When criminal defense attorney Julianna Constant travels to Washington, D.C. to join her former college roommate, Marella de la Aerelli, in celebrating her husband’s election as the first president of the newly democratic Republic of Lodatia, she is met with an unpleasant surprise. Her friend of almost 30 years not only looks unwell, she is cold and distant. After Julianna becomes convinced the woman is really an imposter, she attempts to expose the faux Marella by using a secret only she, Marella, and the sitting U.S. president share. In the process, Julianna helps to uncover an international conspiracy to seize control of the new country, using the president’s wife as a pawn in a dangerous and potentially deadly game. Will Marella be rescued before a coup takes place? Or will she become collateral damage in one tiny nation’s fight to be free?
Julianna Constant glared at her college roommate, then stomped her foot in anger.
“Marella, how could you? I thought you loved Moonshine.”
The tall, slim blonde, her clear blue eyes brimming with tears, sniffled. “I do, but if my parents ever found out about us, I would be doomed.” Her Slavic accent was heavier than usual, as if burdened by distress. “They will pull me out of university and make me return home. You do not understand what it is like in my country. It may be nineteen eighty-eight, but the Soviet Union still has its foot firmly on our throats. Gorbachev’s glasnost only goes so far. I was so lucky to be allowed to attend Northwestern. If I am forced to return home, there will be no second chance at university. I will be condemned to work in one of our factories or on a farm. And I will most likely never be allowed to leave my country again. Between the government, the Communists, and my parents, my life will be over. I will have shamed them and in Lodatia, that is unforgivable.” Marella buried her head in her chest and hugged her body tightly, her fear apparent. She began to tremble.
Julianna studied the young woman. The Bon Jovi T-shirt and tattered jeans Marella wore belied her Eastern European roots. She looked like an everyday American teenager. You can take the girl away from the Communists, but fear of the Communists never leaves the girl. Julianna shook her head slowly. “If you don’t speak up, Moonshine could go to jail. He is innocent. You know that girl is lying and you are the only one who can prove it. You are his only alibi.”
“There is no but, Marella. Either you tell the truth or I am going to tell the police you are withholding evidence. Then you will be deported.”
Marella gasped. “You would not do that to me, Jules. We are friends.” She stared at Julianna in disbelief and tears began to run down her face.
Julianna pulled at the loops on her white painter pants, frustrated. “Marella, I love you. But Moonshine is also one of my best friends. I cannot stand by and watch him punished, his life destroyed, for something we both know he didn’t do. Look, all you have to do is go to the police and tell them the truth. Verify his alibi. I know it’s hard to admit that you were together, but you may not even have to tell them that you were having sex. Besides, it’s nineteen eighty-eight. People have sex outside of marriage. In fact, I suspect more people have sex outside of marriage than in.”
Marella wound the ends of her platinum hair tightly around her fingers and pulled on them. Then she looked at Jules, her eyes filled with apprehension. “I want to help. I really do. But if word of this gets to my government in Lodatia, I will face horrible consequences. You do not understand life in a Communist country. They monitor every aspect of our lives and they interfere at a whim. They are brutal, sadistic pigs when pushed. I do not want to be the one who pushes them. They could even go after my family.”
Jules grabbed her friend’s hands and forced her to look into her eyes. “Don’t you see? There is no reason for this information to be released to the public. Our police department is independent, they don’t report to our government. Everything you tell the police during this investigation will be kept confidential. That’s how it works in America.”
“But they could force me to testify at a trial. Then everyone will know.”