Friday, August 12, 2016

Chapter 9

Hotel Restaurant

Jace sat in the hotel restaurant reading the Washington Post over his second cup of coffee. His breakfast was being prepared in the kitchen. There was bad news everywhere, good news nowhere. The world was truly going to hell in a hand basket. He almost hated to read the newspapers anymore, but it's important to keep in touch with goings on at home.

One article near the back pages caught his eye and he folded the paper around in preparation to give better attention. "U.S. Raising Cash to Fund Rescue" The Treasury Department announced plans, Monday, to borrow $520 billion in the last three months of this year as merely a down payment. Officials project the government would need to borrow $365 billion more in the first three months of 2009, meaning the next president will confront an ocean of red ink.

Jace understood little about the finance of governments. He figured, you pay taxes and the government uses taxes to pay for things it needs but where, in the world, does the world's most powerful nation borrow that kind of money? Aren't we considered the world's richest nation? Shouldn't we have our own money? Almost a trillion dollars - geez, that's a lot of zeros. It's not a new car or braces for the kids' teeth type of loan, that's for sure.

It was Election Day in the U.S. and the entire world was watching. They'd had fully two years of this political bickering between the parties about how the government would be run and by whom. Selfishly, the whole looked to the candidates to see what one or the other would do or could do to benefit or harm relations with their respective countries, but it was not their decision.

On the opposite page was a smaller article about candidate Baligh al Din's 92 year-old grandmother passing away. She had partially funded his education and helped raise him as a boy. Sadly, she would not see the outcome of today's elections in America. Jace thought, "Well, that could gather a few sympathy votes." He wasn't too fond of al Din. It was too soon after September 11, 2001 to be electing a person with an Arab name. Forget about his politics; both parties lie and say anything to get elected. He'd been through too many elections to realize that one truth. A grand scheme of plans for the country always take a back seat to emerging world situations.

The waiter brought breakfast and he put the paper down, thanked the waiter and asked about his special request. "Yes, sir." the waiter replied. "There is a Spencer's Hypermarket nearby and we can obtain the peanut butter for your sandwiches. Will the 'Skippy' brand be satisfactory?"

"Yes, thank-you. I'm sure that it will." Jace tried not to show his amazement that 'Skippy' peanut butter was actually available in India. In a couple of hours, Jace would meet his mysterious Russian contact at the Lotus Temple of the Baha'i and he'd better have these sandwiches so that she could recognize him in a crowd of tens of thousands who visit the temple daily.

Jace finished his breakfast and took his newspaper to the lobby to wait for Raahi. His phone call to the company store last night assured him that Raahi would be available today. He still wondered why this crazy Russian insisted that his taxi driver join them today. He would have to find out.

Raahi Arrives

Raahi arrived in the hotel lobby and greeted Jace in the lobby with a good morning, "Namaste", which Jace returned, likewise. It seemed more ... special and civilized, somehow than the "How ya' doin', sport." that he gets back home.

The waiter brought the three brown paper bags and his check. Jace added a generous gratuity and signed the bill. It's not every restaurant that will go to the local Hypermarket to buy a jar of peanut butter for a hotel guest.

Raahi seemed strangely silent during the ride through Delhi to the temple and he drove like he had some sense. Something was on his mind, but he was dutiful to his job as a good taxi driver. Yesterday, he had been animated and talkative as he barreled through the roadways. Jace thought It was not his place to get too personal.

Jace and Raahi took the long walk up the pathway toward the temple building. He was surprised at the lack of unfortunate beggars and people constantly trying to sell you junk. Raahi spoke for the first time since the hotel, "Is it not a beautiful place, Mr. Marshall? More people visit here daily than visit the Taj Mahal."

"It is magnificent, Raahi. Very beautiful." Raahi was definitely true to his name's meaning, 'knowledgeable traveler'. Jace would have thought the Taj Mahal would have been a bigger attraction in India. Jace looked for a place where he and Raahi could be seen. He decided to walk up the steps to the temple itself. It would be easier than he thought to meet his contact because areas were roped-off and no one is permitted to simply wander the grounds. At the top of the steps they were reminded to remove their shoes, place them in a bag and check them as no shoes were permitted inside the temple.

Jace looked at his watch. It was 11:29 a.m. and he was right on time. He looked around, eye direction shaded under his sunglasses to see if anyone seemed to be noting his presence, but no. It became an instinct when doing secret work abroad. Jace turned to look down the pathway and watched the many pilgrims, tourists and curious silently filing into the temple. He turned around again to look toward the temple and ten feet away stood a beautifully tanned, dark haired, barefoot woman in a deep red, almost burgundy saree. Her painted toenails, matched the color of her Saree and fingernails. Upon our recognizing her, she placed her hands in a prayerful manner, bowed slowly and softly said, "Namaste". Jace walked over to within five feet of her.  Raahi was just to the left and behind Jace. Simultaneously, they put their hands together in like fashion and repeated, "Namaste".

Jace Meets Diana

The woman smiled and Jace could see that she had bluish-green eyes that pierced his very soul as he stared into them. It seemed like an eternity in coming, but she spoke, "Did you enjoy your dinner last evening, Mr. Marshall? I understand that beef meat for human consumption is very much impossible to find in a country that worships the bull as sacred."

Jace smiled and tried to be cool, "I enjoyed it very much. The French fries were also a nice touch. Thank-you." That was it? That was all he could say? It seemed an odd way of confirming that she was indeed his contact and also that she had somehow arranged his dinner.

She smiled, stepped forward, extended her right hand to shake hands with Jace, "My name is Diana Belova. It's a pleasure to meet you." Jace took off his sunglasses with his left hand to get a better view and eliminate that communication barrier between them that wearing sunglasses might interrupt. Jace could feel the delicate softness of her hand and appreciate her perfectly polished finger nails.

"The pleasure is mine." Jace responded, still pretty much speechless. He would allow her to take the lead in this conversation. It was her meeting. All he wanted was the information on the titanium computer flash drive. He wasn't going to volunteer any information that could be used against the United States. After all, he knew nothing about this .. “Agent”.

Turning to Raahi, she said, "Hello, Raahi, my old friend. It's very good to see you again."
Returning to Jace, "Did you bring our lunch, Mr. Marshall? I thought we might picnic near here and talk a while."

>>>> Chapter 10 >>

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