Sorry folks. I posted this segment before I left for my high school reunion and thought it would be visible for everyone. Somehow, it disappeared.
Disguised as a Bengali driver, Ron is driving the car while he and Amna go to Afghanistan in search of Usman. They have stopped at a tourist house for some food and Amna sees a familiar car and says they need to hide. They enter an abandoned building and crash through the floor.
(At the appearance of Mohammed Ali’s car, Ron and Amna try to hide in an abandoned building and fall into a pit.)
“Oh no,” Amna wailed. “This is an old wash house. It was built over a cistern and we are now trapped in that cistern. When Mohammed sees our car he will stop and find us here.”
“Hush, Amna. When we are hauled out of this cistern, remember that I am both deaf and dumb. If Shauna does not expose who I am, you simply go with him like a good fiancee, and I will follow at a safe distance.”
“That will not find Usman.”
“That will keep you out of big trouble. I don’t want it to be found that you have traveled this far afield escorted only by a suspect American who the servants have seen kissing you in the garden. You must be submissive the way a woman is expected to act toward her future husband.”
“But I cannot. . . All right. I will even do my best to smile at him. Now while we have the opportunity, give me one last kiss so that I can remember what it is like to kiss a man who I love.” Her soft lips pressed against his.
After the kiss ended, Amna whispered, “Thank you. Do you enjoy kissing me?”
“Yes, even though the kisses make me homesick. They remind me of my wife, and I would much rather have her in my arms.”
“As much as I would rather be marrying you than Mohammed, it would not be fair of me to steal you from your wife. After all, you love her more than you love me.”
“If your father can find any alternative, I really believe he will not force you to marry Mohammed.”
“But there is no alternative. The other night, Papa explained it all to me just before he made the formal announcement.” Amna was silent for a moment before saying, “I can only believe that Cedric’s kisses would have been just as wonderful as yours, if we had ever had the opportunity to kiss. I will try to think of that when Mohammed kisses me and pretend it is you or Cedric kissing me.”
“Hush, Amna. They must not hear us talking when they come.”
It seemed to be an unusually long time before Ron heard voices approaching, but eventually Shauna appeared with a rope and several strong men.
After the men who had rescued Amna and Ron and were out of hearing range, Shauna said, “I’m sorry to leave you in that cistern so long, but it seemed best. You obviously did not want the occupant of that car to know you were here.”
“That car belongs to my intended.”
Shauna was shocked, “Mohammed Ali, the cigarette smuggler? No wonder Usman is so upset about your impending marriage.”
“Thank you for not telling him I’m here.”
“I don’t think he even suspected you are here. He was asking if there has been any recent activity by the authorities. He left in the direction of the border.”
“If he had found me, he would have insisted I ride in his car, and he would have found the time and opportunity to make out with me.” Amna made a face, and Shauna patted her on the arm.
“By the way,” Shauna said, “I am reminded by this that Mohammed Ali stopped at the tourist house last Saturday for a cup of tea while Usman and I were just finishing our meal. Usman insisted we have coffee after the meal in the European fashion. He dawdled over coffee, and I thought he was simply using it as an excuse to spend more time with me. Silly me. As soon as Mohammed Ali left, Usman said a hurried goodbye to me, left some money on the table, and rushed out the door.”
“Could he have been following Mohammed Ali?”
“I did not think so at the time, but now that I think about it, he must have wanted to follow the smuggler. Come, let us make arrangements for your driver to be fed, and then we will have lunch together,” said Shauna leading them toward the inn.
After lunch, Amna made motions ordering Ron to hold the car door for Shauna. He lifted an eyebrow inquiringly as he held the door and Shauna said, “My driver will not be picking me up at my friend’s house until 10:00 tonight. In the meantime, I will help Amna with the search.”
As Shauna predicted, the customs shed at the frontier was unoccupied. Trucks full of consumer goods rumbled east, and trucks loaded with wheat drove west.
In Luknur, Shauna lead them to a shabby building in which computer equipment was on display. The shopkeeper greeted Shauna as a valued customer, but when she asked if Usman had been there, he answered, “Mr. Kahn bought three color monitors and a modem three or four weeks ago, but I have not seen him since.”
Amna and Shauna wandered about the shop looking at the displays. Ron wandered a step or two behind them attentive but trying to look bored. Shauna explained to Amna the features of each piece of equipment, and the shopkeeper returned to the task of opening a crate at the back of the room.
Amna whispered to Shauna, “I was going to ask about cigarettes, but I don’t suppose it is customary for women to buy tobacco.”
“Of course not, the Mullah would beat you with his cane if he found out you even asked,” Shauna whispered.
“Then how will we ever find the cigarette smugglers to ask about Usman?”
“We shall simply have to follow Mohammed Ali next time we see him.”
“I would not dare,” replied Amna.
Shauna shrugged. “If you think your brother is involved in smuggling cigarettes, we had better figure out a way to find the source of cigarettes.”
A well dressed man with two companions walked past the door of the shop. “There he is. We must follow him,” Amna said, and grasping Ron by the arm, she rushed out onto the street. Shauna followed in panic.
(to be continued)
The next installment will be posted in about 3 weeks.