Chapter 8

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"I called my group's office here," Laurent says, as Danielle struggles for full wakefulness. "No answer. I called the national office in Bombay. Again no answer. Those phones should always be answered, 24 hours. I called headquarters in Vancouver. They don't know exactly what's happening either. Almost all of our people in India have been arrested. The government are calling Justice International a drug smuggling ring. Our people in Kishkinda as well, they say they grew and supplied the drugs. Most of all they want to arrest us."

"Us? You and me?"

"They seem to believe that you are one of us."

"But – the police. You're saying the Indian police want to arrest me for being a drug smuggler." The words sound ridiculous leaving her mouth.


"That's crazy."

"Yes. It is crazy. It is also very real."

Danielle stares at him, trying to absorb the blow. She has not escaped yesterday's danger. She is not safe. She is, incredibly, a wanted criminal. Maybe, she tells herself, this is just another dream. Maybe she will wake into a more pleasant reality any second now. This is too awful. It can't really be happening.

She shakes her head to clear it. "I need to understand exactly what is going on."

"The what is very simple. Kishkinda poisons the ground around the mine, doing terrible things, as you saw, to those who live there. My group tries to stop them. They think you are one of us. And they have declared war. They cannot attack us directly now we have escaped, so they have the police come after us."

"Just like that? They just tell the police what to do?"

"Bribes, false evidence, political influence," he says. "They have millions upon millions of dollars. More than enough to put us in jail."

"We should go to the consulate."

"No," he says sharply. "No. The consulate will help if you are arrested. They will not help you escape arrest. They will inform the Indian police if you go to them."

"But if we turn ourselves in, publicly, they won't dare to –"

"Of course they will. Do you know how many Westerners are in Indian jails on drug charges? You know the bureaucracy and corruption here. Do you really think the police were one hundred per cent correct with every such conviction? Believe me, some of them are innocent men with powerful enemies. Do you really believe it can't happen to you? My group will fight this, but you know what Indian courts are like. Slow, corrupt, incompetent. No. What we must do is leave the country. We won't be safe until we escape India."

"How? We don't have passports, we can't get new ones, and the police are after us."

Laurent nods. "That's the essence of the problem."

"Jesus." Danielle sits up, reaches for a cappuccino, sips it. She feels like she has stepped into quicksand, that she will soon be sucked down and suffocated whether she struggles or not. This is something too big and pervasive to tackle on her own. She feels like she has already used up all her luck and resourcefulness. She can't handle being on the run from false drug charges in a foreign country.

"I just want to go home," she says faintly.

"I'm sorry. That isn't possible."

She has to call someone for help. But who? Her parents? She can just imagine how they would react. Oh, they would try to help, certainly, with all the money she might ever need, with outraged calls to their congressman and senator and the Indian ambassador, careful to work only through the proper channels – and she knows none of it will serve to conceal the fact that they will believe the allegations that their fuckup black-sheep daughter is smuggling drugs from India. She can almost hear her father: How could you get yourself into this? She can imagine her mother telling her to turn herself in for her own good, her own safety. No. She will go to her parents if she is arrested. Their kind of proper channels influence might help her then. Not before.

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