Chapter 3, from Janet Rosen

...revealing a long, unlit, steep stairway. In for a dime, in for a dollar. Up I went. At the landing, a small space, another door. This one was locked. I reached into my red Chanel purse for a passkey and came up with a pack of Luckies. It was the flare from my Zippo that revealed movement from what I'd taken to be a heap of rags on the floor. A thin, pale face framed with dirty blonde hair. Looked like any other spaced-out, strung-out kid of indistinct gender you'd see hanging around Polk Street. The heap of rags rearranged itself into a simulacrum of a seated human and coughed. I knelt down, offered a smoke, lit it and held out my hand. The one that took it was small, thin, female; a cursory glance showed no sign of tracks on the arm, just some bruises.

"You O.K.?," I asked.


"What's your name?"


"Yeah, you said you were O.K."

"No, Uke, 'u-k-e', and I am O.K. Really."

We sat in silence a few minutes, smoke curling around our heads, me rocking on my heels and figuring my next move. Out of the blue, Uke coils up, rolls a couple of times and the next thing I know, she's standing fifteen feet away from me, staring me down, and all this before I even think to reach for my .45. So much for figuring out moves.

I don't move a muscle. Play it cool. "You know a Shihan, name of Akiyama?"

"I might."

"You got a key to get in there?," nodding towards the locked door.

She giggles. "There's no key." Starts laughing out loud. "Everybody knows there's no such thing as key." Now she's rocking back and forth, slapping her thigh, like its some giant joke only she gets. "You just gotta extend! There's no key. Just extend! And blend!" She steps back, falls into a back roll, and as my cigarette goes out and darkness descends she once again becomes a heap of rags. Every now and then she sniggers, "key, hah!" Poor kid. If I catch up with whoever did this to her....


Could I read that again?
Oh, why not, it's better than solitaire...

No, really, you don't understand, I'm not interested any more.