Before Harry leaves the bedroom he gathers up several bottles of pills along with his keys, billfold, pocket comb, etc. He opens each container and takes one or two of each with his last swallows of coffee. He squints his eyes, grimaces slightly and stretches his neck muscles as he puts on his tailored suitcoat.
Like clockwork, Harry leaves his house, gets into his car to drive to the commuter station. His house is in a subdivision with identical houses, driveways and husbands leaving for work. Harry parks the car and, briefcase in hand, buys the morning paper. He boards the train after greeting a few friends. Harry goes to a vacant window seat without actually looking at it. He always sits in this seat. Harry reads his paper during the ride into town, not even having to look to greet new arrivals by name.
After leaving the station in the city Harry proceeds to a large metropolitan office building where he boards his usual elevator, greets his usual acquaintances and engages in comments about the weather and baseball scores. He enters his office, a large insurance agency which consists of rows of desks, clerks and secretaries. Harry proceeds down to the far end. He no sooner sits down at his tidy desk and greets those around him, then his intercom buzzes to announce a summons to the office of one of his superiors. There, Harry is given a file that must be investigated. As he returns to his desk, he notices the attractive young secretaries in suggestive and inviting postures. He is somewhat shy and does not pause.
During lunch some of his associates ask if he is going to the health club where some men and women relax in a jacuzzi. Harry does go to the sauna where he seems preoccupied and frustrated but responds with obvious enjoyment ot the conversation which covers a wide spectrum of topics. When he speaks he projects himself into the role of a very aggressive individual. After lunch Harry returns to his desk and spends the rest of the afternoon deeply engrossed in a study of his new assignment: His new case is a physician insured for $400,000, married with several children. The doctor had visited London, Switzerland, Vienna, Istanbul, New Delhi, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Guam and the Caroline Islands in Micronesia. There is a police report describing the last known activities of the doctor – the hotel in which he stayed, where he arranged an inter-island cruise which lasted several days. The police report contains information regarding the travelers checks that had been forged. These led to the arrest of a known petty thief who, after being arrested, confessed to robbing the doctor on board the cruiser and knocking him overboard.
Contained in the file is also information pertaining to the doctor’s application for insurance, the results of his physical examination, the premiums paid and an address. The doctor lived in an affluent suburb. It listed names of hospitals where he was on staff including the fact that he had a surfiet of patients and had been actively involved in civic affairs. There was also a copy of a poem the doctor had written.
At exactly five o’clock in the afternoon there is a complete reversal of the morning, with everyone leaving the building, going to the train and commuting back to the suburbs. Harry enters his home and calls to his wife, but there is no answer. He goes to the kitchen, opens a beer and throws together a sandwich. Just then his wife comes into the kitchen, sees the sandwich and starts scolding him for not mowing the lawn. Harry changes his clothes and starts mowing the lawn, cutting the grass in a strict geometric pattern without actually seeing anything. While he is returning the lawn mower to the garage his wife reminds him that this is their night to eat at the club. He hurries to bathe and dress.
At the club, he and his wife are greeted by a couple who are their best friends. The middle-class club has a mediocre band. After dinner Harry and his wife get up to dance, as do their friends. His wife takes this opportunity to express her discontent with Harry’s noticeable preoccupation with his work and hobby. She asks when she will be allowed to see the pictures on which he has been working so secretively.
Harry doesn’t even hear her, still giving the impression, as he has during the course of the day and evening, that he is a fairly happy, reasonably contented individual enjoying an evening out. He appears to like his house, his yard and his job.
After leaving the club the wives express an interest in stopping at a small discotheque nearby to see the wild young people and their entertainment. Harry’s wife is still annoyed but agrees to go along with the rest into the crowded discotheque.
The acid rock music is piercing. Harry’s attention is caught by a voluptuous young thing whose breasts are partially exposed and whose midriff reveals her navel. She dances over to their table and invites Harry to dance. He rises automatically, but his wife reacts rather strongly, and he sits back down. The foursome leaves and the couples part in the parking lot, getting into their respective cars. Harry’s wife is angry; the topper being harryls enthusiastic response to the young girl at the discotheque.
When they arrive home his wife gets into her flannel nightgown and crawls into bed. Harry says he is not sleepy to avoid words and goes down to his darkroom. He frequently spends time in the darkroom after his wife has retired, but tonight she is obviously quite displeased with the idea.
In the basement on the darkroom door there are signs warning against entry. Harry enters and snaps on the light. There is none of the usual equipment necessary for developing pictures. Instead, the walls are lined with travel posters and the shelves and table are piled high with travel brochures, magazines and books. Harry is especially interested in the South Sea Islands. He settles down to read.
It is again very early morning. Harry is gently snoring in bed next to his wife. Everything is very quiet as the sun climbs higher in the sky. From the radio there is no sound. On the clock the second hand is not moving. Harry suddenly sits up and jerks open the shades to see the sun brightly shining. He looks at his battery operated watch and realizes that he is late. Rushing frantically into the bathroom he rams his toothbrush halfway down his throat and turns it on, but nothing happens. He snaps on the light switch to no avail. Something unusual has happened. He checks the clock radio again and the automatic percolator and realizes there is no electricity. Groping unnaturally, he checks the fuses and the main switch and finds everything in order. Why is there still no current? He shakes his wife in an effort to wake her and tells her that there is no electricity. She just rolls over. He again speaks and asks her where his old razor is. Of course, she has no idea. Harry begins searching and finds his old razor and proceeds to shave his face. He shaves the right side in the bathroom but comes into the bedroom to use the illuminated mirror to do the left side. Even though it does not light up, he uses this mirror to finish shaving. Suddenly he scream, “Aaaah! , my mole! I — it’s gone!” His hand flies up to his face in horror. Blood oozes from his left cheek. His wife is awakened by his scream. “What’s happened to you, Harry?” “HARRY?” As if in a trance he explains, “I don’t know. It seems that I woke up without me today.”
“What do you mean? Just because there is no electricity doesn’t mean there is a national disaster.
The phone rings and she answers it. It’s a co-worker, Jerry, who says the power failure is affecting the entire east coast. My God, it is a national disaster! Harry takes the phone and Jerry tells him about the confusion to be encountered on the way to the office – traffic lights not functioning, commuter trains late and congestion everywhere. Jerry has decided to stay at home. Harry, however, is quite anxious to go to work and decides to try.
“What about my breakfast?” his wife reminds him. Remember? You promised last night.
“What Is a lousy breakfast compared to last night’s disaster.
He leaves the house. As he proceeds to the commuter station the traffic becomes more and more congested. When he reaches the station, he finds that it is packed with people, more than he realized even existed in that area. He tries to find out id the trains are running and when the next train is expected. Regardless of who he asks, he is unable to get any information. Instead, he hears heated commentaries from technology minded young people who blame the overuse of EVERYTHING for the power failure; air pollution, subversive elements, and radicals, all the way to the conjecture that the Russians have invaded the country.
Harry returns to his car, takes a couple of pills and sits for a moment surveying the traffic. Seeing that it has thinned out a bit, Harry decides to drive the rest of the way to work. He merges with the stream of automobiles. At first, driving is not too much of a problem, but as he approaches the outskirts of the city, more and more cars enter the traffic flow until it is virtually bumper to bumper. Harry follows a similar route to that which the train takes and sees surrounding scenes that he ignored in the past, scenes barely glimpsed from the train window.
