"It's colder tonight. Do you feel that? Like the push of a wind but moving .. so .. little.
What's happening? Well. I did a shoot today. It keeps me here another month which might be all I need. He'll be coming back. Or..
I think it's too strange sometimes and I think I can't do this. I love you, babe. You know I do. But you're just not here. Not here. That's what I hate. Here where I can feel you, see you smile. Lay your head along my shoulder, touch me, tell me. Anything. It's strange, you know. I hate this sometimes and you've got to understand that.
Rocco talked about me today. He tells people who he's had here. What has anyone had? No-one here gets anything. People sleep with people for a million reasons, I know. I try not to think about that. No-one will ever have my love like you, the world can take my body. The callers keep the crew amused, the telecoms upgrade went live last night, the bitching gets to me less and less - I can't say why. I just find myself waiting to come out here to ask the wind where to put the feelings I have.
I want to say sorry. Sorry it wasn't me the policeman killed. In a way it was. The worst thing .. the worst thing is that I sometimes think it might have been for the best. You know? Tell me to stop. But it feels like someone, like the devil, sent him.
And you have to ask - what would the devil want of me? Why me? And did he even know what he was doing? All I know is that I am here, that there's nothing left to say and that this is hell already."
Marianne Castro slips off a swing suspended in the middle courtyard of the Orly ranch. "And whatever makes a person lovable or even just themselves - I'm glad it was buried with you."
Tanith Cash is up on the first floor, leaning out and listening. Once Marianne has returned to the house, the light from the kitchen window will die and Marianne will take a shower and retire to bed. Tanith used to write this monologue down. Just in case. But lately it's been longer and going round in circles and Rocco can't see why she's worried. So she doesn't write it down any more. "I wish I could do what you do, Tanith. If I could do what you do life would just wash over me." Marianne Castro once had said. "You're emotionally indestructible."
Indestructible. Tanith always thought she was missing something when it came to emotions. People were just there. People came. People left. People moved on.
"Where's the devil, baby boy?" Tanith falls across the bed and meets the rabbit's eyes. She didn't want to go to jail and she didn't want that old lady to die. At the sound of the lock on the bathroom door unfastening, the rabbit begins to shake.
"I heard her in the garden again."
Poppy Franco towels her hair, raises her eyes. "Marianne?"
"Talking to Bonnaire. The usual. I still love you. But you're not around. Why doesn't she get over it?"
"Just do as you're paid. It's eye for an eye time."
"I don't know this cop but .. she did a little stir. Developed her skills. Big deal."
Poppy erupts, swipes the rabbit from the bed. He rights himself and flipperty flops for cover. "She was vulnerable. He knew. He virtually had her without consent."
"Consent." Tanith laughs. "You want 'yes Christ yes' countersigned by a lawyer? As my uncle used to say, nothing happened a girl ain't built for."
"You're so totally sick. Even more pressing - you snore. Sooner Marianne and me are out of this freakshow the better. I don't like what I'm forced to look at here."
Tanith turns and searches under the bed. "No-one's forcing you to look at anything. What makes you think she wants to take you anywhere?"
"I've been the perks of the job for some low-respecting monster too. It's all about power."
Tanith lies back and places the rabbit on her chest. "Call it power if that helps. But ask the men concerned how hot they are for magistrates. Not a lot. Are you, baby boy? They're just animals, Poppy."
Poppy Franco doesn't want to talk. She sits on the edge of her bed. She looks at Tanith's toe-ring.
~ You've seen the scenes Marianne and I do, haven't you? We're like velcro together. Like we can read what one another's thinking. ~
Blah Blah Blah. In her own quiet way, Tanith likes to hurt. Tanith hurts Poppy.
"It's your perception, see. It's all in the mind." Tanith says, but Poppy doesn't want to listen.
"You're all in the frickin mind, Tanith."
His insomnia was back and this time he knew why. 'Burkha Madness' The work of a man snubbed. Controversial. Kiss this.
Some cancelled afternoon shoot time, a trainee camera operator with nowhere to sleep and a bunch of Hungarian modern dance students just off the Euroline whose names he didn't even ask for. Afghanistan looked to be resident in the papers for some time when Rocco Schopenhauer stopped by an outfitters in la Goutte D'Or for some burkhas. Rocco Schopenauer didnít need the Phoenix Adult Awards. He just didnít need them. Kiss this.
