The Terrorist’s Game
“I want to be in the small percentage of women who don’t settle for conventional roles.”
Talia didn’t like waiting around, but what else could she do? They needed to wait until the next time that the skies over South Central Eastern Europe were clear of American spy satellites, and that was late the following morning. The theory was that there would be no calls until there were no satellites overhead. The call patterns supported that theory. Talia had no reason to doubt Cameron about that.
The group agreed to meet for breakfast, and everyone went to their respective apartments. Talia left with Tyrell and Cameron. When they entered the apartment, suddenly she couldn’t breathe. It felt as though someone was standing with both feet firmly planted on her chest. She realized that she was having an anxiety attack.
Clarissa had suffered from anxiety attacks throughout Talia’s childhood, and had been hospitalized several times as a result. She always thought that her mother was nuts and a drama queen at the time, but now she was wondering about that. If her mother was nuts, maybe she was too. She blocked that train of thought immediately. She couldn’t take any more thoughts that stressed her out, like behaving like her mother. She needed to unwind. She refused to take pills or land in the hospital.
“Are you okay?” Cameron asked. “You’re pale.”
“I’m having trouble breathing,” she said. “Stupid huh?”
“No,” he replied. “I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t handle this. You keep working. Nothing stops you. You’ve been through years of trauma, and now your daughter is missing. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met.”
“Thanks,” she said. She took a deep breath. The demons were stepping off of her chest.
“Is there anything I can do right now?” he asked. “Everyone needs a little support once in a while. I don’t have anything better to do right now, anyway. Can’t rush satellites.”
“I can’t sit in my room all alone tonight, and I won’t sleep,” she replied. “I know I’ve already been quite an imposition on you, but could you keep me company?”
He smiled. “Of course. I probably won’t sleep either. You’re not an imposition. I’m used to being bored with life. Adrenaline is a new thing to me, and I like it. Come on. I’ll make us some drinks. We’ll watch movies and watch the sun come up. By breakfast the satellites will be away from Eastern Europe, and we will likely get a call.”
“Have fun kids,” Tyrell said. “I’m an old man, and I can sleep.”
Tyrell turned and walked to his room, smiling all the way. He had known Talia most of her life, and he was certain that Cameron was the best thing that had happened to her in years. He never liked Dmitri, and to be honest, he didn’t miss the man since he died. There was a dark aura around Dmitri’s head that he had never mentioned to anyone, because he believed that no one would understand or believe him. He had never been able to put his finger on it, but there was something rotten about Dmitri Sokolovsky. Cameron was helpful, calming, charming, smart, and seemed to be genuinely interested in helping the closest thing that he had to a child. He knew that everyone had a dark side, and in his experience, it would rear its ugly head sooner or later. But, for now, Cameron Walker was exactly what Talia Anderson needed to stay focused on solving her problems.
Cameron turned on the television and handed Talia one of the two Icelandic Pears he’d mixed for them.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“It’s vodka, lemon juice, pear juice and some other stuff,” he said. “It’s good. I promise.”
She took a sip of the drink. “Where did you learn to make that?” she asked.
“I have many talents,” he said. “Problem solving is only one of them.”
“I see,” she replied, smiling. “You’re like an onion. Many layers.”
“As are you,” he said.
“Why didn’t you ask me about the picture?” she asked. “I know you noticed it.”
“One freakish issue at a time,” he replied. “There has to be a reason for that too.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “For now, let’s just pretend we didn’t see it. We’ll ask Eduard about it later.”
She knew that he was right, and she reluctantly tabled the issue of the photo of the building her dream for the night. She tried to watch TV, but she slipped into unconsciousness on the sofa in the middle of an old Arnold Schwarzenegger film and dreamed. As her dream began, she was twisting her wedding ring, walking through the old town square. There was a carnival. Had she been there before or was it just some manifestation from a picture in Eduard’s apartment? Why was she there? What did it all mean? What did Cameron yell at her as she walked through the square toward the house?
The black stone house stood out. She walked straight to it. She entered and stood in an office, twisting her ring. Dmitri walked in. Why? He was dead. It was the one thing in life she was certain of. Why was the dream torturing her? They argued. He turned into a serpent, and she shot him.
She woke up on the sofa screaming, and Cameron jumped to her side as she sobbed on the sofa. He knew the scream. He sat next to her on the sofa and put his arm around her shoulders.
“The dream again?” he asked.
She nodded. He held her until she stopped shaking and sobbing.
“I don’t understand,” she said, once she caught her breath. “Why do I have this dream? It’s disturbing and so real. Why do I see him? He’s been dead for years. What does it mean?”
“I don’t know,” Cameron replied. “It has to have something to do with that photo. What, I don’t know.”
“It’s more than that. It’s seeing him and the serpent he turns into. I read that a serpent symbolizes ultimate betrayal,” she sniffed. “Why would I feel that way? He was murdered. Why would I blame him? He was doing his job. I don’t hate him for it. I don’t understand my dream, even though I’ve researched it and seen a psychologist, and I know about the photo now.”
“I want to help you through this,” he said. “I wish I knew how.”
“That’s nice of you,” she replied. “I hate to say this, because I don’t want you to misunderstand, but I don’t know what I would do without you right now.”
“Thanks. No misinterpretations. But, can I help?” he asked. “Sometimes an outsider can help you gain perspective. I am an outsider.”
