NOTE: This is a 2004 revised copy of the original written and posted in 2000/2001. Added scenes with hopefully insightful and interesting tidbits added throughout the story that will hopefully make it that much better. Things have both been added and subtracted from the story, but it's fundamentals are still intact.
DISCLAIMER: This story contains violence, questionable language, and relationships loosely based on the subtext present in the TV series. Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental…except for maybe the two main characters who may bare a striking resemblance to a certain warrior princess and her traveling bard;-) Otherwise, this piece takes place in modern times with all original characters.
CONTACT: If you liked the story, please, by all means, drop me a note to: firstname.lastname@example.org…I'd love to hear from you. And constructive criticism is always welcomed!
Saturday July 1, 2000 - Present day
A lean, blond-haired woman doing arm curls with some free weights noticed that the local gym she was working out in remained relatively empty this morning. Another arm curl and she was able to catch a glimpse of her watch and noticed that it was only 8 am. She figured with the heat wave hitting her fair city of Toronto, people would be flocking to any building with air-conditioning and probably shun the gyms.
But, here she was with only five other fitness enthusiasts doing her exercises in peace before she had to be at her book signing for 11:00am. She didn't much mind the fact that there weren't very many people here as she preferred it this way. 'At least I don't have to wait to use the equipment.'
With an audible sigh, she lowered the weights carefully and moved to start her next exercise on the weight bench. She adjusted the weights on the bar to suite her needs, and secured them. With a quick glance around the spacious gym, she spotted the comely muscled gym owner, Mike, and called him over to spot for her.
"Anything for my favorite fanatic." The tall dark skinned man smiled his lopsided grin as he took up position behind the bench.
"Always the charmer huh?" The lean blonde teased as she positioned herself on her back directly beneath the bar to start her bench press. Her hands gripped the bar shoulder width apart and heaved the weights up once and brought them down to her chest and back up. She managed two reps before she heard the shrill beeping from the pager she wore at her waist.
"Aw. What now?" She murmured beneath her breath, slightly annoyed at being interrupted in the middle of a workout.
"I told you that should have been left in your gym bag." Mike joked as he gestured to the small pager with his chin.
She looked down at her pager and noticed the number was that of her publicist James Riley. "Mike, do you think I could borrow your phone for a minute?" The cheery blond asked the brown-haired man behind her.
"It's all yours Haley."
She abandoned the weights and walked over to the front desk to use the phone there. She picked up the receiver and began dialing the number that appeared on her pager. The phone rang once before it was quickly picked up.
"What's up James." She asked casually.
"You're beautiful you know that right?" James said in his 'suck-up' voice.
"What, they finally threw you in jail for all those unpaid parking tickets and you now need me to bail you out?" She laughed jokingly into the phone.
"Oh, a novelist and a comedian. You could make a killing in the entertainment field!" He shot back with his own retort. "Actually, what I was calling about was to ask you for a small favor."
"As long as it doesn't involve having to eat your wife's cooking again." She chuckled, into the phone remembering the pre-dinner party incident almost two years earlier.
Haley had arrived a little earlier than her friends James and Barbara had expected, intending on helping out with the early Christmas meal. Knocking several times and receiving no answer, Haley took it upon herself to push the unlocked door open and announce herself. Upon entering the quaint apartment, the sounds of a muffled hair dryer coming from the kitchen reached her ears. Curiously, she made her way through the fair sized living room towards the kitchen forgetting to announce herself. The sight that met her eyes nearly made her split her side in laughter. There, standing by the stove was James holding the turkey and Barbara with a hairdryer stuck up inside the turkey.
"What are you doing?" Haley exclaimed as her uncontrollable laughter spilled over at the unexpected sight.
Jumping at the unexpected voice, Barbara nearly dropped the hairdryer, surprised to see Haley standing in the kitchen doorway. James quickly dropped the turkey in its roaster and pretended as though nothing out of the ordinary was going on.
"Haley! You're early. Great you could come! How's it going?" Came James too casual greeting as he desperately fought to keep the blush from coloring his face.
"What are you guys doing?" Haley managed to utter as she laughed at the ridiculous sight.
"James," Barbara called to her husband, "you get back here and hold this turkey for me to thaw it out! If you would have reminded me to take it out the other day like I told you we wouldn't be in this mess." Almost as an after thought, she added. "Hi Haley, you don't happen to have a hair dryer on you hmm?" She asked rather hopefully.
Both Haley and James laughed into the phone, each apparently remembering the incident quite vividly. Even to this day, Barbara never hears the end of it with the two of them around. It was a long-standing joke and probably will remain so for quite some time to come.
"Listen Haley," James said changing to a more business like voice, "the bookstore called me a few minutes ago and told me they have a monstrous line-up for your book-signing and they were wondering if you'd be able to make it in for 10:00 instead."
"Sure, no problem. Just give me time to get cleaned up and meet me outside the gym in 20 minutes." She replied without hesitation. She loved her fans and knew that without them, her success as a novelist would be meaningless.
"Good, see you then." Came James' quick response before he hung up.
"Well, that's it for today I guess." Haley said to Mike as he came up behind her just as she replaced the phone back on its base.
"I expect to see you in here later on in the day. You can't keep that body lean by skipping your workouts young lady!" Mike said to her retreating back with a smile.
"I would never dream of it!" she called back over her shoulder with a wink as she entered the changing rooms for her shower.
The drive to the 'World's Largest Bookstore' just up from the Eaton Center downtown Toronto was mainly uneventful. James went on and on about how excited he was that Haley's latest novel was such a smash hit. He kept saying to her how he knew she would hit number one and how the fans would love her. Haley smiled and listened to his praises all with a grain of salt.
James finally pulled his blue mustang up around the back of the store and they both entered the bookstore through its rear entrance. An eager dark-haired woman wearing a tag with 'salesclerk' on her blouse greeted the two guests personally.
"Haley Connors!" She started with an excited air of exuberance; "I am so glad to finally meet you. Thank you very much for agreeing to come in early." She said still shaking the novelist's hand. "My manager should be here any second, he asked me to greet you while he took care of some last minute security details."
"It's my pleasure…uh, Peggy." Haley smiled as she read the short salesclerk's nametag. "So, where is my cage going to be?" She joked.
Peggy smiled at the joke, but before the young salesclerk could respond, a tall, skinny man wearing slacks and a wool vest despite the heat, walked into the backroom where they all waited. With an air of superiority, he pushed his wire-rimmed glasses back up his nose. "Miss Connors," he started with an extended hand and a serious tone, "my name is Jonathon Kowalchuk, the manager of this store. May I extend the gratitude of the store for your timely arrival and cooperation."
The snobby, fake British accent he tried to imitate almost made Haley burst out with laughter. If it weren't for the discrete jab in the ribs, compliments of James, she would have ended up doing a publicity 'no-no'. Instead, she held her tongue and smirks in favor of returning the handshake Mr. Kowalchuk extended her.
"I'm just glad to be here, thank you." She replied courteously.
"Yes, yes." He said unimpressed ending the handshake. "Your 'fans' are waiting. Shall we?" He said in a hurried manner as he motioned with a sweeping arm towards the door leading out of the stockroom and into the main store. He left the room without waiting for his guests.
Haley glanced back to James with a surprised look as her eyebrows shot up into her bangs, but said nothing. The young salesclerk however had plenty to say.
"Don't mind him. Ever since he was promoted to manager of this store, his British accent got worse, his ego sky rocketed through the stratosphere and took up orbit around the planet turning him into a bigger assh….um, I mean, jerk than before." Peggy blushed slightly as she realized to whom she was complaining to.
"Don't worry, ol' Haley here can handle anything, she's a survivor! Right kiddo." James chirped in on her behalf with a slap on the back.
"Um, ya, sure James. Whatever you say." She said rolling her eyes with exaggeration and a lopsided grin.
Peggy smiled and was just so excited to be in Haley Connors' presence and actually talking to her. Seeing the novelist so relaxed and friendly was really a bonus. This was one of the perks of her job here at the bookstore; meeting the various authors that came to do the book signings. But, she snapped out of her star struck daze because she knew she had a job to do. "Anyway, I should really show you out before he comes back here and tries to kick you out of 'his' store for loitering." This earned the salesclerk a chuckle from both the novelist and her publicist as they were escorted out of the stockroom.
Stepping out into the large, neatly organized bookstore the amount of people waiting in a line-up caught Haley's eye immediately. Seconds later, she caught sight of Jonathon behind the cash register serving a customer, eyeing his watch with annoyance and then back to her. She ignored his rude stares and took her time seating herself.
The gathered people were quiet and respectful as they remained in the line-up and didn't crowd or mob her. However, Haley still noticed the plain clothed security guards hovering within a heartbeat just incase. As she walked past several people in the line-up on her way to the fair-sized wooden desk near the sidewall, she stopped and briefly chatted with some of her fans as she passed them by.
While talking to one of the young ladies in the line-up, who babbled on pleasantly about how she loved Haley's books, Haley caught sight of people in-between the low row of bookshelves trying to cut into the line-up. Before she bent her head back down to personalize the hard cover copy of the book in front of her, she spotted the plain clothed security guards moving in. Despite the low murmurs of people in the line-up, she was still able to make out the guards politely tell those people to go and wait at the back of the line like everyone else or they will be asked to leave.
A quick, inconspicuous glance towards Jonathon showed him fidgeting with agitation as he kept glancing at his watch and back to her. This renewed the already pleasant smile on her face. As far as she was concerned, she didn't give a rat's ass what he thought after he acted like such a jerk only a few moments earlier. 'It's not like I told him to bow down and kiss my feet!' She thought with a touch of annoyance. 'Guess he'll just have to suffer through me greeting my fans and for thanking them for all their support.'
After several more minutes, Haley finally took her seat behind the desk. 'There are so many books.' Haley thought as she eyed the neatly stacked copies of her novel. Pleasantly, she began her signing session with James at her side.
By early afternoon, Haley lifted her long blond locks up from the desk and looked about the crowded bookstore hoping to catch a glimpse of a certain tall, imposing dark-haired woman. She secretly hoped she would see her, but no luck. With an inaudible sigh of disappointment, Haley continued her scan of the store and took in the amount of people that had gathered. Since this morning, the amount of people in the store seemed to have doubled in number. She still couldn't believe that all these people were waiting in a long line-up for her signature and to meet her. Even despite the humid heat engulfing the area, the World's Biggest Bookstore was almost filled to capacity with eager fans to meet the comely, long blond-haired novelist. The smiling novelist just couldn't believe how good everything was going as she signed yet another copy of her best selling novel 'Unsuspecting Target', and was simply flattered by the response.
Suddenly a familiar face popped into view in front of her, one of the two people she was hoping to see here today. "Liz!" Haley exclaimed with joy as she stood up and hugged her sister. "I didn't think you were back from Europe yet."
"Just flew in around eleven." Liz said as she returned the heart felt hug. "Did you really think I'd miss my kid sisters first book signing of the number one best seller in Canada and the US?!"
Their embrace ended and Liz gave her sister a sly smile. "Do you think I could get the famous Haley Connors to sign my copy of her book?" She asked as she pushed a copy of 'Unsuspecting Target' in front of her.
"Sure." With a grin, she sat back down and autographed her sister's book.
Over the last 6 years, Haley had written many novels, several of which had found their way onto the top 20 best sellers list. But this was the first time she had ever been the number one author on this prestigious list. Heck, it was the first time she has ever had a number one best selling novel period. And a couple months after the release of her novel, sales were still going strong. Haley reminisced silently to herself about how proud her father would be for her at this very moment.
Robert Patrick Connors had been the editor in chief of the Toronto Herald; a job he had loved with a fiery passion. His eldest daughter displayed little enthusiasm for writing, but his youngest daughter…ah, now that was a different story. Her love of books was very apparent at an early age; his love of the written word obviously passed on to his youngest. No sooner could she hold a pencil between her small fingers was she writing stories that, for the longest time, only she could understand but gladly read to her parents.
With her father's guidance, Haley learned the finer arts of writing when most children were just beginning to grasp their reading skills. As she grew older, Robert Connors could see his youngest daughter's magical talent to weave the written word and give it a life all her own. He had encouraged her to enter short story competitions and to become a member of her schools' newspaper. But fate had cruelly stolen him away in Haley's junior year in high school before he could witness his daughter's rise to fame first through her school paper and then later through her novels as a massive heart attack ripped through his delicate muscle.
Looking thoughtfully at her sister, Haley was glad her older sister was able to be there for her. Liz had always been there for her as both moral and emotional support as well as the unavoidable sibling antagonist. When she felt at her lowest, Liz had always been there to pull her up. When Haley was soaring with the eagles, Liz always made her feel grounded. When they were in mischievous moods, Liz was around to tease her younger sibling mercilessly. It was a loving relationship she would never want to change. Unfortunately, Haley's mother was unable to make the signing, as she had been restricted to bed rest after falling down a short flight of stairs injuring her back.
Though her mother could not be here, Betty Connors had called her youngest daughter the night before, full of pride, to wish her luck with a softly whispered "Your father would be so proud."
Smiling thoughtfully, Haley finished signing her sister's book. "One more down and still a million more to go!"
"This better be worth lots of money down the road." Liz joked as she tapped the front of her book emphatically with a wink.
"Oh I'm sure it'll be worth millions. In the meantime, how 'bout you treat your kid sister to an ice cream treat after the signing." Haley teased with a hopeful glint in her eyes for the decadent treat she had a weak spot for.
Liz rolled her eyes playfully. "A small price to pay for this I suppose." She grinned, indicating the book she held in her hand as she turned to leave.
Watching her sister walk away with a thoughtful smile on her face, Haley turned her head as a new, eager fan approach the medium-sized table to meet the famous novelist.
"Hi." She greeted the young woman with a warm smile.
As the day was drawing to an end, she had autographed so many books, some with little personalized messages, that her fingers were cramped by the end of her session. But she wouldn't have changed a thing. Talking with her fans, learning what they liked and disliked about her books was very informative.
She learned that many were fans of her earlier mystery/suspense novels and were surprised by the sudden change of genre. Many agreed whether they were new fans or old, that the sudden change wasn't far from the type of novels she wrote before and that they were very pleased with the results. Many were even surprised by the in-depth descriptions of events that they could have sworn were real. These comments made Haley smile a secret smile. If only they knew the truth.
Friday June 5, 1998
It was 5:15am and the sun was barely beginning to rise as a secret meeting was called together at the headquarters in Ottawa Canada of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also known as CSIS. One grim faced man in his early fifties walked into the main lobby through a back door and proceeded towards the lobby elevators.
Stepping into the elegant wood styled elevator interior, the man reached into his black suit jacket and hauled out a small plain key from the inside breast pocket and inserted it into a locked panel beneath the number buttons once the elevator doors closed. Another set of numbered buttons was revealed, which ranged from S1 to S6, accompanied by a small electronic red pad. The anxious man quickly punched the S2 button and pressed his thumb to the pad and watched as the pad turned green and the elevator began its descent.
Watching the numbers tick quickly to his destination, the bald man couldn't help but scratch his beard in thought. 'What could be so important that I had to be hauled out of bed for a meeting so early? And why all the cloak and dagger?'
He didn't have long to wait before the elevator came to a stop and the doors automatically slid open revealing to him a short sterile white hallway accented with brushed steel moldings at the floor, near the ceiling and spaced evenly in six foot vertical sections. At the end of the hallway stood a lone door made of the same material as the moldings beckoning to him. As he proceeded down the hallway, the echo of his own footfalls sounded loud to his ears amidst all the silence.
Several similar metallic doors as the one he was walking towards dotted the length of the hallway on either side of him. Six in total he absently noticed. Finally, he reached his destination at the end of the hallway and walked in without hesitation. An older man with rectangular shaped glasses sat at a large oval table in the center of the room with his hands folded in front of him. Quietly sitting next to him was an imposing looking woman.
A quick glance around the room was all it took to take it all in. With little registered emotion, he noticed the walls remained the same sterile white as those of the hallway outside, with black moldings instead of the brushed steel, devoid of any other decoration. It was the same as every other room in these secret lower levels. He barely took notice of the blue/gray office type carpet beneath his feet as he made his way towards the table. Instead, he concentrated on the gray haired man sitting at the head of the large black table.
"Why have you called this meeting Samuel? And why here?" The husky bald man asked in an authoritative voice indicating with his eyes the secret room.
"Please take a seat Mathew. We have a problem." He looked at Mathew over the rim of his small glasses with a meaningful look. "A big problem."
As Mathew studied them briefly, he realized he did not recognize who the woman was. He also knew that neither of them would give away any hints through their facial expressions as to what exactly was going on either.
Pensively, Mathew glanced over to the strikingly beautiful woman who casually sat to Samuel's left. Her long black-hair fell loosely about the comfortable cotton blouse she wore, while inwardly he frowned at what he believed to be inappropriate blue jeans that he glimpsed under the table. But there was no mistaking the air of power she exuded, not to mention the keen intellect he could seen behind those unnerving steel blue eyes of hers as they seemed to stare into his soul.
Samuel on the other hand wasn't as imposing, but still powerful in his own respect. He looked very professional in his black business suit. However, the knowledge he possessed in his head and the life and death decisions he had to make on practically a daily basis weighed heavily on his soul. Dark circles beneath his eyes, premature wrinkles and graying hair was the price he willingly paid to preserve the freedom and well being of his country and its citizens.
Finally, Mathew took a seat in the black cushioned, tall back chair nearest him affording him a full view of the two other people present at this meeting. Calmly, he leaned back into the chair as his elbows rested on the arms and his fingers were pressed together in a steeple like position.
"Go on." He beckoned.
Samuel leaned forward meaningfully. "I believe we have a breech of security that is costing our top agents their lives." He stopped deliberately to let the information sink in and waited for a reaction. When a slight expression of surprised confusion appeared on Mathew's face, Samuel continued. "Since those three Kynak officers defected to Canada for fear of their lives in exchange for information on the supposed nuclear weaponry that they were aiding in obtaining, there's been trouble brewing." Samuel wet his throat and continued. "As you well know, agents were sent over to Germany and various other locations in Europe to confirm or de-bunk the refugee's claims." He paused once again to look intensely at the Director of CSIS. "Two nights ago, we lost contact with field agent Rashka and Kasselman. In Rashka's last communiqué before he disappeared and now presumably dead, he mentioned that the Kynak had installations reaching up into various regions of Europe. According to Kasselman's last report, he was enroute to one of the major installations near the Czech Republic. However, before either agents were able to give any specifics, we lost communication with them." Samuel took a deep breath before continuing on. "So far, that part of what the defectors told us about the Kynak doing their dirty work in Europe was true. Let's pray to God that's all that is true and not find the Kynak in possession of any nuclear weapons."
Mathew thought this disturbing information over in his head for a moment. The balanced pyramid his fingers formed so eloquently collapsed under the weight of his chin as it settled down upon his hands. "They were both in deep. How could they have been discovered? They were there for years before the Kynak officers defected."
"I know. That's why I'd like to find out what's going on. That's why we're meeting here now. And that's why I took the liberty of calling in the best." Samuel stated as he nodded to the tanned, stoic woman sitting off to his left. "Mathew, I'd like you to meet Katherine McGregor."
The expressionless woman gave a silent nod to Mathew, preferring Samuel to do the talking.
"I'm sending Kat here to work some of her magic on a reconnaissance mission, concentrating her efforts near the Czech Republic. She's here now because I wanted to inform her of the mission and brief her in person in the only place I feel is one hundred percent bug free. Only you and I will know of her mission. And she will be reporting only to you and I unless otherwise stated. We can't afford to lose any more agents than we already have. "
Mathew gave a silent, grim nod of agreement.
"Good." Samuel said with one firm nod towards Mathew at the opposite end of the table and then turned to address his top agent. "There are a few things you will need to know before you go."
And with that, Samuel began Kat's briefing and eventually supplied her with the equipment and identification she will need for this dangerous mission.
Friday June 5, 1998
"…Slowly, her soft footfalls on the paved road came to an abrupt stop. The gust of wind that had been howling only moments before mimicked her and quieted. The large flakes of icy-snow stinging her face moments before thinned and slowly were no more. The shutters on windows and open doors fell silent. The seemingly deserted town somehow sensed her presence and…"
"Miss…" called the taxi driver over his shoulder to his preoccupied customer. "…We're here."
Slowly, the blond head looked up from her laptop to eye the gruff unshaven taxi driver with only a slightly annoyed look at being interrupted and then gave him a forced smile. She stole a quick glance out the cab window and noticed all the people entering the airport's main entrance. She looked up to the dark, early morning sky and saw the words "Halifax International Airport" looming over the doorway. She sighed, still a little sleepy.
"Hmm, we're here already?" she mumbled under her breath as she glanced at her watch. '5:24am.' She thought with a groan at the ungodly hour. 'It should be illegal to fly out so early.' She thought as she closed her laptop and packed it away in it's carrying case, shouldering it before getting ready to exit the cab.
"What do I owe you?" she asked the cab driver as she thumbed through her wallet.
"Twelve fifty." he replied.
The young blond quickly went through her bills and hauled out a twenty and gave it to the driver. As he went to make change she shook her head and waved away the change much to the driver's delight.
"Can I help you with your bags Miss."? He offered, already getting out of the cab without waiting for her response.
"Sure." She said to the now empty driver's seat. She took one last quick glance around to make sure she had her laptop and her carry on bag. It was only then that she noticed the unpleasantly faint smell of body odor in the cab that emanated from the driver. He was pleasant enough and didn't bother her while she was working on the laptop. But being as preoccupied with her writing as she was, she didn't notice the odor and was more than relieved when she stepped out of the cab into the fresh late spring air. 'Well, as fresh as the air got in the city. ' She thought to herself.
Upon stepping out of the cab, she found her suitcase and duffel bag were already out of the trunk and in the taxi driver's meaty hands. She winced imperceptibly at the thought of his smell getting on her stuff, and courteously told him she could handle it from here.
"Are you sure? It's no problem at all!"
"No, no. It's alright, I can handle it, thanks." She replied with another generous smile as he handed her the luggage.
She thanked him once again and then turned towards the airport entrance. Before she could take two steps, she heard the cabby's deep voice addressing her.
"Scuse me miss," he said almost hesitantly, "could I ask you a question?"
She stopped and turned to face the taxi driver with a patient look. "Sure. What's on your mind?"
"Well, um, I was just wondering…you wouldn't happen to be Haley Connors? You know, the Haley Connors of those horror/mystery novels would you?" He asked hopefully with childish excitement.
Blushing at the unaccustomed recognition, she replied jokingly. "You found me out."
"Wow!" Came his enthusiastic reply. "I have all of your books! Do you think you could autograph one of them for me?"
"Great! Hold on a sec!" he cut her off before she could finish as he bolted towards his cab and threw open the passenger side door, jumping in with child-like exuberance. He rummaged through the glove compartment, which was filled with books, picking out several novels and placing them on the dashboard and on the driver's seat.
Haley glanced around at the people walking past her and noticed a few of them giving her some curious looks, but otherwise left her alone. When she turned her head back to regard the cabby she wondered how all those books could fit into that small glove compartment. As she spied the books he was hauling out, she recognized, with some amusement, that half of the books were some of her earlier works that were under her pseudo name Winthrop Jhessail.
Back then, she had stopped writing, her family questioning her and trying to tell her that her father would have wanted her to continue on. She just couldn't. Writing reminded her of the father she had loved so much leaving a void in her that pained her too much to continue writing. When her father had left her so suddenly, so had her muse…or so she thought. In her freshman year of university, the writing bug had once again nipped at her heels and tantalized her senses. She couldn't resist, but she was afraid to go with it, so she hid behind another name.
She chose her grandfather's name 'Winthrop' and her mother's maiden name 'Jhessail'. And so, on the anniversary of her father's death, Winthrop Jhessail was born and her successful career in both her home country of Canada and neighboring country the United States as a horror/mystery novelist had begun.
"Got it!" He exclaimed as he held up her latest novel with excitement. He jumped out of the car, reached into the shirt pocket of his worn denim shirt producing a pen and handed both book and pen to her with a smile.
Haley sat her baggage on the ground as she graciously reached out and accepted the proffered items with a smile and asked as she opened the cover of the book. "Who would you like this made out to?"
"Roger." He said immediately with a huge grin. "Put, 'To my adoring fan Roger with love, Haley Connors'."
The novelist looked up at him for a moment and then, with a grin, she began writing out the desired statement.
"You know, you're much shorter than I imagined you would be." Roger stated matter-of-factly as he looked down watching her autographing her latest novel for him 'Shattered Minds'.
That comment coaxed a smile from the novelist. Without looking up from her writing as she was putting the finishing touches, she responded to his statement with a chuckle. "You know, lots of tall people say that to me all the time. 5'6 isn't all that short you know!" She laughed as she scribbled her name and handed the pen and book back to the taxi driver. "There you go. It was nice meeting you Roger. I'm glad you enjoy my books."
Haley bent down to retrieve her baggage as Roger mirrored her actions and grabbed her bags first, clumsily offering them to her.
"You were working on your new novel on our way here weren't you?" the 6-foot tall driver asked curiously as he handed the novelist her luggage.
"Yup." She confirmed as she shouldered her duffel bags.
"Do you think I could see some of it?" he asked hopefully as he handed her the last of her luggage.
"Sorry, top secret stuff." She joked. "Besides, I'm running late and I don't want to miss my flight."
"Sure, sure, no problem! I forgot all about your flight! You better get going." He said shooing her off. "It was nice meeting you Miss Connors!" He called to her just as she made her way into the airport, too far off to hear him.
"Wow, I met Haley Connors! Wait till I tell the wife!" He said excitedly out loud to no one in particular as he read the inscription written to him from his favorite novelist. "To my adoring fan Roger who got me where I needed to go, love Haley Connors". He walked back to the cab, reading and re-reading the inscription with a silly grin on his face. What a great way to start out an early Friday morning.
Nearly an hour passed before Haley and the other passengers were able to board the 737-jet airplane. She boarded the plane wearing her comfortable blue jeans with a light spring jacket over her khaki colored T-shirt knowing that once they left Toronto it was going to be a long flight. 'Might as well be comfortable.' She thought to herself as she seated herself in first class seating. Finally making herself comfortable, she hauled out her laptop just as the stewardess came over the PA system.
The soft female voice began stating the safety rules and how their flight would be taking them to Toronto, Ontario for a 3 hour stop over before continuing on over to Frankfurt Germany. Haley looked down at her laptop and knew this 'vacation' was probably going to be more work than relaxation. How her sister Elizabeth ever convinced her to go with her on this trip she'll never know. But, she did know one thing: when she flew back home to Toronto to meet her sister, Liz better not try to set her up with another guy if she wanted to reach Europe in one piece.
Haley recalled the last time her sister Liz tried something like that; Haley ended up going on one date with a man who was more concerned about his hair and looks than he was about the world around him. Needless to say, she ended up sitting through a whole meal listening to him bragging about himself. She knew she should have just got up and left, knowing he probably wouldn't have noticed her missing, but she just couldn't bring herself to be so rude. Luckily for her, he forgot her name and number and she's never heard from him since.
She continued working on her word processor during the PA announcement, barely paying it any attention. Only when a tall, slim red haired stewardess interrupted her did she look up from her computer.
"Excuse me ma'am, but you'll have to put your computer and any baggage you have with you away until after we're airborne." The stewardess said pleasantly and with a smile despite the early hour.
Haley took a quick look out her window and noticed that they were just being taxied out to the runway. "I'm sorry, I didn't notice." Quickly, Haley got up and slipped her laptop into its case once again and slid it under the seat for easier access later.
"I hope you have a pleasant flight ma'am." Came the stewardess' cheery voice before she was off down the aisle checking in on her other passengers.
Haley sat back in her comfortable reclining chair tensely. Her laptop was the only thing to occupy her mind during the flight. Sure she could get it after they were airborne, but what to do during take-off. How she hated flying. Actually, she deduced it wasn't the actual flying part that bothered her. No, no, surprisingly she enjoyed that. It was just the fact that they were so far up off of the ground that made her stomach turn. She rummaged through her pockets and found the little bottle of Gravol she had forgotten about.
She looked about for a flight attendant, but noticed everybody was tucked away in his or her seats as the plane taxied down the runway. The young woman looked back down to the two anti-nausea pills she shook out into her hand and knew she was going to have to take them soon. Making a slight face of disgust, she popped the two pills into her mouth and swallowed them dry. Yuck. She hated having to do that. She leaned back into her seat and tried to get comfortable in the spacious seats until the plane took off.
'How did I ever let Liz talk me into this? ' Haley thought miserably to herself yet again as she waited for the plane to take off. A sudden shudder went through the plane as it came to a stop on the runway it was to use for take-off. Haley's eyes fell shut as her hands rested on the arm rests breathing deeply as she waited.
She had only 15 minutes to wait before the plane roared and sent them on their way. She looked out the window as the jet airplane rolled down the runway, slowly beginning to lift off the ground. When the plane was completely off the ground and was gaining altitude, Haley couldn't watch the ground disappearing from her anymore. As much as she tried to get use to the thought, it still made her a little nervous.
