Saturday, September 13, 2014


The desert stretched out before Carsten, a uniform panorama of wind-swept dunes. He had no idea where he was. He figured this was the Sahara, maybe still in Morocco, maybe in Algeria. Who the hell could tell? You’ve seen one vast sandy wasteland, you’ve seen them all.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing to beat yourself over the head with. When Poplovsky first came to Carsten with talk of transporting a small Holbein portrait to a buyer in Marrakesh, it sounded like an exotic, fun adventure. “You’ll have a blast,” Poplovsky has promised; “Africa is wonderful this time of year.  I would go, but so busy right now. I’ll pay you. No, not hazard pay, it is a straight exchange. You give him painting, he gives you money. No big deal. Really.”  Yeah, what could possibly go wrong with this?

Carsten was to meet the buyer at his hotel in Medina, the old fortified section of the city, at 6:30 PM on Thursday, but Carsten never even made it to his own hotel on Wednesday. His cab from Ménara International Airport took him to an alley where he was pulled from the vehicle at gun point. That was the last thing he could remember before waking up here. The tender spot on the back of his head and the constant throbbing filled in a portion of the blanks in his memory.

Looking at the rising sun he guessed it was Thursday morning. Sun rising in the east, no desert this big to the west of Marrakesh, Carsten turned and started walking west. Not that it would matter. He had no water, he had no shelter, and he had no chance of survival.

Copyright 2014 Barry Keller. All rights reserved.

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