Note: This is a pre-quel to the Wednesday story.
Once a chic destination for European jet-setters and their imitators, Bolok never had recovered from the anti-Republic riots of a few years back that played night after night, for endless weeks on the world’s news programs. Empty beaches, shuttered shops, half-built hotels, trash-strewn streets, and charred villas memorialized the passing of the island’s brief dream of tourist-driven prosperity. Bolok’s inhabitants now dreamed only of leaving for Brunei, Australia, Singapore, Canada, or the U.S., or anywhere else that harbored a flicker of hope for life, prosperity, and posterity.
While true that these days few foreigners visited Bolok, the still-audible Siren’s song of cheap lodging and food, and world-class diving lured the occasional thrifty adventurer. It had lured flamboyant Senator Charles “Call-me-Chuck” Landers, long-time Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Before Landers had set off on his adventure, the Senator’s aide had called the U.S. Embassy to announce the visit and stress that, “The Senator and Mrs. Landers, of course, do not want the Embassy to go out of its way, or for it to spend taxpayer funds to support their private visit. They, of course, seek no Embassy assistance.” Newly arrived Ambassador Williams, sitting 1300 miles away from Bolok in the capital of Suluarta, and inexperienced in matters pertaining to the care and feeding of traveling Members of Congress, sighed in relief at these words; he dreaded the thought of making the long and uncomfortable plane and boat trip to dreary Bolok just to tend to the Senator.
On their first night in Bolok, the vacationing Landers gorged on mounds of inexpensive, oddly flavored prawns at The Vice Squad, one of the few functioning restaurants. During the beach stroll back to their hotel, and just as the Senator launched into his third rendition of “Imagine what that would have cost back home,” Mrs. Landers began feeling, by turns, faint, hot, cold, and sweaty. A gut-churning spasm felled her. The Senator soon followed, joining his wife sprawled on the sand in a pool of vomit and diarrhea. Two Australian surfers dragged the spewing Yanks to the road, and packed them into a taxi. In the hotel, the Landers ingested rehydration salts and expired antibiotics, and had their wallets stolen. Two days later, pale, weak and groggy, they departed for Washington.
Safely back in DC, Landers issued a press release expressing “disgust with the lack of concern shown by Embassy Suluarta for traveling Americans in Bolok Island, a major center of global tourism.” He put a hold on State Department funding until the Department established a consulate in Bolok.
Tormented by visions of his career in a death spiral, Ambassador Williams called Frank Jones into his office. Pacing behind his desk, he almost shouted at the seated Jones, “The Secretary’s frantic. You, you’re an experienced Foreign Service Officer . . . go create a goddamn consulate! Take our Embassy accountant, uh, that Shaheed guy, he’s from there, right?” Williams came around to the front of the desk and stopped in front of Jones. Almost in a whisper, he implored, “Look, I know we don’t have money for this, but make it happen! I’ll get you assigned to London, Sydney, or wherever the hell you want! Fix this! Go to Bolok!”
Jones sat on a floor cushion in “The Palace,” a cup of lukewarm sweet tea on a long low table in front of him. Across the table, surrounded by aides, small-boned, with a thin mustache, looking younger than Jones had expected, and wrapped in a colorful silk robe topped by a blue satin skullcap sat the smiling Sultan. On Jones’ immediate left sat the tall, elegant white-haired Shaheed, long-time U.S. Embassy employee clearly delighted to be home after years working for the Americans in distant Suluarta.
With Shaheed at the wheel of an old but immaculate white Ford Mustang, the ride to The Palace had provided “a Foreign Service moment.” Over the driveway a large blue banner with red letters screamed, “H.R.H. SULTAN S. WUDJU WELCOMES U$A.”
Frank sighed, “Well, I can see what’s coming.”
“No worry, bos,” Shaheed said smiling and downshifting into second as he gunned the vehicle up the driveway. “Sultan study in France.”
“Ah, great, crippled by a French education just like Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh. I suppose he likes Jerry Lewis and Michael Moore? Nice car, by the way. Where’d you get it?”
“Belong Sultan, nickname of “Silver,” yes, “Silver,” 1967, last good year. Ah! The Palace!”
“A white car is called ‘Silver,” I see.”
