That bitch, Karma

Taking a deep breath, Milo launched into the whole twisted story from the beginning. Finding the plans in the library archives, and everything - everything - that happened after.

It took the entire afternoon, with barely a pause. When his throat dried, he would sip honeyed tea and plunge forward. When his cup emptied, Larry, eyes intent on Milo, would absently pour more tea, stir in honey and crumbled herb and press it back on him. Shadows in the quiet store lengthened and the city sounds outside faded down a long tunnel and disappeared. If anybody walked in as he spoke, Milo didn't notice. He heard only his own low, urgent voice, spilling the story in a white-crested torrent, and Rory's quiet page-flipping at a distance.

When Milo finally reached the moment where he had stepped from Molina's scooter and into the store, he slumped, exhausted.

There was a long silence during which Larry didn't move. He lifted his cup and took a long, thoughtful slurp.

A split-second later, he involuntarily snorted the entire mouthful of tea onto Milo's shirt so violently Milo nearly fell backwards.

After a protracted wheeze, amid paroxysms of howling laughter, Larry flowed limply to the floor, trying desperately to inhale. Each time he managed a bare half-breath, he'd collapse back into helpless shrieks of mirth.

When Larry turned an alarming hue of purple, Milo knelt to thump him on the back and help him back to his seat. It took some minutes. Every time Larry seemed almost able to stay upright unaided again, he'd break into fresh guffaws and list helplessly.

Finally, eyes bugged, still wheezing, he held up his finger, signalling Milo to wait until he could speak: "Karma! It's that bitch, Karma. Now, follow me. You gotta meet someone ..."

Larry, still sputtering with random giggles, stood and headed toward a door at the back of the stor.e