Washington, D.C. Tuesday, February 19th;
and Canberra, Australia, Monday, February 18th -Monday, February 25th, 2019.
Scott Peters, GS-11, tipped his desk chair back for a post-prandial snooze. He had just returned from a long lunch with five colleagues, all of them middle-ranking FBI officials. The lunch, in turn, had been proceeded by a five-minute meeting with the POTUS, who had regaled the assembled chorus with a tirade against criminal cartels around the world. The one thing this large category of miscreants had in common was that they were stirring up trouble at the POTUS' resort properties. One highlight from the tirade was, "Wouldn't you know it, the bastards are trying to force my people to unionize! And why, you ask. Isn't it obvious? So they can rip me off!"
Instead of asking questions, the assembled group of unfortunates had all nodded sycophantically. Their spokesperson, Martin Leong, Peters' immediate superior at the Bureau (a GS-13), uttered several rapid-fire "yessirs," and the six men were dismissed.
Since the debacle on the Navajo reservation in 2008, Scott Peters had languished as a pen pusher at the antiquated Hoover building, while he pleased the time until retirement, which was now about a decade away. Not that the Bureau had forgotten his role in unraveling the Pan-African Cartel five years later, but their evaluators had deemed Scott's leadership to have once again been ineffectual, in part because he was "basically a bumbling grand-stander." His file contained one further, damning summary judgment by an anonymous evaluator: "If you're looking for a cock-up, Peters is your man."
"Of course, Scotty," Leong had been saying since about 2016, "if you were to help us finally catch this guy, I might be able to put you back on the active roster." Even Peters, a TV sports junkie, was tired of this metaphor. But, although he was as far out of the loop as Waterton, VA is from Washington, D.C. (on the Beltway loop), even Peters knew about POTUS' animus toward Geistmann, which was intense, even for such a notable hater.
After a ten-minute snooze, he was shocked awake by a brainstorm. "Wha ... wha ... wha ... " he cried. "John Robinson! I wonder where he is. Ha! Time to play detective!" And he buzzed his secretary.
At that moment, Robinson was sleeplessly watching the dawn break on a bucolic scene, ushering in a new workweek (for some), outside the window of the spare bedroom where he and Judy were domiciled, in her sister Edith's house in Canberra. Robinson's first waking thought was to wish he were in Canberra's antipodes, a place called Ponta Delgado, on an island in the Azores, off the western coast of Portugal, the parent country. (Patria connotes both "motherland " and "fatherland.") Not that Robinson knew anything about Ponta Delgado, but he already knew more than he wanted to about Canberra. The city was, like Washington, D.C., a national capital, with all the uninteresting appurtenances thereunto. And it was half the size of Washington.
What had American Family Robinson been doing in Canberra in the week since their arrival? Accompanied by Judy's sister, Edith Wolfe-Smithers, and their two sets of two children (but not Edith's husband, Clive, who was busy with his software start-up), they had made the rounds: a display of quilts celebrating human rights (the children were not amused); the War Memorial, which commemorated Australian participation in conflicts from World War I to Afghanistan (the gory displays were not suitable for children, so the two older ones were fascinated); the Night Noodle Market (Judy and Edith only, John generously having volunteered to babysit); and the spectacular annual Balloon Spectacular (a particular disappointment, because the two younger children were not allowed to go up in a balloon, and the two older ones were also kept on the ground, in the interests of equity). As for the planned visits to Canberra's many historic sites and government buildings, after the first two or three, the children had exercised their veto power.
As usual with tourists, food had been the main event. The families (minus Clive) dined at restaurants (local, meat-heavy ones with child-friendly desserts, and assorted Asian-themed ones, to which the children gave mixed reviews). Since the late-summer weather had held (60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, with only two rainstorms, both at night), and since New Zealanders love the outdoors, the two families (minus Clive) had gone on excursions to parks, lakes, rivers, nature reserves, and the national zoo and aquarium. They paddled, rowed, hiked, climbed, gaped, and got minor sunburns (the visitors). Of course, these outings all featured elaborate picnics. Food was again (and yet again) eaten and, in spite of all the exercise, weight was gained.
"I hate this place," John, normally given to understatement, had remarked to Judy, late on the sixth evening. They were sitting up in bed, side by side. He was reading a huge convict narrative from Australia's early days; and she was writing a report on her laptop, telecommuting on a grand scale. "Canberra is as boring as D.C., maybe worse. Let's leave early, Jude. We can get back to New York a few days before we have to be at work, and try to have some real fun."
"Concur," Judy said. "I'm down with that." She had used the youthful slang expression to preface her next comment: "We owe it to the children." John assumed her tongue was in her cheek.
"Good," he said. "We can tell Edith and Clive tomorrow, and leave on Wednesday. That way, he'll still get to show us off to his partners at the dinner party tomorrow."
"Concur," Judy repeated.
"I've already booked the flights. There's a short stopover in Brisbane, which is only an hour from here. We leave Brisbane at 8:25 p.m. and arrive in LA around 4:30 p.m. That includes the five-hour time difference."
"By the time we get to New York, the kids' clocks will be a mess."
"Ours, too. West to east is worse." John returned to his book, Judy, to her report.
As he watched the sun come up the next day, he had something to look forward to: leaving Canberra. Several people in distant places were affected by the Robinsons' change of plans: the oyabun, Yurei-san, in Osaka, the crime capital of Japan; Scott Peters, in the U.S. capital; multiple FBI agents in Italy and the U.S.; and Geistmann, in parts unknown.
At the time of the Robinsons' decision, no one knew that, in less than four months, much of Australia would be on fire. Nor did anyone know that, in February 2020, a pandemic would break out, devastating the planet. For a variety of reasons, Australia was much better prepared for the pandemic than for the fires.
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):