When they returned to the house, Lexi told Dobie and Victor she was going to have a bath and go to bed early. Having been in the car with her smoldering mood all the way back from Hamilton, neither Dobie nor Victor challenged her.
Dobie let Lexi go to bed. She clearly didn’t want to be drawn out, and he was similarly in no mood to play games with her tonight. The house was big enough that he wouldn’t see her for the rest of the night. She would no doubt cry herself to sleep yet again, something he could have Victor confirm if he wanted to. He doubted that he would.
For the moment, there was nothing he could think to do but pace his office restlessly. As he had many times in the past, Victor proved his mettle as a friend by staying awake with him. “I don’t like being made an example of,” Dobie said needlessly. It was four-thirty in the morning. He had almost worn a path in the antique Persian rug on the floor.
Victor nodded. He had taken his customary seat in the chair nearest the door, and had only moved to get drinks for both of them.
“There’s just no time to transport the cars out of the country,” Dobie continued. “Not without attracting a lot of attention, and I’m sure the Greens would happily jump on me publicly for it.”
“They’ve got a win-win situation,” Victor said. “You try to run, you’re unfriendly to the government and afraid of them. You let them inspect, you may lose some cars.”
“Some. Jesus Christ, Victor, I’ll lose most of them!”
“What’s the loss?”
“I don’t know. I can’t very well call Lars this time of night and ask him for an estimate, can I?” Lars was Dobie’s automotive consultant, and would know the net worth of the collection almost off the top of his head. He had advised about seventy percent of Dobie’s purchases and sales for the past eight years. “He’ll also want to know what’s going on, and I don’t want to tell him.” Dobie paced some more, restless and annoyed. “You don’t think there’s any way I can cache some of the most significant cars? I’m sure I can find garages.”
“The Ravens will find them,” Victor said, referring to Ile du Soleil’s intelligence agents. “And then they’ll be able to trump up an honest charge against you. It probably won’t go anywhere but you’ll be exposed in the least convenient way possible.”
“Do you really think we’re under surveillance?”
“For the next few days, no doubt. Remember Rhoades has always been in bed with Carroll Carver.” Carver was the Ravens’ chief officer.
Dobie swore and sat at his desk. He tapped the computer’s mouse, waking the screen. He had new e-mail, but he didn’t look at it. A few minutes of staring blindly at the screen resulted in no new ideas that could fix the situation. Victor had nothing to add, either.
Lexi had changed her mind about going to bed halfway up the steps. It was only nine-thirty, and she didn’t want to be in for the night. It wasn’t time to sleep. Lexi lay awake on the tacky, idiotic, decadent round bed. She suddenly had no idea why she’d chosen this room, which looked not unlike a boudoir as imagined by Mister Roarke, sans Polynesian midget of course. It had seemed amusing a few days ago, but just right now she hated it.
That didn’t mean squat though, because she was on her way to hating everything. There was a wave of grief and anger eating at the back of her throat so big she felt like if she closed her eyes she might just fall into her own head and never find her way out again. “I have to move, Mally,” she told the cat sitting on her chest. “I can’t lie here all night.”
She got out of bed and got dressed, and she wore what she felt; a longish skirt that had started life as a pair of blood-red camouflage pants, a mesh shirt over a stylish black bra, and incongruously chirpy All-Stars, one black and one red. Serious makeup would have taken too long (and been too contrived) so she put on just enough dark lipstick to matter and ratted her hair. Lexi looked at herself in the mirror. Better. She turned around to call Ren and ask him what he thought, then remembered he was dead, and choked back a noise in her throat that she wouldn’t have been able to control, if it had gotten out. She looked at herself in the mirror again, decided he would have approved, and that calmed her down somewhat.
The house was quiet; Dobie had announced an early conference call for tomorrow morning, and disappeared off into his half of the house. There were still servants about, making quiet preparations for tomorrow, but when the master of the house turned in for the night, everyone seemed to disappear.
