Disclaimer: See Part 1.
Opening her eyes, she became painfully aware of a nauseating dizziness spinning through her head. Before her eyes were fully opened, she quickly shut them again as she drew one hand up to her throbbing head.
"Haley, please answer me!" Haley heard her sister's worried request clearly.
With great effort, she re-opened her eyes and proceeded to get up and answer the door to stop their insistent pounding. Her head hurt enough as it was. However, she didn't get too far as she fell back to the bed with a sharp pain in her side. She inhaled sharply as she clenched her teeth. Again, she found a new pain with this action. Her teeth quickly unclenched as her hand rubbed the pained area. When her hand passed over the area in question, she found the source and reflexively stretched her jaw. And then everything came back to her.
Panic gripped her as she sat bolt upright searching for her attacker. She quickly regretted the sudden movement as another sharp pain stabbed through her side again. She threw a determined hand behind her to keep her in an upright position as her eyes frantically scanned the dark room. Her free hand hastily shot out to the night lamp next to her bed and switched it on. Forced to squint at the sudden light, nervous eyes quickly scanned the room to find absolutely no one else with her. Again, the pounding on her room door sounded.
Thinking over her situation and choices at break neck speed, she decided that if she informed her sister of tonight's events the police would most assuredly be involved again. After her last encounter with the police, they were the last people she wanted to have to deal with again. But on the other hand, what if her assailant returned? She glanced over at the clock and saw that it was just after nine thirty PM. Nobody else was in the room, she was still alive and just now noticed that she was dressed in her nightshirt.
Puzzled by this last revelation, she surmised that whoever had attacked her was scared off by whoever it was that clothed her. She could barely make any sense out of these facts before she heard Liz's muffled words muttering something to Heinrich about going to the front desk to get the keys to her room. Quickly, she came to a decision and called out to her sister and Heinrich.
"Liz," she called out weakly at first, wincing as she felt a tinge of pain from her side. "What do you want?" Haley asked in a stronger voice. "I was sleeping." She said, trying to sound exasperated at being woken.
"Haley? Are you all right in there? We heard some noise." Liz called back through the locked door.
Thinking quickly, Haley answered. "I must've knocked something over while I was asleep." She lied. "I'm fine. Now will you let me get back to sleep?"
Haley waited a moment in silence as she began to believe Liz had seen right through her lie. She could be so persistent sometimes. Finally, she breathed a sigh of relief as Liz accepted the lie.
"All right kiddo. Sorry for waking you up. Night."
"Night." Haley called back.
She heard Heinrich and Liz talking to one another as they made their way back to their room. A moment later, she heard the door to their room open and then close. Slowly, Haley swung her legs over the edge of the bed and carefully stood up. One hand clutched at her side trying to minimize movement there as she carefully made her way across the room.
Painstakingly she walked to the bathroom all the while asking herself if not telling Liz and Heinrich what had just happened was the right thing to do. After all, someone tried to kill her! But for some odd reason, she felt safe now. Almost as if she had a guardian angel hanging over her shoulder. She still couldn't help but wonder who it was that could have helped her. She turned into the bathroom and switched on the light switch with a gasp.
There, staring back at her was a tired face sporting an ugly purple bruise alongside her jaw line. She leaned in over the sink closer to the mirror to inspect the nasty bruise further.
"Oh geez." She mumbled irritated. "How am I going to explain this to Liz?"
As she turned her face this way and that to see how bad the bruise was from every angle, she noticed the trickle of blood down the opposite side of her face.
"That would explain the headache." She deadpanned as she grabbed a face cloth and ran it under some warm water. She examined the side with the blood for a minute to determine where the cut was. "Right there." She mumbled in concentration as she dabbed the damp cloth around the wound, slowly cleaning up the trail of blood down the side of her face.
Sighing deeply as she rinsed out the cloth, she slowly replaced the cloth and washed cold water over her face. Splashing the water over her face and brushing her hair back with her wet fingers, she straightened to stand back upright. Another sharp pain reminded her of the pain in her side.
Carefully she raised her nightshirt up and over the sore area only to reveal another nasty looking bruise.
"That's gonna hurt for awhile." She said to herself as she lowered her nightshirt back down.
After drying her face with a white hand towel, she walked back to her bed just as she felt a sudden wave of emotion starting to take her. Slowly, tears formed and fell from her eyes of their own accord. The quiet, partially lit room filled with soft sobs, which grew steadily. 'You're going back home tomorrow Haley. You're going back home.' She repeated to herself like a mantra as she slipped back under the covers and tried to go back to sleep 'You're going home.'
The sun slowly began to creep up into the sky as its rays began to filter through the glass French doors. With a groan, Haley pulled the covers up over her head as the rays of sunshine flashed into her tired, red puffy eyes. She couldn't believe how quickly morning had come and how little rest she had actually gotten.
After a little bit of time had passed by, and after the persistent sunshine determinedly showed no signs of relenting to the darkness, she reluctantly lowered the covers. She noticed with dismay that her head still throbbed a bit, her jaw was still bruised and her side was still painful. Carefully, she reached over to the nightstand by the bed and found the remote control for the television.
With numb fingers she mechanically pressed the 'on' button. She watched with little emotion as the television blinked to life with a news show in German. Haley hadn't bothered to change the channel; she just wanted some background sounds to help keep her mind busy as she went about her business of getting ready and packing up her stuff.
She wasn't sure how much time had passed before she heard a knock at the door. Instinctively she tensed, getting ready for anything.
"Haley, you ready?" She heard a familiar voice call out to her.
Relief washed over her as her tense muscles began to relax automatically at the sound of her sister's voice. She walked over to the door to let her sister in.
"Bout time sleepy head! What took you so...;.Haley? What in the hell happened to your face?" Liz exclaimed with some alarm as she reached out to touch Haley's bruised face.
Haley watched the bright smile on her sister's face fade. She had completely forgotten about the bruise on her face and shied away from her sister's touch.
"It's nothing Liz." She began as she forced the bruise out of her sister's view. The wheels in her head began turning to try and come up with a plausible excuse. She still had no intention of telling her sister what had transpired the night before just yet. "Remember the noise you heard last night?"
Liz tensely nodded her head to acknowledge she remembered the incident.
"Well, I had a bad dream and I must have hit my face against the night stand or something." Haley lied once again to her sister.
"Haley, you should go to the hospital and get that checked out!" Liz stated with concern for the grossly discolored jaw as she tried to get a better look at it.
Haley adamantly avoided her sister's inspection as she shooed her away. "Liz, I'm fine!" She began to protest.
"Fine?!" Liz asked incredulously as she pushed her way into her sister's room, closing the door behind her. "You call this fine?!" She flustered as she indicated the hidden bruise. "How do you know you didn't break anything? Or do some kind of damage to your nerves or something like that?!" She spewed.
"Liz, I don't have any broken bones or nerve damage." She said with more of a biting tone than she had intended. "Besides, I have a flight to catch that I don't intend on missing."
"You can take the next one out! Come on, we're going to the hospital." Liz forcefully grabbed her sister by the arm and began hauling her towards the door.
"LOOK!" Haley said sharply as she hauled her arm out of her sister's grasp with a little more force than she needed. She felt an all too familiar pain in her side spring to life, but thankfully Liz had missed her painful wince. "I am not going to miss my flight and that's final!"
"Haley, you need to see a doctor." Liz argued.
"Liz, get out." Haley growled with a low menacing tone. "Now." She regretted her words immediately after uttering them, but pride wouldn't let her take them back. She simply stood her ground as they both stared relentlessly into the others eyes.
"Will you listen to reason for once in your life Haley!" But Liz knew it was a losing battle. She softened her tone. "Hale, come on. Please?"
"Liz, go. I'll find my own way to the airport."
Their eyes remained locked for another heart beat. "Fine!" Liz fumed, breaking the gaze. "I hope you enjoy your flight back to Canada!" And with those words, Liz threw open the door and stormed out, leaving Haley standing right where she had left her, unmoving. Mixed tears of anger and regret once again began to well up in her emerald eyes giving them an almost ethereal
"Stupid!" Haley scolded herself severely as she wiped the tears from her eyes. "Stupid, stupid, stupid!"
She stepped into the bathroom and began splashing cold water repeatedly onto her face as she tried to calm herself. Her water soaked face looked up at her reflection in the mirror and glared at it, shaking her head softly. She bent back down and splashed a few more handfuls of water onto her face before toweling it dry.
She left the bathroom and picked up the phone and called the front desk. After one ring someone answered the other line. "Could you call a taxi to take me to the airport now, please." She asked in English, too worn to look up the translation. She heard the woman on the other end say she would. Before hanging up, she asked if someone could come up and help her carry down her baggage. The woman said someone would be right up. Quickly, Haley thanked her and hung up the phone as she sat down to contemplate her own thoughts. Thoughts like, 'why is all of this happening to me? How did I ever manage to get myself into so much trouble. What was that man looking for last night? And why couldn't Liz just let me go back home without making such a fuss?' So many questions with very few answers in sight.
What seemed like an eternity passed before she heard a soft knock on her door. Reluctantly, she pushed herself up off of the bed with a slight wince and headed to answer the door. Patiently waiting on the other side of the door in the hallway was a young blond haired man about her age wearing a friendly smile. By the way he was dressed, she guessed he was the man sent to help her with her baggage.
Forcing a smile onto her face, she stepped aside and graciously let in the young man. She saw the young man's smile falter for a moment as he caught sight of her discolored jaw. Thankfully, he said nothing of it and went about gathering her luggage in silence.
He reached for her laptop case and oversized handbag, which were both sitting on the bed, only to be stopped by Haley. "No no, I'll get that myself." She smiled as she grabbed the bags herself and threw them both over her shoulder on her uninjured side.
Nodding in understanding and a smile, he bent down and gathered the suitcase and duffel bag on the floor next to the bed. With one in each hand, he turned and left for the door. Stealing one final glance around the room to make sure she had everything and then she was on her way as well.
As they walked past Liz's room, Haley hesitated a moment as her emotions battled within her. She wanted desperately to knock and say she was sorry, but her guilt urged her down the hallway. She lowered her eyes to the floor and continued on after the young man. Her eyes came up as she took one final glance backwards, longing to straighten things out between her and Liz. But she knew they both needed time to cool down.
The rest of the walk to the main lobby entrance was quiet and uneventful. Haley did however notice the young man periodically glancing back to her with a concerned look. If he had something on his mind, he didn't voice it.
When they stepped through the entrance a taxi was already waiting for them. Talking briefly to the taxi driver in German, the blond haired man nodded and proceeded to place the luggage in the waiting trunk. Haley thanked him and slipped him a few dollars worth in Deutschmarks before entering the taxi.
"The Vienna airport please." She directed as she slumped into the backseat of the taxi mentally exhausted.
The drive to the airport was uneventful. Occasionally, the jovial taxi driver had tried to strike up a conversation with his quiet passenger, but Haley never took the bait. She gave all his questions a single word reply until finally he gave up on the conversation.
Once they arrived at the airport, Haley thanked him and paid him as she exited the vehicle. He stepped out of the car and helped her take the baggage out of the trunk of his car. Again she thanked him as she gathered her baggage, refusing any more help from the taxi driver. Luckily she didn't have many to carry, but it was still enough to make her wince in pain more than once.
She carefully balanced her duffel bag over one shoulder and her suitcase in the same hand as the duffel bag opposite her injured side. Her laptop case and handbag were the lightest of her baggage so she carried them on her injured side, still careful not to accidentally swing them into her ribs.
She realized that she had gotten to the airport a little later than she had intended and therefore had very little time to board the small jet plane that would connect her with another flight from Frankfurt to Toronto.
Quickly Haley checked in her two larger bags to be placed in the cargo hold of the plane, while she kept the laptop and handbag with her. Just as she relieved herself of the heavy bags, she caught sight of a younger couple walking past her glancing back as inconspicuously as possible. She realized with slight annoyance that they were staring at the dreadful bruise on her face. She ignored their stares as best as she could and went to sit in the waiting area to relax a bit before they called for the passengers to begin boarding the flight.
