There would be wounded monks, he told himself, there would be
furious knobs. As he ran he made a mental note of what he had on
him that he might turn into bandages. But when he emerged onto
the small, flat plain at the top of the ridge it was not monks he saw
but a traffic accident. A large dark gray sedan had veered off the
narrow road. He reached the car gasping, leaning on the fender by
the open drivers door to catch his breath, realizing the car had not
hit anything, had been pulled onto the shoulder by a grove of short,
gnarled juniper trees. Watching for soldiers, he walked warily around
the car and froze.
The two women leaning against boulders appeared at first to
be having a quiet conversation, the middle-aged Chinese woman
in a white silk blouse gazing inquisitively at the younger woman
with close-cropped blond hair, her hands on her belly as if she
had indigestion. But the older womans hands were covered with
blood. Shan knelt, his fingers on her neck, finding no pulse. She
was dead, though her flesh was still warm.
The blond woman gazed toward the horizon with a lifeless
expression. But then he saw the fingers of one hand move, trembling,
as if gesturing for him. She had been shot twice, in the
chest. Blood stained her red nylon windbreaker and the pale blue
shirt underneath, blood bubbled at one corner of her mouth. His
heart wrenched as she turned to him, her eyes confused and pleading.
He sat beside her, put an arm around her shoulder, wiping
away a bloodstain on her temple.
"Stay still," he whispered in Chinese, then repeated himself in
English, stroking her crown. Run! a frantic voice inside shouted.
He had to flee, had to help the monks if he could. But he could
not leave the dying woman.
"Who did this?" he whispered.
The womans lips opened and shut. "The raven," she whispered
in English, and her hand found his, gripping hard as she looked
back at the sky. Not the sky, Shan realized, not a bird, but the
tall, fierce mountain to the south. She was gazing at Everest. She
glanced at him with an apologetic, lopsided grin. "Is it me . . ."
she began in the thinnest of voices, then more blood flowed out of
her mouth, choking her words. She raised her hand, touching the
blood at her mouth, smearing it on her cheek as she coughed.
"Help will come," he said, his own voice hoarse now. "You will
be fine." When the soldiers came he would ask them to run back
to the bus, where there would be a first-aid kit and a radio to call
Her weak grin returned, as if she had caught him in a joke, then
she lowered her head onto his shoulder like an old friend resting a
moment. With what seemed to be great effort she raised her free
hand and touched an ornate box that hung from her neck, pulled
out from under her shirt. A gau, a traditional Tibetan prayer box.
She pushed it toward him, as if to show him, then her hand fell
away. He stroked the dirty blond hair on her crown and whispered
more words of comfort as the strength ebbed from the hand that
held his and her frail, labored breathing gradually ceased.
He watched as if from a distance as his hand kept stroking her
head, her lifeless eyes still aimed at the mother mountain, hearing
his voice whispering desolate, useless assurance as he pushed
the gau back inside her shirt. Too late he saw the shadow beside
him, too late he noticed the gray uniformed leg at his side. The
electric prod touched his hand, his neck, his spine, and he watched
from an even greater distance as his body convulsed, pulling the
dead Westerner on top of him, her blood smearing onto his face
and chest. Then something slammed into his skull and he knew
U.S. ebook sales up in 2012, but rate of growth is slowing(May 16 2013) In 2012, trade book sales (i.e. non academic book sales) rose 6.9%, to $15.049 billion, and e-book sales continued to grow, although the rate of growth...