Les Jeux Sont Fait

Something has stirred the Gentlemen to an unaccustomed frenzy. They are especially colorless, especially bloody: no records are kept of their nightly deaths, but they number in the dozens, in the hundreds. Assignations are made and broken; mirrors are ground underfoot in alleys; deals are made on street corners wreathed in sweetish smoke.

(Mystics, all: a woman passes among the rooftops, riding on a coal scuttle. She beats a tattoo on its side, a simple substitution — numbers, letters, one-time pads, phrases from old folk songs.)

The Gentlemen are pushed together in crowded restaurants, bars, cafes. They eat in silence, busy with an elaborate game of soup spoon, oyster fork, daily news, pulp novel, poison vial; underneath formica counters, their feet are busy, coding staccato messages into leather.

Their pace increases. Their world — that is, the true world, the more vibrant world that aligns itself in meaning — careens toward a precipitous cataclysm. The Gentlemen trust in the rules of the game, in the cool impersonal voice of a dealer calling an end to betting. The wheel begins its spin.