One Decadent Life: Chapters 11 through 15


Chapter 11


Review of Rene Lepine’s Reading, by Monty Mondragon

As I came up the elegant marble stair of the Maxfield Museum, the poet Rene Lepine could be heard roaring, “Where is my FLUNKY?”

It seems the poor soul who was to have introduced him was hiding from the great man in a bathroom stall.

As Rene burst from the bathroom into view, he shrieked at our gaggle of literati. “Excuse ME! But I have something to DO at the MOMENT!” We scattered, somewhat appalled, yet thrilled to the core.

So Rene got onto the stage all by himself (and did he really need an introduction?) The man is famous in Downtown Manhattan as our only real, true poet.

But the reading he then imposed upon us, what we underwent… was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The only poetry we heard was that of Baudelaire’s, as the poet himself treated us to something on the order of the didactic…

“The essentially existential Angst of meaninglessness is terrible for all, and especially so for We artists, who are possessed of sensibility.

“Thus might be those of sensitive … of exalted …

There Rene faltered, as his attention diverted from what he read to the condition of his audience. There were actually people talking! Talking as he read. And was that laughter?

As he came to a complete stop the room went silent. Rene looked out at this audience, which is always an infliction… spotlights glared in his eyes. He actually couldn’t see any of his enemies’ faces. He was glad of that. It gave him strength, and as the intrusive voices died down, the poet paged into the last part of his lecture. Ten minutes – ten! was as long as he was going to tolerate this.

[All the above novelistic asides were later related to me by the poet himself.)

What Rene Lepine, our poet laureate seems fully aware of … is that the exercise of his Temper is his entire Genius. When he is excessive (and he is always excessive) he epitomizes a modern kind of Beauty. When he is in glorious rage, it is hard to look at him — his golden tongue dipped in refreshing vitriol, his Genius acts like a devastation.

But is it because he has so little to lose, being ‘not of this world?‘ Having nothing, he can say anything; thus by virtue of his poverty, says everything terribly well.

He decided he would talk to the idiots about Charles. It always relaxed him to relate the tales of Charles… “Baudelaire was amongst the first of the modern Decadents…”

(Overheard in the audience: ”What’s he talking about NOW?”

“He’s completely out of his mind – “

“He’s just paged to the end of his lecture!”

“He can’t take it.”}

“The First of the Decadents – that is, one who cannot be dissuaded from a strict insistence upon the morbid flowerings, the anomalies of Nature. We who are rareified do NOT appreciate the limits of mortality, which, perversely, make us feel more alive —

“Drugs temporarily suspend the normal processes of thought. They subvert rational grids – which suspension is highly desirable amongst we who would absolve ourselves from quotidienne concerns – we who are Artists.”

“But I ask you what is an Artist? Is he not but a beautiful parasite upon his society?”

“Charles is the most brilliant poet on this subject of the Divine Suspension.
One of his means to attain this aerie-realm lay in the ecstatic darkness of hashish.

“He was involved in a society of artists and literary men who were nearly addicted to this specific. They met – they partook – they recorded their experiences, discussing with
awe the other-worldly thoughts that came to that quiescent body and its exalted mind.

“Charles did eventually go out of his mind – like his one forebear, Gerard de Nerval – from the mixture of opiates and obscurity. Neither poet ever achieved any material security or public acclaim in their lifetimes, as posterity now says they deserve.

“Nevertheless their work, and their lives, inspired the Symbolist Movement in
literature. Certain fey Romantics and the dream-besotted Surrealists adored again the subconscious emanation, and were in their turn deeply informed by the revelations to be won in the use of drugs.

“Yet Verlaine and absinthe, De Quincey and laudanum, Burroughs and heroin have taught us unpleasant truths. No-one in the throes of sublime intoxication – which is a kind of invocation of the spirit of the drug – I say no-one getting high wants to hear that consistent use of their magic – the use of these substances – may render one’s life as dull and empty as any Philistines’.

“That in time, the finer discerning sensibilities, enhanced artificially, and too unnaturally stimulated by the esoterica of the mind., do falter, do weaken, become incapable of scaling the highest plateaux — whether assisted by drugs, or unassisted.

“Through profligacy – in satiation – what penetrates into the soul’s sanctum sanctorum – grows blunt, and degraded cannot enter – barely reaches the outer vestibule – we come to find ourselves dallying on the sidewalk, waiting … waiting … waiting for the Door to open … which does not.”

This elegant confessional – the observations so elastic and rigorous, drawn of course from life – had his audience rapt. There seemed to be no evidence at that moment of any diminuition in his powers. That he was flying on cocaine was noticed by a few, but that fact spoke much for the drug. His genius shone out from every cell, but most especially from his voice: sonorous, somber, penetrant as the faraway toll of a forgotten bell.

Now he was finishing up, reading from Baudelaire’s “L’Invitation Au Voyage”

Dreams, forever dreams!
And the more the soul
is aspiring and delicate,
the more are dreams
beyond the possible.

Every man bears within him
his measure of natural opium,
incessantly secreted and renewed;
but, from birth to death.,
how many hours can we count
that are filled with pleasure?

Shall we ever live?
Will we never enter the picture
my mind has painted,
this picture which resembles you?

“Though Baudelaire broke with the ancient maudlin subject matter for poetry, he never abandoned the rigors of a classical style as the most effective method for the transmission of thought. Only later, with the Surrealists, do we see the first serious disintegrations — of that essential adhesion between the Idea and its Form.

“These symptoms of degeneration are hailed as a great advancement in literature…. though I believe Charles must be disgusted by the slovenliness which has manifested – which I fear does arise from the suggestions inherent in his own subject matter.

“Reflective langours have waned to laziness; dreaming has degenerated into blithering; melancholy flattened into stupid depressiveness. Though we are not as close as Charles was to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’ Master Syntaxicians and Sublime Punctuationists, we moderns must resist the depredations, the almost natural pull of desuetude – embodied in the fashionable lack of discipline, sometimes called ‘spontaneity,’ or ‘honesty,’ both of which render worthless poetical writing.

“This imaginary freedom of expression that the modern grants himself is mostly a freedom from discipline: reflected both in syntax, and in a lack of taste. Having ‘no limits’ is everything it seems, to some artists, and authors. Overly fluent, self-indulgent blathering of the ill-trained mind is too often loved as revolutionary revelation. Freedom to speak out might be important, but, I ask you, must the freedom to prove themselves irredeemably stupid be further tolerated?

“I believe that a generalised, social use of drugs has helped to exacerbate this degradation in artistic sensibility. Our Dionysian revolution of the 1960s that boded so well for expanded personal freedom seems to have deteriorated into mere expansive self-indulgence. Both the creator, and his audience, seem to be dead to discipline.

“I am afraid that human beings cannot rise and fulfill the challenges that true personal freedom demands. Inevitably one takes the easier course, and acts as people have always acted — selfishly, self-interestedly.

“There were two great ‘experiments’ in that Dionysian era, in the exercise of personal freedom. That of sexual expression, and that of drugs. In both cases it involved the fervent wish that we might do with our bodies as pleased us, without a Church or a State’s involvement.

“Of the first – for sexual freedom – I cannot at present much consider. I will save for another time my cries against the loss of that angelic promise!

“The second posits the delightful fantasy that humanity might yet be able to be led out of stupid, cow-like consciousness towards an advanced mentality, exalted and spiritualised. This would be accomplished (it was imagined) through the ingestation of plant extracts, distillates, ‘refinements’ of herbal substances – in short by the taking of drugs. Access to such planes of higher consciousness was once the guarded precinct of the religious ascetic — the least material of men.

“But now might all know sacred Illumination! And without recourse to God or religion. Yet it is this excision – between the exaltation, and its proper object (which is God) – that is the very reason behind the destruction the intoxication renders.”

“The elegant experimenters of Baudelaire’s time, who sang of the visions and catalogued the paradises, have now given way to a mob of users who take drugs to block out their misery, or merely titillate their emptiness. They will ingest whatever is fashionably cheap, supporting thereby enormous industries that have evolved to gratify the truly unconquerable human need to be from time to time out of one’s head.

“The business of selling and buying drugs is ruled by thugs and compromised governments, and the need is treated only punitively by hypocrite authorities.

“Is it fair that substances that can be used by some – by the Artist – to such great profit should be denied to us, that we should be punished for it, because the masses, like the children that they are, cannot control themselves, have abused the Sacraments, and always will?

“The erasure of time, the Divine Suspension, the necessary exaltations we artists require, must be resolved towards the blissful recognition of a Creator, of an Eternity. We must not devolve, in overindulgence, towards the probably erasure of our future.”

Lest you think this reviewer possessed of supernatural powers of stenography,
let me allow that the poet himself bequeathed upon me the hand-written manuscript
of this sublime diatribe, which I here transcribe for the delectation of present and future readership!

[End article]


Throughout the reading, Rene had listened to the great door opening, and closing, opening and closing. It told him people were walking out. He was soaked in perspiration, exhausted, and he needed another hit. And he felt disgusted that he needed another hit. He hurriedly ended his trial onstage with another quote from Artificial Paradise and stepped down to scattered applause.

Now Marilyn was by his side, telling him how fine he’d been. He could only think of the bag in his pocket, and how he might get away. But she led him into the next salon where the defectors from his lecture had made a great dent in the canapes, where both cocktails and critiques were being tossed off.

So was he, despite himself, in the dreaded company of his ‘peers.’ Heads were buzzing… heads were lolling… heads were rolling.

Through a cloud of combined frenzy and exhaustion he understood all eyes were upon him… This was his time, and his place in Society, and he was a flop. Lips were askew in derision… eyes veiled and glinting with sarcasm. Though many came up to compliment him, he could not believe anything anyone said to him, though some spoke from the heart, truly glad to witness his recovery, and see his genius intact.

All he wanted was to get away, into the bathroom, do the important line…

“Do a line from Baudelaire again, you monkey – you do him so extravagantly!” This from out of the maw of the appalling Betty Billingsley, tall and horsey and thrice-alimonied. Leaning on her arm was the hypocrite Asmodeus, who stood between Rene and relief, all too sturdily downing a cocktail, “Well well, well well, well! You’ve surprised us all!”

The appalling Betty was Asmodeus’ prize, the richest of his bevy of fallen-down society-dame ‘editors.’ These ladies mostly busied themselves fleecing patrons of the arts of their loose, unsuspecting cash, via benefits, fund-raisers and other extortions: all very necessary to so totally unnecessary a literary entity as HUMM.

Surging forward was the usual sycophancy: a pallid child of forty called Ashton Treyley, — whose claim to fame was a single ode, translated from the hieroglyph, off the tomb of Seostris II — sometimes served as Asmodeus’ personal flunky.

Montgomery Mondragon, free-lance something-or-other, stood pretentiously scribbling away in a gold notebook. He appeared to be writing down everything everyone was saying… his elegant, shiny long black hair swung to his waist, which was whittled down to twenty inches by a an old-fashioned whalebone corset worn over his trousers and shirt. A kind of matador’s cape swing from his shoulders.

Another manifestation of enfeebled talent, dilletantism, ambition and naked envy resided in Claybourne Argerbauch, scion of an obscure Austrian bastardy, immensely rich and given to self-publishing. From out of the breast-pocket of his cream-colored jacket he produced his latest vanity: A tiny volume, bound in flesh-pink goatskin, of his very own witty aphorisms.

