"Passports. Identity cards." We enter the mouth of the Tunnel and descend under La Manche. Three customs officials swing through the carriage.
I am still holding a tissue to my nose. Brigitte cannot find her passport. "Merde. Or gadzooks I should begin to say."
"Inspecteur Corbeau." A customs official returns my passport and looks at Brigitte.
"She's with me."
Another customs official is banging on the toilet door. After a few minutes, the Winkworth singer emerges sniffling and holding onto the magazine editor Cantaloupe Sugden, who returns to her seat smirking. An argument flares.
"Don't push your own premier crew. We was both just busting." Winkworth recoils from some accusations, then spins back to throw the official against a wall. Other customs officers rush over and begin wrestling him onto a vacated seat.
I look to a small article in Deleuze. A picture of Marianne with some celebrities in les Bains Douches. Bad Old Days - notorious it-girl and cover star Marianne Castro, les Bains Douches 1992 L-R: Poppy Franco, Tanith Cash, Marianne, Rocco Schopenauer and friend. Marianne said of prison "I had a lot of time to think. I made interesting friends. I'm so keen to bury the past and with their help I will." We all say three cheers to that! Rocco Schopenauer. The entire Police Judiciaire want that punk. Dutronc, in particular and personally, wants one hour and a rough cell wall to permanently freak the cleaners with an action painting made from his smirking face.
I reach into my own bag - for some reason I brought my Enrage backpack - and bring out a dusty, cellophane, bouquiniste edition of Leopold Me's 'The Great Cup And Ball Swindle.' Courtesy of my best friend Pellerin.
"Eeesh. How long does this take? I'm claustro." Brigitte tries to see through her reflection and into the tunnel.
I look up to the ceiling and try to consider the water currently above my head. A pitch black, freezing cold megalith of water. What wrecks lie strewn across the floor of La Manche, what aquatic life drifts from its catacombs to waver a freakish eye through the gloom? What levels of understanding, if any, tick-tock slowly through the jellied walnut this creature has been cursed with for a brain? Perhaps we get the brains we require, any greater extension and we surely would begin to bore of our balistique and our environment, and we would find ourselves drowning in hyper-clarified madness.
"Eeesh. Oh thanks by the way. I'm not some black market baby. I have a carte somewhere." Brigitte sits back and stares at the ceiling. "What does London hold, CB?"
Why does she call me that? I cannot discuss the sinister Leopold Me with anyone except Sir Sebastian Nitrate, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
"I'm going to the Institut Francais to hear .. a lady talk."
"Freaky Friday. Me too. I hold myself responsible for Anne Renaud. I'm virtually her publicist. Well.. saddle up the ratings tiger. It's what they say."
It's what they say. I look at Brigitte staring at the ceiling. There a particular day. A day when something happened. A day which didn't seem like much at the time but a day which marked the end of your relationship with Anne Renaud. An image from Lautreamont's Maldoror comes to me, the image of an octopus hovering in the sky, tentacles large enough to encircle the planet. Perhaps this lunatic's curse at God was prophetic in some sense. I look up too. If the tunnel were to collapse, I wonder, would we be crushed like dropped spectacles or bourne up by the rush and the push of La Manche, spun from the tunnel and across the Kentish countryside like a wobbling javelin.
I look about the carriage. The rest of the rock band have gone to the bar. Four of us, alone. Whittington Winkworth seems to have fallen asleep on Cantaloupe Sugden's shoulder. She appears bored and has begun staring at Brigitte and myself. I'm beginning to wonder the merits of travelling first class. I'm beginning to wonder who Julianne is divorcing and whether I should try to contact her in London. Her best friend in a great city, she said. In certain contexts, of course, the word 'friend' is a line which says 'Do Not Cross'. I have never crossed it since Anne and should not feel too surprised. What is the Rose Circle?
"What country are we in right now?" Cantaloupe asks no-one in particular.
I try to begin the 'The Great Cup And Ball Swindle', try to see through my reflection and into the tunnel.
"What game is this?" Cantaloupe slips across to join Brigitte staring at the ceiling.
"We were just thinking about what's above our heads."
Quite suddenly, the lights dim. Only five minutes from England, it feels as if all electricity has been robbed from the TGVs wheels and brake system. The train disengages, then freewheels along to inertia.