The captain had just announced the current altitude of the plane; the weather conditions and then wished everyone aboard a pleasant flight. She noticed the red seat belt light was now off, indicating that she could now unstrap herself.
Haley patiently unbuckled her belt as she closed the window blind and stiffly sat back in her seat with her eyes closed for a few minutes until she got use to the idea of leaving mother earth behind. 'Hmm, these chairs sure are comfy.' She thought moments before sleep snuck up and claimed her.
"Miss," voiced a husky male voice in gentle tones as strong gentle hands shook her awake.
One emerald eye slowly cracked open, soon followed by the other to look into deep brown eyes and a clean- shaven face, which was adorned by a pearly white smile.
"Miss, the plane is making its final approach for Toronto. We're asking all passengers to please buckle up."
"Final approach?" She asked the handsome steward with a look of confusion. "You mean I slept through the whole flight?"
"It would appear so." He smiled down at the sleepy novelist with a glint in his eyes.
She groaned softly as she checked her gold plated Mickey Mouse watch as Mickey's arms pointed out the hour to be 8:35 am.
"Thanks for the wake-up call." She said more awake now.
The steward smiled as he moved on down the aisle and stopped to wake up one other passenger before landing.
The young novelist stretched her arms in the air while her legs stretched out in the spacious legroom allotted between seats. She rubbed some of the sleepiness from her eyes then buckled her belt and sat back once again. She remained still for a moment and then felt the plane slowly starting its descent. She flipped open her window blind to watch the plane's descent back to earth. This part always had a soothing effect on her knowing she was going to be walking on terra firma soon enough.
Before she knew it, the plane touched down and all its passengers disembarked. Almost as soon as she walked through the gate leading into Toronto's huge airport she heard her name being called out. She readjusted the bag on her shoulder and then gave the busy terminal a quick, but thorough scan. Her eyes caught sight of a woman not much taller than her, though slightly fuller, as her brown shoulder length hair bobbed up and down as she jumped waving her hands in the air trying to get her attention.
Haley smiled a broad smile as she recognized her sister jumping up and down trying to get above the crowd. When the two sisters made eye contact, Liz suddenly disappeared below the crowd. Within the next second, she reappeared with a blue duffel bag shouldered and making her way towards her younger sister. Haley weaved her way in and out of the crowd and met her sister half way.
They both dropped their bags and embraced in a sisterly hug. "Oh it's good to see ya shorty." Liz said in an affectionate tone.
"I missed you too sis." Haley said, her words slightly muffled as she spoke into her sisters shoulder length hair.
They parted and Liz held Haley at arm length. "Let me look at you. Do you know you've been cooped up in daddy's back woods cabin in New Brunswick for almost three months without a phone call? I was ready to ring your scrawny little neck!"
"I love you too!" The shorter sister joked. "Really, I'm sorry. I just got hung up on this new novel I'm writing. It just doesn't want to work for me. Usually the old family cabin is inspiration enough. Guess I need new material."
"And a vacation." The slightly overweight brunette scolded. "When was the last time you had a vacation missy?"
Elizabeth waited a moment while her sister thought about it and then added before Haley had a chance to get a word in edgewise. "That's what I thought." She said with a triumphant smile accompanied by the familiar rumblings of her younger sister's insistent stomach.
Liz looked down to the khaki colored T-shirt covering Haley's stomach and back up to her face with a smile. "Some things never change." They both laughed at Liz's statement. "But I do believe it's getting louder and grumpier as you get older." She winked as she easily dodged a playful swat from Haley.
"What?! It's not my fault I fell asleep on the plane and missed breakfast. Besides, have you ever tried to stomach the food they serve on a plane?" Again, the two sisters laughed as they both bent down and gathered their things.
"Come on," Liz said still grinning, "I'll buy you some breakfast to feed that bottomless pit you like to call a stomach."
"How could I refuse the offer of free food from my cheap sister." Haley laughed as her sister gave her a sour look, which softened almost immediately back into her smile.
"I'm not cheap," she was saying with a smile as they wove their way through the crowd, "You're just too expensive to feed so I never offer."
"You make it sound like I eat like a pig!" Haley was saying defensively as they walked deeper into the crowd, searching for a decent place to eat.
"Well, if the shoe fits…" Laughed Liz as Haley playfully slapped her sister's shoulder successfully.
The trip over to Frankfurt, Germany was long and relatively uneventful. As the plane landed and they were disembarking, a handsome, dark haired steward was at the exit to give a friendly smile to passengers on their way out. As Haley passed him, she found herself blushing profusely and found she couldn't look directly at him. Not two hours earlier, Liz had tried setting the two up when some of her embarrassing questions revealed that the young man was single. And when Liz started naming off why the two of them should get together, Haley was about ready to kill her sister. Liz made it sound like she was at an auction trying to sell a good breeding mare! When the kicks to her sister's shins didn't work and the dangerous glares she shot her failed, the embarrassed novelist conveniently had to go to the bathroom and just continued on down the aisles.
By the time she returned Liz was wearing a huge smile on her face. She later found out the steward now had both her New Brunswick number and Toronto number and would be giving her a call next time he was around those areas. How she hated it when Liz did that to her. Just because Liz had a wonderful husband, who missed the trip because of some last minute work, she figured it was time her younger sister had the same.
And now, as she walked on past the steward whom she noticed was eyeing her appreciatively, she could hear her sister behind her saying "…and she loves yellow roses, so don't forget…"
"Liz!" Haley almost growled as she grabbed her sister by the arm and hauled her along giving the steward an apologetic look.
"I hope you have a nice vacation Haley." He said with an amused smile as they stepped off.
Walking down the crowded hallway with all the other passengers, Haley walked at a fast pace dragging her sister along. A bump here and an 'excuse me' there earned her a few annoyed stares from some other people as they brushed past. "What were you thinking Liz?" Haley scolded as she glanced back to her sister over her shoulder slowly returning to a normal pace as she let go of her sister's arm. "He looked like he was only 20 years old for crying out loud!"
"Actually, he's 19." Her sister grinned.
"19? Liz, I'm 26. That's almost illegal!" Haley said exasperated.
"Oh come on…lighten up. When was the last time you had a date anyway?" Liz chided her sister who refused to answer the question outloud.
'Too long.' She admitted to herself. 'Things just never seem to click.'
They walked on in silence for a few moments, reaching the end of the corridor and into the airport where English and German announcements could be heard all around them. As Liz quickened her pace to walk up alongside her sister, Haley saw the growing smile on her sister's face.
"He was cute though wasn't he?" Liz said with a grin.
Slowly, Haley began to shake her head from side to side as a low chuckle began to form. Quickly, with a life of its own, it grew into laughter. The sudden laugh immediately turned infectious as Liz began laughing right along with her sister in the thinning terminal as the whole airplane scene with the young cute steward played itself over again in their tired minds. They had to stop walking momentarily as they waited for their laughing fit to subside. Both Haley and Liz dropped their shouldered bags and let them sit on the floor as they held onto the strap.
Several people moved around them and some gave them strange looks. The peculiar stares they got from people passing by were ignored. Not because they were being ignorant, but because they just didn't notice them. One woman, an employee of the airport by the uniform she wore, even stopped and asked them in German if they were all right. Liz, fluent in the language, assured the woman everything was fine and that they were just giddy because of the late hour of their arrival and their tiredness. The woman smiled and almost laughed right along with the two Canadian women before she turned and went about her work.
"What did she say?" Haley asked, wiping away the tears from her eyes as small giggles slipped out periodically.
"She wanted to know if we knew any cute 19 year olds." Liz joked, almost spilling over in another fit of giggles.
From what she could make out of the conversation, she knew that is not what the woman had asked. Even still, Haley felt a new wave of giggles coming on and fought to contain them. As soon as her sister started up again, she knew she was fighting a losing battle as her giggles tore through her defenses.
"Ok," Haley said taking a deep breath trying to recompose herself a few minutes later as she absently wiped away another tear "We have to get our stuff and get going or we'll be kicked out!"
"Ok, you're right." Liz smiled, wiping away her own tears.
They re-shouldered their bags and went about their business as their giggles began to subside. A few errand looks from the people in the spacious airport were glanced their way but nothing else. Finally, they made their way to the escalators and rode them to go to the baggage area and pick up their luggage.
On their way to the pick-up area, they grabbed a cart to haul their luggage with them to their next stop at the car rental outlet.
"Geez Liz, what the heck did you bring?" Haley asked incredulously eyeing the two large Sampsonite navy blue suitcases, 2 large duffel bags of the same make and color and one smaller duffel bag. "We're not moving here!"
"Just the necessities I assure you." Her sister smiled. "And what about you? Two suitcases? That's enough to pack your underwear in. Where's the rest of your stuff." Liz teased her sister, knowing she only ever brought the bare necessities and nothing more.
Haley just smiled and shook her blond head as she gathered the last bag and placed it on the cart. "Where to now smarty pants?"
"Avis Car Rentals." Liz stated as she grabbed hold of one side of the cart while Haley took a hold of the other side and they both pulled it along with them. Finally, after a bit of walking, they caught sight of the Avis Rental sign.
"Oh nuts." The eldest of the two said with a frown. "We're too late. Guess we're just going to have to call a taxi to get us to our hotel for tonight. We'll pick up the car tomorrow."
"Where are we staying again?" Haley asked as she tried to hide a yawn. The long flight over had taken more out of her than she realized.
"The Steigenberger MAXX hotel. Don't worry, it's only about 15 km from here." She smiled with a yawn of her own as she noticed that the hyper mood they were both in earlier had quickly faded away and was being replaced by sleepiness.
A little more walking through the large partially glassed-in airport and they found a way out of the monstrous building. To their relief, there were a few available taxis just outside of the airport. Liz quickly flagged one over, spoke briefly to the driver in German and then came back to Haley with a smile.
"Load her up!" She exclaimed as the driver walked over to them to help them pack their baggage into the trunk of his car.
"Oh goody." Haley said sleepily as they began to pack their stuff into the trunk. However, much as she expected, not all of their luggage would fit into the trunk. Correction. Not all of her sister's luggage would fit into the trunk.
Once they finished piling Liz's two remaining duffel bags into the back seat of the car, Haley opened the passenger side door and sat down in the front seat.
"Wait a second there Hal, how do you expect me to sit in the back seat with all that luggage? I'll be squished!" Liz complained as she straightened out from the back seat after she just finished piling in her stuff.
"Your luggage, your problem sis. Toldja to pack lighter." Came Haley's smiling response as she got comfortable in the front seat.
"Why you little…"
"Ah-ah. Temper, temper." Haley grinned waving her index finger in the air at her sister who reluctantly resigned herself to sitting in the little space her luggage afforded her.
As Haley sat comfortably in the front seat, she could hear her sister grunting to fit herself in with the luggage. Once the grunting stopped, she figured her sister must have made enough room for her to sit in. Then Liz tried to close the door. Without looking back, Haley closed her eyes and let the little noises of her sister's ordeal form a mental picture in her head bringing a wider grin to her young face. Listening, she definitely thought the image in her head was much more entertaining than the real thing. Besides, she was too tired to twist around and watch. Finally, she heard the door unwillingly close and felt a slap in the back of her head, which only brought on a wider grin to her already smiling face.
Haley knew she was the thinner of the two and that she probably would have fit better in the back but tonight, she felt like being a little stinker. After all, the little set up Liz tried to arrange for her against her will with the steward was embarrassing enough to earn Liz the uncomfortable seating arrangement. It was only just. 'All's fair in sibling rivalry.' She thought humorously to herself as the taxi pulled away from the airport.
Before she knew it, the taxi was hauling into their hotel parking lot and coming to a stop in front of the main doors.
"Time to wake up." Liz said with a gentle nudge from behind.
Haley was already on her way out of the car when Liz opened the door and practically spilled herself onto the ground. A snort sounded from the blond haired sister as she tried to hold back a quick laugh. A dangerous glare warned her not to say a word. She heeded the warning knowing full well how grumpy Liz could get when she was tired. A quick glance to the driver showed her he had seen the near spill as well and was trying hard not to be rude and burst out laughing. Which, he successfully accomplished she noted with a grin.
Finally, the young novelist was out of the taxi and only then took notice of the tall, glass building that they pulled up to. Her head craned back to see the top of the building, which was a bit tricky to see in the dark despite all the lights around.
"Liz, this place must cost a fortune!" Came Haley's shocked words as she finally leveled her head and regarded her sister.
"Only $250 Deutsch marks per night." She smiled mischievously. "Your bank account can handle that."
'$250' Haley mouthed with shocked surprise at the unexpected price.
"Don't worry, I booked us one room with two twin beds in it. And we're only staying here for the weekend. After that, we're off to Switzerland!" Liz said with a grin.
"$250 Deutsch marks." Haley repeated in a shocked whisper as she shook her head in disbelief. She should have known this was coming. Especially knowing her sister's preference for the finer things in life. 'Oh well, I don't do this often. Might as well enjoy it and make the best of it.' She thought to herself with a growing need to check this place out.
This being Haley's first time in Germany, she was still impressed with the few things she did see on their short taxi drive in the dead of night. A lingering glance over to her sister, who was preoccupied with retrieving her luggage, and then to the hotel had her thinking 'how casual Liz seemed. I suppose visiting Europe on a regular basis because of Heinrich's job kind of makes this her second home.' She thought silently to herself mentally noting that very good international interpreter's like Liz's husband Heinrich, keep getting called back. 'Course, being a German native might have something to do with the frequent visits too.'
"Are you gonna help out or what?"
Haley snapped out of her thoughts just in time to catch the duffel bag Liz tossed her way. With an audible 'Oof', the bag was caught against her chest and held there until she found the shoulder strap. Finding what she was looking for, she slipped the bag over one shoulder and went to gather a few more bags to haul into the hotel.
As they entered the hotel with the taxi driver trailing behind them with the heavier luggage, Liz headed straight for the main desk in the lobby to check in. While Haley waited for her sister to finish up, she took a look at where she was going to be staying.
The first thing Haley couldn't help but noticing was the large lobby with its high ceilings and old classic 30's and 50's hits playing in the background. With the music playing, she almost felt compelled to start dancing to the Big Bands music right here in front of the main desk. Like a tourist, which she was, her eyes roamed the lobby and noticed its décor was beautifully done with a mixture of a nostalgic 30's and 50's interior design. It was like taking a step back through time. Everything was perfect from the Jukebox in one corner, beautifully restored classic plush brown leather sofas and chairs off to the side. A conservative amount of ferns and other large plants decorated the lobby just enough not to make it look too crowded. Even the colors were bright and cheery. With an approving smile, Haley decided she liked this place.
"We're all set." Liz announced as a bellhop made his way toward them with a cart to carry their luggage up to their room.
The skinny, dark-haired taxi driver approached Liz, said a few words in German and then she hauled out some money and handed it to him with a smile. With a smile of his own and a nod of the head, the taxi driver helped the bellhop load on the suitcases and then left.
They made their way into a set of elevators that looked as authentic as the rest of the place to the era they were trying to imitate. A large wrought iron gate had to be pushed open before they could enter the elevator. Inside the modern elevator with its ornate decor, Haley was relieved to hear 30's era music playing instead of the mind numbing elevator music most places play that she was accustomed to hearing.
When the doors closed, the bellhop pressed the 6th floor and they were on their way. As her sister talked pleasantly with the young man, Haley found herself leaning against the elevator wall still a little sleepy, but enjoying the music as her foot tapped along to the beat.
Quietly, the elevator came to a stop on their floor with a low 'ding'. The doors slid open and the young fair-haired man opened another set of wrought iron gates to let them out and led his two guests down the cheery hallway to their room.
Liz unlocked the door with the card supplied to her from the front desk when they first checked in, flicked the lights on and held the door open for the young man to bring in the cart with their luggage. Haley walked in behind him just as he was unloading the cart. Within a minute, everything was unloaded and piled neatly on the floor. He asked Liz something in German and she shook her head and gave him some money. He thanked her, from what Haley could make out, and left the room.
"What do you think?" Liz asked her younger sister motioning to the room she had picked out for them to stay in for the weekend.
Haley walked further into their room and noticed the soft carpet under her feet as she kicked off her Nike sneakers. The two twin beds in the room looked unnaturally comfortable and inviting to her tired eyes and quickly noticed the sheets covering the bed also had the era look to them.
'Very fancy. It all matches.' She snickered to herself as she stood in the middle of the room taking it all in. Making a half turn, she saw the large wood desk in the corner to work on and a ceiling fan to make the room a little more comfortable.
"Not bad." She nodded with approval. "Not bad at all sis."
"I figured you'd like it." Liz smiled.
Giving the room one last appreciative look, Haley turned and made her way towards her luggage. "I don't know about you, but I am exhausted." She stated with a bit of exaggeration as she found the suitcase she was looking for and started to rummage through it. In no time at all, she hauled out a gray and red trimmed nightshirt with Bugs Bunny on the front. Another quick search through her bag and she found her toothbrush and toothpaste.
"I know what you mean. I could sleep standing up!" The older brunette said with a yawn as she stretched her arms out above her head.
"Well, just don't expect me to pick you up when you fall over." Haley smiled as she found what she was looking for and headed into the bathroom next to her with her nightshirt draped over one arm and her bathroom accessories clutched in her hand.
Before long, the two sisters had settled comfortably into their beds and were fast asleep. Each slept quietly as their own private dreams played out in their sleeping minds.
As dusk began to settle deep in the Carpathian Mountains in northeastern Romania, a small group of men and women traveled an old road through the mountains at a steady pace. In the middle of the small group, a camouflaged painted transport with a flat bed accompanied them as two jeeps with heavy machine guns mounted on the back of them rode in front and in back of the group.
Anybody who would have been unlucky enough to happen across this dangerous group would have noticed they all wore various types of army fatigues and carried various small arms on their person. Their ready weapons varied between mini Uzi's, AK-47's, M-16's and several PK 7.62 machine guns, while holstered pistols sat in waiting at their hips. Several of the group also carried grenades strapped across their chests. And if all else failed, concealed knives were always within easy reach.
Years ago, roads like the one being used now were used by invading armies who came to wage war on Romania and surrounding countries. Now, there was a new use for some of these secreted roads. Now these roads were used to smuggle in illegal weapons and supplies for the Kynak.
The Kynak, a Russian terrorist group made up of various ethnic groups, were hungry for power. Despite some of their conflicting natures, they all worked together in relative peace. Of course, strict discipline and an even stricter penalty for failure to comply with the rules helped keep things in perspective. That and the added promise of wealth and power also lured in greedy men and women and helped keep them in line.
With the various fields of expertise of the Kynak's membership, which ranged from the sciences to business, the organization was very well established and enjoyed a strong healthy life. Some of its members were openly part of the 'army' and therefore were wanted for various terrorist acts committed in different regions of Europe. Others still, manipulated businesses and institutions to suit the Kynak's needs, while managing to keep their own involvement concealed.
The Kynak had been amassing their legally and mostly illegally obtained moneys towards their goal: purchasing a nuclear weapon to make the people who weren't with them to start listening to what they have to say. And as they walked on through the rain soaked mountains under the cover of early darkness, they were one step closer to their goal.
However, one man who's been with the Kynak for nearly two years isn't quite what he seems. As he trudged along the slippery rocks and through the mud with his fellow comrades, he ran his free hand over his short-cropped hair to shake some of the rain out as he mentally went over everything he knew.
The leader of the growing faction was an ex-Spetsnaz with the Russian Special Forces by the name of Viktor Petrenko. Petrenko, as it turned out, was a double agent working for both the former Soviet Union and the Americans during the Afghanistan Conflict in the late 80's. A mission had gotten botched and he was left for dead after a fierce battle over an arms shipment from the States.
Unfortunately for him, the guerrilla group, known collectively as Mujahideen, came across him and knew what he was. They were notorious for their ruthlessness and cunning in battle and with their prisoners. Petrenko ended up enduring weeks of torture at their hands as they searched for information that he hadn't been privy to. Finally, they gave up on him and once again, Petrenko was left for the vultures. How he survived in the desert was anybody's guess. But survive he did and through his connections with the Russian Mafia and other such organizations, he managed to form the Kynak to extract revenge on those who had betrayed him.
It was no secret among Petrenko's men that he hated the United States and the former Soviet Union. And any country foolish enough to stand in his way also earned his wrath. What had gone so wrong to give birth to such hatred was unknown. But few of his men questionned his actions. Some say that three high ranking loyal officers to Petrenko had asked questions and were never heard from again and presumably killed by Petrenko himself in a very painful way. Others whisper that they betrayed Petrenko to his enemies and now live under the protection of Petrenko's enemies.
Marco continued walking with little expression as he held his PK7.62 in a relaxed grip. He knew what had happened to those three and how they fled to Canada and began telling CSIS Petrenko's plans of gaining nuclear weaponry to use against his enemies in a grande scheme of revenge. His Lieutenants had thought him mad to risk all the wealth and power they have accumulated just to exact revenge. He would hear none of their words and before he had a chance to kill them, they escaped. Or so their story went. Marco knew what he was told by Canada's secret agency, but what he needed to do now, was to find hard evidence
Nearly a day had passed since they first set out on their mission to acquire the new component for Petrenko's plan, which was largely unknown to the regular soldiers. With little sleep, Marco barely noticed the time pass as they traveled, his body now accustomed to the stress he put on it everyday. Before he knew it, they arrived at their destination near the outer edge of the Carpathian Chain. Orders were beginning to be signalled to everybody to be alert as their contacts came out of hiding and showed themselves for the purchasing to begin.
Saturday, June 20, 1998
Nearly two weeks had passed since Haley and her sister Elizabeth visited Switzerland and traveled through Austria to their current destination in Vienna. As usual, Elizabeth managed to find one of the finer hotels in the area: the Hotel Park-Villa. Haley learned that the Hotel Park-Villa is an original Jugendstil-building built in 1888, during the times of the "Belle Époque". The beautifully decorated rooms had a sturdy balcony just outside their rooms overlooking the immaculate gardens a few stories below. She noted that their excellent service coupled with old Viennese charm and style, was very impressive for this privately run, family hotel.
Upon their arrival to the hotel, Liz had a message waiting for her from her husband Heinrich. It turned out that he finished his job earlier than anticipated that another job was lined up for him in Germany in a few weeks. He decided he was going to fly over early to enjoy a little vacation with his wife and sister-in-law before he was back to work. And today was the day he was going to be flying in to the airport in Vienna where Liz had gone to meet him.
Haley took this time to sort through her mini disks from her digital camera and label them by the area they depicted. As she popped a new disk into her laptop, and scanned the pictures on them, she recognized the pictures to be those she took when they were on their hiking trip in Switzerland. By the looks of the picture, it appeared to be pictures of their hike through the Kandersteg area at a beautiful mountain lake. In the picture, both Haley and Liz posed near the edge of the lake with the mountains in the background while another hiker took the picture for them. The majestic scenery brought a smile to her lips as she remembered its beauty. She took the disk out of the drive and quickly labeled it 'Swiss Hiking Trip.'
Grabbing another disk and going through it, she found the pictures of the Imperial Palace in Innsbruck, the Kaiserliche Hofburg. Again, she sat there for a moment, unable to tear her eyes away from its majestic beauty. She knew she had at least one full disk just of the palace!
Finally popping the disk out and labeling it, she suddenly realized that she was spending more time looking at the pictures and remembering everything than actually labeling them. In an hour, she had only managed to go through a handful of disks and still had at least a dozen more left. She couldn't believe the amount of pictures she had taken!
Stealing a glance out the large glass French doors to look upon a picturesque early morning sky, she took another look at her labeling chore and made up her mind. She threw on a pair of casual blue denim shorts, a gray tank top and a baseball cap hauling her long blond hair through the hole in the back. She glimpsed the mirror, stopped, walked over and evaluated her attire for the little outing she was planning through the city and its markets "I look every bit the tourist." She concluded with a grin.
She grabbed her digital camera and hung it around her neck and then grabbed an over sized beige, woven handbag, which she slung over her shoulder. Before heading out, she grabbed a few more blank mini disks and threw them into her handbag and was off.
She walked down the stairs and came to the main lobby and approached a young light-haired woman who stood behind the desk sifting through papers. As Haley approached the desk, the young clerk looked up from her papers with a smile.
"Guten Tag Fräulein." The desk clerk greeted her with a smile.
"Guten Tag." Haley replied with a smile as she hauled out her German/English dictionary. She flipped through the pages and found the words she was searching for. "Können Sie mir bitte ein Taxi rufen?" She asked with a strong English accent, a little unsure whether or not her query for a taxi to be called was understood.
"Sehr gut." The smiling clerk said before switching to a very Austrian accented English. "Ja, I call you taxi. Vhere do you vish to go?"
The question caught Haley off guard. She hadn't really honestly thought about it. She had read about Austria's famous cafés and figured that was as good a place as any to start. "How about downtown where the cafés are."
"Ah, you like our cafés, ja?" The clerk asked as she picked up the phone and dialed a number she knew without searching for.
"Actually, I hear some of the best pastries can be found here and I was hoping to sink my teeth into some." Haley said with a wry grin.
"Ah, Sie mögen Süßes gern! You have a sweet tooth!" She laughed before turning her attention to the phone and began talking in German.
"The taxi vill be here in few minutes und take you downtown. Do not forget to see the Stadtpark. It is vonderful." She announced with a smile as she hung up the phone.
"Thank you! Danke Schön!" Just as Haley turned to go and wait out in front of the well-tended hotel grounds for the taxi, she remembered one more thing. "Excuse me."
"Could you leave a message for my sister Elizabeth Liebsch in room 19 and tell her where I went?"
"Kein Problem, I write that now." Replied the desk clerk as she hauled out a note pad and began scribbling down a message.
"Danke Schön." Haley thanked her again with an appreciative smile and a wave before heading out to wait for the taxi.
"Bis Später." The clerk called back in a very friendly manner as she waved good-bye to the young Canadian.
The taxi driver dropped her off on a busy downtown street in front of a tall stone building with beautiful lines and corners that went far beyond plain. On a sign above it said 'Café Central'. She turned and paid the taxi driver and thanked him for suggesting so many interesting things not to miss while downtown. Even with his explanations in broken English, she understood that the Rathaus, city hall, was not far from where she was among the numerous buildings that towered above her. He also mentioned many other coffee houses that she should check out along with the Stadtpark and market. He explained as best as he could, that everything is pretty much in walking distance and whatever wasn't could easily be reached by taxi or bus in only a few short minutes.
She stepped away from the taxi as it took off and she was quickly integrated into the hustle and bustle of walking pedestrians, armed only with her camera and handbag. As she stopped on the sidewalk looking at the buildings she stood in front of, she couldn't resist taking pictures of all the beautiful architecture that surrounded her. After taking several pictures and satisfied that she captured everything she wanted on film, she finally worked her way into Café Central.
Upon entering the coffeehouse, its elegant, cathedral-like setting had her in awe. Its high ceilings and hanging art nouveau frosted glass fixtures were stunningly beautiful. Again, she hauled out her camera and had to capture the beauty. 'Maybe I should become a photographer.' She mused as she thought of all the pictures she hadn't been able to resist taking.
Several pictures later, she found herself a small round table big enough for two and sat herself down on a small round-seated chair with a simple designed wooden back. Almost as though waiting for her was the daily paper sitting neatly folded on the table top in front of her, while a beautiful classical piano tune completed the café atmosphere. Taking a quick glance around, she noticed an elderly man playing the piano off in the corner producing the beautiful melody she quickly fell in love with.
Female waitress wearing black dress pants and a white blouse approached her and asked her something in German as she held out a note pad in front of her. Not understanding a word the dark-haired woman asked, Haley suddenly remembered a phrase Liz had taught her to ask if the person could speak English.
"Sprechen Sie Englisch?" Haley asked, hoping she had pronounced the words right.
Being that English was one of the languages taught in German schools and many tourists visited the area, the waitress was able to communicate a little bit in English with her.
"Café?" The waitress smiled as she pointed to a list of beverages on a sign on the wall.
Haley looked over to where the waitress was pointing and smiled in acknowledgement. Just as she went over the list, a waiter walked past her pushing along a cart brimming with baked treats. Haley's eyes went wide with delight as she spotted what looked to be applestrudels, one of her favorite treats.
Quickly she hauled out her dictionary from her handbag and pointed to the cart. "Apfelstrudel?" She asked questioningly.
"Ja." The waitress nodded with a grin as Haley's face lit up even brighter at the confirmation.
"Einz Apfelstrudel Bitte." She said holding up one finger and pointed to the dessert. "No no, nein. Zwei Apfelstrudel und eine Karamell Kaffee Bitte." She corrected herself as she held up two fingers with a smile. She was a hopeless slave to her demanding taste buds and to the sweet, flaky pastry, washed down by a cup of caramel flavored coffee. She simply could not resist.
'Good thing I don't live here, I'd end up weighing a million pounds!' She smiled as her teeth sank once again into her flaky pastry ever so sensually, enjoying every ounce of flavor she could get from it.
