:: balistique :: Balistique is not a perfume but it holds you to a place or a person with the same tenacity as a perfume. You yearn for it, which means it often comes wrapped in pain - you can never define it to your senses - or your desires - in its absence. It is both a time and a distance, in the absence of both.

Malkmus is flopping across the grass, straight towards the still hot bullet. "Be careful!"

I am fumbling in the shade behind the gravestone, taking notes. It's all I can do. My heart has only now begun pounding - only now, taking notes with a pen in a notebook, do I feel afraid. I look quickly round, at the hill. Head spinning back through Balistique training. Weather conditions, altitude, terrain profile. Was it a high-angle shooting? Wind cross speed - was the wind to the shooter's right? Variations in the drag force, variations in the lift force. Bullet stability versus errors in the shooter. Angle of departure, azimuth. Balistique.

The rabbit has found the bullet. He stops and looks back at me from the spot on the grass where it came to rest after ricocheting off the marble upper edge of the memorial. The day didn't start this way. The day didn't start this way at all. But hiding here, I can see now how I should have known. I could have seen this Balistique was on it's way.

---

9:30 am. Sometimes I think that I'm more interested in the hutch. The rabbit is sitting on the sofa. I take another mouthful of cornflakes and lean inside the hutch, check the wood straw, check the hinges, feel for splinters, fasten the door and flick a fingertip against the wire mesh, listen in to the acoustics of the hutch. I look over. The rabbit is just sitting there on the sofa, rolled back, forepaws over his belly - watching me intently.

---

10:15 am. As the rabbit and I descend into the Metro I consider how straighforward the dynamics of my daily life are in comparison to those of my parents. It is the anniversary of my father's death, an event which always leads me to Cimetiere du Montparnasse with a bunch of station lilies. This year, for some reason, I do not bring flowers.

As I find a seat on the train it strikes me that even my excursions are relatively predestined. Contrast a journey on the Metro to the hectic family outings of my childhood. My cousin's wedding, for example. Getting dressed, gathering the dog, arranging the gifts and tartines, topping the radiator of the Citroen and ensuring that the roadmap is neatly tucked into the pouch of the driver-side door. It seemed to take forever, with my father questioning my mother from the street, my mother questioning me from the foot of the stairs, me questioning my father through the window. It took forever.

The rabbit is looking from my overcoat. I have not yet found a suitable mode of transport. People smile at him and I pray that he does not pee. I drift off staring at the back of someone's Liberation. The police are still on stike.

---

{1959. The Plat Pays. A midsummer, midday 45 degrees and Chip the crossbreed is thirsty. He lowers his snout through the window of the car and tastes at the wind with his parched tongue. He pants, shakes his head against my chest, begins crawling the back seat in search of drink. "Will we be stopping soon?" I ask. We are flying down the autoroute, late for my cousin's wedding.

Chip has thrown his head through the window again, his tongue now trailing behind, eyes maddening. He assizes the landscape and sky and sun for shimmering drink. My father doesn't reply.

"I believe we are five kilometres from the Church. Perhaps less," my mother says.

Before I can settle back against the roasting red leather and sigh to myself, the dog - whom I was beginning to notice make twitching movements in the triangular pad of muscle at the top of his legs - pushes himself with a spring and disappears left into the hot wind of the Plat Pays. I lean out to scream, but can only watch him tumble through the dirt on the roadside, roll to and right himself. I explain. My father checks the traffic, indicates and begins to slow us into the hard shoulder.

Consider this Balistique, God-like, from the sun. The tangent of our car, pulling in. My eyeline, following Chip as he shimmies quickly through a fence and unzips a perpendicular of dust across the field towards a pony standing at a trough. Both drink and I watch, not noticing that we have stopped, not noticing that the engine is already creaking as it cools.}

---

I pass through the gates and make my way thoughtlessly toward my father's grave, the rabbit in one pocket, a letter from Julianne in the other.

"Dear Christophe. I hope you are well.

First things first - old Le Stileau has been mentioned in the papers here! Apparently his daughter is a writer and created quite a stir on some television show. They seemed more interested in that than the old man. She wouldn't be drawn on the arrest but she's coming to London to speak about her book so I might pop along.

It's strange being back in London. Even before the train pulled out of Paris I was aware of all the English voices and the slightly different approach to fashion in the seats around me. The couple just behind were saying that they had ordered tuna in their sandwich but were given ham but that they should've complained sooner and possibly it was their mistake but they weren't sure. The ham might be okay if they got some mustard from the bar but would they be charged for that? Arrg. After ten minutes discussing bloody sandwiches they chuckled that the British were useless at this sort of thing and that we should be more like Americans. I sat there as we manoeuvered through the suburbs more and more dismayed at this circular conversation which solved nothing. I even turned and snapped at them and they just stared at me.

