They arrived in Kangding. A great river ran through the center of the town. Green mountains rose above the river and the town.
The town was organized around one long street that ran alongside the river. As they walked, Hammer noticed an unfamiliar script on many of the signs.
“Tibetan,” said Laser.
“We should be safer here,” said Laser, “but it’s not impossible that the Ling Da have a presence here, or that we were followed. Everyone be cautious.”
They found a hotel off the main street where they booked a room for the four of them. There were two large double beds.
“Well,” said Emily. “Laser and Hammer, you two can share a bed. I’ll share with Fen Yi.”
Hammer woke up in the night. The moon must have been close to full: the room was flooded with white light. Laser was snoring. Hammer turned to the bed next to him, where Emily was sleeping. So close, but so far away. He thought of the wooden steps that led up to her door—her bra and the soft sheets of her bed back home. He hadn’t had any kind of opportunity to be alone with her. He felt a pang of desire in his stomach.
He couldn’t sleep, so he got up, pulled his shoes on, and went for a walk outside. He could hear the sound of the rushing river. He took the path above the hostel, climbing higher above the town, until he reached the entrance to a large courtyard. At the other end of the courtyard stood an archway and the rising tiers of a pagoda. A dog slept in the middle of the courtyard. Hammer thought he could see a man standing underneath the archway, but he couldn’t be sure.
He kept walking on the path above the entrance to the monastery he had just past. The path went behind the monastery and back into the town. Suddenly, the moonlight was mingled with another kind of light: a pink light spilling from a doorway up ahead. As Hammer approached, he noticed two skimpily-dressed young women standing in front of the door. He thought of Emily—Alex—the wooden steps that led up to her door—her bra and the soft sheets of her bed back home. As he approached the door, the first of the young women smiled and caressed his shoulder, and he felt like he was arriving home.