Saturday, February 21, 2009

5 The Woman with Sad Eyes


It had all started one morning with a phone call to his office...

"Hello, Tom. How are you keeping?" He recognised that voice. It was Peter Hargrime from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Oh, not so bad. How are you, Peter? I haven't heard from you for ages."

"Can’t complain. You know my job . And how about you, Tom?"

“Well, to be honest, things have been better. Business has dropped off a bit lately.”

"Then I've got some very good news for you. Something rather unusual has come up that should be right up your street. We've had this request from the Mongolian government. They want someone to go out there and help them with a bit of PR. The sort of thing you did for us, when we had that very embarrassing situation with you know who. Seems they’ve found some money from somewhere. In fact, I think it’s fair to say, there would be a lot of money in it for the right person; a lot of money. And as you're the only person I know who's ever been to the place..."


"Yes it is a bad line, isn't it? Can you still hear me all right?"

"Yes, but..."

"Oh, that's all right then. I thought I'd have to repeat the whole thing again. Well, as I was saying, you're the only person I know who's ever been to Mongolia. I remember when you showed us those pictures of you skiing, how surprised I was. You'd never imagine they'd have ski slopes in a country like that, would you? Just think £100,000, maybe more, for less than six months' work, and skiing too."

"But, that was Mo..."

"What? Hello Tom? What was that?”

Tom held the phone away from his ear and, for brief a moment, wrestled with his conscience, then he smiled like he hadn’t smiled in months: an almost, but not quite, wicked grin. Maybe this would solve all of his problems. It was fate, destiny….

"Oh, nothing. What did you say? £100,000 for six months’ work?"

It's his own bloody fault, he thought, if he doesn't know the difference between Mongolia and Moldavia. Why should I tell him?

"Yes, that's right. I knew you'd be interested. You're just the man for the job, Tom. What with the way you handled the press for us, and your previous Mongolian experience. Do you think you could get away for that long?"

I’d like to get away forever, Tom thought, from a failed marriage, a failed business, a failed everything. Even his car had failed to start that morning,

“Yes, I think I could just manage it. Let me check my diary.” He put down the phone and noisily shuffled some papers next to it. Afterwards he reflected, that wouldn’t have sounded much like a diary. And a long time after that, he wondered, Why me? Peter Hargrime never even liked me. But as he was to slowly discover, personal likes, honesty, integrity and things of that nature really didn’t have much relevance in all that was to follow.

"Here is we arrive, Mr Tom: the House of Friendly Relations." It was just another grey, three-storey, utilitarian block on Brezhnev Street. Black birds circled overhead.

They brushed the ice and snow off their feet and deposited their coats with a stout cleaning lady who doubled up as a cloakroom attendant. Tom noticed that she had a gold medal pinned, with a rainbow-coloured ribbon, to the front of her old cardigan. When he asked Mr Batbold if she had fought in the war against the Japanese, he replied, "No. It because she five boys have. Government give medal.” Mrs Jargal, the Heroine of the State, smiled benignly at the slightly younger Mr Batbold, if not at the suspicious foreigner. She turned her back on him and walked into a dark recess, with their coats still draped over her arm.

Tom was whisked into a meeting, in a cavernous room, with a long mahogany dining table running the length of it, at the head of which sat the sinister looking, old man, who had been waiting in the limousine for him outside the airport. His name was Mr Enkhbold, and he was Mr Batbold's boss: the Director of the Committee for Relations with Capitalist Countries and U.N. Organisations. He spoke through an interpreter. They were something of a mismatch vocally: Mr Enkhbold droned on monotonously while the interpreter, a woman of faded elegance, in her late thirties, dressed in an old-fashioned business suit, said just a few words of English in a bright, almost chirpy voice. She stopped interpreting Mr Enkhbold's words momentarily, when there was a thud from the room above. He could see that she was making an effort not to turn her face upward to the source of the disturbance, and it was then that he first looked really closely at her and noticed the beginnings of the dark rings under her sad eyes.


  1. Cool Stuff, very interesting blog.

  2. This story could become addictive :-). Thanks for commenting on my blog. Your advice is spot on.

  3. Thanks for nice comment on my blog.:-) Nice blog you have here -you seem like quite The writer! I also liked your comments about how to get your blog noticed...funny!:)Have a great evening!

  4. Oh God! It's simply wicked! Mongolia and Moldavia! HAHAHA! And I was so surprised to hear about the Proud Mother's medal, LOL!

  5. Natso, I know it sounds bizarre, but the Mongolian government really used to issue those medals.

  6. I would love to have such a call!! $100,000 for 6 months work! What's the job exactly? The only problem is that I have never been to Mongolia, nor have I been to Moldavia. But the sky slope in mongolia :D)))that was funny!!


In Bruges