I need a place. Just one room. I prefer furnished. Doesn’t matter. What does matter is Chinatown, Las Vegas.

Looking on Craigslist I find an ad for a furnished room. I want to live within walking distance of Asian food, neon foot massage signs, and the angry faces of smoking Chinamen.

The ad says to call May.

I dial. No answer. I leave a short, polite message inquiring about the furnished room. I say I’m an interested party and not much else.

A few hours later I get a call back from a Chinese woman. She sounds confident, mysterious. I imagine my phone quickly filling with incense. “Hi, this is May. You interested in room?”

“Yes, a furnished room.”

“You want two bedrooms? I have two bedrooms.”

“Just one. In Chinatown.”

“Ohh. Chinatown. Why you want room?”

This is the second time in two days someone has asked me why I want a room. The day before, a woman named Mindy was on the other end of the phone and said the same exact words. Her voice was distrustful, disinterested.

“Because I need a place,” I said to Mindy.

“Speak up. I can’t hear you. Will you speak up?”

Mindy hung up. I leaned back in my office chair and wondered if anyone overheard my call come to an abrupt end.

Now May hangs on the other end of the phone waiting in anticipation for me to answer. I feel that whatever I say will be part of a mysterious puzzle of locks hiding treasure beneath the Forbidden City. “I just moved here,” I say.

“Ohh. You just moved here.”

“I want to live in Chinatown,” I say again.

“Ohh.” Every time she says this I hear her voice trail off, hiding five other sentences. “I have a place not far from there. You catch bus. Close to Chinatown. Ok? Where you work?”

I tell her I work for a radio station.

“Where you come from?”

“California. I’m in Las Vegas now. I live with a DJ.”

She explains the rent, says that doubling it is what it would take to move in. “You like that? Ok?” she asks. I imagine May in a slinky Asian dress talking into an old rotary phone. The smoke-filled room casts shadows on her aged face. “When you want to move in?”

“As soon as possible.”

“Ohh.”

“Can I see it tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow. Tomorrow… Listen, I will give you number. You ask for May Wong. May. She no good English. You speak very slowly. She meet you there.”

“But your name is May.”

“She another May. You call her. You show up. She show it to you. But speak slowly. She no good English. I call her right now.”

I get off the phone, wait a few minutes and call the second May.

“Yes?” There is an uncomfortable moment.

“May Wong?”

“Yes.” There is another silence. “See house?”

“Yes.”

“Nine… a.m.?”

“Yes.”

“Ok.”

“Bye?”

The home is just around the corner from a mansion with an amazing horse statue guarding a giant metal gate. The streets are wide, quiet, with big single-story homes and half-circle desert landscape driveways that probably look like emoticons when one’s peering at them from the sky.

John is with me. He’s the DJ. He carries a blue bag filled with work papers and notebooks. “You don’t mind if I tag along for the walk through?” he asks.

I’m all for sharing the adventure. We soon wait outside for May Wong to show up in a Mercedes. I ring the doorbell. It’s loud, a “ding dong” fit for a castle. I step back. No one answers though two cars are parked on the side of the house. The front doors have two different colored locks: one silver, one brass. Both wooden doors look like they’ve been dragged through gravel pits and rail yards.

Ten minutes later May Wong calls. “See house?” she says.

“I’m here.”

“Wait.”

“Yes.”

“Three minutes.” She hangs up.

“She’s going to be rolling up in that Mercedes any minute,” John says.

Down the street I see a tiny red hatchback that looks like a Smart Car. It pulls in. May can barely see over the steering wheel. She scoots it into the shade beneath a seventy-foot-tall pine tree.

“I should have taken that shade,” John complains as we watch the car roll to a stop and tiny May Wong step out. She carries a green handbag and a little pink coin purse with cartoon characters on it. She pulls out a set of keys.

“Hi May,” I say. 

She ignores me and walks to the double doors. She fumbles with the keys and the silver lock for a good thirty seconds before finally pushing open the left door.

John and I follow her into a dark foyer. Off to our left is an extravagant living room filled with statues and paintings. One of the statues is missing a head. I scan quickly for old wooden chests and gaudy birdcages filled with gremlins. She bypasses the room and takes us past a living room that has a giant TV, couches and a coffee table covered in newspapers and magazines. We step into a hallway. Its walls are covered with photos and paintings. It’s alongside a kitchen where a huge rice cooker and three blenders sit on the counter. I wonder if any of them work.

May continues down the hallway. She stops, turns and gives a half smile and motions to a door. She fumbles with the lock and can’t get it to work. Walking away from the door she heads further down the hallway and looks around a corner and starts talking to someone. “Kevin,” she says then immediately starts talking in Chinese. She disappears around the corner but I can hear them talking.

Kevin’s voice is sleepy. He’s in a room and has been woken up. He says something in Chinese to May.

I look back at John who is far down the hallway behind me. He’s taking photos of pictures on the wall.

May appears from around the corner and motions to another door. She opens it and I step inside a tiny furnished room. There’s a big window with a view of the back yard. I gaze toward a yellowing weed-covered lot and an empty cement swimming pool. A faded blue diving board looks brittle in the heat.

“You like?” May says.

“Sure,” I say.

May then shows me a laundry room, a garage and then a bathroom obviously occupied with Kevin’s things. It’s a mess of bottles. Towels lay piled on the floor.

I wonder if there are rooms at the other end of the hallway. “You have other rooms?” I ask.

May gives me a curious look but shuffles down the hallway to the other end where there is a clean bathroom. There are also two doors. One has a lock on a brass handle. She opens it. It looks just like the other room she showed me. I’m happy it’s far from Kevin for some reason.

“You like?” she asks.

I look at the other door. There are combination lock dials on it. “Who lives there?”

“Mimi Lin,” May says.

“Ohh,” I say.

She leads me back down the hall, past black and white photos of a Chinese woman. The photos look old, from the Fifties. The woman in them wears cat eye glasses. Her hair is shoulder length. There is a mysterious gaze in her eyes.

“You like?” May looks at me curiously. Her stare is long, almost pleading.

“You mean do I want to move in?”

“Yes.”

“I have to think about it.”

“You call Mimi Lin.”

“Who is Mimi Lin?”

She points back down the hallway to the room with the combination locks.

“Is she the owner?”

“Yes. You call.”

“What’s her number?”

She can’t say the numbers but shows me her phone. I see Chinese characters. I see my phone number. I’m one of the only two people May Wong has spoken to in the past two days according to her phone list.

I write down the number she says belongs to Mimi Lin. There is something fishy about it. Something familiar.

That night I get a call. It’s from the number. I don’t answer. I realize I’ve gotten calls from this number before. I listen to a phone message. “Hi, this is May.” It’s the first May. The old mysterious May. She doesn’t call herself Mimi Lin, though it’s the number May Wong gave me for her. “Do you like the house May Wong showed you yesterday? Please give me a call. Thank you.”

I hang up in wonder. Is Mimi Lin, the woman behind the mysterious combination locks, really May?

That night I take a walk down Spring Valley Parkway, and then onto South Rainbow. As I head past Ravenwood Park I decide to call Kike. She’s my mysterious Chinese friend whose old piano teacher died from a heart attack after a lesson one day. She was blamed for putting a curse on the teacher. She claims her grandfather’s ghost regularly visits at night to tickle her feet. She lives with a gypsy.

She often assists me in making crucial life decisions.

We make small talk as I walk down the burning streets of west Las Vegas before I finally bring up the possibility of living in Mimi Lin’s house.

“We all have choices,” Kike says.

“There was a decapitated statue in her house,” I add.

“Ohh. Then you have to beware of what you’re getting yourself into. Sometimes a normal home can be one of sacrifice and spirits.”

