23. marec 2008

The Fourth Day - Miriam

Early on that Saturday morning, Miriam found that the search for Tony was at its most intense, at least as far as the number of people involved in the operation was concerned. Saturday not being a workday, meant more volunteers could respond to the media appeals to join in and help the rescuers. These volunteers were then walking from house to house trying to find more information about the missing tourist. When searching through the wilderness, some of them were also using the dogs that the Prison Farm had lent to them. On that day between 8.00 am and 4.00 pm, the prison volunteers, together with the dogs, searched the whole Hog Valley Trail.

In the morning, the two Catholic priests called at the bungalow. Father George was very encouraging and told the family that over 30 soldiers from St. Kitts had also joined the rescue operation. They were members of the St. Kitts Army Reserves, with exactly the right training background: they had been trained for search operations in the jungle. Father George also said that the soldiers were equipped with machetes, which were necessary for making progress through the thick wilderness. Miriam and the priest exchanged several optimistic thoughts, believing that “these expert soldiers will surely find Tony today…” Later, at mid-day, Miriam saw the soldiers, dressed in their camouflage uniforms, taking a rest in the shade in front of the hotel entrance. She understood that it must have been very hard for them to search, in that heat, through the jungle, but seeing them back to Nisbet so soon, she also realised that they couldn’t have looked for Tony on Nevis Peak. The hotel management prepared sandwiches and refreshing drinks for the tired soldiers, while the main rescue operation was still in progress in the area around the village of Westbury and down towards Cades Bay.

In the early afternoon, Zlata phoned from Slovenia and told Miriam that, late into the night of the previous day, she and Dejan were trying to plan how to get involved in the rescue operation and help the family in this difficult situation that might be going on for a few more days. She also told Miriam that Niko had decided to fly over to Nevis, as quickly as possible, to see his sister, nephew and niece; and added that Dejan might join Niko as well. Miriam agreed that in a situation that demanded a lot of contacts with the various people responsible for the searching, it would be best to have both men on Nevis.

Practical Zlata expressed her doubts about the possibilities of flying to Nevis straight away: on Saturdays the travel agencies were closed and, in addition, it would probably be difficult to book a journey consisting of more than two connecting flights in such a short time. However, Zlata assured Miriam that they would all try their best, mainly relying on the resourcefulness of Mojca, the firm’s business secretary, to find a way of flying to Nevis as soon as possible. They would also prepare the money needed by the family, which they could, if necessary, transfer even before the departure to Nevis.

Miriam wished to know whether Zlata thought she had done the right thing, not having told Tony’s mother about the accident. Zlata agreed that Tony’s mother shouldn’t be involved at that point and assured Miriam that no news about the accident had so far reached Slovenia, which meant that Tony’s mother couldn’t hear about it from any other source.

In the same way that Zlata comforted her friend, Miriam later tried to comfort her mother. During their telephone conversation Miriam understood that her mother was very upset because of the accident that had happened to her son-in law, with whom she had always been on very good terms. She told Miriam she hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. Miriam had to comfort her by saying: “Do calm down, mother. The rescuers will find Tony. A lot of people are looking for him and from today onwards a group of specially trained soldiers are involved in the rescue operation. They use machetes and can advance very fast through the jungle.”

“But what do you think has happened to him?” asked Miriam’s mother.

“I think that he has perhaps broken his leg and can’t walk, so he has to wait for the rescuers to find him and bring him back. Or, maybe he has lost his glasses and is making progress very slowly.”

“Could it be that somebody attacked him and robbed him?”

“I don’t think so, there is almost no crime on Nevis. There are neither wild animals nor poisonous snake here. In addition, the nights are never so cold that he couldn’t survive them.”

When somebody has an accident, even a fatal one, the local newspapers report on it briefly, but after that life goes on and people are no longer interested in the consequences of the tragedy. However, in the event that an accident remains unresolved for a time, during which the tension caused by the uncertainty is increasing, the whole affair will attract a lot of media attention. That also happened with Tony’s accident. The news about the missing tourist spread from Nevis and St. Kitts to other Caribbean islands and soon also reached the international media. More and more, Miriam felt its presence, as the reporters began to phone and visit her. That day at noon she gave her first extensive interview to a reporter, Paula Warner, who was asking Miriam about her family, about Tony’s capabilities and habits, about his behaviour at the time of his departure and about the feelings of the rest of the family while waiting for Tony to return.

