The Music Box
231 East 47th Street, Midtown Manhattan, 1974. She’ll Make You Cry
An apple was covered in tinfoil. The bare walls were silver. The legs of a mannequin, student lockers and tin cars all the same bright sheen in this part of the Factory that looked so terribly empty otherwise. There were ghosts from the night before; the smell of cigarettes, a smashed bottle of bourbon and on a glitter-ball seat head down a girl, or a boy, or both, slumped like a coat forgotten when everyone had left.
Andy said, “I, ah, loved the work. In a very real, ah, sense, Mucha was one of the very first... pop artists. Commercial, beautiful, ah, irrelevant.”
“You have to look at everything in context to the time,” said Mme Roux. “I really do.”
“I, ah, no. No I don’t,” he did not look directly at his guest. Hidden behind his dark glasses he twitched his head first one way then the next. He held one hand firmly in the other. Between them and the cause-apparent for her visit a silkscreen of Mucha’s Spring, 1899. Replicated four times the colours clashing, the resemblance was nearly exact. Andy did not ask how as to how little his guest had changed. She liked that, what he did say was, “France?”
She confessed she had had cause to be there. She was honest. Mme Roux did not like the little lies to interfere with the big ones. She had helped a man she would later marry to escape from a choir of angels, all bloody handed and devoutly awful. Andy accepted that without comment, touching a hand to his hair perhaps to make sure it was still there. She said, “Are you familiar with the movies from the Expressionist movement?”
“Metropolis, ah, Nosferatu? Of course.”
“They voiced them over you know, when sound came in. Mostly dreadful,” she said. She picked up a paperback the only thing that wasn’t people that wasn’t silver. She showed it to Andy as a question.
“I might film it,” he said, the conversation having been taken there by Mme Roux. Then, “Tell me, have you ever acted? You should. Tell me, ah, your name.”
“Mme Roux, you may call me Madame.”
Andy’s lip twitched. He said, “No, no I, ah, don’t think so. Your name.”
That was rather personal but that was rather the point. That was a boundary, but here was where boundaries were broken. She said, “Alexandra.”
“And do you have, ah, ah a cock, Alex?”
Mme Roux tucked her hands in her pockets, “Well, not here.”
Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley, 1979. You Can Lead A Horse To Water But A Pencil Must Be Lead
He only ever felt alive when he’d had that first piss, and by habit in the popcorn. Fumbling with dungarees and work belt, saw, sabre and pistol Arthur tried with one hand to do the work of three. A thin man and all chin he had an idiot’s smile. The idiot would never miss it. The crowds had gone. The usherette had gone. The lights were all from other rooms, an elsewhere light that gave the stairs a borrowed glow. Arthur needed to kill like another man needed to eat. That other man Norvell, much fatter, watched Arthur fumble, drop first saw then sabre. He shook his head, ridiculous. Fetching a scoop he helped himself to popcorn.
He said, “You’re a fool, if I had any sense I’d walk out on you.”
“Then it’s a good thing you don’t have any sense,” said Arthur. Dungarees now buttoned he looked about for his saw.
“It certainly is.”
It was later than the late showing but early for Norvell and Arthur who had only been Norvell and Arthur for the last reel. The one looked at the other, pleased as he picked up the saw. His sabre next, and with tools in hand he fixed up his smile. Arthur said, “Can we find someone lonely, someone lost. Someone who will be missed?”
Norvell nodded once and firmly. “I could kill,” he admitted.
On the street they looked about themselves until turning back each jumped, startled, when coming face-to-face. Norvell smacked Arthur about the back of the head setting Arthur to tears. Norvell had to wait until Arthur was done. He recalled now that they had places to go, people to see. And whose heads they had to cut off. They walked until they found a bus stop where Norvell spent five minutes inspecting the times, the numbers and destinations. He made a great show of nodding and of tapping the timetables. They were a nonsense.
Arthur said, “You know what our problem is, we never had no education. We’re not illiterate enough.”
“We certainly aren’t.”
In a nearby phone box cards were rammed on every surface. Arthur had to assume that a lot of people were advertising for their lost clothes. Ladies mostly. Amongst them he found plainer cards and one of these showed a picture of a taxi. Proudly he showed it to Norvell.
Norvell preened at the cleverness of his partner. He said, “Call me a cab!”
Arthur couldn’t help himself, “You’re a cab.”
Brixton, 1988. And Clear Understanding
Kull exited Brixton Prison to where waiting for him in the frozen morning were the Mighty Battling Finns, a little less than half he noted. He the last to be released his clothes were creased, ill-fitting and uncomfortable, his face pale and spotty the colour of an uncooked chip. The British Police had not appreciated their illegal entry into the country, no less than by vintage submarine. Armed, they had been surprised in a greasy spoon down the coast from Pevensey, in Pepperinge Eye. The siege was famous for being the first time that anyone had seen the SAS, leading to a surge of interest and some fame for the Mighty Battling Finns (who had surrendered without a shot fired, having run out of cigarettes and akavit). No one had been hurt yet still they had been lucky to get away with the sentences they had, Kull having proudly declared himself the leader had got by far the longest.
They sat in the George and counted themselves lucky to have missed Punk whose marks were still on the filthy pub, papered on the walls and stamped into the stage, a raised corner. Kull giddy on his first pint slapped the table, “So!”
The Mighty Battling Finns agreed. So.
“Nothing has changed,” said Kull his English much improved after his years in a cell. He had learned to appreciate the order, the regularity of things. Outside and already the empty pub unnerved him. Inside and it was easy. The screws did as they pleased, and Young Mr Bridger ruled. Famous, needing the now renowned SAS to have taken him and never having shot neither kiddies, old ladies, or anyone’s mum he had enjoyed the same status as the armed robbers. In the last two years he had even taken a little wife, a hippy called Foxy that had been in there for stealing a Scorpion tank and invading the Houses of Parliament (only to find no one there over the summer recess). Through it all though he had nurtured the mission, the quest, the great epic upon which he had embarked and in hindsight had not thought through particularly well. And he had met men in Brixton that had put him in touch with others outside, others who could help him.
Kull waited for another pint. Without thinking about it he broke up each dog-end in the ashtray and put the tobacco in a sandwich bag. When all were settled again he said, “There is a man that can help us. He can supply passports, papers, weapons and smuggle us where we wish to go. He can find out where the enemy is. He is a powerful man, his lawyer suggests,” and he had only met the lawyer.
“Who is this man?”
“I do not know,” Kull held up his hand to still any disbelief. “But we must earn these things, and first of all we must find and take a case. A very special case, and take it to a certain address. I am not to go there empty-handed, I am not to bother them unless I do this thing. I can walk away now without debt, but we need these things that they can give us. What would Lemmy do?”
They all nodded. Their purpose was revived. Lemmy would do whatever it took. He would have a magnificent time, one he would never forget. He might not remember it, but he would never forget it.
Part Six tomorrow: Faites De La Contrabande