(01-20) 401 Beach Street

To the men who encountered Paris, she seemed easy. To their admiration she admitted worthiness. When told that she was unique, she agreed. The Inspector thus found himself, as had many before him, on a sandy path between two tidal waves that peered down at him like doting but overwhelming parents. He smiled a silly smile and said, “I’m not sure I know what you said.” So she repeated: “Your love is like a red red rose that lifts its head to spring.”

There was something wrong with the lyric. “Is that how it goes?” he asked. “I thought it was ‘My love is like a red red rose, that's newly sprung in June.’”

She smiled. “Your love is predatory,” she said. “It lifts its head to spring.”

The Inspector couldn’t erase his smile though he was sure it was ghastly. He made a conscious effort to relax his facial muscles.

“You said you love me,” she continued. “But 'love is inhuman. It’s snout seeks out the hidden root of life.’”

“What does that mean? It sounds like an anteater putting its snout into a termite nest or something."

“It’s Asturius in translation so who knows? You’re a predator, Inspector. You came here to get information on my cousin’s whereabouts, and you got sidetracked. If I let you make love to me you’ll be back on track as soon as it’s over. So let’s not.”

Paris watched his face disintegrate into disappointment. He said, “I don’t have any experience with girls like you.”

“That’s because I’m the only girl like me, so how would you have experience with girls like me? Did you bring me here to arrest me or fuck me?”

The Inspector used his thumbs to press on his temples. “I have a headache,” he said. With some effort he broke his gaze from her and stood up, looking around his sparsely furnished studio. “You’re not under arrest,” he said, “so you can leave when you want. Just don’t leave town and be where I can reach you by telephone.”

“Emotional love always turns into it’s opposite,” Paris had written in Blue Midget with a Dwarf Tattoo. “It’s like a movie set where it seems like a perfect small town, but when you go around to the other side it’s illusion. There’s no there, there. You think love can take you anywhere, but then you realize it’s running on a track, and it can’t take you anywhere that’s not on the line.

“To get off the train you have to make choices and put everything else behind you.” She closed her eyes and saw a stretch of pearl white beach glowing in moonlight. Louis and A Bomb were on the beach, watching Mr. Ping’s yacht sail back into the fog bank laying offshore.

The Patriarch had instructed Troll to take his band of dwarves and sail back into San Francisco harbor. Fireplug had protested that they’d be instantly recognized and captured, but the Patriarch said, “They’ll put you under surveillance to try and find me. Otherwise they won’t bother you.”

So A Bomb and Lewis were left alone on the beach with a Mexican popsicle cart containing the corporality of the Patriarch. It was designed for the beach, with bicycle wheels on the sides and smaller wheels in front. Beyond the beach there were occasional headlights from Highway One, and there was the faint sound of music from a gray, barn wood building at the edge of the beach. A Bomb pushed the cart toward it. “We made it this far anyway,” Louis said. In his mind he heard Paris’ voice. A shiver ran down his spine.


Paris looked up and met the cabbie's eyes in the rear view mirror. “I said it’s a beautiful evening,” she answered, though she could not recall what she had said. The trance was like that. When she was inside it there was one reality, and when she was outside it, that reality faded quickly, like a dream will often fade quickly as an image made out of smoke. She didn’t go back into the trance until she was had returned to her room, which, she was certain, was now wired to pick up any conversation.

She heard the faint sound of the music at 401 Beach Street. It wasn’t really an address. It was the name of the a club as famous among little people as the Midget Underground. The road leading to it was marked “Private Club: Trespassers will be prosecuted.” She saw a dwarf with long, white hair woven into braids, his face dark as a walnut. He was expecting the trio.

“We’re all over the news I guess,” Louis said.

“You are the news,” the dwarf answered. “I guess you’d like to have a room with a refrigerator.”

The images faded. The drug had been in the wine the Inspector poured. She’d watched him open it and pour it. He had even tasted it from the glass he gave her. Paris fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. She heard nothing when the technicians came in. While she slept images were electronically relayed to an American Futures laboratory. The only one of interest was of a train. “We suspect they left the city by train,” the technicians reported.

Posted: Wed - July 30, 2008 at 02:41 PM