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The Printer spits – It’s covered –

The printer spits out a photo of Ysabel, head and shoulders before an empty blue background, her dark hair swept back, pinned up out of her vaguely smiling face. “See?” says the fat man, leaning over the foot of the rumpled double bed to pluck up the photo. He settles back by the laptop near the pillows, handing the photo to Jo. “No red eye. Light’s too bright. Focus off just enough. That’s some quality DMV shit.” His T-shirt has a grainy picture of a graveyard on it. We have found a new home for the rich, it says. It’s hard to tell where his thin beard ends and his scraggly hair begins.

“It’s supposed to say Oregon,” says Jo.

“It will,” says the fat man with the scraggly hair. “It’ll be smaller, too, and printed on a card.” He pats the laptop, scratched silver and snarled in cables dangling off the sides and the end of the bed. “I’ve got a killer template set up for this. That’s a six-jet printer. Not four colors – six. Won’t pass a UV scanner, but it’ll fool any pair of naked eyeballs in the state. All I have to do is plug in the pretty.” He leans back against the pillows, smiling. “Which I do when you show me the cheddar.” He tilts his head, looks past Jo. “We’re done with the camera, baby. Come over here, make yourself comfortable. Or there.” He’s pointing to the other double bed. The coverlet’s been pulled off. It’s hanging over the window at the front of the room. A tall guy’s lying on his belly on the white sheets, his bare feet sticking off the edge of the bed. “Don’t mind Abe,” says the fat man with the scraggly hair. “He’s only sleeping.”

“I’m fine,” says Ysabel, undoing her hair. She’s sitting on a low stool over in the corner, lit up by a harsh light on a tripod. A big piece of blue paper tacked to the door behind her.

“Suit yourself,” says the fat man with the scraggly hair. “That ain’t a wallet,” he says to Jo. She’s handing him the photo. “I don’t need to fool any pair of eyeballs in the state,” she says. “I told you. I just need a cheap-ass license and a social that can fool a crappy copy machine.”

“I get it,” he says. “An I-9.” He tilts his head to smile at Ysabel again. “You illegal, baby? Where you from, Canada?”

“It’s neighbor shit,” says the girl with the floppy mohawk.

She’s sitting on the counter at the back of the room, between the two sinks. Her hooded sweatshirt’s grey, the sleeves hacked off at the shoulders. She’s playing with an empty orange prescription bottle. The sink to her right is full of them, all empty. “Shut up, Mel,” says the fat man.

Mel shrugs. “It’s that shit a couple weeks ago. She’s the one we’s supposed to watch out for, with the hair.” Pointing at Jo. “And she’s the, I don’t know.” Pointing at Ysabel. “Queen of all a them that’s in it, or whatever.”

“Do not start that neighbor bullshit with me,” says the fat man.

“Okay,” says Mel. “But Hib wakes up screaming ever since, and nobody’s seen Christian.” She’s not looking up from the prescription bottle turning over in her hands. “Not since. And you know what they did to Popgun, just up back of the Denny’s.”

“Christian?” says Jo, but the fat man’s saying, “No, Mel, nobody knows who did what the fuck to Popgun, and I do not want to hear this gutterpunk neighbors and vampires and angel-fucking aliens from out of my hairy ass bullshit. Okay?” He’s smiling up at Jo again. “Now. We gonna do business? ’Cause I have other obligations.”

“Business,” says Jo, running a hand through her hair, short and blond and brown at the roots, black tufts lying against it here and there. “Yeah. Like you said, Timmo, it’s an I-9. So she can get paid.” Ysabel’s frowning at her nails. “But until she gets the paycheck – ”

“Not my problem,” he’s saying, shaking his head.

“End of the month, you get paid.”

“Then that’s when you get the ID.”

“Timmo, please, I – ”

“Credit? Dead it.” He leans back on the pillows, hands behind his head. “Especially not for former clientele.”

“I,” says Jo. “We really need this. Please.”

“I tell you what,” he says, tilting his head, looking past Jo. “Baby.” Ysabel on the stool in her tight denim shorts, her white blouse knotted over a yellow tank top. “Sweetheart.” She looks up at that. “How about we clear the room,” he says. “Just you and me. Strictly photography. Whatever you’re comfortable with, but I bet you can convince me to bend the sixth commandment just this once.”

