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I am sitting in the HQ of the Guerrilla Insurgency, drinking Heineken, nursing my indignation. A one-armed man opens the door. “Maria?” he calls. “Prego.” Which translates, indirectly, as “The truck is unloaded and the guns are ready and should I kill this guy?” I direct him to find Andreas.

She wakes me, maybe an hour later. I sleep as I rarely have, arm across my eyes like a bedouin, on top of the mounds of boots and gear. She has worked her fingers around my buttons and pulls my hair, my nipples. I can’t tell the degree of mockery, what spillover of passion she might still be feeling. Andreas and the idiot boy stand framed in the bleaching light of the door, the boy’s huge head pushing the bandolier askew. Father and son, it suddenly dawns. Andreas holds the birdcage.

“They’ve finished,” she explains. “Let’s go.”

Andreas lets us pass, smirking, I think, and follows us down the rutted trail to Bud’s truck. He puts the bird cage in the driver’s seat, and in case I miss it, points at the bird, then at me, and laughs. Very funny, I think. His boy finds it hilarious. I will not be mocked like this. The bird is so ill-fed, so cramped and tortured and clumsy it flutters wildly, losing more feathers merely to keep its perch.

Viva la revolución, eh? A leetle gift for helping the people.”

No, I think, a leetle sign to Clovis Ransome and all the pretenders to Maria’s bed that we’re just a bunch of scrawny blackbirds and he doesn’t care who knows it. I have no feeling for revolution, only for outfitting the participants.

“Why?” I beg on the way back. The road is dark. “You hate your husband, so get a divorce. Why blow up the country?”

Maria smiles. “Clovis has nothing to do with this.” She shifts her sandals on the bird cage. The bird is dizzy, flat on its back. Some of them die, just like that.

“Run off with Andreas, then.”

“We were going to be married,” she says. “Then Gutiérrez came to my school one day and took me away. I was fourteen and he was minister of education. Then Clovis took me away from him. Maybe you should take me away from Clovis. I like you, and you’d like it, too, wouldn’t you?”

“Don’t be crazy. Try Bud Wilkins.”

“Bud Wilkins is, you say, dog meat.” She smiles.

“Oh, sure,” I say.

I concentrate on the road. I’m no hero, I calculate margins. I could not calculate the cost of a night with Maria, a month with Maria, though for the first time in my life it was a cost I might have borne.

Her voice is matter-of-fact. “Clovis wanted a cut of Bud’s action. But Bud refused and that got Clovis mad. Clovis even offered money, but Bud said no way. Clovis pushed me on him, so he took but he still didn’t budge. So—”

“You’re serious, aren’t you? Oh, God.”

“Of course I am serious. Now Clovis can fly in his own champagne and baseball games.”

She has unbuttoned more of the halter and I feel pressure on my chest, in my mouth, against my slacks, that I have never felt.

All the lights are on in the villa when I lurch Bud’s pickup into the parking lot. We can see Clovis T. Ransome, very drunk, slack-postured, trying out wicker chairs on the porch. Maria is carrying the bird cage.

He’s settled on the love seat. No preliminaries, no questions. He squints at the cage. “Buying presents for Maria already, Al?” He tries to laugh.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She swings the cage in giant arcs, like a bucket of water.

“Where’s Bud?” I ask.

“They jumped him, old buddy. Gang of guerrillas not more’n half a mile down the road. Pumped twenty bullets in him. These are fierce little people, Al. I don’t know how I got away.” He’s watching us for effect.

I suspect it helps when they’re in your pay, I think, and you give them Ted Turner caps.

“Al, grab yourself a glass if you want some Scotch. Me, I’m stinking drunk already.”

He’s noticed Bud’s truck now. The emptiness of Bud’s truck.

“That’s a crazy thing to do,” Maria says. “I warned you.” She sets the cage down on the patio table. “Bud’s no good to anyone, dead or alive. You said it yourself, he’s dog meat.” She slips onto the love seat beside her husband. I watch her. I can’t take my eyes off her. She snakes her strong, long torso until her lips touch the cage’s rusted metal. “Kiss me,” she coos. “Kiss me, kiss, kiss, sweetheart.”

Ransome’s eyes are on her, too. “Sweets, who gave you that filthy crow?”

Maria says, “Kiss me, loverboy.”

“Sweetie, I asked you who gave you that filthy crow.”

I back off to the kitchen. I could use a shot of Scotch. I can feel the damp, Bombay grittiness of the air. The rains will be here, maybe tonight.

When I get back, Ransome is snoring on the love seat. Maria is standing over him, and the bird cage is on his lap. Its door is open and Clovis’s fat hand is half inside. The bird pecks, it’s raised blood, but Clovis is out for the night.

“Why is it,” she asks, “that I don’t feel pride when men kill for me?”

But she does, deep down. She wants to believe that Clovis, mad jealous Clovis, has killed for her. I just hate to think of Maria’s pretty face when Clovis wakes up and remembers the munitions are gone. It’s all a family plot in countries like this; revolutions fought for a schoolgirl in white with blunted toes. I, too, would kill for her.

“Kill it, Alfie, please,” she says. “I can’t stand it. See, Clovis tried but his hand was too fat.”

“I’ll free it,” I say.

“Don’t be a fool — that boy broke its wings. Let it out, and the crabs will kill it.”

Around eleven that night I have to carry Ransome up the stairs to the spare bedroom. He’s a heavy man. I don’t bother with the niceties of getting him out of his blue jeans and into his pajamas. The secrets of Clovis T. Ransome, whatever they are, are safe with me. I abandon him on top of the bedspread in his dusty cowboy boots. Maria won’t want him tonight. She’s already told me so.

But she isn’t waiting for me on the patio. Maybe that’s just as well. Tonight love will be hard to handle. The dirty glasses, the booze and soda bottles, the styrofoam-lidded bowl we used for ice cubes are still on the wicker-and-glass coffee table. Eduardo doesn’t seem to be around. I bring the glasses into the kitchen. He must have disappeared hours ago. I’ve never seen the kitchen in this bad a mess. He’s not in the villa. His door has swung open, but I can’t hear the noises of sleeping servants in the tropics. So, Eduardo has vanished. I accept this as data. I dare not shout for Maria. If it’s ever to be, it must be tonight. Tomorrow, I can tell, this cozy little hacienda will come to grief.

Someone should go from room to room and turn out the lights. But not me. I make it fast back to my room.

“You must shut doors quickly behind you in the tropics. Otherwise bugs get in.”

Casually, she is unbuttoning her top, untying the bottom tabs. The cutoffs have to be tugged off, around her hips. There is a rush of passion I have never known, and my fingers tremble as I tug at my belt. She is in my giant bed, propped up, and her breasts keep the sheet from falling.

“Alfie, close the door.”

Her long thighs press and squeeze. She tries to hold me, to contain me, and it is a moment I would die to prolong. In a frenzy, I conjugate crabs with toads and the squawking bird, and I hear the low moans of turtles on the beach. It is a moment I fear too much, a woman I fear too much, and I yield. I begin again, immediately, this time concentrating on blankness, on burnt-out objects whirling in space, and she pushes against me murmuring, “No,” and pulls away.

Later, she says, “You don’t understand hate, Alfie. You don’t understand what hate can do.” She tells stories; I moan to mount her again. “No,” she says, and the stories pour out. Not just the beatings; the humiliations. Loaning her out, dangling her on a leash like a cheetah, then the beatings for what he suspects. It’s the power game, I try to tell her. That’s how power is played.