“How’re you coming on the bank accounts?” Mel asks me as she settles down on the sofa.  I’ve informed her that we’re trying to track Jimmy via his financial transactions.  It’s turning out to be harder than I thought.  The money’s all in trust, and some of the trusts are more tightly sealed than the average account here in the Caymans.  I’m getting better at that one.  Made a few practice runs to see how far we could get.  All I can say is, no wonder the Caymans are the choice of drug wholesalers the world over.  Their security makes the Swiss look like a bunch of slackers.

“It’s a challenge,”  I mutter.  “Byers was having problems getting a stable server, so it looks like I’m solo tonight.”

“Well, you said things were going south there.”  Sri Lanka is having another one of its periods of civil unrest between the Tamils and the Sinhalese.  For the most part, it’s mere rumbling, but at certain points it becomes flammable.  This is one of those times.  Martial law hasn’t been imposed, thank God, but there is a curfew in effect, and movements throughout the country, normally fairly unrestricted, are being severely contained.  From the sound of it, however, at least Byers’ cage is pretty gilded.

He’d rather be back in the dump in Takoma Park and you know what?  So would I.  I’ve seen enough glorious sunsets, done enough deep sea fishing, and gotten enough of a tan to last the rest of my natural life.

“Byers and CNN both say it’s mostly precautionary, but let’s hope it doesn’t get any nastier.” I love having more things to worry about.  First Jimmy.  Now this.  At least Langly hasn’t popped a major headache on me--yet.  Given time, I’m sure he’ll find a way to elevate my blood pressure.  Haven’t heard from him in nearly 72 hours.  This isn’t all that weird, but it says that weather in Bangladesh is currently clear and calm, and in those conditions, he generally doesn’t have problems with the satellite.

He knows there’s work to be done, so of course he’s avoiding me, I mutter to myself.   Actually, I wish that were the case.  I’m sure it’s not.  But I’ll kick his ass for it, anyway.  I’m sure there’s some crime he’s committed that deserves his being hassled for.

Of course, it might help if I check my mail.  I stare at the clock in the lower right hand corner and realize I’ve been at this for three hours.  I’ve always lost time while working, but since coming here, my sense of it’s become really distorted.  What hasn’t changed is my disgust at how little productivity has occurred in that time.

I open the box, and sure enough, there’s mail from Langly.  “Sorry been quiet.  Friends brought great booze, got a hell of a hangover.”  Little asshole.  “Can’t raise Byers.  Want me to do anything?”

Yeah, you little jerk, I want you and Byers and Jimmy and Deborah and Sari and everyone else connected to this miserable affair safe at home.  I want Runtz laid down.  I want this whole shit to be over with.  And you’re just the man to help me out, I think, smiling for the first time in hours.

What we really need are bank records, Jimmy’s, Lois’s, and anything connected to her dad.  I know it’s not Langly’s preferred task, but then again, he seems to be holding his own with building sewage systems and dealing with the more disgusting aspects of human disease.  A little financial hacking won’t hurt him.  He’s already done cell phone records for any numbers we’ve had.  Nothing there.  Sure, we could go through every phone number in every country in the entire world and probably find them, but not in this lifetime.  We’d need technology comparable to the NSA and while I’ve got no grumbles with Jolly Roger’s rig out here in the middle of the nowhere, it’s not going to cut it from that angle.

I email him back, tell him what to look for, and tell him he should quit drinking, it’ll get him into all kinds of trouble.  I’m dying to see how he responds to that.

No word from Byers yet.  I’m sure he’ll get on as soon as possible. He better, at any rate.

Mel is curled on the sofa.  “Feeling like bugging AD and Jam for some cards?”  I’m really not in the mood, but if she wants to play, I’ll accommodate her.  I need a break.

“Not tonight.”

“Isn’t that supposed to be followed up with, ‘I have a headache’?”  I joke with her.

She sighs.  “I wish it were only that.”

“I’m homesick, too.”

She seems surprised by my admission, but only for a moment.  Not that I would be homesick, but that I would say something so direct about it.

She sits up.  “I’m starting to feel like the castaways on ‘Gilligan’s Island’.”

“Tell me about it.”

“How long do you think we’ll be here, really?”

“As soon as we can make something happen, we’ll be on our way home.”

“That something would be bringing down Edward Runtz.  And he’s been untouchable for years.”

“Make that decades.”  I don’t think that’s what she needed to hear, but it’s true, and there’s no point in hiding facts from her.  “Right now, my first concern is Jimmy.  God knows what the boy has gotten himself into.  We don’t even know that he’s still alive.  Or if he’s in a Turkish prison, which might be worse than being dead.”  I hate thinking like this, but it could very well have happened.  I’m worried at him and pissed as hell at him at the same time, which seems to be my normal MO with the guys.  Just amp it to about a power of 100, and you get the idea.