She knew where all of the car keys were now, thanks to Joseph, and the garage attendant’s obsessive neatness meant that they were all neatly hung and clearly marked. Unfortunately she wasn’t in the mood to drive something ostentatious–a problem, since that was about all that the stupid billionare owned. She’d thought that out of two hundred cars, he’d have one that wasn’t a penis-stretcher, but was hard pressed to find one that was still new enough to drive legally. Growing more annoyed and impatient as she searched both her memory and the car list, Lexi finally grabbed the keys to a BMW M5 and headed to the garage. If memory served, the car was black with a demure silver stripe on the rockers, and that was about as nondescript as she was going to get. She’d have to keep her speed down, though. When she was in a bad mood, she drove faster. Grizzle would have been perfect. It was a good night for a nice slow truck, not a 160-mph sedan, but one took what one had at hand.
Lexi drove into Marjori, and found the club by scent. Actually that wasn’t true, she wasn’t sure how she found it exactly. She was by no means familiar with the town, and just drove until she felt like she was where she wanted to be, for whatever reason. It wasn’t a clubby area, it was a block of condos actually, but Lexi saw leather jackets, spiky hair and vinyl miniskirts going into a glass door with neon inside, and parked the car.
She didn’t see the name of the place, and the bouncer at the door didn’t charge her a cover. Metal stairs went up behind him, and she followed them up, two, three floors. The music was loud, and familiar in a good way; harsh electronic noise was what she needed to hear, and she hadn’t even realized it until it hit her ears. Lexi prowled the club, making a circuit of the dance floor, which was empty (it was only eleven, after all) and then looking into all of the club’s nooks and crannies and booths. She climbed all of the stairs, and walked along the empty stage with its stripper poles at either end. She knew she was acting like a cat, and didn’t give a flying fuck. She knew there were two guys at the bar checking her out, and she didn’t give a flying fuck about them, either.
The dance floor was wood. It had been a long time since she’d danced in public, years even, but the wood floor reminded her of the floor at home, and she stepped out onto it. A bright green laser light rotated around her feet then flirted away, toying with her. Lexi didn’t hesitate, she just let the motion come. She knew she needed to move and so she did, skeining her tennie-clad foot along an imaginary line on the floor and daring, just daring the angry-snake inside of her to try and break free. She could feel it inside of her, and it had been taunted and teased too much for one day.
The throb of the bass drew it out, and she closed her eyes, her feet sketching increasingly complicated patterns on the floor, her hands and arms following their own rules. She stood on one foot and froze that way when the music told her to. She hadn’t heard “Hallucination Generation” in a long time but she knew the rhythm would stop and sure enough it did, and she yelled, “Go on, do it, bastard!” when the song did. “I’m sick of this shit!” The words weren’t hers but they felt like they were; Lexi’s fists were clenched and the smoke machine was making her throat hurt and people were looking at her. Good. Fine. Great. She was unfamiliar, she’d never been here before and the people who came her all the time knew she was a newbie, an outsider. What they didn’t know was why she wasn’t the least bit intimidated by them. They didn’t realize that she didn’t have a goddamn thing left to lose in this world (which wasn’t a hundred percent true, she knew, but she felt that way tonight) and she had come to revel in that fact, to celebrate it, to try and ride with the grief and let it take over and give it so much of what it wanted that maybe just maybe it would overload and go away once and for all. Lexi thought of Ren, pictured him in her head like she hadn’t allowed herself to do in the ten months since he’d died, imagined him watching her, imagined him up in the goddamn DJ booth choosing the music and looking down at her, and she danced for him.
The music got harder, but it couldn’t shake her off. The dance floor filled up a little, but they didn’t encroach on her space. Lexi had commandeered a quarter of the floor for herself, caroming off of the rails like pinball bumpers and hopscotching left to right and back, arms and hair flying, and the people walking past weren’t sure if she’d run into them or not (she wouldn’t; the last thing she wanted to do tonight was touch another human being) so they stayed away. Good. Her neck and shoulders began to hurt, and her right leg ached around the rod in the bone, too. Lexi didn’t let up, ignored the pain in fact. She’d felt worse. If she danced until an ACL exploded and she had to be carried out on a stretcher, so be it. She didn’t care, she had to move. The music had her, and it was the safest place to be now.
