Chapter 17

Wanderer Chapter 17

 

Present – Maria – Truth Network Parking lot – Washington DC

 

Shit! The old fart steps between Megan and me at the exactly wrong time. Then I nail him from one side and Megan nails him from the other. He goes down like the sack of shit he is and pukes up his dinner.

 

As I look at Megan, she winces and shouts, "Look out!" But it is too fucking late! The next thing I know I am knocked on my ass and someone is screaming like a banshee and kicking the shit out of Megan.

 

Just as I think it's about fucking time Megan's getting her ass kicked, someone starts smacking me with a stick. I turn and get ready to kick 'someone's' ass and see it is a fucking munchkin! I will do most anything once, twice if I fucking like it, but fighting a munchkin isn't one of them. I yell, "Fuck this shit!" jump up exactly at the wrong time, take a blow to my face and…

 

Present – Megan – Truth Network Parking lot – Washington DC

 

Dammit, Jack got in the way and Maria and I knocked him out. I am just getting ready to see how he is when all hell breaks loose. Some bitch runs up, knocks Maria on her ass and I am in the fight of my life.

 

She screams and yells and I can't understand why she is upset at me or what the fuck she is even saying. Shit, I already have a bloody lip and at least one black eye - she is fucking seriously upset about something.

 

I hear Maria yell, it distracts me and the last thing I remember is seeing a kid hitting her with a stick…

 

Present – Jack – Truth Network Parking lot – Washington DC

 

I mumble, "Did someone get the license plate of that bus that just hit me?"

 

I feel a familiar kiss on my lips and hear, "Jack, my Jack, are you okay?"

 

It can't be, but then I hear, "Papa!" and I know I'm not dreaming. I open my eyes and see my wonderful wife and beautiful boy. I smile and say, "Masha, Vanya, it's good to see both of you?"

 

I hear a moan, look over and see Maria and Megan lying mostly unconscious on the ground, and I remember how I stepped between them. I lovingly look at Masha and ask, "Masha honey, did you do that to those women?"

 

She smiles and replies, "Yes Jack, and Vanya helped."

 

Vanya laughs, runs over to Maria with his stick, smacks her again and says, "I big help to Mama with fight!"

 

I carefully explain, "Guys, those are my and Jens' friends and them knocking me out was an accident."

 

Masha counters with, "Jack, they very bad women and look like they hurt you. I need to protect my man."

 

Ivan echoes, "Very bad women! Hurt Papa! I hit with stick!" He raises his stick to hit Maria again. Maria must have awakened because she yells, "If you hit me one more time with that stick munchkin, I'm going to take it away from you and spank your ass with it." She scares the hell out of Vanya so he lets out a yell and runs towards us.

 

Masha reacts like a she bear protecting her young and I barely have time to grab her and yell, "Alright everyone! Simmer the hell down!"

 

Present – Maria – Truth Network Parking lot – Washington DC

 

I wake up when that fucking munchkin hit me with the stick again. He is going to smack me again so I yell, "If you hit me one more time with that stick munchkin, I'm going to take it away from you and spank your ass with it."

 

I guess I scare the crap out of the munchkin so he starts crying and takes off. Then the old fart says, "Alright everyone! Simmer the hell down!"

 

I look over and he is doing his best to restrain the bitch that just knocked my ass out. It was a fucking lucky punch and I want a second chance so I yell, "Hey old fart let her go. She won't surprise me this time."

 

The bitch replies, "You will talk to my husband with respect or I will rip your tongue out."

 

The munchkin acts all brave and says, "And I hit you with stick bad woman!"

 

Well fuck me! It's Jack's wife and son. Duh-amn can she fight!

 

Jack says, "Masha and Vanya, this is Maria and Megan, they are my friends."

 

The bitch replies, "Jack with friends like that you not need enemies."

 

Present – Megan – Truth Network Parking lot – Washington DC

 

My whole body hurts! I wake up and hear, "Jack with friends like that you not need enemies." I recognize the Russian accent and know it must be Jack's wife Masha. Damn she sure can fight! I slowly sit up look at them and say, "Masha, I apologize for hurting Jack."

