining softly.

As I grow used to the smell of blood, the ammonia bite of the peroxide comes rushing up to me, insinuating, mocking, like a song I cannot remember but whose refrain is stuck in my head.

Then I remember, Skerries, the loan shark. The man who had held me captive, shapeless sack in a suit too good for him, stinking of peroxide.

I remember too the dark man I saw, also portly, chasing Snowball into the Hacienda. I’d warned him about clipping, warned him he wouldn’t stay pretty for long in that game.

“I couldn’t pay up,” he hissed.

I thought he ignored me because he thought he knew better. The invincibility of the young and all that. Now I know he ignored me because he was desperate.

Skerries had been something much worse than a ripped-off trick. I think I know now why Missey Secretary knew so much about the Hacienda’s goings on. And why she is not Missey Secretary at all.

Gently, I untie the rag on Snowball’s elbow and look at the bruises beneath. It isn’t a feint anymore.

“How long have you been using for?”

Even in his terrible state I see warmth coming into his face as I mention it.

“It helps.”

He’s almost smiling at the memory.

“So you needed money.”

“Yes.”

“And you gave them information?”

“Mmm.”

“So what went wrong.”

“I had nothing more to give. Still owed them.”

“So they cut you up?”

“And set me alight, they take non payment badly.”

“Set you on fire?”

“Yes,”

“Why aren’t you dead?”

I swear, even with him lying prone, he nearly shrugged.

“I mustn’t be very flammable.”

Then his eyes roll backwards and he faints again. I can feel his body relax as he slips away from the pain.

I wait until the ambulance comes and takes him, and then I sit there, immobile, waiting for daylight to happen and the morning to begin. There are no other thoughts, not of cleaning, or of witness statements or phone calls to friends.

There is only me sitting in a bloody stairwell thinking of revenge.

~*~

It has been a long time since I walked abroad in black weeds splashed with crimson. It has been many centuries since I have walked in daylight with blood in my hair, and on my face and hand and yet kept going forward, looking to the horizon, never thinking to stop. We would have had horses back then, at least, in the early days. By the end it was just us and our long knives and sharp teeth, attacking in the deeps of mid-night.

The door to the Hyacinth suite opened as I pushed against it. I’m not sure if it was locked or not, but I have always had a way with metal. The Feanorians, cold steel in the blood, and never more so than when we are out for revenge.

“Poley.”

It’s not a question it’s a statement. She was sitting at her desk arranging paper, compiling perhaps more assignations of death on the hotel’s own lilac scented stationary. Dear Skerries, we need to terminate our arrangement with the blonde.

Or not even that. She just employed him, pretended she didn’t know what for, like a redneck claiming to hold an AK-47 for self-defence.

She looks up, and smiles unsurely.

“You left rather suddenly.”

“I got cold feet.” She nods as if this is no major problem.

“Did you change your mind?”

There’s a thin stripe of black and red across her nails like modernist art, over the glossy talons.

“What did you do to Snowball?”

“Snowball?”

“The boy downstairs at the Hacienda.”

She looks blank.

“He was knifed this morning. Nastily. Someone had gone to an awful lot of trouble to make him suffer.”

“That’s terrible.”

“I’m not disputing that. I’m asking why you did it.”

“I think you are confusing me here.”

“That man, Skerries, the one who brought me here. He’d coloured his hair recently. I could smell the peroxide when he brought me to you. But he was with Snowball the day before with dark hair. Now Snowball’s turned up slashed up and the whole club smells of peroxide.”

“That’s very acute senses you have.”

“Yes, but you know that.”

“I do?”

“What,” I say wearily having certainly given up on ever seeing Kit again, and perhaps ever seeing the Hacienda, “do you want from me. No lies this time.”

“I’ve told you what I want.”

“You could get any ten dollar hooker to tell you that story. Why go to all this trouble to get me.”

“You’d be a very striking image.”

It’s hard not to smile at that. I get the feeling this woman is good at diffusing situations. There’s something in her stance too used to giving evasions, too much moving of the hands, sweeping behind her all the time, as if the facts were always being brushed behind her. This nervous habit gave me hope.

“I’m sure there are similar south west of Christopher Street more amenable.”

“You are not going to accept my offer are you?”

“No.”

I don’t bargain. It’s a family tradition. When we hit our bottom line then there is no haggling. I know this means the end of love, the end of sniffing Kit’s smoky stale skin in the morning and the feel of his skinny arms around me. The door of family pride bangs shut and it is an iron wall that holds me in place behind it.

