Parallel Curves

The way these things go, Townsend could have shown up to catch the same ferry as Aphra. But he didn’t. He might have if he’d walked out of the Avalon Reef ten minutes sooner, or if he hadn’t gone the long away around, walking North Beach in front of the Maria Del Mar with his shoes slung around his neck and his general grasp of the situation dragging ass on the bottom.

Was she his sister? Or half sister, technically? He wouldn’t be surprised if he had a whole army of half-siblings out there from his father’s wild-assed seed distribution program back in the day. What else would have caused that sudden fury and rejection just from mention of the name?

He stopped under the palms. facing the hotel’s beach portal, anad felt a deep sense of loss for something he’d never really had. He didn’t known just how greatly he hadn’t had Aphra, of course, but even if he’d known her interest in him was pretty emphatically not sexual, he’d have missed the conversational links they’d been forming. And if he’d known just how much Aphra had dug him, even as a lesbian from birth, he could have taken some pride in it, maybe.

He stood halfway up his calves in the slow lap of the wavelets, staring without focus into the courtyard of the Maria Del Mar, then shook it off and put on his game face. Whatever else she was, she was the target and needed to be re-acquired. He walked rapidly up Playa Norte and around the point, cut in through Sergio’s to slip on his shoes and grab his return ferry ticket out of his duffle bag, then headed down the malecón to the dock. He didn’t know that Aphra had left on the previous boat, and had no way of finding that out. He’d tagged her tracker to re-echo, but she’d apparently re-flummoxed that and he got no blip.

He figured there was no way she could have affected the pickup from the sender she was following: all he’d done was nab the codes. He was showing nothing as he looked at his “iPod” sitting on the bench in the terminal, idly glimpsing at the other docks where off-season tourists filed off windjammers and a huge, surrealistic pirate ship. It might be a sender that functioned intermittently to avoid detection. Might be sending pulse bindles at given intervals. Might be smashed to pieces somewhere. When the Magaña boat eased up to the dock he stood up and slipped his little electro-tail in his shirt pocket. Holding his ticket ready as he moved towards the gangway, he socketed in the earbuds. Nice thing about this cryptoPod, it actually did play music. He clicked twice and stopped on “The Sky is Crying” by Stevie Ray Vaughn.

He had no way of knowing that Stevie’s widow, Lenny, lived on Isla Mujeres and he and Aphra had gone right by her house on the way to The Blue Iguana. There are definite limits to Intelligence. No limits whatsoever to Coincidence.

A concept Aphra pondered heavily as she disembarked on the Cancun side at about the same moment that Town was boarding the other boat on the Isla side. What the fuck were the chances of her ever running into a son of J. Davis Hardley? Much less the chances that one of the very few men she had ever willingly screwed and hadn’t much minded it, would be the self-same fortunate son?

She brooded further in the cab to downtown, where she damned well planned on renting a car. Her card was blown or it wasn’t. She was totally fed up with public transportation and cheap hotels. Was there some subliminal signal between them, one of those things you pick up on without knowing why, like the cute little trick down at that Baskin Robbins that time, with about twenty hotshot boyfriends coming by in their muscle cars but was actually so bi-curious it was about to ooze out her ears?

Or was it worse than that? They knew and had sicced him on her because of that? There must be records of the whole shitaree. If not on paper or hard drive, at least in the elephant memories of some old spooks and agents provocateurs still around D.C. And he’d end up screwing her just like his old man had screwed her mama, then busted her.

No way I’m telling Ma about this. No way. She’d snatch out that old sawed-off Weatherby double-barrel she always claimed Eldridge gave her to hold for him and never came back for. Lots of her men never came back for it. One-night special, that’s my mama. Surprised she only got knocked up twice. Then it finally hit her. Oh shit!

She started doing some really quick math, straining to remember exact dates. Let’s see, the Feds took Mammy dearest in right after the bombing. August of ’75, wasn’t it? So that’s more than nine months prior to ’77, so I guess I didn’t commit incest. Okay, half-incest. Unless he was nailing her during her stretch in Danbury. Which didn’t seem likely. So she was off the hook on that one. Still…

She got out of the cab in front of Sanborns by the big bus station. Car rental right next door, but she needed to have some coffee and mull things over. Half way through her second refill she realized that she wouldn’t have been so pissed off if she hadn’t been liking the guy. How messed-up is that? She could have spent a week hanging out with him and swapping licks about parents and cloak/dagger shit. Screw it. Think about something a little less kinky than getting hung up on a straight man whose daddy fucked over my mama and is spying on my still-skintight ass at this very moment.

One refill later and she felt a slight vibration in the pocket of the red capris she’d shimmied into that morning and pulled out her crystal ball. Mirror, mirror, she thought as she flicked the reflective screen to display mode, where are my wandering girls today?

And at that exact moment, while she frowned at the co-ords she was reading, trying to make sense of them, Townsend was rounding the traffic circle in a newly-rented Jetta, only a hundred yards from where she sat. He’d caught the same pulse and was working it out. Both arrived at the same conclusion at the same instant: moving south along the coast very, very slowly.

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