“The Palace” would have fit into a middle-class 1950’s Florida suburb. A wooden one-level bungalow, it squatted behind a row of dying palm trees on a slight rise and abutted a trash-filled beach that ran some 100 yards from the rear of the house out to a turquoise ocean. Visible in the middle distance, jutting through a thin layer of clouds, Bulanggi volcano rose from neighboring Kotu Island. A lone gardener picked at the scraggly lawn. He bowed as Jones and Shaheed passed.
Sweat streamed down Jones’ face and back. The open windows and slow ceiling fan could not cool the sparsely furnished room. The Sultan remained silent, smiling in Jones' direction. Shaheed and the Sultan’s aides conversed in rapid-fire Bolokenese, occasionally glancing at Jones. He heard his name mentioned along with the inevitable bos and “dollars.” After thirty minutes, without a word, the Sultan rose and left.
“Shaheed, what’s with him? What’s happening?”
“Sultan loan Palace for Consulate”
“Bos, free, no rent. Electric, water, free. Everything OK.”
A sinus-clearing electronic screech followed by the crackling hiss of a well-worn tape came from eight “Bose” speakers. Cymbals! Drums! A gambelan xylophone! A flute, then another, then an ear-splitting horn fanfare!
Shaheed shouted in Jones’ ear, “Bos! Big honor. Sultan dancers never dance for outsider. Story of Princess Malika who not want marry Prince Ali, but father say must. She run away. Ali make war. To stop war, she go in ocean to die but gods sorry. They make Malika become fish, she swim far and then when life as fish end, gods make her star and she make Bolok from gold, silver and spice.” Shaheed smiled, “True story.”
“Dancers? Princess to fish to star to Bolok Island and it’s all true? Wow!” Jones stared at his watch. “How long will this take? That music sounds sort of like Bacharach’s raindrop song.”
“Old Bolok melody. Dancers!” Shaheed pointed towards a closed door.
“I don’t see anything.”
The door opened. Six small slim women entered wearing bright red silk sarongs and blouses and electric blue conical silk headpieces. A seventh wore a white sarong-blouse combination with a gold conical headpiece. Following were six small slim men, three with wooden tiger masks, three lion masks, all in bright yellow sarongs and blue blazers, and wielding small swords. A seventh barefaced male dancer had a red sarong and black blazer, whiteface make-up, and a precariously balanced metal crown on his head.
“Shaheed, the guy with the crown looks familiar.”
The music grew louder. A slowly moving circle of dancers formed: clockwise, counter-clockwise; clockwise, counter-clockwise; clockwise, counter-clockwise; around and around the female dancer in white and the crown-wearing male who stood frozen face-to-face, holding hands. The “tigers” exchanged masks with the “lions.”
Jones looked around the dimly lit, thatch-roofed, open-sided beach cafe, The Vice Squad. A gentle evening breeze came from the ocean. He and Shaheed were the only clients. A small waitress stood near the bamboo bar.
“I'll pass on those, Shaheed.”
“They good, bos.” Shaheed dug into a mound of prawns, hands and chin dripping liquid. “Called Rani, queen, have special spice.”
“I’ll stay with the stale bread sticks. Queens, huh? You eat'em whole, shell, head, antennae, flippers?”
“Roughage!” Shaheed roared, spraying bits of exoskeleton.
“Look,” Jones leaned across the table and spoke quickly, “don't get me wrong. I appreciate The Palace and the cultural events, but in two weeks I’ve spent $35,000 of my own money rewiring, fixing leaks, painting, planting trees, and paving the driveway. The Sultan said 'free', right?”
“Free Bolok standard, you want bos standard.” Shaheed sipped a glass of pink juice. “Need 6000 talus for new Consulate door, American door. Bolok doors easy to break.”
Shaheed smiled and waved a prawn, “Talus, in Bolok language mean ‘glass beads.’ Name for old Bolok money. We don’t talk rubyas. That Suluarta money. They invade us. Take our Sultan, who like a father to Bolok-Kotu people. Bad memories. Widows still suffer.” He jammed the prawn head first into his mouth. “Need 6000 talus, only 1500 American dollars, bos, and we get good American door.”
Jones grimaced and drank his beer, an Australian import, strong, expensive, and the only thing worth drinking on Bolok. “You have a Western education, right?”
Shaheed nodded, crunching a prawn, “Some. Long time past.”
