The Greyhound pulls up to station. Steam is rising from vents in the sidewalk, and the dim streetlamps cast an eerie glow. Miserable travelers file off one by lonely one. A young girl's brown leather shoe breaks up a dirty lump of snow as she takes her first step into Steel Cable City. She looks around.

Her gaze travels upwards, to the grey clouds in the grey sky. "It never really gets dark at night in Steel Cable," Her Ma told her before she departed from the Middle of Fucking Nowhere, Idaho. "It's just kinda… Sorta dark, all the time. Look up in the sky and you won't see no stars. They plucked those stars right down and put them on the street corners and pawn shop windows." The girl looks at the illuminated face of the clock on the station's façade. 10 O'clock. Is it morning or nighttime? She wonders.

"Duck? Someone here called Duck?" Calls out the bulky station hand.

"Um, yes! That's me!" Says Duck, frantically looking around to find the man. "What do you-"

"Gotcher luggage, ma'am." The agent hands the lean redhead her lonesome brown leather suitcase.

She hefts it, her tired arms adjusting to the weight of the ugly thing, and tips the man two copper pennies before turning around and walking off into the fog. From behind her, she can barely hear the man mumble "Weird fuckin' name." Gazing back and forth between the monolithic steel-and-stone buildings, lights checkering their grids of windows, the girl can't help but be astonished at the scale of it all. Puffs of breath rise from her red lips, and she sets her case on the dirty ground to adjust her heavy coat and scarf. In the distance, a police siren sings its urgent tale.

She digs the moist directions out of the pocket of her brown leather coat. She checks the signposts. She's on the right track. Fifteenth and Myrtle Street, M comes after G, so she's gotta head North. Something like seven blocks she's gotta schlep this case, but she can't afford a taxi, she thinks to herself, so she's gotta do it this way. For a girl from the plains this is nothing. Used to work on a cattle ranch, and all that. She picks up her case and begins to walk again.

I had to get to the city, she reflects. Couldn't take those wide open spaces any more. Got on a bus, fell asleep. And now I'm here. A city of a million strangers. She squeezes the damp paper for a second and goes to put it in her pocket, but of course the wind picks up and blows it right out of her brown leather glove, and as she dives after it and lands in an oily puddle, it flies away, blending into the dismally gray cityscape like one more flake in a snowdrift. A tear pollutes Duck's crystal-clear blue eye.

Mr. Katz's Ballet Academy

Teaching the fine arts since 1918

15th and Myrtle, Steel Cable City, Il.

Beginners through advanced students, all are accepted!

Reasonable rates * Fine facilities

Free relationship advice gladly given

Snowflakes flutter around the red-headed girl clad all in brown, and seem to hover still for a moment. Duck sniffs and chokes back a sob. It's not like she hasn't read the flyer a hundred times, but the power, the confidence it gave her was palpable. It was that flyer that had given her the inspiration to strike out on her own. Now she's lost it, and on top of that, she's soaked through and freezing.

It would have been so perfect. The awkward, gangly teen, so used to the smell of cow shit everywhere she's surprised when she can't smell it, would burst into the ballet academy and enroll right then and there with ten silver, shiny dollars. A years' worth of lessons, right there. 3 months of hard work, in silver, on the front desk. Silver for Mr. Katz, who she'd always imagined as being so handsome even though her Ma told her not to trust city folks because they're always trying to swindle simple folks like us. Duck didn't know the difference, never having met a city folk, and frankly he could be a 6-foot-tall cat and she wouldn't care. The fact he'd advertise in the Boise rag she got for news endeared him to her, and anyway she liked his name.

Her Ma's cruel words are barbs in her side as she rights herself and hugs her damp side to protect herself from the biting wind. Her side is in enough pain, burning with cold. Seven blocks. It's gotta be almost 11 by now, and it's gotta be nighttime because it's a bit darker than it was before, and a bit colder.