“AD knows people who have connections to him.  He’s mentioned that more than a few times.  He seems eager to put him out of business, although he’s not very specific as to why.”

I haven’t told her that at one point, AD was a competitor in the arms business, and I think I’ll leave that for now.

“AD gets his ass wrapped in this, he’s not going to be able to enjoy that beautiful Catalina sloop much longer.”

“He seems trustworthy.”

“But he’s volatile as hell.  Some guys...they just never quite get over the Nam experience.  AD’s one of them.  Truthfully, I think he’s better off staying here and toting tourists around than trying to get into all of this.”

“Did you ever get over being in country?”  She asks me pointedly.

I chew on that one.  Have I?  I don’t have too many flashbacks.  I’m something of a serious drinker, always on the edge of being alcoholic, but somehow, I pull back.  I can’t fit into normal society, yet it’s the very thing I crave.

“Maybe not.  When I came home, the only thing I wanted to do was rejoin normal society with a vengeance.  Tried marriage, working, kids.  It didn’t happen.  I’d seen stuff in Nam that made me doubt the country I lived in.  Yet there’s no place I want to be more.  Because I have a lot of faith in it, in its people, and I always think, if we keep trying, we’ll make a difference.”

“You do make a difference.  You help people that no one else will.”

“Small potatoes.”

“No.  Never small.  You and I have both seen people die.”

“Way too many of them.”

“But we make our best efforts to keep it from happening.  We can’t keep kicking ourselves for not saving everybody.”

“When were you able to do that?”  I ask her, equally pointedly.

She laughs.  “When I get there, I’ll let you know.”

A thought plays in my head.  “I really don’t want AD involved in this...but he’s got a lot of friends in low places.  People that could find Jimmy.  Look out for him.”  Maybe even help him, perish the thought.

“Jimmy isn’t as stupid as you make him out to be, Mel,”  she reminds me.

“He’s not stupid.  He just hasn’t learned to temper his idealism.”

“And you have?”

“I think I possess sufficient cynicism to make sure I don’t go over the edge.”

That makes her laugh.  “Oh, sure.  That’s why we’re hiding out here on Cayman Brac.”

“Just doing what we had to do.”

“My point exactly.”

“Think we should go talk to AD, maybe enlist his help in locating Jimmy?”

“We should, but then we’d have to endure another night of the World Cup.  Brazil’s hot and Jam’s going nuts.”  I can actually hear her cheering as we speak--her team must have scored another goal.  “Tell you what.  I’m going to see if Byers is up and running again.”

“You do that.  I’ll go talk to Jam.”

“Good luck getting her attention right now.”

“Oh, I think I can do that.”  She smiles at me confidently.  “It’s a girl thing, you know.”

Women are certainly a scary species.


I get another email back from Langly, whining about how he hates doing financial records.  This would be obvious to anyone who’s ever seen how he maintains his personal checking account.  But he’s got what he thinks is a hit.  According to his email, the Gertrude A. Bond Irrevocable Trust has had activity on it in recent weeks.  The account is located in...

The Bank of Grand Cayman.

Jesus, this just keeps getting weirder.

Grand Cayman is only a ferry ride away.  That presents possibilities.  And risks.

The computer plays ‘Born to Be Wild,’ indicating I have a new message from one of the guys.  Maybe Byers got back up.

He got back up, all right...and as I read his message, I’m not consoled.  While he was spidering, trying to get a fix on Jimmy, he ended up at Whitecorps.  That makes my blood run cold.

Monroe.  How much is Monroe connected to this?

And what if Monroe is a nym?  What if Monroe is Runtz?

No.  Couldn’t be.  Runtz is a British national.  Unlikely he’d ever get that sort of security clearance...

Well, not through normal channels, anyway.

Byers has sent me the protocol he used to accidentally arrive at Whitecorps.  He says he’s sent the same one to Langly.  He’d like me to go through it and see if I can duplicate what happened  to him.  Byers is no chickenshit, but I think this one unnerved him.  A lot.

I need a drink, or at least some secondhand ganja smoke.  Both are easily gotten next door.

“Mi casa es su casa,”  AD calls from the sofa as I stroll in.  “You know where everything is.”

I help myself to a beer.  He’s got Anchor Steam this week.  Whatever he does or doesn’t have in life, he’s got damn good booze suppliers.

Mel and Jam are laughing on the sofa.  “Game over?”  I ask Jamilla.

