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4

ALL OVER THE WORLD, Moran decided, the past was being wiped out by condominiums.

There were condos now on the polo grounds west of the hotel, where Amphibious Task Force helicopters had dropped off Marines from the U.S.S. Boxer, the grounds becoming a staging area for Marine patrols into the city. There were condos and office buildings rising in downtown Santo Domingo with the initials of political parties spray-painted on fresh cement, PRD and PQD; but only a few YANQUIS GO HOME now, on peeling walls out in the country, old graffiti Moran had noticed coming in from the airport.

There were young wives of ballplayers sunning themselves at the hotel pool-where the Marines had set up their water purification tanks-the young wives talking about housing and travel while their husbands, down here to play winter ball, took batting practice and went off for a round of golf.

There were no open fields near the hotel now. The gardens were gone, where the first group of Marines had dug in. The Kentucky Fried Chicken place on the corner of Avenida Washington and Socorro Sanchez was gone. The mahogany trees on the street south of the U.S. embassy were still there; the trees looked the same.

They had gone up this street beneath the arch of trees, wide-eyed in the dark, all the way to Nicolas Penson in a war where the street signs were intact and they found their way with a Texaco road map. In the morning they saw people in the streets, crowds of people lining Washington along the oceanfront, like they were watching a parade. They were-waving at the tanks and amtracs. Even with the FUERA YANQUIS signs painted on houses most of the people seemed glad to see them.

The next day, filing back to the embassy, a Marine walking point was shot dead by a sniper; Item Company, at Checkpoint Charlie north of the embassy, drew heavy fire and soon there were snipers working the whole neighborhood, what was supposed to be the International Safety Zone, using bazookas as well as small arms, even old water-cooled 30s that pounded out a heavy sound and at first were thought to be .50-caliber. The Marines moved crosstown, east, establishing a Line of Communication with the Eighty-second Airborne troopers coming into the city across the Duarte Bridge. The LOC held the rebels cornered in the old section of the city and kept the loyalists from getting at them. But it didnt stop the snipers.

A battalion officer told them, You got your Friendlies and you got your Unfriendlies. He told them most of the snipers were hoodlums, street gangs whod armed themselves when the rebels passed out guns the first day. These people were called tigres but were not trained or organized, not your regular-army rebels. The tigres were out for thrills, playing guns with real ones. So dont fire unless youre fired on. That was a standing order.

Wait a minute. You mean therere rules? Somebody said, Were here, man. Two Marine battalions and four Airborne. Why dont we go downtown and fucking get it done?

The question was never answered. By the end of the first month of occupation nineteen U.S. military had been killed in action, one hundred eleven wounded.

Moran said to his driver today, in the early evening sixteen years later, I have a friend who was here with the Eighty-second, the paratroopers. He believes we could have gone into the rebel area, the old section, and ended the whole thing in about fifteen minutes.

Yes, I believe it, too, the driver said.

You were here?

Yes, I always be here.

What side were you on?

This side. The driver, who was an old black man with Indian cheekbones that looked as though they had been polished, tapped his steering wheel. Three taxicabs ago, the same Number Twenty-four. Chevrolet, but not new like this one. They were in a 76 Chevrolet Impala, Moran in front with the driver, the windows open, Moran now and again smelling wood smoke and the smell would take him back to that time.

You were glad to see the Marines?

Yes, of course. To have peace. I drove pressmens from the United States. Yes, we come to a corner, a street there, we have to go fast or those rebel fellas shoot at you. One time the bullets come in this side where you are, they hit here-he slapped the dashboard-and go out this way past me, out the window. The drivers name was Bienvenido. He was born in 1904 and used to Marines from the United States. He said to Moran, You want to see where Trujillo was killed, yes?

Tomorrow, Moran said.

And the old quarter, Independence Park.

Tomorrow, Moran said. He was silent a moment and then said, Do you know a woman by the name of Luci Palma?

