Ron Cooper, an American consulting engineer, is on assignment in Lahore Pakistan. While he appears to be inspecting the machinery, his real mission is to help find Usman, the missing son of the factory owner.
Amna, Usman’s sister suspects that Usman is involved in smuggling. Thus she proposed a trip to Afghanistan. Ron is disguised as Amna’s Bengali chauffeur. The major problem is that Ron has never before driven on the left side of the road.
They stop for lunch at a tourist house. Ron stays with the servants, and since he can speak neither Urdo or Bengali, he pretends to be deaf and dumb.
Suddenly a woman appears demanding where Usman is. She is expecting him.
Part X of Life on the Left Side of the Fast Lane
by Reynold Conger
Copyright by Reynold Conger 2010. All rights reserved.
(On their way to Afghanistan to search for Usman, Amna and Ron have just encountered a woman who is expecting Usman to meet her.)
Amna turned on the woman. “Did you say you are expecting Usman to meet you here?”
The woman answered, “Yes, we meet here every Saturday. This is his father’s car, is it not?”
“I thought as much. He usually drives his own car, but last month his car was in the shop one week, so he drove this car. I did not expect you to come with him, but you are most welcome. You must be his little sister. I recognize you from pictures he has shown me.”
“Yes, I am Amna.”
“Well, I am pleased to meet you, but where is Usman? I can’t wait to see him.” The woman was hugging herself in joyful anticipation.
“I’m sorry to tell you that. . . .” Amna seemed about to tell the strange woman about Usman’s kidnapping. Ron took a step backward out of the strange woman’s line of vision and shook his head. Amna stopped talking.
The woman insisted, “He is where?”
“He is–is on holiday.”
“Impossible. He promised. He promised. He has to be here today.”
Amna pointed to a nearby building that was boarded up. “Let us step over there on the shade. Will we have some privacy if we talk on that porch?”
“As far as I know, we will be the only ones there.”
Amna had the presence of mind to grab Ron’s arm and point to the porch with her other hand. “This driver is so foolish, I must be careful that he does not wander off and get lost.”
Ron walked over to the porch and squatted down in a corner, native style.
There seemed to be nowhere for a lady to sit, so the two women stood in the shade of the veranda. Amna spoke in a low voice, “As you have guessed, I am Amna Kahn. May I ask who you are?”
“I am Shauna Sultan. I did not expect you to come, but you’re welcome to attend the wedding.”
“Usman promised to marry me today. That is why I know that he cannot be in America on holiday. Now where is he?”
“But how could my brother be getting married? No one in the family knows anything about this.”
“Of course not; we are eloping.”
Amna appeared shocked. After a long silence, she asked, “Are you and Usman in love?”
“Oh, yes, yes, yes. We met at a computer seminar, and since then, we meet here almost every Saturday. Your brother is so wonderful. He always brings me flowers and chocolate. A couple of times he has even been able to acquire pantyhose for me. I prefer wearing pantyhose when I dress up.”
Ron pantomimed a smoking motion. Apparently Amna noticed, because she asked, “What about cigarettes? Does he also bring you cigarettes?”
“For what reason should he do that? Neither of us smoke.”
Amna shrugged, “What really has me curious is why you and Usman would want to elope.”
“We’re in love.”
“Then why doesn’t Usman have Papa talk to your father and arrange a traditional marriage?”
“Neither of our fathers would agree. They haven’t talked for years. Not since your father cheated in a cricket game.”
Amna’s voice rose in anger. “My father never cheated at cricket. Your father must be Omar Sultan. Papa says he’s the one who cheated.”
“See why we will never get our fathers to agree to a traditional marriage? We were hoping that both families will accept our marriage after the fact.”
Amna shook her head, “I don’t know. My father is still pretty angry about how your father cheated in that cricket match, even though it was years ago, and it sounds like your father thinks it was my father who was cheating.”
Shauna patted her slender stomach and said, “After I produce a grandson, the first grandson in either family, they will have to accept our marriage.”
“You aren’t pregnant, are you?”
“No, but your brother is so sexy that I should become pregnant very soon. Now, enough of this prattle. Where is Usman? How can we have a wedding if Usman is not here?”
There was a long silence during which Amna looked at Ron and shrugged her shoulders. Ron looked around carefully to see if any one was watching them. Then he looked at Amna and nodded his head.
“The family is telling everyone that Usman is on holiday in America,” Amna said in whisper, while looking Shauna in the eye. “The reason is that we do not want it known that Usman has been kidnapped.”
“kidnapped? When? How?”
“Hush. Keep your voice down. All we know is that Usman left the house in his own car last Saturday morning and never returned. It appears he has been kidnapped, but so far we have not received any ransom notes.”
“He was here with me last Saturday. That is when we agreed to elope today.”
“Then you are the last person to have seen him. You must help us.”
Ron cautiously pointed to himself and moved his lips. Amna nodded her head ever so slightly. She then continued, “I really should not have even told you that Usman is missing. How do I know I can trust you?”
“Of course you can trust me. I’m Usman’s fiancee,” Shauna said indignantly.
“So you say, but I have no way of knowing who you really are. Usman has never even mentioned you to me, and even if he had, I have never met Shauna Sultan. Is there any way you can verify your identity?”
“Perhaps you will recognize this.” She pulled on a gold chain around her neck.
Ron crouched ready to spring and put his hand on the handle of the knife concealed under the bandage.
As Shauna pulled on the chain, an antique locket emerged from the top of her dress.
(to be continued)
What has surprised Amna?
The next installment will be posted in 3 or 4 weeks.