Anyway, Christophe - you'll be wondering why I'm here in London? I'm here to finally finalise a divorce. Surprised? It should only take a few weeks and I really hope to be back in Paris soon. I miss the laissez-faire and those desserts. Can you ice-skate?

You've become my best friend in a great city. Love, Julianne."

---

Honore et Honoree Corbeau lie in a quiet, unassuming corner of this great city. A white cement extension of paths lead from the old rambling Cimetiere with it's archangels and blackened green layers of moss, up an incline and through to pristine, unfussy modern stones. A mosaic field, three tones of grey or black marble sit in neat rows. Less eccentricity to the epitaph, less and less fuss every century.

Balistique differs from memory - it was waiting for us all along. It is not a perfume but it holds you to a place or a person with the same tenacity as a perfume. You yearn for it, which means it often comes wrapped in pain - you can never define it to your senses in its absence. It is both a time and a distance, in the absence of both.

Together forever. I scoop the rabbit out onto the grass and begin tidying the grave of leaves and litter.

The beginning of this Balistique is the sound of speed - the bullet going past my ear - versus the speed of sound - the late crack of a rifle - and the disconcerting Chinese eyes of a woman called Marianne Castro. The best synonym I can give you for Balistique is Beauty. The more erudite or seasoned might correct me - beauty which pleases the heart, they would say. And all the geometric hope we try to build from it.

Between realising what has happened and reacting, though, there could be what story-tellers unthinkingly refer to as 'flashback'.

---

1992. A proper little Bonnie and Clyde, they said. 1992 and the last woman I was in any way intimate with - beyond reading the same book together with Madame Djidda - was Marianne Castro. But that is not the only reason she wants to kill me.

Zak Bonnaire met Marianne Castro in the Bastille clubland. From banlieue tower block stock, he had no formal education and had been forced to quit the army after an incident which broke another soldier's neck. He drifted to Paris began selling ecstacy. Soon he'd built himself a name, supplying drugs-of-choice to DJs, students, tourists. At the heights of club culture in the summer of 1991, he turned 22 earning twice a policeman's wages. Life was a riot.

Marianne Castro. A restless, educated provincial who threw in university to model but never quite made the better agencies. She wanted to sing and trawled Bastille for a co-writer. And found something else.

Cocaine brought them together. God knows what their relationship was like but I would say that they used coke to fill the space between their personalities. Bonnaire was getting it straight from the docks in haversacks from fake floors. The drug was still elite and not cheap and Marianne was the perfect salewoman to young financiers and a raft of celebrities who moved through le Palace and les Bains Douches. The type who can guess just how grubby the stuff is but pay a little to a lot extra to watch it appear out of a Versace handbag. The type who prefer to pay a lot more, who pay for distance.

Marianne made friends and the whole charade put her to the test. She blossomed in more educated company who paid her to make cocaine exactly what they wanted it to be - exclusive, elite but kinetic and chic. The grander, younger house parties of Paris musn't shouldn't and couldn't stock up off anyone but Marianne Castro.

We brought them in. It was a mistake, we had nothing substantial to go on and they wouldn't open their little black books. Word got about that they were watertight and business went A-list, international.

I would stake out private roads after dark, on my own, watching Marianne sing-song her way down record industry garden paths toward a waiting car and her driver. As they pulled off I would sit there and recall her alone in the interview room, opposite me.

{Marianne Castro canít smoke. She picks her nails. She makes me laugh, which doesn't happen much. I ask her where she went to charm school.

"I just give people what they want."

"You could do so much more with your life, Marianne."

She's been looking at me like she's coming to some conclusions. She leans forward.

"You don't look like you enjoy life."

"I want evidence. Give me what I want, Marianne. You said you were a singer. Sing."

I give her back her Gitanes. I wonder what it would be like to be this dark star who canít give a damn. I think about her body.}

God only knows what their relationship was like. Castro was happier as a party girl. Bonnaire had a history of flipping. Dutronc and I listened to him threaten mess down the telephone to some compadre who'd had to share the boys-talk about his glamourous girlfriend. About how she was spending quality time with not just one but two of her best customers.

So I ordered the dawn raid for her. Lead a team of the more unquestioning officers though their cool-looking house near the Sacre Coeur. They were both still up, coked and Ė for a reason not transparent - freaked. Stupidly they hit the alleys, Bonnaire in his boxer shorts with a pretty handgun that was a gift. He couldnít even find the catch but aimed it anyway.

