THINGS DONE: BAIT AND SWITCH
The next evening, I receive a terse email from Langly. One word: YES.
“I think we have to get Langly and Deborah out of there,” I inform Muladharma.
“I’ve already begun working on it.”
“How did you know?”
“I’m married, remember? And my wife’s been pregnant. I figured it had to be.”
No discussion of alternatives to the pregnancy were obviously posed; Deborah is pro-choice in policy but not in fact. She’s mentioned that one of her aversions to entering ob-gyn was the prospect of doing abortions; she could never do the procedure and feel comfortable about it. I’m hoping Langly wasn’t utterly tactless and made such a suggestion. That would probably cause a sharp rift between them, possibly one that couldn’t be mended.
And he has mentioned that yes, eventually, the two of them would like kids. I can’t help but feel a small thrill myself. The possibility that Sari and I would ever be parents does not exist, but a child of Langly’s would absolutely be family. There are a lot of definitions to family. I’ve found that my own definitions have become much more flexible over time.
I take a moment to find Sari so that I can share the news. She and Devi are at work, translating bodice-ripper dialogue and giggling, when I announce to them that aunthood for the both of them has been officially confirmed. The news is received happily but with a great deal of concern.
“How long will it take Mula to get them here?” Sari wrinkles her brow.
“I’m not sure. How many friends does he have there?” I quip back.
Devi chuckles, but then turns serious. “Not as many as he needs. Probably 2 weeks, best effort.” She leans back in her chair and yawns. “We were here when I got pregnant, right about this time of year. I was miserable.”
“And you made sure you didn’t suffer alone,” her older sister grins back at her wickedly.
“Why should I? Everyone is entitled to my opinion,” Devi responds to her tartly. I keep wondering how they get any work done. Every time I find them, they’re giggling and goofing around. Then again, there’s a lot of that with the guys and me, and we do manage to finish things. Right now, despite the trouble and the danger, I’m so excited that I’ll see Langly and Frohike again soon, it’s as if I’m walking on a stream of air.
“And you had air conditioning and indoor plumbing, dear,” Sari reminds Devi.
“Minimum requirements for a princess.” I laugh at that--Devi most assuredly qualifies as a princess in attitude. But I’ve seen her work the slums of Colombo and not flinch at all. She was with us all the way when the three of us were so terribly sick, and she was utterly nonplussed by the whole experience, at least in terms of physical care. How she dealt with it emotionally, hiding strangers in her home, I’m not sure, but I’ve yet to see it dim the bon vivant in her.
Sari smiles at me. “You’re beaming, John. You’d think you were going to be the father.”
“Of course I’m going to be one of the fathers. Do you think we’re going to let Langly and Deborah corrupt that child on their own?”
“No, I suspect we can throw in our own mix in that regard,” Sari smiles back. She stands up. “I’m going to talk to Mula. Maybe I can help him on this one.”
“Sure, sure, any excuse not to work,” Devi mocks her.
Sari does the mature thing, and sticks her tongue out at her younger sister. One thing I will miss when we get out of here is watching those 2 in action, day in and day out. It’s like viewing continuous improvisational comedy.
Of course, the guys and I have our own brand. I can’t wait till we can start running our own show again.
“I hope they’re not serious about going from Cayman Brac to Caracas,” Sari says to Muladharma. “That’s what, a weeklong sail?”
“Five days, with a fair wind,” Mula says as we park ourselves into his guest chairs. Meeting in Muladharma’s office is never a casual affair. He stays on one side of the desk. Everyone else on the others. It’s quite different from the free-for-alls the guys and I have, where we’re just as likely as not to end up laughing and shouting and disagreeing at the tops of our lungs. With Muladharma, everything is rather formal and almost too civilized, even for a stiff like me. Of course, since living here, I’ve abandoned suits. I didn’t even arrive here in one. I’m wondering if I’ll ever go back to them.
We’re discussing travel plans transmitted by Frohike and AD. Muladharma isn’t happy with their original plan to sail to Caracas. Too long at sea.
