“They probably don’t,” Sharon said, her voice calm in spite of her roiling stomach.
Sharon, June and Carla were sitting in the bedroom June had been given, drinking wine and eating stale crackers as all of them were too keyed up to think about sleeping. Even though the president’s party would be leaving the next morning, a negotiating team from the American embassy would continue working on Carla’s release.
Sharon took a deep breath. “Bantu says that they have to make a good faith effort to get Carla to stand trial for inciting rebellion. And I definitely got the impression they were hoping we wouldn’t give in, since they don’t want to have that kind of trial on their hands. Extremists aside, most of the government wants good relations with us because of the oil money. The trick will be getting Carla out of the country without it looking like we helped her. Or that the president helped her.”
There was a soft knock on the door and Terry Wilkins popped her head in.
“Ms. Jerguessen, is Ms. Danford -” Terry smiled. “You’re here, Ms. Danford. Perfect. Ms. Jergessen, we may have a solution to the issue of getting Ms. Danford out of the country quietly.”
“You do?” June jumped up from the side of the bed where she’d been sitting.
“I don’t,” Terry said. “But, well, may I show someone in?”
June glanced at Sharon and Carla. “Yes. Please.”
The woman who slid into the room had the dark, dark skin of a native African. She was of medium height and build and Sharon realized that she’d seen the woman working among the clerical staff at the embassy.
“You don’t need to know my name,” the woman said, her voice deep and rich and perfectly American. “As far as you are concerned, I’m just another secretary.”
“But you’re not,” said Carla.
“Let’s just say that my bosses in Langley, Virginia, want to see Ms. Danford out of the country perhaps even more than you do,” the woman replied with a smile. “But we can’t tell the president. In fact, Ms. Wheatly, I would rather you weren’t even here.”
“Too late,” Sharon said, grimly. “I’m staying.”
“Then as your party leaves tomorrow morning, Ms. Wheatly, you must make sure that the president is distracted enough that he does not see who all is getting on the third helicopter,” the woman said.
“I think I can manage that,” Sharon said.
“He’s not going to like that,” June said.
“We know about the president’s preferences.” The woman looked at Sharon. “Unfortunately, this is not merely about Ms. Danford. We need to get her out of this country to protect someone else and the president cannot know. But Warmonger said to tell you that in this case, plausible deniability is critical.”
“Warmonger?” June asked.
“Al Eddington,” Sharon said. She glanced over at Carla. “He’s the military and intelligence advisor on the Advisory Board. He does a lot with the CIA.”
“I don’t get it,” Carla said. “What have I got to do with protecting somebody?”
“I can’t say,” the woman said. She looked at June and Sharon. “Just please see to it that Ms. Danford is on that helicopter and that the president does not know that she has joined your party until you are in the air and preferably outside of Nigerian airspace.”
The woman withdrew silently.
“Well, that was creepy,” Carla said after a pause.
“There’s a reason why Al refers to the CIA as spooks.” Sharon got up and started pacing.
“At least we’re leaving tomorrow,” June said. “So we won’t have to play Mark for that long.”
“I don’t want to play him at all,” Sharon grumbled. She frowned. “Maybe I should call Al.”
“What if that alerts the bad guys?” June asked. “We don’t know how secure the lines are around here.”
Sharon sighed. “True. And she wouldn’t have referred to him as Warmonger if he hadn’t told her to.”
“You know, I can stay and take my chances with the negotiating team,” Carla said.
Sharon shook her head. “Something doesn’t feel right here, but I think it’s best to do what that woman suggested. There’s always something going on that we don’t know about. You’d think they’d make sure the president does, but that doesn’t always happen and it does usually happen for the best.”
None of the three women entirely believed what Sharon had said, but there seemed to be little alternative. The easiest way out was to get Carla out of Nigeria without it looking like the president and his party had helped her.