The young Canadian had spent a little over half an hour in the spacious café enjoying her pastries and caramel coffee before she finally called for the bill and left to see more sights.
She had been wandering the downtown area for several hours. Along the way, she had gotten great pictures of the open-air markets they have Saturday mornings. The atmosphere, colors, and the people were all wonderful! As she walked through she just couldn't keep the look of joy off of her face. She only wished Liz and Heinrich had been there with her so she knew what people were saying as they tried to sell her their wares. She loved to haggle for prices. 'Next time.' She thought to herself with a thoughtful smile.
The day was stretching into late morning before she reluctantly extricated herself from the market crowd and moved onto the other sites this beautiful city had to offer. With the aid of a city map she purchased from a merchant at the market, she was able to find her way to the Rathaus.
She walked down the sidewalk, again in awe of all the beautiful architecture that surrounded her and had her camera out, her trigger finger taking pictures of everything within sight. There was a slightly larger amount of people walking the streets with her now, but she barely noticed them as she took pictures of all the old architecture that filled her scope.
Finally she turned her camera down the road towards the Rathaus, city hall itself. She couldn't believe how beautiful it was contained within the walls of the tall, intimidating cathedral like building. Supposedly, it was a beautiful sight to behold at nighttime when the lights on the building were all lit up bringing out the multi-faceted features of this well kept building.
Also from here she could even see the beautiful Stadtpark. Through the carefully sculpted tall shrubs, which lined the outer perimeters of the park, she spotted beautiful statues peeking out from where she stood. The desk clerk was right. Even from where she stood across the busy street from the park, the entrance alone was magnificent. She couldn't wait to go and take a walk through the beautiful park.
Lifting the camera once more to take a picture of the entrance to the park, tires screeching and car horns honking drew her attention away from the pictures she was taking. Curiously, she lowered the camera and watched with a look of stunned surprise as a man in dirty, sweat soaked clothes frantically ran onto the street and swerved around the oncoming traffic. While spreading his hands out in front of him several times to stop cars and occasionally sliding over the hoods of cars, his fearful eyes persistently kept glancing behind him and all around him.
In the quick minute or so it took the man to avoid injury as he crossed the street, Haley's eyes locked with his desperate ones. The man was scared that much was apparent. But there was something else behind those dark eyes. Suddenly, quicker than she thought possible, the man who was running off to her right unexpectedly veered and was now heading straight for her.
Haley backed up a few steps and tried to turn around and get out of his path. Unfortunately, she turned around and walked straight into the lamppost at her back. Momentarily stunned her hand shot up to her head where a small bump was now forming and tried to correct her course. Suddenly, before she took a step, a surprising unfamiliar whoosh of air sped by her ear freezing her on the spot. A soft thud and a low groan from very close behind her made her turn around hesitantly.
Everything suddenly seemed to move in slow motion as she turned around and the man slowly took one step closer to her with one hand clutched to his chest. The desperate look was still in his brown eyes, but a mask of shocked pain covered his face now as he looked down to the hand covering his chest. A trickle of blood seeped through his fingers. He looked back up to Haley with pleading eyes and then fell forward.
In her shocked state, the only thing Haley could think of doing was reaching out to stop his unrelenting descent to the hard sidewalk. His hard body crashed into her arms as the force of his fall and the weight of his body dragged her down to the ground with him in a slow descent.
One knee touched the sidewalk as Haley struggled to stay upright and not fall backwards by the force of the dead weight in her arms. The man's head slowly slumped forward and came to rest on her chest. With a grunt and a gentle heave, she managed to turn the man over to his side, resting against her torso and legs.
"SOMEBODY CALL AN AMBULANCE!" Haley shouted furiously as she looked up around her to a sea of unfamiliar faces, her eyes pleading for their help. "HE NEEDS HELP! Please!" She begged with her eyes as she noticed people shuffling and hopefully understanding what she was asking if the injured man wasn't obvious enough.
She focused her attention back down to the man in her arms and the wound in his chest. Her hands worked around the wound without touching it trying to figure out what to do. "I-I don't know what to do." She breathed with dread as she looked down into the man's half closed eyes and listened to his shallow breathing. She knew the bleeding had to be stopped but didn't know how. Hesitantly, she pressed her hands over the dying man's hands and tried to put pressure over the wound to try and slow the bleeding.
"Y-you…speak…E-English?" The man asked weakly as blood slowly trickled from his lips.
Not knowing what else to do, the young tourist engaged the man in conversation to try and keep him alive long enough for the ambulance to reach him. "Ya," she said with a forced smile to try and comfort him. "Ya I do. I'm visiting from Canada."
Haley began talking about anything she could think of to try and keep the man's attention on her voice rather than the wound. So when the stranger slipped his free hand into her handbag, Haley never noticed as she continued talking to him in reassuring tones. Suddenly, the man's face took on a very calm look.
"It doesn't really hurt anymore." He murmured. Another short breath later, his head and the hand he held to his chest lolled off to the side limply as his eyes closed in death. .
Haley's heart froze as she watched the stranger's eyes close for the last time. With tears building in her eyes, she frantically searched for the smallest sign of life. Anything. She grabbed a hold of his wrist and checked for a pulse, hoping beyond hope he had just fallen unconscious. There was nothing. Thinking she mustn't have checked properly, she grabbed a hold of his other wrist and searched for a pulse. Again, nothing.
"No, this isn't happening!" She said in a whisper as a tear rolled down her cheek and shook her head slowly from side to side.
A middle-aged man and a younger man from the crowd stepped through and approached Haley. The older man touched Haley on the shoulder while the other one eased the dead body off of her. She looked up at the older man blankly as he gently picked her up from the ground and away from the dead body as they heard sirens approaching. He was speaking soothing words to her in German, but she didn't hear them. Even if she could understand what he was saying, her mind was stuck on the image of the man dying in her arms. She'd written about death and murder in her novels, but never in her young life has she ever experienced such a death first hand. The shock of it all left her feeling numb inside.
Her eyes remained glued to the death in front of her, unable to tear her eyes from the horrid scene, as she was being lead away from it. The outside world momentarily stopped as her memory replayed the scene in slow motion to her horror-stricken mind. 'This isn't happening.' She repeated again in her mind, still not believing this was real.
A lone figure secretly hiked her way back from the Carpathian Mountains on foot under cover of darkness to her waiting jeep just outside the city of Brno where it was hidden. It didn't bother her to hike through the rocky terrain; she just had to make sure she had a good hiding spot for her jeep and the gear she couldn't carry in her backpack.
Because she had spent a couple of weeks in the city of Brno, she knew her way around the city pretty well and had the time to find the best hiding spot to keep her vehicle while she set out on her trek. The foot of the mountains had many obscure areas for just such a purpose. However, she was slightly taken aback by the unexpected amount of useful information Brno had to offer her. It was because of the information she came upon there, which led her to the parts of the Carpathian Mountains in the first place.
When she first arrived in Brno, she knew that it was the center of the Czech wool-manufacturing industry, which was common knowledge. But what wasn't so common knowledge was that among the other things manufactured here, were machine guns and chemicals. For this, the city had piqued the Kynak's interest.
The fear in the people's eyes on seeing a stranger in town was evident. The ledgers and note books she found during her search confirmed her initial suspicions of the unwilling allegiance between Brno and the Kynak. She also discovered that the terms of agreement was that they cooperated and kept quiet about their dealings or both the company employees and their families would be tortured and killed. Luckily for her, she didn't have to rely on the people to give her information because she knew they wouldn't supply any to a stranger.
A little more searching and determination and she found a clue to one of the Kynak's many bases. Though the clue was very vague, and encrypted, she had managed to decipher bits and pieces of it. That was why she was headed into the Carpathian Mountains in the southeastern part of the Czech Republic. Somehow, the mountains played a large role in everything. Unfortunately, she hadn't had the chance to go far into the Mountains before receiving a communiqué from Samuel ordering her to halt what she was doing and to head to Vienna ASAP.
To say she was frustrated at being pulled off her current assignment would be an understatement. If the reason to leave her reconnaissance were anything other than to investigate another top, under cover CSIS agent's untimely demise, she would have been downright pissed. But Marco had been a great ally and friend to her. She wouldn't have trusted anyone else to investigate the murder; save for Seth Kasselman who was missing himself and presumed dead probably murdered by the same bastards who got to Marco in Vienna. But if she knew Marco, he didn't die empty handed.
She quickly made her way back towards the South Eastern part of the Czech Republic where 5km's away from her current position was where her jeep was hidden near the confluence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers. It would take no time at all for the athletic woman to cover the distance. Right now, time was of the essence.
Kat McGregor arrived in Vienna at approximately 5am. She was holed up in a small, non-descript hotel in Vienna that she had visited before and found to be to her liking. No frills, not too fancy, very private and centrally located. Her room gave her a full view of the street below so she could keep an eye on people coming and going. Perfect to keep a low profile in and not attract too much attention from unwanted eyes.
As she sat on the single bed half dressed in a white blouse, underwear and stockings, she was bent over her plain black briefcase putting the finishing touches on her fake identification card. Absently, she tucked a loose strand of her ebony hair behind an ear as she waited for her ID to be printed. She had done the finishing touches on her very compact laptop and transferred the file to the small printing machine that was also in her briefcase. Within minutes, an authentic plastic identification card, complete with her picture and position, was printed out.
Though she had done this too many times to count, she still examined the identification card with a critical eye. She looked for spelling errors, made sure she used the appropriate department and no flaws on the plastic card itself. Though she proof checked it before printing it out, she knew she could never be too cautious. She flipped the card over between her fingers and gave it a final examination to make sure it met her demanding standards. With a self-satisfied grin, she slipped the ID into a small leather wallet and proceeded to finish getting dressed.
Within minutes, she was dressed in a dark blue blazer and skirt topped off with matching heels. Her hair was left loosely about her shoulders and very little, to no make-up adorned her face because it wasn't needed and she hated the stuff. She grabbed her ID card, pinned it to her blazer and turned around to find a mirror. She studied herself in the mirror across from her bed on the dresser. Satisfied, she neatly put everything away until her return. She strapped the holster of her gun in the crook of the small of her back where she then slipped her .357 SIG Sauer. Walking the distance to the small desk with two long strides, Kat examined the papers neatly spread out upon it.
Her hand reached out and picked up a black and white photograph Samuel had faxed to her of the woman who had witnessed Marco's murder. Along with it was a description of the incident, a short biography of the woman and where she was staying while in Vienna and for how long. She was also sent the name of the hotels the young Canadian was booked to stay at in the Czech Republic, Poland and finally Germany during the rest of her vacation in Europe.
She stared at the picture of the young woman for a few moments, memorizing her face. Satisfied that she'd be able to recognize her anywhere, she lowered the picture back down to the desk and picked up a pen and paper. She studied the address of the hotel the young woman was staying at and committed it to memory. She turned away from the desk and papers and within three long strides of her long, strong legs she was out the door.
"Are you awake?" Asked Elizabeth as she felt Haley kick the thin bed sheets off of her warm body. She rolled her head slightly to her left and saw the clock was showing the hour to be and early 7:35am.
"I've been awake all night." Haley mumbled into her pillow, her voice cracking from being so tired.
It was a little cramped with the two of them in the double sized bed, but neither of them complained. Even though Haley would have preferred to be alone that night, she was grateful Liz had stayed with her. After experiencing first hand the interrogation sessions of the police in a foreign country, well, her experience, to say the least, was not exactly something she wanted to have to go through again.
Initially the language barrier was a problem when she was first brought in for questioning, but was soon rectified. Elizabeth had been contacted and was there from the start with fresh clothes for her sister at her sister's request. Because of the day's incident, Haley's clothes had all been stained with the blood of the man who died in her arms. She wanted nothing more than to be rid of them as soon as possible.
Once someone had arrived who was fluent in English and Haley had changed into a clean pair of jeans and a white T-shirt, the questioning began. At first they were your standard, run-of-the-mill questions: What is your name? Where are you from? Why are you in Austria? Then the real questions started.
They had drilled her with questions of the murder for hours. Their line of questioning seemed to insinuate they expected her to know more than she was telling. They wanted to know who the man was. Why was he murdered? Who would have had a motive to kill him? She kept telling them she'd never even met the man in her life and that she was just out site seeing. Despite this explanation, they had continued to ask her their questions again and again. By the end of the night, the mental strain of the questioning had given her a walloping headache that no amount of Tylenol seemed to dissipate.
When they arrived back at their hotel around 9pm that evening, her headache had become nearly unbearable. Haley had to drag herself out of the car, through the hotel doors and up the stairs. Heinrich and Liz walked on either side of her to make sure she didn't topple backwards. When they reached her room, Heinrich said something to Liz and Liz nodded. Liz then offered to stay with her sister that night and Haley accepted because she was just too tired to refuse or argue about it. Heinrich had bid them both goodnight as he gave his wife a hug and a kiss on the lips. One step over and he hugged his sister-in-law and gave her a quick peck on the forehead and left the sisters alone.
Haley had taken the two Extra Strength Tylenol Liz had offered her and laid down on her back with her arm draped over her eyes. She had fallen asleep quickly enough, but the nightmares that followed had kept her up the rest of the night.
And now here they were, getting up to a new day and a bright new morning.
"How're you feeling kiddo?" Liz asked as she brushed back some of Haley's stray hairs from her face as her younger sister rested in a fetal position.
"I'll live." She replied with a weary sigh, keeping her eyes closed refusing to face the new day.
"I'm going to make myself some coffee, want some?"
"Liz, I don't like you're coffee." She mumbled into the pillow.
"I know. Just making sure you really were ok." Liz said with what she hoped was an uplifting grin as she tried to lighten her sister's spirits.
Finally, Haley turned over and looked at her sister face to face. "Thanks." She said with a small smile as she gave Liz a heart felt embrace. "Why don't you go on down and eat some breakfast with Heinrich, Liz. I think I'm going to get dressed and go for a walk or something." Haley stated with a small yawn. "Try to wake up a little you know."
"Are you sure Hale? I can stay if you want." Liz said with a slight look of concern for her kid sister. Despite everything that happened, Haley seemed to be holding up pretty good. Haley always was the strong one of the two.
She knew that if she were in Haley's shoes, she would have been a basket case. It was many a stormy night when they were just kids that Elizabeth would sneak into Haley's room and crawl into Haley's small bed and sleep with her to keep the fear down from the storms outside. The cracks of thunder and streaks of lightning always terrified her when she was alone in her dark bedroom. But when she was with Haley, she always felt so much safer. And now, Liz was given this unique opportunity to offer her baby sister the same comfort and safety Haley use to give her.
With a smile, Haley waved off her sister. "Go on. You have to change anyway, you fell asleep in your clothes and you're starting to smell." She said with a dull half smile.
"So are you." Liz pointed out with a half smile of her own.
Haley looked down to the jeans she wore and the loose white T-shirt and smiled. "Go on, get outta here." The younger woman playfully pushed her sister towards the door.
With a quick hug and final look to make sure Haley would be all right, she turned to leave. Just as she reached out for the door handle, she glanced back over her shoulder and added. "Make sure you have something to eat ok?"
"Yes, mother." Haley assured her sister as she shooed her out of the room.
Haley watched her sister go down the hallway and finally disappeared into the stairwell. She closed the door with a sigh as she leaned her back up against its cool, hard surface. 'Come on Haley, you still have a life to live.' She chastised herself as she pushed herself away from the door.
"A shower. That's what I need. A good hot shower." She groaned to herself as she went for her bags and rummaged through them. She hauled out a fresh set of clothes and headed for the bathroom.
Closing the door behind her, as was a force of habit, she switched on the water faucets to give the water a chance to warm up before she crawled in. During those few moments, she shed herself of her clothes, laid a towel out for later and tentatively stepped into the hot steamy shower.
The rejuvenating beads of water poured over her head and down her body in a steady stream. She leaned forward into it, her hands outstretched in front of her to support her weight on the wall in front of her as she stood there as still as a statue.
Her wet hair matted to her head and fell in her face as the minutes silently passed her by. The steam that filled the medium sized bathroom and the hot water that cascaded down her body helped clear her mind and relax her body. She slowly pushed herself away from the wall and finally went about the routine of washing herself. Watching the soapy bubbles swirl around the drain and finally washing away, Haley could feel some of the tension leaving her weary body and the haze that had enveloped her thoughts was finally beginning to clear away. Brushing her hair back away from her face she was thankfully able to start organizing her jumbled thoughts into a semblance of cohesiveness.
During this process clearness, she also came to a conclusion. 'I need a vacation from this vacation.' She thought, her mind made up. She turned the comforting warmth of the water off and began toweling herself off.
Haley had just begun toweling the wetness from her hair when she heard a light knock on her room door. She stopped for a moment and regarded the knock with a thoughtful look.
'Probably Liz coming back to check in on me.' Haley thought with a smile as she resumed drying herself with the large white towel supplied by the hotel. "I'm in the bathroom Liz." She shouted. "I'll be right out."
She quickly wrapped the large towel about her torso as she continued drying her hair with a smaller one as she made her way to the door and opened it. "Liz, I told you that I'm all…" Haley trailed off as a tall, dark-haired woman stood in the doorway instead of Liz. The grin that had been playing at the corners of her lips fell a notch as she regarded the unfamiliar woman now standing in her doorway.
Forgetting she was only wearing a towel, the novelist's eyes lingered for a moment on the bluest eyes she had ever seen. It was such a contrast to her jet-black hair that the eyes caught Haley off guard as she stared at them for a moment. Suddenly remembering her attire, Haley broke her eyes away from the intense gaze of the stranger and stepped behind the door in a lame attempt at covering herself from the gaze of the woman standing in her doorway.
"Can I help you?" Haley asked as she peeked around the edge of the door, taking in the immaculately dressed woman whom she was forced to look up to.
'She must have the wrong room.' Haley thought a little perplexed as they once again made eye contact.
Tearing her eyes from the intense gaze, she gave the stranger a quick look and wondered what she was doing here. Her tall frame sported an immaculate business suit with a white blouse underneath. Beneath one arm she carried a brown leather file holder and a small discrete black purse draped over her opposite shoulder.
"Miss Connors?" The ebony-haired woman asked in a business-like tone. If she noticed Haley's state of half dress, she didn't comment on it.
"Yes." Haley replied with a slight drawl, her curiosity running rampant now.
"My name is Sandra Watson…" The dark haired woman said in perfect English. Without missing a beat, she reached into her purse and hauled out a small wallet. She flipped it open and revealed an identification card with her name, picture and with whom she worked for. Haley glanced down at the identification and noticed, with surprise, that this woman was from the Canadian Embassy. Her eyebrows crinkled slightly in confusion as she glanced back up to the intense sky-blue eyes.
"What's this all about?" Haley asked before the woman was able to finish what she had begun to say.
"May I come in for a moment?" The statuesque woman asked as she returned her ID to her purse.
"Um…ya, sure. Come on in." She stammered as she held the door open for the other woman to enter. Haley's eyes followed the smooth, purposeful steps of Miss Watson as she made her way further into the comfortable room, barely rustling the air around her as she passed. Her gut feeling nagged at her that there was something dangerous about this woman, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. She was rather intrigued at how a woman like Sandra Watson could come across as dangerous baffled her.
"If you don't mind, I'm just going to go change into some clothes." Haley suddenly said sheepishly, indicating the towel she currently wore.
"Of course." Sandra Watson replied as she remained standing, inconspicuously surveying the room. "Take all the time you need."
Haley smiled and disappeared back into the bathroom only to emerge a second later with a slight embarrassed flush to her face as she still wore the towel. "Forgot my clothes." She replied in explanation to the tall woman's curious look as she grabbed a change of clothes from the dresser drawers.
Moments later, Haley re-emerged from the bathroom fully clothed in a pair of jeans and tank top, with her damp hair hanging loosely about her shoulders. She walked passed the embassy worker to sit comfortably on her bed to regard the woman as she noticed the other claiming the small chair at the desk. "What is it that I can do for you Miss Watson?"
"As you already know, I work for the Canadian Embassy and word of your incident yesterday reached us. With you being a foreigner here, a few complications may arise in a case such as this. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions concerning yesterdays shooting? With the recent acts of terrorism lately, we just want to make sure you aren't falsely accused of something other than that of an innocent bystander."
Haley's mouth nearly dropped to the floor when she heard the word 'implicate' and terrorism used in the same sentence referring to her. The direct bluntness and no nonsense this woman displayed were unbelievable. But the possibility of being implicated in such a disturbing crime was mind-boggling. How could they even think of implicating her? And then, as if reading her facial expressions (which she probably could she thought), Miss Watson gave her a slight smile.
"Don't worry. The possibilities of them actually implicating you in this crime are remote. These questions I'm about to ask are just standard questions meant for clarification and your own personal protection."
Haley let out a small breath she hadn't realized she was holding. This woman was just so intense. She wasn't sure what to make of her.
Haley watched with interest as Miss Watson displayed such calmness and a cool collective as she undid a brown file folder case she hadn't noticed before and hauled out forms and papers. But when she turned back to her, there was something in her eyes. She couldn't quite put her finger on it. Call it intuition or a gut feeling, but whatever it was told her there was something more behind those sapphire eyes. Haley stared deep into those eyes and lost herself for a moment. Deep in those eyes there was a quiet sense of power.
"Miss Connors, would you like me to repeat the question?" Miss Watson asked patiently.
"What? Oh, sorry, you were saying?" Mentally, Haley kicked herself. This woman was here to help her and all she could think about was that something about the woman just didn't feel right. 'Get a grip Haley. Your over active imagination is creating something that just isn't there! Too many mystery novels and not enough real life!' She silently scolded herself.
In the last few years, Haley knew most of her time was spent writing her novels and little was spared for a social life. More than once, Liz chided Haley for that. Between her writing and workouts and research, which she preferred to do herself, and the tight deadlines for her books, Haley argued that very little time was left for a social life.
For most of the year, Haley was cooped up in the middle of nowhere in the family camp in the woods of Northern New Brunswick in Canada. This vacation was the first real chance Haley had to just stretch back and do absolutely nothing if she so chose. And now, at this very moment, she began to realize perhaps just how right Liz had been. After this, she would have to make it a point to relax more and pick up a social life when she got back home.
As Miss Watson asked her questions, Haley was relieved to note that these questions were less accusing than those asked by the police the day before. One thing did bother her though and she wasn't afraid to ask.
"Why wasn't someone from the embassy contacted when I was brought in for questioning yesterday?" Haley interrupted Miss Watson in-between questions.
Expecting this question to come up sooner or later, Sandra Watson had a ready response. "Unfortunately, we are unable to keep an eye on all visiting Canadians to the region. Nor do the police always call us until after their interrogation is completed. I was sent out at the earliest possible moment upon receiving the news."
Haley nodded her head slowly with acknowledgement, figuring that to be a very plausible explanation. Accepting the reply, she resumed answering Miss Watson's questions for another half hour before the embassy employee was satisfied she had all the information she was looking for.
Miss Watson neatly gathered her notes and forms and replaced them back into her leather file holder. Before getting up from her seat, she reached into her purse and produced a small plain looking business card. It clearly showed the mark of the Canadian Embassy upon it and the name Sandra Watson and a phone number at which she could be reached.
"If you need anything or remember anything at all, no matter how small or insignificant, you can reach me at the number on the card." She said as she handed the business card to Haley with a tight smile.
Haley looked down at the card and took the proffered card with a thankful smile. "Thank you, I'll make sure to do that."
"If I have any other questions to ask, can I reach you here for the next week?" The embassy representative asked as they walked to the door.
Haley hesitated for a moment before responding. "Probably not. I'm planning on cutting my vacation short and heading back home on the next available flight."
Sandra Watson was slightly surprised by the news, but never hesitating once to let it show as she reached the door.
"That's a shame you'll be cutting your vacation short. There are still many sites and forms of entertainment that Austria has to offer you. You shouldn't let an incident like this ruin your plans."
With a slight smile Haley added. "I've got lots of work ahead of me back home anyway. I can always come back and pick up where I left off."
With an approving nod, Sandra Watson agreed with Haley's way of thinking. Then, as Miss Watson reached out and turned the knob, Haley added. "And Miss Watson…"
"Yes?" She said, turning to look at the shorter woman.
"I appreciate the concern the embassy is showing me." Haley said with a sincere look in her green eyes.
"We protect our own." Miss Watson replied with a comforting confidence in her voice. "Have a good day Miss Connors."
And with that, Sandra Watson strode confidently out through the door and down the hallway. As Haley stood arms crossed over her chest in the doorway watching the retreating figure, she saw Liz and Heinrich emerge from their room and glance at the retreating form of the embassy worker. Liz looked back at her sister with a questioning look.
"Who was that?" Liz asked curiously once she reached her sister and made sure the woman was out of earshot.
"Sandra Watson, from the Canadian Embassy. She wanted to clarify a few things about yesterday's shooting." Replied Haley, who then took on a serious look as she remembered she hasn't yet informed her sister of her new travel plans. "Liz, why don't you two come on in and I'll fill you in on everything."
"Is everything all right Hale?" Liz asked with growing concern as she watched the seriousness wash over Haley's face.
"Come on in. I'll tell you everything." She assured her sister.
From the first moment Kat McGregor first saw Haley Connors under the guise of Sandra Watson, she could almost feel as though the young woman could see right into her soul. It was a very unsettling feeling for someone in her line of work. Fortunately, this was the first time she's ever come across such a strange feeling. However, she was confident that her disguise as an embassy representative worked.
Upon first appearing in the doorway, Kat could feel the young novelist's eyes on her, taking in every little detail that she could soak up. That didn't bother her. She was inconspicuously doing the same thing. But the young Canadian also had a certain sense of confidence about her as well, even if she was somewhat a bit modest.
Her first take on the young woman was that she was a good soul and maybe perhaps a little naïve in certain matters. That, in no means, insinuated she was stupid. Quite the contrary actually. From the intelligence she gathered about her before coming here she was quite impressed.
Upon graduating from high school in Toronto, she went on to study computer sciences at the University of Toronto. During her four-year tenure, she managed a 94 percent average in all her courses. Her apparent knowledge of computers was extensive as well as impressive. So much so that she even managed to find spare time to dabble in fictional writing.
In her second year of university, she found herself an agent and had submitted her manuscript to several publishers. It wasn't long before someone picked up her novel and published it. Since then, she's been producing novels that kept hitting the top 20 best seller's list. She graduated university in the top five of her class and continued on with a writing career making enough money to live a very comfortable life style.
And now here she was in Austria, possibly caught up in something bigger than she ever could have imagined. She hoped for the young Canadian, that she wasn't involved. It could mean big trouble if she was.
As Kat walked through the tidy room, she carefully examined everything. She was searching for something, anything that Marco may have given her before he died. She spied the young tourist's suitcase and duffel bag of clothes. One was neatly zipped up while the other was still open with some clothes peeking out by the desk she was planning on sitting at. The bed hadn't been made yet as the blankets were strewn all over the bed and partly on the floor.
Further inspection with her trained eyes revealed to her a laptop computer sitting on the nightstand between the bed and outer wall with several mini disks laying about it. Standing at the desk, she glimpsed a large handbag sitting on the floor next to the same nightstand partially hidden beneath the tossed bed sheets. All these things she noted and stored away for future reference in her photographic memory.
And then she began asking the young novelist carefully thought out questions to determine the extent of her involvement in Marco's demise. She had little doubt Miss Connors wasn't involved in Marco's death, but one never knows when caught up in her world of espionage. And since nothing was found on Marco's body, she had to presume he passed off whatever information had gotten him killed to someone before his untimely death. Haley Connors was as good a place as any to begin her search.
After a little less than an hour of questioning, Kat was able to mentally envision what had happened through Haley's well drawn out description of the murder scene. She would later need to check ballistic reports and head back to the crime scene to confirm her theory of what had happened. However, Kat also surmised that if Marco had passed anything off to her, Haley Connors didn't know anything about it.
By the time she was ready to leave, she had unconsciously taken a liking to the younger woman. Haley's sincerity and honesty were refreshing and increasingly rare in her line of work. However, the young woman's plans on an early departure came a little unexpectedly. She was going to have to speed up her schedule and conduct a search of the room as soon as possible. It was imperative that she found whatever it was that Marco had died for.
As she appeared to be organizing her things before her departure, Kat stealthily slid one hand under the desk and stuck a small bug underneath. This way she was able to listen in on any conversation that took place in the room, possibly catching something useful. It will also help her determine when the best time to come back and conduct her search would be without Miss Connors around.
Later that morning, Kat managed to obtain the ballistic report from the police in her own unique way with very little trouble. Another fake ID, a little story and great acting got her the information she needed. Now, here she was, standing in the exact spot beneath a lamppost where Haley would have been, in front of the Rathaus across from the scenic Stadtpark dressed in comfortable jeans and a light sweatshirt.
The streets and sidewalks were once again busy with vehicles and pedestrians going about their daily activities on this overcast Sunday afternoon. Several people looked her way; their curious stares were ignored except for a cautious eye, which remained alert. She studied her surroundings carefully and then looked down at the ballistics report in her hands.
