Slip Alley XXXI

Thi runs the shower,
soaps herself luxuriously,
Jack is moving, showing signs
of waking after sleeping
drugged for three days …
a few moments more of quiet
until the curtain rises.

Isamu’s cat sits on his human’s lap,
mutters encouragement
as Isamu strokes his ears.

Thi pours two coffees,
black and thick,
stirs in sugar syrup,
hands a cup to Jack
and smiles sweetly…

Isamu’s yellow cat
sniffs the incense stick
glowing in the twilight,
bats three coins onto the floor,
Isamu picks them up and grins,
“Purrrrfect, I’ll order soft shell
crab for your supper.
The yellow cat sits,
curling his tail
around his feet
to wait for room service
as Isamu dresses for dinner.
It will be a champagne night.

Thi takes Jack by the hand
as they walk down the stairs,
she asks most solicitously,
“Did you like the cruise
to the old pirate haunts
on Halong Bay? I liked his story
about how they would confuse
the enemies in the American War.”
Thi yawns theatrically,
and whispers in Jack’s ear,
“you wore me out on the beach, big boy.”
Jack grins at the planted memory,
“It was paradise out there,
you deserve the best French champagne
tonight, you know,
I might even take you
back with me,”
softly squeezing Thi’s hand.

Thi looks deep into Jack’s eyes,
the deception is complete,
he believes he was out all day.


Slip Alley XXX

Ollie buttons up his black silk shirt,
splashes on some Polo aftershave,
frowns critically at his reflection.
His left eyebrow seems twitchy.

He finds a taxi in the street,
heads to Lake Hoan Kiem
to meet his offsider, May.

May waits by the red wooden bridge
to Ngoc Son Temple
people watching. She buys
roasted corn on a stick
from a vendor wearing a Homburg.
She speaks to him in French
and listens to his stories
of how when he was young
these streets were deserted…

Ollie’s taxi pulls up by the bridge,
he scans the crowds for May,
saunters to her side, snapping
pictures as he goes.

May tells Ollie
all about Isamu, tells him
she’ll meet him on the beach
at Cat Ba …


Isamu  sits on Cat Ba beach,
behind him tourists splash and play
in the resort’s pool,
he looks at Thi and Phong,
hands them both a beer,
they clink and drink.

Soon it will be time
to wake Jack for dinner,
by the evening’s end he’ll believe
he has been cruising
around the floating islands
snorkelling and
finding pirates’ caves with Thi,
Phong and Thi giggle,
Jack will be a cat’s paw
by the time they’re through.

Eric the Red lies sleeping
in a luxurious suite,
trussed up just in case …

Slip Alley XXIX

On a moonless evening
smart phone plays
a melancholy tune,
Sveta answers
with surprise, her editor
calling at dinner,
perhaps he’s lonely.

He tells her to pack a case,
light summer clothes,
and meet him at the airport
poste haste,
he has her passport with the visa,
the plane leaves in four hours.

Sveta packs reminiscing:
a scene unfolds, a restaurant
with palms and mahogany tables,
an altar by the door
with cognac bottles,
cigarettes, and dark chocolates,
rich red wallpaper
with a coin design
adorns the walls,
a band plays
the Internationale,
men in elegant suits dance
with young women
ruby lipped
in silk sheath dresses,
hushed conversations;
the great game,
the iron curtain’s fall,
the arrogance of the USA
and Diem’s assassination.

Her novella
is approaching its coda.
What remains is to tie
the threads
yet leave some hanging…

Her editor is clear on that,
not all should be resolved.
He has given her a tight deadline,
now he wants
her to go with him
on a holiday
to Hanoi when
time is running out.

She sighs.
She will tell him
at the airport
that the deadline
must be extended,
she cannot write
in a hotel room
away from home.


Somewhere else,
someone scribbles
on a napkin:
For each rival you eliminate
you shall receive
ten thousand dollars…

Slip Alley XXVIII

Sveta takes a long sip of tea,
Oolong Red Dragon, stares
at the screen, fixes a typo,
thinks of a name for
the taxi driver’s father
and continues…

“How so?” Ollie furrows his bow.
Greta leans forward, cleavage glistening,
says to Duc (the taxi driver’s father),
“He doesn’t know the rules.”

Ollie scratches Duc’s cat
under its chin,
“What rules, am I a mind reader now?
I am hunting a perp with red hair
and snake tattoos,
a murderer after you,
you said he’s here
in Hanoi…”

Duc grins,  tosses three I Ching coins,
three heads six times,
“most unusual,” he says. “Definitely
a journey across the water.”

“My friends tell me, someone
broke the rules, killed for pleasure…”

Greta winces, “I saw him
on a passing train, he is

Ollie’s phone chirps,
his woman offsider is
in Hanoi in secret,
staying at a boutique hotel…
she has texted saying
she just met a fascinating Japanese man
at the Temple of Literature,
he gave his name as Isamu,
she is meeting him for lunch.