The driver thought about it and shook his head. No, I dont think so. Luci Palma

They followed the drive into the grounds of the Hotel Embajador, past the front lawn where the American civilians had waited with their luggage to be evacuated. Moran said, Will you do something for me?

Yes, of course.

Moran took a piece of notepaper from his shirt pocket and unfolded it. I want this message put in the newspaper. In Listin Diario or El Caribe, I dont care, whichever one you like better. All right? Tell them to put it in a box. You know what I mean? With lines around it. So itll stand out. Okay?

Yes, okay.

In English.

Yes, in English.

Just the way its written here. Okay? See if you can read it. He handed Bienvenido the piece of notepaper with the hand-printed message on it that said:

CAT CHASER

is looking for the girl who once ran over rooftops and tried to kill him.

Call the Hotel Embajador.

Room 537.

Moran waited for the driver to ask him a question. Bienvenido stared at the notepaper, nodding his lips moving.

You understand it?

You want a girl to call you?

The girl I met when I was here, before.

Yes.

Shell recognize Cat Chaser. If she sees it.

Yes.

That was the code name for my platoon. When I was here. I was Cat Chaser Four, but shell know who it is. I mean if shes still here. It didnt seem enough of an explanation and he said, This girl shot at me, she tried to kill me. I dont mean it was anything personal, it was during the war. Then, I was taken prisoner by the rebels and I got a chance to meet her You understand what Im saying?

Bienvenido was nodding again. Yes, I understand. You want this girl. But if you dont find this girl, you want another girl?

Mary de Boya watched Moran enter the lobby. She watched him pick up his key at the desk and cross to the elevators. She was aware of an instant stir of excitement and in her mind, concentrating hard, she said, Look this way. She said, Moran, come on. Quick. Look this way!

The elevator door closed behind him; he was gone.

Maybe she was expecting too much. It was dark in the hotel cocktail lounge. Even if hed looked over he might not have been able to see her. Or their telepathy was rusty.

A few years ago Mary de Boya could stare across the lounge at Leucadendra and make Moran feel her eyes and look at her. Moran could do the same. In the dining room or the club grill she would feel it. Raise her eyes to meet his and something would pass between them. Not a signal, an awareness. They could smile at each other without smiling. Raise eyebrows, almost imperceptibly, and make mutual judgments. Aloud they could make comments removed from reality that would whiz past her husband, his wife, and they would know things about each other that had nothing to do with their backgrounds, both from the same city. That was a coincidence, nothing more. Though it was handy if needed, when Andres drilled her with his secret-police look and wanted to know what theyd been talking about. Detroit. When in fact theyd been talking about nothing in particular, nothing intimate, nothing sane, for that matter, Detroit was the safe answer. We just found out both of our dads worked at Ford Rouge, but George lived on the northwest side and I lived downriver, in Southgate. The look between them had remained harmless. Still, each knew it was there if they wanted to make something of it.

Mary smiled thinking about it now, realizing she missed him.

It didnt seem possible to miss someone you saw only once or twice a week over a period of a few years; but she had continued to picture him and think about him and what she felt now was real. You know when you miss someone.

Before today she hadnt seen Moran since his divorce. Since his father-in-law drummed him out of the club, ripped the crest from his blazer. Mary saw it that way in fantasy, in flashes: Moran standing at attention in his beard and sneakers, expelled for refusing to wear white patent-leather loafers with tassels, and matching white belt. Out. Refusing to talk about real estate, grain futures, tax shelters, more real estate. Out.

She should have jumped up and yelled and run across the lobby. Nine hundred miles from home

Call his room.

An outfielder with the Cincinnati Reds Triple-A farm team came over to where Mary sat at the first table inside the lounge and asked if shed have a drink with him. Good-looking, well built, at least ten years younger than she was. Mary smiled and said, Id love to. Sit down.

