Yesterday, while searching More Deaths Than One for references to the scent of frangipani for my post Justifying Our Sex Scenes, I happened to find the passage below. It’s been so long since I’ve looked at the book, the story seemed fresh and new, and something I’d be interested in reading. (Which, actually, is why I wrote the book — to write something I’d like to read.) Note: ISI is Information Services, Incorporated, a corporation with ties to US intelligence agencies.
Description: Bob Stark returns to Denver after 18 years in SE Asia to discover that the mother he buried before he left is dead again. At her new funeral, he sees . . . himself. Is his other self a hoaxer, or is something more sinister going on?
“Here, put this on.” Bob held out a brown two-inch-wide belt.
Kerry lifted her shirt and showed him the waistband of her dark cotton slacks. “It’s elastic, see? I don’t need a belt.”
“It’s a money-belt. I got two of them yesterday, one for me and one for you. There’s ninety-five hundred dollars in each of them—”
“Ninety-five hundred dollars?” Her eyes grew round. “In cash?”
“Yes. I would have liked to get more, but that’s all we’re allowed to bring into the United States without having to fill out forms, and in our situation, that can get sticky.”
“What would happen if we brought in more than that and didn’t declare it?”
“Maybe nothing unless we got caught, but since we’re traveling with fake IDs, I’d prefer not to complicate matters. When the problem with ISI goes away, I can have some of my money wired to an account in Colorado or wherever.”
“Just some? Not all?”
“It’s safe where it is.” When she gave him a narrow-eyed look, he laughed. “I don’t seem to be able to keep anything from you. It’s in a private bank in Chinatown. Hsiang-li sponsored me, otherwise I’d have to use the same banks as everyone else, and ISI would probably have found my account by now.”
“Wouldn’t ISI have already traced the bank through your traveler’s checks?”
“My bank doesn’t offer that service. I paid cash for them at another bank that does, and since they don’t know me, that’s a dead end for ISI.”
Becoming aware he still held out the money-belt, he said, “Well, are you going to put it on?”
She took it from him, fastened it around her waist, and smoothed her shirt over it. Turning sideways to look in the mirror, she asked, “Does it make me look fat?”
“I don’t even notice it.”
She gave him a laughing glance. “Aren’t you afraid I’m going to run off with your money?”
“No. In fact, you can have it.”
She looked at him aghast. “I can’t take your money.” Reaching under her shirt, she started to remove the belt.
He put a hand on her arm. “Keep it for now. If we get separated, or if anything happens to me, you’ll need it to get back home.”
“Nothing’s going to happen to you,” she said fiercely.
He nodded as if he agreed and did not mention the sense of foreboding that made his shoulder blades itch.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.