“Sacrifice?”

Kike lets out a breath. I turn up the volume on my phone. “Let me tell you a story. I don’t like to remember this. When I was seventeen years old I was very sick. My family drove me to a home in Long Beach. I didn’t know why I was there. While I sat waiting, a witchdoctor suddenly brought forth a white chicken and a big empty tin, like a popcorn tin you might get for Christmas. The witchdoctor had a knife. Anyway, in a twisting motion he cut the head off the chicken.

“He drained its blood into the tin and added some ashes. Then he took toothpicks and jammed them under my fingernails. He pulled them out and squeezed my blood into the tin to mix with that of the chicken. He spit into it too. Then he poured in some alcohol and set it on fire to release the evil spirits as well as commit the sacrifice in exchange for those evil spirits sickening me.

“Then it was time for me to be renewed. Cleansed. He then grabbed a water bottle. There was no fancy container. Water is water until you bless it. Then it becomes holy. He poured out some into a cup. He blessed it and spit in it. I was terrified. But he held out the cup. Everyone looked at me. And so I had to drink it. I gagged. I wanted to throw up. But I knew they would have just made me drink more. So, I held the cup and drank.”

I soon get off the phone with Kike and continue my walk. I think about a friend at the Cannibal Islands who told me about meeting an old woman hanging laundry. The old woman revealed a story about a criminal getting eaten by those who discovered his crime. I’m thousands of miles away, but I wonder about that sacrifice cleansing an entire island. I think about Kike’s bleeding fingers, the chicken’s stained feathers and Mimi Lin’s statues. I think about her locked door and the photos on her walls.

I look toward the edge of the city into a pink dusk and a rainbow of desert mountains along Red Rock Canyon that jut above rooftops.

Later, walking through the darkness I wonder why I am even in Las Vegas as I continue to ignore calls from Mimi Lin.

Image from Flickr.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , ,

NICK BELARDES is illustrator of NYT Best-Selling Novel by Jonathan Evison West of Here (2011), author of Random Obsessions (2009), Lords (2005), and the first literary Twitter novel: Small Places (2010). An author, poet, and screenwriter for Hectic Films, Belardes turned TV/online journalist overnight after blogging his way to success. His articles and essays have appeared on the homepage of CNN.com and other news sites across America. You can find Nick on Facebook and Twitter.

190 responses to “The Mysterious Lair Of Mimi Lin”

  1. Michael Lee says:

    Bizarre. Mysterious. Brilliant! You constantly have that way of magically grabbing me through glass and pixels and making me feel like I’m hovering over your should while reading your story. Please, more!

    • Thanks Michael. Strangely, when I was there I couldn’t help but think of your own story that you told me recently in an email. There are so many mysteries surrounding us every day. We really don’t have to look far to find them. Just go to Craigslist!

      Always appreciate your kind words. I imagine us having coffee and writing about our conversation one day.

  2. Connie says:

    Nick,

    Once again you have teletransported me into another dimension. I wonder how many colorful stories you would have had if you had moved into the room, strange rituals with incense , odd sounds in the middle of the night infusing your dreams? Alas I must wait for another posting.

    • I do have some mysterious friends in my life who add to my strange life everyday. You’re one of them, you know. Not strange looking, but filled with mysterious, curious stories that are wonderful to hear and unbelievable to share. I always love when YOU tell stories. Road trip!

      • Connie says:

        I am more of a spectator than a participant in this crazy world. A bit of the supernatural lives deep in my soul.
        When and where will the next road trip take us?

        • I don’t know. I may need a lift to Irvine soon. Or better yet, a trip to San Luis Obispo with a friend is in the works. Boy do I have a story there. I should ask him if I can write it. I have a few whoppers that I shy from telling. Quite a few now that I think about it. Darn.

          My next story is about the Sahara Hotel and a one-eyed bell hop though.

        • Connie says:

          I have stories sitting in a notebook, never to be read by anyone but me. The most interesting stories seem to involve something personal or sensitive to another.

        • Can I borrow your notebook? I need a piece of paper.

          *Stealing it and running down the street like a maniac!

        • Connie says:

          HaHa, this notebook stays at home, I would need written permission to even post the stuff as fiction, sigh.
          *remember I never applied to be a cop because I don’t understand why you chase a bad guy when you can just shoot them. Return the notebook buster.*

        • You can be so mean. If I shook your notebook would body parts fall out??

        • Connie says:

          I will someday tell you a true story of a childhood friend, tragic but true.
          Body parts, spirits both good and evil, and lollipops.

        • matildakay says:

          I want to read Connie’s notebook too. Bring it to workshop Connie! Share…

        • Lollipops? And tragedy? Let’s get coffee now!

          I agree with Matildakay. Read edited passages at the workshop…

  3. New Orleans Lady says:

    I am completely fascinated! What a great story. I have so many questions, though. Did you get more information on May? Did you eventually answer? Are you going to post a part II? No, don’t. I like the mystery.

    • Gloria says:

      I don’t. It’s killing me. What happened, Nick???

    • There was so much mystery in this piece I had to put it in the title too! Thank you for your kind words. Maybe I am being naive, but I feel like we all have stories like this. We’re faced with decisions that can impact us in mysterious ways, and often frighten our own selves about possible outcomes.

      I did try to get the DJ to give me the photos he took. I fear he deleted them.

  4. Gloria says:

    Wow. Can I assume you didn’t take the room? You said there was something fishy/familiar about the scenario. Did you ever figure out what the familiar thing was.

    How odd. All of it. It screams, “Run; don’t walk.”

    Have you found a place yet? Is it hot as hell in Vegas?

    Nice to see you on here again.

    • What was familiar was the first May was calling me from the number later revealed to me as that of Mimi Lin. So was the first May really Mimi Lin hiding behind her combination lock door, while having the second May be her buffer? And didn’t the first May reveal herself as Mimi Lin when she kept calling back?

      Mysterious.

      Vegas is a hot as hell town. You know that. People melt in their shoes, disappear. They flow past casinos like butter.

      How are you?

  5. Judy Prince says:

    Fascinating story, Nick. You swept me through the fragments of mystery, the film-ish half-revelations, the forsaken ghosts that may be asserting themselves in hallways and bedrooms.

    Good thing you’ve decided to not respond to Mimi Lin aka May!

    Fun hearing your life unfold there in the strange verboten Las Vegas, the city with no soul.

    Or does it have a searching soul?

    • Its soul is desperate, broken. It lurks just beneath flashing casino lights and fake smiles. It hides in air-conditioned rooms. It’s in smoky ash trays and reflects ominously in slot video screens. It’s an anxiety beneath the ripples of splashing fountains and rides the edge of digital bells and coats empty buffet lines…

      Judy, it’s always great to hear from you. I think you’re right. Mystery is often in fragments, is filmish and is revealed in halves, or bits and pieces.

      Tell me one of your mysteries!

      • Connie says:

        Vegas has a way of hypnotizing one into only seeing the flashing light and pretty people, but the longer you stay in Vegas the spell wears off and the fog begins to lift and slowly the grime, shabbiness and despair overwhelms the senses.

        • Despair is a key word. Lots of that. Although I once had a lot of despair when a cat I had turned up missing. lol.

        • matildakay says:

          I think Vegas if definitely full of despair. Perhaps that why so many people get drunk and married there. Trying to run away from their despair they run into new problems and that’s not even expanding on the desperation of gambling. I know Vegas is called Sin City but it seems like a place full of lost souls.

          Wait… when did you have a cat? I thought you weren’t a cat person just like me.

        • Oh, I don’t think always people get married out of despair. I think a lot of people are looking to celebrate, and Vegas is a quick and fun way to do it.

