Valley of Thracians
a napkin and dabbed at his forehead, and then he wiped
the back of his damp neck. His eyes closed for a split second, and then he
forced himself awake and tried again to concentrate on what the others were
saying. Something about taxes. Or was it something
else they were discussing? It was getting darker in the room. It was hot. There
was no air. His eyes began to shut as his vision faded.
    “Professor, are you all right?”
    Who was asking? Where was he?
    And then everything went dark.



    “You were mumbling about Scott.”
    “ It’s okay,
Simon. May I call you that?”
    He was lying on a bed, staring up at her
as she wiped his forehead with a wet washcloth. How long had he been out?
    “Oh, well, that was embarrassing,” he
said, trying to work away the mists of unconsciousness that had overwhelmed
him. He attempted to sit up on the bed but lacked the strength to make the
    “Don’t try to get up just yet. You need
to rest,” she said calmly, as if taking care of retired American professors who
fainted in her living room was something she did every day.
    “I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “I’ve
ruined your dinner party. And it was such a good one. Where is everyone?”
    “Everyone has already gone. I think you
gave them all a good excuse, as it was getting quite late.”
    “I’m sorry,” he repeated, but she
shushed him and kept mopping his face with the damp cloth.
    “What was I saying?” he asked her, a few
moments later.
    “You were saying something about your
grandson. Scott, right?”
    “Yes, Scott,” he sighed. “I will find
him, I just know it. The private investigator didn’t get to the bottom of this,
but I will. Tomorrow I have a meeting that will help me understand what
happened to Scott.”
    “A meeting?”
    "Yes, in a small town in the north.
Vartsa, I think. No, wait. Vratsa, that's the name."
      “You need to go to Vratsa?”
    “You’re in no shape to go anywhere,” she
said, patiently wiping his forehead.
    “I’m fine, really,” he said, forcing
himself up on his elbows. His head was still spinning somewhat, and he almost
fell back to the mattress.
    “How exactly were you planning to get to
    “I asked at the hotel. I could take a
bus or the train.”
    “Oh, really? Simon, I admire your undertaking this mission to find your grandson, but I
don’t think you’re capable of traveling to Vratsa on your own. You should get
some bed rest in the hotel for a day or two.”
    “No, the meeting is scheduled for
tomorrow. It took a long time to set it up,” he said, rising slowly to his feet
in an effort to prove to her—and to himself—that he was up for the journey.
      “Let me pour you a cup of coffee to help clear
your head,” she said. He followed her into the dining room while she put on a
pot of water.
    As he sipped at the hot instant coffee,
not as rich as a Starbucks latte but exactly the caffeine he needed at right
now, he realized she was sitting across the table watching him intently, a look
of deep concern on her face.
    “Simon, I have an idea,” she said, and
he struggled to remember what they had talked about in the bedroom. “I will
drive you to Vratsa.”
      “You can’t take me to Vratsa. That’s very kind
of you, but this doesn’t concern you at all. And you have your work at the
university to attend to.”
    “I can’t allow you to travel there on
your own. Don’t you worry about my university work. I
will arrange that.”
      “I wouldn’t think of involving you in this,”
he said, trying to dismiss her offer politely.
    “Vratsa is a very interesting town, and
there’s something quite unique there. I will gladly drive you to your meeting.
Who knows? You may need a translator with you, a guide to the sights,” she
    “I’m not exactly on a sightseeing tour,”
he reminded her.
    Nothing he could say would change her
insistence on driving him to the town of

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