HINGS DONE: BAIT AND SWITCH
Chapter 10

FROHIKE:

"What's taking him so long?" Langly and I are trying to spider into
various systems. My first one's easy--FBI. We've had a lot of practice
on that one. "Can't take that long to let the maid in."

"Knowing Suitboy, he's offering to clean the bathrooms and give her a
foot massage," Langly grumbles.

"Except he's lost the suit."

"You felt the temperature here, Doohickey? It's a frickin' swamp." He
keeps typing as he talks. "Course, it's a hell of a lot nicer swamp than
where I was."

"Yes, yes, we've heard how you've suffered, Blondie."

"Hey, I had to give up my hair for that."

"Please don't tell me you're growing it back."

No comment.

"Covers your bald patches nicely." I know I'm baiting him, but I can't
help it. What the hell is going on with Byers?

"Yeah, well, least I can cover mine, which is more than YOU can say!"

Byers finally appears in the doorway. He looks incredibly nervous. Not
that this is an unexpected side effect of our recent adventures, but he
was cool, ready to dive right in, before the bell rang.

"We've got a visitor," he announces, and I immediately understand why he
looks the way he does. My ulcer goes into immediate overdrive as he says
it, but it's nothing compared to what happens when I see who the
'visitor' is.

Langly and I stare, mouths agape. If I don't have a heart attack right
now, I'll live forever, I swear to God.

"Lois." I barely get the name out. Despite her modest dress, lack of
makeup, and the Middle Eastern style scarf covering her hair and
shoulders, it's obviously her. For one thing, her boobs are the same
size they were before.

"I really wish you'd call me Yves. I hate that name." She shakes her head.

"Siddown and make yourself at home," Langly says, a slight touch of
rancor in his voice. He's still in a state of disbelief. I think we all are.

"How'd you get here?" I ask her.

"It's not that hard to find the homes of the rich and famous," she
remarks tartly, but she's without her usual bite. She looks even more
scared than Byers. That'd take something, to knock our little Titanium
Maiden off her ice pedestal. I'm pretty sure I don't want to find out
what it is--and I'm positive we're going to find out. I wonder if they
have any Maalox in this place. Surely Muladharma's job induces acid
indigestion from time to time.

Still, he shouldn't be bitching about being on the golf course. I'll
willingly switch places right now. Never mind that I've never shot below 90.

"So whaddya want, Lois?" Langly says, wary and very on edge, ignoring
her request to use her nom de guerre.

"I understand you're looking for my father."

"He's a popular guy," I comment dryly. "Seems everyone's looking for
him. Only problem was, I did find him."

Her eyes grow wide with fear. "Did he see you?"

"I'm not dead yet," I shrug. "I wasn't taking any chances, though.
Christ, can't even go out for a decent dinner anymore without something
screwing it up."

"You were in Cayman Brac." I figured she'd know.

"At the time I saw him, I was in George Town, Grand Cayman. Just trying
to have a night on the town. Looks like Daddy was in town for a little R
& R, with a little money laundering on the side. You have any access to
his bank accounts?"

She shakes her head. "Don't think I haven't tried." To her, this has to
hurt. To admit she couldn't hack something. When it comes to testicles,
Lois likes to prove that hers are bigger than anyone whose chromosomes
read XY.

"Do you know where he is?" Byers asks, very softly, trying to coax
information from her.

"Of course I don't know where he is! That's why I'm here! To find him!"

"How'd you trace us here?" I ask.

"Believe it or not, occasionally I employ simple logic. That, and
getting some of AD's goons drunk. I'm surprised the bastards didn't
shoot at me." She's trying to be tough, but right now, she just looks
like a scared little girl. She hasn't taken the scarf off yet. Weirdness.

"AD's not a bad egg. Sometimes," I concede.

"It's not so much him, it's the company he keeps. He really needs to
develop better taste in friends."

"I won't argue with you there, lady."

"And I'm trying to find Jimmy. No one would tell me where he is, other
than that he's safe. Like I said, though, these are AD's friends, whom I
trust as far as I can throw. For all I kinow, they've blown a bullet
through his brain and dumped him in a trench somewhere in the mountains."

"We're told he's in Switzerland," Byers says, cautiously. I'd like a
little more reassurance than what I've gotten from AD's flunky, but for
now, I'll run with it, seeing as it's all we've got. "And that he's all
right."

