Consternation was writ large on Stephen’s face when he almost zombie-walked back into the suite. Kitty and Lance were looking at Salmi’s blog, so they took no notice of him, but Madonna did, and she did not like what she saw.

The moment King’s eyes met Madge’s she darted hers in the direction of the kids, and plastered a smile on her kisser. King caught the drift, broke out of his trance, and changed the worrisome look he was wearing.

“Hi, honey! Welcome home, How was your day?” Madge greeted her man, with a joking, loving tone. “We were just talking about your new favourite author.”

“Who, Salmi?” King wondered if that was pure coincidence, or synchronicity.

“Yes!” Kitty exclaimed. “Did you know that he was the Viagra Rape Squad? It was a hoax. He faked the whole thing.”

“He looks to be a character,” Madonna said, “Kitty and I want to meet him.”

King, who had just been talking to his friend in weird places about Salmi, laughed a little nervously, and said, “Good luck with that.”

“What do you mean?” asked the curious Kitty cat.

“Only that I was following his Riff n Raff blog, but he quit posting in early January.”

“Early January is when news of the virus first leaked out to the world,” Lance stated. “You think there’s some sort of connection.”

Stephen did, of course, and that’s what he had just been discussing with his friend in weird places, but he wasn’t going to say anything about that. “Oh, I doubt it. He is an interesting weirdo, but I doubt he’s that interesting.”

“Where is he? Where was he,” Lance wanted to know.

“India,” Kitty answered. King nodded confirmation.

“India borders China,” Lance stated.

“Yes,” Madonna interjected, “with a combined population of almost three billion.”

“Meaning?” asked Lance.

“Nothing, really, except that there are three billion people in the area, not to mention all the smaller countries, so the odds of Salmi having anything to do with the virus is what? Three and a half billion to one?”

“Higher than that,” said King, “given that he’ a nobody, just another struggling writer, who would have no connections to anything remotely like this, and would be an idiot to be trying to draw attention to himself, if he did.”

Kitty decided she had to state the obvious, “He’s no idiot. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“So, it’s just a coincidence that he disappeared, at the same time word of the virus reached the world?” Lance asked.

“I didn’t say he disappeared,” Stephen stated, making sure to maintain an air of nonchalance. “Just that he stopped blogging at the same time. If I were to place a bet on it, I’d bet that he simply sank into a state of gloomy self-doubt about sales, and is wallowing in a mire of alcohol soaked despair. It’s a common affliction with writers. Always has been, always will be, even more so as we march forward into this evil age in which people eschew the written word in favour of video, which, admittedly, is a much more powerful medium.”

Even at his young age, Lance knew what his father was saying was true. He had been there, done that himself. “I’m not a writer with a drinking problem,” he said.

Stephen laughed. Knowing the quote, he finished it with his son, “I’m a drinker with a writing problem.”

Kitty and Madonna laughed. Kitty guessed, “Wilde?”

“No, no,” Lance smiled. “One of yours. Dorothy Parker.”

“Good God, I’d loved to have known her,” King lamented. Lance nodded his agreement with a big grin. “Wait. I know. While the two of you are searching for Salmi in the jungles of West Bengal, Lance and I will find a holy man, on a mountain, in the Himalayas, a seer, and get him to channel Dorothy to us.”

Madonna and Kitty grinned at each other, liking the sounds of such an adventure. Kitty said, “Deal!”

Anxious to move the conversation off the topic of the whereabouts of the weirdo Salmi, Stephen said, “Shall we get back to Commonwealth? Lance was about to tell us what we are going to do with all the money, money, money, I believe.”




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