Conspiracy of Swords
(See Part 1 for Disclaimers)
Shadowriter can be reached at Shadowriter@kc.rr.com
It wasn't the movement of the train that woke Alex. She realized dimly that she had gotten used to that a long time ago. It was some other sensation.
Teren was trailing her fingers up and down Alex's back, just barely skimming along her body. It tickled.
She turned her head, and looked up at Teren. "Hey."
"Hey. You okay?" Teren asked softly.
The blue eyes smiled at her. "I'm good." She let her hand fall to Alex's shoulder and squeezed slightly. "You don't have to get up if you don't want. We've got time, yet."
"No, that's okay." She rolled over slightly, trying not to fall off the tiny bunk.
"Nah. Just needed to stretch, that's all." She stood up, reaching over her head and arching her back. Then she sat back down and regarded her lover with a yawn. "How long have you been awake?"
"Just a few minutes."
"Are you okay? I mean, your bruises?"
"Fine. They're sore, but not that bad." She looked closely at Alex. "Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah." Alex yawned again, then looked at her watch. "Best ninety minutes of sleep I've had in a long time."
Teren chuckled. "I'm glad." She sat up next to her partner. "We've still got a little time 'til Munich. I thought maybe we could get some food."
Alex nodded. "Food sounds good." Her stomach growled. "Yeah, the monster just woke up as well."
Teren laughed and patted her belly. "I can hear. Demanding, isn't it?"
"Yep. David loves teasing me about it."
They sat quietly for a moment, then Teren stood. "Okay, I'd offer you a shower, but the facilities aren't exactly set up for that."
"Are you saying I smell?" Alex's voice was indignant.
Teren leaned in, gently nuzzling her neck. She took a sniff and nodded."Yes. And I love the way you smell," she whispered. Then she pulled back and looked into Alex's eyes. "But I'm not sure how everyone else will feel about that."
Alex folded her arms. "I'm not sure either. But, I gotta tell you, you're not much better, you know?" Her nose crinkled with her smile.
"Oh, really?" Teren made a show of sniffing herself. "Yep. Okay, how about this. I'll go get food while you clean up a little, and when I get back, you can step out for a moment while I clean up, okay?"
"You mean I can't watch?"
Teren stopped. The idea of dressing with Alex watching her was definitely appealing. But as she stared at Alex, she realized that if they did that, she'd never get ready, and they'd never leave the train.
Alex laughed. "I'm kidding. It's too small in here for two people trying to get ready." She stood up, her body brushing Teren's. "See what I mean?"
Teren gave a light chuckle, even as a red heat covered her face. "Yeah. I see. You know, it didn't seem that cramped while we were laying down."
It was Alex's turn to blush, and she took a half-step back. "Yeah. And on that note, why don't you go get dinner?"
The blue eyes smiled at her, and winked.
Teren pulled her bra on, and then her shirt.
"I'll be back soon."
Alex nodded. "Okay." She watched Teren slip out of the compartment, and dropped to the bed. "Not too soon, I hope." She shook her head and closed her eyes. "Damn, I need a cold shower."
She was dressed and ready when Teren returned with sandwiches and drinks.
Pulling her jacket on, Alex took her sandwich and cup of hot chocolate to the next car, where Teren had told her there were a few empty first class seats. She ate while watching the houses roll past the windows of the train.
Alex was glad she had these few moments to herself. She needed the time to think about what had happened.
"I should have kept my hands to myself," she whispered toward her reflection in the window. She gave a half-snort. "Yeah, like that's an option."
It didn't bother her that they had once again slept together. Nor did it worry her that she, both times, had been the instigator. It wasn't something she normally did, but it didn't bother her.
What did concern her was that she couldn't seem to stop thinking about Teren. Teren's body. Teren's mouth, her hands, her . . .
Alex had to laugh at herself. Here she was, in a totally different train car, and once again she was thinking about the woman she'd left in their compartment. Not just thinking, but almost fantasizing.
She shook her head. Okay, gotta stop this.This is not good. If I don't get this under control, we could have a problem. Alex frowned at herself in the window. You have to remember that there are people chasing you. They want you, and her, dead. A distraction at the wrong moment could get you both killed. So stop it. No more jealous crap, no more clinging to her, and no more sex.
At least until we're home, and safe.
Alex nodded at her reflection. She was proud of herself for coming to such a tough decision.
Now if she could just stick to it.
Teren was dressed, and zipping her bag closed when Alex returned to the compartment. She smiled at her shorter companion.
