Harmon Rabb found a small package on his doorstep when he got home, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service. It was about the size and shape to be a videotape, wrapped in brown paper. He picked it up, noting the return address with a small pang of alarm. Colonel Stryker had gotten less sentimental over the years. He didn't contact Harm any more unless he wanted something.
With a resigned sigh, Harm went inside. He dropped his cover, keys, briefcase, and the package on the table, then went to change. Whatever Stryker needed could wait until after dinner.
A couple of hours later, Harm picked up the deceptively ordinry package and opened it. It did, indeed, contain a videotape. The label was a plain peel-and-stick affair with "Thought you might find this interesting," written on it in Stryker's familiar scrawl.
Frowning, Harm slipped the tape into his VCR, then settled on the couch, beer in hand. He pushed a button on the remote, then balanced the slim piece of electronics on his knee. The tape began to play a recording of a local-looking news cast. The call letters behind the anchor desk said "KYRO News", and the perky young blond manning the desk quickly informed him that he was watching Kansas City's best station for news, weather, and sports.
He'd just about decided that Stryker was playing some kind of bizarre joke on him when the newscast shifted to a local interest piece-- a native of the city who was currently top of her class at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Harm straightened unconsciously. This was probably what the colonel wanted him to see.
The scene shifted to a different studio, one with the Naval Academy's logo splayed across the wall. Two women sat across from each other in the quintessential casual interview arrangement. One was very obviously the newswoman. She was in her mid-thirties, with stylishly long hair and an impeccable business suit. The second woman was much younger and wore a Navy uniform. She introduced herself as Audrey Le.
Audrey was strikingly beautiful in the same intelligent, no-nonsense way as Mac. Her features were Asian, but with large, dark eyes that were a bit wider than the norm. She wore her hair close-cropped in a playful cap that seemed well suited to her personality.
Harm watched with only mild interest as the middie told her interviewer about life at the Academy, but his attention sharpened when the newswoman asked Audrey what she wanted to do in the Navy.
"I'm going to fly fighters," the young woman answered with a cocksure grin. "F-18s, to be exact."
Harm chuckled. "Good for you," he told the television image. Not many women had the drive or desire to fly combat aircraft, but this one, he thought, looked like she could do anything she wanted. She had that arrogant confidence.
"Now, you're originally from South Vietnam, correct?" the interviewer asked a bit later, with a glance at her cards.
Audrey nodded. "The village of Son My. My uncle brought my mother and I to the United States when I was four."
Harm remembered Son My, in the Quang Ngai province. They'd staged out of that village for about four weeks during the summer of 1980.
He was so involved in his memories that he almost missed the next question.
"What about your father?"
Audrey's expression closed in on itself. She squared her shoulders. "He was an American who lived in our village for a little while. I don't know anything about him."
Harm's gaze snapped to the television. An American? Now that she said so, it was obvious. Her face was a little too wide, her eyes too round, her skin too pale, to be pure Vietnamese. His mind immediately started doing the math as a dreadful chill scrabbled up his spine. She was third year at the Academy, which made her age twenty-one, probably.
Which meant she would have been born in 1981.
Which meant she was conceived in 1980.
Harm closed his eyes, overwhelmed by a rush of memories. There had been a girl in Son My-- Le Lin, daughter of the man who'd let the two Americans sleep in his barn. Harm didn't remember much about her except that she'd had a beautiful laugh, and that she'd helped him forget another girl, one he thought had died for following him.
Harm opened his eyes. He stared at the television screen, unseeing, as the realization crashed down on him.
He had a daughter.