Fortunately, Bantu, who would be staying behind to continue negotiations, briefed Mark on the situation while June and Sharon got Carla on the helicopter in question. There were four U.S. transport copters. The press corps traveling with the president were loaded on two, with the rest of the president’s party loaded on the other two. Mark didn’t even notice that one of the helicopters – the one carrying June, Matt and Carla – took off from the Embassy rooftop before his.
In fact, Mark didn’t notice that Carla was on board Air Force One until the plane was halfway to their next stop, Johannisberg. But when he did, he was not happy.
June saw Mark motioning Sharon into the on-board office and followed quickly.
“It’s not Sharon’s fault,” June said as she burst in.
Mark glared at her. “June, this isn’t about blame. It is about our relations in a complex and difficult situation.”
“Sir,” Sharon cut in. “We were told by a CIA representative that they needed to get Carla out of the country quietly. She referred to Al as Warmonger, so we figured he was trying to tell us to go along with it. I didn’t like going behind your back, but Al apparently said that plausible deniability was critical in this case.”
“But you don’t know why.” Mark was standing, his arms folded across his chest as if he was trying to hold in his anger.
“I can think of a lot of reasons why,” Sharon said.
“Convenient for your friend,” Mark said, his voice tight.
“Mark!” June snapped. “That’s not fair or kind.”
“I wasn’t going to leave her out to dry.” Mark started pacing. “But you two couldn’t have trusted me to take care of it?”
“Who said we weren’t trusting you?” June argued back. “We saw an a good opportunity and took it. Maybe we were trying to keep you out of trouble. Did that ever occur to you?”
“How do you even know this person was CIA?”
“She knew Al’s nickname,” said Sharon. “That’s not common knowledge. Plus it didn’t seem like anyone else would want to set things up this way. It got Carla out of Nigeria discreetly, and you can honestly say you had nothing to do with it. Yeah, maybe I am personally involved in this, but it sure looked like a win-win from my perspective. Not to mention, it lets the Nigerian government off the hook regarding negotiations and a trial.”
Mark frowned. “I suppose. But how do we get her off the plane without anyone noticing?”
“She’ll stay on the plane after we all disembark,” June said. “I’ve already confirmed with the crew that they’ll get her to the liaison, who’ll put her on another flight to Kenya and we’ll all meet up in Nairobi.”
“Bantu is going to stay on in Lagos for a couple more days, then announce that Carla escaped,” Sharon said. “He’ll meet us in Nairobi, as well. Fortunately, there aren’t as many issues with the South African government these days.”
Mark nodded. “I’m still not happy about this.”
“I understand, sir.”
“All right. You may go.”
June and Sharon left the office.