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Zeebra Books. Show other formats. Discover what to read next. The Most Anticipated Books of Fall She filled and emptied her celebrated lungs. In my country you were born either before the coup or after. Is a wide space between. You learn to translate. I moved a shoulder. It would have taken more than an armed military takeover of her government or mine to draw attention from the Gilia phenomenon.

They were splitting and splicing words in order to pigeonhole her: rock-salsa, Cuban hip-hop, jalapeno pop. She sang and danced in front of back-projected hydrogen bomb explosions in stadiums and concert halls and on military bases, owned a record label and a Hollywood production company, and had signed with United Artists to be the next Bond girl.

Two years before, she'd made the rent on her fourth-floor walk-up in East L. In the meantime she'd broken up half the storied marriages on the West Coast, served six months' probation for illegal possession of a controlled substance, and performed eighty hours of community service for running a red light, broadsiding a Bel Air cop, and spilling his coffee.

The only thing the Christian Right and the Politically Correct Left had agreed on in years was the importance of tying a bell around Gilia's neck.

Loren D. Estleman

That was why the security was so tight at Cobo and I was picking up cigarette money patting down people in line at the entrance for fragmentary grenades. But before that I caught a golden snap of light in her eye. She was going to do just fine in the movies. I looked at my watch.

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I didn't have anyplace to be, but I'd drunk a Thermos full of coffee outside and the gurgling music had begun to have its effect. She'd stopped looking at me in the mirror. She'd half twisted my way, resting an elbow on the back of her chair and letting the kimono fall open to expose a caramel thigh. Her bare foot was stuck in a slipper that was just a strip of leather and a pompon. She had a high arch and a pumiced heel.

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That altered my opinion of her, a little. You can always tell a woman who works on her feet by how well she takes care of them. She studied my face for irony. Her brows were steeply arched as well, undyed black in contrast to her hair, and she had a good straight conquistador nose, a strong chin, and a fragile upper lip; no collagen there to turn it into a slice of liverwurst. The bones were good. Age would not harm her. She said, "I have a thief in my employ. You can follow her, yes? Find out who she is stealing it for. I will pay you ten percent of the value of what she has stolen so far.

You can tell more about an entertainer's career by whether you've ever heard of him than by who he's opening for.

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If the name is unfamiliar, he's on his way up, sharing a bill with a big star. If you remember him vaguely, he's on his way down with an armload of anvils, warming the stage for a Johnny- or Janie-come-lately who was in diapers when he was headlining in New York and Vegas. Gilia's opener was a country crossover whose first hit had been his last, and whose most recent exposure had been an Entertainment Tonight feature on his release from detox and a riches-to-rags spot on Behind the Music.

The underwear being flung at him by the women at Cobo had plenty of Lycra. From where I stood, his hip-swivel seemed to have developed a hitch, and he couldn't hit middle C with a shovel; but from backstage even the best acts always look like Open Mike Night at the Pig 'n' Whistle.

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In any case I wasn't being paid to follow the program. I only had eyes for the wardrobe mistress. She was a dumpy sixty with her hair chopped short and dyed bright copper, and she had cut a hole in a painter's drop cloth and stuck her head through it on her way out the door. I watched her using a portablesteamer to take the creases out of a dozen of Gilia's costumes hanging from a rack on wheels and wondered what she was spending the money on, since it didn't appear to be clothes.

This had forced Gilia to spend another seventy-five grand on a replacement gown. She'd shown me pictures of herself wearing both outfits. I used more material cleaning my revolver, but that wasn't the point. Without quite resorting to a pie chart, she'd convinced me the surprise factor on the red carpet outside the arena was worth a couple of million in good press. No surprise, no sizzle. Signor Garbo makes tons more money keeping his designs secret than he ever would selling the details. Everything about that made sense, not counting the name Signor Garbo.

Now the Grammies were in the chute and she wanted me to nail the wardrobe mistress and her contact before history repeated itself. With a tour of Canada on tap after Detroit, she was reasonably certain the next exchange would have to take place locally. That meant a tail job, and with my five-hundred- dollar-a-day rate guaranteed and a payoff of seventy-five hundred if I delivered, I could spend the rest of the winter sopping up the sun on a beach in Cleveland.

The hardest part about keeping an eye on her was staying out of the way of an army of grips and talent wheeling pianos, a harp, banks of lights, and set pieces throughout the wings at Grand Prix speed. The place smelled of perspiration, ozone, animal-friendly cosmetics, marijuana, and all the other indispensable effluvia of show business.

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I saw a relationship consummated in a stairwell, overheard someone giving someone else complicated directions to the local cocaine connection, and almost tripped over a female backup singer having a full-blown anxiety attack during a cellular telephone conversation with her analyst in Pasadena. There was enough material there to keep an enterprising private detective in business through Thanksgiving. Meanwhile the woman under surveillance recycled the costumes as needed, catching discarded articles of clothing on the fly, handing out changes, and sewing split seams with an arsenal of needles and spools of thread from an emergency basket she carried slung over one shoulder.

I saw Gilia naked many times. She peeled out of her Wonderbras and sweat-soaked bikini panties and rigged up for the next number without bothering to seek cover, while the hundred or so supernumeraries, most of them male, boiled about her showing all the interest of vegetarians at a steak fry. I got tired of looking at it myself, but then the whomping guitars, amplified drums, and laser effects had my head hammering like Sunday morning, and anyway there wasn't a major magazine in the country that hadn't featured every pore of her body at one time or another.

It was an athletic body, but without a G- string or a halter top to call attention to the racy parts, it was just a slipcase for her talent. The scalpers were getting five hundred bucks per ticket, and she gave the victims their money's worth. Her brand of juiced-up Latino music had been burning down the competition from rap and third- generation rock for months, and she showed no signs of coasting.

At the climax she climbed into a harness attached to a boom and soared around the auditorium fifty feet above the audience's heads, belting out her chart-topper of the month over a radio headset and flapping a pair of electrified butterfly wings that would have blown every fuse at Tiger Stadium during the World Series.