While Miriam was speaking into the microphone the children were playing by the swimming pool, this time under the supervision of the hotel manager herself, Kathie Johnson. Naturally, Toni and Mariansa were missing their father, but, as children’s hearts fortunately can’t be overwhelmed with sadness and concern for a long a long time, they were also laughing a lot and enjoying themselves. By then, they had already acquired new skills: Toni had learned to dive and swim underwater and Mariansa was well on the way to begin swimming without the help of water wings.

When, after breakfast that morning, they had set off from their bungalow towards the swimming pool, Miriam again had to answer the children’s usual questions: “When will daddy come back? Will the rescuers find him soon?”

“I think they will bring him back today or tomorrow,” Miriam tried to calm them.

“But if they don’t, then you will be a widow …,” Mariansa concluded frankly. Miriam felt as if somebody had slapped her in the face.

In Slovenia, Tony’s colleagues and friends were organising themselves so that they could help him and his family. Niko called on Zlata and Dejan, and together they decided that the two men should travel to America together, even though it meant that, at home, Zlata’s work load would be doubled: apart from her job and a lot of organising, she would also have to look after her two daughters. During that weekend Niko also had to get permission to take this sudden leave from work, where his colleagues would miss his daily contributions to the work effort.

Dejan looked for possible flights by searching the Internet. He found it quite easy to reserve the flights on the Web, but the problems appeared when he wanted to finalise all the details of the journey. He realised that he couldn’t do that without the help of a “classical” travel agency. For this he needed Mojca, the business secretary, who had a reliable colleague working at the Kompas travel agency. Mojca also got in touch with her various other contacts to collect information about all the necessary actions – the most urgent one was to find the right people at the Slovenian Foreign Ministry who had to be informed about the accident. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible until Monday morning.

Though the coordinator, Newton, was formally in charge of the rescue operation and several police officials were involved in its organisation, Mr Nolan, the head of the security service in Nisbet, was really the key figure in the search for the missing tourist. He was entrusted with this position because of his long years of professional experience in Canada. He regularly briefed his two employers, Don and Kathie Johnson, about all the important details of the operation, and, if time permitted, he also briefed Miriam. Being aware of the importance of the statement that Winnefred Herbert had given with so much certainty, Nolan called on Miriam to discuss further details with her. Nolan believed that the foreigner that Winny talked to couldn’t have been anybody else but the missing guest Tomažič.

Nolan told Miriam about the tourist that Winny had met and asked more questions about Tony’s health: Was he completely healthy? Did he have a tendency to suffer from an infarct? Would he withstand a sudden cooling of his body in case he decided, while being still hot with the exertion, to have a refreshing swim after an exhausting daylong trip? Because of the negative results of the most recent search around Westbury, Nolan focused his attention mainly on the area leading down towards the beach. In spite of that, the coordination committee didn’t entirely give up the search around the central mountain – that day they were especially active in that area because of the increased number of rescuers.

Miriam almost envied Nolan for being able to spend some time out there in the search areas. She told him about her feelings and asked if she could help with the search operation. Nolan tactfully refused her, explaining there were plenty of locals who knew the area well and were prepared to help the rescuers. He thought that the best Miriam could do was to look after the children and maintain contacts with Slovenia, which were just then becoming increasingly intense.

In order to do something concrete, Miriam turned to Kathie again so that they could try out Zlata’s suggestion to seek help from the dowsers. Kathie told her that she had already got in touch with the lady dowser in New York who was most likely to help them because she had, in the past, successfully helped in several similar cases. Kathie also told Miriam it had already been agreed that, for a small fee, the clairvoyant from New York would try to find Tony’s location on the map of the island and, most importantly, assess whether he was still alive. This is why Kathie had faxed a map of Nevis to New York.

The news about the involvement of the dowsers was a topic of conversation over dinner, at which calm Judy had joined Miriam. Like Miriam and Judy, every other rational and well-educated person would have been sceptical about the possibility that somebody could find out (guess), from such a distance and only by using a small swinging object, the location of a missing person. However, a spark of hope, spurred by the New York news, was so strong and refreshing that for the first time Miriam could sleep well – and the sleep brought her wonderful dreams about a reunion of her family …

From my book: Second Place of birth: Nevis

Ni komentarjev: