Frohike has confirmed that Jimmy has gone missing.

“We’ve got to tell Muladharma,”  Sari says.  “He can protect him.”

“He can’t protect him if we don’t even know where he is.”

“He didn’t say anything to Anndie Miller?”

“If he did, she isn’t talking.  I very much doubt that he did.  He probably didn’t even know where he was going first.”

Sari and I are sitting on the portico outside of our apartment within Muladharma’s house.  It’s a lovely place, full of tropical plants, flowers bursting with spicy fragrances, and a small fountain that gently gushes light streams of water. The rains have stopped and today, the sky is a sharp shade of summer blue. The whole atmosphere is cool and restful.  However, since receiving news from Frohike, I feel anything but.

Sari, looking cool in a natural colored sheer silk shirt and skirt, thinks quietly. Normally, watching her this way, I would duly note that she is devoid of undergarments and my hormones would react in accord. At this moment, though, I’m too concerned for Jimmy--not to mention the rest of us--to be stimulated.

“He really loves her.”  The words slip quietly from her mouth.

“He does.  But he’s gone off on a wild goose chase, and I don’t even want to think about what could happen to him.”

“Have you been tracking her movements?”  Sari asks me.  She knows that I’m on the search for Runtz.  I confess that I feel rather guilty for putting her in a very difficult position, that of having to not be truthful with her brother-in-law.  It’s more sin of omission than commission, but I doubt she’s very comfortable with it.

“I’ve tried.  No sign of her.  Wherever she is, she’s buried herself deep.”  I hope it’s only her that’s buried herself, and not someone else.  Sari nods.  I can tell she’s thinking the same thing by the mild shudder she gives off, and I know it’s not from the temperature; currently, the thermometer is reading 40 degrees Celsius.  I don’t even want to think about the humidity.

“And you’re monitoring all the otaku boards.”

“As much as I can, without being traced.  I argued for surfacing, but Langly and Frohike fought me down on that one, and I do see their logic.”

“Do you think she’s a threat?”  Sari says, closing her lids halfway.

“No, not when no one can locate her.”

“Surely she’s had contact with another human.  It would be impossible to avoid it.”  And for Sari, unthinkable.  I don’t think she’d last a day without some form of human contact.  I’ve gotten accustomed to her need for at least a dozen hugs a day; I think Hilda was right in that regard, that it’s the minimum daily requirement for some measure of mental health.

“No doubt.  But keep in mind her capacity for disguise.  And we don’t know all of her friends.”

“Is that something you’re pursuing?”

“I don’t think it would be fruitful.  I imagine she has a few people in the world who would never give her up.”

“We among them.”

“I’m not interested in ‘giving her up.’  I do think she’s the best way to get to her father.”

“You’re assuming that there’s something resembling a normal parent-child relationship there.”  I wince.  I’ve hardly had normal parent-child relationships, at least not for the last 13 years of my life.  My father remains underground, living under an assumed name, and after the World Trade Center incident, I barely saw him.  He insisted, for both of our protection.  This has been something that has made me terribly sad.  The few times I’ve seen him, it’s broken my heart.  He’s barely a shell of his former self, his dreams broken, his faith gone.  Even after my mother’s passing, which was terrible for him, he managed to hold on to himself, but not now.  He has no idea where I am.  I’m sure he wonders.  I would love to email him, but he has no email.  Our meetings were always arranged furtively.

I worry that he will not be long for this world, and since his friends and colleagues already believe him to be dead, who will mourn him?  He’ll die alone.  And the one thing I would wish for is to be with him when that time comes.  I may not get that chance.  For all I know, he has passed quietly on, unknown to the world, unknown to me.  One would imagine that being around Sari’s extended family would ease that kind of pain, but in fact, it simply drives it home, hard.

My father has never met Sari.  He probably never will.  That makes me ache all over.  I think he would actually rather like her.  Their political views may not have been compatible at one point, but he’d enjoy her idealism and strong beliefs.  This, however, is not the time to be thinking of parental relationships...

“Wait a minute.”  I feel something akin to lightning surging through my skin.

Sari laughs lightly.  “I’m not going anywhere, babe.”

“No, no--I have an idea.”  I start to rise from my chair, but Sari motions me back with a gentle wave of her hand.

“What idea?”  All right, running it by her might be a good reality check.

“Jimmy may have attempted to contact his parents.  He has trust funds.  He’d need money to pursue Lois.”

“Muladharma gave him the same as he left the rest of you.”

“No, if I know Jimmy, and I think I know him pretty well, he wouldn’t have touched that.  He’d have left that for Anndie.  No way would he have left her high and dry.”

“Is that where he was getting his money to carry you on the paper?”

“Uh-huh.  I don’t know that his parents were too happy about it, but seeing as the money is technically his, they didn’t put up much of an argument.”

Sari straightens herself from a comfortable slouch to a more erect posture.  “Perhaps he split the money with Anndie.”

“I’m guessing that was not the case. “

“No, you’re probably right.  Jimmy’d give you the shirt off his back and go naked in the dead of winter.”

“Of course, there would be no way to tell if there was any activity on Jimmy’s account from Muladharma.”  They’re all unmarked accounts. I believe they’re in the Caymans, but to be quite honest, I didn’t ask.  I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Sari stares into the late-afternoon sunlight, squinting as she thinks.  “Jimmy’s an adult.  Why would he contact his parents?  And wouldn’t that be rather risky?”

