THINGS DONE: WHO ARE YOU?
All I can say is, if you have to go to ground and hide out, this is the place to do it.
Granted, we're not staying at one of the more luxurious resorts. The village where Jolly Roger, aka Marvin Zipirsky, resides is little more than a shanty town. Mel and I have moved into the same village—two nights with JR was more than enough. JR's a good guy but his social skills make Langly's look positively polished, and there was the small matter of where we were going to sleep. JR has his own little technological kingdom built into his hut. We were heavily competing with the various and sundry computers and peripherals for space to sit down, let along stretch out and relax. Fortunately, there was an available hut, and the landlord was perfectly happy to take our cash without asking questions. Nobody here asks many questions. My ulcer appreciates it.
JR may be something of a grouch, but when I explained our situation in rather sketchy details, and told him I needed to set up a ghost server, he was more than happy to share his T1 line. How the hell he ever got a T1 I don't have a clue and I didn't ask. All I care is that he has one, he's willing to share, and when we arrived, he had plenty of beer and shared that as well.
Our hut is just that—a hut with three rooms. I'm using one of JR's numerous laptops. I promised him I'd get my own as soon as possible, even with his assurances that it wasn't a problem. It's not luxurious by any means, but we have a comfortable bed, a tiny kitchen, a desk and a sofa. We have to trek to the public facilities in order to use the restrooms and take showers, but they're actually clean and well maintained by the residents. Apparently everyone is obliged to take a weekly turn cleaning the facility. I don't have a problem with that. Place is a hell of a lot cleaner than the bathroom ever stayed in the HQ, even with Byers around.
I'm still exhausted from whatever the hell it was that mauled us over. Mel and I spend much of our time lying on the beach, drinking rum drinks and soaking up the sun. The ultimate in therapeutics.
As I said, not bad if you have to go to ground. Plenty of cheap rum, lots of sunshine, and the most incredibly beautiful ocean I've ever seen. The travel photos you see of the water surrounding the Caymans? They're not retouched. It really looks that way.
I'm going to have one hell of a tan without much effort.
Unfortunately, it's in my nature to worry, and even tropical paradise can't eradicate that. First and foremost are the other guys. I know that Byers is in Sri Lanka and by now Langly should be in Bangladesh. I'm wondering why no contact from Byers. He's in the city. He should be able to put together some access. Nothing from Langly, but I figure I'll have to wait. They'll be lucky if they have anything remotely close to indoor plumbing, let alone access to a server. Jimmy is set up, and I send him a message, but no response. Not that I expect him to be sitting by the computer waiting for us to get on, but the least he could do is send something that says, I'm alive. Probably out playing tourist, I grumble to myself. Knowing Jimmy, he'll forget he's in hiding and he'll start thinking he's on vacation. He'll need to be reminded, just as he needs to be reminded about damn near everything else. I hope Anndie will at least give him a nudge once in a while.
Mel worries about her kids. Fortunately, now she can communicate with her kids, although she can't tell them where she is. I promised her I'd set up streaming video so she can be there when her new grandbaby comes. I need to get my ass working on that. Goddamn Langly. Never around when you need him. This is his specialty. Figures he'd be on the other side of the world when I needed him to do something.
The other concern we share is that of how we're going to get by. We don't know how long we'll be here, and 50K is not a lot of money in this part of the world, which caters largely to wealthy tourists and scuba divers. Unfortunately, the price tags on basic necessities match their budgets, not ours. We'll have to do something about money, and we'll have to do it soon.
While we're moving what few worldly goods we brought with us into our hut, we're visited by a zaftig woman with red hair who announces that her name is Jamilla, and she and her significant other are our neighbors. She invites us over for dinner, saying her SO caught a huge marlin and they'd be happy to share with us. We both gratefully accept.
And then, shock sets in.
I blink as she introduces me to her SO, A.D.
He stares at me the same way I'm staring at him.
