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NOLEN AND RAFI HAD BEEN DRINKING the better part of two days and were both drunk when Moran found them in the early evening. Nolen was keeping it going. Moran saw it right away: Nolen had to stay up there because if he came down now hed crash and burn.

They were having a private party in oceanfront Number One with scotch and rum, Coke cans, a bowl of watery ice and potato chips on the coffee table and the smell of marijuana in the room. There was no sign of Loret. They were wound-up drunk: Nolen bare to the waist, stoop-shouldered skin and bones, his slack cheeks sucked in on a joint; Rafi wearing a scarf rolled and tied as a headband, the ends hanging to his chest, his sporty Dominican shirt open all the way. Nolen was calling him Ch'e.

You meet Ch'e? George, shake hands with Ch'e Amado, one of your premier fanatics, brought here by special request to combat the toadies of oligarchic imperialism, but dont ask me what it means.

You didn know that, Rafi said to Moran. Rafi sat slumped in a plastic chair, feet extended in glistening, patent-leather zip-up boots. You think I come here to bite you for money. It work pretty good, didn it? I had you fool.

You had me fool, all right, Moran said. I thought you were just a pimp. Which one of you did the job on the boat dock?

That was him, Rafi said, hes the powerman. He squinted up at Moran and said, What did you say before it?

Thats powderman, Nolen said, in the trade, and gave Moran a sly look. I hear were in business. Is that right? I heard it from a certain party, but Id rather hear it from you Where you going?

Moran got a glass from the kitchen and came back to sit at the opposite end of the sofa from Nolen. He poured himself a scotch; he would probably need it.

Youre over your head, Moran said. He drank the scotch and poured another one.

Nolen was grinning. So what else is new?

Stick to acting.

Its what Im doing, man. Whats the difference?

Aw shit, Moran thought.

He wondered why hed ever had a good feeling about Nolen, why hed been comfortable with him and went for that grunts together, old war buddies grinning their way through life bullshit; he wasnt anything like Nolen. Nolen was pathetic trying hard to be tragic and any more of him, Moran knew, would be a bigger pain in the ass than he could bear. He wanted to hear about it though, what they were into. He would hardly have to encourage them and it would come sliding out of their mouths with alcohol fumes.

Whatd you use, Moran said to Nolen, on the boat dock?

Nolen said, On the dock? focusing his eyes. I was gonna go with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, little dynamite, and light up the sky. But if these peoplere suppose to be pros, I thought no, you gotta go with a nonhydroscopic plastique, you dig? Slip in there in a Donzi, half-speed all the way. Me and my shipmate, this spic that steared-excuse me, Ch'e-guy was wearing sunglasses at night. You head due south from near Dinner Key where we launched till you get the Cape Florida light off your port bow, then hang a right and there you are. Drift in Ive already run the det-cord through the blocks, they got adhesive backing on em now, stick em flat under the boards but use a linear-shape charge on the pilings so itll cut em off clean. Twelve pounds of plastique, couldve done the house. Im scared of timers, so we drifted down by Matheson Hammock and I blew it remote control. Nolen made an elaborate exploding sound on the roof of his mouth with his jaw clenched. The docks gone.

Moran said, impressed, You remember all that from your paratrooper days?

No, I did a bit in A Bridge Too Far and hung around with the special effects guys. Its all make-believe, George.

Whatd you blow it for?

Show him somebody means business.

Who did the lettering?

Ch'e. Right, Ch'e?

De nada, Rafi said.

Dont put yourself down, Nolen said. You did it, man. Our silent partner goes, Whats he gonna write? I told him dont worry about a thing, this mans been writing on walls all his life, fuera or muerte to whoever happens to be around that pisses him off. The mans ace of the spray paint. You see his work?

Your silent partner, Moran said. Who you talking about, Scully?

Moran saw Nolens fuzzed gaze shift to Rafi and return to stare at him. Nolen shook his head from side to side. The drunk being secretive. But Rafi was even drunker and didnt notice; he was eating his ice. Nolen pulled himself out of the sofa, took Rafis glass from him-Rafi still holding his hand up, cupped-fixed another rum and Coke and put the glass back in Rafis hand. Nolen stumbled sitting down. They were both in bad shape.

Moran could not see Jiggs Scully bringing these two into the game. Unless he had a special use for them.

Were gonna publicize Mr. de Boyas past sins, Nolen said and gave Moran a stage wink, obvious enough to be seen in the back row, unless he comes across with a generous piece of change Isnt that right, Ch'e?

Less he pays, Rafi said.

Tell George what the man did, Nolen said, when he was in charge down there.

What he did? Rafi said. He was the head of the Cascos Blancos, he sent out the death squads to get people he dont like or people who talk against Trujillo. He take them to La Cuarenta in Santo Domingo for the torture. Sometime he take them to Kilometer Nueve, the army torture place at San Isidro.

Tell him what de Boya did to people, Nolen said.

Well, Rafi said, he like to sew the eyelids to the eyebrows and put them in a light. He like to beat them with Louisville Sluggers. He like to put acid on them sometimes. He like to castrate people. He like to take the nipples and pull them out and cut them off with scissors.

Moran said, Is that what happened to you?

No, no, he do that to girls. Cut the nipples off. Men he cut everything off with-how do you say it, these big tijeras?

Shears, Nolen said.

Yeah, chears. Cut off your business with them. I had a uncle that happen to. Then when General de Boya finish with them he have them killed and thrown from the cliff into the sea to be eaten by the sharks. You want to find out what happen to somebody, you ask, nobody knows. They say hes gone to Boca Chica to visit the tiburones, the sharks. Or sometime to Monte Cristi. That was twenty years ago-the sharks still come looking for General de Boya to feed them. He like to put ants on people, too.

