The North Central Highlands, North Korea,
Two years ago
Jason Randolph Scott woke, something startled him.
He was alone and in total darkness.
Slowly he realized where he was although he couldn’t see two feet ahead of him. He’d lost track of time not caring anymore. He felt forgotten, alone. The perceived sensation of abandonment swept over him as it did day after day.
It was three years ago when he’d thought they’d discovered his identity; that of a spy working for the CIA while acting as a reporter for the New York Times newspaper.
Coming for him in his sleep, they dragged him away, beating him senseless. The Koreans struck, kicked and threatened his live-in girlfriend, a fellow reporter, Jenny Addams, when she tried to intervene on his behalf. He’d seen her all curled up in a fetal position on the floor bleeding and crying as they dragged him away.
With the air cool and moist, it was as if being in a cave down in some deep hole in the middle of nowhere and no one hearing your screams. Every day they came, twice a day, sometimes more, as they’d tied his hands and feet and stretched him on the cold floor, naked. Placing a plastic tube down his mouth they filled it with water until he was near drowning. They’d wait a few seconds and start in again; always asking the same questions over and over:
“Who do you work for?”
“What is your connection to the CIA?”
“What is your name?”
“Admit you’re a spy and we’ll let you go.”
Jason knew that last question was a barefaced lie!
They’d continued beating beat him senseless until he could only open an eye. Clipping electrical leads to his hands and feet, an electrical current would flow through his body, always with the same effect—total blackout—which he always welcomed like a long-lost brother.
The dungeon he had called home for the last three years was almost unbreathable. They’d beaten him over and over, compelled to confess time and time again to whatever they wanted.
Jason Randolph Scott was thirty-six when he died at the hands of his captors; never seeing the light of day.
In July, marking the three years of his captivity, they turned his body over to the Americans, during a prisoner exchange between the two countries.
His father Lieutenant General Thomas Randolph Scott, Deputy Commander, USEUCOM, received his son’s body at the DMZ and had it transported to their home in Texas, there vowing that someone would pay for his son’s death.
US Military in Germany and the White House along with the CIA did nothing to secure his release; General Scott had knowledge of who they were, although they knew the North Korean Government held his son as a spy against their state.
Present day – Wednesday, August 7 Patch Barracks, U.S. Military Installation, Stuttgart, Germany
The sixteen-year-old blue-eyed blond-haired teenager walked toward a waiting brown Volkswagen Bug parked outside her father’s on-post government quarters. She clutched her handbag close to her small bosom as if someone could come along and relieve her of it. Her restless eyes scanned toward the front of the two-story quarters behind her, hoping against hope her father would not catch her leaving at such a late hour.
Temperatures hovered in the low 60s, and it was a cool evening in Mid-August, with a gentle prevailing wind, as the dying sun threw darkened shadows over the sweeping lawn to the US military headquarters in Patch Barracks, Germany. Home of the US European Command (EUCOM), where Chief-of-Staff Brigadier General Carl C. Chapman, lived with his only child Helen Chapman. It was a picture post-card scene: as the blood-orange sky gave in to the night, with a full moon appearing over the horizon.
With the nascent moonbeams lighting her way, her throat dry and tight, and her heart beating faster as she approached the car. “Billy!” she yelled. “Start the car.”
She glanced behind her and caught a glimpse of the living room curtains being pulled back. However, she wasn’t sure. As she reached the car, her boyfriend, Billy Ackers, fired up the engine. He had the passenger door already opened for her. Now oblivious to everything else around her, Helen came around to the passenger side. And there, for a slight second, she stood—a youthful figure, dressed in skinny jeans, a dark blazer underneath a black top with a white scarf and ankle boots; her blond hair blowing in the wind as she once again stared at her home.
With a deep breath, she arched an eyebrow, as if to say something, but shook her head.
“Get in, babe,” Ackers said in a low voice. “We’re wasting time.”
As she took her seat, she had second thoughts about going away for the few days, and not telling her father what she’d planned. She knew full well he’d disapprove of it. It was giving her food for thought—but just for a second or two. This wasn’t her first time, and it always seemed to end with her father setting up boundaries with which she didn’t comply. But somehow it was different now. She couldn’t pinpoint or explain what that was. Yet here she was doing it all over once again.
She slipped a hand to her boyfriend’s outreached hand. He leaned toward her, and her apprehensions erased as she met Billy’s lips with her own in a quick kiss. As they parted, she glanced at him, noticing his intense blue eyes held her own as a slow smile curled her lips.
She blushed as she looked at him. He was only a year older but much more intelligent than her. He reached over once again and caught her hand. “Helen, are you okay babe?” he asked in his slow Southern drawl.
Helen Chapman paused, frowning.