The songs rolled out of the speakers on three sides of her, rolled right over her, and she ran with them, one after another. It didn’t matter if she’d heard them before or not any more. The music told her what to do. “I’m the white rabbit,” she said, the words lost under the sound from the speakers and an amplified voice saying the same thing.
It went on for an hour. For two, and then it began to subside. Lexi could feel the ocean inside of her begin to calm down. It wasn’t an eye-of-the-hurricane kind of exhausted calm, either. The potential had spent itself, for today. Oh, she could still feel the angry-snake down there, back in its hole, but it didn’t want to move any more, didn’t want to lash out. She let the music bring her back down, gently, ignoring the ultra-heavy beat and curling her feet with the delicate rhythm buried behind it instead. The motion ran itself slowly down. She needed to eat. Her hands were shaking. It was no longer time to be here, so she headed for the door.
Partway down the steps, she heard jingling. A guy had followed her; the sound was his keys and the chains on his belt. He was dressed all in black, par for the course, and he had a Front 242 shirt that looked old enough to be an antique. She recognized him as one of the guys who’d been checking her out on and off all night. “Hey,” he said. “I saw you dancing. You’re fantastic. I think you were easily the best dancer here tonight.”
She gave him a small, noncommittal smile. Lexi didn’t want to talk to him, or to anyone, but there was no reason to be rude, either. She said, “Thanks,” and slowed her pace down the steps but didn’t stop.
She nodded. The guy caught up, and paced her down the steps, already closer than she wanted him to be.
“Are you in Solei on vacation, or living here?”
“Does it matter?” she asked as they reached the bottom of the steps. The bouncer who had let her in told her to have a good night, and she tossed a little smile of acknowledgement over her shoulder at him.
“I just wondered. Listen,” he said, putting his hand on her elbow, “have you ever danced professionally? Done any video?”
“Don’t want to,” she said, her voice clipped.
He didn’t realize she was talking about more than just dancing. “Why not? You could make a little extra money.” His smile was still supposed to be charming, but it wasn’t any more.
She resisted the urge to show him the BMW’s keys, and kept walking, but he stepped in front of her to slow her down. It was past one, and there weren’t many people about. Lexi looked quickly left and right, and the guy seemed to realize he was crowding her too much. “No, no, wait, I’m sorry,” he said, holding up both hands a respectful distance from her. “I’m not trying to cosh you or pressure you in any way, I just wanted to talk. I’m harmless, really.”
“I’m sure you are, but it really doesn’t matter.”
It started coming out of her mouth almost before she was aware of it. “Well shone, Moon,” Lexi said, loudly and suddenly. She leaned forward to whisper in the guy’s ear, forcing her way in to his space and making him recoil a bit in surprise. “Asleep, my love? What, dead, my dove? O Pyramus, arise!” She leaned back a little, raising her voice again. She had no idea what she was doing exactly, but went with it. He was confused and uncertain, the practiced charming smile dead on his lips, and that was gratifying as hell. “Speak, speak! Quite dumb? Dead, dead? A tomb must cover thy sweet eyes. These lily lips, this cherry nose, these yellow cowslip cheeks,” she yelled even louder. “Are gone, are gone! Lovers, make moan; his eyes were green as leeks.” A couple on the opposite side of the street had stopped on their way toward the club and was staring. “O Sisters Three, come, come to me, with hands as pale as milk! Lay them in gore, since you have shore, with shears his thread of silk!” She stepped forward and put a hand on the guy’s chest. He opened his mouth to say something, an attempt to extricate himself judging by the look on his face, but she didn’t care what it was and didn’t let him get it out. She held her other arm out to the side, cradling an invisible knife. “Tongue, not a word! Come, trusty sword, come blade, my breast imbrue! AAAGH!” She pantomimed stabbing herself in the chest, let out a throaty scream and convulsed. “And farewell, friends. Thus Thisby ends! Adieu! Adieu! Adieu!” Lexi hurled herself backward onto the sidewalk, tumbling into a pratfall that looked incredibly painful but wasn’t particularly. Now fuck off, she thought, and was rewarded with the sound of retreating footsteps.