63 I puzzle out Alaia's subterfuge

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63   I puzzle out Alaia's subterfuge

She and I turn right on Fourth Avenue and pass the bowling alley. "My parents' first assignation was at a bowling alley out in Omaha, Nebraska," I muse aloud.

"Very fitting! So, this evening is our last recording session for Big Bang. What are you dishing up for us tonight?" We wander past the Fast Lane, a music venue, then past the closed Baronet Theater.

"It'll just be a short one. It'll be something about how I'd like to get away."

"On a vacation?"

"No, off the planet. It's overrated here, don't you think?"

"No, I can't say I do. You just have to run at it."

"And if you don't like running, you're out of luck?"

She stands still and smiles up at me. "Yeah," she says. "You see, not all of your analyses are cuckoo! Anyway, I should head home now, I've got stuff to do." So we turn right on Kingsley Street and wend back towards the Metropolitan.

Lucan, Kev, Flames and Angel are standing beside the Cadillac on Saint James Place. "What a car," Kev is crowing. "The only trouble Cadillacs have around here is the kids. They scratch Cadillacs, all down the sides. But not mine, oh no, 'cos they know I'd break their legs—'cos I've done it twice already."

Angel stares at Kev, and through his stare seeps a breath of night into the sunny afternoon. He despises Kev, I can tell, as a crass and brainless brute lacking mind, style or finer feelings altogether. Though he tries not to make this obvious, it spills from his eyes. It is even understood between Kev and him. Lucan knows it, of course, and I can see it amuses him. To Angel, Kev's bulky machismo, piggy eyes and chewing-gum are all so ugly; everything about him is stupid and clunky. As Angel's eyes reveal: if Angel Deon ran the world, Kev Banton's death would be very soon indeed. For his part, Kev hates Angel less than he's hated, but he is always wary of Angel—a lot because Angel is obviously Lucan's bitch and so cannot be mistreated by anyone other than Lucan, but also because Kev is unnerved by what's foreign to him.

Lucan is about to call across the road to me and Evelyn when he is distracted by Pippa, who appears around the corner ahead of us with her head down. To my surprise she is dressed not in her signature sweatshirt and sweatpants, but in a chic purple blouse and a short black skirt, revealing extremely attractive legs. "She's so fine," mutters Kev. "That's a bitchin' skirt, Pippa," he blurts out, with a genuine admiration.

"Don't come near me," she says, immediately blushing, and quickens her pace.

"Been crying again, Pippa?" says Kev. "I'm sorry, honey. Bet you got a weeping pussy too—well, I could stop the leaks, sugar!"

She stops in her tracks and glares at him with anger and hatred. She spits in his direction, then turns away and runs off.

Kev looks stung. "Come and get it, bitch!" he shouts.

There's a silence, as the group stares after her, then we all stare at Kev.

"I think you just won her heart," mocks Lucan.

"Classy, Kev," calls Evelyn, and Angel smirks at her across the street.

Flames pats Kev on the shoulder: "Yeah, smooth, man! Those charm school lessons are really working."

Kev looks from person to person with vague uncertainty. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. "Some people..." he states, shifting from foot to foot and frowning. "Some people just can't stand the heat from my flame."

Lucan and Flames crack up together, slapping their thighs with laughter.

"Well, this is edifying," I murmur. Evelyn raises her eyes to the sky and we resume our walk towards the Metropolitan, saying nothing.

As the hooting and caterwauling of Lucan's crew recedes behind us, I resume pondering over the DVD. I think I can now see why Alaia chose the wrong one. I think she is still secretly resentful that we were keeping her ignorant of the imagination-cloning deal, which she disapproves of in itself. And I think she picked up one of the four-target discs because she reckoned that if Lucan sees the full extent of the spying and recording, then he'll react in some unpredictable way that'll sabotage the project. Then if it emerges that she picked up the wrong DVD, she'll probably just claim it was an accident. And if I were ever to tune in to her and see this was untrue, then I couldn't even tell her so, because of the solemn promises I've made not to snoop on her.

Very clever. But I don't want the imagination-thieving sabotaged, because—well, because my targets deserve to have their internal beauties preserved. So what can I do about Alaia's skulduggery?

I check the time. Five to one. Too late to stop Alaia's delivery.

I wonder whether Evelyn knows. "So I guess Alaia will be delivering that DVD any minute now," I say, watching her eyes from the side.

"Yeah. It was the right thing to do, I think. I hope Angel's OK."

No, she doesn't know. "He looked OK back there," I say.

"That doesn't really tell us much, though, does it?"

"No, I suppose it doesn't."

A block more, and we reach the Metropolitan. "Bye, sweetie!" she pecks me on the cheek and steps up into her van.

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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/

For a quick synopsis of it, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/synopsis-and-characters-list-the-imagination-thief/

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

For the Audio-book version and the Video-book version of each of its 120 mini-chapters, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/audiobook-tumblr-wattpad/

For links to the retailers, see http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-ebook/ and http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-paperback/

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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