To start at the beginning go here.
Thinking about the puzzle of the girl, her Corsican, and all the other parties involved made getting through the rest of my shift tough. I scratched at my blazer, itching to get out of it, hovering in the dark of the slot machine sector, but always near the border of the Rococo architecture of the grand hall. I watched the besuited French elite of the city walk by, plodding or gliding or drunkenly rambling over the Versailles marble and Savonnerie carpets, past the gilded furniture and alabaster staircases, saying hello to the men they knew and ignoring the ones that were there there with their mistresses.
It was enough to make a man weep for humanity. It was at least enough to make me glad that Cheryl and I never had children for fat parasites like these to rob their future.
For some reason that got me thinking about Balaclava and his voyous. Or maybe it was the only thing I came back to after pawing through everything that was going on that didn’t involve me waiting around for something to happen. Either way, when I finally clocked out I practically hopped out of my casino blazer and back into my coat, grabbed the umbrella Sophie had given me and headed west of town.
Impossible to tell from inside the cavern of the casino, it had stopped raining. It was a still a few hours till dawn, the concrete of the city’s streets exuding a deep kind of cool. It was pleasant, with just a hint of the coming summer heat, so I headed out to the Promenade. I walked a few miles along its cobblestones with the lingering lovers, trippers, drug dealers, and prostitutes, occasionally rising up to my full height to scare away the would-be pickpocket or mugger. No number of cops could keep the less savory elements of the city out of the Old Town. After all, that’s where the money is.
When I got far enough west that I figured someone might know, I asked about the Factory. After the second or third nighthawk a stringy young woman with lazy eyes and a cigarette dangling out of her mouth gave me directions. It wasn’t close, almost out all the way out by the river.
It was still too early for the trams to be running so I stopped at one of the blue-signed taxi stations that were scattered about the city. The driver, red-nosed and bundled up in a thick brown jacket, quietly slid into the front seat as he saw me approach. I got in.
I started to give him directions while he fussed with his seatbelt and put the car into gear. He nodded in understanding at each step of my instructions, the tiny cab puttering from the curb, away from nocturnal pedestrian traffic and into the Promenade’s auto ways.
Nearly to the river the driver pulled off the thoroughfare and onto a road headed north, the thrumming of the tires announcing the change from smooth concrete to rounded cobblestone. A little time passed with each reflection of the streetlights on the rain-slick streets until he stopped on an overpass and announced my fee.
Without stepping out of the car I glanced around at our surroundings. It could have been the right area for a place called the Factory; four squat warehouses, old enough to be stained from the years when this area had industrial output, windowless and grim, stood at the corners of the bridge, joined by identical brothers that marched off in the four directions. Down below the overpass, an orange light of indeterminate source illuminated a narrow alley, the uneven run of its cobblestones heading off into the dark in either direction.
Seeing my confusion, the driver pointed west off the overpass, down the alley, the light there only showing steam pipes, worn bricks, and trash cans. “L’usine,” he said, indicating again with a thrust of his finger. I decided to trust him and took out my billfold for payment.
I thought about how nice it was to have spent quiet time in a car without anyone threatening to kill anyone else and asked for the driver’s card. According to the schedule hanging off the dash he was on till 7:00, but he still paused at my request. After a moment, he gave a fatalistic shrug and handed it to me. It said his name was Alon Felistone. I thanked him, left a decent tip, and got out.