Nojoom didn’t return until we were ready to board the bus. Meanwhile other hospital staff hosted us. I was waiting in the boarding line fending off Fournier’s inquires as to why I wanted us to stay, when I felt a nudge at my elbow. I turned around and was surprised to see Dr. Nojoom. “Excuse me,” he said, pulling me out of earshot ”I gather you are Iranian?”
“Yes,” I said in Farsi.
“Interesting bunch you are with,” he said. “What sort of school is this anyway?” I was sure he had been briefed by Dr. Parson, so I assumed he wanted an Iranian’s point of view.”
I explained that it was mostly for children of foreigners living in Iran, and that my father had enrolled me here for a period because our family travels had put me out of synch with the Iranian school system.
“Such pretty girls in school these days,” he said, mocking coeducation with lascivious envy.
“It’s nice,” I replied. “Doctor, surely the relatives of patients can see the medical records, isn’t that so?”
“I’m afraid it’s not so simple. Have you made friends with them?”
“With the patients?”
“No, with the pretty girls.”
“Is she a classmate?” Nojoom was nodding in the direction of Lina. Her blonde hair and centerfold figure and had been a problem throughout the tour. In the bazaar, the throng of curious males following us grew in size by the minute. While we toured the bazaar, the bazaar toured Lina.
“Yes, she’s in my art class.” I said. “There must be something you can reveal about a patient. Perhaps even as little as his age, the town he’s from, or when he was admitted.”
“Do you know her well? She doesn’t sound American .”
“Yes..no,” I implored impatiently. “Yes I know her well. I mean I see her everyday. Archeologist parents. They hunt moose. And no she’s not American, she’s Swedish. But Doctor…”
“Moose? What kind of moose?”
“Swedish Moose. The records…”
“I know a little French. Do they speak French in Sweden?”
“Not very well,” I said. “Dr. Nojoom, if a patient is not legally of sound mind, then shouldn’t there be a guardian who can see his records?”
“I’m sure the law makes allowances,” he said absently. His eyes were tracking Lina’s legs as she stepped up to the tour bus. “But this isn’t the right place. We’ll discuss that later.” He shook his head with an admiring sigh. Lina had dropped her notepad; she was all cleavage, marble thighs, and silky hair gathering her stationary.
“But we’re leaving tomorrow. There will be no later,” I said.
“In that case, why don’t you and your Swedish girlfriend come to a small gathering at my house tonight. I will send my driver to your hotel this evening.”
I knew the information I wanted wasn’t cheap. In fact I would have been suspicious if he hadn’t asked for something in return. But the trade he was suggesting was far more than I could afford. “Thank you, but we wouldn’t wish to burden you,” I said.
“It would be my pleasure,” he said. “My car will be there just in case you wished to honor us.”
By the time we arrived at the hotel, I had decided it would be too cruel to Aunt Mehri– or for that matter any other relative—if I excavated the Golbaz affair. Yet the thought of giving up made me feel claustrophobic, as though a heavy rug had pinned me helplessly to a dark lie.
Fournier wouldn’t let up trying to find out what was bothering me. Figuring out people was his pastime, which mostly explained why he was so well liked. The rest of his appeal had to do with his staying a few seasons ahead in fashion. The clothes, the walk, the watch, the sunglasses, the jokes, even the soccer dances were cutting edge. Fournier was always so luxuriously accessorized we had nicknamed him Double O Fournier. Too bad his mother had given him license to kill her if he didn’t become a doctor; he would have made a great Bond. The males, student and faculty alike, envied and loved him; the females just loved him. The only person so far unimpressed was Lina.
Double O Fournier had enlisted me into his entourage because of my amazing super powers. Once when we were horse playing after a soccer game, the eleven boys who had piled on top of me were suddenly ejected across the length and breadth of the field. My psychosis so intrigued Fournier that he immediately shook my hand and said, “You are claustrophobe, no?” I was a happy Fournier groupie, as he enjoyed improving his friends. Recently he had been trying to cure my shyness with girls. This gave me a way to broach the favor I was about to ask him.
“Fournier, you know how you’re always trying to get me to go out with girls?” I said,
He snapped his fingers in a cheeky eureka.” I knew it! Girl trouble. Who is it? I’ll set you up.”
“Dieu! If I could get Lina, you think I would give her to you?”
“I don’t mean I want her to be my girlfriend,” I said. “But I really need her for a couple of hours tonight.”
Fournier bulged his eyes in surprise. “Just a couple of howers? Well, that makes it a lot easier than a couple of days,” he laughed.
So I told him all about Golbaz and the arrangement I thought I had with Dr. Nojoom. I said I was going to let the lecher show off the blonde at his party, then I’d bring Lina right back. That much I could afford; Nojoom could take it or leave it.
Fournier said, “Look, when I become a psychiatrist, I’ll treat you for free. But for now I only feel bad for you. Dig up the grave of your uncle on your own. Leave Lina hout of these things.”
As he was walking away I called to him, “And, I thought Double O Fournier could do anything,” I said.
Fournier stopped and swung around, amusedly tipping down his Ray-Bans at me. He had Homo sapiens figured out, knowing exactly which string pulls what emotion. I could tell he was proud I had become such a promising apprentice.
Around six o’clock he walked into my room without knocking.
“Hey,” I started to yell, but then I saw who stood behind him. There she was in all her glorious radiance, Lina.
Around her loomed six of the huskiest boys Fournier could round up from our group.
“Do you want to come to my party or not,” he said. “We’ve got room for one more?”
