The club I play in Playa is called Posada Xi Ka’an. Don’t worry about the weird name. In the Yucatan a name like Xi Ka-an (from the Mayan: “Place of the Site of the Location of the Spot”) is no big deal. They have places around here named Oxkutscab and Tixcogob, man. Dzilbalchan, Dzinup, Xclakal, Xul-Ha, Hochob, Holbox, Xkaladzonof, X-Masil, Chikinzlofla. There’s even an Xpo, but it ain’t pronounced like they do in Houston. So do what everybody else does, fake it. The Mayas themselves can’t pronounce these things. I mean, come on…Xclaf? They just put the names on the map to confuse invading armies. It didn’t work. But it sure freaked out my spell checker. Check the website, Xzkcl.ctlom.
Seagull The Blasé Sojourner

Seagull could cover a mind-numbing number of songs, and had written a few of his own, but he was at his best–and remember, it’s all relative–when jamming his own lyrics on existing tunes. Such as Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville”, of which he had done dozens of vamps, including the one he was singing at the moment.

I spoke with the waiter, he said, “Be by later”
I’ve been here an hour with two lousy brews
They say “ahorita” or “un momentita
And leave you alone with the “mañana” blues

I’m wastin’ time again in Ahorita-ville
Waitin’ for my damn dinner and drinks
The waitresses say they’ll be back sometime today
But you know, that’s not what I think

They said they’d bring it in a Mexican minute
But two happy hours have already passed
I ate all the corn chips, the salsa and bean dip
And nibbled the salt off the rim of my glass

I’m wasting away to bones in Ahoritaville
Waiting for my waiter to come through the door
Some people say he just snuck by with a tray
But I think he don’t work here no more

I called for the cuenta, they said, “un momenta
If they’re back in an hour it’ll be strange
I paid a few pesos for my chile con queso
And everyone’s vanished to go hunt for change

I’m wastin’ half my life in Ahoritaville
Waiting for this damn dinner to end
Some people say it’s just the Mexico way
But by now, I’m all hungry again

A crowd-pleaser, especially among “sophisticates” like this film festival scuzz, who congratulated themselves for knowing what the Spanish lyrics meant–unaware that everybody else in the world did, too: even the Mexicans. But the waiters just hated it.

As soon as the meager applause died out, he ditched his multi-forged guitar and grabbed his dumbek, tossing the strap around his neck so it could hang right in front of his crotch. He pounded a quick, bright staccato on the rim, then moved to the slap and went into his watered-down, generic, but energetic Afro beat. And Copper was suddenly just standing there. Staring at the crowd with her arms hanging at her side, trailing chains. Slowly she lifted her arms and held them over her head, the Lost Soul dangling her chains like a broken puppet’s string. Then suddenly, somehow, they ignited and she stood between two crackling balls of fire. She paused a beat, then swung the fireballs around her, the excess white gas blasting parallel tongues of fire onto the floor like hot rails to hell. As always, she danced a trance inside the sphere of holy flame.

At the front table, where you could actually feel a little heat from the blazing poi, Loris turned to Gareth and said, “Think about it, you show up with some music and entertainment, and hint that it’s what your films about. Hand drums and fire-spinning: hot totems for today’s youth.

Gareth leaned back and scanned her. “What makes you think that’s what it’s about?”

Loris smiled. “What do you think?”

Gareth, mindful of her close rapport with the rock head he expected to direct his film, nodded sagely. But please, show up and try to impress Coppola and Shane Black with a hippy fire dancer? How about a mime, just to round it all out? Maybe an organ grinder? Kenny might like that angle.

The gas was just about exhausted in the wound Kevlar balls at the end of Copper’s scything chains. And suddenly they flew off her hands. The crowd gasped as the chains flew across the floor and out the open door to the deck, pinwheeling alongside each other as their fires guttered out.

And between the flying sparks, Xchab walked into the club not looking at anybody, just doing a very Indian-like shuffle-dance to the beat of Seagull’s drum. She held her arms out from her shoulders, swept slightly back like a jet’s wings. She moved slowly into the room, shuffling and stamping, her taut young body weaving dreamily.

