Just off the street, down a narrow alley, a thick wooden door crisscrossed with black iron straps is the only break in the plain brick wall. Above the door a metal sign swings on rusted chains from a three foot stub of pipe. Large block letters say, "The Machine." That's all there is. There is no activity, no noise, nothing to indicate anything more.
A young man in khaki trousers and a button-down shirt turns into the alley. He stares at the door, hesitates, then turns and walks back out to the street. An old Lincoln limosine pulls up and stops in the middle of the street; there's no space at the curb. A young woman climbs out of the rear door, speaks a few words to her chauffeur, then turns and walks toward the alley.
She looks to be about twenty. She wears faded blue jeans and a white silk blouse with long sleeves. The jeans fit her tightly, down to where they begin to flare at the knees, and she wears sandals. All very nice, but hardly remarkable, were it not that where her breasts stop being breasts and start being her belly, the blouse stops being a blouse. The faded blue jeans are hip huggers. The way her body is made, they ride a good six inches below her naked belly button.
When she sees the young man she stops, looks straight at him, then walks on by. He's good looking, she thinks, in a nondescript sort of way. The young man turns and follows her down the alley.
"Screeeeek . . . " the heavy door opens . . . into what appears to be a small warmly lit entrance hall . . . "Clunk," the door closes behind them, and the sudden switched-on glare of three blinding spotlights turns the cozy entrance hall into a goddamned stage. They are standing together, center-stage, in an elevated alcove built back into the darkened front wall of a crowded room with what seems like two hundred people watching to see what they will do next.
The young man's first thought is to turn and run, but something keeps him there . . . you can't quite define it . . . the pull of the place . . . a certain magic . . . if you can stand it. "Screeeeek . . . Clunk" . . . It's not your ordinary nightclub ó and it's certainly not for everyone ó but if you're good looking, or interesting . . .
"Where the hell are we?"
She turns to him and laughs, "Welcome to The Machine."
She walks down the short set of stairs to the main floor and across the room to the bar. She seems to have forgotten him. He finds an empty table and sits down. She says something to the bartender then turns back to face the room.
She raises her hands and unbuttons her collar. It was a little tight. With the collar now adjusted she lazily stretches her arms behind her head and pretends to refasten a barrette in her hair.
A minute later a tall handsome boy with a deep tan and a store-bought surfer look walks over and stands behind her.
"You don't even have a barrette," he chides her.
Without looking up she quips, "I must have lost it." Then she turns and looks coolly up at him, "No one is looking at my hair anyway."
"Can I buy you a beer?" he asks in his 'Iím Mr. Wonderful' barritone.
"No thank you," she replys icily; "I've already ordered one."
He leaves and one by one two more of them drift over. She speaks a few words with each of them but they get nowhere either. Then she stands up and walks over to the young man's table. "Would you mind too much if I sit here with you? Maybe then these guys will leave me alone."
"Go ahead," he says.
She slides an empty chair over to the table and sits down.
"Yes, I know, I met you once before. Iím Rand."
She looks at him closely.
"Last winter, at your gallery."
"Oh yes," she says, but it's obvious she doesnít remember him.
Several weeks later he told a friend about her.
"I'll be damned," his friend exclaimed, "She picked you up."
"Yes, I guess she did."
"She just walked over and picked you up. You didnít do a thing.Ē
"I did buy her a beer."
"Well?" Rand said; "She took me home with her."
"Iíll be damned. She just walked in a bar, picked you up out of the whole goddamn place, and took you home with her?"
"She isn't much for waiting," Rand laughed, "but first we went to another place: Fantaciworks."
"Fantaciworks! Good God! I thought the police closed that place down."