Mr. Black


translated into English by Stéphanie Benson

To Diana Atkinson

The Flamingo dance floor was newly repainted and a few seats recently replaced, but the dressing rooms were still just as shabby. Miss America was already on stage giving them her lasso between the thighs number. Afterwards, it would be my turn.

I’d woken up at three in the morning. Been tempted to shoot myself in the head and be done with it, then I’d thought: not today. NYPD Blues was on at eleven fifteen.

Carla, lounging on the settee, offered me a line of coke. I sniffed it up my right nostril in one fell swoop and started to believe in God. Big Romero was making desperate gestures at me from near the curtain. Don’t let the hardons languish.

Here you go then. Working the horizontal bar with a greedy tongue licking the metal whilst going through the dance of the seven veils; absolute bad taste. I pushed my tits against the metal bar and half-closed my lids, trying to catch eyes in the front rows.

Three Japs and two Yankees with their broads desperately giggling to hide their embarrassment. I don’t like people to giggle. So I unhooked my string, bent backwards and offered them my open pussy for desert. Then I got off stage while the CD went on dealing out Springsteen’s Streets of Fire.

Romero was straight on me.

"Steffi, you go the whole way on your second set, you been sniffing glue or what?"

"I had to get even with the second row."

"Yeah, well go easy on your fucking around. Goldman, the agent, he’s waiting for you in your dressing room.

Granddaddy - fifty-five, ash coloured wig and three-piece that stinks - sniffing around my make-up case.

"You wanted to see me?"

"Hi, Steffi. I’ve got something for you. Ten days up North, around Beauvais, two shows a night. Different town every day, you sleep in hotels or in the clubs. Romero says he’s OK."

"How much?"

"Ten thousand."


"Done. The guy chaperoning you calls himself Johnny Stash, but don’t laugh ‘coz he’s rather sensitive.

"Who are the other girls?"

"Darlene and Magic Tania. You know them?"

"Yeah. Tania mainlines heroin."

"So that’s her problem. Johnny’ll take you up there by car, leaving the day after tomorrow, rendezvous ten o’clock in front of the Pigalle subway entrance."

The first night at Macheraut, I went on in third position. Johnny said so. He was the kind of guy who manages to actually look like his name: silk shirt with hand-painted bulls and blue star-fringed cowboy boots. The males in the joint were drunk on beer and I somehow knew it would be hell to get back to the hotel. I decided to give them the big one right off Sequins, sex and tits. Sunday mass.

I slid on a very cool number by Massive Attack and the spotlight stroked me onto the horizontal bar. I’d pinched my nipples before coming onto their fucking stage. I shoved my tits right up their noses. Then I unhooked my string and slipped into the shadow. You could have heard a pin drop. I came back onto the floor, rolled and split. And there, over that shitty carpet that stank of sun oil and stale sweat, I showed them my arse. My majestic arse. Between my arms, I could see them bending forwards, completely unsettled by the stranger hiding between my thighs. I opened my straightened legs then brought my body back towards them whilst my violet lips opened full up. This is where they come from, this strange object of desire as the poet said. I clenched my bowelsand worked the fuchsia opening of my arse-hole. Coming, sweetheart?

An old man in the front row massaged his heart, eyes popping. Back to the front, back flip, the spotlight on the few hairs that curl a finger away from my clit. I panned them round under the laser, light slipping over my belly, the music evaporating into the torpor of the Bamboo Club.

Then I saw the guy.

All in black, sitting towards the back, he looked liked a balding schoolteacher. He was watching me intensely, right in the eyes. He wanted my pussy, the guy. So just for him, I opened up like an overripe melon, rolled on the scratched floor and shot offstage. Johnny Stash was clapping like a kid at a puppet show. I pushed him aside and went to throw up my guts in the john next to what they dare call the dressing rooms.

