The Janus Effect
Peace and War, Friend and Foe, Life and Death… A Perilous Journey Home!
Winner: Connecticut Press Club — Best Book of the Year: Adult Fiction
Alternate Ending - Two Additional Chapters!
We finished The Janus Effect with two endings in mind...
One week later
President Penn picked up the phone when his assistant motioned that he had Faas Hanlon on the line.
“I expected you at the press conference with me this morning.”
“Sorry, Mr. President, but I’m vacationing in Vermont with the family,” Faas said from the other end.
Penn had been told that in the wake of Faas’s heart attack, his ex-wife had agreed to give their marriage
another try. Penn was delighted for him.
“Did you watch the press conference?” he asked.
“No, sir. No TVs in the cabin we’re staying.”
“Do you want to know what I said?”
“Yes, sir. Absolutely, sir.”
This was good, Penn thought. He wasn’t quitting on him. “Sixteen individual sites, 154 fatalities, all the
rest of the samples are now accounted for.”
“And the source of problem?”
“Packaging,” Penn said. “I’m no biologist. But some kind of contamination was in the clear strip that was
part of the tester. The combination of that with a victim who actually had strep created the whole disaster.”
“That’s great, sir,” Faas said. “I mean, it’s not great that we lost so many lives, but it’s great that….Pull it in! Right now, lift it. Lift it! Yes, just like that.”
“What are you doing, Director?” Penn asked.
“We’re fishing, sir. I mean, my wife Betty is fishing. You have to see what she just landed. Easy…easy…No, honey. We’re not throwing this one back. No!”
“I’ll see you in my office next week, Hanlon,” Penn told him. “And give my regards to Betty.”
University of Southern
Denmark, Odense, Denmark
Six months later
The conference, “Seventeen Years of Self-Rule and Future Prospects,” was being co-sponsored by Salahaddin University and the University of Southern Denmark.
Fahimah was happy to have been named as chairperson of the event.
She was also delighted at the turnout, which included not only Kurdish scholars but distinguished faculty representing universities from every continent, in addition to many media representatives.
She’d been offered a teaching position at this university starting the winter term. She was to head the Middle Eastern Studies program. At first, she didn’t know how it would feel to move away from Kurdistan, but considering that she had no close family left, she’d decided to give it a try. She knew that this was a great opportunity to voice her opinions about Kurdistan and the entire region.
The schedule of the two-day conference had been jammed with three simultaneously running sessions, each containing four separate panels. Fahimah couldn’t be at every session for the entire time, so she’d spent most of the two days going from room to room, taking care of any last minute crisis and making sure the arrangements were perfect.
By the last session on Sunday, she was exhausted. A Saturday night dinner banquet had been part of the conference, so the conference was officially over today at 4:00 p.m.
She couldn’t wait. Her feet ached. She declined numerous dinner invitations. She was just looking forward to spending the night with her feet up at the little flat she’d rented close to the campus.
“With approximately 30 million people, Kurdistan is one of the largest non-recognized countries in the world. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the land and the Kurdish people have been annexed and subjugated to the point that Kurdistan is now divided between four countries, its people living in an area now governed by Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. The majority of the population still lives within sight of the Zagros Mountain Range.”
Fahimah’s mind began to wander. The speaker for this session was Dr. Mina Osman from American University in Washington, D.C. Professor Osman was a powerful speaker, and she had been a guest lecturer to Fahimah’s students at the university. She had heard this same speech three times now.
She glanced down at her watch. Only ten minutes remained to wrap everything up. She slipped out of the room and made her way to the reception area. As tired as she was, she knew many would stop there to chat and say goodbye before going back to their hotel rooms
or to the airport.
“You need to sign these, Dr. Banaz.” One of her assistants caught up to her. “Bills from the banquet facilities.”
Fahimah stopped and took the papers out of the young woman’s hands and started signing them.
“You have one more invitation for dinner,” the assistant said. “One of the conference attendees wanted to know if you would consider having dinner with him tonight. The name is—”
“No.” Fahimah handed the signed papers back to the young woman. “I cannot. I am exhausted. I am officially unavailable.” She looked at her watch. “Remember that we have to kick everyone out by five o’clock.”
She saw the assistant shrug at someone behind her.
“Outstanding conference, Dr. Banaz,” he said.
Her heart jumped and she felt the heat rise into her face. She slowly turned around. Austyn, dressed in a jacket and tie and wearing one of the badges from the conference, stood leaning against a column.
“What are you doing here?” she managed to ask.
“Following you around the world…as usual. By the way, you look beautiful.”
Uncontrollably, her fingers went to her hair. She’d gained some weight and her hair had grown. Even to herself, she almost looked normal.
“You don’t have to say that.”
“I know. I mean it. Of course, you looked beautiful before, too.”
Fahimah smiled. She knew she intimidated a lot of people, so no one gave her compliments like that. “Thank you.”
“So you’re not available for dinner?” he asked, disappointed.
She looked over her shoulder, looking for her assistant. She was gone. “That was you?”
She bit her lip, trying to decide. It took two seconds of heavy decision making. “Do I need to change?”
“No. You’re perfect.”
The last time they’d seen each other was the day of Rahaf’s funeral. But they’d spoken a few times over the past six months. He’d been always the one who’d called. He wanted to know how she was doing with her living arrangements and what courses she was teaching at Salahaddin University last fall. He was interested in knowing how she was emotionally, too, dealing with Rahaf’s death. She always assumed that he made the calls out of a sense of responsibility.
“Five o’clock in the reception area,” she told him.
The next hour could not have gone slower. She glanced at her watch perhaps a hundred times. She was polite to those who stopped to thank her, but she refused to get into any lengthy conversations.
The crowd had thinned considerably by ten minutes to five, so when Austyn showed up a few minutes early, she left those remaining to her assistant and dashed out with him.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
He helped her to put on her coat. “I know you’re not teaching for the next two days, so I thought we start with dinner here in Odense. Then I thought we could hop the train for Copenhagen. I know you haven’t done much sightseeing since you arrived in Denmark.”
“Wait.” She put a hand on his chest. “How do you know so much about me? Why did you say before that you’ve been following me around the world? What are you doing here?”
His hand trapped hers against his heart. His blue eyes bore into hers.
“Hello, Dr. Banaz. I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Austyn Newman. I am a former U.S. government employee who now works for a medical equipment manufacturer. We have offices here in Odense, in New York, and in a few other places that I don’t care much about…unless you’re thinking of moving there. Did I mention that I’m slated to run our Denmark facilities starting next month? Of course, this was after I accepted and then declined a job in Erbil, working for a pharmaceutical company. I’m afraid the position lost its appeal after a certain Dr. Banaz decided to
take a teaching post in Denmark. But I’m flexible and—”
She put her hand over his lips. “What are you telling me?”
Austyn’s arms wrapped around her.
“Just that for all the days we were together last year, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much different it could have been if you and I had met at a different time, at a different place, under different conditions. And for all the days we’ve been apart since, there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought about you.”
Fahimah rose onto her toes and kissed his cheek.
“Did you say something about dinner, Mr. Newman?”
©Nikoo & Jim McGoldrick, 2014. All rights reserved.