THINGS DONE: BAIT AND SWITCH
Chapter 8
 

LANGLY:

She was gonna deny it all the way, except that when the DWB rep came
out, she was puking. Also, Deb's a crappy liar. Unlike me, she just
hasn't had enough practice at it. So they talked and Deb said yeah, it's
true, she's pregnant. When she said it, the guy, who's French, just sort
of looked over at me, and at first I thought he was gonna give me the
evil eye but he just kind of smiled a little. I mean, yeah, he's got a
first rate pain in the butt now, he needs a replacement, but he got to
talk to Sampong and Sandy. Sampong's not a real doc yet, but he's come a
long way. Deb taught him a bunch, more than anyone he ever met, he says.
I believe it. Deb drives him hard.

Dude's gonna be one hell of a doc when he's done with it all. I told
that to Deb.

"You're never done with it all," she reminded me. She was cool while Dr.
Lavigne was here, but once he left, she really let go with a crying
attack. She still feels like she failed 'cause she couldn't finish here
and she had to leave her fellowship behind, and now she's wondering what
the hell she's gonna do.

Hell, I'm wondering the same thing, but first things first. Like getting
out of here. We got a lot to do before then. Deb's gotta go over a
crapload of stuff with Sampong so he'll be okay till someone with more
training gets here. Sandy's good, she knows a lot, Deb reminds him that
nurses know their shit and he oughta pay attention to her. We got to do
one last supply detail. I get to ride into Dakha with Drew.

"You oughta be happy, I'm getting outta your face," I tell her on the
way there. I'm thinking, wow, just one more kidney-crushing drive to the
city.

"Trust me, I'm overjoyed."

"Figured you would be. So what're you gonna do when you get outta this
dump?"

"Bury my last shreds of idealism and go to work in the private sector, I
hope. What's next for you, Blondie? You haven't said much."

"We're supposed to go to Sri Lanka."

"Got friends there?"

"Yeah." Which is the only reason I'm looking forward to Sri Lanka.
Frohike's hooked up with Byers, at least that's what Byers tells me.
Says the Mels've been asleep for over a day. Guess it was a long ugly
flight. I mean, I don't really give a shit where I see 'em, but mostly,
I just wanna go home.
 

It'll be awesome to see Frohike and Byers, but the fact is, we still
haven't nailed Runtz. He's out there, alive and kicking and supplying
arms to anyone who'll pay the freight. Jimmy's supposedly okay in some
safehouse in Switzerland, at least that's what Fro's buddy AD tells me
(and I'm sorry, I'd trust AD about as far as I can throw him). And Yves,
who was supposed to be at her mom's in Iran, she's bailed and no one
knows where the hell she is.

That's all gotta come together before we got a prayer of going home.
Arthur C. Clarke, whom Byers met and carried on like a royal fanboy for
about 2 weeks about, may like it in Colombo. I'm sure it's gotta be
better than here. But it ain't home. Byers is living like a king there,
and all he wants is to get back to our grubby little offices and write
stories and eat cheesesteaks again. That should tell you something.

Plus there's the little complication of Frohike spotting Runtz, which
means there's a good chance Runtz recognized him. I just hope to God he
wasn't wearing some of his more distinctive clothing. Not too many
people forget the fingerless gloves, since no one's worn them since
Michael Jackson in the 80s. I'm glad he didn't have time to swipe the
alpaca vest. He'd be a dead man in that. With any luck, whoever's combed
over our digs had the sense to burn it. At any rate, we'll probably have
to get new real estate when we get back...

God, when did I turn into an optimist? Scary.

Clothes were cheap here and laundry was painful. We divide up all the
stuff we're not taking with us, which is pretty much anything that can't
be stuffed into a carry on. We spend a long time saying goodbye to all
the villagers. Seems like they got real attached to Deb, but what really
freaked me was that they seemed to like me, too. Funny. I never thought
I was all that likable. We had a couple nights of serious partying with
them, and I got kissed on the cheeks so much I'm probably black and
blue. I avoided looking in the mirror after the last night of festivities.

Drew's driving us to Dakha. We spend the way just talking about people
there, being obnoxious to each other. She's jealous, of course--we got
out and she's still here for a few more months. I don't know.

"So you gonna come hassle us to death once we're all back in the
States?" I tease her.

"Boy, you're optimistic. You think you're gonna be able to get back?"

"Didn't shoot anyone. So yeah." I think it's like Frohike says. The one
time we aren't doing anything against the law, and we get our butts kicked.

"We'll get back there. And I'll be practicing medicine," Deb says to
her. "Our kid's going to be born on US soil. I guarantee it." I guess
Deb's decided come hell or high water, she's gonna have her life back. I
feel the same.