There were twenty parrots in the entryway to the Xi Ka’an, wings clipped, their scintillating, psychedelic feather moirés somewhat dulled by captivity in huge wrought-iron cages. And suddenly, for no reason, the birds were out of their cages. And flying on chopped-down wings. Xchab danced into the center of the floor, her arms rising and falling as she bobbed, her hands making circles in the air. And a squadron of brilliant birds hovered behind her arms, making big, flat, iridescent wings that moved and wavered and pulsed behind her as she danced without knowing her arms had become the leading edges for a flying wedge of determined, silent birds. Or that a huge blue parrot,with gold chest and white circles around its red eyes, was hovering unerringly over her head, fluttering back and forth as she nodded her erect head and shook her gleaming jet mane.

Winston entered the room unseen as people froze with cigars halfway to their lips and icecubes lying in their mouths, gawking at the Mayan girl dancing as the focal point of a wing of flaring feathers. He put a six-hole cane whistle to his lips and started piping. It was a shrill but soothing sound, a highly Indian tattoo of chrome notes as clear as icepicks, broken up by a slightly breathy counterpoint. Music from the Chiapas highlands, a splashing Laocoon rain over the tight metallic beat of the dumbek. Copper shook a bundle of goat hooves, producing a dry tambourine-like sound that reeked of stone temples and yellow eyes in the jungle.

Suddenly Seagull rattled off a sharp burst of rimshots, Winston reached into the highest register for a sustained scream from his whistle and Xchab threw her arms over her head to bring her hands together. The birds flew up, spiraling into the high rafters of the club. Then the lights went out.

Copper was working the tables with professional cool, her tin can wrapped in woven ribbons clanking and whispering as it filled with loot, Kenny was staring like a man envisioning tongues of fire, Gareth slowly turned his face to Loris, eyes wide and mouth sagging open.

She chuckled and touched his forearm on the table. “They’ll just love to see us,” she said.

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Seagull, though as about as establishment-unaware as they come, still found is art, such as it was, driven by economic realities. One of which was that songs mocking out tourists are not favored in places that pay one to sing. So he rather relished serving up his latest opus for the select.

They come to the Island in the winter time
Drink tequila on the beach with salt and lime
They swing in their hammocks and laugh ’cause they know
Everybody back home is covered with snow

They’re only here for six months or so
While the weather back home is twenty below
They’re out in the sun with a smile every day
They’re the snowbirds down from the US of A.

They put on a sweater at the first sign of fall
And give their travel agent a telephone call
They wait ’til December, see what Santa Claus brings
Then they pack up their bags, and they spread out their wings.

They’re only here for six months or so
Until the hurricanes are starting to blow
They’re out in the sun with a smile every day
They’re the snowbirds down from Ontario way.

There’s Canadian sunsets and Indian summer
But Northern winters can be quite a bummer
They wait until the Superbowl and Grey Cup are lost
Then they head for the airport, whatever it costs.

They’re only here for six months or so
While Old Man Winter puts on his show
They’re out in the sun with a smile every day
They’re the snowbirds down from New York and LA.

They wear oil and bikinis, every woman and man
So they can fly back up north with their Yuca-Tan
It’s tropical heaven they all can time share
And nicer than freezing their butts off up there

They’re only here for six months or so
When hell freezes over they’re ready to go
They’re out in the sun with a smile every day
They’re the snowbirds down out of Canada, eh?

It went over better in Summer, when there were fewer gringo snowbirds in the Café Cueva, though you never knew how the sunburned, silvertipped resident set might take it, either.

But the place was pretty full for low season, and incredibly hottie-loaded. That one table over by the bookcase was one hundred percent over-the-moontang and he’d add on a few points every time the big black chick made a move. Not that he’d kick Miss Saigon there out of bed, either. Hell, he wouldn’t even toss Curtsy back to the dolphins. Amazing bunch and he was playing to their table, hard.