          But it is the divorce capital. Has been since I think around 1950, because of certain state laws that can end a marriage quickly there. It became a cultural phenomenon and part of the tourism industry according to historian Daniel Boorstin.

          It’s when people get addicted to gambling, or the idea of winning, or prostitution, or cheesy Vegas magicians… that’s the problem. People get down and out there. And it shows. People can’t hide it as well as they think they can.

          When I was a kid I had a few cats that were mine at a ranch. I wasn’t allergic to cats then. Then, as I got older I developed allergies. Then, I started not to like their dispositions. Then, they were pooing on my lawns! lol. I try not to hate animals. But I admit some cats annoy me. So do spiders and cockroaches.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Joseph Matheny has nailed a certain feel of this piece, Nick: a hard-boiled detective story.

        But your comment to me floats a far deeper aesthetic: an incipient prose filled with poetry; to wit: “Its soul is desperate, broken. It lurks just beneath flashing casino lights and fake smiles. It hides in air-conditioned rooms. It’s in smoky ash trays and reflects ominously in slot video screens. It’s an anxiety beneath the ripples of splashing fountains and rides the edge of digital bells and coats empty buffet lines…”

        You’ve stepped away from the smash-solid genres. Closer to your soul which speaks all genres.

        Let it whale/wail, Nick. Let it rock n roll. Give us the full-throttle Las Vegas of your life and contemporary conundra!

        We are ready for it, dude.

        • You’ll probably get it in the next piece that is going to be partly about the Sahara Hotel. Actually, I been pretty much laying it out there since moving to Las Vegas.

          The reality in a piece about a radio station and one about coming home might hit harder too…

          I think I have 5 more Vegas pieces in me. I think. Maybe.

          Big hugs to you for your kindness.

          My Vegas series should be titled The Wail.

        • Judy Prince says:

          You’re funny, Nick. You just might be the person to show us Vegas. I went there once and was so appalled with its metal-mechanic unbeauty that I’m astonished at folk who eagerly choose to visit it. It’s so scarily weird and fake that it feels like an Otherworld produced directly from the nightmares of the Wizard of Oz.

          I’m even scared to talk about Vegas. It might sense my mockery and explode my face.

          EEEEKKKKKKK!!!!!!!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Nick, I just can’t shake the feeling that a longish fiction piece or novel about Vegas is what you could build from these kinds of observations of clear-murkies.

          The under-stories of V, kinda like a USA equivalent of Brit’s Upstairs Downstairs, seem key. So many layers of under-story: the groups caught in various guises that make the fakery of Vegas flash for tourist families and desperate folk. A few finely drawn, clearly inscribed characters of whom you’d be one, would form and touch one another in odd encounters that compellingly lace an entire screen around Vegas.

          I’d love to read that.

        • That is so kind. You make me sound capable. Right now I have put down the young adult fiction I was working on for an epic book that I dare say I better not let the cat out of the bag yet.

          I have often thought of a novel based in Vegas. You’re right. There are a few scenes there in a novel I am still considering as part of The Media Book Project.

          You’re on to something. I made a note of it.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I’m not onto something, Nick—-YOU are onto something!

          And the evidence is your writing.

        • Stop it! You’re empowering me! lol.

          This is why you’re wonderful. You are one of the most encouraging people I have met. You should be the little voice in my head everyday. I’m not kidding!

          The funny thing about a Vegas story is I have a good foundation for one in the sense that I also worked there during the boom as an artist among the downtown elements for four years. I also boast of a C-league roller hockey championship with Team Doom at the time! hahaha

        • Judy Prince says:

          “I also boast of a C-league roller hockey championship with Team Doom at the time! hahaha”

          Nick, I should’ve known you’d key to humour in your being-birthed Vegas piece!

          Dude!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Nick, smashing ‘genre’ parameters in fiction (including plays, filmscripts and poems) always intrigues me.

          And now your comment about the C-league roller hockey championship with Team Doom has led me to conclude that genre equals personality.

          In other words, authors’ personalities shape (and define) their genre.

          Therefore, this post of yours “feels” like hard-boiled detective fiction, as Joseph Matheny has noted.

          It feels like a mystery.

          And it also could be funny.

          It may have love interest.

          It might include traces of SF, of utopias and dystopias.

          It may appeal to young males.

          It may also appeal to young females.

          It might contain spiritual and philosophical insights.

          It could be liftingly poetic.

          What genre, then, would it be?

          It would be the NICK BELARDES fiction genre because it comes from you, is formed in you, has been kicked and coddled by you. It’s your baby. It’s yours to reveal in any ways you want to reveal it.

          How could it be otherwise?

        • Noir comes to mind. Is that even a literary genre? I think you’re right about the dystopian and humorous qualities. I can’t hardly get away from such when writing about Las Vegas as of late.

          I have really been focusing on the mysterious aspects within writing lately. I’m convinced that every genre is a mystery book. To make it good anyway.

        • Gloria says:

          In film, it’s Noir. In literature, it’s Detective Fiction. I took both classes in college – they’re the exact same.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Woh! Leave it to film folk to grab a sexy French category word. Next to the term “Detective Fiction” it totally rocks.

          So, Gloria, tell everything you remember about those classes in college.

        • Judy Prince says:

          “I’m convinced that every genre is a mystery book. To make it good anyway.”

          You’ve got my attention, Nick, with those provocative (I first wrote “prevocative”) statements.

          Pls xplain.

        • Gloria says:

          I learned everything I was taught in two classes that spanned a total of 22 weeks of instruction, so it’s too much to list here.

          But these are the lessons that stuck with me most:

          Pulp fiction novels are an absolute delight.

          The Talented Mr. Ripley is an outstanding and mind-blowing book.

          It’s a shame that Humphrey Bogart is going to be lost to future generations. (I felt this same way when I took my Charlie Chaplin class. Only, about CC, of course.)

          Arthur Conan Doyle was a funny man.

          There are others, I’m sure.

        • Judy Prince says:

          You are cute, Gloria! Thanks for your info. I asked because I’ve for the most part been rejecting reading novels for the last 40 years. So I’m way ignorant on the subject. Those that turned me on to new things were the ones I read at uni: Ford Maddox Ford’s A GOOD SOLDIER (first time I’d ever read a multi-POV novel) and CS Lewis’s OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET (still the truest-feeling SF I’ve read).

          It vastly helped, as well, to read novels in the light of EM Forster’s ASPECTS OF THE NOVEL, a straightforward, lucidly creative rundown of essentials.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Gloria, what’s a Pulp Fiction novel?

        • Gloria: I think noir can also mean the atmosphere in a book or film even if there are no detectives.

          Judy: structure. Be mysterious with subject matter. Create neverending tension. Don’t give anything away, especially in dialogue. The less we reveal, the more mysterious and the better we just might grab our readers’ attentions. That’s what we’re fighting over anyway, a reader’s time.

        • And I should add that Gloria knows her stuff!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Hey, wait a minute, Nick. You say: “Be mysterious with subject matter. Create neverending tension. Don’t give anything away, especially in dialogue. The less we reveal, the more mysterious and the better we just might grab our readers’ attentions.”

          Ya gotta give me more here. I get the idea of sparing some facts and details for the sake of the Ultimate Revelation, but surely that’s a way limited amount of stuff and not a major factor in every genre. Convince me.

        • There doesn’t have to be an ultimate revelation for everything in a work if mystery seeps into every aspect of your writing.

          I don’t look at it as simply sparing details and facts. It’s in tone, plot, sensory details. It’s in the voice of the narrator. It’s in how a story is presented.