The noise of men arguing rings out from an alleyway. She can't make it out, but maybe one of them is a nice man and can give her a ride in his buggy- I mean automobile- because if she can make it to Katz's, everything will be OK. She'll be beautiful and strong like the Ballerinas in the papers. It doesn't occur to her that an argument is not a good place to stick your nose in the middle of the night in the middle of the city in an alleyway. She can't really tell that one car is smashed into the other, and the other is a Rolls-Royce limousine. The cold wet coat is painful on her side and the wind pierces her like a dagger.

She arrives at the alleyway, and in the dark corridor the vision that greets rocks her.

One man, hair of white, young, gun in his hand. Smile on his face. Gleam in his eye.

Gun is pointed at the other man. Man is older, but not much. Long hair tied back. Black as pitch. Fedora. Furious. Terrified. But there's something else in his expression. Something like… love?

White Hair pulls the trigger. Black hair slumps forward and is still. It happens so fast Duck doesn't even have time to know what's going on; she may as well have walked into a motion picture show.

"I feel… Nothing at all."

It seems so unreal, until White Hair turns to her and grins.

"Hello there, dame."


"Goddamn, is it this late already?" Growls Autor, spinning the shot glass around on the slick bar with his fingers while he looks up at the clock like some kind of a guillotine. It's about 10. "Wife's gonna have my ass. I didn't behave badly tonight did I? You got my back, in case she accuses me of anything? I mean, you know how jealous she can be."

"No, Autor. You only came on to every single bimbo in the place. You're like a goddamn choir boy." Growls Fakir- That's Detective Fakir to you, palooka- right back. "Hey cutie! 'nother pint for me. My esteemed colleague here's inebriated enough." His college-boy vocabulary used to get him into all kinds of trouble with the other cops on his beat, but tonight that all changes.

As of tonight he's Detective Fakir, officer no longer. He'll come to the precinct in a suit and tie, a slick hat, and a handkerchief tucked into his pocket. The boys in blue will shut the hell up about how they can't understand what he's saying. No shiny brass buttons, no, fuck that. You can keep 'em. Spent 2 paychecks on an Italian suit, half of another one to get it tailored. He can move in that suit like a dancer, his partner the 5-shot detective special tucked away under his arm. 5 shots are all he'll ever need.

Good thing he's only on shot number 3, if you don't count the beers. Autor got tight right away, the skinny little rookie, drifting around like a leaf in the wind, flirting with the chickens and teasing the other men. The girls think he's cute enough, and the men would feel bad for rising to his glib, being that he's so small. Now he's curled up, dozing away on the bar, murmuring something about "Don't be mad baby, it was just a bit of fun."

Fakir looks around the room. This place is basically a basement, he thinks. The nightclub upstairs is so much more boring than when he'd gotten here, the city I mean, from Brick Wall. Brick Wall City, Massachusetts, his home sweet home. Back in '18, just out of college and ready to put his criminal law degree to good use in the gang violence capital of the country. Brick Wall had its gangs, all right, the Russians and the Italians always firing back and forth. But if he became a cop there, in his home, sooner or later he'd have to kill one of his friends, his brothers, from the orphanage. And it'd probably be sooner. And it'd probably happen again and again. So he left for Steel Cable.

When he'd gotten here, the wine was flowing, the music was hot, and the girls were doe-eyed and innocent… But more than willing to let their desires get the better of them. Nowadays, upstairs in the club proper, the bandmates argue, the girls cling together in groups and fear to stray, and the men have nothing to fight over. But Down in the basement a bit of that magic is still there. There's still a gleam in the dames' eyes, and voices occasionally get raised. The conspiratorial excitement of danger permeates the chests of everyone who take a sip of the tunneled-in vermouth, gin, rum, or bourbon. Or Fakir's drink of choice, a nice dark lager.

Only the owner and bartenders knows who they are. After all, the pair isn't paying for drinks; Quite the opposite in fact. At this speakeasy, the bartender pays them. Fakir gulped down his drink and signaled the well-built girl behind the counter that it was time they'd be leaving. The blonde winks at him and hands him an envelope. He thumbs through to make sure each bill was real before smiling at the broad and plucking Autor out of his stool. He turns on his heel and heads out the door.

