Their clothes dried quickly in the bright sun, and by the time they reache_ne of the great boulevards that divided Berenice into its local parishes, n_ne would have guessed that they'd had to swim into the city.
From the interior, Berenice was much more impressive than it had seemed on th_pproach. At each corner of the boulevard was a whitewashed ziggurat toppe_ith a gilt sun, angled to catch the light at different time of the day.
Crystal globes hung from polished street lamps. Spyder counted a dozen larg_ronze statues to different gods on the one street. Who knew how many ther_ere on the others? Handsome residents came and went from temples and tailo_hops, butchers and herbalists, paying no attention to the travelers. Th_treet on which they stood was paved with pale pink flagstones, but green, yellow and sky blue streets intersected it.
"Okay, we're here, somewhere. What do we do now?" asked Lulu.
"Let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober, putting on th_reastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation," Coun_on said.
Spyder looked hard at the Count.
"St. Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians," he said.
"Yeah, I was just about to say that."
"We need to find stables or a market," said Shrike. "Some place big, wit_rofessional traders. And remember that you can't tell the wandering memorie_f people from real humans simply by looking at them."
"Then how do we know who we're talking to?" asked Spyder. "How do we trade fo_nything?"
"It's a question of attitude," Shrike said. "If you're talking to the memor_f a trader, his responses will be mechanical and rote. A memory isn't active.
It can't really do or say anything new or original. A human trader will b_ore eager and unpredictable."
"I'm going to go alone," said Shrike. "A poor, lost blind girl can usuall_ount on a pity discount."
"You'll be able to find your way back here?" asked Spyder. "Maybe you shoul_ake Primo as backup."
"I'll be happy to accompany you, Butcher Bird. And a one-armed man with _lind woman might evoke even more pity from an anxious trader."
"All right," said Shrike. "We'll rendezvous here in two hours. Can I trust yo_hree to find your way back?"
"Don't worry, I'll look after Lulu and the little brother," said the Count.
Spyder felt a pang of awkwardness as he and Shrike went off in differen_irections. He felt, somehow, that he should give her a goodbye kiss o_omething, but simultaneously wondered if he was supposed to acknowledg_nything between them at all. In the end, they both went their own way.
They walked three abreast through the strange town, Spyder near the street an_ulu near the buildings. Count Non walked between them. "The first time I eve_ent to Tijuana on my own, I got lost," said Spyder. "Ended up in thi_hantytown somewhere up in the hills. This place went on and on. Plus, it wa_ne of those days where you don't wake up hungover, you wake up still drunk.
So, I'm wandering around, trying to figure out a way back to town, and thi_id, a student, starts chatting me up. He wants to practice his English. Onl_henever I ask him how to get back downtown, he suddenly can't understand me.
I tell him to fuck off and keep walking. But these Tijuana shantytowns ar_ike a goddam anthill. Houses made of broken cinder blocks, cardboard and bi_ans of vegetable oil pounded flat.
"Fast forward a few hours and I'm somewhere, but nowhere I've ever see_efore. And now the sun is going down. Out of nowhere comes the kid who wante_nglish lessons. At first I think that I've just walked in a big circle. Then, I realize that the little fucker's probably been shadowing me all day. My eye_re red and my head's full of broken glass and dust bunnies. I was wearing _rand new shiny pair of two hundred dollar New Rock boots. I had to trade 'e_o the kid to get out of there, and walked back to my hotel barefoot."
Spyder couldn't quite figure out a pattern to the city. A street would be lai_ut like an ordinary one in any town, but then a building would be gone and i_ts place would be a pile of junk. Lost things, Spyder guessed. Not objects, but the memory of them. There were mounds of keys, piles of every kind o_oney, great meals laid out on endless banquet tables, the wan clowns an_istless trapeze acts from forgotten circuses, lost limbs (fingers stil_rying to grasp some long lost something, feet flexing with somewhere to go).
There were packs of dogs, flock of birds, colonies of house cats and stacks o_irty aquariums holding every kind of fish imaginable, lost pets all.
They stopped to look at the trinkets laid out on tables in a small stree_arket on a yellow boulevard that intersected theirs. A trader with leather_kin and blue, chapped lips clasped his hands and greeted them eagerly. H_tared at Lulu. "I see you've been doing some renovations, my dear." He took _ite of a juicy, green-skinned fruit. "What will you take for her?"
Spyder didn't bother looking up at the man, but kept studying the charms o_he table. "She's not for sale."
The merchant leaned in close and spoke in intimate tones. "You think I won'_eep her well because she lacks eyes and perhaps a liver. But don't worry.
Those are not the organs that concern me."
Spyder tucked his hands in the waist of his jeans, pushing back his jacket t_ake sure the man saw Apollyon's knife. "I missed that. Say it again," Spyde_old the man.
The merchant's gazes flickered from the knife to Spyder's shoulder. "Yo_isunderstood me, friend. There is no business here," said the merchant, licking his thin lips. "Thank you. Have a good day." He walked quickly away.
Spyder turned to Count Non, who loomed close behind him. "I was doing al_ight, you know. I don't need you doing Hulk Hogan over my shoulder."
"Perhaps neither of us frightened him," said the Count. "Perhaps for once h_eard his own words and thoughts and appalled himself."
Lulu said nothing, but pushed the merchant's wares off his table and onto th_avement.
"He seemed like the real reflective type," said Spyder.
"`God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; an_od hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which ar_ighty.'" The Count laughed, "I like you, little brother. You disguise you_obler qualities to play the fool well."
"Would you take some advice from someone with more experience of the world?"
"You don't look that much older than me."
"Trust me. I am."
"Are we talking Michael Douglas old or Bob Hope old?"
"More like those mountains we're heading to."
"You must get great senior discounts on the bus."
"Be quiet, little brother."
"What the fuck did you say?"
"Be quiet," repeated Count Non. "It's not necessary to fill every moment wit_our own voice. Silence terrifies you. Your see your own existence as s_enuous that you're afraid you'll pop like a soap bubble if, at ever_pportunity, you don't make a noise to remind the world that you're alive. Bu_isdom begins in silence. In learning to listen. To words and to the world.
Trust me. You won't disappear. And, in time, you might find that you've grow_nto something unexpected."
"A man," said the Count. He started out of the market and back to the mai_oulevard. Spyder and Lulu followed.
"Don't feel badly. This is just a chat between friends, not a reprimand. I_ou feel lost and foolish sometimes, don't worry about that, either. All grea_en begin as fools. It's one of life's little jokes."
"Spyder, he just called you a joke of the universe. Kick his ass," said Lulu.
She put an arm around Spyder's shoulders. Count Non smiled at her.
"Food for thought," said Spyder. "We'll cover more ground if we split up for _hile. I'll meet you back at the corner where we started."
"I was just fucking with you, man," said Lulu, but Spyder was already roundin_he corner in the other -direction.