He couldn't say exactly when it was when he crossed the soft line in the earth, in his life. Perversely he could not finger it as being that ache-long trip down the rust-carpeted hallway of the third floor of the Great Northern Hotel, mud caked thick on his boots and his calves sore from hiking, running his hands through his hair, fingers digging against his scalp as if he could drown out the lusty chorus of /Olafur og Alfamaer/ that crowded in all around him, suffocating in the close air of the corridor: the junket still singing at half past one, ante meridiem. It could not have been when he turned the corner, crossed the threshold, pulled his gun on a girl curled up in his bed in the dark.
It had been earlier: days earlier, a thousand years earlier, a thousand seconds earlier. It had been some time before. The way he knew this was that when he crossed the threshold into that room, he had looked back briefly like Orpheus in the cave and had found himself staring dispassionately at the view from the wrong side of the line.
Maybe it had been their first breakfast: the smooth shift of her hips in the unfashionable little girl skirt, and the pearls of her ankles against scuffed loafers. She didn't move like a woman, her steps too large, the timing slow, off-beat. There was a feline roll in her walk, not predatory, curious. She was a Cheshire girl with small white hands whose palms itched, and a way of lolling her head back as she hummed soft tuneless songs that gave him her neck, a slim ivory line that he had wanted to devour; teeth and lips and tongue in the hollow of her throat as she laughed or panted, painting the world in mad lunatic giggles.
This is not a thing for a responsible agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to have been considering in his idle moments over the rim of a steaming coffee cup. He was considering it anyway. Perhaps this should have been the first indication that he was approaching the line with /intent/.
Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity were the words he'd steel-belted his life with: his mother the F.B.I., wrapping him deep in the skirts of her lap, his wife the F.B.I., to honor, serve, obey, protect, in sickness and in health, his lover the F.B.I., party to all the illicit secrets and closet skeletons of the nation that they bulldog guarded. Always before the F.B.I. had been all of his women: both the ones he wanted and the ones he could do without. When he sat in the dining room of the Great Northern feeling the grapefruit juice roll over his tongue and watching the worn white moccasin dangling from Audrey Horne's delicately languid foot, he had begun to wonder if there even was a line.
Of course there was a line.
Fidelity he could have with her certainly. It wasn't as if the punishing ache came from wanting to bed two /different/ school girls of the senior class of Twin Peaks Consolidated High School, and fidelity were the only thing standing between the two of them then he could always put another ring on her finger to match the sterling one she was fond of showing off on the little white hands with itchy palms. Things like that always seemed to be happening some place or another.
Bravery it would take to corner her in the first place. Not to conquer her unwillingness, since she gave every indication of being nubile and tractable outside of inviting herself to sit on his knee instead of across the breakfast table, but to conquer his own.
"/Audrey, how old are you?/"
A little sliver of a smile that opened up the pomegranate lush of her mouth.
Integrity. That was the rub. Could a man maintain his integrity when considering the snowy rounded shoulders and knee caps of a girl who chewed on the end of her pen all through last bell geography lessons and sometimes wore mismatched socks with old sneakers in P. E. and smelled of soap and cinnamon and rocked her narrow boy hips easily to the slow slide of a rock organ?
The fact that he was considering the question at all was a heady indicator he no longer really cared where the line was and would not notice it when he crossed it.
Eighteen. She could have said twelve or fourteen or twenty nine or two hundred, and it wouldn't have mattered. Sinatra would have crooned it in his ear. She'd gotten under his skin. When he'd asked the question he hadn't yet really realized that he didn't care about the answer.
In the red room Laura Palmer had kissed him on the mouth, and all he'd done was smile, thick in the firm, unknowable, insoluble enigma that was girl, that was woman, that was /a/ woman, that was /a/ girl. There was always music in the air. Later in the shower as Audrey arched her supine back against the tile, she'd throw her head back and it would loll on the white line of her neck and she would sing.
/She wore blue velvet. Bluer than velvet were her eyes. Warmer than May her tender sighs./
She had grown up in no home, a broken home, playing house in half a hundred bedrooms that were not her own, keys swiped from the front desk and twirled around her finger. And she had learned to slip down the maintenance halls and burrow into walls like she was taking the secret passages at the corners of the Clue board. Mr. Green in the Conservatory with the Candlestick. Her father at the Cozy Oaks Motor Lodge with Catherine Martell.
Laura Palmer had defined their worlds, had certainly defined her world when she was nine and sticky and her father bought Laura a pony for her birthday and sang to her, and they were always dancing with Laura. Everyone always wanted to touch Laura, to put their hands in her dusty yellow blond hair and to tear away bits of it for their sympathetic magic. Everyone had their hands on her, grasping for her, grasping after those heavy white thighs with her knees spread, or kneeling, her mouth open, her eyes closed. Laura had sat on everyone's lap, a girl with as many secrets as she had grasping surrogate fathers, eager to make her their little girl. She was the smell of sex and the burn of cocaine, and the twisted corner of her mouth when she smiled. She was prostitution at Sunday school, and the magazine they all wanted to subscribe to. She had been used since she was a little girl, the bovine goddess with weak eyes and a drugged smile. But in Audrey, more than sympathy was a burning, raging jealousy because Laura was used, but Laura was also handled, not shut up in a room somewhere, not forgotten or ignored by her father, by everyone until his nostrils suddenly flared and he scented profit out of her. People noticed Laura. People wanted her. Men wanted Laura. All men wanted Laura. Laura was used, but in being used she gained a strange hypnotic power over the men who used her. Laura had secrets. Laura had power. No one understood the power Laura herself had ground under her heels but Audrey, and it was her picture in the frame along with Laura's that sat on the corner of Benjamin Horne's desk.