 

A little boy, it must be their son peeks around Masha's leg and says, "Bad woman hurt Papa!"

 

Masha says, "She nicer woman than other. But she still hurt you Jack."

 

Jack replies, "Masha and Vanya, this is Megan, a very good and old friend of Jens."

 

The little boy, Vanya peeks again and says, "Yes very old friend."

 

I laugh. It hurt my lip before I reply, "Vanya, and Masha it was by accident we hurt Jack and we are both very sorry."

 

I think I just about have the situation under control until Maria opens her big mouth and says…

 

Present – Maria – Truth Network Parking lot – Washington DC

 

The BSB may be sorry she smacked Jack, but she doesn't speak for me. So I say, "Speak for yourself bitch! If the old fart stepped between us, he deserved what the hell he got."

 

Jacks wife lunges at me and says, "You need to be taught big lesson!"

 

I sass, "Yeah, well it will take someone better than a Russian whore to teach me a 'big lesson'."

 

I must have hit a nerve with the bitch, because she fights like hell with Jack. Jack gets everyone's attention when he yells, "That's enough of this bullshit. If you all keep it up I'm going to kick everyone's ass!!!"

 

Present – Jens

 

I just have time enough to pull the car over to the side of the road without wrecking. Linus demands, "Jens, what the hell are you doing?"

 

I shush him and concentrate on the memory Ben is having. Yes! Once again I can sense his feelings. He's remembering how I used to steal the bed covers. I giggle because I wasn't stealing the bed from him; I just wanted to be as close to him as possible. Then I can see he's in some old hotel room and he, he, he's in bed with another woman. I realize right as the dream leaves that he feels that she is his sister. He sure has way too many adopted sisters!

 

I turn, look at Linus as tears stream down my face and explain, "Linus, I just had another vision of Ben and I need you to drive."

 

Present – Linus – Driving to Fredrick MD

 

I realize when I saw who Erast Petrovich Fandorin is and the way Jens flew out of the office, that she is heading to Fredrick to try to find Ben. I can't let her go on her own. The computer program to sort through data about Ben is mostly done, so I catch up with her to provide backup. Ben is so fucked up right now, and Jens is so pissed at him they might kill each other if they meet. And that would be an epic mistake for both of them!

 

So we head out the front of the station, grab my car and head towards Fredrick. Jens and I fight about driving but she wins again. She is actually driving only fifteen miles over the speed limit, which is sedate for her. Then she pulls over to the side of the road, her eyes glaze over and I ask her, "Jens, what's going on?" She shushes me so I patiently wait.

 

She turns, looks at me with tears streaming down her face and says, "Linus, I just had another vision of Ben and I need you to drive."

 

I get out of the passenger side of the car, Jens slides across the seat, I jump in the driver's side and we continue towards Fredrick. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence I question, "Jens tell me what you saw?"

 

Jens answers, "Linus, Ben remembered how I used to steal the bed covers from him back when we were together and I could see him and the room he is in."

 

I ask, "Jens tell me everything you remember about the room."

 

She takes a deep breath and starts, "Linus, it was in an older hotel and I had a feeling it was in a bad part of town. The walls were a very faded green and the curtains were worn. There was a woman - no that's not right… more of an older teenager in bed with him."

 

I dread what I assume she will say next, but am happily surprised as she continues, "At first I thought he had slept with her, but I realized right as the vision ended she was like an adopted sister to him. It's funny because she seems familiar looking to me."

 

She stops but I can tell there is more so I probe further, "Jens, you're not telling me something."

 

She answers, "Yeah there was something about a mummy - no that's not right… sorry Linus, I just don't know."

 

Jens is obviously very shaken by what she calls her 'vision’. I have doubted her 'visions' in the past, but her description is just too realistic this time. Perhaps she really can somehow connect with Ben.

