This is an unedited preview of Chapter 1, part 2 of Girl of Vengeance. It contains spoilers.
She cut us to pieces with her words.
Oh, Adelina, why didn’t you leave him when I asked? When I begged?
He tried to imagine the Adelina he’d known being abusive. He couldn’t. She had been kind and honest and terrified. She’d been anxious often. She’d told him how she’d struggled to separate her daughters from the emotional devastation of their father.
He remembered sitting with Adelina in the Maryland suburbs of Washington at an anonymous restaurant, sometime in April 1984.
It’s not Julia’s fault that he’s her father, Adelina had said. She deserves all of me, but sometimes I flinch back.
George-Phillip had sighed, slight squeezing his hands at his temples. Please leave him, Adelina. I’m begging you. You deserve so much better.
Adelina had just smiled, a wide false smile that didn’t hide her glassy eyes. Do you know what he sent me the other day, George-Phillip? He’s in Pakistan or some place, but he stopped in Spain long enough to take a picture of my brother. It was a threat.
George-Phillip had shuddered. A few weeks later she broke it off with him.
He shook his head, coming back to the present. Right now, Adelina wasn’t his problem. Convincing his daughter—his daughter!—that she could trust him—that was the task at hand. He looked Andrea in the eyes and said, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know that it had gotten so bad.”
Andrea shook her head, her mouth turning up one side, her expression of skepticism breaking his heart. “Of course you didn’t know,” she said. “You weren’t there.”
He was shaken, and covered it by taking a drink of his tea, giving him a few seconds to compose himself. Finally, he said, “Of course, you are correct. I wasn’t there. And regardless of the reasons—which there were many—there’s no real excuse.”
Andrea looked at the floor. Then she said, “But you came to Spain. The first time I went there, with Carrie.”
George-Phillip smiled. “I did. And other times. I was at your concert two years ago. You have a beautiful singing voice.”
Andrea blushed. “You were there?”
“Of course. I couldn’t make it often, you see, without revealing something. But when there was an opportunity to not be observed—I tried to take them.” Every summer in Calella, on Friday nights in the old town, there was a series of live performances. When he’d learned that she would be performing in one, he had discreetly travelled to Spain. He remembered standing in the back of the crowd that milled around the square, and Andrea’s nervousness when she walked out on the stage. She’d hesitated at first, then looked at a woman he now realized must be her Abuelita, or grandmother. Then she smiled, a beautiful smile, and began singing a cappella.
He didn’t understand the words—George-Phillip spoke fluent French, but no Spanish—but her expression, her vocal intonation made it clear she’d inherited her mother’s gift for music. He found his eyes began to mist again.
“Forgive me,” he said. “I’m afraid I haven’t a firm grip on my emotions today. I’m wondering—have you heard from her? Do you have any idea where she might be? Your mother?”
Dylan and Andrea looked at each other before speaking, a look which was heavy with meaning. Dylan leaned forward and said, “Sir… I spoke with her very briefly. On April 30th. It was right before the shooting started.”
George-Phillip sighed. “That was the last time I spoke with her as well.”
Dylan tilted his head to the right, raising an eyebrow. “I thought you guys weren’t talking.”
“We weren’t,” George-Phillip said. “But I was tracking the family as closely as possible when I got word Andrea was going back to the United States. There are some people with powerful secrets who want them kept. I think they thought that if it came out in public that Richard had raped his wife, then his whole career might come under fire. Which would risk exposing Wakhan.”
Dylan flinched. “Wakhan? In Badackshan Province?”
“You’re familiar with it?”
Dylan grimaced. “I served in Badackshan Province during my time in Afghanistan. We didn’t get out to the Wakhan Corridor though. Too remote—not even the Taliban is interested in that place. What is it they’re trying to keep secret? And what does Richard Thompson have to do with it?”
George-Phillip sighed. Then he said, “What I’m about to tell you is highly classified. But The Guardian actually broke the story today, so that secrecy is of dubious value. In 1983, a group of Afghan militia dropped nerve gas on a village in Wakhan, killing everyone in the village. The nerve gas was procured from Russian stocks by two CIA officers and a Saudi intelligence officer. Richard Thompson was one of them.”
“Holy shit,” Dylan said. Then he flushed, an uncomfortable red running down his cheeks and neck. “Excuse me, uh, Highness… uh … sir.”
George-Phillip chuckled. “Really, man, I served in the Royal Marines. I’ve heard salty language once or twice. In any event, I was already on high alert after Andrea’s kidnapping.” He turned and looked at his daughter, musing for just a moment on how incredibly courageous she’d been. “You really are something,” he said. “Any man would be proud to call you his daughter, you know.”
She just looked down at the table. She didn’t trust him yet, of course. And that would take time. He just hoped he would get the time.
“In any event,” he said, “We were monitoring the communications of certain people who were known to associate with Tariq Koury.”
“Hairy Chest,” Andrea said.
George-Phillip raised his eyebrows.
She responded, “That’s what I mentally called him. The entire flight over he sat next to me, with his shirt unbuttoned halfway down. It was disgusting.”
“I see,” George-Phillip said. “You understand Koury was an intelligence operative with nearly twenty years of experience. He started out with the Saudi mukhabaret, but went on to freelance. He was very dangerous. You’re a very resourceful young lady to escape him.”