Jones took a gulp of beer, “Then you know that Suluarta invaded Bolok eight centuries ago. 800 years! Bolok has been in what was the Suluarta Empire and is now the 850-island Federated Republic of Suluarta ever since. During colonial times, the European governors ran all the islands from Suluarta.Those same Europeans put a pet Sultan here as a figurehead to keep Bolok-Kotu quiet. Some 40 or 45 years ago at independence the Republic formed and the new government took the Sultan’s title and lands. Then came the royalist rioting of four years ago, thousands of people dead, the economy ruined, and the government gave it all back to keep Bolok-Kotu quiet. In Europe today, royalty is just a gimmick to draw tourists and sell gossip magazines. And like the European royals, the Bolok Sultan is a rude boob!” Jones slapped the table with his open hand, “My friend, there is no invasion widow still around from 800 years ago, but there are plenty of them from the rioting. You can thank the Sultan and his backers for making Bolok a dump, and now that he’s got his title and property, the Sultan should help today's widows and poor, and forget about an 800-year-old invasion! The people fought for the right to be oppressed by some royal idiot, and they got what they wanted.”
“He try to help,” Shaheed whispered, slowly drawing circles on the wooden table with a prawn.
“Yeah,” Jones slammed down his beer, took a prawn, sniffed it, and tossed it back on the pile. “Forget the invasion, forget the $1500, forget the new door. Those queens, whew! Special spice? These smell like they have been around since the invasion.” He turned in his chair and squinted, “The waitress sure looks familiar.”
“Yes, you are right. Sultan must help more.” Shaheed pushed away the remaining prawns. “ But, bos, old door already gone, bill must be paid, new door already in.” He rose. “Waitress run quality food business, fish, queen prawns, roasted chicks. Maybe you deal with her?”
Still looking at her, Jones said, “Nah, that’s not it. Wait! You already got the door?”
“Bos, we go before light stop, electric bad since riots.”
“You spent over $45,000!” Ambassador Williams’ voice came in choppy over the hand phone. “Everythin- -s frozen.” Beep!
“I set up a consulate! That should take care of Landers’ budget hold!”
“It’s no- official unti- Congress says.”
“So I get stuck paying $45,567.98 out of my own pocket?”
“You’ll get reimbursed when Congress okays Consula-- Bolok. Hey, listen, g--d news, not that we should enjoy others' misfortunes, but Landers’ wife cau--- him with an intern! He’s quit, he’s out! Senator Goldstein, a good friend, pro-Foreign Service, replaced him.”
“Maybe my great-grandchildren will get reimbursed.” Beep!
“Glad to hear that Frank humor! But you haven't heard t-- best part.”
“I wait with bait on breath.” Beep!
“Always joking! Goldstein's co---- your way!” Beep! “Is th-- your low battery signal? I’m in my car in Suluarta ------- for the airport.”
“He’s coming here?” Beep!
“In about two weeks, with that know-it-all aide, the Bolok expert.” Beep!
Jones, in a faux British accent, “Erik-with-a-k Hindley, Hastings JD, Harvard PhD, Yale MA, Stanford BA, and all b.s. all the time.” Beep! “You’re coming, too, right?”
“The very one. I’ve got a wedding in Califor---, then tak--- some leave. You don't nee- me, you have Shaheed. Oh, guess wha- I found out ab--- him?” Beep! Click!
Jones looked around. Over $50,000 spent and counting and The Palace still was not “bos standard.” I’m getting ripped off.
“We need to impress Goldstein to get funds. He's bringing an aide called Hindley,” said Jones to Shaheed, who stood next to him in The Palace looking absent-mindedly at the floor.
Shaheed’s head snapped up, and his eyes widened, “Funds? Dr. Erik coming?”
“Hopeless furniture, dirty beach,” Jones sighed. “Uh? Yeah, Dr. Erik ‘With a K’ Hindley, jerk of all trades, you know him?”
Shaheed spoke quickly, running his hands repeatedly through his thick white hair, “Sultan give us all museum pieces free. Nobody now visit museum anyway. Hindley father friend of my father, long time past. Must do many things.” Jones had never seen him this animated. Shaheed began walking towards the door, fumbling with his car keys.
“Shaheed, wait.” Shaheed stopped and faced Jones. “How do you know the Sultan will empty Bolok Museum for us?”
“No problem, bos. I arrange, bring antiques, tables, paintings, and cover sand. Tent, cushions, torches, waiters, put nice show with Kotu dancers, like before Republic.”
“I know when I can’t stop you, Shaheed. Oh, who's that sweeping over there?”
Shaheed glanced over his shoulder as he headed to the exit, “Sweeper.”