She throws back her head and laughs. “Well, for Spain it is!  They’re out!”

“Needless to say, Brazil won,”  Mel points out.

“They’ll take the cup,”  Jamilla assures us.  “My homeboys won’t let me down on that.”

“Yogi Berra once said, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over’,”  I point out.

“Exactly,”  Jam points out, great satisfaction in her voice.  No point in arguing with the obsessively devoted.

“You’ll have to excuse Jam,” AD winks at her.  “Life is completely on hold during the World Cup for her, just as it is during the World Series for me.”

Jamilla laughs.  “Child’s play, the World Series!”  She enjoys bantering with AD.  Often very loudly.  Nothing subtle about her interactions with him.  Actually, there’s nothing subtle about the effect of a short, well-endowed woman with long red dredlocks and copper skin to start with.  She’s got a brilliant white smile to add to the strong effect, and blue eyes.  She’s a beautiful woman, if a bit startling in appearance.

“Don’t even go there, Jam,”  AD warns her, but he’s laughing.  “So what brings you over here, old man?”

“Don’t start,”  I warn him.  “And it’s the same thing that always does.  The beer.”

“Ah yes, I forget.  I have to buy my friends.”  He laughs as he lights a blunt.  “But at least I buy them with quality merchandise.”  The lighter flicks a few times and he inhales sharply.  In a hoarse voice, he asks, “Any word on your missing boy?”

“Not a one.”

“Where do you think he’d have gone?”  Jamilla asks as he passes her the blunt.  Mel and I politely decline.  I like weed, but I don’t handle it as well as I did in my younger days.  I’ll stick to legal poisons.

“Dear, if I had half a clue, I’d pursue it.  We got something of a possible lead.”

“Following the money?”  AD asks.

“Well, if you follow the money, you can usually learn something.”

“Not if he’s paying cash everywhere,”  AD reminds me, something I really don’t need to hear.

“He could have gotten traveler’s checks.  I’m assuming he’s not traveling under his own name?”  Jamilla pipes up.

Damn.  Didn’t think of that.  But I doubt Jimmy did, either.

“It might be worth pursuing,”  Mel says quietly, sipping her Anchor Steam.

“And if they’re American Express, they’ve got one of the most insecure systems around,” AD adds.

That’s common knowledge, even among the most novice of hackers.  It’s where most of them warm up.  Hell, it was one of my first outings into the dark side.  What amazed me most was how simple it was.

Things are anything but simple these days.

“I’ve got people who could help him,” AD reminds me.  “I could put out some feelers.”

“What kind of ‘friends’ are we talking about?”

“Well, I’m certainly not planning to have him shot, if that’s what you’re thinking!”  AD looks offended.  Too bad.  I know that a number of his ‘friends’ are killers for hire.  On the other hand, they might be useful in looking after Jimmy...assuming that they don’t have a problem with Lois.

That’s a mighty big ‘if.’

“What’s their take on Lois Runtz?”

He shrugs.  “I wouldn’t let anyone know if they had a gripe with her.  Or her old man.”

Somehow, I am not reassured.

“How many people are we talking about?” Mel asks him.
AD shrugs again and takes a long pull on the blunt.  “As many as you need.”

“I don’t know.  I’m not liking this very much.”

Jamilla pats Mel on the arm.  “Not everyone we know is bad news.”

AD becomes thoughtful, in a stoned-haze sort of way.  “No, not everyone.”

“And people talk,”  I continue.  “We already have too many people involved in this.  We’re supposed to be dead, for crying out loud.”

“Jimmy’s not,”  Mel points out, correctly.

“No, but his involvement with us isn’t exactly unknown.”

Mel sips her beer.  The room is silent for a time.  “I think we should take the chance,”  she offers.  “We need to find him.  It was foolish for him to go off like that, but what’s done is done.”

“What about Lois?”  I stare at AD, hard.  “Can you guarantee her safety?”

AD laughs.  “This is rich.  The woman nearly gets you killed, and you want her safety guaranteed?”

“Jimmy loves her,”  Mel says simply.

That causes both AD and Jam to laugh uproariously.  Me, I find nothing funny about it.

“He really is a brain donor, isn’t he?”  AD chokes out between dope smoke and laughter.

I glare at AD.  “Just make sure you leave explicit instructions that he’s not to be hurt.  Is that clear?  And I want the same for Lois.”

He chuckles.  “Frohike, you always were a piece of work.  That much about you hasn’t changed.”

“Well, the only thing I can say for you, jerkwad, is that you always were a man of your word.  Do I have

“You have it.”

I motion to Mel.  “We have work to do.  Thanks for the beer.”

Go To Chapter 15