8:30 am. The Quai des Orfevres.
Commissaire Choux slides a case folder across his desk. The Man Who Bent Westminster.
"It's empty." I look at him.
"It's your job to fill it, Corbeau. Stare at this." He raises a warped teaspoon to his eyes, angles it back and forth, then taps in on his desk phone. An unclassifiable foreign accent floats across the room, into my ears and begins caressing my mind.
"By now so-called policeman Corbeau will have received more than proof of psychic power." Me! He sounds like a serious individual. "But may wish to want to see more.. potent demonstration. My name is Leopold Me, magician. I am currently in London bending Westminster. All their heads forever."
Choux leans back in his chair, the worried expression on his face deepens further.
"But that's not all. I have Jubilee treats in store. A family-sized pack of disappearance acts. I want all those Euros. Get printing plenty more where they came from."
Choux explodes, sends the teaspoon to boomerang hard off a wall. "Christ I feel so powerless."
He is sweating profusely and turns to me, firmly. "It's arranged. Go to London, Corbeau. Catch this charmer before he bends everything. Where's my licorice wheels?"
"Here, here." I find one. "Shhh."
This is too much of a coincidence. Anne Renaud is due to travel to London to talk about 'Les Amants Du 68'. I lean forward. Choux is biting the sweet slowly into his mouth, not looking at me.
"Choux?" He's not looking at me. I am starting to have a strange feeling about all this.
3:10 pm. I am sitting in Cyberzinc, a modern cafe with la toile access. Though I have to agree that la toile is an Anglo-Saxon conspiracy rendering an entire generation bug-eyed and desireless, this may be the place where I can find some further information on Leopold Me. There is nothing to go on. Just as I am about to give up, I notice this entry - on what claims to be a world directory of magicians.
Me, Leopold. B.1952, Vienna. A promising magician who soldiered on despite denial to the Rose Circle. Mutated into an 'underground' act and author of 'The Great Cup And Ball Swindle' (1979). "Magic started on the streets. It was raw. Just three minutes that made people want to funk. I don't have any heroes, they're all useless. Bongo. Daniels. Whoo-hoo." No longer on the professional circuit.
5:33 pm. I ask Madame Burgalat to look after the rabbit. She stares into the hutch. I assure her that Malkmus enjoys afternoon television and promise that I will bring her back some chutney. As I mount the stairs the strange feeling I have about this case continues to grow. I am trying to think about Leopold Me.
I look through the back of my storage space to find a valise. Instead I pull out my old Enrages backpack from 1968. A rope, a torch, maps of Paris. Anne.
11:02 pm. I don't know why I keep this diary really. It's like a bucket just fills up with whatever and then I pour it all in here. It's stupid. I'm sixteen soon and diaries are childish things. But if someone ever reads this - even if it's just me ten years from now - I'd like to say Hola. Greetings from back here! What are you up to these days? I seem to have found the wrong diary.
Through the veil of late evening, I have succeeded in entering the Renauds house. Shortly before midday today, the Renauds checked in, first class, on the Eurostar to London.
Some of this stuff is pretty embarrassing isn't it Ms 25? But you got your ticket for Winkworth today, remember? JM pretended not to care. Then M-P decided to leave it till about ten minutes ago to tell you how JM oh so casually informed G that he's decided to come along now. What a surprise. Guess whose turn it was to pretend not to care and guess who can get their own ticket. If they're able. Pah.
I begin to close Anne's daughter's diary to return it to the filing trays on the table, also somewhat embarrassed with myself. I shine the torch around the bedroom, go to move on through the Renaud house when I notice this:
Mum and Alain are off to London tomorrow. I've got a good reason not to make it this time. Winkworth are the louchest thing ever.
Downstairs, I hear a lock turn on the front door.
11:03 pm. I am lying under Anne Renaud's daughter's lit-bateau. I am wondering if this is why Marianne Castro tried to kill me. Think straight, Corbeau. That happened prior to this.