As she sat down on one of the row of chairs, she grabbed up a paper that was sitting on the seat next to her. As she scanned over it, she noticed with dismay that it was all in German. 'Figures.' She sighed as she put it back down on the chair. She looked around a bit and found an English 'Peoples' magazine sitting on the chair opposite her.
Relieved to find a distraction while she waited, she eagerly picked it up. Just as she was sitting back down in her own chair she heard her name being called.
"Haley?" She heard the gentle, boyish voice call tentatively.
She looked from her seat to see a familiar dark haired steward approach her in shorts and a T-shirt with a huge grin. "Haley, it is you! I never thought we'd meet up again. What a great surprise!"
Standing up to meet the steward from her flight over to Europe, she held out her hand to shake his in greeting as she fumbled for his name. "Reece?" She tested the name hesitantly.
"The one and only!" He confirmed with a firm handshake, which, abruptly stopped as he noticed the terrible bruise on her face. "What happened to you? Looks like you were on the losing end of a run in with a bus!" He said with very little tact.
"That about sums it up." She replied with a forced smile, biting back any rude comments. "So, what're you doing here?" She asked, hoping to change the subject.
"I'm taking the flight to Frankfurt so I'm not late for work. I'm going out on a Boeing 747 later this evening." He said excitedly. "It'll be my first."
"Good for you." She smiled genuinely at his excitement.
Just then, they broke off their conversation as they listened to the male voice announce over the intercom that the flight they were waiting for was now boarding.
"Well," Haley started as she bent to pick up her baggage. "That's my flight."
"It's my flight too. Guess we'll be flying to Frankfurt together." He observed and then added with a wink. "It'll give us a chance to get to know one another better."
"Sure." She drawled with mock enthusiasm. 'Sigh. This is going to be a long flight.'
"Here, let me help you with those." He offered as he reached out for her baggage.
"No, that's fine, thank you. I've got 'em." She smiled as she refused his generous offer.
"Just trying to show off my gentlemanly skills." He said with a charming smile and a twinkle in his eyes. "Besides, it'll give me a chance to see who I'm suppose to marry." He laughed referring to Liz's tactics in trying to set them up before.
His cheery disposition was infectious as Haley couldn't resist a chuckle. 'Shy, he is not.' Were her thoughts as she fell into step beside him, shaking her head slightly still wearing a smile.
Surprised, Haley spun around to see whom else she could possibly know here. Walking towards her from the entrance wearing stylish, comfortable black slacks, a loose white blouse with a jacket was Sandra Watson. Her long dark hair swayed gently about her shoulders as she hauled off her dark sunglasses to regard the novelist eye to eye.
Even at thirty feet apart, the embassy worker's baby blue eyes were amazing.
"Whoa! Who's that?" Reece said unconsciously out loud as his jaw dropped slightly.
'Only two seconds ago he was flirting with me and now he's gawking over her with me right here! Men have no shame.' She thought with a measure of irk.
"You go on ahead Reece, I'll see you on the plane." She said as she turned to look at Reece. 'Not if I'm lucky.' She sighed inwardly, rolling her eyes.
"Maybe I can stick around. You never know, you ladies might need a man to help you out." He smiled hopefully.
"Reece...;go." She said starting to get a little irritated by his conflicting demeanor.
Snapping out of his stupor, he looked at Haley and heard another call to board the plane. "All right then. See you on the plane." He walked towards the gate, frequently glancing back with a wishful smile on his face.
"Miss Connors, I was hoping to have a word with you before you left."
Haley swung herself back around to regard the soft, but commanding female voice. "Do you think you can make it quick. I have a plane to catch."
"I'll make it as quick as possible." She smiled reassuringly. "Shall we?" Her hand swept towards a more discrete place to talk.
Haley obligingly followed the tall woman to some chairs in one of the less populated corners of the airport. As she seated herself, Miss Watson's penetrating gaze held her for a moment as they examined the bruise on her jaw. "Nasty." Miss Watson said indicating the bruise.
At that moment, something inside of Haley clicked. As her eyes followed Miss Watson down to a chair, a flash of recognition hit her. Her mind put the pieces together. This woman in front of her was there last night, in her room. Her eyes went wide with the realization. Though the face she had envisioned in her mind's eye was covered in camouflage make-up, she couldn't dismiss the uncanny resemblance and the piercingly blue eyes.
"Is something the matter?" Sandra Watson inquired at the odd expression, which suddenly crossed Haley's face.
For a moment, Haley's voice refused to cooperate with her. Her body tensed as she tried to decide if this woman meant her harm or perhaps was the person who had helped her. Either way, she was not who she said she was. There was more to this woman than she let on. Squaring her gaze and setting her jaw, she took on a calmer look.
"Who are you?" She demanded with a strong, unafraid voice. Her body involuntarily tried to slink away from the woman sitting across from her.
"Are you feeling all right Miss Connors?" Asked the now concerned embassy worker.
"I remember you. You were there weren't you? In my room last night." She said more rhetorically than not.
She watched as Miss Watson's face changed subtly. Gone was the concerned embassy worker as it was replaced by the calm, serious look of someone who was use to taking charge of a situation.
Sighing deeply, the dark haired woman chose her next words carefully. "Yes I was. But I wasn't there to hurt you. You just got mixed up in something more complex than a simple murder."
"So it's just standard procedure for all embassy employees to break into people's rooms and just happen to save the occupants life from a psychotic thief?" Haley asked matter-of-factly as she watched a faint questioning look enter the woman's eyes. "I know you must have saved me because the man trying to kill me had hazel eyes. Yours are baby blue." She answered the dark haired woman's unasked question, silently putting the pieces together herself.
'Very observant.' Kat noted mentally.
"So who are you?" Haley asked bluntly, though visibly more relaxed.
For a moment as Haley waited for an answer, she began to wonder if the woman would answer her or not. But after a few seconds of contemplation, the mysterious woman finally deemed her trustworthy enough to confide to.
"First off, I don't work for the Canadian embassy." She stated straightforward. "And my name isn't Sandra Watson."
"I kind of thought so." Haley replied with half a smile, which surprisingly the other woman reciprocated. She had so many questions she wanted to just blurt out, but she let this woman tell her story at her own pace.
"And as for my name, my friends call me Kat."
Haley thought this over for a moment and then asked curiously. "Kat? That's it?"
With a smile, Kat replied. "For now, it's just Kat, yes."
"Why?" Haley asked jokingly. "Would you have to kill me if you told me your whole name?"
With a serious look, Kat answered her. "Something like that."
Haley's smile dropped from her face as she regarded the woman sitting across from her with inquisitive eyes. Leaning forward a bit, she asked her next question nearly in a whisper. "Are you a spy or something?"
Mirroring the young novelist's movement, she leaned in as well and answered in an equally low tone. "Yes."
Haley sat back in her chair with a look of complete wonder. "Wow." She breathed with an air of astonishment.
Affording the young novelist another quick grin, Kat now stood up from her chair. "I have more to say, but this isn't the best place to talk. Follow me."
"Ya, sure." The novelist replied, still amazed at the revelation. By this time, the final boarding call for Haley's flight had already been announced. Haley's mind completely forgot about her flight as she gathered up her two carry-on bags, also forgetting about her pained side. The painful bruise quickly reminded Haley of that fact as she winced in pain and put her bags back down.
"How're those ribs?" Kat inquired with a hint of concern.
Surprised that she knew about her bruised ribs, Haley suddenly felt a bit shy as she felt her face begin to redden. 'Of course she knows, she was probably the one who dressed you!' She reasoned with herself before realizing, with chagrin, that she had been unconscious and probably bore it all to this stranger.
As if picking up on Haley's thoughts, Kat added with a wry grin. "If it makes you feel better, you have nothing to be embarrassed about."
"Thanks." She said with another embarrassed smile, looking everywhere but at the woman in front of her.
As they walked out a side entrance of the airport, Haley's mind was still in a state of embarrassment and shock from everything that was revealed in the last few minutes. She was still reeling. And then Kat stopped in front of a brand new black Jeep Grande Cherokee. As she looked at it, she thought it looked more prepared for the woods than city roads with its large gold colored push bar on the front. On top of the jeep was another set of racks while it sported a large set of tires ready to go through anything. There was none of the common flaring usually associated with the vehicle.
"Nice." Haley breathed appreciatively.
Kat smiled to herself as she went ahead and unlocked the passenger side door. She gently placed the baggage she was carrying onto the floor behind the passenger seat before walking around and unlocking the driver side door.
Haley climbed into the jeep, settling comfortably in the plush beige leather seats. Just as she closed the door, Kat was just hopping into her seat. After she closed her door, she turned and regarded Haley with a serious look.
"What I'm about to tell you here is not to be passed on to anybody. Not to your sister Elizabeth or your dead cat Merlin."
Haley couldn't hide the surprise from her face as Kat mentioned her dead cat. How she knew about him, she would probably never know. But obligingly, she conceded to the conditions with a silent nod of her head.
Satisfied, Kat began filling Haley in on the situation. "I'm an operative of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also known as CSIS."
"CSIS? I've heard of them, but to be honest, I didn't think they involved themselves like this. I mean, I thought this whole 'spy' business was over years ago."
"You'd be surprised at what CSIS and the rest of the world is actually involved in. Unlike our counterparts in the States and some other countries, we're not as commonly known as others. That gives us more opportunity to do what has to be done without being bogged down by the media trying to expose this or that. That's not to say we don't have our own little secrets, it just means we have enough trouble with certain matters and officials without the added headache of the media. We try to keep them happy by being as honest as possible with their questions and not becoming front page news."
Haley nodded appreciatively to the logic of it. She always thought it was counter-productive to have so much known about these agencies, what with all the movie-makers and such attempting to portray them as accurately as possible. Who knows how much their enemies actually gained from these portrayals?
History 101 aside, she continued onto the matter at hand. "As to our current situation, I was sent to investigate the murder of another agent; the man killed in your presence. We have reason to believe he may have slipped you important information, but what it was we don't yet know." Kat paused once again for Haley to absorb this information. Dawning and understanding flashed across her soft features as everything in the past few days started to fall into place.
"The only problem is, that those responsible for our agent's murder are also looking for whatever information he had gained. Which brings us to the attack on you last night." Again she paused as she read the questions in Haley's eyes.
"So you knew that thug would try to kill me and that's why you were there?" Haley asked, trying to put all the recent events in their rightful places.
"Not exactly." Kat replied honestly. "I was there to try and find that information. I was interrupted by your attacker and had to hide."
"Why didn't you do something when that jerk started pounding on me?" Haley asked, a touch of anger seeping into her voice.
"I didn't know he was going to do that. Up until that moment, I thought you were just an innocent bystander. With his appearance, the possibility that you were in league with them crossed my mind. So, I stayed quiet and tried to gather as much information as I could. When he started in on you, I was ready to jump out in your defense, but quickly saw that you were handling yourself very nicely I might add. Then I saw the tide turning against you and I took care of him."
"You mean you killed him?" Haley asked hesitantly.
"No. I scared him off."
Haley let out a silent breath of relief. In light of everything Kat had just told her, she now felt somewhat ashamed for getting angry a few minutes ago at Kat's apparent lack of help. "Thank you for saving my life." Haley finally added sheepishly, not knowing what else to say.
"You're welcome." Kat smiled.
Just then, the sound of a jet plane taking off nearby caught Haley's attention and reminded her of her own flight. "Oh damn!" She cursed softly making Kat regard the young Canadian with a single raised eyebrow.
"What's wrong?" Kat asked, unsure of what it was that suddenly had the younger woman in a rush.
"I'm going to miss my flight!" Quickly, Haley turned in her seat and fumbled to open the door.
