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dominated by a too-large steel desk. Framed maps and photographs adorned the walls. Trager noticed a blow-up of the picture of Freya and the mountain. Bagchee indicated a small sofa to Trager, and took his own place behind the desk.

"So, please inform me as to precisely how you have come to meet Max and Freya," he said.

"They just saw me climbing around Kawapatri, and said they needed a leader."

"And so Max hired you? Just like that?"

"I'm a climber," Trager said. "Although Max was mainly impressed that I didn't have diarrhea."

Vasant looked pained. "Of course, that would be Max. I apologize. But tell me, why were Max and Freya at Kawapatri?"

"They were visiting a friend of Max's who was trying to help with the trek. An army guy, a Colonel Batt . . . Batta . . . ."

"Battarchaya? Max is dealing with Battarchaya again? Achcha, no wonder he would not tell me he is in India. But did he say why he was going to Ladakh?"

"Not exactly. They said there were some problems on the last trek. Freya said she wanted to do some extra planning for the next one."

Bagchee gave a barking laugh. "Ha! Extra planning! That is quite good. And they said nothing about Weston Ferndecker?"

Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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