He thrust it at Rene, who took it in hand with a certain revulsion. The color reminded him of a vulva.

“For you, my fellow-genius… you were superb!”

With fans like Claybourne, Rene preferred obscurity. Still, he was polite, “Thank you,” he muttered, gingerly fingering the volume to page one and read aloud:

“Well shall Death
not come to all

Rene shuddered, “Very… exquisite…” which seemed to please the poor author.

“Superb?” tolled Ashton at Betty, “Re-NE? Su-PERB? You really think that?” Rene started, not eager for dialectic.

Betty resisted, “Well, ah, yes, of course why not?”

Ashton exchanged a glance with his Master ‘Azzy,’ who gave him an encouraging nod.

The editor of HUMM certainly did not want one of his finest cash-cows suggesting they publish anything by Rene. So he liked it when his secretary instead made his, Asmodeus’ Will a matter of public controversy.

As well it thereby gave Asmodeus the pleasure of hearing his opinions aired, without the trial of phrasing them himself; and with the delightful option of not having to respond to any rebuttal, of letting his lackey take all the flack.

He had to appreciate Ashton’s talent for hyperbole, his hysterical insistences, and his constitutional refusal to be persuaded to any view other than his own.

Ashton planted his feet apart, adjusted his cuffs, and began his diatribe:

“I hardly – well – to begin with – one can hardly claim that Charles Baudelaire is the properest example of someone inspired profitably by drugs!”

(We might also mention the searing WHINE in which he delivered his thoughts – rendering half his listeners submissive before the second turn.)

Rene could not resist… he dryly cleared his throat, “To what sort of profit are you referring, Ashtray? Are you saying… because he didn’t die a rich man … ? Or you think… his poetry… not worth the sacrifice?” The vitriol would have pocked marble.

Now everyone stared upon Ashton, waiting for the answering fit. The man snorted, “If BAUDELAIRE is to be held up as an EXAMPLE of the CONFIGURATION of Genius and drug-addict… and that without ONE of these faculties, the OTHER could not EXIST? Well then! Why don’t we ALL just TROT ON DOWN to the LOWER EAST SIDE? Where those types are ALLEGEDLY found in DROVES — and net a few new GENIUSES for our next issue of HUMM?!” This all delivered with a nauseous spriteliness.

The man was a total idiot. Everyone understood he was merely trying to torment Rene. Our poet was poised to fly in his face, when out of Ashton’s mouth dropped a phrase, which was to determine the next course of Rene’s life:

“I mean why can’t we just ANOINT every JUNKIE, LOLLING on the sidewalk, as a citizen of some kind of SOCIETY OF CHARLES… and consider a social problem solved?”

“Society of Charles?” Rene’s mind went suddenly blank – then exploded – as he repeated to himself, “Society of Charles … THE SOCIETY OF CHARLES? Junkies and artists… Ashcan, I don’t know if you understand what you just said…”

Asmodeus intoned, “Oh NOW what is it that we don’t understand?” He manifested both irritation and gloom, a Gothic oddity. He yawned, then gawked at Rene. The man wasn’t taking the bait. What a bore. And he’s so left-handedly exaggerate, good God, it acts like an ambush on the nerves.

Rene tried to clarify, “A true ‘Society of Charles’ would possibly be a coterie of those who would be able to take drugs – that is, in measured quantities, and remain creative. Deriving thereby the maximum benefit from the inspiration, without any deleterious effects… ” He tapered off as he sensed the disinterest of his audience.

“Well!” expostulated Appalling Betty, “I guess the best drug for that would be ASPIRIN.”

Asmodeus and the Sycophancy laughed appreciatively, “Yes – and just who would be the one to dish out those ‘measured quantities’ of, let’s say, cocaine?”

Rene was deep in reverie, no longer caring about the sarcasm rising – the rotors of his brain were whirring at top speed. Forgotten was the little bag in his pocket.

“Society of Charles … Society of Charles! I hereby announce the birth of a new literary salon!”

“Huh? Wuzzat?”

The Sycophancy was drifting off. Rene had not responded squirmingly enough to their torture. Their only real pleasure lay in the special ascendancy they believed they held. They didn’t really want to have a conversation. Rene was too imperious for their tastes. He had absorbed their disdain into a larger, more gracious inspiration, and now they wandered off after other authors they might terrorize.

“I say, Rene – if you’re planning on using that phrase – of mine – you know, in a poem, or whatever – ‘Society of Charles?’ Don’t forget to give me credit for it.”

Rene stared at the dilletante as though he were a figment.

“No way in fucking hell, Ash-Tray. Go take a flying fuck, you pathetic slave!”

Minutes after his restoration in a bathroom-stall, Rene was regaling Marilyn with his new idea, “Darling! Listen, we’re going to start a real Salon… ‘The Society of Charles’ shall meet weekly, we’ll have a dinner, won’t invite any one of these fossils… feature a specific, rare drug – take it – discuss, record, even videotape – then write it all up in a monthly newsletter!”

“…oh Rene.”

“Alright then, no videotaping… could be compromising anyhow. I will then have to take it upon myself to write down everything that happens. In this way we will demonstrate how one drug or another may, or may not be important, or even necessary, in the creative process -”

He babbled on, and Marilyn took a few hard looks at him, but said nothing. He would not come to dinner with her and her friends. Claimed he had to get home, begin to work out his plan for the ‘Society.’ Marilyn assured him Branford would be at home, and that Rene’s room was waiting for him. She understood he was most likely not going home – he seemed wired up, prime for some other kind of violent discharge. She kissed him sadly goodnight.





In Memoriam to the poet RENE RICARD who passed away this February 2014 at the age of sixty-seven.

Thank you darling for years of inspiration, thank you for reading me and loving me as no one else ever did.

Your Genius remains unparalleled.





Chapter 12



Madame Anya’s doorbell rang, and she snapped at her flunky, “Get that! Make them wait in the foyer… why can’t people get it into their heads — never come after midnight?”

The three silent personages around her table exchanged glances of satisfaction. They’d gotten in on time.

The lady from China shook back from her broad cheeks long, red-dyed ringlets. At forty-five the person called “Madame” was still pretty, if gone a bit to fat. But heroin does that to some, makes them grow big, and lazy — while others burn up inside from not eating, from smoking a hundred cigarettes a day.

The new flunky, Lee, a pretty boy of fifteen, was Anya’s second cousin; who fluttered to her side and delicately whispered in her ear.

“Rene?” The three faces around her table perked up slightly at that name.

“After that reading, ‘I’m not into drugs’ and blah blah blah?” remarked David.

“Well really, what did you expect?” yawned Tere at his side, swigging Pepsi.

Unnerved by this distraction, Paula renewed her imprecations: “Come on, Anya, please? You know my credit is good. Front me enough for the week — I’ll pay you on Friday!”

Anya accepted a cup of jasmine tea from her cousin. None was offered to her ‘guests,’ a signal to leave which none of them took. It was her fault, really — they were too busy basking under the influence of the complimentary hit of her new product: a rare, pale brown smokeable form of heroin called ‘Persian Brown,’ just in from Iran.

Anya sipped her tea, It’s a kind of a mistake to give anything away…

And am I impressed by rich bitch junkies’ so-called good credit? Ha. Just as fictional as some bum’s. She granted Paula a cool, demure smile, concealing her fangs.

“Listen hons – I know you hate the ride downtown, but I’m sorry. There were just a few too many times you didn’t show up, on time, you know – with the money. So pay as you go – that’s how it is.”

“Anya!” Paula whined, at top volume.

David could see the Lady was about to flip, possibly cut off Paula once and for all. He tried a distraction, “Ah – aren’t you having Rene come in?”

Anya stared David down and snapped, “All in due time.” How dare he try to suggest how I conduct business? David quailed, God why did I say anything? What if she decides to cut me off too?

Tere opened her clutch-purse to display a fan of cash, “Let me have ten bags of the Persian. And I’ll take care of David’s, too.”

“Why thank you darling!” David was impressed. He couldn’t remember the last time Tere had paid. Maybe she’s developing a conscience in her old age.

But Tere was inspired to pay for David mostly to stick it to Paula, whom she detested. And Paula started sweating it, “Tere – ”

“No Paula.”

“But Tere – David!” Paula whined again.

David granted his friend a sneer, “Well we thought you were planning to quit! Your NA meetings and all? And what about Golden Hills? Weren’t you going to drop us scum?”

“I’m not quitting… I never said that… It’s just that Darryl… I’m not going there… I never said that!”

“Admit you referred to me as ‘scum!’ “ Tere lashed out.

“What about Darryl, anyway?” David needled her, “Darryl’s gonna spank!”

“Fuck Darryl!” Paula’s eye lit on her hand. “In fact, really fuck Darryl!” She was pulling off her engagement ring – a three-carat, marquise-cut diamond set in platinum. She dropped it into Anya’s waiting hand: it wasn’t the first time she’d witnessed the stripping of the jewels.

“I know he paid more than twenty grand for it but it’s just towards credit. Until Friday.”

Anya gloated over the gem that was as good as hers now. Tere snickered, “That should keep you in dope until New Year’s.”

“Fuck you, you hog… ”

“Now ladies, let’s not get vulgar.”

David felt as upset as one could be when high… he could not believe his friend. She had been so proud of that ring! “Paula!”

“Just shut up David. You were no help!”

When women started hocking their jewels… he closed his eyes painfully upon a certain memory: of all the beautiful things he used to own. Gold rings and chains, the french watch, the raw rubies from the Gatling heir… even his mother’s diamond engagement ring – well she said she was going to leave it to him – lifted during a Christmas visit. Everything hocked for heroin… that degradation he liked to call Tragic Glamour. ”0h well then, fuck it,” he said aloud.

“Yeah, like I said Fuck It. Now, Anya?” Paula looked at her expectantly.

Cousin Lee was placing before Tere a substantial package, wrapped in red paper covered in gold ideograms. Then Anya gave him a significant nod; one of the child’s tasks was to shoot the clients up. Unlike many dealers, Anya frowned upon such activities being conducted in the open. Paula followed him into the bedroom; the smokeable not being enough for her, just then…

They heard the front door slam. Anya stood up, went to investigate, and came back smiling enigmatically.

“Mmm, had to check on the art… see if he took anything off the wall. You know, ever since he ran off with my Warmus portrait! Well, both the Ming vases are there anyhow — he’s always coveting them.”

“Rene didn’t wait?” David and Tere exchanged a look. So their friend had had the strength. He could stay away from it!

He could stay away from it. Rene was running down the sidewalk, home to Marilyn’s. It had just been the coke, making him want dope. He wasn’t going to do coke, or dope, or anything anymore, except in his Salon — Society of Charles! He was going to have a Salon! He’d show them all. He’d gotten away from Anya, this time, escaped without buying any, somehow.





Chapter 13



All day Angelique had been fighting a sickish feeling — the same sensations that had, the night before, infected her from the manuscript.

She knew the feelings were hysterical; she could pinpoint specific aches to her own first sexual experience at the hands of Larry, her pimp-husband — she’d been drunk, and he’d been brutal — the original for Marie Alexandra’s rape, and thus the pain she described her character as suffering. But even though it was so identified, Angelique could not make the pain stop.

She had a fever that waxed when she thought on Salvatore, and waned when she was distracted otherwise.

