[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Prologue 001-002 Chap 1 003-005 Chap 2 006 Chap 3 007-008
Chap 4 009-010 Chap 5 011-013 Chap 6 014-017 Chap 7 018-019
Chap 8 020-023 Chap 9 024-027 Chap 10 028-031 Chap 11 032-041
Chap 12 042-048 Chap 13 049-055 Chap 14 056-063 Chap 15 064-074
Chap 16 075-084 Chap 17 85-95 Chap 18 96-110 Chap 19 111-123
Chap 20 124-131 Chap 21 132-133 Chap 22 Chap 23 Chap 24
Chap 25 Chap 26 Chap 27
Revenge Should Have No Bounds
Chapter 28: Telephoning
I mulled over my plan for about a week, and the day after Roy Rany won the mayoral election in an avalanche victory I at long last finally, finally acted.
I had checked the note with his telephone number that Agung had given me at the bail hearing. I was sitting in the apartment just getting ready to punch it in, surfing all the TV channels that were re-running last night’s footage of the winner. Rany was surrounded by his perfect family; there were sound bites from his acceptance speech; and eager young things kept pushing mikes in his face for the obligatory interviews, soaking up his slick patter about yet one more dawning of a new era at city hall and so forth. But I admit he really did look cute on the screen. Just as I was about to make my call the phone rang.
“Is this Mazarine Cape?”
It was a woman’s voice, older, roughened by a lifetime of cigarettes and soothed by much alcohol. But now it was sober, direct, to the point.
“You don’t know me, but I know about you. I’m calling to thank you.”
“Thank me?” I was genuinely curious. “Can we back up a few steps here? Who is this, please.”
I could hear her exhaling, no doubt smoke from a cigarette.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Cape. Or Mazarine, if that’s acceptable?”
“My name is Rae Rany. I’m the sister of the mayor.”
“Ah,” I see. “And what is it you know about me. And why?”
“I know a lot of things about you. And that’s because it’s my business to know everything that my brother does. It’s no secret – except to his wife and children – that he sees you from time to time.”
“Well, who in the City doesn’t know about you and your recent … troubles? I am just calling to say that I appreciate very much that private things were not made public during your trial. I doubt that my little brother would have won yesterday if you had not shown the discretion you have. The class, I should call it.”
“You never had any reason to worry, Ms. Rany.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake, call me Rae.”
“All right, Rae.”
“None of us knew that at the time, and it was tense, to say the least. Roy never believed you were guilty, but he couldn’t very well do much about it now, could he? If not for me and his campaign manager, Bob Abernathy, he might have tried, though. I just want you to know that. And I am not making this up. In any event, we are genuinely grateful, both for your acquittal and for honoring our privacy.”
“Thank you. And I’m glad Ray won. I voted for him myself, and he certainly looks like the mayor on all the stations today. I even saw he got some national coverage.”
“Yes, yes, he did. It’s all very exciting to us. We’re quite thrilled.”
“Yes, I’m sure you are.”
There was a moment’s silence as if my interlocutor were considering how best to phrase the next words
“Mazarine,” she continued smoothly, “I know a lot of people in this town. Powerful people. I won’t be modest – I also have a lot of influence where influence can bring significant leverage to bear.” I said nothing. “Do you understand what I am saying?”
“Yes, I do, Rae,” I said. “And I’m grateful in return. But it isn’t necessary. And I already have the … my situation under control.”
“Well, if you ever need me to help you with anything, you can always get in touch with me through the mayor’s office. Good luck to you,” she said.
“Goodbye, Rae,” I said, “and thanks for calling.” I clicked off.
I let that sink in.
And crossed my Rubicon.
On the other end of the line a foreign voice came on, female, using excellent English.
“Is this where I can get hold of Agung?”
“Thank you, ma’am. He will call you back within the hour.”
“Don’t you need a callback number?”
“We already have it. Thank you, again.” The line went dead.
Out of curiosity I timed it. Forty-eight minutes later, when I was on my second cup of coffee, my phone rang.
“Ah, Mazarine. What do you need?”
A voice whose timbre, intonation, accent I could pick out unerringly from millions.
“Agung,” I sighed. “First, how can I ever thank you for posting my bail? I still have nightmares about having had to spend six or seven months in jail. I need for you to know how grateful I am.”
“It was my great pleasure to help a friend. And I understand, di ajeng. I have a good idea.”
“You’ve been following me?”