“It’s hard to think about. Every time I think about what’s happened to my family, I want to take a pill or drink myself into amnesia. I’ve tried to block things out, but that dream keeps invading my mind. It’s like it’s trying to tell me something, but I don’t know what.”
“I understand, and I get that you don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “I’m no psychologist. I did take Psych 101. From everything I’ve ever heard about psychology, to help I probably should know more about you and your family. I need more than the dream and a photo to be of any use to you. If you let me in, maybe I can help.”
She looked into his eyes. Taheem didn’t trust him and seemed obsessed with finding out what he believed was a heinous secret. She trusted Taheem, whom she had known for many years, and she wanted to find a reason not to trust Cameron, but she couldn’t. She had checked him out herself.
“I don’t know where to begin. We were married for years, and he’s been dead for several more. I don’t know what might help you. It happened so long ago, and I’ve tried to forget most of it. Ask me anything.”
“Were you happily married?” he asked.
“What do you mean, were we happy? Of course we were happy! He was killed, he didn’t leave me! How is that supposed to help you help me?”
She seemed way too defensive to him. “Sorry, you had the perfect marriage. I’m not trying to upset you. My mistake. You never argued about money, jobs, Anya, in-laws, beliefs, or anything ever. Is that what you’re trying to tell me? I could only hope that someday I have a wife who agrees with me about everything. The problem is that she would have to be totally under my control, and I can’t picture you allowing a man to totally control you.”
Talia stared at Cameron. Her thinking had been extremely selective since Dmitri’s death. She only remembered the good times. Why dwell on the bad? This man wanted to dredge up every little thing and she felt a pang of resentment at the idea.
“Of course we argued,” she snapped. “We were human and married with a child. There’s no way to avoid a little ordinary arguing. Every couple has disagreements. I meant that none of them were important.”
“What did you argue about?”
“Why is this what’s important to you?” she asked. “Why do you only ask about the bad?”
There was a lot that she didn’t wish to speak of. There were the things that she didn’t want to remember. She felt that everyone had those item in their past and that she shouldn’t be chastised for it.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “People don’t balance well on pedestals. I’m afraid that your perfect picture only exists in your mind. If you jar your memory a little, you may find that nothing is perfect. Not even your sainted husband. If so, he was the first perfect man I ever heard of. Why don’t you tell me about the real Dmitri?”
Talia was insulted. “He was perfect. You didn’t know him. I wasn’t good enough for him. It’s intimidating to live with a great mind.”
“Whatever he was selling, you apparently bought hook, line and sinker.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean!”
“From what you just said, it sounds like he made you feel like an idiot.”
“I did feel like an idiot sometimes, but you don’t understand,” she explained. “Dmitri was a genius. He was ahead of his time. He knew how to make the world a better place, bridging the giant gaps between rich and poor. He wanted everyone to have a job. He wanted to make the world a perfect place.”
He instantly realized that Dmitri was a cult of personality. She had bought into every egomaniacal thought he threw her way and never even realized it. She was the disciple who believed every word he said. He never expected this of the stubborn, independent woman he met in New York.
“Did you believe in everything that he believed in?” he asked.
“I sometimes thought that his ideals were radical,” she sniffed. “He thought I was too conservative. He said radical change is the only real change. He thought like a revolutionary. It was the Russian in him.”
“Was he a Socialist? Maybe a Communist? Maybe even a Fascist? Totalitarian favorable?”
“Of course not!” she snapped. “Why would he believe in anything that his own country and the rest of the world had proven couldn’t work?”
“What you said made him sound like some sort of revolutionary.”
Talia never realized that Dmitri’s ideals sounded so unrealistic and utopian. “I never thought about it. He liked to be in control. I thought he leaned toward a hierarchy, and that does sound utopian. I don’t know what to think now.”
“He liked to be in control, yes?” he asked.
“He had trouble with authority,” she remembered. “He threw himself into his work, but he hated listening to his father. He had to be right and didn’t like to be told what to do. It made him crazy.”
“Did the two of you fight over control?”
“Sometimes,” she remembered. “We argued about Anya the day he left. I wanted her to be a free thinker, but he thought that she should only believe what he believed.”
“That’s a big issue. Who won that fight?”
“It wasn’t a fight. It was an argument. And no one. It was the last argument we ever had,” she replied. “We never resolved it, because he got called away to work and ended up dead. I felt bad. All he really wanted was for his little girl to look up to him. I never should have argued that. Yelling at each other is the last memory I have of my husband. Such a waste.”
“I’m sorry. I thought that understanding your relationship could help me help you with your dream. There has to be a reason for that dream. Looking back is typically the best way to sort it out.” He noticed her fidgeting with the ring on her right hand throughout the conversation. It was a gold band with blue birds painted on it. “That’s a beautiful ring. Is it special to you?”
“Yes it is special. It’s my wedding ring.”
“It’s beautiful. I didn’t realize. It’s on your right hand.”
“In the Uniate Church they wear them on their right hands,” she said. “It’s a Ukrainian tradition.”
“You mean he wasn’t Russian Orthodox? How can that be? He’s from Russia.”
“His family ties to Ukraine are stronger,” she replied. “That’s where Eduard and his mother, Anya, are from. You knew that.”
“Why does everything circle back to Ukraine?” he thought.