"What's going on?" Cantaloupe tries to open one of the sliding doors. As the passengers in the carriage beyond look through and show us their confusion with shrugs, the tannoy crackles.
"Bar's closing, folks. This is La Manche Liberation Army. Your driver will explain."
The train is filled with groans.
"Hear that? Doesn't know if he's coming or going, what's the world coming to?"
The LMLA. International, dispossessed economics drop-outs coming on like a Baader Meinhof mail-bomb in a Gites De France brochure. Modus Operandi du jour: tickle my country till she's wriggling in sandal-wearing, chateau-snatching nouveau riche. Blindside the operation with clueless gooks paid in packed sandwiches to wander up the tunnel the other way. The gooks get carted out again but there's always twice as many as went in. Two weeks later another pretty village in the Pyrenees can't move for fried brie and the local kids slumber ten to a dumpster. And no-one's noticed a thing. Brilliantly simple.
"I'd get cosy, y'all. We're just getting another ghetto-full of brave brothers and sisters through. But any trouble, everyone's tooled up as freedom-seekers got every right to be."
I hear movement, look through the window, into the gloom. Heads bowed like cattle, whispering, they pass our window and continue their long march to the rendezvous point. A dozen. Two. Laura Ashley. Polo shirts and Sunday supplements. As an emergency arc light begins to flicker into life, one turns to me then and grins within its halo like a babe insane. Slobbering thoughtlessly, feverish for a republican utopia full of Petits Ecolier biscuits. My God. I have to turn away.
Someone in another carriage screams. The tannoy crackles. "What was that? Someone swapping howlers at the back? This'll make you laugh."
On the opposite side of the train, I hear a bottle smash very close to our carriage. Flames begin to pour up the walls. The LMLA have never seen the need to get quite so nasty in the past.
"We're not afraid to die for La Manche. Uli, the decks." Crackle. Do you remember the day we met? That's the day I knew you were my pet. I want to tell you how much I love you.
The screamer in the other carriage flutes up again - from a spiralling whimper of confusion to a sustained falsetto. Whittington Winkworth sings along. Come with me, my love, to the sea - the Sea Of Love. I want to tell you how much I love you.
"Bring me your huddled massive. Toast the folks through level two, Ulrich."
"Thanks. Today I'm modelling bespoke Ukranian hand luggage. Plutonium silver-white, they're sure to turn any catwalk into thirty square miles of heavily marinaded mortal coil. It's time for a little trade off, and someone up front knows exactly what we mean. But any shit from Action Man and those walls over there take off like a plaster leg cast. Try even sniffing this door handle and they'll hear my knees jerk in Spitzbergen. A million squids will think it's Christmas."
Cantaloupe is trying the window. "I'm not dying here like this. This is insanity."
"What are you doing, lady?" Winkworth grabs her and shakes her.
"We'll be fine. What say, CB?" Brigitte turns.
I'm not sure that we will be fine and I think Brigitte can tell. Last week, the LMLA safe-houses were all spring cleaned. This must be some new, much more desperate, splinter activity.
Winkworth fiddles with the laptop. "Gotta .. see if we can .. communicate to the outside world. Tell someone.."
The tannoy crackles. "No-one wants to be cod scran. So just bring us all those Euros up front so-called policeman Corbeau."
Something horrible dawns in my imagination. Brigitte looks perplexed. The real LMLA - hand in glove with Leopold Me. A plutonium fist in a psychic mitten. Demanding the exchange much sooner than anyone could have forseen. "See you soon."
We are situated in carriage 'A' - the closest to the drivers cabin, with a luggage store between. "Friends of yours, CB?"
Cantaloupe Sugden grasps my shoulder. "Have you got want they want? Give it to them."
Whittington Winkworth stands. "The ladie's right."
I look at the contents of my Enrage backpack. Ropes. A torch. Maps of Paris.
Brigitte seems to know, deflates, looks at the ceiling. "Can I have a hug, CB?"
I'd rather not.
"Touch remains the more neglected sense, no?"
"I'd rather not."
The lock system for the doors along the length of the train - still shut down. A fatalistic calm seems to have gripped the passengers in 'B'. Some play with their children, finding it hard to smile. Others try to read, not really reading. But the handle on the doors through the luggage store to the drivers cabin turn easily. Cantaloupe Sudgen pushes past me and disappears around a wall of cases.
