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All Things Must Change

A SMKVirtual6 Episode

 

Act Three
The Beijing Hotel
Day Seven, Late afternoon

The ringing of the telephone beckoned Francine from a fitful sleep. Looking for the receiver, she managed to pick it up by the third ring, fumbling to bring it to her ear.

“Nin hâo.”

“Hello back, Francine,” Paul Stipanick replied. “Get some rest?”
“Yeah, some. Are we ready?”

“Uh, yes and no. There’s a problem.”

“And that is?”

“Lee and Amanda Stetson just arrived at your hotel.”

“Damn!” She frowned. “Anything from DC? Are they official?”

“Nothing. I mean, it’s not on my radar screen. How do you want to handle this?”

“What’s going on right now?” She needed a minute to think. Maybe the sky would fall, hit her on the head and give her an idea.

“The action in Tiananmen is picking up. The 27th is rolling toward the Square. There’s been interaction between the students and the army. Many of the Beijing citizens have been trying to block the soldiers, but, they aren’t having much luck.”

“Any chance that Jiang would be in Tiananmen?”

“Absolutely. This has his fingerprints all over it.”

“Okay. Meet me at the 27th Army headquarters. Let’s see if I can get in there.”

“You’re crazy. I hope he’s worth it.” Stipanick said, referring to Beaman.

“He is. Half an hour, at the 27th. Okay?”

His sigh told her he knew he couldn’t dissuade her. “Yeah, okay. Be careful.”

“Always.” Francine hung up the phone and jumped up off the bed. Lifting her suitcase up to the bed, she opened it and pulled several camera cases from it. With practiced ease she opened one and removed several lenses, unscrewing them and pulling the pieces of her broken-down handgun from them. Once her handgun was re-assembled, she put in a magazine and put the extra clips into her belt pack.

Francine stepped to the mirror in the bathroom. She picked up her brush and pulled it through her hair before twisting it up and securing it with a clip. Her hip leaning on the vanity, she looked herself in the eyes, eyes that were wide and had the specter of worry in them. Steeling herself to the task ahead, she adjusted her gun holster, and pulled on a light jacket. Breathing deeply, she opened the door to her suite, checked the hallway and left the room.

The ride down to the lobby was quick. Francine hurried through the crowds coming and going in the old hotel. Scanning the large room, she didn’t see Lee or Amanda, but she knew they would find her sooner or later. As Lee would put it, Francine wouldn’t exactly blend with the locals. She was just about to walk past the hotel gift shop, she made a quick turn in. She pulled a baseball cap with the Beijing Hotel logo off the shelf and put it on. Francine grinned at her reflection in the small mirror as she pulled the brim low over her eyes. With her hair pulled up and her eyes shadowed, maybe she could slip past whatever surveillance Stetson had in place.

The hat paid for, she stood just inside the gift shop until a large crowd of people walked past, all heading to the front entrance. Slipping in with them, Francine walked quickly toward the entrance. She spotted Lee sitting in the reception area; he was casually watching the comings and goings. In reality, Francine knew that Lee intently scanned the faces of everyone who passed.

Francine resisted the urge to look up. Instead, she kept her head down as she exited the hotel. Dashing to the first taxi at the curb, she quickly climbed in the car and gave the driver directions. With a sigh, she sat back in the seat, letting the frame of the vehicle shadow her face.

The gardens in front of the hotel were in full bloom, and Francine spied Amanda walking among the flowers and fountains, a row in from the sidewalk. With her lips pressed together in a determined line, Francine put the Stetsons from her mind and focused on the operation ahead.

Why was she here? Well, your partner is here, she told herself, and partners are. . . well. . .responsible for one another. She looked out the window as they passed Tiananmen Square where she saw the masses of students and local citizens; the troops and armored vehicles. Efraim would be in the thick of it, analyzing everything, memorizing every detail. . .commenting on everything. Francine shook her head. The last thing she needed right now was to get off track.

The taxi passed the sites of Old Beijing, but they fell on eyes that were blind. When the vehicle finally stopped in front of the garrison that headquartered the PLA 27th Army, the driver had to repeat himself several times before Francine was aware they had stopped.

She paid the driver and lighted from the taxi, only to stare up at the facade as the vehicle drove away. Looking for Stipanick, Francine stepped on the sidewalk, studying the building she was about to enter.

Iron barred the windows and razor wire topped the roof and fenced areas. Impossible, she thought, this is gonna be impossible. A thin shiver of fear edged its way into her consciousness, and she instantly thrust it away. Beaman was in there; she was sure of it, and she was going to get him out.

She heard Stipanick come up behind her. “You’re late.”
“Business.” Stipanick stepped up beside her. “I thought it best to bring some reinforcements.”

Francine turned to Paul and saw Lee and Amanda standing on the other side of the street. Casting a long, menacing look at Stipanick, she moved toward the entrance.

“Francine, wait.”

Francine stopped when Amanda called her, letting all of the tension and anger she had been keeping at bay finally erupt. She turned on her heel, and walked across the street, and stopped in front of her fellow agents. “I’m not going to let you stop me! I don’t care if I lose my job! I don’t want a job that would abandon a man to a place like that!” She flung her hand in the direction of the 27th Compound. “I’m going in there, and I’m not coming out without Beaman. And neither of you will stop me!”

“We’re not here to stop you, Francine. We’re here to help.” Amanda laid her hand on Francine’s shoulder, and smiled gently at her friend. “Let us help you.”

Francine glanced quickly at Lee who nodded his head. She felt a surge of relief and hope flood through her. “Thank you.”

“He’s our friend, too.” At Francine’s derisive look, Lee was defensive. “Hey, come on, he is.”

“Did the turncoat,” Francie tossed her head at Stipanick, “fill you in?”