Kat looked up into the sky before placing a gentle, but firm hand on Haley's forearm. "I'm afraid that was your flight." Kat said indicating with a nod at the departing plane with a regretful tone.
"No." Haley lamented softly as she watched the plane climb higher into the sky. "There goes my flight home and my luggage!"
"I'm sorry Haley. I never meant for you to miss your plane." Kat said apologetically.
Slowly, Haley twisted in her seat to face Kat. "I should have been paying more attention to the departure time." She offered with a partial smile of disappointment.
With those words spoken, a sudden blazing flash of light tore through the clear blue sky as a thunderous explosion met their ears.
"What in the hell...;?" Kat exclaimed as she twisted back and forth in her seat to see what was happening.
"What was that?" Haley jumped at the sudden, unexpected flash of light and noise hailing from the sky.
As the two women squinted through the tinted windows of the jeep to gaze upon the blinding flash in the sky, Haley slowly began to step out of the jeep mesmerized. Her hand quickly shot up to shield her eyes from the glaring sun and the fireball in the sky. "Oh my God." She whispered in disbelief at the sight in the sky.
There, before her very eyes, was the plane she was supposed to be on engulfed in a huge inferno. Her eyes went wide with horror as she painfully watched the small plane fall uncontrollably to the ground in a ball of fire. Here and there, she could see separate smaller pieces of the plane fly from the main body, striking the earth separately.
Kat jumped out of the jeep as well; dread filling her body as she watched the horrific sight. Out of force of habit, Kat's keen eyes studiously scanned their surroundings. "Shit." She whispered, as something suspiciously familiar caught her eye.
There, near the side entrance of the building, stood a dark non-descript man staring at them with an intense look of consternation upon his face. He removed the dark sunglasses he had been wearing and regarded them more closely, his agitation growing with each passing second. Her sharp eyes glimpsed him cursing vehemently as he dashed for a black Audi.
"Haley, in the jeep, now!" Kat commanded firmly as she jumped back in herself. With an air of urgency, she quickly punched the keys into the ignition and started the engine. Anxiously, Kat glanced over to Haley as she continued to gap at the disaster in stunned silence, unmoving.
"I said now!" She yelled as she reached over and grabbed the shocked woman by the arm, yanking her unceremoniously into the jeep.
"Hey!" Haley yelped, partially in pain, but mostly in protest.
Gunning the engine, the jeep roared out of the airport parking lot as the sirens of fire engines and emergency rescue vehicles screamed through the air.
"Kat, what's going on?" She asked with a touch of panic in her voice as she hurriedly buckled the seat belt. Her eyes unconsciously wandered back to the scene of the plane crashing into the ground in a fiery explosion several kilometers away from the end of the airstrip. She found it hard to tear her eyes away from the disastrous scene.
"Jesus!" Kat swore with venom out loud as she drove on.
"What is it?" Haley demanded as she tore her eyes away from the wreck to turn them back upon Kat. The fear and panic she felt was very close to the surface now.
"We've got to get you out of here." She responded with urgency in her voice.
So many scenarios raced through her mind at the sound of the urgency in Kat's voice. The horror of what had just transpired at the airport had left her speechless and bewildered. And now this new development that had Kat so concerned was beginning to scare her. Her mind took in everything with a touch of surrealism. She shook her head unbelievingly; almost as though this were all a very bad dream and that she would wake up from this horrible nightmare at any moment.
They had been traveling for gods knew how long, when she suddenly felt the jeep being violently rammed from the rear end. This unexpected jolt reminded her that this was not a dream, but reality. Blinking several times, Haley realized with a little alarm that someone was purposely smashing into the jeep. Panic welled within her as she desperately looked around trying to catch a glimpse of who was trying to run them off of the road.
While she twisted about, she noticed with alarm that they were still in the city on a fairly busy street. The Audi ventured up along the left side of the jeep; rear ending a small Volkswagen out of his way into on-coming traffic. Screeching tires ripped through the traffic air as the sound of metal colliding with metal grated on their ears.
"Look out!" Haley yelled wide-eyed as an on coming car swerved into their lane, trying to avoid the accident ahead of him. The Audi slammed on his brakes and swerved back in behind the Cherokee. Kat's lightning reflexes helped her to swerve away from the on coming vehicle avoiding one accident, while narrowly missing another as she cut in front of a red car in the next lane to her rightside.
Haley's heart pounded furiously in her chest at all the near misses. Breathing hard, Haley glanced over to Kat, whose face had taken on a suddenly hard look. "Hold on!" Kat warned unexpectedly as the smaller vehicle once again found itself alongside the jeep and cut sharply into the them. The smashing steel bodies whined loudly as they connected not once but twice.
Kat fought with the steering wheel to keep from running into any other cars as the Audi smashed repeatedly into the jeep. She came dangerously close several times to smashing into other innocent cars but managed to hold out. She glanced quickly over to her assailant to try and gauge his next attack.
An observant eye caught the familiar gleam of steel in the driver's hand. "Get down!" Kat yelled as her hand shot out towards Haley and forced her head down between her knees. Barely seconds later, she heard the stinging shots of bullets ricocheting off of the Cherokee's body.
Haley cautiously peeked up to Kat who was reaching her hand inside her black blazer. Within seconds, Kat hauled out a small gun. "Oh my god." Haley whispered as she folded her arms over her head protectively.
Seeing all the cars about and pedestrians on the sidewalks, Kat knew she couldn't openly fire her gun. She was going to have to take this somewhere a little less populated. Already, several cars had been forced into one another because of this dangerous chase. She meant to put a stop to this nonsense. Her eyes scanned the road before her and recognized that one of those side roads conveniently lead down to a quieter road.
Daringly, Kat cut across the busy lanes, barely letting up on the gas pedal, and down a narrow double-lane road. A quick look over her shoulder told her the Audi hadn't slowed any and continued after its query. The traffic was thinning out quickly enabling her to increase her speed. The Audi had no trouble catching up as it swerved out into the opposite lane on the left and pulled up alongside the Cherokee once again.
Kat saw the driver's hand reach out of his window brandishing a pistol and aiming it over the roof of the car at the jeep. Before he could fire off any shots, she hastily jerked the wheel towards the car, ramming its battered side once again.
The black Audi jumped up onto the empty sidewalk as sparks flew from the bottom of the car when it hit the lip of the walkway. Just as he frantically cut the wheel to resume his chase on the road, a garbage can got in his way as he smashed through it with ease. Wipers flared to life as they frantically tried to sweep away the discarded garbage left behind on his windshield.
Another shot rang out through the air as a bullet crashed through one of the back windows of the jeep. Kat peered up the street ahead of them to all the looming buildings and finally saw a way to finish this once and for all. Not far ahead, she saw a large city garbage truck getting ready to pull out of one of the smaller side roads on the left side.
It was still a ways off, but she'd wager her pursuer hadn't noticed it or its intentions of pulling out. 'Gotta time this just right.' She thought calculatingly. Her foot steadily pushed down on the accelerator bringing her up to a break neck speed. A quick glance to her side told her that the black car was following her just as she planned. With a press of a button, the power window on the driver's side slowly descended. With a clear shot now, she quickly aimed the gun at the tires of the slightly trailing car.
Unfortunately, the clear and present threat of the large steel garbage truck ahead also became apparent to the occupant of the Audi at the last minute. Just as she was about to pull the trigger, his car slammed into the jeep desperately trying to avoid the danger ahead of him. The sudden collision threw her aim off as she accidentally fired off a wild shot.
From the corner of her eye, Kat noticed the uncontrolled projectile explode through the windshield of her pursuer's car. Suddenly, the car lurched chaotically into the jeep as the sound of twisting metal ripped through the air. The Canadian agent cut the wheel away from the car only to discover the two vehicles were somehow caught on one another slowing down the steering response time.
Alarmed, Kat saw the garbage truck almost directly in front of her. There wasn't enough room to brake and the truck stopped suddenly in the middle of the street anxiously trying to back up and away from the approaching vehicles. Kat knew by the short distance remaining that any attempt at braking wouldn't work. They were just going too fast. A quick calculating glance told her that the large truck's slow response time wouldn't get the lumbering beast out of their way in time for them to avoid it.
Her gun dropped to the floor of the jeep as she desperately clutched the steering wheel with both hands and fought to try and dislodge the two vehicles. With a yell of defiance, Kat strained powerfully against the steering wheel as she heard something on the outside snap. The steering wheel spun with a sudden ease that nearly sent her flying off of her seat. The Cherokee snapped away, narrowly missing the truck. The Audi, still clutching onto a portion of the back bumper of the jeep, was not so lucky.
Tires screamed in rebellion as the jeep was thrown into a spin when the front corner of the Audi collided powerfully with the front side of the garbage truck and jerked the jeep violently. While Kat applied the brakes tensely, she fought determinedly with the steering wheel to regain control of the wild jeep. The jeep's occupants were jerked about in their seats as the jeep jumped over the curb. It slid towards one of the many tall stone buildings towering over the streets, finally jerking to a violent halt as the passenger side of the jeep smashed into a solid stonewall.
Haley felt her whole body slamming up against the door, while the arm closest to the window that had been raised to protect her head smashed through the window. At the same moment, she felt a painful jab into her injured side. However, her cry of pain had been drowned out by the sound of the impact as the steel of the jeep twisted and screeched in protest.
Opposite her, Kat's head smashed into the steering wheel, her vice-like grip never faltering. Kat felt the jarring pain explode through her head as she felt the jeep finally coming to a stop. She closed her eyes momentarily to stop the spinning in her head.
Moments later, once reality had stopped spiraling through her head, Kat slowly raised her bleeding forehead from the steering wheel to assess their situation. Her hand softly touched the wound on her head as she looked out at the small gathering of people around the wrecked vehicles. Before she could do anything else, a soft moan to her right had her glancing to Haley with a worried look of concern. She reached out to the young blond woman with a tentative hand. "Are you all right?"
Groaning and clutching at her already injured side with a bloodied arm; Haley looked at her with a wince of pain. "Where did you learn to drive?" She tried to joke, but found that the small chuckle she elicited caused her pain. "Ow!" She moaned as her eyes closed shut to try and will away the pain.
"Here, let me see." Kat offered as she quickly unbuckled her own seat belt and leaned over to inspect the wound, undoing Haley's belt in the process. Gently, she lifted Haley's beige T-shirt over the wound to look at what pained her. Gingerly, knowing fingers reached out and gently prodded the affected area.
"Ow, ow stop!" Haley hissed in a pained voice as her body instinctively tried to pull away.
Hauling her fingers back, Kat looked at her with a serious look. "You may have a broken rib. And by the look of that gash on your forearm, you may need some stitches." She said gently prying the injured arm from her ribs to inspect it.
She gently tried to wipe away the blood from the gash on Haley's arm to examine the cut more clearly. Her eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she spied a small sliver of glass imbedded in the wound amidst the blood.
With years of experience, Kat knew she had to make sure the piece of glass hadn't severed any major arteries before attempting to haul out the foreign object. The last thing she needed was Haley bleeding to death because she didn't use proper caution. Satisfied the piece of glass presented no major problems, she proceeded to inform Haley of her intentions.
"You have a piece of glass in your arm Haley. I'm going to haul it out, but it will probably hurt a bit." She said making sure to lock her eyes with Haley's for a moment to catch her expression.
"All right." Haley said licking her suddenly dry lips. "Do it."
Giving Haley a slight nod, she bent back down to her task. She carefully swept away the glass off of Haley's lap and then turned her attention back to the bloody arm. Steadily, Kat's index finger and thumb gripped the protruding object. However, as she began to pull, her blood soaked fingers slipped off of the glass.
"Shit." She whispered a curse. Her eyes scanned for something to help her keep her grip. She glanced at Haley's untucked, baggy shirt. She grabbed the end of the shirt, put it between her index finger and thumb and gripped the piece of glass once again.