 

I glance at her and note she's fallen asleep and I wonder about all she told me and how we can use it to help her find Ben…

 

Present – Jack – Truth Network – Washington DC

 

I knew that Masha is a hell of a fighter, but I never knew she could take down two women at the same time - especially Maria. I'm proud as hell about her, but also need to remember to never get her pissed at me.

 

Finally, after threatening everyone with and ass kicking (and even scaring Vanya), get everyone simmered down. However I realize if Masha and Maria are around each other too much they are going to fight again - especially after Maria called Masha a 'Russian whore'. Those are serious fighting words and somehow I'm going to have to fix an almost unfixable situation. So I make a decision and say, "Look Megan and Maria, I'm taking Masha and Vanya back to the hotel and will be back in a few minutes. Why don't you two go in and talk to Jens and Linus."

 

Present – Maria – Truth Network Office – Washington DC

 

The old fart's wise to keep his bitch away from me, because I want another chance to fight that skank. Something about her bugs the hell out of me and I can't put my finger on it. Anyway, I don't trust her any more than I trust the 'twisted sisters.' She's not quite what she seems to me - no soccer mom ever beat me in a fair fight. Yeah, she knows jack shit about fighting!

 

We walk into the office but now it's changed for the worse: It's decorated with a bunch of girly shit. Before it looked like a barracks but now it looks like Barbie and the barracks fought each other and they both lost. Megan asks me, "Where are Linus and Jens?" I think that's about the most stupid question I've ever heard, so I sass, "Well they sure as hell aren't here."

 

Yeah things aren't settled between me and the BSB and I wouldn't feel bad if I kicked her fat ass tonight. She gives me a dirty look and commands, "Maria, go up to security and see if they have any record of Jens or Linus leaving the building."

 

For a second I want to tell her to go fuck herself, but then decide being anyplace other than this bastardized office is a good thing so I announce, "Megan, just so you know - I'm doing this because I want to, not because you ordered me to do it. I'm fucking through with following your fucking orders."

 

Present – Megan – Truth Network Office – Washington DC

 

Things have gone to hell! Maria has become defiant and got me upset enough to fight her. I certainly understand how she and Jens get along so well: They both resort to physical confrontation to settle things.

 

Then Jack's wife shows up and gives us both a beating… It makes me wonder, what the hell is her story all about? She's much more than just a suburban housewife because they don't know how to fight like she fought.

 

And now Jens and Linus are missing. Where the hell did they go? I sit at the computer and start to fumble around with it. There was a time, so long ago now, that I was almost as good a hacker as Jens, but I lost all that because… well I don't want to think about that right now.

 

Perhaps Maria will come back with Jens and Linus and then we can start working on the situation with Liz's twins…

 

Present – Liz – Tajikistan – super-secret mission – back of the truck

 

The truck starts, pulls about ten feet forward and then stops. I look at Bernie and we both get ready by aiming our weapons at the back door. I hear Ira request, "Ms. Morgan, I am back so please do not fire upon me when I open the door."

 

I'm not sure what's worse, being locked up in the back of the truck or knowing I will see Ira and will need to act like everything is fine between us. Bernie whispers, "Liz, you need to be very angry about being locked up in the back of the truck."

 

I decide Bernie is right and the best defense here would be a great offense. I wait for Ira to open the door and then I pull the trigger…

 

Present – Byron – TSIFFTS

 

My great dinner is interrupted by a phone call. I hang up my mobile phone and command, "Guys we have an emergency and need to roll!" The smaller well-oiled machine that Thom created springs into immediate action. First, much too much money hits the table to cover our bill then we quickly exit the steak house and move towards the car.

 

Jim jumps into the driver's seat while Todd and I jump into the back and start gearing up - in full battle gear.

 

Jim finally breaks the silence, "Byron, what's the emergency?"

 

I reply, "Thom's in big trouble." That's all they need to know for right now…

 

Present – Stacey (Angelina) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

I am very sure that whoever said "May you live in interesting times" is a curse must be wrong. Because today has been possibly the most interesting day of my entire life and it has been a blessing – certainly not a curse.

 

First Paulo took me to a sporting goods store. I ask, "Paulo, why are we here."

