Hagar’s  Sons

 

COHEN (AT WORK)

The call startled him. Cohen rarely received calls at work. The voice—silky, vaguely hostile—belonged to Mr. Vanderweghe’s assistant.

“Mr. Vanderweghe will need to see you,” she said.

“Of course,” Cohen said. “I’ll just, let me look—” He glanced at his desk calendar. It was blank, aside from a note in the lower right-hand corner, which read diapers, rubylicious (huggies): Remember!

Now, Mr. Cohen.”

Cohen wanted to ask whether he should bring the preliminary results from his currency project, but the line went dead. He carefully redacted the Huggies note and hurried to the bathroom to brush his teeth.

MISSION

Vanderweghe was dressed in the dark wool of a minor Dickens villain; the suit collar bit into his jowls. Cohen had seen him only once before, on the day of his arrival.

“Cohen.”

“Sir.”

Vanderweghe nodded for him to sit.

“The sheik has asked to meet with you.”

Cohen nodded.

He had never heard of any sheik. He knew next to nothing about the firm for which he worked. He had been hired four months ago, plucked from the Foreign Currency Division at Salomon Brothers at the behest of someone, he assumed, much larger than himself, and installed in a small office and told to research yen mode differentials until further notice. He was happy to have escaped Wall Street, the vulgar, caffeinated masculinity of the place, the bellowing traders with their sirloin tongues. Cohen had a high-strung wife, a colicky newborn, significant debt. He did not, as such, sleep.

“The sheik is a valued client, as you know.”

“Of course,” Cohen said.

“Valued.”

There was a pause.

“What might the sheik want with me?”

“If I knew that—” Vanderweghe’s face twisted into an abrupt silence. “Get your suit pressed,” he murmured, and handed Cohen a file. Inside was a glossary of Arabic terms, cultural customs, and a history of the New Emirate. The only itinerary was a handwritten note informing him that he would be picked up at eight the next morning.


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