Gentle and worthy readers,
Despite some near-death experiences caused by a heavy writer's block and general discouragement of its author, a new chapter of the story is posted, introducing a new part. I know the story asks a lot patience from its reader, but I hope it is worth the afford. Aside from this, I'm always open for critic and opinions.
Thanks to Fujifunmum for all her highly appreciated help and encouragement.
Thanks to Firuze for all these conversations and encouragement via AIM.
Thanks to everyone who supported the story in the different RK Readers Choice Awards last year.
And I deeply bow before my reviewers Chibi-chan, Kamorgana, Kensuyoko, Firuze, Vasiliki, Mara, MightyMightyMunson, Talya, Paul Engle and Mary-Ann.
Without you, I probably wouldn't have found the energy to continue this story.
In an additional note to Mary-Ann, I just want to say how honored I am about the compliment concerning Arthur. Writing him is a hard challenge for me, and I'm glad it was satisfying.
General warning:Due to the development in the previous chapters, and like before, sex will be present, hidden or openly, and mostly between men. There will also be bad language, drug abuse, non-conformist, political ideas, racism, smoking, violence and other controversial matters.
The original story and characters of Rurouni Kenshin don't belong to me, and I've added a few other ideas inspired by different products of pop culture.
Falling in Love Again
A Rurouni Kenshin Pop-Art Remake
Part Two: The Doors of Perception
Chapter 10: What Goes On
Tokyo, years 36/37 of Meiji (1904/5)
We had the first serious row the day when you told me that you wanted to join the army, several years before the actual war. You certainly remember that day, because it must have felt like a victory for you. I remember my defeat.
It was not you, though, who won by embracing the ideology of the "powerful army for a powerful nation", nor by explaining its importance for the rising of Japan, to secure our place and face with the Western nations. We have to become a predator like the other predators, and not follow the way of China, you said. That day I didn't yell at you, like now, because you took me by surprise.
Yes, it was a surprise to find myself loosing a once won fight, after so many years.
I don't know, did anyone ever tell you about Shishio Makoto?
New York, June 3, 1965:
The room smelled expensive, no trace of dust, no smell of decay, rats or too many people sharing the hot streets of this city. While Henry Shatner was waiting in the darkness, he itched to invade this exquisite perfume with the rather spicy, and cheaper perfume of his cigarettes. But smoke would alert the man he was waiting for even before he entered his hotel suite.
The famous Hugo von Sinsheim was by far the most unusual specimen working for the British intelligence service. He came from a very strange mixture of old English noblesse by his mother and new German money by his father, whose family had come to England in company of Queen Victoria's husband, and this identity was already part of his cover. He had easy access to people who wouldn't even hire Henry Shatner as a gardener. Money had never been a question thanks to these connections.
Henry Shatner had never personally met him before, but he had heard more than a hundred stories about him and his strange attitudes. Somehow the alias he had chosen for himself was fitting, the implied joke had roots in reality. But only one week before, receiving the information from his former colleagues that a British master spy had been sent to New York, Shatner had remembered him.
This man was already a living legend before Shatner went to London. Though, the master spy had been less help there than Shatner had expected after all the stories. A phantom he was like the phantoms Shatner had been hunting all these years.
The sound of footsteps approaching the hotel suite distracted Shatner from his thoughts. A key entered the lock, turning with a soft clinking, and the door opened.
The light from the crystal chandelier bathing the rooms in golden streams revealed velvet and silk, wooden and marble surfaces, gold and shiny objects. Only the corner where Shatner was sitting was still shadowed. It gave him just a few minutes of advantage, time enough to get a picture of the legendary man. He was heavily built, but moved with long trained grace. His eyes were sparkling fires of irony when they met the gaze of his involuntary guest, and Henry Shatner didn't find any trace of surprise within.
"You are Mister James Bond, or rather Mister Hugo von Sinsheim," Shatner covered his irritation with bluntness. "Are inappropriate jokes the new strategy of the British secret service?"
"And you are Henry Shatner, I assume." The man answered with a voice, somewhat familiar in Shatner's ears. "Or, do you prefer to be called by the name Frank Gordon? If I'm remembering right, this was the name under which you worked in London." The realization hit like a punch, at the sound of that amusedly voiced comment. "Admittedly, I'm a little bit disappointed, because I expected you earlier. I'm appointed to suggest your cooperation
It was the same voice he had heard on the recording of Farrel's phone call, and the smile of the other man told Shatner that his involuntary host knew what he was thinking about. The phone call must even have been part of his strategy. He had wanted to be found, and he had wanted to make a game of it.
It happened just for one second, but Hugo von Sinsheim became the witness of a rare event.
Henry Shatner lost his cool.
Did you ever jump into unknown water despite all fear and uncertainty? I have done this quite often in my life, and jumping from a rock in the Hudson river, in my thirteenth year, bored by Soza's big talk, was less dangerous than some other risks I took later. During this flight, I felt nothing but pure childish delight, wasting no thought at the danger. The whole thing had been Soza's idea, but he yelled at me when we were out of water that I should have warned him before jumping, that I would give him a heart attack, and that I was a stupid, crazy kid. I just said "yes, mom" for the fuss he made. Instead of admitting his worry, he just started wrestling with me, as always. And that was great, too.
We were best friends, inseparable, I thought. I was wrong, though.
This time, diving into unknown waters gave me rather interesting experience, more amusing and captivating than I would have thought. Already, two days before, I let Sam drag me to the fights. I would not even have accompanied him if this fight had not been very important for him. And I owed him something. But to my surprise, I felt really good after a while in the middle of an excitedly yelling crowd, in this smoky and dirty place, impregnated by the smell of cheap beer and sweat.
The experience was definitively intense, and far better than a movie, because of the thrill of seeing Sam excelling in his element. Not just beating brawlers and the bodyguards of a small Mafia boss but mastering this mixture of strength and grace that defines a fight with rules. I had not thought, I would like it so much. But the similarity with dancing fascinated me, making it easy to share the enthusiasm of the crowd.
By the way, Sam won his fight without too much damage.
Today, it is not exactly the same, today the ambience is more tense. Today, we see the fight of a true master, and I feel a little bit out of place. I sense more clearly that I am in Harlem, and that I am not really welcome here. It does not frighten me, but it isn't conducive to relaxing either.
At the moment, carrying two beers, avoiding arguments on the sidelines, I remember why going to Harlem had always been a proof of courage for Soza and me, no matter if we went there for the rocks and the river or for the music.
"How is it?" Handing Sam his beer, I try to catch up with the fight, but I lost track of the rounds while I was buying the beers.
"Forth round just started," Sam explains shortly, absently sipping the beer. "I don't think that Garcia will make it very much longer."
In my opinion, that man has proved his value already in an admirable fashion, his enemy being so much better.
Ali Norman. Sam has gushed over him the whole evening until he finally came in the ring, telling me that he lived like a monk, never drinking, never taking drugs, no affairs, no nothing. Though he was a Muslim, so calling him a monk could be quite risky. Aside from this, Sam had already met him in New Orleans. Now he was burning to fight him.
When he finally appeared, I realized that the man was a giant, not only physically but also from his presence. Even bigger than Sam, he moves his muscled body with the grace of a feline. He does not only fill the limited space of the ring, he dominates it, swiftly circling his adversary, his blows aimed precisely and hard. To tell the truth, one of these blows would have put my lights out once and for all.
"You will have a hard fight," I say, when the Latino finally is knocked out. in the fifth round.
"Yeah," Sam finishes his beer, grinning from ear to ear, while the crowd is raging. "It will be so great."
To say I'm skeptical about Sam's chance to win such a fight is even an understatement. Despite his enormous talent, Sam does not possess this focus I just noted. I can understand him nonetheless. The challenge is just too perfect not to try.
While jumping into unknown water you can feel so damned alive.
Aside from this, his self-confident grin is the biggest turn-on for me, and emptying my own beer, I think that the evening deserves a particular climax. Absently sliding my hand beneath the hem of his leather jacket and grazing the small of his back does not call anyone's attention.
Sam's grin grows wider. His eyes get a predatorily glint, but then he says: "Later. I have to speak with him first." I read his lips rather than hearing the words.
Sure. His wish does not surprise me. In the last weeks, I have realized how much he cares about making a personal challenge.
While we are heading for the dressing rooms, Sam manifests the usual excitement reserved for flirting or fighting. After what he told me I can only suppose how much Sam has struggled for this confrontation. For reaching his goal, he had even accepted management. A mysterious Russian, Ivanov, who spends his money in all sorts of entertainment, movie making included, the sources of his money very dubious. We had not met Mr Ivanov two days before, just one of his subordinates, a slippery, fish like guy, but today even this man has not come to the fights.
None of them would appreciate what Sam wants to do.
"I'm waiting outside." My words make him freeze just before he opens the door to Ali Norman's dressing room area. He gives me an irritated look. "Believe me," I say, "it is better. He will not take you seriously if you show up with a white person."
"But you –"
"It does not matter here, Sam. You can trust me on this."
His grin answering my words is only half-hearted, but he shrugs and enters the room. I lean against the wall, lighting a cigarette. I've received these same looks before, a mixture of hostility and wariness, but I pretend not to notice. The strategy works, and nobody finds a reason to become aggressive.
Noticing a familiar shape in the crowd, I freeze, forgetting my cigarette. He is wearing a shabby trench coat, his face appears even paler than at the last time I saw him. Together with the dark rings around his eyes, clear evidence that his condition must have grown worse in the last weeks. His eyes have changed the most, though. There is no feeling left, just doom and emptiness.
Obviously, my break is over.