At a snail’s pace, he drives into and through a ghetto area where each intersection is somewhat of a nightmare. Because the traffic is barely moving, the pedestrians meander in the streets and between the cars without any regard. Some rough looking teenagers try to open Harry’s doors and pound on the hood of his car. A couple of them jump on the trunk and ride for awhile, whooping and carrying on. Harry becomes very disconcerted and just creeps along watching the boys on the trunk in his rear view mirror. They finally jump off, and Harry accelerates just the smallest amount, his eyes still fixed on the rearview mirror. Just as his foot depresses the gas pedal, a disreputable looking, somewhat elderly man steps right in front of his car, and Harry knocks him down before he can brake to a complete stop.
There is instant bedlam. A crowd gathers before Harry can get to the man1s lifeless form. He hears everyone’s comments regarding the charges that will be brought against him if the man is dead. He will be sued for everything he owns if the the man is not dead. Everyone has an opinion. Harry kneels beside the prostrate form and put his ear against the man1s chest in order to listen for a heartbeat. He can’t hear anything, so he unbuttons the man’s shirt. As he lowers his ear to the mans chest again, the old man whispers, “How about a drink?” Harry is so stunned that for a moment he doesn’t realize the source of the question. He looks up and the man winks. Still whispering, the old man asks again, “How about a drink?”
Harry wipes his brow and sighs with relief. He helps the old man up and brushes him off. The crowd disperses. Harry parks the car and goes into a nearby bar with the old man who introduces himself to Harry and proceeds to introduce Harry to all the people in the bar who are, coincidently, all known to the old man. Many are similar to the old man in dress and general demeanor. The old man orders a drink, orders Harry a drink and orders drinks for all of his friends in the bar. When Harry shows the least bit of reluctance, the old man immediately acts as though he is suffering, so that Harry quickly and graciously cooperates. Harry occasionally glances toward the street, but since the congestion is still very evident he relaxes and shows genuine interest in the life story of the old man and asks about some of the people he has met in the bar.
There is a mirror on the backbar wall and various mirrors on the other walls. During a lull in the conversation, Harry glances around, points to a reflection in one of the mirrors and asks the old man to tell him about the man he sees there.
The old man glances at Harry somewhat ruefully. “Man, don’t you know yourself?”
Harry is surprised to discover that it is indeed himself and occasionally glances rather surreptitiously over his shoulder at his reflection.
The old man gestures at Harry’s bandaged cheek and asks aim what happened. “I woke up without me this morning,” Harry answers. He tells him about the shaving incident during which he lost his mole. Harry orders another round of drinks for the old man and his cronies. He also offers the old man some money which is proudly refused, so Harry leaves. As he pulls out into traffic, he sees the old man standing on the curb, closely watching the passing cars. Harry shakes his head in amazed amusement and as he drives away, shakes an admonishing finger at the old man.
Traffic again becomes impossible, and Harry turns off into a large park. As he drives through the quiet, almost deserted park, he sees a nature trail and stops the car. He takes his briefcase and lunch and walks off into the woods. He comes to a small glen. His eyes open wide with wonder.
There is a stillness that is broken only by the sound of birds and water tumbling down a small cascade. He sees ferns and dogwood in bloom and the crystal clear blue sky over-head He takes off his coat and tie and relaxes awhile, observing all manner of details, touching a fallen bird feather and small plants with his fingertips, he looks into a small pool and sees fish darting here and there. He visibly unwinds.
Harry opens his briefcase and studies the file. He comes to the poem that was published in the paper and reads it aloud. He is startled to find the words, “without you” repeated in the poem. He murmurs, “Without me_.” and puts his hand to his cheek over the bandage where the mole no longer exists. A purposeful look crosses Harry’s face.
“I must find this man.”
His relaxed attitude changes. He gathers his belongings and finds his way back to his car. As Harry leaves the park, he notes that traffic is now flowing in an orderly fashion and that the stoplights are functioning again, but it is now close to four o’clock in the afternoon. Since there is little point in still trying to make it to the office, Harry goes home.
When he arrives, his wife greets him at the door, nYou must have a dreadful headache since you left your medications behind.” Harry is surprised that he has not had a headache at all and does not have one. He hasn’t even thought of taking any pills.
Later in his pseudo-darkroom, Harry studies the doctor’s itinerary and carefully places pins in a large wall map as he charts the route the doctor took. He studies travel brochures which correspond to the cities he has marked. He checks the doctor’s credit cards and checkboot balance and jots many figures on to a large pad. He finally goes up to bed after carefully locking the darkroom door.
The next morning the clack radio goes off, the percolator perks and everything is back to normal, or so it seems. Harry prepares for work just as he always has except that he periodically stops what he is doing. His thoughts flash first to the picture on the London brochure then to a scene from the Switzerland brochure, and so on. As he leaves for work, Harry stops halfway dwon the drive with his mind on Vienna. At a traffic light he envisions Istanbul. In the parking lot thoughts of New Delhi demand his attention.
Harry manages to miss his train and is totally unperturbed as he sets out to drive to the city. He stops in at his office and tells his boss that he would like to drive out to see the doctor1s widow. The boss agrees and Harry set out again through the downtown area and eastward to one of the most affluent suburbs in the nation.
Harry finds the doctor1s home, which is beautiful. It is not new but like new, hot overl lar-g:e, beautifully land scaped and impeccably kept. The doctor1s widow answers the door and invites Harry in. There is a maid-housekeeper.
Apparently, the lady of the house has been working with her. They sit, and the maid brings in a sterling silver tray with coffee, croissants, jam and butter which Harry enjoys immensely. Harry notes that a portrait of the family, taken some years earlier is in a form.al setting, mother, father, a small boy and girl. There is also a photograph of the doctor and his wife taken at the time of their wedding. Harry comments on the excellence of the coffee and rolls. The lady comments that the doctor always had the same breakfast. He was very particular about his coffee and his rolls had to be crisp and warm. Harry talks to the widow about the doctor and specifically mentions the poem which he has memorized. She is pleased and emotional in a subdued fashion. While Harry is there, she gets a phone call and Harry overhears her making plans for dinner. He realizes that she has adjusted to her widowhood surprisingly well and has someone that she evidently cares for to take the doctor’s place in her life.
Harry bypasses his office and returns to the park to find the little glen that he had enjoyed so much. He lies down on the grass, his mind wanders to Bangkok and he falls asleep. After a time some small children discover Harry.
One little boy touches Harry’s nose with a feather and he wakes up with a start. He recognizes the child as belonging to one of his neighbors, and when the school teacher call to the children to get on a waiting bus the little boy smiles at Harry and runs off to join his classmates. Harry waits until the children are gone and reports back to his office. As soon as he gets off the elevator he squints his eyes and furrows his brow in pain. He stops at the drinking fountain and takes a couple of his pills.
On Saturday, the next day, Harry works around the house and in the yard, edging the lawn, trimming shrubs and other small jobs. He starts out the day with a couple of pill and periodically stops whatever he is doing as Singapore, Hong Kong and Guam drift through his mind.
On Sunday afternoon Harry and his wife go to the country club to a poolside party. Harry is not feeling his usual affable self. He constantly swallows pills. One of the women at the party is the mother of the little boy and she teases Harry about his nature studies. Harry’s headache gets worse, so he lies down on a lounge near the pool. Some raucous adolescents are fooling around near him, pushing and shoving each other and btm1ping into Harry’s lounge. It seems the sounds of the music and screaming become louder. of the kids fall into the pool and drench Harry.
After several minutes, he gets up and tells his wife that he must go home because of his migraine. He urges her to stay and asks Jerry and his wife to bring her home. This is agreeable to all and the party goes on and on.
It is dark when Harry1s wife gets home. The house is black. Harry is not in the bedroom. She calls several times at the top of the stairs. She goes downstairs to see if Harry is in his darkroom and finds the door slightly ajar. She opens the door and turns on the light. Her eyes widen as she sees Harry’s brochures, the wall map and the pad with lists of foreign countries and figures. She runs upstairs to the desk and finds a folder marked passports. Only her own passport is inside. Harry’s pill bottles are scattered about the room in disarray.
A large jet lands at London•s Heathrow Airport. One of the first passengers to disembark is Harry. Harry, with his raincoat on his left arm and his briefcase in his right hand looks like a real businessman. He is rather relaxed and self-confident as he takes the escalator through a long corridor and glances at the tourist posters on the walls. As he is clearing Customs and Immigrations, he hesitates a moment before answering the question of the purpose of his trip, then writes, “To visit an old friend.” He catches a cab. Harry is still very business-like but he can’t contain his excitement at seeing historical points such as the Thames, London Bridge and other places he has only heard of before.
While registering at the hotel, Harry asks if he can have room 507. The surprised clerk explains with well mannered sarcasm, uYou’re lucky to get any room this time of year. You don’t even have a reservation.” Harry is about to leave the desk. The clerk is puzzled and asks, “Why room 507?”
“Because a good friend of mine stayed there…”
Harry happily opens his briefcase and pulls out a picture.
He shows it to the clerk and asks if he remembers the man. The clerk smiles and shakes his head no. Harry proceeds to show the bellboy and the elevator operator the picture. Both shake their heads and look at him strangely.
Once Harry is in his room, he breaks out laughing.
He is definitely proud of himself. He chooses a few post cards from the desk drawer and starts writing a note to his wife, then stops. He starts another one to his friend, then stops. He throws them both into the wast basket. He opens his well organized briefcase and pulls out a file marked “London.” In it are the hotel bill of the doctor and slips of credit charges. Harry copies the names and addresses from the slips.
Paper slip in his hand and picture in his pock he visits at least half of the places on his list, checking them off and generally behaving as though he were a detective. At some places he is kindly driven out, while at other they unkindly do not even bother to answer him.
He is dragging by the early morning hours. After sleeping briefly on a park bench he continues walking. He gets directions from a bobby, stops a taxi and gives the name of his hotel to the driver. As they move through the streets, he notices an impressive building marked The Churchill Club. He immediately checks his list, stops the taxi and gets out.
The club is almost empty. Some parts are closed, but nevertheless a few waiters meet him and guide him to a table close to the bar where a few men and women sit in a cozy atmosphere. The waiter brings a drink. A middle-aged woman looks at Harry. She is sitting alone at the bar, very close to Harry’s table. After a few moments of polite conversation with the waiter, Harry manages to pose his critical question. He says that his friend had been here a few months ago and, showing him the picture, asks if he remembers having seen him. “No, I don’t remember him, but I am new on the job.” The woman at the bar, who has apparently been listening to their dialogue, becomes interested enough to ask Harry if she can see the picture. Harry is very surprised. He hands her the picture. She looks first at the picture, then back at Harry. She is sure that she remembers him!
The woman moves to Harry’s table. She is rather plump but a very pleasant and intelligent hooker. Harry orders another drink for her and listens to her story, which she tells most convincingly. She had been at the Club, her usual rendezvous, when she met the doctor in the same way that she met Harry. After many happy hours at the Club, she had taken him to her place to spend the night. She reflected that he had been very nice, very refined and a very, very generous gentleman.
The waiter goes back and forth taking drink after drink to Harry’s table. Harry tries to control the conversation, but eventually succumbs to the charm and persuasions of the woman. He drinks more and more. The woman asks Harry what happened to the doctor. He relates his history and involvement with the doctor’s case in detail. She feels strange but is still rather amused by Harry.
When it is time to leave Harry realizes that he has gone far beyond his planned budget. The woman asks him if he isn’t coming to see where his friend slept. Harry finally understands.
She writes the amount in pounds on the back of Harry’s bill. Harry writes dollars so she converts the amount for him. He looks at the figures and shakes his head. She suggests that she can show him things that his friend really liked. Harry finally gets up. They walk from the club together.
The next morning in her modest apartment, Harry puts on his shirt while she remains in bed, naked. Harry has finally realized what happened the previous night. With a bitter tone in his voice he tells her that he know she lied to him, that she had never met his friend.
She laughs, “So what? At least I1m not lying to myself.” “What do you mean by that?”
Still laughing, she jeers, “You think you are looking for someone, don’t you?”
Harry looks at her questioningly.
“That’s a lie.” the woman continues, “You1re lying to yourself. You1re searching for yourself, stupid. Don’t you even know yourself?”
Harry remembers that someone else has asked him this before. He hurries to the door.
On an airplane, Harry busily writes a last few words on some papers. He is getting no results, so he puts the papers all back inside the London file, which he puts inside his briefcase. The plane lands in Vienna.
Harry sits listening to the old man, Herr Sheveida. “Hey, world, shut up and listen. That1s the way I will start my new book. I don’t need readers. I want followers. It’s already too late for discussions and arguments and too late for transformations. What we need now are sudden changes. Life has spoiled and degenerated us very badly. It took billions of years to combine and make sense out of dust. It will take a split second to become dust again. You just imagine yourself as a wandering senseless molecule in the empty space of eternity. That’s what we’re all going to be if they don’t listen to me.”
Harry, rather annoyed, responds, “Yeah, but I still want to talk about my friend.” The old man looks helplessly around. He finishes drinking his hot chocolate in the old cafe type restaurant where he and Harry have been talking, picks up his bag from under the table, gets his coat from the hanger next to the door and after searching through his pockets, carefully gathers coins, counting and recounting them. Harry remains sitting at the table while the waitress· stands next to the old man waiting patiently. Harry makes a few attempts to pay the bill, but the old man stops him. After giving her all the money he has, the waitress thanks.him. He grimly repeats to Harry, “That Is what we all are going to be if they don’t listen to me.”
Very innocently, as if hearing this for the first time Harry asks, “What are we all going to be?”
The old man look directly into his face and repeats, “Nothing. Nothing.’·’ He walks towards the door. Harry catches him at the door,
“Please, sir, don It leave me like this.”
The old man says, “I don’t like your inquiry.” “But is is very important to me.”
“Why? Are you a detective or something?”
Harry says, “No. I told you. I am an insurance investigator.”
“All the same…”
“I’d still like to know.” Harry begs.