“Yeah. Your plan seems a little weak. Why would they let you see Beaman?”

“You’ve never been a detail man, Stetson. Why start now?” Francine challenged him, her defenses back in place.

Lee grinned sheepishly at his wife, and shrugged. “She has a point. Details have a habit of gettin’ in the way.”

“Yes, of us staying alive. Look, Francine. We need some kind of a plan to not only get in there, but to find Efraim and get him out. Are you even sure he’s here?”

Leave it to Amanda to point out the realities of the situation.

“No. I don’t know for sure that he’s in there. But from what Stipanick and I found, it’s the only place we have to start.”

“You know, just being a film maker isn’t going to get you in. You’ll need a reason to get beyond the front door.”

Francine turned and looked at the building, feeling exhaustion wash over her. What was it Efraim always said to her in these situations? ‘Come on, Franny, lets go do it!’ She glanced at Stipanick and nodded. “They’ll probably know you, right Paul?”

“More than likely. It won’t help if someone recognizes me.”

“Okay, you wait for us to get out, and get us back to the embassy. Lee? Catch me.”

“What?” Lee frowned at Francine then Amanda, then again at Francine as she collapsed into his arms. “Dammit, Francine! Now what?” Lee shifted her in his arms, Francine’s head flopping over his arms.

“Help! Doctor! We need a doctor! Help!” Amanda knew exactly what to do, and went about it in typical Amanda fashion. Running to the compound, she flew through the doors and into the reception area. Hopping from foot to foot, she continued to yell for a doctor while she held the door open for Lee to bring Francine in.

Lee sized up the situation; it appeared that all of the senior officers were in Tiananmen Square leaving the compound to a few lowly enlisted men. Striding to a door behind an old, scarred metal desk that had seen better days, Lee pushed and carried Francine into an inner hallway.

A soldier ran after them, trying to stop Lee from going any further. Amanda was following behind, yelling for a doctor and trying to verbally confuse the soldier at her side. Amanda grabbed the young soldier by the arm, and pulled him toward the reception area, all the while spreading her distinctive brand of chaos that bridged any language barrier.

Lee vaguely paid attention to what his wife was saying; he was looking for the compound’s infirmary. A man in a white coat came out of a room with swinging double doors. Lee figured they had hit pay dirt. He grinned when he heard his wife yell, “Oh thank goodness, a doctor!” They had at least several minutes to search while Amanda held the troops at bay.

Plowing through the doors, Lee found an empty bed in the middle of the ward-like room. He laid Francine down while he scanned the room. Several curtains were pulled, but they were otherwise alone.

“We need to see behind those curtains, Lee,” Francine whispered as her gaze carefully searched the room.

“I know. They’re as good as any place to start. I’ll go block the doors and make up some story for the doctor and the soldier. Find your partner, and if he’s here, figure a way to get out.”

Francine nodded as she carefully sat up on the bed. “Lee?”

Lee stopped and waited, a questioning look on his face.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Hurry up. I’ll get Amanda out.”

As soon as Lee turned, Francine climbed from the bed and hurried across the ward. Muffled noise from the hall spilled into the room, while Amanda’s voice could be heard above the fray. Francine was on her way to the curtains when she saw two doors in the back of the room, one obviously an office, the other a heavy metal security door. From the plans she had looked at in Paul’s office, she knew they led to jail cells.

Carefully peaking inside the first set of curtains, she saw an empty bed. Her heart began to pound in her chest as she decided to check the security door, hoping against hope to find Beaman below in the cells. As she ran toward the door, Francine grabbed the second set of curtains pulling them as she passed, only to stop when she saw a body in the bed.

Slipping through the billowing curtains, she gasped as she saw Efraim in the bed. His face was cut and bruised, one eye swollen shut, and his arm in a cast which was handcuffed over his head. His other arm lay at his side, a handcuff attached to the iron bed rail. Pulling a lock pick from her belt, she hurriedly unlocked the arm above his head and carefully lowered his plastered arm. Reaching over, she made fast work of the remaining lock, gasping when she saw the bruised and raw skin at his wrist from straining at the cuffs. Tears stung her eyes, and she pushed them away with determined discipline.

Leaning close to him, she whispered, her voice catching in her throat. “Efraim? Can you hear me? It’s Francine. I’m here to take you home.”

She gently pushed his hair off of his forehead, then checked the extent of the bruising on his face. She was startled to find Beaman looking at her, struggling to focus on her.

“Hey! Sleeping on the job again, Beaman?”

Beaman started to struggle and she placed her hand on his chest, shushing him. “It’s okay. It’s me, Francine. Lee and Amanda are here, too. Are you here with me?”

He tried to talk, only every other word or so making it out. “No, won’t . . .not you. Trick.”

“It’s me, remember me? The mistletoe? Greek Islands, Christmas in Canada? The Inaugural Ball?”

“Christmas. . .remember Christmas.”

Francine gave him a wry grin as she gently touched his cheek. “You would remember that, Efraim. Oh Efraim! What happened to you?”

His voice was barely recognizable as he talked. “Rough night in town. Franny, what are you doing here? How did you find me? You’re in danger.” Beaman struggled to sit up as he marshaled his senses about him. “How long has it been?”

“You’ve been missing 7 days. I’ve been here a little over a day looking for you.”

“. . . happy to see you.” His voice was gaining strength as he became more alert.

“I’m really happy to see you, too.”

An odd silence passed between them, Francine let her eyes drop under Beaman’s scrutiny. Clearing her throat, she searched for something to say. “Have you seen a doctor for these?” She asked, gently touching his bruised face.

“If you could call him that.” At the touch of her fingers on his face, he took her hand in his. “I’m here on the economy plan, Franny. Medical care is the next tier up.”