“I have to admit, I don’t like the idea.  I’m hoping he didn’t, but I believe the trusts come from various foundations the family has set up, and the parents have fiduciary control until he and Andrea reach the age of 30.”  Andrea is Jimmy’s little sister.  I hope he didn’t attempt to contact her as well.  I doubt he would.  He’d be aware of the risks in contacting any family members, but considering his feelings for Lois, he would be desperate.

Trust me, desperation is something I have an intimate understanding of.  Anyone who’d seen me in Las Vegas three years ago would have picked up on that had they been deaf, blind and totally clueless.  But we won’t go there at this moment.

“So what are you going to do?”  Sari asks me.

“I’m going to follow the money and see where it takes me.”

“It might not take you anywhere.”

“That’s my friend out there.  It’s worth a shot.”

“Frohike will probably want to kick your butt.”

“And this would be different from any other time in what way?”


I haven’t felt this uneasy hacking since meeting Susanne Modeski.  I distinctly recall telling her, “You didn’t see this.”  Now I think I’ll say it to myself.  I’d like to say I haven’t lost confidence in my skills.  I don’t think that’s the source of my nervousness.  I’ve always been very careful about leaving footprints.  Now I have to be more careful than ever.  I am, after all, supposed to be dead.  I really do think that sooner or later, we will be discovered by our brothers -- and the rare sister -- who pursue our same, potentially deadly, profession.  I’d like to announce ourselves before we’re uncovered, but Langly and Frohike do have legitimate reasons for not wanting to come forward yet.

One of the reasons I’d like to come out is that we could use some of the expertise of our more trusted brethren.  Unfortunately, not everyone in our profession deserves that sort of trust.  So we lurk in the umbra, weaving our webs even more carefully than ever before.  If I don’t have success with this today, I’m going to enlist Frohike’s assistance.  He’s good with this sort of thing.  Langly is probably the most superior hacker of the three of us, but he’s poor at following financial trails, and right now, he doesn‘t appear to have much in the way of free time on his hands.  He hasn’t the patience.  I’m starting to wonder if I do anymore.  Hacking, under the best of circumstances, is long stretches of boredom punctuated by bursts of panic-laden, rapid-fire movement.  Spidering of the nature that I’m engaged in requires even more patience and the sort of tolerance for boredom that police officers doing surveillance work need to develop.  I snicker to myself at the irony of that comparison--us to the police.  I’ll have to share that with the guys.  They’d appreciate it.

Sari sometimes joins me when I’m on the chase, but more often than not, she takes that as an opportunity to hang with her sister or play with Palin.  Playing with Palin has been one of the benefits of being here.  I’ve gotten to know him better, and he’s got me turned on to soccer, to the point where I’m actually paying attention to the World Cup.  I don’t think Sari is all that thrilled with my latest developing addiction.

“Don’t you and the guys watch enough televised sports already?”  She asked while I was watching Korea nail down Spain.

I looked at her in shock.  “You mean there is such a thing?”  The only time I’m disinclined to watch is when Frohike, Langly and Mulder decide to accompany viewing with pub crawling, well named because they literally are on their hands and knees by the time they’re finished for the night.

I think back on all those times, even the unfortunate ones where I was unwittingly dragged to the Limerick Tavern or the Candy Apple and forced to endure nonstop cigarette smoke and humiliation of women.  Right now, if I could be with the guys, I might not turn down such a venture.  Just to be in the same room with them for half an hour, with all the arguing and betting and other forms of testosterone fueling.  I knew it had become an intrinsic part of my life, and I knew I would miss the guys.  But I did expect it to be less bothersome as time went on.

I was wrong.  It’s getting worse all the time.  I love Sri Lanka.  Colombo is a marvelous city that I’ve come to appreciate in its splendor and squalor.  Sari and I have taken our relationship to a new level of intimacy that I was initially uncomfortable with but now revel in.  I actually enjoy the company of Muladharma’s family (well, most of them.  There are a few I could live without seeing again.  I was ashamed to admit this even to myself until I heard Muladharma complain vociferously about the same relatives.  I don’t say anything, but I’m relieved to know I’m not alone in my discontent).

That’s the problem with doing what I’m doing right now.  One has far too much time to think.

I’ve occasionally broached Muladharma with a very indirect request--something along the lines of, ‘Has there been any progress?’ and he’s simply shaken his head.  I suspect it’s something he doesn’t really want to discuss with me at this point, especially since, unbeknownst to him, I’ve been following his progress, and he isn’t really getting far.  I’m sure he’s frustrated.  I more than empathize.

Frustration doesn’t even begin to cover it for me.  I want to go home.  I’m starting to feel a bit like Malcolm X--’by whatever means necessary.’

My discouragement peaks when another one of the rolling blackouts that characterize life in Colombo strikes.  I have uninterruptible power, but there’s not enough juice there to keep this going, and too much of an opportunity to be tracked.

Sari sticks her head in to remind me that there will be a cocktail party in about an hour, and that there will be some guests I’ll enjoy meeting.  At the moment, I can’t imagine wanting to meet anyone, unless their names are Frohike, Langly and Jimmy Bond.  Somehow, I don’t think they’ll be on the guest list for tonight.

Of all the things I need most, I need patience, and my supply is running perilously short.

Go To Chapter 13