"Have you communicated with him personally?"

"No," Byers admits.

She closes her eyes and leans back in the chair. She looks very, very tired.

"We heard you were in Iran," I say quietly. I've only heard second hand.
I'd like some confirmation, if only to test out how much we can trust
AD's 'friends.'

"I was."

"Did you see your mom?" Byers continues to draw her out, using a voice
like warm caramel.

Her eyes dart open. "You know."

"Did you think being driven underground was gonna keep us out of the
loop or something? C'mon, you know us better than that," Langly scoffs,
but he's as without teeth as she is right now.

Lois-Yves looks as if she's about to cry. "All these years, my father
told me she was dead."

There's a nonsequitur if there ever was one. We just nod, silent,
letting her speak.

"All these years she suffered, being in prison, not being able to teach,
not being able to live freely even in her own country. And my not being
able to be with her...I was robbed!" The anger in her voice is
overpowering, making the walls vibrate.

"Is she well?" Byers asks gently, trying to maintain some sense of
equilibrium.

This produces a sharp, bitter laugh. "By what definition? She's alive
and breathing, even though she was tortured so badly she no longer has
the use of her left arm. She teaches, but can't get tenure, so she can't
make adequate money to live very comfortably. God knows where the rest
of her family is. I tried to look for both of my aunts, my mother's
sisters. No one knows. No one even wants to talk about it." The words
are like bile to her.

"She musta been happy to see you," Langly says, in a very small voice.

"She didn't believe it was me at first. I didn't believe she was even
alive until I actually located her. All these years...thinking she was
dead..." At first I think the tears will come, but it's replaced by a
fierce bitterness. "Well, guess what, gentlemen? It's payback time.
Paybacks are a bitch. And so am I."

"What are you going to do when we locate your father?" Byers asks her
softly. I notice he says, 'when,' not 'if.' We have to locate him if we
want any semblance of our lives back. It's not an option. We can't
afford to think any other way.

Her eyes turn deady dark and flat. "You don't want to know."

"You'd shoot your own old man?" Even Langly, who's about as estranged
from his family as a guy can get, has a hard time wrapping his mind
around this one.

"Wouldn't it be enough to just capture him?" I ask her, trying to get
her off this mindset. The Chinese say, if you want to take revenge, be
prepared to dig two graves.

"You'll never capture him alive. He's always slipped the net. And he's
had a lot of time to practice."

I'm fearful of this side of Yves. She's always played at being a tough
chickie, and in a lot of ways, she is. But I worry when I see her this
far over the edge. Maybe she oughta find a therapist before she embarks
on this...

Nah. Therapy takes too long. And she's our best shot at getting the
bastard. Maybe in the process, we can find a way to make it a little
less bloody.

Unless that's not convenient.
 

We're all quiet as we click away, only talking to share information.
Yves is the most silent of all. She answers in monosyllables, and only
when directly addressed. It's not like her to not entitle everyone to
her opinion. A lot of times I wish she'd shut her yap. This isn't one of
them.

The first complete sentence out of her mouth, about three hours into
working, is, "We need to get Jimmy back with us."

"That we do," I concur.

"I'm getting a snack. Byers, you want?" Langly asks. Byers follows him,
asking Yves and me if we'd like something. Both of us apparently have
acid indigestion, although it was nice of him to ask. Langly didn't ask.
I think I'm relieved that not everything about the boy has changed.

Yves turns to me, eyes burning but this time, brimming with tears.
"Frohike, can you keep a secret?"

"I don't think my track record's been bad so far."

"We need to get Jimmy back. But the fact is...I need to get Jimmy back."
She reddens as she says it. "He was looking for me, wasn't he?"

That was a secret? If it was, it was only to her.

"Damn near botched the whole operation because of it." I'm sure she
knows this by now.

"He's a damn fool. But he's the best fool I know. Please, get in touch
with AD and tell him to get his flunky to release him to us."

I nod. "Will do." And AD goddamn better cooperate. I don't want any
ganja-induced excuses, and he better make damn sure that Jimmy doesn't
have a scratch on him.

Yves isn't the only one who wants him back. I actually miss the big
galoot. Yeah, he's an idiot, and what he did was downright stupid. But
he did it for the right reasons. Gotta love a guy for that.