Kat heard Haley grind her teeth to try and keep back her whimpers of protest as the foreign object was hauled from her arm.
"Got it." Kat announced triumphantly, tossing the piece of glass out the window, which was devoid of glass.
She looked to Haley as the young novelist opened her eyes with a sigh of relief, which was suddenly replaced by pain.
Haley nodded in affirmation."Do you think you can hang in there for just a little while longer?"
Haley gave Kat another pained nod.
"Good. Here," Kat said taking off her blazer and handing it to Haley. "Wrap this around your arm to try and staunch the flow of blood until we can fix you up."
Haley gratefully accepted the proffered jacket and proceeded to do as she was told when suddenly a woman's scream averted both Kat's and Haley's attention. The scream was followed by panicked words hysterically spoken in German.
"What's going on?" Haley asked curiously.
Kat listened for a moment and realized the woman was yelling 'He's dead, he's dead!'
'Well, that saves me some trouble.' Kat thought without humor to herself before turning to answer Haley's question. She was trying to decide if she should tell her the truth or not. Looking into the younger woman's eyes, the powerful determination behind the pained look convinced her that Haley could probably handle the truth. "That woman is screaming 'he's dead'."
Haley's eyes lowered momentarily with a slight look of sadness only to rise back to meet Kat's eyes with an understanding look. She nodded silently as Kat's words were absorbed. The secret agent saw no reason for telling the young woman that it was her wild shot earlier that killed the man and not the collision.
Suddenly, their attention was drawn to a younger looking man walking up to the Cherokee and cautiously peering inside at the two women with a look of concern. He said a few words in German to Kat who responded back in German. After a brief discussion, Kat nodded and gave the man a wave of dismissal. The man was persistent and refused to leave the jeep's side as he sputtered more words in German. Kat impatiently turned a dour look onto the man, which forced him back several steps.
Without giving the man another consideration, Kat put her hand to the key in the ignition and turned it. She was relieved to hear the engine turn over on the first attempt. Before shifting into gear, Kat stole a final glance back at the demolished Audi wondering what sort of trouble lay ahead for them.
Unconsciously, this thought brought her eyes to regard the young novelist. She could tell Haley was in pain, but bravely put up a strong front. She wanted to say something reassuringly to her, but found no words were forthcoming. Sensitive chats were never her strong point. Instead, she took a deep relaxing breath and threw the jeep into gear. She took extra care not to jolt Haley around anymore than she had to as she slowly drove over the curb.
"Where are we going?" Haley asked trying to keep the pain off of her face.
"Somewhere safe to treat those ribs of yours and get to the bottom of all this." Kat responded with a slight glance towards the younger woman.
"Why not take me to the hospital?" Haley asked, thinking the hospital the most sensible place to go and get treated.
"Too risky." Was all she offered as an explanation.
Haley mulled over this response. Whether she agreed with it or not, Kat didn't know as the young woman remained silent. Protectively, Kat kept an eye to the young Canadian. The welfare of the novelist had become very important to her. She argued with herself that it was just because Haley unknowingly possessed information that she needed. That was as good a reason as any to keep the young woman alive. 'Ya right. You just keep telling yourself that Kat.' She thought in a self-mocking tone.
The warm, comfortable early afternoon sun had done little to raise Liz's spirits after her sister left without so much as a 'goodbye'. She thought that the walk around the forested hotel grounds would help clear her mind more than it did. It didn't. She noted how miserable she still felt at how she and her sister had parted ways. But, the walk also gave her time to think of the fight and its circumstances.
Thinking back now, she couldn't help but kind of agree with Haley's way of thinking. After all that Haley had gone through over this past weekend, she would've wanted to get home as soon as possible if she were in Haley's place. But couldn't Haley see that a doctor should have checked out the ugly bruise on her face? Maybe she was being too insistent. Too stubborn. She didn't know. But there was something else going on that Liz wasn't sure of. There was something about the story Haley told her that made Liz wonder about its legitimacy.
True, Haley had a way of being 'active' while asleep and had on occasion woken with a new bump or bruise when they were kids. But never anything as bad as the one she saw on her sister's face that morning. And the look in Haley's eyes, had she been crying all through the night? So many questions. But she felt relieved that once Haley was back in Canada she would be able to call and work things out. After all, they were sisters who occasionally got caught up in the grip of an argument or some other form of sibling rivalry, only to resolve their differences soon after.
Finally reaching her room, she extended her hand with the key and opened the door. Upon entering the room, Liz heard the German news station was on.
"Heinrich, I'm back." Liz announced, catching sight of her husband sitting on the end of the bed, attentively glued to the TV.
With an anguished look, Heinrich turned to his wife as he slowly began to rise from the bed. "Liz," he began, "maybe you should listen to this."
With a look of apprehension, Liz slowly made her way to her husband in front of the TV. She began to lower herself next to him on the end of the bed as he bent in closer to turn up the volume. "Heinrich? What is it?"
"There's been a terrible accident." He said as he motioned for her to watch the television. With rapt attention, she listened on.
"...;Crashed less than an hour ago." The gray haired newscaster was saying in his native German language with a grave look on his face. Without looking at the papers he held in front of him on his desk, he continued on. "Officials are not releasing any information on what caused the terrible crash of flight 107. However, according to our sources, there is a distinct possibility that a bomb may have been aboard the flight. At this time, it is not confirmed how many have been lost to this tragedy, but it is feared that there are no survivors."
"No." Liz said in a small voice unable to believe what she was hearing. "That can't be. They must have made a mistake. That's Haley's flight."
Quietly, Heinrich slipped a comforting arm around his wife's shoulders as she shook her head in denial. "I'm sorry Liz." He said as his saddened eyes locked with those of his wife's. "I'm afraid it is true."
"No. Not Haley." The brunette spoke defiantly as she untwined herself from her husband's strong arms and made her way to the telephone. "She can't be dead. She's a survivor." She said, trying to fight back the tears that pooled in her eyes and threatened to spill down her cheeks.
With a sniff and a quick wipe to her eyes with the back of her hand, she picked up the phone and began dialing. Heinrich listened as she began talking in German to an official at the airport. He watched on in silence with a heavy heart as Liz posed her questions. With each apparent answer, the hopeful look in his wife's eyes slowly dimmed, her shoulders began to sag. Unconsciously, she half turned her back to him as she listened to the person on the other end of the phone line.
He slowly got up and quietly moved to his wife's side as he listened to her voice suddenly beginning to crack with emotion. He spied the desolate look slowly spreading over her features as the receiver fell from her ear and went limp in her hand down by her side. He saw her shoulders shuddering before he saw tears freely flowing down her face. He opened his arms to his wife as she absently dropped the receiver and buried her tear stained face into his comforting chest.
"This...;shouldn't...;" she sniffed, "...;have happened." She cried uncontrollably into his chest.
"Shh...;" He lulled softly into her ear. He knew they found no body as of yet. But the chances of his sister-in-law surviving didn't look good. He had to be strong for his wife. They had to be able accept the possibility that Haley was gone.
He held onto his wife for a long time, conveying all his love and support into the embrace. The room was quiet except for Liz's crying and the casual banter from the television. He knew Haley Connors was going to be sorely missed by all who knew her and loved her.
After nearly an hour of driving, they had long ago left behind the bustling city of Vienna for its lovely countryside. Both women had kept to themselves the entire trip, each involved with their own thoughts.
Haley tried to concentrate her attention on the beautiful countryside they were driving through, but her eyes hardly saw the picturesque scenes as they passed. The simple act of breathing had turned into an up hill struggle. She found it more than difficult to take a quick, short breath let alone a deep one without feeling a sharp painful stab in her side.
'At least I'm still alive.' She thought grimly.
Her mind wandered unbidden to the plane and all the people who had lost their lives. All those lives were forfeited as soon as she had booked a seat on that flight. How many of them had a husband? A wife? Children? Brother or sister? The lives of those innocent people had been cut short just to destroy a disk and one person who may or may not know of its contents: her.
And Reece. He was so young and full of life. He died because of her. They all did. She couldn't shake off the gut-wrenching knot in her stomach. She felt terrible for trying to get rid of him, for trying to ignore him. This wasn't the way she wanted to accomplish that task.
She kept her head turned out towards the passing scenery to try and hide the wisps of tears that found their way to her eyes and down her cheeks. Her wind tossed hair helped mask their passing.
Sitting in thought, chewing through the details, a bump sent a shot of pain through her. Haley noted that even when the breathing or the memories didn't hurt so much, the bumps on the road were right there to bring her back to reality with a jolt of pain. She also discovered, much to her dismay, that had the road they were driving on been bump free, the damaged Cherokee would have more than made up for the lack of bumps. The jeep seemed to create a constant bump all its own as one of the rear wheels wobbled slightly.
Her body was familiar with the pain from a cracked rib, which she had acquired during a sparing match once in her martial arts class a few years back. After she had won a match against a spiteful man, he had attacked her as she was leaving the sparing circle in a vain attempt at salvaging his hurt male ego.
In the end, he had cracked and bruised her ribs in an under handed attack. A barely perceptible smile found its way to her lips as she remembered the broken jaw she had given him as a keepsake of his dishonorable behavior.
She painfully noted that the difference between now and then was the ability to relax. She didn't have to fight against the constant interruptions, or the constant bumps, which kept her in continuous pain. Oh, how her body cried out for a soft, warm bed.
Kat on the other hand, was plagued by the thoughts of the disk and what secrets it held that have cost approximately 50 people on board that small plane their lives. She wondered whether or not the disk was in the baggage that had found its way on board the doomed plane. Maybe it was in the small bags Haley now carried with her. Either way, now was not the time to find out. She had to get them to a safe haven before anything else happened.
Periodically, Kat would glance over at her unforeseen charge. At first, she thought that Haley Connors was just a tourist who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Part of her wanted to just take what she was looking for and have nothing more to do with this woman. She even found part of herself trying to blame Haley for the death of those fifty odd people on the plane. That maybe Haley really was in league with the Kynak and that if she killed her, everything would be ok. Of course, she knew that was just ludicrous thinking.
Rational thought and instinct told her that Haley wasn't the enemy, but just as much a victim as those fifty odd people on the plane. Albeit, a very lucky woman with a watchful guardian angel on her shoulder.
And worse of all, Haley had this disarming personality that always managed to cut through her carefully built defenses. Never before had she felt so exposed to anybody than the way she felt when she was with Haley Connors. It was a very unnerving feeling for her.
Soon, as the buildings thinned out and the fields seemed to be all that there was here, Kat saw the stone home she was looking for. She was half way up the long driveway and pulling in behind the house before announcing their arrival to her distant passenger.
"We're here." Haley heard Kat say from what seemed like another world. Her eyes fought through the haze of pain to focus on her surroundings.
The jeep pulled up to a large old, non-descript single level house. She looked around the yard and saw a large white barn behind the house and nothing else but an open expanse of rolling fields for as far as the eye could see trimmed by a fence. Little specks of white freckled the land here and there in the distance. As she squinted, Haley came to realize that the little white flecks were grazing sheep. Further off into the distance, she could make out a hazy blue mountain range.
While gazing out at the serene mountain range and grazing sheep, Haley had momentarily forgotten her pain as she let a slow smile creep up onto her face. And then she breathed in the fresh air deeply. 'Ow!' She grimaced with pain. 'Damn it!' Her mind hissed as her ribs once again reminded her of their suffering.
She had just leaned her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes as she heard her door open. She cracked open her eyes and saw Kat's dazzling blue eyes looking back at her. Though, she had to admit, not a single thing could be read from Kat's neutral expression.
"Come on. Time to get you checked out." Kat said, her even voice cutting through Haley's ache.
Slowly, Haley swung her legs out the door and proceeded to get out of the jeep. She felt the biting stab from her injuries coming on as her teeth instinctively clenched tightly to fight back the pain with determination. 'Mind over matter Haley. Mind over matter.' She recited to herself, trying to convince her mind that it felt no pain, with little success.
