When Brooke Jones’ plane arrived in Miami from New York City, it was already past 7:00 p.m. As the president of Planetal Corporation, one of the largest environmental companies in the world, she had seen it all – war, famine, diseases. Even in the face of such an uphill battle, for years her goal of making the world a better place never waned.
That passion started more than thirty years ago when, as a freshman at the University of California, she met Rachel Mattis, her best friend, herself a senior, who introduced her to the study of greenhouse gases and their effect on global warming.
After graduation, Brooke and Rachel started Planetal with the financial backing of Brooke’s late father. What started out as a small non-profit company designed to help plant trees to reforest places in the Caribbean, had grown into a giant international organization. Planetal had expanded its services across the globe, providing clean water treatment and health clinics in Africa, medical equipment in Asia, and training in organic food cultivation in many parts of the world.
After meeting and talking to Mumba at an environmental conference in Switzerland more than twelve years ago, Brooke knew that it was only a matter of time before Mumba’s idea could become a reality, if he found financing. This potential discovery would make the world a better place.
However, she also knew there were many powerful interests who would not let that happen if they learned that Planetal’s board had financed such a project. Nevertheless, knowing that Planetal would reap the rewards and help save thousands of lives if Mumba’s experiments succeeded, she agreed to secretly arrange outside financing by a private entity for Mumba’s new lab in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including purchasing the equipment that he needed, and paying his employees. In return, Planetal and the private entity would share rights in Mumba’s discovery.
Saying that she had since been disillusioned with Planetal since her first meeting with Mumba was an understatement. An organization that was started as an altruistic venture had become more like a business, making agreements with some country leaders who were simply warlords who deserved to be in prison. Along the way, she had lost control of her own organization and had to report to an overactive board of directors whose members were more bean counters than environmentalists.
The day before, when she received the urgent call from Mumba in Miami, telling her that he was being detained in Florida by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for attempting to enter the country illegally, she was shocked but elated at the same time. She had given up all hope that he was alive after hearing the news that his lab and his car had exploded and that all of the people inside were killed. The news had unsettled her because the explosion occurred only a few days after he called her to tell her that he had prevailed in his experiments and that the tests were successful.
“Are you Ok?” she had asked him when she picked up the phone. She could tell he was still frazzled by the incident and his detention at the immigration facility.
“I can’t talk right now. Just get me out. I don’t want to stay here. They are after me.”
“Who’s after you?” she had asked. In reality, she did not have to ask. She knew that the list of governments and organizations that would be interested in such a discovery and even kill for it was a mile long. What surprised Brooke was how they found out so soon.
A few years ago, when Mumba told her about unexpected results in his early experiments, they made a decision to expand Mumba’s lab to pursue Mumba’s new theory. It was during that time that she changed her views about Planetal and made the decision not turn over the discovery to the organization. She then bided her time, waiting for the perfect moment to quit. All she needed now was to sell Mumba’s formula as she and Mumba had agreed, and the huge payday would come.
Now that she was in Miami, the reality hit her that she also had to watch her back. She was worried. After her rushed phone conversation with Mumba, she had called and talked to Troy on the phone, and Troy had agreed to represent Mumba in his immigration case and go with her to see him at the immigration detention facility the next morning, after an initial meeting in Troy’s office.
Brooke was still thinking about her next move as she picked up her rental car. When she exited the airport, a hard rain started to slap against the vehicle. It was already dark and the traffic on Highway 836 East had started to ease. She turned on the radio, hoping to find a station playing a nice slow country music song. Country music always soothed her nerves. However, she could not find one. Half of the radio stations were playing music in either Spanish or Haitian Creole, while the other half played music that she did not recognize.
She settled for a Spanish ballad and reached over to her open purse on the front passenger seat. Her hand rummaged through it until she could feel her cell phone.
She grabbed it, pressed a small button on the right and the screen’s blue glow illuminated the dark interior of the car.
“Damn,” she exclaimed, realizing that she had grabbed the wrong phone. She reached into her purse again but there was no other phone.
“Damn,” she exclaimed for a second time. “How am I going to reach him now?” She knew that using her regular cell phone was out of the question. That had been made clear to her by her American business partner who had arranged the sale of Mumba’s formula. “All I have to do now is to give it to him and retire,” she thought to herself as she stepped on the gas, the tires screeching on the wet asphalt.
By the time Brooke reached her eighth floor luxury hotel suite in Miami Beach after a quick dinner stop, it was already late. She was about to undress and take a shower when there was a knock on the door.
When Brooke opened the door, surprise registered on her face. “You? I didn’t know you were in town,” she said, while letting her visitor in.
“When I received your message that you were coming, I wanted to surprise you.”
A few minutes later, they were on the balcony watching the city lights when there was a second knock on the door.
“It must be the bottle of wine that I ordered,” her visitor said before heading to the next room to open the front door.
However, the visitor never came back.
Brooke was about to turn around to go look, when she felt strong arms grab her and throw her in the air. By the time Brooke realized what was happening, she was already over the balcony and the only thing that separated her from the asphalt far below was open space.