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Chapter 1

Savannah, Georgia, Thursday, June 21, 5:30 p.m.

The Chatham Club. Gray had the window view, seated across from Brook Stell at a table in the Chatham Club, fourteen floors above the City of Savannah. Two cold bottles of Heineken reflected the afternoon light in the quiet room as the coastal city below went about its desultory business in the summer heat. Brook's measured, moneyed tones were in perfect keeping with Gray's vista of green canopied oaks and magnolias pushing up among the spires of the churches and historic brick and stuccoed buildings.

"Everything we've gotten on this company has been positive. MeijoSul is a well-diversified organization, with plenty of available capital. KMPG has handled their accounts for eight years with no problems. Hell, I wish half of my clients looked so good."

"What's the project?" asked Gray.

Brook sipped his beer. "Ok, first a little background. Mario Meijo, the majority owner and corporate head, has fallen in love with Savannah. He was over here last year for the opening of the direct shipping service between Rio, Sao Paolo and Savannah. He and his wife bought some historic properties to renovate, and his son thinks the city's a great place for a Brazilian restaurant and some kind of Amazonian health store. From what Ceil and Larry tell me, the three of them have been Sotheby's best clients this year." He paused while pouring the rest of his beer in a tall glass. "They've already closed on the Lafayette Square mansion and the old Confederate bank building on Orleans Square. The son's got two storefronts on Broughton Street near the Lucas Theater, and he's looking at another place on Tybee Island.

"But I ramble. The reason we need you is for a new venture Mr. Meijo wants to float." Brook leaned in. "He wants to start a brand new company in the U.S. He wants it in Savannah, and he wants local partners. Ed Fell and Scott Sinter control enough dough to come in on this, but they need someone like you to go to Rio and check out this guy's operations."

Gray thought a moment. "Isn't that something you can do, Brook? I mean, I usually find a project and then match it with the right people and financing. It looks as if Ed and Scott already have something going."

"Hey, I'm just the attorney." Brook busied himself with the sharp cheese and stone ground wheat disks on the teak tray in front of him. "You've worked for both Ed and Scott and they trust you." He squinted at Gray. "These guys are being asked to put up fifteen million dollars, Gray, and they want someone to tell them it's as good as they think it is. Or not."

Gray's last project with Ed and Scott's Terra Group had been in Indonesia. Usually they handled their own local projects. He had the feeling that he wasn't getting all the information.

Brook saw his hesitation. "Here's the discomforting part. MeijoSul is a big Brazilian conglomerate. Meijo himself is a multimillionaire. He comes to Savannah, tells our economic development authority he wants to start a new venture, and requires a twenty-five percent buy-in by local investors. Then he presents his prospective partners with a business plan. But there's no track record and no similar Brazilian company on his books." Brook signaled for two more beers. "Doesn't it seem odd to you that he's not rolling out a prototype or something in his country first and going for a replication here? I mean, does that not smell strange?"

----- [snip] -----

Two more Heinekens were opened, poured and placed on the table. Brook pulled out two thick volumes from a leather briefcase and passed them over to Gray.

"As I understand from reading these, Meijo has his hands on some pretty exotic items from the Amazon. Most of them deal with health and wellness, but others are in the realm of, well, I guess I'd call it the mystical-magical. Potions and elixirs having to do with anti-aging, life-extending, peripheral awareness stuff. Pretty impressive, if you can believe it." He raised his eyebrows a few times.

"He wants to establish a manufacturing and distribution facility in Savannah which will significantly impact the health care market in the Northern Hemisphere. Then he plans on replicating the facility in Brazil." The eyebrows did their thing again as Brook tapped the documents. "Meijo believes most of his products can be marketed via the natural foods market under the current NIH or FDA hands-off position; but he knows the fed's position will change soon, and he wants to be in this country with a good lab and a track record when any stricter standards come down. By the way, Meijo Sul already owns two pharmaceutical manufacturing companies in Brazil. We can't figure out why he's not going through them with this plan of his."