But not to ignore those new faces on the sofas around the coffee table in the back corner, by any means. A slender drink of water slipping around in a cotton shift that made it pretty clear it was just there like the veil on a sculpture: temporary cover up some amazing shape. Sitting right by the cutest Mayan chick he’d seen yet. I’d buy a bracelet with my name on it from her for a dollar, Seagull thought as he strummed an instrumental break. Even sing one just for her, like “You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re Mayan”? And a familiar face amongst them. Not to mention familiar tight tits, tough ass and red head. The fire-dancer he’d almost hooked up with in Uxmal two years go, but she was traveling with that sexy lezzy with the rattletop djembe. Damn! Maybe I should set my axe on fire and play with my teeth.

Copper was unaware she was being scanned by a potential musical collaborator, traveling agent, and bed-partner: she was just relaxing in the mellow, sweet, innocent Isla Vibe. She’d always doted, on the Island: the perfect combination of her kind of laid-back and unspoiled with a decent number of gringo dorks with enough money to make spinning her fireballs here an exercise in profit, not just exercise.

Beyond that, she had a certain affinity to a place where she had her own church right on the main square. Well, not really her church, though to hear some people tell it…

The combination of her name and hair color brought a spark of recognition everywhere in the area, but nowhere more than on Isla, where the main church on the plaza principál is dedicated not to the Lady of Guadalupe, but to the Virgin de la Caridad de Cobre. Unusual in Mexico, where you gradually find out that it’s barely even a Catholic country at all, in the normal sense, but manifestly a goddess cult in which Christ is revered mostly because he’s the favorite son of the original Latin Lupe Lu. But the Charity of Copper virgin cuts her action on Isla, where Lupe’s church is much smaller and located out in a colonia. Well, also located on a clifftop with Caribbean view, but prestige-wise, Copper Charity is the go-to deity on Isla and Copper got a kick out of it.

A deeper kick, that still hadn’t completely settled in the lamina of her subcon was that in Cuba, where the Virgin originally hailed from the town of Cobre, she carried a second ID, a persona she found fascinating. To a practitioner of Santeria–the Latin Caribe’s answer to voodoo–many Saints are merely hosts for powerful Id gods, AfroCarib spirits that ride people like horses but reside inside Catholic canoneers like parasite eggs injected into host grubs. The Virgin might have her sparkling white chapel and muted bells in the main square, but over the flickering lanterns and fresh-spilt blood of sacrifice she was the Goddess Oshun, and far, far from a blushing virgin bride.

Xchab had absolutely no idea what sort of place her weird new companions had dragged her to this time. It was obviously a gringo/Euro kind of place but showed none of the flash she associated with that in Cancun. In fact, it was downright shabby: old sofas, used books piled all over one wall, rough floors, burlap ceilings, counters and shelves made of what looked like driftwood or at least heavily distressed lumber. They didn’t even make your coffee for you! They brought these little glass cups of grounds in hot water and you had to push the plunger down to pour the coffee out. And how about the entertainer? He looked like a clown with his big puffball of sandy hair and his tramp clothes and taped-together glasses. And his guitar looked like it was not only used, but abused and grafittied by some minature music gang. And if wasn’t a clown, just a singer, then his singing really, truly sucked.

Loris was pretty totally happy, not that she was a hard person to make happy. She was running with maybe the best man she’d ever met, was on the trail of oXo, and absolutely loved Isla Mujeres. Their cabana at the Villa Ki’in was like a dream to her; funky living room with posters of Kahlo and Zapata opening out on a patio with cane loungers that gave onto a powdery beach sloping down to a little lagoon of calm water flushed by waves breaking over a reef. The water was clear as the air, and shallow enough that she could walk over to the reef and peek down at tiny wrasse darting in Technicolor. She’d lazed on the beach all afternoon, drinking in the sun and Bannock’s presence, but with few words spoken. Just watching Copper and Winston frolic in the water while Xchab strode solemnly around at waist depth, her long man’s shirt floating around her as she peered into the crystal water like a stalking heron. Just resting a hand on Bannock’s hairy arm and feeling him relaxing, too. And, okay, yeah, drinking a few Coronas.

