The Hostage - By W. E. B. Griffin



Flughafen Schwechat Vienna, Austria 1630 12 July 2005

As an American, Jean-Paul Lorimer was always annoyed or embarrassed, or both, every time he arrived at Vienna’s international airport. The first thing one saw when entering the terminal was a Starbucks kiosk.

The arrogance of Americans to sell coffee in Vienna! With such a lurid red neon sign!

Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer, Ph.D.—a very black man of forty-six who was somewhat squat, completely bald, spoke in a nasal tone, and wore the latest in European fashion, including tiny black-framed glasses and Italian loafers in which he more waddled than walked—had written his doctoral thesis on Central European history. He knew there had been coffee in Europe as early as 1600.

Dr. Lorimer also knew that after the siege of Vienna in 1683, the fleeing Turkish Army left behind bags of “black fodder.” Franz Georg Kolschitzky, a Viennese who had lived in Turkey, recognized it as coffee. Kolschitzky promptly opened the first coffeehouse. It offered free newspapers for his customers to read while they were drinking his coffee, which he refined by straining out the grounds and adding milk and sugar.

It was an immediate success, and coffee almost immediately became a part of cultured society in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And spread from there around the world.

Dr. Lorimer waddled past the line of travelers at the kiosk, shaking his head in disgust. And now the Americans are bringing it, as if they invented it, like Coca-Cola, to the world? Spreading American culture? Good God! Outrageous!

Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer no longer thought of himself as an American. For the past twenty-two years, he had been a career professional employee of the United Nations, with the personal rank of minister for the past five.

His title was chief, European directorate of interagency coordination. It had its headquarters in Paris, and thus he had lived there nearly a quarter-century. He had purchased an apartment several years ago on Rue Monsieur in the VII Arrondissement and planned—when the time was right—to buy a little house somewhere on the Côte d’Azur. He hadn’t even considered, until recently, ever returning to the United States to live.

Dr. Lorimer’s blue, gold-stamped United Nations diplomatic passport saw him waved quickly past the immigration officer on duty.

He got in the taxi line, watched as the driver put his small, take-aboard suitcase into the trunk of a Mercedes, got in the back and told the driver, in German, to take him to an address on Cobenzlgasse.

Lorimer had mixed feelings, most of them bad, about Vienna, starting with the fact that it was difficult to get here from Paris by air. There was no direct service. One had to go to either London or Brussels first to catch a plane. Today, because he had to get here as quickly as possible, he’d come via London. An extra hour and a half of travel time that got him here two hours earlier than going through Brussels would have.

There was the train, of course, The Mozart, but that took forever. Whenever he could, Lorimer dispatched one of his people to deal with things in Vienna.

It was a beautiful city, of course. Lorimer thought of it as the capital city of a nonexistent empire. But it was very expensive—not that that mattered to him anymore—and there was a certain racist ambience. There was practically none of that in Paris, which was one of the reasons Lorimer loved France generally and Paris in particular.

He changed his line of thought from the unpleasant to the pleasant. While there was nothing at all wrong with the women in Paris, a little variety was always pleasant. You could have a buxom blond from Poland or Russia here in Vienna, and that wasn’t always the case in Paris.

Jean-Paul Lorimer had never married. When he’d been working his way up, there just hadn’t been the time or the money, and when he reached a position where he could afford to marry, there still hadn’t been the time.

There had been a film about ten years ago in which the actor Michael Caine had played a senior diplomat who similarly simply didn’t have the time to take a wife, and had found his sexual release with top-notch hookers. Jean-Paul reluctantly had identified with Caine’s character.

The apartment Lorimer was going to was the Viennese pied-à-terre of Henri Douchon, a Lebanese business associate. Henri, as Lorimer, was of Negroid ancestry—with some Arab, of course, but a black-skinned man, taller and more slender—who also had never married and who enjoyed buxom blond women.

Henri also liked lithe blond