The old man turns, starts walking away and sys, “Come back tomorrow. It Harry stops him again. The man continues, “Look, it is almost two weeks that you have been saying the same thing.”
“All I want to know is where he stayed and what he did there.”
The old man continues staring a while and says, “Come to my place tomorrow.”
Harry, surprised and happy thanks him twice.
The next day Harry arrives at the door of the old man’s home. He knocks, but there is not an answer. He knocks again. The man’s wife opens the door. Harry hesitates a moment. She asks him to come in. It is a very old, well built tastefully decorated home. His friend meets him in the corridor with a quite formal greeting and then takes him to his study. In one corner is an old fashioned desk. Antique art objects engulf the room.
“See, he is not here.” says the man.
Harry smiles, then whispers, ”I know.”
“You want to know where he is now?” the old man asked. “Yes.”
“Didn’t you tell me that he was killed in some distant place?”
“Yes, according to the police report…” “Then what do you want to know?n
Harry stops and ponders, thinking for awhile. He doesn’t answer.
“Well, what do you want to know?”, the old man insists. “I don’t know,” Harry says Then realizes that it took him this long just to bring the old man to this question. “As an insurance investigator, I must exhaust all possibilities. There is a sizeable amount of money involved and since his body has not been recovered, it becomes a little more complicated. The old man wonders, “Why are you looking for him in Vienna?” “If I know him a little better than anyone else…” Harry pauses, then continues, “I think I do know him a little better than anyone else and I want to know more. Anyway, I wish you would believe me. This is much more than a mere job assignment for me.”
The old man looks at Harry, trying to see through to his brain.
“No, he didn’t live here. He used to come to visit me He lived in the hotel that is way up on the mountain. He wrote to me first and said he wanted to discuss my book. “Which book?”, Harry asked.
“Death Before Death.” the old man answers.
Harry shakes his head and furrows his brows. He remarks, “What a name!”
“Would you like to read it?”
“I’m afraid I don’t read German. Can you tell me what it is about?”
Handing Harry the book he says, “There it is. Try to understand. Die, before your death.”
“How do you do that?”
“Read the book. Read the book. We’ll talk later.”
Harry returns to his room at his pension and tries to read the book with the help of a dictionary and friends. A young Viennese girl giv s up first. She calls the author a crazy old man. A few others share her opinion about the book and its author. Harry next tries to get help from the library but without much success. Apparently, the book is not on the bestseller list. It was published a long time ago, and even then it created very little literary interest. Harry is fascinated by the title of the book. He telephones his boss in the United States who, of course, is surprised to hear from him. His boss becomes curious when he hears what Harry is doing, and he is somewhat to relieved to hear that Harry is keeping his expenses down to a minimum. Nonetheless, he tells Harry to come back and give up his crusade.
Harry tells him firmly that he is going to proceed with his plans to trace the doctor and follow through on a very strong gut feeling. His boss give him the news that his wife has started divorce proceedings. This surprises Harry but does not shock him. He adamantly asserts that the man is still alive, and he asks his boss to give him a little more time since he is sure that he can find him. Then Harry speaks of the book, Death Before Death. His boss, on the other end of the phone, is frustrated. He tells Harry of the doctor’s widow hiring an attorney to request a coroner’s inquest, and even though he knows the chances of a court ordering the company to pay the money before a seven year period without recovering the body is remote, he asks Harry to speed things up. Just before Harry hangs up the receiver he tells his boss that he may call him from Istanbul.
Elastic is the only term which describes the typical narrow Mid-Eastern street simultaneously filled with street peddlers, a million people walking in all directions, cars,, horse carriages, porters and all manner of busy, confused traffic. Harry isn’t wearing a hat or tie. However, he still has his briefcase, and he doesn1t appear too disoriented. He is looking for an address apparently written on a matchbook which he holds in his hand. After showing the matchbook to several street peddlers, combining his few words of Turkish sign language, he stopped in front of a small half-opened door. Pushing the door open he walks inside trying to figure out what he has just walked into. He can’t figure it out so he walks through another door and finally understands.
“This is a Turkish bath?”
“Yes,” says the manager.
Harry is surprised and extremely happy – and frankly a little relieved. He asks about the doctor, using his full name. The young man smiles. “We used to call him Ali.”
“That comes from Al, I guess.”
“Yes, he worked here as a tellak. That means that he washed inside.”
Harry is practically in shock with this discovery and asks if he can see the inside. Then he remembers that he hasn’t introduced himself yet. He apologizes and confesses that he didn’t expect to find an English-speaking manager in a Turkish bath. The young man smiles and explains that many tourists visit the baths. Half to himself, Harry summizes or guess that’s the way Al came here in the first place.
“No sir. He was more than that. He worked here day and night. He wasn’t a tourist.” He tries to find a way to classify him. Harry helps.
“You mean he was a little crazy.”
“Heck no. Ali was a God Is man.”
Harry, still in shock questions,_ “You mean a saint or something like that?”
The young man cuts off the conversation abruptly when a man opens the wooden door. Harry gets a quick glimpse inside into the hot, humid air that flushes his lungs. He sees half naked and completely naked people. Noises of the water pour out. The man who opened the door speaks with the manager in Turkish and hands him a special box of soap. The manager turns to Harry, “You want to try?”
Harry hesitates at first, still in shock, then responds, “Why not?”
The other man takes Harry into a small room to show him the towels and point out a drawer where he can put all his belongings. The manager joins them and explains to Harry what he is to do. Harry undresses and wraps a towel around himself, leaving his chest bare. He puts on a pair of wooden slippers and carefully follows the man into the hamam.
The inside is very strange to Harry. The floor and walls are marble and there are small cubicles and large end small holes. Harry wonders at the difference in the exterior and the interior of the building. He never would have guessed that there could be something like this by looking at the outside of the building. The atmosphere inside is hot and humid, and vapors saturate the air. The man leads him to an empty cubicle and has him sit on a piece of marble, which is in front of an especially notable water faucet. He turns both hot and cold water on and begins to wash Harry from head to foot. Harry tries to communicate with him but the man doesn’t speak a word of English. He does his job with a great amount of robot efficiency.
After a short while Harry has almost collapsed from the heat, water and continuous massage, so he tries to leave. The tellak tries to stop him, tries to say he will help him. Harry passes out.
When Harry opens his eyes he is outside the haman, wrapped in clean towels on the couch of his small room. The manager apologizes to him. Harry asks what happened.
The manager says, “You fainted. It happens the first time, especially to foreigners who can’t take the heat and humidity.”
Harry, becoming even more curious asks,. “How did my friend work here day and night?”
“I told you that he was different from you people.”
“I don’t understand at all…an American doctor comes and works in a Turkish bath…didn’ t you ask why.?”
With a definite tone to his voice, the manager replies, “You don’t ask questions from God’s man.”
The wooden door opens and somebody walks out. Harry looks inside again and shakes his head.
