Tete a Tete
Bannock gave Loris a glance and smile when she came out of the bathroom, wrapped in a fluffy white Sheraton robe and toweling off her long mahogany hair. And looking very, very good. No rush. For a professional thief, extortionist, asskicker, and kneecapper, Bannock was far from brutal or crass with women. He knew quality when he saw it and he knew the hippie girl was a class act who’d made her call. He couldn’t completely discount the idea that she had tagged onto him to try get oXo back, but he figured she’d be around and patience would pay nice dividends. He liked the real thing.
So he turned his attention back to oXo, regarding him from the dresser as he crouched on the foot of the bed trying to look into those transparent eyes. He had a feeling there was something going on there, but was clueless regarding how to get a grip on it.
Loris swiveled past him and stepped out on the dinky harbor view lanai. Southern California is best seen from at least 12 stories up, was his theory. She sank into a lounge chair and busied herself with her hair. “You have to formulate a question,” she said. “Not a demand, though. Try to be unselfish: you get more benefit that way.”
Pretty much what he’d just been thinking, wasn’t it? He stared into the gleaming nothingness of oXo. “Clue me in on how it works? I don’t mean aliens or ancient kings or that crap. I mean, where is this dude coming from?”
“Crystals absorb and resonate vibrations,” she said. “On a cruder level, that’s how a radio works.”
Ah shit, he thought. Why did I expect anything other than mystical spiels?
“Wherever he came from, he’s been on Earth thousands of years and passed through many hands. Kings, murderers, courtesans. And he’s absorbed vibrations from all of them. He’s a repository of human wisdom. He knows the future and your fate.”
Hmm. Not as flaky as much he’d read since starting his search for the skull, and no way to prove or disprove. He had a gut feeling that she might be right. And actually, she was.
However, for the last fifty years oXo had been in America, most of it in the Los Angeles basin. He’d moved from hand to hand, but they were all criminal hands and almost entirely–except for some movie people and one rich Arab–hands that mostly handled drugs. He had been an obvious sensation among top-level coke dealers, an ultimate status symbol and better pussybait than a Ferrari or yacht.
He’d been traded for staggering amounts of dope, raked off by biker gangs, presided over grower communes, accepted animal sacrifices by Santeria-crazed smackers, wreaked havoc on the fragile psyches of tweakers. And most recently snatched up as Blaster ran towards the back door of a house in which the owner was being handcuffed by DEA agents on the front porch.
And now he sat staring into Bannock.
“So I just ask him a question? Out loud?”
“Seems to work better out loud. Or write it and slip it under him.”
“And he replies by email?”
“You just know. You sort of, not really hear, but just sort of know something in your head. Once you identify his voice you can’t miss it.”
Great, Bannock thought, feeling really foolish. You get around these people and they always want to clean your aura, give you a coffee enema, make you listen for inner voices. He regarded oXo a moment longer then spoke conversationally, “So, can I get you anything?”
Immediately he was aware of a thought, like one of those memos you do to yourself sometimes. Remember to pick up the laundry. Don’t forget Mom’s birthday again, asshole. Next time bring the shotgun. Except this one said, “How about a bong hit?”
Bannock stared for a moment more, then slowly turned to Loris, who was watching him intently, her hands poised on top of her head. He said, “You got a bong in your bag?”
She lowered her hands and shook her hair, stood and walked inside. She looked at him, then at oXo. “He likes you,” she said, laying her hand lightly on his shoulder.
Bannock had a feeling she might not require quite as much patience as he’d thought. Little oXo was already growing on him. He gave the skull a pat on top and told it, “Hang in, little buddy. I’m taking you home.”