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9

HE TALKED TO JERRY for a few minutes, left him whistling Zing Went the Strings of My Heart and as soon as he was in the bungalow Nolens smiling face appeared at the door.

Youre home. Whend you get in?

Moran said, When did I get in? He dropped his bag on the kitchen counter. Youre watching me get in. He had left Mary exactly fifty minutes ago at the Miami airport where they stood holding, kissing in a crowd of people, as though one was seeing the other off. She got in a taxi and Moran wandered through the parking lot looking for his car, the white Mercedes coupe hed owned for seven years.

Nolen said, You wouldnt have a cold one in that fridge there, would you?

If you left any, Moran said. Take a look. He wanted him to leave so he could call Mary. It could be the wrong time to call but he missed her and he couldnt imagine de Boya answering the phone himself; a servant would answer. And pretty soon his voice would become familiar to the help. Here he is again for missus. Hed have to make something up, give himself, his voice, an identity.

Nolen uncapped a couple Buds, placed one on the counter for Moran and slipped up onto a stool.

I skimmed the swimming pool.

Good.

Didnt find any used condoms or anything. No alligators. The two broads from Fort Wayne left and the old couple with the Buick. In fact everybodys gone. We had a couple broads from Findlay, Ohio, work for Dow Chemical, they were here for three days. I asked em if they heard the one, the salesman from New York whos in Findlay, Ohio, on business and runs into a foxy broad at the Holiday Inn? One drink theyre in the sack, its beautiful. But this guys a good Catholic so he looks up a church right away, goes to confession and the priest gives him five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys for his penance. He leaves for New York, meets another good-looking broad at La Guardia. They drive into town together, go to her apartment and jump in bed, its beautiful. But now hes got to go to confession again before he gets home. He goes to St. Pats, tells the priest what he did and the priest gives him a rosary. The guy says, Father, I dont mean to question you giving me a rosary, but I went to confession in Findlay, Ohio, for the same thing and I only got five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys. The priest looks at him and screams, Findlay, Ohio! Like he cant believe it. Findlay, Ohio-what do they know about fucking in Findlay, Ohio! Otherwise, Nolen said, theres nothing new.

How about old business? Moran said, taking clothes out of the bag. Im a little more interested in what was going on when I left.

The lovers? Nolen said. They broke up.

And when we last saw the guy who broke them up, Moran said, you were treating him to one of my beers.

Jiggs, Nolen said. Hes all right, a nice guy.

Yeah, good old Jiggs Scully, Moran said, hands out phony business cards for laughs, but as it turns out works for de Boya.

Im gonna have to explain a few things to you, Nolen said.

Moran picked up his clothes and dropped them in a wicker basket. Will it take long?

George, thats not nice See, youll be interested to know that Jiggs doesnt exactly work for de Boya. De Boya borrows him from time to time, for heavy work.

The piano player, Mario, thats heavy?

Nolen shook his head. De Boya didnt hire Jiggs for that one. The sister did, Anita.

I see, Moran said, telling Nolen he didnt see at all.

You know the song Breaking Up Is Hard to Do? Its like that, Nolen said. Anita doesnt want to go through a lot of shit with Mario, she just wants to cut it off clean. So she hires Jiggs. The piano player thinks her brother sent him and hes not gonna have a tantrum or argue with the brother and get his legs broken, he wasnt that deeply in love. I said to Jiggs, You ever hear the guy play? You gonna break anything break his fingers. But evidently the brother did find out about it and he sent Corky along. You got it now?

Have I got what?

Corky is Corky Corcovado. Hes Dominican, he works for de Boya. But Jiggs, Jiggs you call when you need him.

Not the number on the card he gave me, Moran said.

As a matter of fact, Nolen said, that is his number. But the girl on the switchboard wont admit it if she doesnt know who you are. You call him, you have to be a regular.

Moran thought a moment. She said Dorado Management.

Yeah, its sort of a euphemism. She said Ballbusters Incorporated it wouldve been closer, but that doesnt sound right on the phone, its too graphic.

Moran waited, letting Nolen talk. The guy was onstage.

Dorado either manages or controls all the businesses-the restaurants, the furniture stores, dry cleaners-that were into them for shylock money and couldnt make the payments. Were talking about the wise guys. You understand?