She lowers her eyes as if she would rather not see what was coming next. Perhaps she would not, the next sweep of her hands might condemn me to goodness knows what but I know she never sees it. She drafts in her connections, her contacts, and they move the problem away. There’s a blinking away of culpability for what would happen afterwards.

“I have a story then,” she says raising her eyes. She cannot be more than twenty-four, she may even be younger, her eyes are lineless, the softness in her face is not an act. “Five years ago, I was studying.” She smiled. “No affirmative action, I got there fair and square, highest grades my school had ever seen at graduation. I went to Columbia on scholarship.”

A fly enters and buzzes loudly behind the wisteria curtains.

“I used to make the other students beds in my hall. Three dollars fifty per hour I got for that. Because I was live in they didn’t even have to pay me minimum wage. I still got into debt. Not with the banks, no banks were queuing up to give me a loan. I got a loan from the University hardship fund and couldn’t pay it back. Four hundred dollars, that all it was.”

She examines her nails. The fly falls silent.

“I finished with a first, English Literature and Political Studies, but they wouldn’t grant me my degree because I was in debt.”

“Are you trying to inspire some sex worker empathy in me?”

“What?” For one minute only, the full Brooklyn of her voice comes out, before it is smoothed neatly behind the elocution. “Oh no. I didn’t do that. You never really need to do that, do you?”

“You’d have got on with Snowball,” I say acidly.

Her eyes lower again, as if once again something has entered the room that she is too modest to see.

“There was a small newsprint add in the back of the New York Times, two lines, girls wanted as sales clerks, up to $200 per hour. So I went. It turned out to be an old soak in Queens who run a detective agency.”

“Baines.”

“Of course. He used to –“

“Kit told me the scam. Women would come in to check their husband or fiancé’s faithful, you’d go out and try and seduce the man and collect on both fronts.”

“I never slept with them.”

“How honourable.”

“I’d just do enough so they’d leave incriminating messages on my answer phone, then take it into Baines who’d do the collecting. I got twenty five per cent of all cash, twenty per cent of all card payments.”

She smiled suddenly, a little to wild, a little too feral.

“A lot of girls would come through, but only a few had a talent for it. There were only three or four at any one time he could count on to go out for regular jobs. I stayed, I was good at it.”

“What happened?”

“I saved up enough to get my degree. Then I decided to work for myself.”

“Like trying to black mail would be senators?”

“No, not that entirely although we all have the small mundane jobs that keep food on the tables. I find information. It’s a very simple thing to do really. If you just listen long enough, you’ll hear what you need in the end, because all people love to talk about themselves.” She paused and sipped from a plastic bottle of water on the desk. “All I ever really needed to know about the trade I learnt from Baines teaching me how to rip off upstate suburbanites. Facts, he’d say, forget the ambiance collect the facts. I was best at bringing in the facts. The others all, somewhere started telling stories, but I always got the cold hard facts, where he worked, where his moles were, whom his life was insured with. I used to make a game of mining for as many facts as I could. It made their conversation more interesting.”

“Why are you telling me this, because you want me to feel sorry for you?”

“No not at all. I’m telling you this because I know what Kit must have gone through.”

“You have no idea what Kit has been through,” I sneer. “You’ve got a nerve saying his name when it’s you trying to get him deported.”

“Maybe it would be better for him if he was. Did you ever think of that? He’s a low grade snoop that’s going to end up like Baines in twenty years if he gets stuck here.”

“He’s not a clinically paranoid sociopath. He rather lacks the basic raw material to become Baines.”

“As a worker, would you say what you have seen of life leads you to the developmental theory of nature or nurture?”

“What do you want?”

I’m hoping I don’t have to hit her. She’s petite and fragile and it would be in all ways dishonourable. Elves never really had a taboo on hitting women, but then elves generally didn’t hit each other very much. Youngsters would tussle as they do, and occasionally there were wars, but there were no massacres. The whole point with a taboo is there is always some social circumstance where it is lifted, and some poor sod taking the brunt of hundreds of years of repression.

That’s something you think about a lot in my trade. You have a lot of sitting around to do to pontificate on such subjects.

“I want to help Kit, I know he’s mixing with the wrong people.”

“And you would obviously know who they are.”

“Of course,” she said with a disarming smile, “I employ them.”

She would be charming with her contralto voice and her pretty rouge ways if I had not held Snowball as he gasped this morning, blood squeezing through my fingers. It takes an extra special kind of cruelty to cut a working boy’s face, particularly one as pretty as Snowball, whose looks in the long term might have got him out of the mire.