 

He smiles at me and replies, "Angelina that pack of yours will not work for the travelling we are doing." Then he proceeds to talk with the store clerk and I end up with a very nice Gregory Denali Pro pack just like his. I am shocked at the price since it is over five-hundred dollars. I feel it is an outrageous price until I load up all my new gear and put the pack on. Paulo makes a few adjustments on it and I barely feel the increased load.

 

Oh yes, my new gear! I almost forgot to mention: I have a new Marmot Never Summer sleeping bag, Paulo says it's rated for zero degrees but will be fine where we're going; a very nice inflatable Thermarest air mattress; we dumped the junky old cookware Paulo had and bought some nice Evernew titanium cookware; then he loaded a bunch of freeze dried meals into my new pack. Finally, but somewhat sadly, I get rid of my old clothes, except for the best pair of designer jeans and now I have a more utilitarian wardrobe.

 

I ask, "Paulo, why all the camping gear?"

 

He responds, "Angelina, you will see that when we leave Fredrick we will need all of this."

 

It doesn't matter because with the new pack carrying it is so easy! As we leave the store I start skipping, smile at him and ask, "Where to next?"

 

Present – Ben (Paulo) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

I am glad to see Angelina take to her new backpack so well; her old pack was a designer pack and not designed to really carry her share of the load. I could tell she was upset about having to give up her clothes, but they were not practical for the type of travel we will be doing.

 

I fight back laughter when she starts skipping then asks me, "Where to next?"

 

I answer, "We need to do four more things. First we need to find an ATM machine to replenish our funds."

 

She interrupts, "Paulo aren't you worried they will use that to find us like the bounty hunters found me?"

 

I smile at her, "No, Angelina, this is my emergency account that only I know about."

 

She blurts, "I wish I had an account like that. But what about your Social Security Number, isn't it tied to the account?"

 

I am impressed with her financial knowledge, but it has some obvious gaps. I grin, "They do not require a Social Security Number for a bank account in the European Union. In fact their privacy rules for bank accounts are much stronger than those in America."

 

She continues the questioning, "But don't you need to report the interest earned on your income tax?"

 

I explain, "Yes but the owner of the account is a New Mexico LLC with no ties to my name. Now to continue your first question, we are going to find and ATM, then we need to get you a better weapon, we need to pick up your new identity documents and finally we need to purchase bus tickets and leave."

 

She asks, "Can I have a pink gun?"

 

I shake my head, "No, the weapon I have in mind for you does not come in pink."

 

I start to grow tired of her questions when she asks, "Paulo, why don't we just use the tickets we already have?"

 

I reply in a bit more grumpy tone than I meant, "Angelina, I have a feeling that those who are seeking us might know we are here and might know our planned route. So, we will change our route."

 

Present – Stacey (Angelina) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

Wow! I am impressed with Ben, I mean Paulo. In just a few minutes of conversing with him, I learned some very useful financial tools which I never knew about. I am dying to ask him more about them, but I can tell he's growing annoyed with my questions and I do not want to upset him.

 

I will need to tell him later that his Paulo character resembles Erast because they both make lists. But I am concerned that we are still being chased and that they might know where we are and where we were headed. But if we're not taking I-70 to Denver, then where in the heck are we going. Oh well, Paulo will explain when we get the tickets…

 

Present – Thom – Rogue mission - Washington DC

I raise my pistol and get ready to eliminate the one bastard when I hear someone behind me say, "Freeze or you're a dead man!" punctuated with the racking of a shotgun slide.

Son of a bitch, it's the second bastard and he snuck up on me! I must be getting fucking old.

I reply, "Let's not get hasty here!"

The bastard laughs, "We were tipped off someone was gunning for us, so we've been watching you all day. Now slowly throw your gun on the ground and turn around."

I hate like hell tossing my gun. As I do it, I hear gunfire and then all hell breaks loose!!!

Present – Ira – Tajikistan – super-secret mission

I seriously underestimate Ms. Morgan's anger. When I open the back door of the truck, she fires into the wall right over my head. I fall to the floor and yell, "Ms. Morgan, it is Ira please do not fire again!"