On reflection, what strikes him now was that it was just twenty four hours after it had been confirmed that his 'Barely Sober' series - in which he had put the culmination of his skills as an adult filmmaker and over seventeen thousand Euros from The Orly Man's pocket - had been snubbed Ė it strikes him that this was the day he decided to shoot 'Burkha Madness'.
And it had been. Madness. A moment of almost exquisite madness. A scene from one's life one could almost define as spite, self-harm. A dark laugh, a deed or several words away from the public destruction of something good. I'll regret this. Yet something still propels me. Take your support and shove it. We've all done that.
He sits up in bed. His insomnia was back. Something crucial cannot stop talking. He listens to the house. Silence.
He stands up slowly and crosses to the mirror. He looked tired during the shoots, which could not be good. He looks back at his empty bed and - for a moment - feels a temptation to ask one of the girls to join him. Just to hold him, just to sleep.
His psychotherapist had stopped by late that afternoon.
"I want you to close your eyes and remember. Remember a film." He had said.
Rocco Schopenhauer had done this. "Yes."
"Detach yourself. Some scene from any film. You choose.."
"Now hold the scene."
Hate mail was part of his job too. Pressure from womenís groups paralleled his video sales. Destroying. Eroding. Exploiting. He had standard responses. Did it matter? The women he worked with came to his studio bananas and left them able to reconnect their electricity.
"Which film are you remembering?"
"The film I canít forget, you bozo. Burkha Madness."
He had sat up abruptly and swung his legs off the couch, reached into his pocket and produced yet another postcard - some fountains in Islamabad. East London post mark. Rocco Schopenhauerís psychotherapist had turned it over. PAL YOUR ACTUALY OUT OF ORDER AND SOON DEAD MEAT
Rocco sits back on the bed and looks about the room. Safehouses rarely came this plush but, to be perfectly truthful, he'd never been comfortable here. The Orly Man. But - faced with the option of retirement and a return to Wuppertal (should he put his hardcore name to a proposed stout and oyster bar or would that be trash? - if he went that route would it ever say 'hygiene'?) - anyway, he had decided to wait it out for six months, relocate to the Orly ranch, see if things blew over.
He wasn't sure why he wasn't comfortable. Security seemed tight. Some of the girls found it easier to access. He wanted to make amends.
"I want to say sorry to those I have offended." Perhaps he could make a film that would say sorry in some way. Debbie Wouldn't Dream Of Doing Anywhere. The Sinfidels.
Oh, man. He rubs his face. Go to sleep.
He curls up on his bed, rearranges a pillow and holds it. Odd - in his chosen profession - to sleep alone. How many girls have you slept with, Rocco? One. He'd slept with one. As in slept. Asked if there was any sexual act he had not tried but wished to, what always struck him - in those interviews - was that he had never come against a cervix. Since losing his virginity at fifteen and through twelve years of hardcore - this was the only sexual thing he'd never experienced. Not that it would actually feel like much.
Sign o' the times, he always shrugged.
Something rattling along the ranch gates. An exterior spotlight goes on. Rocco moves to the window. Nothing. The wind out at Orly was often peculiar.
He wanders down the corridor in the darkness, then through the dropped level salon. The soft, square, white leather sofas seem to glow a little and he can still smell generic disinfectant. The webcast salon. What would you like me to do? Use it. Slower. Take it. Eat that. Suck them off. She likes it. Bitch. He looks through the fridge but isn't hungry.
In the darkened office adjoining the kitchen, while his computer powers up, he shields his face to look past his own reflection. Beyond the ranch grounds, beyond a steel fence around the lights - the west runway - Runway 4 - curves around to parallel a totally indistinguishable horizon, then begins tapering into a vanishing point. Another destination. The exterior spotlight stops and - after a while - his eyes adjust into the night.
He places one against the viewer of a large telescope and angles it up and into the stars. How many, Rocco? His one girlfriend. She was no-one anyone has heard of. Nor was he at that time. Just a couple of confused, blushing kids. Breaking from their families. He imagines she is married now - somewhere - with her own children. And he sometimes imagines she is watching.
He's a liar. Rocco and his sister Claudia shared a room in the Wuppertal farm. Co-acting, play, it was only honest talk - nothing had happened. Rocco used to have a strong imagination. But he had slept with her.
Just then - a scraping noise disturbs him. The webcast salon.
A low, heavy, wavering scrape across the floor. Which stops abruptly.
"The umbrella of shared ideology? Left and right? Mere fruits of the printing press, the mechanical transport of thoughts. Bespoke ideals can now be moulded." Leopold Me points to a sausage maker as we pass through the kitchen in his cabin and into the back yard. The trees are silvered in the starlight, we pass the crest of a hill. "Last year's anarchists are tomorrow's forward thinkers."
