Public Key (fin)

We waited for three days. I was nervous. But not afraid. Mostly I felt eager, to get home, to get on with it, to get on with my life. Things weren’t over yet. In some ways, they were just beginning.

The Quebecois government agreed to lift the reward offer on my capture. People who had aided their investigation would receive a small cash reward for their trouble. I found out later that Tiisetso and Oakley split fifty grand between them. That made us more than square, money-wise, though I knew I was forever in their debt.

Whether the government would survive, I didn’t know. I didn’t much care. I did learn that the embassy flunkie who had handled my release from prison had been drive to the Canadian border and told not to return. Poor guy. Clearly he should have asked for a ticket to Madagascar.

I knew that we’d won when Luc dropped all pretense and posted to the Shekondar page

Where are you?

Hannah drove two hours south to a smalltown library and signed up for one of their computers. When no one was looking she stuck in a bootable flash drive, restarted the machine, and suddenly she was running a clean Linux build with all the comforts of home. She entered the tor network, wandered the internet for half an hour to appear innocuous, then used the information I gave her to set up an SSH-tunnel directly into Luc’s computer.

It wasn’t the safest thing we’d done. It didn’t have to be any more. Warrants were still out for my arrest but at least there weren’t any gun-toting mercenaries out trying to enforce them for fun and profit. So long as I didn’t get made I was safe. Now it was just a matter of making sure I got made on my own terms, so that I would start my new life as I wanted it started.

Hannah said she got in touch with Luc almost immediately. She wouldn’t tell me much about their conversation, except that she was glad I had friends that loved me. Her silence was infuriating. Her smile doubly so. Two days later we got in the car – me sitting up in the cab like a human being – and got on the road.

We drove for an hour, first through cities, then through open scrubland, me all the while trying not to shake so hard my seatbelt came off.

You’re going to need to learn to relax, Hannah said.

It might take a while, I said.

I know.

We came to a very small airport with a very long runway. It had been built for the private planes of European millionaires to facilitate access to their hunting lodges. Luc hadn’t handled the arrangements. He was being watched too closely, and besides, how would he have known what to do? He’d given the publishing company the information. They’d seen to the rest.

I was worried it was all a trap. But not that worried. What need was there to trap me? I was going home.

We parked the car on a dirt parking lot. A few guys were walking out of a pilot’s bar. They didn’t seem to pay us any mind. We waited near the airstrip for an hour before we saw a plane coming in for a landing. We had to walk a ways to where it stopped. Hannah waved at it. I tried to force myself to follow suit, but it didn’t much work. A door opened, a stairway dropped down, Hannah and I got in, and within a few minutes we were in the air.

It was a corporate plane, belonging to a major publishing house. The plane was usually reserved for use by the senior publisher. I know this because he was on board. Also two lawyers, a cameraman, a sound engineer, a hairdo I recognized from the evening news, and a very pretty stewardess. Hannah was prettier.

I spent about ten thousand years shaking hands. Hannah must have read my expression because eventually she made them leave me alone for a few minutes and put a glass in my hand. It was brandy from a crystal decanter. I missed Mokhotlong camp-whiskey. I realized then that I would be going back to Lesotho. At least, whenever Hannah had a break from school.

It was 6500 miles from Ulusaba to Montreal. We made it there in one flat burn with fuel to spare. During the trip I signed a contract stating that my story was the sole and exclusive property of, etc, etc. For which I was promised legal protection, corporate goodwill, and enough money that I had to count the zeroes. There are laws against profiting from one’s crimes. I was glad to see that being innocent could pay just as well.

Then I recorded fours hours worth of interviews, to make sure that my benefactors would profit as well. All the while Hannah held my hand. At the beginning it was hell. By the end I was in great danger of having fun.

I told my story, as best as I could. They said that they’d appoint a writer to work with me to put something in print. I told them I didn’t think I needed a ghost writer. They told me I did. I told them fine. And did you have any more brandy?

We landed at Pierre-Trudeau late in the afternoon. We didn’t pass through immigration. Apparently that was an immunity enjoyed by most multimillion-dollar luxury aircraft. They bundled me, Hannah, the publisher, and two lawyers into the back of a limo.

Are you ready? asked one of the lawyers.

For what?

To turn yourself in.

I shrugged. Good a place as any to get some sleep.

They briefed me on their game plan. They had it all worked out. What I’d say. What I’d do. It pretty much went in one ear and out the other. It was possible I had a little problem with authority. At least when driving on that road, where a handful of months before I’d demanded a ticket to Madagascar.

My eyes lit up. I knocked on the glass that separated us from the driver. He rolled it down. The publisher looked, like, horrified.

We need to make a stop, I said.

No, we don’t, said the publisher.

We’re picking up a friend, I said.

No, we’re-

YES, I said, very loudly, WE, ARE.

Some things just always seem to work.

We pulled up behind Luc’s apartment block. His light was on. That was all I needed. I jumped out, climbed the spiral staircase, and knocked on the door. It swung open, and there was my best friend. Wearing an expression of indescribably surprise that I found very satisfying indeed.

I found that we were hugging, very tightly. I muttered Thank You until he had to clamp his hand over my mouth. Turns out the minicam crew was following us and got the whole thing on tape. Whatever. After living in fear of observation planes, ignoring a video journalist was a piece of cake.

At length we broke apart. I heard someone clear their throat behind me. I knew whose throat it was.

Luc, I said, this is my girlfriend. Hannah.

They shook hands.

She’s beautiful, Luc said.

Yes, I said.

Yes, said Hannah.

Alright. I like her.

A horn-honk came from the limo below.

So what now? Luc asked, unfazed.

I shrugged. Want to come with me to jail.

Sure.

He went inside, got his coat, we climbed into the limo, and off we went.

We drove past the bus-station where I’d arrived in the city. We drove past the library where everything had started. Hannah looked out the window with me.

One day, she said, I’ll have to show you where I committed my youthful acts of heroism.

Okay, I said. Can it wait until I’m out of jail?

She stuck her tongue out at me. The publisher rolled his eyes. Luc giggled.

The limo pulled up in front of a police station, the one that I had walked out of, thinking myself free. We gathered ourselves on the sidewalk. The publisher went in first, flanked by the lawyers. Then I went in, Hannah and Luc beside me. Hannah took my hand in hers. Luc took my other hand. We started forward, the camera crew following just behind.

I could feel people stop and stare at us as we walked up the steps to the station door. I couldn’t help but smile when I heard an American’s voice say: Oh my God, I think that’s-

THE END

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~ by davekov on 1 April 2011.

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