Worry isn’t supposed to be part of living in paradise, but it’s as constant a companion as my beloved Mel Scarlett, and not nearly as attractive or entertaining.

I don’t worry about being found here, at least not the way I did in the beginning.  The British West Indies are a great place to escape if you don’t want people asking too many questions about you.  Granted, AD or Jolly Roger could potentially leave me to fry if they were so inclined, but they have just as much, if not more, at stake in keeping their damn mouths shut., and as long as their own best interests are being served, it’s not a concern.  Not to mention that should anyone start getting nosy, AD keeps a cache of weapons that makes me feel reassured and uncomfortable at the same time.  Jolly Roger may rely on The Force that is computers, but like Han Solo, AD seems to feel that there’s no substitute for a blaster at your side when push comes to shove.  As long as he doesn’t get crazy and decide to use it on me, no problem there.

Money has been less of a problem than I originally feared.  Working on AD’s fishing cruises not only puts a little cash in my pocket and, as a bonus, fresh dinner on the table, straight from the sea, but Mel and I have been beating them at poker more regularly now.  For a while there I was worried that playing cards would leave us poverty stricken and starving, but even had that occurred, nobody in the village would have allowed it to happen.  We certainly don’t live extravagantly--our digs are nothing to write home about, but they’re easy to keep clean and they satisfy the minimum requirements of a place to cook, a place to sleep (and engage in other bed-related activities) and a place to set up the computer.  The rent’s cheap and the landlord’s happy to take our cash without inquiring as to our activities.  The fishing cruises allow me to drink beer at AD’s expense, something I consider to be a good thing.  Mel receives some income from working in the tourists’ clinic.  For the time being, we’re in reasonably good shape in that department.

I’ve felt very guilty about Mel’s being dragged into all this, but I’ve decided it’s a luxury I can no longer afford, mostly at her continued urging.  She won’t lie to me and say that she is happy about all that has occurred--streaming video notwithstanding, I know it was painful to miss the birth of her grandson--but she has the attitude that, this is our situation and it could be much worse.  She isn’t one to waste a great deal of time or energy on wondering how things could have been different.  To her, that’s simply counterproductive, a horrible misuse of her resources, and for Mel, misuse of resources, any kind of waste, is abhorrent to her. And she won’t tolerate it in me, either.

“It’s not exactly how I planned on taking a vacation,”  she said to me one night as we were sipping daiquiris, complete with paper umbrellas, and watching the sun set over the crystal blue water.  “But I’ll take it any way I can get it,” she added with a grin.

It doesn’t feel much like vacation to me, but I’m trying to follow her lead on that.

I’m not terribly worried about Byers and Langly.  Byers seems to have adjusted to a more opulent lifestyle; his only concern--and mine--is that he is attempting to track Runtz along with Langly and me.  I gather that he and Sari are doing well, dividing their time between pleasure, social obligations, and charitable deeds.  He hasn’t mentioned sex, but I’m guessing he gets laid on a regular basis.  He and Sari seem to be doing well together.  He’s adapted to the extended family stuff, learning the language, and surfing the Web as discreetly and as frequently as possible.  Not to mention that he’s got the protection of Muladharma and his family.  Considering our situation, it doesn’t get better than that.

I’m a bit more concerned for Langly and Deborah’s physical safety--it’s monsoon season there, and their accommodations are considerably more rustic than those of Byers and Sari.  The rains are starting to let up, and that’s good, but the stagnating water and substandard sanitation have them bombarded with people suffering all sorts of various and sundry tropical ailments.  Still, I think he’s in good spirits--his emails inevitably begin with a rant about the weather--something to the effect that hot and wet is good only when it’s about Deborah.  He talks about building sewer systems, helping Deborah with patients, and trying to keep the satellite system up and running.  He’s been the least active in trying to track down Runtz, and I think that’s due to the fact that the boy is just plain too busy.  I haven’t decided if this is positive or negative.

What WOULD make it feel more like a respite from everyday life is not having to worry.  Of course, in my case, that is unlikely to happen, especially about Jimmy.  Stupid shit.  What the hell was he thinking?  I was hoping that Byers and Langly would insist that I had become even more delusional than I already am, and say that I was reading far too much into things, but both of them were equally convinced that the emails we had been receiving were not from the big galoot.  Finally, I sent an email confronting Anndie, whom he’d apparently instructed to keep in touch with us (as him).  I assured her this was in no way her fault, and to quit worrying about him.  Now if only I could do the same.  She indicated that he had left to look for Lois (Yves, he insists on still referring to her as), and she had no idea where he had gone to.  She’s had no communication with him since he left.  She did indicate that her boyfriend had joined her in Australia; I told her I wished she hadn’t told me that, despite her assurances that he is not a risk to her security or to any of ours.

