~ "President de Gaulle will see your chief negotiator."
We looked at one another nervously. Slowly I rose to my feet. "Sit down, young lady."
The guard republicain brushed me aside, looking between Maurice and Jean-Philippe. "Which one of these unsavoury vagrants is the chief negotiator?"
Somewhat incensed, I took a step past him towards the Salon des Ambassadeurs, then turned and raised my head a degree. "I am." A second guard republicain leant against the wall to laugh. "A girl!"
"Yes. A girl." My voice rose defensively, and a little too quickly - it cracked once with nervousness. Their collective hilarity intensified. My heart was beating very fast. I watched their ugly faces contort, their eyes narrow with glee, fingers mocking.
"And what is more.." For some foolish reason I threw up my fist to boast. "One day I shall be the first female president of France."
With a sudden look of malice, the first guard jumped forward to prod my shoulder. Terrified, I flinched back from his jaundiced skin, the dark, empty pools of his eyes. "She'll be led by a dog first."
I was ushered impatiently through a Louis XVI giltwood door and into the negotiating salon of President Charles de Gaulle, architect of the Fifth Republic. He turned slowly in his chair. "And who are you, mademoiselle?" He unlocked the chapel-shaped composition of fingers poised beneath his chin, regarding me from head to foot with a predictable mixture of disinterestedness and scorn. I had so often seen him on television and in the newspapers - that to actually be in the presence of this brute somehow gave him a magical glow I almost resented.
"I.. I'm here to negotiate. On behalf of the strikers and students of France." I stammered, quickly moving my satchel in front of me.
With a noticable change to his expression, de Gaulle then turned to raise his face to the ornate ceiling, relaxed his hands over the arms of the chair and, as his fingers began to drum against the leather, he too commenced a long, heartless chuckle.
After some time like this, he rose and moved to a drinks cabinet. "Brandy?" Quarter-turning his head, I noticed that he was looking at my knees and calves, still glistening with sweat, soiled heavily with grass stains.
I immediately slipped down onto one of the seats surrounding a large desk prepared with blotting paper and began unbuckling my satchel. "The ten per cent pay offer is derisory considering nominal wages have been rising at an average of six per cent for the pas.."
However, when I looked up from our scrupulously prepared figures, the President had gone. ".. while two million people on minimum wage are effectively being offered only three per.."
Suddenly, a pair of confident hands were placed on my shoulders and I realised then that my suspicions had not been unfounded - the leader of all France was close behind me, slowly massaging the knots of tension in my neck and back. Before I could protest - a single, tingling kiss was placed on my nape. "You must be exhausted after a hard day's.. protesting."
My heart was beating faster than ever. I turned to look into his eyes. I tried to speak but his mouth was already on mine. Confused by the fresh tang of his expensive aftershave, I was powerless. I thought of poor, dead Kris and how dedicated he was. I tried to focus - but de Gaulle's assured lips continued to press further over mine with a commanding passion I had never felt before. His mouth turned briefly into a smile as he backed away, only to allow his hand to work down into my chemise. I gasped quickly. As one finger, then another, found the interior of my bra, he circled around, propped himself against the table's edge. Impassively, then with a tempered flash of sorrow, he watched out through the window - across the pale, uncurving lawns of the Elysée - whilst undressing me.
"Little provocateur." ~
"TALKING TO YOURSELF AGAIN, ANNE."
Anne Renaud's daughter has just heard the news about Whittington Winkworth. After several attempts, she had still been unable to get through on the fan support number the record company had established. She slouches past her mother's bedroom towards the top of the stairs.
"It's all wrong and someone's hosing London hard with it. Hotblack Desiato. AKA Northern Rock. It's not like normal Spoon Petrol, standard Afghan Croutons." The head of the Met - Sir Sebastian - explained on Club Betamix. "Children, please. Imagine a headload of Wanker Tablets that last forever."
"I'll be in the park," she whispers against the wheels of a skateboard she is holding to her chest.
~ The boy with auburn hair sits back against the fence - against the sunset - and finds a cigarette.
Curran House, near Kilmarnock. Scotland. 1989.
The taller boy sits on a log. He gazes over the field, through the fence, at the diminishing evening light - then back up at a route through the mile of pine trees that leads to the academy.