"Down there, new homes. Thousands, affordable. Text-messaging youth snookered by Thatcher's dream have no need to be another generation of cap-in-hand one pound poms." He waves the whiskey bottle over the valley. "Welcome to Me Valley. Come."
We descend across hard, dissecting troughs - deep tracks of moulded chevrons leading to a giant bulldozer. It seems to watch us - hanging silvered clouds in the cabin glass.
"Jobs are blocks, blocks of production, and blocks are bricks which stand in the way of true ambition. Primeval man did no work - for he used his full self. Me Valley will be like that."
Foundations cut into the earth, concrete ingredients ready to be mixed. A gargantuan steel container swings below a pitch-sized tractor crane, the like of which I have never before seen. "A Dutch design. Pour the mould on Monday, cabled up and Cocoa Pops by Thursday evening. Blackwater shopping centre is just over there."
He leads me across a stretch of grass to a dilapidated portacabin, stops and turns at the door. "What's the point? Why bother? More urban strife, more graffiti. We must learn from our mistakes." He unlocks the portacabin and ushers me inside.
"All graffiti says one thing, Corbeau. Listen, I'm here. No-one will be excluded in Me Valley. Ever. I know that pain. Never again will some elite lose my application form and never again will.." He looks down as I take a seat at a makeshift table. "..brainy kids refuse the hand of friendship I most earnestly offer on my very bended knees." Another slug of whiskey, his eyes immediately begin to glaze.
"Something is missing from your picture, Corbeau. You're a good man but you could've been better." With the flick of a remote, the lights dim and a projector suspended from the ceiling begins to cast moving imagery across the space to a wall. Silent, it looks like Super 8 - copied and enhanced. I look away for a moment, up to the blades of a tiny fan spinning. Where did he get this?
I turn. "Don't." I say. But Leopold Me is gone.
>> MEDICO-LEGALE >> POLICE JUDICIAIRE >> INTERDIT
Universal police key number eight fits the bolt. Dutronc unlocks the door to Christophe Corbeau's apartment and ushers Brigitte under the tape.
What was she doing? She'd accepted a lift and, while he was paying for petrol, picked up a book on the dashboard of his Lexus entitled 'Raise Your Inner Eagle'. Self-help. Positive approach. Time management and life coaching. Pencil lines around particular phrases. She'd been wondering what she could do when she left the programme and it seemed to her that writing this sort of thing might be profitable.
'Some people take what they're given. Women especially work harder and wait for their efforts to be noticed. Deserve more.' Then a pie chart. 'Rate your fulfilment on each of these life-slices. Join the dots - how well balanced is your circle? 1. Work 2. Home 3. Family 4. Reward. In five years, do you think your circle will be more closed or more open? Why?'
"Please." Dutronc had scowled at her upon his return, snatching the book away, staring ahead, then passing her her Orangina.
And now they were here. Kind of a contrast. Old-fashioned Parisian block. Chipped sink. Vinyl albums, paperbacks piled on badly dusted shelves in varying shades of wood. Checked table cloth. Some shoe polish and a rag on the table. Plants - a Washingtonia. Cups of water.
"What are we looking for?" She asks. She flips open a notebook on the table. A story begins - "In 1452, a Japanese peasant was walking down the road. He looked at his watch - it was getting late. It's getting late! he cried to his little piglet friend." She flicks on further. Another - "My father was a parachutiste in Algiers under Massu."
It doesn't take Dutronc long to find the Marianne Castro file. Brigitte waters the plants and they sit on a flat sofa which looks - by the small table and alarm clock positioned beside it - as if until recently it had began to double as a bed.
"Christophe was behind sending this lady away." Dutronc holds up a Marie France spread. "Even we were shocked by the sentence, a little harsh. I think they wanted to set an example. She had a bad time in prison."
Brigitte pops gum into her mouth as he continues. "She just mixed in too easily with a bad sort. And a bad man I failed to pin anything on."
She shakes her head slowly, staring into space. "This whole shebang sounds .. bad."
Rocco Schopenhauer returns to the office. The salon had been empty when he looked, save for the glow of the white leather, the blink of a minute passing on a DVD clock, the principle camera on it's pod. He had descended the step and crossed to the Goya, where he ran a finger up one side to check for a split or blade marks. If someone was going to steal anything it would probably be that. He preferred the heliocentric designs in the bedrooms, too often the Goya felt like the work of a prisoner trying to rattle his psychosis to an occupant of any adjoining cell.