“The longer they’re out there, the more vulnerable they are.” Muladharma concurs with Sari. “They should shoot for Belize or some other Central American hellhole where nobody will care about them. The woman that AD lives with has contacts in that area. I would think she would exploit them.”
“Then they’d catch a flight to Caracas, then to Buenos Aires, on to Brunei, and from Brunei to Colombo.” Frohike hates flying under the best of circumstances. He’s really going to be in a lovely mood when we finally fetch him.
Assuming nothing goes wrong. That’s a mighty huge assumption in a time when everything that can possibly go wrong, has. Murphy was an optimist.
“We should see them in about a week,” Muladharma announces quietly. He doesn’t need to add, if nothing goes wrong. We’re all too conscious of that right now. “Langly and Dr. SaintJohn should be simpler, at least theoretically, but this is Bangladesh, and regrettably, nothing is simple with them.” He groans. “What’s truly ridiculous is that there are only 2 direct flights a week from Dakha to Colombo. The rest of the time, they have to be routed via Bombay.”
“That’s thousands of miles out of the way!” My eyebrows and my blood pressure shoot up.
Muladharma raises his hand, palm side towards me. “Ah, but you forget, you’re applying Western logic here. You’re in the Far East now. Logic...takes on a different form, as you’ve no doubt discovered.”
This makes Sari chuckle. “That’s what I’d tell myself when I’d get frustrated first being in India.”
“Another problem is that travel has to be arranged--like here, you simply can’t just move about. And it’s comparatively easy here.”
“How long will that take?” Sari inquires.
“That’s a good question. I suspect if I lean on a couple of people, maybe 2 weeks, maybe 3.”
“And that’s if you can get people to get in motion,” I add forlornly.
“Medicins Sans Frontieres will no doubt assist, but Bangladesh isn’t user friendly, to borrow one of your expressions.” Muladharma gives a wry smile. “We’ll just do our best, and get them out as quickly as possible, without jeopardizing security any further than it’s already been compromised.” I wince. He’s referring to Jimmy. That’s the stickiest problem in the bunch.
“I have a lot of friends in Bombay. I could meet them there,” Sari suggests.
Muladharma looks at her as if she’s lost her mind. “Have you forgotten that you’re a target as well?”
Sari laughs. “Actually, I get so comfortable here, I forget why we’re here. Yeah, you’re right. Not a good plan. Although I would like to get there before we head back to the States. There’s a lot of people I’d like to see--”
“Some other time.” Muladharma squelches that. “I think your young man here is quite ready to go home, if I read him correctly.”
“Guilty as charged.” I redden a bit. I know Sari would like to see the friends she’s told me so much about, but I need to return to the status quo first.
Whatever that is.
We have people attempting to locate Jimmy in Europe, and apparently, Frohike’s put AD on task as well. His people have unconfirmed sightings of him in Switzerland, in the Zurich area.
“He really should have gone to Bern,” Sari muses. “Zurich and Geneva are two of the most sterile cities I’ve ever visited.”
“They’re on lakes.” I would think that would add some picturesque character to them.
“Just like Buffalo and Cleveland. Only far more expensive.”
As homesick as I am, you couldn’t convince me to head for Buffalo or Cleveland. I must have a death wish or something, but to me, home means the DC metro area. I’d be grateful to be anywhere on US soil, but to really go home, I need to go to where I’ve always lived. I’m a native of the area, born in Sterling, Virginia, and while I’ve always wanted to travel--I’m not talking about trips to Miami or Texas, either--I’ve never wanted to declare a permanent residence anywhere but that part of the world. I wonder if Muladharma feels that way about being here in Colombo. It’s hard to tell. There seem to be some things he loves about here in Colombo, some things he appreciates in the US, and then there’s the matter of his having spent a large part of his wonder years in Britain. I’m not sure I have what it takes to be truly cosmopolitan.
