The Terrorist’s Game
“If you can draw something from my life that helps, more power to you.”
Inside Harpa, orchestra enthusiasts were milling about somewhere between dinner and the performance of the Icelandic Philharmonic Symphony; looking at the gift shop and having a drink at Kolabrautin Cocktail Lounge. The concert was scheduled to start in less than an hour, so the crowds were swelling as time approached. It was one of the pleasures of life in Reykjavik, and all the supporters of the arts were out in designer fashion of every color and style. The men were wearing evening suits and subtle tuxedos, and the women were wearing an array of brightly colored cocktail dresses, and full length gowns.
The group was well dressed, but still too casual to fit in. Seeing how much they stood out in the crowd, Talia, Tyrell, and Leonid all immediately started scanning the inside of the building for an alternate exit, while trying to appear calm and collected.
Cameron was fascinated by the crowd of people in their evening wear, and the bright lights dancing on the walls all around them. His technical mind wondered how the lights were programmed and how the hardware was wired to create musically timed art amongst the windows. He lagged behind as he was distracted by the view, causing Talia to circle back.
“Could you pick up the pace please?” she said as she took his arm. “We need to get out of here. We stand out too much.”
Then it started. Talia heard a woman a few feet away.
“Hey, isn’t that the new Russian President over there?”
A crowd immediately began to gather. Talia had experienced the phenomenon. Europeans were fascinated with politicians. They hounded them like royalty, much more than in the U.S. Even ambassadors or parliament members were fair game. Eduard Sokolovsky was one of those celebrities. He was known across Europe already, but now he was President.
“This way,” Leonid said. “Isn’t that Prince Harry?” he yelled at the crowd, which immediately began looking around for real royalty as the group slipped away.
He led them to the door at the opposite end of the entry area which encompassed the building, and walked them casually into the street beyond. The aquatic yacht fire was still burning in the old harbor. The police were talking with people on the street. The fire fighters were working to extinguish the flames. There were men in reflective coats directing people around the debris in the road. What a mess.
Fortunately, the crowd did not follow the group, choosing to either watch the fire or wait for the concert once they discovered that Prince Harry was not in the house. Talia waved down a taxi, and they rode in silence the short way back to Vatnstiggur.
The group made their way to Eduard’s apartment. Cameron popped the thumb drive into his laptop. He tapped keys for a minute. Then he sighed, took his coat off and threw it on the sofa.
He turned and looked at the expectant faces. “It’s encrypted.”
“Well of course it is,” Talia snarked. “Why would anything be simple? Back to square one. We don’t have time for this.”
“I didn’t say that I can’t decode it, I just need a little time,” he snapped. “I’ll figure it out. It doesn’t look that difficult. Calm down and let me take care of it.”
“I guess he told you,” Tyrell teased.
“Shut up,” she snapped at Tyrell. “Who asked you?”
“Could we please play nice while Mr. Walker helps us save my granddaughter?” Eduard asked.
Eduard was right. The petty squabbling brought on by long hours, running all over the place, and not getting enough sleep needed to stop. There was more at stake than what happened in Reykjavik. Anya was being held hostage somewhere, and she could be killed. They had no reason to believe that the Alder Nation would bluff in their demands to not notify the police or any agency. The bottom line was that they had to find her daughter, and they had to do it quickly.
Time dragged. Leonid, Tyrell and Eduard stared at TV, while Talia turned things over in her mind. How could Percival have known the exact moment to blow up the yacht, and how did he know they were in Reykjavik at all? The whole thing gnawed at her. He stayed one step ahead somehow. There were missing pieces, but what could they be? What secret did the Alder Nation possess about her family that allowed them to know exactly what they were doing and where all the time?
Cameron didn’t speak to anyone while he focused on decoding the encrypted programming on the drive. He gave no updates, leaving Talia feeling anxious. He knew how much danger Anya was in, and he was aware that terrorists were not patient. He worked as fast as possible.
Talia noticed the sun was starting to come up and the sky was lightening, as she realized that she had not slept. In a way she was thankful, because it was the first night in months that she hadn’t had her dream. She felt her eyelids become heavy. She was starting to lose the battle with sleep when she was suddenly snapped back into consciousness.
“I got it!” Cameron yelled.
She jumped up and joined the others at his side. “What’s on it?”
“It’s the remote operating software,” he announced. “Now I can counteract the loop. We should be able to track him the next time he calls.”
“That is what you thought last time,” Leonid noted.
“Look, all I can do is hack and counter his programming. It’s a technology war. That’s how it works,” he snapped. “Hopefully this time I’ll be one step ahead of him. All I have to do is reprogram the phone again, and we’re ready for his next call.”
“We have to wait,” Talia groaned. “He must be enjoying this. I feel like he could squash us like bugs anytime he wants. I hope he thinks I’m dead.”
“Why don’t you go to your apartment and get some sleep or take a nap in my room?” Eduard offered.
“I can’t sleep,” she said. “Thanks anyway. I need to go somewhere. I can’t sit anymore.” She looked at Tyrell. “Let’s go out.”
“What if he calls?” Tyrell asked
“I have my phone. They can call me,” she said. “We won’t go far, I promise. We’ll take a walk along the water. It’s right across the road.”