"All packed. I think we're just about ready."
"Is our relationship still on hold?"
Alex bit her lip. "Umm. Yeah. At least I think so."
"So, does that mean we can't sleep together any more?"
"Ummmm." Alex didn't want to be the one to make that decision. Even if she had made a similar one earlier. "Uh, why don't we play it by ear? I mean," she gave Teren a half-smile, "so far it hasn't gotten in the way."
There was relief in the blue eyes. Teren nodded again. "I can do that."
Alex nodded. "How long 'til we get in?"
"About another twenty minutes. You ready for Munich?"
"No, but I wasn't ready for Switzerland, either." They grinned at each other.
Alex took a seat on the bed, and waited for Teren to do the same.
"Where are we staying?"
"The Hotel Bergerhof. The reservation's in your name."
"My name? Oh, Andrea Reed, right?"
Teren nodded. "Yep. We might have to get you a new alias, though. We used Reed in Zurich, and if they learned the name, they'll be able to put a face to it. It might be better if Andrea Reed didn't leave Munich."
"Okay. Got another underground friend here?"
Teren leaned back. "Not exactly. Not underground, and I don't even know if he's still a friend."
"I don't understand." Alex wanted to reach out and brush the hair back from Teren's eyes, but forced herself not to.
"Well, he's CIA. I don't know what my status is, and I'm not sure I want to find out. If we can get out of Munich without having to drop the Reed alias, I'd be happy. If not, I'll call Volker."
"Right." Alex paused for a moment. "Teren?"
"Will you tell me what happened in the hotel room? In Zurich?"
Even though they weren't touching, she could feel Teren tense. "Why?"
"Because. All you said was that you surprised the two guys, and that you ducked once and should have ducked twice. None of which tells me anything."
Teren wouldn't look at her. "I surprised them. They attacked. I defended." She shrugged. "What more do you want to know?"
Alex sighed and shook her head. "How about telling me what - exactly - happened?"
Teren glanced at Alex to see if she was as irritated as she sounded. She was.
"I opened the door, and there were these two guys there. The first guy had a blue coat and had his back to me. His pal was standing near the window. He saw me first and reached for his gun. I managed to push the guy in the blue coat towards him, and kicked the gun away when it hit the floor. Then blue coat got up and was throwing punches. I punched back. He hit the floor, but I didn't duck his buddy's kick in time, and he hit my ribs. I kicked his knee out, and then broke his neck." She didn't miss Alex's short gasp. "Blue coat managed to slam a lamp down on my shoulder, and I put a foot in his groin. He kind of squealed, and I punched him. He fell and hit his head. I got the hell out of there."
Teren was still when she finished her story. She didn't want to look in Alex's eyes.
Alex wasn't sure what to say.
Finally, she nodded. "I'm glad you got out of there okay."
Teren raised an eyebrow as she turned her head. She waited for another comment, but it didn't come.
Alex was staring down at her shoes. Teren sat up, wanting to reach out and touch her friend.
"Alex?" The green eyes locked on hers for a brief moment, then glanced away. "Are you okay? I mean --" Teren shrugged, running out of words. "Well, are you --"
"Teren." Alex's voice was soft, and Teren found those eyes on hers again. "It's okay." She took a breath. "It's just -- you talk about this so casually, in such a detached manner. Emotionless."
The blue eyes were sad. "I have to be detached. It's part of what I do."
"I know that. And if it keeps you in one piece, I'll accept that." She put a hand over one of Teren's fists. "I just don't know how to reconcile the gentle and caring woman I made love to, with the woman who can set her emotions aside like that." She shook her head. "I'm going to have problems with this, okay? But I'll get there." Alex smiled at Teren. "We'll get there. Alright?"
Teren noddd. It was more than she'd hoped for.
They sat quietly, waiting for the train to pull into the Munich station.
Having decided that they should once again separate, Teren left the train from the sleeper car, while Alex exited two cars ahead. Walking toward the exit, Alex resisted the urge to make sure her friend was following her.
She and Teren had agreed that they would take separate taxis to the hotel, in an attempt to further evade anyone pursuing them. Teren would wait until Alex was on her way, then follow her.
Keeping Teren in the corner of her eye, Alex asked a group of cab drivers if any of them spoke English. There were actually several that did, and all of them were very willing to help out an American woman. Finally choosing one, she settled herself in the backseat, and waited for the driver to climb in front.