I have been waiting for a moment like this since Kay told me on the phone what happened with Kane and his men. Waiting only made it worse. With every passing day, I started to feel like a taunt bowstring just lacking the arrow for turning into a tool of destruction. As if an invisible gear in my subconscious had been shifted.
I know what it means, and the familiar feeling disturbs me. I looked for any possible remedy in the last two weeks. Sometimes very successfully. Just a few seconds before, I was still relaxed, but Arthur gazing at me tacitly and without any visible emotion changes everything.
When he finally nods, I push myself away from the wall.
I have no other choice, anyway. There is no way to avoid a confrontation, and I want to do whatever needs to be done before Sam re-enters the scene.
"What do you want?" I ask when we are outside of the building.
"You are in hurry as ever, aren't you." Arthur replies.
"I'm sorry about what happened." I say the classic line, but really meaning it doesn't change its hollowness.
His look does not change at my words, nor does his voice sound more alive when he answers: "Being sorry will not change the fact that someone has to pay for these deaths, in fact, this will be you." Clear words, an open announcement of my death, barely surprising or even scaring me. I'm feeling too bad for what happened to be concerned for my own sake. The tension in my body, however, is almost painful.
Maybe, he would not even answer this question.
But I'm wrong, and he says: "You have stolen what the 'Family' has hidden in the 'Velvet'."
"No." I protest.
Now, at least, he raises an eyebrow: "You are the only person who could have done it. Why do you play the innocent?"
"I didn't steal it, I threw it away."
Arthur shrugs. "Quibbling. The consequences are the same anyway, and covering you was the worst thing I could do, because it caused the death of these men."
Sure, I can see his point. I had been thinking about this, because it seemed the logical explanation at first. Kane was the perfect suspect for this organization. But he and his men were not the only people dying in strange accidents, and therefore the truth can not be this simple.
I open my mouth to explain Arthur my idea, but looking in his eyes, I realize that he will not listen to me. The circumstances of my last defeat are still too recent; changing his mind with logical arguments is a mission impossible. His addiction only makes it worse.
"But what would killing me change?" I ask, to say something at all.
"Nothing. It just has to be done. It is the last thing, I can do for them." Arthur answers, and I know I was right. Without giving me time to reply, he continues calmly: "I won't kill you now, I will even give – " Instinctively, I slap away the hand he tries to slide in the pocket of his trench coat, flinching when I touch the gun through the fabric. With a hint of annoyance, Arthur uses the moment for grabbing my hand. This time, putting the gun in it.. "I will give you a little chance, because of what you did for me."
Opening my mouth to reply, I can only watch him turn and leave.
For what I did for him?Almost amused, I ask myself if he's talking about the blowjob, or the shot. Whatever it was, it has impressed him enough that he feels bad about shooting me from behind. But giving me a gun? He could not have done anything worse. Swallowing against the nausea rising in my throat, I look down at it, then closing my eyes for a second, I put it in the pocket of my own jacket. What else could I do with it?
Well, I could just throw it away, but –
"Hey, where the fuck have you been?" Suddenly appearing at my side, Sam interrupts my thinking, and he is angry. "I've searched for you for fucking hours."
I do not swallow the bait. "How was it?"
"Fuck it!" The anger fills him like boiling oil in a tank, right before an explosion. "Let's go somewhere else."
On the way to the subway, Sam continues steaming and kicking the trashcans. Obviously, the meeting with the famous boxer has not been as successful as he might have expected.
"What do you think about getting some drinks on the way?" I propose, thinking that it might relax him. Bad luck! I am just offering a target to his whole focused fury.
"You," He spits, turning so abruptly that I almost stumble against him. "You better tell me what you did just before I found you. Did you meet another one of your fucking mysterious contacts?" Hissing turning into yelling, he shoves me against the nearest wall. I don't see any meaning in resisting. The wall has preserved the heat of this day, feeling warm at my back. The darkness hides Sam's face almost completely, except for the glint in his eyes, his hands are clawing my shoulders.
"No, it was Arthur." I tell him the truth.
Slowly, his hands let my shoulders go, and he takes one step back. "I see." He says, and now I can see his face more clearly. "I see." His voice reflects the suspicion visible in his eyes. The day when Arthur disappeared, I asked once if Kay had also saved some of Arthur's things. My question provoked almost the same look as now, only spiced with a hint of jealousy, instead of fury. I never asked again, because speaking about the picture was the last thing I wanted to do. "And what the fuck did the asshole want?"
"He just wanted to say that he will kill me." I answer, and for some odd reason the confession brings me relief.
"What?" Sam blurts out, disbelieving.
"He thinks that his – friends got killed because of my interventions." I explain calmly.
"Do you believe it too?" He asks.
"I'm not sure." I say.
"But –" Sam opens and closes his mouth without finishing the sentence. The fury is gone from his eyes, but the emotion, replacing it, strangles me more than his violence ever had. When someone is looking at you with sincere love, it is almost impossible to maintain the vital distance. But, I have to keep it, I have to – "Don't you dare to get killed!" He gives me a light punch against the right arm, all grinning and pretending the moment of serious emotions was nothing more than an illusion.
