The Adventures of Chartan: The Lost Fare


(Last Sunday: Chartan drives six teenagers to the senior prom, but the teens are nowhere to be found when he returns to pick them up—the police are on it!)

            The first hour behind the wheel of the parked limo went reasonably fast as he waited for the police to return, hopefully with six prom- goers. He had a brief conversation with Gina who had been asleep. She said she’d call back when her nap was over.

            Chartan kept checking his watch for the start of the second hour.  No police. No Gina. He was truly alone with his anxiety—his legs started to quiver. He got out of the limo. The night air was fresh and clean, a great time to run under the street lights and a bright moon that was almost full. He kept a pair of running shoes in the limo for such occasions. But he realized he didn’t have the phone number of the policemen who had left him an hour ago. Shouldn’t they have some info by now? He wondered what Brazil was doing. Combat? Risking death? He wanted to scream, to expel the tension that had taken over his body. Why hasn’t Gina called?

            ***

            Brazil and Zeke, their weapons pointed to the ground, took up the rear of a column of eight Russian soldiers who had surrendered. These were men Brazil thought didn’t want to fight anymore, still he kept close watch on each man, looking for unexplained hand movements.

            “Nyet,” yelled Brazil in Russian when one of the prisoners made a grunting sounds. “Nyet” was the only Russian he needed to know according to Zeke.

            Brazil was tempted to think about his friend Chartan, but dismissed the notion—his full attention had to be placed on walking eight prisoners to the detainment center on the edge of Kyiv. He remembered what a Vietnam buddy had said 50 years ago: “You’ll have plenty of time to daydream after you die.”

            ***

            The flashing red lights of two police cruisers broke the night stillness. Chartan moved so that he was standing in front of the limo.

            The lead cruiser braked hard, about five fee from  Chartan.

            “We got’em,” yelled the officer as he got out of the cruiser. A minute later four prom-goers were standing side by side, wobbly and pale faced under the school’s vapor lights.

            The officer approached Chartan. “Are these the kids you drove to the school?”

            “I recognize three, no four of them,” said Chartan. “But there were six all together, so you’re missing two.”

            The officer walked up to Chartan and showed him the passenger manifest he had given him. The names “Jenny Cribs” and “Walter West” were circled. The officer spoke in a low voice: “These kids say that Cribs and West didn’t go with them after they left the school—that they said they were going back to the limo. I take it you didn’t see them?”

            Chartan shook his head.

            “Well, we have a problem then,” said the officer staring at Chartan.

(Continued Next Sunday)      

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