"So in essence, this guy has enough going for him with his existing companies that he doesn't need to go the magical potion route with a new company, and he certainly doesn't need a mere fifteen million from the Terra Group. And the question I am to answer is whether he is just a good-hearted, honest soul, or is something else going on, right?"

"Bingo!" Brook smiled as he raised his glass. "Just find out what the hell Mr. Meijo is up to, will you?"

Gray touched his glass against Brook's. "Let me read through these papers and I'll give you a call. Cheers."

"We really want to move fast on this," said Brook. "Meijo wants to meet you the latter part of next week and show you what he's got, but after that he'll be traveling, I think to Bangkok." Brook pulled out an itinerary and passed it over. "We've reserved seats on a Delta flight for Thursday, a week from today, with a return the following Wednesday. You need to get your passport to me immediately so I can courier it down to Miami for the visa. Meijo's office is handling all the in-country scheduling." Brook smiled. "By the way, his secretary says Meijo is really interested in meeting our representative," he said as he nodded to Gray, "so the ambiance of your trip should be pleasant, aside from visiting one of the great cities of the world. Hey, consider it a vacation."

"Why am I not thinking vacation on this trip?" asked Gray. Ferreting out what might be dirty secrets from a wealthy business owner was not really his forte; he much preferred matching sites and money with realistic planning.

Brook gave his tight little smile, ignoring the question. "Here's the contract I drew up for you, just in case you agreed: fifteen hundred dollars per diem, with three days' advance, and an expense advance of twenty five hundred. Account settlement with submission of report due seven days after your return. Meijo will not see the report without your permission. Just sign and date here and here. The briefcase is for you, too."

Gray went ahead and signed the contract. He put the documents, contract copy, checks and itinerary in the briefcase. He shook hands with Brook. "What would you have done if I'd begged off of this? I still might, you know, after I read the proposals."

Brook squinted at him again. "You know damn well I would have to go, and I'm not going, ergo you can't turn me down. How simple is that? Oh, I almost forgot." He pulled one of his cards from his wallet. "I told you Meijo's son is in town, didn't I? Anyway, here's his number." Brook handed the card over with a number written on the back. "His name is Guillermo. He's called Gil. Really a nice guy."

The next day Gray called Guillermo Meijo. The two met for lunch at Johnny Yang's Pan Asian restaurant on Broughton Street. Gil Meijo looked like a jock but came across as a smart business type with a lot of confidence in himself and his family. He talked the nuts and bolts of the Savannah real estate buys and plans with enthusiasm. If Meijo senior had this kind of moxie, Gray could see why Ed and Scott had been impressed. Still, the question of motive was still unanswered. Everything so well planned. So much money. And nonexistent products.

* * *

----- [snip] -----

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Chapter 2

Rio de Janeiro, Thursday, June 28, 8:00 a.m.

Cosme Neighborhood. The dirty gray Mercedes delivery truck ground up the narrow alley of Cosme, a small slum, or favela, off of the street called Rua Cosme Velho. In the distance, to the southwest, were the beaches of Leblon, Ipanema, and Copacabana. Between the slum and the beaches, the statue of Christ the Redeemer rose white and shining on its mountain of Corcovado, eight hundred meters above the city of Rio de Janeiro.

The two guards in the truck, both foreigners, kept their Uzis in plain sight with their fingers on the safeties as the truck crawled over the uneven cobbles. Cosme was not one of Rio's infamous favelas, but like most, it was controlled more by its indigenous gangs than by the municipal police. Money changed hands, and the One-Eyes, the Umo Ojo gang, as well as the police were on the take, but the foreigners took no chances.