"What do you think about getting some drinks?" I repeat my first question.
Sam's grin grows wider. "But only on the way to a decent hotel." He says, turning back to the sidewalk.
"Sure." Pushing myself away from the wall, I follow him. After a few steps, I decide to get done with the last problem of this evening, once and for all. "What did the famous man tell you?"
Sam snorts, kicking the next trashcan only lightly. "He said that a fag who doesn't know where he belongs, has no chance against him, that I'd better go and play with the other pansies."
"Good grief, what a - !" I swallow the word laying on my tongue. "How did he learn this about you?"
"Someone told him in New Orleans." Sam says, his voice deadpan.
He shrugs. "Nothing, it pisses me off that he doesn't respect my skills. But he is so fucking wrong to believe that he has already won."
Maybe, it is stupid, but I can not help it. "I'm very proud of you." I say, giving his ass a gentle slap:
If the darkness of the nightly streets did not deceive me, I would have sworn that Sam was blushing at my words.
His smile speaks volumes, though.
If I was a cat, I would be purring now, basking in this feeling of utter satisfaction. Feeling alive and weary. Sam has already fallen asleep. I find it out easily, because grazing his stomach just provokes a soft, sleepy sigh. Smiling at nothing special, I decide not to tease the eager and oh so easily awoken animal laying between his legs. Though, I have a good sight at it. Easily awake, and easily asleep.
Sam always falls asleep faster than myself afterwards, but I don't mind. Listening to his calm breathing and the thud of his heart gives me a scary feeling of happiness.
It's been quite a while since I had a friend like him, and I had not realized how much I had missed it. Maybe, that's one reason why I think so much about Soza lately. Although, Soza was way more vain and tricky than Sam, I recognize the feeling. When words are not necessary, because everything is evident, when you can laugh at the same second about the same joke.
With Sam as an ally, even the unpleasant games have a lighter touch. It is incredibly amusing to hear him recite the story of our victory over this strange Italian gang blackmailing the storekeepers in Mister Gelbstein's neighborhood. In truth, the tapes with recorded conversations had been as effective as beating the bodyguards of their boss. Whatever effected our little victory most, they had not done anything for three weeks. The victory made Sam proud and happy, and I let him have his optimism.
Personally, I do not think it is over. The underworld operates under rules just like nations do. The balance does not change just because two men were not afraid. But, there is no use in wasting time thinking about it, now we have to plan the next step which is much more complicated.
The Purgatory .
This casino is another knot in the spider net, like the Velvet and like the Underground, and what happened to the Underground was a hard lesson. No error is allowed in this game. The meeting with Arthur just proved it.
Oh damn it!
I did it again, thinking about the wrong things.
As silently as I can, I get up from the bed, putting on my pants and, without thinking, I start searching in the pockets of the jacket for my pack of cigarettes. Opening the window, I feel a faint movement of air on my face. Only a brief relief from the heat. I feel regret for my shadow, certainly somewhere in the darkness, although I do not see him. For a second, I think about the second man Sam had observed the day of the contact. Maybe, he was not after me anymore, or the mistake of the other day taught him immense prudence. Leaning on the splintered board of the window, I light a cigarette, just out of habit.
Maybe, I simply needed a smoke.
I take slow and deep draws, trying to empty my mind like before.
Suddenly, someone starts yelling, down on the streets. It's a drunk man and his yelling sounds pretty nasty. Funny how many insults people have for people who are different. The object of his insults makes an incredible appearance. Especially because of her hat which is just enormous and decorated with fruits and flowers. The person, according to the insults a guy in drag, does not manifest any reaction to the offenses, while the drunkard is following.
I am still thinking about getting completely dressed and going down in the street to help, when she spins. The short, loud bang of a gun shot sounds like the first thunder of lightning, before the torrent breaks lose.
Quickly I drop the cigarette out of the window, gather my shirt and put it on. Just before leaving the room, I hear a second gun shot, more distant, while Sam is asking sleepily. "What the fuck are you doing?".
"I'll be back soon." I say, shortly.
Good grief! I hope it isn't ...
But it is. I can see it, when I reach the quickly growing group of curious people. They crowd themselves around two corpses: the drunkard and my shadow. Exactly, like I have feared, he must have tried to stop the murderer. No trace of her, though. What a mess! And it happened so fast. A human life can end so quickly, you do not even need to go to war. This city is a battlefield on its own.
While looking at the man with the neatly cut brown hair, a miserable feeling emerges from my stomach. I have seen dead people before, I have killed people. I should be used to this sight, but nothing ever healed my sorrow in the face of death. During the last weeks, I have learned lots of things about this man: his favorite brand of cigarettes – Philip Morris -, his taste for expensive suits and fabrics, his manner of walking, the nonchalance of this movements. At the same time, I do not know anything. I have never realized before that his eyes were light blue. Only now while staring lifelessly, they reveal their color. And I have never learned his name.
