"What about Tomlinson?"
"Okay, theyre old friends. Thats what you said. Sometimes old friends, a man and a woman, they just run off and disappear."
Kline knew what Shiva meant by "disappear." Shiva had paid him bonuses to do it before, and hed actually kind of enjoyed himself the one time it was a woman. But something about the way Shiva said it now irked himlike it was no big deal; grunt work any idiot could pull off.
Izzy called Shiva by his real name on those occasions when he wanted to underscore the fact that he didnt much give a damn about the mans religious act, or who paid his salary. He used the name now, saying, "Brilliant, Jerry. But shes going to visit two guys, not just one. So maybe what you can do is perform another one of your miracles. Snap your fingers, make all three of them disappear. Hows that sound?"
Shiva ignored the sarcasm. "This hippie, even if she does try to get him involvedsomeone like him? I dont see the problem. So tell me about the second guy."
"Hes a marine biologist named Ford. Marion D. Ford. Lives on Sanibel Island at a place called Dinkins Bay Marina. Same place as Tomlinson. Ford sells marine specimens."
"Um-huh. Like to colleges and labs. For research, that sort of thing."
Shiva waited through a few beats of silence, before he said, "Thats it? Your background check didnt turn up anything else "
There was a polite knock at the door. Shiva paused, checked his watch again. Time for his massage. He said, "Leave now. The women are here."
Kline said, "Exactly my point. With all the data banks and my resources, thats all there was: where Ford lives, the name of his company, where he graduated from college, some research papers. They play in some baseball league. Nothing else.
"The guys alive, he exists, but never really lived. Hes like an empty body walking."
Shiva smiled, then began to laugh, waving Izzy toward the door, "Baseball. A childrens game. Youre wasting my time for this? If a biologist and some pothead worry you, maybe youve been in the business too long. Get out of here. Well talk again when Im through."
Izzy was remembering a maxim hed learned at the Mossad training complex in the suburbs of Tel AvivBeware the man without a pastas he considered saying to Bhagwan Shiva, You really dont get it, do you?
Not that he was concerned about a man hed never met, or the woman, or anyone else. It was Shivas attitude that bothered him, the indifference. Like he was really beginning to believe the lie hed been telling followers for years: I am the truth, and the truth is invincible.
Izzy walked toward the door, thinking, Youre not invincible, asshole. And youre not taking me down with you....
From Everglades by Randy Wayne White, copyright © 2003 Randy Wayne White, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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