The Terrorist’s Game
“I don’t regret what I’ve done but some of the things I didn’t do.”
Talia saw the look she’d seen before. Michael looked at her that way when she told him about her past with Dmitri. She felt immediately vulnerable as she began to tell her story, which was why she tried never to do so. People were understandably shocked when the “ice princess” opened up with some of the most shocking information that they’d ever heard.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to shock you,” she said. “My life tends to put people off. Way off. I don’t blame them.”
“It’s okay,” he replied. “It makes some sense now. I knew there had to be a good reason for all the secrecy and your personal trust issues. This explains it all.”
“Thanks for understanding. I realize it’s a lot to take in, and I’ve barely begun. When you’ve heard enough, let me know. I will understand if you don’t want to get any more involved.”
“I need to know. I need to understand. It’s important to me. I don’t know enough to clear up my confusion, so please go on. How did you end up working with the United Nations and living in New York, yet your daughter lives in Russia? Are you divorced? Does your daughter live with your husband or your father in law?”
“All valid questions.” She paused to gather her thoughts. “Dmitri worked with the counter terrorism unit of the Detective Administration in Moscow. That was where I learned about terrorism. Dmitri taught me everything that I knew at that time. I was fascinated with the subject, and I continued to study it.
“Security was something that I fell into with the help of an old family friend of my mom’s, and because I had a good group of people on my staff for the business once I relocated to New York. Some of my programmers are people I knew in Russia. They keep my secrets, but that’s expected in my business. They eventually passed the debriefing of the United Nations and were allowed to work both as programmers for the security business and as employees of mine for whatever work had to be done for the U.N.
“My passion was terrorism or the modern day separatists. My husband taught me quite a bit about how they think, weapons of choice, hierarchy and operations. One time, he showed me a map that he designed of all the locations of terrorist cells and training camps around the world. It was impressive. It covered every inch of the globe and it was cordoned off into sections. I never understood it, but it was thorough and he treasured it for some reason. The things that I learned from him; that knowledge has given me a decisive edge in analysis over the years. Dmitri’s tutelage made me the leading authority in the field currently known as Separatist Groups and Agendas.”
“That’s incredible,” Cameron said. “He had a map?”
“I’ve been interested in the topic and read many things, but I never heard of a tactical map.”
“That’s hardly the point of the story,” she snapped, becoming defensive. “I thought you wanted to hear about my past.”
“You’re right. I was being a guy. I’m sorry. I just love maps. Go on.”
“After years of living in Moscow, being the good wife and waiting for him to come back from the field and whatever job he was doing at the time; one day he didn’t come home. No word, nothing.” She stopped and wiped a tear from her cheek. “We wondered what had happened. He always returned, and if he was going to be later than we discussed, he called, or texted, or emailed, or something. Eduard and I waited for days with no word, and finally we got an official visit from the Administration. Dmitri was killed in a helicopter crash while working on an active separatist case in Lviv, Ukraine. I didn’t know where that was at the time. I’ve never been there, and I know very little about Dmitri’s death. It was all classified top secret in Russia, so I didn’t even know that was where he was working at the time of his death until the official notification arrived. It was a horrible shock, and because I was American, they wouldn’t allow me any real information. Even Eduard was out of the loop at that point, because of me. Anya was only nine years old when it happened. I didn’t know what to do. I was Dmitri’s American wife for years. That was my role, with no outside career or job. My family was my entire life. Suddenly, it was all gone. My whole life was gone in an instant.”
“Wow,” he said. “How did you and your daughter become separated? Were you deported from the country?”
“Of course not. Eduard asked me to stay. He didn’t wish to break up what was left of the family. His wife is deceased too, leaving Anya and I his only family. It was the damn separatists who screwed it all up. They took credit for killing Dmitri. Soon after, that asshole, Percival, threatened to kill Eduard and Anya, if I didn’t leave the country forever. We discussed it, but decided we had no alternative. The Alder Nation had a history of following through on threats. The only thing that they ever seemed indecisive about was their name. Whether they were the Alder Nation or the Northern Taliban, they seemed dangerous and serious. After much deliberation between Eduard and I, Anya and I prepared to leave the country.”
“But, she’s still there.”
“Very perceptive,” Talia quipped. “At the last minute, we received another message saying that Anya was to stay behind with Eduard. I was required to leave the country, and was never to return. We couldn’t find any way around it, because we couldn’t find out who and where they were. If we couldn’t locate them, we couldn’t end the threat. The Alder Nation won. I did what they demanded to protect what was left of my family. They already killed my husband. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Anya, much less being the cause.”
“That’s why you don’t go to Russia,” Cameron said.