The foolish idea of crouching down beside him and having a look at his papers crosses my mind, but the police are arriving, and I have not the slightest wish to speak with them. People stare at me anyway: a half dressed person with a shock of red hair is always an eye-catcher. That's why I also abstain from the urge to have a look at the other guy. A fool, a dead fool who caused this mess. I feel sorry for him despite his former insults.
Sure that the police might find enough witnesses even without me, I return to the Hotel, suddenly realizing that my feet hurt from walking without shoes. At least, I have not stepped into broken glass. It would be ironic getting a serious wound, just because of my curiosity.
Reaching the room, I see the light through the closed door and ready myself for a little discussion to come.
"Hey, you forgot something." Sam welcomes me like I have expected, standing at the window in all his naked glory, and aiming the gun at me. He must have taken it from my jacket. Though, before I can answer, he lowers it. "Was it the private eye?"
"Yes," I say quietly, closing the door.
"Fuck! Poor dog. Did you see the shooting?" He wants to know.
"As it seems, a drag queen with a very unusual hat." I continue, leaning back against the door, the lovely sight is distracting. Sam's eyes grow wider. "Give me the gun!"
"No fucking way. First, you tell me where you got it." Sam holds the gun out of my reach. Well, I will certainly not give him a little fight for it.
"Arthur gave it to me." I explain.
Sam doesn't really believe me. "I thought he talked about killing you."
"Yes, but he also gave me the gun." I explain shortly. Sam gives me a very odd look, before he throws the gun on the bed with any further word. I push myself away from the door. My decision was already definite before I came back in that room. I take my jacket from the ground and put the gun back in the pocket. Then I sit down to examine my feet. No reason to worry, just scratches. "Get dressed! Let's go have a look at Jasper Cagney's office."
"Cool." Sam replies and gets dressed, all traces of anger or sleepiness are gone. I hide my smile behind my hair while brushing it to prevent later knots. One of his amazing treats is this flexibility, sleeping or awakening, desirous or furious – he can switch so easily between all these feelings. It's refreshing.
I kiss him before we leave. Just for the pleasure of it.
Sam is agitating behind me while I follow the doorframe with the flashlight for the third time. We have made a detour to my house to get some of the equipment, now standing before the door of Cagney's office.
"Why don't you just open the door?" Sam complains, somewhat bored, obviously eager to waste energy. His strategy would consist in breaking open the door, since no one lived on this floor. Admittedly, I have given his plan a few thoughts, because we could pretend to be some local brawlers, but I prefer hiding the visit.
"Just wait a moment." I answer, the flashlight feels slippery in my sweaty hands. The suffocating heat in the stairway is mixed with the smell of dusty walls and urination, getting on my nerves. But I do not want to make the first mistake even before we enter the office. Luckily, Jasper Cagney is not living here, as I know. The only person sometimes using the office for sleeping has been the dead man as I found out during the last weeks, having planned to have a look anyway, to find out what the private eye knew about the Purgatory. The death of Cagney's employee and my wish to learn his name just brought the plan forward by a few days. On its way around the doorframe, the light hits something calling for my attention. "There it is. Keep the light there!" Handing Sam the flashlight, I pull off the little piece of adhesive Jasper Cagney and his helper used as a complementary security for the door. Then I take a pair of gloves from my waist.
Opening the door with a wire is quite easy, despite the uncomfortable gloves.
The office is as hot as the stairway. The skin of my neck itches from sweat, and my shirt sticks to my back. "Would you stay by the door?" I ask Sam, taking the flashlight back. He frowns, opening his mouth, but a gesture of my hand shuts him up. I am surprised, and relieved at the same time.
Two times, I have been in the office. The last time was four days before when I pretended to hire the private eye to find out things about the Purgatory. These two visits gave me enough time to memorize the inventory of the office.
It contains a small part of Cagney's weapon collection, a sofa, a sink and a little hearth, aside from the most interesting things: the desk and a filing cabinet. I do not expect to find something useful in the desk, but I decide to have look nevertheless, using the flashlight.
On its surface I can only discover pens, a few newspapers from the last week. Not the New York Times or something like that, but the Village Voice and a few leftist journals. Kay Blackhawk might find out if Cagney had contact to some journalists, or he might appreciate a hint of someone spying on his colleagues. He has helped us with the Italians, knowing lots of people, even more than Sam.
The drawers of the desk are not locked, confirming my supposition. I find a lot of office things and a type-writer in a bigger case, but, of course, no trace of the little book in which Cagney had written when I visited him. Though, just before I think to stop my investigation, I lift the pad lying on the desk, finding a passport and a paper. It's too dark to judge if the passport is fake, but it looks like an official American passport, made for a young woman: Carmen Miranda, born in Havanna. The paper describes the circumstances of her escape from Cuba. Apparently, Jasper Cagney had helped her to get an American passport.
