We have heard both Amna and Cedric testify about their mutual love, but the immediate problem is the disappearance of Amna’s brother, Usman. Amna thinks Usman has been smuggling and that his disappearance relates to the smuggling. Amna has proposed a trip to Afghanistan to investigate smuggling.
(To get to the source of the smuggling, Amna declares that she and Ron must go to Afghanistan.)
Saturday morning after breakfast, Amna called out in a loud voice, “Zuftikhar, get the car ready. I want to show Mr. Cooper the Lahore Museum.”
Once they were underway, Ron said, “Amna, this is ridiculous. We can’t just drive into Afghanistan. I don’t have a visa. Even if I did, I look too different from the rest of you. Someone will tell the kidnappers where I’ve been.”
“Hush. We are on our way to the museum in case we are being followed. Act like you are a tourist.” In Urdu, she asked Zuftikhar if they were being followed.”
“No, no followed,” said Zuftikhar in his limited English.
Zuftikhar dropped the pair off by the front door of the museum. Then with a salute, he drove off to park the car. Amna spent a moment explaining to Ron about the great cannon that stands outside the museum, “Kipling made it even more famous by using that cannon in his story, Kim. Inside we will see some of Pakistan’s cultural treasures.” Ron paid for two tickets, and they went into the museum.
Amna lead Ron to a display from which they could watch the door. They both pretended to have a deep interest in the antiquities. Finally, Amna whispered, “No one seems to have followed us, or if they have, I have not noticed them.” In a normal voice she added, “Come, the next room has an interesting display of armor and weapons.”
They threaded their way toward the back of the museum looking at each exhibit, but never spending very much time in the process.
They turned a corner, and there stood Zuftikhar near a rear door. In his hand was a small duffel bag.
“Go with Zuftikhar,” Amna commanded.
Zuftikhar led Ron into the men’s room where he started unpacking clothes from the duffel bag. “Clothes off,” he said.
As Ron undressed, Zuftikhar carefully folded Ron’s clothes and put them in the empty duffel bag. Ron transferred some money from his wallet into the money belt in which he carried his passport.
By then Zuftikhar had opened a bottle of dye. He began dabbing it on Ron’s white skin. Soon Ron’s skin matched the color of the woodwork. Zuftikhar dressed Ron in a pair of baggy pants and a large shirt of the same cotton cloth. The shirt hung down to Ron’s knees like an old-fashion night shirt. Ron recognized it as the traditional Pakistani dress.
Ron looked in the mirror and shook his head, “It won’t work. My blond hair is too obvious.”
Zuftikhar shrugged his shoulders and said, “No understand.”
Ron pointed to his hair. Zuftikhar smiled and picked up a long strip of cloth. This he wound around Ron’s head to make a turban.
Zuftikhar inspected his work and said, “Me Bengali. You Bengali.” He then tied a dirty bandage around Ron’s left arm and showed Ron how to draw the small knife hidden in the bandage.
It comforted Ron to have a weapon, but he wondered just how effectively he could defend himself and Amna with that one little knife.
Ron’s sandals flopped against the floor as he let Zuftikhar lead him back to where Amna stood. Then Zuftikhar lead both of them out the back door to where the car was parked in the alley.
Zuftikhar handed Ron the keys and said, “Good luck.”
“You’re my new driver. Hold the door for me,” said Amna.
By the time Amna was in the back seat of the car, Zuftikhar had disappeared.
Amna commanded, “Start driving. I will direct you where to go. Turn left onto the street at the end of the alley.”
“Where did Zuftikhar go.”
“He is to hide the bag of garments in a dustbin and then sit with the rest of the drivers who are waiting for people in the museum.”
“Good planning,” said Ron, as he looked both ways and turned onto the street.
“Left side,” yelled Amna.
Ron swerved back into the left lane. “You know I’ve never driven on the left side of the road before.”
“Did not my father tell you the rules of the road here in Lahore?”
“As a joke, he told me the only rule of the road is that there are no rules.”
“Yes, that is the way we drive here, but stay to the left as much as possible.”
“Don’t I need a driver’s license?”
“Yes, but no one ever checks. Most of the drivers have flunked the test anyway. Now, when you come to the rotary ahead, go around to the third street.” As an afterthought she added, “Go around the rotary clockwise, to the right.”
“On the left,” Ron repeated, as he edged further toward the left edge of the road to avoid a car coming toward him on a collision course.
At the last moment, the oncoming car swerved back to Ron’s right. Amna commented, “I think you’re getting the proper hang of driving. I knew you could do it.”
“Amna, I don’t dare speak a word where anyone else will hear me. I doubt that many Bengali drivers are fluent in English, and besides, my accent would give me away.”
“We will pretend you are deaf and cannot talk.”
“Deaf and dumb?”
“Dumb? Yes, that’s right. Dumb can mean silent, as well as meaning stupid.”
“Very well, you will have to give me some kind of hand signals. If you can, say in English how stupid I am not to understand what you want me to do, and if necessary, cuff me.”
“Mr. Cooper, I cannot cuff you. It would break my heart to strike a man who I love.”
“Someone may kill me if you don’t. Treat me just like you would a deaf and dumb native driver. If you must cuff such a driver to catch his attention, then cuff me.”
Amna suddenly gasped and veiled her face with her shawl. “See that blue car behind us? Lose him as quickly as you can.”
To be continued
Who is tailing Amna and Ron? The next installment will be posted in about 3 weeks.