She was the character Marie she had created, but the sublimation had been disrupted. Her love lived again, and she was sick.

Until she called David, to confirm their dinner date; then, the sound of his voice relieved her. We’ve almost forgotten that she’s only seen him once, he’s in her thoughts so constantly; an undertow, an inexorable pull upon her — since that first day, two weeks ago.

She chattered on partly from self-consciousness, partly from relief. She anticipated pleasure in their meeting, but as well felt disturbed. So that less than an hour after their conversation, as the hour of their meeting approached, anxiety once more began to mount.

Eight o’clock — her head is splitting violently, her hands shake as she eats more aspirin. She lies back in bed, closes her eyes and sees him over her, looking down… God! Just like Marie. She thrashes against the blankets, frantic to escape her thoughts…

How can she be already so obsessed by a man she doesn’t know?

Since first laying eyes on him she has been in a constant passion, sublimated by working on Salvatore. This fever is a sign, radiating from her body, an illumination of the terrible truth: that she, Angelique almost has to love David. Because Marie Alexandra was in love with Salvatore — for all eternity. So had she written it!

Love and desire, for all time — for a man who would never care for her. And to desire him, still — as she had, when she’d been Marie?

She muttered to herself, aloud, “The cold green flame of the Unrequited… destroying all, but the most essential!”

She took a cool bath, prepared herself with a sense of ritual, for this second meeting. She told herself she must not, should not manifest her desire!

A wave of nauseated anxiety sends her again to bed, panting, unable to stand up straight. She stares blankly at the shoes and dress she’d laid out hours before. She wonders why she doesn’t she have a maid, like Marie, to get her up, revive her, dress her.

She began to pray… to the God she had only recently come to understand, to her old Catholic God, for help. Marie believed ardently, and so Angelique had begun to approach those ideas. Through Marie, she promised His Power she would sacrifice her love — if only she might be allowed to go to him — if only one last time.

It was diabolical to pray to God to help realize this insane love. So she must renounce him, at once!

But she anyhow prayed, and so was able to rise, relieved and precipitate, into a clarified Ideal — that spared her nerves, if slightly, and starved back the fever — into the cold of Self-Discipline.

She was finishing her makeup when she imagined herself, quite clearly, sitting at a table at Chez Raoul with David next to her. She could nearly feel his sleeve against her bare arm. Across from them sat — Paula Scott? Odd. The image faded, leaving an indefinite certainty behind: that the evening was going to be disastrous.

She took a taxi and arrived too early. She passed through the vestibule of red velvet drapery into the steaming jollity of the chic restaurant. Her coat was flung onto a mass of furs and topcoats by the harried coat-check girl, as her cashmere muffler slid from her neck and was trampled by a man dashing up the spiral stairs, “Do beg pardon!” barked he. Another rude Brit — New York was crawling with them. Two avid giggling dames in sequinned shifts tripped along behind him. As ever, the upstairs lounge was serving as a cocaine-parlour…

At the bar was no-one she knew but Rolfie Fleimeister, stock-broker, art-collector and leather-queen. He also collected barely-legal boys. His entourage that evening consisted of two: one black, one white, in matching white and black leather ensembles respectively. The white boy in black Angelique knew as a hustler: Nick, her movie director client, had brought him along to The Chambers not two weeks previously. He was obviously a favorite with his agency. Anyhow they two did not register any recognition…

The black boy in white looked more uncomfortable. Angelique guessed he was a newbie. “Just got back from the Keys!” crowed Rolfie, and he wore that tan that looks so lurid in a Manhattan November.

Somehow he knew that she was there to meet David. Perhaps he justifies his existence by collecting Morgans… “So nice that you two are getting to know each other! You do have ALOT in common! And David DOES need a friend these days!” The supercilious implications grated on Angelique’s nerves, and she thought David would not have appreciated that last comment. “I’m sure David has plenty of friends,” she countered.

“Oh, but all the wrong kinds!” he mysteriously winked at her, then: “So after your little dinner, why don’t you have David bring you down to my place?” He tossed his head in the direction of the boys, and rather lewdly ogled Angelique. When she demurred, he urged her, “I’m sure you could show these kids a few tricks!”
White-in-black looked irritable, more than ready to tie Rolfie to a stake and set him on fire.

Angelique went on smiling politely. She loathed it when people — and without permission — made reference to her domination work. As if she were always ‘on call!’ How would Rolfie like it if she invited him over, then pumped him for stock tips? Why did people assume that she was always ‘ready for action’ — and without an appointment?

She extricated herself, and with a sigh sank onto the banquette adjacent to the bar. When it seemed, by his gesturing, that Rolfie was plotting to send the black-in-white to appeal to her, she motioned to the maitre’d, “Would you please seat me now? My other party is due any second.” He seemed pleased to accommodate her, availing her of a private booth. For the first time that day, Angelique relaxed. Good service could console one for almost anything.

The handsome young waiter took her order for a Negroni, admiring her sheath of dupioni turquoise against the seat of dull dark-green leather. Her white fur toque flattered the slanty Tartar eyes, but she pushed it back when the cocktail arrived. The dim blu-ish light of the table’s veiled bulb, with the one single candle in counterpoint gold, added to her general effect of the cool and mystic.

She caught Rolfie extravagantly waving at her from the bar. What a silly man… but still a fairly nice one… he was letting her know that David had arrived. “Oh!” she was astonished, though not terrifically, to see Paula Scott following along behind him. As she had imagined an hour ago.

“I’m not staying,” was the woman’s flat announcement as she flopped into the seat across from Angelique. David slid in next to her, murmuring an apology for being late.

… even more gorgeous than I remembered. His eyes sparkled at her with warmth, fervor… “Oh, are you late?” Angelique smiled. Dressed elegantly in black from head to foot, a silk suit, black cravat tied loosely inside the black shirt, he was close to her, looking into her eyes. She was taken aback somewhat by this fervor. And she couldn’t help asking, “And what — have you two been up to tonight?” She wanted him all to herself… Why in hell did he bring this person along?

Her spoken question was answered by an uneasy pause.

“I’m not staying,” once again Paula insisted whilst not making a move.

David explained, “…we just ran into each other, on the street…”

“Yeah, on the street, on Prince Street…” Paula faltered, then stopped. Angelique felt baffled. Was their dinner to be the disaster she’d imagined?

(What had actually happened: Paula had connived David at last into coming to an NA meeting with her. When David got up before it was over, to keep his dinner date with the poetess, Paula had made a scene, interrupting the meeting with loud protesting, following him out, crying, You can’t just leave me here by myself… you have to help me you promised, otherwise Darryl is gonna dump me… making him both furious and sad and generally driving him crazy, as per usual. She’d gotten into the cab with him, even when he told her she couldn’t. We here conclude this tiresome subtext.)

To try to overcome the vague, depressing atmosphere, Angelique waved to her kindly waiter, “Please, we’d all like cocktails —“ but when she glanced back at Paula she was alarmed to see an expression of intense, undisguised hatred riveted upon her person. And when she spoke, the voice did not match those eyes: it was insanely honey-sweet. Angelique tried not to look at her again. The woman’s a psycho! she realized with some terror. Or was it David’s doing, had he provoked some madness in her?

The fever throbbed again in her temples. But she did have him right next to her. He had slid down comfortably on the banquette, and, giving forth a great sigh, granted her a bemused, mischievous look.

Ohhh… okay she got it. She was supposed to “help him” with Paula, like on that first day, at the photo shoot? Paula’s evil-sweet tone cut across their glances,
“WELL, I am perfectly DELIGHTED to see that you two are getting along SO VERY WELL!” Angelique was further astounded to see her literally gnash her teeth! She was mad! Now she met the livid gaze, and telepathed: Go Away Now, Go Now, Before Something Awful Happens To You.

“Another Negroni,” Angelique told the waiter. David sat up, “What kind of Champagnes do you have? Roederer? Ah good, a bottle of that…”

“Oh, Champagne, you’re having Champagne, how wonderful.”

‘Yes Paula, I’m having Champagne.’

“Oh. Just you are? You’re not going to offer any to your friend Angelique here?”

David’s tone was weary, “… yes I am going to offer some to Angelique, when it arrives, should she like some…”

Angelique could hardly believe what she was hearing. They were actually arguing, in front of her, over something mysteriously personal …!

“Oh, so then, you’re ordering Champagne for the two of you, so this must be some kind of very special occasion.”

“No, only plebeians order Champagne for ‘special occasions,’ Paula, I’m ordering it because I like to drink it whenever!”

“Okay, I’m leaving.” She remained where she was.

“Isn’t Darryl waiting up for you, or something?”

The Roederer arrived, was opened and poured for David to taste. He waved away the third glass, “She’s not having any.”

“If I can’t drink, then neither can you.”

David ignored her, turned to Angelique, “And let’s have a toast to… absolutely nothing. Because only bloody peasants toast with Champagne!”

Angelique enjoyed the brittle, chilly wine, quaffed her glass and held it out for more. Paula was apparently determined to stay, and unless Angelique did something, it seemed likely her evening with David would be ruined.

So, holding David’s gaze, with the low, resonant tone she used whenever she needed to enrapture, or command, she began to remind him of something he had said:

“When you mentioned that you often wished you could just take up portraiture…”

“Oh, I wasn’t entirely… serious about that!” But it worked… he was distracted from Paula. One always likes to hear about the intelligent things one has said.

“No I think you were. It made me start reading again, on the dichotomy between the Abstract Expressionists, and these so-called ‘New Realists’ …”

“Yes, reality is always anyhow reduced to symbol, though it may look representational… line and plane are abstract, no matter… “

“Abstraction is therefore not necessarily more pure?”

“Oh brother,” interjected their scourge, blowing smoke all over the table.

Angelique watched David’s face contort. The crack was against them both, and Angelique parried —

“Doesn’t it seem, all too often, in this modern, decadent age… that people of sensibility forget — that there are perceptions available only to those of a certain temperament — whether or not they favor realism, or abstraction — and that what Art is really about is this Visionary Faculty?”

David was studying Angelique’s face as she gently made the point. She pleased him immensely; he noted however that she appeared rather unhappy…

“Yes, Angelique, people do forget, but we cannot complain, because certain instruments cannot make any sound other than the one they were born with.”

“But should we learn to make other sounds, convey greater Vision… aren’t we at risk of refining ourselves out of everyday existence?”

Came Paula’s thunderous rejoinder, “Do you guys actually have any idea what you’re fucking talking about?”

David observed Angelique’s head turning slowly, deliberately, from his direction to Paula’s. And in a voice that seemed to come from the soles of her shoes, she replied, “ ‘Refined out of existence.’ It’s from James Joyce — as in, ‘against the Philistine.’ “

David, fascinated, murmured in reply: “I look forward, with pleasure, to that last refinement.” Subtle, charming creature! who failed to react to crudity on its own level. She had struck back so elegant-wise her enemy barely felt the cut.

He gazed at that famous, strange, brilliant pink-pale hair, coiled in Grecian ‘snails’ over each ear. The complexion of an ice-maiden with glimmering Latin eyes. He felt calm with her, even safe, and realized with a start he was feeling none of the usual deleterious effects of missing “magic hour.”

That was all Paula wanted, really. For all her NA blather, she wasn’t even trying. She would’t drink, which at least could calm you. She just wanted to go cop, and force him to go cop with her.

