MeiMei estimated she’d have about thirty seconds to talk to her father before the line was overwhelmed, so she blurted out an apology and incredibly lame alibi. She heard herself say, “I didn’t want you to worry,” and caught Tuan’s headshake and half-smile. What’s to worry about having your only daughter chased on the high seas by murdering booty bandits, harried by gunboats and having unprotected sex with a strange man?
She turned to Denny and said, “My father says thank you. He knew your guesses would be correct.” She frowned slightly and covered the phone with her hand to say, “Is that something about that football pool craziness?”
Denny placed his palms together under his chin and bowed from the waist. “Tell him it was the least I could do in service of a true master.”
MeiMei started to say something about that silliness but her head jerked as she heard the upstairs phone–the ivory-yellowed Princess sitting amidst the dark, carved/lacquered dynasty pit of her parent’s bedroom–pick up. She braced herself for the gusher of shrill Mandarin endearments and scoldings that blasted into her ear. She loudly blurted out, “Duì bù qi, MuMu,” and leaned back to ride it out. She was sorry she couldn’t meet her father’s eyes and do the long-suffering eyeball roll they’d been working on since she could talk, but she knew he was seeing her do it.
At last she tried another old ploy, pitching her voice below the slipstream of her mother’s ejaculations and speaking quickly in English. “I’m fine, Daddy. I’ll call every day until Mom settles down. Oh, I met a great guy. I hope you can meet him.”
“I will guess,” the co-champion Guest Guesser of Washington State said over the tenuous connection of electron-bouncing satellites. “Narcotics king? Pirate of Mediterranean? Ancient stone warrior?”
“Very funny, Dad. He’s a doctor of…”
The tirade of relief/blame came to a halt so suddenly she thought the line had gone dead. Then her mother purred, “He a doctor?”
Among the pantheon of attributes of the Chinese race, few rank higher than Increased Offspring and Filial Obedience.
MeiMei clicked the phone shut and handed it back to Denny with a grateful smile. Behind him and the Sonny Crocket stand-in she saw a pretty Mexican girl who a guy in Mexican Marine fatigues and flight jacket was trying to chat up and getting conspicuously nowhere. She turned back to Denny and said, “Say, think my friend and I could hitch a ride back to Kansas?”
Denny looked around: the Gilligan shacks on the Caye, the clear water of the lagoon lapping the piles of the swaying dock, the screaming green of Tobacco, the lines of tiny isles running out in both directions, creating a false horizon between the profound blue of the Caribbean and the unfounded blue of the sky. He looked back at her and said, “You sure?”
MeiMei was having a hard time concentrating, rather than staring out the windows as the helicopter wafted along the reef. leaning slightly to starboard to give a better view.
Denny hadn’t paid enough attention,
on the flight out, to Lluvia’s thrilled reaction to her first flight. He’d been more interesting in jabbering at Townsend, asking question the spy found inane and sharing nuggets of detecting experience whose wisdom had reduced Town to a hair away from throwing him out into the sea.
But on the trip back, he leaned forward, tapped the pilot’s shoulder and asked if he could fly lower and slower so Lluvia could enjoy the scenery. Lluvia had rewarded him with a melting smile and the pilot had enthusiastically welcomed her into the front seat to better enjoy the incredible view of the water and stunning proximity of one damned cool pilot.
But there were questions to be answered and MeiMei wasn’t dissuaded by her difficulty in getting anywhere with her interrogation. Denny had no idea how she’d been located and didn’t want anybody to know that; Townsend was professionally reluctant to reveal his methods and gizmos. And didn’t want to tip his hand by being extremely inquisitive as to what had made this pretty, slight, seemingly innocuous Asian woman important to Aphra Alisander and therefore the GOP. That would wait until they landed. At which point he’d have her detained for questioning if he had to. He’d had it right up to his dreamy blue eyes with not knowing what he was involved in.
Tuan had been uncharacteristically silent, just holding MeiMei’s hand as she drilled queries at the two snoops and got nothing out of it but frustration.
He’d given up on figuring it out, other than the obvious role of surveillance devices and a pretty good idea where they were concealed, and his usual curiosity was bubbling up in the thrumming frame of the copter.
He leaned up to ask the pilot, “Why doesn’t this thing have tail rotors?”
The pilot, striking out bigtime with Lluvia, was proud to spiel his machine. “Not required. Channels draft to side thrusters. I direct if here.” He touched a bluntly military joystick control. “This is a beautiful ship, MacDonald Douglas 902 Explorer. We have six of them, patrol for narcos“.
Well, more for illegal immigrants from Cuba lately, but that wasn’t very glamorous and he didn’t like the smug looks and even snickers when he told Americans that the Mexican armed forces were patrolling to keep out wetbacks from poorer countries.
“Do the thrusters create any ground effect when close to objects?” Tuan asked. “If you are heeled over on landing, for instance?”
The pilot was delighted to discover he had a passenger who actually knew something about aerodynamics and would sit still for him rattling on about it. Tuan listened, nodding and absorbing while MeiMei fretted at her inability to get straight responses on how these two jocks had turned her up. She wouldn’t have been all that shocked to learn they were delivering her to Ronchel’s yacht’s helipad, but had made her peace with that risk.
Townsend meditated on how he could turn his possession of the hotly-sought Dr. Chiang into something he could take home wagging his tail and Denny kept his eyes fixed on Lluvia’s face as she drank in the beauty and exciting swoop of the littoral terrain below. She gawked out the window like a child and at times would turn to him and point something out below, her eyes shining. Denny had decided that whatever this McChopper had cost, it was well worth it to keep that light shining.