It is among the most dastardly of plot devices; that awful trick of an errant author, in which beloved characters are stranded, midaction, upon some netherworld beach of drama, poised and prepared, and yet doomed to be frozen thus, until in its meandering way, the story returns.
And yet, that is the device perpetrated upon you, dear reader, for we must now bound away from the humid days of April in Singapore, and descend raven-like upon a date exactly 10 years later. To wit: April 3rd, 1997. La Hoya, California...
L'il Timmy Rompkins smoothed back his beach-blonde hair, and his free hand reached up and touched the scar on his lower lip, a reflexive action that he had acquired in the last decade since that fateful day on Sentosa Island. He was reclined on a faux-leather sectional, it's burgandy sheen blazing forth against a muted beige room, sunlit by a bank of windows that looked out over the Pacific ocean. The brilliant white light of So-Cal midday burned into the room, turning everything it touched into white California Plastic.
Rompkin's free hand continued to stroke the scar on his lip. His other arm was wrapped around the shoulder of Melanie Lustiger, who dozed on the couch beside him. L'il Timmy's arm was beginning to go numb, which was unfortunate, because the hand at the end of that arm was holding onto a Highball glass full of Jaegermeister & Cola, and with the condensation, LT was afraid the glass would slip out. He called out suddenly.
Steps were heard in the corridor, and Angelista Rasmussen strode into the room, clad in the French-maid outfit that L'il Timmy made her wear.
"Yes, LT?" she asked.
"Come 'ere and take this drink, willya? It's startin' to slip out."
"Yes, LT" Angelista replied, and dutifully came forward to take the glass from his hand. Striding across the tiled floor, she retrieved the corked tray, placed the glass on it, and stood, expectantly, looking at Rompkins.
"That's all," L'il Timmy continued, "you can go back to the accounts now."
"Yes, LT" she answered, and exited the room as gracefully as she could in 3 inch heels.
Hansel Daggerfjord looked up from the foozeball table as the door to the Diplomat Lounge opened, letting in a wicked ray of light that pierced the smoky air of the seedy bar. At that very moment, an undistracted Nigel Krunt drove in a hammer shot from the 5-man. Daggerfjord's beer-sodden reflexes responded too late, but he spun the goalie anyway, and unfortunately several threads of his crimson hair became wrapped around the grip, and Daggerfjord's head was suddenly jerked to the left, and downward, until his ear was pressed against the warm metal of the foozeball pole.
"Get it off! Get it off!" he began yelling, and for the next ten minutes, a crowd of concerned bar patrons gathered around the foozeball table, attempting to extract Daggerfjord's hair from the ball bearings on the table joint.
"Zis eez incredeebull!" Professor Klimmingstock blurted. His voice echoed through the cavernous brick tube, reflected upward from the rancid sewer water and fading away into the distance. Klimmingstock hung from the rusty ladder, the crook of his left arm holding the ladder tree, his left hand holding the high-power lantern, while his right hand attempted to bring the 35mm camera into focus.
Below him in the water, a 25 foot crocodile slowly surfaced. This would have been enough to astound any visitor to the infamous sewers of Paris, even were they, unlike the Professor, totally unfamiliar with the importance of the aged leather collar around the crocodile's neck, the crocodile's missing eye, and the lettering emblazoned on that collar: Winky.
Klimmingstock was having a devil of a time with the camera. Using just one hand, he could barely rotate the barrel of the lens, and he was totally unsure how he was going to attach the flash from his precarious perch. But he never got the chance, for out of the sewer's darkness, a sudden roaring sound was followed by the forewake of a black zodiac crammed full of Singaporean policemen with harpoons.
The crocodile, more agile than the Professor, immediately dove, but the powerful searchlight of the zodiac caught a glimmer of his tail as it vanished into the murky water, and the chase was on. The Singporeans motored by the Professor, totally oblivious to his presence, laughing as they pursued their quarry deeper into the Paris catacombs.
One moment Klimmingstock was about to have the most important photo of his life, and the next moment he hung uselessly, his camera dangling heedless at the end of its cord, as he listened to the fading strains of singing coming from the disappearing motor launch.