Jones had to acknowledge that The Palace looked almost palatial – a bit “Vegas,” but ok. Over the past two weeks, a parade of workers and trucks had brought boxes of Bolok’s “national treasure.” Vases, ornate sofas, chairs, overstuffed cushions along with Afghan, Persian, Indian, and Chinese carpets covered the floors; traditional Bolok and Kotu paintings, engravings and masks adorned the walls. The beach, too, had a new look. Palm trees and tiki torches ringed a khaki-colored canvas covered by more carpets, low tables, and cushions. Carpenters had built a stage, and erected over it all a large open-sided tent.
Shaheed had insisted on meeting Goldstein and Hindley at the airport and taking them on an island tour. Jones remained at The Palace. I won't spend hours in a car with that ass Hindley. Should be quite an evening. Better be. I need the money.
“Fred, please remember when putting my name on place cards and tags, I'm Erik with a ‘k’. I don’t know why some spell it with a ‘c.’ I never insist people call me Dr. Hindley, unless they feel more comfortable, but, please, spell my name right! Too much to ask, eh, Fred?” Hindley adjusted his owlish 1970s vintage glasses. “My two doctoral certificates have it with ‘k.’ I have a copy of my latest Foreign Affairs piece, very well received, on the struggle for the Sultanate. It updates my father’s work. The editors spelled my name correctly but, gosh, didn't list my time at Oxford! I went on a Rhodes. Can you imagine, Fred, not mentioning that?”
Hindley and Jones sat on floor cushions in the main room of The Palace awaiting the Senator. Jones was on his third beer.
“Not Fred, I’m Frank, with a ‘k’.” Jones flashed his most insincere smile. “You worked on roads in Oxford, Mississippi? Faulkner’s home, nice. I wouldn’t have thought you could have withstood the heat.”
“Frank, is it? I went on a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford in Britain, uh, England to be precise. And just so you know . . .”
“Welcome!” Frank rose to greet Goldstein, a small, neat man with silver hair and blue eyes, and redolent of soap, aftershave, deodorant, shampoo, mouthwash, and insect repellent.
“Doesn’t this look nice? Sorry you couldn’t join us this afternoon.” The Senator plunked down on a cushion. “We had a marvelous tour with the Sultan. Amazing man, studied literature at the Sorbonne and economics at Chicago. Hindley tells me the Sultan’s French is very good. His English, as you know, is great. He showed us an orphanage, a school and a vocational center he’s building for riot victims. I want to help. He's had a recent small infusion of money, but not enough. You’re lucky to have Shaheed.”
“Yeah,” Jones scowled. Shaheed introduced them to the Sultan without me?
Hindley cut in, “My father and the Sultan's father met at Yale, that’s the university, Fred, not the lock company or a strip club in Omaha or some other Southern state.” Pulling out a notepad and pen, Hindley wrote as he spoke, “Senator, you could amend the State bill to fund the Sultan. I'll do numbers with him. He's coming, Francis?”
“Well, Dick, he's invited, and, oh, a little factoid for your next PhD dissertation, Omaha's not in the South and it's not a state.” One point for me!
Jones' phone rang.
“Bos, Rani prawns from The Vice Squad, $2000. Or you want roasted chicks?”
“For $2000 The Vice Squad better give me something good! She supplies quality, right? No queens for this Senator, send chicks!” What's that ass Hindley writing?
“Bos, problem with Kotu dance girls.”
“I already gave $600 for the girls!”
“Ferry company say $500 more for bring them, 2000 talus.”
“Damn! Give the ferry another 2000 talus for the girls!” Jones stuffed the phone into his shirt pocket.
Goldstein opened his mouth to speak. A gong sounded. A turbaned waiter announced the start of the evening's activities.
“Oh,” Jones said as the Senator, Hindley and he stood, “before I forget, here are your name tags. Here’s one for you, Senator, and one for you, too.”
The beach looked spectacular: tent, fiery torches, carpets, cushions, waiters in turbans, some 200 Bolok and Kotu VIPs, decked out in their finest. It was a picture of tropical exoticness. Cecile B. Demille couldn't have done better. Shaheed drives me nuts, but this is great! A waiter led Jones and Goldstein to a spot before the low stage; a cushion between them marked “HRH Sultan S. Wudju.” Jones took a beer from a low table. Hindley found himself sitting three rows back with a card reading, “Miss Erin Hindely.” Jones laughed to himself as Hindley scribbled on his name tag and place card. He looks miserable! Wonderful! Where's Shaheed? Where's the Sultan? This beer’s strong.
