Because Amna suspects that the missing Usman has been traveling to Afghanistan to be engaged in smuggling, she arranges for a trip to the Afghan border. Zufticahr has disguised Ron Cooper as a Bengali driver. Ron is driving the car for Amna.
(While on their way to the Afghan border, Amna is terrified by a blue car behind them and orders Ron to lose the car as quickly as possible.)
Amna clutched her shawl tightly across her face and said, “Do you see that blue car right behind us?”
“Yes,” Ron said, as he made a sharp left turn onto the next street.
“Left side. Drive on the left side of the road.”
“Of course,” Ron replied, seeing the oncoming car bear down on him. That car started to swerve to Ron’s left, so Ron squeezed as close to the right side of the road as he could. As soon as the car flashed past on his left, Ron swerved back into the left lane as quickly as possible, causing the next oncoming car to brake sharply.
The blue car slowed to avoid the car that Ron had forced in front of it. Ron sped up but then had to drive around a barricade that blocked half of the road. A man standing next to the barricade shook his fist at Ron.
As Ron rounded the barricade and turned back to the left side of the road, he saw an immense pot hole ahead. With a squeal of brakes, the car lurched through the pot hole, bouncing dangerously.
“Hurry, he’s gaining,” cried Amna from the back seat.
Ahead was an gap between two buildings. Ron turned left into it, hoping it was an alley. The space between buildings was just wide enough for the car. The car bounced wildly on the rough dirt surface that twisted between buildings. Since several of the buildings were shops with merchandise in front, Ron assumed it was indeed a street and not an alley.
At the next intersection, Ron skidded through the eastbound traffic and turned right into the westbound traffic of a busy street.
Amna said, “A blue car came out of that lane and turned left. I think it was them.”
At the next major road, Ron turned left, onto a boulevard.
“Are they still behind us?” Ron asked.
“I think we’ve lost them.”
When Ron came to a rotary, he went all the way around and exited onto the same boulevard, going the other way. “Watch the oncoming lane. Tell me if you see them.”
They traveled over a kilometer without seeing the blue car. “I am sure we lost them. Now where to?” asked Ron.
“I don’t know. I’m lost.”
“How can you be lost? You’ve lived here all your life.”
“The driver almost always knows where he is going. If he doesn’t, Papa tells him where to go. I’ve never had to find my way around.”
“Do you think Zuftikhar has a map in the car?”
“I’ve never seen him use a map, but Papa may keep some maps in the glove box.”
Ron found a place to pull over to the side of the road. Together they searched the car and eventually found two sets of maps. One set had notes on it.
“This is Papa’s writing, and here is Usman’s hand.”
“But why this other set of maps. They’re covered with symbols and only two or three handwritten words.”
“These must be maps Zuftikhar uses.”
“Is Zuftikhar illiterate?”
“He can read road signs and messages in Urdu if we keep them simple enough.”
“Do you recognize any landmarks on the map?”
“Of course, but I don’t see any of them around here.”
“What was that the boulevard we were on?”
Amna pointed to the map. “This one, I think, but I’m not sure where we were. We could have turned around at any of these rotaries. There are five of them. I was too busy watching for Mohammed’s car.”
“You mean you know who was following us?”
“Of course,” Amna said. That blue car belonged to Mohammed Ali.”
“The man your father wants you to marry?”
“Of course. He’s such a stuffed shirt. He’s always doing this.”
“He must have recognized Papa’s car. His driver made a U-turn and came after us. That’s when I told you to lose him, but I think he caught a glimpse of me alone in the back seat.”
“So, what’s the big deal.”
“If we hadn’t lost him, he would have followed us until you stopped for some reason. He then would have expressed indignation that I was unescorted in public and would have insisted that he personally escort me on the rest of my errands and back home. Last time he compelled me to ride with him in his car and ordered Zuftikhar home with a note to my parents saying I was safe with him.”
“I guess that must be his idea of gallantry.”
“He is most certainly not gallant, Mr. Cooper. He compels me to be in his company. To his credit, he escorts me where I want to go shopping, but then he insists on taking me to a fancy restaurant. Last time after dinner, he had the driver drive well out in the country where we parked. He then told his driver to take a walk.”
“That must have left you alone with him in the car.”
“Of course, so he could hug and kiss me.”
“I didn’t think that kind of courtship was encouraged in your culture.”
“Of course not, but he has been watching too much American television. He said this is way American women show their appreciation for a nice meal.”
“So, what did you do?” Ron asked as he turned the wheel to bring the car back onto the left side of the road.
“He would not take no for an answer, so I hit him in the face.”
“You hit him? A slap is usually sufficient.”
“Well, I was mad, so I hit him. Stay to the left. He wasn’t too happy about the black eye, either.”
“But you asked me to kiss you, Amna.”
Amna screamed, “Mr. Cooper, look out.”
A large truck had pulled into Ron’s lane to pass a donkey cart. Simultaneously, a car behind the truck was on the shoulder passing the truck. There was no place to go.
(To be continued)
Brace yourself for a crash. The next installment will be posted in about three weeks.