Alice finally killed the desk lamp, not out of courtesy to Lewis but because it made it difficult to look through the window. Not that she could see much from the dark room other than the downtown lights. And it wasn’t much of a sight anyhow, a dull patch of discrete whitish beacons against a damp looking sky, not the electric sparkle of jukebox Manhattan, or the sprawling glow of Los Angeles approached by air at night. Those modern American vistas were really an affront if you saw them as the waste of energy they represented. For every productive citizen burning his midnight lamp there were a hundred, maybe a thousand bulbs casting light over empty offices or through windows unused on either side. The ratio had to be even worse in Joburg’s Central Business District – would anyone be working there at night? – but there the lights felt so much more necessary, existence declared and casting a glow over a threatened city. Alice had to admit to herself that she’d never sat by the night window in Los Angeles, never lain awake at three in the morning, asking herself what was happening in the streets, when it would have been a perfectly reasonable question with an unsettling answer. She thought about a recent photo essay in the New York Times’ travel magazine supplement, São Paulo, all Bauhaus buildings and Prada and leggy models, and meanwhile if you’ve got high four figures in your bank account you’d better get yourself a bodyguard against kidnapping and mutilation. But no one seemed to be suggesting civilization was at stake in Brazil. She had to wonder, then, where the incidence of rape in São Paulo stood in relation to the rate of kidnapping, which was rational and impersonal inasmuch as it was lucrative. For that matter, how many dozen decapitations for every rape in Baghdad? After a three year spasm of evil in the Balkans the most memorable pictures were of an emaciated prisoner in Trnopolje or Omarska, a perfectly defined rack of ribs poised between a wide Slav face drained of energy and hope and a much narrower stretch of taut stomach skin, and the Croat-shelled bridge at Mostar lying in chunks and shards and gravel and dust in the Neretva river, gross fragments tearing the formerly placid water into white froth like the spume from the mouth of a wounded dying animal. But the strongest images came without photos, just the testimony of the violated. Was Johannesburg Bosnia in slow motion or São Paulo driven by something uglier than a passion for coin? Maybe she could learn something from Trevor after all. Maybe this place had beaten the sociopath right out of him. Or maybe it had drawn it out.
She went into the bathroom and threw up her dinner.