"I think I know what you mean." The taller boy continues. "It's like when people's parents pass away. Everyone says they're going to seize life and enjoy each moment more. And you meet them two months later to find out what they've doing differently. They're always doing the same things."
"Just a bit more coldly." The boy with auburn hair flicks a match beyond the fence. "Whatever it is. I can't breathe in this fucking country. And the sooner I'm out of here the better."
The taller boy doesn't reply. He only joined the academy recently and he doesn't really know who the boy with auburn hair is. He considers saying 'don't be silly' or 'you'd be missed' but isn't sure that this is true.
"Salad days. Look around. Not being precocious but both of us are as smart as it gets. It's so ordered and joyless, we almost seem unnecessary."
This was true. "Don't say that. You're bright. It's tough here but you got here on scholarship. That's well respected, you know."
"Fuck off. You've got everything. Don't you even see it? You'll never have a problem. Not in this lifetime. You'll be cutting and thrusting copies of the FT with your old man. And you'll smile and win sometimes. Sometimes you'll lose. But it'll be a game. Not about survival. You'll never feel humiliated. And that safety net that keeps you laughing was weaved from other people's dismay."
The taller boy stands up. "You've no idea how wrong you are. You're bright, so why do you make problems for yourself? You seem to make up problems." But the boy with auburn hair is staring out across the fields beyond the fence.
Something hovering, tilting, swinging closer - hitting treetop after treetop - fringed in the red of sunset. An engine struggles before cutting out completely.
"Look over there. A light aircraft. Trying to land."
"I can't see for the sun. Where?" The taller boy leans into the fence and shields his eyes.
"There. Christ - it's not.. it's in real trouble, Adam." ~
He is talking to himself, in a whisper.
"Who are you?" I ask.
"Just a banker." He whispers. "Futures etcetera."
I am sitting down on the other side of the map, as he has requested.
Slowly then, he raises his head to look at me. "Someone once said that capitalism breaks your legs to sell you crutches. But only love can break your heart. And oh, whoever should happen across a plastercast for that - what a rich man he would be."
Adam Shadow pulls the burnt remains of Anne Renaud's 1968 diary from his pocket and lays them across my old map of Paris, which he has unfolded on the attic floor, and then lowered himself beside to examine. As one finger passes down the map he returns to whispering. "You won't have heard of us. We sometimes work for governments. They sometimes work for us."
As he studies my notations on the diagram I watch it's reflection - the boulevards and parks - shift across the darkened glass of his flying goggles. On the sofa bed, Leo Me is dressing his brother's wounded shoulder, watching Cerys pick up and flick through some back issues of 'American Ass And Mouth'.
"Land of the free." She says coldly.
Adam Shadow bends further into the variously coloured marker pen lines. "Ah! The electricity grid. Do you know - I forgot, Corbeau. The man who paralysed Paris."
He sits up. "Such a different time then. Women couldn't open a bank account without their husband's permission, you know." A very simple smile, he cocks his head slightly.
"I remember." I reply.
"And when will men learn to talk about their emotions?" Anne has been discussing Alain as she clears out the remainder of his things.
"It makes me sad." Julianne agrees.
Anne shakes herself. "Oh grow up." She rises and moves across the bedroom. "Let's put on some music."
"That would be perfect." Julianne Glover watches the writer help herself to another brandy and choose a compact disc, then looks around the bedroom. "You live in a beautiful world, Anne."
Anne finds and flicks through an old copy of Deleuze Homme. "Promise me you'll never marry. No - you're too sensible. Men. Demanding. Expecting. Grasping shamelessly and strutting around in top gear to the max. Look."
Julianne shakes her head with a laugh. "Oh Anne, they're not all like that."
"Oh they are. They are." Anne narrows her eyes and drops the magazine into a plastic sack. She turns to regard herself in the mirror. "You have a lot to learn. This is France. If men don't find a woman attractive they don't even acknowledge her existence. And tell me there's a bigger killer for any woman. It's fine in London, you can probably walk around dressed -" Anne quickly indicates Julianne's clothes. "- like that, quite happily. But here men demand the whole package with all the trimmings." She reaches around and zips up a black YSL dress. "I'm sorry - it's just the way it is."