Reading the report over once more, she saw that it indicated that the bullet's point of entry was through the front of his chest coming in on a straight 45-degree angle from the right side of the body. There was no exit wound. Later, during the autopsy, pieces of the bullet were found still lodged in his chest. It was determined to be a .308 hollow point bullet. Deadly, getting the job done without a big mess. 'A tidy murderer.' Kat thought to herself as she again looked down at the chalk outline and the little bit of blood that hadn't been washed away.
She stared at the outline for a moment in silence as her mind worked out the trajectory of the bullet. She turned around and regarded the lamppost and the tall buildings behind her. Any of which could have housed the murderer. She took a baby step over to her left, lining her torso up with the lamppost, right about where Haley described her position to be when she heard the shot whiz by her head. The hand holding the ballistic report fell to her side, forgotten as an image formed in her head. Turning her body slightly to have a clear view of both the chalk outline and buildings brought everything into focus. She knew finally knew exactly where the murderer had himself hidden. There, in a little alleyway between the Rathaus and the stone building adjacent to it. He would have almost been in plain sight of everybody and everything.
'Tidy and cocky.' She thought with disdain for the murderer of her friend.
With a purposeful stride and dangerous look in her eye, she marched over to where she believed the gunman was holed up. She barely thought of the pedestrians in her way as she made her way down a cleared path to her destination, oblivious to the stream of people walking around her. Initially, some looked at her with annoyance as she pushed her way through the first couple of people. But soon, the others caught the dangerous glare in the woman's eyes and were all too eager to clear the way for her.
Within seconds, the dark-haired woman reached the corner of the cathedral like city hall, which towered high above her in beautiful spires of magnificent architecture. However, all this went unnoticed as she bent down to examine the ground just around the corner of the building.
With the dark clouds looming overhead threatening rain, the darkness of the sky despite the early afternoon threw shadows all over the place. She reached into her pocket and produced a small steel mag-light and flashed its light on the ground to help her find any clues at all to show her who committed this crime.
As she searched and searched to no avail, Kat could feel her frustration growing with each passing minute. And with the frustration, she could feel her rage mounting. Normally, she did not allow anything to become personal. But this was different. She and Marco shared a history together. They were partners and as close to family as they could get. With the threat of betrayal loomed over CSIS's head, coupled with Marco's murder and the murder of other good agents, she sometimes allowed the rage to fuel her need to find those responsible.
Suddenly, she stopped what she was doing and stood up straight as rain quietly began to pour down on her. People on the sidewalks scurried to find cover as they ran past her holding whatever they could over their heads to keep from getting wet. Kat however merely stood where she was, unnoticed by most, with her face upturned towards the sky. The cool raindrops splashed down on her face and soaked her clothes as she closed her eyes and deeply breathed in the smell of the rain on the city. She felt her frustration lessen and her rage subside as she let the rejuvenating rain work its wondrous magic on her tired body.
Just as quickly as the rain had started, it suddenly stopped. The roads, buildings and people bore the mark of the rain. Where those caught in the rain's tantrum felt annoyance, Kat only felt refreshed. Her mind and body were calmed and refreshed. With purpose, she gathered her few belongings and planned her next course of action. There were yet a few things left unchecked and Haley Connors was top on her list.
After a quick stop to her room, a short shower and a refreshing nap after having gone two days without sleep, Kat now felt less edgy and ready to take on her next task. The long hours she was going to have to wait hidden in the plentiful trees and bushes on the private grounds of the hotel Haley Connors' was staying at were made easier after getting that little bit of sleep.
Finally, after waiting patiently for the occupants in Haley's room to leave, she heard the magic words spoken. Heinrich Liebsch, Haley's brother-in-law, offered to take the two sisters out for a late supper before Haley flew back to Canada on the morrow. The bug she had planted in Haley's room earlier that morning had served its purpose as she now listened in on Haley while she readied herself. She was just waiting for the young novelist to be on her way so she could make her move.
Continuing her eavesdropping on the small group, she unfortunately overheard that they will be dining in the hotel's restaurant. Kat knew she would have to stay alert and quick in finding whatever it was she was looking for.
Half an hour later, through the earpiece she wore, she heard Liz and Heinrich returning to Haley's room to get her. A quick little conversation, some laughter and then she heard the door shut. All had gone quiet as she looked up from her hiding spot to Haley's room and saw the lights flicked off. She waited another moment before making her move. Still nothing.
'Good.' Kat thought as she made her move.
She emerged from her hiding spot, barely rustling any leaves. She stole a quick glance to the sky and sighed. Working under a full moon was not her first choice of ideal conditions for sneaking around. The brightness of the moon took away much of the advantage of doing such things under cover of complete darkness. But she seldom got to do things the easy way and this was definitely not the first time she had to work under such conditions.
She purposely looked at her watch, pressed a button and it lit up in a red light to show her the time without giving away her position. Eight o'clock on the dot. As she stealthily emerged from the bushes and made sure the coast was clear, she hauled out a small grappling gun from her boot. She quickly and noiselessly loaded the weapon with a small grappling hook, which was attached to a strong rope. Her gun leveled on its target without having to really take aim. This was child's play as far as she was concerned.
Taking one final glance around and seeing no one, she pulled the trigger. A soft muffled force of air sounded as the little hook flew through the air and wrapped around the railing of the small balcony just outside of Haley's room. Kat gave it a strong tug and found it to be secure. Another automatic glance around and then she was climbing hand over hand up the rope, her strong arms easily carrying her the distance.
As she climbed up the side of the white building, the various shades of green of her military type camouflaged uniform blended in nicely with the surrounding shrubbery and bright night and shady building. Where her suit did not cover all the fleshy areas, namely her face, she had expertly applied the same shades of cam stick to keep her tanned skin from standing out.
Barely a grunt escaped the athletic woman's lips as black-gloved hands continued to carry her up the four stories, her tightly braided hair gently swaying to the motion of her body. Finally she stretched a hand up and grabbed the railing. With one strong heave, she was up and over the railing onto the balcony and reaching into one of the leg pockets on her thigh. She quickly produced her lock picking tools and was through the glass French doors almost instantly.
She cautiously closed the door and the horizontal blinds to make certain nobody accidentally saw her skulking around the room. Next, she carefully looked about the dark room to make sure she was truly alone. Satisfied, she reached into another thigh pocket and produced the same black mag-light she had used earlier that day. Deftly, she turned the head of the flashlight and a bright sliver of light shot forth, illuminating only where she pointed.
As she noted from her earlier interview with the writer, she remembered that the large handbag she had seen earlier was the same handbag she had been carrying at the time of the murder. Considering what the young woman had been wearing at the time, denim shorts and tank top, it was more likely that anything that may have been passed on would be in the handbag. She walked over to the side of the bed where she remembered seeing it half hidden beneath sheets only to find it gone.
She flashed her small light over the night desk and the neatly made-up bed. She noticed several mini disks laying about on the nightstand, but still no handbag. She bent down and examined the disks on the nightstand and noticed that they had all been labeled. She thumbed through them and recognized the names on the disks. There were several disks labeled 'Switzerland', another few called the 'Swiss Alps' while others still were named after various tourists sights in southwestern Austria.
Turning around, she lightly walked over to the desk she had occupied earlier that morning. Sitting on the desk was Haley's laptop computer with several other mini disks strewn about it, all of which were yet unnamed.
Quickly taking a seat in front of the small laptop, Kat twisted the head of her mag light to turn it off as she reached over to turn on the computer. After a few moments, Windows 98 loaded up and wallpaper of a pod of dolphins were swimming through a mythical world, possibly Atlantis itself. Kat noticed that no password was used. Either she trusted people and didn't worry about someone breaking into her computer or just never bothered to put one in. Either way, this just made her job easier.
Appearing on the screen with the dolphins were only a few icons. Giving them a quick once over, she noticed 'My Computer', a trash bin, an Internet connection, a browser and a shortcut to Word. Had she more time, she might have gone through the computer to see what was on her hard drive just to make sure. Unfortunately, time was of the essence and she had to be quick.
Knowing the young woman was out site seeing and probably taking pictures on the day of the shooting, it was possible these disks may have information that could be useful to her. And she knew that Haley had been taking pictures of the Rathaus only moments before everything went crazy, which lent credence to her assumption. Too bad she hadn't finished labeling her disks. It would have made her job that much easier.
She grabbed one of the six disks on the desk beside the small computer, mentally remembering its place, and popped it into the disk drive, which it only partially occupied. With her index finger, she moved her finger along the touch pad below the space bar to move the cursor to where she wanted it to go. Within a heartbeat, she had a window displaying the contents of the first disk on the screen in front of her.
"Damn." She muttered quietly, just below her breath. 'I'm gonna have to go through them all to find out what's on them.' She thought with annoyance as she noticed the pictures went by numbers and not names. 'Maybe I'll get lucky.' An internal snort. 'Ya, right.'
She single clicked on the file and a small quick view picture appeared on the left side of the window. She made sure she didn't actually open the document because if Haley were observant, she would notice someone was snooping around on her computer. First of the thumbnail pictures to be brought up was of the famous Lipizzaner Horses. A large number of them were captured in a large field, lazily grazing off of the grass. There were such a large number of the beautiful white horses that Kat figured this picture was taken at a stud farm for the animals.
The small yellow cursor clicked on another picture to open its thumbnail. This one showed a building on a beautiful green, grassy hill overlooking a city. Kat sat back a minute and tried to remember where she'd seen this picture before.
"The clock tower in Graz." She whispered out loud to herself.
After viewing two more pictures on this disk, which were from the clock tower overlooking the city below, she surmised that this disk only contained photos of Graz. This was not what she was looking for and knew any more time spent looking through this disk would be a waste of valuable minutes.
Promptly returning the mini disk to its protective case and returning it to its exact position from whence it came; Kat chose another disk to browse through. After several minutes of rapid clicks, this disk was also replaced to its spot on the desk, it not being what she was looking for and grabbed for another disk to view.
As the skilled spy went about her studious search through the disks, her lack of findings was only mildly annoying. All these disks held nothing but pictures of Graz and Innsbruck.
'I know she visited more of Austria's cities than Graz and Innsbruck.' She mentally stated to herself as she sat back in the chair and looked about the room, going over the details. 'If I can find her handbag, I might find the disks of Vienna as well and maybe a clue to the murderer.'
Absently, she grabbed her small mag light and quietly pushed herself away from the desk and stood to her full 6-foot height. She left the computer and these disks alone for a moment while she went off in search of the handbag. Rounding the corner of the bed, she found what she was looking for. There, on the floor, sat the handbag she had been searching for on the opposite side of the bed.
She quickly walked over to the handbag noiselessly where she then switched the mag-light from her hand to her mouth. Kneeling down beside the bag, she deftly opened it with her free hands and pointed the small light into the opening.
She thumbed through the contents of the bag quickly and efficiently. As she rummaged through the bag, she regarded the first items with a raised eyebrow. There, sitting on top of everything was a pair of clean black Nike sneakers accompanied by a pair of clean white socks in the bag. Digging some more, but not enough to look as though someone had gone through everything, she found several Archie digests, a notepad, a Pez dispenser, an English/German dictionary, some Kleenex, a new digital camera and several unnamed disks. Her eyes lit up as she caught sight of a few more mini disks.
"Bingo." She whispered to herself as her eyes settled on the item she was searching for.
With a self-satisfied smile, she reached down into the bag to gather up the disks to examine them further. Suddenly her hand froze as her fingers brushed the surface of one of the disks. Her head shot up and listened attentively to the sounds around her. Her keen hearing and instinct were rewarded as they forewarned her of someone approaching the room by the soft footfalls on the carpeted hallway floors.
With only seconds to act, she quickly shuffled the items in the handbag to their original positioning, shut her mag light off and flew over to the computer and shut it off without going through the shut down sequence.
The doorknob turned and the door began to swing open as the sounds of someone mumbling beneath their breath started to walk into the room. Kat knew there was no way she'd get out onto the balcony without being seen or heard. Fast eyes scanned the room as her mind went over the situation. Her eyes quickly settled on the floor and the space between it and the underside of the bed. It looked to be just about enough room for her to squeeze under.
'Only one way to find out.' She thought with quick resolve.
Just as the bedroom lights came to life, Kat's body had reluctantly squeezed completely under the bed. Resting on her back, her head turned sideways so that it would fit and her arms out to her side laid Kat. She concentrated on slowing down her breathing and relaxing her muscles until she became deathly still. With her head turned towards the door, her piercing blue eyes were allotted a fairly clear view of the main floor.
"Haley, they were just standard questions and the soup was an accident." Haley's sister's voice drifted down to Kat's ears. Motionless, Kat continued to eavesdrop on their conversation as she watched three pairs of feet walking around. A pair of black heels and men's loafers remained by the hallway as beige women's loafers walked towards the closet.
"I know Liz, but just seeing that detective in the dining room giving me those accusing looks just made me lose my appetite." Haley said with weariness in her voice as Kat heard the closet door slide open.
"Haley, I do not think the man intentionally meant to make you feel as you do." Spoke a soft baritone voice. Kat figured it was probably Heinrich Liebsch, Haley's brother-in-law.
Kat listened to the shuffling of clothes hangers stop briefly. "Sure, just like he didn't mean to 'accidentally' walk into the waiter spilling that soup all over me!" Came Haley's biting words. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear that man thought I was the murderer!"
For a moment, there was an awkward silence. From her vantage point, Kat could see the two pairs of feet by the hallway fidgeting restlessly, while the one by the closet walked towards the bed.
Suddenly the bottom of the bed pressed up against Kat's face and chest uncomfortably, but not unbearably, as she felt weight drop onto the bed. The strings of lint on the bottom of the bed rested on her face, while loose strands tickled at her nose. Annoyed, she softly blew at these strands to try and force them away from her nose and mouth. A little squished in her tight spot, she was relieved that she managed to get the annoying strands away from her nose and mouth as she continued to listen in on the conversation.
"I'm sorry guys." Haley started to say. "I guess maybe I'm a little on edge. Maybe all I need is a vacation from this vacation."
Kat could almost hear the smile in the young novelist's voice as she spoke these words, which brought a mild grin to her face as well. Then she noticed the other pairs of feet making their way towards the bed as well. Kat braced herself as she prepared to receive the added weight on the bed, which she figured would come.
She was right. The bed sank down a touch more just above her head while she felt an added pressure on her legs near the end of the bed. From what she had previously seen of Heinrich she figured that it was him and his muscled 6'3 frame that settled down on her legs. She was just grateful he sat there and not where Haley sat just above her chest.
"A vacation from a vacation…now there's an ingenious thought!" Laughed Heinrich who was soon joined by the other two women.
"Just make sure it's cheap so you're not complaining all through that vacation too!" Liz added, still laughing.
"All right you two clowns, get out of here! This soup is starting to stick to my skin!" Haley said playfully as Kat noticed Haley's weight lifting off of the bed quickly followed by the other two bodies. Her body felt relieved by the removal of the weight it was forced to endure.
"Go on…Git!" Haley said with a chuckle as Kat watched all three feet shuffle towards the door.
"We'll be by tomorrow morning to get you out of bed and catch your plane." Liz added as Kat heard the bedroom door open.
"Don't even think about waking me up early!" Haley scolded playfully. "My plane only leaves at one."
"Whatever you say little sis." Kat heard Liz say with a tone of mischief in her voice. "Night Hale."
"Sleep well Haley." Heinrich added.
"Goodnight you two. Try to keep the noise down k? You had me and half the hotel up all night Friday."
"Haley!" Liz said incredulously.
"Just kidding." Haley giggled. "See you in the morning."
With the final goodnight's said the door closed and Kat saw Haley kick off her shoes.
Sigh. "This was my favorite pair of dress pants." Kat heard Haley mumble to herself just as she saw the black pants drop to the floor and kicked away towards the bed.
After mumbling a bit more to herself, Haley was on her way towards the shower.
Kat hastily wiggled herself out from under the bed and began to head towards the balcony doors. Quickly she stopped and altered her course towards the handbag to retrieve the disks.
"Damn it!" Kat cursed beneath her breath as she discovered the bag was moved once again. Just as she was about to conduct a quick search for the bag, she heard the faint sounds of the locks on the French doors being picked from outside.
Her surprise from the unexpected sound was short lived as she kicked her body into gear and jumped in the only other available hiding spot. One long quick stride backward and she was in the open closet. She shut the open door till there was only a small crack for her to spy out of.
'Maybe there's more to Haley Connors than I thought.' Kat thought with a little disappointment at the possibility of the young Canadian actually being caught up in this whole fiasco came to mind.
Haley's shower was one of her quicker ones. She had tied her hair back and up to avoid getting it wet because she hated going to bed with wet hair. She always woke up with what she called 'bed head' in the mornings, leaving her hair completely unmanageable. And after tonight's little incident in the dining room of the hotel, she didn't have the energy to take a long shower. Right now, her body just wanted to crawl under the sheets and go to sleep.
Drying herself off leisurely and then wrapping the towel around her, she stepped out of the bathroom to find her comfortable pair of shorts and nightshirt to wear to bed. Upon stepping out of the bathroom, she found herself immersed in complete darkness.
'I could've sworn I left the lights on.' She thought with a mild look of confusion on her face.
Her hand reached out to the light switch on the wall and flicked on the main light. Before she could draw her hand back, someone had reached around the corner and grasped her hand in a vice like grip. The strong hand quickly swung her around the corner and slammed her body face first into the wall next to the closet; her arm-twisted and held behind her back. As Haley began to struggle, a strong forearm pressed against the back of her neck painfully holding her firmly in place.
"If you want to live through this night, you will cooperate with me and do as I say." The hoarse whisper of a man said dangerously into her ear. "Is that clear?"
"If this is a robbery, just take everything. I don't want any trouble." She replied through painfully clenched teeth.
"Good girl." He said in a condescending tone, still whispering uncomfortably close into her ear. "Now tell me where you've hidden the disk."
Haley thought frantically and wondered what he would want with her disks. There was nothing on them except the pictures she'd taken. But if he wanted them, he could have them and the damn camera too! Just so long as he left her alone.
With a noticeable gulp, she answered him. "There are a few on the desk, the night table and my handbag beside the desk. You can have them all."
"Don't fuck with me girl!" He growled as he quickly pulled her away from the wall and slammed her back into it with a resounding thud.
"I told you what you asked for! What more do you want?!" She cried back in a fiery tone to her assailant with growing anger and fear.
"Oh, I see you're going to be stubborn one." He said with a sneer as he hauled her away from the wall once again continuing to hold her arm behind her back as his other arm wrapped around her neck. "I love it when my victims put up a struggle."
With a sudden quickness she wouldn't have thought humanly possible, he swung her around face to face and struck out with the back of his hand hitting her painfully across the cheek. Her body spun dizzily to the ground, forcing her down to her hands and knees before her mind had time to register what had just happened. Then the sharp pain reached her senses. Furiously she fought the stinging tears forming in her eyes as her hand frantically grasped at the towel that was slowly coming undone and slipping off of her body.
From the corner of her eye, she could see the masked man dressed in black from head to toe advancing towards her for another attack. As she quickly gazed up sideways into the man's dark hazel eyes, she saw nothing but her own death within. With a frantic resolve, her instincts for survival or die took over.
As she felt his hands reach out and grab her shoulder, she jumped up to a crouch and delivered a strong elbow to his mid-section. She heard a satisfying 'oof' as she connected solidly with his hard torso. Refusing to give him a moment of rest she leapt to her feet, held onto her towel with one hand, and delivered a strong sidekick to the face.
His head snapped back as a trail of blood spurted from his nose. Haley took no pleasure in fighting, but she was glad she had taken those martial arts classes. However, she didn't stay and wait for her assailant's retaliation. Instead, she turned around and bolted for the door.
Before she took two steps, she felt her hair yanked back violently putting her at the mercy of her attacker. "You bitch!" He spat down into her face as he looked down at her partially naked body, one hand clutching his bloody nose. "You little bitch!" He repeated as his knee came up and delivered a gut wrenching kick to her side, releasing a painful cry from Haley.
"I'm going to enjoy killing you!" He sneered, still holding his bloodied nose.
Haley was still gasping for air as she felt herself being roughly hauled to her feet by her hair. The novelist's mind barely registered her towel slipping from her body down to the carpeted floor as she was once again face to face with the masked intruder.
She saw the fisted hand fly towards her face seconds before it connected and painfully sent her reeling back towards the wall headfirst. With a painful thud, her head connected with the corner of the merciless wall as her naked body slowly slid to the floor, darkness beginning to cloud her vision. The last thing she saw before succumbing to the darkness was a shady blur streaking out of the closet and then nothing. The darkness had claimed her.
Kat watched the unknown intruder enter the room just as she had earlier; only his search wasn't as thorough as hers. Peeking through the sliver she allotted herself to spy through, she noticed that the new intruder was rather thin. The toned, sinewy muscles that appeared to be part of the tight fitting black suit made it apparent that the intruder was a man. And by the sound of his frustrated sigh at not immediately finding what he was searching for told her that he wasn't a very patient man either.
Since Kat's hiding place in the closet had the bathroom directly behind her, on the other side of the back wall of the closet, she heard Haley humming for several minutes until finally shower was turned off. Her eyes never left the intruder as she watched him react to the same sound of the shower being turned off.
Without hesitation, he flew over to the light switch with light feet and flicked it off. The room then plummeted into complete blackness except for the tiny sliver of moonlight shining through the now open drapes of the French door. The next second, she heard his body lightly settle back around the corner of the small hallway right in front of the closet door from which she was spying.
Her eyes squinted to tiny slits as her mind flew through possible courses of action this sloppy intruder presented her. In the blink of an eye she could reach out and snap his neck before he knew what hit him. Of course, she knew this plan of action left her with more questions than answers. She also thought of a few pressure points she could use to immobilize him and spirit him away to question later. But that course, she knew, could possibly prove to be futile, especially if he was associated with the Kynak.
Through past experiences, she knew their assassins and agents would rather die than give away any information. And because they usually worked in pairs, their partner would kill them if not captured themselves, whether they wanted to live or not to prevent any information from being leaked. This presented another problem. If there was another involved, where were they?
No. She knew her most prudent course of action would be to let this scene play itself out and take what information she could from the encounter without getting involved. If Haley Connors were involved, she would deal with her later.
Suddenly, she heard the bathroom door open and within seconds the light was switched on. That's when the intruder made his move. The next second, she heard a body being unceremoniously thrown against the hard wall so close to the door that she could smell the soap off of Haley's skin.
By straining her eyes sideways to study Haley's face for a reaction to this surprising treatment, she could just barely make out the panic in the young Canadian's eyes as her face winced in pain. Now, after hearing the hoarse whispers of Haley's attacker, Kat was starting to get a different picture of what this meeting is really about.
Still, she kept quiet. If Haley was a smart girl, she would play along and would probably walk away whole and alive, so Kat let the scene before her run its course. Already she figured out one piece to the puzzle. Whoever this man is, he's definitely working with whoever killed Marcus and that Marcus had uncovered something. More than likely, it was contained on this disk the intruder was inquiring about.
'Marcus, you old dog. ' Kat thought with an inward smile as she surmised that he probably had slipped something to Haley before he died. Judging by her reaction to the question, Haley had no idea about this little bit of information.
Then something changed. The thinly veiled anger, which lurked just beyond his eyes, exploded into crazed madness. She'd seen this exact look enough times in the eyes of murderers and crazed radicals to know that Haley's time was short. He meant to kill her whether he 'coaxed' the information out of her or not. Her anger nearly peaked as she recognized Haley's precarious predicament. She knew she couldn't just stand by and watch an innocent person being brutally murdered for something she never meant to get involved with in the first place.
Just as she was about to throw the door back and burst out to the novelist's aid, she hesitated. Her keen eyes caught a quick glimpse of the fire in the young woman's eyes as she delivered a nicely executed elbow to the solar plexus followed by a devastating sidekick to the face. To her ears, the sound of the crunching bone indicated she had definitely broken his nose.
'Good girl.' She thought approvingly, realizing that there may be no need to reveal her presence.
However, Haley's good fortune quickly dissipated as the more experienced fighter recovered from her attack before Haley could flee. The closet door flew open just as she saw Haley's exposed body fall vulnerably to the floor, her eyes closing into unconsciousness.
Kat knew she had taken the intruder completely by surprise by the wide look of alarm in his eyes as her leading fist connected with his shattered nose. The powerful uppercut she delivered lifted his body slightly off the floor and sent him crashing onto the bed behind him.
Surprisingly, he kept rolling with the momentum and kicked out towards her as his legs flipped over his head to land feet first on the opposite side of the bed.
With a cat like prowess, she easily avoided the smooth kick, jumped onto the bed with her hands leading and somersaulted to the other side. Landing with cat like grace, she reached out and grabbed the intruder's shoulder as he opened the French doors and was about to make a hasty retreat.
"What's the matter?" She spat as she spun him around to taste her fist once again.
"I thought you liked it rough."
As she hauled her fist back to deliver another powerful punch, she heard the muffled shot of a gun with a silencer being fired. Despite all her vaunted skill, Kat could not avoid a bullet, which delivered an all too real flash of pain through her shoulder. Instinctively, she rolled backwards with the shot to try and find cover before another bullet came at her.
Ignoring the stinging pain in her shoulder momentarily, she hastily slid to the other side of the bed for cover. A frantic glance to where Haley lay sprawled out on the floor revealed the danger Haley was in. Without a second thought, she quickly grabbed hold of Haley's body just as a bullet imbedded itself into the wall just above her head. The bullets near miss had Kat working to haul the unconscious woman safely behind the bed with her in record time.
Protectively, she crouched over the motionless body as she hauled out her .357 from her back holster, bringing it up in a ready position. Slowly, Kat lowered her head to the floor and looked under the bed to watch for anyone stepping through the open doors into the room.
The seconds crawled by and nothing happened. Faintly, she heard the branches on the ground rustle slightly. Cautiously, she crept over to the side of the desk staying under cover and listened further. The crack of a twig further away from the rustling branches told her that their attackers were well on their way to a hasty retreat.
Still, experience told her she should check and make sure they were gone before exposing herself carelessly. Jumping from her position by the desk, she bolted towards the light switch and threw the room back into darkness. Moving back behind the bed in a low crouch, she waited for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the darkness.
Blinking several times, she found her eyes quickly adjusting to the lightless room. Depending entirely on her sharp hearing for the moment, she listened for any evidence of the attackers. Nothing. Quietly, with her gun at the ready, she maneuvered herself to the French doors. A quick glance out the doors revealed no one about. Her sharp senses, keyed to the presence of danger, weren't ringing their familiar warning alarms. Even still, she proceeded with caution as she checked the grounds for any signs of her attackers.
After a thorough search, Kat was satisfied that whoever had attacked them were well away from here. She quietly returned to Haley's room through the French doors to see how badly Haley was hurt.
Re-entering the hotel room, Kat closed the drapes to prevent any unwanted eyes and then moved to switch on the light and was slowly becoming aware of the stinging pain in her shoulder again. As she walked towards the still naked body lying on the floor, she casually inspected her own injured shoulder. Much to her relief, she found that the bullet had only tore through her skin and grazed the top of the underlying bone where her arm met her shoulder. She ignored her own injuries once again as she bent down to inspect the extent of Haley's injuries, her nakedness put aside for the moment.
Kat noticed a trickle of blood that was beginning to congeal nicely as it ran down the side of Haley's face. With gentle hands, she parted the soft hair and found a nasty little gash on the blond scalp, but nothing life threatening she observed with relief.
Continuing her inspection down the gentle face, Kat winced as she saw the dark bluish purple bruise beginning to form on the side of Haley's jaw line. Expertly, her fingers gently examined the damaged area for broken bones. Checking the area carefully, she determined that Haley had gotten lucky and suffered no fractures.
Gently she lifted Haley's head and turned her face to check the other side. On her cheek was a bright red mark; the obvious result of her assailant's backhanded strike. By the look and feel of it, there was nothing broken. And if Haley was lucky, it might not even bruise badly, though she doubted that. Only time would tell. As her eyes examined Haley's face, she could see a dark bruise forming around her rib area from the corner of her eye.
Tentatively, Kat's fingers examined the underlying ribs around the damaged area. A small moan escaped Haley's lips as her fingers pressed on a particularly sensitive spot. Her fingers froze above the injured area, not touching it, as she waited to see if the woman would regain consciousness. Languidly Haley's eyes weakly fluttered opened for only a few seconds to center their gaze on Kat's before drifting close once again.
Kat let out a relieved breath at almost being discovered. Undeterred, Kat turned her attention back to the dark purple bruise forming on Haley's ribs. Again she prodded the area searching for any broken ribs.
'Lucky kid. Not a single broken or cracked rib.' Kat thought casually as she examined the prone body for any wounds that would require medical attention.
The rest of her examination turned up no other injuries besides a few small bruises on her arms. Gently, Kat laid Haley back down on the floor as she got up to find her some clothes.
'Can't leave her laying around naked as a jay bird.' With that thought, Kat found a long nightshirt and hauled it out of the bag.