“Oh Efraim, I’m sorry.” She sadly shook her head, not knowing what to say to him.

“What’s the plan for getting out of here?” He asked, gingerly swinging his legs over the side of the bed. Frowning at the drab olive cotton uniform he wore, he looked around for his shoes when he finally saw the black cotton mules on the floor. “How did you get in here?”

Francine followed his gaze, quickly getting the slippers and helping Beaman slip them on. As he looked at her, waiting for an answer to his question, she felt heat creep into her cheeks. “Getting in was easy; I rather got carried away. Getting out? You know, whatever we come up with.”

“I’m gone for a few months and you start winging things. Where are we?”

“The PLA 27th Army Compound.”

“Wonderful. I thought I remembered that insignia.”

“Do you remember anything else?” She put her arm around his waist to help him get his balance.

“Not much, and all of it unpleasant.” Leaning on Francine, he walked to the bar- covered windows. Below them was the street where Francine, Stipanick and the Stetsons had met minutes earlier. Mobs of people were approaching the compound, rocks and pipes in their hands. Retribution was at hand.

“At least it’s not over the inner yard.” Francine pointed out, desperate to stay optimistic.

“The famous Beaman luck is holding.” Efraim leaned on the wall, looking at the street below, examining the problem finding a way out of the compound.

“Only you would think so, Efraim.” A commotion at the door indicated their time was coming to an end. Francine knew that Lee would get Amanda out Getting Efraim out was up to her.

“I remember a large oxygen tank; they used it to keep me conscious during interrogations. Is there one in the room?” Beaman sat back on the bed while Francine hurriedly looked in the larger room.

“Yeah, there is. It’s against the wall. It’s on a rolling rack.”

“Good. Check and see how full it is, will you?”

“Okay.” Francine quickly ran over to the tank and rapped on it at several intervals before she hurried back to Beaman. “It’s almost full.”

Beaman reached out for her. “Get me over there; it’s our ticket out of here.”

Francine helped Beaman over to the large, green oxygen tank. “I think they hit you on the head harder than you realize. How is this tank our ticket out of here?”

“Do you want to go through the mobs in the front?” He tried to push the tank to the nearby bed.

“No. I’d rather we didn’t encounter any mobs.” She paused as she watched him. “What are we doing, Efraim?”

Maneuvering the tank, Beaman leaned on it, causing it to topple onto the bed. Francine steadied it, shooting him a ‘you’re out of your mind’ look.

“Help me turn the bed so the bottom of the tank is facing the opposite wall. Actually, it should go through the wall above the bed I was in. . . yeah, that works.”

“Efraim. . . .” Francine warned, beginning to lose patience.

“Oxygen in these tanks is under pressure at twelve hundred pounds per square inch. It’ll go through that wall without a problem.” Francine stared at him, mouth agape. Efraim shook his head. “Francine, I’m making a torpedo out of the thing. But I need something heavy to knock off the regulator.”

With a doubtful shake of her head, Francine ran to the small office and found the door locked. Shielding her face, she used her elbow to break the glass in the door window. A heavy, stainless steel bar sat on the desk, she grabbed it and ran back out, handing it to Efraim.

Beaman took it from her and stared at the bar for a moment, then adjusted the weight in his good hand. “Get back. Let’s see if this piece of work is good for something other than breaking bones.”

Francine got behind Efraim and wrapped her arms around his waist, her feet braced to allow her to pull him out of the way if needed. “I’m ready. Hurry Efraim!”

Swinging the bar, he hit the regulator, once, twice, and another time. Beaman swore under his breath as he took another swing at it. The regulator finally popped off the tank under his assault.

The tank shot off of the bed like it had been fired from a cannon. Francine pulled Efraim back, sending both of them flying to the floor in a heap. Scrambling to get out from under him, Francine stood up and helped Efraim off of the floor.

They stared at the huge hole in the cinder block wall. Dust was thick in the air. Bits and pieces of the ceiling came floating down around them. Sirens sounded and voices raised the alarm within the compound.

“Come on, Franny, let’s get out of here!”

“You’re crazy, do you know that? They’re going to know that you blew up their building!”

“They can send me a bill. Look, they’re going to be too worried about this uprising to be concerned with whatever happened to me. That tank blew through the wall where my bed was. What’s left of the bed I was in, I’m sure is twisted and in pieces on the street below. They’ll think the same happened to me.”

Standing in the opening, they looked at the street that lay ten feet below them. People poured into the road from everywhere; and the rumble of tanks and troop carriers could be heard closing in.

Gingerly stepping onto the rubble, Francine worked her way down the fallen bricks, helping Efraim down with her. Beaman could see her relief when Lee climbed up to help. Supporting Efraim between the two of them, they were able to move quickly over the loose concrete. Amanda waited in the street below, practically dancing as she urged them to hurry.

“Good to see you, Beaman.”

“Yeah, you too, Stetson.”
“Paul is in that blue car down the street. See it?” At their nods, Lee continued, “Francine, climb down and have Amanda get him to back it up, as close as he can.”

Francine looked at Efraim, giving him a quick smile before she hurried down the rubble toward Amanda.

“You know she skipped the country to come and get you.”

“We didn’t get that far, Stetson. Smyth sent me up the river without a paddle, huh?”

“Something like that. State kept to your cover, Smyth wanted all ties to you cut. Basically you were set adrift. Francine took great exception to that.”

“So I see. And you’re here because?”

“We felt like some Peking Duck. Told Billy we were going to get some take-out.”

“Nothing local in Arlington?”

“There is no substitute for the real thing.” Reaching the car, Lee helped Beaman get in the back seat, Francine giving him a hand from inside the car. Lee slammed the door behind Beaman and jumped in the passenger seat after Amanda. Paul pulled away just as the first troop carrier made the corner behind them.