"..dunno.. the 'Fear Satan' remixes got to the point, I guess, then you just start saying yeah yeah.."
A boy is speaking as he enters the room. The springs and mattress slump as he falls across the bed.
"I can't believe I got shares in Winkworth!" Anne's daughter. She sits down slowly above me. "These are gold dust."
"It's pretty nasty. But everyone says they're just playing the music industry at it's own game. I say good for them." The young man stretches out. "So where's the famous drinks cabinet?"
"Shares in Winkworth. Uh? There's always a whiskey won't get missed." She stands up. Silence. "I'll get the duvet out for the spare room."
"I thought your old man was a porn baron. I was expecting wall to wall sick. Don't tell me he keeps it under the bed."
"Oh my ears. .. still hearing that last song. It must have went on for twenty minutes."
"Yeah, there's a King Crimson 'Red' thing happening. Kurt Cobain's favourite but I prefer 'Larks Tongue'." I listen to Anne's daughter move about the room, possibly take her diary, then swing though the door and begin descending the stairs. The young man stands.
Think straight, Corbeau. Why should you even care to read the thoughts of young girl who lived with you for eighteen months over thirty years ago? What on earth do you think they will they tell you, at a time when no-one was sure of anything?
"Georges? It's me." The boy begins whispering into, I suspect, a mobile phone. "Eh? Not yet but it's going to happen. I'm staying over. She's clueless. I know I said phone me but don't ok?"
He sits on the bed again and picks a discarded bra off the floor.
"She won't be as social as Marie-Paul, but what nichons. Listen, this summer you'll all be stirring my porridge. Gotta go."
The phone and bra are dropped to the floor.
They put on some music and begin drinking whiskey and kissing.
You should be thinking about London, Corbeau. Not Anne Renaud. What will her diary tell you? She loved you, she did not? What difference does it make? No. It's more. There was a day. A particular day when something happened.
I wish I'd never heard of 'Les Amants Du 68'.
"Just kiss, Jean Marc."
"I thought we had something special."
"Give me your hand. It's not easy for me to say this sort of thing."
Anne's daughter laughs. "Jean-Marc Lefevre is not shy. So it must be pride. Say it!"
"I think I .. I'm falling off the bed."
The whiskey bottle drops back on the floor. I hear kissing. Silence.
"You were trying to say?"
Jean Marc stands and sighs.
"I'd tell you how I feel. But. If you didn't feel the same way. I'd feel stupid."
"Well if you tell me how you feel, I might feel the same way. But I won't know until you tell me."
"If I tell you and you don't feel the same way, will you ever tell anyone?"
"Swear on Winkworth."
Think about London, Corbeau. What is the Rose Circle and why did Leopold Me choose to hate? In which hell-cellar is he boiling up his dank masterplans and why? Think about London, Corbeau.
"I love you." Give the boy a Caesar. Silence. Sniffling.
"Do you want to watch a film or something?"
"I want you." He sits on the bed again. They both lie down kissing.
"You make me feel like a pervert or a dog or something." He sits up. I am half expecting him to begin thanking his producer, his co-stars.
"Don't feel like that."
"I want us to be close."
"You could have any girl you want for that."
Silence. "You're right. We should slow down. We should get back together midsummer when you've practiced."
Anne's daughter sighs. "I don't want to practice. I want you. You know I do."
"I want you too. We don't have to do .. everything."
Silence. "Look me in the eyes. You know I do."
"Knowing doesn't really.. help."
"It's too complicated."
I know that I cannot lie here listening to what amounts to an act of paedophilia, but that my presence in this house may be somewhat hard to explain. I wish to extend my arm from under the bed to raise the volume of the music. I look over and scoop up the mobile phone. Press something to try to make it ring. The screen illuminates in green. I cannot operate these things.
The mattress begins to move.
"Jean-Marc?" A distant voice on the phone. Last number redial. The bed starts to squeak. "Go for it." The screen reads 'Georges'.