In his room at the Hilton Hotel, Harry can see the Bosphorous and Uskudar from his balcony. He is talking with
his boss on the telephone. “Hay boss, me again, Harry. I’m calling from Istanbul…No, no, not Constantinople. People here don’t like it to be called that. Anyway, listen … don’t get angry … that man, I mean the doctor, he was really crazy. You know what he did here? He worked in a Turkish bath. It’s worse than Hell ….Why did he do that? You got me. I was half dead when they pulled me out of there. Listen, I think that’s a very important point … Yes, he stayed in the Hilton Hotel, but every day – they say every single day for two months he went to work … hell yes he sweat. He sweat a lot. Remember the book, Death Before Death? … No – no, give me a little more time. I have a feeling inside … No, I don’t have proof, but I feel…”
“Screw your feeling, Harry. You’re as crazy as that man! We’re talking about one hell of a lot of money here. Don’t forget it.” There is a pause as he calms down a bit and then continues with resignation, “What’s next on your agenda, Harry. Where are you going now?”
“I appreciate it, boss. Try to understand … Yes, this case has become an obsession… Where am I going? To Siam. You know, he worked there … No, no, not in a Siamese bath, in a leprosy colony, as a doctor. I’ll be in touch with you..”
Harry has been in Bankok for three days, but he still has been unable to find any trace of the doctor’s presence, except for the usual hotel registration. No one working at at the Hotel Siam remembers the doctor. However, since they see so many American tourists daily, it is not surprising that they would forget one particular doctor. Despite this, Harry keeps wandering, keeps asking, keeps showing the doctor’s picture to store clerks, bartenders, anyone who will listen.
He finally meets a taxi driver. Harry is riding with him around noon. He asks him if he always waits near the hotel and if he meets many Americans. The driver answers yes. When Harry goes into his routine history of this good friend and finally mentions the doctor’s name. The taxi driver, Luke, practically jumps out of his seat.
The history that Luke relates to Harry is likewise unusual.
He met the doctor the first time the same way he met Harry. The.doctor wanted to go to a restaurant. There was one thing unusual. The doctor asked Luke to eat with him. Luke resisted because he felt it wasn’t proper for a taxi driver to be’ seen eating with a tourist, but as the doctor insisted he finally obliged. The doctor asked Luke if he knew where there might be a house for rent. That’s how he became involed with Luke’s family.
The doctor rented the house of Luke’s uncle. There were two servants. one being the taxi drivers niece. Luke had seen him almost every day since he was always driving him here and there. But after several weeks had passed, the doctor desired to become a monk. He became one. He shaved his head and went through all the necessary ceremonies. He lived in a Pagoda near Bankok, then later transferred to a leprosy colony in Chingmai where he worked as a monk and doctor. All this time he paid the rent on the house and kept the servants. Luke couldn’t understand this. Why did the doctor become a monk and still keep the house? “Once you decide to take the holy way, you give up every earthly thing. Anyway, one day the doctor returned to the house. He took off his orange-colored monk robes and put on his pants and shirt. Luke remembers the last meal they had all together just before the doctor left the country. Luke doesn’t deny the fact that the doctor was a rather strange person, but he feels that the doctor was the finest man he had ever met.
Harry asks Luke if he would be willing to take him to the house and introduce him to the household. Just thinking that possibly he could rent the house to Harry, Luke gladly grants the request and the next day the two of them drive to the house.
It is an old but very pleasant Thai house, almost a half-hour drive from the city. There is a pond covered with water-lilies in front of the house. Once Harry passes through the door, he sees a quiet, pleasant small yard and another small pond covered with water lilies. He meets one elderly and one young Siamese ladies. Luke, smiling and bowing, introduces Harry to them. He speaks Siamese to explain about Harry and the doctor. The young girl is obviously excited every time that Al’s name is mentioned. All are aware of it. Her first question to Harry is in heavily accented English. “Where is he?” How is he now?”
The questions are very sincere and personal. Harry feels that he can’t say everything in one or two sentences. He asks to see the house as an excuse to gain time.
They all walk upstairs. Harry sees the doctor’s room, his monk’s robes, several of his pictures and a few personal items which he left behind. After the tour of the .house they return to the yard. They sit around the pond while Harry tells them what happened to the doctor. Luke and the old lady shake their heads continuously, while the girl cries and chants a prayer. Harry understands that she loved and cAred for him very much.
Later, Harry asks the girl if she knew that the doctor was a married man. Yes, she knew, but what difference did that make? He wasn’t like any foreigner. He was a reincarnation of a Siamese. She knew that. She could even smell this from him. She believes and will continue to believe that this house is his home, that he will come back after visiting other countries and she is going to wait for him. She certainly doesn’t believe that he is dead. Even if he is, she will meet him in another life.
Things become sad. Luke talks to the girl in Siamese, then turns to Harry to apologize for everyone’s emotionalism. He adds that the house is not for rent at this time. After he takes Harry back to the hotel, Luke thanks him for the trip but says that he will not be working for awhile; in fact, he isn’t sure when he will be working again. Harry understands now that they are all trying to avoid him.
The next day Harry takes the train to Chingmai, a 24-hour trip. Chinqmai is a beautiful mountain town close to the Burmese border. The leprosy colony, about 20 miles south of the city, is a small town in itself, made up of the patients who live in small barracks. The destructive hand of this disease has left unsightly marks on their faces and bodies. After a lot of red tape and persuasive arguments, Harry meets the monks who are in charge of the patients. Thev live in a small pagoda next to the administration building. The monks staying in the building either don’t speak English or don’t want to talk about the doctor. All Harry can find out is that he was a nice monk whom they were sorry to see leave.
An elderly, chubby monk shows Harry the doctor’s room which he shared with another monk. He walks with Harry to the main gate. After he says goodbye, he stops a moment and says to Harry “You know the old saying that the small monk lives in a monastery and the big one goes to the city? I guess we weren’t big enough.
Harry is calm and quiet. There is a definite inner strength projected from his voice. He is talking to his boss from the airport in Agana, Guam.
His boss, on the contrary is totallv exasperated with Harry, “Not again, Harry. Not again. I can’t take it anymore.”
“Yes, there IS a chance he might have survived that incident.”
“Harry, Harry, you’re bullshitting again. What about the man, that criminal? He said in his confession that he knocked the doctor unconscious and threw him overboard into the ocean.”
“Yes, boss, I know. I took the same cruise ship. I know exactly where the thing happened. But if he regained consciousness, if he only kept swimming for a couple of hours, he could have reached one of many islands.
“Harry, we went through that before. All the waves, the darkness, the sharks … If he got through all those, what the hell would he do? Hide on one of your islands and eat bananas like an ape, just to help his wife collect money and find a gigolo? Harry, that doesn’t make sense. I don’t even know about you anymore. It seems like you’re having a good time. Your wife divorced you and is selling the house.
Harry, showing no emotion, continues, “Boss, look. I’ve come to the point where it’s of life and death importance to me to find him, dead or alive. I’m going beachcombing through all those small islands … No, I don1t think I’ll be able to call you.”
“Harry, I’d better hear from you within two weeks or you might as well stay there. I’m still in charge, you know.”
