Chapter 23: Decompression
Gunning the engine, I roared away at high speed to put as much distance as possible between us and the robbers before stopping in the cover of the jungle. It took several minutes before my breathing returned to normal and I could see color in our surroundings. Nhean sat quietly, his hands folded in his lap.
“I sorry, Momma. Cambodia has many bad men. Mostly they are hungry and only steal the riels, but these guys were more bad. They smart, too, Momma. They know killing you would be big trouble for them. You forget about today, okay? You forget and don’t worry—for us, this is life.” We drove in silence, knowing that neither of us would ever forget.
I dropped Nhean off in Skon. Despite protesting that it would do no good, he promised to report the killings and robbery to the local police. I started out on the newly menacing stretch of road to KPCC, resolving to look straight ahead. But then I checked my rearview mirror, turning my head just enough to see another landmine sign posted in a field alongside the road. I don’t remember it ever taking so long to get back to the Mekong Hotel from Skon.
That night when my screams woke Brielle, she turned on the light to find me sitting up, sobbing into my hands. My body shook beneath her embrace. There was no dismissing the fact that the robbery and killing of five people was tormenting me.
Before, the dead were names listed in reports or security briefings. But these murders took place right in front of me. I could smell death, and worse, I was helpless to prevent it.
Even as Brielle tried to soothe my fears, she got up and double-latched the hotel room door before going back to her own bed. We are not safe, I thought. As long as we are here, we are not safe.