Friday, July 29, 2011
I’m still biding my time on the veranda of a thatched-roof cottage overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, drinking bitter coffee, tapping my feet on the floorboards waiting for my next case to begin. Think I’ve mentioned how much waiting ticks me off. I watch the white waves curl into foam and tickle the sandy shore, but I’m not really here as a tourist and even with Kyoko stretched out, naked and still asleep beside me, I’m fast getting bored. Please don’t tell her I said that. She’d take it personal, which means she’d take it wrong. She does that, on occasion; takes an innocuous comment personal, giving it a new and hurtful edge not intended, and I then have to exhaust myself apologizing for an offense never really committed. Truth is I’m delighted that she was able to sneak away for a week to join me on my rest cure between jobs. She needed a break every bit as much as I did, and I usually don’t spend as much time with her as I should. She’s one hell of a lady — in or out of her black leather bodysuit.
Of course, Kyoko would prefer I take a permanent holiday from freelance work and spend my time painting, period. She’s been venturing down that thorny path with greater frequency lately, as my cases have become more complicated and the people I’m tracking more dangerous. She was elated when I decided to leave the force for that very reason; she thought freelance investigative work would be less dangerous. Well, I thought so, too, at the time.
That’s how we met, you know; when I was still a detective with the NYPD. I was working on a special task force looking to close down a major sex-trafficking ring smuggling illegals in from China; usually young, naive girls from the provinces eager to come to the dream that was America but not realizing just how expensive the passage there would be. Once here they’d have to work as sex slaves in message parlors and escort services until their debt was paid. Most might never live long enough to settle accounts, so the cost of the ticket was steep indeed. On this particular occasion I was on a stakeout in Flushing, Queens with Stan Cummings; an old friend and fellow NYPD detective on loan to the task force. We were nursing cups of coffee in a dark car in the parking lot by the Marina, waiting for a small boat full of raw conscripts to arrive. It was cold, misty night in late April, at around two in the morning, when we noticed a shadow stalking the boats in the Marina. It was dressed in black, like a ninja, and we thought it might be a lookout for the smugglers, working the Marina to make sure the coast was clear so they could make their drop unnoticed.
Just then word came over the radio that the boat loaded with illegals was about a mile away, so I decided not to take the risk of any of our people being spotted by sneaking up on the shadow in black kneeling at dockside. It wasn’t until I got closer that I noticed the figure was clad in a form-fitting leather bodysuit. The moon was nearly full that night, and the suit caught the light in all the right places for me to quickly realize the occupant was a woman. In her hands was a camera on a strap with a zoom lens, and she was photographing the rough bob of the boats in the water and the gentle pelt of rain dissolve into the choppy sea, in the opposite direction from where the smuggler’s launch was arriving.
As I drew closer the figure seemed oblivious to everything save what she shot through her lens, and I took my eyes off her for a second to glimpse the boat drawing close to the nearby shore. In that instant the woman, who had been lying prone on the Marina plank way, bolted to her feet, stepped in front of me and starting photographing the boat as it made shore and started to disembark.
“Are you here for me or for them?” the woman asked, completely unfazed by what was going on. She didn’t seem connected with the smuggling action, but I couldn’t be entirely sure.
“Maybe both,” I retorted, gently pushing her to the side, then behind me. “And you?”
“I shoot whatever comes to mind,” she said, calmly, and was more inclined to move when I discreetly flashed my badge and drew my gun. “What about you?”
“I tend to shoot whatever gets in my way,” I told her. “So please, stay down and out of sight if you don’t want to get hurt.”
“Mind if I continue taking photographs while I cower?”
“Knock yourself out. Just be sure to catch my good side.”
“I don’t know you well enough yet to be sure you have one,” she said, grinning.
It was the ‘yet’ that made me sure I’d see this woman again. Once we got things under control, arresting everyone who had come in on the launch and the two guys in a van that had quietly slipped into the parking lot nearby, I got a chance to see the woman’s face under a streetlight, and started to think this was too good to be true. She was beautiful, mixed, just like me, only she was half Asian, half White, with long dark hair and darker eyes that were hard not to look into, but it was her poise under pressure that struck me most. She wasn’t fazed by the situation. She was also as graceful as she was tall, and moved with a cat-like precision that made her all the more alluring. I asked her to come to the precinct so we could look through the pictures she had taken with her digital Nikon. Some were good, very good, and could be useful in our case. She gave us permission to use them as evidence, and made a point of writing her phone numbers and address in the release form we asked her to sign.
“I’m something of a moving target and don’t often answer my phone. I do freelance modeling and photography.”
“Ah, so that explains the Catwoman outfit.”
“It’s really closer to Irma Vep,” she replied.
“The original Louis Feuillade Les vampires series or the Assayas take-off staring Maggie Cheung?”
She gazed at me for a minute, and then smiled. “I’m surprised you know either, and impressed you know both. You may have a good side, after all. I’m Kyoko. Texting is usually the best way to reach me.”
That was nearly seven years ago, and I’m not at all sure what prompted the recollection. It’s a bit random, and actually hasn’t even been written about anywhere before. Guess that’s what boredom and this sort of free-form forum will do to a character and his alter-ego author. “Leapfrogging images and piggyback meanings” was I think how he phrased it in another work, long ago. I honestly have no idea what lily pad we’ll jump to next.
Let’s play if safe for a change and get back to my waiting game here in Mexico. What’s the holdup, you ask? The guy at the controls is still working out the basic plot and structure of the story, and is the type of writer who likes to embark on his literary journeys with at least one foot on solid ground. Given the methodical way he usually works — he prefers to steep himself in research, rough-sketch the whole story and then peck out an opening paragraph that can stand up and set the pace and tone for the pages that follow — I might need to order in a carton of smokes and a fresh supply of liquor, especially my preferred single malts. Kyoko says I should be using this break as much-needed R & R, a respite in which to mend the wounds and bruises of my last case before rushing out to start the next one, but she knows I’m not built that way and will probably wind up doing everything but resting.
You see, it’s really the action that grabs me; the cases I work are convenient excuses for me to spend my time on an endless safari hunting human game. Like any self-respecting gumshoe, I’m always in a breakneck chase to find the ever-elusive ‘what’s it’, and it’s really irrelevant what’s inside the box that all the fuss is about. Sound familiar to whether or not Kane’s paintings could do the things some claim? Hitchcock called it the “MacGuffin’, the elusive thing that every main character has to have and that propels the story forward but which, in and of itself, may not be clearly identified, well understood or very important.
I call it what it really is: an excuse to deal the cards. It stands to reason that I’m more of a gambler than the guy who writes me. He’s more of a safety-first, careful risk versus rewards type personality, whereas I like to improvise on gut instinct and play for much longer odds. We’re both clad in the armor of detachment, but he’s more cerebral in nature; observing from a distance, assessing the direction of the wind with a wet finger and gauging the temperature of the water with a dry toe before easing himself in.
I don’t like getting wet in stages. I’m a jump in the shit kind of guy.
Hold that thought for a minute. Someone’s at the door. With any luck its room service with my bottle of scotch. I asked them to bring the best bottle of single malt they could find. What was I saying about me being a gambler?