At the bottom of the harbor there is a traffic turnabout where cars enter the tunnel under the Vieux-port. We sat there for an two hours watching the boats come and go, and waiting for the consulate to open. We didn’t talk much. Afterward we walked up the hill to 12 Blvd. P. Peytral.
The consulate was set back from a small, pleasant, cobblestoned, tree shaded square. There was a stone and metal fence where a friendly French guard went through the contents of our pockets and held my jackknife for ransom while we were inside. It wouldn’t be so easy today, but in 1989, Osama bin Laden was just a young man no one had heard of.
We descended into a small garden, and then through into a foyer where a second guard sat like a bank teller behind a thick glass panel. He asked our business and I explained that Raven was an American citizen who had lost her passport. He made a brief phone call, released an electronic lock, and told us to go on into the waiting room.
“Who is working on lost passports today?” I asked.
“Mr. Cummings. Why? Do you know him?” Behind the polite reply there was suspicion. The cold war was still a reality. I could not see his hands, but I would have bet that they had moved closer to a panic button.
“No, but Will Hayden is a close friend of mine. I’m Ian Gunn.”
The man relaxed. He said, “Mr. Hayden has been expecting you for two weeks. I’ll tell him you’re here.”
The waiting room was utilitarian, with straight backed leather chairs, framed prints from the USIA, and not much else. Raven sat down uneasily and said, “I hate this. This dress makes me look like a refugee.”
“You are. But you look fine.”
“Hah! To you. You’re hooked.”
Cummings came in and shook hands with us both. He was a small, gray man with a twisted lip. It looked like a cancer removal scar. Probably he had smoked a pipe all his life; probably, he didn’t any more. He gestured us ahead of him down the hall toward a small office.
Before we got there, Will came around a corner with a grin six feet wide and grabbed me. We pounded each other’s backs for a minute; then he held me at arm’s length. I don’t normally like being handled, but Will is my closest friend. Perhaps my only real friend, in a world full of friendly acquaintances.
Will appeared not to have noticed Raven, but I knew him better than that. I also knew Raven would be looking at him, and at the contrast between the two of us. We were both just at six feet. Will was fashionably thin in a tailored suit; he looked like a model. I weigh one-ninety in baggy jeans and a khaki shirt, with hands like a carpenter.
Will looked like he belonged at an embassy ball; I looked like I belonged on the deck of a sailboat.
The contrast was largely illusion; we were better matched than we appeared. We had both graduated San Francisco State with honors, and our MA theses in Political Science had been posted within a month of each other. We had both applied to the State Department; we had both passed the exams. And we had built Wahini together.
However, there was no denying that Will was better looking. In fact, he was better looking than just about anybody. It was an old joke between us that I kept him around just to keep the girls off my back.
He turned to Raven and said, aside to me, “You were going to introduce me, weren’t you?”
“I shouldn’t. Raven, Will Hayden. Will, Raven Cabral. She came over on the Wahini with me.”
He took her hand and said, “You trusted yourself in Ian’s hands?” His voice held an irresistible mixture of warmth and taunting. Raven smiled until her eyes glowed.
“The lady is with me, Will.”
I said it very quietly, and Will raised an eyebrow. I seldom resent his successes, and he knows it. He said, “Of course,” and turned off his charm like a faucet. He remained friendly and solicitous, but all invitation was gone out of his face and voice. If I knew how he did that, I would open a school to teach the technique and get rich. more tomorrow