Moran nodded. Yeah, go on.

So Dorado, the wise guys, foreclose and take over the business. All Im saying is things like that go on, you know that, Miamis very heavy into all kinds of shit. It doesnt have anything to do with what were talking about, nothing. Except I want you to appreciate where Jiggs Scullys coming from, his background. Hes like a bill collector. Hes on call. Dorado has an outstanding debt or, say, they believe one of their drug dealers is skimming they call Jiggs and he straightens it out. De Boya is something else entirely. I assume hes been into deals with Dorado Management and thats how he got to know Jiggs. But I dont know anything about the deals and I dont want to know. Forget I even mentioned it.

Moran said, Whatre you getting into?

Im not getting into anything.

You gonna start wearing a black overcoat. Pack a gun?

They dont wear overcoats down here, George. Im telling you whos who, thats all. You want to know who Scully is, Im telling you.

You think hes a nice guy.

I think hes funny, Nolen said. He says funny things. Nolen grinned. He says, Somethings wrong, what they teach you in school. How come, Im an altar boy, I go to mass and communion every morning of my young life, I end up working for the fucking guineas, the fucking spics, carrying their bags?

Thats pretty funny, Moran said.

You have to hear him, the way he says it.

Well, it wouldnt bother me too much I never saw the guy again, Moran said. And if youll excuse me-I want to rest and get cleaned up.

Hey, thats right-how was the trip?

Ill tell you about it later. Moving Nolen to the door.

Yeah, good. You gonna be around?

I dont know yet. I might go out. Practically pushing him through the door.

I want to hear all about it, George. What was your platoon down there? Ass Chaser? You get much this time?

Get out of here, Moran said and closed the door on him.

She had told him her phone number and hed memorized it on the spot. He dialed and waited, standing at the counter, anxious, without a story for the maid or whoever answered. A womans voice with an accent said, Yes, may I help you?

Mrs. de Boya, please.

May I say who is calling?

Shit Tell her Mr. Delaney. When she came on he said, Mary?

She said, Whore you supposed to be, a relative?

Do you have any?

Not around here. Theyre all up in Michigan.

Then Im visiting I miss you already.

I do too. I ache.

Can you talk?

Not comfortably. Hes home.

Where are you?

Im outside on the deck, having a glass of sherry. Im nervous.

I can hear a boat, Moran said. Have you talked to him yet?

I just walked in the door.

I mean have you seen him.

Yeah we said hello. That was about it.

Did you kiss him?

On the cheek.

Im not good on the phone. I miss you.

I miss you more. God, I miss you. Lets go back.

Tomorrow?

Lets meet somewhere.

Ill pick you up.

No, let me think Do you know where Matheson Hammock is, the park?

Yeah, just south of you, on the bay.

Drive out to the point. To the left of where you go into the beach.

I know where it is.

Ill meet you there tomorrow at what time?

Six A.M.

How about noon?

Ill be there.

I love you, George. She hung up.

He had to pace the room a few times before settling down, getting organized. Through the window he could see Nolen sitting by the pool, alone with his beer. The bit actor, part-time private eye who thought Jiggs Scully was funny. Turned on by the guys deadpan involvement with businessmen who hired him to break legs and collect the vig on money owed. Moran moved from the window.

He had all he could handle for the time being. Nolen Tyner would have to look out for himself.

From the sun deck she could see the park and tropical gardens, a peninsula of jungle extending out of the coral shoreline a half mile to the south, where she would meet him tomorrow. The sky, streaked red above the jungle and fading, darkened as her gaze moved east into the ocean, to the faraway Cape Florida light at the tip of Key Biscayne. Looking at the ocean made her feel safer, above suspicion to anyone in the house watching her. Resting after a two-hour flight and the usual airport hassle. Innocent. Though not eager to talk to a husband she hadnt seen in five days. If not innocent at least honest. What was there to talk about? Andres made statements, issued commands, grunted breathed through his nose when he made love, finished and left her bedroom. He might come to her tonight.

On the lawn that extended to the seawall a figure moved out of shadows, a stand of young acacia, crossed open ground to the dock where the de Boya cruiser was moored, then continued on in the direction of the swimming pool, secluded among tropical palms. Day and night armed guards moved about the property: either Corky or one of several serious young Dominicans Andres employed. More security guards than household help: millionaire self-sufficiency and thoroughly modern, from the weapons the Dominicans carried to the video scanner mounted above the front door.

