Was Pons zig-zagging, trying to avoid the bizarre Roger Starling? Or was it Len Valentino’s people, and the work they’d paid him to do for them, that had lead to his disappearance? Why, if so? Intransigence, or some deeper reason? Was there method to his madness? Had he, in fact, as garbled reports coming out of the jungle suggested, already been murdered in Bolivia? And was I on my way into some unspeakable trap? Had he, in short, found Something of Historical Importance, that had somehow also been known to the great film director Harry Rubik, or was it, as Julia Pons would have put it, all “a load of crap?”
“Take good care of Sterling, if you find him. Bring him home safely,” she’d told me when I called her on the phone to update her of the situation, and her husband’s whereabouts.
“OK. Julia, there was nothing between he and I.”
“Oh, I am so far past caring about what happens to him. It’s you I’m more concerned about. He should have never dragged you into all this madness.” A pause. Then – “I’ll transfer you the money for the plane ticket.”
“Thanks. And don’t worry about me. Julia – ”
“Don’t mention it. And get home safely.”
I hung the phone up and stepped out of the phone box. Ned still had the car running.
“Starling and Sterling,” he said, rubbing his glasses. “Quite a bizarre turn of events, don’t you think?”
“Take us to the airport,” I said.