The last house up the alley was a three-story block and tile structure, set against the granite outcrop known as the Mountain of Pleasures, the Morro de Prazers. Its third story had a clear view of the Redemptor statue, fifteen hundred meters to the south. Two kilometers to the east, the Metro line carried its tens of thousands of Rio's citizens, its Cariocas, from the Centro areas to the luxury beach and lakefront neighborhoods. Less than one thousand meters to the west was the entrance to the highway tunnel Andre Reboucas, carrying vehicle traffic to the beaches.

The house had been carefully selected over a year ago by Al Tamah, the Syrian terrorist group known as The Brotherhood. One Tamah commando unit of four men had been contracted by a Brazilian contact to disable the Metro, block the tunnel, and destroy the Christ statue. Once the mission was accomplished, Tamah would take credit for yet another statement to the world of the power of Islam. The Brazilian contact had never offered a rationale for contracting for the acts of terror, and Tamah didn't care.

The truck nosed past the house, and then backed down so that its rear was facing the ground-floor garage. The driver pressed the release button on his handheld as the two guards got off the truck, did a visual sweep of the alley, and pushed the garage doors inward. The Mercedes backed into the garage and the doors were closed and locked. Bright fluorescent lights came on, lighting up a bare space with a generator in one corner and a small loading dock at the rear. Wide steps against the wall led up into the darkness.

The three men slung their weapons and began offloading the green and white bags of M3 and M4 artillery propellant. The bags were carried up the stairs past the living quarters and on the second floor to the roofed and shuttered porch on the third floor. The porch led into a high-ceilinged cave which had been carved into the granite of the mountain. Once a storage room used by the smugglers who had built the house, the cave had been enlarged and electrified by Tamah to accommodate armaments and ammunition.

Ramallah, the Syrian engineer, weapons expert, and cell commander, was working by the gun, a 105mm howitzer. Jimah, his second-in-command, placed his bags in their designated stacks. Ramallah looked over from the gun mount.

"Four months ago you would have been staggering with that load. Now you handle it like an ordinary backpack."

"We have already carried the heavy loads, the shells themselves," came the laconic reply.

Ramallah glanced at the shiny stacks of 33-kilo projectiles along the wall. "Yes, but the shells were more easily handled." As always, Ramallah appreciated his second's disdain for complaining. Allah in His wisdom could not have provided a more intelligent and committed assistant.

"Tell me, what of the police, and of our friends next door?"

"Sergeant Gabiso welcomed our small gift," deadpanned Jimah. "He understands smuggling is an honest profession among the poor in these hard times, but he warns that the 3rd Brigade has placed strangleholds on Santa Marta and Ciudade, and it is ready to invade the smaller favelas like Cosme."

Three weeks earlier, the army had launched armed offensives into the larger favelas in retaliation for a gang raid on the Kelo military depot. The army general swept aside local military and civil police participation in his operation since he held them partially responsible for the attack, which may have been true. O Globo, Rio's newspaper, as well as Brazil's multi-headed media giant, investigated the events and discovered that the famous IF, the Interdiction Force unit, a special police emergency force of SWAT teams with armored personnel carriers, was away from its barracks for the evening of the raid. O Globo's TV and news investigators found that the unit was at a special party at an unknown location during the raid, and every member had inexplicably turned his cell phone off.

Ramallah shrugged and patted the barrel of the howitzer. Eight steel pins had been driven into the rock floor. The gun had been mounted on its carriage, anchored by the pins. "Were I General Satamine, I too would be after the blood of those who took my weapons and ammunition. As Allah wills, he may soon have it all back, in one way or another."

Jimah gave a small smile. "It will be an honor to make the return, piece by piece."

The Cell commander turned to the laser sight he was mounting on the gun. "My heart tells me that by the time the General and his world of bloodsuckers see the last piece of this package, we will be either with our angels in paradise or on another mission."

"Allahu Akbar, as God wills," shrugged Jimah.

"And the One-Eyes, Jimah? What of our protectors?"

Jimah gestured disgustedly at the house next door housing the Umo Ojo gang. "The same, living like pigs, happy with a few pistols, but keeping their mouths shut."

