laurene and stephanie followed gustav and the parthian ambassador outside to the waiting limousine.
laurene wondered if she would ever see the blue sky again …
“i didn’t know joanie lee would get so upset at us leaving,” stephanie was saying. “i didn’t know she liked so much.”
“she’s nervous,” laurene answered. “she wanted someone to keep her company.”
the driver of the limo was leaning against it, smoking a long thin cigar.
“oh, yuck,” stephanie exclaimed. “do they all smoke i wonder?”
laurene stopped, and grabbed stephanie’s arm. gustav and the ambassador, unaware that they had stopped, moved ahead to the limo.
“stephanie,” laurene whispered, “listen to me. it was your idea to come along. you invited yourself. i have one thing to say to you - keep your mouth shut. keep - your - mouth - shut. do - not - speak unless you are spoken to. do you understand?”
“that’s more than one thing. and you’re hurting my arm.” stephanie wrenched free from laurene.
the ambassador looked back at them.
“we’re coming!” laurene assured him.
the driver threw his cigar away. he opened the rear door and then got back in his seat.
gustav opened the front passenger door but waited with his evil smirk while laurene and stephanie caught up.
the ambassador, an impatient look on his face, waved the two girls into the back seat and then got in himself.
laurene got in first. the inside was not as roomy as it looked from outside - because the exterior was so padded?
she ended up beside the right rear window, behind gustav, when he finally got in the front seat.
stephanie was in the middle, between the ambassador and laurene.
“this is cozy,” stephanie announced. she sniffed. “at least it doesn’t stink of tobacco - or anything worse.”
nobody laughed, or answered, or paid her any attention.
i give up, laurene thought, nothing will shut her up if she feels like talking. she might also decide not to talk for a month, and then nothing but out and out torture would get her to make a sound.
laurene looked out the window. i might as well enjoy the view, she thought.
the driver started the car and turned it around in the driveway and they started off.
“where, exactly, are we going?” stephanie asked.
the ambassador put his attache case on his lap and began opening it.
the limo passed the exit for the main airport.
they passed the exits for a couple of smaller airfields used by private planes.
past these exits the highway was empty on their side, going away from the airport.
there was heavy traffic on the other side, going towards the airport.
they were moving away from the coast, so it did not seem they were going anywhere by boat.
stephanie had given up trying to get anybody to talk to her.
the ambassador had finished going through the papers in his case, and sat with his phone in his hand, glancing at it from time to time.
gustav and the driver were separated from the back seat by a clear glass partition. if they were talking, laurene couldn’t hear them.
it occurred to laurene that when they had passed the airports the skies had been empty.
suddenly they turned into an unmarked road.
the road was dirt for about a hundred winding yards and then opened into a straight blacktop road which quickly led them to what looked a military checkpoint.
which after less than thirty seconds stop, they were waved through.
after getting through the checkpoint, the ambassador rolled his window down. a cool breeze filled the back seat.
laurene rolled her window down too. the ambassador paid her no notice. he continued to look at his phone, as if willing it to ring.
after another half mile of straight road, they stopped.
the ambassador stuck his phone in his pocket and got out of the car without waiting for it to be opened for him.
laurene could see a couple of small planes - that could not seat more than a half dozen people each - side by side on a runway.
she tried to open her door. she could not.
but the ambassador had left his door open.
stephanie, sitting in the center of the back seat, had fallen asleep. laurene shook her awake, and pointed to the open door.
after blinking a few times, stephanie slid out of the car and laurene followed her.
there was nothing in the clearing except the airstrip, the two planes on it , and a small wooden building, no more than a shack. there were no markings or insignia on the shack, although there was a green and red flag painted on the side of one of the planes - the flag of parthia?
the other plane was completely unmarked.
the ambassador and gustav were talking to another man beside the shack. he was wearing the same uniform as gustav, but with slightly different markings. he was bigger than gustav, and looked as mean.
laurene moved closer to hear what they were saying. the driver of the limo, still in his seat, glanced at her and then turned his attention back to lighting his cigar.
“a window of about fifteen minutes…” the uniformed man was saying.
the ambassador looked up at the clear blue sky.
“… but with any kind of turbulence…” the uniformed man continued.
“i say go for it,” gustav announced loudly, as if challenging the ambassador. “what else can we do?”
the ambassador nodded and muttered something , which seemed to surprise and gratify gustav.
the uniformed man noticed laurene and stephanie and pointed to them. gustav and the ambassador turned and looked at them.
“not much point in taking them now,” gustav said.
“oh, i don’t know,” the ambassador replied. “things might change. they might come in handy.”
this doesn’t sound very promising, thought laurene.
“suit yourself,” gustav answered the ambassador. “but let’s get going.” he glared at the two girls, who had come within thirty feet of them, and pointed to the unmarked plane.
laurene followed gustav and the ambassador to the plane. gustav grabbed her arm and gave her a hand up. then he gave the puffing ambassador two hands up and got in himself.
gustav got in the pilot’s seat. there were five little bucket seats in the back and laurene and the ambassador got in two of them.
“where’s stephanie?” laurene asked.
she looked out the small window. the uniformed man, and the limo driver, who had stepped out of the car, were pointing down the road and laughing.
stephanie had just run away.
“fasten your seat belts,” gustav announced. “because we sure aren’t waiting on her.”
gee, thought laurene, why didn’t i have enough sense to do that?