Phedra Road houses the majority of the take-away food joints that litter this burg, perfuming the streets with the siren call of hot fat, cheap carbs and pheromonic MSG. I've had slightly fewer hot dinners here than I've had sticky nights elsewhere in this town, but it's still somewhere I find myself all too regularly. Coupled with my smoking, it's a wonder that my lifestyle hasn't done to me what so many gangsters, molls, police officials and general lowlives have failed to do in the past too-many years. When I die I've an arrangement to be deep-fried in my favourite Chinese and then buried in an unmarked grave. I want to be sure that none of my enemies can get at my corpse; hell I also have to be on the look-out for the Museum trying to get me and embalm me. For a guy who's got nothing alive, I'd be worth a fortune dead.
I can't say that I remember any churches on Phedra Road though.
I look both ways, my heart hammering in my chest still, perched on the bike at the T-junction about a third of the way along. I should have got a building number out of Dr. Siff while I was in his office, but the mention of Pussy Bootes made me want to spit. The woman's a remora, and though she'd get nothing more than a mouthful of bile if she tried feeding from me, I've got a little pride left. I'd rather take my chances with the sharks than hang around with the parasites. I toss a mental coin and it comes down tarnished. I sigh, shake my head which starts me off coughing, and turn down the longer stretch of Phedra Road to look for the church.
I have to get off and push the bike, I'm coughing too much to be steady and my eyes have that hot dry itch that says I'd be crying if it weren't for my cauterised tear-ducts. I pick the right-hand side of the street and walk along, checking out the take-aways as I go past. From time to time I glance across at the other side of the street, but the neon lights are all the same. I think they might be brighter, in the same way that the grass is always greener.
Then I stop and lean the bike up against an old lady who isn't walking fast enough to stop me. She starts to protest, so I grab her handbag and hold it out into the street above her head. If she jumps for it, she'll go under the next bus to go past. It's harsh, but there's nowhere else to stand the bike, and I need to give it back to my paperboy. What's caught my attention is a building set a little way back from the take-aways that surround it, with a recessed doorway and a bright neon sign that reads Baptisms-a-go-go. I'd always assumed that this was a Laotian food kitchen because my neighbour's cleaner used to come here before I accidentally shattered her pelvis into twelve pieces during a surprise birthday party. It was a very surprising party, and I discovered what the native Laotian martial arts were like. Brutal is the word I'd use.
This must be the church on Phedra Road, the Church of the Derived Mind. Finally I was starting to get somewhere with this case.
I dropped the handbag in the gutter and retrieved my bike, leaving the pensioner to scrabble for her meagre belongings. It reminded me of every hour of every day of my life so far, and it brought a bitter smile to my lips. I wheeled the bike up, and headed towards the recessed doorway. Time to find out what lay beyond the sanctified portal.