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Chapter 61 The Other Side of the Wind

  • By the end of the first month, the world slowly began to feel solid under hi_eet, the edges of things stable and reliable, his skin his own.
  • At home, Spyder kept the TV on, but the sound off. He tried to listen t_usic, but everything sounded flat and dull. Spyder made a couple of calls an_e and Lulu started doing work out of Luscious Abrasion, a body mod studi_ear their old place on Haight Street. A small but steady part of Spyder an_ulu's new clientele were demons, Gytrash and other non-humans.
  • "Word's spreading about us. You know what this means?" asked Lulu.
  • "What?"
  • "Demon groupies."
  • No one at the studio ever seemed to notice, and their special clients alway_aid in gold so everyone was happy.
  • In May, on Orson Welles' birthday, an old art house theater in the Missio_istrict had a marathon screening of his films. Spyder had seen the earl_tuff dozens of times, so he only came for late night flicks, It's All True, Welles' doomed Brazilian epic, and The Other Side of the Wind, a dark, micro- budget film about a bitter director, played by John Huston. He knew ther_eren't enough guns or tits to get Lulu to sit through either movie, so Spyde_ent alone.
  • It was almost two in the morning when the movies let out. Spyder went to th_orner where he'd parked the Kawasaki and lit a cigarette. It was cold an_et. Heavy fog was blowing through the streets like sparkling ghosts.
  • "Hey, ponyboy."
  • She was leaning against the front door of a check cashing shop. Through th_pen door, restless illegals pretended not to see the down-on-their luc_hites who were busy pretending to be somewhere else entirely.
  • Spyder sat on the bike, took a drag off the American Spirit.
  • He said, "I have this scar on my arm. Sometimes at night I touch it just t_ake sure I didn't imagine it. It's where the Clerks marked me. On the tabl_y my bed, I have this big black knife. I close my eyes and my head is full o_he strangest images. And none of it seems real. Like maybe all those things _hink I remember are kind of the opposite of a drunken blackout. A drunke_icture show. But when I fall asleep it's all okay because at the end of th_ictures, I get the girl. Only I didn't, did I?"
  • "I'm sorry I ran off. I'm worse at goodbyes than you are," said Shrike.
  • "How's your father?"
  • "He died."
  • "I'm really sorry to hear that."
  • "It's all right. I took him home, to the Second Sphere. He rallied briefly. _hink he was happy when he went."
  • "So, there's a happy ending, after all. I'm glad you both got that."
  • "You don't have to be so magnanimous."
  • Spyder nodded, took a pull on the cigarette.
  • "Yeah, I do. Otherwise the walls start doing that closing in thing and I wan_ drink and I'm trying real hard not to want that."
  • "You're not drinking? That's a good thing."
  • He shrugged. "Leaves more money for cigarettes."
  • "I'm so sorry I left you like that."
  • "You said that already."
  • Shrike walked over to him. Her eyes were clear and bright, though a littl_ark, as if she hadn't slept in days. Spyder looked for the white cane tha_oubled as her sword, but he didn't see it.
  • "My father was dying. I knew it the moment I saw him back in Madame Cinders'
  • tower. I had to take him home," Shrike said. "And I had to get away from you."
  • "Did I do something to upset you?"
  • "Just the opposite. You saved me."
  • "Bullshit. You're the one with the sword, the one who knows magic and how t_ove between worlds. I was just faking it, doing card tricks."
  • "You don't understand. I'm a killer. I'd dedicated my-self to destroying lif_ecause mine had been stolen from me. I told the few people who asked that _as sorry I had to do it, but it was all that I knew. The truth is, I enjoye_aking life. And doing it for something as cheap as money made it all th_etter. I wanted to burn down the world for what it did to me and my family."
  • "I know the feeling."
  • "If things had gone a little differently years ago, I might have becom_omeone like Madame Cinders. If you hadn't come along on this journey, I woul_ave given her the book. I would have made a deal with the Dominions to blood_he whole world. I still thought about doing it, right up until the end."
  • "What happened?"
  • "You. I used you that first night because I wanted sex, so I gave you drugge_ine. I needed someone to stand next to me at Madame Cinders', so I took yo_long. I needed someone who knew Hell, so I dragged you into something tha_ould have killed you a thousand times. And I wouldn't have blinked if it had.
  • Every time you gave me something I needed, I was ready to cut you loose. I wa_tringing you along because I knew how."
  • "If you came back all this way just to call me a sucker to my face, missio_ccomplished."
  • Shrike came closer, resting a hand on the bike's throttle, not touching him.
  • "I kept waiting for you to bolt. I kept waiting for you to catch on and sel_e out. Betray me. But you wouldn't. At first I thought you were playing _ame, angling to get the book for yourself. Then, I decided it was simpl_elf-preservation. You wanted to get out alive and get the magic to restor_our precious ignorance. But you kept not betraying me. You kept… " Sh_esitated.
  • "Caring about you?"
  • "I told myself you were trying to manipulate me, but you gave the book t_adame Cinders to save my father. Then you destroyed the book, and I kne_ou'd never tried to deceive me. I would have killed anyone to have the powe_n that book. You already had it in your hands and you threw it away. I kno_ou wanted to save your world, but I think partly you did it for me."
  • "You know I did."
  • She looked way and frowned. "And I couldn't bear that. I couldn't look you i_he eyes after I'd lied and used you all down the line. Being with you brough_ack all these feelings I'd thought I'd burned up years ago. Then, when I ha_y father and I knew he was dying, it was too much. I had to run away. Can yo_orgive me?"
  • "Of course."
  • "No," she said, holding onto his coat sleeve. "Not like that. Don't forgive m_ike you forgive some street urchin who picks your pocket. I need you to sav_e one more time. I need to know you can forgive me from that other part o_ou that refused to betray me or leave me when you could have."
  • Spyder tossed his cigarette, and put a hand over hers. "I can. I do. I alway_id. I wanted to strangle you for -pulling that ghost act back in the tunnels, but I knew you must have had a good reason. And I always knew I'd see yo_gain."
  • "Really?"
  • "No. That was me being Cary Grant. I didn't know what the fuck to think whe_ou took off. I was going out of my mind and I hated you. But you didn't lif_y wallet, which is more than I can say for most girls you meet in alleys."
  • Shrike smiled and leaned against him.
  • "Maybe we can go to your place and try that first meeting again."
  • "On one condition."
  • "What?"
  • "Teach me magic. I still have all this juice left in me from falling into th_ook, but it comes out in strange ways. I was dreaming of my younger self bac_n Berenice the other night, and in the morning my bedroom was full of all th_eys to all the cars I'd ever stolen."
  • Shrike put her hands on Spyder's shoulders and stood up.
  • "I'm glad you asked. I'd love to teach you. When you're ready, there's plent_f work for us to do. I'm going to take back my kingdom from the bandits wh_re running it now. After that, we'll figure out a way to drive the Dominion_ack into the oblivion where they belong."
  • Spyder ran his hands down Shrike's back, thrilling to the reality of he_armth, her presence right there with him.
  • "It's cute, how you have no ambition," he said.
  • "We'll have to leave this Sphere to do it. You'll come with me?"
  • "I'd be a fool not to."
  • Shrike climbed on to the back of Spyder's bike, wrapping her arms around him.
  • Spyder kicked over the motor and gunned the engine. They shot off and the fo_losed in behind them, swallowing the tail lights and even the engine noise.
  • They were gone.