Calm, without the drug! Was it possible? He looked into Angelique’s refulgent, deep eyes… the waiter interrupted with menus, and David ordered a second bottle of Champagne. Somewhere on the fringe of his attention he noted his old friend giving up and leaving…

Angelique pushed her wine-glass towards his and tapped it twice. He stared at her hand, oddly small and childish. A shudder ran through him as he felt a certain, specific anxiety — he felt — attracted to her! She was sitting very close to him.
As discreetly as possible he began to move a bit away from her.

“David — I must say — I found that VERY disturbing!”

“Oh, she’s always like that, I mean with women. She just can’t get along with them. She had a terrible mother.”

“She made it seem, I don’t know, how can I say — like she was jealous of you?”

“She is jealous of me but not what you think. She just wants me all to herself.
I’m her best friend, her confidant!”

“No I wasn’t thinking anything untoward, just, very possessive, is all.”

“Anyway, she’ll be married off soon, and she’ll be off my hands.”

“Now you sound like a father.”

“I think I am a kind of father for her. And others,” he finished this with a groan.

Angelique now turned her energy to charming him, since after all she was tonight’s favorite. Paula’s antics had impressed her that there was a competition for his attentions. She felt pleased that he remained companionably by her side,
did not move to sit across from her.

Dinner arrived, and he ate very little, kept on smoking and drinking. Her fever came on again, lending her thoughts a tumultuous, hallucinated fervor. She was very hungry but felt self-conscious to have him observe her eating. She left half her meal untouched… as the conversation began to wax deep, and strangely familiar, in its many twists and turns along hyper-aesthetic pathways…

As the plates were removed, she was telling him about Byron’s poem with his namesake title: MANFRED.

“It is a very strange creation. A short dramatic poem, made up of the actions of one day: the day before he dies. He tries one last time to have his attending Spirits let him go. Spirits he had once been able to easily command. But he chose Knowledge, in forfeit of Life, and so all Spirits have become as Furies to him.”

“What ‘Knowledge?’ “ David asked.

“It is implied… something to do with those things only God should Know. Mastery over Nature, for one. Magic? The Black Arts? Crimes unexpiated… a crime that marked him for life. Something to do with illicit love? Homosexuality, incest? This is especially poignant, as Byron’s life was ruined by affairs, particularly one he had with his wife’s cousin. Or was it his sister-in-law? No, that was De Sade. Not a direct blood relative, but there was incest enough to drive him from England.” **

Angelique failed note the subtle change that came over David at her mention of
“illicit love… homosexuality… incest.” He went pale, his eyes glazed over, and he began to drink more rapidly… then to tried to order another bottle of Champagne, but she wouldn’t let him. She had only drunk one-half of the two, and she didn’t want to leave him drunk. “Let’s have dessert instead. “

She then asked him about his Work, how he had gotten started, his reigning ideas. He was grateful she did not inquire about any shows, and told her so.

“My gallerist is an ass… I’m thinking of canceling.”

“Oh, I understand! How many people ask me about ‘What Have You Published Lately.” As if we Work for audiences?”

“There are paintings you must see, done years ago. I no longer show them, no one understands. They are talismans for entry into another Universe.”

“Like a Book of the Dead?”

“Precisely. Many of the subjects ARE dead, from the plague, or drugs — their bodies a hieroglyph, a code to be read only by the Elect.”

Thus he marked before her glamorized eyes the shape of his Ideal, her enamored absorption urging him on, inspiring him to further extravagances.

The background buzz faded — faceless figures drifted by — the table itself a kind of jittery wafer upon which things appeared and disappeared — as his voice began to coax her on, loosened her from the moorings of the ordinary.

All that existed for Angelique was his head, and the hypnotic issuance therefrom: that voice! She could not take her eyes from his great Romanesque skull, as if hanging before her in the dark air, above the cancelled body in its black garb.

“You will visit my studio.” Now the skull hovered closer, a hand brushed over hers. In sudden terror at this mild approach, she met his gaze, then dropped her eyes to
his swift intake of breath, the parted lips. Both fell away, then, back against the leather; it was getting to be too much. Faint perspiration showed on both brows…

“It seems terribly overheated in here… why don’t we walk?”.

On their way out they passed Rolfie, deeply drunk and alone at the bar. “Where are your boys?” David queried, sarcastic. Rolfie turned a vulnerable eye, “Upstairs, in the bathroom,” then realizing this could be disproved, “I mean, they’ve gone to get cigarettes.” He took Angelique’s proffered hand and kissed it, which pleased her, and she granted him one of her smiles — it was so vulgar when men tried to shake her hand. “Did you have a nice dinner? I’m so glad. You look perfectly lovely.”

A light snow was falling on Prince Street as they started East, but neither wanted to take a taxi. In her fluffy Russian toque and long white coat, to David she was a figure out of another century. She had a slow and lilting gait, as if she only now and then touched the ground. Walking her home, was he — like someone out of a Victorian novel? Seeing the Lady home, of course! What else should one do?

“Poor man!”

“Who, Rolfie? Poor nothing! He’s worth millions,” was his crude reply.

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know, but don’t feel sorry for him. Before the night is over he’ll have bought two more.”

“Still, don’t you feel bad for him, that that’s his companionship?”

David was so used to the mores of downtown, he hadn’t considered Rolfie’s situation as unusual: that Rolfie might deserve to be thought ‘a poor man,’ for having to buy a sex-life. Had he ever considered such sympathy, for his old friend?

He suppressed a sarcastic rejoinder, to the effect of: Now aren’t you the little whore with the heart of gold? for he did not know her well enough yet… or if ever she would allow such a friendly insult. Instead, “I guess it is sort of sad… but that’s Manhattan. The rich buy the poor.”

He heard her tsk, and in that disapproval, felt that anachronism in her. He had come very far from such niceties of emotion. Living exclusively in the present, modern world, and without any woman’s rule: women! whose sex so often imposes the demands of polite Society. What had become of his self-restraint, instilled through his mother?

What had become of him, because those rejected values? That he’d thought so boring and unnecessary? Proprieties thrown away in his adolescence for the sake of the new, radical social order of the Sixities, that he had anyhow long ago forgotten about… And here was Angelique, allegedly a whore, reinstating, as an aesthetic, those very restraints.

Though no-one liked limitations on freedom, what had he been left with? Where had his freedom placed him? In a world where money held the first, and in truth, only importance; where sloppy manners were just fine; where free and easy morals had led him to a coterie of artists/non-conformists, most of whom thought it was perfectly normal to do heroin.

Angelique was making him feel as if he required some further education. From his memory came up, “ ‘We know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.’ Oscar Wilde. Even then he predicted the death of culture.”

But Angelique was on to other thoughts. Very simply, she was thrilled to feel him strolling alongside her. The atavistic pleasure of looking up at him. She was so tall she rarely enjoyed that. Looking up reminded her of her youth, when she still thought of men as her protectors. Before she understood the equation: predator and prey. She felt in David a special poise and solidity, understood why some would consider him father-like.

But more — she felt he was possessed of real power — of spiritual strength, a stalwart spark that held her attention, further provoking her love.

The streets of Soho were empty and quiet. As though the town were uninhabited but for they two. A calmer, deeper silence fell upon them as they drifted up towards Bowery along the old industrial pathways. As if all ambition, all grueling effort, had finally come to an end, and so, freed from utility, a line of poetry awaited them around the next corner.

They arrived at the old factory building where she had her floor-through loft.

“Would you like to come up?”

“I’d love to!” This quick assent pleased her, and indeed he wondered at it.

The four-story structure had no elevator. She led him upstairs… suddenly overcome by this further presence (he would be alone with her, within her privacy) she staggered a bit on the steps. He caught her at the waist, both gasping at the contact. She wrenched away but he’d felt her trembling.

“Are you hurt?” he asked. Yes I am hurt, very deeply, all my life.
The question resounded harshly within her, though she gave her usual stark answer, “I’m fine.”

Though he understood she was a type of woman-for-hire, he sensed that she held herself outside of any modern promiscuity. He knew he might enjoy a certain intimacy with her, and without any danger of her grossly responding. That is, she had the capacity, she might easily be ‘his’ — but whatever that might mean? David wasn’t certain, but felt attracted to her freedom…

Though he knew he would care not to see any desire reflected in her. He wanted her cold, and above it all. He did not want to be tempted to toy with her.

These thoughts came to him only because he was certain that she was already in love with him.

Women, women, why did they always go through this with me?

He would not stay too long; he appreciated her restraint.

She inhabited the entire top story, and though the place was ancient, “1890s” and run-down, she had decorated sumptuously; apparently enforcing a sort of Nouveau-Baroque discipline upon the ruins of the Industrial Revolution. The pressed-tin ceiling had been gilded, then distressed, so it peeled in layers as to suggest the foliage of rococo. Tall, iron-bound windows were rusted, and masked in indigo blue velvet and sheers. One section of the floor was inlaid with bolted steel. “It used to be a kind of foundry…” Walls were streaked in burgundy and black, purposely slurried as if water-damaged. All over this surface was fretted the gross tracery of useless pipes; these were painted silver and gold and hung with little gold frames, enclosing mirrors, watercolors, small oils by modern artists he recognized, in a decidedly recherche style.

Over huge old crates made of what looked like oak were flung fake medieval tapestries. One one was ensconced a black IBM Selectric typewriter. As she lit candles all around, in candelabra, sconces of broken glass, and old wine bottles the overall effect, was, well, decadent.

He sank down on a throne whose blown stuffing had been spray-painted magenta. He recognized all the luxury as an illusion, the artifice of the theatre, and he adored it —

“What an imagination!”

She was fluttering about, arranging this and that, rushed to the whistling kettle and carried in a battered silver-tea service. Nervously chattering, drawing books from out of the messy, overflowing bookcases… an old edition of Byron from 1900, found the MANFRED poem, and set it down, to please him.

She took her place in the chair opposite his. Remarking how he had taken her own usual seat — the one in the North, place of the Teacher, and the Wise. But she was only too glad to sit in the South, the Student, the Aspirant… It was only correct.

For the artist she was, this man was rapidly becoming the embodiment of a rare masculine ideal. She could sit, then, and wait — for him to speak to her. To ask her for something. Ask her tp prove something to him. To demand…

So they sat. In silence a page turned… a teacup clicked to a saucer… in that suspension of time where they had always been together.






The poet Georges Gordon Byron (1788 – 1824) did actually have an incestuous affair with his half-sister, Augusta. He made no secret of it which became an especial downfall for his career. His cousin on his wife’s side, Lady Caroline Lamb, a talented writer in her own right, was another one of his Mistresses. She remained obsessed with him for the rest of her life, and was the source for the famous phrase: that the poet was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”







Chapter 14



But for a perverse one, or two who find risky pleasure in stymieing her obnoxious whims no-one — neither her business partners — nor her many business associates — none of her clients — and not a soul in her Manhattan Society has ever dared deny The Lady Madame Anya her natural Superiority. Notice we mention no friends. She has none.

She remains one of Downtown’s sacred monsters, a sort of primeval object of both veneration and disgust. Her bad character is tolerated — even required — for by that set of standards very good heroin has been for a decade constantly, plentifully and cheaply on tap for the users.

But there is one thing about crime, that is always constant — the business of crime constantly changes.

