BAIT AND SWITCH
Now I can’t say as I object too much to the idea of permanent liquidation for Edward Runtz/Jack Monroe/Black Widow/Jesus Mary and Joseph or whatever name he’s using this month. The asshole’s caused us all enough aggravation for 10 or so lifetimes, and if he’s still around, he’ll find a way to keep pissing us off.
I’d do it myself but there’s a few small problems. One, our name notwithstanding, I hate guns. We all do. I’ve fired one exactly once, and it was loaded with blanks. That was close enough for me. My arm hurt like a son of a bitch for days just from that.
Two, we don’t know where the bastard is. We know he’s with Whitecorps. That only leaves open seven continents. Wow. Really narrowing down our search here.
And three, I’m a wuss about these things. Seriously, I don’t like the idea of being that up close and personal. Enemies suck. They’ve got a habit of damaging you before you get to them. I think we’ve got enough evidence to demonstrate this. Believe it or not, occasionally I learn from experience.
There’s also the thing of deciding if somebody lives or dies. Me, I’m God at the keyboard, but when it comes to deciding if someone slips through or bites it, I’d rather not make that sort of choice.
I’d rather let someone else make that choice. Maybe somebody like Muladharma, who probably wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.
But I’m with Byers. Letting Lois have a grab at this—no way. For one thing, I guess I can’t even fathom being that pissed at somebody. I mean, I hated my parents, and they didn’t like me any better, but all we all wanted was to be out of each other’s lives. Didn’t mean I wanted to like do ‘em in.
Wonder if they’d feel any different once if they found out there was gonna be a grandkid on the scene.
Screw it, right now that’s not the problem.
“You doubt I can do it,” Lois hisses at us.
Frohike shakes his head. “I don’t doubt it for a second, little lady.” You can see Lois curling up her lip right here, she hates the way Frohike talks to her. He does it deliberately ‘cause it annoys her so much. “I’ve seen you at the firing range. But let’s face it, your old man isn’t exactly Mr. Warm and Fuzzy. What if he decides to do you first?”
She’s pouting like, no way. She gets mad when she doesn’t get her own way.
This means lately all she’s been is mad.
I’m thinking how nuts this whole conversation is. I mean, we’re talking about a dad and his daughter. God, what if I have a daughter? What if she ends up hating me? That could truly suck.
“I should be the one to do it.” She crosses her arms, she’s getting all bratty again.
“Your opinion. Not ours.” Byers shakes his head at her. He can keep his voice nice but you know he means business. He’s the one she’s least likely to screw with. He’s always tried being decent to her, which is more than I can say for myself.
“Tell you what,” Frohike says. “We’ll make Muladharma play judge, jury and executioner on this one. If he says you get to do the deed, you do the honors.”
“You’ve heard what he did to my mother. To me. And just in case you forgot, he’s the reason you’re hiding out here in this godforsaken part of the planet where you can’t even get a cheeseburger!”
Do not say that. She has no idea. Bet she’s had a cheeseburger more recently than I have.
“We do have one practical matter. We have to physically locate him. Think you can help us with that, Yves?” Byers is still being nice, but he’s got the voice that says, ‘I’m only saying it like this because my mom would smack my ass if I was rude.”
She’s riding the bitter bus. “If you’re not going to let me go to him, then why should I help find him? It’s not as if anyone else is going to assassinate him. They’ll just drag him in to put him on trial, they won’t have any evidence, he’ll escape.”
Can’t say, since I don’t know what Muladharma’s got cooked up.
“Byers, go drag your future father in law away from playing snugglebunnies with his wife and tell him to get his ass in here,” Frohike barks at him. That makes Byers blush but good. I start cracking up.
“This isn’t funny!” Lois goes after me.
“Sure it is,” I say. “Making Byers turn red is always fun.”
Lois is so glaring at Muladharma. Not a good way to treat your host,especially when he gives you such rad equipment to work with.
“What seems to be the problem?” I think we interrupted something from the looks of things. For one thing, his shirt’s buttoned all wrong. Too bad. It’s not as if me and Deb are getting any right now.
“Ms. Runtz—“ Frohike begins.
“Harlow,” she bites his head off.
“—seems to think she should have the privilege of, shall we say, offing her old man.” Leave it to Fro to put it delicately. Course, you notice I’m not saying anything.
He mulls that one over like he always does, which is to say, you can’t tell what the bastard is thinking. “Have you located him?”
“Not yet,” Byers admits. “We could use her help, but unless she can…do the deed, Yves says she’s not helping us.”
“What’s the point?” Lois snaps. “You’ll bring him in, he’ll escape, he’ll make even more people’s lives a total hell.”
“You object to your father being tried for his crimes?” Muladharma asks her, like he’s asking her what she wants for breakfast.
“His crimes deserve the ultimate punishment.”
“So say you,” Muladharma says quietly. “Perhaps there are others who might disagree.”
He gives this look to me and Frohike and Byers. We don’t say anything.
“He is wanted anywhere and everywhere,” Byers gives in. “We wouldn’t have to extradite him no matter where he was.”
“I’m afraid that’s not the case,” Muladharma says again, no expression, no nothing. I hope he’s not like that when he’s doing…well, whatever he was doing with Devi.
“He dishonored my mother,” Lois spits back.