“Exactly. Since that time, those Alder Nation assholes have been running my family’s lives. They zeroed in on Eduard, and they run his entire life. Every time they contact him and tell him to do something, they threaten my daughter, and he caves. I can’t blame him. I’m surprised that they never stopped us from meeting in other countries. It’s always seemed odd to me that they haven’t ended the meetings. I’ve labored tirelessly with experts from around the world to find the location of the group to no avail.”
“What about Lviv?”
“After the incident with Dmitri, there was no further evidence of activity in Ukraine according to the Detective Administration. I spent a lot of time trying to investigate things on my end without tipping off the Alder Nation, but the trail went dead according to all of my contacts in agencies around the world.”
“What does all of this have to do with Eduard becoming President?” Cameron asked. “Did the Alder Nation force him to run for office? Was it all of the offices he’s held or just President?”
“The Alder Nation has controlled his every professional move since Dmitri’s death. Eduard has moved up through the ranks to this point, following orders every step of the way. Public office is different in Russia. Elections aren’t the transparent entity that we would like to believe. Most offices are more of an appointment than truly elected. That was carved in stone a long time ago. That’s why the Alder Nation has an opportunity to guide Eduard’s status. They hold the welfare of me and Anya over him to force him to continue to move up in his career. I worry, because it makes me wonder what they’re next move will be. They have methodically guided him to the top. They’ve never wielded this much power with one of their victims. I worry about what they’re going to try and make him do. By proxy, the Alder Nation will be running Russia. It’s a dangerous business and my daughter will be living in the middle of whatever they have planned for the country. That’s why I want to talk to Eduard.”
“What have they said about your work?” he asked. “Do they ever threaten you directly?”
“That’s why I’m not allowed to enter Russia. They follow my work, and they know of my professional connections. Eduard tells me that they monitor my every move somehow. I’m sure I make them nervous, because I am the one person who might be able to track them down, even though I’ve been unsuccessful so far. They try to make it sound as though they don’t care about me, but they don’t want me anywhere near Mother Russia. I tried to go to Lviv and look around on my own one time, but another threat came, and I never thought about that again. I still think that town has something to do with all of it. I just have no way to get proof.”
“I wouldn’t want you prowling around my back yard either if I was a terrorist. I’ve read your books. You are a force in international intelligence and security.”
“Exactly. I’ve vowed for years that someday I’ll get that asshole, Percival, and kill him myself,” she announced. “I owe him for separating me from my daughter for half her life.”
“Remind me not to piss you off. What about the map? That should have clues. Can you remember anything about it?”
“I remember the map fairly clearly,” she said. “It was oddly drawn and color coded. From what I could tell, there were seven different areas, or regions throughout the world, and they each claimed control of different areas. I’m not sure what it meant.”
“That sounds odd. What could that mean?” he asked.
He knew that the map had to be a key. Maps were always a key whether it be for fishing, hunting treasure or separatists contemplating world domination. A color coded map. Seven areas. What on Earth could it mean, and what happened to that map?
“It looked ridiculous to be honest. I never gave it much thought,” she said. “Do you really think that some homemade map is significant? It looked like he copied the board from a game of Risk.”
“You’re right,” he replied. “I’m a novice at this. You have years of experience. Maps always get me excited. I used to go Geocaching.”
“He is such a geek,” she thought.
“How long ago did your husband die?” he asked.
“A long time.”
“How long is a long time?”
“I don’t know. Years. Six or seven. Six years, three months and 17 days, but I quit counting for the most part several years ago.”
“I see,” he replied, cautiously so as not to make her shut down.
“Shocking isn’t it? Most people don’t know I was ever married. Tyrell lived through it with me, since I was a teenager. My mother kept my marriage quiet in the press, for which I was grateful. Since that day, I haven’t so much as gone out on a date until tonight.” She smiled at him. “Don’t let it go to your head though. It’s not nearly as significant as you might think.”
“Damn,” he muttered.
The rest of the flight was quiet. Talia had a snack and then went to the cockpit to relieve Michael as copilot for a while. Cameron stared out the window into the night, thinking about his evening. He had met Talia Anderson, and she was amazing. It was black outside the plane that his dinner date was now piloting with her bodyguard. She was full of surprises. All he could see in the darkness was the light at the end of the wing, which glowed pink, reflecting the pink wing it was attached to.
He was on a Lear Jet en route to meet the Russian President Elect, who was also Talia’s father in law. Irregardless of how he got there, he was right in the middle of an international incident, and there was no turning back. He was high above the Atlantic Ocean on his way to the tiny island country of Iceland. This was far more than the adventure he was originally looking for. This was not what he had planned when he first set out to meet her. This was so much more than he’d ever anticipated.