She responds, "Ira, that wasn't an accident - that was a warning! You ever do that again and I won't miss."

It is worse than my first assumption: She purposely fired at me and purposely missed me. Perhaps we have given her too many drugs.

 I say, "Ms. Morgan. I understand you are upset…"

She interrupts, "Like hell you understand how upset I am. I don't know what the hell you were doing, but leaving me and Bernie in the back of this truck was unacceptable. Not only did I fire at you, I think I will fire both you and Mira as my body guards!"

This is a quandary for which I am not prepared. Should I pretend to be sad or should I be assertive. I make my decision, stand and announce, "Ms. Morgan, you will stop being so fractious! What I did I was forced to do for your safety. Now stop your silliness so we might go and retrieve Mr. Blaine's adopted sisters and the gold." I smile as I boldly stare down the barrel of her rifle and add, "I'm going to the front of the truck and you two are welcome to follow me or ride in the back."

I turn, walk away and hear Ms. Morgan say, "Ira this isn't over. Once we get the girls and the gold and get back to the plane, you, Mira and I need to have a very serious talk."

I smile knowing that I eluded more projectiles than just the ones which came out of her rifle.

Present – Liz – Tajikistan – super-secret mission

As we head to the front of the truck, I look at Bernie: He smiles and gives me the thumbs up. Yeah it felt good as hell to first scare the crap out of Ira and then assert myself. I'm feeling more like the old Liz all the time and the only problem will be hiding it from Ira.

We slide into the front seat of the truck. Ira is driving, I'm in the middle and Bernie is by the door. I ask, "Ira, please give me some information about the two girls Ben has adopted."

As we head out of the warehouse, Ira says, "Their names are Zarika and Yasmeen…"

Present – Zarika and Yasmeen – Tajikistan

Yasmeen
I struggle with all my might to escape this evil man's hold on me but I can not get away.

He brags, "You would not know how hard I have been looking for you two. I will be a very rich man now."

I reply, "Please, you can take the gold, just leave us alone."

He opens his mouth to answer, I hear a gurgling noise, then he lets go of me. I look up and I see the man with no tongue who cannot speak has killed this bad man.

He doesn't even look at me, but he goes over to Zarika, takes a look at her and then scolds me very hard. I worry because from what he motions, I am in big trouble…

Present – Hammer

 

Ah've bin tailin' th' crusty olde chuff since he left th' team. Ah kin' ay figured Ah owed heem fur aw th' problems eh'd caused in th' pest, plus he needed backup. An' it was a smashin' bloomin' thing Ah was haur coz he got himself intae quite a pickle. He lit th' git sneak up behin' heem an' gie th' drap oan heem. Nae a body pulls a gin oan mah brub, sae Ah shot th' effin' git. But as he went doon, his scattergin went orf an' th' crusty olde chuff grabbed his leg an' feel tae th' grin.

 

I've been tailing the crusty old fart since he left the team. I kind of figured I owed him for all the problems I'd caused in the past, plus he needed backup. And it was a good fucking thing I was here because he got himself into quite a pickle. He let the bastard sneak up behind him and get the drop on him. No one pulls a gun on my friend, so I shot the fucking bastard. But as he went down, his scattergun went off and the crusty old fart grabbed his leg and fell to the ground.

 

Thom yells, "Son of a bitch! Whoever you are, take out the other one!"

 

Skane th' bludy git runnin' towards us, sae Ah orf heem tay. 'En Ah scapa up tae Thom an' say, "Haw bad ur yeh hurt?"

 

I see the bloody bastard running towards us, so I off him too. Then I run up to Thom and say, "How bad are you hurt?"

 

He yells, "You crazy kilted bastard, are you trying to get me killed?"

 

Ah smile an' answer, "It's mint tay see yeh tae Thom, noo let's gie it ay haur afair th' bil shaw up. Can yeh mosey?"

 

I smile and answer, "It's good to see you to Thom, now let's get out of here before the police show up. Can you walk?"