“I know that,” I say stonily. “You should have seen the state on Snowball this morning. Your operatives had set him on fire.”

“Snowball?”

“The blond kid at the Hacienda. The one that was giving Skerries and Fraizer all the information.”

“I wasn’t on face to face terms.”

“He doesn’t have a face now. Those two slashed it up, set him alight and left him to die.”

“My God!” she sounds horrified, “Is he… I mean, he’s dead, right?”

“No, amazingly not. Something about him didn’t burn very well. Funny that.”

She looked down at the desk in an imitation of shame.

“He owed them money,” she sad softly. “I knew they lent cash as an aside. I knew they had their own ways of collecting it, but I didn’t know they would do that.”

“They did.”

“Do you see now what I do not want Kit involved in?”

I snort.

“If he needs money, he can come to me. And if he needs protecting.” My eyes flash. I can feel the heat in my face, the anger now. I can hear the soft thudding sound of my heartbeat in my ears.

“It’s sometimes hard to avoid making debts.”

“Snowball told Frazier and Skerries I was immortal. That is your interest. Stop pretending otherwise.”

She smiled thinly.

“It was Baines who marked you actually. He used to follow Kit you know, mainly because I don’t think he had much better to do with his days. He saw Kit with you and marked you down as something to watch. It took a while before I believed him, but by then we had you covered. Skerries and Frazier knew Kit vaguely, Frazier is occasionally employed by Tom, you know Tom, his patron?” Her eyes narrowed.

I did not know about Tom. Clearly he had not made much of an impression on Kit for all she inflected the word to sound somewhere between tart and geisha.

“I don’t I’m afraid.”

“He gave him an arts grant to write a book of poetry. He wants to appear cultured, and wants to make a name for himself for something other than what he makes his money doing.”

“What does he make his money doing?”

“Rack renting.”

“And Fraizer is his secretary and Skerries his bailiff. Of course.”

“Indeed. Kit wouldn’t talk about you, but Skerries started watching the others, to see if any had something that could be used.”

“And found that Snowball needed money badly.”

“At first no one believed him, but then he brought us things.” She wondered in the top drawer and came out with a hermetically sealed plastic bag. “Your hair. Three strands, trapped in the sink drawer. We got it analysed, and decided you were interesting enough to pursue.”

“But Snowball was expendable?”

“There’s only so much information you can gather second hand before you need the real thing.”

“Well, here I am. What do you intend to do with me?”

“For now? We want samples, blood, skin, nothing major. We’d pay. And of course, we’d return Kit.”

“Alright,” I say. “But bring me Kit first.”

~*~

It’s a gilded afternoon in early autumn and the sea salt is in my hair, as I stand outside Rikers Island waiting for the afternoon releases. The turret clock chimes four and then suddenly Kit is in my arms again, smiling into my neck in his faded blue jeans, clutching his belongings in a clear plastic bag. It’s good to feel the shape of him against my skin, small, twitchy, filled with life.

“Did you bring any smokes?”

I sigh and hand Kit the packet, and watch as he has another beautiful reunion. Watching Kit smoke is a guilty pleasure of mine, particularly when he’s gasping for a cigarette. He sucks down the smoke hungrily, shutting his eyes and letting the relief flood his body.

Also, smoking makes him look incredibly cheap, which I’m quite fond of. Something hot and giddy shoots down my spine to my knees.

The guards stare at us. I run my hand over Kit’s stomach. His brown eyes look up into mine.

“Lets find somewhere,” he says, his voice slightly ragged from the smoke. “Quickly.”

~*~

We lie under a stained pink blanket in a hotel that charges £10 per hour and is probably set up exclusively for the just getting out of jail trade. My finger rests on Kit’s lips, touching them, marvelling at the reality of another one I thought had sunk back to memory.

I honestly think I would have gone to England for him. I honesty do.

Kit shifts and our skins, stuck together with sweat, tug and are unwilling to separate. The heat looms in around us like an accessory to the bordello air, thick and sleepy and lewd.

We touch each other gently with reverent fingertips, tracing outlines of each other to remember in case we are parted again. We lie fascinated by each other. And we make love fiercely, pushing against each other, relieved beyond words to hold one another.

“We should go out for dinner or something,” Kit said. “Something that real couples do.”

I laugh softly into Kit’s chest.

“Really? Would you like that? To sit and talk over chilled consommé in the grill room at the Plaza.”

“I’d like to do it once. And I’d like to do it with you.”

His hand goes up to my hair.

