Susan Burgher liked the cozy Chinese hotel room. The single bed was clean, room service was prompt and the television picked up two English channels. But right now she was stretched out on the bed, staring at the ceiling and listening to the sounds of Xian outside the closed window. The reporter was seriously buzzed from the white wine but was smart enough not to get completely drunk. She’d handed over a spy and wanted whatever the Chinese would give her.
The door opened and the same three men entered. The lead agent who’d interviewed her switched on the bedside lamp, studying the prone American with a frown. Finally he spoke.
“Get up Miss Burgher.”
There was no response from the woman. He sighed and repeated himself.
“Get up Miss Burgher, you’re going to Tibet.”
She came wide awake. ”I’m an American citizen, I’ve done nothing wrong, I want to see…”
He held up his hand. “Tibet. I said Tibet, not Siberia. I need you to come along to identify the spies.”
“Oh okay.”
She swung her long legs off the bed and stretched. Then she collected her clothes from a chair and went into the bathroom to dress. The Ministry of State Safety officer sat down, rubbed his eyes and wondered who he’d ticked off to pull this duty. He wondered if his counterparts in the American FBI had to deal with characters like this.
When Susan was finally dressed they escorted her to the car on the street after stopping for strong coffee and tea in the lobby. On their way to the Xian Airport she drank the coffee and he drank the tea. After giving the coffee time to work he spoke without looking over at her.
“Miss Burgher, there is nothing I would like more than to leave you in your room until this is over. But my superiors want me to take you to Tibet to identify the foreign agents.”
She sipped her coffee and nodded, closing her eyes behind her sunglasses. He started to pass over several photographs pulled from security cameras but changed his mind. He knew how a hangover felt.
“We are going to Lhasa, Tibet by airplane since the two were spotted there. Have you ever been to Lhasa before?”
Susan shook her head and looked so ill he decided to let her be for the moment. He took several file folders from his briefcase and used it as a work surface. He opened one of the folders and began to read about the incident at the reservoir. The taxi cab driver and museum guide had given full accounts of what happened.
It was up to him to track down the two people who had been attacked and gotten fire support from a black helicopter. He wondered if his superiors hated him this much or if he was just considered expendable. No one in any government anywhere would welcome this job.
He knew about the black helicopters. He knew about the so called “men-in-black,” the group who operated outside the traditional forms of government. Even in the People’s Republic this group operated at will.
Obviously they were powerful enough to risk a confrontation with anyone. And wise enough to avoid one. Now he had to deal with them. To him—and most other Chinese—they were like demons of old.
He closed the incident report and opened the files of the two Americans. The man was a journalist, John Parker. The information about this guy seemed credible and he just looked like another journalist trying to get a story. Still, they’d bring him in, shake him up, throw him in a hole for a year. Scare any other nosy journalists who were thinking about coming and causing trouble.
The woman —Andrea Litz— was a different story. Her file was pretty much empty. There was just enough in it to avoid suspicion, but not enough for his experienced eye. He’d worked in Counter-Intelligence for two decades and what he saw made him want to ask her a few questions.
Maybe she was the American’s photographer. Or maybe she wasn’t Andrea Litz at all. But the State Safety Agent knew that by the time they were done with her only the toughest secret agent would be able to hold back anything.