Giving her something to do, so she wouldnt have to make an instant decision. For all she knew Moran was meeting someone, a girl

They talked about the World Series in New York and Guerrero, the L.A. Dominican, hitting the home run Sunday, the outfielder telling how everybody in the lounge watching it on TV had practically freaked out, their boy coming through. She flirted with the outfielder a little, because she could see he was taken with her and it made her feel good. The mysterious American woman in expensive casual silk, alone in Santo Domingo. The muscular, curly-haired outfielder sat with his big shoulders hunched over the table eating peanuts one at a time, holding back.

Mary de Boya, at thirty-four, was quite likely the best-looking woman the outfielder had ever seen in real life. Her blond honey-streaked hair fell in soft waves to her shoulders framing delicate features, a fine mist of freckles, startling brown eyes.

She asked the outfielder what it was like to stand at the plate and see a hardball coming at you at ninety miles an hour. The outfielder said it didnt matter how fast it came, you had to stand in there, you couldnt give the pitcher nothing. He said it was the curveballs that were more apt to do you in. Curves low and away. The outfielder asked Mary if she had ever been down here before. She told him a few times, for polo matches at Casa de Campo. He said oh, was that what she was down for this time? Mary paused. She said no, she was meeting her lover. The outfielder said oh

Now Ive got to run, Mary said, and left the outfielder half in, half out of his chair. At the front desk she asked for Mr. Morans room number.

The clerk said, Mr. Moran, and looked it up. Five three seven.

How long is he staying?

The clerk had to look it up again. The twenty-ninth. Four days.

Mary turned partway, paused and turned back to the desk again. I think Id like a room.

Yes, the clerk said, we have a very nice room. Or we have a suite if you like a sitting room, too.

Thats fine, Mary said, though she didnt seem quite sure about something. I dont have my luggage with me. She looked at the clerk now for help. Its at Casa de Campo. If I give them a call, can you send someone to pick it up?

Yes, but its seventy miles there, the clerk said. I dont know how rapidly they can do it.

Do the best you can, Mary said. She filled out the registration card using her maiden name, Mary Delaney, and an address in Miami Beach off the top of her head, committing herself now, beginning to make her move, thinking: If youre meeting someone, Moran, Ill kill her.

The view from Morans room was south, past the swimming pool area directly below and down an abrupt grade to a postcard shot of white colonial buildings and palm trees on the edge of the Caribbean. In this time when dusk was becoming night, color gone from the sky, he could hear voices, words in clear Spanish and bikes whining like lawnmowers: the same distinct, faraway sounds they listened to sixteen years ago in tents on the polo fields. The sounds of people doing what they did despite the other sounds that would come suddenly, the mortar and rocket explosions, five klicks removed from the everyday sounds, off somewhere in the city of Santo Domingo. He didnt like those first days, not trusting the people, not having a feel for the terrain. He studied his Texaco map by flashlight and memorized names of the main streets, drew red circles for checkpoints, Charlie and Delta, the embassy, the Dominican Presidential Palace, the National Police Barracks. Take Bolivar to Independence Park, where burned-out cars blocked intersections, and duck. Beyond this point you could get killed. He liked it once he had a perimeter and was able to tell his fire team what they were doing. None of them had been to war.

He would walk those streets tomorrow and hear the voices again on the field radio Cat Chaser Four, you read? Where the fuck are you? And the girls voice coming in. I know where you are. I see you, Cat Chaser Hey, Cat Chaser, come find me You no good with tigres. All you know how to hunt, you Marines, is pussy. Come find me, Cat Chaser Four, whatever your name is This is Luci signing off.

Luci Palma, the sixteen-year-old girl who gave them fits with an M-1 carbine from World War Two. The girl who ran over rooftops

The room-service waiter came with a bucket of ice that held three bottles of El Presidente beer. Moran signed, gave the waiter a peso and said, Were you here during the revolution?

The waiter didnt seem to understand.

Hace diecis'eis a~nos, Moran said.

