27 A devoted fan of Alaia and me

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27   A devoted fan of Alaia and me

That deepest, darkest wonderland of bass and hook fades down in volume as it thunders, till it's sucked in tiny through the meshes of the bass-bins. Whoops greet the DJ, the house lights fade on and Evelyn bubbles up beside the pair of us. "I'm glad you two met," she says, putting one arm around his neck and one around mine. "Did you catch Sound & Vision on TV tonight?" she asks Shigem, and points at me and at Alaia who approaches now and puts her arms around Shigem's and my necks, opposite from Evelyn and making up a circle.

"I did, and it was amazing. He was telling me about it," Shigem replies, and he and I share a glance.

"It was so cool," says Evelyn. "And no screw-ups in the studio."

"They announced there's another one on Thursday?" says Shigem.

"Yes," says Alaia, "it should be even better. Must-see TV!" She makes a brief secret face of panic at me, as if to say Who am I kidding? We don't know WHAT we're doing on Thursday yet! to which I reply by bouncing my elbow lightly on her shoulder.

As the dance-floor empties, we cross to where Kim is breaking down the bar. In an absent way he sings along to the lyrics of the track playing quietly on the club's sound system; and I am struck by his voice, which is clean, vanilla, supple, pure and filled with earnest beauty. It's a voice of great wholesomeness, picturesquely sad and honest, redolent of goodness—and a little white lie, I think.

"Hey Kim, did you see Sound & Vision on the TV tonight?" asks Evelyn.

"No, I had to set up here. I think I heard something about it ahead of time, but I can't remember what. Was it good?"

He's not sounding as if Shigem has told him anything about his own experience of it.

"Jaymi and Alaia here were in it. It was really neat," says Evelyn. "You won't find a good-quality copy online for a while, but I can lend you a DVD." She lowers her voice. "Just don't tell anyone else I lent it, and don't lose it or I'm in trouble."

"I shan't. Thanks, I'd love to see it."

"Hey, do you two want to come see a friend of mine?" Evelyn asks Alaia and me. "I have to go sell her some grass tonight."

"Competing with Lucan?" I ask.

"No, he doesn't sell that. I won't stay long, but you should meet her. She's quiet, she never goes out and doesn't hang out with anyone, but I like her."

I glance at Alaia. "I'm on," I say. "What's her name?"

"Pippa." She turns to Shigem and Kim: "I'm going with Jaymi and Alaia to see a friend of mine. Do you two want to come?"

"Do I know them?" Shigem asks.

"Pippa Vail. You know her?"

"Sure, I've seen her round, for years," he says. "I don't know her well." He looks at Kim, who nods OK. "You know everyone, Evelyn!"

"You and me both, babe! We can walk there from here."

So the five of us leave the club and head up the width and quiet of Asbury Avenue. At Heck Street we hang a left, just as I did earlier tonight with Alaia. And just like then, Lucan's posse is in front of Flames's place at the end of the block, with Kev's Cadillac purring at the kerb. Back here from Downstairs, they now include Damian and Angel. "Hey, Shigem!" Kev calls, his piggy eyes close-set, his mouth hanging open. "Why you always walk like you got a penis up your butt?" and Flames and Damian snort.

"And why d'you always talk like you got one in your mouth?" Shigem fires back.

The whole gang hoots with lazy laughter, Flames nudging Kev and asking earnestly, "Yeah, Kev—why is that?"

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