Talia had a lot of anxious energy to burn off. The sun was up, casting a pink glow over the city. The flashing lights of the emergency services were finally gone from the old harbor. Local fishing boats were headed out for their morning shifts. She had never been a morning person, but the calm before rush hour was relaxing. She jogged along the shore for a bit, until she reached the Sun Voyager, a monument designed for the country’s anniversary that looked a bit like a Viking ship. She stopped and gazed out across the harbor at the aging volcanic hills on the other side.
Tyrell caught up with her. “I’m missing something,” she announced.
“Like what?” he asked.
She stared at the water. “How did Percival know I was on that yacht? That bomb was intended for me. I know that. How did he know that I would be there at that exact time?”
“I think you’re looking for something conspiratorial. There must have been a live camera you didn’t see. They’re tiny, and it was dark. He guessed we were in Iceland, but that’s not difficult. All he needs is GPS and a phone.”
“That yacht was here before we were,” she said.
“We’ve come here for years for family visits,” he commented. “Even your mom came here to visit with you and Anya years ago. It’s not actually a secret.”
“When was the last time you talked to my mother?” she asked “Is she okay? Does she know anything about this? I don’t want to worry her.”
“I may work for you, but I’m always going to be loyal to your mom first,” he said. “If she wants to tell you anything, she’ll do it herself. I answer any questions she asks me. I can’t lie to her.”
“I worry that if she gets dragged into this, it could drive her over the edge,” she said. “You know how she is. I don’t want to be responsible for her falling apart again.”
“I do know how she is,” he scoffed. “I talk to her every day. You, on the other hand, never call her. You should get to know her a little better, and see what I see. She’d surprise you.”
“She’s been in her house for twenty years,” she groaned.
“You’re an expert on terrorism, separatists, and security; and you’re worldly, but you can’t see the forest for the trees,” he commented. “You’re not half the woman or nearly as tough as your mom.”
Talia stared at him. “What do you mean by that?”
“Just because your mom doesn’t go out much, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know as much or more about the world as you,” he scolded her. “She’s well informed, and well connected for a hermit, as you call her. She doesn’t spend as much time at home as you think either. She doesn’t tell you most of the time when she goes out, because you smother her, and she doesn’t want to upset her precious daughter. She prefers to remain anonymous because of paparazzi. Do you think she’s ever stopped looking out for you? You’re her only child. I never told you this, but I took this job as a favor to her. She was afraid for you after what happened in Russia. She said that I was one of the few people in the world that she trusted. She asked me to take care of her only baby. I was flattered, and didn’t want to disappoint her, so I took the job.
“She agreed with you, you know,” he said. “She agreed that Percival wasn’t Muslim and was probably Russian or at least Slavic. She wanted me to take everything you kept from that marriage and destroy it. She believed that your past with Dmitri would put you in danger. I never understood it, but I honored it. She knows things in an almost mystical way. Never underestimate your mom. She has connections and can accomplish things that you never imagined.”
Talia had always seen her mother as a crazy hermit who ran and hid from the press in the wilds of western Connecticut. “You’re giving her credit for things that she doesn’t pay attention to.”
“She pays attention,” he told her. “You should listen to her. Your vision is somewhat skewed, because you are so close to the subject matter. She knows things that you don’t. You should give her a chance.”
“Whatever,” she mumbled.
“Your mom has been studying your situation for years and can help you,” he said. “If you listen to her. I mean it. She knows things about the Alder Nation. She may know where they’re headquartered. She mentioned it last week, probably by accident. She doesn’t tell me as much as I would like. She didn’t want to say much, because it was only a guess, and we were talking on an open line. She thought someone was listening.”
“Give me your phone,” she ordered. “If she really has information that can help me with Percival, then she needs to tell me. Otherwise, she’s just being paranoid and needs to call her therapist.”
“She’s not home,” he said. “Call her cell.”
“Clarissa Anderson is always home,” she scoffed.
“James went to her room to bring her breakfast three days ago, and she was gone.”
Talia wanted to scream, because James, her mother’s personal assistant, was the person that she contacted to check up on her mother behind her back, and he’d lied to her.
“Go on,” she grimaced.
“James found a note on her pillow that said she’d gone to help her daughter. I talk to her every day. She won’t tell me where she is,” he explained. “She’s been sneaking out of the house for years. She gets cabin fever. It makes James crazy when she goes missing, but she would fire him if he told anyone but me.”
“Did she do that when you were working for her?” she asked.
“She took me with her,” he replied. “I never told her what to do or treated her like a child. We’ve always had a rather special relationship.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because she asked me not to.”
“You’re much closer than I thought.”
“I suppose we are.” he replied.
Talia saw a look of longing in his eyes and realized that she had never noticed that before. He was in love with her mother. In all the years she’d known him, that had never occurred on her.
“You love her,” she said. “Why haven’t you ever told her?”
“I’ve always loved her, but she’s totally out of my league. Working for her is as close to her as I could ever hope to get,” he replied. “She’s like royalty. She’s perfect, and she’s every bit as famous as a Kennedy. I could never even dream of living in her world, except as an employee.” His phone suddenly began to ring. “Hello? We’re on our way.”
“That was Mr. Walker. Percival is on the phone. It’s time to go back to work.”
“Why?” she asked. “Percival thinks I’m dead.”
“Percival asked to talk to you,” he replied.
Talia turned and stormed away. “That bastard should have thought I was dead, but he knows I’m alive. How does that asshole know? I can’t take this anymore!” she ranted. “For all I know he’s kidnapped my mother along with my daughter! Cameron had better be able to find him, so I can kill the son of a bitch!”