THINGS DONE: BAIT AND SWITCH
“What’s taking him so long?” Langly and I are trying to spider into various systems. My first one’s easy—FBI. We’ve had a lot of practice on that one. “Can’t take that long to let the maid in.”
“Knowing Suitboy, he’s offering to clean the bathrooms and give her a foot massage,” Langly grumbles.
“Except he’s lost the suit.”
“You felt the temperature here, Doohickey? It’s a frickin’ swamp.” He keeps typing as he talks. “Course, it’s a hell of a lot nicer swamp than where I was.”
“Yes, yes, we’ve heard how you’ve suffered, Blondie.”
“Hey, I had to give up my hair for that.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re growing it back.”
“Covers your bald patches nicely.” I know I’m baiting him, but I can’t help it. What the hell is going on with Byers?
“Yeah, well, least I can cover mine, which is more than YOU can say!”
Byers finally appears in the doorway. He looks incredibly nervous. Not that this is an unexpected side effect of our recent adventures, but he was cool, ready to dive right in, before the bell rang.
“We’ve got a visitor,” he announces, and I immediately understand why he looks the way he does. My ulcer goes into immediate overdrive as he says it, but it’s nothing compared to what happens when I see who the ‘visitor’ is.
Langly and I stare, mouths agape. If I don’t have a heart attack right now, I’ll live forever, I swear to God.
“Lois.” I barely get the name out. Despite her modest dress, lack of makeup, and the Middle Eastern style scarf covering her hair and shoulders, it’s obviously her. For one thing, her boobs are the same size they were before.
“I really wish you’d call me Yves. I hate that name.” She shakes her head.
“Siddown and make yourself at home,” Langly says, a slight touch of rancor in his voice. He’s still in a state of disbelief. I think we all are.
“How’d you get here?” I ask her.
“It’s not that hard to find the homes of the rich and famous,” she remarks tartly, but she’s without her usual bite. She looks even more scared than Byers. That’d take something, to knock our little Titanium Maiden off her ice pedestal. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to find out what it is—and I’m positive we’re going to find out. I wonder if they have any Maalox in this place. Surely Muladharma’s job induces acid indigestion from time to time.
Still, he shouldn’t be bitching about being on the golf course. I’ll willingly switch places right now. Never mind that I’ve never shot below 90.
“So whaddya want, Lois?” Langly says, wary and very on edge, ignoring her request to use her nom de guerre.
“I understand you’re looking for my father.”
“He’s a popular guy,” I comment dryly. “Seems everyone’s looking for him. Only problem was, I did find him.”
Her eyes grow wide with fear. “Did he see you?”
“I’m not dead yet,” I shrug. “I wasn’t taking any chances, though. Christ, can’t even go out for a decent dinner anymore without something screwing it up.”
“You were in Cayman Brac.” I figured she’d know.
“At the time I saw him, I was in George Town, Grand Cayman. Just trying to have a night on the town. Looks like Daddy was in town for a little R & R, with a little money laundering on the side. You have any access to his bank accounts?”
She shakes her head. “Don’t think I haven’t tried.” To her, this has to hurt. To admit she couldn’t hack something. When it comes to testicles, Lois likes to prove that hers are bigger than anyone whose chromosomes read XY.
“Do you know where he is?” Byers asks, very softly, trying to coax information from her.
“Of course I don’t know where he is! That’s why I’m here! To find him!”
“How’d you trace us here?” I ask.
“Believe it or not, occasionally I employ simple logic. That, and getting some of AD’s goons drunk. I’m surprised the bastards didn’t shoot at me.” She’s trying to be tough, but right now, she just looks like a scared little girl. She hasn’t taken the scarf off yet. Weirdness.
“AD’s not a bad egg. Sometimes,” I concede.
“It’s not so much him, it’s the company he keeps. He really needs to develop better taste in friends.”
“I won’t argue with you there, lady.”
“And I’m trying to find Jimmy. No one would tell me where he is, other than that he’s safe. Like I said, though, these are AD’s friends, whom I trust as far as I can throw. For all I kinow, they’ve blown a bullet through his brain and dumped him in a trench somewhere in the mountains.”
“We’re told he’s in Switzerland,” Byers says, cautiously. I’d like a little more reassurance than what I’ve gotten from AD’s flunky, but for now, I’ll run with it, seeing as it’s all we’ve got. “And that he’s all right.”
