part I, Life on the Left Side of the Fast Lane


Life on the Left Side of the Fast Lane

by Reynold J. Conger (copyright 2010)

Part I

A brain trained to drive on the right side of the road does not take kindly to traveling on the left side of the road in the British fashion. Thus as the car wove its way through the morning traffic in Lahore, Pakistan, Ron Cooper intentionally avoided watching the cars that, from his point of view, were oncoming at high speed on the wrong side of the road. The middle aged Pakistani businessman seated next to him frowned and said, “This is a most unfortunate time for you to be making your visit to our factory, Mr. Cooper.”

The American consultant looked his client in the eye and said, “I was told you have some problems, Mr. Kahn.”

From the corner of his eye, Ron saw a car careening toward them. Subconsciously, he braced himself for the impact, but the car sped by on the right.

“We always have problems of some kind, but presently we have no technical problems, nothing of the type you can help us with.”

Ronald Cooper spent a moment pondering how best to direct the conversation to the real nature of his visit. “Let me say that I would have been very pleasantly surprised if your son had picked me up at the airport as usual.”

Kubla Kahn reacted with alarm, “Then you do know about Usman.”

Ron nodded.

“But how?”

“I presume it is safe to talk openly in front of Zuftikhar,” Ron said, referring to the driver.

“Of course. He knows everything, and he is loyal. He has driven me for years.”

“I was sent here to help you find Usman. My routine service visit to your factory is only a cover.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Did I ever tell you that my uncle provided much of the capital I needed to organize my consulting venture?”

“Yes, you are fortunate to have an uncle so generous.”

“It was Uncle Sam who funded me.”

“Your Uncle Samuel?”

Ron laughed, then said, “Uncle Sam is a metaphor for the U. S. government. Cooper Technologies Inc. does consulting work for a number of industries. It makes a good cover, but our primary activity is intelligence work.”

Kubla Kahn’s eyes opened wide, “But you did such good work setting up the equipment in my factory.”

“Yes, my associates and I are all professionals in technical fields. Thus, we can provide consulting services as a viable business and use that business as our cover. We travel around the world doing engineering jobs without arousing suspicion. Our primary client for intelligence work is the U. S. government, but between government assignments, we are free to do private work. It keeps our contacts fresh. I am here to help find Usman.”

“That is wonderful, and probably from time to time you stumble onto something of interest to your government.”

“Occasionally, but this time it looks like a simple kidnapping. The detective agency you hired contacted me on a referral basis. They have produced no leads, and they have reason to believe it is because all of their men are too well-known locally. I am a foreigner here on business that has nothing to do with Usman’s disappearance. Now, tell me what happened.”

Ron flinched again as a car bore down on them. This time it swerved around them on the left. Zuftikhar shook his fist and, said something in Bengali that Ron assumed was an oath.

Kubla Kahn continued, “You must have been sent background information. If you are as good at intelligence work as you are with machines, I have reason to feel relieved at once that you are here.”

Ron did not consider himself particularly good at intelligence work, but he was observant, discreet and had been lucky, so he ignored the compliment and said, “I’d like to hear the story in your own words.”

There was little for Kubla Kahn to say except that Saturday morning his son had left the house driving his own car and had not returned. The car had been found abandoned, but there were no clues. Only the family, the police and the detective agency had been informed of Usman’s disappearance.

At the end of the tale, Ron asked, “If I ask about Usman, what will I be told?”

“He is away on business in America and also taking some holiday.”

“Good. Are you being watched? Are your phones tapped?”

“We have been told to assume the worst. We talk about this only in secure places like the car with a trusted driver. Otherwise, we talk about mangoes to signal each other that we need to talk alone.”

“I presume mangoes are not in season.”

“Not for another two months.”

“What a pity.” Ron had really enjoyed eating mangoes on previous trips. “Tell the family to use the same code if they feel the need to discuss this with me, but here we are at the hotel. I will spend the next few days going through my normal routine with the machinery and the operators. Oh, since Usman is on holiday, perhaps you can arrange to let me use his office.”

“It will be arranged,” said Kubla Kahn stiffly, and then a flicker of a smile suggested that he understood what Ron was suggesting. “You will dine with the family tonight? My wife is expecting you.”

“Yes, of course. It will be my pleasure.”

“Good. I know you will be tired from your trip. Rest this morning. Zufticahr will pick you up at one so that you can spend the afternoon at the factory. Amna was most insistent that you join us tonight. Excitable girl that she is, she thinks she has something important to discuss with you. Zuftikhar will pick you up about one o’clock. Do not leave the hotel in the company of anyone other than Zuftikhar. I am sure your Uncle Samuel would be most upset if you also were to disappear.”

(to be continued)

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About Reynold Conger

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist, engineer and teacher. Now writing fiction. His books are CHASED ACROSS AUSTRALIA, MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR and REDUCING MEDICAL COSTS (AT THE COST OF HEALTH). He has also started a series of novelas called THE RICHARD TRACY SERIES. Residence: New Mexico, USA Hobbies: gardening, animals and running. website www.ReynoldConger.com
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5 Responses to part I, Life on the Left Side of the Fast Lane

  1. Peter Lee says:

    Reynold–

    This looks like fun. Please let me know when installments are available.

    Peter

  2. Chris C. says:

    Reynold,
    Intriguing build up. Awaiting next instalment, to check if my suspiscions are correct.
    Chris

  3. Reynold,

    This is exciting and I look forward to the next installment!

    Jess
    DeskofJess.com

  4. Lyn Cote says:

    Reynold,
    Finally took the time to drop by. Very interesting beginning to a story. The only thing that threw me was the name Kubla Kahn, a bit too literary for me.

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