Julianne rises, crosses the room and arranges Anne's hair in the mirror. "Maybe. You know, I really don't mind if someone doesn't acknowledge my presence. I guess I'm more of an observer."
"Tss.." Anne sighs and sips from her glass. "It's not just your presence. It's your entire existence."
The translator tries to look into the author's eyes but her face is lowered. She closes the final few inches of zip and begins to draw Anne Renaud's hair into a tail.
"Perhaps you should wear it up?" She says quietly. "For the Goncourt?" And the author, paused at her glass, doesn't reply for quite some time.
She does eventually look at Julianne, shivering. "Slightly drunk and semi-clad. Not even three p.m. You've obviously found my level."
Julianne Glover places both hands around her bare shoulders to lean closer. "Let's let our hair down, Anne."
~ It's in the trees! It's coming! ~
"Hounds of Love!" Anne rushes to stand on the bed and begins singing along to the song. "Take my shoes off and throow them in a lake." She demonstrates this by kicking both sandals into the corner of the room.
"Throoow them in the lake." Julianne nods her head and begins to unbuckle a pair of beige leather Campers.
"Exactly. Throooow them in the lake." Anne jumps back off the bed and pushes Julianne to the window where they cast all four items of footwear into the garden.
Down there - behind the garden wall - Alain Renaud swiftly pockets the miniature digital camcorder with which he has just captured this scene.
As she rounds the corner, Anne's daughter catches Alain waddling along the pavement towards his car. She considers approaching but, eventually, skates away in the opposite direction.
~ "Somebody's moving in there. Get something to break the glass."
The taller boy backs off, shielding his face from the bite of petrol vapour and the stink of burning skin.
"I can't get any closer. I just can't." ~
He has stopped whispering.
"I've been right around this world of ours. And the more I see the more I believe that we become the sum of everything we've loved." Adam Shadow draws a hand over the notated map on the floor. "The loveless will never have a place."
"I'm not that way inclined. Feelings. You know. I never feel anything for all these human beings. Myself even. I find people mere curiosities." The space has become loaded with a modest but chilling wind. While Cerys draws a fingernail against her thumbnail, her eyes lift to meet mine.
"All around the world." Adam Shadow rises and slowly begins drawing one foot around in a circle. "It's more beautiful at night. Through a sudden break in the frosted gas, descend from the moonlight. Raw silence, the lights."
He begins a slow sway. "Drifted unnoticed past cities. To revisit sadistic places - a succession of private schools where I mustn't be caught smiling. Dormitories where a priest patrols to punish whoever might cry in the night. And whose rules can never be questioned. Revisited them. Then risen away."
"It's escape." He shimmies to the sofa bed and raises a hand up to the skylight, then spins off. "Looking down on all our strain, our pain, our energies. The world but a bramble of decorative lights. Microbes at times, we rage under heaven's breath. Up there I ask questions. Why the distance? My adoptive family - strict, indiscriminating tycoons - told me everything they knew. My true parents were honest folk who just couldn't keep me."
He swings closer, leans in and almost looks right through me. I have often thought about this moment, meeting him. "Everything so out in the open these days - it hurts to be someone else's dirty little secret, Corbeau."
I look away - from the map on the floor to the delicate frame of a thrift store Oriental lamp, suspended under one of the beams. There was never any secret, there was sorrow.
He backs off slightly. "All of little importance, of course. Do you like art? I try. I collect. Really, if I weren't here someone else could do what I do. Hard to say that about the artist."
I look back, my reflection shifts across the darkened glass of his goggles. "It's a cold world I work in. I'm often too cold for art. Sometimes I catch myself inventing better ways to hurt people - to see if it moves me. And it fails to. Please. Touch me."
I reach across and touch an area on the back of this man's hand. He would be thirty three, and yet he is so gelid it startles me. "Like that all over. And inside." He stands to continue. "I've been curious about this so-called Crying Cop. Then wondering what honest folk were really like. That's all. But all I've learned is why men become detectives - because they would be the first to buckle under accusation."
As he stoops to pick up the Enrage backpack, he places his hand on my shoulder and slowly draws a breath. "You have the right to remain silent. Oh, apologies for Leopold, boys. A good and faithful servant. Some things run in families, I am told."