Rafi rolled his eyes back.

I dont like to think about it.

Have a drink, Nolen said. The answer to most things.

Rafi took a drink. I dont feel so good. Maybe I go lie down; Im feeling tired. He stood up unsteadily, spilling some of his drink.

Moran watched him. He wanted to get up but didnt have the energy; the scene was depressing. He watched Rafi shuffle into the bedroom, Nolen calling after him, Dont throw up on the floor, Ch'e. You hear? Go in the ba~no.

He said to Moran, I dont know what it is about them, partner, those people just dont hold the juice.

Moran watched Nolen pour himself another scotch.

Whatre you gonna use him for?

Hes our spray painter, man. You see his work?

But he doesnt know Scully.

Jiggs wants to see how he works out first. So I told Rafi we got a guy on the inside, but he doesnt want his identity known just yet.

I dont imagine he would, Moran said. All right, whats the deal? Whatre you going after?

Jiggs says he told you.

Come on, this isnt your kind of a thing.

Is that right? Tell me what Im saving myself for. Its the best part Ive read for in ten years. Shit, I dont even have to act tough.

Hes using you, Moran said.

Jesus, I hope so. I need to be used, man.

You know what he asked me to do?

I sent you to him, didnt I, for the interview?

Come on-you know what he wants?

Yeah, he wants you to ask your lady where her husband hides his cash. Whats hard about that? Shit, call her up right now.

Jesus Christ, Moran said. He drank down his scotch and sat back. How does he know Hey, you listening?

Yeah, Im listening. What?

How does Jiggs know she wont tell her husband whats going on? How does he know I wont tell him?

Well, shit, Nolen said, because I told Jiggs youre my bud, we see eye to eye. I said sure, Georges the old Cat Chaser, we served down in the D.R., man. I told him it was me almost put out your lights with the one-oh-six and Jiggs got a kick out of that. He sees the humor in life, everybody busting their ass trying to score off each other. I told you hes a funny guy and I was right, huh?

Yeah, hes funny, Moran said. But I still dont understand. Why would he trust me? Tell me a story like that?

I just told you. And you want the husband out of the way, dont you? Jesus Christ, or else I came in late and missed something.

Look, Moran said, trying to keep Nolens attention. You listening to me?

Yeah, Im listening. Pinching the roach, sucking his cheeks in with a sound like the north wind.

Im not in it, Moran said.

What happened? Nolen grunting the words as he held his breath. You change your mind? Theres nothing to be scared of.

I never was in.

Nolen expelled smoke in a long sigh. Well, Jiggs says you gave him a hell of an idea. He told me. Make the man run and head him off at the pass. I said to Jiggs, I told you hes good, hes a fighting leatherneck. Jiggs says he didnt think much of the idea at first, frankly, cause what if the man took off in his boat? Jiggs doesnt like to have anything to do with boats. He goes, I dont want no parts of them fuckers. He gets seasick he goes out. But then, hey, with the dock gone the man cant bring his boat in, can he? He runs, hes got to go by car. And when he does, Jiggs says hell be way ahead of him He likes you, Nolen said.

Aw shit. Moran felt heavy, out of shape, and the scotch wasnt helping at all. He said, Nolen?


Im not in. I didnt give Jiggs anything. You understand? What hes doing, hes using you. I dont know for what, but when hes through hell dump you. He cant afford not to.

We made a pact, Nolen said. Us against them.

Moran tried again. He said, You told me who he works for, what he does for a living, right? He leans on people. He breaks their bones. Isnt that right? Thats what you told me.

He used to.

Okay. But does he sound like the kind of guy you can trust? You can put your life in his hands?

Jiggs says were his kind, Nolen said. Hes sick and tired of the guineas and the spics raking it in, taking everything, guys like de Boya sitting on top. Look at the guy. Hes a fucking death squad all by himself. And hes married to your lady. What more like incentive you want, for Christ sake?

Dont call her my lady, all right?

What should I call her?

It annoyed him, my lady. He never liked the expression; but that was something else. Think a minute, Moran said. What if somebody else put Jiggs up to this and hes playing a game with you?

Thats it, man, a game. Nolen was half-listening. Its us against them. Shirts against the skins, man. Theyre swarthy fuckers, but they got white legs if you know what that means on the basketball court can figure it out. He gave Moran a feeble grin. Then came alive again. Well get little Loret some pom-poms, shell be the cheerleader. Muerte a de Boya, Fight! The old locomotive. M-U, M-U, M-U-E-R; T-E, T-E What do you think? Get her a short little red and white pleated skirt

Wheres Loret?

Jesus, thats right. She hooked up with some guy at the Fontainebleu, guy in the lounge smoking a cigar. She gives him the eye, says excuse me, going to take a leak and I havent seen her since. I know, you told me. But dont say it, all right? I hate guys like that. Have to rub it in.

Moran said, What am I gonna have to do to get you to understand something? You dumb shit.

Nolen grinned, eyes out of focus. He held up the dirty stub pinched between his fingers. How bout a smoke? Good stuff.

It makes me hear tires squeal when Im barely moving, Moran said. No, thisll do me. He raised his glass. Like its doing you in. I dont want to sound preachy-

Then dont.

But I got to tell you. Youre in a no-win situation. The best you can get out of this if youre lucky, I mean if you come out alive, would be something like fifteen to twenty-five at Raiford. Hard time.

Dont sweat it, Nolen said. Im having fun.

Moran stared at him before easing back in the sofa. All right then. Okay

He was tired.

He saw Mary in his mind, in the room in the University Inn, her hands between her legs on the chair cushion and could see the line of her thighs beneath the tan skirt. He saw her looking at him with her look of quiet awareness, waiting. What did he need to talk to this shithead for?

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