Haley noticed Kat had taken a step back, affording Haley some room to maneuver by herself. However, she also took in Kat's stance and nearness. Haley observed that the Canadian agent was near enough to help. But right now, her stubbornness to prove she could handle herself prevailed. She wasn't about to ask for Kat's help.
Determinedly, Haley grasped the jeep door and slowly slid herself out of the jeep. After a few painstaking minutes, she waved off Kat's offered hand and finally made it to her feet. She knew better than to try and straighten to her full height knowing full well that this would only cause her added pain. With her wounded arm clutched protectively to her injured ribs, she turned her attention to Kat.
For a split second, she thought she saw an approving look cross the tall woman's face but it was gone just as quickly. Kat turned and began walking towards the quaint home at a slow enough pace for Haley to comfortably follow. Haley stood her ground for a moment as she tried to determine what to make of this mysterious woman. Finally, Haley shrugged to herself and painfully followed her savior with a dozen questions on the tip of her tongue.
"So," she started, "where are we?"
Without looking back, Kat answered. "Somewhere safe. The less you know, the safer you are."
For some reason, this response triggered an acrid emotion. "The less I know?" Haley questioned with a hint of sarcasm beginning to creep into her voice. "People are trying to kill me for information I don't know. If you ask me, it seems that maybe if I knew more, I might be safer."
Kat stopped walking and turned an icy look towards the young novelist. They locked gazes for a long moment. The silence of their stare was almost deafening. Kat opened her mouth as if to say something, but quickly closed it without uttering a word.
'The kid's got spunk.' She thought mildly amused, but made sure to keep that to herself.
"Knowledge can be dangerous. Do you think you're ready for it?" Kat asked cryptically as her icy glare softened and she turned back around to continue on her path to the house.
Haley stared after her for a moment, a little perplexed by the odd response. 'What have I gotten myself mixed up in?'
"Are you coming?" Was Kat's terse question as she waited a moment for Haley to begin moving once again.
Haley answered her by silently following the taller woman's lead.
Moments before reaching the door, a tall sturdy man emerged from the backdoor with a reserved look on his bearded face. Cautiously, his deep blue eyes scanned the area and then came back to regard his new arrivals.
One he recognized, the other was unknown to him. Slowly, he allowed a faint smile to appear under his neatly trimmed peppered beard, keeping a careful eye to the fair-haired woman. "Kätzchen!" He spoke with favor as his long legs closed the distance between him and the dark-haired woman, greeting her with an outstretched hand.
"I told you not to call me that." The raven-haired beauty said in a low, threatening voice before clasping his hand and reluctantly allowed herself to be engulfed in a huge bear hug.
"It has been a very long time Kätzchen." He said deliberately with a grin as he lowered her to the ground. "Who is Die Fräulein?" He asked nodding towards the approaching blond haired woman.
"Someone in need of your help old friend." She replied with a grave look, completely dismissing the fact he had deliberately called her by his pet name for her.
Understanding the look immediately, he took a step away from Kat and extended a helping arm to the young woman. "I should have known this was not a simple visit." He stated with a heavy accent. "Nothing is so simple with you Kätzchen." He sighed and turned to regard the lovely young blond haired woman.
"If I do not introduce myself, no one will." He stated sending an accusative, but affectionate look back towards Kat. She merely shrugged as she silently followed in after the two of them.
"My name is Rolf Schiller." He offered as he motioned Haley into the house after she politely refused his steadying arm
Haley smiled a small pained smile. "Please to meet you Rolf. I'm Haley Connors."
Kat's eyes swept through the familiar kitchen upon entering through its side entrance. A strong oak table and four chairs sat in the middle of the large kitchen where she remembered it. The walls mirrored its outdoor walls with various sizes and colors of rocks that gave the kitchen its beautiful rustic look. Upon it were a few country crafts that added that something special to the kitchen. And then her eyes fell upon the matronly woman hovering near an old wood stove near the entrance to the living room.
She followed the tall silver haired man as he led Haley past the gray-haired woman and into the living room. The older woman gave her husband and the two women worried glances.
"Kätzchen?" The older woman's gentle voice asked hesitantly as she reached out a concerned hand to hold Kat's strong hand.
Kat stopped for a moment and gave the still shapely older woman a brief smile and patted her hand reassuringly. "Mir gute." She said softly in German for the older woman's peace of mind.
"Mir angst für du Kätzchen." The older woman said with a sad, worried look in her eyes.
Kat smiled once more but said nothing to the older woman's concerned statement. They regarded one another for an instant with knowing looks before Kat continued on after Rolf and Haley.
The trio walked into the living room as Rolf reached for the closet door and opened it. At first, Kat noticed Haley glance back to her with an apprehensive look on her face. Kat gave her a lop-sided grin and nodded her head for the young woman to follow Rolf.
Though she couldn't see Haley's face, she knew the young novelist's eyes had probably gone wide with surprise as Rolf opened a secret door in the back of the small closet.
First Rolf and then Haley both disappeared behind the numerous coats and jackets into the faint light beyond. She carefully replaced the coats and jackets back in their places and then closed the door securely behind her. Kat was the last one to descend the narrow, wooden steps.
Just as Kat reached the bottom of the steps, she found herself in a familiar room. The large spacious room could almost be considered comfortable with its plush reclining chair partially surrounded by a wall of books. The whole left side of the room had taken on the appearance of a mini library. But the comfy atmosphere ended there. Where the library books stopped dead center of the room, white tiled walls picked up the other half of the room. The plain, sterile white walls of the examining room carried nothing but an enclosed glass cabinet, which contained various vials.
There, almost directly opposite the plush chair, was a medical examining table. In one corner of the tiled walls stood a lone stainless steel tray on wheels. Upon it, it carried the tools you would find in your family doctor's office. In the other corner of the 'examining room' stood another tray. It mirrored its twin except that upon it rested the tools of a surgeon.
Rolf helped Haley into the brown leather recliner, which faced away from the medical scene to try and ease her apparent discomfort. Once she was comfortable, he casually walked over to the glass cabinet, hauled out a vial and rested it on a steel tray in the opposite corner as he wheeled it over to his patient. The 'family' tray he called it. Various sized bandages lay upon it, a suture kit, peroxide, a lone needle, a depressor, surgical gloves and several other small items.
Kat watched as Haley's face took on a nervous look as she eyed the steel tray.
"It is all right young one, I will not hurt you." Rolf said in soothing tones as he unwrapped the blazer from her injured arm.
Kat made sure she remained within Haley's sight to reassure the young woman until Rolf had finished stitching her up and examined her injured ribs. She knew she should be out retrieving Haley's bags right now, but she couldn't bring herself to leave Haley's side until she knew Haley was patched up and well. 'Besides,' she argued with herself, 'it'll be easier to go over everything with Haley around.'
Kat watched on as Rolf hauled out a needle to freeze the area he was going to stitch up on Haley's arm. The sight of the long needle glistening in the light of the overhead light brought her back to a painful time of her life seven years earlier.
The tall dark-haired woman burst through the kitchen door half carrying and half dragging a man. Both were a horrid sight as Kat, covered in a mixture of mud and blood dragged in a young blond haired man in even worse condition. Both his legs dragged limply across the tiled floor, leaving a trail of blood after him.
"ROLF! ROLF!" Kat cried out frantically as she dragged the semi-conscious man closer to the living room. Each step she took, the young man groaned weakly as his head lulled from side to side.
"Kätzchen, Mein Gott!" Rolf exclaimed in horror as he rounded the corner and nearly ran into the bloody duo. "Quickly, downstairs!" He ordered as he lifted the young man into his burly arms and went through the closet, down into the secret room.
Kat was too exhausted to argue. She hauled her torn body after Rolf and the young man she cared for more than life itself. She watched as Rolf laid the young man on the examining table and wheeled out a steel tray with the tools he would need.
"Kätzchen, hilfe mich." He said unconsciously in his native tongue as he asked Kat for her help.
Suddenly, Rolf's wife Karine came down the stairs at a furious pace despite her years, wearing a clean apron over her casual dress. She quickly took up position at her husband's side and attempted to help him as much as possible.
"Schere." Rolf said in a stern voice as he held out his hand. Immediately, his wife placed a pair of scissors in her husband's strong hands.
"Kätzchen, help me cut these clothes off of him." He said as Karine handed Kat another pair of scissors. Both of them began cutting away at the young man's clothes with haste.
"Verdammt!" Rolf cursed as the clothes were finally torn away and he had a real look at the injuries he was faced with.
The man looked down at the battered body and didn't know where to start. He was looking at stab wounds to his torso, a bullet wound to the chest, broken ribs, compound fractures in both his legs and internal bleeding. This was not good. He was surprised the boy lived this long. Quickly, he assessed which was the most life threatening and proceeded to try and repair the damage.
"Rolf...;Tommy will be ok won't he?" Kat asked, her voice cracking with emotion as her numb fingers responded to Rolf's commands.
Shaking his head, Rolf wasn't sure how to reply. The boy had lost so much blood and continued to do so. Try as he might, he could not stop the flow of the boy's life essence. He was losing him. He knew it and Kat knew it. "Kätzchen...;" He started but was cut off as the boy's body suddenly went into convulsions.
"Hold him down!" He shouted as he tried to work a piece of wood into Tommy's mouth to keep him from biting off his tongue.
Kat ignored her own pains and threw all of her strength into trying to hold down Tommy without injuring him further. Then, just as sudden as the convulsions started, they stopped. Kat looked up to both Karine and Rolf perplexed. Then, realization hit her as Rolf launched to give the young man CPR.
"Tommy! Tommy! Don't you dare give up on me. Do you hear me? It's not your time yet!" She yelled angrily into his ear as tears spilled down her face. "The McGregor's have never given up on anything! You're not going to start now! I won't let you! Fight, damn you! FIGHT!"
After an eternity, Rolf finally stopped his efforts and turned a grief stricken face to Kat as he reached out a consoling hand. "Kätzchen," he started with a strangled voice, " your brother is gone."
Intense eyes turned to a fiery blue as she glared at Rolf. A hand shot out over her brother's body and grabbed the older man by the scruff of the neck. "He is not dead! I won't let him die!"
She suddenly threw Rolf away from the table with uncanny strength and desperately began CPR. Rolf solemnly walked around the table and wrapped his strong arms around Kat, halting her attempts.
"NO!" She hollered as she weakly fought the strong arms around her to resume her fight for her brother's life. But the adrenaline rush she was on slowly ebbed from her body and the pain of her own serious injuries surfaced. Slowly, the room began to dim as a wave of pain struck her full force.
"Tommy...;" She whispered before succumbing to the pain and darkness.
"Kätzchen...;" Rolf called out to a distant Kat, concern etched on his face.
Kat blinked several times to clear the memory from her mind's eye to try and focus on the present.
"Kätzchen, I am done with your friend." He stated patiently, knowing full well the thoughts that plagued this woman he loved as his own daughter.
Kat shot Rolf and Haley a forced smile. "Good." She walked over to Haley who was now standing, and looked down at the young woman with a wistful look in her eyes. She couldn't help but let slip a genuine smile. Quickly, she turned away from Haley, glancing briefly at the nasty gash on the younger woman's forearm before bringing her eyes up to Rolf. "I have some stuff to take care of. I'll be right...;"
"I do not think so Kätzchen. Not until I take a look at that cut on your head. Now sit." He commanded with a no nonsense tone.
Kat eyed him defiantly for a moment. She knew if she said 'no', he would probably pick her up and throw her down in the seat if he had to. Of course, she knew that she could take him out before he did such an embarrassing thing. However, she also knew that Rolf knew she could never knowingly harm him or his wife. They were practically family to her.
Slowly, Kat let out a deep sigh as her shoulders slumped in defeat and lowered herself into the chair Haley had only moments before occupied.
"Well," Rolf smiled triumphantly, "that was easier than I thought it would be."