“Welcome back, Efraim.” Amanda smiled, happy to see him alive.

Efraim smiled back at Amanda. “Thanks. I’m glad to be here.”

“Where do we go?” Francine asked, quickly looking over her shoulder as gunfire erupted behind them.

“The Embassy.” Beaman said, laying his head on the back of the seat.

Francine looked over at him, her concern showing. “Is that wise? Won’t they come there looking for you?”

“We’ll be fine there, trust me.” He closed his eyes and sighed.

Lee looked at Francine. She nodded to him and he shook his head. Amanda shrugged as Paul and Lee discussed directions back to the embassy. Francine laid her head on the seat and let her hand rest on Beaman’s arm, reassuring herself he was safe. She watched as Lee looked over his shoulder at them. She smiled as she heard him sigh when he turned back in the seat. She closed her eyes and let the conversation wash over her.

“Are they alright?” Amanda asked.
“Yeah. I guess they had to come to China for Beaman to finally get his chance to sleep with Francine.”

Francine sat upright in the seat. As she drew breath to protest Lee’s remark, she was cut off by Beaman as he touched her arm.

“Don’t talk about my partner that way, Stetson. You’ll have to deal with me.”

Act Four
American Embassy Beijing
Late Day 7

Francine paced in the hall outside of the embassy medical facility. Lee, Amanda, and Paul waited as well, keeping one eye on her and the other on the doors to the medical center. Beaman had been in there for what seemed like hours.

The Ambassador himself came to see Efraim, shooting Stipanick, the Stetsons and Francine a nasty look. He left the medical rooms in a more subdued mood. Francine raised a questioning eyebrow to Stipanick who grinned and nodded toward the medical rooms.

The embassy’s chief medical officer finally came out. He walked over to Stipanick who pointed at Francine.

“Okay, they worked him over pretty good, as evidenced by the bruises. He has two broken ribs, and a nice concussion. I gave him a shot of antibiotics for the infection on his wrists. There’s no evidence they used any drugs on him; they probably didn’t have the time with everything happening in the Square.”

“His arm?”

“It’s fractured in three places. All clean breaks, they should heal fine. Dr. Bremen said they used a steel pipe on him.” As everyone grimaced, the doctor continued. “Other than the physical torture, his mind is stable and he seems to be handling this alright. He’s willing to talk about his ordeal, which is a good thing. It’s not going to be pleasant for the person listening to him, but getting it out in the open is the best thing. You up to listening to him?”

“I think so. Can I see him?” Francine wrapped her arms tightly about her waist.

“Yeah, I don’t see why not. Just so you know, he’s not happy about your presence here.”

“That’s a first,” quipped Lee.

Francine glared at Lee and went into see Beaman. She watched as he tried to fasten his shirt. Francine smiled as Efraim swore when his good hand fumbled the buttons.

“Need some help?”

“Seems so. My hands don’t seem to be working too well right now.”

Buttoning his shirt, she smoothed the fabric over his chest then quickly motioned that she had finished. “Think you can tuck the tails in?” She barely managed to keep her laughter at bay.

“Dammit, Desmond! It’s not funny!”

“Not exactly how you pictured it huh?”

“No, not exactly. Just because you came to China to find me doesn’t mean I’m gonna let you ride roughshod over me from here on out.”

“Oh Beaman, what am I gonna do with you?” Francine hugged him, smiling when Beaman hugged her back.

“In my weakened state, it’s probably not wise to ask me questions like that, Franny.”

Francine laughed as she sat down on the bed and patted the mattress beside her. She grinned when Efraim scowled, but he sat down beside her and stared at his shoes.

“You know, I thought I was dead when I first saw you hovering over me in the compound. And when I realized that I hadn’t quite moved on from this life, I was furious with you for coming and putting yourself in danger. Why are you here, Francine?”

“We’re partners.”

“Francine. . . .”

“And we’re friends. And I care about you.”

“I care about you too.”

“I don’t want to lose someone else that I care about.”

Efraim ‘s nod showed he knew she was referring to Jonathan Stone, who had been killed just a little over a year ago. He gave her his good hand as he stood up, and pulled her to her feet. “You ready? You need to go home and I have work to do.” He turned and walked toward the doors that led out of the infirmary.

Francine ran after him and reached his side as they both stepped out into the hallway. “Are you crazy? Work to do? What work do you have to do?” She placed her hands on his shoulders, forcing him to stop and face her. “Efraim, they are going to be looking for you! You blew their compound to hell and back.”

Beaman moved her aside. “Lee, Amanda, Paul. Thanks for helping to get me out of there. Paul, things still in place?”

“Efraim Beaman, are you listening to me?” Francine stomped her foot, her hands on her hips. “Don’t ignore me now! Stop!”

Everyone stopped and looked at Francine.

“You can’t just go back out there, Efraim. Are you trying to get yourself killed? Paul, get the doctor, he needs to be sedated and tied to a bed.”

“Under other circumstances, I’d love to discuss your offer, but I don’t have the time. I have work to do, and there are people here who are counting on me. If you want to help me, come with me. And when we’re done, I’ll take you to the airport.”

“Only if you get on the plane with me.”

The others watched the show taking place before them. Their looks showed their surprise. Beaman stand was adamant, and Francine refused to back down. The two were practically nose-to-nose, hands on hips, mouths set in grim lines.

Francine gave in, throwing her hands up in the air. “Okay! You win. But you are going to tell me what’s going on. Everything. Do you understand me?”

“Everything, Franny. And we all understand you. I’m sure they understand you in the Square. We have time, about three hours. Lee, Amanda? That gives you time to leave.”