At Harry1s hotel in Agana, Guam, most of the other guests are Japanese honeymooners. They always carry cameras around their necks, hands and shoulders taking pictures of each other everywhere they go, every chance they get. Harry on the other hand, is sitting at a table alone in the hotel1s restaurant, looking at a map which is covered with notes and lines. He has already checked almost all of the shipping companies for information about the islands. He has taken the cruise ship as did the doctor and has passed through the approximate location of the alleged killing, questioning the ship’s crew and especially those who were at the scene and reported the incident. He has thoroughly checked all the police records and questioned other government agencies about the doctor. He also has managed to talk with the alleged convict about the night in question and has studied the court depositions. In the hotel, everywhere an atmosphere of tense silence pervades, along with numerous memory lapses on the part of the employees when it comes to the doctor. The clerk who gathered the doctor1s few belongings and give the official report to the police not only quit working at the hotel, but left the island.
Harry takes his drink, goes back and sits down at his table again. Apparently he has been doint this for some time, because he has several empty glasses on the table. A serious looking old waitress clears the table and reminds Harry about the shift changing. Harry realizes what she wants and pays his bill along with a tip, but still remains at the table. Harry looks frustrated until he sees a fresh barmaid coming out of the kitchen. She is a pretty young girl, typically Polynesian. Harry asks her for another drink. When she is serving him, he studies her for awhile with admiration, then asks her where she is from. The waitress draws a small map on his napkin and puts a dot on it. “Right from there …Palau.” Harry is excited. He opens his folded map on the table.
Both look to find Palau. It is one of the islands that Harry included in his circle. The girl asks about the circle. Harry explains that he wants to see all of these islands, but doesn’t know where to start.
“Why not Palau? I know all about it,” she suggests. Harry’s excitement is uncontrollable. He practically pulls her towards the table into a vacant chair. She hesitates but sits down finally.
“When were you there the last time.?”
“About five years ago.”
Disappointedly, Harry asks, “You haven’t been back there for five years? How come.?”
“Nothing much up there.”
“How about other people? Your relatives?”
“I miss them. I miss them. But you just don’t go there like that. It’s so far, and it costs money. I’ve been all around, trying to make a living.”
Harry makes up his mind. 1″How soon can I go there? I mean by airplane.”
She gets up. “You want me to find out for you?” Harry nods his head. The waitress leaves the table. She goes to the telephone in the farthest corner of the restaurant. Harry fixes his eyes on her. While she is talking on the telephone, she takes notes. She comes back, excited.
“You are lucky. There is a plane at misnight.”
Harry is pretty drunk by now but he tosses down one more drink for Palau.
When Harry sobers up he is in an old cargo plane sitting on the floor with a few passengers, all of them from the islands. Chickens in crates, a small cow, a pig, several unmarked boxes and luggage are on the floor. Harry surveys them under the very dim light. He turns to an old man whose empty, toothless mouth is smiling and says, “Where are we going?”
The man keeps smiling. He doesn’t understand Harry but taps him on the shoulder and says “Okay.”
Harry turns to a younger man and asks the same question.
The young man answers with an accent, “Palau.”
Harry shakes his head, “Why Palau?” What’s going on?” “You were loaded when you came aboard.”, say the young man.
Harry starts remembering the barmaid. “What happened to that waitress? I thought she was coming with me.”
“You mean Cecilia? They all are that way. She’s never gone back. You can never go back. She told us that you want to go to the island very badly.”
“Oh, yeah. I guess so. Look, I was looking for an old friend of mine who got lost somewhere around here. I thought I might find him.”
Suspicious, the young man asks, “Is he your enemy?” Harry doesn’t answer, only shakes his head.
“Why are you after him?” “I just want to visit…
“Come on now. Nobody goes to Palau just to see an old friend.” He grabs Harry’s arm. “You got a grudge against him? Who is he? Someone from the island?”
Harry relaxes, “No, no. You misunderstand. Well, it’s a long story. He was an American doctor. Do you know of an American doctor on the islands?”
The young man. laughs loudly for awhile. They talk. They both laugh. The young man reflects,. “The last American I saw was a missionary. Before that there was a Peace Corps teacher.z’
“When did you leave the island?” Harry questions.
“About two years ago.” the young man replies. “But nothing ever changes.”
“You don’t think there is an American doctor there?” “You want to bet?”
“No, I just asked. How long will it take to get there?” “A couple more hours. Why don1t you sleep? You’ll know when we get there.” He points to all of the animals.
Harry turns on his side, stretches his legs and tries to sleep. When he wakes up, he is in a modern but narrow bed in a cramped room with a big window, or a half open straw wall which overlooks the ocean. The sun is everywhere. It is almost too bright for his eyes. He looks around to see a table and two chairs. There is a Bible on the table. His bags and hat are sitting next to the door. He notices that he has slept with all his clothes on. He gets up, walks to the door and reads a sign: “Welcome to Blue Lagoon Hotel. Room Rates: Discuss with the Manager.”
Harry goes to the window. The Pacific fills the horizon in front of the building which is situated on the beach. The building is actually nothing but an over-sized cabin made of bamboo and straw. Looking over the beach he sees other buildings about the same size. There are coconut, banana and palm trees all over. He looks the other way. All variety of foliage extends to a small hill. Beyond is dense jungle.
Harry looks more closely over his belongings. Next to them is a small mirror on the wall. Below the mirror is a pitcher and water basin. Harry looks at himself in the mirror again. He has become more aware of the changes in his face; he is bearded and tanned, and there are more lines around his eyes. It feels good.
He opens his bags to pick up the few worn out papers that are now held together by a rubber band. They are all of his early papers on the doctor. He picks up a newspaper clipping, a short summery of the doctor1s life followed by the poem which the doctor wrote. Having read this many times before, he now knows the poem by heart:
A drop of sunshine falls in your sleep.
Some day, somewhere in the South,
some day you’ll wake up suddenly without you,
without maps, without calendars, without you.
Here is your hat. Here is your bag.
The pains of your wisdom teeth will all be gone.
Somewhere in the South, some day
you’ll wake up without you.
Harry walks from his quarters towards the office. He realizes as he passes all the other empty dwellings that he is the only guest here. He arrives at the office. It looks like a party store, drug store, service station and doctor’s office all combined. Sitting comfortably in a chair in the corner is an old Japanese man who is the owner-manager of the Blue Lagoon Hotel. He introduces himself before Harry has a chance to say a word. He explains that he was a drop-out, a World War II Japanese soldier who decided to stay on the island after the war and become a free lance doctor, attorney, counselor and only entrepreneur to o\m the hotel, store and everything else on the island. He knows everybody on the island and everybody knows him. Harry feels comfortable with him; he is an extremely modest, nice, straight-forward man.
“Are you a missionary?” asks the entrepreneur.
“Are you a government or Peace Corps employee.?”
Looking Harry over agai,n the old man slowly asks, “Then, who are you?”
“Harry,” then he stops a minute to think of a better introduction. “A tourist. No, an insurance investigator. No, a friend of a doctor.”
The old Japanese man lights his pipe and rocks in his chair a bit. “Then what makes you come here?”
“I’m tired of running. Please, let’s not go into it for awhile. I feel differently here. I’d like to put myself together differently.”
In the silence, the room seems to sigh.
“Are you running away from the law’?” asks the old man.
“No, just the contrary. I’m looking for Truth and Justice.”
Harry ponders a moment, “For me..and my friend.”