          People are naturally curious. I think people seek mystery. Whether that’s in the greater cosmos, spirituality, between people who care for each other, or in the movies we see and books we read, people are drawn to the mysteries naturally existing in the universe. In stories, we have to recreate that believable world and mimic its mysteries. And in part, yes, to the idea of withholding facts, details and what people say.

          That perhaps is just good storytelling.

        • Gloria says:

          @Nick – I think you’re right – it can mean that as well. I just don’t think that it refers to a literary genre per se.

          @Judy – Pulp Fiction actually refers to magazines published from the late 1800s through the 1950s. They’re called pulp because they were cheaply made on not so high quality paper and they were sold for a pittance. A lot of different genres were represented in pulp publications, but detective fiction was a popular type. I was wrong when I called them novels, though. The detective fiction novels published during this time period – mostly during the 20s and 30s – are referred to as Hardboiled fiction. You might recognize names like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, who were leaders in this genre.

          Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney are two actors who immortalized certain hardboiled detectives on screen.

          I would argue that there hasn’t been a crime novel written since the 40s that’s as good as these. John Grisham? Patricia Cromwell? Puh-lease.

        • My favourite thing about Raymond Chandler is that he just totally forgot about one of the characters in The Big Sleep.

          I also prefer Eliot Gould as Marlowe in the ’73 Altman film. Bogart is cool, but Gould strikes me as more faithful to the source. Also he lights matches off almost every surface on every set and in every scene because the studio didn’t want the character to smoke so much.

          Loved this Nick, by the way. Very strange…

          Whilst we’re on crime and mystery Sir Srthur Conan Doyle has never been bettered. The original Sherlock Holmes stories are amazing. Holmes is much cooler in the books than most of the films, except the Robert Downey jr one which is the only one which really conveyed the spectacular coolness of the character. Unfortunately the story they came up with pales in comparison to anything Doyle ever wrote.

        • Judy Prince says:

          You say, Nick: “People are naturally curious. I think people seek mystery. Whether that’s in the greater cosmos, spirituality, between people who care for each other, or in the movies we see and books we read, people are drawn to the mysteries naturally existing in the universe. In stories, we have to recreate that believable world and mimic its mysteries. And in part, yes, to the idea of withholding facts, details and what people say.”

          “That perhaps is just good storytelling.”

          It clicks for me in terms of writing poems, which’s a combo of distilling, plotting and wild fresh surprises. The distilling and plotting parts do, as you suggest, require major holdings-back—-for “the story” inherent in the poem, powered with gorgeous meanings one wishes (consciously or subconsciously) to plant in the reader’s head.

          As you suggest, it’s fascinating—–our need for “a story” and each satisfying causal link to its fulfillment. You seem to be bundling it into the word “mystery”, a winning way to name that phenomenon.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I appreciate your explanation and examples, Gloria. You lay it all out helpfully.

          Again from the vantage of ignorance, I’ve chosen to ignore most detective fiction because those I’ve dipped into feel alien and sexist against females, spilling out assumptions that feel odd and unreal. That does not mean they are exceptional; in fact, most novels I’ve waded through present a world which strikes me as boringly limited along gender lines. Remarkable exceptions are Richard Cox’s novels THE GOD PARTICLE and RIFT, which give rounded views of women and men, a lovely rare thing.

          Humphrey Bogart, except possibly in the film SABRINA, presents a stiff, suppressed and un-released persona that, sadly, became prototypic for male leads in films of his era. I think of it as ‘USAmerican male’ in the least compelling of all possible personalities. The traits of that old ‘USA male’, unfortunately, have cycled through to females, presenting many more one-dimensional characters. Tough suppressed characters give rise to few emotional reactions. It’s difficult to identify with them. But, come to think of it, for tough suppressed people, it’s gotta be great!

        • P.J Tracy writes pretty great detective fiction novels. The detective is a guy, but the main character is female. So are the authors (a mother and daughter). The detectives aren’t really the big heroes like they are usually. When I read them a few years ago I didn’t even think about sexism/feminism I just thought they were really cool…

        • John Shannon set a detective book of his in Bakersfield titled “The Devils of Bakersfield.” I’ve yet to read it. But I had breakfast with him once. Was an interesting meeting…

        • Judy Prince says:

          Thanks for the tip, James. Any particular PJ Tracy novels you’d most recommend? Any bits of info about them you could give?

        • I’d recommend starting with the first one because the others are very much sequels. The first one was called Want to Play? Personally I prefer the second one, Live Bait. The opening pages of that one are horrific, but the story is so, so good.

          Wait! The first one is called ‘Monkeewrench’ in the US. And even more excitingly there is a new book out this year…

          I’d say the fourth book, Snow Blind, is better than the third. But if you like the first and second you might as well carry on in the right order. The characters are all incredibly likeable and the stories are so well put together I read each book in under a day, and then got annoyed that I’d finished the book.

          Also, they’re pretty graphic in places, but not for plain shock value. Just very, very good crime fiction…

        • Gloria says:

          @Judy – Patricia Highsmith (a woman) wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley – which was taught in my Detective Fiction class. My teacher argued that Ripley was a perfect character to present in the class because, even though he wasn’t a detective, he was what the detectives in the other detective novels could possibly be if they chose the good over the evil. Which was really interesting to me. Like – what diabolical misdeeds could Holmes engage in if he went over to the dark side? The interesting thing about the detection fiction genre that has always intrigued me is the way that it shows the fine line between good and bad and right and wrong – especially the older hardboiled lot. I think it begs a lot of moralistic questions and presents a world that is complicated and gritty – more like the one I’ve lived in for 34 years. Yes, the sexism is ridiculous – especially, again, in the hardboiled books. The female characters are generally weak and vapid – except the Spider Women, who are ultimately the undoing of the protagonists. Women as cardboard cut outs or women as cautionary tales – those are your only two options. But I don’t mind that. We’ve come so far from that time that it’s cartoonish and even laughable.

          P.D. James is another woman writer in the genre, though I didn’t like her books very much. Lots of people do, though, so you might look at her. She’s got way more street cred than Cromwell or any of those other hacks who use a team of ghost writers and put their name on the covers, like a brand. (For the record, I don’t know for sure that this is true of Cromwell; I’m assuming it is.) Agatha Christie is another tried and true dic fic writer, but I never liked her writing either. Then again, I haven’t tried it out in years.

        • Gloria says:

          @Judy – and if you’re against sexist books, for the love of gods, stay away from the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evonovich. Eesh. Seriously – we finally get a female detective (of sorts) and she’s horrible.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Thomas Perry, the Jane Whitfield series. Dynamite!

        • Apparently Jasper Fforde writes really good, weird detective stories with a female detective called Thursday Next. I haven’t read any myself. Yet. But it’s all weird literary crime and textual intervention.

          I read one of his books where the main character is a detective in charge of nursery rhyme related crime… weird, but hilarious…

        • Don, James, Gloria: You’re all blasting me with your expert knowledge of detective novels. I think all the hair is singed off my head. I clearly need to read more than just bathroom stall writings.

          Judy: Yes, I think I am lumping a lot of the craft into the idea of “every novel needs to be a mystery.” Maybe every story needs to be looked at as a creative means to satisfying a reader’s curiosity, by simply constantly teasing that part of people’s brains that yearns for enlightenment.

          The greatest poems are epiphanal phenomenons.

        • Weirdly I don’t like detective novels that much. I think I’ve now exhausted my knowledge. The thing with Chandler and Doyle is that they’re just really great fiction writers, which often gets overlooked. Certainly those two created iconic and entertaining characters. Actually, that applies to all of the ones I mentioned.

