Tommy arrived at the Lhasa Shangri-la Hotel just before noon. According to the woman working the front desk, Brig had checked out at 6:37 a.m. She didn’t know where he had departed for but suggested that Tommy speak with the doorman. The doorman turned out to be a wealth of information once Tommy had figured out how to motivate him. Tommy learned that Brig was no longer traveling by himself, that he and his companion were pointed west, toward Everest, when they left, and if they had gone west their next stop would probably be Shigatse, the last city between Lhasa and EBC.
Seeing Tommy’s desperation to intercept his friend, the doorman suggested he take the Lhasa to Shigatse railway. The train was safer, cheaper, and faster than hiring a driver, and for a few more yuan, the doorman would help Tommy reserve a seat on the next train which would depart Lhasa at 3:20 pm. Tommy gladly paid the man.
“Any idea where they might stay in Shigatse?” Tommy asked.
“Well, there are a lot of hotels in Shigatse,” the doorman mused in a tone that suggested that he knew more, but it came at a price.
“Oh, for the love of Buddha!” Tommy pulled a few more renminbi from his money clip and handed them forcefully to the beaming doorman. Tommy wasn’t really upset or even slightly irritated. Information had a value, and the doorman was the broker.
“There are a lot of hotels in Shigatse, but I’m sure I heard one of them say something about the Qomo Langzhong Hotel. It’s where the rich foreigners stay in Shigatse.”
“Why is that?”
“Some travel website ranked it five stars. I’ve never been there, but I understand it has an Italian restaurant that the foreign devils like and a bartender that speaks English and knows how to mix drinks.”
“That sounds about right,”
“It’s a beacon for Westerners. He’ll be there.”
“And if he’s not, do I get my money back?”
Tommy asked the doorman to have a taxi waiting for him at 2 p.m., thanked him, and returned to the hotel. He was hungry, and since he had more than an hour to kill, he decided he’d give the hotel cafe’s local noodles a try.