Mrs. Ferguson kept a tidy house. She liked to garden and preferred cleaning to cooking. She was a member of the YWCA and the local church, exercised religiously three times a week and did a five mile run every Saturday morning. She had three grown children (two girls and a boy) five grandchildren, and a Mr. Ferguson, who was on the verge of retirement. She wore glasses to read and sew and had a touch of arthritis in her right wrist, which had been broken when she was young and never properly set. Unlike most women of her generation, she had never worked outside her married home and didn’t have a driver’s license. And that’s where our story begins.
One year (maybe it was last year) Mr. Ferguson’s company decided to send him to Mexico City to set up their first international office. It was a 6 to 8 week job (which probably meant 3 months) and Mrs. Ferguson didn’t want to be away from home that long. There were a few arguments about it, some swearing and a rather nasty night of silence. However, Mrs. Ferguson was cunning and convinced #1 daughter to loan her #1 granddaughter for the summer to provide company, drive (Mr. Ferguson’s major concern) and get over a somewhat older, seriously-tattooed boyfriend. Outnumbered and out-manoeuvered, Mr. Ferguson packed his bags, had a wine and lingerie Bon Voyage evening and flew off — threatening to come home in a couple of weeks to see how things were going. Granddaughter Madison arrived the next day.
Madison loved her grandma dearly, but, at 17, she saw her summer (and possibly her entire life) ruined by parental petulance. She knew Graydon was not the love of her life, and she wasn’t going to do anything stupid, but at least he was fun, and they had fun, and all her friends were hundreds of miles away and there was nothing – nothing to do at Grandma’s house. Plus, she was totally pissed with the parents for this overkill exile. However, she was determined not to let her burning anger and terminal boredom show. After all, Grandma was just a sweet old lady, and this bullshit wasn’t her fault.
On the other hand, Mrs. Ferguson had no idea what to do with a young woman permanently attached to her earbuds and telephone. She had been an over-attentive mother and had pushed her children to achievement. And even though she recognized this as a fault, it still bothered her that Madison seemed to spend most of her life lounging around or binge-watching TV. Yet she was determined to keep her mouth shut and let her grandchild find her own way.
So for the first several days, both women spent their time walking on eggs, overly polite, overly considerate and both privately thinking, “God, this is going to be a long summer!”
But sometimes life rides on coincidence, and things that seem permanent change.
And that’s what happened halfway around the world from Mrs. Ferguson’s tidy little house. On a warm midnight street in Rome, a very drunk girl (not much older than Madison) left the Qube Disco. She took a wrong turn and stumbled around in circles for a while until two men who had been carefully watching came up behind her and pushed her into a dark gray panel van. There was no more drama to it than that. Two days later, Jennifer Copeland was on a boat in the Adriatic, locked in a room with four other girls. Her father, Theodore Copeland, was on the telephone to his friend Frederick Hughes, owner of Hughes Security.
“The last GPS ping from her phone was in the Mediterranean. She’s on a ship.”
“It won’t be Albania. It’s too far, and the mountains are impossible. Probably Turkey or Lebanon. But I think Turkey these days. There’s too much traffic in Lebanon, Syria. Your best bet is Turkey.”
“I’ll need your help, Fred.”
“Of course, but I’ve got to tell you Karga is still running the show in that part of the world, and he’s not going to be too happy to see you … or me.”
“I’ve got to try.”
“Okay, no worries. I’m just saying Karga is likely to shoot first, and without him, nothing moves where we need to go.” There was a pause. “Hey, why don’t you try Sylvia? If anybody can work Karga, she can. They were a serious thing back then … like, really serious.”
“It’s been 30 years, Fred … more. I have no idea where she is. Christ, she could be dead by now.”
“No, no she’s around. I think she’s living in Denver or something. She married some banker named Ferguson. Give me a couple of hours. I’ll find her.”
Friday – Part 2