"That is all we can ask of such people."

* * *

In the dilapidated tile and concrete building on the Cosme alley next to the house of Tamah, the Umo Ojo gang had its rat hole. Inside the front room was a clutter of stolen boxes, broken furniture, and dirty tables. Filthy mattresses covered two rooms in the back of the house, up against the mountain, next to a bathroom with a fetid toilet. Nine of the Ojos were assigned this station to watch over the foreign smugglers next door and to keep them safe, not from the police, who had been bought off, but from rival gangs in the neighboring favelas. Under normal circumstances, the Ojos would have muscled in on whatever action the foreigners operated. In this very special instance, the reward for keeping their noses out of the business and keeping the foreigners safe was too great: guns and ammunition, vests and night vision goggles, handheld two-ways and MP3 players. If they could just keep this operation safe for another week, the gang would not be fucked over anymore, by anyone.

Rob Commando, as he now was calling himself, was a veteran of the gang wars, police raids, intimidation visits, and protection rackets of the favela. Skinny and grizzled like the chickens pecking about in the side yards, the twenty-three-year-old leader knew he would be dead in a year or two if he didn't expand his power base and move up and out of this shit-hole type of rat's nest. The strangers next door, and the boys he'd recruited and ruled, if handled right, would soon have him as the big shit, the Momo. And then there was his connection with a certain assistant police commissioner who had set the deal up. Hell, he had everything going like hot grease if he could hold it together for another week.

Right now it was Christmas in the front room. The Ojos were going through the first delivery of their pistols and ammo. Kids who had used only zip guns and slingshots were strapping on Walthers, showing and drawing S&Ks from shoulder holsters, smoking weed and bragging on what their future would be.

"Fuckers, you act like you're going to be in a parade on Copacabana Beach. Hey, what you people think, it's Carnival?" he roared. Jaime and Chico, his lieutenants, started slapping and kicking some order into the bunch. A couple of potheads started mouthing off at Jaime's hits. Rob Commando pulled his own Walther and fired twice into the far wall. "You pissers want to fuck with me, eh? Eh? You want some of this?" He tracked the gun across their faces through the cordite and weed smoke while their ears still rang from the gunshots. Everyone quieted.

"Two things I'm going to tell you little fucks." He kept tracking the pistol from face to face, watching their rat's eyes follow it as they would a cobra's head. "Two things: first, these rods don't leave the nest 'till I say so, right?" Z-man over on the couch started to protest until the barrel's sight stopped right between his eyes. Little Gouti started to raise his hand.

"What you think, you still in school, fat boy? Put that hand down and shut the fuck up! Like I say, no guns out of here unless I say so. When we do a jump, I don't want nobody to know what's coming. You understand?

"Second, and don't fuck with me on this, 'cause these little guns you got in your hands are just the first load. You guys stick with me, do what I say, and we got automatic machine guns coming in. I'm talkin' Uzis, Kals, 16s like the fuckers next door have. I'm talkin' kelvar shit, night goggles, radios . . . you hear me?" He had them wired in now, like he was already the Momo. "So put the stuff you got away. Hell, put some under your crash pads if you want to keep your hard-ons." He put his gun back on the table. "Just don't take them outside. Now get your asses out of here. Do your circuits, let me know what's going on, keep it tight next door. Hey, Umo Ojo, right?"

----- [snip] -----

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Chapter 3

Savannah, Georgia, Thursday, June 28, 5:30 p.m.

Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport. Precisely at 5:30 p.m. under a hot Georgia summer sky, the Gulfstream IV executive jet touched down on the North-South runway of the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport. It turned onto the taxiway and rolled back, past the FedEx and the Signature Aviation terminals, and past the Air National Guard taxiway where a flight of four F-15 Eagles from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia were forming up for takeoff. The sleek white jet with silver trim passed the off ramp to the main terminal and rolled directly to Bay Three of the Gulfstream Air Service Center. Four men with carry-ons and briefcases disembarked and were escorted into the customer service office where a customs official casually checked passports and luggage. The jet's manifest showed ownership by KelCorp, registered in Monaco. Three days had been reserved for its 500-hour maintenance service while its crew attended the refresher class at the Flight Training Center.