Haley smiled to herself as she leaned up against the shelf of books and watched how easily the big man disarmed the statuesque woman. She wondered what kind of history they shared. Did they work together in the past? Were they partners? Maybe he was just an old friend? Could he be her father?
'And what the heck does Kätzchen mean?' Haley curiously wondered. 'So many questions...;so few answers.'
Somewhere deep inside a secret complex stood a silent man staring at a map on a wall with his hands clasped behind his back. Nothing extraordinary stood out in this medium sized office. A simple wooden desk against a windowless wall with neatly piled papers. A lone computer sat upon it, but not in use at the moment. The only decoration or picture in the room was the six-foot world map he now stood in front of in his casual beige military uniform.
He had just received news that did not please him. Not one bit. News that the messenger had been killed, but not before passing on his information to another. He was very disappointed with his newly appointed second in command for not taking care of this important matter he had entrusted to him. Another chance had been offered to his second to redeem himself, but once again he had failed.
'A simple task,' he thought darkly, 'kill the woman and the information.'
Instead, he learns that fifty useless people died in a plane explosion and one of his men was found dead with a bullet in his head. Whether he received the bullet before or after the car crash mattered little to him. What concerned him the most was the description of the two women who were also involved in the accident. 'A pretty blond and an intimidating raven-haired woman.' Was one alleged description. Other more detailed reports of the two women confirmed his suspicions. One Haley Connors remained yet alive and well.
His eyes continued their intense gaze upon the map before him as the sound of his office door slowly creeping open caught his attention. He never turned, nor did he even so much as flinch a single muscle in his powerful body. He knew by the smell of the person standing at his door who had interrupted his thoughts. Slowly, he heard the door creaking once again and finally click shut.
"You have failed me twice." The low, Russian accented voice rumbled suddenly into the still air.
"I didn't know she was going to miss her plane Viktor. Had I known I would've...;"
"Silence." Viktor Petrenko ordered the man in his presence. "I do not wish to hear your pathetic excuses."
"Yes sir." The soft-spoken man said subserviently, though his eyes burned with anger unbeknownst to his boss.
Keeping his back to his second in command, Petrenko continued. "I am giving you one more chance to redeem yourself." Suddenly, he spun on his heel and turned to face his second in command face to face.
His hard eyes absorbed the neat appearance of the man still standing by the door. His tall wiry body frame disguised this man's surprising strength. The dark tanned skin of the wiry man hid a ruthless killer beneath. While starkly contrasting short snow white hair masked a sinister and devious mind. Petrenko knew all this about this man and knew he was dangerous. But he also knew this man's weakness was cold, hard cash. He would listen to Petrenko without complaint as long as the promise of riches dangled in front of him. "Go to Canada and rid me of those who betrayed me and possess the knowledge to despoil my work."
Gray calculating eyes stared back at Petrenko. "What of...;"
"If anyone gets in your way, you will dispose of them." Petrenko stated casually, with little emotion as he remained in his military 'at ease' stance.
"Understood." The dark-skinned man replied with a nod as he turned and reached for the doorknob.
"And remember this:" Petrenko warned in a low, menacing voice. "If things go bad, do not think of betraying me because I promise you, I will find you and kill you."
Without acknowledging Petrenko's warning, the dark skinned man walked out the door with a confident stride.
Several hours had passed since Kat and Haley arrived at the Schiller's house. It wasn't long before Rolf had finished patching up the gash on Kat's forehead that she began making plans to get Haley and herself out of the country.
The first order was to get the bags out of the Cherokee and hide the battered vehicle.
"Haley, why don't you stay here and relax, ok?" Kat suggested seeing the exhaustion in the younger woman's green eyes.
Haley gave Kat a grateful smile. "That sounds like a good idea."
Kat gave her a quick smile and moved to talk to Karine. She said a few quick words in German to the graying woman and walked out the side door of the kitchen with Rolf following her.
Haley remained standing for a moment as she watched Kat leave and Karine walking towards her with a warm smile on her face.
"Sitzen." The older women beckoned with a smile as she motioned for Haley to sit down on the long cushioned sofa.
Slowly, Haley sat down on the comfortable country style sofa and tried to find a comfortable position. Try as she might, she could find no comfortable sitting position. And then, Karine took a step closer to Haley and tapped her leg gently and then tapped the sofa.
"I-I can't. I shouldn't. I'm still wearing my sneakers...;" Haley trailed off as she tried to explain as she pointed to her sneakers.
"Nee, nee." Karine said as she shooed away Haley's protests and gently lifted her legs up onto the sofa.
Completely laid back now, Haley found she was at least comfortable, even if she still felt some restless pain. Karine walked over to Haley's feet and freed them of their sneakers. Haley began to protest but the older woman shushed the young Canadian with a firm hush. This silenced any protests Haley may have had.
"Dableiben." The woman commanded in a soft tone as she walked back into the kitchen carrying her sneakers and placing them by the kitchen door.
Before Haley knew it, sleep had claimed her emotionally wracked mind.
"What is going on Kätzchen? What kind of trouble are you into?" Rolf asked Kat point blank as they stood outside by the jeep.
Without skipping a beat, Kat leaned into the Cherokee and retrieved both of Haley's bags. There was a slight tension in the air, but she kept silent for the moment. 'So many years have passed. So much has happened.' The guilt of leaving so many years ago without offering Rolf an explanation weighed heavily on her. She started to wonder if coming here was such a good idea.
For a long time she blamed herself for the death of her brother and couldn't bring herself to face the man who had been like a father to them both. She left because she couldn't bear to see the disappointment in his eyes if she ever told him that it was her fault Tommy was dead.
If she hadn't insisted on getting that extra little bit of information Tommy would never have been captured. He never would have had to suffer being tortured to protect her. And he would never have taken the bullet that was meant for her when she went back to rescue him.
She broke away from her agonizing memories as she felt a strong but gentle hand settle softly on her shoulder. Unconsciously, she stiffened slightly at the touch.
"Kätzchen," he whispered into her ear. "Katherine, let go of the past."
"I can't." Kat stated sadly with her head hung low. "The guilty can never forget the past so easily." Slowly, purposefully she turned around to face Rolf. "And because of that past, I'm afraid to look into your eyes and find nothing but disappointment there."
"I could never be disappointed in you." He said, slowly shaking his head in disbelief that his little Kätzchen could believe such a thing.
She gave him a sad, lop sided smile. "Could you still say that if you knew it was my fault Tommy is dead?"
Now the softness in Rolf's eyes turned to a hard angry glare. "Do not ever, ever let me hear you say that again!" He said angrily as he tightened his grip on her shoulder, giving her a slight shake. "Tommy knew the risks and he made his own choices."
"But he made the wrong choice!" She spat back, her face only inches from his. "That bullet was meant for me, not him!"
"Life is full of hard choices and sometimes we make the wrong one. Do not belittle your brother's sacrifice by blaming yourself for his death!" He said with equal gusto, refusing to back down.
Kat swallowed hard as she continued to stare intensely into Rolf's eyes. However, his words had hit a cord deep within her and she felt her anger slowly ebbing away as it was being replaced by the sadness of her memories.
Too many years of anger towards Tommy's murderer and herself had passed for her to let go of the guilt so easily. As she held Rolf's eyes with her own, she refused to let her emotions get the best of her. Though his words had given her a small measure of peace, she still had a long road to walk before she could put the past behind her.
She threw up a hard mask to cover the emotions she knew were threatening to surface as she gripped Haley's bags more firmly. "I have work to do." She said stone faced as she shouldered past Rolf, effectively stating that this conversation was through.
Rolf regarded this woman with sorrowful eyes. There was still so much anger and hatred in her soul. He could see his words were beginning to cut through that wall she had built around her heart. There was now a chip in her defenses. All that there was left to do was for her to take it from there. He only hoped it was a big enough chip to make a difference.
For the next twenty minutes, they worked in silence as they hid the Cherokee from sight. They had backed it into the barn to the very back between stalls. Up in the hayloft was a canopy Rolf had made years ago that once it was thrown over something it would look like a pile of yellow straw.
Once the two of them dragged the canopy down from its hiding place and threw it over the jeep, they discovered it was a touch too small to cover the entire jeep. So, both Kat and Rolf each grabbed a pitch-fork and worked at bailing loose straw laying about, onto the jeep to finish up the illusion.
They each took a step back and inspected their work.
"That should do just fine." Kat stated in her 'professional' voice, nodding with satisfaction at the hidden jeep.
Making sure to steer away from the sensitive talk earlier, Rolf stuck to the task at hand. "I know trouble is following you and your friend." He stated as he leaned on his pitchfork still staring at the large pile of straw in front of him. "I am here if you need my help." He said, hinting at a double meaning behind his words.
Kat looked over to Rolf who kept his eyes on the pile of straw, and regarded him thoughtfully. 'You'll always be there for me won't you old friend?' She thought lovingly, betraying none of her thoughts physically.
"Actually, I could use some of your help." She said suddenly. "I need two Canadian passports ASAP."
Finally, Rolf turned bright eyes to Kat, happy that she had asked for his help. "You remember Klaus Metzger?"
"How could I forget him?" She said with a small grin as she remembered the dark haired man who was several years her senior. They had first met as he tried to pick her pockets several years back. She greeted him in kind by breaking two of his fingers. "I'm surprised that nobody's tried to kill him yet." She said with an almost genuine surprised tone.
She knew that Klaus was one of the finest forgers around, but had an uncanny knack for getting into trouble. And had Rolf not showed up that day, Klaus would have had to find a new line of work because she was ready to break every bone in his hands. Later, Rolf explained that Klaus had a strange fetish for picking pockets - especially from pretty faces.
Since then, she and Klaus came to an understanding; he wouldn't try to pick her pockets again and she wouldn't break his fingers. The arrangement suited her just fine. She had even managed to put his skills to work for her on several occasions since then. Her eye for detail had come to appreciate his handiwork, if nothing else.
Rolf smiled at the expression on her face. "Good. I shall get in contact with him right away then."
"Thank you." She smiled as she rested her hand on his shoulder in friendship, conveying her thanks for more than just the connections.
A short comfortable silence fell over the two friends before they started to leave the barn. They locked up the barn and slowly walked back to the house as Kat filled Rolf in on everything that has happened up till now. Kat reached down and picked up the two bags she had left by the kitchen door as they passed by.
Karine wore a hesitant look when they first entered, but then smiled as she noticed some of the tension between these two was gone. Before they could say anything, Karine shushed them and pointed towards Haley who was still fast asleep on the sofa.
They nodded their understanding as they walked through speaking in low voices. Kat placed Haley's bags at the foot of the sofa for later as she and Rolf went on to make a few calls.
"Yes...;yes, of course. I can have them ready for you by Thursday...;Yes, we can meet there, that would be fine...;.ok, goodbye."
A dark-haired man with streaks of white hung up the phone with a mischievous look creeping into his dark eyes. He rubbed the black stubble growing on his chin thoughtfully. 'So,' he thought with a grin 'Kat McGregor is the woman protecting the young Canadian the Kynak wants dead. Hmm, that's a shame.'
Though Rolf hadn't come outright and told him the other woman was Haley Connors, he was quite confident by the brief description he supplied that it was she. That and the fact that a beautiful, tall, imposing woman with long jet black hair and icy blue eyes matching Kat's description to a 'T' was seen with the young Canadian.
For Klaus Metzger, being privy to such information couldn't have come at a better time. For the longest time, he refused to get involved with any organization preferring to be his own man and boss. More profitable that way. However, with the Kynak taking over nearly everything in the underworld, Klaus was effectively being driven out into the cold.
When he finally decided that joining them would bring back his lucrative customers and more, he hit an unpredictable snag. They had suddenly gotten very strict with their hiring policies and ended up putting him on a 'trial' period because of his past involvement with various government agencies.