“Do you believe we’ll be okay?” she asked, as a sense of foreboding hung on her mind. “Nothing bad will happen, right?”
“Honey,” Billy replied. “What can go wrong? The night and the weekend are ours to have fun with.”
In the semi-darkness of the car, Helen Chapman inclined her head.
“I guess you’re right.”
Billy Ackers nudged the selector on the gearshift, turned on the headlights, and eased away from the curb. He did not notice the twin set of headlights that flared on behind them.
With the night pitched black and only moonbeams playing across the road, the late-model Lincoln Navigator flipped on its headlights, and with the vehicle’s plate lights out, it left all details unreadable. The SUV moved off at a leisurely pace down the street, gaining slightly to their intended target—the VW Bug and its two occupants.
They were in no hurry, knowing full well their destination and the route they would take. She and her boyfriend had been under surveillance for the last month—following their every move. With their cell phones monitored, they knew what their plans were. Now with the go-ahead order, it would be up to them to bring the mission to a close.
The route they would take would lead them six miles through a wooded, unpopulated, unlit country road. And that’s where they would make their move.
The driver of the first Navigator pulled back and slowed the pace, as did the second vehicle. As the VW reached the main gate to the military installation, he watched as the military police gate guard waved them through.
Slowly the two Navigators inched their way forward, turned onto the gate and waited to be waived through. Turning, they drove under the arch sign and through the brown and white sign of Patch Barrack, US Military Installation Main Gate: The only gate operational during off-duty hours.
Once stopped at the intersection, they turned East on MontanaStrasse and caught sight of the VW’s taillights.
Billy Ackers turned to his girlfriend. “You seem quiet: Usually I can’t stop you from talking.”
Helen sighed. With eyes half-closed, her mind wondered toward her father—what would happen to her once he found out she’d gone yet again. With her mother passing away only last year, she wasn’t ready to deal with her father. She blamed him for her mother’s death—not being there for her, at the crucial time when she needed him to be, instead of traveling. Helen had been with her mom when the poor woman took her last breath. All alone she didn’t know what to do, whom to call; too much for a sixteen-year-old to go through all alone. For several months afterwards, she’d been undergoing considerable emotional stress.
But now she was here with Billy. He was the first and only person she’d called that night. It was Billy that made all the phone calls. Breathing deep, he sank deep into her seat, her mind revolving around that day. God, I hope I’m doing the right thing, she thought.
Exhaling, Helen cleared her throat. “Um, thinking of all the fun we’ll soon be having.”
“Yeah, aha,” he said with a smile. “Sure you were.”
She laughed. “I’m fine. I’m—”
He cut her off by blowing her a kiss. “It’s okay Helen.”
The leader of the strike unit in the first Lincoln Navigator reached for his cell phone and dialed a predetermined number, waited for his boss to answer it, and said, “Made contact. We’re following our target as we speak, Mr. Alpha.” They used no regular names during the operation.
Alpha said, “Do you expect any problems with the boyfriend?”
“There’s nothing for us to worry about.”
“I hope not, for your sake.”
“Check back as soon as you complete the operation.”
“Roger that sir.”
They were traveling through a thick forest on a two-lane road, when Billy spied a set of headlights approaching from behind on the left lane wanting to pass, but not in any hurry to do so. He could see what appeared to be a black SUV pull up abreast of his VW and speed up. It passed and pulled out in front. He couldn’t make out the inside of the SUV because of the dark tinted windows. Nor could he make out the license plate—American or German, he couldn’t tell.
With one vehicle in the front and the other toward the rear, the front Lincoln Navigator slowed at first, braking once or twice and letting the VW get close to its bumper, while the second SUV slowed tapping the VW’s bumper.
It was at that moment that Billy knew something was wrong, and he was getting scared!
He tried to swerve away to his left to pass the SUV in front, but he did not a chance, as the rear SUV bumped his VW hard.
Billy yelled, “Son-of-a-bitch!”
Billy Ackers, holding hard to the steering wheel with both hands had no alternative but to brake to a stop.
Seconds later, Helen gasped as she looked behind her as two black-clad men holding what appeared to be machine guns stepped out of the SUV and stop as they stared at the back of the VW weapons at the ready.
“Oh my God, what’s happening, Billy!” Helen said, almost yelling.
Turning on his seat, Billy gazed out past the back of the VW. For a moment he froze. “Helen, get down in the seat and don’t come out for anyone.”
“Billy!” she yelled.
He looked at her. Shock and disbelief was written all over her beautiful young face. So he smiled at her.
“Please, Helen, for once, do as I said.”
That gave her pause, with eyes wide open, shaking her head she stared straight back at him.