Winkworth chooses some low music on the laptop and announces to us all that he will take the fear he feels as inspiration to lyricise. Something to scream as his body embraces La Manche. I too have begun to write in my pocket notebook. Negotiation. I wish I had a gun. I check my watch.
Less than an hour ago I said to myself that fatality in the line of duty was an act that one must be prepared to accept. Actually I used the term 'be considered'. What odd slips you make at times, Christophe. So. Negotiation. And since when do you refer to yourself as Christophe?
Where is she? She has distanced herself from us, I find her sitting in another group of seats with her notebook and pen, positioned in a way that is quite businesslike. But Brigitte is crying. I never would have believed that such a frothy young lady could possess the infinite framework, the unpleasant wherewithal required for tears. I have explained what I can about our current predicament. There is deep risk at this time but something draws me to leave aside my strategies for a moment to consider Brigitte's cheek. The difference, and it strikes me, is how the tears appear and roll slowly to her weak smile. And how she can simply shake her head once and look off into the tunnel and say, "This is not looking hopeful. Is it, CB?"
Brigitte doesn't even notice that she is crying. "Why put one word in front of another?" She cocks her head, throws her notebook away. "Face facts, in two minutes everything is utter yark."
Winkworth's eyes suddenly widen. "What's your beef, sister? The policeman's thinking. And did I ever sing like I want to spend the rest of forever in bed with WH Auden?"
He hands her the notebook again, points. "But somewhere up there a nation of kids are pulling out their Street Fighter fingers so fast you can almost taste those old cats going flat. And in a doubles match between 'the dark cold day of his death' and a well-meant spinning backfist, the smart money struggles hard without Sylvia Plath's infamous face slam. Coleridge too could've done so much more with a secret shrinking flip but there's no regrets. You write as in right now. I do it for the chicks, the cheques and the headlines. There's no deadlines. This is our time - ticking away prettier than that bomb up there. La Manche is love, don't you see? My love is a schizophrenic ship that wants one thing - to blow herself to bits. Boys become men when they can look her in the tits and think 'Blow me'. So stand up, BKD."
Brigitte rubs her cheek.
"It's called destiny, child. Let's dance." They begin dancing as Cantaloupe returns.
"Here's something to write home about." A large grip filled with copies of April's Deleuze. "Whittington, lolly."
"Pardonnez. Hi-hat time." He reaches up and pulls down a flight case. Bags of pills. A few bundles of band Euros.
Cantaloupe begins topping the grip with a layer of cash. This is risky -
The tannoy crackles. "Pens down, kids. Inspecteur Corbeau has no more time and counting."
"I have all those Euros." I am negotiating.
The driver's door opens, a hand takes the bag. The door closes.
"There'll be no more bending or disappearance acts, boys. And there's a Gite or so in it for any information leading to the capture of Leopold Me. I can arr-"
Noise. Outside. The echo of a revving mobylette. We look and are confronted by a pair of disturbing faces, turning briefly through of a pool of carriage window light which criss-crosses the tunnel wall as we strain to see.
"Five minutes to boom bang boom, Corbeau! Ha." The speaker hunches against his friend, pats the grip and they leave us with dizzy rasps that echo behind the mobylette's acceleration toward the Kentish countryside.
Cantaloupe Sudgen lunges at me. "Drive like a bastard. It's our only chance."
I look at the driver's door, want to back off but she is prodding me. "Get us out of here."
"Yeah." Winkworth leans forward. "You're the cop. No-one else needs the medal."
The driver's door. "I can't.." Cantaloupe raises a hand to urge me to speak. I look through a sudden wall of water, wave my head around. Whittington checks his nails.
"I can't .. drive. Anything. Even if I could .."
Now they're all looking at me.
"I don't know how to .. drive." I can feel my mouth begin to shake as my words lose all meaning. I want to wrap my head into my arms and begin folding myself into and around my own private chasm of pain.
"Confessions of a Paris Metro chappie's daughter, CB."
Cantaloupe Sugden is swinging a fire extinguisher hard against the door. "We're getting out of this fucking insanity and if Marie Claire asks we were chained up crouching in boxes." Winkworth centres himself into a martial arts position, then joins in with heavy kicks. The door gives way.