The wind in the attic is making me shake. He removes his goggles, eyes closed, and reaches into the backpack to produce a roll of 8mm film - wedding footage - which he places onto the pile of paper ashes. "Fact? Or did her old man move his chequebook at last?"
He reaches again and removes a copy of 'Les Amants Du 68', flicks through it. "I half imagined I was special. A special dirty secret. How much of this book is fantasy?"
"All of it." I reply, shaking harder.
"Damn." He looks again at the pages. "Damn. You have to believe we are magic. This old bag of memories is. This is what I wanted to give you." He rummages to the bottom of the canvas bag and passes me a Croix de Guerre. "Honore Corbeau's. Turned it down, you know. Services to a cycle of brutality, he claimed. You never made his funeral, did you? You wouldn't ask for his help either. Died a broken soul. More regrets than you'll ever know."
"We can play a game. Like Happy Families." Poppy Franco realigns the knuckles of her right hand with a squeeze from her left.
Ferdinand the cameraman starts his car. Rocco slaps the roof once and wishes him a safe trip home. "It's best if you go home." Rocco had said.
Poppy turns the girl over on the grass, straddles her, pulls her up to continue slapping. "Who do you work for?"
Rocco doesn't speak and stares away across the grass. An old-fashioned girl who worships old-fashioned guys from afar - she had explained on their walk through the house.
"I don't know anything. Please." Brigitte manages to plead. "I'll go and forget I ever met him. I promise. I'll just go home."
Malkmus, the rabbit, clambers through the shadows at the bottom of the gun crate in which he has been placed, then moves an eye to and fro against a split between two of the flaking wooden slats, one of its four sides.
A former inmate of Fresnes prison had once said this of a Marianne Castro painting: "Well, it's awfully .. dark?" The subject matter, the tones.
Looking back , she could have quoted the prison tutor, a jolly man in black with a well trimmed beard who arrived once each two weeks and often ran a finger from his chest to his chin and onwards and forwards under certain proclamations. Proclamations like: "Art must be dark while the sun remains kidnapped by advertising." Marianne just painted and didn't think about anything. "So you want to be a painter?" Poppy had asked, helping her load a van with filled canvas. Marianne didn't want to be anything. If she had stood back and judged her own material she would have called them the work of someone with nowhere else to put the feelings they felt.
She had come away from the garden to the office to read Corbeau's notebook. She was in charge of this little project and sometimes had to remind herself why.
"Why do men have all the fun? We should make films for women." Tanith's eyes had once widened over a restaurant table, like no-one had ever thought of it before.
"PMT Productions." Marianne had said and Poppy had laughed. That sort of thing made Poppy laugh.
Tanith had shrugged and rolled some noodles onto her fork. "Stop laughing - there's no glass ceiling in sex. Is there, Rocco?"
Rocco had taken this question seriously. "Like a glass top table?"
Now, Marianne searches in a drawer for her wrap of cocaine. "Why?" They would all ask in those restaurants, as she slipped towards the loo. "It takes your energy. It kills a person's spirit." No-one ever considered that this was why she took it. "You're too bright to be doing any of this." Everyone was too bright to be doing this.
Marianne Castro sits back. His account. His account of her.
True, she had arrived in Paris from the provinces on a commuter TGV on a bold September morning almost a decade ago. With the youth hostel not prepared, she had several hours to walk the streets before she could leave her bags there. And she thought to herself at the time, crossing the Pont St Michel at dawn, how attractive the guys were in Paris, compared to the small town she'd just left. The one nightclub there - marked by male aggression, back-seat territorialisation, the huffs of red-faced farm boys, throwing up in car parks. Parisians had the sense of people who invested in their looks, conversation and charm without effort and not specifically to - what would the farm boys say? - pull, score - but investing to enhance the world around them and their routes through it. Style.
She didn't find anyone attractive now. People looked good. The young had a softened, edgeless charm but no-one pulled, attracted her. And she really couldn't think of herself in a relationship - as if it had simply been too long like this. Relationship. Even the word suggested distance, a personal tick-list, a static manoeuvre through needs, wants, basics. So many words, coastline American words, these days. Commitment. Issues. Commitment shouldn't be an issue. The word was love. Full stop. And like a clock at the hour of her - well - sentence, Marianne Castro just stopped loving.
