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 Chapter One

“Specks-specks all over the third panel, see?-no, that one-the second one up from the floor and I wanted to point this out to someone yesterday but a photo shoot intervened and Yaki Nakamari or whatever the hell the designer’s name is-a master craftsman not-mistook me for someone else so I couldn’t register the complaint, but, gentlemen-and ladies-there they are: specks, annoying, tiny specks, and they don’t look accidental but like they were somehow done by a machine-so I don’t want a lot of description, just the story, streamlined, no frills, the lowdown: who, what, where, when and don’t leave out why, though I’m getting the distinct impression by the looks on your sorry faces that why won’t get answered-now, come on, goddamnit, what’s the story?”

Nobody around here has to wait long for someone to say something.

“Baby, George Nakashima designed this bar area,” JD quietly corrects me. “Not, um, Yaki Nakamashi, I mean Yuki Nakamorti, I mean-oh shit, Peyton, get me out of this.”

“Yoki Nakamuri was approved for this floor,” Peyton says.

“Oh yeah?” I ask. “Approved by who?”

“Approved by, well, moi,” Peyton says.

A pause. Glares targeted at Peyton and JD.

“Who the f**k is Moi?” I ask. “I have no f**king idea who this Moi is, baby.”

“Victor, please,” Peyton says. “I’m sure Damien went over this with you.”

“Damien did, JD. Damien did, Peyton. But just tell me who Moi is, baby,” I exclaim. “Because I’m, like, shvitzing.”

“Moi is Peyton, Victor,” JD says quietly.

“I’m Moi,” Peyton says, nodding. “Moi is, um, French.”

“Are you sure these specks aren’t supposed to be here?” JD tentatively touches the panel. “I mean, maybe it’s supposed to be, oh, I don’t know, in or something?”

“Wait.” I raise a hand. “You’re saying these specks are in?”

“Victor-we’ve got a long list of things to check, baby.” JD holds up the long list of things to check. “The specks will be taken care of. Someone will escort the specks out of here. There’s a magician waiting downstairs.”

“By tomorrow night?” I roar. “By to-mor-row night, JD?”

“It can be handled by tomorrow, no?” JD looks at Peyton, who nods.

“Around here, `tomorrow night’ means anywhere from five days to a month. Jesus, does anybody notice I’m seething?”

“None of us have been exactly sedentary, Victor.”

“I think the situation is simple enough: those”-I point-“are specks. Do you need someone to decipher that sentence for you, JD, or are you, y’know, okay with it?”

The “reporter” from Details stands with us. Assignment: follow me around for a week. Headline: THE MAKING OF A CLUB. Girl: push-up bra, scads of eyeliner, a Soviet sailor’s cap, plastic flower jewelry, rolled-up copy of W tucked under a pale, worked-out arm. Uma Thurman if Uma Thurman was five feet two and asleep. Behind her, some guy wearing a Velcro vest over a rugby shirt and a leather windjammer follows us, camcording the scene.

“Hey baby.” I inhale on a Marlboro someone’s handed me. “What do you think about the specks?”

Girl reporter lowers her sunglasses. “I’m really not sure.” She thinks about what position she should take.

“East Coast girls are hip,” I shrug. “I really dig those styles they wear.”

“I don’t think I’m really part of the story,” she says.

“You think any of these bozos are?” I snort. “Spare me.”

From the top floor, Beau leans over the railing and calls down, “Victor-Chloe’s on line ten.”

Girl reporter immediately lifts the W, revealing a notepad, on which she doodles something, predictably animated for a moment.

I call up, staring intently at the specks: “Tell her I’m busy. I’m in a meeting. It’s an emergency. Tell her I’m in a meeting and it’s an emergency. I’ll call her back after I put the fire out.”

“Victor,” Beau calls down. “This is the sixth time she’s called today. This is the third time she’s called in the last hour.”

“Tell her I’ll see her at Doppelganger’s at ten.” I kneel down, along with Peyton and JD, and run my hand along the panel, pointing out where the specks begin and end and then start up again. “Specks, man, look at these f**kers. They glow. They’re glowing, JD,” I whisper. “Jesus, they’re everywhere.” Suddenly I notice an entire new patch and yelp, gaping, “And I think they’re spreading. I don’t think that patch was here before? I swallow, then croak in a rush, “My mouth is incredibly dry because of this-could someone get me an Arizona diet iced tea in a bottle, not a can?”

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