“Have you communicated with him personally?”
“No,” Byers admits.
She closes her eyes and leans back in the chair. She looks very, very tired.
“We heard you were in Iran,” I say quietly. I’ve only heard second hand. I’d like some confirmation, if only to test out how much we can trust AD’s ‘friends.’
“Did you see your mom?” Byers continues to draw her out, using a voice like warm caramel.
Her eyes dart open. “You know.”
“Did you think being driven underground was gonna keep us out of the loop or something? C’mon, you know us better than that,” Langly scoffs, but he’s as without teeth as she is right now.
Lois-Yves looks as if she’s about to cry. “All these years, my father told me she was dead.”
There’s a nonsequitur if there ever was one. We just nod, silent, letting her speak.
“All these years she suffered, being in prison, not being able to teach, not being able to live freely even in her own country. And my not being able to be with her…I was robbed!” The anger in her voice is overpowering, making the walls vibrate.
“Is she well?” Byers asks gently, trying to maintain some sense of equilibrium.
This produces a sharp, bitter laugh. “By what definition? She’s alive and breathing, even though she was tortured so badly she no longer has the use of her left arm. She teaches, but can’t get tenure, so she can’t make adequate money to live very comfortably. God knows where the rest of her family is. I tried to look for both of my aunts, my mother’s sisters. No one knows. No one even wants to talk about it.” The words are like bile to her.
“She musta been happy to see you,” Langly says, in a very small voice.
“She didn’t believe it was me at first. I didn’t believe she was even alive until I actually located her. All these years…thinking she was dead…” At first I think the tears will come, but it’s replaced by a fierce bitterness. “Well, guess what, gentlemen? It’s payback time. Paybacks are a bitch. And so am I.”
“What are you going to do when we locate your father?” Byers asks her softly. I notice he says, ‘when,’ not ‘if.’ We have to locate him if we want any semblance of our lives back. It’s not an option. We can’t afford to think any other way.
Her eyes turn deady dark and flat. “You don’t want to know.”
“You’d shoot your own old man?” Even Langly, who’s about as estranged from his family as a guy can get, has a hard time wrapping his mind around this one.
“Wouldn’t it be enough to just capture him?” I ask her, trying to get her off this mindset. The Chinese say, if you want to take revenge, be prepared to dig two graves.
“You’ll never capture him alive. He’s always slipped the net. And he’s had a lot of time to practice.”
I’m fearful of this side of Yves. She’s always played at being a tough chickie, and in a lot of ways, she is. But I worry when I see her this far over the edge. Maybe she oughta find a therapist before she embarks on this…
Nah. Therapy takes too long. And she’s our best shot at getting the bastard. Maybe in the process, we can find a way to make it a little less bloody.
Unless that’s not convenient.
We’re all quiet as we click away, only talking to share information. Yves is the most silent of all. She answers in monosyllables, and only when directly addressed. It’s not like her to not entitle everyone to her opinion. A lot of times I wish she’d shut her yap. This isn’t one of them.
The first complete sentence out of her mouth, about three hours into working, is, “We need to get Jimmy back with us.”
“That we do,” I concur.
“I’m getting a snack. Byers, you want?” Langly asks. Byers follows him, asking Yves and me if we’d like something. Both of us apparently have acid indigestion, although it was nice of him to ask. Langly didn’t ask. I think I’m relieved that not everything about the boy has changed.
Yves turns to me, eyes burning but this time, brimming with tears. “Frohike, can you keep a secret?”
“I don’t think my track record’s been bad so far.”
“We need to get Jimmy back. But the fact is…I need to get Jimmy back.” She reddens as she says it. “He was looking for me, wasn’t he?”
That was a secret? If it was, it was only to her.
“Damn near botched the whole operation because of it.” I’m sure she knows this by now.
“He’s a damn fool. But he’s the best fool I know. Please, get in touch with AD and tell him to get his flunky to release him to us.”
I nod. “Will do.” And AD goddamn better cooperate. I don’t want any ganja-induced excuses, and he better make damn sure that Jimmy doesn’t have a scratch on him.
Yves isn’t the only one who wants him back. I actually miss the big galoot. Yeah, he’s an idiot, and what he did was downright stupid. But he did it for the right reasons. Gotta love a guy for that.
