Conspiracy at Desert One
By Bernace Charles
The cottage looked of an earlier century with thatch roof, white, stucco
walls, and stone walkway bordered by barren flowerbeds. Walker spent two
months writing and recovering from his wound. During these days, he neared
completion of a first draft and lost weight from a self-imposed labor of
chopping wood for an iron stove. Lin Thi saw to the delivery of wood instead
of coal for Wes to cut. The physical labor added physical endurance while
warding off the cold. Though there was electric heat, it didn't provide
exercise. Walker's beard was full and trimmed.
Roya spent the days reading, managing the cottage, and contemplating
her mother's time in Tehran. The cottage had a telephone and Lin Thi had
its owner register for Internet service out of Pensanze. This enabled Wes
to research Iran on the Internet. It was the first novel Walker researched
off the net and he quickly came to believe in its value. Though the U.S.
labeled Iran as a terrorist sponsoring state, the Internet presented a
source of information overload. Any writer not using the Internet was a
writer lost. He had found an incredible number of Iranian web sites to
draw from and managed to build a viable presentation of Laleh Sanders'
time in Tehran. Roya was quick to make suggestions and gave further details
by remembering stories her mother told. Though Roya had learned Farsi,
she hadn't been to Tehran since she was a child of four when her mother
and Fred Southgate traveled to Tehran for her grandparents' funeral. But
there were details she remembered that her mother told her.
On days that the weather allowed, Roya walked a path along side a narrow
stream that extended to the English Channel. A narrow, pebble beach lay
against a high cliff where the creek emptied into the sea. Roya often went
to the isolated stretch of beach at low tide to be alone. She would sit
bundled in a warm coat, think of her mother, and parts of her mother's
letter taken from the bank in Zurich.
Roya remembered receiving monthly letters from her mother when her mother
was in Tehran. She remembered that the letters came from different Iranian
cities. During those months, no mail came to Fred Southgate. The sandbar
was Roya's refuge. She was sitting on it, the cold wind off the water striking
her face as though it were made of a million needles as she was thinking
when she heard, "Hi. Are you having a good talk with yourself?"
Roya turned to see Wes. A cold sun and wind owned the day. Wes joined her.
He added, "It's cold out here. Maybe we should go back to the cottage."
Roya thought of how she and Walker were sleeping together, but not as
man and woman. She thought of how she would press against him for the security
and body warmth he offered during the cold nights. Roya said, "I was
thinking about my mother. If we were to find the man in Tehran and find
my half-brother . . . wouldn't it give support to my mother's story? It
would be further proof that she was there."
Wes found it difficult to appreciate Roya's question. Roya was asking
him if they shouldn't go to Tehran. Wes knew Roya wanted to find the man
with the code name Mashhad and the story offered multiple levels of betrayal.
Whatever the truth was . . . Roya was right. He said, "Roya, we'd
be running a serious risk. Even with what we learned about the coming elections
in Iran, and with the hope for reform, I don't know if it would be safe.
We have no idea where these men are. They could be dead. They could be
anywhere . . . they could be out of Iran. It wouldn't be safe to enter
Iran right now. Even with having other passports . . . it would be dangerous."
Roya looked on the water before she turned back to Walker. She asked,
holding her blond hair from a wind wanting to blow in her face, "But
what about the fact no one would suspect that we would go there. We both
have Swiss passports. We can use them. We can wait until March and the
No-rooz Holiday . . . we can say we want to spend the Iranian New Year
there. It will begin on the first day of spring. We can use the time to
travel there. I remember my mother saying how all Iranians wanted to visit
Iran and relatives then." Roya referred to the Iranian practice of
celebrating the coming of the Solar New Year and the ending of winter.
She had watched her mother prepare a haft-sin on a table when living in
both America and Israel. She followed the tradition of building it on a
sofe (embroidered cloth) and each item presented starting with the letter
Walker had read of the holiday and sent e-mail to several travel agencies
about possible travel to Tehran. He was also thinking of traveling there,
but he didn't want to worry Lin Thi. He said, "Roya, the Iranian government
doesn't want the story told anymore than those in America. They attempted
to hide the truth by placing your mother under house arrest. The clerics
don't want the people to know that one of their own helped her prevent
the rescue-effort from reaching Tehran. It would be a disaster if they
were to find why we were in Iran."
Roya asked giving him a hard serious look, "But why? They came
to know the force was preparing to leave the country. Why not let-it-go?
Why not allow the truth where people can get on with their lives? The boy
is my half-brother. We have a couple of months for you to work on the book.
By March we'll be ready for the trip."
Wes turned to watch the waves off the channel. On other days, he had
managed the walk to sit beside Roya. There, Roya and he had talked of their
lives. Wes said, "I don't know, Roya. Let me think about it. We'll
stay here through February and see if the reformist win a majority of seats
in their parliamentary elections. If they do, maybe we would stand a better
chance of having some sense of security if we go there. We'll have to wait
and see. I'm afraid that we have several cold months ahead of us."
Roya stood. She reached back down for Walker's left hand in her right
saying, "Come on . . . it's getting colder." A late November
sun was on the far-western horizon and beginning its descent."
Wes got to his feet realizing no pain came in his side from the effort.
He headed across the beach with Roya holding tightly to his hand. Wes knew
that Roya Southgate thought she was in love with him. But, he didn't know
what to do about it. >>>
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