Washington, DC – Wednesday, Feb. 26, 9 p.m. EST
A waiter rested his tray, loaded with five steins of beer and five glasses of bourbon, on the table next to Anna. Around her sat Viktor, Raven, Mel and Sara. The table was draped in a white tablecloth. A little plastic “reserved” sign stood in the middle.
“I can’t believe you got Karl to take a reservation, Mel,” said Anna.
“You’re welcome,” Mel said. “But let me be clear—the tablecloth was Karl’s idea.”
“What about the drinks? Was that Karl too?” Anna asked, as the waiter distributed the drinks.
“No,” Mel said. “That was me. And now, I’d like to make a toast,” Mel said, holding up her bourbon. “To finding—what did Tanner say?—the source of deceit!”
“Here, here,” Raven said, as they all drank.
Anna took on a serious tone. “I’d like to add that we’re deeply sorry for your losses, Sara. You must miss Channarong and Evy deeply. It took a lot of courage to pursue Evy’s story.”
The gravity of the events cast a pall over the table, and for a moment no one spoke.
Sara broke the silence. “It’s true. It’s pretty awful. But I’m grateful to you all. I had no idea what Evy and Nou were going through. Anna, you were awesome. Thanks for listening to me, and for tracking down Charles. You followed through. Not everyone would do that,” she added, holding up her glass again. “To you, Anna, and to Evy.”
All five clinked glasses and drank, as the waiter returned with appetizers, and they began to nibble on the food.
“What’s this news, Raven?” Viktor said. “You’re defecting?”
“I’m moving!” Raven said. “To Chiang Mai!”
“Really?” Viktor asked.
“Yes!” Raven said.
“What are you going to do there?” Mel asked.
“Ha! We’ll see!” Raven said. “At first, I’ll freelance. You know—write a travel blog, post pictures of food, do hotel reviews, all that stuff everyone does when they quit their regular job!” She laughed. “But, seriously, Tanner already talked to the editors in New York, and it sounds like I’ll be able to do some meatier stories for them too.”
“I’ll miss you!” Anna said.
“You will not,” Raven said.
“No, I will. You’re a great reporter, and now that we really know each other, it’s a shame,” Anna said. “Cooperating with you actually works.”
“Thanks,” Raven said, tilting her head and shrugging. "I agree—about working with you—but, you know, sometimes you have to shake things up."
“Why, if you don’t mind my asking, Chiang Mai?” Viktor asked.
“My uncle wants me to run his philanthropy over there.”
“Are you sure that’s the only reason?” asked Anna, squinting. Raven looked happier than she had ever seen her.
“No, it’s not the only reason,” Raven admitted, smiling. “Ice suggested it. He knows a place I can rent.”
“And it's not too soon?” Anna asked. “After all, we know now that there's enough room at the DC bureau for both of us! And what about Apollo?”
“Actually, I’d been thinking I needed a change of pace for some time. This really is a chance I can’t pass up. Besides, Apollo can come with me.”
Anna nodded. “OK!”
“To life,” Viktor said.
Once more, they toasted. "To life!"
“Maybe you can find out what the rebels are up to next,” Anna said. “And what happened to Ko.”
“That’s what Tanner said,” Raven replied. “But I’m sure Ko is long gone!”
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