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An Indian Airlines Airbus jet was already on the tarmac when Max pulled up at the terminal. The crowd of people waiting to board spilled out of the doors onto the gravel driveway. Trager scrambled from the back of the jeep, and took his rucksack from Freya.

"This too," she said, and handed him the large manila envelope with the maps and brochures. "When you get to Delhi, go right to our office. The man you need to see is Vasant Bagchee. There�s a note for him in the envelope with the address. He�ll tell you what to do."

"You better boogie," Max said. �Looks like they�ve overbooked the son of a bitch again."

"Good luck," Freya said, and gave him a hug. Max gunned the engine, but Freya hung on. "Don't worry," she said. "Lakpa will take good care of you."

"Ladakh next month, right?" Trager said.

"That depends," said Freya. "When you come out of the mountains, I'll be there to meet you, and then you tell me."

Trager was almost pulled off his feet as the jeep began to roll. Freya waved until they turned the corner around the terminal�s security fence.

He picked up his pack and pressed into the crowd. Around him businessmen pried spaces for themselves with their briefcases. Indian families scooped up their children to keep them from being crushed. Tourists clutched rolled carpets in their arms and kicked their bags along the ground. But there was no forward motion to the mass, only a Brownian quiver.

"Hey, man, what's happening?" a deep voice said beside Trager.

Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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