Altagracia, their maid, served dinner: chicken breasts glazed with fruit flamed in brandy by candlelight, the shadow of Altagracia moving across polished wood, soundless. Mary said to her, The next time I go down give me your mothers number and Ill call her. If youd like me to.

Altagracia said, Yes, se~nora. But she dont have a phone.

Mary said, Oh. Altagracia finished serving them and left. We havent made plans to go back, but I thought if we ever did Mary let her voice trail. She raised her eyes to the candlelight, watched for a moment as Andres ate with his shoulders hunched over the table, lowering his head to the fork barely lifted from the plate-the can cutter who had become a general. We had a wonderful time.

She could hear his lips smack. When they were first married she had enjoyed watching him eat, even to the way he sipped his wine with a mouthful of food, sipped and chewed; there was something romantically hardy and robust about it, for a time.

The weather was perfect. A few afternoon showers, but they didnt last. Mary tried hard to remember more about the Dominican weather.

Andres said, That friend of yours, the fat one with hair like a man. I saw her.

It was coming now. Mary sat very still, then made herself reach for the salt. He was watching her now.

You mean Marilyn? She was with us. Bold now, getting it out in the open. When did you see her?

Yesterday. I was going in the club.

Then she told you I was staying an extra day.

She told me nothing about that.

Mary could see his eyes in the candle-glow, age lines making him appear tired, less rigid, the look of vulnerability she had mentioned to Moran. But it was the lighting, she realized now, that softened him, not something from within.

She told me about polo. But she doesnt sound like she ever saw it. She doesnt know who was in the tournament.

Well, I guess what we like, Mary said, is the atmosphere more than anything else. Watching the people. Everybody all slicked up in their polo outfits.

You see anybody you know?

It startled her. He had never asked a question like that before; he had never seemed interested enough.

Philly got us invited to a party at the Santo Domingo Country Club. Mostly embassy people. A few Id met before.

Did you see anybody from here?

Outside of our group? No. I told you, didnt I, I was going with Marilyn, Philly, Liz?

You didnt see-what is his name, he used to belong to the club. The one from your city. He seemed to stare now, as though daring her to say the name.

Who, George Moran? Once she said it she had to keep going. What would he be doing in Santo Domingo?

You said you were at Casa de Campo.

I thought you meant at the embassy party. Then, trying to sound only mildly interested: How do you know he was there?

Andres said, How do I know things. People tell me. Or I want to know something I find it out. He was there the same time you were, but you say you didnt see him.

Mary took a breath, let it out slowly as she picked up her wine. She wanted to begin now, say something that would lead to a confrontation, without involving Moran. She said, Andres but felt Morans presence already here and lost her nerve.

He said, Yes?

She hesitated. Do you know why I stayed an extra day?

Tell me.

I toured Santo Domingo. Saw all the old places.

Yes, did you like it?

My driver told me about the war

Oh? What war is that?

A few years after you left, the revolution.

He seemed in no hurry now as he ate, his eyes heavy lidded in the candle-glow, watching her.

She said, I remember vaguely reading about it, seeing pictures in Life magazine. You were here then, but you must have followed it closely.

I know all those people.

So you mustve leaned toward one side or the other.

Did I lean? Andres said. He held his fork upright, his arms on the table. Do you know the difference between a loyalist and a radical insurrectionist?

Well, the driver explained some of that, but his English wasnt too good.

Or your Spanish wasnt good enough.

Youre right. I shouldnt blame the driver.

You want to know about it, ask your friend George Moran, Andres said, watching her in the candle-glow. He was there with the United States Marines. Didnt he tell you that?

She managed to say, I cant recall he ever mentioned it. Are you sure?

Andres seemed to smile. Why would I say it if Im not sure? The first time I met him, we were playing golf, he told me that. Very proud of himself. I bought a drink for him, because at that time he was on the side of the loyalists. Maybe he didnt know it, but he was. Now I think loyalty doesnt suit him. He believes only in himself.

Mary waited, not moving. She watched Andres raise his glass, a gesture, a mock salute.

Good luck to him. May he become loyal again.



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