Her most constant goal, and greatest pleasure, is to hold power over others. Even as a child she had been a tyrant, and spoiled, and made worse… An innate, prideful amorality led her, while still in high-school, to one inauthentic, but highly satisfying form of modern domination: drug-dealing. But is it the long-term effects of her own, very well-maintained habit that has made her, by the age of forty-five, capable of almost anything? She has terrorized in countless ways, visited mayhem, even sanctioned murder. But is she just another form of that classic satan: drug-dealer without a conscience?

Her violence has its source in an original disposition, that is to say — she’s a natural-born sadist.

Mandarin blood dominates the mongrel American strain in her, her mother’s legacy much stronger than her G.I. father’s, whose white blood might have ennervated the germ of ruthlessness in that ancienter soul. But she herself chooses to live as an American, as amongst pure Chinese she holds no ascendance — and that she most certainly will not abide.

But Tere Gaya had not an inkling of any of this background. To her, Anya was simply “really cool for an old lady.” Tere going down to Chinatown with Madame was only the latest of the types who had tried to latch onto this paradigm. The question as to how she, Tere, might more closely affix herself to Anya’s wealth and influence — that is, how she might sniff out that solid-gold heroin connection — whizzed through her pretty head, only to resolve itself in fawning.

Certainly Tere needed to find some way to keep body, soul, makeup, and heroin-habit together in the coming months. The Resort Collection bookings had come and gone, and there wasn’t one job in her date-book for the Spring.

She knew Madame Anya was susceptible to the Submissive. But would Tere really do it, “bottom” to the Beast?

Speeding south on the East River Drive, unseasonably warm temperatures had the two women shedding scarves and gloves. Unpleasant humid breezes wafted in the cab window, redolent of unfrozen garbage. Stuck in traffic at the Brooklyn Bridge exit, the rot of the river regaled them further. The snort Anya had given Tere wasn’t holding… the dense air drained and irritated her. So, failing in the first round to exercise that designed servility, Tere forgot herself:

“I’m thirsty!” she mewed.

Anya gingerly turned her head round to stare at this ‘girl:’ she could never forget that Tere had once been a boy, and had an innate loathing for that sex. AND WHAT DO YOU EXPECT ME TO DO ABOUT IT? this slow regard conveyed. Tere had not yet ‘copped to’ this disfavor, because anyhow Tere was a woman…

But aside from what she felt about Tere personally, Anya would have her deal. She was glamourous, a draw, to buy from Tere would be a status symbol. A famous, or was that infamous former House of Herve trans-sexual model — as your heroin dealer. Who could resist the depravity?

Not to mention Tere could afford the deposit Anya was now exacting from her new satellites: to forestall the problems of robberies and other mishaps related to carrying large amounts of cash and-or drugs. Caroline had come up with the idea — if the dealer might lose the five grand put up as security, well you could bet such ‘robberies’ and other thefts would end.

When Anya did not deign to answer, Tere whined a bit louder, “After this, can we at least go somewhere to eat?” Anya winced. Now the traffic was breaking up… Tere flushed… she reminded herself she had to behave.

Once before she had observed Madame pass through the streets of Chinatown, blending in with no more than the turn of a hat-brim; had seen people nodding to her, making way. Or so it had seemed to Tere, who was naively dazzled by the thought of The Lady as a kind of Queen over the masses there. She imagined further inner sanctums — a secret, luxurious den — opium tea served by slave-girls, no, slave-boy stowaways from the fascists on the mainland, the marks of the shackle still on their pretty necks. She imagined being charmed by handsome, dangerous Chinese gents, all of them ‘packing,’ looking just like Bruce Lee — and who, after doing some of the most primo dope in town, might even be interested in a little action…

Her fantasy was interrupted as the cab pulled up before a movie theatre, complete with marquee shaped like a pagoda. “OOOH!” she squealed, “I’ve never gone to a Chinese movie before!”

The girlish dumbness failed to charm: “Neither have I.”

They by-passed the box-office, went through the fake-ornate gold and red dragon-encrusted doorway, into a long, wide passageway that slanted slightly downwards to the theatre entry. On this plateau, surrounded by gaudy posters, they stood for forty-five minutes.

Tere knew she had to keep quiet, tried to be amused by the exotic ads. But I can’t even READ them, she whined to herself. She really was thirsty now — she gazed with desire at the ticket-taker, guarding the door that led to the refreshment stand.

“I’m just gonna ask him if I can go in and get a soda…”

“NO.” Anya regarded her with disgust. It seemed to have been a mistake to bring Tere along. “Haven’t I told you, more than once, never do anything that might draw attention to yourself? I really do not like having to repeat myself.”

“What’s so abnormal about buying a Coke? It’s much more weird to stand around like this.”

Anya crushed out her third cigarette, “Hush up… hush up now about it, or go on home.”

A few more minutes crawled by; Tere was more than bored. Just like any stupid cop. Just standing around, waiting forever like schmucks.

“Anya, my feet hurt, do you think I could buy a ticket and go inside and sit down, I mean that looks normal doesn’t it? Just for a few minutes?”

“Sure! Go right ahead.”

So she wants to get rid of me, does she? Tere scowled. Fine, well then I’m gonna stick like glue.

After nearly an hour a handsome, sloe-eyed bit of maleness sauntered through the swinging doors. He caught sight of Anya, and to Tere’s amazement whisked the portly Lady into his arms. “WELL!” The two engaged in a long, passionate kiss.

“And what… oh my!” The angel was really half Anya’s age. And besides, Tere just could not abide a public demonstration — when she wasn’t the one making it.

Now the gorgeous creature came floating her way, and she readied herself with a coy smile. Under his breath he roughly ordered her, “Go outside and get a taxi!” Well! The nerve! The way men think they can just take over!

“And immediately give the driver the address!”

“Oh yes sir!” she sneered. What was the big fucking deal? Some stupid Chink hierarchy, gangster protocol, “WHATEVER!” She glanced at Anya, who nodded her on. Tere sighed deeply and stalled, watching the young man walk back to her. Rather too loudly she commented, “What a waste!” and went out to the curb.

Anya settled into the cab and Tere began to moan, “Aw gee Anya do we have to go back NOW? Can’t we go eat at some fantastic place down here, I’m sure you know about… This is ridiculous, you know I’m dying of thirst!” The flattery was getting her nowhere. Finally, losing all control, she hissed:

“Or did we just come down here for you to get your version of LAID?”

Anya’s black sun-glassed visage yielded naught, did not even turn in Tere’s direction.

The cab hit the ramp at sixty, and Tere screamed, “SLOW DOWN ASSHOLE!”

Anya’s hand flew out. The cunt slapped me! “WHAT WAS THAT FOR?!”

Anya bent forward and spat into her hand. Thereupon lay a wet glassine envelope, about as big as a cookie, filled with light brown powder.

“Oh! Oh GEE, OOOH! Um, gee I didn’t know!”

“Yeah I know you didn’t know. COULD you please stop saying GEE?” Anya kept her eyes on the driver’s rear-view mirror. He’d kept glancing back at them, since they were picked up.

“In fact, just keep your mouth shut, all the rest of the way home!” Then she muttered under her breath, “If you’re going to be working for me, learn to follow instructions: TO THE LETTER. We have NO ROOM for cute improvisations, understand? No thinking for yourself! Do you think you can do that?”

Yeah sure… no thinking. I get it.

Anya didn’t like that the driver knew where they were going. She changed the destination, remarking with a laugh, “I know my friend here gave you the wrong address.. she’s forgotten I moved.” When she saw Tere start to open her mouth, she glared and murmured,

“You were going to argue with me? You can’t even remember what I said to you five minutes ago?” Anya was having second thoughts; no-one as silly and babbling as this was going to last in the Business.

So Tere gave it up, the thought of the drug making her a toy… The Brown, The Brown! Best high ever! “Yeah, Madame sorry, I”ll try to remember!” she whispered, “No thinking.” Whatever, anything, for The Brown.

The driver let them off at First Avenue and Eleventh, and they trotted back four blocks to their real destination, Anya’s Salon — on the top, sixth floor at 101 St. Mark’s. She rented all four of the apartments, had broken through the walls, so instead of the narrow mouse-trap rooms created by the slum-lord seventy-five years ago, she had open space, divided her way: a main conference room, an office, bedroom, a large kitchen and work-space for her industry, and the most important of rooms: a vestibule, or as Madame called it, “The Foyer.”

Lounging round the long dining-table in the ‘conference room’ was the usual coterie, waiting — waiting — nothing to do but wait. We see our David, talented painter, who no longer paints; Edie, art-critic, newly fired from the review magazine she’d founded; Claybourne, degenerate dilettante, three days out of Golden Hills rehab; Andre, publicity-hound, who’d hocked his employer’s camera for his fix; and Valentina, lovely slumming French heiress, with her children locked in the car downstairs.

The group gazed listlessly upon one another, united in false bonhomie; sprang to attention as in through the door came their Joy, their Delight! Madame Anya! who threw her wraps to the floor, and was just about to greet them when she stared —

Who is that, at my Board? Lola, the competition? The group followed her anger, glaring as one’ fearful that Lo’ will put The Lady in a mood as to stymie all their dreams.

She ought not to have been allowed in the door! Anya glanced at Li, who shrugged and looked helpless. Probably pushed her way in, well she’ll have to be isolated, and a few questions put to her.

For one: After Lola’s shooting-gallery was raided by the DEA three months ago, why had she never been called to a Grand Jury? Because she was cooperating? In the Business you had to keep track of every tremor… even a tiny repercussion can set off a landslide of hell.

The doorbell rang and Anya screamed at her cousin, “Keep them in the foyer! The conference room is packed!” The demand was out of control — old clients were buying triple amounts, and every day she had new clients, referrals of course, but still. Everyone in Downtown suddenly seemed to be doing it. People at her doorstep all hours of the day and night, cash in hand, demanding…

If one is at all curious about such things, the reason why Anya herself had been compelled to make a run to Chinatown was: she was just about out.

Until Caroline gets on the stick, I’m going to have to keep on schlepping, maybe even tomorrow… not that I mind lighting up the old connections. But they’ll only sell me so much.

With a few gestures Anya signaled Li to take Lola into her private study. He was given the packet, and told to measure it out in bags of two-dose portions. She looked around for Tere, who was in a corner with the painter Manfred, happily babbling away. She’d just better not be telling him anything about the ‘cop’…

“What can I do for you,” Anya swept into her study, and took her seat behind the desk. She deliberately made her manner impenetrable.

“Anya, can you help me out? I’ve got no product! My supplier’s even left town.”

“How odd, left town?” Or was he just not answering her calls — having been arrested?

“I’d like to buy some of this Persian Brown I’ve been hearing about.”

Anya felt violated, and furious, but she cleared her throat and smiled reassuringly, “I’m sure this shortage is only temporary. I’ve been feeling it too…”

“Yeah… Tere told me you all’ins were gonna go cop yerse’ves, just now!”

Now Anya was really furious. Despite the deposit Tere was due to pay her, money she could definitely use, could she risk having this kind of constant leak? “Well, be that as it may, I don’t know why she said that — I really can’t help you.”

“I can make it worth your while,” and the woman grossly proffered a thick wad of bills.

“Please, put that away.” All the hair on the back of Anya’s neck was standing on end. Without seeming to do so, she looked into the woman’s eyes. It looked like Lola wasn’t high. She wouldn’t be — if she was working for the Feds. Or would they let her go on using? Probably. But in any event, there was something wrong.

