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Chapter 47: Pink is the Color of Calm

I had a week between Kosal’s murder and the burial, with little time to do more than resign myself to his loss. However, in the aftermath of the funeral, my emotions careened from anger to guilt, from sadness to disbelief.

That night I went to bed without dinner and hugged the pillow for comfort, adjusting myself to better suit Fannett’s preferred sleeping spot in the small of my back. Within a few hours I was sleeping fitfully—-half naked, tossing sheets and turning my pillow endlessly to try to find a place free of perspiration. Giving up, I flipped over onto my back and slipped into a panic when I remembered that Wati and I had an emergency military briefing with Radush and Russ in the morning.

I reached unconsciously for the bottle of Xanax—my best friend during the emotional rampage of my marriage. The bottle was almost full of the little pink pills, which I hadn’t taken in months. Hell, I wasn’t going to start again, either. Why was it that I required Xanax to deal with ‘man problems’ but didn’t need it when faced with real danger?

Dressed and ready to go to the briefing at the Unmos’ location, I looked back at the little bottle on my nightstand. Maybe I would reconsider the Xanax when I got back from the meeting—if the news was really terrible.

Russ outranked Radush, so he was doing the talking. “Untac is in an uneasy truce with the bloody Khmer Rouge. We are almost certain that they will continue to target the electoral teams to disrupt the registration process and protest the upcoming election.” I looked from him to Radush, who was nodding his agreement. Both men looked tired and serious. This threat was real―not a matter of if, but when. Then, with his usual swagger, Russ said to me, “Given your district’s recent attack, I cannot allow you or your teams to sleep in the villages; it’s too risky.” I stiffened in response to his order.

“Our gear is prepared for staying with the teams,” I replied.

“Especially since Kosal’s death, they’re afraid to stay without us,” Wati added emphatically.

Russ waited impatiently for us to finish speaking before issuing his verdict. “Havra, I know you have the stones for it, but all teams will commute from Skon daily for their own protection.”

No one could know how much I wanted to accept his verdict; even I didn’t want to know that. Nevertheless, I replied, “I appreciate your concern, I really do. But sorry, we can’t do it. I owe Kosal that much.”

Radush came to our aidmore as a show of one-upmanship in his ongoing competition with the Brit, or any other Westernerthan to support Wati and me. “The Skon Unmos will accompany them. I, Radush, will keep them safe.”

Maybe real crazy hadn’t even started yet.

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