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3 am and two sounds on Fourth Street: a rolling empty Budweiser longneck, pushed by the sheet of rain over to the curb; the other, a sizzle, right after he dropped the Chesterfield into the gutter. Sucked it down to the bone like the rest of them; the pile formed an archipelago, and if it'd been on a travel brochure, it'd been a vacation destination for cockroaches. He'd been standing in the shadow of the doorway across the street from the hotel for little over an hour, looking up through the gaping second floor window, watching her riding the jockey. Every now and then she'd toss her hair back and the neon Rooms sign would fizzle. She didn't care if he was out there watching. She didn't care if the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir was out there watching.

She liked jockeys, liked them under five feet with paper bags pulled down over their faces while she was riding; like some people liked mango ice cream. Described it as her "thing."

The rain was falling hard now and he had all the photographs he needed. He knew what he was going to tell the husband anyway: "She's squeaky clean. Goes to Quaker meetings at all hours, turns out. My theory? She feels the need to get in touch with her higher power and knows there's too much temptation out there. Wish they were all like her. You got yourself a good one"

Johnny Jupes knew why the husband was going to believe him: He had no choice.

Orphan Paper is a surreal noir fiction label. People like labels as it makes them feel safe when, in fact, they're not. So think of this page as a downtown pool hall, a single bare incandescent bulb swinging back and forth, providing the only source of illumination. When you enter, the players planted around the tables stop what they're doing and stare, their faces obscure then sharp in the changing shadow. Your legs give way, telling you, "You've picked the wrong hot spot."

But you stay anyway . . .