I had a lot to think about. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to leave the country for six months. I had only been in Aster making my new life for about 18 months. I wasn’t really satisfied with the life, which I had made so far, but then again it wasn’t all that bad either. Even so it looked as though I was going to be seeking temporary employment over seas.
The one thing I knew for sure was that I did not want to go back to the sandbox. There was definitely not going to be any dirt road trucking in my future. Six months of sailing back and forth on small uncomfortable freighters didn’t appeal to me either.
Alex most likely was catching up with the freighters in route and staying on board just long enough to get them safely through pirate waters, but still even a couple of days on a small freighter didn’t sound tempting.
The adrenalin junkie part of me was thrilled by the res-q-chic gig, but I could see months of boredom between actual jobs. Most likely sitting in some second rate hotel somewhere in some sinkhole country in South America or the Middle East. The down time again seemed pretty awful. I didn’t want to trade Helen, Jen and all the rest for some stranger in a cheap hotel.
If I had to stay away for half a year, then my choice would be interesting hotels and sight seeing in Europe. Spending six months with a socially retarded roomba 5000 didn’t really appeal to me all that much, but how bad could it be? I could always lock her in the closet and just go for a drive in the country. I don’t suppose that would be considered robotic abuse.
“So Jen what do you think?” I asked after I had explained it all to her. Well all but the Roomb 5000.
“So you are going to just tour Europe without a job of any kind. That just doesn’t sound like you Max,” she said.
“Well nothing those old clients offered me sounded like any fun on a day to day basis. I thought I might hook up with one of those small tour groups and just wander around.” It sounded like a pretty good cover story to me. “I can just hop around all over the place. They can set me up with places that are cheap and safe,” I suggested.
“Since when has safe been an issue with you?” she said.
“Since I can’t carry an m16 with me,” I replied.
“Max you stabbed a man with a butter knife and watched him bleed out. Do you expect me to believe you have suddenly gotten timid?” she asked.
“Good point, I suppose.” I said it but I knew that I would miss my tools. “Even so you know that I am going to feel naked. I really would love to have at least one real weapon maybe just a shotgun.”
“Well there are some good ones made in Italy maybe you could buy one as a gift and carry it around wrapped in Christmas paper.” Jen suggested with what was almost a teenage girl’s giggle.
“It’s June Jen,” I said in a light hearted voice as well. “I’m sure that I won’t be needing anything, but one just never knows.”
I called the CIA Assistant, to the Deputy Director for Scientific development after my talk with Jen. “Okay you win, when do I start and where do I go first?”
“How long will it take you to get your affairs in order, so that you can be gone for 6 months without anyone looking for you?” He asked.
“I’ve got a five unit apartment building, which I emptied out to handle the Chinese mess. I need to figure out what to do with that.”
“Call your lawyer friend, she can help you with that,” he suggested.
“Yeah, I know that. I just have to do it and make the decisions. After that I suppose I should say goodbye, and tell the other people I won’t be working for them.” I replied.
“I’ll have our travel office set it up and get with you,” he said. “And welcome to the agency.”
“Hey, I’m not signing up for the agency. I’m on board just to escort one agent around Europe.” I demanded.
“Of course, and since you have never been there, it should be a fun trip for the two of you.” He laughed as he hung up the phone. I didn’t much like that he had laughed at me.
I drove the cruiser to my new office building. I found the van parked on the street, but not Ed’s caddy. “So Lucas what in the hell is going on? Where is Ed?” I asked it because Ed wasn’t getting any younger. I wanted to make sure he got at least a little older.
“Ed decided to retire completely. He sold out his bail bond business to me. Now I have both of your businesses to run.’ Lucas said.
“It’s going to get worse Lucas, I’m going to Europe for 6 months,” I said. “At least you have something to keep you busy while I’m gone.”
“I am not laughing, I want to come with you,” he said.
“Someone has to stay here to look after everyone. That’s your job don’t let anything happen to our friends.”
“Yeah I know, but they would survive without either of us, or not.” he said.
“True, but still keep an eye on them,” I said. He knew it was bullshit, I just wanted to make him feel better.
“I mostly hated to tell Helen goodbye. Helen was my rock. With Helen it was like Skeeter, pure unconditional love. It went both ways. There was nothing I couldn’t ask of her and nothing she could ask that I wouldn’t do for her. I found her on the farm just outside of town, which she and Jack owned. She was in the industrial caterer’s kitchen.
“Helen what in the world are you doing?” I asked. She was obviously pouring over books, doing some kind of heavy duty research.