 

The old fart yells, "Hell yes I can walk, I just took a couple of pellets to the leg."

 

‘E kin barely mosey, Ah gie cream crackered ay his speed sae Ah grab heem an' bung heem ower mah shoolder.

 

He can barely walk. I get tired of his speed so I grab him and throw him over my shoulder.

 

He complains, "Hey you crazy assed Scott! What the hell are you doing?"

 

Present – Linus – Arrival in Fredrick MD

After driving for another hour, I pull out my mobile phone and call the network, Megan picks up the phone and I say, "Hey Megan, how's everyone doing..."

Megan goes off on me, "Linus where the hell are…"

Fuck this shit and double-fuck this bitch! I hang up the phone on her. Jens yawns, stretches and says, "Who was that. I could hear them yell all the way over here."

I laugh and explain, "It seems that Megan is slightly pissed at us."

Jen recognizes the joke, laughs and says, "Yeah, she's not going to be happy when she hears what I did."

I correct her, "You mean what we did. I know Megan is Liz's shrink, but what's the story between you and the queen bee?"

Jen giggles, "Yeah Megan's been too assertive and I will have a talk with her Linus. She was my best friend from when we were teenagers together. I hadn't seen here for years until a day or so ago. But she's really different than she used to be."

I can tell Jens isn't happy about the changes. I get ready to ask her some more questions, when I get an e-mail on my phone. I glance at it and immediately ask Jens…

Present – Jens – Arrival in Fredrick MD

Linus looks at a message on his phone then asks me, "Jens, did you say something about a mummy in your vision?"

I nod my head and say, "Yeah, but it wasn't very clear. Why the heck are you asking me about that?"

Linus replies, "Well, the computer program just sent me an e-mail. Apparently the police have found a dead man duct taped to a chair: His eyes face and head were covered and he had…"

I interrupt, "The name Tommy written on his forehead! Shit Linus, Ben has killed someone else!"

Present – Linus – Arrival in Fredrick MD

Shit! Jens' visions must be accurate! Yes, the dead man had Tommy written on his forehead. She's upset as hell so I need to tell her, as Paul Harvey would say, 'The rest of the story.'

I reprimand, "Jens, don't go getting all fired up..."

She interrupts, "Linus why the hell shouldn't I? Ben's running around the country killing people…"

It’s my turn to interrupt so I order in my command voice, "Former Sgt. Donaldson, shut your damn mouth, stop interrupting, and listen to me! The Tommy mummy bastard that Ben eliminated was wanted by the police for eight violent rapes of teenage girls. As far as they are concerned someone did them a big favor. The other two that Ben killed were fucking hard core mercenaries that had an equally dubious past. And the first guy Ben killed knifed and killed a girl that the gang he was in was going to rape. So, former Sgt. Donaldson, get your head out of your ass and realize that Ben is taking out the fucking trash."

I glance at her, she grins at me and surprises the hell out of me when she…

Present – Jens – Arrival in Fredrick MD

Linus chews my ass and it does make me feel better, especially since I'm not totally paying attention to it. I am thinking about the mummy with Tommy on the forehead and I figure it out just as Linus finishes reprimanding me.

I grin at Linus and sing,"

He stands like a statue, becomes part of the machine.

Feeling all the bumpers, always plays it clean.

He plays by intuition, the digit counters fall.
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!

 

Linus, Ben wrapped the bastard up like that as some sort of prank. He made him resemble Tommy from the Rock Opera with the same name."

 

Linus's mouth is hanging open so I add, "Close your mouth or it will attract flies."

 

He sputters, "Jens how the hell did you figure that out."

 

I proudly announce, "Linus, I may not know why Ben did it, but I know my man! So are we headed to the hotel room?"

 

He replies, "There's no reason to - according to the police the room has been sanitized."

 

Yep that's my man, taking out the trash and then cleaning up after himself. I suggest, "Linus, let's find someplace to grab a cup of coffee and brainstorm."

