Sir, I Can Explain
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by Stephen D. Cork
Major Jennifer O’Shane is ordered by the President on a top secret assignment to INTERPOL and the Central Command of the U.S. military to take on a crime syndicate of unimaginable scale. The mission: destroy a giant international human trafficking syndicate.
She parachutes into the mountains of Argentina, plumbs the depths of the Mississippi River, and boards a ship loaded with human cargo during a storm in the Caribbean. She meets a sadistic crime boss on a personal vendetta, and terrorist connections in the slave syndicate, provide subplots in a constant undercurrent of suspense, drama and intrigue.
She is hailed as a hero for saving the life of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, only to be arrested a month later. She operates under top-secret orders from the White House, yet she is stonewalled, harassed and endangered at every turn.
Why does Jenny go from hero to pariah? How can she convince senior leaders of the scope and breadth of the human trafficking operation? Sir, I Can Explain, is a roller coaster ride of excitement with a finale that will curl your toes.
Distributor: Ingram Publisher Services
Pub Date : 9/01/2013
Price : $16.95 USD / $17.95 CAD
ISBN: 978 1 938467 55 4
Trim : 6×9
Format : Trade Paper
Pages : 275
BISAC Code Category:
FIC002000 Fiction/Action & Adventure
KEY SELLING POINTS
* Main theme of human trafficking is very current with high public visibility.
* Politically potent in view of White House involvement and recent elections.
* Provides a strong female main character in a high adventure, fast paced action role.
* Active and retired military types (VFW, American Legion, and U.S. world-wide military facilities).
* Women and men who enjoy strong, intelligent female action figures
* Readers who like action and fast paced thrillers
Colonel Stephen D. Cork U.S. Army (Retired) enjoyed a successful military career of nearly twenty seven years. While working as the Commandant of the Academy, Colonel Cork penned a fictional short story titled Take That, published by The Pepper Tree. He wrote a novel in 2006 titled Fat Chance (aka Knight Moves). This was the first novel published in the Jenny O’Shane thriller series and became highly popular in the Sarasota community. Colonel Cork retired from the Military Academy in 2011 to devote more time to his writing. His current projects include publishing the second Jenny O’Shane novel (Sir, I Can Explain), preparing charter applications for new charter schools in Florida, and writing the third book in the Jenny O’Shane thriller series (This Is A Goat Rope).
Sitting in a plush conference room executive chair, Jenny O’Shane had a panorama of downtown Riyadh. Beautiful new buildings dotted the skyline. With twilight approaching, city lights began to sparkle, engaging in their daily battle against the dark of night. Floor-to-ceiling windows provided a commanding view. Her ears were still ringing from the call to prayer broadcast from a minaret of a nearby mosque.
The soft leather of the chair felt cool against her arms. She was alone; the whir of air conditioning the only sound. Summoned to a security meeting at the Saudi National Guard Headquarters, she was drumming her fingers on a large conference table. She’d been waiting thirty minutes. She knew that the Saudis were being rude to express their annoyance at having to meet with a woman.
Trickles of sweat rolled down the small of her back. Despite the building’s cooled air, the U.S. Army’s Combat Uniform (ACU) she wore was warm in the oven-like Saudi desert summer.
Jenny stood when the room’s double doors suddenly swung open; a habit from her military upbringing. An older man bustled in with an arrogant air of royalty. He wore a Saudi dishdasha robe, and a flowing shora headdress. Gold stitching hemmed the edges of the dazzling white silk robe, and formed an intricate pattern on the chest.
She stifled a smile when a small retinue hovered about him like butterflies in a flower garden; each trying to outdo the other in servicing their charge. There were two younger men wearing similar, less ornate dishdashas, and a young, pretty Caucasian girl in an ivory colored ankle-length abaya dress and hijab scarf. The slim girl placed a coffee service on the polished conference table, and then backed out of the room, bowing low.