All we got to do is kick one Edward Runtz all the way to hell. Yep,
that's it. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

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

Byers says because of the thing with Runtz and Frohike, I should be
extra super careful on the flight. Oh yeah. Like I wasn't gonna be. He
thinks I gave up all my old habits out here in the sludge? Not likely.
About the only thing that really changed was that I found out people
could be a lot better than I thought they could. Probably doesn't mean
much to most, but for me, that was kind of major.

As we take off from Dakha, after spending the night in one of their
finer hotels (listen, after where we've been, anything with indoor
plumbing looks like a palace), I'm thinking, I didn't like it here. The
weather sucked. We never had enough supplies. The beer was terrible (but
at least there was a lot of it). I hated the food. Construction work is
the pits, especially here (see above note about weather). We'd go days
without sleeping. Tropical diseases are disgusting. Deb got pregnant at
the worst possible time...

The villagers were really nice to us. We used to laugh a lot when we had
some downtime. We got some sanitation in place. I saw babies born and
got to where I thought it was kind of cool. I helped clean up after sick
people and I tried being nice when they were miserable. We made a lot of
them well. We tried to make their lives better. Who knows, maybe we were
the ones whose lives they made better. And even if the timing sucks,
we've got this kid coming and in some ways, I think that's about as cool
as it gets.

I may not have liked Bangladesh. But it leaves me feeling kind of good,
y'know?

At any rate, I won't ever forget it.

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

I won't forget the flight on Birman Airways anytime soon, either. I'd
forgotten just how bad it was the first time. Plus, instead of just me
feeling motion sick, she's got it too. Doesn't usually happen with her,
but then, she's not usually pregnant, either.

I spent a long time dissasembling the sat array before we left and took
the laptop. I was gonna leave it for the next doc, but too much is on
there, any God knows where Runtz's people go. I'm sure he's got muscle
that for the right price would trudge anywhere to get something he
thinks might be worth something.

Hope he hasn't figured out where we all are. I'm super paranoid during
the flight. It's one of the reasons I got motion sick. I was scared to
take Dramamine because it makes me kind of sleepy. I couldn't deal with
that.

I spend the air time thinking about how we're going to pull this off.
With the three of us together, I'm hoping we can come up with something.
Separate, it just wasn't happening. I guess Muladharma finally got the
hint that his boys couldn't do it. Idiot. I could've told him that
months ago. But hey, if we're lucky, he's the one coming to grab us at
the airport in Colombo, and we won't meet any 'friends' along the way.
 

It's a major relief to hit the ground in Colombo, mostly because our
kamikaze pilot didn't manage to kill us. We didn't hit any weather. I
think he was just having fun and messing with us. I wish he'd have saved
it for the next flight.

It's after 1 a.m. Colombo time when we touch down. It's not all that
long a flight from Dakha, just feels that way. Muladharma better be
there. I don't want to be hanging around the airport, especially one
where I don't know anyone and can't speak the language and where Runtz
can easily plant his goons.

Wonder if the guys are gonna be there. Not sure. I didn't even know what
time we were leaving till we got up this morning in Dakha. All I got
from Muladharma the day before was a message to go to this hotel and I'd
get a message there. Well, so far he's been righteous. We got plane
tickets, got on the flight, nobody hassled us. Almost felt too easy. I
like easy but I don't trust it.

But it is. He's there. Dressed up like a suit. At this hour.

"No checked baggage, I hope? You obviously got my message." He greets
us. "Hurry."

"Someone follow you?"

"No. But let's not jeopardize our chances."

He scurries us out to this little dinky Opel, the kind we saw in
Provence. I'd have thought he'd have had a better car than that.

"I know it's not comfortable, but we used the Continental last night. I
thought it prudent to take Devi's car this time," he explains. It's a
five-speed, and he stalls it. "Oh, bloody hell. Been too long since I
drove a manual transmission."

I'd offer, but I got no clue where I'm going.

"Listen, this is luxury compared to the Jeep," Deb assures him, and I agree.

"I apologize for the improper greeting. But welcome to Colombo."

"Thanks." I sink into the miniature seat. Both me and Deb got our knees
up to our chins. It's no worse than the airplane, and even though
Muladharma drives like a madman, I keep telling myself, at least
gravity's holding us down. "The guys up?"

"Doubtful. Mr. Frohike and Ms. Scarlett haven't woken up since they
arrived. John and Sari were already in bed when I left." I notice he
didn't say 'asleep' but I'm not gonna go there. He is, after all, still
something of a suit, even though in DC he was pretty cool. We owe him a
lot. He might not be in a real good mood after all this, even though
he's totally polite and all. "By the way, congratulations to the both of
you."

"Thanks," Deb murmurs, setting her head against my shoulder. "We
appreciate this."
 

"After flying Birman Airways?" He chuckles. "I'm surprised you're not
ready to have my head on a platter."

"No, we got that planned for someone else."

And that's the last thing I remember till he announces we've arrived.