“That’s what I was thinking of in there. All the things I wanted to do with you that I hadn’t got a chance to.” He paused “We should go ice skating.”

“It’s August.”

“Not tomorrow. Next winter.”

“I’m pretty good,” I say, which is an understatement if I say so myself.

“I’ve never tried.” He shrugged.

“We have all these things to do,” I say.

“We do.”

“But first you must kiss me.”

He obliges and for a long time we are silent, just liking the salty taste of each other off our lips. I stroke is sides and he whimpers softly.

“But tonight we are needed at the Hacienda.”

“No love, no tricks for you tonight. Not tonight.”

“No tricks,” I say, “but we need to be there.”

“Why?”

“This needs to be paid for.”

~*~

Patch watches us slowly as we trot down the stairs, my arm around Kit’s waist. They’d acquired a thin, incongruous strip of floral carpet to hide the bloodstains on the stairs, and the whole club reeked of burning incense. Business is going on as usual.

Under the exotic temple scent, Snowballs blood still hangs in the air. Kit seems oblivious to it, but he smokes terribly and his smell is poor even by human standards.

“Any news on Snowball?”

“Still in intensive care, although Deedee says he’s doing better than they first thought. He’s pretty resilient under the hypochondria.”

I nod. I have my own thoughts on the bizarre durability of fragile, aristocratic Snowball, although I do not like to say them out loud. The poor kid is probably suffering worse than he ever has right now.

Or perhaps not, come to think of it.

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to see if you were all aright after everything.”

“Yeah,” said Jian. “We’re fine. We’re freaked out but we need to earn a crust so –“ He shrugged.

“It’s all under control,” said Patch. “Paulo is in room three with a new guy. Wants spanking and watersports, pretty generous. Paulo did him because you know him, he doesn’t give a fuck.”

Kit smiles a little despite himself. I know he enjoys the brothel atmosphere. Well, perhaps enjoys and feels intimidated by it both. We’ve joshed him often enough about coming down and joining us on a few shifts, I particularly, get a nasty sense of passive aggressive victory in offering him a job every time he comes home and I taste another man’s cock in his mouth. But he never will, he says he never will, because he enjoys sex too much to make it a dayjob.

He looses most of us working boys with that.

I am here, but I should be elsewhere. I asked them for three hours with Kit, then promised to return. The taxi would be waiting for me at the Hyacinth suite, ready to whisk me away to the upstate private clinic where the samples would be taken. Perhaps Poley wasn’t even lying. Perhaps they would let me go the first time with just some blood and nail clippings, but I doubt it. I know the desperation of mortals when eternity is on the table.

Besides, beneath all that is pride. I do not wish to be poked and prodded like some lab-bred bacillus. I am a person above my species and I wish to retain my mystery here, thank you very much. After all, no one can be forced to donate bodily material against their will. It contravenes human rights.

I am not a human. Still when they come for me, I want to be on my own turf.

~*~

It’s seven PM when they come clattering down the staircase. The day outside would be beginning to blush rosily into twilight. But down here there is no night and day, there are only bills to be paid. Skerries must be getting quite sick of the place by now.

Poley leads, her strait spine and impeccable posture give her the air of a drum majorette leading an army of clowns. Behind her Fraizer walks with the puffed chest of a man that deludes himself of his own importance, and Nick the fat, sluggish devil slouches in the rear as if he is unwilling to return.

We are waiting for them behind the black painted plywood bar that separates club from kitchen, those of us who are not in the back rooms. It serves as our parapet to defend, or mine at least, who knows wars are mostly won or lost in the mind and needs to scrabble together what memories I have of defending the mountain kingdom to this tawdry stand off beneath the streets.

Poley walks up to the bar, for all the world like she is about to order a gin and ginger, rests her hand on the parapet and states he case.

“We returned Kit,” she says evenly. “Now it is your turn for your part of the bargain.”

I smile.

“I renege.”

“Very well,” She said. “I can just order the police back down to take him.”

“No,” said Kit “You can’t.”

She seems to consider this. I know this is all play, the actions were decided on long before this. But before every battle there is a parley, for that is the rules of war, although often it serves to re-enforce to each side the righteousness of their particular cause.

“Why not?”

“I have a letter from Dr. Lewis Knightly, countersigned by my head of department, stating that it has been agreed for me to study at Columbia while I am in New York.”

“That’s only a piece of paper.”

“Dr. Knightly’s father is a British peer in the House of Lords. If I disappear, questions will be asked.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Also, his partner is one Daniel Newman, who sings with this years Billboard top selling rock artists, Arch.”

