Authors: Marie Moore
PO Box 70515
Seattle, WA 98127
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover design by Sabrina Sun
Side Trip to Kathmandu
Copyright © 2015 by Marie Moore
ISBN: 978-1-60381-297-9 (Trade Paper)
ISBN: 978-1-60381-298-6 (eBook)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014955980
Produced in the United States of America
atience is certainly a virtue. Mohit would, I am sure, have some wise words to impart on its value. I can only say that I am most grateful to my hardworking agent Victoria Marini, to Catherine Treadgold and Jennifer McCord of Camel Press, and to Sidney’s loyal fans for their understanding and patience in waiting so kindly for Sidney’s next adventure to be written. Here it is, finally, and I hope all of you will think it worth the wait.
or Marie and Susanna, my precious girls, and little Kate, who I predict will grow up to be a great adventurer. Always, always for Rook, and especially for Doris, a brave lady who is a real team player.
his is indeed India; the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence … the country of a thousand nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods … the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.”
Following the Equator
his is your final chance, Sidney,” Silverstein said, slouching in his Italian leather chair and staring at me over his Cheaters. “And I really mean it this time. Your last two trips were disasters.”
“Final chance, Sidney,” echoed Andre, Silverstein’s wormy little assistant.
I wanted to smack him. My chances were none of Andre’s business.
“Mr. Silverstein,” I pleaded, leaning forward in my chair toward the shiny expanse of his desk at the travel agency, hoping for some real understanding, “You must know that what happened on that safari was not my fault.”
He tented his hands behind his curly gray head and leaned farther back in the chair, resting his head against his big, bronzed wrists. He studied me in silence, his stare unrelenting. He wore an expensive open collared shirt with sleeves precisely rolled to his elbows.
“Maybe not in the strictest sense, Sidney. Maybe not. But what about the trip
the safari … that nightmare of a cruise?”
“That wasn’t my fault, either. I didn’t invite a killer to come on the cruise. Surely you can’t blame those murders on me?”
Sitting up, he extended his long arms, palms uplifted, into an elaborate shrug.
“All I know, Sidney, is that on the trips you’ve been leading lately, stuff happens. Bad stuff. People die. It may be just bad luck, it may not be your fault, but somehow it happens. And if your luck doesn’t change—and I mean right now—you are out of a job. My lawyers are screaming. Itchy Feet Travel can’t take any more unfortunate accidents. It’s bad for business.”
“Bad for business,” Andre repeated, nodding.
“People are attracted to you, Sidney,” Silverstein said, leaning back in his chair once again. “I’ll give you that. They like you, they really do. You get high marks in all the customer satisfaction surveys. You are smart, good-looking and friendly, and in every other respect, you are a good agent. A class act. But your luck’s gotta change, and that’s the bottom line.”
He stared silently at me for a beat, then he leaned forward toward the desk and his expression softened.
“You can do well on this, Sidney,” he said, “if you stick to your business and don’t go looking for trouble. Diana has the details of the assignment. Stop by her office when you leave here and pick up the rest of the paperwork.”
Andre, hovering at his elbow, handed him a slim folder. Silverstein glanced through it briefly then passed it over to me.
“This should be a breeze, Sidney. I wish I was going. It’s a great trip. You and Jay will be escorting a select group of high-end clients on a deluxe tour of India, followed by a side trip to Nepal. These people are the silver tunas, Sidney, a real catch for my agency. I can see a lot of fat commissions coming from this in the future, and we all know I could sure use some cash.”
He wasn’t finished. I started to reply, but he waved me into silence.
“Why, you may ask, am I giving you this plum? Well, I wouldn’t risk sending you out with this group,” he said, with a grim smile, “given your recent track record, but you have been specifically requested as tour escort by Mrs. Shyler. And as you know, we do all we can to keep her happy. She spends a ton with us. If Shyler hadn’t demanded that you go with her group, you’d be on your way to Atlantic City with the gambling bus.”
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Brooke to the rescue once again, bless her!
He rose from his chair, indicating that the interview was over. Clutching my new assignment, I grabbed my bag, followed Andre to the door, and was almost out of there when Silverstein’s voice, calling my name, stopped me. I looked back from the doorway.