"Oooo bayabee do you know what that's wolth.... oooo heaven is a prayce on ealth...."
It was enough to drive a man to drink.
Platu stood on the top floor of Greenback Tower and surveyed the landscape. The room he occupied was entirely circular, forming the entirety of the maximum circumferance of the cone that formed the tower's shape. Above Platu, the circle diminished. Below Platu, the circle diminished. This suited Platu just fine.
He contemplated Pi as he tamped more Captain Black into his hula-girl shaped meershem pipe (described lovingly in "Goodnight Mr. Menlo, wherever you are"). Taking from his pocket a Zippo lighter with a palladium casing, he lit the pipe, and contemplated for a few more moments. What the heck was Pi? He was sure that the answer to this riddle would have staggering implications. In an otherwise orderly world (or so Platu found it), how odd it was that such an unusual number should form such a critical role. 3.1415etc. It just wasn't right. After all, compared to the neat package of days, weeks, months, and years (ignoring certain inconvenient variations necessitating that despicable leap year), Pi just seethed incompleteness, messiness. Why couldn't Pi have been 7, or 3.33 or 12.34? Why the hell did it have to be 3.1415etc.
Maybe, Platu thought, it had to do with that meddlesome whole number system. In fact, what if he were to rename 3.1415etc to "one". Then "one" would become -3.1415etc, and Pi would be 1. That would be much, much neater.
Platu clapped his hands twice in rapid succession. From the corner of the room, where his intercom box was plugged into "the clapper", came a muffled voice.
"Howdy Mr. Platudinor! What kin I do you for?" Platu was instantly irritated at the redneck accent of his parrot-faced secretary Darby Smithreen Gribbles, but he replied in his best Jamaican accent (for Darby was convinced that Platu, whom she had never seen, was Jamaican):
"Ms Gribbles-mon. Git my engineers on da phone an tell dem dat we's going ta make one into Pi"
Darby giggled outrageously for several minutes before responding.
"Allright honeybuckets, I'll git yer egg-heads called up and tell 'em you wanna make one inta Pi, but you better do some thinkin' about the implications of messin' around with that there mathermatical system."
But Platu did not hear his despised secretary, for his mind had already engaged upon its next flight of fancy.
Herve Quisleau completed his 400th pullup and dropped down from the tape-wrapped pull-up bar at Lean-firm Gym. The remainder of the athletes went about their business, oblivious to Quisleau's feat of strength. And this irritated him to no end. Lighting a Misty cigarette with a match he struck against his bare chest, he turned and glared at the nearest person. But no-one was looking at him at all. He glared around for a few more moments before shrugging his shoulders and pulling a 9mm Glock from his gym bag. Stuffing the Glock into the waistband of his shorts, he then pulled out a pair of numchucks and a few throwing stars.
Spying a muscle bound man wearing a "Cleveland Rocks" T-shirt, he threw one of the shurikan on a deadly arc, and the tines of the weapon were buried deep in the man's forehead. His eyes crossed before going into a vague stare, and the man collapsed on the bench, 200 lbs of weights and bar falling onto him before drunkenly tilting onto the floor in a stupendous crash. By then, Quisleau had already killed two more men with the throwing stars, another with a flying drop kick, and was bludgeoning yet a fourth with the numchucks.
Finally, he was getting some attention, he thought. He was just about to reach for the Glock and do some serious business when he happened to glance at the door. There stood Frank Corky, in the modified-Weaver stance. A teak slingshot held in one extended hand, with the elastomer sling pulled back by the other hand. Quisleau could see the wicked gleam of a ball bearing in the pouch of the sling.
"Corky, you American bastard," Herve began,
"Can it, Frenchie." Corky responded, "I'm taking you in."
"You will never take me in, you miserable pile of dog-poo!"
"What is this, O yeah? What is this supposed to mean?"
"It means you lose," Corky answered, and he released the sling. Two ounces of austenetic stainless steel were suddenly accelerated by the leather pouch, and a split second later, the ball bearing had struck Quisleau on the bridge of his gallic nose, rendering him immediately stupified.
The last thing he remembered before losing consciousness was Frank Corky putting the slingshot in his slingshot holster and looking at his watch.