Carefully, Kat brought Haley's body up to a sitting position. She slipped the garment over Haley's head and slipped her arms through the armholes and then hauled the shirt down to cover her body. She held Haley in place as she stood up and turned down the bed sheets. Kat dipped back down and easily picked up the smaller woman as though she were a porcelain doll and laid her down on the bed. Kat grabbed the sheets and tucked them loosely around Haley.
For a moment, she stood back and watched Haley's placid face. If she hadn't known better, she would have guessed Haley was sleeping peacefully. However, the dark bruise on her gentle chin stood out like a sore thumb, telling the story of this night's ordeal. Luckily though, she would be all right, albeit very sore come the following days.
As Kat moved away from the bed she suddenly heard a knock on the door.
'Jesus! This place is worse than Grand Central!'
Kat hastily flicked the lights off as she slowly backed away from the door towards the balcony door. From the bed, she heard a soft moan as Haley began to stir.
"Haley." She heard Heinrich softly call out from the hallway. "Is everything all right?"
"Haley, we heard a commotion over here. Are you all right?" Liz called out after her husband.
'Sigh! I'm gonna have to catch her tomorrow before she leaves.' Kat thought with exasperation at all the obstacles that had kept popping up all night long.
With practiced ease, Kat exited the room the way she had entered it making sure everything was back in their proper places. One last glance towards the unconscious woman and she was gone.
Faint, undecipherable sounds began to permeate through the darkness of her mind. Valiantly, Haley fought back the darkness, grasping at the faint sounds to use as her anchor back into consciousness. Again the sound came and she recognized it as someone knocking on her door quickly followed by spoken words. She concentrated more closely and discovered the speaker was her sister. Initially she could make out only a few words, but slowly the fog lifted and Liz's words became clearer and Haley's eyes slowly began to flutter open.
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 fought through the darkness and managed to open 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's voices fading 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 slow, 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 though I had my own guardian angel watching over me.' She mused. 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 her weary features with cold water 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 sudden butterflies tingle their way through her body leaving a wake of sudden emotion gaining a grip over her calm demeanor.
'Oh my god I could have been killed! I almost was!' The sudden realization hit hard as she hugged herself gently sitting upright in her bed. 'What the hell have I gotten myself mixed up in?'
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 rocked back and forth ever so slightly. 'You're going home.' She never thought that she would find sleep this night, but slowly her tears had lulled her into a fitful sleep.
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, 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 sore, while her side seemed even more painful than the night before. 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, as her heart rate picked up expecting the worst.
"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, irritation at herself and the mess she found herself in beginning to shine through.
"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 and sharp intake of air. "I am not going to miss my flight and that's final!" Haley's voice had lowered as she unwittingly took her frustration out on her good intentioned sister.
"Haley, you need to see a doctor." Liz argued, not letting the issue drop so easily.
"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!" Her mind was trying to force her body to go after her sister, to apologize for her uncalled for attitude, but instead she turned around and headed towards the bathroom.
Stepping over to the sink, she 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 or even care. 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, 'This is all too crazy. It's just a nightmare that I'll wake up from any minute now.' A long sigh escaped her lips as her shoulders slumped slightly in defeat. 'Who the hell am I trying to kid.' Shaking her head. 'How did I ever manage to get myself into so much trouble. What was that man looking for last night? And why does Liz have to be so goddamned stubborn!' A smaller voice told her that she's going home soon and all these worries will be far behind her soon enough.
What seemed like an eternity passed before she finally heard the soft knock on her door signaling the arrival of the bellhop? Reluctantly, she pushed herself up off of the bed with a painful wince making her clutch at her side as she 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. 'We're both still too worked up to clear the air.' 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 as usual for her, 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 and continued on to check in her baggage and pass through security.
She purposely chose a seat with as few people around as possible wanting only to relax a bit before they called for the passengers to begin boarding the flight. She noticed a newspaper on the seat next to and grabbed it up for a bit of distraction. Scanning over it, she realized 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 more 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 taking someone else's place and I'll stewarding a flight going to Australia for a two night layover." He said excitedly. "It'll be my first time there."
"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. Somehow she knew beyond a doubt that this very 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, Haley took a step away from the embassy woman and suddenly all her anger from earlier that morning took hold of her.
"Who are you?" She demanded with a strong, unafraid voice. Her body involuntarily tensing as the muscle in her jaw jumped in anger.
"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, the bite still in her words
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." She quickly saw the anger flash in the writer's eyes and quickly tried to explain her position. "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 spat out sarcastically 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, the biting tone relaxed a bit for the moment.
For a moment as Haley waited for an answer, she began to wonder if the woman would answer her or not. 'She's going to answer my questions one way or the other.' She thought resolutely. But after a few seconds of contemplation, the mysterious woman finally deemed her trustworthy enough to confide to.
"First off, I understand your anger and rest assured that I'm not here to hurt you."
Haley's featured softened somewhat at the statement and surprisingly found herself believing her companion's every word.
"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, surprising herself when a wry smile found its way onto her face. Even more surprising was when the other woman reciprocated the smile. The young novelist suddenly realized that as much as she wanted to be angry with the woman in front of her for her deceit, she couldn't ignore the fact that she had also, quite literally, saved her life. 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, people 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 and had fallen on deaf ears. Haley's mind completely forgot about her flight as she gathered up her two carry-on bags. Unfortunately, she had also forgotten about her pained side. The side-wrenching bruise quickly reminded Haley of that fact as she winced in pain and quickly placed 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 mischievous 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 had just been revealed to her 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. "But why here? Are we going somewhere?"
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.
"I know we can talk freely in here." Was all she supplied before adding, "What I'm about to tell you here is not to be passed on to anybody. Not to your sister Elizabeth or your cat Merlin."
Haley couldn't hide the surprise from her face. 'She's pretty good.' She mused, but then added out loud. "He ran away."
Kat looked at her with a growing grin. 'Messed that one up.' Kat thought to herself, but quickly dismissed it and turned serious by adding. "No one."
The young woman didn't know how her companion knew about her cat, and probably never would. But she nodded seriously, conceding to her rescuer's conditions.
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 still involved in. Unlike some other government agencies, we're not as shrouded in mystery and secrecy therefore keeping most folks off our backs. But because we are so open with the public doesn't mean that we don't have our own little secrets. By feeding the people with half-truths, it keeps them satisfied, while at the same time we're able to go about our business without the media trying to expose our 'nasty' secrets. Show them we have no secrets and they lose interest."
Haley nodded appreciatively at the logic of it all.
History 101 aside, she continued onto the matter at hand. "As to our current situation, I was sent in 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 also 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 back into her voice as she realized that she could have been saved some of the pain in recent hours.
Kat's eyes held onto Haley's, instilling a sense of calm through her gaze. "I didn't know he was going to do that." She replied honestly. "Up until that moment, I thought you were just an innocent bystander. With his appearance, the possibility that you were in league with them had crossed my mind. So, I stayed quiet and tried to gather as much information as I could. You have to understand I couldn't blow my cover unless it was absolutely necessary. But when he started in on you, I was ready to do just that. And then you surprised the hell out of me when you took matters into your own hands and handling yourself quite nicely I might add. I had hoped I could still make it out undetected until your luck ran out and then 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 as she hastily gathered her things together and made to step out of the Cherokee. Kat merely raised an 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.
"Oh 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 regretful smile.
With those words spoken, a sudden blazing flash of light tore through the clear blue sky as a thunderous explosion rang through 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, smaller pieces of the plane shot away from the main bulk to rain down on the ground.
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, and yanking her in unceremoniously.
"Hey!" Haley yelped in protest and quickly cried out again in pain as Kat helped gather Haley's legs in and close jeep's door with a hint of concern in her blue eyes, but no time to dwell on it.
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 nearly impossible 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 as she quickly tried to buckle her seatbelt. The horror of what had just transpired at the airport had left her speechless and bewildered. It all happened too quickly for the fear to actually settle in. But with this new development of seeing the extreme concern in Kat's eyes, the fear slowly began to well up in her chest to choke the breath from her. Up until this moment, her mind took in all the past events of the last 72hrs with a touch of surrealism. She shook her head in disbelief. The nightmare wasn't over yet. In fact, she feared it was only just beginning.
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's mind registered with 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 concern that they were still in the city on a fairly busy street with so many innocents. 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 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 at 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, all but ignoring the intense pain in her side.
Taking note of the busy streets and even busier 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 yet again. 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.
"Hold this." Kat commanded as she passed her gun to Haley before the younger woman could even think up a response as the agent 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 by the small steel connection that hadn't been completely severed. 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 SUV 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 more than a little 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 I won't lie to you…it will probably hurt." She said making sure to lock her eyes with Haley's for a moment to catch her expression.
"And that's different from my current state how?" Haley said licking her suddenly dry lips and then giving a curt nod for Kat to do it.
Returning the nod, Kat 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 currently 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 probably deserved 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 heat 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, and a furrowing of her brow, 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, while simultaneously fighting back the lump that grew steadily in the back of her throat. "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 suddenly pooled in her eyes and threatened to spill down her cheeks.
With a sniff and a quick wipe of 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 the 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 to accept 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 in 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-tousled 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, not to mention the lives of several good agents. 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. But she was more professional than that and knew better in either case.
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 in the short time that she had known her, the young novelist had managed to get a foothold in personal 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 remained, 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, young woman 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 should she need it. 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 the 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 despite her protests.
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 hoping that his open demeanor would settle the young woman somewhat.
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. "Ich bin in Ordnung." She said softly in German for the older woman's peace of mind.
"Ich habe Angst um dich, 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 and the large oak desk. 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 the younger woman 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, hilf mir." 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 as he pulled the blond woman's shirt back down over the bandages he had wrapped around her ribs, 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 I will 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 and wishing that she could do more to wipe away her pain.
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.
"Setzen Sie sich." 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 and body.
"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 pitchfork 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 women.
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 them 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. It was either join the big fish or become their lunch.
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 all this madness has invaded her dreams?' She thought sympathetically as she moved closer to the sofa to cover the young woman with the blanket that draped across the back of 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.
"Hey, calm down, you're with friends. You're safe." Kat tried to soothe the young woman with her words. For several seconds, Kat studied the remaining panicked look in Haley's eyes slowly 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. "On second thought, 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 wants some help, she'll ask.' Kat reasoned, remembering her earlier offer to help being refused. She rested herself down in the chair next to the sofa, stretching back making herself comfortable, while she waited for Haley to settle down. The quiet agent took this moment to study 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. The novelist's eyes closed slightly as her hands reached behind and began rubbing her stiff neck. Kat admired the way 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 used 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 Marcus had tried getting closer, but things didn't quite work out for him. 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. When her father Brian McGregor had been stationed in Germany with the Canadian airforce years before Kat was born is when they first met, Rolf had told her once. After that, Brian McGregor finished his years with the airforce, returned home and eventually became a CSIS agent in the late 70's. With Brian McGregor's new profession of gathering intelligence, Rolf's medical expertise had come in handy on more than one occasion when the hospital hadn't been an option, where their friendship had continued with the German couple up until his death a few years earlier. 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 hide.
"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.' A small voice in her head answered, but only raised 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 straight forwardness. 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 an organization called 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 seemingly insatiable hunger for details had been sated for the time being and so she continued, subconsciously noting the slight crease building between Haley's eyes with the sometimes-horrendous information.
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, upset at the tales of death and destruction she had somehow managed to get mixed up in. "He deliberately altered his course to intersect me."
"We'll probably never know." Answered Kat honestly. "But I believe that he did pass something off to you. That I'm certain of."
That was the last straw. Something inside of Haley must have snapped at the mention of this one little disk that seemed to elude everyone. "So we're back to that damned disk again are we?" The novelist's face clouded over as most of her bottled up emotions began to spill over. "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 as she corrected her. "Besides," She continued, "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 with unbidden anger, "whatever disks I may have had were blown up this afternoon with all those innocent people!" Haley nearly choked on her words as fresh tears began to well up in Haley's eyes remembering all the needless loss of life. It actually surprised her at how close her anger was to the surface.
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 as an angry tear slid down her face. 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 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. "The feeling of loss will drive some people into pushing those trying to help them away." He looked meaningful at the dark-haired beauty. "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 to his words. 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 Haley back.
'That was so childish of me!' The young blond 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. 'Why did I do that?'
Only when the uncomfortable prickling sensations of rocks under her bare feet begin, did she snap out of her unseeing state to finally focus on her whereabouts. 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."
Tuesday, June 23, 1998
Kat's eyes slowly opened as an unbearable kink in her neck made itself known. "Shit!" She softly cursed as she noticed the growing rays of sunlight beginning to peek through the darkness of night. "I can't believe I let myself fall asleep." She glanced at her watch and saw the hour was 6:08am.
Slowly, she pushed herself up into a sitting position as she leaned forward and worked her fingers into her aching neck muscles. Her eyes languidly closed in bliss as her strong fingers steadily worked away the stiffness from sleeping on the sofa. 'Ugh, I forgot how uncomfortable this sofa was! You'd think that after all this time they would have bought a new one!'
Just as her fingers finished up their work on her neck, she slowly re-opened her eyes and got up to stretch her weary limps. A few aches and pains from the previous days accident greeted her. However, by carefully stretching her limbs, Kat was relieved to discover her aches were nothing serious and were more of a nuisance than anything.
Kat dismally glanced at the discarded items, which still lay on the floor and thought about Haley. She could only hope Rolf was able to smooth things out. Again looking at the mess on the floor and on the coffee table at the previously unnoticed spilled mug of chocolate. 'First, morning necessities cuz I feel like shit and then I'll clean up this mess before Karine wakes up.' Kat thought to herself as she walked around the intricately carved wooden coffee table on her way down the hallway towards the bathroom.
Long legs quickly brought Kat to her destination. Walking into the spacious bathroom, Kat noticed it had been redone since last she was here. A new washer and dryer sat in the little nook behind the bathroom door, new floor tiles and paint job on the walls. She thought the soft shell pattern in the floor tiles with matching wallpaper borders at the top of the walls suited the bathroom nicely.
Quietly, Kat made her way to the sink and noticed with approval the pastel colored finish of the countertop that surrounded the sink. A small smile tugged at the corner of her lips as the beach theme of the bathroom almost made her wish she was at the beach herself enjoying a nice, leisurely swim in the ocean. Dismissing the thoughts as frivolous and not overly practical for her current situation, she silently went about searching for her query.
From past experiences, she knew Karine was always prepared for anything, including unannounced guests who happened to be without a toothbrush. Quietly, she opened a drawer just below the sink to its right and found the item in question almost instantly. She reached into the top drawer and with a triumphant smile hauled out a toothbrush still in its packaging.
She tore the brush out of its package and reached for the toothpaste in the cabinet behind the mirror. Catching a glimpse of her disheveled appearance, Kat grimaced slightly. 'Geez, I look like shit too!' she criticized her image in the mirror seconds before pushing aside her image and hauled out the toothpaste.
As she was finishing up in the bathroom, her attention was suddenly drawn to the bathroom's entrance upon hearing a door opening. She was surprised to see Haley sleepily stumbling out of the bedroom across the hallway from the bathroom, absently scratching at the skin around the stitches on her forearm.
The long navy blue and white trimmed nightshirt Haley wore bearing the number 99 in white on the chest seemed very familiar. Slowly, realization hit her; that was her old nightshirt. The fact that Karine had kept it after all these years made Kat smile inwardly.
"Haley?" Kat asked hesitantly, not sure what kind of reaction she would get from the younger woman after last nights events.
Haley rubbed her half closed eyes and came to a stop in the doorway of the bathroom as she heard the unexpected voice. "Kat." She asked surprised. "I didn't realize someone else was using the bathroom. I'll...um, I'll just wait till you're finished here." She quickly said as she turned to leave.
"Wait. It's all yours, I'm done here." Kat said as casually as possible, though she could feel the slight tension, which remained between the two of them.
"Thank you." Haley said, meeting Kat's eyes with an uncertain look, still feeling guilty for the way she acted the night before.
Kat merely nodded her head and gave a quick smile as she began walking out of the bathroom to give Haley some privacy. Just as she passed by Haley in the doorway, she suddenly stopped as she noticed Haley wasn't moving into the bathroom.
"I'm sorry." Haley suddenly announced before Kat had a chance to fully turn around to regard her.
"I'm sorry for the way I behaved last night. I had no right to blow up at you like that." Haley said as her fingers nervously played with the hem of the nightshirt.
Soft blue eyes stared into gentle green ones as Kat took in the heartfelt apology. "There's nothing to be sorry about Haley. I should have given you more time to gather yourself. What you went through these last few days would have driven most people into hysterics." Kat gave Haley a genuine smile as she tentatively placed a comforting hand on the shorter woman's shoulder. "You've been handling yourself like a real pro. And don't worry about last night, everyone needs to let it all out once in awhile."
"But I still acted like an ass. I shouldn't have taken it out on you…" Haley mumbled as she stared up into understanding eyes.
"Ssh. It's already forgotten." Came Kat's smiling answer, which seemed to ease Haley's guilty conscious somewhat.
"Thank you Kat, for everything." Haley said sincerely as both women held one another's eyes for a moment longer, silently accepting each other's words.
Taking a deep breath, Kat broke the gaze. "Well, you better get cleaned up. We have a long few days ahead of us."
Haley smiled and headed into the bathroom.
"There are some spare toothbrushes in the top drawer and the toothpaste is behind the mirror if you're interested." Kat told her.
"Thanks. I really hated the thought of having to go through a day with morning breath." Haley chuckled appreciatively.
"Go on, I'll meet you in the kitchen for some breakfast when you're ready." Kat said as she pulled the bathroom door shut and headed towards the living room and the mess she intended on picking up before Haley got out of the bathroom.
Casually walking up to the mess by the sofa, Kat bent down and retrieved the discarded handbag and knelt down on one knee in front of the disorderly items. 'Well, this'll give me a chance to thoroughly go through this stuff.' She thought to herself with optimism as she began piling the items into the large handbag one by one.
Half way through the pile of scattered items, Kat came upon the five disks she had spotted back in Haley's hotel room but never had the chance to examine them. She grabbed the five mini disks and put them aside for later so she could properly go over them once she had all this stuff picked up.
Suddenly, her alert eyes picked up something strange in the disks as she placed them on the coffee table. Four of the five disks were all silver colored and had the same brand name, except for one. The lone disk in question had a metallic blue surface color and no discernable brand name printed upon its surface.
"Hello…what do we have here?" She breathed with interest as she picked up the lone, blue disk and began to open the plastic case. "Never noticed you last time."
"Never noticed what?" Haley asked curiously as she emerged from the bathroom and walked towards Kat, who was still kneeling on the floor.
Bringing herself to her full height, Kat held up the disk in question. "Haley," Kat began with a hint of excitement in her eyes, "do you always buy the same brand of disks for your camera?"
Not understanding where this line of questioning was leading, Haley shrugged her shoulders. "Ya, pretty much. Why?"
Kat walked around the coffee table with a spring in her step as she came to stand in front of Haley. "Do you recognize this disk?" She asked, holding up the clear plastic case containing the disk for Haley to see.
Haley reached out with interest to the disk Kat held between her index finger and thumb. Holding it between her own fingers, she studied it meticulously as she tried to place it. Finally, she shook her head and handed the disk back to Kat.
"No." She stated simply as she looked into Kat's eyes. "Do you think this could be the disk?" Haley asked with a note of excitement at the surprising discovery. She had thought that all her disks were destroyed along with her luggage in the explosion. She completely forgot about the disks she had left in her handbag.
Walking away from Haley towards the laptop resting on the seat of the chair Kat said, "Only one way to find out."
Haley followed a few steps behind Kat as the taller woman picked up the laptop, placed it on a clean spot of the coffee table and sat herself down on the sofa. Intrigued, Haley carefully sat down next to Kat as she flipped open the computer and turned it on. A minute later, Windows was loaded up and Kat popped in the suspicious disk.
Three anxious clicks later; the contents of the disk appeared on the screen, though it wasn't exactly what either woman was hoping to see. "Damn." Kat whispered in frustration at the continuous stream of nonsense, which appeared on the computer screen.
Wrinkling her eyebrows in disappointment at the unexpected stream of numbers, which filled up the small computer screen, Haley stated both hers and Kat's thoughts. "It's encrypted."
"Guess we'll just have to leave this for our computer boys in Ottawa." Kat said as she reached to eject the disk from the laptop.
Quickly Haley's hand shot out and held onto Kat's hand before she could eject the disk. "Wait. Let me have a crack at it." She asked as Kat stopped and seemed to ponder Haley's request. "I use to be pretty good with this type of stuff back in university." Haley added with a small modest smile.
Kat studied the determined look in Haley's eyes at the challenge of decoding the disks secrets. If her academic records were any indication of her skills, Haley was probably more than up for the challenge and could quite possibly crack the code. Knowing that time was of the essence, she saw no harm in letting Haley have a crack at it. At least it would keep Haley preoccupied while she prepared to get them back to Canada.
"All right." Kat smiled. "You have 48 hours. See what you can do."
Getting up to leave Haley to her work, Kat suddenly stopped as a thought hit her forcing her to turn back around to regard the younger woman as she prepared to tackle this new problem with gusto. "Why did you major in computers during university when you obviously had a gift for writing?"
Haley's body stopped in mid motion as she considered the simple question, which was fraught with an infinitely more complex answer. Slowly looking up from her laptop, Haley let out a small breath. "Why huh?" An ironic grin crosses the novelist's face. "You don't ask the easy questions do you?"
The CSIS agent was about to open her mouth to retract the question when Haley held up a hand forestalling Kat's words. "It's all right." The young woman assured the dark-haired beauty. "I'm surprised that none of my family ever asked me about it. Guess they just didn't want to stir the pot." She said wistfully as Kat sat down next to her on the sofa, giving her full attention. "Actually, writing was the furthest thing from my mind at the time. My father was the largest influence on my life and the single most important element to my writing. When he died in my junior year of high school, I felt as though a part of me had died along with him." Her eyes had fallen to her hands as she remembered the sadness of losing the man she loved more than anything, and continued on as she picked at her nails absently for several seconds before looking back to her companion's understanding eyes. "It wasn't until a few years later, towards the end of my freshman year of university, did the muse visit me once more. I was feeling particularly down because it was the anniversary of my father's death and each day on May 2nd, the same melancholy always grabbed a hold of me and refused to let go. But that year was different; I actually visited my father's grave for the first time since his funeral. What compelled me to go there, I couldn't tell you, I just know that after that day it was as if all the loneliness I felt, and all the sadness that plagued me had been lifted away leaving me a clean slate to work with. I felt the need to write again, but was still a little unsure. Since I was already majoring in computers, figuring it was the way to go and doing quite well if I do say so myself." Haley let a grin sneak by. "I continued with it and wrote my first book. By the end of my second year, I had found an agent, a publisher and a market for my novels. Not sure where my writing was going to take me or if I was even ready to be taken along for the ride, I used a pseudo name of Winthrop Jhessail." Haley paused at this point and let a wry grin color her face.
"You know, I never told my family and friends about my novels and alter ego until a few years after I was already well established as a novelist and graduating from university. I don't know if majoring in computers was a safety net for me at the time or what, but it served its purpose." Smiling with an almost sheepish smile she added. "You know, I sometimes like to think that it was my father's way of giving me a kick in the butt and telling me to get off my ass and start doing what I did best."
Now it was Kat's turn to smile. "Stranger things have been known to happen." She said sincerely, secretly glad to learn more about this dynamic individual.
Kat let out a soft chuckle at seeing the huge grin suddenly spreading across Haley's face. "What" The taller woman asked perplexed.
"I hardly know you and here I am spilling out my life's story as though we've known each other since forever." Growing a little more somber, she added more quietly. "After these last couple of days, it does feel like a life time since we first met."
A long tanned arm reached out to the novelist's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze as an accompanying smile acknowledged the understanding.
Breaking from the moment, Kat retracted her arm awkwardly with a deep intake of breath. "Guess I should let you get to work, while I clean up this mess."
Haley gave a silent nod as their eyes locked for a moment before she tore away and focused her attention on the task at hand.
Kat, refusing to read into this soulful gaze, went about gathering the rest of the scattered items and wipe off the coffee table. She stole a glance at Haley who had gone straight to work on the encryption.
The small mess was all picked up and all that was left to do was for her to wipe up the spilt chocolate on the table. However, as she began to get up and head for the kitchen, she felt a light halting hand settle on her backside.
"Is there somewhere I could hook up to the Internet?" Kat heard Haley ask in a distracted tone.
With a curiously raised eyebrow, Kat turned around to regard the owner of the gentle hand. Haley hadn't even looked up from her computer as she continued to click away on the screen using the touch pad mouse.
Only after Haley finished doing what she was doing did she look up several seconds later and realized where she had rested her hand. She only intended to hold Kat here long enough to ask her a question, her unintentional gesture accomplishing that task. That small fact couldn't keep a furious blush from quickly engulfing Haley's face in embarrassment. "Oh my god! I am so sorry Kat. I thought that was your back…I didn't know it was your, uh…well…ok, this is really embarrassing." Haley said as her hand jerked away from Kat's buttocks and tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her growing embarrassment.
A sly grin spread over Kat's face. "And here I thought you were getting fresh with me." Kat joked openly.
"Kat!" Haley exclaimed in surprise as her blush took on a brighter shade of red.
"There is a connection on the wall behind the sofa to your right." A masculine voice cut in unexpectedly.
Both Haley and Kat looked up at the voice coming from down the hallway and saw both Rolf and his wife emerging from their rooms in matching plaid robes. With huge grins on their faces, Rolf and Karine strolled past the two young women as they made their way towards the kitchen.
"Kätzchen, it is not nice to tease your friends." Rolf said with a smirk and a wink only Kat saw before he and his wife disappeared into the kitchen.
"Hat jemand hunger?" Karine asked good naturally in German from the kitchen.
"Breakfast sounds great." Kat smiled and then looked to Haley. "How about you? Butt chops or back bacon for breakfast?" She teased with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
Haley continued blushing as she leaned forward to cover her face as an uncontrollable bit of laughter began to brew. "Oh, don't make me laugh!" Haley said as she tried hard not to laugh as an unexpected jab of pain from her ribs made themselves known once again.
"I'm sorry." Kat's smile waned slightly as she quickly apologized, not intentionally meaning to cause the younger woman any pain.
"And yes, breakfast would be great." Haley added with a snicker still playing on her lips. "I'll have whatever everyone else is having, even if it is butt chops first thing in the morning."
Kat's smile reappeared on her face as she heard Rolf chuckling from the kitchen at Haley's reply. "Karine,ich helfe Dir beim Früstückmachen." Kat said as she shook her head with laughter as she made her way to the kitchen to help out with breakfast.
While helping Karine prepare breakfast, Kat suddenly realized something. 'It's been years since I felt comfortable enough to joke with someone like that.' She smiled, setting her mood for the day. 'Damn it felt good.'
Rolf worked in the warm sun that day repairing a broken section of fence by the road that kept his sheep from accidentally wandering away. As he removed another one of the broken boards, he heard a car slowing down on the road behind him. Not recognizing the sound of the car as the one he loaned to Kat earlier that morning, he stopped what he was doing for the moment. Wiping his sweaty brow with his bare forearm, he curiously turned to see who it was.
"Klaus?" Rolf said outloud dubiously as he watched the white mid-sized car swing into his long driveway.
Putting his tools down in a neat pile by the fence ready for when he returned to the task later, Rolf casually walked over to the car that was now parked in his driveway. Within a few minutes, Rolf reached the pepper-haired man who had been engaged in conversation with his Karine on the side of the house in the flower garden.
"What are you doing here Klaus?" Rolf asked suspiciously.
"I finished those two passports you asked for early and thought I would bring them over myself." Klaus replied with confidence as he reached into his shirt pocket and produced two Canadian passports.
"This was not what we agreed." Rolf said with scorn.
"What, no hello, how are you? Rolf, I'm hurt!" Klaus lamented with exaggeration as he replaced the passports in his shirt pocket. "Fine. I can take a hint." He announced with a pout as he stuck his hands into his pockets.
"Keep your hands where I can see them Klaus." Rolf warned with a hard look.
"Is this better?" Klaus asked as he hauled out a shiny 9mm gun, bearing its point level with Rolf's chest just as Rolf began to make a move towards the gun. "Ah, ah ah." Klaus warned, waving the index finger of his free hand at Rolf. "I wouldn't do that."
Rolf froze where he was as Klaus suddenly grabbed Karine and roughly brought her closer to him. "Come here darling. You are going to invite me into your lovely home." Klaus smiled.
Soon after breakfast, Kat had announced that she had some things to do and pick up and that she would probably be gone for most of the morning. Haley had kept herself busy all morning downloading the software from the internet that she knew she would be needing to help her crack the encoded disk. That in itself had been time consuming, but she now had everything set up and had been working steadily on the encryption. She noticed that after Karine had finished washing her bloody jeans and t-shirt that the older woman followed her husband outside with gardening tools in hand. Haley assumed that Rolf had to tend to the animals or some other farm life chore. She was all alone now in the quiet house.