“Who is your friend?u
“A doctor who is forty-eight-years old, five feet eight inches tall with blue eyes. He has a scar on his left cheek.”
The old man looks at Harry uncomfortably. “You’re sure you are not the police?” “Yes sir, I’m sure”
“We have no such doctor. I am the only doctor here.” He changes the subject. “How long do you think you’ll stay here?”
Harry feels uneasy because of this question. Now HE wants to change the subject. “A time… I don’t care if he’s here or not. I’ll stay for awhile.”
“If you stay more than a week, rates will be different.”
“When does the plane leave here.?”
“God knows. Maybe a week, maybe less. You must check with the people at the airport. You want to see the town? I’ll have someone take you. Don’t expect to see too much of anything.”
Later, Harry is taken to town in an old World War II military jeep by a middle-aged man. He explains to Harry that this is the only car on the island. Harry looks over the jeep inside and out. Most of the parts are broken. It seems that all of it is held together by wire after wire.
Harry wonders aloud, “How does this thing work?”
The man goes under the hood with a lighted match. After a fairly good sized explosion, the jeep starts. “Just like that.”
The town is nothing but a few barracks from World War II now used as bars and a few South Pacific shacks spread over and area of about a mile. There is a small marina with a dock. This seems to be the main attraction of the town. There are a few small boats being loaded and unloaded.
The driver, who has been in the U.S.A., speaks fluent English. He’s extremely friendly with Harry. He doesn’t ask him any questions, but rather takes him to one of the bars. Even now, early afternoon, the bar is full of people. Harry notices that most of them are women. The young ones are beautiful, typically Polynesian. The place is dark and cool. It smells of yeast and alcohol.
Harry and his new friend immediately draw attention. A few men come and talk with the man in Polynesian. He introduces Harry in English. Harry realizes that some of the people can hardly understand English. Harry’s new friend notices how interested he is in the girls. The driver explains,. “Here, women run the show. I mean it…You have to wait until somebody comes to you. You don’t ask. Men don’t do it here like in your country.”
Soon several girls join them. Some speak English. The way they look at Harry makes him feel uncomfortable. He wants to order a drink, but before he has a chance to ask, an old matronly lady buys drinks, telling him that they are on the house as a gesture of welcome. Just a taste makes Harry’s legs feel paralyzed. Nevertheless, he finishes his cup. In the meantime, the others toast his health with two more.
Back at the hotel, he asks the driver how much he should pay for his afternoon. The man merely shakes Harry’s hand, saying “No money. You are my guest today. When you need the car another time, you can pay for the gas and the driver.”
Harry finds the old Japanese man in the same position, sitting in an old armchair, this time talking with a young girl. When he sees Harry, he turns and introduces the young girl.
“This is Ola. She will cook for you.”
Harry can’t hold back his question any longer,. “Excuse me. I really want to know how much all these things are going to cost me, I must know!”
The old man smiles, “You are not the only one who has asked me that. How much you got?”
“I’m not a rich man”
“Even if you are, it wouldn’t make any difference here. Where are you going to spend money here? You saw the town.”
“I saw it… and I liked it.”
“That’s good. Did you decide how long you’re going to stay?”
“No, but I want to know how much it will cost me to stay here.”
The old many says, “Well, I didn1t figure it up yet, but probably five dollars for room, seven if you want it with meals.”
“What kind of business is that? How do you survive? That little bit of money…one customer.”
“No, you are the thirty-fifth customer since I opened this place two years ago. See, you don’t understand. It’s different here.”
Harry looks at the smiling young girl. “Sure is. Excuse me, what was your name again?”
When Harry leaves the old man, 0la does too. Harry wonders, but doesn’t dare ask questions. The two of them arrive at Harry’s room. She sees the bed, makes it, picks up the bags from the floor and puts them on the table. She leaves the room for a few minutes, returning with her bag.a small suitcase. All this time Harry is surprised which turns to shock ·when she shows up smiling at his door.
“I am glad that father asked me to come and see you. I liked you. I will stay with you.”
Still not understanding, in disbelief, Harry asks, “Wait a minute…is he your father? “No, he is not my father.
He asked you to come and stay here?0 We all call him father. He is a very good man. He wants to make everybody happy.”
“Yes, I believe that, now. Well, I’m glad you liked me after such a short time.” He hesitates a momemt, then asks, “Is this included with room and board?”
Ola doesn’t understand at first.
Harry says, “I mean, is there any extra? I mean money.”
Ola responds, “No, if I like, I stay. If I don’t, I go. You talk too much money.”
She moves close to Harry,. looks into his eyes, plays with his hair and pushes him onto the bed.
After this incident, Harry’s life becomes a typical leisure island life. Most of his time is spent with Ola at the beach or exploring the jungle, which is full of beautiful surprises. There are countless ponds and a small river. They travel back and forth to the town and its bars. On one occasion Ola actually fights with another woman over him. Harry rarely mentions the doctor to anyone, since he now knows that the doctor is not on this island. Then, too, he doesn’t want to remember him..if he can help it.
One day Harry is sitting with a few others at the end of the pier, watching a boat anchor in the bay. He is feeling restless. After the usual welcoming excitement, the captain and crew debark. Everyone knows everyone else since this is a routfi.rrer stop for this small boat. It stops off at Palau once every four or five months, bringing a few passengers and some cargo from the other islands. Both of the town bars fill up with the newcomers and island inhabitants. Harry, by this time, looks and acts like one of them.
Harry manages at one point to maneuver the captain into a relatively quiet corner. He asks him if he knows any doctor about forty six years old. Harry realizes that the doctor might be using a different name by now. The captain doesn’t know anyone of that description, but he calls over a few crewmen and questions them. The conversation continues. One of the sailors has heard of someone like that who lives close to Yap. Another sailor confirms it.
Harry feels that strange, gut feeling again, very strongly now. When he becomes aware of Ola standing next to him, aware that she has heard the conversation, he reaches out to her.
He says, “Let’s go. I don’t want to stay here.”
The captain and sailors quickly forget them as they busy themselves with girls and drinking.
Ola and Harry walk out of the bar, along the beach, and finally along the path that leads towards the hill. She stays a little distance from him. Harry is preoccupied with his thoughts.
Ola whispers, “You are going to go with them, aren’t you?” Harry doesn1t answer. Hesitant and a little fearful, she asks, “Can’t you forget this other guy?” No answer. “Are you tired of me?”, she continues.
Harry turns and takes her in his arms. “No, no. I love you. I really love you.”
“Then please, don’t go away. I am afraid I love you very much. I won’t be able to stand it alone here.”
“I promise, as soon as I have found him, I’ll come back.”
She pleads, “Why don’t you take me with you?” Harry sits down with her, next to the little creek.
“Please listen. This is something I have to do by myself. Once I get through it, I know I will be different. I will be all yours.”
She doesn’t understand. “I like you just the way you are.”
“You don1t know what I’ve been through just to find this man. This will prove something to me. Just like finding the Truth, my own Truth–my Self.”
“I am afraid you’ll never come back. I am afraid.’ Harry kisses her hair.