"Call back." I try to whisper. I press 'End'. Return the telephone.
I try to cover my ears to the disgrace happening less than one metre in front of me. I feel around and find a discarded copy of Vingt Ans. I place it over my face, try to distract my thoughts by staring at the cover.
New Tips On Fifty Fun Things!
"oh god yes.. don't stop"
What Never To Say To Rich Boys
"Don't push my head."
Wow! Our Star Readers!
"nnn...don't be anti-social. Lift your t-shirt."
Is My Mum Sexy Or Just Vulgar?
"nnn..I'm going to.."
What Are People Saying About You (Behind Your Back)?
"Police." I feel sorry for this young man, Jean-Marc. As his mobile chirps the opening notes to 'Je T'Aime', I use an arm placed about his neck and a knee held against his legs to twist him, screaming and ejaculating, onto the carpet. He continues to scream and I am forced to begin stuffing his mouth with the bra and the edges of some discarded jeans, which I wrap about his head after using them to wipe my jacket.
"Everything's.. under control.. new tips.. fifty fun things.." I turn to console Anne's daughter, but all I can hear is the distant sound of a front door clunking shut.
...dream of malkmus...dream i'm him but in the warren...from it's darkness...squeeze through the earthen walls...of the tunnel...just to see...what i can see...a midsummer...midday sun...crossing the autoroute...a citroen...
My alarm goes off.
8.55 am. Gare Du Nord. I am sitting outside a cafe finishing my coffee, watching the people. I am getting quite excited about my journey.
I step into Relais H to buy a magazine. I rarely buy magazines. My parents loved them. At nights, on my way to the bathroom, I could hear them in their respective bedrooms as I passed, flicking onwards through Figaro and Marie-France.
I pick up a Figaro. Israel. Palestine. What is the problem with these people? Spread out a bit. What else?
Look up, Corbeau. Look. Smashing Nichons. Love On Bonnets. Hot Property.
I board the Eurostar and find my place. On the group of seats across the aisle from me, several young Englishmen wearing sand brothel creepers and loose black or off-pastel Euro business suits are already seated and laughing at a Vaio laptop.
As we pull out of Gare Du Nord someone who appears to be a colleague of theirs approaches down the aisle with a lady I recognise from television. They ask to be alone. The others leave. Brigitte produces a dictaphone and notes.
"Whittington Winkworth. Yay. At last."
"Things are taking off." The singer has a quiet, intense voice and an air that people might describe as 'smouldering'.
"They'll have to invent new awards for you to turn down."
"It's not why I do it. You know that. Please. Let's talk."
Brigitte hits record.
"You're the first band who aren't anything to do with the media at all but a fully independent group of investment consultants backed by a high 2 to 5 year yield from a portfolio of mixed retail and light industrial properties. Why the rootsy Colonel Tom approach?"
"The world has to wake up to the word from the streets, Brigitte. There's a new breed sick of singing 'I Will Survive' at a tin of spaghetti hoops. Dreaming of a ladder to a debt-setters catapult, destination: stand there and stare at the wall like spoons." He looks out at Paris, his jaw beginning to move with rage.
"A generation sick of waiting for their shit-hot bricks to lift up and hit the cooling system of an interest rates ambulance that's the wrong way round in nasty crosstown traffic playing 'Greensleeves' so fast it sounds more like 'Last Exit To La La Land'. Kids sick of last year's dinner party charade for 'Little House On The Prairie' starring Carol Smillie. Second syllable? - sounds like 'fucking Christ' but louder and in pain on every high street."
He shifts in his seat, his voice rising, "Some of them are mucked-about rats two stops from your Crouch End Fort Knox - goaded up and increasingly pissed off dreaming of sniffs dripping down the woodchip bit of the property lolly. Even if they hand in their homework and sweat like toffs or Madonna they'll never see a swimming pool as perfectly-justified as Billy Bragg's."
Brigitte props her elbow on her knee and angles the dictaphone.