After customs, the three-man flight crew went to the debriefing room with the center's service technicians. The fourth man, a tall, courtly, and silver-haired European, was driven in the Gulfstream Mercedes to The Mansion, Savannah's exclusive five-star hotel. Alain Farouche was listed on the roster as KelCorp's Corporate Financial Officer. KelCorp itself was a multinational consortium of procurement, transportation, and distribution companies, effectively controlled by the European and Russian drug cartels, which in turn controlled most of the illegal drug trade from Afghanistan and points west.

Back in the Air Service Center, another G-IV jet, this one cream and gold, was docked and undergoing navigation and communications system upgrades in Bay Six. TritonX Enterprises, out of Bangkok, was the owner. Its crew was also attending classes at the training complex, and like the KelCorp crew, was staying close by at the Quail Run Lodge. The TritonX Vice-President for Development, a small, elderly Thai named Takhli Chum, had been chauffeured that morning to his suite at The Mansion. Chum's mysterious group was the money behind many resort and casino complexes in Asia, including two huge world-class destinations on the Thai side of the infamous Golden Triangle. It also controlled the drug trade for Kuhn Sa in Burma, the Philippine harvests, and the burgeoning Chinese market.

In the nearby Signature Aviation terminal, attendants monitored the final approach from a third private jet, this one almost twice the size of the G-IVs. Brilliant emerald, with white and silver markings, the Embraer Legacy 1000 soon touched down, braked, and taxied to the Signature hangar. Ostensibly on a check flight from its Ft. Lauderdale service center, the sleek Brazilian craft carried a single passenger. Jason Campos was a confident young man whose family controlled and protected its share of drugs, contraband, and arms sales in Mexico. The firm had banded with a number of forward-thinking South American cartels to form SEFU Ltd., ostensibly a legitimate corporation, but one which was well on its way to control production, manufacture, and distribution for the enormous drug appetite of the Americas.

Campos got into his waiting rental car and drove into the city, where he was also booked at The Mansion. He was staying in Savannah for a few days to take care of some business in addition to chairing this evening's meeting. The meeting itself was a scheduled session to report on the strategic plan to control the world's supply of illegal drugs. The other business involved a small operation that was to facilitate SEFU's incursion into Brazil's isolationist and highly feudal drug kingdom.

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Chapter 4

Savannah, Georgia, Thursday, June 28, 5:30 p.m.

----- [snip] -----

Gray caught the Delta shuttle to Atlanta. He had time for a few Sam Adams drafts at the lounge in the International Terminal before the boarding call came for the seven-thirty flight to Rio. Brook had booked a business class seat for the nine-hour flight so Gray expected to do some reading and sleeping.

When he came down the aisle to his seat, wonder of wonders, Catherine Colley was in the row just behind him. Cathy was an Atlanta engineer and married to one of Grayís former teammates at Notre Dame. They hugged and made the appropriate remarks, Gray blushing like a geek through his beer flush.

Catherineís seatmate was amenable to taking Grayís seat, so just after the plane was in the air and the seat belt sign darkened, Gray moved back and sat in the window seat.

"How are you, Cathy? You look great as usual. Howís Tommy?"

Cathy held up her left hand and wiggled her fingers. "Where have you been, Gray? We divorced last year."

Gray was too surprised to speak. His mouth hung open until Cathy arched her eyebrows and reached over to put his chin up.