She was not eighteen. She was matchless, ageless, knee socks and saddle oxfords and sensible sweaters over breasts thrust up by the satin lines of her brassiere, her dark Bacchanal hair a cropped flurry around her head as she turned suddenly and her eyes rolled up to look at him, lashes thick as ash, her mouth soft and secret. She moved slowly, strangely, in a way that was not quite right, in a way that he surged after. Later in the shower he would press her nymph thin body slick with soap against the tile, and she would sing a breathy siren song somehow drowning out the chorus of drunken Norsemen alone, with only the hiss of the steam and shower as accompaniment.
/Ours, a love I held tightly feeling the rapture grow like a flame burning brightly, but when she left, gone was the glow of blue velvet./
Maybe the line had ceased to matter because she wasn't really a high school girl. She was a strange elfin creature, a storybook animal. She was Audrey Horne, schoolgirl femme fatale who had had her coffee with milk and sugar until Special Agent Dale Bartholomew Cooper had taken his black, and she was prepared to wear chic clinging black leather and play his investigative partner who was always properly getting chained to things or tied to things as was convenient to be rescued. She was not anything that could be conceived of as common place, and perhaps he was not a common place man.
And so common place rules did not apply.
So when she turned on the light he lowered his gun and considered her carefully. He did not consider the line. He was long past considering the line.
She was shy. She was nervous. She was witchy, an ink spot by her left eye that he wanted to run his thumb over, the blankets pulled up to cover her milky flesh, and then she tilted her head so that her ear was against her shoulder and all her hair fell over to one side. She gave him her neck.
"Sometimes I tingle all over," she said thoughtfully, a small triangle of her hot tongue at the corner of her mouth, "So that I feel like I'm going to burst right out of my skin. Like something new is going to be born. Maybe I won't be Audrey Horne any more." She paused and arched her back and the blankets slipped down her front and spilled forgotten into her lap. She looked at them curiously as if she wasn't entirely sure where they had come from and then looked at him again with her strange fell eyes. "If you believe in devils, do you have to believe in angels too? Do you think there can be one without the other?"
"I think -- " he said, but she had kicked one leg out from under the covers and was wriggling her toes as if delighted by them.
"In Tibet, I've heard many women marry at sixteen," she observed absently, "In Washington state you can marry even younger than that, if you have a court order. You know, I lost my hymen when I was ten?" she shrugged noncommittally, "Bicycle accident. I feel cheated. I didn't even get a pony. Do you think I'd look good with a derringer, or some other kind of snub nosed pistol? I've decided I'm not going to join the F.B.I. I'm not so good with rules," she stopped as if lost in thought and some moments passed before she continued, running the pucker of her full bottom lip underneath her small white teeth, "And remembering to follow them. I'm going to be self-employed. An expert on everything," she explained.
"Is that so?" he asked, and for some reason he was taking off his shoes. Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. He'd lost the line a long time ago, but it wasn't missed when he heard the resonant, bell-like voice of Audrey Horne. Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity in all other things, but this, her, /they/. It predated fidelity. It predated bravery. It predated integrity. It superseded them all.
"Dream maker," she said coyly, "You heart breaker," when she spoke her voice was rich and heady as dark red wine, "Wherever you're going," she paused again unsettlingly, and then finished without warning, her words slow and spaced out, "I'm. Going. Your. Way."
His clothes went somewhere. Where he was not entirely sure. When he was not entirely sure, only suddenly he was without them and his suspenders were on a pile on the floor on his trousers, his shoulder holster on top, his gun discarded. When his long fingers counted the spaces between her ribs she laughed, but when they counted the space between her thighs she cried and mewled and squirmed and begged, and his mouth found her collar bones and the hollow of her throat when she gasped and drove the nails of her little white hands down his back, scoring him when she writhed and arched, and then it was the two of them together, hungry, lost, feeding, burning. The sweat stood on their bodies and wept off of them like rain and she bit his shoulder like a little savage and then threw her head back, a long throaty howl escaping that was covered only by the heavy din of the carousing Norsemen.
/It's two fifteen. Do you know where your daughter is right now, Benjamin Horne?/ he thought absently. /I know where she is./
He crossed the line. He drew a new line, one that started where it finished: a deliberate circle that ringed Audrey Horne, that rang her, that marked her as one apart.
"/Mr tjir ekki a dylja ig: lfamrin blekkti mig. Mir, lju mr mjka sng, systir, bittu mr suband/," rang on around them, loud, crazed, and unthinking, but in the end they slept, his head buried under a pillow, hers buried under his arm, and they stayed that way until long past when the heroes and villains of Iceland fell asleep in their cups.