"So how's paradise?"

"Far from peaceful, it seems."

"What does that mean? Did you meet that guy Ray wanted you to talk to?"

I lay back on the bed and let my cell rest next to my ear on the pillow. "Yeah, I met him alright. We're staying at his house. He's hot."

"Whore," Laura snorted. "You're there with Peter, aren't you?"

"Yeah, but I'm starting to regret bringing him along."

"Whore. How hot is he?"

"Whatever. And you know I wouldn't. But I am worried that I may have brought him into a sticky situation because of this thing Ray gave me."

"Define sticky before I call you a whore again."

I laughed. "I'm serious, though. I've been here a day and already this whole thing feels a little, I don't know, dangerous. Professor Diessen and his assistant are giving me the impression that they've had unwelcome company around their dig sites. They're showing me weird shit, like indestructible wooden bowls. They're nervous about taking me out there. Diessen has this concerned look on his face all the time. Though, that may just be what he looks like all the time. Hard to say."

"Great. I guess I'm not leaving my apartment for awhile, then. Again."

"I hope you stocked up on essentials. How are you doing?"

Laura sighed. "I'm okay. I don't think anyone is tailing me anymore. I've stopped popping xanax like they're tic-tacs. I think whomever it was must know that you've left for the tropics, and I'm both relieved and worried. But the show must go on, so I'm headed to Seattle tomorrow for a signing. I'm glad to be getting out. Cabin fever sucks."

"Don't I know it. We're under house arrest until they make 'preparations' for us to visit the dig site. Peter is making the most of it though, laying out in the yard in a speedo, hoping to turn his skin a darker shade of Casper."

"Better stock up on aloe vera gel. And poppers."

"I'm afraid to ask, Laura."

"Then don't! Anyways, stay safe. Keep me posted. And do me a favor, would ya?"

"Sure. What?"

"Try not to become what you write."

"It may be too late for that."

"Dammit Joe, I was about to hang up and go pee. Now I have to hold it while you explain what you mean by that."

"Well, last night I had a very strange dream."

"Welcome to my last night. And the one before it. And the-"

"No, it wasn't like an I-drank-too-much-cheap-tequila dream, Laura. This was way worse."

"What do you mean by worse?"

"I mean, I woke up with something that I didn't go to sleep with."

"What, crabs?"

"I'm going to ignore that and just say that I have a bit of genealogy work to do if I want to make any sense of this."

"Okay, now you're freaking me out. What did you wake up with? A black eye? A birthmark in the shape of the Blessed Virgin? Freddy Kreuger's slashes across your chest?"

"I woke up with a necklace."

"Okay, you REALLY expect me to let that one go by? Listen, not only are you weirding me out, but I am about to create the Yangtze river in my kitchen. Isn't your grandfather still living on Hawai'i? Maybe you can get shore leave from Camp Sexy to go see him. In the meantime, I have to pee. And pack. And plane. Call me tomorrow, ok?"

"How could I not? If the days stay as weird as the past one, I'll have a novel on my hands by the time I leave."

"All I care about is you two getting back safe. Don't go killing yourselves or anything. Please."

I stared at the obsidian pendant in my hand, afraid to believe it was real. "Trust me, that's the last thing I plan to do."

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