The Iran Contradictions Excerpt
HOLLOWAY awakened in response to several assaults on his senses. The first was an incessant throb behind his eyes. A couple of months ago, he would have attributed it to his nightly alcoholic escape from the pain of losing his family, but he had not drunk anything headache-producing recently, except Mr. Pinchot’s cola. The second assault was the strong smell of bourbon. He could even taste it. Holloway forced himself to a fully conscious state. When he reluctantly opened eyes, he saw that he was lying on a cot in a cell. His clothes were dirtier than he remembered and he was wearing his suit coat. It was stained and smelled like it had been soaked in whiskey.
A man was sitting in a chair next to the cot shaking Holloway by the shoulder and it wasn’t Pinchot. The closer Holloway got to full consciousness the more violently the man shook him. The shaking made Holloway aware that his entire body was a pulsating blob of pain. It was then that he remembered the Oriental using him for a soccer ball in the alley.
“Mr. Holloway! Mr. Holloway!” The voice was strong and insistent. Holloway mumbled something and the shoulder-shaking increased to what he guessed was a point-five on the Richter scale. “What did you say, Mr. Holloway?”
Holloway licked his lips. The bourbon residue almost made him gag. Then, slowly and distinctly, so that there would be no misunderstanding, Holloway said, “If you shake me one more time, I’m going to get up from here and break every finger on your hand.”
The shaking stopped and the man leaned closer so that Holloway got a good look at him. Gray slacks and a blue blazer came into Holloway’s field of vision. Regimental tie against a blue shirt. The face was in its thirties with a square jaw, intelligent blue eyes and a hard look around the mouth. It was crowned with short brown hair and connected to a lean body. The face radiated confidence. It belonged to a man who was not fazed by visiting murdering drunks in foreign jails, and that kind of cool made Holloway uneasy.
“Sit up, Mr. Holloway?” The voice coming from the face was American and strong. It was used to giving orders.
Holloway didn’t move. “Who the hell are you?”
“Tom Braxton. I’m from the United States Consulate. I’m special assistant to the consul.”
“Are you here to spring me?”
Holloway sensed that a lot of time had passed since he and Pinchot had replenished their fluids from the cola cup. He glanced at his wrist, but the watch was missing. “What time is it?”
“Nine a.m.,” announced Braxton.
“You and Pinchot took your damn good time. And why did that little bastard slip me a mickey?”
“I beg your pardon?” Braxton looked puzzled.
Holloway uncoiled himself from the fetal position and, with great pain, swung his legs over the edge of the cot and sat up.
“I said, ‘You and Pinchot took your damn good time.’ I’ve been here for twelve hours.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand, Mr. Holloway. The duty officer told me about your predicament at seven this morning. I came down here immediately, and I don’t know anyone named Pinchot.”
“What the hell do you mean, you don’t know Pinchot. He’s with the State Department. He came in here about ten last night. He said my release was being arranged. Then, the little bastard drugged me!”
Tom Braxton suppressed a smile. “The guard told me that you had nightmares. Maybe you dreamed up this Pinchot. I know all of our people in Geneva who deal with the Swiss on tourist matters. We don’t have anyone named Pinchot.”
Somewhere behind the throb in Holloway’s head, a voice told him to forget Pinchot for the time being and concentrate on getting out of jail. “Yeah,” agreed Holloway, “maybe it was a dream. So, when do I get out of here?”
“You’re free to go now, if you like.”
Holloway was surprised, but said nothing.
Braxton added, “The Swiss did impose one condition.”
“You must leave the country immediately. You have been declared persona non grata, no longer welcome in Switzerland. The Swiss are releasing you into my custody with the understanding that I put you on the first flight to the States. My job is to escort you to your hotel, collect your belongings, and take you to the airport. I hope you don’t object to those conditions.”
“Why should I object?” asked Holloway. “No charges?”
“The Swiss don’t usually press charges against tourists for public drunkenness. Ordinarily, they would have put you in a cab and sent you back to your hotel. Brawling in the street is another matter. Fortunately for you, they were unable to catch the man you were fighting.” Holloway could have asked why the police couldn’t catch a dead man with four bullets in him, but why complicate the situation?
Braxton continued. “The Swiss are deporting you because you resisted arrest. The report says you slugged a policeman. They won’t tolerate that kind of disrespect for authority.”
“That’s fair,” said Holloway trying not to sound cynical. It was painful for him to walk. So, he let Braxton and a guard help him hobble down the hall to the elevator. On the first floor, they went to separate windows of a bulletproof glass enclosure and conducted their business. Braxton signed papers accepting responsibility for Holloway. Holloway signed a receipt for his property.
Braxton walked over and picked up the holster. “A very unusual place to keep cash.” He had read the interrogation report.
“I’m eccentric,” said Holloway, as he shoved his money into the holster and strapped it to his . He picked up his camera and remembered that he had taken pictures of the Oriental. He glanced at the frame indicator. It should have read “21,” but it read “0.” Holloway opened the camera. It was empty. He banged on the glass to attract the policeman’s attention. “I had film in this camera when I came in here last night. Where is it?”
The policeman removed Holloway’s property receipt from an accordion file and read it carefully. He spoke English with a heavy German accent. “Kam-e-ra ‘vas empty.” He gave Holloway his most professional blank stare.
Holloway wasn’t having any of it. “Look, I know damn well there was film in this camera and I want it!”
The policeman drew himself up close to the glass so that Holloway could see all six-feet-five-inches of his bulky frame. Slowly, he repeated, “Kam-e-ra ‘vas empty. Kein film!” He jammed the receipt back into the file and turned away.
Holloway wanted to continue the discussion, but Braxton took his arm firmly and drew him away from the window. “I don’t think it would be a good idea to argue with these people right now, do you?”
Braxton led Holloway, still grumbling about his film, to a Mercedes in front of the police station. A dark-suited chauffeur with linebacker shoulders opened the rear door for them while he gave Holloway a disdainful look. Holloway wanted to think during the drive to his hotel, but Braxton wanted to talk.
“I’m sorry your stay in Switzerland was not as pleasant as it might have been. Did you conclude all of your business before you got involved with the police?”
“I didn’t have any business to conclude. I was here on a pleasure trip.”
“Ah,” sighed Braxton. “Well, Switzerland is a wonderful place to get away from the stress of business . . . usually.”
“Yeah,” said Holloway, absently. He was still thinking about the camera and wondering what had really happened to the man he shot in the alley. “Say, Braxton, I’m a little fuzzy on what happened last night. Can you fill me in?”
“Sure. The police report said you and another man were drunk and fighting behind the restaurant. A citizen called the police. They came and found you drunk and unconscious. When they tried to revive you, you became abusive and assaulted them. They had to use force to subdue you, knocking you unconscious again.” A smile played at Braxton’s lips. “They brought you into the station, let you sleep it off overnight, and notified us this morning. I came over and got you out. That’s all there is to tell.” Braxton’s smile broadened. “I’m afraid it wasn’t your night to win battles.”
“That guy in the alley was trying to mug me. Before I passed out, I seem to remember that he had a gun.”
Braxton frowned. “No gun was mentioned in the police report.”
“A knife, maybe?”
“Sorry. No knife either. No weapons at all.”