He had just started the car when Alex saw Teren freeze, and reach toward the weapon she'd hidden in her jacket. Then the car was moving, going past the tall agent, who was facing a large blonde man.
Alex felt a coldness settle over her shoulders, and she debated going back to her friend.
On impulse she asked the driver to circle the block. He looked at her, confused.
"I thought I saw someone I knew. Please?"
He nodded, and made his turn.
When they got back to the front of the station, Teren was gone. The cold feeling descended from Alex's shoulders to her chest.
She decided to check in at the hotel. Maybe Teren had caught another cab and would be waiting for her.
If she wasn't, Alex would find her.
Teren had been waiting for Alex's driver to get in the car. Once he did, she stepped forward to hail a cab for herself.
She froze at the sound of her name being called.
One hand reached towards her gun in an automatic reflex, even as her muscles coiled. She turned slightly to see Gerd Heinrich approaching her.
"Teren. We have a car waiting for you. This way?" He waved with his arm, allowing his coat to fall open. As it did, Teren saw his weapon. The safety flap of the shoulder holster had been snapped down. It was an old way of letting agents know that they were facing a friend and not a foe.
But in this case it did nothing to reassure her.
"Gerd. How did you know I was coming?"
"I'll tell you later. Join me, please?" He motioned again, and after a glance toward Alex's moving cab, she fell into step beside him.
"I'm staying at the Hotel Bergerhof."
"Yes, we know."
They were silent the rest of the way to the car.
Alex checked in at the hotel, and had the bags carried to the room. She waited until the bellhop had explained the amenities in his broken English, then tipped him and ushered him out. The minute he was gone, she locked the door, and reached for her shoulder holster.
Like Teren, she had foregone the holster for most of their stay in Zurich, and the length of the train ride. In public, without their jackets, the bulge from the weapon was obvious. Instead, they had both tucked their weapons into a smaller holster at the small of their back. There they could be covered by a long sweater, or hidden by standing against a wall. But the shoulder holsters had been packed.
Now, Alex wanted hers. She slipped it on, and tightened the straps. Next came the weapon, which she checked, and then slid into the holster, finding some small comfort in the familiar weight. After a hesitation she reached in and turned the safety off. Then she slid her heavy jacket on, and took one last look in the mirror. Then she took a deep breath, and opened the hotel room door.
Their room was on the third floor, and Alex headed for the stairs next to the elevator. As she came down the hall, the doors to the elevator began to open and she looked up to see if it was Teren.
Instead, she saw the same blonde man she'd glimpsed at the train station.
Without waiting for the elevator to fully open, Alex did a sideways leap through the door to the stairs. She was down the first set of stairs before the door fully closed behind her. She took the next flight at a dead run, pulling her weapon at the same time. When she heard the door she'd come through open back up, she prepared herself to leap the remaining two flights.
The voice calling her name was distorted by the echoes in the stairwell, and it took her half a second to realize it was Teren. She stopped, leaning against the wall.
There were footsteps on the stairs. Alex was torn between believing it was Teren, and remembering the face she'd seen on the elevator.
"Hold it!" The footsteps stopped.
"Alex, it's me."
The voice was definitely Teren's, and decidedly closer.
"Okay, but come down one step at a time." She kept her weapon ready, the hammer pulled back. Alex listened to the footsteps as they came down.
Finally, she saw a figure come into view, and could tell from it's silhouette that it really was Teren. With a sigh of relief, she uncocked her gun, and slid it into her holster, flicking the safety button on as she did so.
Teren stopped in the middle of the stairway and stared down at her friend.
"What did you think you were doing?"
Alex looked back up with an embarassed shrug. "Heading off to rescue you?"
That got a smile out of the taller agent, and she shook her head. "Come on, tiger, let's get back up to the room."
Alex joined her on the stairs. "Are you okay? I saw that guy at the station --"
Teren put a hand over her mouth. "Let's go to the room first, okay? I'll explain everything."
"And then you can tell me why you were leaping down the stairs like a rabbit?"
"Cause this rabbit thought there was a wolf after her."
Alex unlocked the door to their room, and held it open for Teren to enter. She followed behind her.
The blond haired man was sitting on the couch. He smiled at her, and said something in German to Teren, who smiled.
"How did he get in here?"
The man gave a grin and held up a lock pick.
"Alex, this is Gerd Heinrich. Gerd, Alex Reis."
Bewildered, Alex took the outstretched hand the man offered.
"Hello, Alex." She noticed he had almost no accent. "It is nice to meet you."
"Well, I'd like to say the same, but seeing as how I just got scared out of my wits, I can't." She turned to Teren. "From the way you greeted him at the train station, I would have guessed he was an enemy. But since you've told him my name, I suppose that's not true?"
Teren nodded. "At the station, he surprised me. Plus, like I told you earlier, I didn't know my status." She motioned to Gerd. "He had a little information for me, on the situation."
"I see." Alex pulled her coat off and hung it up. "So, he's a friend?"
"I am." Gerd smiled. "And if you are as accurate with that gun as you are quick with your feet, I would say it is a damn good thing for me."
Teren laughed, and Alex couldn't help but smile.
"Well, I didn't know who you were. All I knew was what I saw at the station. Teren didn't exactly look happy to see you, and when I went back, she was gone. How was I supposed to know?"
"You weren't. I'm sorry. We knew Teren was traveling with someone, and we knew the name Andrea Reed. But we didn't know what she looked like." He shrugged. "We couldn't intercept both of you."
Alex nodded and sat down in the chair next to the small couch. "How did you know all this?"
"We received a message from our American counterparts, saying that Teren was in Europe, and we should watch for her. We were told she was under one of her aliases, and traveling with a young woman. When we found the record of Teren's alias Theresa Wilcox, the name Andrea Reed appeared beside it. We had been checking the hotels, and when the reservation was made, we knew of it within the hour."
Teren nodded, then pulled her sweater off. "And I suppose you checked the airlines, then realized we weren't on the plane, right?"
"Yes. After that it was a matter of finding out which train you might come in on." The blonde man smiled. "You always did enjoy the trains, Teren."
"So, are you here to help us, or just let us know we're being watched?" Alex asked.
"Neither." Gerd didn't say anything else; he just watched Teren as she came over to the sofa.
"I've been ordered to contact the office." Teren was frowning as she sat down.
"What does that mean? Are they going to help, or is this just more trouble?"
Teren shrugged. "I don't know. Gerd, what do you think?"
"I don't believe there is trouble. The order I received was to offer you the use of our," he paused, "facilities, shall we say."
"Yes. For research as well. Though we're not allowed to participate in your investigation."
With a nod, Teren leaned back on the couch.
Alex put her feet up on the coffee table. "So, Gerd, how do you know Teren?"
"We worked together on several cases. Teren and her partner Perry were two of the best."
"Really. The best at what?"
Teren stood up quickly. "Umm, Alex, would you like some dinner? Those sandwiches really weren't that filling."
"Sure, Teren. The best at what, Gerd?"
"At everything they did. Whatever the assignment, they never failed in their objective. I remember this one case--"
"Gerd, don't you have somewhere else you have to be?"
"No, I don't." He grinned at her. "Are you trying to get rid of me, Teren?"
Alex chuckled. "Teren, leave the man alone. You said he's a friend, right?"
Teren hesitated, then nodded. "Doesn't mean I want him talking about me." She sat back down.
Gerd reached over and touched her knee. He spoke quietly in German, and Teren answered him in a low voice. The blonde man laughed, and looked back at Alex.
"I think she is being modest, Alex. She and Perry were very good agents." He looked back at the tall woman. "Which is why, without even knowing what the assignment is, I know that this is a very important job." He grinned. "If you are on it, it must be very important indeed."
"This isn't an assignment, Gerd. And it isn't for the Agency." Her eyes grew very dark. "This is personal."
Gerd frowned. "Personal? What do you mean?" Then he nodded suddenly. "It is for Perry. You are looking for the man who set you up?"
"You know about that?"
"Teren, you know as well as I do that there are really very few secrets in the intelligence world. Of course I know that Perry was killed, and that the two of you were betrayed." He leaned towards her. "It is revenge, isn't it?"
Teren heard Alex take a breath and hold it. She glanced at her, and then looked back at Gerd. "Only partly."
"There is something else?"
Alex hadn't realized she was holding her breath, but she felt it drain out of her with Teren's words. She hadn't admitted, even to herself, that she was afraid revenge really was the only reason for Teren being there. Hearing her deny it, even partly, allowed some of her doubts to finally disappear.
Not that it matters. I'd want her with me anyway.
She caught Teren looking at her, and quickly refocused on the conversation.
"It's hard to explain, Gerd," Teren was saying. "You know that George Mather killed Perry?"