On the stage, a spotlight lit a lone man: youngish, small-boned, thin mustached, wrapped in a colorful silk robe topped by a blue satin skullcap. “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Sultan’s festival in honor of American Consulate Bolok, and a special welcome for the Honorable Senator Milton Goldstein of Florida, and Dr. Erik Hindley whose father was a good friend of the Bolok-Kotu people, and to Consul General Fred Jones.” Frank winched, and glanced at Hindley, who smiled. The announcer! He’s the dancer, the one with the gold crown from the first day! Wait! He also looks like the Sultan! He is the guy I met the first day! He’s the Silent Sultan! The Sultan is a dancer? A dancer is the Sultan? Jones craned around. Where’s Shaheed? He grabbed another beer.
“The Sultan will be delayed. He has asked that we begin and he will join us forthwith.” If you’re not the Sultan, who are you? “We present the Royal Dancers of Bolok-Kotu performing a dance never before seen by foreigners. It is the true story of the creation of Bolok. Long ago, a handsome Prince named Ali did not want to marry the ugly Princess Malika, but his mother said he must. He ran away. Princess Malika made war. To stop the war, Ali threw himself into the ocean to die, but the gods took pity. They made Ali into a fish. He swam far away. When his life as a fish ended the gods made him into a star in the heavens. He then made Bolok out of iron, bronze, and betel nut.” The announcer bowed and withdrew.
A sinus-clearing electronic screech followed by the crackling hiss of a well-worn tape came from eight Bose speakers. Cymbals! Drums! A gambelan xylophone! A flute; then another, and then an ear-splitting horn fanfare! What? Where's Shaheed? Emitting a beery mist, Jones shouted to the Senator, “Something is going on! That IS the Bacharach song! And that's not the true story! It's the other way around! Malika became the fish, not Ali! And it was gold, silver and spice! Bolok is made of gold, silver and spice, not iron, bronze, and betel nut! They're lying!” Hindley had moved behind the Senator, whispering in his ear as Goldstein's frown grew in intensity, his blue eyes fixed on Jones.
Six small slim women walked onto the stage wearing bright red silk sarongs and blouses and electric blue conical silk headpieces. A seventh wore a white sarong-blouse combination with a gold conical headpiece. Following were six small slim men, three with wooden tiger masks, three lion masks, all in bright yellow sarongs and blue blazers, and wielding small swords. A seventh barefaced male dancer had a red sarong and black blazer, whiteface make-up, and a precariously balanced metal crown on his head. That guy is the announcer or Sultan imposter! I know some of the other dancers, too! They’re not from Kotu!
The music grew louder. A slowly moving circle of dancers formed: Clockwise, counter-clockwise; clockwise, counter-clockwise; clockwise, counter-clockwise; around and around the female dancer in white and the crown-wearing male who stood frozen face-to-face, holding hands. The “tigers” exchanged masks with the “lions.”
I paid for this? Staggering to his feet, and pointing at the stage, Jones shouted, “We're getting conned! I paid a bunch of talus for a ferry to bring girls from Kotu! One of those dancers is the damn gardener! Another’s the sweeper! That one’s the Sultan!The girl in white is from The Vice Squad! She supplies queens and chicks!” Jones roared as the dancing stopped and the speakers went quiet, “Her queens nailed Senator Landers!”
Twittering broke out among the VIPs. Goldstein's blue eyes shone bright from amidst his rapidly reddening visage. The Senator nodded as Hindley continued whispering in his ear. He looked up at Jones, “I don't know what you're doing. Maybe you’re drunk. Erik tells me you’ve been guzzling beer and insulting him all evening. He also tells me that the lady you’re insulting is Her Royal Highness the Princess of Bolok, the Sultan's daughter.” The Senator rose, Hindley glued to his ear. “She’s not with some crooked vice squad you seem to know. It is an honor to have her perform. Your public maligning of former Senator Landers is unacceptable. Getting ‘nailed’ by transvestites indeed! What language! And your dealings with a ‘fairy’ to supply girls in exchange for glass beads, disgusting! I’ll raise this with the Sultan and the Secretary!”
The speakers blared, “Ladies and gentlemen, His Royal Highness the Sultan of Bolok- Kotu!”
From the rear of The Palace, he came, tall and elegant, his turban hiding all but a shock of thick white hair that fell onto his forehead. Walking slowly, nodding right and left, he entered the open tent to applause.