Haley took a few minutes away from the computer so she could change out of the nightshirt and into her familiar clothes. On her way back to the computer, she made a stop to the kitchen to get a tall glass of water to quench her thirst in the growing heat of the day.
Glass in hand; Haley stole a casual glance at the round clock on the kitchen wall as she leaned up against the counter. 2:15 in the afternoon. 'I wonder where Kat is?' Haley thought to herself with a touch of concern. 'Could she have run into trouble? Did she just ditch me?' The frightening possibilities ran through her mind unbidden. 'Stop it Haley!' The young novelist scolded her over active imagination.
Despite herself, Haley found she was growing fond of her rescuer. No longer did she see the woman as a stranger who happened to have saved her life. Instead, she was growing to become someone Haley felt she could eventually call 'friend'.
The woman's contradicting nature both baffled Haley and intrigued her. One minute, she could be as friendly as the girl next door. The next, she was 'Rambo' with that 'tough as nails' attitude to go right along. Despite these contradictions, there was nobody Haley felt she could trust more than the woman she only knew as Kat. Very few people Haley had ever met, if any, had inspired her to place so much of her trust and confidence in them on only their say so quite like Kat did. Of course, their initial meeting was under the guise of a lie, but in no way did it hinder Haley from trusting Kat with her life. She didn't know what it was about that woman that made her trust her so explicitly.
Finally, she shook away her thoughts and decided to return her attention back to the encrypted disk currently housed in her computer's disk drive. Gulping down the rest of her cold water, Haley pushed herself away from the counter and started walking towards the living room. She barely took two steps before she heard the door creek open. Looking back behind her, Haley saw Rolf tensely walking through the kitchen door with a quiet ferocity etched upon his aging face.
"Rolf? Is something wrong?" Haley asked as she took a faltering step towards the graying man before stopping dead in her tracks.
"Ah, if it isn't the ever so popular Haley Connors…Kynak dodger extraordinaire!" An average built man in his mid-forties said exuberantly as he walked in behind Rolf and Karine holding a gun to their backs. "No please…" he continued so casually with a German accent, a huge grin plastered on his clean shaven face, "don't stop. You can save me the effort of having to walk to you." He smiled and then added as an after thought. "Nice bruise."
Haley nervously glanced at the silver 9mm gun the man held threateningly and then looked to Rolf. His intense deep blue eyes remained calm as he motioned with his eyes that she should remain calm and not move. Slowly, Haley took a tentative step backwards, once again coming up against the counter. Her hands inconspicuously felt across the surface of the counter behind her with a sense of urgency for something, anything to help their situation. Nervous eyes kept an eye on the gunman and Rolf.
"You are going to make me come and get you, aren't you?" The dangerous man sighed with exaggeration, and then turned his attention back to Rolf. "Dear Miss McGregor must have taught this young beauty the fine arts of being annoying." The man stated towards Rolf as he kicked Karine roughly past the older man, towards the living room.
"Do NOT touch my wife you son of a bitch!" Rolf roared as he spun about angrily with a threatening glare.
Without hesitation, Klaus slammed the butt of the gun unceremoniously towards Rolf's head. The sudden movement surprised Rolf as the gun connected with the side of his head sending him crashing to the floor with an audible thump. He never thought Klaus had it in him to ever take the offensive against anyone. That was one mistake he did not intend on making twice.
"Rolf!" Karine screamed once turning around and seeing her husband falling to the ground, one hand holding his aching head. She ran to her husband and threw her body over his protectively.
"Rolf, Rolf, Rolf." The gunman shook his head from side to side as he leveled his gun down towards Rolf's head. "Tsk, tsk. You always were more muscle than brain. Have you forgotten," He asked as if talking to a child, "I have the gun." He waved the gun around and aimlessly fired a bullet into the ceiling, which brought small bits of the ceiling down on his own head.
"Whoops!" The gunman chuckled as he aimed the gun back at Rolf and kicked the injured man's legs. "Now stop giving me so much trouble and get into the living room like a good boy." He lectured Rolf.
With the help of his wife, Rolf got to his feet, keeping angry eyes on Klaus as he got up.
Haley, only a few feet away from Rolf and Karine began moving with them when suddenly Klaus' voice stopped her. "And where do you think you are going beautiful?" He asked as he redirected the gun towards Haley, still wearing his confidant smile as he began walking towards her.
Haley began to open her mouth to speak, but was abruptly cut off.
"No need to speak, I can tell that you are just dying with anticipation to meet me." He laughed at his own words as he reached Haley.
With a hungry grin on his face, he ran the cold barrel of the gun slowly down the side of the young woman's face. He leaned in closer to Haley, his lips nearly touching her ear as he whispered, "Mmm, it's a shame we could not have gotten to know each other better before I have to kill you."
Haley's heart raced faster as the realization that Klaus was here to kill her came crashing home. Her hands continued to anxiously roam over the counter behind her as Klaus slid the gun further down her neck, bringing it to rest in the hallow of her throat. Suddenly, Haley felt the sharp edge of a small blade scratch across the pad of her index finger. Desperately she grasped the small, sharp knife and stole a glance to Rolf who saw what she was planning and with a barely perceived gesture, he nodded his understanding.
"Klaus is it?" Haley asked calmly, determined not to give him the benefit of seeing how scared she truly was. Without receiving an answer, only a hungry smile, she continued on in a soft, seductive voice. "Klaus," her free hand reached up and traced absent circles on his chest, "who says we can't get to know one another more…intimately?" Her hand tightened its hold around the knife handle as she steeled herself for the coming task. "You're handsome and I'm beautiful…" inwardly, Haley's stomach turned at her choice of words, "we could disappear together and…" her voice lowered lustfully as she trailed her finger down the length of his chest, tugging at the top of his pants suggestively. "…Talk about the first thing that pops up." She smiled lasciviously.
Klaus' breathing became labored as his unsatiable need for pretty women played indecent scenes through his mind. The gun slid slowly down her chest, coming to rest on the firm breasts thrust up provocatively against him, his eyes hungrily staring at his gun's resting place. He swallowed once, then twice with an audible gulp. His tongue slowly wet his lips as a smile grew steadily on his lips.
"Mmm, we could do that." He said thoughtfully as he suddenly rubbed himself unconsciously up against Haley.
For her part, Haley fought with all her being to keep from losing her breakfast. The mere thought of this man being so close to her, let alone touching her, made her stomach recoil with disgust. She fought to convince herself that she needed to divert his attention if she wanted a chance of getting out of this alive. With painstakingly slow movements, she began to bring the knife around her body.
"But, women are so easily found unlike cold, hard cash." Suddenly, the gun snapped back up to the hallow of her neck, pressing menacingly as his body moved away from hers. "Don't think I wouldn't have loved to take you up on your offer. Sorry." He smiled with true regret at what could have been as he tensed his muscles to end her life.
Haley saw the resigned look in his eyes and knew it was now or never for her to strike. Just as she saw his finger tightening against the trigger, she brought the sharp pearing knife up with lightning speed as she twisted her upper torso away from the gun.
The sound of the gun going off so near to her ears left them ringing painfully loud as the knife bit deeply into his wrist. Despite the incessant ringing, she couldn't miss the montage of colorful curses of her would-be-murderer as he dropped the gun to the floor and held his bleeding wrist in his other hand.
From the corner of her eye, Haley glimpsed a flurry of movement when suddenly she was roughly shoved aside. Haley's ribs slammed into the edge of the countertop eliciting a cry of pain from the young woman before she continued painfully down to the floor.
Behind her, she heard Rolf and Klaus grunting with exertion as they wrestled with one another, each fighting to reach the gun before the other. She turned around in time to see through tear filled eyes, Klaus laughing triumphantly as his hand stretched out and grasped the gun.
Rolf grappled his way up Klaus' body with a fierce determination in his movements as Klaus twisted around and settled the gun between the two of them. With renewed vigor, Rolf pounced onto the gun to try and divert its direction and wrestle it away. The two men thrashed about on the kitchen floor when suddenly a gunshot went off, and then another. Suddenly, everything went quiet as Rolf and Klaus stared at one another, Rolf breathing hard as he lay on top of Klaus.
A low laugh bubbled up from Klaus. "Heehee…I think…you killed me Rolf!" Klaus sputtered with a dying smile as he coughed, a slow trickle of blood spilled over his lips.
Heads suddenly turned towards the open door as Kat urgently slid into the kitchen, gun drawn.
"And now…cough, cough…the party is complete." Klaus smiled one final time towards Kat before a fit of coughing overtook him and just as suddenly stopped. His eyes remained open as death claimed his body.
Kat rushed over to Haley with deep concern seeing her on the floor holding her side with tears in her eyes as Rolf quietly rolled off of the lifeless body. "Hey," Kat started as she leaned down on one knee beside Haley, resting her gun on the floor next to her, "you ok?"
"I'm all right." Haley answered through clenched teeth, getting annoyed with the tears of pain she couldn't keep back.
Noticing the way Haley clutched at her side with the injured ribs, Kat carefully lifted Haley's T-shirt and ran knowing fingers over the injured area. Then looking over to Rolf as he approached them and bent down, Kat said. "I don't think it's broken. Just banged up."
"Guys," Haley protested as Rolf examined her ribs to confirm Kat's assessment. "I told you I'm fine."
"Uh-huh." Both Rolf and Kat hummed at the same time.
"I cannot believe how lucky you are Haley Connors." Rolf concluded as he smiled down at Haley before leaving Kat to take care of Haley as he took care of the bloody corpse on his kitchen floor. Karine stood back in silence as she watched on.
Some time later, as Haley lay back on the sofa to rest as both Rolf and Kat had ordered her to, she found an odd calmness had settled within her. The panic and fear she was sure was to follow after yet another harrowing, near death situation never came.
Initially, she thought the high from the adrenaline rush she felt earlier was still pumping through her veins and that it was what was keeping her calm and collected. But now, it's been over two hours since the incident happened and still nothing. The only real discomfort she felt was at actually having to play up to Klaus' hormonal fantasies, but still no real fear gripped her as of yet.
'Maybe it just hasn't all registered in my brain yet.' Haley surmised to herself as she rested her head against the arm of the sofa with her eyes closed. 'Or maybe I've just gotten used to being marked for death.' She snorted derisively to herself.
Before she could formulate more of a hypothesis for her unexpected calmness, she heard the kitchen door opening. Haley's tireless eyelids quickly opened as she carefully twisted her head around to stare at the two quiet figures she knew would be there.
Haley watched as Rolf and Kat entered the quaint home. Rolf walked through the entrance ahead of Kat with an expressionless look on his face and shirtless, bearing his hairy, husky torso. Only a touch of fat began to gather around the aging man's abdomen, his upper body was still very much muscled and strong looking. The young novelist was surprised to see that Rolf was still in such good shape for a man his age.
Trailing only a pace or so behind was Kat with the same unreadable look on her face as Rolf. She too was covered in dirt with small hints of speckled blood covering the front of her clothing. As Kat walked through the kitchen untucking her shirt as she went, she slowed down slightly and spared a quick glance towards Haley. With only the gentle look in her eyes, Kat asked the silent question of how Haley was feeling. She answered the unspoken question with a small smile, indicating that she was feeling fine. Kat gave her a hesitant look, seemingly trying to determine if the young woman really was fine. Finally, after several seconds, Kat seemed satisfied and gave Haley a slight nod before continuing on towards the bathroom.
Behind her, Haley heard water running in the kitchen. She stretched her neck around once again and saw Rolf washing his hands and arms under the tap. Satisfied he cleaned off the dirt and grime, Rolf stepped up behind his wife who had remained at the table appearing to be reading a magazine and drinking her black coffee. In actuality, Karine had kept as keen an eye on Rolf and Kat, as did Haley. Watching everything and understanding it all without the need for words had Haley wondering if maybe this truly was just a dream.
Quietly as Rolf wrapped his strong arms about his wife's shoulders and leaned his head down to place a gentle kiss atop his wife's head, Haley heard the faint sounds of sobbing. Haley caught sight of Karine's glistening eyes just before the older woman got up and let herself be engulfed in her husband's comforting arms. The young woman respectfully averted her eyes and gave the couple some privacy.
Carefully, Haley sat herself up and stretched her arms out to retrieve the laptop on the coffee table in front of her, emitting a slight grunt at the effort. With her prize in hand, she leaned back and rested the computer on her lap as she painstakingly positioned herself upright to continue her work on the encoded disk.
Stepping into the soothing shower, Kat could feel some of her tension relaxing. She couldn't kick the thoughts from her mind that Haley nearly lost her life today because of her. If she had been there sooner maybe none of this would have happened. That maybe Klaus wouldn't have gotten so close. Instead, she had wasted her time on old contacts trying to find out more information about the Kynak, which all turned up nothing except for the common knowledge that somebody wanted a certain Canadian novelist dealt with and quick.
Europe was getting far too dangerous to stay in for much longer. This latest attack on Haley only heightened the need to get the novelist back on friendly soil. Fortunately for them, Klaus had brought along with him two authentic looking passports. All they had to do now was snap a few pictures and Kat would easily fix up the rest to complete the passports.
As she stepped out of the shower and dried herself off, she slipped into a comfortable pair of her old boxer shorts and tank top she found earlier that morning in her old room across the hall. Kat ran her fingers through her wet hair, pushing the loose strands of dark locks away from her face as she continued to chastise herself mentally for not being here when Haley needed her.
'You almost blew it today McGregor.' She mentally scolded the image staring back at her from the foggy mirror. She ran a long, slender hand over the mirror and brought her visage more into focus. 'Good thing Haley is quick on her feet.' This one thought brought an unbidden smile to Kat's grim face.
Kat leaned her tall frame heavily on her strong arms, which were braced against either side of the bathroom sink. She wasn't exactly sure what to make of Haley. One minute she seems so vulnerable and delicate. The next, Haley surprises her by appearing as strong as a seasoned agent and actually being able to hold her own according to what Rolf described of the afternoon's earlier events. And Kat knew that Rolf was not one for exaggerations.
At first, she thought Haley's calmness was just an outward façade that hid her true fears. But looking into her eyes earlier, she knew that wasn't so anymore. That woman had an inner strength radiating from her like very few people Kat knew possessed. She couldn't help but feel extremely proud of the young woman as her admiration for Haley's spunkiness and courage grew.
'At the rate things are going, Haley will probably have that damn disk cracked before we reach Canadian soil!' She thought with a smile in her eyes as she made her way out of the bathroom, shaking her fingers through her wet hair one final time.
Walking out of the bathroom, Kat noticed that Rolf and Karine's bedroom door was closed as she heard the quiet sniffs of subsiding tears. 'Karine has never seen Rolf kill. ' She realized with a note of sadness at the violence that Karine was forced to witness this day. 'She's strong. She just has to let it out.'
Leaving Rolf and Karine to their privacy, Kat came up alongside Haley resting a gentle hand on the smaller woman's shoulder as Kat tried to peek at Haley's progress.
Looking up at the towering woman above her, Haley shook her head 'no' and returned her attention to her computer screen. "From what I can tell, there are at least four levels of coding here to be cracked. But I think I may almost have the first level figured out." Haley said as she tapped an absent finger against her screen.
Another faint smile appeared on Kat's lips, which went unnoticed by Haley. Casually, Kat made her way between the sofa and coffee table, lowering her tall frame down onto the sturdy table. Kat's hand reached out and touched just above Haley's knee to get her attention. Haley's eyes snapped up immediately at the contact and locked eyes with Kat's approving gaze.
"You did good today." Kat praised, affording Haley a proud smile.
Momentarily stunned at the unexpected compliment, Haley could only give a shy, self-satisfied grin. "Kat, I didn't really do anything…" Haley trailed when she finally managed to find her voice.
"Nothing my ass." Kat cut in, refusing to allow Haley to belittle her bravery. "Haley, most people wouldn't have been able to remain calm enough to not wet themselves, let alone think! Why do you always play yourself down like that?"
Haley's mouth opened a couple of times to answer Kat's unexpected question, but she only managed to look like a fish out of water gasping for air. She frowned slightly as she seriously thought of the question posed to her. Finally, the answer deep down in her came out. "Because sometimes I don't feel as brave on the inside as I might look on the outside. And maybe the fact that I'm feeling no fear, no remorse kind of scares me. I don't know."
Kat studied Haley as the mixed emotions play across the young woman's face. "Haley, you did what had to be done and you know that here," Kat said tapping a finger on her own chest. "And here." A final soft finger tap indicated her head. "Haley, you are a good person. Your conscience would never allow you to do wrong."
Haley's eyes slowly lowered away from Kat's intense blue eyes, mulling over what Kat was saying. It did make sense to her. She almost always acted on what she felt was the right thing to do. Sometimes it didn't always turn out to be the best decision, but she was only human and bound to make mistakes. She knew worrying over what should have been was counter-productive.
Raising her eyes once again to meet those confident blue eyes brought a small smile to Haley's face and a slight nod of agreement. "I guess this whole situation just has me a little freaked out. I'm just glad I can talk to you Kat McGregor." Haley threw the last name in with a sly smile.
"How did you…?" a puzzled grin spread over Kat's beautiful face as Haley's smile turned into a small chuckle. "Think that's funny huh, Haley Beatrice Connors?"
Haley's face dropped as she looked at Kat's now smiling face with bewilderment. "Oh god!" Haley groaned into her hands upon hearing her grandmother's name repeated out loud as her middle name. "Oh that is so NOT funny! How do you do it?"
"I have many skills." Kat replied with a toothy grin.
At this small remark, Haley's face took on a comical grin as she shook her head from side to side. "Thank you Kat."
"For what?" Kat asked still wearing her smile.
"For making me laugh and making me feel safe." Came Haley's serious reply, a small smile still touching the corners of her lips.
"Enjoy it while you can, I'm usually pretty bitchy." Kat gave Haley a quick wink as she got up off of the table, rustling Haley's hair as she walked past the novelist and out the kitchen door.
Soft fingers slowly ran across the side of the hard plastic of the computer in thought as Haley chuckled to herself. Kat really was a gem underneath that tough exterior. Slowly, Haley's fingers began working at the small keyboard once again feeling better, more light-hearted and more confident than she did earlier. Talking with Kat always seemed to do that for her lately.
Less than two minutes of typing later, Kat suddenly came back into the house carrying a medium sized plain plastic bag in one hand as she came to sit back down on the coffee table. "How long have you had long hair?" Kat asked mysteriously.
Looking up from her computer, Haley gave the dark-haired woman a suspicious look. "Nearly all my life…why?"
"What would you say to a new look?" Came the reply accompanied by a mischievous glint in Kat's baby blue eyes as she reached into the plastic bag and began hauling out a ton of hair supplies.
Unconsciously, Haley slowly closed her laptop as she eyed the hair products now sitting on the coffee table next to Kat's thigh. Spying the various boxes of hair colorant, combs and barber's scissors, Haley suddenly got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as a worried look crossed her soft face. "Kat, what're you up to?"
Suddenly turning serious, Kat looked into Haley's eyes and nearly lost herself. Never before had she peered into someone's eyes and came face to face with so much emotion and honesty freely showing. "The Kynak will be looking for the Haley Connors who wears her blonde hair long, has soft green eyes and a knock out body."
Haley blushed slightly at the quick description before Kat could continue on.
"The body can stay as it is," she winked, "but we're going to have to do something about the rest of you." Leaning back slightly to eye Haley critically to see what style would suit the young woman the best and make her look less like, well, herself. Kat rubbed her chin thoughtfully as Haley eyed her doubtfully. Finally, what could only be described as a sexy grin suddenly spread across Kat's face as she envisioned the style she wanted to capture.
"What're you thinking of Kat?" Haley asked cautiously, seeing that puzzling look in Kat's eyes.
With a sly grin, Kat responded. "Short auburn hair with a set of hazel colored contact lenses to complete your new look." Kat stated as she began going through the numerous boxes of hair coloring. Finding what she wanted, she started searching for the hazel colored contact lenses.
"Wait a minute Kat," Haley started objectively. "How short is 'short'?"
Kat looked up into Haley's worried face for a second, giving her a quick, amused grin. "Short."
"How does it look?" Haley asked, her voice tinged with more than a little touch of worry.
"I couldn't have done better if I was Vidal Sassoon himself." Was Kat's smiling response as she hauled out a hand held mirror and handed it to Haley for her to inspect the new do. Kat took a step back from where Haley sat at the kitchen table, and leaned up against the counter with her arms crossed over her chest with a self-satisfied grin playing on her face.
The proffered mirror was accepted in silence. Slowly, quietly, Haley moved the mirror around her head to inspect the changes that had nearly brought on a panic attack. No longer was her hair the golden blonde she had lived with her entire life. In its stead, a soft reddish-brown now glowed back at her.
With her free hand, she nervously touched the short hair she saw reflected in the small mirror. The reality was slowly sinking in. "I can't believe I let you do this." Haley whispered in disbelief as she ran her hand up the back of her now naked neck. "My hair is so short and…and brown!"
"I know it's not what you're use to, but it was necessary. At least short hair on women is in style nowadays." Kat added, trying to lift Haley's opinion of the hair cut.
Haley stayed quiet for a moment longer, still trying to get use to her new look. For a minute, she tried to look at the hair cut objectively, as if she was seeing it on another person. She tilted her head to get a better look in the mirror and brushed her fingers through her hair once again.
"You know," Haley said thinking out loud, "it really isn't all that horrible." Realizing that in actuality, the short hair wasn't as bad as she initially thought. It definitely had that 90's stylish look to it. "But still…I'm glad my hair grows fast." She finally concluded.
Kat chuckled softly to herself at Haley's final conclusion. Having her hair long for nearly her entire life as well, Kat could sympathize with Haley's feeling of loss. She agreed that the short look on some women looked beautiful, but it just wasn't for her or Haley it would appear.
"The color can just be washed out, right?" Haley asked to make certain that she wouldn't be stuck with auburn hair for longer than necessary.
"Positive." Kat reassured her.
"Nice." Rolf suddenly whistled from the living room as he and his wife walked into the kitchen.
Startled, Haley jumped in her chair losing her grip on the mirror. She fumbled clumsily at trying to recapture the suddenly elusive mirror, making her antics appear to be a juggling act. Moving so quickly, Haley forgot about her injured ribs when suddenly a sharp pain ripped through her side making her hiss in pain, forgetting about the falling mirror. The mirror was sure to shatter against the hard floor, possibly bringing the ill-fated bearer seven years of bad luck that Haley's superstitious mind unwittingly set into her head when she was just a young girl.
With reflexes honed to near perfection, Kat saw the tumbling mirror and automatically sprang into motion. In one fluid movement, Kat launched herself from the countertop and stretched her long arms out to catch the falling object with a seemingly unnatural ease.
"Wow." Haley breathed at the unexpected catch.
"Couldn't have you stuck with seven years of bad luck." Kat said, giving Haley a lop-sided grin.
"As fast as ever Kätzchen." Rolf observed with a smile, which Kat reciprocated. "Would you two now be ready for those pictures?"
Kat grinned a little when she heard Haley's soft groan at the mention of getting her picture taken.
"Could we just kind of draw in my picture?" Haley asked hopefully. "I promise I won't tell anybody the difference."
"Sorry, no can do kiddo." Kat's grin still dominated her features. "Besides, you can keep it as a reminder not to become a brunette."
Haley didn't miss the quick wink Kat shot her way and the grinning faces all around her. Sighing good naturedly, she slowly began pushing her way out of the chair. Unexpectedly, she felt a gentle, steadying touch at her elbow.
When Haley looked up, she came face to face with fathomless blue eyes that seemed just as surprised at discovering she was unconsciously helping the young woman up.
"Thought you could use a helping hand." Kat offered with an almost indiscernible hint of modesty.
A smile spread across Haley's lips as she quietly accepted the helpful offer. With a hidden smile, Haley almost giggled at the slight look of the uncharacteristic look of modesty Kat had afforded her. The rare look certainly was a treat to behold. To Haley, it just made Kat seem all that much more real to her. With Kat's usually stoic stature, Haley had wondered for a time if the woman was for real of some well-designed android. She knew better now.
"All right Rolf, show me the way to immortalizing this…ugh, look." Haley said with a mock look of disgust as her eyes skeptically looked up into her bangs.
Sitting comfortably in first class seats by the window on a flight to Canada, is a lone, quiet figure. His long legs leisurely stretched out before him, under the chair ahead of him. The short-sleeved white polo shirt he's wearing exposes his well-defined forearms as his elbow rests on an armrest to support his chin. He stares out the window of the plane as it flies through wisps of cloud, engulfed in his own thoughts.
'Haley Connors has disappeared with the disk, and Kat McGregor is making sure she remains hidden. If they figure out what's on that disk everything could be destroyed. Sooner or later they will return to Canada and when they do, my men will be right there waiting for them.' The white-haired man thought with an imperceptible frown, which quickly faded away as new doors of opportunity suddenly sprang to mind. 'However, with Petrenko's plans in ruins,' he mused, 'it would be easy for me to wrench control of the Kynak right out of Viktor's hands. All I would have to do is make the defectors an offer they can't refuse and eliminate anyone who gets in my way.'
He knew there were many who were loyal to him and would do as he commanded, no questions asked. All he would need to do is get into contact with those loyal men and woman and conveniently eliminate the woman sent along with him on this mission. He knew her loyalties were with Petrenko and would not be swayed. 'Pity.' He thought as a small quirk of a smile began to play along the edges of the wiry man's lips as a vague plan began to form in his head.
Later that evening, after Rolf and Kat put the finishing touches on the two passports, Kat made her way back into the living room. There, sitting on the sofa staring intently at the small computer resting in her lap was Haley. So preoccupied with what she was doing, Haley didn't notice Kat enter the room.
She leaned up against the corner of the hallway with a grin on her face as she watched Haley unconsciously going to play with her long hair only to find that it was no longer there. Annoyed, Haley would absently scratch the stubble at the base of her neck when she seemed to be stumped with what she was working on.
"Make any break throughs?" Kat inquired casually, pushing herself from the wall.
"Hmm?" Haley hummed, her head looking up from the computer as her eyes slowly tore away from the monitor. With a sigh of frustration, Haley related her findings. "So far I've managed to break through the first level encryption. Besides that nothing. All that I can say is that whatever is on this disk must be something very important to the Kynak for it to have this much encryption."
Kat nodded her agreement as she walked closer to the sofa to take a peek at Haley's progress. "Good work. Just make sure you don't stay up too late. We have an early plane to catch tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Haley asked as her eyebrows furrowed together. "I thought we were only leaving Thursday."
"With recent events, I thought it best we leave as soon as possible. The sooner we get you back to Canada, the sooner you'll be safe." Kat answered truthfully. 'That and the fact that there will more than likely be more fools trying to get in good with the Kynak by trying to take you out.' Kat added to herself, not wanting to share the information and cause Haley to get all worked up over something they couldn't control at the moment. 'Besides,' she thought to herself, 'Haley's a smart girl. She probably all ready knows.'
Running her fingers through her uncomfortably short hair, Haley quietly nodded her agreement with a mute look of understanding. Then, with a mischievous glint in her eye, Haley tilted her head back to regard Kat. "Don't worry, I'll make sure I go to bed at a decent hour mother."
One of Kat's dark eyebrows shot up into her bangs with a questioning look as she gave Haley 'the look'. The only problem was that Haley now seemed somewhat unaffected by the look of ill repute her enemies have learned to fear. With a soft giggle, Haley returned to her work.
"I do believe I'm growing immune to your looks of intimidation!" Haley said with a touch of triumph in her voice.
Kat snorted, shaking her head as she stared down at the top of Haley's head holding back her own mounting laughter. "I'd sleep with one eye open if I were you Miss Connors. You never know when I might decide to hang up my salon scissors and pick up the electric shaver!"
With those words, Kat spun on her heels and headed down the hallway. "Sleep well tonight Haley." Kat said with a large, unseen grin on her face as she headed to the bathroom.
Haley looked up from her computer and stared at Kat's retreating back, unsure if she was serious or just joking. "Kat?" Haley called to her softly, a nervous tone touching her voice. "Kat?"
Wednesday, June 24, 1998
Kat awoke early the next morning in the comfortable double bed of the Schiller's spare bedroom. She leisurely stretched out her limbs relieved not to find them full of kinks as she did from the night before on the sofa. With a pitying thought, she considered Haley's predicament on the merciless couch.
The tall, dark-haired Canadian had been more than willing to sleep on the sofa for another night if it weren't for Haley's convincing argument. The young novelist, who seemed always up for a challenge, decided to come up with a winning argument as to why Kat should have the comfortable bed in the spare room. Top on her list of arguments was the fact that no matter where she slept, her ribs were going to make it difficult for her to sleep. There was no sense in the both of them being tired and since Kat was the stronger of the two of them, Haley argued that it only made sense that Kat be well rested for both their sakes.
Despite her protests and failed attempts of denial, Kat's weary body quickly caved in to Haley's line of thinking as it rebelled and cried out to the tempting thought of a comfortable bed.
