THE PILOT'S DAUGHTER: BONUS CONTENT
Spencer checked his watch as the forty-foot vessel bobbed gently atop the low swell. The plane was late. He lowered his sunglasses and glanced at the GPS to make sure he wasn’t dragging anchor. But he was exactly where he was supposed to be.
Drew had texted Spencer’s satellite phone six hours ago and told him the flight had taken off as scheduled. Spencer moved along the side of the sailboat toward the bow and stopped next to the forward hatch. He leaned his head back and searched the clear evening sky. But there was no sign of the commercial jet.
His sailboat was 250 nautical miles northwest of Napari, a small atoll at the northern end of the independent island nation of Kiribati. Surrounded by nothing but the vast central Pacific Ocean, he didn’t like being out here all alone. He adjusted his baseball cap and slowly made his way back to the stern before he plopped onto one of the seats.
Maybe something had gone wrong. The jet would run out of fuel within the next couple of hours. He pulled his satellite phone from his cargo shorts pocket and replied to Drew’s earlier text. Where are you?
An error message immediately filled his sat phone’s small screen. Message cannot be delivered. He set the phone on the seat next to him. Had they been caught? Were they already in custody in Honolulu?
Spencer leaned his head against the edge of the boat and tried to relax. He was much better and breaking into gym lockers and making fake IDs than he was at sailing by himself across the Pacific. Six months of sailing lessons in the Puget Sound didn’t make him a sailor. Fortunately, today the seas were calm.
Spencer got up and retrieved a beer from the ice box. As the cold liquid ran down the back of his throat, he knew he’d been crazy to sign up for this. But after his wife had a short-lived affair with their company’s founder and CEO, Eddie Clarke, he would’ve done anything to get revenge.
Sophie had left him even after her affair with Eddie fizzled, saying it made her realize how much she was missing out on by being married to Spencer. She’d met their boss at a Clarke Pharmaceuticals holiday party when Spencer had been too sick to attend. Sophie had offered to stay home with him, but he’d encouraged her to go without him. The thought never entered his mind that she might end up spending the night with their boss.
Spencer squeezed his beer can as the devastating memories filled his mind, causing the aluminum to cave in on one side and beer to spill onto his hand. Weeks later, when Sophie finally admitted to the affair, Spencer had gone ballistic. He’d driven to Eddie’s house in the middle of the night and screamed through the intercom at his front gate until Eddie threatened to call the cops if he didn’t leave.
The next day, Spencer had found Eddie’s car parked in one of the secure employee parking areas at the Clarke Pharmaceuticals headquarters downtown. Spencer slashed Eddie’s tires, took a sledgehammer to the windshield, and inscribed DICK on the side of Eddie’s silver Austin Martin with red spray paint. Spencer’s vandalism had been caught on security cameras. After he was fired, Spencer served three months in jail and paid a four-thousand-dollar fine.
When he was released, he went home to find his soon-to-ex-wife had changed the locks on their house. He was jobless, homeless, and alone. Until Drew and Henry found him and took him in. And told him how he could help take down Eddie Clarke. With a bonus of generous stock options in Henry and Drew’s rival pharmaceutical company that would soar after Eddie’s confession video went viral.
He’d been happy to help and make Eddie pay for ruining his life. But the gravity of what they’d conspired to do was starting to sink in.
Now, being alone to man a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific terrified him. And what would be gained if the plane didn’t make it and he drowned trying to sail back to Hawaii? It would all be for nothing if their plan hadn’t worked.
A fish jumped in the distance, making Spencer wish he’d packed some fishing gear. Although, he wasn’t any better at fishing than he was at sailing. But it would at least have given him something to take his mind off his worries.
If Drew, Henry, and Mila were in custody, would they rat him out? Maybe he should continue to Thailand like the four of them were going to do after the water landing. But he wasn’t sure he could survive that journey by himself. Hawaii was far enough.
He looked up again, but there was no sign of the jet. He’d stick to the plan. Wait a couple more hours until after dark. If the plane didn’t show up, he’d sail back to Hawaii alone. Spencer just hoped the authorities wouldn’t be waiting for him when he got there.
The sound of two inmates’ obnoxious laughter filled the recreational day-use room when Asha entered the doorway. She kept her eyes down before taking a seat in one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs at an empty table, having learned the hard way that other inmates didn’t like being stared at.
On the advice of her attorney, she’d accepted a plea deal instead of going to trial. She’d received eight years, which she was assured was a generously lenient sentence. To her, it felt like a lifetime. Her girls would be fifteen and seventeen when she got out.
Although federal inmates weren’t eligible for parole, there was a possibility of early release for ‘exemplary’ behavior. But she wasn’t sure how early that might be. She avoided eye contact with the other women and looked up at the small TV mounted to the upper corner of the room.
“How you doin’ tonight, sweetheart?” an older inmate asked.
Asha met her gaze with caution. “Fine, thanks. How are you?”
The older woman nodded. “Oh, same old. You know.”
Both women turned their attention toward the TV as a familiar Seattle news reporter filled the screen. The reporter looked to be standing in front of a downtown skyscraper. The wind blew her long dark hair to the side as she spoke.
“Breaking news this evening in Seattle as we learn that Clark Pharmaceutical has been a victim of what some are calling the largest cybersecurity breach of the decade. Our sources have confirmed that personal information from all Clark Pharmaceutical employees, consumers, and clinical research trial participants has been compromised. We have also learned that the pharmaceutical tycoon’s research data and pharmacological formulas have also been breached. An investigation is currently underway to find the culprits of this data breach, but sources are already speculating that a Chinese competitor is to blame.”
An inmate let out a loud whistle from the table behind Asha.
“Are we bothering you?” another voice came from the table at the back of the room. Assuming they were speaking to someone else, Asha ignored the question.
The reporter continued. “While we’re still learning the details of this cybersecurity catastrophe, investigators believe that the breach occurred using the login of the company’s founder Eddie Clark. This news comes less than a month after Eddie Clark’s girlfriend, Alana Garcia, was a passenger/survivor on hijacked Flight 385. We’ll have more updates on this later tonight.”
A fist slammed against the table in front of Asha, making her jump. She looked up, recognizing the larger of the two inmates she’d past on her way into the room. The woman brought her face within inches of Asha’s. Asha shrank against her plastic seat.
“I said, Are. We. Bothering. You?”
Asha guessed the inmate weighed more than double what she did. Her breath was rancid, but Asha didn’t turn away. She knew that even the slightest offense could provoke a fight. And this woman already looked provoked.
Asha shook her head. “No. You aren’t bothering me.”
The woman’s cracked lips turned into a scowl. Her eyes narrowed. Asha’s widened. The inmate pushed her palms against Asha’s chest, sending her to the concrete floor. Her plastic chair fell on top of her, but the woman was quick to toss it aside.
“Guard!” Asha heard the older woman shriek from the corner of the room.
The angry woman raised her fist in the air. Asha brought her hands up protectively to her face with her arms in front of her chest. Asha closed her eyes before the impact from the first blow to her ribs.
“Stop!” Asha heard someone yell.
Her attacker got in another punch before two guards managed to pry her away from Asha.
“You’re going back to the hole,” she heard one of the guards say as they cuffed her attacker.
“Good.” The large woman spit in Asha’s direction before the guards hauled her out of the room. “I can’t wait to get away from the filthy terrorist.”
Asha pulled herself up using the support of her chair. The woman’s words didn’t rile her. She was used to it. What she’d done was no secret among the prisoners, and it hadn’t helped her popularity.
“Asha Farar!” a guard barked from the doorway.
Asha turned, wondering if she’d be going to the hole too. The guards never seemed to care who started the fight.
“You have visitors,” she said.
Asha winced from the pain in her ribs when she stood up straight. She’d been interviewed by agents from the FBI, Homeland Security, and other departments so many times that she couldn’t keep them all straight. Her lawyer barely could. “Visitors?”
“Your husband and daughters are here,” she said flatly.
Asha placed her hand on the table for support. It was the first time Aaden had brought the girls to see her. He’d been so angry after her arrest; she was afraid she might not see her children until her release. Him bringing them so soon was more than she’d dare hope for.
“Let’s go.” The guard’s voice was impatient as she withdrew a pair of handcuffs.
Ignoring the burn in her side, Asha moved toward the guard. She brushed a tear from her cheek and felt herself start to smile.