“Oh, hell no,” says Jo.

“What are you, her mouth?” says Timmo. An orange prescription bottle bounces off his head. “Hey!” He bats another one out of the air. “Goddammit, Mel!”

“You,” she’s saying, laughing, “you are such a fucking skeeveball,” scooping up bottle after bottle from the sink. “Mel, you goddamn tweak,” Timmo’s saying as he scoots down to the end of the bed. A bottle hits the coverlet hanging over the window with a soft thump. Jo ducks one. Another one hits the mirror over the dresser and Abe jerks at the clack, drawing in one long bubbling snore. Mel freezes, arm cocked. Timmo sits there at the end of the bed, glaring. Ysabel stands up.

Jo, straightening, watches Ysabel work a hand into her front pocket. “I think,” says Ysabel, pulling out a couple of bills folded between her index and middle fingers, Jo opening her mouth to say something and closing it again, “this should cover it?” Holding the money out to Timmo, his bare feet dangling over the printer.

He sighs. Takes the money. “You got it, beautiful,” he says. Rolling over. Grabbing the laptop.

“Be sure you spend it all in one place,” says Ysabel. “On something terribly impractical.”

The little man walks right into the closed door of the pickup truck and bounces back, arms waving, head wobbling. Grimacing. His teeth are very long and snag the dim streetlight, the blue-white shine from the sign on the corner: Shilo Inn. Affordable excellence. Roland catches him by his collar and his arm. “Well?” he says, leaning in close to the little man’s ear. It twitches. “Bedamned if I know,” says the little man.

Roland shoves, and the little man bounces off the pickup truck again. As he staggers back, Roland grabs him by his shirt and lifts him off the ground with one hand. The other’s holding his sword. The sleeve of his silver tracksuit rent to ribbons. “Tell her, Cearb,” says Roland, and he sets the tip of his sword against the little man’s belly. “Tell your loathly lady the Chariot still guards the Bride.” Leaning into a thrust, he pulls the little man choking down the blade. Across the lot in the crook of the motel’s elbow the door to room 109 opens. Jo steps out, followed by Ysabel. Cearb reaches out a hand his mouth working and Roland hauls him down behind the big beige box that hides the motel’s dumpster, kneeling there, his blade still deep in Cearb’s belly. Roland’s sunglasses are broken, one yellow lens missing. The headphones around his neck askew, an earpiece broken loose.

“How much?” Jo’s saying, working a pack of cigarettes out of the pocket of her workpants.

“How much?” says Ysabel.

Jo stops short. “You know what the fuck I’m talking about and you knew I was going to ask you the fucking question the minute you pulled it out so I wish to God you would for once just give me a straight fucking answer.”

“Nothing, Jo.”

“Nothing what?”

“I have no money. As you well know. I told you the very first day.”

Jo looks away. “So you just.” She frowns.

“I gave him – ”

“Shut up,” says Jo. She grabs Ysabel’s arm, the pack of cigarettes forgotten in her other hand. Starts walking along the motel’s portico, lighted doors to the left, dark lot to the right. “Just shut up. Don’t say a word.”

There’s a crunch out there behind the big wood box that hides the motel’s dumpster. “What?” says Jo. Stopping. “What was that?”

“It’s quiet,” says Ysabel. The red light of the sign across the street. Red Lion Hotel. Welcome Boomers.

“I just heard,” says Jo.

“It’s quiet,” says Ysabel. “It’s all gone quiet. There’s someone here.”


“We shouldn’t have come,” says Ysabel. “Not up here. Not this soon.”

“Timmo doesn’t exactly have an office downtown,” says Jo. “He ever finds out,” she’s looking back at the motel room, “you’re the one that stiffed him.” She shakes her head. “He’s a fuck of a lot more dangerous than anything you’re worried about.”

Behind the dumpster box, Roland’s working his sword free, slowly. “Gallowglas,” wheezes the little man.

Roland nods. “Be glad, Cearb,” he whispers, and the he catches the hand that’s grabbed his wrist and pries it open. “Fair and square,” he says, “you’re out of it. Fair and square.” With a sigh and a slump, Cearb lets his hand fall. “Be glad,” says Roland, “I didn’t call her over to join the fray.”

Cearb smiles around those teeth.

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The Ten Crack Commandments” written by the Notorious B.I.G., copyright holder unknown.