"Yes." Gerd's face twisted in a snarl. "I should have shot that bastard two years ago."
"Yeah, I'm sorry Perry stopped you."
The two agents grinned at each other.
"Well, at least he's dead now. Somebody blew him up with a car bomb."
Gerd's eyes narrowed. "Don't tell me you're hunting for his killer?"
"In a way, I guess. We think that he screwed up, and was eliminated by whoever he was working for."
"And you think, what, that the employer is the same?"
"Yes, we think he was still working for whoever told him to kill me and Perry."
The blonde man nodded. "So. You think he was working for a German?"
"No. We know he was working for an American. We just can't prove it."
Gerd snorted. "Who needs proof? If you know who it is, Teren, why don't you go kill him?" he asked.
"It's not that simple. It's not just one man, and I don't think all the players are in the states."
"But you do think there is a German involved. Right?"
"Right. But it's more than that. We think there may be neo-Nazi involvement," Teren said.
Gerd raised a hand and rubbed his chin. His eyebrows rose as he did. "There has been activitiy, but in the last few months it has been much quieter. Are you sure about this?"
Teren sighed. "I can't tell you the whole story, Gerd. It'd take the rest of the night."
"Then make it the very short version."
Teren looked at Alex for help.
Alex had been content to lean back and let the two of them talk. She got the feeling Teren trusted Gerd, but at the same time was unwilling to tell him everything. She thought carefully before she answered.
"Gerd, the neo-Nazis in the US are involved, and we know that they're getting financial assistance through a Swiss bank account. We think that account may be a part of the lost Nazi loot."
Gerd stared at her for several minutes, then turned to Teren. "She's insane, isn't she?"
Teren shook her head, no.
"Can you prove what you are saying?"
Another shake. "We can't prove much of anything, yet. That's one of the reasons we're traveling under aliases."
"I don't understand."
"Like I said, it's complicated."
"But you believe in this lost treasure? Teren, please. All the money was recovered years ago."
"I can't give you details, Gerd."
Gerd's frown deepened. "You've always trusted me before, Teren."
"I've always been on assignment, Gerd. Like I said, this is personal."
"Ah." He leaned back. "Well, it doesn't really matter, I suppose. We were given explicit instructions. We are not to be involved in your investigation. You may use our facilities if you need them, but we will not give you any other assistance. Also, we are not to intervene, in any way." He grinned at her. "Don't take that as a free hand, my friend. If you shoot up the city you will have to deal with the police by yourself."
Teren raised an eyebrow. "And when did you last know me to draw that much attention to myself, Gerd?"
He thought for a moment. "Four years ago, the party at Viktor's house."
Teren frowned, then let her face shift into an embarassed grin. "Doesn't count. It was New Year's and I was drunk. Besides, Viktor dared me."
The easy banter between the two friends reminded Alex of David and herself. Which brought up the image of her partner lying on the ground with blood on his chest.
She cleared her thoat, interrupting their conversation. "Teren, don't you think we need to talk about our plans?"
Teren raised an eyebrow at Alex, detecting an angry note in her tone. She didn't know what had suddenly upset her partner, but she took the hint.
"Right. Gerd, thanks for giving us the heads up. I'll come by tomorrow to call the office." She stood up and Gerd followed her.
"You are quite welcome. I hope that we can talk then about anything else you might need?"
"Of course. I'll see you just before lunch, all right?"
"Very good." He turned to Alex, and held out a hand. "It has been nice to meet you Alex. I hope we'll have a chance to talk again sometime."
"Nice to meet you to, Gerd." She remained seated, watching as her dark haired friend ushered Gerd out of the suite.
When the door was closed, Teren turned to Alex with a puzzled look on her face. "Are you okay?"
She moved away from the door, back towards the sofa. "Well, one minute you seemed fine, and the next, you looked like you wanted to chop off both our heads. What happened?"
Alex sighed, and closed her eyes. She let her head drop to her chest, and shook it slightly. "I'm fine. Just had a flashback of David and I and the way we used to talk."
Teren moved over and sat on the edge of Alex's chair. She let her hand brush through the younger woman's hair, gently pushing it away from her face. "I'm sorry, Alex. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
Her friend laughed and leaned her head back against the back of the chair. "Too late. I've been uncomfortable since the shooting."
Smiling at that, Teren leaned over and kissed Alex's forehead.
As if on cue, Alex's stomach rumbled. Teren laughed.
"I get the point. Dinner, right?"
Continues in Chapter Twenty-nine
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