Ollie arranges to meet his offsider
for dinner,
puts his phone away,
returns his attention to Duc
and Greta’s conversation. Seems
the net round red headed snake man
is well in place. Duc toasts him
with a beer and puts on a tape
with old revolutionary songs.

“This is my lucky day,”  Ollie thought.

Slip Alley XXVII

Ollie sits on the plane,
the aisle seat, Greta is curled up
leaning on the window, sleeping.
He wonders how some could sleep
so peacefully, he sighs and flicks
through the movies ….


Sveta cracks her knuckles,
rolls her shoulders,
stretches like a cat,
a tight band burns between
her shoulder blades,
she stoically types
fingers flying,
disregarding redlined typos…


Greta stands with Ollie
at Noi Bai Airport talking
on her mobile phone,
she turns to Ollie,
“Our taxi has just arrived,
he’ll drive us to the ferry in Haiphong
but first he wants to introduce you to
his father…”

The taxi driver greets Greta
with  kiss on each cheek,
he turns to Ollie saying,
“I speak English, I studied
at Berkley,” and warmly shakes
Ollie’s hand.

The driver phones ahead
while dodging snarly traffic:
handcarts, bicycles, motorbikes and cars,
he tells Ollie laughing,
“These Vietnamese must keep moving,
‘If you stop, you are dead!’ crazy people”.
“My father is waiting,
he has his favourite Hanoi beer,
he is an old patriot, remembers
student days with Uncle Ho,
my wife has cooked our lunch,
I hope you like seafood – soft shelled crab.”


They pull up in a narrow lane,
somewhere in the old quarter,
the driver unlocks a greenish gate,
which looks like it hadn’t been painted
since the American War,
inside there is a verdant courtyard
with orchids and large bonsais,
a petite tabby cat
rubs herself against Ollie’s ankles.
As he crouches to pat her,
he hears the driver’s father
“Welcome comrade, it seems
the endgame has begun.”

Startled, Ollie stands
and shakes the old man’s hand
inclining his head courteously,
the old man laughs handing Ollie
an ice cold glass of beer.

Slip Alley XXVI

Sveta walks up her stairs
opens the door to her apartment,
her laptop sits waiting
yearning for her touch…


Ollie checks Greta’s bag carefully,
opens inner pockets, searching.

Greta flushes, trying hard
to think of a cover story,
Ollie unzips her makeup bag,
stops to rub his left eyebrow,
Blue cat sits purring loudly
next to Ollie.

Ollie, opens the lipstick case
it feels stiff, he tries to replace the lid
and encounters resistance.
With his index finger, he prods
out falls a tube of paper.
he carefully unrolls it, and reads
“The tattooed man with snakes
and celtic sleeves has earned
$10,000. He is stuck in a honey pot.
It’s time for you to come and play.”

Ollie reads and looks to Greta
for an explanation. She swallows
and begins to speak.
“He has flown to Hanoi,
he’ll be lured to Cat Ba.”

Ollie clears his throat,
“So what about
the baby Glock you pulled?”

Greta laughs relieved,
“My deception worked,
you searched my bag,
you found the note,
telling you was against the rules.
I am still in mortal danger,
I can’t say anymore than that,
let’s go together to Cat Ba.”

Slip Alley XXV

Eric lies nude
on the kingsize bed
his room, of course,
his wrists are tied with silk rope
to the bed head,
the snake tattoos around his neck
slide down his chest,
around his navel one bites its tail,
the secret worm called Ouroboros.

On a large screen TV
a threesome writhe,
Eric watches avidly,
thinking about how he
will kill his next mark
in the game for ten thousand.
It’s a pity she’s so pretty,
he could drown in her dark
eyes, and she seems to sense
his taste for silk and rubber
but the game is on, the whore
is just a whore… he will
play with her for a few days
before he breaks that slender neck.

Phong is in the bathroom
wearing thin latex gloves
and a silk kimono,
she holds a vial
‘just one drop,
or he’ll oversleep’,
were the instructions
from Isamu, ‘get him on
the bus and bring him to Cat Ba.
We’ll take it from there.’
She hides the vial
in her ruby sleeve.

Eric calls to her,
‘Phong, I am ready.’

Phong swishes in
perches on the bed,
stretches like a languid cat,
‘close your eyes, you’re a bad
warrior, you must be punished.’

Eric shuts his eyes,
his body taut with anticipation,
he feels her gloved fingers
trace his snakes,
his lips, a wet drop
on his tongue,
he sighs with longing
and falls into a dark haze.

Phong unties his hands,
sits crossed legged on the floor,
flips the channels to a romcom movie;
it will be a long
night, she can’t afford to sleep,
she orders coffee from room service
and a chicken salad.
In the morning, she will
get him on the bus with promises
decadent delights, she shudders.


Sveta sips her merlot,
smiles inwardly,
the strings are gathering

Outside the full moon
breaks through the clouds,
makes a stairway
on the wet cobblestones.

Sveta slips on a raincoat
and heads to her favourite bar
for a rendezvous with her editor…

For the rest of this noir serial please follow the Slip Alley tag.