"I guess this is my chance to prove myself to the Kynak." He said outloud in his native tongue of German to no one in particular. Not that anyone else would have heard his mutterings in the dark basement he hid himself for such business transactions. "It's just a shame you got mixed up in all this Miss McGregor. I just hate the thought of having to kill two beautiful women."
He sat in the darkness and started to chuckle to himself. 'Yes, life is starting to look good again.' Slowly, his laughter began mounting in its crescendo of self-satisfaction. "Yes!" He hissed into the air as he did a quick dance of glee before composing himself and getting to work.
The sun had finally set on this exhaustive Monday and Kat just finished some calls to contacts she knew who could help ensure their trip back to Canada was smooth and uneventful. Kat walked up the stairs from the secret basement stealing a quick glance at the time.
'10:35pm.' Groan. ' Feels more like two in the morning.' She thought as she stretched her arms above her head just before reaching the secret door that would take her into the living room.
Quietly, she stepped through the door and moved everything to their original place to make everything appear undisturbed by her passing. As Kat stepped out of the closet and into the dark living room with only a single lamp on for light, she caught a glimpse of a body moving off to her side. There, Rolf rounded the corner from the adjoining hallway and met Kat.
"Everything on my end is ready." He said to her and then placed a fatherly hand on her shoulder. "You should get some rest Kätzchen."
"Ya, I think I will." She said nodding her head and giving him a quick smile, barely making eye contact.
"No you're not." He said with a knowing look.
"What makes you think I won't?" She asked curiously, studying him with a touch of humor.
"Because you are like your mother in some ways." He started with a confident look. "She could never look me in the eye either when she was going to tell me a lie."
Kat looked at him with a silly grin. "Either you're really good or I'm slipping."
He looked at her with a sparkle in his eye. "I am really good." He smiled and then added with a wink. "That and the fact that I am probably the only person on this planet that would dare give you a good spanking if you did lie to me."
"You wish!" She chortled.
Smiling, he bent towards her and planted a kiss on her forehead. "I am glad you are here Kätzchen." He whispered. "Even if it is only for a short time and under less than perfect conditions."
She patted his hand, which still rested on her shoulder and smiled. "Me too." She whispered back. "Now go to sleep. Karine will have my hide for letting you stay up so late." She teased with a quirky grin, secretly relishing the old feeling of friendship they shared.
"Bah!" He snorted with a grin. "Gute nacht Kätzchen."
While Kat watched Rolf walk to his room at the end of the hallway, she heard a soft moan coming from the sofa. Though the light being thrown off by the small lamp barely shone any light on Haley, Kat could see the dark shadows of pain masking the novelist's face as she softly tossed about in her dreams.
'What could she be dreaming about?' Kat thought with a touch of concern that surprised her. 'More like what part of her ordeal has invaded her dreams?' She thought sympathetically as she moved closer to the sofa.
'I can't believe I'm finally going home!' Haley thought ecstatically. 'It was all just a bad dream!' She let out a sigh of contentment while she curiously stretched her neck up to take a glance around the small plane and at all its passengers.
The plane was very orderly, as were its passengers. Everybody sat in their seats quietly and without fuss. 'Almost like statues.' Haley thought in passing as she settled down and rested her head back on the chair.
She turned her head to her right to look out the window. To her surprise, the plane was already in the air. 'When did the plane take off?' The Canadian thought to herself in confusion. Then, from the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a stewardess coming up the aisle pushing a cart.
'Food!' She thought hungrily to herself. 'Good, I'm starving.'
She unbuckled her seat belt and leaned over the empty aisle seat next to her to flag down the stewardess.
"Excuse me, stewardess." Haley called out as she raised her arm to get the young woman's attention. The dark haired stewardess stopped and turned to regard the young woman.
Haley gasped in horror as the faceless stewardess turned towards her. Her face was void of eyes, nose, and mouth. Nothing but smooth skin regarded her with its head tilted slightly to the side as it noticed her. With wide, unbelieving eyes Haley numbly recoiled from the abomination.
Suddenly, the stewardess picked up a bag of peanuts and held it out to Haley, her hand only inches from the Canadian's face. Quickly, the novelist scrambled away from the extended hand and pressed herself up against the window half standing in her seat and breathing hard.
"What's going on?" She breathed with exasperation as the stewardess retracted her hand and replaced the package back on her cart, continuing down her route.
Instinctively, Haley glanced to the other passengers to see if anyone else had seen what she had. Of course, if they had, wouldn't they have registered some kind of reaction besides the quietness that now permeated the air? She glanced to the man sitting behind her and gasped in surprise as yet another faceless person faced her.
She felt her panic rising. Her breaths were coming in short and ragged, while her heart pounded furiously. Panicked eyes swept over the other passengers and saw to her horror, that they all were faceless and as still as death.
"Haley, what's wrong?" Asked a soft, calm male voice.
"Wha..?" She breathed as she swung her head around to the source of the voice. Bewilderment and confusion spread across her tense features as the once empty aisle seat next to her was occupied. "Reece?" Her hand reached out hesitantly, stopping just short of touching his face and then hauling it back. He wasn't faceless like the rest.
He greeted her with a boyish smile. She opened her mouth to say something to him but was cut off as a deafening explosion rang through the air, jolting the plane violently. Before she had time to register where it came from, she saw a fireball coming from the back of the plane. It burst through the metal and people like they were nothing, tearing the tail of the plane away.
It reached its fiery tendrils out and enveloped Haley as she screamed and tried to protect herself. Then, everything was quiet. No fire engulfed her as she stood outside the boundaries of the plane on solid ground.
Dazed, she stood in a burnt out field. Her eyes looked down to her hands, turning them over this way and that looking for damage and found none. Much to her surprise, she noticed that no part of her had been injured or even appeared to have been through an explosion.
Confused, she brought her eyes up and only now noticed the twisted metal that surrounded her. Bodies were strewn about her twisted and disfigured, while the only movement that could be seen was the dancing flames of the wreckage.
Despondent, she wandered through the field of bodies and burning wreckage unable to believe what she was seeing.
"No." She whispered over and over again till finally everything began to grow fuzzy and fade away.
"No." Kat heard Haley murmur in-between heavy breathing as her head tossed softly from side to side, her eyes working to open.
When Kat drew closer, she could see the faint hint of sweat covering Haley's brow as a lone tear touched the young woman's face. She reached out a gentle hand to wake Haley from the apparent nightmare she was having. Suddenly, frightened eyes flew open from sleep making Kat retract her hand in surprise.
For several seconds, Kat studied the panicked look in Haley's eyes. Slowly, the panic ebbed away as the young woman became more aware of her surroundings.
"Haley?" Kat asked hesitantly.
Haley's eyes followed the sound of the voice and finally settled on Kat's gentle blue eyes as she stood over her.
"Kat?" Haley croaked as she shook herself from sleep. Her eyes blinked several times to adjust to the low light as a stray hand reached up and brushed away the sweat from her brow. She looked at the living room that she had fallen asleep in and quickly began to relax as her breathing began to take on a semblance of normality. She took a deep breath and gulped once. "Forgot where I was for a minute." She said giving Kat a tired smile. "What time is it?"
"10:41." She quoted her watch exactly still eyeing the young woman with a touch of concern.
"Is Rolf and Karine in bed?" The young novelist asked trying to keep the subject of her dream as far from her waking mind as possible.
"Yup." She answered and then added. "Do you mind if I turn on the lights?" She asked indicating the light switch.
"No, go ahead. I'm awake anyway." Haley smiled weakly.
The main light came to life and Haley found herself wincing at the sudden brightness. "I could've done without that." She muttered to herself as Kat made her way to the matching chair next to the sofa Haley was now occupying.
Kat caught Haley's muttering and said nothing of it as she passed her by. She noticed the pain that crossed Haley's face as she struggled to sit upright. 'If Haley wanted help, she'll ask.' Kat reasoned as she took a seat in the chair next to the sofa. She leaned back in the chair and got comfortable while she waited for Haley to settle down, studying the younger woman as she waited.
She watched as Haley finally managed to sit up right without any help and tiredly leaned her head slightly forward. Her eyes closed slightly as her hands reached behind and began rubbing her stiff neck. Haley's strong, toned forearms rippled with distinct muscles as her hand worked out the kinks in her neck.
Hitting a particularly sensitive kink, Kat saw another pang of pain register on the young blonde's face, but still she made no complaint. That was one thing she noticed about Haley Connors and found to be an endearing quality about the woman. She was tough and didn't whine.
'Maybe too tough.' Kat cautiously thought, noting Haley's exceptionally strong disposition considering all that has happened in the last seventy-two hours. 'I'm going to have to keep an eye on her just in case.'
"Feel better?" Kat asked evenly as Haley finished rubbing her sore neck and seemed much more relaxed.
"Hmm, ya." Haley smiled with a more relaxed look on her face as the horror of her nightmare was slowly willed away.
"Good. I'm going to need you alert before I start filling you in on everything. You feeling up to that right now?" Kat asked not wanting to push Haley more than she was ready to handle. But the sooner they were able to get started on things the better.
"No time like the present, right?" Smiled Haley encouragingly.
"Right." Kat offered with a terse smile. "Would you like some hot chocolate?" Kat asked as she pushed herself up from her seat and made her way to the kitchen.
"The great Canadian spy drinks hot chocolate?" Haley snickered slightly, trying not to laugh too hard and hurt her injured ribs.
Kat stopped at the entrance to the kitchen and turned to regard Haley with a raised eyebrow. "Do you want some or not?"
Feeling slightly intimidated by the look, which was probably the intention; Haley wiped the grin from her face. "I'd love one."
Kat turned around and began preparing the hot chocolate she knew Karine always kept in the house and chastised herself only slightly for giving Haley the look. She wasn't use to someone being so friendly and unafraid of her. It's been too long since she had a friend she could just joke around with. 'I think the last one was Dawn back in junior high school!' She snorted softly in remembrance.
Then there was Marcus and Seth. Sure she use to be able to joke a bit with them, but that was more of a working relationship. And even though they got along, it wasn't often the three of them could get together because of their demanding work. Even when they did manage, she could always sense that they were never quite fully relaxed when they were with her.
She couldn't blame them. She always wore a hard shell around her, which made it hard for people to get close to her. This simple fact became painfully apparently when she and Marcus had tried getting closer, but things didn't quite work out and old habits are hard to break. Now, she has neither of them around anymore.
But in losing them, she rediscovered Rolf and Karine. She'd forgotten how much her parent's friends had meant to her. Then there was Haley Connors. She wasn't quite sure what to make of the blonde-haired Canadian just yet.
Inconspicuously, she glanced over to Haley from out of the corner of her eye and noticed that she was also being watched. She continued to prepare the hot chocolate and noticed Haley kept a lazy eye on her. Kat tried to ignore her but after several minutes went by and Haley was still watching with a curious look in her eye she couldn't help herself.
"What?!" Kat asked with a touch of annoyance.
"Why do you do that?" Haley answered the question with another question.
Kat tore herself away from the hot chocolate for a moment and focused all of her attention on Haley as she rested a hand on her hip. "Do what?" She asked with a slight frown, not understanding the question.
"Push people away." Was Haley's simple statement.
Kat regarded Haley for a moment without speaking. She didn't push people away. 'Yes you do.' She answered herself raising a dark eyebrow in Haley's direction. "It's a hard world out there and even harder where I walk. Let's just say it's a survival skill I've acquired." Answered Kat in an even tone as she grabbed the two mugs of hot chocolate and headed back into the living room.
Handing Haley her mug of hot chocolate, Kat steadily lowered herself down into the chair she had occupied earlier. Taking a sip from the hot mug, Kat's eyes peeked up over the rim and watched Haley. She could see the numerous questions playing just behind Haley's eyes, begging to be asked.
'If she knows what's good for her she'll leave it at that.' Kat thought silently to herself, not comfortable in answering these kinds of questions. Especially from someone she's only just met.