“If Francine is staying to help, we will too.” Lee put his arm around Amanda. “Billy told us to bring her back, and we’re not going back without her.”

“Jeez, it’s going to look like a parade.” Beaman closed his eyes and shook his head. “Okay, if you’re gonna help, get into something dark and comfortable. Meet back here in an hour and a half.”

Tossing off a mock salute, Lee guided his wife out of the embassy and into an embassy limo.

Amanda climbed in the limo, her brow wrinkled in confusion. “Do we call Billy?”

“And tell him what? We found Beaman, but Francine may kill him. Or he may kill her?”

“I’m not sure that’s what is going on with them.” Amanda pointed out the window as they passed Tiananmen Square. Fires burned across the expanse of the Square; smoke filling the air along with voices raised in song, chants, taunts and anger. “We’re going into Tiananmen tonight?”

Lee’s jaw tightened as he watched the action as they passed by. “I think so, Amanda. You should stay at the hotel.”

“I’m watching your back like I always do. I’ll stay out of the way, and if things get bad, I’ll find a place to hide. I promise.”

Lee hugged his wife, glad she was with him. “Keep an eye on all of us, will you? I think we’re gonna need your special touch.”

“My pleasure!”

Tiananmen Square
Early Day Eight

Lee had almost laughed when he first saw Francine and Beaman in the Square. Francine looked furious, but she stubbornly refused to leave Beaman’s side, and she chided him at every turn.

For his part, Beaman took Francine’s bad temper in stride. He had cut the cast off and had asked Francine to wrap his arm. He rested his left hand in his pocket, Lee was sure, to ease the pressure of the arm hanging.

“Are you going to tell us what’s going on? What have you been doing here all this time?” They leaned against a building, under the overhang of a decorative roof, the shadow it cast helping to keep them out of view.

“We need to move several student leaders out tonight. Things have gone down hill quickly, and with the PLA 27th here, it’s going to go from bad to worse any moment now. My sources have told me that there is a power struggle within the leadership at the highest levels, and the hardliners are pressing their advantage with these student demonstrations.”

“Why now?” Amanda wanted to know as they all watched several soldiers chase a group of old women who had thrown cabbages at them.

“The leadership is split; it has been for some time,” Beaman said, watching the events in Tiananmen closely. “The problem is they don’t know how to deal with the changes that are coming in the future. Hong Kong returns in what, ten years? The most urbane of international cities will be under mainland China rule. It’s frightening to the hardliners who fear that the return of such a place will cause further uprisings along with a serious move toward democracy. There’s also the situation with Taiwan, which isn’t going to be helped by this here.” He leaned against the wall to ease the discomfort of standing. Rubbing his eyes with his good hand, he sighed and continued. “So, while they court, cajole, pressure and threaten Taiwan, and try to reassure Hong Kong, they crack down on their youth so they don’t get any ideas.”

“It’s complicated,” Francine added, frowning as Efraim battled the pain and fatigue. “But this is only going to make it worse.”

“Unfortunately, their intent here is to set an example. That’s why I need to move these students tonight.”

“How?” Lee narrowed his eyes and watched the build up of troops in the Square. “Something is going to happen here tonight.”

“Yeah, it is. I told you to leave.”

“Dammit, Beaman! I. . . .”

“Shut up, Lee!” Francine interjected. Turning to Beaman, she laid a hand on his good arm. “What do we need to do? What’s your procedure?”

“Thanks, Francine. We need to go to the gate of Tiananmen. There’s a small alcove off to the right. If the others have kept things going while I was out of action, we should be able to clear out of here soon.”

“How many layers is your operation, Efraim? How many rings do you have working?” Francine asked him as she moved the two of them deeper into the shadows.

“Six. Well, six that I know of. Probably more now. Dead drops only between the bottom rings. No way for them to contaminate up the line.”

“I’m impressed,” Lee told him as a group of students ran past. “You the only one with connections all the way up and down?”

“I don’t have all of the connections, Lee. No one does. If it falls apart along the line, it falls apart and only one ring is blown. I connect with the embassy and one other ring, and the embassy only has me.”

“What’s the other ring you connect with?” Francine moved to Efraim’s left side so she was able to shield him from any hits to his arm.

“You’re about to see,” he told them.

Stepping out of the shadows, they moved along the old wall that had served as the gate to the Forbidden City in ages past. The alcove that Beaman had mentioned was behind a small stone wall. Sitting on the wall, Beaman motioned that they should do the same. Amanda sat, but Lee paced.

They had only been waiting a short time when Lee stopped in front of Beaman to show his impatience. Beaman just grinned back, chuckling as Lee stomped off to watch the crowds streaming through the gates.

“You’re driving him crazy,” Amanda told Beaman as Lee continued to pace.

“Sometimes you have to wait in this business. He knows that, Amanda.”

“It’s the tension in the air. It’s oppressive.” Lee turned to them and glared at the three of them.

Francine nodded her agreement. “Are you sure whatever is supposed to take place here will take place tonight? Maybe they didn’t get the word.”

“They got it. Be patient, Franny, it’ll happen.”

“You know it makes me crazy when you call me that.”

With an admiring look at her, he grinned. “Careful what you say, Francine. I’ll hold you to it.”

They both laughed, and Amanda shook her head at their teasing. Lee stiffened across from them, his stance changing. Amanda started to rise, but Beaman put out a hand.

“It’s okay. He sees my contact.” Beaman looked at Lee and grinned. He stood up, Francine at his side. He greeted his contact, Chian Chang.

“It is good to see you released, Bei Ang, although you do look, what do you say, worse for wear.”

“Xie xie, Chang. It’s good to be out again. I believe you know my associates, Lee and Amanda Stetson.”

