SEVERAL MONTHS LATER
Savannah von Hopf’s life spiraled even further out of control when she opened her cell phone and discovered that the batteries were completely dead.
She stared at the phone in disbelief, unwilling at first to accept any explanation other than that she’d suddenly and horrifically been plunged into an alternate reality. She’d charged her phone last night in her hotel room—same as she charged her phone every single night of her life. She wouldn’t have forgotten something as important as that, and she hadn’t. She’d plugged it into the outlet in the bathroom and . . .
And then turned out the light to go to sleep. Without the light switch in the on position, the outlet hadn’t worked and the phone hadn’t charged.
She wasn’t in an alternate reality. She was merely an idiot.
So now here she was, sans phone, in a rental car with a flat tire, in an unfamiliar part of San Diego.
Okay. Cross using her cell phone to call the car rental company for roadside assistance off the list that had the heading “What To Do Now.” Savannah kept the motor on and the air conditioner running while she tried to think. What were her other options?
Knock on doors and ask to use a phone?
She peered out the windows of her car. The houses in this neighborhood was extremely small, and many of them had a grayness to them—as if the people living inside had had to choose to spend their money on something more vital, like repairing the roof, rather than on a fresh coat of paint.
The yards were all neatly kept, but still, this entire part of town had a desperate feel to it, a hopelessness.
The thought of having to get out of her car made Savannah a little uneasy—let alone the idea of getting out of her car and knocking on some stranger’s door.
And wasn’t that just great? If she were too chicken to get out of her car in some middle-class neighborhood in San Diego, how on earth was she going to get off the plane in Jakarta?
Of course, that was why she was here in the first place. Because she didn’t want to get off that plane in Jakarta—at least not without a hand to hold.
Specifically, Kenny Karmody’s hand.
She’d gotten what she’d come into this neighborhood for before the thumping front tire had forced her to pull to the side of the road.
She’d driven past Kenny’s house and made certain there was no circumstantial evidence in his yard that would signal he was married with kids. No swing set, no big wheels, no Barbie hanging by her hair from a tree. No minivan parked in the drive.
Adele had told Savannah that, to the best of her knowledge, Ken was still single. But she’d had experience back in college with “the best of Adele’s knowledge,” and she’d wanted to see where Kenny was living before she called him.
And asked him to travel halfway around the globe with her, as a favor.
God, how was she going to ask a favor like that? Of a man she hadn’t seen in over six years? A man with whom she’d had only one brief conversation, who probably wouldn’t even remember her?
Savannah could see Ken’s house in her rearview mirror—it was one of the better kept ones on the street. Miniature, sure, but not quite as drab.
She wasn’t going to have the opportunity to ask the man anything if she didn’t get back to the hotel and call him.
And say what?
Adele had been adamant that Savannah not mention her when she spoke to Kenny. According to Adele, he still wasn’t over their breakup.
“Don’t even tell him you met him while you were at Yale,” she’d said. “He hates Yale—hates all Ivy League schools and everyone who went to one.”
So what was Savannah supposed to do? Lie?
“Tell him you met him at that technical college he went to in San Diego,” Adele had suggested.
No, the last thing she was going to do was lie. She was going to call him and say she got his name from a friend of a friend—which was a variation of the truth since Marla had stayed friendly with Adele after college, and Savannah still met Marla for lunch in the city every few months.
She was going to tell Ken that she needed some advice, and would he meet her for dinner at the Hotel Del Coronado? Her treat. Her plan was to get him to show with the promise of a gourmet meal, and then, once face to face, tell him about Alex and the money and the trip to Jakarta. And—somehow—get up the nerve to ask him to come along.
Without making it sound as if she were propositioning him.
Although, truth be told, the idea of spending a day or two in the exotic port of Jakarta with a man she’d had the hots for since she’d first laid eyes on him, left her considering the possibilities.
Considering? Try fantasizing.
Savannah turned off her rental car’s motor, and stepped out into the five-billion-degree heat. Didn’t it figure? San Diego had perfect weather nine hundred and ninety-nine days out of every thousand.
Today, however, there was a heat wave that could put her mother’s beloved Atlanta to shame.
Her hair wilted instantly as she bent to look at her front right tire.
If Savannah had been even just a little less practical, she might have sat down and cried. Instead, she just sat down. Right there on the curb. Crying wouldn’t get her out of there.
Driving on that tire wouldn’t get her out of there, either.