“Your friend, the Admiral, asked me to try to improve on the Government issue MRE. Frankly anyone could. I can make them taste better, but I’m not sure I can make them last and still taste better.” she confided.
“Why not nuke them once you have the food ready to package. Wont that kill all the bacteria. If you do that then vacuum seal the packages, wont that do it?” I asked.
“It might,” she agreed but how will those men feel about that?” she asked.
“I would eat it, so I’m guessing they will as well.”
“I’ll look into it. So what bring you here?” she asked.
“I’m going to tour Europe for 6 months. I just wanted to ask, is anything you need before I leave?”
“I heard from Jen that you would be going. So you are just going to bum around Europe at your age?”
I was surprised that she asked it that way. “Yes I am.”
“Good, you need the rest. I wish I could close this down and go with you.” she suggested.
The truth was that she would make a much better role model for Vicky the Vacuum cleaner. “I wish you could as well.” I almost cried, so I changed the subject. “I wanted to say goodbye to skeeter as well.”
“Since the weather has started to get warm, she spends a lot of time on the deck outside. Come on we will go find her.”
Sure enough she heard me coming and ran to me. She wanted to jump into my arms but Helen held up her hand like a traffic cop and Skeeter stopped and waited for me to get on my knees and hug her. I was on my knees on the outdoor deck, surrounded by the only two in the whole world who I loved unconditionally, and who loved me back exactly the same. Yes there were tears in my eyes, when I finally forced myself to stand.
Since Earl had already gone home there was no way to say goodbye to him. Mike was locked inside a editor’s station in New York City doing God only knew what to my raw images, so I couldn’t say goodbye to him either. It was a bit of a blow to discover that I could say goodbye to all my friends in a single afternoon. I had never really bothered to pay attention to the number, but it was still a shock to see how few there were.
I called Cheryl and found her busy in a meeting. I left a message that said, “Her girl, I’m going to Europe for six months just to look around. Do you want to come along. If not are you going to move back into the apartment. I ask because I’m considering selling. I you are not coming back, then I am probably going to sell. Let me know your plans. Oh yeah, this is Maxine.
I went home and spent the evening in front of my computer watching TV shows, which I missed while running from, and then chasing after the Chinese Mob. I always liked when I could watch five or six shows from a series at once. It was midnight before I knew it, so I slipped off to bed quietly for a change.
I managed my morning routine before I got Cheryl’s call at the mall. “Maxine, I’m sorry I missed your call. What in the world possessed you to do Europe now?” Cheryl asked.
“It was kind of get out of the country till things blow over, or face a murder charge.” I said.
“I see. Well I understand that Europe is marginally better than most of the women’s prisons in the states.” She said it with laughter in her voice. “So wish I could come along. I have never seen anything. but I have meetings all month, probably even more next month.”
“Okay, so are you planning to move back into your apartment?” I asked.
“I took an apartment here in Raleigh. It’s where I need to be to make a big difference.” Cheryl said.
“Well, move out whenever you are ready. I think when you do I will sell it.” I said.
“What if I bought it from you?” she asked.
“Why would you do that?” I asked.
“I have been looking for a place to house abused women on a temporary basis. It would be ideal.” she said. “Is Jen going to be handling it for you?”
“Most likely yes,” I said.
“Then I will get with her next week. Hon I hate to do it, but I have a lunch engagement with a state senator.” she said.
“It’s okay, I’m going to be getting my show ready to take on the road today anyway.” I said.
“Call me when you get home and we will try to get together,” she said.
“Sounds like a plan, oh how is Lindsay?” I asked as a parting shot.
“Back with hubby, all is forgiven,” she said and then hung up the phone.
“Well that’s that,” I said into the dead phone. Since I was at the mall, I did some shopping. I needed a suitcase suitable for flying across the Atlantic. When I got to England, I would buy more clothes and more luggage. I could toss it before I boarded the plan home.
That night I went to the Cowboy’s Bar and Grill. “Hello Warrior Princess,” Joyce said with a warm smile.
“Hello there sweetie. Can I have a cup of coffee?” I asked.
“Of course, so what’s new with you?” she asked. “I read that you were being investigated for something to do with some Chinamen?”
“Yeah, it was just a mistake, but I am leaving for Europe in a few days. I’m going to spend the summer at least,” I said.
“God you have such an interesting life,” she said.
“Not really, it just seems that way, now and then.” What I didn’t say, was only when viewed in relation to your life. “So anybody interesting in these days?”
“That guy who came in with you that last night has been in some. He and Amy come in for a drink almost every night.”
“Well I’m going to miss him, I have to be running along. Tell everyone bye for me.” I said it knowing full well that no one would ask, and she wouldn’t mention it.