Beach opened his tablet and located the link he’d used before to reach The Searcher. A new risk presented itself: What if they were monitoring his communications? What if that was how they knew things were amiss with Moxy? He wrote—
—and hit enter. The words sat incriminatingly on the screen. He waited, wondered: What if The Searcher was busy? What if he was off visiting his mother? Or was at his kid’s elementary school concert? What if today was the day he’d blocked off to fuck with some other helpless sap, another Beach, who’d experienced a public tragedy and was now engaged in a fruitless back and forth with an enigmatic fucker who called himself The Searcher?
Still, Beach waited, staring at the black letters on the gray background, expecting them to fade, replaced by new letters, a response. He parted the front curtains to see if federal agents had pulled up, were moving into position. A woman pushed a baby stroller down the street.
When he glanced down, a single word had replaced his:
Doesn’t give me comfort
Dont worry Beach
Moxy—suspended. I heard
We both know why
Ive got a fall guy
Hows the rash
They won’t come for me?
We r a team
We r Searching for your missing son
Trust the plan
The rash Beach. Hows the rash?
He was going in circles, orbiting an invisible star. He wrote:
We’re looking for Frank.
To learn what happened
Ive made that my mission to
Beach waited for more. Had The Searcher hit enter too soon? He might have left off the second o—too. It could have been a complete sentence. The Searcher was a careless speller.
Beach peered through the window again. This was his life now, holed up, awaiting someone with authority, a badge, to pull up and tell him what to do. He was supposed to have time—twenty-one years and three months, according to the last estimate from his Annual Statement of Life Expectancy—before his date of insolvency, when his future liabilities were expected to exceed his assets, and the ambulance came to collect him. He’d accelerated his date, it seemed, with recklessness, the way that weak people with vices—those who smoked, drank, and gambled—accelerated theirs. Beach had lived a cautious life until recently.
He scratched his rash and absorbed the flood of pleasure until pleasure gave way to pain. That was how the rash was. That was how Beach was. He had no job until further notice. There was an investigation, maybe. He had no next steps except to wait, trust The Searcher, a random guy on the internet, FBI, a mobster, a corporation, a foreign entity, an extraterrestrial, a black hole in some distant galaxy. He wrote:
I’ve made that my mission to what?