“So, what IS going on?” Lola queried.

Now Anya knew it had to be a set-up. Why in one thousand years would she, Anya, with her solid gold connections all over the world, give a pipsqueak competitor any insight into the upper stories of the trade? Lola had never crossed that line before, either. Something was forcing her to force the point.

“I’m not sure, but it’s got to be only temporary.”

The truth of the matter was: Caroline’s armada of drug-carrying ships — a constant stream, arriving from the Middle East, China, France, southeast Asia — had had to put in at other ports. For whatever reason, New York and New Jersey were crawling with inspectors. Of course there were always questions, and searches, and new bribes to pay; but in these eastern ports, with their hundreds of ships each day, and tens of thousands of containers a week passing through… not every single manifest is checked at one hundred percent. Caroline’s people had all the right flunkies paid off. But there were times, such as these, when you simply could not pay off everyone.

Her captains were heading for the coast of Georgia. Several capacious cargo vans, driven by trusted agents were at that moment on their way south, ready to install all the proper, working machinery. Each would collect as much of the goods as they could carry, the tractor trailers following. Still, at best, major product was not due on the streets of New York City for a good week.

None of these details was Anya inclined to share with Lola, bloodie greedy hag, where does she get off coming in here and asking ME questions?

“Why is it that I don’t believe you?”

The two women stared each other down. Anya did not at all care for the threat explicit… Since when… am I supposed to do what this slut says?

She nearly rang for Li to throw her out, when she had a brainstorm: how to get rid of this person, once and for all time… scare off other small fry… and monopolize Downtown.

“Believe what you like, but I don’t know what is going on. I’ve had to go through my old connections.”

“Who are they?”

Anya laughed, “Lo’, for a woman who was never called to Grand Jury, you’re asking a few too many questions.”

“Oh so that’s what behind this? You think I’m a narc?”

Anya’s evil blossomed in her brain, stimulated what was left of her heart to a simulation of kindness: “Now now, calm down. An old friend’s allowed to ask a question, isn’t she?” She smiled widely — actually quite happily — at her victim: “I’ll tell you what, Lola. Let me take care of my people here, they’re about to pull the wallpaper off the walls… Tomorrow evening, I’ll come by your place, with whatever I can scrounge.”

“Well… okay then. I guess I have no choice.”

“I really don’t think Raymond has left town,” Lola’s eyes widened at Anya’s knowledge of her source’s name. “He’s probably just holed up somewhere, with what he has left… The starvation is on.”

Anya would’t even sell Lola the dose she claimed she needed; told Li (in Chinese) to show her out, and not to let her speak to anyone on her way.

Li returned to the study with a stack of glassine bags; each held about half a teaspoonful of brown powder. Anya counted out half of them, swept them into the desk drawer, extracting one. As she shook a few grains onto an aluminum-foil paten, Li stood at her elbow with his lighter, handing her a bit of drinking-straw. When she was ready, holding the paten close to her nose, he held a flame underneath — in a second, the drug turned to dark brown liquid which evaporated in a coil of blue smoke. Anya fiercely snuffled up this waft, and sat back, sighing. As Li watched, her eyes turned back into her skull in ecstasy.

After twenty minutes or so she came to, and took her time going into the main room.

She first approached Tere, and swept by muttering “… I ought to have you fucking drawn and quartered… how fucking dare you talk to Lola.” Tere looked frightened as Anya took her seat at the head of the table. David stared into Tere’s pale face; she’d told him about the cop, but in glamourous terms… why does Anya think she can talk to Tere like that? But his attention was drawn away, as were the others’, and he added his own gasp of pleasure at the sight of the little glassine envelopes. Which gasp only increased Anya’s irritation: “Yes, Persian Brown. Two hits, forty.”

“Forty… forty…” the new price was whispered round the table. Anya looked for any signs of rebellion. So she’d doubled the price, but wasn’t this “… the new stuff, different stuff, the rarest stuff?” Not a peep was heard from her little chickens as Li went around the table collecting cash.

Anya glared down at them with more than her usual hatred. Do they think, because they pay me, they don’t have to say Thank You, or even be grateful? This sentimental complaint found a point in Tere, whom she watched sucking up her dose of blue smoke. Doesn’t she owe me now, alot more than cash?

She felt nothing but contempt for her besotted, nodding round the table.

You think this state of affairs is going to go on forever! The best dope in Manhattan, dirt cheap? No way! The price will be going up, and there’ll be no credit. Nor am I going to be dirtying my hands much longer… this Source of Delirium is rising to a whole new level. I’m being promoted, in the New Year. Caroline and I are flying to Hong Kong, I may even move there… and you has-been Downtowners can work somebody else as a charity for your fix.

Okay so you’re high — now get the fuck out. I’m not an institution.

David, deep into his high, could barely listen to what Tere was saying… this bragging and posing totally on my nerves. Does she really think becoming Anya’s flunky is a step up in the world?

Lately he had been entertaining the suspicion that he was just a John for her — a harrowed, tapped-out John. Supporting Tere and her habit, paying her rent, indulging her whims and foibles… all were gestures of affection, left over from the era of his great love for her. And he had promised her mother that he would always look after him/her… through the transition.

But the promise was worn out. The gender transitioning was lasting an eternity. She’d had the money for the full operation four times, and blown it. The alleged longed-for day, when Tere would at last be a physical woman and would be done with this neurotic half-state — was never arriving. She was becoming freakish, a junkie-princess; a person whose promise was awry. And now the voice broke out its highest-pitches of whine — what she used to grind him down — she was going to ask him for money.

“Daa-DEE? Daddee… there’s a party for Barnabus,” the hottest new designer “and he’s invited me, he wants to meet me. Le Miserable,” the chic-est of fashion photographers “wants to shoot me in a Barnabus. The thing is, I don’t have one.”

“Barnabus won’t give you one?”

“Da-aa-a-DEEE! I have to SHOW UP wearing one. THEN I’ll get a NEW ONE. For the shoot!”

“How much?” David sighed.

“I found one in that Upper East Side coo-toor thrift shop. Four and a half grand.”

David exploded, “You’re definitely living in la-la land! Absolutely not! What makes you think I’ve got that anyhow?”


“What did Rolfie… what did you… Tere!”

Tere was shocked by David’s reaction. And lately it did seem that she’d been losing a bit too much control… over her dearest old friend.

“Daddy! Rolfie said he’d front it. Do you know what that Barnabus went for, when it was new?”

“And never will again — twenty grand. His stuff is shit. And I won’t allow Rolfie…” David was sputtering, “… you are insane! Do you really imagine you’re still at that level? What is it, a twelve?”


“You will, by the time you get into the dressing room.”

Tere had to put up with the insults. David was one of the few people left to her, in her shrunken sphere of influence. And we understand that she didn’t want his money for a dress, or a party, or anything related to an alleged fashion shoot. To gather the five thousand Anya wanted to get started, she needed another four and a half grand — and right away.

So what’s wrong? Why isn’t he going for it? Her grasping instinct ranged through the permutations of possibilities. But imagination was enfeebled… and all she could come up with was:

“Well, I guess I should tell you. I’m going to have to start dealing.”

“… you are going to do — what?”

“Deal,” she whispered, “for Anya.”

“You’ re not.”

“Yes I am.” She relayed this quickly, strictly.

“Tere, you’re not going to become a drug-dealer.”

“I’m NOT,“ she whined, “I’ll just be picking up packages!”

David was aghast. Though it was hypocritical to forbid her to deal, the shocked collision of his former morality, with the degradation of their shared condition set off a hysteria in him. To his horror he even felt tears starting. That made him feel violent… as he wished he was rich enough to slap her face.

She wasn’t making the money she used to, as a model. So if he forbade her to deal, then he’d be back to supporting her. And he could no longer afford to support her, in New York, in the manner… to which they had both become accustomed.

He all at once understood that their friendship was over.

The faintest trail of metaphysical nausea permeated his high. He glanced around the table at the rest of his so-called friends, nodding to their internalized joy. There was an acrid stink in the air, of unwashed bodies, and the chemical in the drug… overlaying the peculiar restfulness of the picture. A sickening, infinite calm, utterly unnatural… and that No Exit* thought: nothing was ever going to change.

These people, and Madame Anya, and the great drugs: it would all go on indefinitely. Just as long as you had the cash. Nothing would change, neither progress made, nor fall.

And then David’s diabolism came to his rescue:

It’s boring. I’m bored with this.





•• No Exit, a play by Jean-Paul Sartre in which several people discover themselves in Hell, which turns out to be a locked room they can never exit. “Hell is other people,” is I believe the famed quote therein, as they will be entertaining one another into infinite time, with the same stories and the same unregenerate attitudes.






Chapter 15


Angelique’s Diary
22nd November, high noon

La Grande Poohbah Lady Jane Morris woke me up at 9 AM yelling into my machine… Our Especial Naughtiness is no longer to be entertained. She honked that I’m “not allowed to re-write the manuscript, or rather, go ahead and please yourself, in so doing… but WE are not interested!”

The Towering Babble-on has spoken. Nor am I to subvert, in any interview, print or television, the strength and power of their damned edition. More Babble-on about breach of contract, then the cherry on top: my book will be in the stores, one week before Xmas… THEIR bloodie edition, with Marie Alexandra brought up to a safe sixteen years of age.

Well at least they’re not making Salvatore into some kind of whitewashed Svengali, and let him stay a priest. At least the last time I checked — and how can I keep checking up on them? It’s exhausting to consider the busy red-pencils of the young college graduates paid slave-wages to torment me. At this point Grande-Poohbah probably wouldn’t even let me into their offices; I’d go into a frenzy of red-pencil snapping.

I let her babble-on without picking up the receiver… now here I sit at my desk, admittedly melancholy to see a fine film of dust on the working manuscript. Until I am a venerable old mummy of an author, this true Work will not see the light.

But it lives beyond their dreary calendar. To quote myself, What difference DOES it make if the novel doesn’t come out on time? What TIME is that, in the Grand Aeon of my Conception?

And further… I just do not comprehend why my rampant creativity does not thrill her. It is really quite depressing to know that she really does NOT want the best possible version.

And finally: “I could withdraw the manuscript, and to hell with her and all of them.”

I could also commit suicide, but I would never give them that satisfaction. I have too much Work to accomplish. And Even if I am humiliated to my eye-teeth, and then supposed to be GRATEFUL! that any publisher AT ALL! would publish the Words of such a peculiar person as yours truly. I’m going to try to NOT think about them. Just go on Working on the ms. as I see fit, as The Words Must Be.

I’m praying they don’t throw me a party. There is no way I could
smile and simper and not have a fit — I ought to plan to go out of town the week it’s to appear. I’ll make up some story about a family emergency.


November 23rd, 2 AM

Just came in, on the machine were two messages, both from David. The first one was brief — he invited me to a dinner party uptown, at his friend Caroline’s, I think she’s that very rich patron of his… saying he’d be by at seven to pick me up. He doesn’t have the Chambers’ number yet… so he wouldn’t know I was working. (I don’t think he even has much idea, yet, of that working…)

Then his second message, an hour later, let me know “Sorry I’m not going, I feel quite ill.”

He is really so peculiar. Tried calling him, and his line just rang. He either went out after all and forgot to put his machine on, or he unplugged it so he could sleep. He told me sometimes he can’t even stand to know that messages are coming in.