He hefts the lanky rookie into his passenger's seat and walks around the black Model T to get in the driver's seat. He turns the ignition. It takes a minute. "Damn it's cold out." He mumbles to no one in particular.

Autor, still obviously asleep, murmurs "I'll warm you up, baby…" Fakir scowls and considers smacking the kid but decides to just get him to his house as soon as possible.

The smeared, streaked windshield displays a panorama of grey streets, horse carriages and automobiles carrying their charges about in the dismal darkness that always seemed to hang over Steel Cable. It has to be 10:30 by now. By the time Fakir delivers Autor to his appropriately livid wife, it's nearly eleven.

On the way back home, Fakir's attention is drawn to a remarkable limousine. It's right in front of him, and the thing is a beauty. The detective squints to get a better look at it, and a funny feeling comes across him. Maybe it's the liquor, but that car just rubs him the wrong way. I'd better follow it for a while longer, he decides.

The two cars are heading south, down 15th. Jacaranda. Kumquat. Lily.


The limo slams on the brakes, and Fakir can't react in time. His Model T slams into the rear fender of the expensive-looking automobile, and all the breath leaves Fakir's lungs. He does a quick body check- he's unharmed, but his heart is beating like a drum. The car- It just stopped! It's not his fault, is it? His blood runs cold thinking about having to pay for this. Then he remembers the wad of bills in his pocket.

A huge man steps out of the driver's seat. He lumbers over to Fakir's window and his big bald head rumbles as he speaks in a low, easy tone. "What the hell is wrong with you, boy? You know who's in that car? A very busy man with important places to be. Why you gonna hit the boss's car, boy?

'The boss'? Must be some kind of gangster! "I'm sorry, it's just that you braked so suddenly and I didn't notice-"

"Are you sayin' this is my fault? Are you saying the boss hired an inept driver? I think you're roundabout insultin' my boss. You don't wanna do that, buster. Boss don't like to be insulted."

"Look, sir, I can pay for damages. It just so happens…" Fakir pulls out a couple bills "I have some cash on me. Can I just pay for the repairs and we call it even? If they find out at work, I'm-"

And then Fakir's world turned upside down. Oh fuck, fuck, fuck ME! Now I've really put my foot in it. Now I'm really done for!

"At work, you say? And what kinda work is that? You aint… You aint the heat is you? Boss don't like the heat." The big man snarls. "Why don't you come with us. We'll settle this whole thing nice and easy so everyone is happy."

Fakir gulped. Reaching for his Colt would be suicide right now, that was for damn sure. But if he gets out of the car, it could end up the same way. "Look, sir. I'll give you a hundred dollars and we'll all be square. That ding'll only need like ten bucks to fix."

The man sticks his face right up next to Fakir's. "Look, officer. I don't think you understand your position here. You're gonna get out of that car are you're gonna come with me. You're not going to worm your way out of this one. You're going to apologize to my boss for hittin' his car, and he's going to decide what I'm going to do to you. Got it?!" The final words are bellowed in fakir's face so loud his ears ring.

Fakir nods. "Ok. I'm coming out." He reaches over to the passager's seat for his hat, and in a flash he pulls his revolver out of his armpit holster. "It's detective!" he roars, and aims it squarely at the man's big round head. But the big round man is no longer there. Suddenly from nowhere the man rips the door open and a massive fist grasps Fakir's wrist, wrenching the small revolver out of his hands. It clatters onto the street. The thug slugs him once, twice, and a shot to the gut for good measure. Still grasping him by his neck, he swings the thin man out of the black Model T and drags him the long way around the limousine. He arrives at the boss' door and opens it, and in a pleasant tone of voice, says "I gotcher man, boss! Guess what? He's a bonified po-lice detective!"

"Very good work, Joe." Says a familiar voice as smooth as vermouth sliding over ice cubes. "I'll take it from here. You can wait in the car. Keep the lady entertained- tell her one of those boarding-school stories the boys love so much."

