this is it, thought maitland as the "children" approached - what good does all my cool do me now - all the talks i gave to bored communications consultants - all my brilliant post-chomskian analyses of the complete meaninglessness of language - my devastating synthesis of post-foucaultian counter-dynamics...
he remembered his mother and sister singing hymns back in the little church in guyana - he remembered them singing but could not remember the words or music...
yes, you thought you had it made, didn't you, maitland? ha ha ha ha ha....
it all comes back to you now, doesn't it? it all began on that night in georgetown... the stars were shining brightly in what seemed to you at the time a virtual parody of a carribean moonlit night... you were bored... but then you were born bored, weren't you? dempsey sat beside you at the table outside nick's italian restaurant - your favorite, insofar as you could be said to have a favorite... of anything...
there, there, i will stop teasing you... what difference does it make now,anyway? but we know what happened .... how "inevitable" it all seems now, doesn't it?
"this carlotta person i was telling you about, you remember?" dempsey began tentatively.
"carlotta? i am not sure that i do remember, " maitland replied with his habitual air of evasiveness, as he stared out over the barely rippling water.
"the one who came here to work for poor forester. got left high and dry after his unfortunate demise."
"oh yes. well, what about her?"
"she might have something in your way." dempsey lowered his voice, although there was no one else on the patio.
"my way? i didn't know i had a way."
"you said you were bored - "
"i did? well, i am always bored. i shouldn't talk about it - what could be more boring than talking about being bored, eh? my apologies, old fellow."
dempsey ignored this and continued in an even lower voice. "and you said you were looking for excitement?"
"i did?" maitland blushed slightly. "oh dear, i must have been quite smashed altogether to say such a thing. " he had in fact, been smashed quite often since his breakup with jeffrey and marian - a circumstance he would have ascribed to boredom rather than heartbreak.
"in any case," dempsey pressed on, "carlotta has a plan that involves some excitement - and some money of course, always the main thing. she was looking for an accomplice and i told her i might know of someone. i didn't give her your name, of course."
"of course," maitland answered absently. "but why not yourself? not exciting enough? not money enough?"
"they want someone with experience of firearms. and i have none to speak of."
"experience of firearms?"
"yes, didn't you tell me you used to be quite the amateur marksman?"
"i was, but i was shooting at targets, not people."
"no matter, at least you know which end the bullet comes out of, which is more than i do. and where the safety is, and all that sort of thing."
"you said 'they' wanted someone - so she already has someone - at least one accomplice?"
"oh, yes. just the one - i think. i think that is why they are looking for someone."
maitland looked out over the water. "and for what exactly? did she give you any indication? please don't tell me they are planning to rob the casino."
the lights of the casino, though miles away, could be seen on the other side of the bay - the casino, last bastion of mammon, guarded by all the remaining firepower and most of the remaining centurions of the collapsing black holes of "western civilization".
and the last thing on earth functioning twenty four hours every day,
"oh, i don't think so," dempsey answered maitland. "this fellow seemed much too - too level headed for that."
"so you talked to him?"
"once or twice. i have seen him here and there, at benway's, at chatterton's, places like that. before carlotta mentioned her proposition to me, you understand."
maitland blinked and yawned. "it all sounds a bit vague."
"isn't everything? when was the last time anybody guaranteed you anything?"
"i still have this drink in my hand. it is only half finished. i think i can guarantee i will finish it."
dempsey rolled his eyes. "are you interested in carlotta's offer or not?"
"this level -headed fellow - anything else you can tell me about him?"
"not really. calls himself purvis - of course you can call yourself anything you please these days. when i said he was level headed i meant he didn't seem like someone who would do anything not to his own immediate advantage - or like someone you would want to cross."
"oh? bit of a ruffian?"
"a bit? the roughest of the rough, i'd say."
for the first time maitland showed some interest. "the roughest of the rough? he sounds like he might be just the man for me. is he good looking? how old is he?"
"um - i really don't think you will find much in that line here."
"i will be the judge of that, my dear. so is he good looking?"
"i don't know - wouldn't stand out in a crowd, i suppose, except for the mean look on his face. as for his age, i really can't judge such things, especially in men."
"hmm. then i shall have to find out for myself. tell carlotta i am interested - very interested."
and that was how it all began. ha ha ha! yes, i said i wouldn't laugh, but i just can't help it, when i see the look on your face now, maitland. were you trying to shock poor dempsey? he wasn't the least bit shocked, was he? and look at you now.
of course, who can say that things might not have turned out the same in any case? you might have found some other reason to stay, back when there was still a chance to flee - when the fleeing was good - or you might have stayed behind out of sheer laziness?
and those who fled - like jeffrey and marian and mrs axelby and colonel faraday and the count - who knows what happened to them? where might they be now, eh?