The two men adjusted blinds, and set out the coffee cups and condiments. Jenny got a good look at the older man as his entourage scurried about. He had a ready-to-smile kind of face, but the grey eyes that returned her look were as hard as granite.
“Good evening, Major O’Shane,” he said in fluent English. “I’m Prince Allaweh Kaliq, Minister of Security, and first cousin to Crown Prince Fahd.” He ignored her offered hand, and didn’t bother introducing the others.
She figured the others were aides in that one of them poured from a copper trimmed crystal coffeepot into two matching tumblers. He stirred cream and sugar into both without asking for preferences. He gave one cup to Kaliq, and then one to Jenny.
Kaliq sat in a chair at the center position of the table. Motioning Jenny to a seat opposite his, he raised his cup to his lips, slurped loudly, and sighed with appreciative pleasure. The aide immediately refilled his cup.
Briefed on Middle Eastern culture, Jenny knew that it was customary for hosts to exhibit a gesture of hospitality, and to exchange pleasantries prior to discussing business. And, she knew that she was expected to follow Kaliq’s example. She slurped and was rewarded with a mouthful of bitter, high octane espresso coffee. The jolt of caffeine went directly to her bloodstream. Her hands and feet tingled.
Barely suppressing a cough, she sighed in pretended pleasure. The aide started to serve her more. She placed her hand over her cup to indicate she was satisfied. With a slight nod of his head, Kaliq seemed to acknowledge her correct protocol, and to indicate that obligations of hospitality had been met.
The same aide gathered the cups and placed them on the service tray. He snapped his fingers, and the girl reentered the room, picked up the tray and bowed out. Only when the doors closed, did Kaliq speak again.
“So, the Americans sent a woman to coordinate security for the Commanding General of Central Command. Some would interpret that as a sign of weakness by General Penfant.”
“Yes, Excellency. But, many more would see it as recognition of the modern times in which we live.” …So much for pleasantries… she thought.
“Harrumph. Perhaps.” He paused, and then added, “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting long?”
“Thirty minutes isn’t long with a view like this, Excellency.” She detected a faint smile. She figured he knew her meaning.
He opened a folder one of his aides placed in front of him. “Thank you, Mohammed,” Kaliq said to the aide. Jenny noticed that Mohammed was staring at her. There was an unpleasantness about his demeanor that she couldn’t put her finger on. It made her skin feel itchy. She ignored his stare, and refocused her attention on Kaliq.
She recognized the paper he was looking at in the folder. It was the bio she’d been told to provide as an introduction. It was hard to miss the number sixteen font letters at the top:
U.S. Army Major Jennifer O’Shane, Military Police
“We already know a lot about you,” Kaliq said without more preambles. “You recommended against having your General Penfant attend the reception we’ve planned during his visit to thank him for helping us with the Somalian pirates.” He held up the palm of his hand to indicate she needn’t respond.
Jenny watched his long fingernail trail down the list of bullet points on the bio that lay flat on the table. His lips moved as if he were reading the information out loud. He passed over the first bullets that talked about her graduation from West Point and early promotion to major. His finger paused on the third bullet that indicated her title as the chief of security for the Commanding General of CENTCOM. “How long have you had this job?”
“Nearly one year,” she answered. She bit her tongue to suppress the annoyance she felt at being grilled.
Kaliq continued to silently peruse the paper. His finger rested on another bullet point: Her list of awards. He turned the resume over and dismissively pushed it aside. “There won’t be any need for your heroics at the reception. The palace is impregnable.”
He looked her over as if for the first time, an eyebrow rose when his eyes glanced at the parachutist airborne badge over the left pocket of her ACU jacket, and shifted briefly to the combat patch velcroed to her right shoulder.
With a sniff and a lift of his hawk-like nose, he seemed to challenge her to question his assertion about palace security. She didn’t rise to the bait, and stared back.
Mohammed snapped his fingers. The Caucasian girl slipped back through the double doors as if by magic. Jenny noticed for the first time how out of place she looked among the dark, swarthy features of the Saudis. Jenny could see a pale face peeking out from under the girl’s head scarf. She bowed low to the aide, and handed him a folder.
