The buildings are still only paper but they are arguing over property value and crime rates. Possible crime rates—potential crime rates. There were fifteen assaults in the neighborhood most like this one last week alone, Mark insists. He is barely out of breath, sweating—and studying, the papers, the new buildings. The new buildings are only on paper. They are just drawings, sketches, for the other side of town. Projections of what the city will pay and what the buildings will pay the city. It is not a neighborhood like that one, Ruth scoffs. That one was full of—
The criminals are plotting underground now, Seth whispers.
—the improperly educated, Ruth corrects herself. She is apologetic for the slur, the inappropriate slur. The mis-use of the language. We shall applaud the construction. But it is only paper. Only now is it paper. Mark is bending, at the knees and he is staring at the buildings on the paper and imagining them climbing, climbing out off the desk and into the ceiling and through the floor above this floor, into the fifty-seventh floor. Yes, right into Mr. Clayton’s office. Between the sculpture of the naked Madonna, the cheap naked Madonna, taste—
I suppose, eventually, I am permitted tastes that neither suggest over-indulgence nor gaudy and class-less inspiration nor, of course, impoverished histories, social justice orientation, Seth concludes. They hired me to act as a kill then, as I was permitted. He discloses, unworried by the flashing lights, the skin, the human female skin. It is carved into the mold of this purely perfected oasis…ah, that was the quote they allowed me to keep, Seth remembers. Of course. Until she called me—
I am permitted one fire arm and one pack of chewing gum, standard chewing gum, store bought, bodega bought, nothing flashy, fancy. Those weren’t criminals plotting. You were a killer, she flashes skin again. No, he says, I was taught to kill, more likely, they had me to act as I would if I were a kill. They have not legalized it, not yet. The buildings were still on paper, for Christ sake, on the bloody paper, they hadn’t finalized the capital initiatives, the oversight, the policing, the detentions, nothing. It was on paper—
We have ten assaults on this block, Mark notes. Those weren’t assaults, Ruth interrupts again, those were purely fabricated misunderstandings. So they were misunderstandings? Yes. Then they are not fabricated. No, they were invented, not real, no actors—a response team was sent to investigate, to hypothesize, to venture an estimate. Where will we build? Here and here—
And then it lit up. The tree through the floor, through the naked Madonna—the tasteless, cliché, naked Madonna in Mr. Clayton’s office. And they had you to act as a kill? The others were weak, unfed. But it was on paper. The buildings were on paper? Of course the buildings were on paper—you think anybody actually ever lived there. So you were a kill to inhabitants that were not there—
They weren’t there, the criminal minds were below, in the cellar, soiled. No, but there were kills, too many kills, ten, fifteen. In buildings that did not exist yet, did not have infrastructure to house, to be, to act as, a community. So who are you killing anyway, really. It was all on a piece of paper.
I think we should build over here, Mark suggests. He points to a place on the corner of the desk. It is safer over there, he says. Jesus Christ, Ruth spits, it’s a goddamn piece of paper in an office on a desk. No, you could assume, Mr. Clayton didn’t like the naked Madonna either.