The next two nights, we dragged round their shitty towns with the same show, Darlene and her caesarean scar - that’s class for you - and Magic Tania much too high and who fell on her arse each time. In order to keep going, I was smoking the crack crystals that Johnny gave me two hours before the first show. I’d pull on the clay pipe and when I’d step on stage, the hate I felt wouldn’t have fitted into even Adolph Hitler’s heart. But I’m a good girl and I open like a wound,

they love it,

I squash my tits on the horizontal bar, masochistic,

they love it,

I split open like meat on the butcher’s table,

they love it,

and I watch Mr. Black in the row from the back and send him
my last marvellous Technicolor burst.

That evening, make-up off, pulling at my second Camel, the
puke of these half-beat joints in my nose, Johnny Stash, sidled in with
puffed-up eyeballs:

"Hey, Steffi, there’s a guy wants to see you."

I looked at myself in the Kentucky Club mirror: a
twenty-year-old dead body, bathrobe tightly knotted, and hair almost clean.

"Let him in."

So Mr. Black came into the room, trying desperately to smile
friendly like a priest in an American movie.

"Good evening, I just wanted to talk..."

"Go ahead."

"I wanted to tell you that there’s something sacred in
your... work. It makes me feel like a child trying to fathom the mystery of the

"You been to university?"

"Not really, I’m a mechanic. But I go to evening

"It’s not sacred, honey, it’s just a way of seeing
things. If I did the same movements to White Christmas by Sinatra, it
wouldn’t have the same effect on you."

"Yes, of course. Where are you tomorrow?"

"The Bread and Butter in Orlandeaux."

"I’ll be there."

"Shit, I’m tired. I’d like to go to bed, Mr.

"Ah, Mr. Black. Funny. That’s funny."

"Yeah. You’re not fussy."

The Bread and Butter was the arse-hole of the Oise. Toilets open to the wind, raised stage without carpet and neurotic lighting.

"What do they do in this shit-hole, Johnny?"

The Stashman is a walking encyclopaedia.

"They’ve got two plants that treat waste from slaughter houses."

"Wow, that’s nice. Maybe I’ll try suicide tonight."

"Steffi, darling, keep cool. You want a crystal?"

"Three lines of coke is minimum survival kit in this wop

"Okay, I’ll see you back at the hotel in ten

I was sharing a room with Magic Tania’s stand-in, Pamela di Fuego - what will they think of next? -, because sweet Tania did one speedball to many. Emergency Care, tubes up her arse, the real thing just like in E.R.

It had been raining since the night before. Through the window, I had a magnificent view onto a muddy dump surrounded by council flats in the process of demolition and a chippy colonised by five Rasta men who smoked ganja from morning to evening. The cockroach atmosphere was starting to get to me. I had a wistful thought for my room in Paris, on the rue de Steinkerque. With shower, if you please. The cocaine hit in, Saturday Night Flash.

"Johnny, you’re not an angel, but I really don’t care."

"C’mon, Steffi, move. The show’s on in half an hour."

During the second set, I went mad for Mr. Black. Entry in a nun’s costume with three-layer veil then strip to the horizontal bar that I licked like a lollipop. Four or five guys got a bit annoyed and left, complaining. There were dregs of religious conscience in a hole like this! Mr. Black winked at me. I received him loud and clear. God had sent me here. If I got through, and I would get through, I’d light a candle under his rotten fig leaf.

Evening confession. I was drinking gin, Mr. Black mint cordial. The bar was an imitation of the Flintstone’s grotto. Fucking depressing.

"You have power, something secret and incommunicable. That’s what attracts me in you."

"I am not a whore."

"I wasn’t talking about that," he said immediately.

Strangely, his thing about a power worried me. I wanted to be appreciated for my brain and here I was, about to reign through my arse.

"Don’t ever tell me I’ve got power."

"All right. I’m forty."

"Oh yeah."

I didn’t give a shit. Then night froze the surroundings and I thought that if I were to survive more than three days here, I needed heroin. I saw my favorite Stash ready to walk me back to my hovel in his cowboy boots. A weird idea: I didn’t like the yellow light in Mr. Black’s eyes.

"You ready to move, Steffi?"

I motioned an excuse to the educated mechanic.

"I’ll see you tomorrow, Steffi. The Jackpot in Merlot-les-Flots, a fitting setting for your beauty."