Oh, yes, I was here.

What side were you on?

Again the waiter hesitated.

Que lado? Los generales o los rebeldes?

No, I dont fight, the waiter said. I like peace.

No one Ive talked to was in the war, the guerra, Moran said. I wonder who was doing all the shooting.

The phone rang.

I was in Saman'a, the waiter said.

Everybody was in Saman'a, Moran said. Thanks. He walked behind the waiter going to the door and stopped by the nightstand next to the bed. As the phone rang for the fourth time he picked it up.

Hello.

The voice instantly familiar said, Moran? Whatre you doing in Santo Domingo?

He said, I dont believe it. Come on grinning, sitting down on the bed. Whatre you doing here?

I asked you first.

Where are you?

About twenty feet above you. Seven thirty-five.

I dont believe it. He sat up straight and wanted to make his voice sound natural, casual, as he said, Mary? Is Andres with you?

He cant come back here, George. Hes afraid somebodyll shoot him.

Gee, thats too bad. I mean that you couldnt bring him. He heard her giggle. Well, whore you with?

Nobody. Im all alone.

Come on I dont believe it.

Whyre you so amazed?

You kidding? I dont believe this. Im not sure I could even imagine something like this happening.

She said, Are you alone?

Yeah, all by myself.

I mean are you meeting anyone?

No, Im alone. Jesus Christ, am I alone. I dont believe it, Moran said, getting up, having to move around now, excited. You know I recognized your voice right away? Whatre you doing here?

I saw you in the lobby. A little while ago.

Yeah?

If youre not busy, you think we could have a drink?

If Im not busy? Even if I was Listen, Ive got three cold bottles of El Presidente sitting right in front of me, unopened.

She said, Why dont you come up and see me, George? Bring your beer with you.

Right now?

Ill have the door open.

She did, too.

Waited just inside the sitting room for him so that when he appeared in the doorway and entered the short hallway past the bathroom and closet he would have to come to her and she would open her arms Except that he was carrying the ice bucket in front of him with both hands and when she raised her arms he didnt know what to do and they stood there staring at each other, anxious, aching, until she said, Make up your mind, Moran. Are you going to hold the beer or me?

He hurried past her into the sitting room, placed his bucket on the coffee table next to hers that held a bottle of champagne. Now they could do it. Now as he turned she came into his arms like it was the most natural thing in the world, wanting to hold and feel each other close after only looking at one another for all those years and keeping a distance between them, sometimes inches, but always a distance. There. It felt good, better than imagined, and from that moment something more than two old friends meeting. Their mouths came together, unplanned, but this too seemed natural, their mouths seeking, brushing, fitting softly as their bodies relaxed and began to blend

Abruptly, without a flicker, the lights in the room and in the hall went out.

They pulled slightly apart, still holding each other. Moran said very quietly, We mustve blown a fuse. Generated too much electricity.

Id believe it, Mary said, if I hadnt been here before. They run low on power and have to black out parts of the city.

For how long?

I think fifteen or twenty minutes. Didnt you notice a candle in your room?

No Where you going?

To find the candle. I saw it somewhere

I cant see you.

I think its in the bedroom.

He followed the sound of her voice, moving carefully now in total darkness, hands ready in front of him. His shin hit the coffee table and he heard the ice bucket rattle against glass.

Where are you?

Im in the bedroom, Mary said. I think.

He moved in that direction, around the coffee table, and came to a doorway that seemed darker than the dark sitting room. Entering cautiously, a room hed never seen, with nothing to picture from memory, Moran extended his arms like a man sleepwalking. He caught the scent of her perfume, moved a cautious step and felt her hair brush his face. She was between his arms and he closed them around her now, feeling her hands slide up over his ribs.

He said in almost a whisper, You find the candle?

No. It must be in the bathroom.

He said, Do we need it?

