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His attention was already focused on India--that had been the main reason his belongings ended up in the street. He studied for India, worked for India, skied to stay in shape for India. Now that he was in India, travelling by himself, he was indescribably lonely. Not, he noted, particularly horny. He knew from other long celibate trips that libido increased with practice and faded with disuse. But Freya�s warm hand had definitely touched a nerve.

He stood up as he heard her key turn in the lock. But instead of Freya Martens, a short, thick limbed, Mongolian-featured man opened the door. He wore new running shoes, jeans, and a striped ski sweater. Trager thought he must be a Japanese tourist in the wrong room.

"Lakpa Tsering, sahib," the small man said. "H.O.T. sirdar. � He noticed the two packs on the floor, and hefted one on each arm. Then he walked out the door, still carrying both loads. �Freya says, come to jeep. Max is ready for going to Srinagar."

Trager quickly laced his boots, and caught up to Lakpa in the hall. "I can carry that," he said.

"My job," the sirdar answered, and tipped his head in the oblique movement that Trager had discovered in India meant something like, that's the way it is. "Good rucksack, sahib. Like we have on Everest. Maybe better."

"You were on Everest?" Trager asked. He was still disappointed about not having Freya come to the room, but invoking the name of the mountain helped.

"Yes, sahib." Lakpa said. "With Indian Army, two years before."

"I read about that," Trager said. "How high did you get?"

"South Col, sahib. Nepali Sherpas take Army men to top."

Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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