“No, no, nothing as dramatic as that. But I have … resources. Listen, before we say anything more, I’m going to have my local office there in the City channel your call through our encryption system. Nobody will be able to understand what we are talking about.” There were some clicks and hisses, and then his voice came back on. “Can you hear me fine?” He now sounded slightly mechanical but was easily understandable.
“You, too,” he continued.
“Now, back to those resources of yours,” I laughed. “That’s why I am calling you. Do you remember our mutual friend Chick?”
“How could I not? He introduced us, if you recall.”
“Yes. He also told me something about you, about how you operate. He once mentioned something called the Wyang Caper. Does that ring a bell?”
He sighed across the distances. I imagined our jumbled packets of voice bouncing up two-hundred miles into space and connecting with some satellite whose footprint covered the eastern seaboard of North America as well as the Indonesian archipelago. Yet, for all the robotic effect of his voice, it sounded as if his mouth were next to my ear. “Yes, Mazarine, it does. I did advise Chick he could tell you about it. A dreadful business. But necessary.”
“It’s that kind of necessary business I need your help with,” I said. “I need to tell you what I have been doing since my acquittal. It’s a long story, but the gist of it is that I am completely convinced that the Caos, the parents of Trinh, the murdered girl, are behind her death.”
“Yes,” Agung said with some sadness, “that is in fact the case.”
Nothing this man did should surprise me, but how could he possibly know this.
“How … how could you possibly know this?”
“It is true that I left the City as soon as Su Lien had given her testimony, but I followed events closely. Through friends and agents in the City. I have already had some colleagues look into the whole matter in ways that the police cannot. The Caos have powerful friends in enclaves I shall not name, but I too have friends in these same enclaves, as I do most everywhere, and my friends are more powerful than theirs. If you see what I mean.”
“Yes,” I said slowly, “I surely do. And you were waiting for me to …”
“ … to look into your heart and see what you wanted to do, to ask yourself if you are hard enough truly to want done what you are now going to ask me to set about getting done. Isn’t that it?”
“That’s pretty close, yes. Yes.”
“I will have the situation taken care of just as it needs to be. That’s all you need to know. We shall never again talk about this subject, ever. Will you agree to that? Look one final time into yourself, Mazarine, before you answer me. This is a fateful thing you are asking. While you may be certain I understand your desire, it is you who must be certain before you translate it into reality.”
At this point the exercise was not difficult. I had spent every day since late July oscillating between the extremes of doing nothing and doing everything and all that lies between, vacillating with my private fury, my rage at the murder of one innocent, my rage at the false indictment of another innocent – obdurately deflecting it, icily intellectualizing it, voluptuously indulging it. Two lives forever changed, one by the permanence of death, the other by the permanent psychic trauma of a losable trial. Heaven or whatever powers there may be, forgive me, but I just can’t walk away.
“Yes,” I said firmly. “I agree that this will never again come up between us. But I want it done.”
“So be it, then,” he said quietly.
“Thank you, Agung.”
“There is one more thing in this connection, and then we are done.”
“This venture will take some planning, and you should not look for a quick resolution. A few months would be more reasonable. And that is why, Mazarine,” he said, emphasizing the seriousness of his words even through the electronic distortions, “it is absolutely imperative that you book yourself a long cruise beginning sometime in the week before Christmas and ending in late January. I happen to know about just such a cruise, and, in anticipation, I have already asked certain intermediaries untraceable to me make some discreet arrangements on your behalf — from afar, so to speak. But for obvious reasons you must make your own reservations and pay for everything yourself. I am sure you can afford it.”
“How do you know about everything, Agung?” I asked, astonished, as ever, at his ubiquity in the affairs of the world.
“Ah, it is nothing,” he laughed. “Don’t forget that I am also in the hotel business, and we cater to tourism. We know much about cruises and cruise ships. The one I have in mind leaves from Miami a few days before Christmas and cruises my part of the world. But you must make these reservations now, and you must not be back in the City until the last week of January at the earliest. This is crucially important. Do you understand me?”
I did, and I said so. I would abide by all his suggestions, rigorously.
We said our goodbyes, and I made him promise to look me up personally – not through Aspasia’s – when he was next in the City. He gives me the number of a well-known local travel agency and I give him my private home and cell numbers. We hang up.
Perhaps I should feel guilty. But I do not. I feel an immense relief. A truly immense relief. And then I have my third, and briefest, telephone conversation of the day and formalize the cruise reservations from my end, payment by mailed check to be in their hands in two or three days.
It’s been quite a day so far, and the cold-looking day outside the window quietly impels me back into the bedroom to luxuriate under the covers, perhaps even take a nap.
TO BE CONTINUED