The small boat is ready to leave. Harry, with his bags and his hat, shakes hands and kisses the people on the pier. Ola stands next to him. The old Japanese man who owns the hotel, the driver — they are all there. Harry kisses Ola again, promises to be back soon and boards the boat. The boat slowly takes off. Harry waves one last time. There are tears in his eyes.
The next few days they go through rough seas. Everyone, from the captain to Harry, is seasick.
One morning the crew sees the island in the distance. Harry, of course, is terribly excited. He can’t sit in any one place. They all know and joke about it. The boat eventually arrives at the harbor and anchors. This is a bit larger harbor than the one at Palau, and there are more people and houses around.
Harry, the first to disembark, practically runs to the small marina next to the pier. There he sees a small office and a uniformed customs official. He asks the official if he knows where he can find a doctor. He adds that he has terrible stomach pains.
“I’m sorry, but we don It have a doctor on this island.. ”
Harry is shocked. As if in considerable pain, he says. “But I heard about somebody – a Mr. Edwards who knows medicine..”
“0h, yeah. But he doesn’t live here. He lives on another island.” He turns to the window and yells to someone outside. A young man enters. “Bud, have you seen Mr. Edwards lately?”
“Yeah, he just left with the fishing boat for his place.” Bud points to the horizon and continues, “See, there? There they are.”
Harry looks at the horizon and sees a small dot of the outgoing fishing boat. He is deeply disappointed.
“If you had been here a half hour earlier, you would have met him”, says the official.
Harry asks in desperation, “Tell me, does he have a scar on his left cheek?”
The man thinks a minute, then asks the young fellow.
Squinting at Harry, Bud responds, “Yes, he does. How did you know?”
Barely able to hide his excitement, Harry says, “Somebody on the boat told me. Please, could you help me find a boat to rent? I might be able to catch him.”
The customs official gets annoyed and suspicious. He points out some boats on the other side of the marina. “I don’t know. Try there.”
Harry runs towards the boats, leaving the two men with all kinds of questions. He finds a man painting a small fishing boat. “Do you ever rent out your boat?”
The fisherman looks at him, showing him the brush.
“I’ll pay you well,” says Harry, but he gets no answer. “I have to catch the doctor.”, Harry continues, “See, I’m sick.”
The fisherman looks up, “Where is the doctor?” Harry points to the horizon. The dot is almost invisible. nThere’s Mr. Edwards. Just there. I have to catch him.n The fisherman looks in that direction and shakes his head. Harry opens his billfold and takes out several big bills. The man looks at them, counting them with his eyes.
“You know where he is going?” says the fisherman.
“I don’t know. I guess his place.”
He doesn’t have any place.”
“What do you mean? The customs official told me he lives on another island.”
“Yeah, but do you know how many other islands there are around here? He doesn’t stay in any one place.”
“Why?”, asks Harry.
“I don’t know. I guess he checks on sick people,” replies the fisherman sarcastically. Then he laughs. “Really he never stays in one place too long.”
Harry pulls out some more money from his shoes. The man counts with his eyes again. Harry pulls more from his socks, and pointing to the horizon begs,. “If you catch that boat, I will give you all this money.”
The man hesitates, scratches his head, looks at Harry and then into the distance, then decides, ”With that kind of money we just might.” He jumps into his boat, starts the engine and yells to Harry, “What are you waiting for? Get in, quick.” They zoom out of the marina. A few people, including the customs official, watch them take off.
The fisherman opens up the engine. Harry holds onto the railing as he stands next to him. When they hit the open sea, they can barely see the other boat, which is apparently bigger and faster. Harry desperately looks at the speedometer, “Can’t we go any faster?”
The man pushes harder on the gas pedals. The small boat does go faster. It also goes up and down with the big waves. Over the roar of the engine, Harry yells, “Do you know him?”
“Sure, I know him. He’s got blue eyes and a scar on his left cheek?” The fisherman takes his eyes from the sea and looks at Harry whose face is tensed, his eyebrows tightened.
The fisherman yells,. “Who are you anyway? I forgot to ask you.”
“I’m one of his old friends.”
“A little while ago you were his patient. Now you are his friend,” the fisherman says with disgust. He slows the engine. “Hell, I want to know what’s going on.”
“Never mind. I’ll explain to you later. Please catch that boat. I’ll give you all my money.”
The fisherman hesitates, “The hell with your money. I don’t like this business. I’m going back.”
He starts maneuvering the boat back. Harry is furious, half out of his mind. He grabs a piece of metal with his right hand and the man’s neck with his left. The fisherman realizes that Harry is bigger than he is and that Harry is not going to hesitate to use this advantage. “Follow that boat! Don’t make me hit you. I’ll pay you all the money I got.”
The fisherman, scared, pulls his head away from Harry and follows his orders, saying “You’re crazy, man. You really are.”
The boat again turns in the direction of the dot on the horizon. The man opens the throttle. Harry sees his own faceless image in the mirror right over the engine. He can’t even recognize it. He’s still holding the piece of metal. Harry, a little puzzled himself, tries to explain, “I’m sorry, but you didn’t give me a choice.”
Now that the boat is again going full speed, the gap between the two boats is getting shorter and shorter. They are close enough to the larger boat to see people. Harry tries to scream the doctor’s name, but he realizes that it is no use. Frantically Harry pleads, “Please, a little bit faster.”
The fisherman listens to his engine. He’s still scared, but also very angry. “Listen you, you’re going to ruin my engine. It can’t take this speed.
Harry screams, “I will pay you. I guarantee, please faster.”
Harry sees the inside of the other boat. There are several people who have noticed Harry0s boat. Harry screams the doctor’s name again. Someone from the distance turns and looks back. Harry waves his hand and screams again. The other boat tries to get out of Harry’s way and begins to go faster. Harry is furious. He pushes the fisherman aside and takes the controls. He jams the gas pedal. At that instant the whole thing explodes.
Harry opens his eyes in a hospital room in the U.S.A. His face, arm and chest are covered with bandages. He has an I.V.’ in his right arm. Standing next to his bed is his boss.
“Deep sea fishing right in the middle of nowhere. I thought you were on a business trip. Thank God, that man on the boat who saw the explosion saved your life. He must be one hell of a smart guy. The doctors here say that he did everything medically possible to keep you alive until we got you back to the U.S..”
“What happened to the fisherman.?” Harry weakly asks.
“That man looked after him, too. He’s okay, but we had to buy him a new boat just to keep him quiet.”
“Did anyone meet the guy who saved my life?”
“No, I understand that he took you ashore and kept you alive for a few days until the doctor came with the plane from Guam to take you. Then the guy took off. Anyway, everybody says that if he hadn’t been there, you would be dead now.”
Harry looks at his boss. “I think part of me is dead now anyway.”
“Harry, grow up. It’s about time you started talking some sense. Just be glad you’re alive for now. When you are better, we’ll have a serious talk.” He pauses, then adds a warning rather officially, “If you want to stay with the company. .Rest now. You’ll be over this very soon.”
Harry stares at his boss who gets up, walks to the door, stops, turns back and asks, “By the way, what’s your conclusion about the doctor? Just for the record.”
Harry turns his head to the window. ”I know very well now that he must have died before his death.”
Very businesslike and professional once again his boss asserts, I told you that, Harry, a long time ago. He is dead. I’ve already closed the case.