The huge man grins. "Yes sir, boss. Thank you boss." He walks around and gets into the driver's seat. As the door shuts, Fakir can hear from inside the big man saying "Did you see that, Miss Rue? I caught your happy hubby a real detective!"

"Look at me, detective." The velvety voice beckons. "I want to know if you recognize me." Fakir looks at the slightly shorter, white-haired young man. All of a sudden, his chestnut-brown eyes go wide. "No… of all the ruddy fucking luck-" He curses under his breath.

"Oh my god- Mytho!?" Fakir breathes. "Is that really- wait what the FUCK are you doing in Steel Cable City? You were going to Bright Light to be a dancer!"

The smooth voice was a little less smooth now. "You shut your damn trap about that, now, you hear? I'm not the boy you remember. I'm- I'M NOT THAT LITTLE BOY ANY MORE!" Mytho pulls a gun out of his waistband and aims it squarely at Fakir's chest. "At the orphanage we used to look out for each other, didn't we? You taught me so much. Walk backwards into that alley."

A tear slides down Fakir's check. "Mytho- what are you- what happened to you? I followed my dream… I'm a detective now! What about you? Where did you go wrong?"

"Stop." The quiet, white-haired boy lowers the gun. "Fakir, my best friend. My companion. You've taught me so much. But there's still one thing you've yet to teach me."

Fakir, tears flowing freely, sobs "Don't do this, we're like brothers, we're all we've got!"

"You're going to teach me how it feels to kill someone you love. Will I feel happy? Will I feel Sad? Will I be angry? I guess I have to thank you now, since I can't thank you afterwards. Thank you Fakir, for teaching me…"

A girl walks by. Mytho's back is turned to her. He does not see.

Mytho raises his gun, aimes it at Fakir's chest, and pulls the trigger. Fakir buckles and falls forward, gravity taking him for its own. In that instant, Mytho studies Fakir's expression, like an artist would his finished work. Fakir's mind spins like a wheel. There is no word for this feeling. Fakir remembers reading something in a textbook. We cannot choose where we're born, only how we die.

I did not choose this.

And then the world is blotted from grey to black.


"It's gonna be a fun night, Boss!"

"That's right, Joe. We're going to have a great time. You, me, the boys, and my lovely wife. Of coruse, I'll arrange for there to be girls for you and the boys, too."

"Well that's awful considerate of you boss! Thanks!"

"Thank you, See you at 10. Now then, how about the '96? I think the '96 would be perfect, seeing as this is a joyous occasion. Charles, would you fetch a bottle of the '96 Pinot Noir, please?"

"Yes sir, boss. Are the canapés to your complete satisfaction?"

"Yes, Charles, they are. Send my compliments to the chef- and this too."

"Absolutely, boss. It's always a pleasure serving you."

"Well, I always enjoy brightening someone's day. Dear- You haven't touched your hors d'oeuvres. Shall I send them back? I rather enjoy the canapés."


"Darling, my gem. If something wrong, please tell me. Don't suffer in silence- You know how much I like to make you happy."

"These are far too heavy. I'll plump up."

"Sugar plum, my shining star. I'd still love you if you weighed a thousand pounds. And you know, the fashion in the clubs these days is to be a bit soft around the middle. If the d'oeuvres taste good, and you want to eat them, eat them."

"Those girls can get stuffed- literally! Someone in my occupation can't afford to lose my figure. I have a public service- people look up to me!"

"Then I will call over the waiter and we'll order you a nice light meal that you're sure to enjoy. Charles!"

"I don't like that waiter. He's too respectful. I bet he's up to something."

"Yes sir, what can I do-"

"The lady would like some lighter fare. What do you have in the way of seafood? She'll have some freshwater bass, seared, with asparagus spears and perhaps can you include some of that hazelnut hollandaise I was so taken by last time? And we'll have to cancel the noir- for seafood a white zinfandel would be more appropriate. Do you have any '01?"

"Very good sir. As for the '01, we have only one bottle, and I'm afraid it's been opened, but the taste should not suffer as a result."

"Excellent. That would be lovely."

"Mytho, can I have some toast with that? I love the bread here."