"You and Tommy? Damn, Iím sorry, Cath. Iíve been out of touch." His mind was doing a fast review of what he knew of Tommyís recent past. No, not recent past. Despite his gifts, or in spite of them, Tommy was always going for the excitement and giddy oblivion of a twenty-first birthday party binge. Even at school the alcohol had been a problem, and Tommy was one of those who took his college exuberance into the workplace. Two years ago Gray had run into Tommy at a Monogram Club bash when the Irish played USC. Heíd hardly recognized the once-handsome baseball All American in the face of the sloppy drunk with haunted eyes. Actually Tommy was at the party looking for a job, though his condition at eleven in the morning was not exactly a confidence builder. Still, Gray had offered to share some work he was doing on St. Simons Island. He hadnít heard from him since.

Added to Grayís confusion were the big hots he carried for Cathy, a dark-haired, high-cheeked lady who could have made it pole dancing in the Cheetah Lounge as easily as she did the civil engineering program at Georgia Tech. At five-ten, Cathy was a little shorter than Gray, but she had an aura about her that made her seem taller. She always kidded a lot with him in a flirty way, but when Gray got flirty back at her, sheíd been quick to put a little distance between them. He would get mad, and then a few weeks later he would find himself being reeled in again. He could convince himself that she looked at him only as a friend, but it didnít help a bit when he saw, or thought he saw, the invitation in those dark eyes. She had been obviously and exclusively in love with Tommy Colley, so the whole thing was juvenile anyway. It didnít matter what Gray felt or thought, or wanted. He was one of the disadvantaged who could never tell a woman how he really felt, and that made it matter even less.

Behind Grayís Joe College bravado was the stricken teenager with the swollen libido. Gray knew that she knew he would never move up to her A list. He was actually glad because of his loyalty to Tommy. The separation that had occurred among friends over the years was actually a good thing. (Yeah, but does this change things? Hah, am I still the same old Gray?)

"Well, have you finished processing and analyzing? Or do you plan to stare at me through dinner?" She was so enjoying this, Gray saw, and he felt better for it.

"All done," he laughed, "and Iíve decided to hold off on thinking about Tommy and concentrate on this trip." Gray looked at her blankly. Then he said, "Apparently you are, so tell me what it is."

"Really, Gray, you developers havenít heard of the Environmental Services Seminar? Itís held each year, and weíre always trying to figure ways to keep humans from fouling up nice places like Tybee Island, which is practically in Savannahís back yard."

He smiled. "And for this youíre going to Rio de Janeiro?"

Cathy reached over and patted his arm. "Gray, honey, donít get parochial on me. You travel a lot in that business you run, and you know what weíre talking about. How many countries have stamped your passport in the last six months—six, seven? Your Christmas card was from Jakarta, for Godís sake."

Gray hid his pleasure at her remembering his card. "Sure, but thatís my market, not yours. Last I heard you were doing wastewater treatment plants for Columbia County." (Was it an illusion or was she looking at him with more than friendly interest?)

She pulled a business card from the holder in her executive planner and passed it over. ĎEFT, PC, Environmental Facilities Technology, Catherine Colley, PE, MSci, President,í with an Atlanta address, email address and fax, land line and cell numbers. "My company, sir," she laughed. "You didnít think I was going to work for someone else my entire career, did you? When you were out there traveling to East Bohinko and having a great time on your own?" Her eyes sparkled as she sipped her wine. "Seriously, Gray, Iíve got contracts for potable water systems in Kuwait and the Marshall Islands, wastewater systems in Puerto Rico and Haiti, and a storm water reclamation project in South Carolina, all in one year! Iím working my fanny off and loving it!" She sat back and laughed again.

And a nice fanny, too, thought Gray, as the flight steward brought drinks around. Once Cathy had her wine and he had his beer, he said what was on his mind. "Congratulations. I really mean that, and I know youíre going to do well." He was quiet for a moment. "I guess I really want to know about Tommy."

