After Math

Winston couldn’t believe Ms. Ruff, Tuff, and Hard To Snuff was in tears over mere material possessions. And not even hers. Touching, though. He’d known Copper a long time and knew there was a fuzzy heart inside the steel-belted leather shell, but it didn’t get out much. Much less so since the advent of Dr. K.

They’d found a little stuff floating around. Including some her fire chains in her shredded backpack. Bannock found a dive mask, and improvised a strap from his shoestrings to dive for more stuff, but just got coated with gunk. And Copper’s mood wasn’t improving.

Winston tossed her a baggie with the absolute last of his stash of weed. “At least you got your dancing rig, Cher. Now you have nothing to lose but your chains.” And at least all that fucking ketamine is gone.

“But how about your stuff?”

“Since when to I have anything worth a shit? You know me… if I need something I jack it or make it out of debris.”

Loris stroked Bannock’s back as he fussed around trying to improve the seal on his jury-rigged mask, but was keeping an eye on Xchab, who was doing a pretty good imitation of a Mayan stele, staring expressionless at the space that hid been her only home since the hovel of her childhood. “How about the kid, there?”

Winston shrugged, “She barely owns any clothes.”

Copper turned to her, snapping out of her funk. “Win likes to keep ’em bareassed and pregnant.”

The old hippie reacted in cartoon alarm, crossing himself. “Bite your tongue, bitch.”

Bannock stood up, tossed the mask out into the debris-smeared lagoon, and turned back to them in a sort of military movement that got all their attention. “Look,” he said off-handedly. “We’ve been up all night. We’re wet and hungry. It’s Plan B time.”

Copper cut her eyes at him, lips pursed. “If you’ve got a plan that has a meal, bed, and shower in it, lay it on me.”

“Was your visa destroyed, too?”

Copper frowned at the descent to the kind of bureaucratic reality she generally ignored. “And my passport. Chopped into fishy litter.”

“Good thing I’ve still got mine,” he said with an off-kilter grin that Loris really liked. Then he pulled out and flashed a gold-colored credit card, which Copper really liked.

“But weren’t you telling me how a deal’s a deal?” Loris spoke in a schoolmarm voice, but he could see the fun in her eyes.

She had a point, though. Bannock was a little abashed, said, “Yeah, yeah. Look, I was just thinking that over in the shower.”

The piping hot showers with lovely Oaxaca tile and mounds of fluffy towels. Which had put everybody in much better spirits than they’d experienced sitting in littoral muck eyeing the shambles of an owner-built, sovereign lifestyle.

They’d all gobbled mounds of room service hamburgers and beer, Bannock having convinced the concierge at the Gran Caribe that being allowed to entertain his friends in his room would play better with the high-tone clientele than having them troop into the doggedly upscale dining room or Riviera-style poolside café. Now the party lay about digesting their meal and possible futures. Xchab’s eyes kept flitting around this room crammed with more luxury than she could have previously imagined: cataloging with equal ecstasy the full-wall high-rise-glassed view of a world as much wider than hers as the gleaming Caribbean outsized the crystal pool below, the leather lounges, the microwave and blender in the kitchenette, the absurd paintings of hip Eurotrash lounging under palms. Winston bemoaned the loss of his stash, but was otherwise typically curious as to what came next. Copper, her usual rambunctiousness mellowed by fatigue and the aftermath of shock, lay with her hair dangling off a sofa arm, tapping a foot to the piped-in Cuban jazz. Bannock and Loris leaned slightly towards each other at the clever pull-out table in authentic blond Ikea.

“So why would I honor a deal with these two Hollyweird dipshits, but not Blaster? Well, I was working for them, for one thing.”

“And they’re so much more honorable and squared-away than he was.”

“Yeah right. No, the only difference between their level of scumbucketry and his, they have money.”

He looked at her for comment, but her face was neutral, still as an underground pond.

“So is that what I’m on here?” he asked her quietly. “Ethics measures up to money?

“Bannock,” Loris asked in a reasoning tone, “May I ask? Do you think about things like that very much?”

“Nope. And you can see why. It’s pretty much an acquired taste.”

“I told you psilocybin would be good for you.”

He leaned over to cup her head in his hands, brush his lips on her cheek and murmur, “And it told me you’d be good for me.

Copper glanced up, chuckling, “Hey you guys, get a room.”

Bannock gave her a look. “Excuse me, but we have a room. There might be a place on the roof for hippies to hang their hammocks. Why don’t you go see?”

Copper glared at him but Winston laughed and she joined him. Bannock leaned back and stretched to reach the cordless house phone on the counter. Waited, then spoke into it.

“Hey, I’ve got three friends here that need a room for tonight. Can you just put that on my card? Great, thanks. They’ll come down and pick up the key. Oh, yeah, that’s better. 516? They’ll meet him there.”

He slipped the phone into the pocket of his logo-monogrammed robe and said, “Let’s get together for a late breakfast tomorrow. About ten? Figure out where everybody’s Plan B’s are falling by then.”

Copper and Winston looked at each other and figured out Bannock had just bought some privacy in a really gracious way. They got up and headed for the door, giving him soul shakes and peace signs as he waved off their thanks, “Get a good night’s sleep,” he called out as they moved into the hall. “Exploit the facilities.”

As the door closed he turned to Loris. “They’ll probably get buzzed and spend the whole time joyriding elevators.”

“I think the Mayan girl could spend three days just ogling the gift shop.” She stood up and walked to the bedroom door, trailing her fingers along the view-under-glass as he watched her fondly.

“That’s the way of you crooks, I understand,” she said over her shoulder. “Rip off some poor slob, then throw it around like a sailor on leave until it’s gone and you have an excuse to pull some more crimes. That the deal?”

“I was thinking we could really use a Hummer,” She didn’t react, so he went on, feeling his way through unfamiliar thoughts. “Seriously … I can’t explain it exactly, but I just sort of felt like we’re into something together here. Do you get that, know what I mean?”

“Oh, I certainly do.”

“It’s like since that swim and getting the fungus among us there’s some sort of…. What? Is there a word for it? We’re a karass or grok or Temple of Shroom or something?”

“Nothing that fancy. We’re brothers and sisters. We always have been, but when you get around cubensis you become aware of it.”

“So is that where we’re at here? You and me? Brother, sister?”

“Don’t you feel it?”

Bannock came out of his chair slowly, moving towards her. “What I feel like, sis, is a little incest.”

Loris smiled, her robe slipping down off her shoulders, “Brother can you spare me some time?”

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