They are ready to go. The minibus is warming up and goes out of the hotel. Little traffic on this early Sunday evening. Night has fallen. Erwan looks at his watch: 8 pm now. Sandra puts her head on his shoulder. As Rochester told them, it does not last long. The van stops in front of the auditorium. The Beijing Concert Hall is a building in a socialist realism style with which only China shares the secret with some so-called popular democracies. There are already many people. A black Mercedes stops behind their vehicle. Would that be Mona and her husband, thinks Erwan? They exit the vehicle and watch the occupants getting out of the car. It is Mona and Wang Jun. Other official cars arrive, disembark their passengers and then leave. Mona spots them. She immediately comes to them. She embraces Erwan, shakes Rochester hand and greets his wife.
"You came, Erwan, it's nice of you!”
Sandra is surprised at the familiarity of Mona. She sees her closely for the first time. Her reputation is not overrated. She is very elegant and exudes a strong sense of empathy. But what is she exactly to Erwan? A hint of jealousy in her heart.
Mona is very spontaneous. She kisses Sandra in an extremely warm manner.
"Sandra, I'm just being jealous, you are extremely beautiful and charming. How can a man resist those blond curls? You are so elegant. I cannot stay with you for I’m with my uncle, but I invite you to enjoy a drink with me, for example about 5 pm tomorrow, if that suits you?"
Sandra is moved by the dynamism of this young woman. She is as if paralyzed. This woman, no one can resist her when she wants something. She looks so confident.
"Yes, of course! I'm not working tomorrow. 5:00 pm is good! And where?"
"At the bar of the Friendship Hotel, in the main building. So, see you tomorrow! And… I am very pleased to meet you. I want to share things with you!"
She gives them a little wave, she is already gone. She is like a storm! She joins another group of people. Officials apparently!
"Who are those people, Sandra asks Erwan?"
"Officials from the city of Beijing, there’s Mona's uncle, Lao Huang, the Director of Police! Also a professor from the Academy of Social Sciences and the Director of the Institute for Minorities. I’m working for them on this project about Muslim minorities in China and France. This is what occupies me the most!”
Sandra is perplexed. She does not like mixing with powerful people. You only get problems with them and generally you are just poor small things which they reject as quickly as they welcome you.
She takes Erwan’s arm.
"Well here we go. I think it's time."
As in all theaters of the world, the first problem is to get through the doors. It is crowded. Many people are very well dressed. Women wear toilette. Clearly it is the chic resort wanted by the government to show that they control the situation. There are many cars from the embassies. Erwan sees the Consul of Belgium and also the Attaché of the Embassy of France. A sudden stampede. A limo arrives bearing the Stars and Stripes. Rochester sees the Ambassador of the United States get out of the vehicle. The bodyguards are very nervous and immediately take him inside the theater.
"That is James R. Lilley. He was born in China. A hell of a thorn in the side for the Chinese, says Rochester to them, he is fluent in Mandarin. Good, now move forward!"
All four are elbowing, but before entering the room they need to pass a security check: ticket check, body search and portal, and then re-body search and checking handbags. Finally, they enter the room. An attendant asks them for their tickets. She looks at the seats and makes a sign to follow her. Moments later they are comfortably seated facing the stage. Erwan is beside Rochester. The room has a conventional layout. But they needed little time to enter. Most of the seats are already occupied and the orchestra has begun to settle on stage.
Nothing special. The musicians are wearing tails and bow ties as in any orchestra. The stands are still empty. The U.S. Ambassador is installed with other members of the diplomatic corps in the balcony on the right. Sandra draws Erwan’s attention.
"This theater is nice. I didn’t know it before. This is a nice idea to go to the concert. That great organ in the background is impressive."
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