At ten o’clock the following morning, the airship Rosalie Morton rose up from the field at O’Hare and made a slow, majestic turn toward the south. She would make a quick trip to Atlanta, arriving just before 2:30 local time. Andrews was seated at his tiny desk in his very small cabin, completing the extensive reports that had to be filed anytime a Science Police agent fired his weapon. A knock at the door brought him to his feet even though the door opened before he had a chance to reach for the handle. Ep!phanee stepped inside. She had to press up against him in order to close the door behind her.
“Hello stranger,” she said.
“Hardly a stranger. We saw each other half an hour ago.”
“Yes but we weren’t alone. I missed you.”
“I missed you too.”
“What’s more, my clownfish misses you.”
Sometime later, after the coral reef dweller in question had renewed his acquaintance, Andrews lay on the small single bunk in his room. Piffy was draped over him like a blanket, her skin separated from his only by a thin layer of perspiration.
“So what is the fascination with sea life—the whole aquatic motif?”
“I like fish and the coral reef. When I’m home on Thatch Cay I go snorkeling almost every day. Sometimes I go spear fishing.”
“Yes, that’s the island we own.” She giggled. “I managed to say that almost like it’s a normal thing—we own an island.”
“You all live there?”
“Well, we all have houses there. Agave Studio is there. Then there’s an old fishing village I had fixed up as the port for our boats. And I had my beach renovated—two hundred barges full of rocks and debris hauled away, the sand sifted, and several rows of palm trees planted back from the shoreline. But until a couple of months ago, I was the only one there besides the caretakers and their families. Steffie and Penny were both in Europe and Ruth was staying with her mother in St. Croix.”
Andrews was quiet for a moment. “Really? Spear fishing?”
“Sure.” She climbed off of him and began putting her clothes back on. “You know that island is why we got back together.”
“Oh, we were all fighting about recordings and copyrights and who was going to be the band’s manager, but when it came to selling our joint assets, Thatch Cay was first on the list and nobody wanted to let go of it. Penny and I got together after not speaking for a couple of years to figure out what to do with it, and we ended up in the studio together.”
“Then the world owes Thatch Cay a debt of gratitude.” He sat up and folded his hands behind his head. “I hope we get a chance to sneak out for dinner tonight or maybe tomorrow. I hear they have a very famous hotdog restaurant in Atlanta.”
“That’s not going to be possible I’m afraid.” Now dressed in her tee shirt and mini skirt, Piffy wobbled like a stilt walker as she put her feet into her platform sandals. “We have some planning to do for the show this evening, and I want you to spend tomorrow with Ruth.”
“She’s nice. She’s pretty.”
“I know she’s nice. She’s famous for being ‘the nice one’, and I think she’s beautiful. But we’re hitting it off so well, I thought we could spend some time together.”
“We are hitting it off and we’ll spend more time together, but if I have a man it’s just not right that I don’t share him with my best friends. It’s not like we come across men every day.”
“There are men… around,” he sputtered. “What are you going to do, loan me out like one of your guitars?”
“Don’t be stupid. I wouldn’t loan Ruth my guitar… maybe my Dreadful, but not my Rickenbacker. Anyway, she can’t play guitar for shit. Besides, you should be loving this. Men are supposed to be like that. You all make your monthly donations willingly enough don’t you? You’re supposed to be… what’s that word that you are?”
“Horny. That’s it.”
“You have no idea what men are like, do you?”
“I’ve seen men before, though I admit I haven’t really gotten to know one until now.”
“Not even your father?”
“I didn’t have a father. My mother ordered her genetic sample from the Science Council.” She stopped and stared at him, eyes and mouth wide open. “Oh shit. Oh shit.”
“Relax. I’m thirty-five.”
She stared uncomprehendingly.
“I’m too young to be your father.”
“Oh my God,” she let out the breath she had been holding and put her hand over her heart. “What a scare. I guess Ruth doesn’t have to worry about that. Penny doesn’t either, though that’s just the kind of kink she’d probably enjoy.”
“So you want me to go out and have sex with your friends?”
“Only if you hit it off. If you don’t click, then no problem. Unlike most women, they can afford to fly south and find their own man. And just Ruth and Penny—not Steffie. She had her own man and the bitch never once offered to share him with me. Well, all right. Maybe Steffie too. We’re kind of a package deal. You understand how the world works, don’t you? There just aren’t enough men for us not to share. You can’t just date one girl, no matter how much I would like to have you all to myself.”