When we got back to the hotel, Jan surprised me by saying that we needed to go see Fifteen. I didn't bother to ask why.
She took us to his room and she knocked on the door. "Fifteen," she called, "it's Jan. Is Christy there?"
"Possibly," he answered slowly.
"If she is, I need to ask her a question."
"We were just playing Parcheesi, I swear," he said.
She laughed. "I don't care if you were playing strip cribbage. We can even wait for you to finish. But this question is important."
Fifteen opened the door. He was wearing a faded T-shirt and garish boxer shorts, his feet bare. Christy was sitting up in bed, wearing a T-shirt, her red hair tousled.
"Strip cribbage?" he asked as we came in.
"I'll explain the rules later." She looked around the room, which contained a large bed, a small dresser, and several piles of paper. "I confess I did leave out one thing. The question is short, but it has a long preamble. May I sit on the bed?"
He nodded. "Okay, but behave yourself." He tilted his head toward Christy, who giggled. "We're not alone."
"I'll be on my best behavior, I promise. May I smoke?"
Fifteen looked surprised, since she almost never asked permission. He looked around quickly, not seeing anything that could be used as an ashtray. After a moment, Christy leaned over and retrieved a coffee mug from the floor. Fifteen bustled off to wash it in the bathroom, then he presented it to Jan, who inclined her head, thanked him, and tapped her ash into it.
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