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The city sprawled like roadkill, spreading more with each new pressure. A grey rain slicked Placebo Street – cars slewed through smoke and collided with pieces of the Brain Facility. Little flames dotted the rubble like zippos in a darkened stadium.

Cradling a guilty treasure, Harry Fiasco stumbled through diced masonry. Squadcar cherry lights strobed his eager face. 'I'm number one,' he thought. 'I'm the business. Look at me walkin' away without even a dent in my hair.'

The cold prize steamed as if awakening.

This was no time to be caught with his style round his ankles.

News on the car TV showed flare-lit afterscenes of last night's blowup at the City Brain Facility, 'where hundreds of famous brains,' beamed the newsgirl, 'including that of comedian Tony Curtis, were kept on ice. What. A. Mess.' Stock shots of missiles. 'The UN Report on Nuclear Deconstruction estimates that thanks to multilateral efforts there are only enough atomic weapons to destroy the world five times over instead of eight – way to go!' The President in a storm of flashbulbs. 'In a hastily-arranged press conference, the President, due to visit Beerlight in four days, shrugged off accusations of bestiality following publication of a photograph in which he is seen to be kissing a dog.'

The sound came up on the conference. '… form of affection. I love him like a brother -'

'Homicides up by nine hundred percent. And fashion setter Buckyball Tripwire says dresses will be worn drenched in blood this summer. Riot forecast – late morning a few rumbles and a little hail with cops breaking through in the afternoon and a scorcher of an evening due to a high pressure front on the lower east -'

'Enough of this tomfoolery.'

The screen shot to a dot, fading.

Rain glinced the windshield and drool-light ran down the face of Mr Turow. He was a toad-eyed shorty with tar hair and a string-thin tie. He gave creepy-teutonic as rain drummed the tin roof. 'See the building across the street, Joanna? The old brownstone.'

The giant in the driver's seat stirred. His head was a dough mound into which a set of human features had been timidly pressed. The head rotated to look across the carsplash street.

'On the fourth floor are the offices of Mr Taffy Atom. Look at this calling card.'

The giant took the card, which in his hand looked like a postage stamp on a side of beef. He read haltingly. 'Taffy … Atom … pri – vate … defective.'

'Detective, you fool – what kind of idiot would advertise himself as a defective?'

'What's dah 'p' word mean?'

'According to the Candyman,' Turow leaked, 'and he is the most educated gentleman of my acquaintance, it means to hide your activities even if they are innocent. One of the most perverse products of your sick American culture, it was finally forbidden only a short while ago. This man Atom must be brave indeed to use it on his advertising. It means he will value results more than appearances, will not be restrained by the rules and at all costs will avoid attention.' Turow simmered in satisfaction. 'All of which is good news for us.'

'There aint no number.'

'Nor an address – another good sign. Atom is as accomplished and inconspicuous as an ant lifting an eyelash. Take the money and go.'

The giant opened onto the rain and heaved out, then leant back in at Turow. 'What if he don't bite?'

Turow gave indulgent. 'Joanna, you will learn – in this town, everybody bites.'

Copyright © Steve Aylett, 2007

 
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