 

He pulls into the parking lot of a restaurant and my mobile phone begins to ring…

 

Present – Megan – Truth Network Office – Washington DC

 

Sometimes I am so stupid! Maria's attitude, the almost fight with her, and then getting my ass handed to me by Masha has me so distracted I forgot that I can just 'reach out and touch' Jens. So I dial her mobile phone, she answers, "Surprise Meg!"

 

Surprise my ass, but at least she seems like she's in a good mood. I reply, "Jens where in the hell are you?"

 

She giggles and answers, "Linus and I are out hunting."

 

What the hell, hunting in DC? I wonder if she's totally lost it and demand, "Jens, stop acting like a teenager and tell me what you're doing!"

 

She sasses back, "Meg, that's for me to know and for you to not find out." Then she gives me a raspberry and hangs up the phone.

 

I dial her number several more times but she won't answer. Shit, she needs a good spanking!

 

Present – Jens – Arrival in Fredrick MD

 

Megan and my phone are distracting as hell and driving me crazy as we head to the counter to place our order, so I shut it off. While I love Megan like my sister, I'm the one running this show and I'm the one calling the shots. Linus looks at me and says, "I gather Megan isn't too happy with us?"

 

I reply, "Yeah she's pretty pissed off at me. But I feel great being out hunting for Ben."

 

Linus replies, "Yeah you always did like to jump first and fear later."

 

I giggle and recite one of my favorite quotes, "When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are, by necessity, diminished. Only through freely chosen discipline can life be enjoyed and still kept within the bounds of reason."

 

Linus says, "Wow that's a great saying, did you make that up?"

 

I giggle and reply, "I wish I had. It's from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi1. I memorized it when I was in school and read his theory about the ten paradoxes possessed by creative people."

 

1  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - born September 29, 1934, in Fiume, Italy – is a Hungarian psychology professor, who emigrated to the United States at the age of 22. He is noted for his work in the study of happiness and creativity, but is best known as the architect of the notion of flow and respected for his years of research and writing on the topic.

 

Present – Linus – Arrival in Fredrick MD

 

Jens certainly is in a good mood, it must be a result of her nap and the thrill of the hunt. Shit if I could find a woman who liked to hunt as much as she does, I'd marry her. Her mention of the paradoxes has my attention so I ask, "Jens do you remember the ten paradoxes you mentioned?"

 

She giggles and replies, "Linus, don't be a dweeb, of course I do! They are:

1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest.

2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time.

3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.

4. Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality.

5. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted.

6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time.

7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping.

8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative.

9. Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.

10. Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment."

I am amazed as I listen to the list because it describes me and Jens almost to a 'T'. We grab our food, head to a booth as I ask, "Jens, will you write this list down for me?"

We sit, she smiles and answers, "Linus of course I will. So did you find a few things on the list that apply to you?"

I nod my head, "Jens, I would say the whole list applies not just to me, but to both of us and to most of the people I know."

She giggles, "Yeah, I would agree, it fits both of us and Ben…" she stops speaking and her breakfast sandwich falls out of her hand and she frantically looks around the restaurant. I ask, "Jens, what's wrong?"

Present – Ben (Paulo) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

As we head to find an ATM, today has been interesting, but interesting in the way of a curse, not a blessing. I am amazed at how incompetent Angelina is and quite frankly shocked she had not already been apprehended by the bounty hunters. But after helping her, now I am responsible for her and I will do my best to keep her safe.

 

We find an ATM and I replenish my funds. Angelina says, "Paulo, thank you for taking such good care of me. I promise you someday I will pay you back for all the added expense."

 

Her offer makes me feel good, but she is entirely too focused on money so I reply, "Do not worry about it Angelina, money is nothing more than another tool."

 

She bristles at my comment and argues, "Paulo, you are being silly. Money is very important!"

 

I counter, "Really! Tell me Angelina, with all your money can you buy happiness?"

 

She avoids the question and answers, "Paulo, it has brought me happiness in the past."

 

I laugh, "Have you been happy today and have you had access to any of your money today?"

 

I watch her scrunch up her face: It so reminds me of Ms. Donaldson's face and she replies, "Yes, I have been very happy today and no I do not have access to my money."

