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Pen Your Pride

Chapter 19

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Under the cover of darkness, the ship glided along the coast of Turkey, its screws turning up a wake in the Mediterranean. They extinguished lights along the deck and windows, blackened so the ship could hide in darkness. The episode from the day before had put a black mark on the ship. It was good to be away from Istanbul, from the possibility of being attacked by a mob, which only saw foreigners as rule breakers. For some of the passengers, it had been a night of terror. Over and over, the story had circulated through the passageways and dining rooms, growing with each telling, so by morning everyone expected the ship to be laid waste by enemy gunfire. 'Isn't that what happened to enemy ships at sea?'

At eleven in the morning, the ship glided into the port of Izmir. Passengers lined the railing on the dockside of the ship, their eyes of fear searching. To the dismay of some, who wanted to see a riot, while they stayed safely aboard the ship, the dock was empty except for the line of tour buses. There were no belly dancers gyrating a welcome, not even drummers beating a tune. Many passengers had cancelled their tour for the day, even though it was too late to have their money refunded. They thought it was better to be safe than sorry. They had seen enough of Turkey. On board, they could spend some time and money at the casino. Better to lose some money than your life.

Except for the day at Rome, every tour day was drenched in sunlight and today was no exception. A slight breeze made the heat enjoyable as the sun beat down on white arms that now had a hint of tan. Some floppy hats shaded faces and sunglasses were the order of the day. A gust of wind like a ghost ran down the length of the ship, and people clutched their hats. Borders noticed that there wasn't a cat in sight, and he wondered if this was a bad omen. This fragment of land was an earthquake area, and animals had a habit of disappearing before an earthquake. "Would cats disappear if there was a mob in within sight?'

On the bus, everyone took what seemed to be their usual seat, Panama, as customary, in the center between the two doors. Borders stared at him but noticed nothing out of the normal. Still nervous, the passengers looked out the window for any signs that would heighten their anxiety. Usually their group was small, filling only half the seats on the bus. Today there were more vacant seats. Lady Brenda, Jeopardy and a few others were absent. The bus departed without them.

The guide introduced himself as Mamet. He spoke quickly, his tongue in a perpetual hurry as if strapped for time. The bus pulled onto a four-lane highway, laced with traffic, and eased in between two trucks. Beside the bus was a taxi, its driver with unblinking eyes stared ahead, in a world of his own. They had hardly gone any distance at all when the bus left the bumper to bumper traffic and took an off ramp. The sudden exit caused an outburst from Mamet. His hands cut back and forth through the air as he yelled in what everyone took to be Arabic.

The bus pulled over to the side of the road, made a U-turn and dragged itself back to the four-lane highway leaving more than a few wondered if they were on their way to a rug factory, this tour guide hesitant to run afoul of the law. There was silence until Mamet spoke to explain the situation. It seemed the driver had taken the wrong ramp. Borders wondered if the driver had a private agenda

Their first stop would be at the Shrine of the home of the Virgin Mary, which was at the top of a mountain. On the way to the house, the tour first stopped at a well, obviously no longer in use. It was about twenty feet across and filled with sand up to about three feet from the top. Further on, was a replica of the house built on the original foundation? Souvenir shops were numerous, while restrooms were in short supply, especially for women, where a lineup of fifty anxious women snaked back and forth.

Again they boarded the bus that took them to the ancient city of Ephesus. At first glance, it was a disappointment, nothing more than a large field covered in square stones and broken monuments. At the end of the field, they crested a rise and before them a vast city was laid out. They saw wide streets lined with shops, a drug store and a hospital. At the end of the main street was the library and across from it, the Coliseum. Ancients made use of a side of a hill as the back wall for the seating with the rocks in a semi-circular fashion. It certainly had withstood the test of time. Nearby, a long building contained a theatre and a number of shops. It was not unlike a mall of today.

Cats walked freely - possible descendants of those from two-thousand years ago. They were the color of marmalade with some spots dipped in white. Wearing this camouflage, tourists hardly take notice of them against the city backdrop of brown stone. They leap from stone to stone, their private highway unencumbered by the legs of tourists. Without restaurants or any place to obtain food scraps, Borders assumed they existed on a steady diet of mice. 'What would the mice eat?'

The guard rattled on at a fast pace. He seemed to be a man with too much information and too little time. He was hard pressed to finish the tour and get back to the bus on time. There didn't appear to be any rug factory tour in the foreseeable future.

Lady Brenda and Jeopardy watched as tour buses departed taking the groups with them. They would have liked to have seen Ephesus, but it didn't fit into their agenda. When the last bus disappeared from sight, they walked along the dock to a waiting motor boat. Gusts of wind blew their hair around their faces, which they brushed back with a flick of the hand. Two men stood in the boat waiting for them. They were swarthy, with trimmed mustaches and wearing white suits. The unbuttoned jacket did not hide the gun in the shoulder holster. Jeopardy could feel her pistol pressing against her spine. Lady Brenda, on the other hand, felt more comfortable with hers strapped to her leg, just above the ankle. There was no reason to expect trouble, but this was still 'Enigma.'

The two women stepped aboard the launch, not bothering to greet the men - acquaintances, but not friends. One man started the engine and threw it into gear while the other watched the two women. The craft leapt away from the dock, forcing the two women to take a step backward, to maintain their footing. The wake was puffy white contrasting the green water. The craft followed along the coast and then entered a shallow bay. Soon it pulled up to a makeshift wharf that extended down from a sandstone hut, which had seen better days. One of the men gestured the women to step on to the wharf and follow him to the hut. Small bushes and dried grass grew around the hut and parked at the side was a new Mercedes. The two women looked at one another and nodded, 'in for a penny, in for a pound.'

The hut was one room brightened by the sunlight that forced its way through two windows, one on each side. The furniture consisted of one table and three chairs - the rest of the room being bare - it even lacked a tap for water. A bottle of wine with three glasses sat on a silver tray at one end of the table. In one of the chairs sat a man, memorable with his white hair and beard. His white silk suit spoke of money. He waved the two women to the empty chairs.

"My name is Francois Decroix," he said, his white teeth hypnotizing, "and you are Lady Brenda Macleod and Jeopardy St. John."

He dipped his head simulating a bow.

"Would you like a glass of wine?" he asked, as he reached for the bottle.

Both women refused, not wanting to turn this meeting into a social call.

"I'm glad you took me up on my offer for a meeting. Although we are on opposite sides, we have always attempted to minimize causalities. Lately..."

He reached for the bottle and poured himself a glass, and then looked at the women as he poured wine into the other glasses.

"Lately," he continued, "you seem to have gone rogue as if you have a vendetta to settle with us. Or is it that you have a special affection for this Canadian agent 'Borders,' as you seem intent on thwarting our attempts to eliminate him. He fouled up our assassination of the Canadian Prime Minster and killed our man. He is not the first agent of 'Enigma' to die at his hand, and we had decided enough was enough."

"You're correct," said Jeopardy. "I have interfered because I want to kill him myself. It's personal."

"It's just what I told 'Enigma'," he said. "They wanted to put a contract out on you, but I convinced them to hold off until we had this meeting. I'm sure that for now, we can forget these transgressions, but I can't promise it will stay that way forever. Some will still want your head."

"Then you will leave Borders to me?" asked Jeopardy.

"Yes, I think I can promise that," he answered.

There was no further conversation as the two women rose from the table and returned to the boat. A half hour later, they were back on the ship.


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