Kat remembered that she must have asked Haley about a dozen times if that was what she really wanted. With an insistent 'git' and a few lightly tossed pillows from the sofa, Haley assured Kat it was all right. "And besides," Haley pointed out, "those bags under your eyes aren't getting any smaller."
Kat snorted at this remark, but offered no retort. She knew there was no way she could have argued that point. Since this whole fiasco had started, she'd barely gotten a full night sleep and her body was beginning to feel the effects from the lack of sleep.
Finally she finished getting dressed in a short, business-like burgundy skirt with matching blazer and white blouse, Kat was ready for the coming day. Stepping into the hallway, Kat began tying back her long, dark hair into a tight braid as she made her way out to the living room to wake the slumbering novelist.
Finishing up the braid and beginning to twirl it up into a bun at the back of her head, Kat stopped at the end of the hallway as her eyes settled on Haley with a pang of guilt. Lying obviously quite uncomfortably on the sofa, was Haley with one arm and one leg each dangling over the side of the sofa. The light blanket that was draped over Haley's body was recklessly strewn about her. Half of the blanket barely covered her legs, while the rest of it lay on the floor next to the sofa.
'She probably got no rest at all last night.' Kat thought pitifully as she watched Haley's head toss slightly from side to side with a pained look on her face.
Kat stopped suddenly at the unexpected noise coming from the kitchen. Her muscles tensed reflexively and her senses suddenly became acutely aware of everything around her. However, the very next minute she heard the familiar sounds of Karine moving around in the kitchen. Letting out a slow breath, she calmly relaxed her body as she made a detour and headed for the kitchen. 'Relax.' Kat mentally told herself as she entered the kitchen.
"Ah, Guten morgen Kätzchen." Karine said in a hushed voice as she motioned for Kat to sit down to eat some toast she had just placed in the center of the kitchen table.
"Guten morgen Karine, wo ist Rolf?" Kat asked of Rolf's whereabouts as she grabbed a slice of buttered toast.
"Rolf wird bald auf sein Iss jetzt!" Karine almost commanded as she pushed Kat down and placed a tall glass of orange juice in front of her and a plate of freshly sliced fruit.
Kat glanced over at Haley for a moment and decided that Haley could use the extra few minutes of sleep while she ate.
Just as Kat was finishing up the orange slices, kiwi and some cantaloupe, she heard the basement door open.
"Danke fürs frühstück, Karine." Kat thanked the older woman as she pushed her chair away from the table to meet Rolf.
Karine accepted Kat's 'thank you' with a gentle smile. Now, Karine knew, was time for Kat and her husband to work. Quietly, Karine went about clearing Kat's plate and glass from the table and began preparing more slices of fruit for Haley before they left to catch their plane. She turned her head towards the sleeping novelist as she heard a low grunt.
With a quick glance towards her husband and the dark-haired woman she considered a daughter, she noticed they both had gone back downstairs into the basement. 'Probably to discuss some new device or other.' She thought with concern in her native language. She didn't want to know what they were talking about, especially after experiencing part of her husband's job the day before after so many years of relative peace.
Rolf's job had crashed into their home lives more than once over the many years. Perhaps more so since she had been a nurse and was very good at her job. However, her many encounters with her husband's career only made her more concerned for him and wanted to know as little as possible about his going on's.
Karine noticed Haley slowly trying to sit up with some difficulty. From past experience, the retired nurse knew cracked ribs could be painful and quickly made her way to Haley's side. Though Karine's English was very poor, the helping hand and the soft smile she offered Haley communicated her intentions well enough.
The sleepy eyes of the novelist softened in appreciation for the help. "Thank you." Haley offered, unsure of whether or not the older woman would understand.
However, with a knowing smile, Karine replied. "Gern geschehen!"
An hour later, Haley was finished eating her breakfast and getting dressed when she and Kat were finally ready to leave and catch their flight. Despite not knowing the Schiller's for very long, Haley already found herself missing them as Karine and Rolf each gave Kat and then herself a farewell hug. She made a silent vow to herself that if she got through this whole mess alive she would have to properly thank Rolf and Karine for their kindness and help. They put themselves in harm's way by protecting her, and Haley will never forget that kind of selfless giving.
"I can't believe we're finally going back home." Haley whispered to Kat after an anxious sigh as they walked through the gate on their way to board their airplane after a five-hour delay. The general public wasn't told what the delay was about, but Kat had found out that it was due to a faulty brake flap. One of the bolts had somehow fallen out and they were waiting for another plane to take its place. Unconsciously, Haley's hand ran through her short hair and gave Kat a questioning look.
Kat bent down closer to Haley's ear so that only she would hear her. "It'll fool them 'Janice'." She said, using Haley's assumed name. "Trust me."
Seeing Kat flash her one of those dazzling smiles filled her with renewed confidence that their charade would work. Haley took another deep breath, glanced at the open airplane door before them and then back at Kat with a more confidant smile. 'I can do this!' Haley told herself as they stepped onto the plane.
Haley forced herself to breath normally as she assumed a natural face to greet the stewardess as she took the ticket.
After looking over the ticket, the stewardess directed Haley to her seat with a courteous smile. "13c, down the aisle on your right ma'am."
"Thank you." Haley returned the smile as she retrieved her ticket and waited a moment to make sure Kat was right behind her. She pretended to adjust the large shoulder bag she carried, which also contained her laptop, as she waited. A gentle nudge at her elbow from behind spurred her back into motion.
As was habit, Haley casually glanced at the faces that were all ready seated while making her way down the aisle. For some reason, she found that by doing this, it helped relax her for the coming flight. Seeing how calm everybody seemed to be always lent her a sense of peace. 'If they weren't worried about flying, why should I be?' She continuously argued with herself.
Sitting in the third row, next to the window to her left however was not a calm face. The brunette looked up, as if sensing eyes on her, and locked her sad eyes with those of Haley's. The young novelist gasped in surprise as recognition dawned on her. The drawn, colorless face of the woman staring back at her was her sister!
Haley felt herself freeze as her chest constricted with barely contained emotions. This woman staring back at her was only a shadow of her jubilant, older sister. Haley's heart broke at the sight of her sister, knowing full well it was because of her Liz was in this broken state.
The young novelist's heart and body screamed to reach out to Liz and hold her and tell her she was all right. That she wasn't dead. She felt her body beginning to act on its own compulsion when suddenly, from behind, she felt something heavy bump into her. She stumbled several steps forward, almost losing her balance, but managed to catch herself by grasping the back of one of the seats as she fought back the pain from her ribs. Composing herself, and avoiding the casual stares thrown her way, she cast an annoyed glance behind her to see who the idiot was that was doing all the pushing.
"Sorry Janice, ah must've tripped over mah bags." Replied the dark haired woman behind her in a sophisticated Southern accent. She grabbed at her blazer, which she was carrying, just as it began sliding from her arm to the floor of the plane. She quickly snatched it up and dropped her purse in the process. "Ah can be so clumsy sometimes." She added with a look of embarrassment as she rolled her eyes and pushed a pair of black-rimmed glasses back up her nose. Finally, everything was securely back in her grasp, which brought her particularly close to Haley's ear. "Keep moving." She added in hushed tones.
Gathering up her fallen shoulder bag, Haley stole a final glance back towards her sister as Kat began a long conversation, mostly with herself about archeology and all the fabulous finds in the last few years in her rich Southern accent. None of it penetrated through to Haley as she noticed, already Liz had forgotten the stranger and focused her eyes back on her idle hands resting on her lap. A slight slap to the shoulder brought her back.
"Are you listening ta me Janice?" Kat asked with exasperation, still using her Southern accent.
"Uh, sure Melinda. I heard every word you said." Haley answered dully with a forced smile.
"Good. Oh, here are our seats." Kat said in character as she put her purse and blazer in the storage compartment above their seats and quickly took her seat to let the other passengers behind them pass.
'Melinda' quickly resumed her story of the fabulous find of the remains of a young Inca sacrifice found high in the Andes as she took her aisle seat. Under normal circumstances, Haley would have found this tale quite fascinating. However, her mind was elsewhere and Haley found it hard to look interested, even if the story was just to keep up Kat's character appearance. So, Haley did her best to look intrigued and keep in character herself.
Slowly, Melinda's story of the young Inca girl was drowned out by the rising hum of the engines as it warmed up for take-off. Reaching their peek, the constant whining of the engines masked Kat and Haley's conversation.
"What the hell were you thinking of back there?" Kat demanded in a forced whisper, all the while keeping up the façade of pleasantness.
"I-I don't know…I guess seeing Liz kind of threw me off for second. I'm sorry." Haley stammered.
"Well you could have blown it for us right there, damnit!" Scolded Kat as she inconspicuously glanced around to make sure no one was listening to them.
Feeling the sting of Kat's harsh tone, Haley suddenly felt very conscience-stricken as all words of apology left her.
Noticing the sudden down trodden look, Kat amended her tone. "Haley, next time, please keep your mind here, with me. Ok?" She said more gently.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean…" Haley stopped as she lowered her eyes to stare at her hands as they fidgeted in her lap.
"Don't be sorry, just learn from your mistakes." Kat said with a touch of softness in her voice as she placed a reassuring hand on Haley's shoulder.
"I will." Haley nodded with a small smile, which Kat returned.
Thursday, June 25, 1998, 2:10am
After a three-hour stop over in Frankfurt, Germany, Haley and Kat finally arrived in the early morning darkness of Toronto. Haley let out an inconspicuous sigh of relief when the plane touched down without incident. Kat seemed not to notice. Instead, she led the young novelist through the large terminal at a casual pace, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. Haley knew it was the contrary. 'That woman has the eyes of a hawk. Nothing escapes her.' Haley thought with a sense of security as they gathered their things and headed out of the airport and into the parking lot.
"Um, Melinda, where are we going?" Haley asked curiously.
"Patience my dear." Kat smiled, still using her character's accent as she playfully slapped Haley's shoulder, her eyes discreetly taking in their surroundings.
Haley let herself be lead through the rows of cars all of different makes, sizes, shapes and colors until finally she was lead to a silver Dodge Intrepid. Without asking any questions, Haley simply watched in silence as Kat took another quick glance around and then bent down in front of the car. She reached a hand under the flaring at the bottom of the car and slid her hand along its underside. After a second or so of fishing her hand around, she retracted her hand with a satisfied look on her face. With a grin and a quick wink, Kat flashed the car keys in front of Haley.
"Now, to get you somewhere safe."
Finally back on the road, under the early morning streetlights, Haley had to ask. "Where are we going?"
"I'm going to have to leave you for a little while, so I'm taking you to one of our safe houses for safe keeping." Kat answered without looking at her.
"Shouldn't I stay with you? I mean, I can't think of anyplace safer than being with you." Haley said, trying to keep her misgivings out of her voice about being separated from Kat.
"Don't worry Haley," Kat said, turning her head to regard Haley as they stopped at a red light. "You'll be safe. I'm going to get some information on those encryption codes from the very people who made them. Then, I'll be back for you and we'll be back in business."
"Why don't we just give the disk to one of CSIS's agents to crack?" Haley inquired as the car started rolling once again through the wet glistening streets.
"Because whoever was leaking information to the Kynak to begin with may get his or her hands on that disk and that I won't allow." Kat stated firmly.
Haley nodded a silent agreement with Kat's sensible plans. After reviewing everything over in her mind for a little bit, one persistent thought jumped to the front of her mind making Haley uneasy. "Kat, what if this same informant also knows about CSIS's safe houses? For all we know, they could be waiting for us."
"Don't worry. I thought about that all ready. Where I'm bringing you isn't one of CSIS's normal safe houses. It has no connection with CSIS except me, and that's well hidden." Kat explained without hesitation.
"You've thought of everything haven't you?" Replied Haley feeling somewhat less anxious than a few minutes earlier.
"I hope so." Came Kat's serious answer. "I warn you though, the place is, um, a little unconventional."
"What do you mean 'unconventional'?" Haley inquired skeptically.
"Hold that thought. I gotta find someplace to stop and change out of these clothes. I'd stick out like a sore thumb there."
After a quick stop at a small gas station, Kat changed out of the stuffy clothes she wore on their flight over, opting for comfort now. Her nylons and skirt were replaced for a worn pair of comfortable blue jeans. The blouse and jacket were tossed, while a tight fitting black t-shirt took its place. A pair of comfortable loafer's now adorned her feet as her long silky hair now flowed freely about her shoulders. Now she could go where she needed to go.
They drove for another few minutes before Haley turned worried eyes to Kat. "Where are you taking me?" Haley asked as she eyed the surrounding buildings. Everywhere she looked there were pornography stores, strip joints and other such places.
Kat had a faint grin on her face. "Trust me." Was all she offered as an explanation as she turned onto a side street and brought the car to a stop at the side entrance of a brick building with a small neon sign hanging over the top of the door that read 'Tops'.
"Let's go." Kat told Haley as she opened her door and started towards the door. She stopped for a moment when she noticed Haley had not even opened her door. Had this been another time and place, she might have laughed out loud at the shocked expression on Haley's face. But this wasn't a night on the town or any other such event. This was business.
Within two long strides, Kat was next to the car opening the passenger side door. "Come on, we don't have time for this." She said as she reached in and gently hauled Haley out of the car. With Haley now standing next to her, Kat reached into the car one more time and hauled out the novelist's laptop case and handed it to Haley. "Keep this with you. Don't let it out of your sight." Kat turned back towards the dull steel door and rapped on it three times then waited. "Just follow my lead." Kat whispered to Haley seconds before a small slit in the door flew open.
"Who sent you?" A deep voice rumbled from the other side of the door.
"Mother sent me." Kat said simply.
The small slit suddenly slammed shut.
They waited a moment before Haley finally nudged Kat. "Is he going to let us…" Haley's sentence drifted off as they heard a bolt sliding from its place, quickly followed by the slow squeak of the heavy door being eased open.
Haley looked into the darkness beyond the doorway questioningly for a second before falling into step behind the tall confident woman. She quickly looked around the small room she found herself in. It was a very plain, very dark box Haley thought. Nothing distinguishing stood out except for the sounds of muffled music drifting to her ears. Suddenly, she was brought to an abrupt halt as a huge muscled forearm shot out in front of her nose, blocking her way.
"Stand back." The tall black man ordered as he gently pushed Haley back away from Kat.
"You know the drill Kat." The large man stated.
The only thing Kat did to acknowledge that she 'knew the drill' was that she held her arms out to her side at shoulder height and widened her stance. The big man quickly and efficiently frisked the well-toned body from head to toe and gave her a curt nod. Kat lowered her arms and resumed a normal stance as she reached out for Haley to give her the laptop case.
"Who's she Kat?" The tall black man asked with a nod of his baldhead as he stood towering over the smaller woman with his huge arms crossed over his chest.
"She's with me Zeus." Kat said in low tones. "She's clean."
He took a step closer to Haley. "Well?" He questioned her with a hint of annoyance as he stood in front of her.
Haley shot Kat an uncertain look as she watched the towering man stand in front of her impatiently with his massive arms hanging at his side. A barely perceptible nod came from Kat. Haley held her head high and imitated the stance Kat had used only a few moments earlier.
Just as she watched the big man frisk Kat only moments before, he now did the same to her. She felt the embarrassing heat rise in her face as she felt the man's huge hands quickly brush over her breasts as they started down her sides. He worked his way to her legs, patting each one thoroughly bringing his hands embarrassingly close to her crotch. She swallowed hard at the intrusion and sent a quick glance towards Kat. Kat's eyes remained steely and almost unreadable, but she caught the slightest movement of the dark head, which indicated that she remain calm.
Before she knew it, he was done. Zeus walked back over to Kat and pointed a bulky finger out cautiously at the laptop case she now carried. Haley also noticed that the dark hand furthest from her simultaneously reached back behind him to the small of his back.
She tried to see what he was reaching for without looking too obvious but could barely see anything under the black light of the small room. Her thoughts however, suggested to her that he was most likely reaching for a gun. The younger woman wasn't sure if Kat had caught the movement or not. It was more than likely that Kat had seen the movement and obviously wasn't worried. Haley's body still tensed in anticipation just incase.
"Open it." Zeus commanded in his deep voice.
Without protest, Kat did as the taller man ordered and opened the case.
Suddenly the hand behind his back came back around with something in it. Haley jumped slightly as the brightness of a flashlight suddenly turned on and lit up the contents of the case. He glanced over at Haley for a brief second and then returned his attention to the case.
After a few moments of examining the case, the large man finally gave a grunt of satisfaction and reached his arm past Kat. A crack of light suddenly formed the outline of a doorway and grew as Zeus opened the hidden door further and ushered the two women through into the noisy room.
Haley shuffled closer to Kat as the muffled music heard earlier suddenly burst to life with the opening of the door. A thriving nightclub met their eyes as they walked into the dimly lit club.
"Stay close to me." Kat said bending down to Haley's ear level to be heard over the din of exotic music and the whistles and catcalls coming from the patrons of the full club. Haley quickly nodded her understanding as they pushed their way through the crowd to the bar.
On their way to the bar, Haley's curious eyes wandered down over the balcony they were on to take in the scene below them. Her eyes went wide at the scene which greeted her. From what she could see of the dimly lit club, it was decorated almost entirely in brass, bronze and chrome. There was a large chrome diamond plated stage with very provocative women in various stages of unclothing danced for the pleasure of both their male and female patrons.
Each woman made their way down the runways of glass with flashing lights shining up from under them. All three runways merged onto the main stage where three brass poles waited for them. The three poles, all equally spaced, extended up from the stage to the high ceiling of the club. Haley gasped in awe as she watched one of the women grab the middle pole, climbed up with the agility of a cat and spun around the pole, her feet never touching the ground. Suddenly she thrust her legs up into the air and wrapped them around the pole as her hands let go. Her legs held her in place while she dangled upside down, moving her body in ways Haley never would have dreamt of. The other two women closed in on the inverted woman and began dancing sensually around her.
Haley's hand shot out and grabbed Kat's black t-shirt. "You're hiding me in a strip club!" Haley whispered hoarsely when she had Kat's attention.
"Trust me." Kat repeated evenly as she motioned Haley forward towards some vacant stools at the bar.
Kat took a seat on the black velvety cushioned seat and signaled the bartender over. With an air of mystery, Kat leaned over to the middle-aged bartender and began saying something in hushed tones. Well, as hushed as the crowded club would allow. No sooner had Haley took her seat next to the raven-haired woman did unwanted offers start.
"Hi there beautiful." One blond haired man with fair skin and a flashy smile said as he slid himself in close to Haley. Uncomfortably close. His devilish grin screamed out his intentions as his hand slowly snaked up her thigh. Haley backed away from the offensive hand, her back bumping into Kat's side. Just as she was about to tell the young man 'hands off', she heard another voice behind her pipe in.
"Back off." Haley heard the protective voice say. "She's with me." She felt an arm drape protectively over her shoulder as she felt Kat's body lean in closer to hers. Haley quickly threw the man's hand off of her thigh.
Not backing off, the man's eyes lit up with hopeful desire as he eyed the two women appreciatively. "Not a problem." He smiled lasciviously. "The more the merrier."
Kat's voice narrowed dangerously impatient. "Not interested." She spoke purposely as she led Haley off of the stools and away from the young man. She kept her arm around Haley as they made their way through the crowd with the persistent man still on their tail.
"Don't turn your back on me when I'm talking to you." The man called out to them sounding annoyed as he grabbed Kat's shoulder and spun her around.
Kat relaxed her grip on Haley as she let herself be spun around. With a practiced ease, the painful elbow she delivered to the annoying man's gut looked like nothing more than an accidental slip from being spun around so quickly. She watched with satisfaction as he doubled over onto the floor.
"Oh I'm sorry. Did you say something?" Kat asked looking down at the man as he struggled to his feet.
"I said, you clumsy bitch," he gasped, "…not to turn your back on me!" He hissed over the loud crowd as he worked his way back to his feet despite the occasional snicker directed his way.
Kat took a step closer to the man, which brought her body within inches of the man's body. The man was easily her height and of a slightly larger build. He glowered at Kat as he daringly grabbed her upper arm in a forceful grip. Kat calmly looked at the intruding hand and then leveled a steely, cold blue gaze on the man.
"Now you listen to me." She said in a low growl as her hand suddenly shot out from nowhere and locked onto the man's genitals with a grip that made the mans face turn white. "You have very poor manners. When a girl says 'not interested', she means 'not interested'. Ya got that?" She said evenly, her vice-like grip leading the man away on his tiptoes. "Do yourself a favor, be smart and leave." Kat's hands gave the flesh in her grip another warning squeeze to emphasize her point.
Even in the dimly lit area, Kat could make out the man's face turning varying shades of red as his eyes rolled back in his head as he nodded his understanding vigorously.
"Good." Kat finished as she pushed him away and returned to Haley.
"Come on, Gino is waiting." Was all Kat said as she replaced her protective arm around Haley and led her to a black door.
Blocking everybody's way through the door stood a well-dressed Italian. The clean-shaven, dark-haired man watched as Kat and Haley approached him from the crowd. He watched them dubiously until he finally recognized Kat. With a neutral face, he gave Kat a slight nod of his head as he stepped to the side of the door and permitted the two women through the door that led to his boss's office upstairs.
Without a word, Kat led Haley up the very plain looking, brightly lit stairway, which stood out in sharp contrast to the elaborately decorated club, almost made Haley laugh. 'They must have been trying to save money.' She mused to herself moments before they reached the top of the stairs and were ushered through the door by another, well dressed man. However, upon entering the office, her earlier thoughts about them trying to save money flew out the window.
Quietly, Haley descended the three marble steps to the main office floor, which was also completely covered in expensive marble. Haley tried very hard to keep her jaw from dropping to the floor as she took in her surroundings. In the corners of the large room were large, intricately carved white marble pillars. Against the far wall opposite her, stood a beautiful private bar with dozens of bottles on the wall behind the counter. A large rack above the bar held the kind of wine, champagne and other such glasses that usually made you nervous to walk around in a store because they were so expensive.
In the middle of the room was an overly large glass oval coffee table with a large black leather couch and chairs surrounding it comfortably. Sitting at the table were four suited men all with dark hair except one with peppered colored hair whom all glanced up at them with suspicious eyes as they entered. Haley's eyes quickly glanced to her right, away from the intimidating men's looks and noticed a grandiose picture window overlooking the entire club. Its shady smoky coloring probably meant that it was a one-way window; they could see out, but nobody could see in.
Haley quickly snapped out of her stupor as a very lean, very handsome man sitting behind an oversized desk off to her left made his way towards them.
"Kat, it has been too long old friend! How have you been?" The well-dressed man asked exuberantly with a touch of an Italian accent.
"As well as can be expected. And you Gino?" Kat responded with a smile as she motioned for Haley to take a seat in one of the two cushiony chairs in front of the desk as Gino clasped Kat's upper arms and kissed her once on each cheek in greeting.
"Good, good. And who is your little friend?" He asked as they parted, motioning for Kat to take a seat next to the young blond woman as he seated himself on the corner of the desk made of expensive Birds Eye Maple wood.
Kat graciously accepted the proffered seat, placing the small case on the floor next to the cushiony leather chair before sitting down leisurely, crossing her long legs smoothly.
"Gino, this is my friend Haley Connors." Kat introduced and then turned to Haley and indicated to Gino. "Haley, this is Gino Rosetti, an old friend of mine from way back."
With a suaveness seen mostly in movies, Gino swept himself over to Haley, bent low and gently took her hand into his as he brought his lips down and gently kissed her soft hands. "I am pleased to meet you Haley Connors." He said with a disarming smile.
Then returning to sit on the edge of his desk, he returned his attention to Kat. "And what is it that I can do for you Kat? Your infrequent visits are rarely for pleasure, which is a shame I might add." He said giving Kat a flirtatious smile.
"Maybe another time." She smiled quickly before adopting her business face. "Actually Gino, I need to ask you a favor."
"Name it my friend." He replied without hesitation.
"We have some trouble on our tails and I need a safe place to hide Haley for a short time."
Gino's dark brows furrowed in concern as he studied Kat's stoic face and then to Haley's. "You know I will do whatever I can. My men and I are at your disposal."
"Thanks Gino. I knew I could count on you. I'm sorry I can't stay longer, but there are still some things I have to take care of." Kat stood up from her seat and shook Gino's hand and held it firmly and lowered her voice seriously. "Under no circumstances is anybody to know about Haley being here. No one comes to see her except me, and no one leaves with her except me. Understood?"
"Kat…" Gino drawled with a barely noticeable note of insult. "You know me better than that."
"I know Gino, but I just had to make that clear." She said, resuming her normal tone. "Everything should be relatively quiet anyway. Well, that is if she doesn't talk your ear off." She said with a wink towards Haley who protested the remark with a defiant look, which quickly turned into a shy smile.
"Ah, a lovely lady who can keep up her end of the conversation as we enjoy a relaxing drink!" Gino smirked with a playful look in his eyes, which Kat didn't miss.
"And Gino," Kat said as she gently grabbed his chin with her fingers and turned his attention back to her. "You behave yourself or you deal with me." Her smile did little to hide the warning tone in her voice.
"Kat, I was only trying to make her feel comfortable!" He protested with an innocent look.
"Uh-huh." Kat said disbelievingly. "Behave." She bent down, grabbed the laptop case and whispered a reassurance to Haley. "Don't worry, he's really a good person. He just likes to joke a lot with good looking women."
"But what if…" Haley trailed off as Kat broke in with a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"I'll be back before you know it." Kat replied confidently, bolstering Haley's spirits.
With a slight nod of her head, Haley relaxed. "You be careful."
With a knowing smile, Kat straightened and was escorted to the door by Gino.
"Maybe after this is done, I could interest you in a drink or maybe a night on the town?" Gino asked hopefully.
Kat simply looked at him with a lop-sided grin and shook her head 'no'.
"How about a nightcap?" He added with a sly grin.
"In your dreams." She smirked as she opened the door to leave.
"Admit it Kat, you can't resist me for much longer." He added with a wink and a smile.
Kat simply shook her head as she made her way down the stairs.
It was just past 4am by the time Kat got in contact with Samuel Quesnel for outside access codes into CSIS's systems, which changed daily due to the nature of the high security programs. After leaving Haley at 'Tops', she arranged and picked up the necessary codes at the drop off point and was on her way to do some work at home.
After finally arriving at her high-rise apartment building, Kat trudged on into the elevators and punched the 12th floor button. Rubbing her tired eyes, Kat opened her door and walked into an empty living room. The bag she carried with her from the airport was dropped unceremoniously on the floor at the door as she walked across the tiled floor to the single piece of furniture in her living room: her computer desk.
Stifling a yawn, she slumped lazily onto the well-used seat of the tall back chair at her computer. A small smile found its way to her lips as she heard the familiar squeak of the chair as it adjusted to the familiar weight. 'I really should buy a new chair.' She thought to herself as she relaxed in the comfortable chair that once belonged to her father before he passed away. Another yawn reminded her that the sleep she got the night before was barely enough for her tired body and mind and she could just hear Haley's chastising voice in her head. 'You're no good to anybody without sleep, now git!'
"I'll get some sleep when I get the addresses of the defectors." Kat said out loud to her empty apartment.
She looked over her computer desk and saw that all of her state-of-the-art computer system and accessories were as she left them. She reached over to the tower and was about to turn it on when a thought hit her. 'The Kynak know I'm involved, which means they might also know where I live.'
"Stupid!" Kat spat out loud as she hauled her hand away from the 'on' button. "The whole damn placed could have been rigged and me blown to pieces! Jesus Kat, you're losing it."
Kat pushed herself out of her chair and began searching her small apartment meticulously for any traps, bugs and anything else that shouldn't be there. Thankfully, after a little over an hour of searching and tearing things apart, she came up with nothing unusual.
She resumed her seat at the computer and turned it on. Once her computer was up and running, she immediately hooked up to CSIS's computer systems and entered all the necessary passwords given to her by the head of CSIS himself; Samuel Quesnel.
His faith in her was so much so, that he gave Kat almost unlimited access to whatever it was she needed. All she had to do was ask. And ask she did, she just couldn't bring herself to trust anybody else with the job.
Typing in all the pertinent information, Kat was rewarded with a complete profile on the defectors, including a current photograph along with their current whereabouts. "Bingo." Within a short span of time, Kat had studied their profiles and pictures over and over again until they were all committed to memory before signing off. First thing in the morning, she was going to be paying Mohammad Kirandeep a little visit.
'Time for some shut eye.' She told herself as she dragged her feet up the stairs to her bedroom, which overlooked her living room and kitchen. By the time she reached the top of the stairs she managed to kick off her shoes and was already stripped down to her bra and panties. Her bed was such an inviting sight that she simply let herself fall into the cozy sheets. She forced her brain to 'keep the noise down' while she grabbed a couple of hours of shuteye.
Morning had arrived much too early for Kat who had only managed to sleep a little over three hours. By the time nine o'clock rolled around, she was already up and on her way with the disk and laptop to Oshawa, which was about an hours drive North East from Toronto. She'd been to the city a few times in the past and so didn't have to waste very much time searching for the quaint little subdivision she was looking for.