          It annoys me that a lot of books are kind of looked down on as ‘just’ crime fiction…

        • Judy Prince says:

          Cool, then, James; I’ll start with PJ Tracy’s WANT TO PLAY (I’m here in England now for awhile).

          Prob is, ironically for me a dying-to-bust-genre-categorisations person, I don’t go a bundle on detective stuff…..just don’t get into the excitement of focusing on crime and death and killing and finding The One who did the thing. The incredible popularity of mystery/crime/whodunnit *plays*, make me unusual in that regard, I guess.

          Trying to figure out what does hold my interest for Conan Doyle’s work or Dorothy L Sayers or Agatha Christie, it’s the strong weird brilliant logical pragmatism of the sleuths. I dig that. But I’d prefer to dig it connected to other topics than crime and killing. Maybe that’s what separates me from detective fiction in general.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Gloria, I read a couple pages of a couple of Evanovich’s books when they first came out, and almost retched. I’ll give Patricia Highsmith’s THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY a fair read, though. Esp cool is the notion of what these detectives would’ve been like if they worked for The Dark Side. Nah, wait, that wouldn’t interest me; I’m way too needy for Good Endings; the Right Stuff; heroes; saints; Good People.

        • Judy Prince says:

          James—-nursery rhyme-related crimes? Huh? HOOT!

        • Judy Prince says:

          “It annoys me that a lot of books are kind of looked down on as ‘just’ crime fiction…”

          Yes, James. Makes sense to categorise; i.e., to place writings into quickly-identifiable categories……but then to slap a label of inferiority onto them is stoopid. It has damned YA, apparently, as well as philosophical-spiritual lit. And “Chick Lit” is the damningest label bcuz the label itself damns all the lit in its category.

          YET, all that said, nevertheless we get glut with “canned” lit of all genres, most of it 80% bad as literature; some rare few pretty good in SOME areas (a character drawn nicely in places or some attention-evoking places described) but hacky-hack in the rest.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Nick, don’t worry about that hair. Hair isn’t necessary.

          For $7.99 at Amazon you can dip into perhaps the best Jane Whitefield — “Dance for the Dead” (Thomas Perry).

          Keep it with you at all times until you finish it — then you won’t have to be reading stall walls.

        • James: It bothers me that some genres get crapped on. I say just crap on the crappy books regardless of genre.

          Judy: Now I want to read The Talented Mr. Ripley too!

          Don: Ok, I will order that book today. And, I’m not afraid to say it, but you look great bald. I would look like a walnut with legs.

        • Judy Prince says:

          “a walnut with legs”—–defo a keeper, Nick.

        • See, the mental picture is horrific enough.

  6. I loved this, Nick. A nice mystery to start my day. Also, I dug that line: ” I imagine my phone quickly filling with incense.” Yep. Certainly a nice way to start my day.

    • I imagine Mimi Lin could be that robotic steam spirit in Hell Boy 2. Not sure if anyone saw that movie besides me. I’m like a little kid.

      • Connie says:

        I imagine Mimi Lin as a frail aged former starlet, now addicted to morphine and confined to her bed.

        • With a big knife or an old gun by her side…

          I also imagine some tragedy happened in her life when she was young. And at the same time she became needy over the years. So needy that she needs to live with people, even complete strangers, though she doesn’t trust them…

        • Connie says:

          Her rich married lover deeded the house to her years ago. He never left his wife and his passion for her faded as the lines formed on her face. Her looks ravaged by years of abuse and neglect she looked in the mirror and decided to hide from the world. Taxes and insurance , utilities and her drug habit drained her savings forcing her to rent rooms of her once beautiful and happy mansion.

        • Connie says:

          oh wait.. this isn’t Random Writers Workshop.. sorry

        • matildakay says:

          Connie, it could be Random Writer’s Workshop, you had something going there… 🙂

        • Connie says:

          after I posted that she went to her room it occurred to me , someone has locked her in her room, after all the lock is on the outside. Now the story takes on a more Gothic flavor.

        • I like the idea of the rich married lover. Very imaginative along with the idea of how her life disintegrated. I want more! See, you’re a storyteller, Connie.

          As for the locks. Maybe on the inside there is only a key lock… I doubt if she is locked in. But you never know.

        • Connie says:

          I had another completely diff story pop in my head on the way to the store.
          Still a rich married lover, old time Vegas mobster, they have a son – illegitimate- who dies of an overdose, the lover dumps her and thus starts her decline, sinking into a life of despair and disrepute.

        • See, making up stories is fun. You have novels in you. I know you do!

  7. Dude, this feels like a hard boiled detective story. Maybe the “Existential Detective Agency”? 😉

    Good stuff as always brother Nick.

  8. Jeannie says:

    I love the imagery. I kept picturing the crazy lady from Kung Fu Hustle. Very cool.

  9. Dana says:

    This reminds me of a reoccurring dream I have. But the combination lock door is so weird. Was it like the door to a safe? Or more like a bike lock? Of course it’s also a bit weird that both people trying to get you to rent the room wondered why you’d want it… Salesmanship 101!

    Glad you got away Nick! Love your imagery.

    I always feel like I can smell your posts.

    • I hope my posts have a good smell!

      Like an old bike lock is my best explanation. Each number on a wheel. And it had a key lock as well. How bizarre is that? The homeowner sure did distrust her renters…

      Or could there have been some other explanation??

      • Connie says:

        my grandparents used to have boarders, they had outside locks on all bedrooms to keep snoopers and thieves out.

        • I agree. There were locks on all the doors. Only, Mimi Lin had the bling locks!

        • Connie says:

          I didn’t post that on the first day because speculating and letting the imagination run free was great fun.

        • Like I said, I don’t think your speculation concludes anything. All the doors had locks. But Mimi Lin’s had extra locks. Why didn’t they all have combo locks? Who knows why? And why did she have two names? And why did she talk on the phone, but not in person? Lots of questions…

        • Connie says:

          she was at work, in some drab office with an overweight, balding, curmudgeon boss would NOT let her take time off to show the room.

  10. Matt says:

    I swear, Nick, you have this uncanny ability to find mystery in the most pedestrian of experiences. And Joseph’s right–this reads almost like something out of Raymond Chandler.

    Wonderful stuff. That door is almost terrifying, in a certain kind of way.

    • I think by the end of it all the whole idea of Mimi Lin had become both beautiful and terrifying. The fact that I never saw Kevin was weird too. Only May Wong. And as you could see, she said the least.

      If I’m compared to Raymond Chandler I will take it! Thanks Matt. And for the compliment of me and my boys you gave a few weeks back too. Always great to hear from you.

  11. matildakay says:

    Ok, the interesting architecture aside, I don’t think I would be comfortable living in a place with headless statues and doors with combination locks on them. Not to mention Kevin’s disgusting bathroom! ha!

    This whole story reeks with mystery! From the mysterious way the two May’s interact with you, the broken English, and who is Mimi Lin? You’ve woven the mystery through beautiful prose sentences that transport me inside that house. I’m just as horrified as I assume you were through that walk through.

    I think if you had moved in there… your mind would go crazy trying to decipher people talking in Chinese and the smells of incense and strange things cooking in the kitchen would surely have intoxicated your mind to the point of insanity. Much less the anxiousness of wondering what in the world was happening behind that door with the combination lock and wondering if you would need to hide behind a combination lock of your own just to keep the bad spirits away.

    I also imagine you on an exhausting search or exploration trying to discover exactly who Mimi Lin is and what you’ve gotten yourself mixed up in. You never know.

    At any rate… glad you chose another venue besides Mimi Lin’s lair.

