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"No--is that someone I should meet?"

"Hardly. He is dead. That would seem to be the least of the �necessary information� you should have. Mr. Ferndecker died some seven days ago in the Murghi Restricted Area of Ladakh on a trek led by Freya Martens."

"Ferndecker," Trager said. "He worked in computers. And he walked off the edge of something. A guy was talking about it on the plane."

"Yes, it is already a source of gossip. Actually, I believe Mr. Ferndecker became separated from the party and fell into a nala, a stream--but that is not important. The fact is, that because of his death, the Defence Ministry may revoke Max's trekking permits. H.O.T.' competence is in question, you see. And for the same reason, four of our clients have elected to forfeit their deposits and cancel. In any event, there is left only Mr. and Mrs. Macintosh from Los Angeles, and we cannot operate any trek with two clients only."

The door bumped open, and the servant shouldered his way in with a tea tray. Trager was glad of the interruption to pull his own thoughts together.

"Why didn't Freya tell me all this?" he asked when the man had left.

"You sound more hurt than offended," Bagchee said, and he smiled. "Did you perhaps have some special expectations of Miss Martens? �

"Let's just say I thought she was being honest with me about the job. �

Bagchee looked at him curiously for a moment, then said, "It is nothing to hold against her. I myself have only just been notified of the cancellations. And it would have been awkward to discuss Max's circumstances with him present--particularly since he does not acknowledge any problem himself. As for

Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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