And now this little place with the cool Brit couple and the knucklehead slacker singer and the Yucatan coffee and rich brownies and the feel of a sort of hideout from reality, some forgotten niche in development where you could be unwary and human. The people who came in for coffee seemed to share that feel: uncoiled, yet aware, happy to be here. The other table there, those three model-looking girls, look at them. Just young, beautiful and not a care in the world.

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“Now this is America,” Copper breathed rapturously. “What you truly miss when you’re expatting.”

Winston checked her out, slathering butter and strawberry jam on a thick slice of real (not Bimbo) bread. “Even more than having workable mail, telephones, and legal system?”

“Like I need any of those,” Copper tossed back. She was mopping up some over-easy eggs with a chunk of actual non-chorizo sausage, one of those lean, effortlessly wiry women who wolf down caloric goodies unscathed and drive normal women homicidal. “You want the American Dream, it’s right here: the Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast.”

“Well, the local version, anyway.” Loris hadn’t been out of the States long enough to long for yolk-soaked pancakes and non-crumbly toast and first world pig products, so she tucked away some chilaquiles between sips of iced tea.

“That tea,” Copper went on. “Made by seeping leaves in water. Not dumping some space station microdust in water. The coffee, actually steeped, not ‘NoEsCafé‘. What I’m talking about. A civilization has to freakin’ deliver to get taken seriously.”

Xchab was less sold. She’d have gotten molletes and chiles, but had been determined to explore gringo folkways and was therefore trying to wrap toast around eggs, sausage and refried beans as if it were a tortilla. Weird stuff, but damned good. And being here at this beachfront restaurant where couples in expensive clothes sat next to barely-clad sunlovers built like porn actors, where everything was sparkling clean and the food forthcoming forever, where stiff-uniformed waitresses who came across formal with “Usted” but slipped her some Mayan advice under their breath.

Bannock had eaten lightly, buttered bolillos from the basket and a steady stream of coffee from the stylish chrome carafes. He leaned back, chewing on some train of thought or another. Loris was waiting him out.

He rolled his cup around on the saucer, then blurted. “Okay. I can trace oXo down. We’ll go back up to L.A. and I’ll get all over it. An agent sent me to those clowns and I can…”

“Not necessary.” Loris blotted her lips and smiled at him. “Sweet and committed but not really necessary.”

Now Bannock waited her out. She reached into her Oaxaca engulf-all bag and pulled out a lurid slick brochure and handed it to him. The other three heads at the table followed it, wondering if crystal skulls had started putting out flyers.

“The Mayan Riviera Film Festival?” He glanced at her, then around the table. “Is this some kind of a joke?”

“Probably. Are Cannes and Sundance not jokes at a higher level of energy?”

“Beats me, but I bet you’re onto something there.”

She leaned over and pointed. “Looks who’s scheduled for the Saturday panel.”

“Seminar,” Bannock mumbled. “Holy crap, that little dork really is a producer.”

“And we can even get to see one of his films.”

“Can’t wait. Looks like The Loveboat meets Freddy Krueger does Girls Gone Wild in Cancun.”

“I’d pay to see it,” Copper chirped, skillfully nabbing Winston’s last slice of toast. “I was there two years ago. Wall to wall phonies and wannabes throwing money and pussy around. I made out like a bandit.”

“I’m looking at this thing and have absolutely no idea what the hell it’s all about. How big is Playa Carmen, anyway?”

“It’s a tourist trap full of Italian sharpies, American dullies, and gringo-wranglers from Mexico City,” Winston pronounced, scrumptiously sniping a roll when Xchab wasn’t looking.

“They get money from the state and national tourism boards to do stuff like that,” Copper told him. “Get their films laid off that way, too. Cheap local crews, kickbacks and downlines and shit.”

Bannock gave her a long look that she slid off of by signaling for more coffee. He stared at the brochure, working a toothpick around the corner of his mouth. Then he said, “I think I get it.”

“They want to move up the ladder from grinding out this crap,” Loris nodded.

“And think they can do it with the right director.”

“I hate to say it, but that’s not a bad idea.” Winston shrugged when they both glared at him. “If that sucker could direct me a dream, he could sure as hell put together a kickass blockbuster.”