“Frohike?” Yves’ voice is tinged with tears, her tone girlish and shy.
“Please. Don’t tell Langly and Byers. They’ll have a field day with me.”
I chortle. “Sugar, trust me. They already know. And once we get home, there’s not much I’m gonna be able to do to get them off your back.”
Not that I’d try, anyway.
AD has his computer on whenever he’s not on the water. The problem is that he’s on the water a lot. Well, he’s a businessman. He’d never admit it, but he’s become the typical entrepreneur capitalist. He still thinks of himself as a revolutionary, but such indulgences cost money. Soaking tourists is, after all, legitimate financing.
It takes me a long time to raise him. Finally, about mid afternoon here, he responds with a terse, “What?”
I tell him in no uncertain terms that his ‘friend’ will release Jimmy to us, and that Muladharma will be making travel arrangements for him.
A response. “They want to know where Harlow is.”
Mine: “They can shove it up their asses.”
Him: “They say Harlow’s part of the deal. Get Harlow, we’ll get her old man.”
Me: “Tell them maybe once they could’ve been contenders. Now they’re bums.”
That silences him for a while. Let him deal with these clowns. We’ve got enough problems on our hands.
I should’ve guessed they’d be tracking Yves. Somehow, for some of them, I doubt it’s to get her old man—my guess is that some of them are his customers, although I think he deals in more high end stuff than AD’s ragtag band of assassins for hire can pay for. I think what’s going on is that she’s pissed some of them off over the years, and now it’s payback time.
I’m not interested in payback. All I want to do is go home and start up where I’ve never been before. In a place called Peace.
It’s late evening before I hear from AD again.
“Five million bucks is a lot of change, you know,” he writes to me. “You’ve got competition.”
“Yeah. Like they’d give up their best supplier.”
AD: “Arms dealers are a dime a dozen.”
Me: “Not like Runtz.”
AD: “Harlow’s burned a few of them. If you’re on to her, you’re going to have some serious shit on your hands.”
Me: “Don’t know where the hell she is.”
AD: “Rumor has it she flew to Singapore under one of her various nommes de guerre and from there headed for Colombo.”
Me: “She ain’t here.”
See? I can lie with the best of them.
At least for a while.
The women’s reaction to Yves’ presence is initially one of shock. Anger sets in until we repeat the Cliffs Notes version of how and why she ended up here. Even Deborah managed to keep her opinions to herself after that.
I confer with the guys after Sari and Devi head off to do some translation work, Muladharma pleads a migraine after spending the day with Japanese businessmen, all of whom kicked his ass in golf, and Mel and Deborah settle in for some serious gin rummy. Yves falls asleep on the sofa in one of the sitting rooms after dinner. We’re not about to wake her up. Not tonight. Tomorrow, she can start earning her keep.
“She’s going to be a real sticking point. So far, no on the release on Jimmy unless we agree to giving up any information about her we might have.”
“You didn’t tell them she was here, did you?” Byers looks aghast.
“What kind of idiot do you take me for?”
“Lotsa kinds, but hopefully not that one. Jesus, everybody’s gotta make this so damn difficult.” Langly is still jetlagged and yawns profusely.
“We can’t let anyone know she’s here,” Byers reiterates.
“They’re already suspicious. She left a bigger trail of breadcrumbs than she thinks she did.”
“Shit.” Langly pushes his glasses down his nose and rubs his eyes. “Only one thing to do.”
“What’s that?” I’m running out of ideas here.
“Get a make on where these guys are, where they’re transmitting out of.”
Byers looks skeptical. “I imagine they’re at least as good as we are at covering their footprints.”
Langly is utterly affronted. “No, they’re fuckin’ not!”
Tracking these goons will be difficult and at best, risky as hell. I stare at Byers. He simply shakes his head, as if to say, I’m not sure I want to watch.
Langly is eyeing me hard. “Say it.”
Byers and I groan loudly.
“Your kung fu is best.”
This produces a grin from our no longer hippie-haired boy. “Damn straight. And guess what? I’m gonna put my money where my mouth is.”
“That’ll be a first,” I comment dryly.
“Langly? Try not to get us killed. At least not until we get home,” Byers admonishes him.
He smiles wickedly. “Not only am I gonna help get us home, but when we do, we’re gonna go in style.”
I really want to believe him.
I think I have to.
Go To Chapter 11