In the next few months, WHISTLER HOUSE PUBLISHING will be releasing Novel 2 in my TRILOGY OF TREASON. For my readers who have been waiting far too long to see this book, I am beginning a series of weekly excerpts to start you reading this story that is very close to my heart. Not only does it follow up to THE CONSUMMATE TRAITOR with a plot related to those original characters, it deals with a heartless drug scandal that has already affected too many lives, both military and civilian.
CHAPTER THREE continued ...
As they neared the monstrous aircraft, Ben asked, “Do you know the Russian nickname for this big bird?”
She shook her head.
“The vulture? Why?”
“Its massive wingspan.”
Kendra paused and peered with greater interest at the Antonov. From where she stood, the nose did resemble the bare head and neck of a vulture whose gigantic wings swept back along the fuselage. “I can see why.”
Inside, the cargo hold was even more overwhelming, like standing inside the mouth of a mammoth cavern, larger than a football field, she guessed. Gantry cranes, similar to ones she had seen in freight train yards, and their hoists ran overhead on a track attached to the roof. With this mechanized system, the crew didn’t need ground cargo-handling equipment to load and unload on poorly equipped airfields.
The Russian loadmaster led them to the rear of the main deck and cranked down an overhead metal ladder. He gestured for them to climb up. At one point, Kendra glanced down between the narrow slits in the metal steps and felt woozy. She paused and gripped the rail.
Behind her, Ben hissed, “I told you not to look down. Look up. Look up.”
She raised her head and could see she was half-way to the top. She sucked in her breath, squared her shoulders and kept climbing. As she stepped into the crew’s cabin on the upper deck, another grinning Russian greeted her and pointed to two rows of eighteen passenger seats – one with three seats across, the other with two – lining the gunmetal walls. Cartons of Coca Cola and bottled water were stacked against the icebox lashed to the floor behind the last passenger seat on the starboard side. Kendra didn’t dare look to see what represented their washroom. The logistics officer in charge of loading the plane had prepared her for a bucket and a sheet for privacy, and she expected to ‘rough it’ no matter what.
Ben stepped into the cabin and motioned for her to take the second row of seats from the front of the compartment on the port side of the aisle. He flung his camera equipment and backpack to the far right on the empty seats across from her, while she piled her backpack on the last seat next to the left wall. She slumped down into the aisle seat and jumped back up again.
“What’s wrong?” Ben asked.