“But it just won’t work with their Melrose ambitions,” Loris said, and Winston nodded agreement as he chewed. “But even at a little festival like that one, there’ll be deals to cut, bigshots to impress. So they’ll definitely bring oXo.”

Bannock let that sink in for a moment. “I see one problem.”

“I’m a so glad to hear that,” Loris beamed. “Because I was seeing about a dozen.”

Bannock tapped the brochure with a thick finger. “It’s a couple of weeks off.”

“True. They probably flew back to Burbank in the meantime.”

“Or this clown and his buttboy could be buried up their necks in aromatic spirulina in some health stalag,” Copper put in. She turned to Loris, “The Riviera here has gotta be the highest concentration of spas and Zen centers and health hedonists in the world.”

“Really?” More than casual interest from Loris, all right. “Maybe I could do some massages somewhere.”

Bannock turned to stare. “You do massages? Like professionally?”

“My main trade, actually. Did you think I was just a dope dealer’s social secretary?”

“Cool. Can I get an appointment?”

“Great.” Copper rolled her eyes, her instinctive hostility to Bannock waning, but still worth a goad or two. “Massagist meets misogynist.”

Bannock ignored her, as he’d been doing. “So we lay up somewhere then get down there in advance and scope it out, get his room number. Be sitting there when he walks in with the skull.”

“If he has it with him,” Winston cautioned.

“If not, we persuade him to take us to it.”

Copper, after scouring the last food off her plate, and anybody else’s she could reach, announced, “Well, I know where I’m going, while you guys plan your extortion caper. Place I can live cheap, hang with good people and decent musicians, and there’s enough summer tourists to dance up a few bucks.

“Sounds like a plan,” Loris said. “Is this a real place?”

“More or less. Isla.” She pointed out over the turquoise water, still and sleek in the summer morning. “You can even see it from here.”

Everybody turned to take in the low ridge of land floating on the horizon. Winston said, “Well, you know I’m an island kind of guy.”

“Let’s try not to get this one torn down around us.” She turned to Bannock and he saw the aggressive snark fall off her. Just the redhead next door, smiling a little ruefully. “Hey, look, Bannock, man… I really appreciate you springing for the room and meals and all. That was nice and you’re a solid guy, especially with me giving you a hard time.”

“Not a problem, Red. Maybe we can see you fire dance sometime.”

Copper reached under the table, unconsciously patting the little day pack that held her kevlar-wrapped fire chains. The fact that the chains–and even the little bottle with the last of her Coleman white gasoline–were her only possessions to survive the wreckage of Winstonia was a powerful spiritual statement to her. And only the latest of many.

“So what’s the chances of us bumming a few bucks to catch the ferry over, get bunks in Poc Na for a few nights until I can dance up some cash? Like a hundred bucks, maybe?”

“We can do that. But tell me a little more about this Isla place.”

“Oh, it’s the max. You know those Corona commercials? Couple in hammocks under palm trees on a beach, chuck their cell phone in the ocean? They shot those on Isla Mujeres.”

Bannock turned to Loris. “I don’t know about you, sunshine, but I’ve always dreamed of living in a beer commercial.”

Copper quickly told Loris, “And there are plenty of spas there, too. Massage pavilions on the beaches. Look, whatever you guys do, you’re this close to Isla, you should get to know the place. It’s really, really special.”

“How about this? We all go over there. You guys get situated, pick up a few bucks, figure out your next move.” He turned to Loris. “We’ll play tourists for awhile, then head down to Playa Carmen to scout the festival, look up Mr. Crystal.”

Loris looked at him with a cryptic smile.

“Hey, I was angling for the money before I met you. What do you think I had planned? Sitting on a beach for a long time, surrounded by fun people and beautiful women. So it’s not like it’s a stretch.”

“Best thing is, hotels are cheaper there, ” Copper said. “Like the Villa Kiin you can get a cabana for like eight people for less than your room cost last night. And their pool is amazing.”

Nobody bit, so she had to finish it herself. “They call it the Caribbean Sea.”

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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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