The dude just does this silent nod thing. It drives me crazy. Bet he’s a hell of a poker player.
“I’ll get back to you. In the meantime, continue with your attempts to locate him.” And that’s an order, at least the way he puts it.
Fuck, I’ll do it. Whatever. I just wanna have Pizza Hut. Hacks go down so much better with greasy pizza. Sad to say, no one delivers around here.
It’s pretty quiet the rest of the night. Deb comes in, says goodnight, Sari drops by, says goodnight, Mel does a quick goodnight. I hope they’re having more fun than we are. This hack should be the ride of my life. It is, but not in a good way.
Muladharma must have the touch, though, ‘cause Lois is helping us.
This is like trying to thread invisible needles, doing this kind of tracking. And he’s gotta be on line to find him. I mean, I’m assuming the asshole sleeps once in a while, which is more than we get to do.
More coffee. Gaak. I love coffee. I was so happy to have coffee when I got here. Now I think the stuff is gonna make me gag. I’ve been on coffee benders but not like this. I suppose it’s useless to ask if anyone in the house has any speed. I wouldn’t have to run to the john as much.
Frohike keeps gulping antacids till he runs out. Great. Now we get to listen to him belch all night along with all this. As long as he doesn’t fart, we’ll live.
We don’t see Muladharma all night. Bastard gets to sleep, or something like that. I’d rather not think about it.
Lois keeps going on about how she wants to take Runtz out till Frohike finally tells her to shut up. While she’s in the bathroom, we all groan.
“Sometimes I think Humphrey Bogart had the right idea,” he grumbles.
Sometime between double vision and complete blindness, I hit something.
“Guys, I’m almost comatose but I think we might have hit pay dirt.”
We all turn our attention on it. Follow it down, slow, careful, no shortcuts, no footprints…
Bastard’s doing an arms deal. With the Tamil. Online.
And we’ve got him in the act.
Am I the shit or what?
That rates getting Muladharma out of bed. Hey, he wants to see us in action, we’ll let him. I’m not sorry for waking him up. God knows he’s not sorry that we’re still.
He’s like so trying to be cool. He is cool. Byers says he’s like the total epitome of coolness. But you can tell, man, this guy is getting so totally pissed off it’s not funny.
“We have him,” Byers says so you can barely hear him.
“Yes.” That’s all the Muladharma man has to say for a while.
“Not as exciting as catching Well Manicured Man in flagrante delicto—“ Frohike has such a dirty mind.
“Frohike, button it.” Byers is getting kind of snippy. Doesn’t look good on him, but yeah, Fro’s got an image there I don’t need to relive.
The deal goes back and forth over several hours. Finally, it’s set.
It’s going to take place in the very place where Capitalism is King—Switzerland. Bern.
“Where’d you guys say Jimmy was?” I ask. Lois looks interested all of a sudden.
“Bern,” Byers answers.
“A lovely city,” Muladharma nods. “For all kinds of things, apparently.”
“Is he going to be safe?” Wow. Lois actually sounds like she cares about him. She’s turning red when she says it. I’d be amused if it wasn’t so scary. I mean, yeah, Jimmy’s a doofus, but he’s a good guy. He’s our friend.
Muladharma’s doing the cat thing. He’s still pissed, I’m sure of it, but he’s got the Blank Face on again.
“The deal will take place in 48 hours,” he says.
“Hey, we can read.” Sorry. I’m tired and pretty punchy.
He looks over at Frohike. “Your friend, AD. Supposedly it’s his friends who are watching out for young Mr. Bond at the moment. You don’t suppose you could get in touch with him, do you, and see if he can make contact?”
Frohike rolls his eyes. “AD finds out, he’ll be hot to trot on this one. I’m not sure what to do.”
“AD is a trained…assassin,” Muladharma is looking for a nice word for killer. There isn’t one.
“He’s a businessman now. And a stoner to boot,” Frohike reminds him.
Muladharma thinks about that. “I’m not sure we should be bothered by such details at the moment.”
“You’re going to have him killed,” Lois says. “But you won’t let me do it.”
“No, young lady, I will not. You’ll kill him in hot anger. If we’re going to arrange for…final liquidation, it will have to be carried out precisely. We need someone who has the skills and a pretty severe lack of conscience about these matters.”
“That would fit AD,” Frohike agrees.
“What are you going to do about your fellow advisors? Interpol?” Byers is getting kind of squeamish about all this, I think.
“I’ll handle them.” Muladharma has turned real cold. “They’re the least of my problems right now.” He stands up. “Raise AD for me, and I’ll give him instructions.”
“What kind of instructions?” I ask.
“Not ones I’m going to share with you. You’re better off not knowing,” Muladharma tells us.
I’m too fucking tired to argue with him.
“Does this mean we can go to bed now?” I ask.
I crawl in with Deb, it feels good. She wakes up a bit when I do.
“You look like shit,” she comments, stroking my hair. Feels good.
“Yeah, kind of like you on Q2,” I tease her.
“Right now I could stand to be on Q2.”
“You’ll change your mind in a month.”
“We’ll be lucky if we’re out of here in month.”
For once, I can gloat. “No, babe, I think we’ll be going home soon.”
“From your lips to God’s ear.”
And then, we crashed.
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