He stood back. Fortunes through hardcore were rare but it often found itself serving as a kind of social sport. For a certain kind of rich man. The recluse, the controller. Sitting back. Watching others do their thing. Implicated. The Orly Man.
As he checks his emails, Rocco is drawn again to consider his youthful days in Wuppertal. The good sleep of youth, an intoxicated child after an afternoon and evening's play - dropping quickly to the deepest basements of the mind, some part of it still exploring the writing inside the Space Park's concrete pipes, still feeling the focus of the push to and fro - an uphill bike ride back to the farm. This sort of sleep was something he had not felt for an awfully long time.
"Thanks for your support, Benjamin. Remember at Schopenhauer Productions - The Stars Are All Yours. Tanith and I await your directions 3pm EST tomorro.."
He yawns. He wants to make a real film. Hardcore started life a good thing - two fingers up to bourgeois constraints. Not this glorified peep show.
Again, that scraping noise startles him. Another low, heavy scape across the webcast salon floor. This time accompanied by a whisper. He stands very quietly and leans an eye through. At once, his heart slows to a stop, his breath taken.
A shrouded figure, flitting as if taken by the wind but another - more - similar things - moving directly over the salon towards him. It stops, the various spectres rendezvous - this figure then raises up a tin cup.
"Please." A thin, pathetic female voice. "Please."
Rocco hurries through the house, past Poppy and Tanith's room, and knocks gently on Marianne's door.
Marianne Castro admits him with a cautious look. She had heard him pacing the house before. Occasionally she had met him taking some night air on those occasions she had been late to retire herself. But he'd been silent, smoking. Waiting. And never with that look of urgency in his eyes. "What?"
"Marianne.. there's a ghost here."
They lie. Rocco curls against her shoulder and drapes an arm over her middle. He looks around the room on the rise and fall of her chest, closes his eyes against the pulse in her neck.
~Anne and I leaving Chapel St Eustache. 1970. She will shield her eyes against the sunlight with a bouquet of cream open roses, and azaleas in rose leaf. With difficulty, her friend Sylvie will catch this bouquet, spin to the camera and throw a proud fist into the air. A hand unknown will come in from the left - and theatrically try to grasp them away. She will pull the flowers to safety and Anne and I both smile as we pass at the bottom of the steps~
"Don't." I repeat, there in that portacabin, my eyes closed.
The sunlight flooding through the east wing of the ranch awakens Rocco Schopenhauer. Marianne Castro has gone. He checks the clock, late - then runs for a shower, through the kitchen and into the webcast salon. The crew are there already, joshing with one another.
He grabs a cigarette on the patio where Marianne is sitting with Tanith's baby. She puts half a spoonful of baby food into her own mouth and rolls her eyes. "Mmm." Watching her, the child concedes to taste the other half.
"Thanks for last night."
Marianne looks up though her sunglasses and shrugs.
Tanith Cash has her first caller. "Let's see you put another one up there, sugar. Make that doodah sing."
"You don't want me to hurt myself, baby."
"Says who? Listen, sugar, no is a word I can get at home. Practically any time I choose."
"Isn't she just."
"Three's my limit."
"Let me live the dream. One more says I'm your millionth caller, a special boy."
"Why enjoy taking people where they don't want to go?"
"Mommie didn't love me. Threw me out in the snow. Shit. Now I know why they're called shrinks, that's what happens to your dick. Are you going to open that.."
"No." Tanith hits the cut button. "Morning, Rocco. I got a strap-on been on hold for fifteen minutes."
"Human Fly? I haven't even had a coffee." Rocco puffs the cigarette and rubs his eyes. Ferdinand the cameraman and telecoms support snatches the barely touched cigarette away with a knowing laugh.
Rocco lays across the white leather sofas, the riff of a chosen song - too familiar - begins. Tanith is lubing up as she greets the caller. "Hi Fly."
A hoarse tone. "Where's your see-through peter? I want that one."
"It's in the wash, baby." Tanith places the tip against Rocco's rear end. He tries to light another cigarette but she twists his face into a particularly strong ray of sunlight cast across the salon.
"Arch the back for Mister Fly."
Poppy Franco folds onto the patio seats beside Marianne, watching the child, somewhat wary. She didn't see the appeal herself but Marianne .. Marianne couldn't. "We need to talk our next move, Marianne." She says. "The more I think about him - out there after what he did - the more I want to.."
"Shhhhhhh." Marianne draws a finger across the child's forehead until he points at something flopping across the grass and moves his lips.
