“I hear that it’s easy to make a person disappear, in Ile du Soleil,” the rich American with his arm in a sling said.
Goodman knew that the man was Danny Packard, but that knowledge was of course off the record, so it was easier to think of him as “the rich American with his arm in a sling.” “That is a popular rumor,” he replied. “But it paints a rather unfortunate picture of our nation.”
“Sticks and stones,” the rich American said. “It doesn’t seem to have hurt tourism much. And yet, a lot of people do go missing every year. Foreigners, mainly, I’m told.”
Goodman nodded. “It is surprisingly easy to get lost in the salt deserts. People tend to forget that, in spite of the lack of trees, it really is a wilderness. But there’s certainly nothing sinister about a person unfamiliar with the territory getting lost.”
“Sounds like the country could use something like the Coast Guard, some kind of desert rescue service,” the rich American said. In his good hand, he held a small envelope, which he placed on the table.
“Ah, but who would pay for such a thing? Soleis are notoriously unwilling to submit to additional taxation, especially for services that would be rendered primarily to outsiders. That has been the obstacle to our local Good Samaritans for years.”
“I bet you’d be happy if Lexi Crane were to wander out in the desert and get lost forever,” the rich American said.
Goodman resisted the urge to sneer at the ham-fisted attempt at subtlety. He had known what Danny wanted the moment he’d walked through the door. He was even fairly certain that the information on Lexi’s whereabouts that Danny was attempting to pass to him matched what he already knew. But he went through with the charade, because letting Danny–pardon, the rich American–think that a plan that was already set in motion had been his idea all along could prove beneficial in the future. “Ah, that’s not a very nice thing to say,” Goodman replied with a small smile. “We welcome all American tourists to Ile du Soleil,” he added, pointedly picking up the envelope.
“Really?” the rich American said. “I’d think that some guests were less welcome than others. I’d want to know where they were, at the very least. To keep tabs on them.”
“Is that how they do things in America?”
“In America, we know how to take care of the people who cause us problems.”
“I’m sure it’s not by making overt threats,” Goodman said, trying to rein the rich American in before he said something completely incriminatory. It wouldn’t do to make a conspiracy charge possible, after all.
Thankfully, Danny finally picked up on the hint. “Well, of course not. I just meant…you know, we have, you know, ways.”
“Indeed. Well, we have our ways as well, of course. But this is nonetheless a civilized place, not the lawless, wild-west outpost that we’re sometimes portrayed as.”
“What are you, the minister of tourism or something?”
“Nothing of the sort,” Goodman said with a smile. “But I am proud of my country. And have no fear, any problems we have tend to sort themselves out.”
The rich American grinned a predatory smile, and reached down to the floor beside him, coming up with a briefcase. “Let’s see you sort this out,” he said, putting it on the table. “I know about a conspiracy to steal your national treasures.”