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.
Kendra was sure she had only snoozed a short while when noise from the card table again awakened her. She straightened up and looked around. The Russian crew had stashed the gas BBQ away. Now it was difficult to tell if the foggy haze hovering through the tail section was left over from their BBQ or the cigarettes the Russians smoked. The pungent smell clogged her sinuses.
At another frustrated curse from the table, she looked back to Jelnic.
He seemed more confused than he had when she first woke up. If he didn’t like the next card, he reshuffled the deck, and when the next card wasn’t what he wanted, he shoved it aside and shuffled the cards again. When he turned the face of the next card over, he swore and threw the entire deck on the table. Some fell on the floor.
Kendra slipped out of her seat to pick up the castoffs. “Do you ever win?”
When she placed the cards back on the table, he scowled, braced his hands on the table and pushed himself up from his seat. Blinking, his eyes raked her yet didn’t seem to see her. She wanted to reach out and tell him it was OK, but she feared if she touched him, she might set off a defensive reaction. She waited.
He ignored her and weaved down the aisle to the ice box where he pulled out two bottles of water. For a second he wavered against the open door, rubbed one cold bottle after the other in turn across his forehead, moved away and butted the fridge door with his hip to close it. Stumbling forward, he bumped from seat to seat back up the narrow space between the two rows. He appeared drunk, but she knew he wasn’t. At least she hadn’t smelled liquor or beer on his breath. When he neared the table, he thumped the two bottles of water on top and held on to the table edge as he lowered himself into the chair again. His face shone with sweat.
She remained still, while he shuffled his rows of cards together and dealt himself another hand. “You play Solitaire a lot?”
“When I can’t sleep.” He opened one water bottle and gulped down half of it before building five cards in downward sequence on a queen of spades.
Can’t sleep or WON’T sleep. If he had taken mefloquine, she remembered how she fought sleep because of the nightmares. He was also off balance and irritable. She risked his wrath if she continued questioning him, but she had no choice. She had only agreed to cover this peace mission in Rwanda because she needed to prove the boots on the ground did not know they were guinea pigs for the Canadian military and the drug company producing mefloquine. She had to know whether this young corporal was on the drug. Was he ordered to take it and was he told about the drug’s adverse side effects?
“Does that happen often?”
He eyed her with suspicion. “Often enough. You takin’ anti-malaria drugs?”
She caught her breath. Now he was interviewing her. “No.”
“I . . . experienced side effects.”
He paused with the next card aimed face down. “Not your first time to Africa, eh?” he asked, turning the card over and laying the red ten face up on a black jack.
“No, it isn’t.”
She waited, expecting him to ask her where she’d been.
In silence, he continued to lay down cards on each row until he had no more plays.