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The drive was long and tiring – he remembered that much. Images of a semi-crowded bar entered his battered mind, resonating in temporary isolation. Judging from the taste in his mouth and the filth between his teeth, he had consumed a lot but soon spilled his investment. As Baxter’s eyes cranked open, he saw a blurry ceiling fan, then a room, then two beds, and finally the crumbled bedsheets. Baxter was in one of these beds, however it was apparent that both beds had taken quite a beating recently. He was in a hotel room, and he was fairly certain that he was in New Orleans. As he sat up against the plywood head of the bed the room started turning and Baxter jumped to the bathroom. While hanging over the toilet in what was momentary peace, more of the night entered his mind. He had walked to his hotel with a girl, constantly holding her up, at times sitting down and leaning against walls to make out. But the face was a blur. He remembered the distinct peaking curves of her breasts and the arch of her slender belly, both artfully set against the penetrating orange glow of the city’s night-lights. He felt warm. Wanted. He remembered talking to her, charming her with his stories. Bragging about the money.

Fuck.

He had told her.

And now she was gone.

The high noon sunlight painfully whited out the parking lot; the outside air was hot and pregnant with moisture, creating only a slight contrast with Baxter’s greasy self. While he was unable to remember where he had parked, he should have been able to find his car in the lot. But he couldn’t. The car, which contained the $40,000, his gun, his clothes, his belongings from the apartment and his papers was gone. Baxter stumbled back inside and leaned against his hotel door. He was up shit creek without a paddle, sliding off the raft. He knew that much, and the droning in his head did a good job of underlining this realization. Maybe when he sobered up the bartender could help him track her down. But for now he had to sleep. There was nothing he could do in this state.

“Jesus Christ! You look worse than you did two hours ago! We ought to take a shower and try to humanize you. It’s almost one.” Her voice didn’t sound as charming as it did last night, but the mere fact that she didn’t ditch him made up for it. He started to ask her who she was but successfully repressed the question, avoiding an even more awkward situation. “Where the hell have you been?” Baxter mumbled. “Getting breakfast, I asked you if I could borrow your car and you said yes. Remember?” Her response was trivial; Baxter didn’t feel like eating or talking, especially not to someone who knew his real identity. She could still dick him over. Baxter was hoping, praying that she had forgotten what he had erroneously revealed to her. His words drifted in a drunken murmur: “What happened last night? I remember going in the bar… and glimpses of the hotel room…” She laughed; he feared it was at directed at him. “You get so silly when you’re drunk. You walked into the bar with a cup of coffee and sat down beside me. You told me you were from Mobile, and we got to talking ‘cause I’m from there too. One drink followed another and you told me that you had only gotten drunk once before, so I decided to make this time memorable. Heh.
        “When you got up you paid the bartender with a hundred dollar bill and told him to keep the change. I was drunk - I was impressed. You were so incredibly wasted, you said you made the money as a hit man. Can you believe that? I did at the time! I wish you remembered, it was such a crazy story. Something about poisoning someone’s coffee, you didn’t make too much sense at that point. Heh.” Her amused whelps were high-pitched and painful.
        “Anyway, we returned to your hotel and passed out – exhausted – around sunrise.” Her ambient smile turned to form somewhat of a grin. “I woke up two hours ago and asked you if I could borrow your car to get breakfast. You nodded – I think - and pointed me towards the keys. And here I am now, the food is on the living room table. Some mighty good stuff.”
        Baxter felt sick, exposed. He stumbled into the living room, downed some bagels and sat down. He only now realized he was still buzzing from last night. Or did he? At least the money was still here, and the identity existed. She would never expose him; she didn’t even take him seriously. Groggily, he slouched into the shower.

Baxter took a mouthful of hot water and spit it against the marble walls, watching the remnants of his breakfast sink to the bottom. The water was life, running over his tired body; the water was his old life running past him, down the drain - and his new life encasing him in a capsule of liquid heat, vitalizing his skin and reviving his mind. After a minute, the smell of smoke and tequila had dissipated. The hotel soap was nasty, the kind that stays on all day no matter how hard it is scrubbed; unaware of this, Baxter lathered up in an attempt to cleanse himself. As long as he was in the liquid blanket he was safe, shielded from the artificial cold outside – as a result, Baxter stayed in the shower until he was certain the entire outside of the bathroom was filled with steam. Once this was accomplished, the shower curtain was pulled aside and a crab-toned Baxter grabbed a towel from the rack. The world was still spinning; his mind was still unable to process more than two thoughts at once, partially due to the lack of air in the steamy bathroom. Baxter slid his steamed hind onto the plastic toilet lid. He had to lose her; she was the one person who could foil his future. But – if he gained her trust, he wouldn’t have to fear exposure and could lead a happy life. He would have to see, preferably when he could see clearly.
        A noisy crack made the door’s breach apparent. There she stood before him – naked as the lust in her eyes, hands on her tan-lined hips. She confidently stepped over to him and placed one leg on the water-tank. She had a distinct scent, one that he would never manage to forget. Her skin showed signs of long-term abuse through tanning beds and cheap makeup, yet she had managed to avoid wrinkles by soaking her visage in lotion on a nightly basis. What hair she had was damaged and stood off her head in a solid, straw-like triangular fashion. Lastly, her breasts were store-bought. While there were no visible signs of implants or scars, they neither sagged nor flattened no matter how she posed. And for Baxter, she posed in many ways. How could he resist, this was after all the first and best woman he had ever been with. To him the worn-out skin and stretched orifices were normal, even beautiful.
        They went about it in an animalistic manner, quitting only after growing too exhausted and sore to fulfill any position. The ceiling fan rotated slowly above the couple, driven by the breeze passing through the open windows, plowing the space above. By the time the sweat had dried off their bodies, both were fully dressed and the atmosphere was nearly anti-sexual. They were merely fulfilling desires; there was no lasting attraction between them. To both it was clear that this was a purely random intersection of their lives, while the natures of their desperations ran parallel they followed different paths. She didn’t inquire why he left; when he did, his suitcases were already in the car and the hotel was paid for. Maybe he went out to get food so they could spend another night. Maybe he took this as his welcome to New Orleans, his new home. Time revealed that the second was the case.


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