Behind the Scenes Snapshots: Wounds of Attraction

VIDEO:  FROM INSIDE USS PUEBLO

USS PUEBLO Once the tour gets underway, we walk about a mile past an outdoor exhibit of captured tanks, helicopters, guns and so on, arranged side by side by country. Beyond that, the Pueblo is moored. The shrapnel and bullet holes are clearly marked. I can't see that it had received much shelling.

US SPY SHIP CAPTURED BY DPRK IN 1968

In 1968, at the height of the Viet Nam War hysteria, the United States sent a small ship filled with the latest in techno spy gear into Korean waters and managed to get caught.  The 83 crewmen, officers and captain were held captive for almost a year, suffering gruesomely, before our government signed a paper to get them home.  Captain Bucher was dishonorably discharged for not resisting the capture of his ship-- which would have left a lot of dead sailors-- he fought against this in court and lost.  The captain's career was ruined, leaving him and his officers broken men.  The whole story is a very strange and sad chapter of paranoid history, buried and covered up.  The captain's book is available on Amazon.com, Bucher: My Story.

From Inside USS Pueblo, this ten-minute video of the incident comes with a lot of newsreel footage of the captain and his officers, also the various diplomatic exchanges, and President Johnson and Major General Gilbert Woodward signing the document.  


Yangtze River

Yangtze River

THE STORY BEGINS:

Mai Martin

An American in Beijing

She feels rich with thousands of yuan.  She's back in China with her lover and deliriously happy.  She imagines she will get her job back in Beijing and get her visa status repaired.  After the accident on the Yangtze River cruise, she is coerced to work for the Homeland Security over a questionable sanctions violation, making her susceptible to the DHS pressure to cooperate. 

Highway 116 near Guerneville runs parallel to the Russian River.

Highway 116 near Guerneville runs parallel to the Russian River.

RICK

EXCERPT 

CH 2 P 60

In Rick’s Narcotics Anonymous group, he met a woman about his age.  She was a nurse in a local hospital who became over-familiar with the pill dispensary.  She lost her job and her credentials.  Mary Jo Thompson was divorced with two children in middle school.  She shared custody with her ex-husband who worked for the City of Santa Rosa.  After meetings, Rick and Mary Jo started having lunch together at Taco Bell.  Soon, it became a regular part of their daily routine:  finding enough things to fill the hours to mute the cravings.  Mary Jo listened to Rick’s crazy sounding ramblings about secret agents and his wife’s travels.  Rick listened to her domestic stories.  

One day, Mary Jo didn’t show up for the meeting.  The next day, she’s back with no explanation.  From then on, her attendance was spotty, seemed to be falling off.

Over lunch one day, she said, “Noticed I’ve been cutting meetings?”

“Yeah,” said Rick.  “Busy?”

“Naw, just having a rough patch.  Hassles from my ex.  Wants custody.  Sent me a court summons,” said Mary Jo.

“What does that mean?” asked Rick.

“Means bullshit!!” she said angrily.

“I get it,” chimed in Rick, “bullshit!” he said with some conviction, thinking about his own BS.

“I scored some pills from a friend at the hospital.”

Rick’s white-blond head jerked up.  Mary Jo was not as beautiful as Mai.  She’s chubby, with curly brown hair.  She wore tiny dangling earrings of butterflies or fairies, and carried a duffel sized purse filled with an amazing amount of unknown things she dug through to find her phone when it rang.  Usually a call from one of her children.

She dug around now, and produced a prescription pill bottle, shaking it to demonstrate it contained pills. 

Driving to Guerneville, they stopped at a couple vineyards to taste the new wines, and ended at Jenner late in the afternoon.  Life was fun again, Mary Jo seemed prettier, everything seemed like it’s working out magically.  Rick thought somehow today he would tell Mai how he felt and straighten out their tangles of yuanfen.  He wanted to find the love they once shared at the center, vibrant and still beating.  Not that he knew yuanfen from <img src=“ ”/>.

On the way back up the Russian River Road 116 to the main Highway 101, he scraped the side of the Explorer on a guardrail.  The sound and sudden off camber motion jerked Rick back to a shred of his senses.  Mary Jo screamed, looking into a dark abyss down to the black river.  The Explorer skidded to a shuddering stop on the shoulder.  Rick walked around to look at the damage, pulling on a jacket.  Back in the car, he tried turning the wheels toward the road.  Something made a loud noise, and the steering wheel twisted out of his hands.

“I’m going to get help.  Stay here,” he said.

The evening mist was falling.  Must have skidded on the wet pavement, you stupid jackass. He pulled the hood over his head and started walking on the road toward the next town, leaving the scene of the accident. 

Actually, they’re past Guerneville, and there’s nothing until you get to Highway 101, about ten miles farther up the winding, two-lane road above the Russian River.  He plodded along, and it’s getting darker.  He’s getting wetter.  Cars passed but no one stopped for him.  He reached into the pocket of his jacket and found a cigarette.  There’s a lighter in the pocket, too, but not his phone which was back at the Explorer with Mary Jo.  Not making good decisions.

Mary Jo sat there in the Explorer for a couple hours, waiting for Rick to return.  It’s pitch black night outside her window, now she’s cold and sober.  She looked at her phone.  No cell service here.  Around 8PM a Highway Patrol officer pulled in behind the Explorer.

DHS 104

DEPARTMENT HOMELAND SECURITY

Rick Martin looks a lot like A Keller, infamous US spy.  Imagine him six-foot-two with a shock of white-blonde hair he sometimes combs with his fingers, pulling it behind his ear.  The good left ear.  Not the newly fabricated right ear that replaced the one General MA cut off last November.

Rick Martin looks a lot like A Keller, infamous US spy.  Imagine him six-foot-two with a shock of white-blonde hair he sometimes combs with his fingers, pulling it behind his ear.  The good left ear.  Not the newly fabricated right ear that replaced the one General MA cut off last November.

Nolan is a civilian case officer in a hybrid Homeland Security unit called DHS 104.  It’s a fusion center located nominally in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.  Above Nolan was Lt. General Alexander Conklin, formerly CIA, now called Homeland Security Station Chief since the major reorganization after 9/11/2001.  This unit combined talent pulled from the many rival agencies and bundled them together under Homeland Security since the reorganization: geeky analysts and clandestine operators working together.  They were tasked with making their own assessments and had the ability to act on those assessments.  The focus was narrow and targeted, tactical:  track down, capture or kill.

Mr. Lawrence Wright, Homeland Security USCIS Beijing Field Office Director, US Embassy, Beijing and Rick Martin, Mai’s husband, both work for Department of Homeland Security and report to Nolan and Duane Doolittle, another FBI caseworker, who for Alexander Conklin in Ft. Belvoir, VA

Purchase Wounds of Attachment here.


EU Sun the assassin

EU Sun the assassin

EU SUN

EU Sun, the DPRK Department of Surveillance assassin and Senior Agent, DPRK Department of Surveillance, Deputy Brigade Commander and assassin is the protégé of General MA and is leader of the para-military gang tasked with delivering the crates of guns to the triad chief in Xi’an.

EXCERPT CH 9 P 297

16:30(4:30PM)

EU Sun calls General MA about the mutiny by AeroTrak’s Nigerian contractor. 

“It’s obvious, we make a discount.  These things happen, EU Sun.  Calm down.”

Xiexie, Laoshi, for your wise counsel.  The ambulance is coming for your fighter, DuLang.” 

Dripware Horse Ancient China 500CE Tang Dynasty

Dripware Horse Ancient China 500CE Tang Dynasty

“Is he hurt?”

Wo bu zhidao.  He sits.  He will be fine.  I go now.”

 BAO waits for EU Sun to get off the phone.  Away from the others, they retreat into a glass office within the warehouse where they can talk privately.

“I am authorized to give you lower price.  One third less.  That is six million off the twenty million.”

“That’s seven million off.”

Haode.  And the relic.”

“No relic.”

“No deal.”

“My men kill you.”

“My men kill you.”

“Ten million off, you get the relic.”

Haode.”

BAO bends his head to his mobile and gives the authorization code to the escrow agent at Macau Banco Delta Asia.  He rises to open a locker and retrieve a travel bag.  Reverently, he lays it on the desk and un-zips the lid.  Nestled in bubble wrap and foam is a pair of green and gold, dripware ceramic horses.  Flecks of blue speckle the rumps of the beasts.  The antique beauty of the animals, the rare finish of the glaze, overcomes EU Sun.  He gasps, transfixed.

“You must go now.  Things will be busy soon.  Go.”

Jinfeng is already waiting in the driver’s seat of the gold Landcruiser.  DuLang is in the front passenger seat.  EU Sun sets the travel bag into the boot and climbs in after it.

“I’m sitting here.  Drive.”

Dripware Horse Ancient China 500CE Tang Dynasty

Dripware Horse Ancient China 500CE Tang Dynasty

GENERAL MA IN BEIJING

KOREAN GUN BLING

Maj. Gen. MA Minho, double agent and former Deputy Army Commander and North Korean specialist from Harbin Reserve Force unit was busted by GAO in Wenzhou.  By paying restitution to the victims, including Mai Martin’s husband, Rick Martin, and through a prisoner exchange was released into DPRK where he lives to exact vengeance on the Beijingers.

In the back of the gold Landcruiser is a small crate of surplus small arms and light weapons:  (1) Type 73 machine gun, (2) Type 68 pistols 7.62x25 TT calibers, (1) each AK-47 Type 5.45mm and 7.62mm caliber and (2) of the CZ75 clone, semiautomatic 99mm pistols.  And ammunition.

EXCERPT CH 5 P 144

That morning, while waiting at the Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, General MA receives a call from Viktoria Timchencko.  She reports that the shipment has arrived in Mogadishu and is being transferred to boats for the ocean portion of the transit.  He just misses Mai who leaves from Beijing Capital Airport Terminal 2 on the same Ilyushin-62 that MA arrived on earlier in the day.

General MA checks into the Chosun Beijing Hotel.  He has showered after his long trip from Pyongyang and is lounging in a terrycloth robe and slippers when DONG ZhiWei knocks at his door.

DONG had a promising start in life, being the only son of an only son of a Red Guard.  When his father was found guilty of hooliganism and shipped away, little DONG and his mother moved from relative to relative.  The Triad offered him work, out of respect for DONG’s family name.  Now, he doesn’t know any other life.  The Tong keeps him in clothes and toys, extracting work from him in the form of managing the Wudaokou nightclub.

“Laoshi, you are in China a free man?” asks DONG, once he is inside, the door locked and chained.

“The Chinese government traded me and EU Sun for Chinese prisoners in Chaoxian.”

“You are wery fortunate, wery fortunate!” exclaims DONG.

Dui, and I need your help.”

“Anything, Laoshi, that I can, I will.  For you, Laoshi,” says DONG, producing a gift bottle of soju

MA returns the favor with a parcel wrapped in plastic.  “Bingdu, meta, moglyeon, [meth, magnolia brand].”

After the ritual of greeting, bowing and exchanging gifts, the men sit at a table near the television.

“I want to stay a few weeks in Beijing, at that same hutong as last time.  On the university campus,” starts General MA, pointing the remote and lowering slightly the volume on the movie he had been watching.

“Aren’t you afraid someone will recognize you?”

“I will be disguised.  I need a scooter for a few weeks.  Nothing flashy.  Something nice, but not new.  And don’t tell anyone you saw me,” says MA, ripping the seal from the bottle.  “Say we talked on the phone, if anyone asks.  That I’m in Seoul.”

“What’s the plan?”

There’s a knock at the door.  The hotel delivers room service for the two men:  Korean hot pot and a dish of fried chicken.

Out of a backpack sitting on the floor at MA’s feet, he retrieves a revolver and sets it on top of the stack of papers.  One of their new CZ75 clones, semiautomatic 99mm pistol, engraved and chromed with pearl handles. 

“For you and your trouble,” says MA.  He reaches into the backpack one more time, and places a bundle of cash next to the gun.

“What’s this?”  It looks like old, US hundred dollar bills.

“Can you convert this to the new currency?”


Purchase Wounds of Attachment here.


Col. PANG Myong Cha, Deputy Airport Director, left, RI Yongho, Director General Bureau of Surveillance, Chief to General Staff of Korean People's Army DPRK, right, discuss aeroplane maintenance with Russian mechanics.

Col. PANG Myong Cha, Deputy Airport Director, left, RI Yongho, Director General Bureau of Surveillance, Chief to General Staff of Korean People's Army DPRK, right, discuss aeroplane maintenance with Russian mechanics.

COL. PANG

Col. PANG Myong Cha, Sangjwa North Korean Deputy Director Airport Safety and Immigration, oversees the shipment of the crates of guns the same day Mai Martin arrives in Pyongyang as a tourist.  

EXCERPT CH 6 P 169

In the morning, Mai is packed and ready to go home.  She bought the SIM card thinking she would call someone.  The only phone number she can remember is Rick’s. 

“Who is this?” asks the voice on the other end of the connection.

“It’s me, Rick, I’m calling you from Pyongyang.  Where are you?”

“No shit.  Are you okay?  When are you coming back?”

“Yes, I’m okay.  They have been really nice to me.  You’d think, since Americans are their sworn enemies, I’d get spit on or something.  But not at all.”

“So, when do you get to Beijing?”

“Today, they’re taking me to the airport in a few minutes.”

“Well, have a safe trip.”

Col. PANG Myong Cha intercepts her at the Pyongyang Airport to return the flashdrive as promised in a private interrogation room. 

“I checked on the man, General MA.  I can tell you this.  His leader, RI Yongho is Chief to General Staff of Korean People’s Army for the General Bureau of Surveillance.”  He shrugs his shoulders slightly.  Mai doesn’t know what that small gesture is supposed to convey.

“His leader is a very important man close to the center of power around our New Dear Leader.  Iyu, why a nice lady as you would know this man?”

Mai doesn’t respond.

“You are right.  He is dangerous, but I doubt he is aware of your visit, which you say is for tourism.”  The Colonel saw General MA a few days ago at this airport with the minister from the munitions factory and his boss, Sr. Col. I-CHUN, the airport director.  He knows the General left Pyongyang on the same plane and on the same date that Mai arrived on Friday.  An interesting coincidence.  A lot of coincidences with this American woman.  He pauses and stares passively at her face. 

Mai says nothing. 

“You can call the North Korean embassy in Beijing with the contact information for the Ukrainian businessman.”  He continues, “I have seen your file, pictures of you and your husband in California.”  He pauses again and contemplates her face for a few more minutes. 

Mai still says nothing. 

“Be safe, Martin Taitai.”

Out from under the flashdrive in his large, boney hand, Mai sees the edge of a white card peeking as he transfers the drive and folds her fingers around it with both of his hands, repeating while looking steadily at her, no expression on his tanned, smooth face, “Be safe.”

Mai ignores the stares of the few Chinese and diplomatic passengers waiting to board in the cool morning. 

The Colonel walks out the way he entered, without looking back.

Purchase Wounds of Attachment here.

Second in the series An American in Beijing, 'Wounds of Attachment' ratchets up the stakes on Mai Martin, an American woman working in Beijing. This political thriller twists loss and power, smuggling and vengeance, and the forces of sovereign nations with individual integrity. Who is watching for her and follows to the train station?