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"Sure. But I work in the same business. For Holz Overseas Trekking."

"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes." The German's grin stretched tighter. "You are very lucky."

"To work for H.O.T.?"

"To be on this airplane. When I know that you are with Max Holz, I would make sure that you are never coming out of Srinagar." He laughed, clapped Trager on the shoulder, and walked away without a backward glance.


The heat of Delhi poured in through the cabin doors. The passengers staggered across baking concrete under a pale yellow sky. In the close air of the terminal they rocked from foot to foot, glassy-eyed, waiting for the intermittent conveyor to surrender their luggage.

Trager was relieved to find his pack had not been lost. He sat down on the floor to change into his running shoes.

"I can give you a lift," Sundown said. "They sent me a driver." A small, bony man in starched khaki led the way out of the terminal and across the small parking lot to a mini van marked, Synergism Pvt. Ltd. to open the manila envelope to find Vasant Bagchee's address.

When they were seated inside, Trager tried paper to open the envelope. The humidity had already sealed the flap. Trager tore the paper open and fished out Freya's note. The driver glanced at the address, nodded, and launched. Horn blaring, he swung out of the airport gates, and onto a racetrack of taxis and trucks. Trager gasped at the hot air that blasted in through the open windows. Blocks of apartments and low storefronts streamed past, broken by industrial plants and ancient brick ruins. As they entered a

Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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