Lin Page 16
The usher is a young man, maybe no more than 22 years old, clean-shaven, spiky hair, dressed in a silk shirt that approximates a tuxedo. The usher is shaking his head. Dammit, what did I do wrong now? C.J. thinks.

The usher says: Sir, you can't bring in your bag. His tone is that of a friendly department store clerk, but his face remains expressionless. A neat trick. One must learn that one.

Oh. Okay, he replies. The searchlight is turning his way. No good, too bright and all will be revealed. He swivels, just in time. Annie's car is closer than his scooter. Is the usher watching him? No, he has more customers to attend to. C.J. will not even steal a glance back over at the front door. The usher will not have the satisfaction. He stares at the interior of Annie's car for a moment -- it is completely bare, without a single trinket, folded-up

magazine or crumpled cup to mark a human presence. He reaches out and steadies himself against the left passenger window. Inside the disco, house music has taken hold -- bump, bump, bump-bump-bump. He can feel the thud again in his chest; that is a good thing, it means some amount of sensation, a smidgen of discernment, has returned.
Overtaken by nausea, he leans over, but only a hacking cough erupts from his mouth, which only constricts his throat and inspires further coughs. Pneumonia, he thinks, this is what comes of living in a sub-tropical climate. Too harried to conjure a more elegant solution, he pulls his notepad, Lau's files, the VCDs from his knapsack, divesting the latter from their jewel cases, and shoves them down inside the baggy folds of his shirt. For a few moments they feel cool, dry, almost like a massage, and then they are as sweaty as the rest of him as he boogies in place, shifting the items to his back, stuffing the shirt hard into his pants there to keep everything in