Wellington, New Zealand
Monday, September 5, 2005, 9:38 a.m.
“Well, all right,” Davey said as they drove from Wellington International Airport, although Rufus wasn’t in the mood for chit-chat. He needed to focus. Emma was counting on him. “Rufus. Rasta Bond. Been a while, yeh? Glad to be away from all them stinky Aussies?”
The crisp, frenetic wind thrashed against the car like a shark in bloody waters. Rufus rolled up the passenger-side window, his enormous hand black as a minor piano key. “Fucking too cold, man,” he said, still frustrated by the unfamiliar twang in his voice. “Too cold.”
Davey grinned as an unlit cigarette hung from his lips. “Windy Wellington, mate. That’s it, all right. Windy Wellington. Cold as a witch’s tit when the wind blows like this. But you’ll see. Warm up soon, yeh? Once we get out of the harbor it’ll be all right.”
Pulling out of Wellington Harbor, on the southwestern tip of the North Island, they were still 485 kilometers south of Rufus’s final destination–Auckland.
“Just drive, man,” he said as they approached the Wellington waterfront. “Take me to the stuff. I’ve got a meeting up north.” When Rufus finished this deal, he would be done for good. He didn’t sell bricks of marijuana because he wanted to. There was a bigger issue at stake.
“Hey, look who you’re talking to. It’s me. Davey. It’s not like we’ve never done this before, yeh? Relax, mate. Relax.” Davey steered with his elbow as he lit a cigarette. “It’s a long way from Jah-maaykah, mahn. You should spend more time with us Kiwis. Get out of the heat. Nothing here but beautiful beaches and beautiful bitches.”
Six-foot–three with a short mop of dreadlocks, Rufus’s skin was darker—much darker–on Earth than it had been in Eternity, and when he caught his reflection, he would take a second look, as if he were his own stunt double.
But most of all, Rufus missed his baritone voice. Even after the virus scarred his vocal cords, when there were no more nights on stage, no more club owners trying to sign him to a recording contract.
Rufus mumbled now in an accent even he could barely understand. Even after more than a year on Earth, he was still surprised at how alienated he felt from himself, a self he had just started to make peace with in Eternity. When Rufus heard this new voice emanate from his mouth, aware that he was moving his lips, he still had the very real sense that someone else was controlling the tone and volume. Hearing himself talk was like a splinter in his soul, lodged at an angle he just couldn’t get to. He couldn’t rip it out.
What Rufus said was: “Make sure there’s a tank full of gas. I don’t want any delays.” But what he heard was, Mayk shur dares a tahnk fulla gahs, mahn. I dohn wan no dee-layz.
“What’s with you?” Davey blew smoke through his nostrils. “Got some good ass lined up, yeh? That’s it, isn’t it?”
Earth was a lonely place for Rufus, who realized immediately upon arrival that he had made a big mistake. Rufus owed Emma, owed her big. She didn’t just save his life, she saved his soul. But the truth was that he didn’t belong on Earth. It had been a long year indeed.
“I knew it,” Davey said. “Rasta Bond’s always on the prowl. Gets more play than a fucking theater group, yeh? Stick with Kiwi girls, mate. They’re just like the fruit. Sweet, juicy and always in season.”
In all, Rufus figured it would take ten days to load up on product, make his key stops, and then meet with his seller in Auckland, Davey’s older brother, Aputa–a serious dealer in his own right, and nobody you wanted to have on your ass. Aputa was no one to keep waiting.
Rufus wanted to maximize on dollars, as there was no better way to negotiate than with bundles of cash. And if he could make the deal for Emma’s jar, he would give up every last dollar on Earth. He would never need money again. He’d be able to go home. All he had to do was find a certain young man. They had much to discuss.