Chang turned to Lee, highly amused by the shock etched on Lee’s face. “It seems you did not expect this, Stetson.” Chang turned and bowed his head to Amanda. “It is good to see you again, Amanda.”

“This is the last thing I expected. You trust him, Beaman? He’s probably why you ended up in Jiang’s hold.” Lee didn’t like Chang and wasn’t about to trust him.

“Back down, Lee. Are we ready? Things in place?” Beaman was all business now that Chang had arrived.

“Yes. I believe things are as you wish them to be. By the way, Jiang believes you to be dead.”

Beaman nodded. “Yeah, well there were a few times that I thought I might have been as well.”

“How did you leave the building?”

“Torpedo.”

Chang watched Beaman for a moment or two, then grinned. “That would explain the oxygen tank in the rubble.”

“Oxygen tank, yeah, that would be me,” Beaman remarked. “I have one last concern, that of. . . .”

“Song Lui Rong?”

“Yeah.”

Chang shook his head. “This one is stubborn. She is in the Square this very moment. My wife could not convince her to leave with the others.”

“Damn. She’s been a problem from the beginning; one stubborn, hard-headed kid.”

“What’s going on?” Francine asked, concern evident in her voice.

“A very high profile student leader refuses to leave. Jiang has her at the center of a bulls eye, and--”

The sound of gunfire clattered in the Square. Silence reigned for a moment, then pandemonium reached a crescendo that roared across the landscape.

Chang grabbed Beaman and shouted in his ear in an effort to be heard above the deafening noise. Nodding his agreement, Beaman took Francine’s arm and pulled her behind the small wall. Lee grabbed Amanda and did the same.

“Go with Lee and Amanda. Get back to the embassy.” Beaman tried to push her towards Lee.

Francine adamantly refused. “No! I’m going with you. You need my help, and I’m going to help you!”

“You are the most stubborn, irritating woman I have ever met, but I. . . .” Whatever Beaman said was drowned by the rumble of tanks and armored vehicles rolling through the center of the Square. Gun fire erupted all around them. Beaman spotted Chang on the other side of the entrance, crouched behind the wall.
Waiting for a break in the crowd, Beaman jumped up and ran across the entrance. “Chang, are you safe? You haven’t been made, have you?”

“No.”

“Do you want out?”

“No my friend. This is my home, and I will stay here and do what I can. Thank you for your concern, but I will stay. As you would stay in your country.”

Beaman nodded, reaching up to pat Francine’s hand on his shoulder to acknowledge her presence. “Can you get the others out? I’ll take care of Song. I may only be able to get her to the American Embassy.”

“Do what you can, then leave the country. Go home, you have done good work here.” Chang peered over the wall, then kneeled down again. “The 27th is here with the sanction of the hardliners on the council. They are here to eliminate any threats. Do not be a threat tonight.”

“What will happen on the council?” Francine asked him. Efraim nodded, thinking to get as much information while they could.

“The pendulum will shift to the right for a short time, then back to the left. It will find balance, but it will take time. Much depends on what the world does, especially what the United States says.”

“We’ll see that gets passed along. Good luck.”

“And you, my friend.” Chang smiled at Beaman, shot a small grin at Lee, and left with a crowd running out of the Tiananmen gate.

Beaman turned to Francine. “Okay, we need to make our way to the ‘People’s Heroes Monument’. We’ll find Song Lui Rong there.”

“Efraim! That’s across the Square! We’ll never make it. Please, listen to me.”

“You’re wasting your breath, Francine. He’s not gonna start listening to you now.” Lee said as he and Amanda made their way to Beaman and Francine. “What’s the best way to go about this, Beaman?”

“This isn’t the full assault,” he told them as he assessed the situation around them. “They still have vehicles trying to get into Tiananmen. I have to try and get this girl out. She’s one of the voices that China will need in the future.”

“How about if we catch a ride then?” Lee pointed to a tank rolling into the Square.

“That’s a good way to get shot. I have a better idea. Come on.” Beaman pointed out the gate, lifting Francine from her crouched position by her elbow and pushing her ahead of him. “In the taxi. Lee? You drive.”

Climbing in, Lee started the taxi and turned it toward Tiananmen, mumbling under his breath the whole way.

Amanda reached over, placing her hand on Lee’s arm.

Missing a tank and troop carrier, Lee pulled hard on the wheel, causing the taxi to rock from side to side. The Heroes monument rose before them, students covering every available toe hold.

“There she is, in the center, under the banner,” Beaman shouted, pointing out the student leader.

Lee drove close to a group of nearby soldiers, swung the taxi and scattered them just as they lifted their rifles. “Beaman, get her and let’s get the hell out of here before we become sitting ducks.”

“On my way.” Climbing out of the taxi, Beaman took off for the students, with Francine was right beside him. Francine bounded up ahead of him, pulling him when the going was steep, and when he needed an extra hand to make up for his broken left arm.

The students recognized Beaman from his university visits and also helped him make his way to Song Lui Rong.

“It’s happening tonight, Song. You have to leave.”

“I cannot leave these people now, Dr. Bremen. I will not show fear in the face of the government.”

“It’s not fear we’re talking about, Song. They are going to kill you.”

“Then I will be a martyr.”

“There are times when a martyr will make a lasting impression for change. And there are times when a living voice is needed. This is the time for the living voice.”

“Efraim is right, you must leave. China will need your voice in the future. Please, come with us.” Francine urged the young woman to leave. She pointed to Lee standing at the base of the monument, waving frantically for them to return. “Efraim, we’re out of time. We have to go.”

“Come with us.” Beaman urged her again.

“My friends will die here tonight. I will not leave them. If I live through the night, I will come to the American Embassy. That is the most I can promise you. Go now, and get the others out. Thank you, Dr. Bremen, for all that you have brought to us.”