"I know this face." Sam says suddenly from behind. My surprise about his comment weakens my anger about him leaving his place and about myself not noticing him earlier. "But I think that Carmen Miranda is an artist's name, because in reality, this is a guy. He does performances in very, very expensive private clubs, Hispanic stuff, you know."
This news just augments my surprise. How on earth did this private eye get into organizing a passport for a Cuban transvestite, or whatever this person was? Mister "I hate fags and would like to kill them all"? The passport officially made this person a woman.
Thoughtfully, I put the passport and the other paper back in their former place. Maybe, the traffic with passports was one of Jasper Cagney's source of income. Considering what I have paid for fake passports in the past, the source could guarantee him an impressive income.
"Don't you want to know?" Sam's question distracts me from my thinking.
I crouch down before the filing cabinet which is much better secured than the desk.
"If I have done this guy?" He asks.
"What?" His suggestion takes me off guard, inspiring me almost to burst into childish laughter. Though, I bite it down and try to concentrate on my next task, just adding: "Why should I have asked?" A subtle shifting of his body tells me that he is sulking now, surely wearing this cute expression of feeling underestimated. To do him a favor and to keep him happy, I docilely ask the question. "And did you sleep with this guy?"
"No. The few times, I have seen him he was extremely cold. Maybe, he isn't into men."
"Maybe, you are just not his type." I look at him for a second. "Or maybe, you don't have enough money."
"Shut up!" Sam gives me an almost painful jab in my back. "Sarah might know a bit more about him. She is quite talented at getting invitations for the kind of parties where you can find him."
"Well," I turn back to the cabinet. "We do not need to discuss this now. Would you hold the light, please!"
It seems like an eternity, before the cabinet is finally open. I hope I have not damaged a part of the lock. Obviously, my safe-cracking skills are rusty.
The cabinet contains too many folders for just one night. Unsure about the adequate method, I go through the folders in the highest range, and find the one labeled FARREL very fast. Stupid thing, but my heart is beating faster. I don't know if I have ever read something official about me, beside Rick's confession. Now, my hands hold a copy of my New York City Police file, the first document in the folder. Five pages with names of persons I have known here and even information about them..
Good grief! A part of this must issue from Kumiko's FBI file, because they have a list of all her activities from her engagement for the Worker's Union while working in the Garment industry over her trying to get the article about our trip to Japan published to her actual work for the Civil Rights Movement. Good grief, my poor aunt looks like a dangerous criminal, public enemy number one. Compared to her, my own file looks quite harmless, containing just my acquaintances, but also a notice about the marriage. I should have known, because it was the first time for years that I used my real name.
"What's the matter with you?" Sam is asking, sounding a little bit bored. "Did you find something interesting? You've stared at this paper already for hours."
"It is my police file."
"Cool. I'm sure I have one, too, and I'm sure it is longer than yours."
I can not help but smirk. Surely, Sam could even fuel his self-confidence with the fact that his file is longer than mine. For him, size is everything.
Forcing my concentration back on my investigation, I just think about looking for the next document when my eyes fall on a little handwritten note, overlooked at first, because of the faint light. Beside the mention of the Komagatas and a small allusion to Soza's criminal career and to his death, the hand of the stranger had written: Yumi Komagata, S & K Enterprises: Park Avenue, followed by a phone number. Despite the heat, a chill is running down my spine. Instinctively, I lay the folder openly on the cabinet, before searching in my wallet for a paper and taking a pen from the desk.
"His name was Williams, David Williams." Sam says going through the folder while I'm noting Yumi's address and phone number.
You have no reason to feel guilty, I tell myself. None at all, because I searched for her for months when we came back from Japan, but she had disappeared without any trace. Not even her mother knew where she had gone. Her mother just threw a flowerpot at me from the window.
"Hey," Sam gives me a punch in the back, startling me. "I told you the name of this dead man is David Williams. He has written a report every day. That's what you wanted to know?"
"Yeah," I say, putting my wallet in my pocket and laying the pen back at its place. "but that's not all."
Then I start looking through every folder in this file cabinet to find more traces of Yumi and her mysterious enterprise.
Two hours later, we leave the office.
I barely hear Sam praising me for the trick with the envelope because I cannot think about anything other than this envelope. I discovered it just after my decision to stop the investigation. A large beige envelope put between two layers of wood that contained what I would call Jasper Cagney's life assurance: information about both of his contact with the FBI and with the organized crime. It was too much to memorize it immediately, therefore I decided to replace it with another envelope, hoping I could come back another day after making copies of all the documents.
Back in my apartment, Sam immediately heads for the kitchen for one more attempt to diminish my provision of Scotch. I put back my equipment, at first, then I have a look in Karen's apartment.
The girl is still not back from work, but she might arrive any minute. Yacko is sleeping like a lamb - a rare occasion. When we had come the first time, I found him already asleep before the newly acquired TV. A fortunate situation, no reason for a discussion about his participation in the investigation. Now, he has made his way to his bed.
