THINGS DONE: BAIT AND SWITCH
Part 4
 

FROHIKE:

All I wanted was a night on the town, a chance to relax with milady, and
what do I get?

A face to face with some suit who may very well be Edward Runtz.

Dammit, I remember something AD used to say when he was about to blow
someone to smithereens in 'Nam. "May you get al the karma you deserve."
Shit, I know I'm not clean, but even for someone as perverse as myself,
I think this is extreme.

I don't tell Mel about it until we're back at the shack. I ask her if
she'd noticed him. She said no, she really hadn't noticed anyone else
all night. That, and she'd enjoyed a lot of Beaujolais. I didn't want to
alarm her, to ruin what had been an absolutely glorious night out, but
it'd be worse to delude her, just in case the suit was actually Runtz.
She's in this with me. She's got a right to know. I really would prefer
to protect her from the reality that constitutes my existence, but as
she once said, in for a penny, in for a pound.

How about a ton, dear heart?

Our discussion is cut short by the appearance of AD and Jam.

"Wild Turkey's all gone," I tell him.

"Never fear." He flourishes a bottle of Yukon Jack. "Care to share?"

"I've been drinking all day. Might as well stay consistent." Mel grabs
all four of our glasses and AD pours a generous shot for each of us.

"We might have some news for you," Jam announces quietly.

"You've got a fix on Jimmy?" Mel asks anxiously.

"Maybe," Jam continues. "We have reason to believe she's in Iran."

"Iran? What the hell would she be doing in that miserable pit--"

"Her mother's Persian," AD explains.

"I thought her mother was dead." She'd never come out and said it, but
I'd assumed it. Her mother's whereabouts and name were always given as
unknown. Lois never once mentioned her mother.

"She's alive and well and teaching computer science at the University of
Tehran. She went underground for a number of years. Needless to say, she
wasn't about to resurface during the Khomeini years," Jam continues, in
an unusually quiet voice.

"She divorced Runtz when Lois was a toddler. She was supposed to have
custody, but during a visit, Runtz kidnapped the child. Due to his
dealings and her status as being in nonagreement with the political
regime in power, and a Baha'i to boot, there was no way for her to fight
back for her daughter," AD explains. "Lois apparently thought she was
dead, but what's really been the case is that she's been quietly looking
for her for several years now."

"Sonofabitch."

"Do you know from your 'sources' if Jimmy or Lois actually entered
Iran?" Mel asks, sipping her Yukon Jack.

AD pours himself another generous shot. "A woman fitting her description
entered the country several weeks ago. Not using her own name or any of
her hacking nyms, of course. ID looked legit, but some of my people can
spot the best forgeries on the planet, and they're convinced this one
was from one of our favorite workshops." AD chuckles. "She'd have to
have money. These people don't come cheap."

"They're easy, but they sure as hell ain't cheap," Jam adds, trying to
crack a smile. "I've used them myself, and I know their work."

"The woman went to the house that's currently rented to one Professor
Nooshin Etemadi. A check of Lois Runtz's birth certificate in London
indicates that that's the name of her birth mother."

"She's safe, then." Mel concentrates on those things that a mother would.

"So far as we can tell, she is. Our intel is pretty certain that it's
her at her mother's house."

"Has Jimmy entered the country?" I ask, half hoping he's there and
mostly hoping he's not. The Iranian government still doesn't look
favorably upon US nationals.

"Our sources think, but haven't yet confirmed, that he's in Switzerland.
Most likely trying to buy a black market visa, if he has any idea where
Lois is. We don't have as much information on that as we do from the
sources on Lois Runtz."

"What would happen to him once he crosses the border into Iran?" I had
this misguided belief that once I knew something of his whereabouts, I'd
calm down about Jimmy, but instead, the Yukon Jack and my ulcer are
eating away at my insides.

"If he's got a good enough visa, he'll probably get through all right,
once he's gotten consent to travel. As to what he's going to use for a
reason, well, just how creative is Jimmy?"

"Oh, God. If he says he's going to visit relatives, he's screwed."
Jimmy's a fair-haired boy. Convincing anyone he's got relatives in the
Middle East would be a good trick for anyone that looked like him, and
he's not the type to come up with a great story on his feet.

"He could dye his hair," Mel suggests, smiling. "Even Jimmy would think
of that."

The idea of Jimmy with a bottle of Grecian Formula amuses me slightly,
but not enough to ease my worry.

"My sources will stay on it. We'll let you know as things develop," AD
promises. "You guys have a nice evening out?"

"We went to Los Campanos on the big island," Mel explains, although her
glee is somewhat dimmed by now.

"Oh, my Gods, that's a carnivore's paradise! And you didn't invite me?"
AD puts on his best mock-injured expression.

"We were trying to get away from you," I say, helping myself to some
more Jack, and both women laugh. Jam winks at us knowingly.

"Mr. Warmth, Charm and Personality strikes again," Jam pats AD gently on
the shoulder. He grins back at her wickedly.

"Los Campanos! Whatever you didn't have this time, make sure you have it
the next." AD smacks his lips.

"Would have been the meal of a lifetime. Except I think we saw someone.
And I think he saw me."

I don't know that I've ever seen AD turn pale. Even in 'Nam, he was one
cool cookie. Some guys in the unit wondered if he was a sociopath. I
knew AD was a nutcase, and still is, but he's not of that ilk.

