45 A declaration of war against Kev

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"...Oh! No, I forgot to tell you that I don't have to be with someone, in order to tune in to them—so long as I know them, or know a lot about them. I was half aware of this already, but I only just confirmed it upstairs: I tuned in to Kim while he was going home with Shigem after your place tonight."

"Jason never briefed me on that," says Evelyn. "Alaia, did you know that was possible?"

"Yes, because Jaymi told me."

"Incidentally," I add, "I don't think Jason knew this about tune-ins, because he learned about my abilities from Marc, not from me. And Marc's entire interest was in the hypnotic gaze instead: on camera, passive tune-ins look rather like paint drying, so they wouldn't have done the GN ratings much good."

"If Jason thought that tune-in targets need to be present in person for a tune-in to happen," says Alaia, "then I guess he never thought to wonder how you homed in on Marc from Liberty Street and then ran him to ground."

She's onto something there; I hadn't thought of that. "Unless Jason did wonder that, but never mentioned it—"

"OK, OK, OK, you guys," interrupts Evelyn, whose interest in this particular nicety seems strangely limited. "Jaymi, when we drive home past Pippa's tonight, you are so tuning in to her, and you are so having a serious snoop around, through someone else's life ... isn't he, Alaia?"

Alaia gives a poised sniff. "I'll concede this one," she says.

Through the little window beside me I spot Angel on the pavement outside. He is dancing alone, lewd and rude, as if he owns the space, obscenely gyrating his bottom independent of the rest of him, with one hand in the air and the other on his hip. Upon his tight black T-shirt, just above the gentle undulation of his breasts, hangs a little silver crucifix. I tune in, as he moves ... and I catch you imagining, Angel, that you're just a skeleton with flesh around it, and then recalling with unease that you are just this—and always in your head, like a drug, that sultry thrumming beat. Beneath the smooth seductive curve and flicker of your subtly made-up eyes and face, the starved baby she-wolf inside you licks her wounds and cocks her ears, hunting for the next scrap of trotting meat to spring upon and fight and bite to death without getting killed or hurt—knowing she will always have to do this until she is sprung upon and bitten to an agonising death herself, by something bigger, stronger, faster. That's just nature, after all. (Great design, don't you think?) So on you dance, alone in the light, lewd and rude, your bottom still gyrating independent of the rest of you, awaiting just that bigger, stronger, faster thing to bound up beside you, bite you through with its canines and chew you up with snapping bone and ecstasy of pain.

Right on cue, the Cadillac purrs around the corner and stops beside you, in a pool of yellow lamp-light. You stop your dance and wait there, your torso trembling invisibly. Lucan climbs out from the passenger's seat at leisure. He grins and half-snarls, pantherine, and gestures with his head towards the door beside this grimy little window where I stare out—and you, of course, follow. You follow him through the front door nearby us, over there, with a smugly chewing Kev not far behind.

Hardly have you been inside for a moment than there is a shout behind you. You and Lucan wheel round, and there beside the door is Kev, holding a black cloth that he has just pulled off an ugly, stupid-looking, life-size wax model of his own head with a dagger stuck gruesomely into each cheek up to the hilt, positioned on the cigarette machine. Though startled myself, I continue to tune in to you behind your little wolf-lips where a smile plays, as Kev spits his gum onto the floor, lunges forward, pulls the daggers out and puts them down, leaving the head looking even worse than it did, and stands there at a loss to know what to do next. "Oh, Kev, it's very flattering!" sniggers Flames, and Lucan shushes him. You squirm forward, still smiling to see Kev drape the cloth back over the head, pick up the draped head, approach a trash-bin, think better of this, then finally hustle the bundle onto a shelf under the bar.

The entire clientele has gathered near the bar, some looking quite nervous. As conversation bubbles up again among them, you stand near the cigarette machine, between the crowd and the wall, still half-dancing, with your little bottom waggling and gyrating as it did outside. But it stops waggling when you notice that Kev has drawn an angry-looking Lucan into a corner and is muttering into his ear, casting looks in your direction: planting poison about you, obviously, as confirmed now by Lucan's doubtful glances at you. Oh, Angel—you know you should really go join them, remonstrate, take control, as you usually try to, but you're so spacy from the drugs and that sultry beat in your head and all those hormones in your blood, and no food, and no sleep but tossing and writhing and churning in bed throughout the few hours last night when Lucan was asleep and so left you alone.

You see Lucan move away from Kev and head back to the front door, beckoning you to follow, which you do; just as I follow you, inside myself, from my table here. When you reach the pavement, Lucan has already walked to the Cadillac and is standing by its open rear door, awaiting you. You walk to him and straight past him, and climb into the car in silence. Kev gets into the driver's seat. Lucan closes the door behind you, staying on the pavement, and leans down towards you. From opposite sides of the window, just before the car moves, you and Lucan each rest a hand, palm-down upon the glass for a second, in the same place, staring at each other. This romantic gesture, unexpected in itself, especially in public, is rendered all the more assaultive by the evil promised in Lucan's smile and by the need in your eyes to be its victim. Positioning himself so the others cannot read his lips, Lucan mouths in silence, "You're my dog." The Cadillac pulls away and you settle into a poisonous silence with Kev.

Yes, you really are spacy, you realise, from the skunk you smoked before you came to Downstairs and from that never-ending sultry beat in your head, but nevertheless you attempt a piece of clear thinking, here in the cavernous back seat of the Cadillac: those hormones are ramping up your system to a fever-pitch, you decide, and now the time has come for you to insist that Lucan stop forcing them into you. You try to remember how long it has been. Two years, you believe. For about two years Lucan has taken steroids and male hormones, in a cocktail that has enhanced his magnificent natural musculature and made him by slow degrees even more obsessively horny than he was already. More to the point, however, for the same period he has force-fed you with a similarly powerful brew of female hormones which, as well as creating your beautiful little breasts, has also made your passive receptive horniness even deeper and more constant than it was to begin with, so that it has now become an almost relentless pressure and hunger. By the time the Cadillac pulls up at Lucan's house, further along Summerfield Avenue, your eyes are half-closed with exhaustion. Yes, it's time to insist...

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For some nice reviews and interviews about The Imagination Thief, in The Guardian and elsewhere, see http://www.rohanquine.com/press-media/the-imagination-thief-reviews-media/

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For the 12 Films in The Imagination Thief, see http://www.rohanquine.com/video-books-films/12-films/

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And for its Amazon pages, see http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909 and http://www.amazon.com/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909

The Imagination Thief is about a web of secrets, triggered by the stealing and copying of people's imaginations and memories. It's about the magic that can be conjured up by images of people, in imagination or on film; the split between beauty and happiness in the world; and the allure of various kinds of power. It celebrates some of the most extreme possibilities of human imagination, personality and language, exploring the darkest and brightest flavours of beauty living in our minds.

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