    • Ah, Matildakay, thank you so much for liking my prose sentences. I felt like I could have written so much more, but didn’t want to lose my audience by getting too deep into describing the walls, or the lion ant dens outside, or my starbucks coffee adventure right before that, or John telling me his stories of love, or the loud motorcycle that drove past and so on…

      I think you are right. I definitely would have gotten caught up in the mystery of Mimi Lin and would have wanted to know answers. And my gift for getting people to talk I probably would have learned way more than what is probably legal to know, if you know what I mean. And then where would that have left me? Nightmares about Kevin cutting my throat? Mimi Lin preparing a stew with me as the main ingredient? Her forcing me to walk the plank into the abandoned pool?

      If I ever have a mansion I’m putting in combination locks though, just for the mysterious effect!

  12. Sara says:

    Okay, Nick. I like it. It holds your attention with the vivid imagery, attention to detail, mystery and intrigue. You have written it so that I can visualize it as a movie reel in my head as I read. My favorite description was that of the wooden doors and how they were so abused looking–perfect way to describe them, I thought, while reading. Very Good. It is a story and I don’t care how it comes out just as good hanging in the air as with a definite conclusion, but methinks the writer (you) will NOT take either place because of bad vibes. Guess I will have to stay tuned.

    • If I write like a movie plays out then that is the ultimate compliment. Thank you, Sara.

      I agree those doors were intriguing. How could doors get so scratched up? Bizarre in the most awe-inspiring ways for a writer like me to ponder…

      Like most people, I agree, my story is still playing out. I’ll stay tuned too.

  13. Lori says:

    More please.

  14. Well, this is just the kind of half-baked, philistine claptrap we’ve come to expect from Mr. Belardes over the years. What can I say, Nick? Absolutely gripping material. I loved it–one of my faves (of a long list).

  15. When I read the word “claptrap” I couldn’t help but think of Teddy Ruxpin. Tyler, that story is classic. I might have to assign it to my workshop on an “exposed secrets” night!

    Ha!! I’m serious!!

  16. Charlene Keeler says:

    Loved this essay. It reminded me of my biggest scare in renting a room. A guy in Long Beach offered me his nicely finished and furnished garage apartment with accompanying backyard for $200 a month. The only catch was that the only bathroom was in the house, where he watched porn all day while polishing his gun collection. He was also morbidly obese with a lazy eye, and he let out a distinctive snort with almost every exhale.

    • That guy is an evil-doer in a novel waiting to happen. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing a showdown with he and Mimi Lin at high noon in a short story somewhere.

      And thanks for your nice words, Charlene. When someone says they love someone’s writing it’s the ultimate compliment.

  17. Man, the whole story I was sitting there thinking “this reminds me of something” but I couldn’t put my finger on who. Balso Snell? Eddie Coyle? I was going to comment, but didn’t. Then, hours later, it occurred to me. You’re the culprit. You’ve locked into what I was once told by a heavily perfumed teacher is called “a signature voice”….which I think means now you can pretty much do anything. Flying characters. Card counters. Autistic Ferrari thieves.

    • I slept on this comment. I let it soak in.

      Why? Because you have given me the nicest compliment I could ever hope to receive. While I hoped to capture the essence of Mimi Lin, I didn’t realize I had done so in a way that I would receive a compliment regarding “signature voice.” You have boosted my confidence and encouraged me to a level where I think I can finally do away with some self-imposed obstacles of late with my writing. I always preach against obstacles but admit I have been having a lot lately that hinder me from writing much. Thanks so much, Sean.

      • Hey, of course. I’m really glad to have done so. It’s funny, I wouldn’t have thought of you as having seemed “hindered.” At least what I’ve read in the short time I’ve been here, The Vegas Decalogue, is pretty natural, and naturalistic stuff. I guess I spend most of my time thinking we are all so clearly spelled out by what we write, no matter what the subject, voice, or how far we stray from what we know (or clearly don’t know.) TNB posts, no matter how fictionalized, in a way are even more personality-windows than the comments. But I’m starting to think I’ve put too much stock in that. The ease of the technology may be a powerful masking agent.

        But back to Mimi. Soon, hopefully.

        • Sometimes personal issues get in the way of creativity in the worst way. Some people can create at such times. I tend to lose the creative fire. In this case, the creative fire only sparks in certain areas, and odd directions, as if that neon creative energy flow is pinched off in areas, not allowing me the freedom to work on specific projects.

          I’ve been working through getting all systems back on track. Your words and Judy’s have been a big help. More than I can describe in words right now.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Nick, you’re very kind, oh very empowered you.

          We have different ways of reacting to personal stuff. You get turned off writing, and I get turned on and homicidal—-might be a detective fiction piece there! 😉

        • I wouldn’t say turned off. More like incapable. Parts of my brain shut down. The creative spigot runs dry. Though I found that I have been able to work on a new project. So that’s where my focus is for now.

          Sounds like you write some bad-ass stuff!

        • Judy Prince says:

          I don’t write bad-ass stuff, Nick, though my self is a bit scary.

        • Feather in Your Teeth is bad-ass. There was an epic battle of silly wits going on there!

    • Judy Prince says:

      “Autistic Ferrari thieves”….. mahvelous, Sean!

      Love your saying Nick has a “signature voice”, meaning he can pretty much do anything in and with his writings.

  18. Penny Goring says:

    What a wicked read. I savoured every word. That’s unusual for me – I’m a speed reader!

    • And that is a great compliment from such a poetic prose writer as you. Your vocabulary kicks my vocabulary in the ass. When I read your works I always have to look a few words up as I think: I need Triplecherry’s expertise at language!

  19. Simon Smithson says:

    Nick, are you Indiana Jones?

    Holy crap, man.

    I wish more cool, smoky-atmosphered stuff like this happened to me.

    Without the element of human sadness, however.

    • I wish I was Indy. I do have a satchel. But no whip.

      Just step into the shadows. Or go to Craigslist. Either way you will find adventure.

      Sometimes there is a sad element to such stories that can’t be avoided.

  20. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Vividly told, and uh, yeah that door looks like Beetlejuice’s bank vault. Kike might have been on to somat.

  21. I so love hearing about your adventures! I didn’t know that Vegas had a Chinatown? Your visualization is wonderful here. Reading about the old women is so interesting. You simply must move in now so that I can read more. Take one for the team….and if not, well then tell us a story about the DJ.

  22. Actually I do plan telling another story about the DJ. Saroyan’s Postcards was about him. I just changed his name in this piece.

    The Vegas Chinatown is along Spring Mountain Road if you ever go there…

    Always love hearing from you.

  23. JLO says:

    Oddly like a dream I had once before… I think so… Maybe. Anyway, as always, your writing leaves me wanting more… Thanks, Nick.

  24. chingpea says:

    your adventures are always fun and colorful. i picture vegas’ chinatown like that in the old movie “the corruptor”… dark and mysterious. how fun it would’ve been to explore the lair of mimi lin or to be outside and looking in on the witchdoctor experience of kike….

    • Now I need to watch “The Corruptor” again. Love that flick. San Francisco and L.A. Chinatowns are the best I’ve seen. Even Oakland has some mystery. Vegas Chinatown is nice, mysterious, but strip mallish.

      As for Kike’s experience. It would have been hard to see her go through that. She was very sick at the time. It was hard for her to even tell me. And it’s hard for me emotionally to imagine a young girl in so much pain.

      I almost moved into Mimi Lin’s lair just for the experience even after Kike’s prophetic warning. But in the end, images of dead chickens, and my own head in the grip of Mimi’s claws won out. I never called her back.