I feel unusually stimulated, I think I’ll work instead of going to bed.

Oddly I am up to that section on the party, the first Ball that Marie Alexandra attends. That’s what’s on my desk, next to work on — so, an elegant party, where she partakes of the company of Salvatore.


The Manuscript of Salvatore

Marie Alexandra had been wild for a week, upon the prospect of her first Ball. The Princess de Parme’s soirees were especially grand… nothing she had in her wardrobe would do. By that morning her dressmaker was falling asleep over the fitting… she and the others on call at the palace had been forced for a week to sew twenty hours a day. Marie was disgusted that all she was allowed to wear was white; envious over her Comtesse’s burgundy brocade. But it would have been a scandal for her to wear any other shade. She was still a child, though rapidly altering in thought and spirit.

Marie caressed the worn blue velvet box wherein lay her Mother’s diamonds:
an exquisite small tiara, surmounted with the large, refulgent Alexandrite; two heavy gold cuffs of mixed topaz, pearl and diamond; and the one great ring, bestowed by her father upon their engagement. Its diamond was a marquise cut, three carats, set in a ponderously wrought green-gold. She settled herself at her vanity and poised the tiara on her black locks.

The Alexandrite shone a brilliant green. Famed and mystic gem! Mined for one short period from caves in the Ural Mountains, once that secret vein was emptied, the stone was never again discovered. In a fashion that even science could not explain, the gem changed colour, from brown or burgundy red, through to taupe, or a watery pink, and sometimes astonishing appearances like sapphire blue, or this false emerald…

Suddenly Marie saw herself in Father Salvatore’s eyes: how he would look upon her, in her glory of diamonds. He would be at the Ball, yes, the strange worldly priests of that decadent Court were to be seen at fashionable routs. To Marie, it was strangely thrilling how religion was treated so lightly. No-one ever came to take her to Mass… she went herself, of course, but it seemed les Philosophe’s ideas were the predominant ones, amongst cultivated people, as all at Court assuredly were.

And while she was not yet deeply versed in their subtleties, she had picked up enough to have learned: the Catholics could very well be wrong about God. She did not know if she could go so far as to not believe in God at all… it was said some did think He did not exist! Still she did not want to be thought a countrified fool. Les Philosophes said Reason should reign over Faith. But was it not reasonable, when you looked at the world, to believe in God?

Anyhow, priests were still there to console one. If Salvatore and the other priests were suave, well-dressed, and had florid manners, did that not make sense? When you were suffering, they should be beautiful, to make you feel happier… Her eyes had gone soft and unfocussed, thinking over the person of her Confessor… she startled at the sight of la Comtesse before her:

“Child! Take off that extravagance at once!”

They argued mildly… the Alexandrite tiara was too brilliant a show for someone hardly twelve, La Comtesse opined. But Marie Alexandra insisted on the jewel, and won out. (As La Comtesse had designs upon it, she hoped she had not paid it too much attention…) They finished dressing together, chattering away, and the elder bringing the younger up to date on certain points of etiquette.

Salvatore’s fatal seduction of Marie Alexandra commenced that evening — condensed in the moment when he forbade her to dance.

When she arrived that evening at the Princess de Parme’s hotel particuliere Marie made quite a stir. A new beauty was very welcome in that jaded Society — a new morsel for the sated palates. She was immediately taken up by some young ‘sparks’ — boys still, but still too old for her. After a couple of brilliant dances, where her Russian balletic mannerisms were remarked upon, to be copied, her Comtesse led her away.

“We mustn’t allow them to make you their bauble!” though Marie had rather liked being a bauble — admired, flattered, fought over. She was chided for not immediately greeting her hostess, and Marie went in instant search of the Lady, embarrassed at being found wanting in etiquette.

She was told La Princesse was, as ever, at cards. She was mounting to the premiere etage when she heard her name called; she turned upon the grand bow of the stair to see the priest — her Father — gazing up at her.

How handsome he looked! His eyes smoldered; he was angry! She was astonished when he reached her in a few steps, a very unseemly, unclerical rush, and gripped her wrist quite firmly —

“What was that provocative display I witnessed?” Even in his fury his voice was muted, making the criticism more deadly. But for his eyes, his manner was cool, even blase — and the words sliced into her, “You made yourself a spectacle, with your lascivious dancing!”

She blanched as his eyes raked her neckline; he found it cut too low. He stared at her bare shoulders beneath the filmy wrap; her drawn-up hair revealed the nape of her neck… “Is that rouge? And how bejeweled we are!” He smiled upon her unpleasantly, and she was not quite sure what she had done wrong…

“La Comtesse allowed me my Mother’s diamonds!”

“It is too much. I see you are descending… the woman is a dreadful influence upon you. ”

“I know I should not be allowed, until I am twelve, but…”

“Oh we are quite brazen, are we?”

In the midst of his cruelty, it seemed to her, strangely, that he was pleased.
The word he used, in French, impudent … it meant shameless. She heard the thrill of pleasure, in his hypocrisy… a hot flush suffused her cheeks as she recollected their recent, intimate postures. His hands upon her… so why… would he not like her… impudent?

He held her eyes and telepathed: You are Mine, You belong to Me, Always do exactly as I tell you. Aloud, he was sarcastic:

“And where are you off to? The card-room? Have you taken up gambling as well? I must accompany you. The atmosphere in those rooms is poisonous to your delicacy.”

He had controlled his passion, she was relieved to see. She was afraid of him, of course, but more so of herself, of what she might do — whatever he asked, she would do, for example if he tried to make that certain demand…

Now it was her turn to control herself as sinful fantasy began to toy with her. It was because he strode with her, her hand tightened on his arm, she felt an immense, masculine strength pouring out of him, above her, all around her…
The look of his jaw, the line of his mouth, as she gazed up a slight gasp fell from her — God! She wanted to kiss him! God should strike her dead.

La Princesse de Parme was all graciousness to the young royal. “And our dear Father from the Italian shores is your assigned Confessor. How delightful!” She glittered hypocritically, “You are in the very best of hands!” Salvatore granted her a meaningful sneer — he had once ‘confessed’ her as well. Now they often aided one another in certain adventures. He observed her looking the girl over with the eye of a pimp. She knew the girl might be hers, once her friend had finished breaking her in, for her own programme of libertinage. La Princesse caught his eye, and composed herself:

“Now my dear, you must excuse me, I must get on with my game. Baron Beauregarde is merciless this evening… I have not yet been dealt one good hand from him. Please, do take advantage of all that my House may offer you! Please ask Berenice to bring you to tea very soon.”

The priest and Marie moved off… and it was then that he would not permit his charge to return to the ball-room. He let fall a few religious-toned, unkind remarks, to injure her fresh and lively heart. To awaken in her a different kind of shame, that she ought not to display her person — an artificial anomaly in that Court, to be certain.

He kept her by his side, appearing to accompany her, but in truth directing her steps. He fended off aspirant suitors with an icy, punitive glance. No-one dared controvert his authority, though few present believed that the priest was engaged in any pious pursuits. His reputation was more than bad — but he was clever, superficially charming, and had many friends in high places, including the King himself.

Indeed it would later be Marie who would be reviled for her fall — as though she had not been entrapped by his pernicious hypocrisy — as though God would have helped her, had she been truly innocent.

Under his influence, the joyous character of the Ball withered for Marie. His somber voice put another narration upon what was passing before her eyes:

“These are the damned — revelling while they may. Not that lady, nor than Gentleman… nor she… nor he… have confessed in many a month. That one has been out of the state of grace for years, and you see how gaily she laughs! This new style abroad, at Court, of neglecting one’s soul — is quite devastating to me! And it should disturb anyone of powerful Faith, as I feel you are, my child.”

“But les Philosophes — Father, consider — what I mean is — is it not now bruited about — that Faith must be considered a kind of superstition —unsuited for the higher intellects?”

Marie was intrigued to engage in this discourse… and Salvatore rested his gaze upon her with masked delight. So the sophistries of the Enlightenment had penetrated as far as a child’s catechism! But he replied sternly, “I do not know who has been responsible for your education up to now —

“But the crown of the highly cultivated woman — which may include, as you say, the higher intellect — is a perfect submissiveness to the laws of the Church.”

“But —“

“Ahem! That ‘but’ is the sign of an uncharming rebellion. Let me ask you a catechism question, Mademoiselle Marie: do you think it makes any difference, to The Worm, if you believe in the Holy Mother Church, or if you blaspheme Her?

“So shall we worship at this Indifference, or shall we align ourselves with the One who does care — deeply, terribly cares — Jesus Christ Our Lord, the Son of God?”

Her impulse to contend the ideas whiplashed back, confusing her senses. Against his vaguely threatening attitude, the orchestra sounded in the ballroom below, discordantly, like a soul in pain. Laughter trailing by made her feel sickened — was this the gorgeous Court she had only just begun to love? Were the elegant courtiers really nothing but lovers of “The Worm’ — as her Father so expressively called Satan — were they all blind, demon-ridden, bejewelled and rotten?

Salvatore was leading her into other wings, showing a familiarity with less travelled rooms of the chateau. He opened the door into a small receiving-room, with chaise lounge … a lackey appeared and was told to stand by…and Salvatore shut the door.

“Mademoiselle Marie,” he began, “You understand that at the present time, I am fully responsible for the continued well-being of your soul.”

“Yes father…”

“Until the time you have achieved your majority, when you will be married… Not until then can we hold you fully accountable for your actions.”

“Yes Father I submit.”

She was trying to be docile. Or was the locked door an influence over her?

“I never approved of La Comtesse de Beaulieu as a guardian for you, but I was over-ruled. As of this evening, I have witnessed a certain independent spirit, a trait fostered in your native land, to good purpose, no doubt… but here, in the enclosure of the Court, it will lead you astray, and dangerously so. With my own eyes, I saw your thrown into sensual excitement, a kind of madness was upon you…”

If Marie had been more experienced she might have recognized, in these apparent reproaches, the taint of lust.

“I forgot myself.”

“Indeed, you forgot yourself! As I said, a very dangerous tendency. You thought you were happy, you thought this dancing was a normal sort of activity. But you were descending, my dear… lasciviousness took hold of you, and the Court approved.”

He was kneeling before her, eyes glittering — that terror that Marie had felt earlier resurged — was he about to punish her? His hand came up and she flinched. But to her amazement, she watched as his hand wiped away tears. The priest wept!

(It was one of his greatest ruses: he could work himself up into such a frenzy of self-righteousness, of passion against sin… that he even believed it himself.)

Marie was not yet conversant with such deep hypocrisy; she believed she had aggrieved the purity of his soul. The thought of her imminent Fall … was torturing him! She was overcome, deeply ashamed, and determined to never wound this great and holy man again.

As he witnessed her answering tears, he turned confidential. He warned her against any close association with certain “great sinners,” who were in truth his acquaintances, and possible rivals in influence. He did speak the truth concerning their crimes — but for his cross-purposes.


Angelique stood up from her desk, and stretched… dawn at last! Beautiful, clear wintertime air… she opened her window and leaned out, looking upon the deserted street. She felt a sudden impulse to go up to Central Park; it was something she used to do, when she used to suffer from insomnia. To enjoy the lawns, the trees at dawn, with no people about… She turned to get her coat, and noted she had left her ‘phone off the hook.