It’s dinner time. Tonight, it’s just Sari, Devi, Muladharma, Palin and myself. I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s been a long day. Instead of trying to steal a furtive hour here and there, I’m on task all day again, just like I used to be. I’d gotten out of the habit more than I thought I had, but it feels good to be doing it. It feels good to be doing something, and with any luck, something potentially useful and beneficial.
The only business that’s discussed during dinner is Palin’s soccer games, what books we’re reading, and what movies are on satellite tonight. “Valmont” is one of the selections; I’ve always enjoyed the story of “Liaisons Dangereuse” and it’s a better than average treatment of it. Sari likes it dubbed in French. While my French is not atrocious, I generally require subtitles to keep a handle on the story.
Sari groans. “Right now, I’ll read anything that doesn’t talk about rippling muscles and ravishing the young maiden.” She reserves her comments for when Palin has left the table; Muladharma doesn’t approve of open discussion of their current endeavor with Palin.
“What’s wrong with rippling muscles and ravishing the young maiden?” Devi giggles as she begins to clear the plates away, and winks at her husband, who smiles enigmatically at her. “Honestly, Sari, escapism isn’t so bad.”
“There’s nothing wrong with escapism. I’d just prefer mine not to be at a 6th grade level.”
“Picky, picky, picky,” Devi giggles back. “Mula, where’s my newest Stephanie Plum novel? Hmm?”
Muladharma flashes her one of his hints of a smile. “I’ll let you know when I’m finished with it.” He leans back in his chair. “Escapism. It’s a survival mechanism.”
As opposed to escape, which is also a survival mechanism, but far less entertaining.
“I’m going to go back to work,” I tell him.
He shakes his head. “That’s the problem in both our lines of work, isn’t it? The job’s never done.”
No, it never is. But there are parts that should be closed after a while. Such as the chapter of our lives determined by the acts of Edward Runtz.
I’m not surprised to see email--Frohike and AD put everything on automatic forward to Muladharma and me. (I’m sure they understand that Muladharma reads everything.)
What does rattle my bones is the contents of one of the emails. It’s from someone only identified as ‘rx7x15’ and he indicates that he has Jimmy in ‘custody.’ I’m both relieved and concerned. From what I’ve read, AD has a number of friends of questionable character; however, I doubt Frohike would have allowed any of them to become involved without explicit instructions to do no harm. And they’d damn better be following that dictum to the letter. I send back a response, indicating that I would appreciate a personal email from Jimmy, assuring me of his safety.
“I suspect you’ve seen the news,” I tell Muladharma, once again padding to his office (I’ve really gotten used to going barefoot. I rather like it.)
“What news? I’ve been busy with other things.”
“Jimmy’s been located. One of our...friends of a friend...has him in their...protection.”
“I’m trying.” I’ve already got a trace going to find where the post originated. That’s the problem with fellow hackers--they know all the tricks of the trade. On the upside, the connection is probably very secure. “I’ve requested independent confirmation that Jimmy’s safe, from him personally.”
“Let’s hope he’s still in Europe. There are a number of safe houses there. However, if he made it as far as Istanbul, everything’s up for grabs.” This doesn’t give me quite the warm fuzzy feeling I’d hoped for.
While engaged in tracking down Jimmy’s whereabouts, I dash a quick email off to Langly to let him know. There’s no other correspondence from him at this time, which isn’t surprising. I’m sure he has his hands full. I do ask him to help trace the message if he’s got time and access, and to try and get into my system and watch everything--without being caught himself. If Langly can’t pull that one off, no one can. I just hope he’s not too boggled with all that’s going on around him at this time.
I’m back to tracking. I have to say, whoever AD’s friend is, at least as far as computers go, he’s very, very good. He’s gotten me halfway around the world and I haven’t caught up to him yet.
My email chimes again. I’m hoping it’s a response from Langly or Jimmy, but it’s not. It’s from another nym I don’t recognize and it’s a forward. One of AD’s cronies, no doubt.
Can’t someone send me good news once in a while?
Lois is no longer in Iran.
Go To Chapter 7