Once out of his car, Billy Ackers walked forward scared out of his wits and said a little prayer hoping against hope it was nothing more than a big mistake. Coming to a stop as his VW’s headlights illuminated him in the beams, he made out four black-clad men wearing balaclavas step out of the SUV, holding what appeared to be assault weapons.
Helen didn’t do as Billy had instructed, instead she sat straight back up in her seat and watched as Billy walked forward; stared at the four men standing behind the SUV holding machine guns; gazed at the two closest to Billy when they pointed their weapons and heard the loud gunfire; and stared agape when Billy, being driven back by the impact of the bullets striking his body, his arms flaring, as a bullet pushed through Billy’s head. She yelled as blood and brain matter splashed onto the VW’s windshield and kept yelling as she watched Billy’s limp body slide to the ground.
She stopped yelling when the killers come for her.
Helen gasped, too stunned to realize what had happened. However, she noticed that the shooting had stopped—and they weren’t shooting at her. Two of the killers walked toward the VW’s passenger side door. The one who seemed to be the leader, opened the door, grasped her by her arm and tried to pull her out. Screaming and yelled, she tried kicking at the killer to no avail. Grabbed by her hair, they dragged her to the ground and forced her to feet. Someone came up behind her, pinned her arms at her chest, and placed a rag to her mouth. She smelled a sweet pungent scent. Moments later, she went limp in the arms of the killer. Her eyes rolled to one side as the chloroform took effect, as she blacked out losing consciousness.
The leader of the group threw Helen across his shoulders carried her to a Navigator and tossed her in the back seat. He slammed and closed the right side door, opened the front passenger door, pulled out a manila folder from the center console, extracted a folded sheet of paper and slammed close the door. Heading over to the VW Bug, he placed the sheet of paper on the passenger side seat, and returned to the Navigator, got in on the driver’s side and pulled away from the scene as the second Navigator followed.
He stared at his watch. It had taken them only eight minutes to secure the woman. Eight—two minutes shy of the time allotted.
He arched an eyebrow and nodded. “Not bad.”
As he reached for his cell phone, he dialed the same number and said, “Target in the bag sir.”
Alpha said, “And the boyfriend?”
“Good work. You know what has to be done next, sergeant.”
The team had another to bag; their last one!
* * *
Six hours later
The white and green Mercedes-Benz four-door sedan, with its blue light-bar and siren atop the roof, and displaying police markings on the hood, sides and back of the car, made its way on the lonely unlit country road. It was the end of his shift, and it included this part in his patrol area, though he ever patrolled it, because few vehicles ventured out at this time of the night.
The two-lane road, with several large potholes, direly needed of repairs. Large trucks were the only vehicles that traveled on it, and teenagers looking for a place to sit, drink and make out. He remembered having to run off two or three cars loaded with them, in the past.
Officer Karl Schultz, a three-year veteran, rolled down his window and listened for any sounds that would indicate the presence of teenagers in the area, when, his headlights caught sight of a car stopped on the side of the road about three or four hundred yards ahead.
Turning on his blue emergency lights he drove a little faster, and what he observed as he approached the scene made his blood run cold. For there, lying on the ground, and trapped under the intense glare of his high beams, was a human body.
He came to a stop, turned off the engine and stepped out of the patrol car.
“Heilige scheisse!” he said as he approached the body. “Holy shit!” It was his first dead body he’d ever come across.
With the rumbling of his stomach, he heaved.
Seconds later he wiped his mouth, and once back in control, he called it in to his dispatcher. Approaching the body, he knelt down and turned it over on its side, and once again heaved, as he observed that animals may have eaten off parts of the corpse.
Standing, he pulled out his flashlight and looked inside the VW Bug. But it was empty except for a letter or a note lying on the passenger seat. Not touching it he returned to his vehicle, and waited for the Bundespolzei, German Federal Police to arrive, along with the US Army Military Police—the VW had American license plates—and Crime Scene personnel.
* * *
Helen Chapman woke with a lurch, opened her eyes and was met with total darkness as she grasped for air, coughing and making gagging noises.
Was she alone, or was someone with her? the thought crossed her mind. There were no sounds to show so. She called out, but no one answered.
She didn’t know how long she’d been unconscious—her watch was missing as was her cell phone and purse.
Helen sensed a cool breeze blowing on her face. She had a terrible headache, and the wall against her back was cold.
With harrowing eyes, Helen tried to remember what had happened to her. But it was no use, her mind was still groggy.
Billy, she thought.
“My God,” Helen whispered, her voice breaking. “Shot . . . dead.”
She gasped and lifted her arms. But they bound her with rope.
Her mind was still a blur, slow, and her legs stretched out in front of her were like lead.
Yet, all she knew was that she was alive and, she reasoned, they wanted her for something else besides being dead.
What could be worse than death, Helen...? Oh— my— God!