The Senator turned to Jones, “We’ll see what the Sultan says!”
Jones blurted, “Shaheed’s here, he’ll explain!”
The Senator walked away, “Your Majesty, I’m delighted to see you.” With his right hand outstretched, Hindley on his heels, he headed towards the newly arrived VIP.
Jones followed shouting, “Shaheed, explain before the Sultan arrives.”
“Your Majesty, I apologize for our Consul General. He’s under stress, drinking. I will discuss this with the Secretary. Dr. Hindley and I want to help you.”
Jones stood behind Hindley and the Senator trying to get the turbaned Shaheed’s attention. “Shaheed, where have you been? Where’s the Sultan? Where are the girls I paid for? Did you know the guy we met wasn’t the Sultan? Why are you in that get-up?”
“Your Majesty, please pay no attention to Mr. Jones. Dr. Hindley and I want to talk about how we can help. Let’s ask Mr. Jones to leave.”
“Majesty? That’s, that’s Shaheed!”
Hindley turned to Jones, “Yes, Freddy, go. We want to talk to His Royal Highness Sultan Shaheed Wudju. Go to the vice squad! Have the fairy provide you a queen!”
“Sorry, bos. I know last night was rough.” Shaheed handed Jones a folded page. “Dr. Erik asked me to give you this.”
Jones unfolded the paper, and put it next to his cup. He rubbed his face. That Aussie beer! I’ve never seen this place in daylight. “You lied to me, the bit with the fake Sultan.”
“I never actually said he was the Sultan.”
Jones chuckled, “No, I guess not.”
“I’ll intercede with Ambassador Williams and the Secretary.”
“‘Intercede?’ Wow, a 64,000 talus word!” Jones looked down at the sheet. “What happened to the ‘Jay-Silverheels-Tonto-me-barely-speak-English’ routine?”
“Tonto, from ‘The Lone Ranger’? That was dad’s favorite show! He always would say, ‘See how the Lone Ranger never wants credit for doing what’s right? He just does it and leaves. Nobody even knows who he is.’ We would watch it together when he was a grad student at Yale.” Shaheed took a deep breath and exhaled. “Those were the days, before the 1967 Republic, before the crooked Suluarta politicians took the crown away and turned Bolok-Kotu into a whorehouse. I love the American cowboy ethos. Fight injustice, do what’s right just because it’s right, so much better than European posturing and compromising. That’s why I left the Sorbonne for Chicago.”
“Save it for the Fourth. So you base your life on a fake character and ruin my real life?” Jones looked up from the page and stared across the water at Bulanggi volcano. So this is how it ends. Not with a flag-draped coffin, but with a hangover in a beachside dive with a Third World “Sultan.”
“Did you read this? It’s what Goldstein is sending the Secretary.” Jones cleared his throat, “‘I had the misfortune of encountering Consul General Fred Jones in Bolok, the epitome of the ugly American. He has the fortune of having the Sultan of Bolok-Kotu, Shaheed Wudju a magnificent, US-educated economist and humanitarian, working for him. Mr. Jones, however, abused the Sultan, forcing him to give up The Royal Palace and empty the Royal Museum to provide grand accommodations for Mr. Jones. In addition, Mr. Jones deals with disreputable vice squad members who traffic in girls and possibly transvestites. I am cutting off funding to the State Department until Ambassador Williams and Consul General Jones are removed, Consulate Bolok closes and the funds that would have gone to its operation go to ‘The Sultan’s Charitable Fund for Bolok-Kotu.’ The Department is not to cover any expense incurred in setting up the abomination known as Consulate Bolok.’”
Jones slid the paper across the table, “For your empty museum.” Shaheed made no move to take it. The breeze swept it off the table, carrying it past the bar and the small waitress, out to the beach, and gone.
“I did it for my people. I used the money to help them. They fought for my crown.”
“My bank account, career and I are just some collateral damage? Would the Lone Ranger approve?” Jones sighed and stood, “Oh, forget it. Sultan buy coffee?”
“My regards to your daughter, but tell her to stick to waiting. Dancing isn’t her thing.” Jones began towards the exit, stopped and turned to face Shaheed for the last time. “Well, faithful companion, my work here is done. Which way to the airport?”
“Go west, towards the setting sun.”
“If you’ll loan me ol’ ‘Silver’, I reckon I’ll ride that way.”