The paper bag sounded unusually loud as the pair passed it back and forth, sharing the dried apricots as they waited in line for the exhibit to open. Once again, their contact was to be intercepted in the gift shop, according to the dossier that they had found taped under the back seat of the Combi. The ornithologist scanned the sky for any migratory species, though they really should have known better. The magistrate felt at ease with the assignment; this was their first visit to Ankara, but the premise behind the Ulucanlar Prison Museum was quite familiar.
They had wandered through the town, having left the aquabus in one of the drainage ponds at the I-70 interchange. It had been a dusty drive, and the vehicle certainly could use the soaking. As they wandered through the town’s enormous collection of objects, they felt lilliputian. The dentist rattled the bag of tiles suggestively as they walked past the sign for the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. The typesetter did not hesitate to point out that at 678 inches, it was the tallest chair of any kind in the United States. It was a habit that was both tiresome and instructive. And it never got in the way of a quick game of mahjong.
The pediatrician scrambled on hands and knees after the rubber ball. It deflected off the base of the Monument to Fuel Tanker, his imperturbable brass cheer completely unaffected by the collision. The interlocutor looked around surreptitiously. Their aim was to provide some normalcy to the fact that two people were hanging out near one of the lowest-ranked attractions in Grodno while the sophisticated electronics built into their footwear communicated with the satellite and sorted out the problem with the statue. But maybe this game of jacks had not been the best idea for cover.
They had been shot at. They had avoided countless booby traps. They had been served tiny delicate cups of the most aromatic and poisonous espresso. All of these events were framed as interrupted cribbage games. Maybe they played too much. The phlebotomist ruminated on this as they locked up their two-wheel drive all-terrain motorbikes across the street from Kirov Park. The Transnistrian passports had been excruciatingly expensive, but the ergonomist insisted it was justified, for complicated political reasons. The pieces rattled against the cribbage board and the very dangerous little notebook in the messenger bag as they strolled through the trail, looking for a man holding two empty water bottles.
The composer stood over the gunwale, pressed the small button, and blew into the instrument, discharging the contents into the dark green waters below. If they had known it was going to be this type of floating market, they would have picked a different watercraft. This explained the unprecedented difficulties when trying to secure their transportation with the Colombo office. The ichthyologist indicated one of the floating structures, and began maneuvering their craft towards it. The composer took a breath and the signal, a brief segment of “Message To You Rudy”, went out from the melodica.
The topologist carefully unfolded the graph depicting prime number frequencies. Across the scrub, the baker was returning from the Unimog, having concluded the search, and from the looks of their empty hands, unsuccessfully. They must have left it in the cab back in Calabar. Wonderful. Together, they considered the placement of the carved stone monoliths before them, their geometric arrangement random to the average visitor, but a clear reflection of order to the ancient people of Alok Ikom, and apparently, also related to the graph before them, with cataclysmic mathematical consequences.
The strategist made to pick up a card, then withdrew their hand. A cool breeze, laden with yesterday’s afternoon dust, stirred through the empty square near the Musée Ahmed Zabana, knocking discarded paper cups against the stone table’s legs. The tandem scooter, not something you usually see in these parts of Northern Africa, come to think of it the world, leaned against the bench the investigator slouched on. “Make your move” their eyes implored in exasperation, as the pair waited for the gift shop to open.
The Musée National stood like a squat block, facing the highway at an angle and mirrored to the left by the library. The hu hu sat inside, waiting in the wing housing the musical instrument collection. The surgeon nervously handled the endoscope case, dusty from the helicopter ride that had brought them to N’Djamena. The calligrapher was clearly nervous but their services would only be required for brief minutes while they inspected the inscription on the inside of the ancient calabash.
It was a peaceful suburban street, and they had taken great care to select a vehicle that would not stand out when parked along its sidewalks, a gold Taurus wagon. The very familiar nature of the setting — the shading trees, the mottled but well-kept asphalt, the toys scattered on lawns — made it feel like one of the most exotic places they’d been to in a while. The cartographer checked the coordinates on the fancy device strapped to their wrist, but any web search could have found them Brewster, New York. The ethnomusicologist leaned against the mailbox, labeled “Marie”, and scanned the canopy of the tremendous spreading oak planted square in the middle of the lawn, eyes peeled for that squirrel.