THE NIGHT BUTTERFLIES

Excerpt from The Night Butterflies

He, too, had a drink in front of him on the weathered table. A bottle of the local Bintang beer. Condensation ran down the outside as freely as the sweat along the fat man’s temples.

They were sitting in the little open bar, looking out over one of the black sand beaches that fringed the north side of Bali. It was the last place Renshaw had expected a man like Manfrotti to be found—too far from five-star resorts in the south of the island, or the nightclubs and bars near the airport at Kuta. Too far from the air conditioning and the kupu kupu malam—the so-called ‘night butterflies’—that were his noted predilection.

The diving up here was good, but lieutenants like Manfrotti did not dive. If there was diving to be done, they relayed the order for others to do it. Men like Renshaw.

Until a year ago.

Should have known I couldn’t run forever.

Manfrotti put down his drink with an exaggerated smack of his fleshy lips. "Ah, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy," he said, shaking his head as he rolled the name around his mouth, like he was trying out some new dish at one of the New Jersey restaurants where he ate frequently but never paid. "What’re we gonna do with you, huh?"

"I don't suppose you could forget you ever saw me?" Renshaw suggested, without any serious expectation. The question was a formality, as was Manfrotti’s response.

"Aw, you know I can’t do that . . .Tommy," he said. He shook his head again, palms lifted up and outward in crocodile regret. The action caused the perspiration to drip from the fat man’s nose, landing on the table like blood spatter. "Sends the wrong message, know what I mean?" He let out a rich chuckle. "'Course you do. When it came to sending messages, you were the best, am I right?"

Renshaw watched the droplets soak into the rough surface, staining it dark. He sat with customary stillness, his hands resting lightly on the table top, long fingers tanned now where once they’d been New York City pale, nail beds very pink against the skin.

He had finally lost the slight callus that had built up around the last joint of his right forefinger, scrubbed clean by the salt surf and lost amid the general roughening that came from more honest endeavours.

"I left all that behind me," he said softly, and his gaze flicked to the girl with the dark silk hair and the dark silk eyes, who watched them covertly from across the bar. Pia was wiping glasses, getting ready for the first of the evening rush—maybe half a dozen regulars, and perhaps a few families staying in the simpler accommodation offered by this less brash side of the island.