Part 4

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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 4)

                                         Π

It's surprising how quickly the terrible becomes normal, or at least it was surprising to Harrison. A week went by with his driver being changed every day. More and more armed soldiers guarding the main roads, some in armoured cars. There was something almost comforting about the numerous checkpoints and hold ups. They were doing it all to keep people safe.

He settled into a routine of heading back to the hotel no later than three in the afternoon, to make sure he was back in time for dinner and the regular calls to and from London. For the first time he heard protesters shouting insults at him, purely for looking western.

"Don't be too upset boss, every western face is American to them." Said the driver. "Most Iranians still have a soft spot for the British."

Kris merely smiled and watched the sides of the roads. Heavy police presence or not, his bodyguard had been far more intense lately. There were rumours about the Shah declaring martial law on Friday and that was only two days away. The streets might calm down, but Harrison doubted it.

"There will be full blown war by the weekend, a revolution."

Adam had told them all the previous evening. Not for the first time his driver was shouting at the police manning the checkpoint.

"I have a foreign VIP, who is already late for a meeting."

It worked, it always did. Both sides seemed to realise that Iran was finished without foreign investment. So far, everyone was making sure the foreigners were kept safe and allowed to go about their business.

"You should move to Joburg and drive a cab." Kris told the driver. "You'd make a fortune."

"I doubt it.... Wrong colour boss."

The police moved aside and let them through, a cop on a motorcycle giving them an escort right back to the Wilkinson Hotel. There were now two armoured cars on the paved area in front of the doors. People adapted though, often worryingly quickly. Kris went off to get the staff bus, while Harrison walked past the massive army presence. All so normal now, he even knew the names of a few of the officers. Another part of the routine, was asking Nathan for any mail or messages.

"We've been warned that the phones might go out on Friday, maybe even tomorrow. Sorry, it's something the hotel can't do anything about." Said Nathan. "I recommend that if you need to call London, that you do it tonight."

"Thank you, I will. Any mail ?"

There was a letter from the foreign office, delivered by hand by someone from the local embassy. There were two pages which only told him the same things he already knew. Flowered up in diplomatic language of course, but telling him all hell might well break loose on Friday. It appeared Her Majesty's Government, was advising him to leave and could no longer guarantee his safety.

"When could they ?" He muttered.

"Everyone got one, including Victor. I always thought he was a yank." Said Rachel.

She was good at sneaking up on him, when he was feeling tired and hungry.

"Born there, now a fully signed up UK citizen.... He told me when he was drunk."

"When is Victor sober ?" She asked.

Unkind but not unfair, they'd all noticed that Victor was probably an alcoholic. His own business though and as he seemed the wealthiest out of them all, he obviously worked well while under the influence.

"Might be the last decent meal in the restaurant." He said. "Will you join me for dinner tonight ? At a proper dinner time I mean, about ten ?"

There was that smile again and those twinkling hazel eyes. He was leading her on, or she was encouraging him. Either way, it had to either happen that night, or not at all.

"Can we miss the usual night with the gang ?" She asked. "Surely we'll be hunted down and flayed alive or something."

He kissed her, but did it slowly and very gently. His closed lips touched hers, looking for a reaction. Her lips opened slightly and few about two seconds, the kiss was open mouthed.

"Fine, but you have to do it properly." She said. "Bang on my door just before ten and take me to dinner. I even expect flowers, maybe chocolates too."

"I can do that." He said.

"Really ? How ?"

"I have no idea, but I'll find a way."

Harrison knew what he intended to do, it just sounded a bit unromantic. Going out of the hotel without his guard was unthinkable, the police might well stop him. He bribed a young cop, to go out and buy a decent bunch of flowers and a large box of Black Magic chocolates.

"Biggest they had." The cop told him.

Harrison had no idea why the young cop had decided that big was good and huge was better, but he had the gifts Rachel had asked for. She'd soon have enough Black Magic chocolates to last her through until Christmas.

~ ~

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