Hapuna Beach, Hawaii, Tuesday, February 12th, 2019.
By then, the two men had resumed their walk, Geistmann still on the left, the ocean-side. Robinson glanced at the by-now familiar profile, with its bemused expression. He noticed that they were approaching the boundary fence of the State Park. Perhaps a hundred feet further on loomed the first cluster of massive white hotels and smaller condominium buildings.
"Well, that's good, I suppose," Geistmann said, picking up the conversation without transition, in his usual oblivious and arrogant way. "Yes, John, 'Ignorance is bliss.' At least, it can be. "
"And 'curiosity killed the cat.' So what did you do next, Armande? And what have you been doing since? Weren't any of my guesses correct?"
Geistmann laughed. "Well, no, none were correct. Logical, yes. Ingenious, yes. But correct? No." He seemed to skip along the hard-packed sand as if he weighed no more than a small bird. "After all, it's virtually impossible to assassinate major heads of state these days. For one thing, there's always a long line of other would-be heroes. That means security is tighter than ... choose your own metaphor. As for the war criminals you thought of who are already in prison? What would be the point? Why not let them rot?"
Was the psychopath wearying of his own murderous acts? Was he growing old? Hoping Geistmann's stream of confidences would not dry up, Robinson hopped alongside, trying to keep up with him.
"Your best guess. John, was Boracko Lake. Those butchers -- three of them, in particular -- have been in my crosshairs for quite a while now. If I ever ... "
As if on cue, he was cut short. Robinson heard only a soft "pfft," and a bloom of blood appeared on the back of Geistmann's left shoulder. The gym bag fell to the ground with a clatter, and Geistmann immediately broke into a sprint, zig-zagging like a broken-field football running back, not once stopping to look behind him. When he reached the boundary, he used his right arm, and both feet, to scrabble up the chain link fence. At the top, he looked back. Robinson had not moved since the shot was fired. His mouth was still agape.
Geistmann shouted a single puzzling word, "Frobenius!" and leapt down onto the tarmac on the other side of the fence, where he resumed his broken-field sprint. Robinson turned around to try to determine whether the gunman, or gunmen, were still there. Seeing no one, he bent to retrieve the gym bag, which was very heavy. Hefting it over his own left shoulder, he cautiously started back in the direction from which they had come.
As he trudged along, Robinson made a small withdrawal from his memory banks, in this case the Bank of Wikipedia. Ferdinand Georg Frobenius was a nineteenth-century German mathematician, whose best-known discovery was "the Frobenius method." Because, for some reason, the Wikipedia entry had been of particular interest to him, Robinson remembered it verbatim: "a way to find an infinite series solution for a second-order ordinary differential equation of the form ... and in the vicinity of the regular singular point."
Ten minutes later, without further incident, he was back at the family blanket. By then, he had a good idea of why Geistmann had paused in his frantic flight to shout the name of the mathematician. In shorthand, he had given Robinson a clue to the puzzle of what he might be about to do. Both the quick wits under duress, and the use of the ersatz code, were familiar Geistmann-isms.
Assuming that the "single point" was the decimation of the African Cartel, the Boracko Lake massacre must be one variable in the equation. If Robinson could find, or infer, the other variables that connected the massacre to the Cartel, he might well be able to begin to trace Geistmann's path and plan. One variable might be Donduceni's dead younger brother. If he had been affiliated with the Cartel ... Another variable must involve the fortune in laundered money the Cartel had presumably stashed away.
When Robinson reached the blanket, Judy was reading. By now, the children had half-built an elaborate, lopsided castle, just out of reach of the lapping tide. Robinson lay down beside his warm wife, who folded the book on her stomach, and smiled at him.
"Where's Armande?" she asked. He told her what had happened, which, of course, surprised her less than if it had happened to anyone else they knew.
"I have to go back to Europe," he said. "Right away. To Transnistria, Moldova, and Switzerland. We still have ... "
"Six days," she interrupted. "But, dear, it will take you that long just to reach those places, and then to return to New York. You won't even have time to leave the airports, let alone get involved in some new shenanigans that could result in your grievous bodily injury -- or death." She drew a deep breath, then released it. "One of these days, John, you're going to pay for your quixotic Geistmann-iad. Even if no one kills you, Columbia is certainly going to fire you." Before he could reply, she continued, her voice hoarse with anger. "Why do you keep doing this, John? If you say 'curiosity' one more time, so help me, I'll divorce you ... again." He was tempted, but did not say the word.
Why did he "keep doing this"? Well, he had an idea, at least. Geistmann represented a tantalizing puzzle. And, at every turn, new pieces -- Pablo, Fred, Diodur Fedoruk, Weatherbee and Piet, Toularelle, Onijekuje, and now the Bosnian soldiers -- had been added to the puzzle. As a scholar, Robinson had always loved puzzles. And his other, more recent 'occupation,' or 'vocation,' law enforcement, was akin to scholarship. To call this interest in solving complex puzzles "curiosity" was like calling the vocation of people like F.G. Frobenius, "arithmetic."
He thought for a few more moments, conscious that Judy required a very good reason to tolerate his gallivanting off on yet another dangerous adventure. Not only would she be stuck with the children, here in Hawaii -- not so bad -- and with getting them back to New York -- not too bad, either -- but, from her point of view, what he was proposing could render her single-parent status permanent.
Robinson was rarely at a loss for words to say to his wife, but he was now. He could think of absolutely nothing. What would Geistmann ... that way lay madness. In the event, as usual, his dear partner bailed him out.
"I think I do know why you do this, John," she said matter-of-factly. " 'Curiosity' doesn't begin to explain it, does it? It's your nature. And it's why I married you, and why I still love you
-- much too much. So go ahead, John, go right back to Europe! Get yourself fired! Get yourself killed!" And, to disguise her own fear and sorrow, she threw a handful of sand right in his face.
If readers are interested in Reading Geistmann, it is available as a free PDF from the author. Please visit www.ronsinger.net for contact information.
And Geistmann in Africa (Geistman II):
The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.