Fairouz and Max passed into the lobby through silent automatic glass doors and were met by Ovidio. He stood before them, arms open in welcome.
“You must be Max. Ovidio. And your charming friend?”
Ovidio sported a Clark Gable mustache and pearly teeth. His shaved head and loose linen suit spoke eloquently of Tango authority. Fairouz regarded him thoughtfully.
“My name is Fairouz.”
He placed his hand on his heart. “Delighted. Now, please come in. Tonight we will tango!”
Ovidio took Fairouz lightly by the arm, and Max followed them into a spacious salon with a lustrous dance floor. A mirrored wall on one side reflected Art Deco posters and bistro tables on the other. At the far end was a bar with some stools and a sparkling backdrop of bottles, and further back was a shaded patio where Japanese koi swam in a shallow pool. Tango flowed abundantly from hidden speakers. Ovidio leaned closer and drew Fairouz into an embrace, murmuring in her ear. They swayed imperceptibly for a second or two, capturing Di Sarli’s phrasing, and then Ovidio moved into her, guiding her towards their reflection in the mirrored wall. Fairouz’s pink silk dress went well with Ovidio’s slack linen suit. Their foreheads touched lightly, and his lips briefly grazed her throat. Fairouz seemed to recoil momentarily, and then relaxed in his arms. Max sought refuge in thoughts of Dolores. The song came to an end, and Fairouz, flushed and languid, came back to him. Ovidio trailed behind, a hand on her back, the other smoothing his mustache. His restless eyes scoured the room for another partner. Fairouz, bewitching in silk and silver, held out her palm and drew Max to his feet. The pupils of her eyes were enormous, and a crimson droplet glistened on her café au lait throat.
Max thought nothing of this, because he’d slapped at mosquitoes on their stroll to the edge of the marsh. Embracing Fairouz, he was aware of a smear of blood on his arm that might blemish her dress. At the back of his mind, he recalled the famous shot of El Cachafas dancing with Carmencita Calderon, when she falls back in his embrace, baring her bosom to his teeth. Max recoiled at the image, inhaled deeply, and snapped back into the everyday. Di Sarli’s “El Amanecer” wove a rhythmic spell around them as they danced next to the mirrored wall, at one with their reflection. Her body melted into his, easily and confidently following the few simple leads he offered her. His lips brushed her pearl earring, and a moment later his tongue caressed the crimson droplet on her throat. He thrilled to her salty taste and his imminent corruption.
The song was ending. Fairouz laid her head on his shoulder and her lips nibbled the soft flesh under his ear. On the final note, they came to rest in the middle of the dance floor, closely embraced, caught in the evanescent web of Di Sarli’s tango, the last notes still vibrant between them. His hand on her back traced a caress that spoke of lives they’d never live, whose expression was best sought in Tango. She bit him gently. He was startled, and recoiled, then sagged in her arms as his knees weakened and her lips suckled at the tiny pulsing perforation in his throat. He tried to pull away, but an infinite lassitude overcame him. She slipped an arm around his waist and led him out to the shaded patio. He sank onto a couch at the edge of the pond where the lazy Technicolor koi drifted, and slipped into euphoric dreams of heart, lung and blood.