Prologue and Chapter One, click here. Chapter Two, click here. Chapter Three, click here. Chapter Four, click here. Chapter Five and Six, click here. Chapter Seven (mislabeled as Six), click here. Chapter Eight, click here.
Five hours later, Angeline buckled herself in a window seat of ESS’ corporate plane that sat on the airstrip located on the back edge of the property. Just as the steward, who also functioned as the radio officer, set the screwdriver, mixed with pink grapefruit, instead of orange, juice, down on the white oak coffee table in front of her, Coke sat down next to her. Along with the three men picked by Frank, he had been booked on an earlier commercial flight out of Reno to San Francisco. They were headed out to investigate the activity of the ports’ that had been highlighted in the group discussion that morning. The urgency of Angeline’s trip and her precarious emotional state had caused Coke to change flights. He would catch up with the men tomorrow afternoon to see what they had learned.
As he was getting in the golf cart for the trip out to the airstrip, Heather had given him the evening edition of daily newspaper The Reno Gambler, pointing out the story on North Korea. He had not missed the smug look on Heather’s face or the sarcasm in her comment that Angeline had better be on her guard. If her phone had not rung, he might have said something.
He placed the newspaper in her lap. Handing her the glass, he saw her grimace. The headline topping the far right hand column read, “U.N. threatens North Korea’s Jong-Un with Arrest for Mass Human Rights Violations.” Flipping the paper over, she shook her head at the picture of an angry defiant Eternal Leader shaking his fist and yelling at someone off camera while being held back by two of his military guards.
She looked at Coke. “I’m still going. It also has nothing to do with whether how he came into possession of the drawings…”
Coke heard her words trail off, suspecting that she had been about to say something about Mac before she caught herself. She started to hand the paper back to him, but he pushed her hand back, irritated at her seeming lack of concern for her welfare as well as ignoring the implications of the report. If Kim would torture, dehumanize, starve, and kill people for nothing more than speaking their mind, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, or absolutely for nothing, what was art theft to him? Nothing.
He twisted around in his seat until he faced her. His breathing was labored from worry and disbelief.
“Angeline, I have supported you in this obsession of yours.” He sighed, as she looked out the window. Placing his hand under her chin, he forced her to look at him. “But, Billy and Alex have a point. Kim is a maniacal sonofabitch.” He tapped the paper hard. “That proves it. Read it.” He kept tapping the paper. When she did not respond, he pulled out her tablet from her carry-on bag and put it on top of the paper. “Pull up the report. Read it. Then, tell me how you can still defend that monster!”
Angeline leaned over and returned the tablet to the bag. Swallowing, she fixed Coke and tucked her hands, which had begun to shake, under the black silk folds of her waterfall print dress. Ignoring his last remark, she attempted to change the subject. He could not possibly understand what she was going through. She no choice. It was not as if she wanted to defend the man, really this creature, but until things changed, it was what it was. “I thought you had an earlier flight—”
Coke about lost it. Here he was trying to have a serious conversation and she was asking about his travel arrangements. He jerked the drink out of her hand causing half of it to spill onto her dress. He grabbed her wrist as she rose and made to get by him.
“God, Coke. This was a one of a kind.” She plopped back into her seat and furiously rubbed her dress with a white cloth napkin. Tiny white fuzz balls clung to the black; she rubbed harder, causing more fuzz to be deposited on the dress. He grabbed her hands as her entire body started to shake and her lips trembled.
“Angeline, I know something’s up.” Releasing one of her hands, he took a phone out of his suit jacket pocket. Seeing the steward coming their way, he shook his head, indicating for the steward to come no closer. He put the phone on the table. “That’s yours.”
“Jackie found it on Billy’s desk. It was ringing so I answered it.” Seeing her shaking subsiding, he released her other hand and picked up the phone, opening it, finding the last call. He gave it to her. “Caller id shows it was from Mac’s phone.” The return of the rigidity in her hands and arms along with her deer-in-the-headlights expression told him that she knew who the identity of the caller. “The voice from the arena. He asked who I was. When I asked who he was, he decided he knew my name. Before I got a chance to say anymore, he hung up.”
“I’m going to be sick.” She made to get up, but he held her fast.
“No, you’re not. You’re going to sit there and tell me why Kim would be calling you…” his brows creased, “…especially since he killed your lover…or at least one of them.” This he saw got Angeline’s attention. “Yeah, I know about Mac, but that a story’s for later. I can help you if you let me.” He saw her waver, an indication that she was about to clam up. A bit more stridently, he said, “Spill Angeline.”
She stared up at the ceiling, then looked at Coke. Seeing that he would keep her there until she told him something and wanting so badly to share what had plagued her for so long with someone, she decided to trust Coke. She hoped it was the right choice. If she could not trust him, who could she? Maybe, he could help her find a way to tell Billy, and Brandon. Convince Billy not to give up on her, to forgive her for keeping secrets. She so badly wanted to have the close relationship she had with her brother ten years ago. Her secret was the gulf between them. And, perhaps, together they all could find a way out of the horrible mess she created. Hot, she undid the clasp on the front of mini blue and black flowered jacket. When he had hung it up in the closet behind him and returned, she picked up his hands and held them.
“I don’t know where to start so I’m going to start in the center and work outwards…”
“Peel the onion exercise,” Coke said, smiling slightly in the attempt to reassure her that all would be okay as long as she told him all.
She nodded, rubbing her tongue along her teeth. “I have a daughter, Mylen-jo. She was born in Pyongyang and is ten years old.”