To keep the situation as uncomplicated as it is, I try to avoid any noise, when I get some leftovers from the fridge and take them into my room.
"Hey, you've read my mind." Sam cheers, half laying on my sofa with an almost empty glass, looking rather hungry.
I put the plates on the table, before I sit down beside him, moving the table closer. He does not need my invitation "Help yourself!" before starting to eat.
I am not very hungry, and I open the envelope, taking out the papers, mostly prints.
Does my face change? Like before when I looked at them in the weaker shine of the flashlight, I don't dare to withdraw my eyes. Guessing is one thing, proof is something else. Not being sure if I knew a person I only saw shortly in a Diner leaves lots of room for speculation. A photo doesn't.
It is a slender man with dark hair, sharp features, piercing eyes, not missing anything interesting. Probably not even the fact of the photo being taken. Three of the photos, apparently, have been taken by Jasper Cagney himself, because the man sits facing the photographer. There is no way he would have missed any move. Not the man I recognize. He has a bit aged a bit in the last years, but I have no doubt of who he is.
The worst is the similarities in the situations: A man is sitting in a café, waiting for the contact. Like back then, like in Los Angeles, when none of my supervisors had got any hint that my whole mission was a trap, when the man waiting in the café was not some scientist, but a CIA agent who said: "Bad luck, Farrel, but you will miss your flight back to London!".
They did not catch me that day, despite a long hunt through a foreign city, but he was right about one thing: I missed my flight back. Recalling that day - a blue-gray sky over Los Angeles, the summer heat in April, the shooting, the screaming bystanders and the hunt – still sends a chill down my back, even after so many years.
Then, seeing the hint of a smile on that man's face, I feel a wave of anger rising. I should not care anymore after my damned deal with the fucking CIA. Returning to New York would have been out of question without the pardon. Therefore I should not even bother with thinking of that man. And, yet, who else could be behind Jasper Cagney, sending someone after me? If that man knew about my deal with the CIA and my pardon, would he care? After all that I found out about him, he has never been their most obedient dog.
Anger is a dangerous emotion. Rubbing my forehead to fight back the feeling, I have a look at the papers. Revising my impression of Cagney, I can't help but be surprised about the number and the quality of his sources. His knowledge about that man – Frank Gordon, once, and Henry Shatner, now – is not less than my own, and my source has been the KGB after all. They only forgot to show me pictures of him before my mission, like they had hidden a few other things concerning me.
"Do you know that guy?" Sam asks, the casual tone barely covering frustration.
For a moment, I seriously consider an outright lie. But what use would it have? "Yes," I answer. "he has worked for the CIA in the past."
Sam wipes his hand on his pants, before taking one of the pictures. "He looks like a bastard." He states after a while. "but I would not worry too much. You are not in the business anymore. So what's the deal?"
I wished I could be as carefree as him. "If I knew what the deal was, I would not worry."
Sam laughs, laying the picture back on the table. "Your stupid logic, man." Curious, he looks at the other pictures. "Hey, there is the singer." He lets out suddenly. "Carmen Miranda."
"Tasty." I say, taking the picture with the Cuban singer from his hand. In all my life, I have rarely seen a more delicious appearance than that dress, and it is amazing in which places one could place fruits and flowers. It reminds me of the drag queen with the hat who killed my shadow, but the picture is no real proof.
Sam is laughing at my comment, reaching for some other pictures. "Wow, that must have been some event."
It was a photo of a lot of people in extremely expensive clothes drinking exotic looking drinks. "It looks like the opening of an exhibition." I comment. Oh yes, the opening of an exhibition means drinking and small talk, and people showing off their new clothes. I can remember it. "It is interesting, even more because I ask myself if a man like Santa Gallo really cares about Modern Art." The evidence sits before my eyes, and Santa Gallo appears somewhat disguised in his suit, but not enough to stand out of the crowd.
"Who knows ?If you can make money with it, he might be interested." Sam states a simple truth that makes me smile.
When I put the picture of the Cuban singer back on the table, I can hear Karen's steps nearing the door. With an already learned move, Sam puts the bottle and the glass on the ground, just before she knocks and enters.
Despite being tired, as always after work, Karen radiates enthusiasm and excitement, sure signs that she is up to something. Dropping her purse on the ground, she lets herself fall in the armchair. "How was your evening?"
"Cool," As usual, Sam answers, playing the cool cat. Though, sitting beside him, I can feel a tension inside him. It is weird to see how hard it is for him not to lie, while he does it any time, instead of just not talking. "We watched a fight, went out for some drinks and played spies. What about you?"