The moment she replaced the receiver it rang. She did not let the machine pick up, because anyhow she knew who it would be: David.


“Angelique, Angelique I know you’re there, what is with your ‘phone?” his voice sounded terrible, rough and hysterical.

“David this is not the machine, it’s me — David whatever is wrong?”

His voice was slurred, he claimed he’d been drinking, he had already forgotten he was supposed to be ill. The background noise told Angelique that he was at some kind of party… perhaps the one he had disinvited her to. But without any further niceity, he launched into a tirade:

“What are you doing? Can we meet? I’ve got to get out of here, I’ve got to get away from these people!”

“What people?”

He ignored her query, “… heard some very bad news tonight… my ex Gregor is getting married to a woman!” and in a few sentences related the history of this relationship. This was the first she’d heard of ‘Gregor,’ and Angelique felt rather impatient.

“So you went out, even though you were ill…”

“I was only ill from hearing that disgusting news.”

“Well, I was just going out.”

“Where are you going? Can we meet?” he asked again.

When she hesitated — somehow a walk in the Park at dawn with
a drunken, lovelorn man did not seem conducive — David backtracked:

“Oh never mind, you’re probably going to meet your lover!”

“No David, I told you I don’t have one…” Angelique was trying hard
not to give up on the conversation. She listened intently for some correspondence, between this hysterical person she did not recognize, and her ideal, Marie’s Salvatore.

“It’s wrong, just wrong for me, to ever try to love anyone!”

Now she felt more interested.

“I destroy my lovers! I urge them on to their doom… Gregor’s not straight, he’s gay, but what can I do? Call up the bride and tell her the groom’s a cocksucker?”

“Well, really, what do you care if they end up with a bad marriage?”

“You don’t understand. I was so horrible to him that I’ve sent him back into the closet!”

“Oh David, really… “ she tsked, “So anyhow where are you, uptown?”

“Eightieth and Park Avenue — Central Park, that’s where you’re going? No, I don’t think so, really, I don’t think I can walk!” he refused, though she hadn’t asked him… “I mean, what are you going to do there?”

She noticed his attention was strangely scattered. “Do? Nothing — just walk. I’ve been writing all night.”

“So you had your ‘phone off the hook, so you could Work. God I envy you. How do you do it?”

She evaded the question, distressed by his admitting to a lack…
“So — you went to that party after all? How was it, or rather, how is it? Going on rather late?”

“Oh, there’s no time limit on these things. The party never ends.” He sounded utterly depressed.
Then again “I want to get out, to a nightclub… maybe Jackie’s… I’ve got to get way from these people,” as if it were seven in the evening, and not five in the morning.

“WHAT people David? It’s too late for any club… who’s there?” Again, he did not say…he was high, and phasing out.

“David, hello? Are you at this Caroline’s? who is she, anyhow?”

His voice returned to the line as if from a rather long journey… “A Princess. Caroline’s a Princess. Princess of Hong Kong. In fact, I’m talking to you from her bathroom.”

Angelique laughed, “She has extension in her bathroom? I gather then she’s a real Princess.”

“Yes, she is. She’s royal, and fabulously rich, rich rich.” His voice went lower, “Princess of Drugs.”

“Oh really. What kind of drugs.”

“The only kinds — cocaine, and heroin.”

“So you’re not drunk then. You’re high?”

Once more he failed to respond to her, and returned to his agonistes: “Angelique. I want you to know. You can know. You’ve seen all the sickness. Gregor is not the only one. There was Arthur. I got him on heroin. And he OD’d. I killed him. And Raymond. He committed suicide. After I broke up with him.”

A correspondence was there, she considered. Those who loved this man went to their deaths. And there was a friendship with a degraded sort of Princess, a Princess he engaged in crime with.

From whom he had kept her. So he might have her all to himself, in the private antechamber of the telephone call.

With a shock Angelique realized how weirdly happy she was to hear all this. He was miserable, but in his impassioned recounting there was an element of braggadocio: a frenzy of masochistic self-revilement, still expressive of voluptuousness.

The Mistress in her took over, and she remarked, quite cooly, to her friend: “I think you’d better go right home now, by yourself, and sleep this all off. Drunk, stoned, whatever you are, you aren’t yourself right now.”

She concluded, “You fell tonight — you got upset. But you’re going to start over again, tomorrow.”

She wasn’t sure then, if she was so taken up with the correspondences, or if it were so — but she imagined she heard a sudden stroke in his voice, like crying.

And like Marie, she could not resist it, though she understood it might not be completely sincere.


His voice was blurry: “So what… what are you doing in the Park? I’m uptown too, you know.”

She felt his downfall. He wasn’t listening, he forgot to whom he was even talking… his powers were in disarray. She wanted nothing more than to hang up the ‘phone, seek her cleansing, solitary walk.

Her new love, or obsession, whichever it was — was going to be a serious problem. Aside from the unrequited reality, her object was still a heroin addict, and lying to her about it. But addicts have to lie; she was not prepared for the bad days ahead.

But to overcome all this banal suffering, there was her inspiration: she was convinced that David Morgan was the reincarnation of the degenerate priest Salvatore, who had caused the death of Marie Alexandra in 1875. And so might bring her to her own.

But even if she, Angelique, did not want to go through it — was rationally adverse to any such counter-addiction — the Writer in 1985 had to see it through.

She walked to Lafayette and caught a taxi going uptown, directed the driver to the entrance of Central Park, Sixth and 59th.


Angelique’s Diary
24 November, high noon

I feel poisoned, how can it be, how can this man, who inspires me in so exalted a manner, a man whom I know to be of great refinement be such a liar? He’s part of that demonic Society, Rene and Tere, probably that crazy Paula too — all drug-addicts. Admittedly they are brilliant, creative in their ways: their sort of debauchery would have been considered an advanced consciousness, a hundred years ago. Now it’s a cliche.

And who is this Caroline, a new sort of fancy dealer? I know about that wretched Madame Anya, Jeffrey used to practically live at her degraded ‘Salon.’

So David called me from Caroline’s, saying he was drunk but he was obviously high. Complaining, nearly crying. I have this idea of him however, that I do not think I have totally invented. I recognize The Angel. And he knows that I do, he told me “You’re the only one who understands… you’ve seen all the sickness.” I see his psychic bondage, born of something more than drugs. Heroin is only a symptom of it.

Beyond the crust of self-hatred, I will resolutely look to only his highest manifestation. He must continue to respond to this; I will allow him to use my eye upon him to climb out of the mire. This must be my most powerful desire, my secret promise to him.


Manuscript of Salvatore, continued —

“Your soul is in grave danger, my child, living in this Court. Your father was ill-advised, indeed, to leave you here, without a continuous supervision.”

He moved closer to her on the chaise, in that private ante-chamber, just outside La Princesse’s bedroom.

“I would like to give you something, that once belonged to my Mother.”


It was a sentimental ruse he enjoyed creating — a rude, private joke whereby he referred to his own body.

The priest was pressing the upper part of his leg, the side of his thigh, very frankly along hers.

“I will see you home. It is much too late for someone your age to be out.”

“But I have only been here an hour! It has not even rung nine o’clock.”

His look was like a slap, “And where is our perfect Christian submissiveness? Have I not expressed my thought, that this house holds not a proper atmosphere for an innocent?”

“But I don’t want to be innocent!”

This burst from her in a rush. Now his thigh was nearly atop hers, and he had both her upper arms in his hands. She had aroused him awfully —

“You don’t know what you are saying…” He gathered himself, rose and told the lounging lackey to deliver the message to the Comtesse: Marie Alexandra had suddenly taken ill, and was going home in his, Father Salvatore’s, care.

She blushed, knowing she was going very, very far abroad in her thoughts. He was testing her, alone in this room, with his strange touch upon her. She wasn’t ready for it… and she wished he would say something, something boring, something about God — and so become a priest again. She needed someone she could trust and love, like the child she was. But he went no further with her, and they took their leave.

The tall, swaggering cleric bowed left and right, and Marie with her hand in the crook of his arm knew a special pride to be in his care — despite her disappointment over missing more dancing, and the banquet. She was experiencing the new pleasure of obedience; it bound her to his will. But had she comprehended the real distinction this ‘partnership’ lent her, she might rather have crept out the servants’ side door. Several of the guests remarked on the priest’s new conquest, and much ribald commentary attached to their early departure.

As they received their wraps at the door they met their host, the Prince de Parme, known familiarly to the priest as Grandier; he rolled a caustic eye as the girl made her curtsey. “You ARE the monster are you not,” he murmured. Marie’s extreme youth gave even that jade a qualm. “My Lord is too generous,” Salvatore riposted.

No-one else was even thinking of leaving, so Salvatore’s carriage came up at once. He ensconced her upon the plush cushions, and conferred with his driver — his invaluable conspirator in every exploits.

And once the carriage was underway, did the priest throw himself at the child’s feet, avow his passion as he tore at her skirts? Did he take his unfair advantage, parlay her warm glances towards a greater heat? No — the man was perverse beyond all measure. Marie Alexandra, very ready to grant him any demand, was met with a severe reception. He did not take her hand, though it trembled towards his. He sighed, as if bored, and she flushed with humiliation.

The carriage rolled into the Bois de Boulogne, the vast, overgrown park with many twisting, turning carriage-trails. The coachman allowed the horses to saunter. It was a prime hour for assignations, and from his corner Salvatore recognized certain carriages, many the conveyances of courtesans. Good!
Unaware, Marie allowed the curtains to remain open, so he was pleased to see her compromised, and without laying a finger upon her.

For truth be told he somewhat abhorred the actual act. It left him rather too exposed to the dangers of being ‘rated;’ he resented being forced to perform. For he’d found it did not matter if his victim was a virgin; modern girls seemed to come to their desires rather shockingly fully developed, Once, he had been laughed at — never again. He first made certain their infatuation was absolute, before he entered the water.

The girl’s breathing sounded uneven, loud; he kept her pinned beneath an aslant gaze. She now shivered with longing; he remained frozen in his corner. Then, his resonant, hypnotic voice, charged with domination, began to mouth boring plans for her — educative banalities — indeed he became the Priest she needed. But suddenly she felt wild, ready to scream at him, “SAY WHAT YOU MEAN! OH, SAY WHAT YOU REALLY MEAN!”

They came out of the Bois, and Marie set down in the courtyard outside the Palace: “Allow me to call on you, then, tomorrow… Mademoiselle.” His bow could not have been more proper.

Thus did the Princess Poniatowski mark this degenerate as the Lord of her Life. Though but a girl, she could love, and gave her heart without calculation. Beneath its encrustation of hypocrisy and vice, she could sense his immortal soul — a thing unloved, hungry and self-tormented. We cannot fathom why — but she wanted to console it.

Nothing he was to do to her in the weeks and months to come — not even the awful Operation he and his partner in crime, La Voisine, would force upon her — nothing would persuade her against her Love.

One who truly Loves does enter into an Elect Company, where the Beloved’s soul might be known, and felt as palpably as flesh; as we understand the soul is made of an ethereal flesh, an invisible body that might be caressed, and impenetrated by the Loving Word. Thus Marie could know the soul of him, sense it thoroughly, and Love it, though it was entirely corrupt. This was to be her distinction; a martyr’s, and not a happy one.






All Rights Reserved and Copyright Held
by the Author Terence Sellers
1985 – 2015