"Did you hear him?" Jam looks almost as pale as AD, despite her deep
coloring, and she's clutching at her liquor glass with shaking fingers.

"No. Couldn't get close enough." Damn, do I miss my toys back in DC. If
any occasion ever called for a bug, this was it. And miniature
surveillance cameras. And...

God, I want to go home.

I describe him. "I asked Byers and Muladharma to send all their intel."

"When was this?"

"Soon as we got in the door." Which was, I believe, about three hours ago."

"Lessee. Midnight-thirty here...9.30 p.m. next day there. Let's see if
he answered you back," AD says, jumping towards my computer.

I muscle past him. "Excuse me, but you don't have a license for that
thing." It's my computer. I'll drive, thank you.

There's email from both Byers and Langly. Since Byers was the one I
wrote on this, I open his first. He's got several files attached, and a
two-line message:

"You have to leave. Will discuss arrangements later."

The files need a fair bit of decryption, which takes time. No one
speaks, an anomaly when the four of us are in the same room. I think
everyone's too nervous to talk. That's certainly true in my case.

The photos we get from Byers are of somewhat better quality than the
ones I'd previously been able to obtain. I study them carefully, and as
I do, I feel my guts lurch.

"Was that the guy you saw?" AD asks.

"That was him."

AD begins pacing. "Email Muladharma back and tell him we're going to get
off here ASAP. I'll map it out and he can make the proper arrangements
for us. Jam, Mel? We need to pack. We'll push off at sunrise."

"That's rather sudden. Do you think that's necessary?" Mel asks, trying
to keep voice and expression neutral.

AD looks at her sharply. "Honey, if it's Runtz--and Frohike here, while
he's a drunkard, a derelict and an all-around loser, has pretty good
powers of observation--then we can't get our butts off this island fast
enough. So let's move, people. We've got a lot of work to do in the next
five hours."

******************************************************************************************

I'm going to have to return the rig to JR, but I think I'll leave it on
his doorstep just before we push off, get as much from Sri Lanka as we can.

My responses are from Muladharma, who's most likely on full alert and
isn't planning to sleep anytime soon. Byers doesn't respond, and when I
inquire where he is, Muladharma simply responds that he gave him the
night off. They'll be plenty to do later on. We inform him that we are
leaving Cayman Brac via boat. He says to mail him our itinerary as soon
as possible and he'll do whatever he can to insure safe passage.

He indicates that our final destination, regardless of route, should be
Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The Grateful Dead said, 'What a long, strange trip it's been.' They
didn't know the weirdest was yet to come.

**************************************************************************************

We don't sleep. Muladharma and I exchange emails all night per AD's
instructions.

We'll sail to Caracas, Venezuela, where Jam has a number of contacts and
Muladharma has a number of friends. (I was tempted to ask if there was
anywhere in the world where he didn't know someone, but right now, it
might just look contemptuous. I'd rather have him as an ally, especially
since we're dependent upon him for safe passage. After that, we'll fly
to Buenos Aires--Jam has contacted some people that she claims "owe her
major league big time" and have assured her of their assistance. I'd
prefer to have better false documents, but we have a few left from the
safe in DC. We haven't adequate time to have them drawn up, premium
quality or otherwise. From Buenos Aires, a long-ass flight to Western
Samoa, then to Brunei, and from there, forward to Colombo.

"You're gonna miss a hell of a trip," I joke to AD.

"I'd rather take the virtual tour," AD comments. "We need to find a way
to stay in contact. Take the laptop."

"I can't just take it. It's Jolly Roger's."

"Excuse me, but who do you think got him all his equipment? And believe
me, he didn't have to pay retail for it. If he has an issue with it, he
can take it up with me, and trust me, he won't."

"It's risky."

"It's necessary."

I sigh as I pack the few things that I'd come here with. "Right now, if
you could keep up on Jimmy, and try to make some sort of contact with
him, however indirect, I think that's the main thing."

"That's what we have in mind. I have someone in Zurich. They're already
scoping him out."

"Might spook the boy."

"It's not going to spook him half as much as if he tries to enter Iran.
I think dealing with one of my contacts would be far preferable to
facing a clerical court in Iran."

Now there's an image I don't want to entertain.

"Someone also needs to let Lois know he's looking for her."

"Done. Received confirmation a short time ago."

"Any indication as to how she reacted?"

"Said if there was any way to get to him and tell him not to attempt
entry into Iran, do it. She'd try to arrange a rendezvous in a neutral
country. The trick for her will be making any moves without her father's
knowledge. I don't have confirmation on this, naturally, but I'm sure
he's aware of her movements."

"He'd have to be one cold bastard to threaten his own daughter."

"If there was any man alive who would, it'd be him."

If he'd harm his own flesh and blood, he's even more of a monster than I
imagined.

Mel is packed and ready. "As I've said, it's not how I planned to take a
world tour, but I'll take a vacation any way I can get it." Her smile is
wry. I'm sure she's terrified. I know I am. Knowing her, though, she's
unlikely to discuss that much.

"It's 0430. We need to get the rig disassembled," I tell AD. "Make
yourself useful for a change."

"What about your cruises for the day?" Mel asks AD, concerned about his
own business.

He grins at her. "I'll just tell 'em, gone fishing."

We all laugh.