Beaman nodded, letting Francine help him down. They stopped at the bottom of the monument, looking back up at Song Lui Rong. She was speaking to the students using a bullhorn, rallying them to the cause of democracy.

Beaman stood at the base of the monument, staring up at the students he had tried to convince to leave. He felt Francine push him toward the waiting taxi. Beaman climbed in after her. Lee hopped in and with Amanda shouting out the obstacles, they sped out of Tiananmen Square as gunfire flared behind them.

Beaman turned in the seat, watching the scene in Tiananmen recede. Francine put her arm around his shoulder. “You did all that you could, Efraim. The final decision was hers.”

“I know. It doesn’t make it any easier to accept though, Francine.”

Lee finally pulled up in front of the embassy, the marines in full battle gear manning the gates. Upon spotting Beaman in the back seat, the marine in charge gave a signal to the open the gates. Lee drove through as the gates swung closed behind them.

A young marine ran to the taxi, opening the doors. “Dr. Bremen, good to see you again, sir.”

“Thanks, Corporal.”

“Sir, the embassy doctor ordered us to bring you to the infirmary as soon as you returned. I’m sorry sir, something about your cast. If you’ll follow us please.”

“Do I really need an armed escort, Corporal?”

The marine blushed, but did not lower his gaze. “Sir, the doctor ordered us to shoot you in the foot if you refused. He said he could fix your foot along with re-casting your arm.”

Lee and Amanda both coughed to cover their laughter. Francine took the opportunity to push her partner. “Move it, Dr. Bremen, or I’ll shoot you in the foot that the Corporal doesn’t.”

“You would, too, wouldn’t you Franny?” Taking her arm, he headed into the embassy and the medical offices.

The American Embassy Beijing
Day Eight

Daylight flirted with the darkened rain clouds that banked the eastern horizon. Beaman stood on the roof of the embassy as he watched the havoc unfold in Tiananmen Square, oblivious to the rain falling on him. Someone moved behind him and he quickly turned to watch as Francine walked over to him. He put his good arm around her shoulders as she stepped up next to him. They both watched in silence as history in the making played out before them.

“Couldn’t sleep?” she finally asked, knowing that she couldn’t either.

“Nah. Too much noise.”

“Worried about Song Lui?”

“Yeah,” he sighed, “we all worked so hard for this operation to be a success and now? I don’t know.”

Francine looked up at her partner. “You need a shave, a haircut, and weeks worth of sleep. And you’re here questioning the work you’ve done here. I think you need some time before you draw any conclusions, Efraim.”

“I need a lot of things, Francine.”

She nodded, slipping her arm around his back. “Me too, Efraim. Come on, I’ll walk you to your room.”

He gave short laugh. “Should I ask you in for a night cap?”

“Too late for a night cap. Breakfast is more like it.”

“Right, like that’s gonna happen.”

They walked in companionable silence to the floor that Efraim’s rooms were on. Francine’s room was on the other side of the embassy. Efraim opened his door, turned and gave Francine a long look before speaking.

“Thanks, partner.”

Francine smiled up at Efraim and pushed him into his room. “See you later.” He nodded and started to close the door, but Francine stopped him. At his questioning look, she leaned up and whispered in his ear. “You never know about breakfast, Efraim. You’ve never offered me breakfast before.” With a wink, she turned and headed to her own room, leaving Beaman to stand there, his jaw slack and his mind spinning as she walked away.

TAG
Washington DC

Several Weeks Later

Lee yawned as he looked at his watch yet again. “We’ve been here forever,” he whined. “I don’t think I can take another night of this. The old man’s gone too far if he thinks he can keep us on surveillance duty night after night.”

Amanda struggled to suppress a yawn. “I don’t think there’s anything to see. I think this is Dr. Smyth’s way of getting even with us for disobeying his orders and going to China after Efraim.” She lifted her hand to cover her mouth as she yawned yet again. “I’m sorry Lee, I’m really sleepy. What time is it?”

Lee held his arm out so Amanda could see the glow from the dial for herself. “Let me have those night vision binoculars; I wanna see if there’s any activity out there.” Taking the high tech lenses from Amanda, Lee scanned the empty warehouse area.

“We’ve been here for hours!” Amanda laughed. “I’ll bet Francine is really giving Efraim a hard time; she hates these things.”

Lee turned the binoculars in the direction of Beaman’s car. The night scope showed Beaman and Francine in the car, apparently in a discussion. “Ah, they’re just talking away over there. What’s with Francine lately?”

“What do you mean? She seems fine to me.”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean. What’s with that? She hasn’t complained about Smyth dumping this duty on us.”

Amanda shrugged. “I don’t know. The only thing I’ve heard her say about it is that it could be worse.”

“Yeah,” Lee started the ‘Vette’s engine,. “That’s what bothers me. Shouldn’t she be up in arms about this?”

“She also said you were complaining enough for all of us!” Amanda told him, trying hard not to smile. “What are you doing?”

“I’m driving over to Beaman’s car, and I’m telling him we’re going home. They can sit here and talk all night for all I care. But I’m tired, and I’m going home.”

Amanda grabbed the strap above her head as Lee let the car race across the open space of the empty warehouse lots. “Why didn’t you just call and tell him? If there was anyone making a drop here, you’ve certainly let them all know that we’re here!”

Lee just grinned and sent his wife a wink.

Amanda laughed as she reached over and patted her husband’s arm. “I hope you realize that if Dr. Smyth finds out about this, you’ll be doing whatever it is he devises to get even with you on your own!”

Hitting the electric window button as he drew level with the driver’s side of Beaman’s car, Lee turned to his wife, a smug look on his face. “What are you gonna do? Tattle on me?”

