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The time was 3 am and only two sounds could be heard on Fourth Street. One was glass rolling, an empty Budweiser longneck being pushed by a sheet of rain over to the curb. The other was a sizzle, right after he dropped his Chesterfield into the puddle. He'd sucked it down to the bone like the rest of them, and their pile formed an archipelago, a much sought after vacation destination for cockroaches. He'd been standing in the shadow of the doorway across the street from the hotel for an hour or more, looking up into an open second floor window, watching her bob up and down, riding the jockey. Every now and then she'd toss her hair back. She didn't care if he was out there watching. She didn't care if anybody was out there.

She liked jockeys, and liked them under five feet with paper bags pulled down over their faces; like some people preferred mango ice cream. She described it as "a 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: "She's squeaky clean. Goes to Quaker meetings at all hours. My theory is she feels the need to get in touch with her higher power or something; knows there's too much temptation out there. Wish they all did. No, you got yourself a good woman."

Johnny Jupes knew why the husband was going to believe him: He had no choice. This was the world he lived in.

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 with its single bare incandescent bulb swinging back and forth, providing the only source of illumination. When you enter, the players around the tables stare back at you, their faces momentarily obscured, appearing and disappearing in changing shadow. Your legs, giving way, say, "You've picked the wrong hot spot, bucko." But you stay anyway . . .