THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 28

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 28

“…this must be your 1st trip on the New Orient Expressmy lonely friend.”…

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In 2030, (again) after a famed and fabled past, the New Orient Express, that had halted the contiguous run in 2009, from Paris all the way through to Istanbul, a train-traveler can still take a (faster version) train from one end to the other; 2000 luxurious European kilometres.

Writers have forever taken advantage of its romantic whistle-stops and melting pot passenger list. Taken at face value, the spin of those yarns will have the seats of this long-train runnin’ occupied, in large part, by spies, opiate dealers, murderers, and the like.

In the second to last car is the restaurant coach and seated in the rear, trying his hardest to look inconspicuous {innocent}, is Aldona Afridi. Now you can add a Talibanistani defector to the list of unusually unusual passengers; fitting right in with the stereotypical fictional ne’er-do-wells. Just don’t stare at them.

In an attempt to make a goose-chase out of his flight to freedom thereby covering his tracks, Afridi had flown to Paris, instead of the logical land-way across the Persian Plain and Euphrates Valley, where Nutkani and his tribesmen were previously nipping at his heels.

The most gregarious of the conductor corps strolls down the aisle, stopping to chat with folks of all derivations, some of which would rather not, acting as if they were all long-lost friends. Afridi chooses Conductor“mute” as his origin, but is compelled to mouth, “What time Istanbul?”

“Last stop Bucharest…” he shares his answer, then pointedly asking, “…this must be your 1st trip on the New Orient Express, my lonely friend.” After 20 hours on the rapid rail, passengers should be more aware of the schedule.

“Will we get there before dusk?” he rephrases, hoping to elicit a more precise response from the mustachioed kibitzer.

“Romanian officials are asking questions, searching the whole train…for a defector my instinct tells me.”

Just what Afridi wanted to hear; like a priest preaching a sermon on hell in front of pews packed with hardcore sinners? Had he known that the rascally conductor was pulling his strange-unusualleg, using his uncanny ability to guess why passengers have chosen to ride this disreputable rail, Aldona would have been spared the mounting anxiety that threaten to make a wreck of him.

Chuckling on his way, the conductor whispers cryptically, “You will arrive at railhead before dark, my itchy friend. People who choose the New Orient Express are immune from border inspections…just be aware of the  people around you!”

The jovial ticket taker’s laugh echoes loudly, yet the cause of his amusement seems of little consequence to the other diners. Anonymity is the unspoken creed of this illustrious train.


THE RETURN TRIP

new-orient-express-001

Episode 28


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 21

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 21

…I need for you & the children to meet me in Istanbul. You have the numbers for our Switzerland account; have your cousin Fasil drive you to Ahmadinejad {formerly Iran}

Defection by Jovan Stankić

Defection by Jovan Stankić

”Do you have a…?” Afridi puts a hand to his ear, the universal cellphone gesture.

The husband reaches into his backpack to hand over his Talibanistani version of a communicator, “Safe,” he reassures.

Afridi feels he owes the family (who is giving him refuge) some kind of an explanation, but he is aware of how straightforward their life is, simple and routine, neither of which applies to his. They politely shuffle off to another room when they see him entering the numbers that will go directly to his oldest child’s phone, fear-the-worst-by-linwood barclyhoping he is at home, while dodging a wiretap of his wife’s device.

Three rings, four, five and he begins to fear the worst. “They” had gotten to his family, salting them away with the intent of having them fall through the porous cracks of tribal autocracy.

Suddenly a familiar voice picks up; praise and glory to the God he is forbidden to worship!

“Are you at home my son, good? Hand your phone to your mother.”

“Aldona, Sheikh Kamran came to tell me that you were missing! Are you in trouble, what have you done?”

“Fatima listen very carefully, we have little time to dawdle,” accent on time. “We must defect immediately. ‘They’ wanted me to participate in something my conscience will not allow; I will have no part in their jealous ruin, what a fool I was.”

“What should we do Aldona? You know I support you in all your decisions.”

“You wanted me to get a job in the West, I should have listened, but now we have no choice. I am wounded…safe and well in the home of kind strangers. ‘They’ think I am dead, so act like you know nothing.

defection1I need for you & the children to meet me in Istanbul. You have the numbers for our Switzerland account; have your cousin Fasil drive you to Ahmadinejad {formerly Iran} and cross into Turkey from there.”

It is reflective moment for Afridi.

“If we make it through this ordeal, I vow to work endlessly for the good of the entire world. I have been escape2-001funneling my talents into an evil pit.

“Please go straight to the Galata district and seek refuge Sultan Ahmet Mosque, it is run by Christians, and you will be safe there.”

“We will do so Aldona. Praise God for sparing your life.”

“May He sponsor us in our time of need.”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Episode 21


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