"Frohike?" Yves' voice is tinged with tears, her tone girlish and shy.

"Yeah?"

"Please. Don't tell Langly and Byers. They'll have a field day with me."

I chortle. "Sugar, trust me. They already know. And once we get home,
there's not much I'm gonna be able to do to get them off your back."

Not that I'd try, anyway.
 

AD has his computer on whenever he's not on the water. The problem is
that he's on the water a lot. Well, he's a businessman. He'd never admit
it, but he's become the typical entrepreneur capitalist. He still thinks
of himself as a revolutionary, but such indulgences cost money. Soaking
tourists is, after all, legitimate financing.

It takes me a long time to raise him. Finally, about mid afternoon here,
he responds with a terse, "What?"

I tell him in no uncertain terms that his 'friend' will release Jimmy to
us, and that Muladharma will be making travel arrangements for him.

A response. "They want to know where Harlow is."

Mine: "They can shove it up their asses."

Him: "They say Harlow's part of the deal. Get Harlow, we'll get her old
man."

Me: "Tell them maybe once they could've been contenders. Now they're bums."

That silences him for a while. Let him deal with these clowns. We've got
enough problems on our hands.

I should've guessed they'd be tracking Yves. Somehow, for some of them,
I doubt it's to get her old man--my guess is that some of them are his
customers, although I think he deals in more high end stuff than AD's
ragtag band of assassins for hire can pay for. I think what's going on
is that she's pissed some of them off over the years, and now it's
payback time.

I'm not interested in payback. All I want to do is go home and start up
where I've never been before. In a place called Peace.
 

It's late evening before I hear from AD again.

"Five million bucks is a lot of change, you know," he writes to me.
"You've got competition."

"Yeah. Like they'd give up their best supplier."

AD: "Arms dealers are a dime a dozen."

Me: "Not like Runtz."

AD: "Harlow's burned a few of them. If you're on to her, you're going to
have some serious shit on your hands."

Me: "Don't know where the hell she is."

AD: "Rumor has it she flew to Singapore under one of her various nommes
de guerre and from there headed for Colombo."

Me: "She ain't here."

See? I can lie with the best of them.

At least for a while.
 

The women's reaction to Yves' presence is initially one of shock. Anger
sets in until we repeat the Cliffs Notes version of how and why she
ended up here. Even Deborah managed to keep her opinions to herself
after that.

I confer with the guys after Sari and Devi head off to do some
translation work, Muladharma pleads a migraine after spending the day
with Japanese businessmen, all of whom kicked his ass in golf, and Mel
and Deborah settle in for some serious gin rummy. Yves falls asleep on
the sofa in one of the sitting rooms after dinner. We're not about to
wake her up. Not tonight. Tomorrow, she can start earning her keep.

"She's going to be a real sticking point. So far, no on the release on
Jimmy unless we agree to giving up any information about her we might have."

"You didn't tell them she was here, did you?" Byers looks aghast.

"What kind of idiot do you take me for?"

"Lotsa kinds, but hopefully not that one. Jesus, everybody's gotta make
this so damn difficult." Langly is still jetlagged and yawns profusely.

"We can't let anyone know she's here," Byers reiterates.

"They're already suspicious. She left a bigger trail of breadcrumbs than
she thinks she did."

"Shit." Langly pushes his glasses down his nose and rubs his eyes. "Only
one thing to do."

"What's that?" I'm running out of ideas here.

"Get a make on where these guys are, where they're transmitting out of."

Byers looks skeptical. "I imagine they're at least as good as we are at
covering their footprints."

Langly is utterly affronted. "No, they're fuckin' not!"

Tracking these goons will be difficult and at best, risky as hell. I
stare at Byers. He simply shakes his head, as if to say, I'm not sure I
want to watch.

Langly is eyeing me hard. "Say it."

"Say what?"

"Say IT."

Byers and I groan loudly.

"Your kung fu is best."

This produces a grin from our no longer hippie-haired boy. "Damn
straight. And guess what? I'm gonna put my money where my mouth is."

"That'll be a first," I comment dryly.

"Langly? Try not to get us killed. At least not until we get home,"
Byers admonishes him.

He smiles wickedly. "Not only am I gonna help get us home, but when we
do, we're gonna go in style."

I really want to believe him.

I think I have to.