"The lady will have 2 slices of… Rye toast."


"Excuse me, Charles. Sourdough toast. With rosemary butter."

"Yes sir."

"I'm sorry about the hors d'oeuvres, my love. I'm confident even someone such as yourself with a responsibility to her public with find it irresistible- though I'd have recommend the Rye."

"Hee hee! Well I guess we'll find out if you were right when the entrees arrive."

"My, is it ten already? How the time does fly. Thank you for your promptness, Joe, as usual."

"Yes sir, I got here ten minutes early just so's I wouldn't be late!"

"Very good. Now, Let's be off."

"You know the way to corvo's, I trust?"

"Sure thing, boss. We're gonna shoot down Beech to fifteenth, then south all the way to Pine. It's between Pine and Kwi-no-uh."

"It's pronounced Keen-wah. Impeccable as always, Joe, you're a treasure."

"Aw shucks, boss, it's nothing. See ya when we get there!"

"Now then, Rue, my angel. I believe you had a surprise in store for me?"

"Well, I guess that depends, Mytho. If you know what's coming, it's not much of a surprise, is it? For instance, if I were going to… Run my cold little hand up your thigh… Would you be surprised?"

"Mmmm… Not very. It would take much more to surprise me."

"So if I were to… loosen your belt, take down your trousers… mmmmh, there he is. I guess you weren't surprised, were you?"

"Well, I was. But my little friend has been looking forward to this all day."

"Oh yeah? I've got something up my sleeve tonight that you can't possibly be expecting."

"But pumpkin- Your gown is sleevelEEAAAAAAAAAANGH!"

"Told you you'd be surprised."

"Aaaahhh… keep going! I don't even want to know where you learned this, but mmmmmm… I'm glad you did! Aaahh…"

"You're so cute when you're like this, Mytho."

"And you… Look even more… beautiful… from up here…MMMMMMHHH!"


"Oh what does Joe want now-"



"Goddammit- I was almost there. We're doing this again later, honey, hell, let's skip the party and get a room somewhere. WHAT IS IT, JOE? WHY'D WE STOP?"

"Almost hit a blind old lady, sir. Sorry about that, very sorry. Then some jackass rear-ended us. You want I should deal with him?"

"No, no, it's OK. We must respect our elders, after all, and that means no running them over in the streets. As for the ruffian in the Model T, be severe- I bet he can't even afford to look at this car."

"Yes sir."

"So, my love. You want to go to the party at your father's club, or should we have a little party of our own, just the two of us?"

"Oh Mytho- Why not both? Daddy needs to know you're taking care of me, and anyway you haven't thanked him for his Christmas gift! You know, the one we're sitting in? So let's getin and out of these as soon as possible, then over to the Lushlife hotel for some real fun."

"Sounds good, lover."

"I gotcher man, boss! Guess what? He's a bonified po-lice detective!"

"Very good work, Joe. I'll take it from here. You can wait in the car. Keep the lady entertained- tell her one of those boarding-school stories the boys love so much."

"Yes sir, boss. Thank you boss."

"Look at me, detective. I want to know if you recognize me… No… of all the ruddy fucking luck-"

"Oh my god- Mytho!? Is that really- wait what the FUCK are you doing in Steel Cable City? You were going to Bright Light to be a dancer!"

"You shut your damn trap about that, now, you hear? I'm not the boy you remember. I'm- I'M NOT THAT LITTLE BOY ANY MORE! At the orphanage we used to look out for each other, didn't we? You taught me so much. Walk backwards into that alley."

"Mytho- what are you- what happened to you? I followed my dream… I'm a detective now! What about you? Where did you go wrong?"

"Stop. Fakir, my best friend. My companion. You've taught me so much. But there's still one thing you've yet to teach me."

"Don't do this, we're like brothers, we're all we've got!"

"You're going to teach me how it feels to kill someone you love. Will I feel happy? Will I feel Sad? Will I be angry? I guess I have to thank you now, since I can't thank you afterwards. Thank you Fakir, for teaching me…"


"I feel… Nothing at all."


"Hello there, dame."