“I didn’t kill him,” she said. He eyes were watering as she said the words.
George-Phillip tilted his head.
She went on. “The police killed him, and his partner. I just—struggled to survive. The newspapers keep saying I somehow killed these two men with my bare hands. It’s not true.”
“Unfortunately, the newspapers often write things which are untrue,” George-Phillip said.
Dylan frowned and muttered, “Ain’t that the sad truth.”
The guest house butler appeared at the door. “Your highness, the Ambassador wishes to see you.”
On a Sunday? It had to be about the disturbance. He stood, wiping his mouth with the linen napkin, and said, “Excuse me a moment, Andrea. Dylan.”
He walked to the door, glancing back once. Andrea and Dylan were huddled together, talking already. He walked out the door.
Stephen Easton was a younger version of the doddering old fool who had been Ambassador to China when George-Phillip was stationed there in the mid-nineties. Much like his older brother Ronald, Stephen Easton had traded on his good family name and wealth to get ahead in the diplomatic service. Neither of the brothers had ever really accomplished anything, though Ronald’s son Harry—currently an attaché on the staff here at the Embassy—did go from scandal to scandal throughout his formative years.
Ambassador Easton leaned on his cane as George-Phillip approached. Stephen Easton was approaching seventy years old, and looked every second of it, thanks to a lifetime of heavy foods, sitting behind desks, and drinking plenty of port.
“Your Highness,” Easton said.
“Your Highness, I must protest. I’m given to understand that a pair of intruders invaded the grounds of the embassy, and instead of turning them over to the proper authorities, you have taken them in and given them lunch? What has gotten into you, sir?”
Easton’s face was already turning red. George-Phillip promised himself that he wouldn’t antagonize Easton too much—the old blowhard was likely to pop off with a heart attack at any moment.
“Ambassador, one of the two intruders is my long-lost daughter.”
Easton’s eyes widened. “Dear God, it’s true?”
“It is, Ambassador. She’s had a dreadful week, and has people trying to kill her, and it is my intention to keep her here, safe and protected. This is not negotiable.”
Easton shook his head, waving a hand vaguely in the air. “Surely, a hotel nearby with proper security….”
George-Phillip raised his eyebrows. “Ambassador, that is not an option.”
“Is it true, Highness, that both of them are fugitives from American law enforcement? Do you realize the sort of international incident you might be precipitating?”
“There will be no international incident if the Americans don’t know they’re here. Will there?” George-Phillip raised his eyebrows and leaned close, restraining his urge to verbally flatten the old man. She’s my daughter.
“Your Highness, they mustn’t be here more than a few days. I won’t allow it.”
George-Phillip sighed. A lot could happen in a few days, and there was little he could do to prevent it. He still didn’t know where Adelina was, nor had he spoken with Carrie. Not to mention that terrible article in the Guardian.
“Fine, then, Ambassador. I should be able to make other arrangements in a few days.”
Stephen Easton started to turn away, but then turned his head back toward George-Phillip, his myopic eyes huge in the thick lenses he wore. “Your Highness… how much of this has to do with the article which ran in the Guardian?”
George-Phillip sighed and said, “It’s tied closer than I’d like. But I assure you that the accusations against me are false, and I shall prove it in due course.”
Easton raised his eyebrows and minutely shook his head. The old man was skeptical. “Well, then,” he said, then turned away.
George-Phillip turned to go back into the sunroom, but saw his assistant for thirty years, Oswald O’Leary. O’Leary was Irish, short, with the face of a pug. Foul-mouthed, unconventional, and brilliant, he’d served George-Phillip tirelessly for decades, and he was the only person who had George-Phillip’s full confidence. Now he stood at the door looking grim.
“What is it, O’Leary?”
“He’s right, you know, Highness. No good can come from you harboring them here.”
“Someone is trying to harm my daughter,” George-Phillip said.
“She should be turned over to the American authorities. She’ll be safer there anyway.”
George-Phillip muttered an internal curse, then said, “I thank you for your advice. But she’s staying here. What do you have for me, O’Leary?”
“Highness, Adelina Thompson turned up.”
“Dear God, where? Mexico?”
“No, sir. Canada, actually. She and her daughter crossed the border on foot. It seems there’s not even a fence on the Canadian border. They ran across as someone was shooting them.”
“She’s still with her daughter Jessica?”
“Yes, sir. Jessica Thompson is in the hospital, sir.”
Alarmed, George-Phillip said, “Was she shot? Is Adelina all right?”
O’Leary shook his head. “Not shot, sir. I don’t know all the details yet—only what’s been reported in the news. We don’t have anyone on the ground yet. But the Canadian media is reporting that Adelina Thompson is demanding political asylum.”
George-Phillip gave O’Leary a grim smile. “It’s about time,” he said. “I must get back—thank you for the update, O’Leary.”
George-Phillip stepped past O’Leary, reaching for the door, when O’Leary touched his arm.
“Highness? Remember that Adelina Thompson is not the nineteen-year-old girl you once fell in love with. She’s.…”
“She’s what, O’Leary? Old? As are we both.”
“No, Highness, that’s not what I meant. She’s … not healthy. Mentally.”
Anger flooded through George-Phillip. “Well, maybe it’s time she was given the opportunity to heal.” He pushed past O’Leary.