Driving up to the small brick house she knew Mohammad was being kept in under the watchful eyes of CSIS agents, she suddenly slowed her car as she saw someone emerging from the front door.
She squinted into the morning sunlight to get a good look at the dark figure walking out of the house when he suddenly looked to his left and right suspiciously. Kat was starting to see more details as she brought her car to a halt in the shade of a house and watched. She saw his lithe form cockily strut across the lawn as his short, white hair stuck in her mind as an image hit her. "What the hell…Seth?" She whispered in disbelief as she watched her supposedly dead friend casually stop and tie his shoelace very much alive and well.
Without missing a beat, she quickly re-adjusted her gun holster at the small of her back and cautiously stepped out of the car. She brought herself to her full height and stood behind the car door momentarily, long enough for Seth to knowingly turn and notice her.
"Kat…" He drawled with a pleasant smile. "…Long time no see, hmm?" Seth slowly continued walking towards the street, purposefully keeping his dark eyes on Kat.
With an uneasy look, Kat slowly mirrored his movements and made her way towards him as her muscles tensed for any surprises. "What's going on Seth?" She asked with a neutral look. "Thought you were suppose to be dead." She added almost casually.
"Can't slip anything past you huh?" He sneered as a black Sedan suddenly pulled up to the curb in front of Seth with a small screech as it came to a stop.
Quickly, Kat reached back and hauled out her gun as she sprinted towards Seth who was just slipping into the Sedan. She was closing the distance between them, but not fast enough.
The dark skinned man even paused as he stood partway in the car. "Sorry Kat, can't chat. I've got a hot date with a certain blond or should I say brunette now." He taunted as he jumped into the car.
"Seth!" Kat yelled after him as the Sedan lurched into motion with another squeal and headed straight for her.
The determined woman stood her ground on the deserted street as the Sedan all too quickly raced for her. She managed to fire off two direct shots to the windshield, which its apparent bulletproof glass deflected harmlessly. Seeing her shots weren't doing any good, she managed to leap away from harm as the car narrowly missed her. She ignored the quick jabbing pain in her shoulder as it hit the pavement in her roll. Spinning back around, she tried to catch a license plate number to no avail.
"Son of a bitch!" She slammed her fist down hard against the road as she cursed her rotten luck upon noticing that the car's plates had been removed. Her head shook with noticeable disgust as she stared off after the departed Sedan and then a sudden dread filled her being. 'Could he really have Haley?' Came the question, which she all ready knew the answer to. "Shit!" She cursed again. 'The only ones who knew about Tops were Marcus and…' She felt her heart sink. "No." Came the soft word of denial.
Hurriedly, Kat picked herself up off of the street and started to turn towards her car when she glanced back at the brick house she had seen Seth leaving. She was torn between running to Haley's rescue and checking out the house. 'They're probably already dead.' She reasoned with herself, already knowing what she had to do.
Setting her jaw, she quickly ran to the house and pushed open the unlocked door. The smell of blood reached her sensitive nose just as she expected. The living room was off to her immediate right, which became her first stop.
An eye catching splattering of blood on the wall behind the sofa met her eyes, but there was no body. She walked further into the living room and noticed a pool of blood soaked into the lush beige carpets with a trail of thick red blood leading away from it. She followed the trail of blood with her eyes as they led to the adjoining kitchen. Cautiously, with her gun still drawn, she made her way into the kitchen.
Walking through the archway that separated the two rooms, she suddenly knew what happened to the bodies. There, sitting at the kitchen table were three men. The two who each sat at the ends of the table were unknown to her, she assumed they were CSIS's men. The third however, she recognized as the man she had come in search of, sporting a new hole in his head.
"You sick bastard." She spat with hatred as she looked at Seth's handiwork. All three men sat slumped at the kitchen table with an empty plate in front of them, an unopened bottle of beer in their hands and a lit cigarette in their mouths. All except Mohammad who had taken a nose-dive into his plate.
There was nothing more she could do here. Her thoughts centered solely on Haley now. She thought only of how to get Haley out of this mess. Thoughts of any guilt on her part were quickly pushed out of her mind as she quickly rushed out of the house.
She made sure to leave the house exactly as she found it. When she closed the door she made sure not to touch the door handle swinging it shut with her foot instead.
'If that son of a bitch so much as harms a hair on her head I'll…' Her face began to redden. '…I'll make him wish he had stayed dead.' She thought dangerously as she jumped into her car and sped off back to Toronto for Haley.
Well on her way speeding down the busy highway, Kat grabbed her cell phone and alerted the proper authorities to the scene she had just left.
By the time Kat pulled up to Tops it was just past noon. She dashed out of the car with her gun in hand, not even bothering to close her door as she ran up to the club's side door. She knocked once and then twice receiving no answer. 'There's always somebody here.' Impatiently, she began to pound on the door when she felt a sudden give to the door. Eyeing the door suspiciously, Kat quickly holstered her gun and took a step back.
With a determined look, she kicked the door with a powerful leg and watched as it eased open enough for her to squeeze through. She pushed on the door as she forced her way through and noticed an opposing force against the door fighting with her. With a powerful heave, she threw the door open wider letting in the sunlight of the mid-morning sun.
With the sunlight shining partially in, Kat noticed legs crumpled up behind the door. Slowly she moved the door aside to get a better look at the body and wasn't overly surprised to see that it was Zeus. She bent down and retrieved the flashlight she knew Zeus always carried in his back pocket.
She flashed the light on his face and saw a single bullet shot to the head. She checked the muscles in his neck and jaw and found them already fully stiffened. Looking over the rest of his body, she noted that much of the larger muscles had grown rather stiff as well. Rigor mortis still hadn't fully set in she noticed. 'Everything must have went down about eight hours ago.' She observed with a growing sense of dread. 'Not long after I left.'
Quickly she stood back up and rushed through the hidden door that led into the club. The atmosphere in the club was completely different from the loud, dark nightclub she and Haley had initially entered. All the lights on the bar floor were lit, everything was quiet and peaceful. Not a soul roamed through the empty club. This bothered Kat more than she would admit as she quickly rushed over to the stairs going up to Gino's office.
Kat noticed the pool of congealing blood peeking out from around the corner of the bar before she saw the dead guard. With a renewed sense of urgency, Kat quickly but carefully avoided stepping in the blood and ran up the stairs.
A waterfall trail of blood marked the stairs as Kat ascended them. She barely spared it and the prone body at the top of the stairs a glance as she threw open the office door. The solid door slammed against the wall with a loud crash and then went silent. Kat took in the broken state of the office as her nose crinkled disagreeably with the scene.
The bottles behind the bar were all shattered. Blood and bodies were strewn all over the room giving the guise of a slaughterhouse. Her eyes frantically searched the room for Haley. She saw the four men guards at the coffee table from the night before all sprawled out on the ground at awkward angles, two of them with their guns not far from their dead hands.
She walked down the three stairs into the main office and ignored everybody else as she went straight for the dark-haired man sitting at the large desk. She knew immediately that Gino was dead by the long dagger sticking out of his chest with a note up near the hilt to avoid being soaked beyond comprehension.
With a sense of sorrow, Kat reached out and tore the blood stained paper from his chest. "Oh Gino…I'm so sorry." She whispered softly, pained that she had brought him into all of this. But there was no time to grieve for her dead friend while there was still a chance that Haley was alive. She concentrated her attention to the piece of paper.
We each have something the other wants.
If you wish for your friend to continue her days among the living,
You'll come alone to Centre Island for a walk before it gets too chilly.
And remember, we don't want another Cindy O'Hearn incident do we?
She hauled out a lighter in her pocket and brought a flame to life. Slowly, she put it to one end of the paper and held it for a moment as she watched the paper blacken and burn. The mesmerizing effects of the flame brought back an old memory of the needless death of an innocent.
"Did you bring what we asked for?" A tall man of slight build asked impatiently with a heavy Irish accent cradling a Canadian FN rifle in his arms.
"Here's the money." Kat answered in a cool tone, hearing her own voice echo in the abandoned manor as she felt the eyes of the hidden IRA on her as she handed a brief case to a sandy haired woman.
Despite being in this hornet's nest alone, Kat felt confident she could negotiate the safe release of the IRA's Canadian and British hostages they kidnapped from the Canadian embassy and come out alive herself. With only the movement of her eyes, she counted at least 2 hidden men on the balcony above her and 4 in front of her guarding the three hostages. 'I can take them easily.' She thought as her mind already mapped out a strategy.
"What the fuck are you playing at here?!" The tall man yelled furiously as he threw the money to the ground, his face and torso suddenly covered in blue paint.
Before her shocked mind could register a response, gunfire quickly erupted from behind her as one of the IRA fell to the ground dead. Kat instinctively went for her gun behind her back but remembered with frustration that she came without a gun as per the meeting agreement. With a bullet whizzing past her head, Kat made a frantic dive for the floor behind some old crates that would provide her some protection.
"Those sons a bitches!" She cursed vehemently as she saw British soldiers busting into the building leading with their guns.
With wild blood pumping through her veins, Kat urgently ran towards the hostages, keeping behind the crates, knowing their time was almost up. Frantic yells and gunfire continued to fill the air as Kat came upon a twitching, bloody body. She grabbed the mini Uzi from the dying hands and roared into action only ten feet away from the hostages who were screaming and crouching in fear for their lives.
She fired off a quick burst filling one of the radicals full of steel as she continued her way towards the hostages who were now clear of guards. A bullet from behind bit painfully into her leg as she crumpled to the ground in front of the terrified hostages. From the corner of her eye she saw the tall IRA group leader stagger into view aiming his gun towards the hostages.
"NO!" She cried out with an enraged yell as she twisted around and fired off her gun at the leader on her way down. Her shoulder smashed hard into the wooden floor as she watched with satisfaction as the leader fell to the ground himself, her shot finding its mark. Unfortunately, the sound of another body thumping loudly against the floor brought her attention back around to the hostages.
Kat saw a jumble of dark brown hair lying on the floor with a pool of blood quickly surrounding it. Then the gunfire came to an unearthly quietness. Kat whirled her head around angrily as she saw the green fatigues of soldiers quietly stepping out into the open yelling 'clear'.
"You stupid sons a bitches!" She cried out in fiery rage as she hobbled painfully to her feet.
"Ma'am, you did your job, now let us do…" the strong British soldier said as he called someone forward to attend to her wounds.
"Fuck you!" She spat, pushing away any help forcefully. "I had the situation under control until your fucken little marker was planted without my knowledge! And because of your fuck up, an innocent woman is dead!"
"Please ma'am, calm down…" the British soldier said, his own voice rising as he physically tried to calm the raging woman.
Kat's fist lashed out at the unsuspecting soldier knocking him flat on his ass as she skipped a few paces to keep her balance. It didn't take long before some of the other soldiers attempted to intervene. Two others ended up finding themselves on the floor next to the first man, while several others had finally managed to subdue the furious woman.
Not long after, Kat discovered the name of the murdered hostage to be Cindy O'Hearn, an administrative assistant at the Canadian embassy. She died because the British had a prominent politician visiting at the time and happened to be one of those abducted from the embassy. Kat's stomach turned in disgust knowing full well unofficially the other two women were probably considered expendable so long as their politician came out alive and well. She couldn't help but feel personally responsible for Cindy O'Hearns death. She should have seen such an attempt was going to be made. Had she realized this would happen, she knew she could have at least tried to avert the tragedy.
The letter was now completely burned and lay in ashes in the glass ashtray on the bloody desk. 'No tricks.' Was Seth's warning to Kat by reminding her of the dead woman from her past.
"No tricks." She whispered solemnly out loud.
Before leaving for the meeting place, Kat had one stop to make.
The ferry trip to Centre Island was relatively uneventful. The cries of a young baby being cradled in her father's arms pierced the air. Rambunctious children ran past her and all over the deck with their mothers screaming after them, finally catching them and scolding the children to 'be good'. A younger couple sat by themselves quietly arguing, while a young girl had her index finger digging up through her nose as she wiped her findings on a passing by old woman. None of these things escaped her attention as she stood observantly against the ships railings looking expectantly through the crowd. Of course, the people she was looking for were nowhere to be seen.
Kat's eyes fell to her watch and then looked up at the sky, which still held the blueness of the beautiful day as it slowly began to wane. Unconsciously, she fingered the laptop case, which also contained the disk that would save Haley's life.
Within no time at all the ferry pulled up into dock and the passengers all disembarked. Some made their way into the tourist center, while others chose their destination and started on their way. Kat chose the walking trail, which was unusually bare, and made her way down it with a purposeful stride all the while eyeing her surroundings and the sky.
Kat walked down the worn trail for nearly fifteen minutes. Had this been under different circumstances, she would have enjoyed the walk under the canopy of trees and fields. The sudden chirping of a bird in a nearby poplar tree distracted her as it drew her eyes to it for a split moment. The small brown bird chirped again as she walked by the tree it was nested in and then went quiet. No sooner had she returned her gaze to the road ahead, did she hear a noise further up the trail behind a stand of trees. Her gut told her it was Seth.
Outwardly, Kat appeared calm and collected while the fire of seething rage coursing through her body burned just below the surface. Dangerously close. She continued walking until she was about ten feet away from the area where she had heard the noise. "Show yourself." She said with a neutral voice, seemingly to no one in particular.
"As sharp as ever I see." A man said as he stepped out from behind the trees and bushes. "Guess that's why I've always liked you." Seth said with a slight grin.
Kat looked around and noticed that nobody else accompanied him. Not any of his men nor the young novelist who had begun to grow on her more than she cared to admit. A quick glance around told her that they were alone as the sun began its descent.
"So," Seth began confidently as he anxiously rubbed his hands together. "Let's see what little treats you have for me."
"Not so fast." Kat said holding her ground. "Where's Haley?"
"Ah yes, your little friend." Seth hesitated somewhat as he scratched his brow in thought. "You see I did keep my word, she is alive. But you have to understand I couldn't risk you coming after me once we've made the trade, so I had to come up with an alternate plan."
Kat's eyes drew together tightly as she glared dangerously at Seth's grinning face. The corner of her mouth twitched as she growled at him. "What did you do?" She demanded angrily, trying very hard to keep her cool.
"You know, I really out-did myself this time Kat." Seth grinned self-appreciatively as he glanced down at his watch. "In about twenty minutes, you'll be able to find your friend all over the island." He watched with satisfaction as Kat's eyes registered alarm. "Of course, it's not terribly original but I do so love fireworks this time of year."
Kat took several threateningly steps closer to Seth before he stopped her with a wave of his hand. "Now now, let's not be too rash. You rough me up and you'll never find her alive. Not to mention all those tourists that will more than likely be around."
Her movements suddenly stopped.
"You know, every mission we were ever on things just had to be done your way. Well this time, you're going to do things my way. Won't that be a nice change?"
"Get on with it." Kat snarled.
"Show me the disk." Seth's face turned unnaturally stern as he motioned with his outstretched hand for her to hand it over. "Come on. The faster we do this, the more time you have to save your friend."
Kat looked at him with a barely perceptible look of suspicion.
"Don't try to call my bluff. You know me better than that." He had read her faint expression correctly. After working with Kat for nearly eight years, he was able to read some of her body language and expressions.
Kat tossed the laptop case at him. "It's in there."
"I trust it's not a fake." Seth asked seriously as he carefully unzipped the canvas case.
"Check for yourself." She said impatiently.
Keeping one eye on Kat and one on his work was one thing Kat had taught him: never trust anyone. He threw the carrying case aside as he balanced the small computer in his hands. Glancing up at Kat periodically, he could tell she was getting fidgety and anxious. This made him smile as he popped the small disk into the driver and brought its contents up on the screen.
A few keystrokes later, he smiled and closed the computer. "Fifteen minutes left Kat. What're you doing here chatting with me? Thought you wanted to get her away from that bomb in the amusement parks generator room."
"I'll find you." Was Kat's promise as she wasted no more time with Seth and began running down the trail towards the amusement park.
As she ran down the dirt trail, Kat was thankful she had worn her sneakers this day because it was going to be close. It took her fifteen minutes just to reach this point walking. To get to the amusement park was at least another fifteen-minute walk away. She was going to have to push herself hard if she wanted to get to Haley on time. 'This is not open for debate.' She thought to herself with determination as she forced her legs to pump faster. 'You will get there on time!'
All her concentration was centered on Haley. Her anger towards Seth for his betrayal was converted into energy. Seeing Haley alive and joking around with her once again fueled her strength. She will not let her friend down.
The giant Ferris wheel came into view and thankfully there were not a lot of people around as the sun began its descent. She spared a quick glance at the time and saw that she had only four minutes remaining. A new spurt of energy burst through her energized body to close the gap as quickly as possible.
Dodging a handful of remaining people she frantically searched for the building. She spied a security officer walking the streets and grabbed him roughly by the front of his uniform. "Where's the generator station?" She panted slightly.
"Now listen here miss…" The young man started before being shaken vigorously by the desperate woman.
"There's a bomb there. So if you don't tell me what I want to know, we're all going to blow sky high!" She hissed dangerously.
The man looked at her with a stunned expression. "WHERE?" She yelled impatiently.
"T-two buildings down this street to your left. It'll be the small building behind." He stammered clumsily as she pushed her way past him before he finished his sentence.
"Get the remaining people out of here!" She yelled over her shoulder, not slowing down noticing that she had only three minutes left.
She reached the small building and turned the knob with no luck. It was locked. Cursing her lack of foresight, she ran back to the security officer who was passing near her area, hustling a younger couple away. Again, Kat's hand shot out and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. "The key!" She demanded with an outstretched hand.
He searched with shaky hands over his key belt with a terrified look in his brown eyes.
"The key now god damnit!"
"H-here…" He stammered as he handed her his whole key belt holding up the proper key.
Wasting no more time, she sped back down the hallway, and punched in the key frantically. It worked. She burst through the door and found herself in the main generator room for the amusement park. Off to her left, in a corner, she saw Haley tied and gagged with duct tape at the base of an electrical console, struggling to free herself. There, next to her, sat the bomb.
Faster than humanly possible, Kat was at Haley's side reaching for the bomb as the numbers slowly ticked by…3…2…1.
"NO!" Kat yelled as she threw herself over Haley as the timer reached zero.
The seconds ticked by silently as both Haley and Kat thought their hearts were ready to burst from their chests. Nothing happened. Kat cracked open a cautious eye as she tried to calm her ragged breath. Slowly she lifted her head and looked around them. Everything was still intact. They were both alive. Cautiously she dared a look at the bomb, its timer continually flashing four zeros.
Wiping away sweat from her forehead and face, Kat carefully checked all the connections to the bomb and soon discovered it had been a dud all along. Too tired to be pissed off, she simply turned it over and found a small note on the bottom.
Kat knew this message was from Seth.
Suddenly, her attention was brought back to the writhing, whimpering form beside her. Haley's nostrils flared as they tried to compensate for the deep gasping breaths that had overtaken her during her moment of extreme stress as her mouth was covered with duct tape.
"This might hurt." Kat said softly as she lifted a corner of the duct tape and tore it free of Haley's mouth with a quick zip sound.
"Ow!" Haley couldn't keep from saying at the sudden stinging sensation, her hand shooting out to rub over the area the tape covered.
Rubbing her mouth, Haley's eyes were automatically drawn to Kat's azure eyes. The wild, panicked look in the young woman's green eyes soon quieted as they held onto Kat's, whose eyes alone seemed to lend strength to the novelist. No words were exchanged, just a knowing look.
Kat suddenly felt very tired as her body began to slump down to the floor next to Haley as a tear trickled down the novelist's cheek.
Strong arms suddenly hugged Haley to her and held her tightly, her hand stroking Haley's short hair reassuringly. Everything was going to be all right now.
Through locations, contacts, members and sellers that were all found on the disk, which Haley later learned that Kat had copied before she gave it to Seth, CSIS was able to effectively eliminate the threat of the Kynak through a joint effort with other government agencies. There was only one snag…Viktor Petrenko remained at large. His whereabouts were unknown.
After several months of hiding, Haley was finally able to resume her normal life with the threats of the Kynak out of the way. Her friends and family knew little of the events that had transpired, which had lead them to believe she was dead. CSIS had created a cover story for the novelist to try and explain away the missing months after her apparent death with no contact. As far as anyone outside of the agency knew, Haley Connors had been one of the luckiest women alive by surviving the plane explosion by what most are calling a miracle.
The story went that she had been found miles away from the plane debris confused and dazed. A farmer had found her nearly a week later practically starved, injured with broken bones, no identification and without her memory. She was brought to the nearest hospital to recuperate and thankfully, after a couple of months, she slowly began to regain her memory. That's when her family had been contacted and the charade of Haley flying back to Canada to be joyously reunited with her loved ones occurred.
It was an emotionally charged reunion with freely flowing tears and sobs of pure happiness from both Haley and her family with the media crowding in to get a piece of the action by snapping photos and fighting for an interview with the sole survivor of flight 107. A certain dark-haired woman had insisted on staying close to Haley for protection as she inconspicuously blended in the crowd always staying in Haley's sight as two suits assigned to the writer were disguised as embassy workers there to escort the young woman home safely. Haley was infinitely reassured simply by seeing the familiar form of her savior turned friend never far from her side.
The following weeks had found Haley laying low at her mother's house in the suburbs of Hamilton Ontario for several weeks, waiting and hoping for the media frenzy about her miraculous survival to die down. Truth be told, she had little choice because with her apparent death, her apartment had been cleaned out and rented to a new tenant. Thankfully, her family had kept all her things in storage. During her time with her mother, Kat made frequent stops by the house to check up on the petite woman who had been dropped into her life to become one of those cherished few she could call a friend. Haley's mother had always made the taller woman most welcomed in her home as Kat discretely took the opportunity to update Haley on the Kynak situation. Secretly, Haley believed with an inner grin, that Kat was just making up any excuse to just hang out with her new found friend.
Soon, the media frenzy trickled down to the odd reporter, which quickly dissipated to nothing leaving her family some breathing room. Haley's family also began to relax around her and slowly let their smothering love give way once the realization truly dawned on them that Haley was real and that this wasn't some cruel dream. The muses also visited Haley with a vengeance, leading her down the path to an international best seller.
In the end, they all accepted CSIS's cover story about Haley's return as well as agreeing quietly to themselves that there was a new Haley Connors among them. Sure all the old traits and characteristics were there, but a new confidence and strength permeated her being giving her a new confidence and assurance that seemed to have been missing before.
With the setting of the sun on Mexico City, a lone figure secretly snuck into a grungy, rat hole of an apartment unnoticed by anyone who cared to look. Despite the bulkiness of the intruder's body, he moved like a jungle cat on the prowl, his footfalls making not a single sound.
The uncomfortably small, dark apartment was bare save for a single torn sofa against the wall. A quick look around the cramped interior turned up no living creature except for some cockroaches scurrying about. Good. Just as the intruder hoped.
He sat himself on the sofa brandishing a 9mm with a silencer on the end and waited. It had taken the large man several months to track down Seth Kasselman and this time, he wasn't getting away. He patiently waited.
Barely an hour passed by before he heard the knob of the door turning. With patience honed to near perfection through past experiences, the man waited for his prey to come to him.
A sliver of light from the hallway barely penetrated into the windowless room as Seth walked into his apartment. With eyes that had already adjusted to the lightless room, the stranger watched as Seth closed the door and reached for the light switch. It flicked once, then twice without producing any light. And then the stranger spoke.
"I told you I'd find you." He said in a low, emotionless voice.
Seth froze and gulped nervously. "Viktor?"
A single bullet to the head and it was all over before Seth had time to react. Viktor Petrenko stood up from the sofa and walked over to the motionless body on the floor by the door. He looked down at it with no emotion as he aimed his gun once again and fired four more silent shots into Seth's head before walking out as stealthily as he entered.
Saturday July 1, 2000 - Present day
After the book signing was through around 4 o'clock that afternoon, Haley ended up leaving the bookstore with James as he drove her home.
"What a great day huh Hal?" James breathed enthusiastically as the warm wind swept through the convertible. "They were puddy in your hands!"
Haley rolled her eyes and let out a soft laugh. "James, I don't write for control over people you know." She smiled.
"Oh come on Hal, let me have some fun will ya." He laughed as he shot her a mischievous smile.
"You leave my fans alone you rat." She laughed again.
They continued their joking banter as they drove through the crazy streets of downtown Toronto getting stuck in traffic jams more often than not. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, James pulled up to a luxurious towering apartment complex.
"Thanks James." Haley said as she grabbed her gym bag and got out of the sports car.
"You take care of yourself kiddo! Remember, supper at my place next Sunday."
Haley cringed playfully. "Barbara isn't cooking is she?"
"I'm gonna tell her you said that!"
"Bye James." She waved with a grin as she turned to leave.
"Later Hal." He called back as he put the car in gear and left.
"Hello Ricky. How are you today?" Haley asked the Latino doorman as she walked past him.
"Just fine Ms. Connors." The middle aged man answered, tipping his hat to her. "How was the book signing?"
"Exhausting!" She smiled. "But I loved every minute of it."
Stepping into the air-conditioned lobby, she felt refreshed as she experienced the heat of the day melting away from her heated skin. 'A long cold shower is what I need.' She thought to herself as she stepped into the elevator and slid a card through to access the upper most levels of the complex to her penthouse apartment. The elevator quickly rose through the floors without interruption as another thought hit her. 'No no, a dip in the pool would be better.' She sighed as she could almost feel the cool water gliding over her body.
Finally the elevator came to a stop on her floor. She stepped out into the small room before she entered her apartment. Making her way to her door, she always noted how the gentle colors of the small room always seemed so relaxing, bringing a faint smile to her lips as she slipped her key into the keyhole.
Stepping into her apartment and closing the solid door behind her, she let out a loud sigh as she dropped her bag at the door and leaned her back up against the door. Her eyes closed for a moment listening to the quietness of her apartment. Since her new book skyrocketed to the best seller's list with a bang, she hasn't had a quiet moment to herself in a little while. However, a small smile found its way to her lips as she thought of how drastically her life has changed since meeting Kat McGregor.
'Funny how life throws you its little twists' Haley thought to herself as she blew her bangs out of her eyes before heading into the kitchen.
She crossed the hardwood floor of the living room to ceramic tiled floors of the kitchen. Lazily she opened the chrome refrigerator door and picked at its contents, nothing quite appeasing to her. Some cardboard containers containing left over stir-fried rice, some spareribs and chow mein from the local Chinese restaurant sat in her fridge. Some vegetables growing soft and ready to spoil sat in their containers, while a bag of milk sat by itself on the bottom of the fridge.
'Probably spoiled.' She thought to herself with a grimace.
Before another thought entered her mind, she felt, rather than heard a presence coming up behind her. She straightened back up normally and closed the door when suddenly a flurry of movement sprang into action. Haley knew it was coming, but couldn't match the amazing speed of her attacker as she was grabbed from behind as a hand covered her eyes.
"Guess who slow poke." Came Kat's playful voice. Even though she teased Haley, she was impressed at how alert Haley had become. Kat knew she wasn't losing her touch, but that she and Haley seemed to be so in tuned with one another that they could almost feel what the other was going to do.
"Damn, you're still faster!" Haley said smiling as she shook her head. "You know, I am going to get you when you least expect it and you won't even see it coming." Haley promised with an impish look in her eye.
"Promises, promises." Kat said with a twinkle in her eye as she playfully pushed Haley aside and went through the refrigerator.
Haley stood back with a smug look on her face as she made her way out of the kitchen to fall onto her plush sofa in the living room with a relaxing sigh. "Anything you find in there will probably have to be killed again." She called out jokingly as Kat just finished closing the fridge door in disgust.
"For someone who's always hungry, your refrigerator sure is bare." Then, with a sly grin, Kat added. "You must have cleaned it out at breakfast time."
Haley made a comical face at Kat's remark. "If you must know, I haven't done groceries in a while."
"I see that." Kat remarked as she made her way into the living room and planted herself down on the lazy boy across the coffee table from Haley. "You know, this sure is a comfortable chair but something is missing."
"Like what?" Haley asked giving Kat a suspicious look.
"I don't know. A beach surrounded by crystal blue waters and a boat to ride the waves maybe." Kat casually said as she suddenly flipped the recliner back all the way and sprawled out on her back as though she were sunbathing. Haley couldn't hold back a sudden burst of laughter that escaped.
"What? You don't like that idea? You better get use to it, I'm being sent on a very special mission and I need you to back me up."
"Oh really?" Haley asked skeptically with a growing grin, wondering what Kat was up to.
"Ya, we're supposed to go to the Caribbean and pose as tourists on vacation. Think you can handle an assignment like that?" Kat asked with a semi-serious face.
"Handle that? I don't know Kat. You know what kind of trouble I end up in when I go on vacation!" Haley chuckled.
A huge grin suddenly broke out on Kat's face. "Ya, but you met me." She winked. "Besides, you have no choice. Our tickets are already bought and we're set to leave next Monday."
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