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"So how did you do it?" Trager asked. "How does a guy hitchhike into an airport in India and just walk onto an overbooked jet?"

The tall man nodded in loose rhythm with the rocking of the plane as it taxied to the end of the runway. "I wasn't hitching," he said. "I was taking a walk, waiting for my man to get that Dodge running."

"That was your own car?"

"Company set it up for me. We just sold some shit to the Indian Airlines guys in Srinagar last week, and they said it'd be cool if you came on the plane with me."

Trager had been concerned about something being taken from his rucksack. Now he wondered if anything had been slipped into it.

"Thanks . . . I guess," he said. "What kind of �shit� are you selling?"

"Modems. Like for letting computers talk to each other. The airline has an office up at Kawapatri, right? They have a computer, and want to communicate with the guys at the airport."

"I thought you were pushing hash. I didn�t think you were a computer salesman."

The man looked surprised. After a moment he said, "I guess that�s what I am now. I never thought of it like that. My name's Sundown. Sundown Busco."

They shook hands as the engines wailed. Mountains, horse carts, gum trees, jet fighters, and saffron fields streamed past the window. The plane climbed through broken clouds, circling to the south above green rice paddies. The Pir Panjal drifted under the wing, timbered ridges frosted with snow.

Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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