"Hot chocolate good?" Kat asked trying to steer away from Haley's questions.
"Um-hmm." The young Canadian answered into her mug enjoying the rich taste of chocolate.
"Good." She said grabbing a coaster and placing it on the end of the coffee table in front of her and sat her mug down on it. "Then we can get down to business now."
Haley looked as though she was about to ask something else, but obligingly gave in to Kat's request to start their work. "Sure." Haley nodded. "Let's start with you explaining to me who and why these guys are trying to kill me."
Kat found herself relieved that Haley hadn't decided to pursue her personal line of questioning, if not slightly surprised at Haley's bluntness. Her surprise was of course hidden from the blonde woman sitting next to her by an expressionless look she's managed to perfect over the long years.
"Have you ever heard of the organization the Kynak?" Kat asked, gauging Haley's knowledge. Expectantly, Haley shook her head no.
Sitting back in the comfy chair, crossing her legs casually, Kat slowly eased into who the Kynak were by giving Haley their background. She described in comfortable detail of what drove them, how they supported their growing numbers, some of their recent and past activities and finally talked about their leader, a man named Viktor Petrenko and what they knew of him.
Haley listened on in rapt attention as Kat wove an intriguing story of greed, murder, sabotage and secret agendas. The young novelist frequently interrupted Kat's story with questions of the how's and why's, which impressed and slightly annoyed the Canadian agent at the same time. She was tired and wanted to finish the explanation so they could get down to the important part of searching for that information if it still existed.
'She's so hungry for details!' Were Kat's impatient thoughts. 'Kat, she's a novelist. Details are what drives her life.' She reminded herself light-heartedly.
Taking a deep breath, she put on a patient face and proceeded to answer Haley's numerous questions. After several more minutes, Kat was satisfied that Haley's hunger for detail had been sated for the time being and so she continued.
Kat went on to explain to Haley that CSIS's security had somehow been breached and that the identity of their top agents, who were deep under cover within the Kynak, had become known. Communications quickly ceased, but no bodies were found except for Marcus. The rest were believed to have suffered the same fate as he. However, she explained that Marcus had gotten out with valuable information. What it was, they didn't know. Obviously, it was important enough to kill for.
"But why me?" Haley asked perplexed. "He deliberately altered his course to intersect me."
"I don't know." Answered Kat honestly. "But I believe that he did pass something off to you. That I'm certain of."
Now it was Haley's turn to get a slightly annoyed look on her face as the emotions she kept bottled up threatened to explode. "Kat, I know what I have and I don't have this information you're talking about. You said yourself you had looked for it and didn't find anything."
"I didn't have time to look through everything." Kat cut Haley off and corrected her as Kat's impatience grew, but managed to keep a placid expression. "Besides," She continued, forcing herself to be calm. "That Kynak agent who broke into your hotel room that same night knew there was a disk. I mean to find it if it hasn't already been destroyed."
"Kat," Haley said, her voice rising, "whatever disks I may have had were blown up this afternoon with all those innocent people!" Tears began to well up in Haley's eyes with this last statement. Determinedly, she bent sideways reaching for her handbag and laptop case, which rested on the floor at the other end of the sofa. Her mind didn't even register the usually constant pain of her ribs through her mounting anger and frustration.
An angry tear slid down her face as Haley tempestuously sat her laptop case on her lap and unzipped it. Roughly, she hauled out the computer and tossed the case onto the floor. She turned the computer upside down and gave it a violent shake and then turned it this way and that with dramatic intent. "There's no disk here Kat!" She said with anger in her eyes and sniffed as she threw the laptop towards Kat.
Not expecting the object to be thrown her way, Kat reflexively threw her arms into motion. Her lightning reflexes easily enabled her to snatch the light computer from mid-air. Kat watched the sudden emotional turmoil eating at Haley as the young woman easily stood up and grabbed her handbag in fresh tears.
Kat uncrossed her legs, stood up and placed the small computer on the chair behind her as she intended to keep Haley from unknowingly hurting herself. Now face-to-face, Haley glared at her defiantly and finally turned her handbag upside down and dumped the rest of her bag on the floor at Kat's feet. "Check for yourself Miss Know It All!" Haley spat sarcastically, her tears falling freely down her face now.
Haley waited only a moment for Kat to make a move towards the discarded items. Her anger only mounted as she stood there looking up into gentle blue eyes, Kat not even sparing a glance down at the abandoned items. 'She knows I'm right and won't admit it!' Haley's mind yelled out to her.
"Haley," Kat started as she laid a comforting hand on Haley's upper arm only to have it shrugged away.
"Don't touch me!" Haley said angrily as she took a step away from the statuesque woman. "Just...;just leave me alone." Haley said more softly as she turned away from Kat and headed towards the kitchen door.
Kat watched Haley walk out the door without even putting on her sneakers. 'I've got to go after her.' Kat thought with deep concern for her protégé. She stepped over the items littering the floor at her feet and headed towards the kitchen.
A sudden firm hand on her shoulder held her back from entering the kitchen and from following the young blonde. Kat turned angry eyes onto the owner of the hand.
"Let her be Kätzchen." Rolf said softly, then adding quickly as he spotted the protest forming on Kat's lips. "I will go check up on her for you. She is too angry at the moment to see you. Maybe even to see me. But I will try."
Reluctantly, Kat nodded her silent agreement. She stood back in resignation and let Rolf go after Haley instead. Only when Rolf's red and black plaid housecoat snaked through the closing door did Kat let out some of her frustration at not being able to handle these situations better. Kat threw her head back with a sigh as a low growl accompanied it. "I should have seen this coming." She chastised herself out loud as she tiredly rubbed at her pounding temples.
She turned and walked back towards the sofa, purposefully kicking at the obstructing laptop case. It lifted off of the floor and was caught by the chair's back, landing softly on the cushioned seat. Kat paid no attention to the flight of the case as she dropped herself down onto the sofa. Languidly, she stretched her long legs out on the sofa and wrapped her arms over her face. She closed her eyes as she waited for Rolf to bring back Haley.
'That was so childish of me!' She kicked herself mentally for her behavior as she stormed off into the cool but comfortable night air, her tears still flowing. 'I acted so hateful towards her and all she's ever tried to do was help me!' She continued to chastise herself as she walked along the paved driveway.
Only when the uncomfortable prickling sensations of rocks under her bare feet begin, did she snap out of her unseeing state to see where she was. She stopped, looked down at her feet to see what she was walking on but could barely see them in the dark. 'Where are all the damn street lights around here?' With the back of her hand, she wiped away the tears from her eyes so she could clearly scan the area for light.
Nothing but darkness surrounded her except for the single flood light near the peek of the tall barn several yards from the house. She happened to be standing just outside its wide range of light.
She stood where she was for a moment and took several deep, unsteady breaths. 'I shouldn't have lost my cool like that with her. She didn't deserve that from me.' A few more deep breaths and her tears began to slow. 'Those people didn't deserve to die either.' Came the unbidden thought. Before she knew it, she felt the tears flowing down her tear stained cheeks once again.
Without knowing it, she had taken several steps back, away from the light and now stood on soft grass. Her mind barely registered the change from the rocky pathway to that of the cool grass.
Slowly, she sank to her knees and let herself fall back onto her backside. "Ow!" She complained, the painful feeling of her injured ribs once again returning to her senses. "Ow, ow, ow, ow." Fresh tears of pain ran down her face as she unconsciously began to lean back to lie down. Haley only managed to get part way down before she felt a hard fence at her back.
Not caring, she just let her back and head slump against the fence as she tilted her eyes up to the clear night sky above. She watched the bright stars in the black sky for no reason, unconsciously looking for the constellations.
One by one her eyes searched out and found the various constellations and celestial bodies in the endless sky. She remembered her astrology classes back in university and how she use to believe the stars told the most wonderful stories if only you took the time to look closely and read them. Certainly not in the conventional manner, but with a healthy dose of imagination one could see the stories playing out in the sky above them.
Some of her friends use to laugh when she told them this. They always told her that her imagination was abnormally active. A small smile found its way to her lips. She always thought that a good dose of imagination was needed to lead a normal life.
Now, her eyes searched the night sky for those stories to ease her mind and come to grips with all that has happened. The mesmerizing amount of stars in the sky tonight seemed to bring with them a certain amount of peace. Their serene order seemed to reach down into her and rest a calming hand over her tortured mind and emotions.
Slowly, she came to accept all that had happened and refused to let it defeat her. She was a fighter and always has been. Why should this be any different? Steadily, her tears began to slow and finally came to a stop. When, she didn't know. She just knew the peace looking down at her and the feel of the comfortable night air on her bare arms renewed her sense of purpose.
"Argh!" Haley screamed, nearly jumping out of her skin at the loud, unexpected noise right next to her ear as she stumbled away in pain clutching at her side.
"Baaah." It sounded again.
Breathing heavy with pain and fright, Haley squinted against the night and saw a small white fluff standing next to the fence where she was. "It's a sheep." She breathed with a small croak of laughter from an over dose of emotions. "It's just a dumb sheep." She laughed harder, curbing it only slightly with the onset of more pain from her side.
Once Rolf exited the house, he purposely kept himself in the shadows so Haley wouldn't see him and possibly feel threatened by his presence. He knew that Haley's outburst in the house was brought on by the stress of all that Kat had described happened to the young woman in the last few days. He also knew that she would need to sort through her feelings. For better or for worse, he stayed hidden and let her try to figure them out on her own first. Either the experience would
make her stronger or break her. He just hoped she was as strong as Kat believes she is and get past this.
He watched her for several minutes as she randomly walked around his driveway, barn and the side of the house. Then, she changed her path and headed towards the sheep fields. Through all of this, he remained quiet and simply watched Haley's progress. With some measure of relief, he watched as tears flowed from her eyes and soft sobs escaped her lips. This was a good step towards healing he thought.
Her stargazing had surprisingly brought about a very calming moment for the young woman. An air of acceptance surrounded Haley's dark form as she lay against the fence, unmoving. Suddenly one of his sheep called into the night air startling the poor woman half out of her wits by the way she moved and the yelp she let loose. He wasn't quite sure how she would react until he heard light laughter fill the air, slowly mounting.
While he listened, he noticed it was not the laughter of someone who had fallen over the edge, much to his relief. Instead, it was a genuine laugh. It was the kind of laughter that told him she had accepted the situation and was ready to go on no matter what. An approving smile crossed his features under cover of the shadows. 'She is going to be fine.'
Slowly, so as not to startle Haley, he stepped out of the shadows and into the light. She was still chuckling slightly and wiping away a stray tear when she turned her head and saw him walking towards her. She made no move to get up as he now stood beside her.
"Lovely night for a walk huh?" Haley asked visibly more at ease.
"Yes, it is." He answered with a smile as he lowered himself to the ground next to the young blonde.
"I must look like a basket case sitting here in the dark crying and laughing like a looney huh?" She stated with a snicker.
"A basket case? I do not think so. More like a woman with a lot on her mind." He offered with a reassuring smile.
"You sure know what to say don't you?" She smiled, running the back of her hand over her damp eyes.
"I have been married to the same, wonderful woman for over 30 years and have learned through trial and error. You are reaping the benefits of that knowledge." He smiled and winked.
Haley chuckled once again, making sure to hold her side to try and hold back some of the pain. The small motion didn't slip by Rolf's concerned eyes.
"Come, it is time we should be getting back in the house and going to sleep." He said standing up and offering Haley a helping hand. Too tired to object, she graciously accepted his offer.
Before they started walking, Haley turned to Rolf determined to get a nagging question that's been on her mind answered. "Do you mind if I ask you a question?"
"Not at all. What is it you would like to know?"
"What does Kätzchen mean?" She asked hesitantly as they began walking back towards the house.
"It means 'kitten'." He said with a conspirators smile. "But do not tell Kat that I told you!"
"I won't." She smiled. "And thank you for all your help."
"You are welcome little one."
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