Having confirmed this minor factoid, I informed both Langly and Byers of our situation.  Byers was largely concerned for Jimmy’s safety, but felt that Jimmy would not knowingly do anything to compromise our security.  I wrote back--in a rather peevish mood, I’m afraid--that it’s not what he knowingly does that bothers me, it’s what he unknowingly does that screws things up!  We debated for several days about whether or not to reveal ourselves on the otaku boards, as a way of possibly tracking him. Byers, worried about him, was all in favor of it--granted, there are already rumors floating about that we’re alive and well and living in Katmandu or Kenosha or wherever. Langly was dead set against it--he loves watching the rumor mill grind, and felt the problems in coming out now would far outweigh the benefits it might yield in tracking Jimmy.  In the end, I was forced to agree, although I still agonize over it.

Goddamn Lois.  I know she was trying to help us, but she ended up making a bigger mess than she could have imagined--and she can imagine a lot.  I understand her need to be in hiding perfectly, but she obviously underestimated the boy’s attraction to her.  He’d never said anything to us explicitly about how he felt about her, but we could always tell, and this just nails it.

I hope to God he finds her, and before someone we don’t want finds us.


AD and I are doing a dive cruise today.  I hate dive cruises.  Part of the reason is due to the relatively young and obnoxious clientele we service, but the main reason is that on dive cruises, at least with AD, there is no alcohol.

“You know, in heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here,”  I remind the captain.  I don’t care what he thinks of the reference to the hideous polka song.

“I understand it’s a scarce commodity in hell as well,”  AD responds mildly.

“Then we and all of our friends are going to be mighty unhappy.  Please tell me you keep a little something around for the hired help.”

“Not on dives, my friend.  Drinking and diving don’t mix.”  AD only takes serious divers, as opposed to the tourists who want to do the all-you-can-drink-for-$100US-a-day along with your recreational plunge into the waters.  “I have to get down and rescue any of these clowns, I don’t need my judgment any more impaired than it already is.”  I do know for a fact that he was smoking Ganja weed till at least 3 a.m.  We’d finished playing cards around 1, but the smell wafted over towards our hut for hours afterwards.  He seems surprisingly clear-eyed this morning.  Maybe you get immune to the stuff if you smoke it long enough.
“Now you know why I like the fishing cruises better,”  I grumble.

He laughs.  “What’s with you the last couple days?  You have to admit, if you’re going to live life on the lam, there are worse places to do it.”

“Y’know, I’m getting tired of feeling as if I’m the criminal here,”  and that’s the truth.  “We’re being punished and we didn’t even break any damn laws!”

“Think it’s bad here?  Obviously you’ve never enjoyed the fabulous hospitality and opulent surroundings of your average Third World jail.”

“That’s not the point, jackass.”

“What is the point?”

“The point is that, while I enjoy a tropical getaway as much as the next guy, I’d like to get home, preferably in this lifetime.”

He’s silent on that subject.

“Ever think about it?”  I know it’s impolitic to ask, but this is AD.  Surely he must occasionally miss some things that are unique to our country of origin.

“I try not to.”  We both know that he can’t go back.  But that phrase tells me that despite his carving out a rather pleasant existence here where the trades gently blow, he’d like the opportunity.  “What are you going to do if that never becomes a reality?”

I was convinced that eventually it would be.  Now Jimmy’s latest foray has made that all the more uncertain.

We’re silent for a time.  He breaks the silence.  “One of your boys giving you trouble?”

“They always give me trouble.  Why do you think I have ulcers?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

I know damn well that’s not what you meant, you jackass.

“One of them’s gone missing.”

“Which one?”

“The brain donor who’s supposed to be in Australia.”

“I’ve still got some contacts there.”

“Don’t.”  I’m not sure I’m ready for AD’s circle of friends outside of here.  I’m not certain that they wouldn’t pose more of a threat than the powers that be in DC.

He doesn’t argue the point, and once again, we stay silent, waiting for the first divers to return.

“Something about a girl?” He finally asks me.

“What makes you say that?”

“Because, assuming this individual still has testicles, it’s usually something about a girl.”

“Testicles be damned.  I’m hoping he’s still breathing at this point.”

“Who’s the girl?”

I’m not sure I want to reveal this factoid to him.  It’s the one card I have not put on the table. Maybe he can help.  I’m just not sure how.  I do know that I don’t want it to involve firearms.

“Ever hear of a woman who calls herself Yves Adele Harlow?”

His eyes grow wide.  “That, among other things--anything but her real name, Lois Runtz.  You did know that, didn’t you?”

“I did, I’m sorry to say.”

“You’re wrapped up with her?  Oh man, you are in some deep shit if you’ve got her kicking your ass.”

“It’s not her specifically.  It’s her old man.”

This time he looks horrified.  “You got your sorry ass tangled up with Edward Runtz?  Christ, Frohike. If you’re wrapped up with him, you got a lot more problems than no beer on the boat.  And you say your one kid is out running after her?”

“Think so.”

“Jesus fucking Christ. If there is anybody on this goddamned planet you want to stay away from, it’s him.”

“Believe me, the involvement wasn’t consensual.”

Silence again.  Signs that the first divers are ready to surface.

“Frohike, man, you are in a world of hurt.”

“Please, tell me something I don’t already know.”

“When we get back.”

Go To Chapter 12