The Consultant: Chapter 54

They were at dinner the following night, when Barry realized that his spirits were at an all-time low since he had come to terms with his new situation. 

The North Koreans had not broken his spirit—not yet. But the execution of the young woman, and the changes at the tour agency, had made an already intolerable situation even more intolerable.   

Tanaka had left the canteen early tonight, pleading gastrointestinal issues. So it was just Barry and Anne.

Given the probable hygiene standards in North Korea, it was a wonder, Barry thought, that all of them weren’t doubled over a commode, all the time.

“How are things going with at the tour agency?” Anne asked.

Barry shrugged. He didn’t want to go into it—the death of the young woman, the probable deaths of Mr. Lee and Mr. Ki.  

“You look like you’ve been through something,” Anne persisted. “Some kind of trauma. I mean above and beyond the ordinary trauma of being here.”

“I made a move,” Barry said. “Something that might have gotten us out of here. It didn’t work out.”

“Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“Not now,” he said. “Maybe another time.”

He realized that now he was the one keeping secrets, even though he had insisted that they need to work together. But he couldn’t get past what he had seen: the young woman’s murder…And after Jung-Ho had lied to and manipulated him.

Damn you, Jung-Ho, Barry thought. Someday, I’ll see you up against a wall.

But he knew that this would never happen. How could it? He was completely powerless here. 

“Are you done eating?” Anne asked. 

Barry looked down at his empty plate. Dinner tonight was the same as always: rice, vegetables, a bit of meat. Weak tea. 

“Yes. Let’s get out of here.”

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They were walking across the compound, when Anne asked him for news of their own country. Oddly enough, this was the first time the topic had come up.

“We don’t get much news in here,” Anne said. “We catch some tidbits from the state-run media. That’s about it. So Donald Trump is really president?”

“Yes,” Barry said. “Donald Trump is really president.”

“Is he popular?”

Barry smiled at the question. He suspected that he and Anne might have different political leanings. “That’s a matter of opinion. Politics. Let’s hope that we’re both able to vote in the next U.S. election…whomever we each vote for.”

“Speaking of which,” Anne said, “Jung-Ho told me something about the politics of this country.”

“You and Jung-Ho have private conversations?” Barry said. “Sounds cozy.”

Then Anne told Barry how Jung-Ho had been trying for several years to seduce her.

Although he held his tongue, Barry must have appeared skeptical of Anne’s explanation. 

“I string him along,” Anne said. “That’s all. Do you really think that I could…be with him? After what they did to Kevin?”

He was tempted to challenge her. But then he thought: Hadn’t he played nice with Jung-Ho, too, in order to angle himself into an advantageous position?

“No,” Barry said. “I suppose not. Anyway, what did he tell you?”

“Jung-Ho seems to think that there’s going to be some shakeup in the top leadership of North Korea,” Anne said. “He claims to have some involvement in it. Keep this yourself, of course, please.”

“Sure,” Barry said. “Of course.”

He was singularly unimpressed by Anne’s news. His only objective was to get out of North Korea. He didn’t care who ran this place. 

He also didn’t see a path whereby any change in the country’s leadership would bring about their freedom. The entire regime was so lawless. What were the odds of their being freed by a new man, or a new cabal, in power? 

Probably close to zero, Barry thought.  

Chapter 55

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