“Very well. You are not going to disappear. So we will have to try another tack.”

“Which is?”

“We take Red back with us to teach him to keep his promises. He owes us a debt, and it must be repaid.”

At this, Skerries seems to stiffen into action, like a plump old dog obeying his master’s command to heel. He reaches inside his jacket pocket, just as I reach behind the cash register.

“Over my dead body,” said Kit.

“Such clichés should not be used by poets,” said Fraizer silkily.

Suddenly there are more footfalls on the stairs, this time a light, skipping patter. Kiki rounds the corner of the club stairs and her grey eyes go wide.

“Oh bad timing, sorry.”

She scans across the floor, at Skerries pointing the gun towards the bar, the bar with Patch on the other side. Skerries, possibly a little discomfited by the depictions of male love on the wall turns round and finding himself in familiar territory with this pretty teenager, winks at her.

Kiki pulls herself up strait to her full six foot four. Skerries looks suddenly mortified, as the realisation dawns there are enemies on all sides. Suddenly he lunges at Kiki. There’s the sound of a gunshot. Kiki staggers back, Skerries flies into the air and falls in a lump at her feet, bleeding a little at the temple. There’s a small round burnt hole in the front of her blouse.

TONIGHT TAMBURLAINE MUST DIE.

Patch runs towards her in shock, but she stands there without an auburn hair falling out of her chignon.

“Kiki,”

“Love.”

“You’ve gotten shot, Kiki.”

Kiki wrinkles her button nose.

“I know. Lucky Mother always taught me to never leave the house without good foundation garments.”

“I didn’t know they made ultrabras in Kevlar,” says Kit.

“I always wear my vest, like a good girl.” Kiki blushes.

Poley looks thoroughly uncomfortable at the way the evening is panning out. It’s hard not to like her, for all her cruelty, she is only a hairs breadth away from us, she has the pretty, spiteful look of a woman for sale and it is hard to dislike those in the same boat as one, just in case a fight causes it to capsize.

“Get up the stairs,” she says suddenly, with disgust in her voice. She’s reached in the pocket of her neat, tailored jacket and pulled out her own gun, a sleek, skinny spray and pray. This woman clearly takes no prisoners.

I reach for the old Smith and Wesson in return. Kit moves to stand in front of me. Skerries snorts on his blood.

“Get back Kit,” I hiss.

“You do as I say, or he’s dead now.”

“Aren’t you showing your true colours.”

“Go on,” says Kit. “I dare you too.”

“No.”

Several things happen at once. I shout and somehow Poley shoots the ceiling. Something buckles and the roof starts to precariously sag. Poley is staring at me hypnotised as the goblins of old, although I never knew what I did to them I knew I inspired terror.

A cascade of white plaster falls from the roof. Kiki throws Patch over her shoulder and drags her upstairs. Kit shouts that Jain is still in room three and I walk before Poley, who is now white as a floured ghost and kick down the door. It buckles on it’s twisted hinges and a plump yet terrified man still wearing nipple clamps runs out, closely followed by Jain.

I make a move towards the stairs behind them, and Poley recovers her voice.

“Oh no you don’t.”

“We will all die if we stay here.”

And with that she looks me dead in the eye, despite the white fire there. There are things in life that she knows are worse than death.

The ceiling sags. Black mouth cracks have opened up in it, gaping and wide. Suddenly Poley laughs.

“This looks like the apartment I grew up in.”

There is a rush of air as Fraizer attempts to run up the stairs. She shoots him in the back as he goes. The little explosion of the gunshot causes a beam to work its way loose. A minor avalanche brings a portion of the floor above us down.

Then Poley says softly.

“Go”

“Pardon”

“Go. Run Get out.”

“What about you.”

“I’ll survive. Just get out of the club. Take it as a gift from me.”

We run upstairs into the starlight. There is a gunshot behind us, but I suspect it is Skerries who lies dead not Poley. Then we run.

~*~

We never saw Poley again. The structural damage to the Hacienda was not as bad as first feared, and we were open for business within a week. If the ceiling was no longer a pretty sight, few of out patrons looked up.

I wonder if Poley ever found immortality, though I doubt she wanted it for herself. She was an odd girl and I keep expecting her to turn up in the papers one day, either as running for the Whitehouse or dead in the canal. She never does.

And that is often how it goes with those that survive, cursed by God and men.

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rosie mcdaid

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from: bandonbanshee
date: Sep. 19th, 2005 06:04 pm (UTC)
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Wow.

Incoherent :X :X :X :X

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