  25. Sara says:

    I, too, love the Chinatowns of big cities, Nick. When I was in the second grade, my family took a vacation to Chicago. Oh what fun, little ol’ bug-eyed Sara had gawking at the sights in Chinatown and I never will forget the taste of my first Chinese meal that my brother, sister and I tried to eat with chopsticks. The sensible parents used silverware, but not us. I did take my chopsticks for a keepsake and while there bought a more ornate pair that looked like ebony with little mother of pearl accents, and I also got a windchime. Later in life, I went with my husband on a TDY to Letterman in San Francisco. While in that city, I spent several hours in Chinatown and ate at the famous Golden Dragon, restaurant with a group of army personel that were there at Letterman for a medical meeting. Imagine my surprise, when a few years later, I was listening to the radio when a news flash came on with a breaker: several people eating in the Golden Dragon had been killed by gunfire in a “mob” hit. Chills coursed throughout my body. I believe it was a gang war type of thing an no one was killed that was not part of the intrigue, but they could very easily have been. My latest novel has a China section and I put that in because I am drawn to the mystery and intrigue. Your story here brought back some memories of my time spent in Chinatowns. Thanks.

  26. That story is scary. Reminds me of when I used to work on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas when there was a shooting just up the block at the Golden Gate Casino. Apparently an angry Filipino man showed up with a gun. His wife worked there. He chased her around the tiny casino, blasting as he went, miraculously not hitting anyone. Until he got to the bathroom, where he had her cornered, and gunned her down.

    In talking with Kike from the story and Joe Matheny of TNB I have learned much about the L.A. and the San Francisco Chinatowns. Secret tunnels, mysterious mahjong games and mafia drivers, taking their bosses over the hills into the Central Valley…

  27. Joe Daly says:

    Nick, this was teleportational. I know, I know. It’s a new word. I made it up for your story. I think it’s the only one that fits.

    I laughed out loud when I got to the end, realizing that closure comes in many forms, and sometimes leaving a few things hanging is far more powerful than tying everything up with a plot point and an epiphany.

    By the way, I read this in a sunny, well-lit room overlooking a canyon, as the sun began breaking through the clouds. I was oblivious to all the light until I finished the story. That, my friend, is remarkable. Well done.

    • That view sounds amazing. I almost feel guilty for being teleportational (a great new word by the way). I think I would have pressed my face to the glass and forgot about Mimi Lin and just gazed into the morning, as far as I could see, soaking in every last detail.

      What an interesting reaction: laughter. Sometimes I do that too. Like at the end of “Inception.”

      I want to be teleportational again and again.

  28. This is creepy good, and like someone mentioned above, has a noir quality to it. I felt like I was reading a scene from a J.M. Coatzee novel. Well done, Nick.

    • I’ve never read J.M. Coatzee. This piece has had a lot of recommendations in the comments section. I think I will have a whole library of goodies once I start picking up all the gems mentioned by everyone. Thanks for calling it “creepy good.” I like that.

  29. Patty Wonderly says:

    Good grief, Nick! No wonder you moved back to Bakersfield! If you’d moved in there, God only knows what would have happened! Glad you’re back safe and insane here in good old Bako!

  30. Joyce Kennedy says:

    All I’ve got to say is you have more guts than I’d have. The hackles raised when we saw the first door. I’d have never gotten any farther into the building. My guardian angles would have yelled RUN, but no, you had to drag us through the place anyway.

    There was more than mystery there, there was evil waiting to include you if you’d been foolish enough to drop your guard and move in. YOU may have been included in the next chicken soup, or orieintal ritual where you couldn’t extricate yourelf. Mystery indeed. I wonder how many sorry souls vanished in those dark rooms and double locked doors. Only the mysterious lady known as May may know. Forootunatly you were able to shake free of your need to know, while you still had the ability to share wht you had learned.

    Nick, this writing is one that will haunt a person’s mind long after its read. ‘What if’ can be quite seducing. Well done.

    • I think I am still a bit haunted about it myself. I actually waited a long time to post this. Had much of it written for some time.

      You’re right. Those doors were ominous. And I should have paid special attention to the lion ant dens outside the door. Those bugs lie in wait for their victims. Nasty little creatures. I did take a photo of their inverted cone holes. Look. This is right outside Mimi Lin’s front door!

      VIEW: http://twitpic.com/1y5v4g

  31. Robin says:

    Dang, Nick, that’s some crazy story. It sounds like you make these stories up, but they’re real. It’s crazy.

    I would have been scared to death if that had happened to me, but at least you had someone with you. If you had written this story and had no witnesses, do you think anyone would have believed you?

    I think I remember you tweeting while you were in Vegas that you might be getting a place in Chinatown. It’s crazy for me to remember that and to now be able to associate it with this story. You have the most amazing stories, I swear. You’re way too adventurous. 🙂

  32. Hi Robin. I’m glad that you still follow me on Twitter. You have a great memory too. You still a journalism student?

    I think people would still believe the story had the DJ not been there. I don’t think I give people reason to disbelieve my creative nonfiction. Lots of people believe my Lords book is totally true and that’s a fictional account of real events. And that’s filled with much weirder stories.

    Would you have believed me had I not pointed out I had a witness? Huh, huh?

    • Robin says:

      Hi, Nick. Of course I still follow you on Twitter. I have no reason to unfollow you. Like I said before, you’re awesome. I haven’t done journalism for a long time. Since I don’t have my license, I was never able to attend college campus classes, so I have basically quit journalism. I still like it, but I don’t think I am going to pursue it anymore, given certain discoveries about myself.

      You’re right. I’m sure that people would believe you either way. The story is just so eerily creepy. I would have believed you either way as well, but that’s because I know you pretty well now. I’ve known you for about five years online now, and I met you about two years ago. You are definitely one of the coolest, most interesting people I know.

      Looks like the comments have died down, huh? Bummer.

      • That’s OK. We change majors or careers and move on. We all do it.

        I’m glad you would have believed the story regardless.

        The comments died down because I stopped pushing the article. It gets time consuming sending out emails, tweets and Facebook messages to people in hopes of comments…

        I’m always glad when you respond and give me feedback.

        So what’s the next career going to be if not journalism?

        • Robin says:

          Saw the latest post on Facebook for this story yesterday. More comments! Good for you.

          Weeeelllll…..career? Ummm….I don’t know. Personally, I want to be a farmer and a rancher. I like to grow anything that will produce something edible. I always enjoy eating things I’ve grown myself. And of course I love my animals…can’t live without them. I would just like to grow enough stuff to be able to store some for my family and sell off excess at farmers markets. I’m a dreamer, but I can see reality all too well.

        • That sounds honorable. I read a book once titled Blithe Tomato about organic farmers. Loved the book. Also David Mas Masumoto writes wonderful tales of farming. I highly recommend Epitaph For A Peach.

      • You inspired me to push this post one last time over on Facebook. I got a few more comments. Thanks Robin!

  33. Lee says:

    I know I’m late to the commentary game, but here goes…Of your TNB pieces, this one I think is my favorite. I like how you created the sense of mystery. The dialog with a person who simultaneously doesn’t say much but also speaks in fractured English when she does makes us want to decipher. The mysterious Kevin was a piece that could have solved the mystery, but he’s left untouched. The hallway itself creates a mysterious tension.

    • Thanks Lee. I felt there was a story going on as soon as I talked to the first May. The day before I spoke with her I was ripping notes off a Chinatown message board outside of a market that used to sell live bullfrogs. I never called anyone on the notes I tore down. Strange that I only called May and a few other folks. In the end, I nearly moved into an apartment right on the edge of Chinatown for the same price as May’s mysterious lair. I think I’m still the mayor of it on Foursquare.

      I still want to visit those abandoned factories in the Salton Sea you keep talking about. I think I’d get a really nice piece for TNB out of it.

      Mystery. We yearn for it in everything we do.