"bun. ny." He looks up. She raises her sunglasses to smile.
The rabbit pauses at the sight of Poppy Franco, trembles as she angles a finger over the lawn and cocks her thumb.
Daniel Dutronc hands Brigitte his binoculars. "The rabbit's there. Drugs. Guns. Strap-ons and now children. We've got to get in."
Brigitte doesn't even want to ask.
"What the hell is going on here?" I find Leopold Me leaning head-first against the outside wall of the portacabin, very drunk. Suddenly, I can hear a buzzing sound in the distance. Daybreak.
"Old, drunk fool. I've shown too much. And they know."
I pull him round and shake him. "Who?"
"You know what it is, Corbeau? What you are?" He pushes himself back, eyes frantic, breath fowl. "Have you ever heard of the Aion?"
"No." That buzzing intensifies. Leopold Me looks for it's source, his concern softens - a resigned smile.
"It's the ideal player for any game. Different, you'll agree, from the winner of a particular match. Or the remembrance of winners past. The Aion has nothing to do with adulation or the outcome. The Aion is the paradox of a game in motion, the sum of something in us all." He casts his face and a hand into the heavens. "The hope."
"You've lost me there."
He reels around to throw me against the wall, his eyes dart in relentlessly shifting triangles about my face. I wonder, not for the first time, if this is simply someone dressed to be Leopold Me.
"What do I have to do? What else do I have to say? All they want.. the Surplus Value. They'll get it. I wanted you.. I almost .."
His hand moves to my shirt, his eyes look away. ".. love you. Like a .. I could never build Me Valley alone.. or with pittances ripped off through la Manche .. This thing is not mine any more."
He reaches under the belly of his red tunic and removes my Enrage backpack. "Take this. It's .. a trap."
And that is when the arrow strikes him.
"Bridget Really? Really?" Rocco had just had a call in the middle of a three-way. From his mother. You never call. You never call. That's not my position to call. You're the son, you're supposed to call.
"Never heard of her." He broke, towelled down, then took the chance to return messages - this one from Kyrie, a Sri Lankan ecstasy brewer who says he once offered to kidnap a casino owner for him. Rocco couldn't remember.
"She's dirty, man. Seriously. Clean as Jesus for six months, so no needlework to powder down but still a bit shaky in the head. A screamer." Dutronc has been disguising his voice and now feels the need to lean away from the palmtop to cough. Brigitte pauses mid lip gloss application, raises her eyes over the edge of her bedroom table mirror. "Um.."
"Oh I .. didn't realise you had .. company." Monsieur Dix turns slowly, uses his flexible white cane to guide him back down the corridor towards the living room.
Dutronc twists away, wrestling a child's nylon blouson around his stonewashed denim pegs. "Huh? Nothing. Gotta fly, boss. Some baboon musta been hit on the hat and thinks he the man. I gotta popgun wants to keep him up to speed on things, then we'll drop by. Yeah."
She adjusts her florescent shorts. "Um. Thanks for the pitch but I was going for sassy young wannabe not World's Biggest Gang Bang."
"Don't worry." Dutronc throws a feather boa about his neck, picks up her anti-vivisection poster. "Nothing's actually going to happen."
I am holding Leopold Me in my arms. His eyes roll casually to and fro. His voice has almost disappeared. But as I lean forward, I manage to make out his final words amidst the wavering roar, that buzzing.
".shhh.. they're here.. the Shadow Bank.. they need.. don't even think about it.." I cannot find the twinkle in his eyes.
He manages to squeeze forward to focus on my face, tries to lick his lips, tries to smile but the spine of wood has passed through one side of his chest and hangs at an angle from his back through a soaking cone of tunic.
"..i wanted it.. to be just.. you and me, Corbeau .. coming up good .. you've no idea .. what were the chances?"
"..the ideal player .. don't let them win." A motorcycle flies over the crest of the hill. Another.
His eyes flicker their last, perplexed. "Look up there. a long time pretending. even.. old impostors like Me .. know it's .. beautiful."
I look out at the stars, fading themselves in the dawn's early light. And when I look back he is dead.
An armada of scrambling bikes skid down the lattice of bulldozer troughs. More Than Mes. Less Than Mes. Cerys - I imagine - leaves the cover of a copse and throws herself pillion. The valet takes a lousy shot from a rifle. It's the thought that counts. I look to far end of Me Valley - Blackwater Shopping Centre.
The Shadow Bank. They'll get it from me. It was them all along and they've played Good Cop. I drop his body.