She appeared afraid of Mohammed; cowering. She didn’t even glance toward Jenny. The aide snapped his fingers again, and the girl hurried back out the doors. Jenny registered the fear, but pushed it to the back of her mind. …It’s none of your business… Focus…
Kaliq took the folder from the aide and slid it towards Jenny. He motioned with a backhanded wave that the folder was for her. His minimal effort caused Jenny to have to stand and reach across the table. She ignored his intentional slight.
In the folder, Jenny found a copy of a letter containing three short paragraphs on heavy bond paper. The Saudi royal family seal was embossed at the top. The subject line read: ‘Guidelines for U.S. Participation in Security at the Reception Honoring General Penfant.’ It was dated two days earlier, addressed directly to the Commanding General, and was signed by the Crown Prince.
Her jaw clenched. …Crap…this meeting’s a sham…everything’s done… By having the Crown Prince write directly to the CG, Kaliq had done an end run on her. She swallowed her anger. She was going to have to be extra clever to negotiate any change with this cagy old man.
She scanned the first paragraph, than looked up, careful to keep her voice respectful. “Excellency, your request that General Penfant’s protection detail not display weapons is unusual.” She watched to see if he got her point. A sly, crooked smile indicated that he understood. She added, “But, we can live with it. We’ll wear jackets.” It felt good appearing as if she’d compromised. She’d planned to have the staff wear sport jackets anyway.
She read on, and then asked, “Why do you request that only four people be on the detail in the reception hall? I usually bring at least a squad of nine inside for big events.”
Kaliq examined his manicured nails, and didn’t look at her when he responded. “As I said, the palace is impregnable. And, we’ll have ample guards. Mohammed has made the necessary arrangements. He manages all social affairs for the Crown Prince.”
Jenny simmered over Kaliq’s cavalier attitude, but decided against arguing about security inside the hall. She was more concerned with areas outside the palace where warrens of tiny alleyways, and higher elevations of multiple buildings, made ambushes easy. She had recommendations for securing those areas that she wanted his agreement on.
Then she read the last paragraph of the letter. It was a deal-breaker.
“What’s this about no females on the protection detail?”
“Women don’t carry weapons in Saudi Arabia,” Kaliq answered, disdain in every syllable.
“Well, I intend to lead this detail. That’s nonnegotiable.” She locked eyes with him. She wasn’t going to back down.
It was Kaliq’s turn to blink. Then he smiled as if he’d tricked her. “Very well,” he said. “You may accompany your team. But, there will only be three others, and you will be unarmed.” He looked pleased with himself.
Jenny stared at him. …This is impossible…
Kaliq pulled at the side of his flowing shora headdress, and straightened the fancy egal on its top. If he detected her anger, he ignored it, and added with another sniff, “I believe our exposure is minimal. We see no reason for special measures given the low threat level in Saudi Arabia.”
Jenny had had enough. She blurted out an exclamation of disbelief. “Excellency, terrorists attacked a U.S. civilian compound in Riyadh last year. Eight people were killed and hundreds were injured. We all know it happened. That’s a big reason why the U.S. lists Saudi Arabia as a level orange security risk for VIPs, and why I recommended against the CG attending this event.”
Taking a deep, calming breath, Jenny lowered her voice. Pasting on her most engaging smile, she pointed to a diagram she’d brought to demonstrate her ideas. “Sir, I have two companies of Military Policemen to help beef up security on the outside of the palace. Here are the locations I’d recommend they be positioned.”
Her input was met with stone-faced silence. Kaliq didn’t even glance at where she was indicating on the diagram. Instead he said, “We won’t require additional staff for security. Thank you. Our meeting is over.” He stalked out with his entourage close behind.
Jenny stared at the closing door of the conference room open-mouthed. “What? No discussion? That’s it?” She threw her hands in the air in exasperation, and then gave Kaliq the finger in absentia.