A Rabble of Butterflies.
As the car silents over the old parts of town, past remembered haunts, of surreptitious dumpsters and peeling assignations masked by fluorescent lights and minds high on the moment, the past snakes into the seclusion of the limousine. It bleeds into the fine grain of the leather and leeches into the crystal of the decanter; its smell smothers the scotch. The stale piss and vomit of nights gone emerge as olfactory ghosts that grip the bleak dirt outside and bring it to life inside his head.
He asks the chauffer to go faster, and the car speeds up-- but not before the graffiti has screamed one last blur of obscenity at him. Lex is not happy he has to return to Lars Town today of all days, not when his memory is acting like a bog of treachery and dunking him again and again into the past, and he knows not what stimuli will set him teetering again. But this meeting is important, and must be dealt with immediately and so he closes his eyes to shut out the world that threatens to burst in despite the velocity and the tinted windows.
He next opens his eyes when the limo stops, looks around and wonders whether it was prudent to come in the limo, as the car seems to plug the narrow street, and he can feel the eyes in the broken panes of glass that stare down in modernist travesty onto him. The door opens and he gets out, motioning security not to follow. The place he is looking for is three floors up, and each landing is marked by its detritus of uneaten meat suppurating in the company of rolling beer bottles and the smell of piss. He has to force his face into impassivity again as he becomes conscious of the muscles forming a rictus of distaste.
The door of number 6 is red and blistered, with a brass number that speaks of days when Lars Town was up and coming and yuppies had made their home there. His knock is firm and loud and he listens for activity behind the door above the beat of the R&B from an open window across the street and the wailing of an infant from number 5.
He knocks again and this time his efforts are rewarded with a faint 'come in'. He opens the door and walks in, senses immediately assaulted by the cheap perfume and the tawdry draperies that swirl mustily in the confined space. The daylight that seeps in through the red drapes on the windows shows the hangings to be cheap and tatty and the floor to be used and dirty. He can pick up the traces of a fried breakfast over the perfume and the cigarette smoke and whiff of cheap liquor that emanates from every surface in the room. He makes his way to a chaise lounge also draped in red and looks around him. There are no personal mementoes around, nothing to associate this place with the person who has called him here. He can see past this room into another, which is heavily curtained, and there is a narrow passage opposite from which he can decipher sounds of inhabitation. He waits, irritation climbing and curiously wary of contact with anything in this strange place.
'Sit down Lex.'
She had moved very silently, and had emerged behind him.
He turned towards her, not sitting, and acknowledged her with a nod.
She was bigger now than she had been, her figure fuller and even overblown by some standards. Her hair had been artfully piled on top of her head, and she wore a silk negligee in black lace that revealed most of the cleavage that the past few years had given her. In the half-light she was beautiful, but his trained eyes could see the wrinkles that traced her every expression and refused to be soothed away by the repose she forced on her face.
'Long time no see, Lex.'
'Two years.' He reminded her.
She lit a cigarette and he noticed how husky her voice was now as the smoke curled around her face while she stretched sensuously onto the chaise lounge.
'You may sit on that chair there', she pointed 'this is not my room for business.'
He moved back and leaned against the mantelpiece.
'Moscow did not agree with you then?' his voice leaked concern.
'23 bloody sons of bitches. Not one with the gumption to stand up to a Luthor.'
She bled ash on to the carpet and looked up at him. 'You billionaires are all bastards.'
'It's a pre-condition.' he told her seriously. 'I trust you are not doing well.'
'I left with nothing. Am left with nothing!' She waved a hand around. 'Narcotics were on to me. And that bastard Alexis did nothing!'
'Kept women, however pretty, are expendable.'
'As you told me five years ago!' she sneered.
'I offered you a partnership in an enterprise. Not just carte blanche at Hermes and a chance to warm my bed. You refused.'
'Well, I had morals then, and I didn't want to be used.'
She stabbed viciously with the still burning cigarette into the chaise lounge and then tossed the stub into the window, where it was caught in the faded valance.
'Well, you've done it. I've had enough of running. I'll do it.'
She put out her hand. The red painted nails wavering in the air as she waited.
Lex sauntered forward, and put his hands in his pocket. He looked down at her, making her feel small and dirty.
'You lost your chance Lana Lang. Opportunity only knocks once. You may however, resume your work at the Talon. I presume you haven't forgotten how to make a cup of coffee-despite acquiring other, er, talents.' He turned and left her eyes empty and staring, slumped on the red lounge in curiously unpretty shock.
He descended quickly and resumed his seat in the limo.
'Ms. Lane's', he told the chauffeur.
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