Corbeau. Poppy used the term revenge but it was more than that. What was it? Why an odd, lonely cop looked at her like he did. She knew when men wanted her, and she could guess the signs of something stronger, pathological. The way he always puffed and posed and walked about the interview room. The way he threw questions without looking at her, at right angles and disregarding her response. Then recalling, some time later and with precision, every hesitation or change of tone in that response. All whilst ordering the policiers around with a wave. The way they had looked at him and then at her, lingering as their initial, confused smiles fell. This parade, this male show, obviously hadn't happened before. So the policiers were curious about Marianne Castro too.
And the way he waited in the dark. In his car, waiting for her. Pathological.
Rocco: "He's a stalker. Simple."
Tanith: "Eesh. What about all the stalkers folk don't know about? The ones that just watch?"
Poppy: "They'd be fans, stupid."
Marianne rereads his account. 'I see no reason to stop.' - he says of undressing her. 'Somehow we manage to hold both hands throughout.' Then - from what she had found out - this possibly impotent cop had had sex with her.
Rocco would stop, begin rubbing his chin: "Respect. There's a dormant market."
Whether it was consensual or not, it was certainly felt like the sex of spite. A desire to give her his impotence in a way. Paralyse her. Leave her like this and as tainted as he was. As unloving. Why her?
"Let it all out. Don't bottle it up. Put the feelings somewhere." This was the advice of the prison doctor who suggested she paint in the first place. A swift replacement to the fool she saw on remand who botched an abortion and perforated whatever.
She goes on reading. 'I will kill you.' He says she said. She may have. Or at least she couldn't remember. Poppy would take care of that. Marianne wanted to feel released. She wanted him with no power and no sense of him 'out there' . No place in her history. To dis-invest him - if that was a word.
She finally undoes the wrap, chops up and takes a line, throwing back her head as the body of powder vanishes. Grow up, Marianne. But when she lowers her head after inhaling - the sting at the back of her nasal passage and the sour, numb taste in her throat reminds her of Zak.
She runs a search for Anne Renaud on the internet. "Life is for living, not just existing." The author explains in an interview dated last year. "Don't bottle anything up. Just do it."
"Christophe Corbeau?" She asks.
"You couldn't make him up. So, don't I get flattened by your head-the-ball pal?"
"Condemned men prefer blondes. I ask myself why they're so popular." By her fourth attempt, Marianne had guessed the password protecting the Kazi palmtop - she now scrolls casually through some communications.
Against the wood and canvas backing of a painting which has been turned to face the wall, Daniel Dutronc can just about squirm inside the rope bindings that cut into his corset. He looks across the garage mezzanine area. "Not me. Blonde women have a daddy thing."
"As have you. A mail from Jeanne to say the test is positive. Congratulations. But. I can't guarantee you won't float out of here a little angel yourself."
Dutronc looks Marianne Castro in the eyes. You could tell. You could tell a killer - impervious to how others might see them - and she wasn't like that. Quite the opposite. She had a kind of rolling, ongoing autocritique. Self-awareness, charm. Someone everyone liked, but who had trouble seeing it or - sadder than that - someone whose troubles couldn't be eased by the love of others.
"You got it harsh, Marianne."
Well. Cops. She doesn't react. "And doesn't the whole world know it. I'm the picked-out kid when the class was going mad."
Dutronc lowers his head. The Dutroncs would be grandparents. "You wouldn't hand over that black book. It pointed right to the top they say."
And a misinformed cop. Marianne sniffs back a trace of powder, scrolls to the address section and Commissaire Choux's home details. 'I've been telling that cunt to stuff it for years' - the dog-eared notebook had reported. She closes the palmtop, sets in on the jotter, sits down and stares at this misinformed cop's ruined guts.
"You're not the only one who wants Christophe out of the picture." He looks along the floor.
It sounds like police sirens - Leo Me is tabbing through a selection of images that Cerys has loaded onto his brother's computer.
Alerted by the noise outside, Adam Shadow looks left and then at Cerys. "So soon, my God. I must return to my lonely space. Up there."