And walking to that service station she’d passed two or three miles back also wasn’t going to do the trick. Her high-heeled pumps matched her beige linen skirt and jacket with such perfection, her mother would have swooned with pride. However, her shoes didn’t do such a terrific job matching her feet. After a half a mile, she would be in such excruciating pain, she’d have to crawl the rest of the way on her hands and knees.
So that left the final option. Changing the tire.
Savannah opened the trunk and there it was, under the rug. The spare tire. And the metal thingy that would prop the car up so the bad tire could be removed and the new one attached.
She’d driven past someone who was using one of those things once. A jack. That’s what it was called.
How hard could it be?
“Please.” Joaquin’s mother knew only a few words of English, but the anguish in her eyes said it all. Save my son.
Molly Anderson’s first-aid training made her the closest thing to a doctor on this remote mountain in this remote corner of Parwati Island in this remote part of Indonesia. But she wasn’t a doctor, and she had no clue as to what was causing the little boy to struggle so just to breathe.
She couldn’t radio the hospital for advice. The camp’s radio had been stolen three weeks ago for the third time in a row. Short of guarding it 24/7, Father Bob had decided not to replace it.
“Please,” the little boy’s mother whispered again.
The trip down the mountain to the port of Parwati—the island’s sole metropolis, population a whopping 3,500—would take five days via treacherous mule trail.
As the parrot flew, it was only a few hundred miles.
A relatively short trip via airplane.
“Gather the things you need,” Molly said in the local dialect. “You may be at the hospital for some time. I’m going to go find Jones. You know Mr. Jones, right? Meet me up at his airstrip.”
There was only one airplane in the neighborhood, and it belonged to an American expatriate who went by the name Jones. Just Jones. And Molly was willing to bet that that wasn’t the name he’d been given at birth.
Jones was a loner. A quiet man who kept to himself.
He’d shown up about six months ago, looked her up and down in a manner Molly was sure was meant to be insulting, then hired twelve men from the village to help him clear the old WWII-era airstrip that had been cut into the valley a short distance up river.
He’d worked the men hard—and paid them fairly, too, Molly had noted.
The next time she’d seen him, he’d been buzzing overhead in his battered red Cessna.
She suspected he was a smuggler. She knew he was a black marketeer. She’d heard he’d be willing to carry anything in that dilapidated old plane of his—even a gravely ill child—if the price was right.
And today the price would be right, because Jones owed Molly a big favor.
She slowed her pace as she approached his camp, uncertain as to her reception. Although she’d never been up here, the man was a hot topic of conversation in the village among both the locals and the missionaries. Depending on who was asked, he was a dangerous thief, a killer, a lost soul, a good employer, a card shark.
He’d appropriated one of the deserted sagging Quonset huts as his living quarters. More often than not, his plane—which was held together by chewing gum, rubber bands, and prayer—lay in pieces on the runway.
Today, thank goodness, it looked ready to fly.
He was out on the field, shirt off, machete in hand, working hard to keep the jungle from reswallowing the airstrip. Molly watched him work, aware that with a runway this size he had to spend literally hours each day cutting back the brush.
She knew he’d seen her. A man like that had eyes in the back of his head. Still, he kept doggedly working, the muscles in his back and arm straining with each wide swing of his razor sharp knife.
As she got closer, she could see the latticework of faded scars on his back, scars that meant he’d been lashed, beaten within an inch of his life. Even knowing they were there, even faded as they were, she was still taken aback by the sight. She knew they weren’t his only scars. He had others on the lower half of his body as well.
“Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones.” It wasn’t until she said it again, until she was within ten yards of him that he stopped working and turned, wiping sweat from his brow with his forearm.
The men in the village often worked without their shirts, but they always made a point to cover themselves respectfully when she came around. Jones just looked at her, his dark hair slick with sweat, his usual four-day growth of beard darkening his chin, his tanned muscles gleaming.
Lord, he was . . . masculine. And she was staring, which was pretty dumb since she’d seen him without a shirt quite a few times before. In her bed, even. With some tropical form of the flu that had knocked him off his feet—quite literally.
She’d held him and wiped his face with a cool cloth after he’d been violently sick. During the three days that the bug had gripped him the hardest, she’d wiped him clean in some other places, too.
She’d dozed beside him, on a cot, for three nights until his fever broke. She’d stayed on that uncomfortable cot for another night, as he slept a full twenty-four hours, regaining his strength.
And then he’d left. Without a word, without a note of thanks, without giving her a chance to ask him about those scars. She’d come back to her tent, and he was gone.
She’d sent Manuel up to Jones’s camp, to make sure he was all right, but both Jones and his Cessna were gone.
Excerpted from Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann. Copyright © 2002 by Suzanne Brockmann. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.