She sighed. "I expect that you do." She looked away. "Why am I so successful, with such a future, with so many things going for me and with this huge crater in my heart where Tommy was?" She sighed again and shrugged. "I didnít leave him because of his drinking, or because he did more and more coke. He got possessed, Gray. Thatís the only way I can put it." She turned to him. "For twelve years, ever since we were eighteen, Tommy and I fought goblins and shadows. Tommy and Jack Daniels bourbon would fight them, and then he and I would fight Jack Daniels. The same thing happened with the coke, but so long as he was fighting he was a hard worker, a good husband, and my best friend." She bit her lip. "Then one morning about two years ago, when he was cold sober, I couldnít get him to talk to me. It was like I wasnít there any more, and it hit me that he had stopped fighting. Those goblins and shadows looked out at me from his eyes, Gray." She closed her eyes. "Thatís when I attacked him, I really did. I threw everything I could get my hands on at him. Then I started hitting and kicking at him." Her mouth pursed. "It was not pretty and not effective. All he did was grab me by the wrists and look at me as if I was a piece of crap. Then he walked out the door, and I havenít seen him since." By this time tears were running from her closed eyes. "His mother tells me that heís in Birmingham, married and working for a newspaper. But I donít know, Gray. I donít know." She wiped at her eyes and dabbed her face with the cocktail napkin, then reached over and got Grayís.

"Cathy, I am so sorry for you." Gray knew he sounded like a wimpy shit, but he didnít know what else to say. "Iím even sorrier for Tommy. He had so much going for him." Images of an athlete stretched out to catch a deep fly, of a student working at a word processor in the middle of the night, of a friend with a beer and a beautiful woman on a football Saturday, of a young broadcasting VP in Atlanta, marrying the lovely Catherine Markham at St. Phillipís Cathedral. Gone now, taken by his shadows. They were both silent for a while.

"Tell me, what about you, Gray? What should I know that I donít already?" She was sitting back with her eyes closed, and Gray figured she wanted some recovery time.

"All quiet on the Savannah front, I guess. Iím doing some project planning for sites in Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. Maybe youíd be interested in some of the infrastructure work. Iíll send you some of my due diligence findings when I get on my laptop."

"Why are you going to Rio?"

"Oh, just checking out some investment opportunities for some clients. No real development work."

"Well, I would like to see what EFT could offer in Central America and the Dominican Republic. Your guys will be happy to know there are some economical alternatives to DITPS." She pronounced it "dit piss."

"What is that?"

"Dilution is the Pollution Solution. You know, just dumping wastes into a bigger water body or landfill. It was always cheap, and considered harmless until people realized they were mucking up the places they had run away to enjoy. And I know what youíre thinking, that Iíve become another environmentalist with no clue of a bottom line, but thatís not true. Technologies now exist which keep things pretty clean and offer a good return on investment. You just show me the project; itís my job to develop a strategy which will convince your clients." She leaned toward him. "But what about you personally? Whoís the current heartthrob, Gray?"

He seized up like a hot engine without oil. Everything coming out of his mouth now would make no sense. "Ha, you know me. Nobody I know in particular. I guess itís the usual good friends stuff." Oh, if I could look you in the eye and tell you.

"Gray," Cathy said as she looked him in the eye, "what in the world are you scared of? We women are not going to rip your heart out and eat it. Ok, you had a bad experience, but thatís been, what, ten years ago? Today is today."

Gray tried a joke. "Rip away, why donít you?"

Cathy groaned. "Youíve got that thing better protected than the Mona Lisa." She paused. "I shouldnít talk. Sorry."

The evening meal was served, then coffee. Afterwards both Gray and Cathy pulled out their work, Gray going deeply into the profile and business plan of MeijoSul while Cathy went through emails, assignments, and design edits on some projects. Toward midnight both laptops went down and sleep spread through the cabin. Sometime during the night, Gray and Cathyís heads came together, and then her head was on a pillow in his lap. Jeez, he thought, Iím thirty-five years old and acting like a fifteen year old with a hard-on. Doing a pretty good job of it, too.

Our heroes and villains soon find themselves on a collision course from which they may not survive.
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