Karen grimaces at the mention of the boxing, then gets a suspicious look, somewhat pouting, before bending forward to look at the pictures. "Well, I have played spy as well." She says, giving me a short glance. "Oh, don't worry, I did not do anything dangerous. Only, Mister Cagney has been in the club, and he met O'Sullivan and some other men. How funny!" She picks up a picture and turns it towards me. "This is one of the men I have seen in the club several times, and also tonight. I'm not quite sure, but I think his name is Salvatore."
The man has no distinguishable features. An office creature, perfectly suitable for tuxedos and social events without being the center of attraction. His face is narrow, and a bit pale. The dark hair and eyes do not set him apart from the crowd; someone seeing him in the streets would barely recognize him later. I know, however, how perfect such people are for illegal activities. The correct accountant in the bank and the most efficient secretary are always the last persons one would suspect of harboring evil thoughts. But how often, incriminating evidences have left offices through the hands or briefcases of such men.
The picture shows him talking with a woman whose face is not visible. She wears a shimmering green gown, very fashionable, accentuating the curves of her body, leaving her shoulders bare. The way she arranged her hair is classic and elegant. Nothing suspicious at first sight, just the sort of woman you expect assisting events like the opening of an exhibition, if she would not reappear on most of the other pictures. A pattern too obvious to overlook, but her face is always very shadowed. Could she have known that someone took a picture of her?
Weighing these thoughts, I realize that Karen and Sam are watching me, waiting for my reaction to Karen's statement.
"I'm sure Cagney is somehow involved with criminal organizations, if only for spying on them," I give them my opinion. "But I think we should delay making more plans for another day, it's very late." The words have barely left my mouth when I have to bite my lips for not laughing at their faces which say "killjoy" with identical expressions.
A nightmare wakes me from short slumber when the first light of the next day touches the city with bluish fingers. For seconds, I lose track of the time, caught in a hellish place in my mind where I try desperately to find a reason for the failure of a routine mission. Blood runs down my thigh. My body is shaking, craving. The frantic beats of my heart make me dizzy. And my leg is pounding as if the bullet hit me just today. Not years back.
Then I find myself in the familiar rooms again, but not quite alone. In my head, I can hear the ironic voice from the past.: "Do you seriously think, the hunt is over, Farrel? You fool!"
Shut up! Pressing my hands against my temples, I almost say it aloud. Feeling a rush of cold fury, another ghost from the past, I stare in the semi-darkness. Too many pictures in my head, too many dead people, too many living enemies. The first time, for the first time in three years, a temptation reaches out for my mind, until sweat covers my whole body. It's just a second of weakness, but the urgency of the feeling leaves me more troubled than the nightmare.
It was a nightmare, I remind myself, just a nightmare. And not the first one, damn it!
Still somewhat shaking at the sensation of my fast and panicking heartbeat, I push the covers away. With wobbly legs, I go to the window and open it completely. The cool air touching my sweaty face calms me down, until I can breathe normally. But I'm not trying to fool myself into pretending the heat in my room, was the reason for my troubled sleep. And I know from past experience that I can forget sleeping for the rest of this night.
After a few minutes, I leave the place at the window, then my apartment, going over to the dance school. Even in the past, when confusion, fury and a sea of horrible nightmares had been a constant part of my life, being in that large room with the mirrors, feeling the wooden floor beneath my feet could restore a sort of balance in my mind. And in the present days, the daily dance exercise with Karen before breakfast and me going to work will do the rest.
During the last weeks, observing the morning dawn became a habit whenever I could not sleep. I don't even feel the need for a cigarette, while watching the light slowly pouring in until the whole room is bright and clear.
First question: Do you need a summary for the previous chapters? If so, I will add one.
"What Goes On" – The Velvet Underground, 1968. Not exactly from the right year, but my first idea did not fit to the content of the chapter.
"The Doors of Perception" is the title of an essay by Aldous Huxley about his experiments with LSD, and "The Doors" picked their name from this essay.
1. Let's talk characters:Reminder: I don't repeat all characters, just the newer and marginal ones: Soza, Garcia and the dead guy are OCs. Rick is not really Okita. Ali Norman = Anji, Jasper Cagney = Chou, Carmen Miranda = who else, but Kamatari?, Sarah = Sae Sekihara, but a girl only by wish. I won't say too much about the mysterious Russian boxing manager, because this is a spoiler in itself.
2. Let's talk politics:Boxing and politics: I know I'm walking on very thin ice. I won't really involve the real Black Panthers and more radical movements, I'm rather treating this as an example. It's more about image than real people, and all allusions to historical or living persons are rather coincidence.
However, if you want some information about the Black Panther movement and Mohammed Ali, I can give you a few links, I have used for my researches.
3. Let's talk pop culture:The jumping from the rocks, I picked from the movies "Jim Carroll – Basketball Diaries" and "Sleepers". Both of them are set in the 60ties, and although in my story, they do it in the 50ties, I don't think that there was such a difference. I liked the picture, and it fits to the characters.
Carmen Miranda, a famous samba dancer and singer, was not from Cuba, but from Brazil. Her hat creations are one part of her reputation.