The name might be different, but I swear to God, I know this guy. He's about my height, and a hell of a lot more gray than I remember him—then again, aren't we all?—but I remember the swarthy, athletic build on him, the same cocksure movements, the same dark eyes behind wire-framed glasses. They say everybody was a doppelganger, and if this is the guy, the running joke in our unit is that we were twins separated at birth. The reason given was that no one family could stand to have that much ugliness in one household.
"Frohike?" I almost have a heart attack on the spot when he says my name.
"Correct." I watch as Mel goes pale. Shit, what the hell have we gotten ourselves into? Were we followed? If this guy is who I think he is, I remember him as being a hell of a decent soul, but we're talking over three decades. Things change. Don't I know.
"Once upon a time, did you know a fellow named Oliver Wendell Lawrence?" I ask him cautiously.
He throws back his head and laughs raucously. "God, you're still a piece of work! Damn! Mel Frohike, in my palatial home, right smack in the middle of the Caribbean!" He throws his arms around me. "How the hell are you, you asshole? Come down here to spend a few tourist dollars?" It's him, all right. He's almost crushing me to death. I'm glad he doesn't see me as the enemy. I've had the misfortune to witness, albeit many years ago, what he does to those whom he doesn't consider friends. He then turns to Mel, takes her hand, and kisses it. Yep, it's gotta be him. Smooth operator even back when he was young and stupid. Rumor has it that a few whores in Bangkok used to pay him just to service him. "And you would be?"
"This is milady, Mel," I say, not wishing to give her surname. I'm still wary. That I would end up running into this character A.D. or whatever nom de guerre he's using at this point seems awfully coincidental. One thing I'm going to have to do is check up on him, but a dinner invitation is a dinner invitation, and I'm not about to say, excuse me, but I need to do a background check before I accept your offer of marlin cooked in whatever fabulous smelling sauce Jamilla is preparing.
"We're glad to meet you—are you THE Frohike?" Jamilla smiles at me.
"I don't know. How many have you met?"
"You're it," she giggles, returning to her cooking.
"Well, don't just stand there! Come and sit down, have a beer!" A.D. opens a small refrigerator and relieves it of two Kirins. Well, that hasn't changed about him—he always did like good booze.
"What brings you here?" I ask him, since he's already asked the same of me.
"We live here," Jamilla says simply.
"We've been visiting with Jolly Roger." I'm assuming that's what he goes by. I know he doesn't tolerate Marvin.
"No wonder you were in such a hurry to move," A.D. chuckles. "JR's got a decent heart, but seems as if he's perpetually constipated." This forces Mel to laugh. "I've had a few drinks with the man, and I've been tempted more than once to slip some mag citrate into his beer." Mel, being a nurse, laughs out loud. I know what mag citrate does. I'm not amused by it. Enemas are still not funny by me. "How long are you down here for?"
"A while," I say cryptically. I really am not sure how much I should be saying, or if in fact I've said too much already. He could well be working for the very people that want us dead. He wouldn't have been, 30 some years ago, but who knows now.
"Saving up for your dream vacation?" A.D. settles in. He's dark as a Jamaican in that tan of his. He's probably been here a while.
Mel and I look at one other.
A.D. picks up on our expressions. "Got your ass in a sling, Frohike?" His words are joshing, but his face is serious.
Time to put everything on the table. But him first.
"Tell me what brings you here, and I'll tell you all," I promise.
"Fair enough," he says. "Jam, how long till dinner?"
"Almost ready," she calls out. I can't place her accent.
"First, we'll eat. Then, we can get down and dirty about our various and sundry misadventures."
"You've had a few?" I begin to relax a little.
This brings on a bout of hysterical laughter from both him and Jamilla. "You probably wouldn't believe it," Jamilla says, shaking her knee-length red dredlocks.
"I bet we can match you." And I'm willing to put money on that.
Maybe he still plays poker.
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