I don't like guns under normal circumstances. Consider this Balistique. Castro looks and swings in against the wall with her hands raised. Bonnaire keeps running and I shout twice. I look at her reaction as I fire.

The first time I let off a round in the line of duty I fan three eighths of a man's heart across the left of his left lung. He doesn't fall like people fall in the movies. He continues forward like he's slinking up descending steps, then walks for quite some time. But before Marianne Castro can get to where he stops, he pitches down to crack his head on the street, arms limp across his middle.

I take my time. Give her a chance she doesn't take. Walk to them and watch her gather Bonnaire up in her arms. Blood is seeping down the cobblestones and pours against her corduroys and the edges of her canary yellow chemise like the results schoolchildren love on litmus paper. Deep purple.

---

I cross the church. Marianne Castro is waiting by the coffin.

"I will kill you." Her disconcerting Chinese eyes. I feel like reaching out and drawing a finger around and down one side of her neck. "I know," I reply.

"We used to hide in one another. I feel naked now." She sets some white lilies on the heavy varnish of the hardwood.

We stand there in silence. "He seemed like the kind of man who keeps a woman on a tight leash."

A change in the midday clouds, better light reveals a rhombus of dust between us. "It's called love and it's not so bad." She lowers a cigarette through it and onto her lip. "After a time."

I take the Gitane away and kiss her. She doesn't move. I bite at her lower lip. She retreats. I put my arm across her back but she turns her head, wiping what might be a single bead of blood or lipstick.

"Someone likes getting straight to the point." She doesn't smile, gestures at me. Down there. I take my arm back, button my coat. What are you doing Corbeau?

I want to say something funny but I clean her cheek and let that finger caress her brow.

I see no reason to stop. I move closer again, drawn in with a desire for our shared warmth; it ignites some good musk applied, I suspect, to her belly and neck. She puts her arm around me but looks off at the hardwood. "Why did you do this to me?"

I slip a hand into her ink blue tunic and touch the uniquely soft flesh between her navel and the slim elastic edge of her knickers. I keep my palm there and kiss behind her ear. "Why me?" she asks the flowers and the varnish and the hardwood again.

We get down on the floor. I pull a crimson pew cushioning under us. My fingertips stroke the ripple of her backbone. I kiss away the other blood on her lip. She is almost wet. I slide inside, seeing several delicate variations in the tones of colour radiating in the gloss of her iris. Somehow we hold both hands throughout. She is filling my head with questions.

At orgasm her tummy tenses and her legs seek to lock, I slip out as she sits up to throw a faint sigh into my chest, then I watch her relax her face against the noticably cool air rolling down on us from the supreme Balistique that a vaulted church roof must, eventually and for us all, become.

"Scared," she whispers. There is no turning back, no reprieve. I try to lay her down again but she slings her legs together and cries. Neither of us have a choice in what this will become.

"You were coerced. I have threats on tape." I open her legs again. "No-one's going to put you away, Marianne. Trust me."

Marianne Castro got five years. The worst has been done and all Marianne Castro will do is kill me. What took her so long?

---

I believe the coast to be clear. I scramble across, pick the bullet out of the grass and usher the rabbit into my pocket. I fold my maps, their angles. Scramble back and rest against the gravestone. My heart is still pounding. I feel the rain begin.

"Dad. I never found the time. I genuinely believe that I might not make it back here next year, so.."

Throughout 1968 and our relationship Anne kept a diary. While Anne is in London, her house may be empty.

"Dad. I deliberately made things hard because I didn't want to do it for you. That's the way we were at times." It all sounds so commonplace as I say it. In fact it sounds like it doesn't scratch the surface at all. Circular conversation.

I look at the other gravestones, and wonder who is buried beside my parents. Wonder how respectable they were, wonder if their funerals were well attended.

"Sorry I never attended your funeral. But I'm here now." I wonder if they did good things, bad things, nothing.

"What to do, Dad? Look at me. I'm a fifty three year-old cop and I still feel like I haven't grown up at times." The rain toughens suddenly.

"I don't think deep thoughts. I don't seek reasoning. But. in it's absence. something just goes round in circles."

London. I have never been there. They claim London has moved closer since the tunnel was built. Which is Balistique too, one could say.

"Iíll give you what you want, Dad. Tell me. You'll always be there and I'll never know." But the rain eventually forces me to rise, turn my collar and make my way under the trees that lead to the gates and the Metro station.

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