"Instead of having kittens, they're starting to ask who's oiling this gearbox, who's commissioning the horror stories and whether Madge really needs a solid ruby pouf for her sore feet. They're asking why the buoyancy cops are pointing out to sea when the riot tanker's ready to split like a pair of over-gentrified trousers. Cheap smack, heavenly sex and a handgun they kiss and call 'Key Worker' keep them good'n'toasty and all seem to walk home from the shops quicker than a fistful of ripped-off Skips. Flava flav? Bitter Politics. Someone smart's asking them to cart about a pressure freezer unseen since top Nazis dropped by for whites-only Magnums and a map of Miss Poland."
He leans forward, points. "But true Brits don't run around meditating or moving - they rise up having fun and fighting."
"The thing that stands between them and everything they want in life. Me. Other people."
I look, for some reason wondering if this man knows something about Leopold Me.
"I'm happy to be their problem. I'm another person but the only way to fight me is by having all the fun I'll never have, doing it on TV and making me jealous." He appears to be upset.
"Controversial." Brigitte checks her notes. "Hmm. The album 'Buy Curious' went triple p - were you on heroin and nuts and stuff?"
Whittington Winkworth takes a lingering look through the window. The rapid rise of concrete sidings. We enter a tunnel. "You're all the fun I'll never have, Brigitte."
He looks at the French lady. She smiles sweetly, turns off the dictaphone. "Durr. Begone. I'm touched, I guess. But I'm just an old-fashioned girl who worships old-fashioned guys from afar."
"Pity, sister. I sometimes find it hard to feel.. close enough." Winkworth lowers his saddened eyes, shivers and begins adjusting his watch.
What a confusing young fellow.
I look out the window into the tunnel and all I can think about is how much I love Paris. I always said how I would very humbly work and die for Paris. Which is partly why I cannot let Marianne Castro kill me, for what a waste that would be. Perhaps this is my arrogance, to think that my contribution should be a grand one, but ultimately all our contributions are modest and I would only be asking to use my knowledge of Parisiennes and this love for the city that I have to the best effect. Parisiennes became my inspiration and the police made sense to me at the precise moment I watched my relationship with Anne collapse. Or at least it mirrored the confusion I felt in a way that seemed to make things clearer.
I therefore think that I projected my love for Anne onto Paris. Though this is often a trait that can be found in men who become stalkers, Paris cannot ask me to leave her alone. If she did I would, or at least I would ask her what on earth she was talking about. But while there are men like Leopold Me in this world, fatality in the line of duty is a possibility that has to be considered. Even then I will not leave Paris alone - I will rest in some quiet, unassuming corner of her.
As we emerge from the tunnel, I try then to turn my thoughts to London. I lift my head as a woman passes through the sliding door at the end of the carriage and approaches.
"Where's Winkworth? I want them, I want them, I want them, I want them! I want them all! Give them to me now! I want them. Whittington! Cantaloupe Sugden. Deleuze magazine? I was with Goldie at Tim And Sue's opening?"
Where are we now? I look out the window. The countryside.
As the English woman takes over the conversation with Whittington Winkworth, Brigitte looks at me. She slips across the aisle to sit opposite. I catch her staring at me again, a little perplexed.
I look out the window as the green fields fly past. The girl mutters to herself, looks back across the aisle, then parodies the English woman as she rummages through her bag. "Deleuze magazine." She sticks a finger into her mouth to pretend that she is making herself sick.
"Durr. Do I know you?" Her abruptness and silliness make me smile.
"Just thought I recognised you. Is all. Bim."
She smiles weakly as she lays a magazine onto the table between us.
I stand up to spin it round.
"No, please, help yourself."
April's Deleuze - So Alive This Spring - Marianne Castro rising from the shimmer of the oceans in a platinum monokini, combing back her hair with one hand, fanning water at me with the other.
"Durr. Nosebleed city. Christ."
I start dripping, throw back my head, close my eyes against the sun. This happens sometimes.
I can hear Brigitte looking through her bag for tissues.