“Sidney,” he said, “We’re making big bucks on this. Don’t screw it up. This is your last chance. And I really mean that. Understand?”
I nodded, pushed past Andre into the hall, and marched toward Diana’s office to pick up the details of what might be my final job for Itchy Feet Travel.
Diana was her usual snarky self, handing over the tour packet reluctantly. Her ice-blue eyes lasered into me. I stood in front of her desk, not willing to kiss the hem of her gown, but knowing that hearing her two cents was unavoidable.
“I really can’t imagine why Mr. Silverstein is risking sending you out again, Sidney, especially with these special clients. I told him that he is making a big mistake.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Diana,” I said, “I really appreciate it.”
She patted a stray platinum blonde hair into place. It had somehow escaped her always perfect French twist. She smiled her wide, fake smile.
“I have nothing against you, Sidney. No matter what you think, I am very fond of you. But if it had been my decision, you would have been immediately terminated after the Africa trip. It’s nothing personal. I am only thinking of the welfare of our clients. That is my first concern. Their welfare always comes before ours. Their happiness. Their feelings. Not mine. And certainly not yours. I am sympathetic toward the challenges you have faced on the last two trips. I have a very tender heart. But when it comes to choosing between your comfort level and that of our clients, your feelings just really don’t matter.”
What do you say to something like that? I looked at her in silence, struggling to control my emotions. Clearly, a reply was impossible, so I just stood there, waiting for the lecture to be over.
“As you know,” she continued, finally relinquishing the envelope, “today is Jay’s off day, so he has not yet been told about this trip. Normally, Mr. Silverstein would chat with Jay personally, as he did with you, but he is leaving tonight for LA on business. Mrs. Silverstein has a conflict and cannot make the flight, so I am accompanying him.”
The sly triumph in her eyes was unmistakable.
“So we are allowing you to advise Jay of the assignment,” she continued after she was sure that I’d gotten the message. “Please share all the information with Jay and tell him that I will speak with him about it when we return on Monday.”
I perked up at that news. Telling Jay would be fun.
Diana smiled her phony smile again, showing all of her expensive, matching, gleaming white, perfectly capped fangs.
“I have every confidence that you will do a good job this time, Sidney. As you’ve been told, it’s your last chance. I would actually be quite sad to lose you.”
She waved her manicured fingers regally and dismissively toward me, swiveling around toward her computer and saying over her shoulder, “That’s all for now. You may go.”
As I closed the agency door behind me, heading down the crowded sidewalks toward the subway, I fully realized how sad
would be if I really lost my job. Given the recent state of the economy and the ongoing struggles of the travel industry, jobs like mine are scarce. Finding another one like it would be tough.
My name is Sidney Marsh, and I’m a travel agent, one of the last left standing in a job that everyone seems to think is becoming obsolete. Not me. I hope and believe that there will always be a place for a really good travel advisor, no matter what the Internet offers. I love planning trips for people and I pray they will always need my services. It’s great making people happy. Plus, I get to go on amazing trips that I could never afford on my own.
My career started about nine years ago when I came to New York for a summer internship with a travel agency, fell in love with the travel business and the City, and worked overtime until I managed to turn that little temp job into a career.
My mother, back home in Mississippi, nearly passed out over the idea of blowing off college and sorority rush for Manhattan, but she’s finally gotten used to it. Sort of.
I’m happy about that, because I love my mom but I totally don’t want to have to leave the energy of Manhattan and head back home for good if I can avoid it. Not right now, anyway.
My little hometown is warm and friendly, filled with nice people, good people, but it’s tiny. I can count all the stoplights in my head if I try. It’s a charming place, it’s
, but it’s not The Big Apple.
The agency I work for in New York is called Itchy Feet Travel. Our name sounds kind of goofy, but it appeals to people and we’re pretty successful, even in these tough times. Like I said, some people think travel agents may be a dying breed, but in our shop we work really hard to send folks around the world happily and safely. We have good agents at Itchy, skilled, experienced agents. I’m pretty good myself, and Jay Wilson, my best friend and usual travel partner, is one of the best.
But the boss is right. Our last two big trips, a Scandinavian cruise and an African safari, unfortunately did not turn out well. Through no fault of my own, people really did end up dead.