Three crack crystals in The Jackpot’s dressing room. There was red carpet on the walls, and photos of Metallica on the door. A dangerous place. The killers at the bar were the Hell’s Angels type: long greasy hair, tattoos, leather boots. I love Mum sewn onto their biker’s jacket, or maybe I fucked Sharon. Welcome to the Manson club, girls. Everything I love.

It wasn’t good to think about Mum. Or about the other fuck. Better get out the big tits and suggestive arse or we’ll have a revolution here.

"Hey, Steffi, keep cool tonight. The guys are terrifying in this joint," moaned Johnny rolling greedy eyes.

My Johnny a bum-bandit?

"I saw them. I’ll give them the Arabian Nights set, the Spanish Servant and the French Madame"

"That’s the thing, baby. But no pussy, okay. Definitely no pussy.

"Sure thing, hunny bun."

He was cute.

In the house, the select audience was cat wailing Pamela’s number. The wails held about four words; Take ‘em off, bitch. I was starting to float with the angels.

"There’s not a cop in the house. They want pussy, Steffi."

"Make up your mind. A few minutes ago you wanted Breakfast at Tiffany’s, now you want what?"

"They’re sacking Pamela. You have to calm them down with something hard but quick, danced at the horizontal bar, if you see what I

"I see. Pussy and tits to You can’t leave your hat on. We don’t hang around, quick and out. And talking of that, what if you called the cops?"

"I’ll try."

You’re really supported in this job. As soon as there’s hustle around, you have to get out on your own, bare-arsed in high heels with all the old women around trying to bewitch you, like in bad westerns.

I was in the lion’s pit. Barer than that, you’d have to skin me. And, of course, there was a quack in the front row staring at my loins, ready to out with his scalpel. No time to try and see Mr. Black. I did my best to follow the tempo set by Joe Cocker. Lot of work round the fucking horizontal bar, I slid to the ground, legs spread wide but still hanging on to the bar, then pushed a back flip to get up again. I could hear them shouting and whistling, but I was gone.

Into the cellar in Meudon with my fuck of a stepfather, hand between my thighs and prick all tacky. My mother’s short look. Thirteen. Running through the woods, my first car, my first train, my first night in the jungle and the first words of my life:

"Do you need a dancer?"

"How old are you?"

A quick lie.

"Fifteen. And I can dance."

"You have a place to sleep?"

"No." Overwhelmed with shame.

Romero took my hand in his big hairy fists.

"I’ll tell my wife to find you a room."

When I got hold of myself, I was on the floor, leaning on my elbows, legs wide apart. I started to hear them chanting fuck her. I moved into a loop, stood up to Pride and Joy by Vaughn and reviewed the troops from the edge of the floor. I pushed my heels into the hands of three masochists who moaned with pleasure. Then, haranguing the band of mental cases like Miss Sadist, I walked out, holding my shoes, and made a beeline off-stage out of the spotlights. Johnny handed me a few clothes and set the wheels squealing off to Seat Ibiza.

"Where are the cops?"

"They didn’t want to come. Not their precinct."

Behind us, I could hear Harleys roaring. I burst out laughing: what a shit! Johnny pulled the car out; night took us in.

"What about the others?"

"They’re at the hotel."

"Do we have a problem?"

"Nah. Two local cops, the owner’s brothers, are in front of the lobby. They’ve got guns; that should be enough.

"Mr. Black?"


"On my doorstep, a small cigar in his mouth."

"Nearly. He said he’d wait for you at the bar."

I took three crystals out of the glove pocket, fished a pipe from Johnny’s mess and the shit burned my brain. My first memory, my first rape, disappeared in a bottomless pit to be replaced by stardust rain which carried me off like Peter Pan to a strange country full of witty tongued eunuchs.

I hadn’t had sex for three months. I needed a man. Hotel,
cops, Fort Alamo.

And Mr. Black.

"I suffered for you, Steffi. All those hooligans."

"Yup! All part of the job."

"Yes, but all that tension! That is what desire’s about; letting on that the flesh belongs to you."

"And then a last spotlight that blacks out and bye-bye

"You’re cruel, aren’t you?"