He felt her hands, her breath-this slim girl, not as tall as hed remembered her, the image of her across a room. He felt the silky material covering her bare skin, the skin smoothly taut, her body delicate but firm pressing into him, their mouths brushing, finding the right place again, and this time drifting into a dreamlike kind of consciousness, Moran aware but not seeing himself, Mary moving against him, moving him, guiding gently, and Moran knew where they were going, feeling the foot of the bed against his leg and it was all the bearings he needed. They bailed out in the dark and fell into the double bed in the excitement of each other. She said, You dont know how long He said, I know. Barely moving their mouths apart to speak. She said, God, I want you. He said, How do you get this off? He said, Shit, I tore it. She said, I dont care, tear it, pulling his belt apart. He said, Can you wait, just a second? She said, No. He said, I cant either. Jesus. She said, Dont talk. He said, One second and got on his knees and pulled off her sandals and slacks and somehow got out of his pants, pausing then, catching his breath to pull his shirt over his head and when he sank down again into the bed they were naked, with nothing to make them hold back all that longing they could now release. The lights came on as they were making love, a soft bedroom glow that was just enough and could have been cued as Moran said, Oh, man, and had to smile as he saw Mary smiling. Now they could see each other and it wasnt simply an act of their bodies, they were identified to each other, finally where they wanted to be more than anywhere. Morans urge raised him stiff-armed, raised his face to the headboard, to the wall above them and he groaned, letting go that was like, Gaiii-yaaa! and brought Marys eyes open, but she closed them again, murmuring, moving, and remained in iridescent sparkling dark as he came back to her again, winding down, settling.

She felt moisture on his back, his shoulders. She said, Oh, God, as though it might be her last breath. Then opened her eyes to study his face in repose, his eyelashes, his eyelids lightly closed.

She said quietly, Well how have you been?

Not too bad.

Do you always do that? Her words a soft murmur.

What?

I thought you were in pain.

I was, sort of.

You really throw yourself into it.

That was the first time I ever heard myself do that. It just came, so to speak. He opened his eyes. You do an analysis after?

No, but Ive always wondered about you, Mary said. Do you know how many words weve spoken to each other, counting today?

We didnt have to use words. That was the spooky part about it. I always had the feeling we knew each other when we were little. Little kids who played together, then didnt see each other for about thirty years.

Im not that old.

Youre old enough. You know what I mean, Moran said. I dont have to explain anything to you.

No.

Boy, you are really something.

She said, Theres more to it than that, isnt there?

Theres way more, Moran said. I dont mean just in bed. Will you tell me what youre doing here?

I came down with some girls from the club. Polo buffs. Or thats their excuse to get away and party, maybe play a little tennis. Actually they came down yesterday, but I couldnt make it till today.

Moran said, Yeah, I ran into them at the airport. They looked sort of familiar-one of ems name is Philly?

Right, Philly, Marilyn and Liz, my old tennis court buddies.

Moran said, Youre staying here, this place? I dont think its very in.

No, what happened, Mary said, my friends drove in from Casa de Campo to meet me and go to a cocktail party at the Santo Domingo Country Club. Mostly embassy people.

Yeah?

Then I was supposed to drive back to Casa de Campo with them later. The polo matches start tomorrow. Mary paused. But I left the party.

Whyd you come here?

Well, you told Philly you were staying here

Yeah?

I thought Id stop by and say hi.

Moran said, Really? And began to smile. You came to the hotel just to see me?

You want the truth? Mary said. I came to Santo Domingo just to see you.

But you said-

I lied, Mary said. I didnt plan to make the trip. But then Philly called last night to coax me, tell me about the embassy party and happened to mention she saw you at the airport. She said, There, Ive bared my soul to you, Moran.

Its a nice one, Moran said. Im getting excited all over again. But what about the polo matches?

I think polos boring, Mary said. She smiled and he smiled. I sent for my bags. For the time being I dont have any clothes.

Moran said, You dont, huh? Still smiling.


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