Nathalie sits upright in the taxi driving her to the airport. How can she be as foolish as to trust her life to a perfect stranger she met such a while ago? What if he is a double agent whose aim is to coax her into spying? She shoots Elijah a surreptitious glance.
“Don’t be nervous, Nathalie. It’s completely risk-free. You really look like Ruth on this passport photo. Once in Paris you won’t be obliged to do anything against your wish. You can study, see a film every day, enjoy life, and become another person. You will adore Paris I promise. I won’t fence you in. You will be financially independent, no ties attached.”
She watches him doubtfully. How can he talk so openly not fearing of being over-heard? What if the cabbie works for the state security? It’s common knowledge that many taxi drivers are specially trained undercover agents. Language students are often contacted during their studies and “invited” to collaborate with the police. Some of them agree in fear of being victimised, the others being greedy of the lavish income on the side.
The taxi comes suddenly to a halt.
“What’s going on?” She asks readying for the worst.
“No inkling.” The cabbie answers infuriatingly calm.
“Wait, now I remember. I heard that some Soviet dignitary is visiting Prague and the airport route will be blocked. It’s not for the first time.” He says grimly.
“How long may it take, have you any idea?”
“No idea! It may be short or an eternity.”
For the first time Elijah seems to be worried.
“Shall we miss the flight?” She asks anxiously.
“It looks like it, Nathalie. It’s not a tragedy, don’t panic. If the traffic jam hasn’t cleared up in half an hour we shall take the next plane tomorrow and spend the evening in some most enjoyable way. I don’t understand how the local people can take all this that calmly. In Paris the hell would get loose; they would hoot, get out of their cars and boo.”
“Better don’t try it here! You’d get yourself into trouble and my hair would have been butchered in vain.”
“OK, if you say so! In that case let’s do something constructive. How can we turn the handicap into fun? Any idea? No? Then why don’t you show me a place that you love so much that I shall understand if you get homesick in Paris?”
“Do you really think that being sentimental is the best way how to leave my past and start anew? I doubt it.”
“I see your point. Though isn’t it better that the two of us have some past together, slight as it may be? Now give me a couple of minutes to change our flight reservation. It gives you a chance to find the places that will become our shared past. We are still lucky to be stranded in the centre of the city and not in some measly suburb.”
“I got it! The café Slavia over there is one of those things I shall miss. You may make your call from there. Let’s hurry before the last table by the window has been taken.”
She sips her coffee listening to the din of the street filtered by the panes of glass pondering about the places she would miss. A chair shifts. She looks up with a ready smile for Elijah and freezes. She has never seen the man who is approaching her stealthily before.
“No need to be scared, Miss. No harm meant. My unexpected appearance will be very profitable in case you’d be smart. No, don’t worry. We have time enough.” He reassures her, acknowledging her surreptitious glance in Elijah’s direction.
“Your friend is otherwise engaged. I’m here to ask you a favour, a little favour with a big advantage for you. It’s nothing risky, believe me. All you have to do is to take this letter and pass it onto the address on the envelope. Bring it, am I clear enough? Post it won’t do. Be sure it will be worth your effort.”
“What if I say no?”
“Then you will be sorry. It will have serious repercussions on your future.”
“Is that so?” She says feigning indifference.
“I hope you will do it for your own sake, Miss! Don’t tell me you will think about it. It’s yes or no now! Understood?”
“Does Elijah know about it?”
His answer is a smirk.
“I wish you a safe journey, Miss.”
He leaves her as discreetly as he appeared. The only proof she has not seen a phantom is the letter on the table.
“Sorry it took so long. I had some complications with the reservations. At least it gave you time enough to think about our sentimental journey.”
He ignores the letter as if it were her pure imagination. She touches it cautiously hoping it would disappear. But the letter remains a harsh reality.
“OK. Let’s go!” She pockets it and gets up complying with a ghost written story line that is governing her life.