      • Oh and I should add that the interesting thing about my dialogue with both Mays is I really didn’t have to edit them very much. The conversations, as brief as they were, were filled with mystery and enchantment.

      • Lee says:

        I have a facebook friend that is into U.E. (Urban Exploration). You’re welcome to tag along with me to the Salton Sea anytime.

        Now as for your piece of CNF, I realize now what also sticks with me in addition to the tension is the setting and the detail, detail, detail! Some guy fronting the Random Writers Workshop gave us all a good swift boot kicking on that issue because we needed it, but what is evident here is how masterfully the detail is embedded so that it doesn’t come off as some English 101 descriptive writing piece. Is that why you’re a published author i.e. because you know this stuff? I think so. Again apologize for being late to the party this round.

        • I love urban exploration. Matthew O’Brien’s Beneath The Neon is a great read about the tunnels beneath Las Vegas. I helped connect with a Fox news story on it. I also interviewed O’Brien for my book Random Obsessions. He claims there are some ghosties down there.

          I’ve explored the basements of downtown Vegas with a news crew. I still have all the footage. I refused to run the story because I wanted to see a darn tunnel. Of course someone I worked with tipped off another station and they did a similar story…

          There are tunnels beneath Bakersfield I swear!

          Yes, sensory detail. I am not the master of it. But I hope I’m on my way… You’ll get there too. You have to show the world, not tell about it in vague sentences that lead to “constipated thinking.” Detail is what makes the world writers create seem believable.

        • Lee says:

          Let’s you and I explore the tunnels of Bakersfield. We can fortify ourselves at Donna Kaye’s Cafe and then go on an U E

        • Now we just need to find a sealed tunnel entrance we can slug a sledgehammer through.

  34. Terrific post, as always, Nick!

  35. Ashley S says:

    I love your stories,they’re always very weird & interesting.

    • I think ever since I wrote Lords I have that unofficial title as the weirdest writer in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.

      Although, if you ever read any of Greg Goodsell’s stuff. Well, that boy can write some freaky weird sci-fi and horror…

  36. Charlene Keeler says:

    When there is nothing left but dust and cockroaches, Mimi Lin will rule the earth with a team of Asian minions masquerading as hotel owners, real estate agents, and dry cleaners. They will all be called Mimi Lin, and one of them will refer you to another one for answers, like a series of visions in a dream sequence.

    • I believe you are right. And not only will she rule the Earth but every taco stand on Mars. And you know that one day there’s going to be a ton of ’em.

      • Charlene Keeler says:

        She should be in a movie. I can write it, but I’d have to change her name. And now, I just want to go eat a taco.

        • On Mars…

          I keep telling people I want to be the first poet buried on Mars. As usual, I don’t have a way to get there.

          Go write that movie! And sell it! For millions!

        • Charlene Keeler says:

          It would be more like a hundred grand. So because I’m too lazy to go buy a taco, I’m eating tuna salad on a tortilla. How white is that?

        • A hundred grand isn’t shabby. Maybe you can go sell my adventure series I’m working on. If you have the contacts, let’s tag team the industry! muahahaha! You can add a great female co-lead who has touches of Mimi Lin’s control habits.

          It’s only white of you if you add ketchup.

        • Charlene Keeler says:

          Is your adventure series a series of books or stories? I don’t know if I have great contacts and adventure is out of my typical genre, but we can collaborate and turn it into a film and see what happens. It wouldn’t hurt.

        • Screenplays! I’m still working on the first one. But, if I get investors, I have a whole indy team with Red cameras and some great stunt folks, etc… We’ll have to talk more off the grid.

  37. Charlene Keeler says:

    …and she might be my real mother.

  38. mike G says:

    Nick is the coolest

    • This has to be Mike Gleim. I enjoyed your preaching on Sunday, especially when you started shuffling your feet in a bizarro kind of a dance.

      BTW, I noticed you upgraded from two-word comments to four. Thanks bro.

  39. dw says:

    great stuff NL!…so this writer walks into a bar in Chinatown.Female bartender says, “May. I help you?”….

  40. Malesa says:

    Fascinating, intriguing, and definitely mysterious. Just as you have been teaching us all along, suck the reader in and leave them wanting more. Well, it sucked me in and left me curious and wanting to know more about this person and why she had the combination lock on her door. 2 thumbs up!!

    • Be mysterious! Yes! Yes! Yes! OK, I sound like Meg Ryan in that one movie, but you get the point.

      I love a great book or movie where I want them to tell me the answer. And I might even know the answer but I want them to say it, but they won’t. It’s torture but keeps me watching!

      For a great conversation about mystery read when Judy Prince starts asking questions in this piece. It takes some interesting twists and turns right here in the comments.

  41. Lea Wankum says:

    Nick, I can visualize Mimi Lin and the house. I need to know more of the story…it needs to go on. I would love to follow you on some of these adventures because you draw me right into your scenes. My late brother once lived in a storage shed with his guitar, banjo and Harley. He wrote his music there with nothing to clutter his life.

    • I’m glad you want to know more. That was the intended result!

      My adventures aren’t constant. Most of my time I spend peeking from under covers at the big scary world and wondering if I should poke and prod at it.

  42. DCR says:

    Oh, this one reached in and tapped my spine… from the inside. Mimi Lin brought to mind long, pointed fingernails, painted red, smoke and hard dark eyes. I have no idea where that image came from, but it brought with it an unsettled tingling. No, more of a twinge, the kind where you squint your eyes, hold your breath and wait for it to pass. Thank you, Nick for bringing us into that space of suspense and painful mystery that accompanies a really well-crafted horror flic. I love it that there was no way to breach the unknown and get the answers. There is a gap between cultures that for all our well-meaning understanding we simply can’t leap. We are left to rely on finely-turned instinct if we are really, really lucky and tuned-in. Good that you were tuned in on this one and side-stepped the trap. The very last line says it all. Loved the read and…the experience of it.

    • DCR, you honor me with your talk of “long, pointed fingernails, painted red, smoke and hard dark eyes.” In fact, now you have me quite freaked out!

      I love horror, which is why I probably reveled in those few minutes in Mimi Lin’s house, and then hightailed it when I started to put the pieces together.

      I think we can call that moment “instinct” as you say. Let’s hope I don’t have another Mimi Lin moment for at least another week!

  43. Krista says:

    My apologies for being a few days late, but not really. So earlier this evening, I sat down on the couch and opened this up and was set on reading and commenting then. Before I knew it, my phone was ringing (not texting of course) and friends were interested in having dinner. I agreed and shut my laptop and headed out the door. They wanted to try a new asian place named Ming’s Cafe. I froze. I could not for the life of remember the name of the lady in this story and was convinced it was Ming and it was some sort of sign. Lucky for me, I’m the leader of the pack and quickly persuaded my friends that we should have tex-mex instead. Whew!

    Does she still call?

    • Ming Lin would be Mimi’s sister. She runs a restaurant where you can order take out, but you can never leave…

      I don’t have that phone number anymore, though I expect Mimi Lin still calls it from time to time just to check in. If she gets my new number what should I say???

  44. J.E. Fishman says:

    You have a wonderful way of creating dramatic tension, Nick. Keep it up.

  45. Good night sir, i like your news site ! Have a nice weekend

  46. Sun Gagan says:

    hey Admin , i like with u posting.

  47. […] The Mysterious Lair Of Mimi Lin (2010) Excerpt: She explains the rent, says that doubling it is what it would take to move in. “You like that? Ok?” she asks. I imagine May in a slinky Asian dress talking into an old rotary phone. The smoke-filled room casts shadows on her aged face. “When you want to move in?” Read at The Nervous Breakdown […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *