When People’s Republic Flight 91 crashes in northeastern
Ukraine with a U.S. diplomatic agent onboard, U.S.
Diplomatic Security Service Agent Raisa Jordan is sent to
investigate. The agent was escorting a prisoner home from
Guangzhou, China, along with sensitive documents, and it
quickly becomes apparent that the plane was intentionally
downed. Was it to silence the two Americans onboard?
To avoid a diplomatic incident, Jordan must discover what
the Americans knew that was worth killing hundreds to cover
up. With Russia deeply entangled in the Ukraine and the
possibility that China could be hiding reasons to bring
its own plane, tensions are high.
As international relations and even more lives hang in the
balance, Jordan races to stop a new Cold War. Red
Sky, Chris Goff's pulse-pounding follow-up to Dark
Waters, is yet another white-knuckle joyride for fans
of Gayle Lynds.
Jordan stared out across the smoking debris, her gauze mask
ineffective against the smell of burning flesh and jet
fuel. Small fires still flared in the rubble of People's
Republic Airline Flight 91, and the stench and devastation
were overwhelming. Bodies anchored the wreckage—some still
strapped into seats, others flung like rag dolls onto the
scorched earth, some in pieces. Fragments of the plane's
fuselage along with luggage, computers, phones, books,
blankets, pillows and clothing littered the ground for
She shifted her gaze. The mid-summer sun hung low on the
horizon, partially obscured by clouds and smoke. Occasional
rays of sunlight danced across the lush Ukrainian farm
fields, touching the wreckage and highlighting colors in
the otherwise scorched remains. To her left, an orange
teddy bear sat propped against a tangle of twisted metal,
as if set there by the hands of the child who had carried
it onboard. Near the shell of the aircraft, a yellow hand
bag waited on the ground to be retrieved.
Looking down, her gaze lit on a mangled Barbie doll clad in
a bright red dress near her feet—a miniature, plastic
version of the bodies strewn on the ground. Jordan's vision
blurred. Her tears streamed unchecked.
"Shcho ty tut robysh?"
The sound of the voice jarred her. She didn't understand
the words. Getting a hold of herself, she swiped away her
tears and turned to find a Ukrainian soldier standing
behind her, a captain by his insignia.
"I'm sorry, I don't speak the language," she said.
"Ni. Presa tut ne dopuskayet'sya."
Jordan got the gist. He didn't speak English and he thought
she was a member of the press. She pulled down her mask,
then lifting the card and lanyard hanging around her neck
showed him her credentials. "Vy govorite po-russki?" Do you
speak Russian? "Ya ne iz pressy. Ya zdes' po
gosudarstvennym delam." I'm not press. I'm here on
"Da," he said, switching to Russian. He gestured with his
rifle for her to move closer and squinted at the badge.
"What business does the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service
have out here?"
"We had a DSS agent on board this flight, escorting a
fugitive from Guangzhou back to the U.S. I've been sent
here to help identify and recover the bodies."
Truth be told, she was still adjusting to the change of
plans. Five hours ago when she'd arrived at Kyiv Boryspil
International Airport, she'd been looking forward to a few
days at the Intercontinental hotel. She'd escorted the
Israeli Ambassador's wife from Tel Aviv to Kiev to
participate in a week-long International Women's Leadership
Alliance, held annually in some international city every
year in July. Why they'd chosen Kiev in the middle of a war
was anyone's guess, but Jordan looked forward to using her
off-hours to research her family history. Then, David Lory,
the Regional Security Officer in Ukraine, had thrown a
wrench in her plans. He'd sent agents to take charge of
Mrs. Lindwood, along with orders for Jordan. Rent a car and
set off immediately for Hoholeve.
In route she'd managed to wrangle a few more details on her
assignment. There'd been a plane crash. PR Flight 91 had
departed from Guangzhou on mainland China, headed for
Krakow, just after 7:00 a.m. Halfway through the flight,
without so much as a mayday, the plane had gone down.
Wreckage was strewn across six miles near the small farming
community of Hoholeve, roughly halfway between Kharkiv and
George McClasky, sixty years-old and a forty-year veteran
of the service, was on board. A DSS legend, he'd been
forced to retire from active duty at age fifty-seven, but
still contracted part-time with the agency helping with
highly-classified missions. Lory had texted her McClasky's
picture. Tall, beefy, with thinning gray hair, he reminded
her of Brian Dennehy.
The fugitive's name was Kia Zhen, a thirty-two year-old
Chinese-American from San Francisco, suspected of gang
affiliation and charged with espionage. No photos were
currently available. No more specifics forthcoming.
While the captain spoke to his supervisor, Jordan
contemplated the debris field. It reminded her of pictures
she'd seen of Malaysia Air Flight 17, with one obvious
difference. That had been mayhem. This was organized chaos.
According to Lory, within an hour of the crash, the Ukraine
Head of Air Accidents and Incidents Investigation had taken
control, declaring himself the International Investigation
Commander, or IIC. His job was to oversee the hundreds of
people swarming the scene—everyone from the aviation
specialists to the first responders to the military and
media. On his watch, there would be no indelible
photographs of dead bodies plastered on the internet, no
looting and no destruction of evidence.
"Tak," said the captain, signing off the radio. He waved,
commanding her attention and nodding to her credentials.
"DSS Special Agent Raisa Jordan, it says you are an
Assistant Regional Security Officer-I. What does the I
"Well it will have to wait until tomorrow." He gestured
toward the road. "We are closing this area for the night.
It will be open again at dawn. Check-in with the IIC
command center as you leave. You must have an official
sticker for your credentials or you won't be allowed back
inside the barricade."
"Thanks." Jordan took back her credentials and headed
toward her car, making a mental note to also give the IIC a
picture of McClasky for ID purposes.
She cut south and walked the other side of the fuselage as
she picked her way east. Heat from the smoldering wreckage
kept the chill of the night air temporarily at bay. The
setting sun colored the clouds a deep red and provided
little light. The fires made walking treacherous and slow.
She wished now that she'd remembered to put her duty belt
with her flashlight on.
Studying the mangled remains, it was impossible to imagine
what happened. While the Malaysia Air flight had been shot
down by pro-Russian rebels, Hoholeve was hundreds of
kilometers north and west of the war zone. The only logical
conclusion she could draw was that PR Flight 91 had
experienced some type of equipment failure that caused the
plane to break apart mid-air.
Near the skeleton of the plane's mid-section, she nearly
stumbled over the bodies of a man and woman, their arms
entangled as if holding tightly to each other as they fell
from the sky. Near them lay the body of a young woman
wearing an oxygen mask.
Jordan fought back another onslaught of tears. The idea
that there had been time for passengers and crew to
contemplate their fate horrified her. She remembered being
in a car accident at the age of sixteen and the fear that
had gripped her in the moments before the sedan had
flipped. She could attest to the fact that in what you
perceive to be your final moments your life flashes before
your eyes. Anyone who tells you they are ready to die is
She kept her eyes peeled as she neared the end of the
mangled piece of fuselage. According to the airline,
McClasky and Zhen had been seated in row 30, seats A and C.
The seating chart placed them aft of the wings in a two-
seat configuration. Based on her assessment of the
aircraft, she should be near the right section of the
plane. However, the odds of finding either man in the
gathering darkness were slim.
When the end of the burned-out hull came into view, Jordan
picked up her pace. All she wanted right now was to be
clear of the devastation. In a few more yards, there should
be a path to the left leading to the road. Then for the
second time that day her plans were derailed.
Near the end of the fuselage, in a row of seats that had
landed upright on the ground, sat George McClasky and Kia
Zhen. McClasky's neck was twisted at an unnatural angle,
but otherwise he appeared relatively unscathed. She would
have recognized him anywhere. His eyes were open, and he
seemed watchful of the prisoner shackled into the seat
Zhen's corpse was mangled, his face unrecognizable, the
features sheared away leaving a bloody pulp and his body
canted sharply to one side. One of his legs twisted behind
the chair at an odd angle and his right arm dangled from
tendons, his fingers brushing earth darkened by his own
blood. Both men were dead.
"I found them," she blurted out, her shout triggering an
echo that traveled downline from person-to-person and back
again. A flashlight flared at the edge of the road near the
press barricade, and Jordan immediately wished she stayed
quiet. If she wanted to insure the protection of any
classified materials McClasky might be holding, the best
thing to do was take them off his body. If she'd kept quiet
she would have had more time to search. Now all she had
She knew he would carry documents allowing for Zhen's
transport to the U.S., along with his and Zhen's passports.
But Lory had alluded to the fact that McClasky possessed
some critical Intel pertaining to national security—
information he had refused to share with his boots on the
ground in mainland China. He told his supervisor he
couldn't trust the secured phones and internet at the
station or his contacts in Guangzhou. With what she knew
about the recent security breaches of U.S. corporations and
government data by the Chinese, Jordan didn't blame him.
All anyone could hope for is that he'd written down what
he'd heard rather than entrust it to his memory.
Jordan did a quick glance around. The closest people to her
were several Ukrainian soldiers and the pack of journalists
they were keeping at bay near the edge of the road. The
nearest soldier was three, maybe four hundred yards away.
She estimated she had sixty to seventy seconds before he
could reach her.
Flipping open the agent's jacket, she checked McClasky's
left inside chest pocket first and found two U.S. passports
and the travel documents authorizing Zhen's extradition to
the U.S. In McClasky's right inside pocket, she discovered
a small top security envelope addressed to the Director of
the Diplomatic Security Service.
"Schcho ty robysh?" a soldier yelled, running toward her
from the road. He spoke in Ukrainian, but taken in context
his meaning was clear. He wanted to know what she was
Holding up her left hand, she shook the passports and
travel documents, while using her right hand to stuff the
envelope under her waistband at the small of her back.
"I can identify these men," she explained in Russian.
The soldier started to reach for the papers, when the
captain she'd spoken to earlier pushed him aside and
snatched the documents out of her hand. "What are you
yelling about? I thought I told you to leave?"
"These are the men I was searching for." She pointed to
McClasky. "He's a diplomatic agent in possible possession
of sensitive materials."
The envelope burned against her spine.
"This area is closed," the captain said. "You must come
Jordan shook her head. "I can't leave this man's body
A bit of an exaggeration given the area was under the
protection of the IIC and Ukrainian military, but she
preferred to arrange immediate transport if possible.
"There is no other alternative," the captain insisted.
Jordan stood her ground. "According to the Vienna
Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the Ukraine may not
detain a U.S. citizen protected by diplomatic immunity. Nor
may it ever seize U.S. documents or property."
The captain looked incredulous. "Your man is not being
detained. He's dead."
"It doesn't matter. Let me make a call and I can have a
Marine detail here in one hour to transport him back to the
U.S. Embassy in Kiev."
She doubted she would win the battle, but she had to try.
She hadn't been able to check more than McClasky's jacket
Crossing her arms, Jordan waited for the captain to
determine the next course of action. Night had closed in
around them, and she was struck by how it dark and chilly
it had grown. A half-moon hung low in the western sky, its
light weak behind heavy cloud cover. In the distance, warm
light shone from the windows of a few farmhouses. There
were no streetlamps or perimeter lights to illuminate the
crash scene, only the glow from the fires burning in the
The soldier who had first arrived leaned over and spoke to
the captain. He in turn shook the paperwork in her face.
"Sergeant Hycha says when he arrived you were searching
this man's pockets. What were you looking for?"
"As I explained, he's a DSS agent accompanying a fugitive.
Any items in his possession are the property of the U.S.
An argument could be made that the envelope tucked in her
waistband should have been turned over to the Ukrainian
soldiers to deliver to the U.S. State Department through
official channels, but Jordan couldn't see any reason to
use a middleman when possession was nine tenths of the law.
She resisted the urge to reach back and make sure the
envelope was secure.
The captain looked at the paperwork in his hands, and then
barked something to the sergeant in Ukrainian. As he
trotted away, the captain turned back to Jordan. "I need to
report to the IIC before we proceed further. And I need to
find someone skilled in reading English."
"I can read English," she volunteered. "I'm happy to tell
you what the paperwork says. It identifies that man as a
fugitive of the United States." She pointed at Zhen. "He
was being returned to the U. S. for prosecution of crimes
against the country."
The captain stared at her for a moment, looked at the
Chinese-American's desecrated body, then stepped away and
spoke into his radio. After what sounded like heated
discussion, he turned and barked orders to the soldiers
still standing around. The men jumped into action,
spreading two body bags on the ground.
"What's going on?" she asked. It looked like the captain
might be preparing to release the bodies, which surprised
her. Unless, of course, he was simply preparing to take
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