Part 2

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Tehran's Old Ghosts

A short story set during the Iranian Revolution in 1978. Eight westerners find themselves trapped in their hotel. Little do they realise that the trouble on the streets is the least of their problems.

(Part 2)

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Evenings had become a fixed ritual. There was no ban on going out in the evening, but the local police did discourage it. After a shower and a change, Harrison had dinner in the hotel restaurant, before calling his wife. The restaurant was almost empty, the non-western guests moving out or moving to other hotels. It was a warning of course, the first gentle alarm bell, telling him to get the hell out of Iran.

"I'm sorry sir, tonight's menu is rather limited....I hope you understand."

Another young man, who looked much like poor dead Bijan. Was he worried about ending up the same way ?

"I do understand. Luckily I will eat just about anything."

Harrison spoke perfect Persian of course, the result of his mother seeing the advantage of her son speaking at least six modern languages. He was fluent in Persian, French and Arabic. That was why EVO had appointed him as head of internal audit. Harrison finished his meal and returned to his room, just in time to receive the call from his boss, David West.

"I know you want to come home, I'd want out if I was in your shoes." Said David.

"We had a murder here today, one of the waiters who was friendly towards westerners."

"Christ ! Do you think he was deliberately targeted ?"

"I haven't heard the details yet." Said Harrison. "I've had enough of Iran David, enough of driving around road blocks, enough of needing an armed bodyguard. Bring me home."

David went quiet on him, just the usual crackles filling the line. His boss was head of finance at EVO and was famed for being oily and manipulative. Two or three minutes of crackles, on a very expensive international call.

"Is it money Harrison ? I know you want to move. I've just looked at a few of our little rainy day accounts and I can find you a few more thousand. I haven't anyone else to send and at the end of the day.... You are head of internal audit."

They both knew that Iran was finished, but didn't want to say it over the phone. None of their construction sites were going to be completed, so penalty clauses would come into effect. Completion bonds and various insurances would then come into play, all worth close to two billion. Only he understood it all, which gave him leverage.

"Twice what I'm getting now David. My driver had to actually drive straight at two dubious looking characters today."

"I'm so sorry Harrison, but you know how much money is involved in what you're doing. Did your driver hit these people ?"

"No, but it was close." Said Harrison.

"Three times what you get now and I'll find the money for a decent completion bonus when you get back. Enough to buy a new house and get out of the place your wife hates. Just promise me you'll dig in and stay in Tehran until the job is finished."

Money was what it had all been about. He had audit staff in London he could have sent, but the extra peril pay was intended to get them out of the awful flat in Brentford. They'd begun to know their neighbours very well, because of the regular water leaks. And the lack of decent sound proofing.

"If we can hear the people above us shagging." Janet had said. "You can be sure the couple below can hear us."

So he'd arrived in Iran to earn enough money to move house and now he was stuck with the gig. Too late to get any staff out from London, they were terrified from watching the BBC news every night.

"Fine I'll stay until the bitter end." He told David.

"Good, where are going next ?"

"The shopping centre in Pardis that will never be opened."

"Good, do you need another bodyguard ?"

"No, the authorities know my schedule and there are usually a few heavily armed police wherever I go, all looking suitably menacing. To be honest David, it's back here at the hotel, where we all feel nervous."

"Why's that ?"

"We feel like fish in a very small barrel."

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