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Istanbul Express (Rendezvous With Destiny, #5) by T. Davis Bunn (1 star ratings)

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The honeymooning couple, Jasmyn and Pierre, had emerged from their compartment only six times in four days, and in that period had spoken a grand total of nine words to anyone else. Jake had been counting. He had nothing else to do. Their stop in Zagreb the morning of the fourth day was another excuse for more baffling enthusiasm from Sally. She rushed to him, grabbed his hand, pulled him out on the platform. Look over there, do you see that woman? Barely, he grunted, shielding his eyes from rain whipped sideways by the wind. You really find this interesting?

Are you kidding? The dowager empress, the English governess, the mysterious millionaire. She hugged Jake with excitement. I never thought I would be doing anything quite like this. Oh, you. She released him. I wish there were some way I could make this last another couple of weeks. She examined his face, then pulled him over so they were shielded by the train. Among other things. It was Harry who had followed Jake to Marseille and talked him into taking the Istanbul post. Harry was supposed to lead their project from the United States embassy in Ankara.

After Jake had accepted the position, Harry had pressed upon them the urgency of the project, and stressed that there was not even time to return to England before beginning the new assignment. Every minute was required to bring Jake up to speed. Someone else would see to packing their belongings and shipping them to Turkey. The command from headquarters had left the little man helplessly fuming.

Furthermore, something in the tone of his orders had left him cautious about having Jake accompany him back. Instead, Harry had suggested they take a slower passage to Istanbul via the newly reopened Orient Express. He probably heard we were being delayed and went on by air, Sally offered. Not all that much. And not nearly enough to get the job done. The lounge would have been his perfect hideaway, had not every other man in the train decided the same thing.

And Jake was the only one who did not smoke.

The puff of choice was either a cigar that brought to mind the word pumpernickel or pipe tobacco that smelled of a long-dead cherry orchard. There were three distinct groups of passengers. They held themselves as aloof as possible while being crammed together for days on end.


They traveled with two hard-edged intentions; to return to a life of ease, and to restore their sense of position and status. To their minds, the recent war was an inconvenience, now best forgotten. Next came the wealthy European business owners, in bright suits and nervous manners. Many were war profiteers, who quaffed back bucket-sized goblets of brandy and scotch as they gambled recklessly, and talked in voices that would have made foghorns shrivel with envy.

A third group, far smaller than the others, were professional travelers. These bore the hard-earned stamp of distant gazes and guarded reserve. Jake would have liked to meet them, but they came and went like the wind, holding themselves utterly aloof from the others. Travel still suffered from war-inflicted wounds, and for the time being all safe roads ran through Istanbul. Thus the Orient Express, such as it was, remained the best overland passage to the mysterious east. Except for Sally, there were no gawking tourists on the train; postwar rationing saw to that.

As for Pierre and Jasmyn, Jake did not bother to count them at all. For all he saw of his friends, they might as well not have been on the train. After a half-dozen urgent messages had brought the couple home early, Pierre had declared to Harry and everyone else within range that a one-day honeymoon was like being led to the wedding banquet and being granted a single bite of dry toast.

Although clearly pleased to be assigned a post near his friend, Pierre had boarded the train intent upon making up for time lost. The fifth morning dawned as gray and wet as the previous four. As was his habit, Jake rose at first light and made his way to the dining car.

Istanbul Express (Rendezvous With Destiny Series, Book #5)

These solitary breakfasts were his only chance to be outside their compartment without being surrounded by smoke and noise. A sleepy waiter took his order and left him alone. Sometime during the night, the train had pulled into yet another nameless Yugoslav village and stopped.

Around the red-brick station spread a small hamlet of ancient cottages. The village was surrounded by fields of grain bowed under the weight of unending rain. Jake smiled his thanks when the waiter brought his coffee. He took a first sip, unbuttoned his shirt pocket, drew out his small New Testament, and was soon lost in his study. A rather sheepish Pierre stood waiting patiently beside his table. Jake motioned to the seat across from him. By all means.

What can you recommend? The Frenchman slid into the leather-upholstered bench with a quiet sigh. I regret to say that until now all my meals have been served in the compartment.

His friend looked rested, but a little pale, and his voice sounded drained. Everything is great. Then that is precisely what I shall have, Pierre said as the waiter approached. A breakfast of everything. Very good, sir. The English waiter had the unshakable calm of one trained to handle the most difficult of passengers. Eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, kippers, beans, and fried bread?

As my friend suggests. And extra on whatever else you said, Pierre amended. As well as a pot of that coffee. Pierre turned his attention to the window. Outside, a group of Slavic dancers entertained on the platform, though it was doubtful how many of the passengers were awake enough to enjoy the spectacle.

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Accordions and fiddles flew through ancient mountain melodies as the beribboned dancers gyrated and kicked their heels to incredible heights. Security was ominous and everywhere. The official police wore belted woolen overcoats with holstered pistols at their waists. Pierre rubbed the side of his face.