I lean my head in. The driver is out cold, the Ukranian hand luggage lies across his chest. Brigitte climbs past and onto the front seat. "Durrr. Um. There's the fellow."
The train stutters and begins to reverse. Cheers break out along it's length. "Please!" I blow my fingers and approach the case. Winkworth clings to Cantaloupe as I flip it open. A magician's cup, a ball.
7:56 pm. Waterloo Station. My body is aching all over. We have spent the day shunting across Kent at varying rates of slow.
I rub my arms and legs. Winkworth and Cantaloupe wake from their sleep, the driver is still comatose. My itinerary stated that today I should have acquainted myself with London - which I certainly no longer have the time to do. Owning to the nature of my work, I feel it's best if I do not get involved with unnecessary distractions here, but Brigitte and I are late for Anne's contribution to a discussion on the events of May 1968 at the Institut Francais.
At last, the TGV rests against the buffers and the doors open. "Yayy." I want to hear Anne. But I am increasingly intrigued by her husband, Alain Renaud.
Brigitte casts a mobile phone number back at the others as we clamber from the train. The scene in the terminal is suitably chaotic - relieved friends or relatives break makeshift police lines to find and embrace running fellow passengers. I see several Met officers begin to look carefully at me. They move, possibly recognising and wishing to speak to me. I pull Brigitte ahead and we lose ourselves in the chaos.
Suddenly and strangely, a customs official with a strange blue permanent wave asks us to pause. She looks at my face, then puckers her lips for a kiss. I pass on but am drawn to look back. She is still watching me.
8:15 pm. The taxi. I look out, notice the distinctively British choice in cars and a paler hue in the street lights. Various odd shop titles. Brigitte's eyes are sore from the sun and from driving. I ask him to wait, go into a corner shop for eye drops.
8:24 pm. We rush from the taxi, through the Institut and apologise our way to some vacant seats at the back of the hall. We've missed a documentary but from where we are positioned I can just about see Anne on stage, central to a group of people debating and responding to questions. I cannot see Renaud.
"..when the main Communist trade union refused to back us because what we were doing wasn't on their terms."
Someone who seems to be chairing nods solemnly. "Shades of the Spanish Civil War again. Next question?"
A stocky man with narrow glasses throws his arms into the air. "I resent that. The organisation of a self-appointed vanguard for the oppressed as some ruling class for the purpose of suppressing oppressors could only result in an expansion of anti-dialectic streams of democracy."
Anne. I must say that she is dressed very well. Anne, I recall, was always complimented on her sartorial gout. Even as an activist, or managing along on our low pay, she somehow brought a contemporary yet dignified fizz to everything she wore. Sitting in the Belleville flat, curled up inside a baggy jumper - that baggy jumper somehow had some extra glow, a quality.
"Just another extension of the submission to and contradiction of the apparatus those very oppressors use to build active class relations that themselves become individual manifestations independent of individuals."
"Sir, please. Anyone different?"
As Brigitte passes me a toffee, a man with a grim expression rises slowly to his feet. "Thanks. Chieftain Ringer, Smashing Fascism. Madame Renaud. Your father was recently arrested.."
Anne leans forward. She smiles. "I won't discuss that."
He continues. "..you fuck on chatshows and this afternoon French radio tells us your daughter likes filling boys with whiskey - for rough games with an old 'friend' of yours."
I choke the toffee for almost four rows. Its recipient yelps and stands.
"I really don't know what you're talking about." Anne backs away, looks at another guest for some sort of explanation.
"Is there any moral line you refuse to cross in search of publicity? Or are you just determined to rub some .." The questionner snorts. "French thing in our faces?"
"I don't think Anne's here to justify her personal life. The man standing."
"He just spat a toffee at me."
"Sir, you've a point?"
Someone on the stage guffaws. "Deliberate spontaneous intervention. Descending into proto-Situationist posturing, I have no doubt."
"Possibly." The chair looks concerned.
Anne raises a hand. "He's just giving us something to chew on." Laughter. The audience turn to look at me. But my eye is suddenly caught by something else.
"Possibly. The toffee man? Explain yourself. Raising an arm is sufficient here."
