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"Just an open ticket."

"Achcha, these planes are always full, but I will see about getting you confirmed out tomorrow evening. And as for tonight, I believe we shall give you Freya's room at Hotel the Raj. Will that be satisfactory?" I

"Sure," Trager said. "I mean, no, but I don't know what else to do. It's like Kawapatri never happened. It's like a dream I woke up from too soon."

Bagchee smiled. "I imagine you are not alone in this. �Achcha, here we are all, lumbered with Max Holz, when along comes a young man of vigor and initiative, a not unattractive man, if I may say so, who is keen on the spur of the moment to throw in his lot with ours. I should not be surprised if Freya Martens is as disappointed as you."


Bagchee drove his little sedan with precision and apparent enjoyment through the evening traffic. Cars wheeled like flocks of gulls around the crowded circles. Trager tasted ozone in the air, and lightning flashed out of purple clouds over the old part of the city.

After they had been driving for several minutes, Bagchee suddenly said, "And so, Mr. Trager, how long have you been interested in this travel business?"

"I'm not," said Trager. "I'm just a mountaineer."

"Achcha, yes, that is just what Max said when he first came to India. �I am just a scientist. � You did not know this? He conceals his education well, but he has a bloody doctorate in geology. Seven years ago he came to India on some university trek. And among his students was a lovely Canadian named Freya Martens. I was then a travel agent, who arranged their transfer to Kashmir. And when Max returns to

Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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