Front cover of book

Retirement Policy


Chapter 1
The Present
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Garth Anderson sat in the large walk-in closet where his laptop PC rested on a makeshift desk, the lower shelf. He had just finished writing an analysis of the latest political turmoil in Asia, and Vietnam in particular, and would email it tomorrow from his downtown office—he had no phone or wireless network in his small apartment. It was just a living room with a small kitchen to one side, a bedroom and bathroom. Its only redeeming features, aside from the very reasonable rent, were a huge closet and being on the ground floor. After so many years living in tropical and semi-tropical Southeast Asia, he was accustomed to the temperature and humidity and didn’t mind the unscreened windows or lack of air conditioning. The mosquitoes didn’t bother him, and besides, sleeping under mosquito netting made the air too still and stifling, even with the slowly rotating ceiling fan, which barely kept the air moving. But tonight he was scared. Someone was coming to kill him.

The repressive heat and humidity that most westerners hated and never adjusted to, no longer bothered him—he had physically and mentally adjusted to them, just like a native. He took some satisfaction in the fact that he no longer sweated much, having spent so much time in Asia that he was fully acclimated. Most westerners, after ten minutes in the tropical environment, looked like they just came out of the shower. To them it typically felt like they had run a race in 100-degree temperature and 100 percent humidity. But not to Garth—he looked fresh even after a full day outside. He lived a little on the primitive side, "going native," he liked to say, except for the extraordinary communications capability he had at his office, all state of the art telecommunications for transmitting his articles. He did have a cell phone that included international capability, but he couldn’t use it for transmitting long articles. And of course, he had his office phone. For email, his cell phone could easily transmit and receive brief text and video, and his PC had wireless remote satellite capability. He loved his technical toys, and was very proficient with them.

"Can’t go too native, can I?" he’d say repeatedly to anyone who would listen and was always willing to demonstrate a new piece of equipment. He took joy not only in his writing and astute analyses of Asian political affairs, but also with all the latest technical communications gear he could acquire. If not for his job with The New York Times, he readily agreed he’d be a computer nerd.

The house was dark, the other residents of his apartment building fast asleep. It was 11:45 p.m., and the surrounding area was still, the neighborhood at rest, silent except for the crickets and the hooting and cawing of local night creatures: tropical owls, the occasional pet howler monkey and various cackling birds. Anyone gazing out the window could see bats framed by the moon as they soared through the night sky, feeding on an endless supply of airborne insects. At this time of night no one walked about. The streets were deserted. Occasionally a skinny dog, its ribs looking like they were about to protrude through its skin, would slink by in a constant, almost fruitless search for food. If one listened carefully, the creatures of the night could be heard scurrying about. Earlier, Garth had glimpsed a rice rat the size of a cat rummaging through a garbage heap.

Garth’s bedroom was dark. Sleep had been difficult coming, and under the circumstances, he decided it was best to wait and see what developed.

The tip he had received earlier this morning said he was marked for immediate assassination.

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