Brigitte jumps up. "I'd like to ask Anne Renaud .."
I pull her down again so hard she screams. A bullet ricochets off the wall and the entire hall turns or jumps forward.
The real LMLA stride about waving a Deleuze. "Sit down. Where's Corbeau and all those Euros?" Another shot is put into the ceiling.
The hall tenses as the echo of the second shot descends. A collective whisper of breath is taken and held, heard fear. People seem magnetised in the midst of one another and by our situation. The stocky man with narrow glasses breaks into a nervous babble but a gun is immediately angled at him.
I look around, stand up with my hands raised. These men have proven their desperation and those firearms will be safer dealt with - if that is possible - outside. As I squeeze Brigitte's shoulder and begin to file past towards the exit I suddenly realise how vulnerable I feel. I don't really know this city at all, I don't know the people. I look briefly at the stage and at Anne. Frozen too, her body is turned for flight though her arms have gone quite limp and her eyes lower gently to the stage floor - those of someone who sees that there will never be an answer to the greatest of our questions.
I turn again to the real LMLA. Somewhat shocked, I stop. Alain Renaud is walking towards me - behind them, between them - an unlit cigar in his mouth, zipping up his trousers. "Corbeau! What's all the .. noise?"
It happens too quickly to explain. The real LMLA turn, one raises a gun. Brigitte throws herself - with a force unforseeable - against his side and he sprawls to the floor. Renaud successfully takes a kick at the other's hand. He spins, the revolver discharges a round, but I catch his forearm and bend it with tenacity while Renaud punches him around the face. Several others swarm to the floor and manage to firmly pin his struggling compadre there.
9:15 pm. Brigitte and I are waiting on the streets of South Kensington. We've given our details to the assembled police. Their senior officer is trying to get through to Sir Sebastian Nitrate on the telephone. The real LMLA have been handcuffed and vanned. We watch it disappear quickly around a corner.
"Yark! Brioche. Begone." Brigitte is looking through the window of a closed patisserie. "I'm starving, CB."
Anne appears at the door of Institut. Renaud has placed his overcoat about her shoulders and leads her in silence along the road towards his car. As I approach, Anne slips quickly onto the passenger's seat and Renaud half rushes to meet me - a look of seriousness turning his mouth into a snarl at the edges behind a hand thrown deliberately ahead.
"Stay there. Don't come any closer. I can't speak to you until I've spoken to my daughter and our legal advisors."
9:34 pm. I am dipping some celebratory scampi around and through a pool of HP sauce when Brigitte's mobile phone begins to vibrate across the table. She turns to converse in a very fresh slang I cannot quite grasp, nor do I wish to. I chew half-heartedly.
The thoughts going about in my head are as rich and impenetrable as this nebula of sauce on my plate. I read the ingredients. What would be my next move if I was the sinister Leopold Me? First I must meet with Sir Sebastian. I look around. A homeless boy is being ushered onto the streets by a waitress. He has a scraggly beard, a secondhand coat and his softly-lashed eyes - those of the over-rated Shakespeare.
There must have been a particular day. A day when something happened. A day which didn't seem like much at the time but a day when Anne Le Stileau knew that Christophe Corbeau was not the person she would spend the rest of her life with. And when Christophe Corbeau backed through a line that says 'Do Not Cross' in affairs of the heart. I cross my cutlery over the swirl on my plate.
"CB!" Brigitte ends the call, rummages through her bag for a copy of Now About. "Slide into anything Bench, we're on the guest list at the Polytechnic."
"I cannot join you, I'm afraid. I dance.. idiosyncratically. Very. Look, Brigitte. I want to thank you for everything, but I'm here on business and .."
"Bim." She flips through the magazine aggressively, hands it to me. Clubs. The Polytechnic.
Yes indeed. Dalston's notorious Polytechnic - where the shockingly young flock to "relive their forthcoming student years". Tonight live music from Queen Of Swords Reversed aided and abetted by the self-proclaimed Naked Magician Leopold Me - who promises to hypotise the kids " to an unnatural high" that'll leave them "suspended in the rafters of their heads for some time."
Well well. It looks like the Naked Magician wants to bash out some goon soup. Cherry-picked to hand-deliver his nasty fancy-work. Right up to the posh end of the Mall.