I stand up and approach him. "There was never any secret, Adam. You had a better start than you ever could have had with us. Our apartment was watched, we were always moved on. It was impossible."
He doesn't reply, turns from me then and indicates the computer screen and a newspaper cutting. A crash. "The Rose Circle vanished when a chartered plane came down in 1989, on their way to Oslo, where they had just called an international convention of psychics and tricksters. Two teenage boarders at a neighbouring Christian Brethren academy were first to arrive at the scene, where they risked their own lives trying to free survivors. A briefcase in a bush was on fire."
He turns back. "The documentation disclosed Rose Circle secrets, including some of the most potent secrets of all. The desiring machine. Anti-Oedipus." Close by - around the house - the sirens cease. Warning shots. We hear warning shots exchanged.
Adam Shadow steps up to the rope leading to the airship. "It's a shield, but it runs like a current in everything, everywhere. The love of God, some might say. Worth. Warmth. All we ever look for, in all our waking hours. And there might be a way to see it, taste it, behold the world anew and using new light."
With a glance back, Cerys begins hoisting herself up and through the shattered skylight. On screen, I am drawn to an image of a living room, losing it's colour. "1996. A squat in Homerton, East London. A desultory throughput of deadbeat rock bands and sex pests on ecstacy. An erudite, if leftfield, household."
I hear a scuffling across the rooftops, then the sound of the rotor engine moving into gear. Adam Shadow replaces his gloves and leaps upward and onto the rope.
"Everyone in that photograph is dead - possibly even the laughing cavalier on the left. The other teenage boarder and the closest thing I've ever had to a friend. Chessington Glover. Glover was expelled for breaking the ribs of a chief priest - the one who caned us for trespassing, leaving academy grounds without account, trying to save lives on that awful evening. A rule, you see, was still a rule."
"A fine mind, he spent eight years on the lower rungs of the art market but had become, according to one, an alcoholic fantasist and - I quote - quite possibly the loosest cannon in Christendom." Leo passes through several almost identical shots of a young man trying to fit a key into a front door.
"His work was always purchased by an unknown benefactor but - like many - Chessington wanted recognition. And when his better pieces were rejected for the 'Carnage' exhibition he forgot about art completely and took a position at a merchant bank. When he found out who ran the show he turned around and walked right out again. We're only market forces, a snapshot of desires. But he was never seen again."
As the ropes ascend, Adam Shadow throws a final look back at us over the edge of the skylight.
"New light for those in darkness. We still need our shadows, of course. Life would be a glare. But a torch for revolution or to mend a broken heart. It hasn't been the atomic bomb that kept the west at peace but our understanding of one another. It can reduce a nation to children, and whoever cracks it will leave a legacy unparalleled. Glover was convinced it was the one thing I am perfectly sure it isn't. In my ignorant way, I imagined it might be a father thing. I fear we were both wrong. No matter. So, Crying Cop - adieu. My apologies for inconveniencing all of you."
And he is gone.
Julianne Glover runs a finger along Anne Renaud's cheek. A bubble of saliva rises and drops from her mouth and onto the carpet. The author attempts to speak, but cannot. Julianne checks the label on a small plastic tubular bottle, then her watch - the Rohypnol would now be taking full effect.
She sits cross-legged and raises Anne's head off the carpet and onto her lap, where she brushes the author's hair back behind one ear. She kisses it gently.
"Shhh. Oh Anne. I'm glad the games are over. You won't be unhappy."
She looks across the bedroom and up to a high shelf and a ski boot box. "Shhh."
The fraying end of my Enrage rope reaches against and skips off the deepest curves of the gondola cabin - twice - before it eventually passes across a cast iron landing bar and returns to my hand.
"Hurry it." I look down. Paul Me's face begins to contort as his knees buckle under our weight. Leo - standing on his shoulders - urges me forward through the skylight as the airship begins it's ascent. I assist him through but neither of us have enough time to reach back - before the rope goes taut and our four feet swing clear from the slates on the roof.
"Where?" Six knees. Three legs cross. Cupped pairs of hands drape forward around each of the upper knees. The chauffeur of the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow waits for an answer from any one of three impassive, perfectly made-up mouths.