“One more?” I protested. “Nojoom’s expecting only two?”
But Fournier had taken care of that. He had met Nojoom’s driver in front of the hotel and used magic to persuade him to hire an extra taxi so all of us could go to “his” party.
We piled into the cars, eight beasts and one beauty. Fournier had arranged for the other girls to take the clueless Dr. Parson to I-don’t-know-where. He’d flunk the whole class if he found out about the plot. I asked Fournier if Lina knew what was going on.
“Of course she knows,” said Fournier.
“And she’s still going?”
“Her parents are world famous grave diggers,” he bragged indignantly. ”So you expect the daughter to pass up an adventure digging up living corpses?”
Was there no angle Fournier didn’t know how to work? I was going to thank him, but Double O’s don’t want thanks; they’re after amazement and admiration. My stunned expression held plenty of both as we drove into the dusk, and sycamores rushed past.
Nojoom’s house was the kind that appeared on a hill long before it was reached. The driveway gates had seen more horse and carriage in their lifetime than motorcars. This wasn’t a house someone built; it was a manor one was born into.
Fournier knew that Persian custom forbids the turning away of guests, no matter how unexpected. Dr. Nojoom welcomed us to join his other guests who were all impressed to see the goddess of Sweden grace his manor. I had held up my end of the bargain.
Soon the conversations began with the hunting trophies that hung on the walls, warming up from there. I noticed Lina and Dr. Nojoom were deep in conversation under some antlers. She seemed amused by Nojoom’s flirtatious effort to convince her the antlers came from the Iranian desert moose.
Fournier and his toughs had been unexpected, but the kitchen wouldn’t have balked at a hundred more unexpected guests with even bigger appetites. A feudal lord’s dining table is a lonesome place for fewer numbers. The spread was extravagant. Several kinds of herbed rice, a variety of lamb dishes, game duck, and Caspian fish were served.
As we were helping ourselves, I felt claustrophobic again. Something was amiss that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Finally I realized what it was. The walls, covered as they were with creatures once alive, had no photos on them. Did the inheritor of all this wealth have no family history? I turned to Fournier to share the oddity, when I saw in the pallor of his face that something had alarmed him.
“What’s the matter Fournier?” I said. He nodded in the direction of the very big man carrying a soup server.
“So what?” I asked.
“Don’t you notice?”
“They’re all big,” he said.
That had occurred to me. Dr. Nojooms’s servants all looked like gravel trucks. They also seemed unusually alert for butlers. Rather than go thorough the doldrums of butlering with courteous indifference, they looked about sharply and with intention.
“Maybe they’re orderlies from the mental institution,” I said. “So what if they’re moonlighting.”
“Body guards,” Fournier whispered.
Fournier put his hands under the table and pointed out the one wearing a white jacket. Then he mouthed the word, “G U N.”
Fournier had grown up around ambassadors and other important people. If there was anyone who could tell the difference between a genuine butler and bodyguards in disguise it was Double O Fournier.
“What’s he doing with a gun?” I said, starting to shake.
“He’s going to use it on us if we interfere with what the Doctor wants to do with Lina,” Fournier said, moving his lips as little as possible. “For the sake of God, you didn’t say there would be guns and goons and Marquis de Sade!”
“I’m so sorry about this, Fournier,” I whimpered. “I just wanted to know about the patient.”
“You think it is time for that now?” he said irritably. “What if he rapes her?”
“He can’t. He knows he’ll never get away with it.”
“Look, we know nothing of him. Don’t think you know what he can or can’t get away with. Just make ourselves excuses for going back to the ‘otel right after dinner. Say to him we sent the extra taxi back to Parson because he wanted to know where we are.”
“OK. I’ll tell him Parson expects us back by ten thirty.”
“Good,” he breathed nervously. “I should round up the guys and tell Lina we’re in big shit.”
It occurred to me that all night the Doctor hadn’t even had to speak to his servants. They communicated with nods, gestures and glances. Now Nojoom dipped his head at one of his thugs for some reason. “If anything starts to happen,” I said to Fournier, “you guys can run; I’ll save Lina.”
Fournier patted me on the back and forced a smile. “That’s O.K. we’ll all stay to save Lina. Just go tell Nojoom what I told you, and keep both ‘ands visible to the guy with the gun.”
I did exactly as Fournier had instructed. But Dr. Nojoom was surprisingly at ease letting us go. His other guests had also started to leave. The Doctor seemed relieved that his tiresome duties as a host were about to end. There was just one minor glitch. Some of us had arrived in the taxi, so the only way we could get back was to have the Doctor’s driver take us home in two runs.
After the first carload had been safely delivered to the hotel, the only ones left waiting at the mansion were Fournier, Lina, me, and two beefy boys versus five weightlifters, Nojoom, and the guy with the gun. When the car came back, one of Nojoom’s henchmen quickly took up a seat. He explained that he needed a ride downtown so he could catch the last bus home. There was only room enough in the car for four more. One of us had to stay behind all alone for a third run.
This was the trap.
Fournier and I knew there would be no third run if Lina stayed behind. This time it was he and I that didn’t need words to communicate. He swallowed hard as he assertively led Lina to the car, seeing to it that she got in first and he after her. I followed behind, but inexplicably a henchman blocked my path making sure the other boys were the next to board.
As Double O Fournier and Lina were chauffeured away cozily pressed against each other, it dawned on me that the beautiful Swede was never the intended prey. The crafty Doctor Nojoom wanted to be alone with me>>> Part 4