“No, but I might!” Beaman said as he held up a proximity listening device.

Laughing, Francine leaned over Beaman so she could see Lee clearly. “And yes, we were talking, and yes, I still hate these things, and no, there’s nothing wrong with me Lee, and yes, things could be worse. And Amanda? I’ll back you up with Smyth if that one,” with a nod of her head in Lee’s direction, “blows this surveillance!”

Shooting both Beaman and Francine a disgusted look, Lee hit the gas in the ‘Vette and sped out, Amanda’s laughter trailing behind them in the late night darkness.

Francine laughed as she pulled her head back in the driver’s window, locking eyes with Efraim.

“Maybe you should buckle up. Uh, there’s no reason for us to stay now.” Beaman cleared his throat. “Come on, we might as well get out of here and go home. Nothing is going to happen here tonight.”

Francine nodded as she sat back in the passenger seat. She glanced at him several times as she buckled her seat belt. “You know, you shouldn’t be so pessimistic, it’s not like you. You never know what could happen,” she teased, giving his arm a soft pat.

“Right.” His tone derisive.

Leaving the warehouse district, Beaman drove through the deserted streets of DC. The monuments were lit, startling against the backdrop of the night. He was lost in his own thoughts when he heard Francine calling his name.

“Efraim! Are you listening to me?”

“No, I’m sorry Franny, I was thinking. What’s up?”

“I said, you must be happy that Song was able to make it to the American Embassy after all. I know how upset you were when the initial reports stated that she had been among the casualties in Tiananmen.”

Efraim sighed. He didn’t want to talk about Tiananmen now, and at times it seemed that it was all Francine wanted to discuss. “Yeah, I was really glad she made it out that night alive. So many of those kids didn’t.”

“I know.”

“What a waste, to kill the future of your country for the consolidation of power.” He shook his head. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand it, let alone get the images of it out of my mind.”

Francine nodded, both of them silent for a moment or two as the images of Tiananmen Square flooded their memories. “You know there’s nothing you could have done to change things. You have to look at the good that can come out of this.“ She smiled at him before she went on. “And that’s a future that Song Lui will have a voice in. Those that survived that night will also have a say in the future of their country. It’s not a place for frightened, old men.”

“The future?” he asked.

“Yep. It’s a place for people of vision. Like you.”

Efraim laughed. Whatever had changed between them in the past seven or eight months seemed to have solidified in Beijing and the passing weeks since they had returned home.

“A lot of things changed in Beijing,” he told her, gauging her mood. “If I learned anything there, it’s that all things must change. I know I did.”

Francine nodded in agreement. “Me too.”

They drove in silence for several minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. Efraim glanced over at his partner, grinning at the soft smile on her face.

“Do you remember what you said to me the night of Tiananmen? When you walked me to my room to make sure I didn’t run back out into the thick of things?”

Laughing, she looked over at him, her eyes sparkling in the darkened interior. “I said a lot of things to you. Remind me.”

“Breakfast.”

Francine stilled, her eyes widening as she remembered what she had told him.

“Remember?” He pushed.

She nodded, not saying a word.

“What would you say if I offered you breakfast now?” Efraim parked the car, his good arm sliding along the seat behind her.

Francine looked out the window. She turned to him and smiled. “I’d love breakfast, Efraim.”

Beaming, Efraim jumped out of the car, running to open her door. He offered her his arm, and Francine took it as she climbed out of the car. The walked to the front door, he opened it and let her step in, following quickly behind her.

“Nice place,” Francine said, a smile turning up the corners of her lips. “Think we can get breakfast at this hour?”

“You can get anything you’d like at this hour here, Franny.”

She laughed. And waited.

He made the first move.

“A table for two, coffee all the way around and the breakfast menu, please.”

Setting this story against the backdrop of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, is not meant on my part to trivialize the events leading up to 4 June, 1989. Upon researching events in 1989, I came upon declassified State Department cables from the US Embassy in Beijing. These cables detailed the events beginning 24 November 1988 through June of 1989. The ‘State Department Employee’ reporting these events is, of course, unnamed. Thus, for my agenda, he became Efraim Beaman. The actual agent sent intelligence that helped to shape the US response to events in June 1989; both official public and back channel responses. Also, several student leaders were able to leave China, and one who lived through the early hours of 4 June, made it to the American Embassy. That in itself, is another story.

If you’re curious and would like to read the unclassified cables, the link is as follows:

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB16/documents/index.html

I have also bestowed upon my beloved Beaman, a doctorate. I formulated the idea for Beaman’s theory while investigating background for this story. His ‘thesis’ makes a comparative study into the various methods of international ‘spying’. Delusional, you cry! Nope, not a bit! The Chinese call it ‘guanxi’, the building of a relationship which enables them to place themselves in a position of authority to obtain what they need. The wise spy will use cultural influences to enhance his chances of getting the information he is looking for. If you’re interested, here’s the link to Frontline on PBS.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/spy/spies/different.html

Perhaps reading spying techniques, US Department of State cablegrams and SITREPS from the US Embassy Beijing isn’t your thing. In that case, take a look at the Chinese Name Giver I used to supply the Chinese name Bei Ang for Efraim Beaman. Take a whirl, and see what you come up with for yourself.

http://www.mandarintools.com/chinesename.html

And while you’re at it, perhaps you’d fancy a journey through Tiananmen, the gate to the Forbidden City. Ironically, Tiananmen itself means The Gate Of Heavenly Peace. The Monument to the People’s Heroes is plainly visible, as are other locations mentioned in the story.

http://www.thebeijingguide.com/tiananmen_square/index.html

Enjoy your virtual Beijing tour along with this story.