 

I know she's had a very good day but I need to continue, "So, if you had access to your money, what would you have changed about today."

 

She frowns and changes the subject, "Paulo, I'm hungry. Can we get something to eat?"

 

I laugh, "Angelina, I am not done with this subject and we will talk about it later." We walk into a fast food restaurant, place our order and head to a table. I make sure to take one with no one behind me and where I can see the doors.

 

Present – Stacy (Angelina) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

Oh! Ben, I mean Paulo has been so frustrating he is driving me crazy. I know he's trying to tell me that money isn't important, but he is so wrong. Money is one of the most important things in the world.

 

We get some food, sit at a table, I look at him and say, "It was good you had money to buy breakfast."

 

He smiles, "Yes it was, otherwise I might have to kill and eat something myself."

 

I ask, "We are in the middle of a city, what would you kill and eat?"

 

He grins, "Oh I don't know, possibly a couple of rats."

 

Suddenly I am not hungry and say, "Paulo! That was a mean thing to say and you have wrecked my appetite. Stop teasing me!"

 

He continues his grin and explains, "Angelina, I am not teasing you. I have eaten many things like rat."

 

I stare at him and sense he is telling me the truth but I say, "I do not like this conversation. It is not an appropriate conversation for meal time."

 

He laughs and adds, "Angelina, sorry but that is a fact. There are many ways to live which do not require money."

 

I counter, "But having money makes living easier."

 

He grins and I dread what he has to say next. He comments, "And, if the tabloids are to be believed, money has gotten you into the place you’re in right now."

 

I am shocked since he knows some of what happened and I say, "So what?"

 

His grin continues, "So, in your case it has cost you very much."

 

I hang my head, because I know he's right - it has cost me very much…

 

Present – Ben (Paulo) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

I sense I went too far with Angelina and now she is upset and sad, so I try to fix the situation. I reach across the table, take her hand and say, "Do not be sad my little sister, money is important to me, but there are very many things that money cannot buy."

 

She gives me a sad look and answers, "Like what Paulo?"

 

I smile and reply, "Like the joy you will feel the first time your baby smiles at you."

 

I do not hear her reply because my attention is captured by the two people who just walk into the fast food restaurant…

 

Present – Stacy (Angelina) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

Paulo realizes he has upset me and is being so nice by trying to make me feel better. I say, "Yes Paulo you are right. And thank you for agreeing just a little bit with me." But Paulo's hand grips mine very tight and he doesn't answer. I notice he's very distracted by something behind me. I start to turn and he softly orders, "Angelina, do not turn towards the door. Instead please hold your drink up to your face." I comply and watch as Paulo lowers his head and does the same.

 

I am dying to see who it is that has Paulo so worried.

 

Paulo whispers to me, "Angelina, I hate to ask you to do this. But we must slowly and carefully leave the restaurant now, and must not create any sort of disturbance. And I would like it if you could pretend to be my romantic interest."

 

I watch as two people pass us and head to the counter and I know why Paulo is so upset! It's that bitch fiancée of Ben's and some guy who's as big as a house. I whisper, "Paulo, I see them and recognize one of them. While your story about eating rats slightly spoiled my appetite, the trash that just walked into the restaurant totally destroyed my hunger. Come my pretend love let us leave this place."

 

We slide out of the booth and I lovingly wrap my arm around Paulo as we head for the door. My heart is beating like a hammer but we safely make it outside. Paulo looks at me and says, "Thank you Angelina that was a very close call."

 

I think, yeah way too close! Once again I am so thankful for Ben, somehow his intuition was right. We walk quickly away from the fast food restaurant and I say, "Paulo, once we are far enough away I need to do something."

 

Present – Jens – Arrival in Fredrick MD

 

I suddenly realize that… Ben is close - very close! My breakfast sandwich falls out of my hands and I scan the fast food restaurant. I reply to Linus's question, "Linus, Ben was just here!" I jump up and head for the door as Linus follows me outside. We both scan the mass of people and…

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