Chapter 9

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"I'm really sorry to trouble you," Danielle says, doing her best to sound embarrassed instead of terrified. Every time she sees any kind of uniform, her heart writhes in her chest. Fortunately, the ticket office is over-crowded, and a hefty percentage of those waiting here are backpackers. With any luck all white people look alike to the Indian eye.

The towering blond Dutch couple look down at her sympathetically. "I understand," the man says. "I lost my passport at a hotel in Thailand once. It was my first time travelling."

"Of course we'll help you," the woman says. "Our train doesn't leave for another two hours, we won't mind standing in line again."

"By now I think we won't even notice," the Dutchman says, and both of them laugh. Danielle and Laurent smile back. "Just remember, as long as you're on the train, your names are Johann and Suzanne. Do you know how much the tickets will cost?"

"Fifteen hundred rupees," Danielle says, offering them four five-hundred-rupee notes. "Please take the rest and have a nice meal somewhere, from us."

"Oh, no, we couldn't," Suzanne says, detaching three of the notes from Danielle's hand. "It wouldn't be right. Just wait here, or in the cafeteria. But don't eat anything! I think the food there is very dangerous." They laugh again. "We'll bring you the tickets in half an hour."

"Thank you," Danielle says, feeling a little miserable about lying to these nice people, even if it is in the noble cause of her own self-preservation.

It is only twenty minutes before the Dutch couple return. Doubt is on their faces, and for a moment Danielle fears the worst, but they are holding two computer-printed Indian Railways tickets.

"I'm afraid the next train is full," Johann says. "We bought you tickets for the overnight train. I hope that's all right?"

"It's fine," Laurent assures them. "Tonight is fine."

Danielle isn't sure of that, she was counting on being out of Bangalore as soon as possible, but she supposes it's better than nothing.

** *

Killing time before the train, they stop at one of Bangalore's many Internet cafes, which sell an hour of computer time for as little as ten rupees, less than twenty-five cents, surely the cheapest Internet access on the planet. Danielle logs into her Hotmail account and composes an email to Keiran, explaining what is happening and why she needs his help. It is hard to make everything that has happened in the last few days form into a coherent order in her mind. She falls back to instincts learned in her year of law school, imagines she is writing a brief. The simple recitation of facts takes longer than she expected. It makes it seem more real, somehow, rereading her own description of what happened, ordered in neat rows of words. After selecting the SEND button she is more frightened than ever.

"When does the train leave?" she asks Laurent. "Four more hours."

She nods. "Let's get a drink."

They order a pitcher of Castle beer at NASA, a bar on Church Street, just off the thronging neon-brand-name chaos of Brigade Street. Beyond NASA's chromed airlock, the tables are decorated with glittering rockets, the walls are curved and ribbed brushed metal in a vaguely 2001 style, and a Star Trek movie plays silently on the giant video screen. The music, Tricky and the Prodigy and Tupac, was hip five years ago in the West, and is loud but not too loud for conversation. The crowd is young and extremely upwardly mobile. It even features Indian women dressed in smart jeans and T-shirts, and one very daring one in a halter top, drinking with boyfriends or even co-workers, an unimaginable sight almost anywhere else in India. Danielle is sure no police will come looking for them here.

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