"I have good reason to be."

"That interests me... Would you tell me?"

"Not tonight, Mr. Black."

"Pity. This is probably our last night together."

"You’re leaving us two nights before the final?"

"Yes. I have to get free, now. You’ve been holding me on a leash, Steffi."

I could sense the menace in his voice. I looked round. Johnny was a few feet away; the two cops a few yards. Cool it, Steffi.

I smiled at Mr. Black, vaguely tired, and wandered up to the thick carpet in my cosy second floor room.

The following day, I got out of bed at eleven sharp. All hell was loose in the hotel. A madman was drumming on my door.

I pulled on a few clothes and opened the panel. Two cops with imperial expressions were standing in front of me. Next to them, a tired-looking
guy in civvies.

"Are you Roseline Pinier also known as Steffi?" "I am."

There’s trouble. They’ve found the cocaine and crack. We’ll all go down with Johnny."

"Would you please follow us?

"But, why? I... Have you found something?"

"We’ll explain everything at the station."

"Isn’t Johnny coming with me?"

"No, just you."

Shit. I put on a linen jacket and we went outside where their horrible cars were waiting along with twelve idiots who stared at me.

Police station. A stink you can’t imagine. Office, no handcuffs, a good sign.

"Could I have a coffee?"

"Robert, a coffee for the lady."

"Thank you."

The guy in civvies had got up early and didn’t like it. The others looked fresher.

"I’m Commissaire Vermesh. Could you look at this Polaroid?"

He handed me the card. A picture of Mr. Black clearly out of his brains.

"Mr. Black."


"That’s what I called him. I didn’t know his real name."

"What do you know about him?"

I told them the whole story. The discreet courtship of Mr. Black, his active member card of the Guys-Who-Luv-Steffi club.

"And yesterday evening, what happened?"

"We had to get out of the Jackpot real quick, they’re half crazy over there. Mr. Black was waiting for me at the hotel bar. He said something weird about desire, the usual shit. He said we wouldn’t be seeing each other again, but other than that, nothing special. Why don’t you tell me what this is all about?"

"That man is called Roger Keller. Last night, he broke into a working family’s garden in Merlot, kidnapped a girl of nine, Sandra Mechnick, took her to an abandoned bunker... go on, Lanctot."

The big blond one took over.

"He raped the little girl in about every possible way and cut her throat with a kitchen knife. Then he went back to his car, omitted to stop at a red traffic light and got stupidly arrested. There was blood on his hands and on his suit. We found the kid twenty minutes later."

They didn’t say any more, just looked at me as if I was some kind of strange animal. I felt empty. I could imagine it all, the little girl’s terror, the rape - I knew that, too - and the killing.

"Jesus. I mean, he seemed strange, but not to that point."

"You haven’t asked me the question."

"I know. What has all this got to do with me?"

"Right. Using the little girl’s blood, he wrote: Steffi
is mine
on the wall."

"The arse-hole"

Suddenly, I was crying like a baby. I had a knot in my stomach. It was me he raped and massacred. The fucking arse-hole. I was bent double, on the point of puking.



"The parents know of that last detail. News travels fast around here. We think you should leave the area quickly."

"Yes, okay. This evening."


"Two o’clock, then. After lunch."

"No. Now. Keller was popular in town, that’s not your case. The righteous mob is going to want a scapegoat. Leave immediately."

I nodded and moved towards the exit. With a couple of lines of coke, I could get over this, but for the moment, it was hard. The big blond cop showed me an alley behind the police station.

"Go along here, it’s quieter. You’ll come up directly behind the hotel."

I did as the man said. A hundred and fifty yards later, I crossed a bridge over a shitty river. Camel. The first puff tasted of death.

Tomorrow, I would be twenty. An age to end things. I had to find a nice clean old man and stop playing with fire. Mr. Black was the step too far. I imagined Sandra in her bunker and remembered myself in the cellar in Meudon.

That’s how they like us.

Split open.


Meat and that’s all.

I threw my cigarette into the clear water and went back to the hotel, my high heels sinking into the mud.

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