Two days later, Sharon asked for an afternoon briefing with Mark. After clearing it with Kent, his secretary, Sharon entered the Oval Office. Mark tossed a couple treats to Ginger and Kickie in their little pen as she entered.
“They’re not growling,” Sharon said, in slight amazement.
“It’s our new training protocol,” Mark said. He spooned coffee grounds into the French press. “You up for some Kenyan today?”
“So what’s up?” Mark asked. He poured hot water over the grounds and watched it for a minute.
“I don’t know that it’s anything,” Sharon said. “And Dan Friedman may have already talked to you about it. He called me this afternoon and I just got a funny feeling.”
Mark poured out the coffee and settled on the Oval Office couch. “Okay. Should I be worried?”
“Probably not.” Sharon accepted her cup and sipped. “The CIA doesn’t think it’s anything. Last May, on Memorial Day, our Embassy in Berlin was vandalised. Just some red paint thrown on the windows, but clearly done on purpose. Then on July Fourth, it happened again, only in addition to Berlin, our embassies in Paris and Stockholm were hit the same way. Then on Labor Day, more red paint and more embassies, six of them, including Berlin and the others.”
“Sounds like something’s escalating.”
“Yeah, and it’s all over the place.” Sharon fidgeted with her cup. “Moscow, Tel Aviv and Buenos Aires. No clue as to who’s doing it or why.”
Mark shrugged. “I’ll have Johnnie check it out. It’s pretty odd, but doesn’t sound too bad. Maybe we can get some surveillance for the next big holiday.”
“Dan said he’s already on it,” Sharon said. “But I thought I’d better update you in case it escalates some more.”
“Thanks.” Mark shifted. “How are you doing with Al?”
“Except for that one blow-up, fine.” Sharon’s brow creased. “Did he say anything to you?”
“No. He’s not said much of anything, except for strictly work-related stuff.” Mark shifted. “Have you or anyone else on the Board been up to anything to help him?”
“There really isn’t much we can do,” Sharon sighed. “He has to work it out on his own. But to change the subject completely, you do know you’re taking my sister to the big gala performance for the Arts and the Disabled Festival Saturday night, don’t you?”
“Yeah. I’m looking forward to it. June said she’s choreographing a dance for the finale.”
“Yeah.” Sharon sighed. “She’s been too busy to even say hi to me this week. And she’s not staying at a hotel. Or she’s avoiding telling me where she’s staying. It’s weird. She’s not that secretive.”
Mark grinned. “Does this mean you’re hoping I’ll ferret out her secrets.”
“No.” Sharon chuckled. “Just one more thing to worry about, I guess. Or rather… How do I say this? She’s been trying to prove that she’s back to normal. No, that’s not it. Look, this is going to sound horribly crass, but she’s been hitting on anything male within reach. So you may get propositioned.”
“Okay. And you want me to..?”
“Oh, hell.” Sharon sank her head into her hands. “I can’t tell you what to do about it. It’s not like you don’t get propositioned regularly, I’m sure. You’re both adults. You make up your own mind.”
“But you’d rather I didn’t go along with it.”
Sharon put her coffee cup down on the table. “It’s not just me being jealous. At least, I don’t think it is. I’m just worried about her. If what Sarah, our other sister, says is true, Susan’s acting out and in not a very healthy way. But I don’t want you letting her down, either. That would hurt her, too.”
Mark nodded. “I get what you’re saying. But like you said, I get propositioned pretty regularly and I do know how to let a woman down gently. Even someone as vulnerable as you say your sister is. It should be interesting.”
“Frankly, I hope it isn’t,” Sharon sighed.
Mark laughed and Sharon left the Oval Office.