5:15 pm . . .
We had to wait behind four smaller planes—three trainers and a jet with only one engine. The way we’re situated, it’s me sitting next to some bags, Ricky and Ms. Josephine sitting next to each other, and the soldier-of-fortune guy—Mr. Green—all by himself.
He’s not very talkative, but he has a very interesting face. His hair is close-cropped reddish-brown. He’s got cold blue eyes, almost white, that look like those plastic doll eyes that scare the holy crap out of me. His face, I don’t know, it’s rugged and scarred, as if he’s been halfway through razor wire on more than a couple occasions.
He has an eastern accent—maybe Boston or New Jersey—and the few times he’s spoken, his words were short and choppy, as if he’s in court dodging some prosecutors questions, or talking to his ex-girlfriend on the phone.
I guess he sees me looking at some long, linear cuts in his face, just outside his left eye, running down his cheek to his sculpted jaw. He flashes me a half smile, lowering his novel to his lap. “I got this in Afghanistan a few years ago.”
He’s wearing khaki pants and a black tight-fitting t-shirt. The novel he’s reading, it’s titled SodomyCat. This guy is edgy, but somehow refined.
Were you in the Army? I ask him.
“Not exactly,” he replies, the fingers of his left hand tracing his scars blankly.
I don’t know what not exactly means, exactly.
He closes his book and looks at the three of us, slowly appraising and estimating. “I was in the Legion a few years back. Ricky’s father, Mr. Chamberlain, was having some issues with a company he was purchasing in South America. It was a medium-sized plastics factory in French Guiana, right near the borders of Suriname and Brazil.”
He crosses his arms, leaning back in the soft leather seat, “Anyway, a friend of a friend introduced us, and since I spoke French and Spanish, he hired me and a few of my partners to assist him.”
When you say, assist, do you mean, like . . . soldier stuff, or lawyer-translator stuff?
“He’s no lawyer,” Ricky says without looking up from the maps he’s been religiously studying like they’re MRIs of somebody’s heart.
Ms. Josephine and I trade uneasy glances.
Mr. Green, he just shrugs, “Everyone needs to make a living. Well, so, after that I worked on and off for Mr. Chamberlain and his associates. Last year he brought me on full time.”
What’s your official job title?
“Dispute Arbitrator,” he says flatly.
That seems eerily appropriate, I say to him.
Ms. Josephine asks, “Mr. Green, what—”
“Oh,” he stops her, “ . . . Andy. You can call me Andy.”
She nods. “Andy, what has Mr. Chamberlain told you about what it is we’re doing?”
Ricky stops what he’s doing. I turn to Mr. Green. We’re all a bit curious what he thinks he’s here to do.
He points to her, “You’re a psychic.”
He points at me, “You’re cursed or something awful like that.”
And then he points over at Ricky, “And you’re my boss’s only son.”
He nods slowly to all of us, his face pleasant but emotionless, “Whether we’re settling a labor dispute, hunting for Yetti, or staging an insurgency, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m here to keep all of you alive and safe in an environment that is . . . ” he sighs, scratching the back of his head, “at its best, dangerous and unforgiving.”
Have you ever arbitrated in Ecuador? I ask.
This barely-grin passes across his face in a flash and then disappears. “Jack, if you carry a gun long enough, you’re eventually going to find yourself in Ecuador.”
That’s reassuring. I have this funny feeling that he’d answer that question the same if we’d asked about any third-world country on the planet. This guy looks like caged violence. And even though he says for us to call him Andy, I’m kind of thinking that Mr. Green is more appropriate. Not that it’s probably even his real name.
I ask him, Have you ever killed anyone?
And as soon as the question leaves my mouth, Ricky and Ms. Josephine look at me like I’m some kid running around the museum with my pants down. Like I’m a full-on retard. Apparently everyone is bothered by this question except for Mr. Green.
“Jack,” he says, “have you ever squished a bug that was running across your kitchen floor?”
This is one of those rhetorical, rationalization-justification analogies.
I just nod, Yes.
“Well,” he says, picking up his novel, “there you go.” And then he yawns as if talking about the taking of a human life is just the most boring thing ever. Like watching paint dry, or women’s golf.
This guy—Mr. Green—I don’t know too much about him, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that he’s probably got a school full of spooks in his future.
Ms. Josephine clears her throat, “Well, Andy, I’m glad you’re ’ere to look after us.”
He glances over and just kind of tips his novel to her. Ricky and I trade shrugs.
I settle back in my seat and try to get my mind clear of Angela. I need to focus back on what’s ahead of me. But I can’t. So I close my eyes and picture her face. Her little nose and deep brown eyes. Her thin lips and dark hair. Her skin tone, somewhere between olive and coffee.
I haven’t read her letter, yet. I’ll save it for when we’re stuck somewhere out over the Gulf of Mexico and I can’t sleep. I have a feeling that I’ll be able to sleep less and less as this thing goes further.