Ryang Man-soek brought the long, narrow box into his New York apartment and set it on the table. Seven months it took him to smuggle it out of North Korea, through the bitter cold of the Tumen River, skipping between abandoned buildings and hotels in China for four weeks, traveling with the underground network of China’s Christians, finally hiding out at the US Consulate for five months. Cargo planes, private boats, and many bribes to customs agents and he was finally here.
He called Mark Gorman, his handler at the CIA. “I have something. I think you will like it.”
Seventeen minutes later Mark knocked at the door. Tall and chubby in his blue suit and sandy hair. “Good to see you alive, Man-soek. Successful mission? You have the codes?”
“No,” he said apologetically. He smiled. “Something much better.”
Mark shook his head. “Show me.”
Man-soek grabbed a knife and cut through the tape, then lifted the top off the box. Inside was stuffed with roses.
“You shouldn’t have,” said Mark.
Man-soek pulled the roses out of the way and lifted out a clear plastic tube with a James Bond poster. He popped the end off and pulled the poster out, letting it unroll into his hand, revealing a map of North Korea on the inside.
Mark took it from him and laid the map flat on the table searching for anything unusual. “What am I supposed to see here?”
“Nothing. That is map approved by Supreme leader, so it’s no good for anything.”
Mark let the ends roll in on itself. “Then what the hell did you bring it for?”
“To cover this.” Man-soek held forward a spike of ivory about two feet long.
“Oh,” said Mark. “I didn’t see you pull it out. What is it?”
Man-soek grinned broadly, shoulders bouncing. “Unicorn.”
Mark stared at him. “What?”
“Unicorn. I found genuine unicorn horn in North Korea.” He handed it to Mark, who took it and stared blankly.
“You mean from the Unicorn Lair they reported in the Times?”
Man-soek held his stomach and laughed, collapsing into the wall. “Nah, nah, nah. That is just to fool American reporters. The real one is far away from Pyongyang.”
“Man-soek, this is probably from a narwhal. They’re sold as unicorn horns all the time. What am I supposed to do with this? Chuck it at ISIS?”
“I am telling you it is real, Agent Gorman.”
Mark collapsed into a chair, deflated. “Even if it was a real unicorn horn, what good is it?”
“You have to ask? I swear, Americans have no imagination. There’s viable DNA in this horn. You can clone unicorns. You know what unicorn blood can do? It cures many things and can make supersoldiers. You can weaponize the horn to strengthen artillery. Better than uranium. Not to mention nice sweaters from the mane.”
“Man-soek, did you burn your cover for this?”
“No. Of course not. They think I’m touring the mines to improve efficiency.”
Mark stood and handed the horn back. “Return immediately and resume your mission. We need those codes.” He headed for the door.
“But, Agent Gorman. What do I do with this?”
“I don’t care. Sell it on e-bay. Make a lamp out of it. Use it as an ice pick. But I expect you to head back by the end of the week.” He stormed out of the apartment and scuttered down the stairs.
Man-soek admired the unicorn horn, then dropped his shoulders, crestfallen and disappointed. He opened a closet door, pulled some dirty baseball shoes and tattered couch pillows to the side, and set the horn in the corner right next to the dragon’s tooth.