The visit to Johannisberg went off as planned. The government there was far more friendly to the U.S., and there was even some sympathy regarding Carla’s dilemma. The only hitch was that her escape was announced a day before it was supposed to be. Carla’s father had hired two Australian commandos to rescue his daughter. Bantu later told Sharon that the commandos were perfectly happy to pretend to rescue Carla to further divert suspicion from the U.S. President’s party.
For Mark, it was a difficult three days, never mind that the South African government had pulled out all the stops to see to it that the American party was well entertained. The talks were friendly and relaxed. There was a brief tour of a diamond mine, then another to a wildlife preserve and finally, an extended tasting from several of the South African wineries. Mark put on his best game face, but he still felt uncomfortable around Sharon. The odd thing was, even though he knew what was bugging him, he had no idea how to broach the subject with her.
Things got decidedly worse when the party reached Nairobi, Kenya. There was the happy reunion with Carla to deal with, which for Mark only rubbed the salt in his wound. And a special trip into the bush had been planned with none other than rock star Michael Wheatly. Or as Sharon knew him, her older brother. Mark had agreed to the trip because the Kenyan government wanted to show off how well it was working with Non-Governmental Organizations to improve things for those living in the country’s more remote areas. But given Mark’s usual feelings for Sharon and how confused those feelings were at that moment, Mark was not at all sure meeting up with Sharon’s brother was a good idea.
Michael Wheatly had been working with a group building wells to provide clean water to remote villages. He’d planned the trip the previous winter as a press event to get publicity for the group’s efforts. When the U.S. President accepted the Kenyans’ invitation to visit, the Kenyans, apparently unaware of Sharon’s relationship, asked Michael to include Mark and his party. So that had been arranged for some time. Matt and Rebecca were looking forward to meeting Jodi’s father, Michael, even if Jodi was still in the States. Mark had been looking forward to meeting Sharon’s brother, in theory. But then Nigeria had happened. As Air Force One touched down in Nairobi, Mark resigned himself to more days of being pleasant and friendly even when he wasn’t feeling either. First there were the talks with the Kenyan government, then the big press conference celebrating Carla’s safe arrival in Kenya. At least, June was taking the lead for that event.