The Terrorist’s Game
“I have a strange combination of fearlessness and massive insecurity.”
Talia and Tyrell burst into Eduard’s apartment mere minutes after receiving Cameron’s call. Talia snatched the phone from Cameron and thrust it toward her ear. She was out of breath, emotionally off balance, and exhausted; but most of all, she was angry.
“You’d better still be there you son of a bitch!” she yelled. She waited. “Is he still on here?” she asked Cameron, gasping to catch her breath.
The voice was synthesized. It sounded like the male voice on a robocall, but murkier. It was impossible to tell whether it was human or entirely electronic. She guessed it was a man, but she wasn’t convinced of it.
“Hello, Widow Sokolovsky,” the monotone voice said. “We finally speak. I have looked forward to this conversation these many years. It is sad that we have only communicated through your father in law. But, this is no time for small talk. This is your question and answer session. Do you have questions?”
She didn’t speak. She watched Cameron working at his laptop tapping away at the keys. He looked at her, and made a gesture for her to keep him on the line. She thought carefully before speaking. She didn’t want to cause him to hang up, so she knew she couldn’t speak her mind.
“Is Anya all right?” she asked.
“Why the yacht?” she asked.
Eduard stared at her, jaw hanging wide open.
“Subtlety is not your strong suit,” the voice said. “If you must know, it was for my amusement. I knew you would doubt things you know are true, and you would go to the harbor. Why you thought I was in Reykjavik is beyond my sphere of comprehension. I see there were no injuries. Such a waste of security measures.”
“How do you know that?” she asked. “And that’s what you call plastique? A security measure? You nearly blew up Harpa.”
“Divulging information to you and yours would change the game. I will not give you and your family that advantage. I follow an unflinching strategy, and I employ some of the best technical staff in the world. I have far more money at my disposal than an established government. I would think that you would appreciate that.”
“How did you know I survived that explosion!” she yelled. “How did you know we all survived, unharmed?”
“After all these years, you should have figured that out” the voice said. “I thought you were a more formidable opponent. I may have overestimated your intelligence and possibly underestimated you emotions.”
The voice struck a nerve with the comment on her IQ and emotions. She was certain that it was intentional, and it felt all too familiar. Her reaction was automatic and uncontrolled, despite what she knew it should be.
“Where’s my daughter!” she yelled.
“Safe,” the voice taunted her.
“Where’s my mother!” she screamed.
“Your mother?” the voice replied. “Why would I know where your mother is? Is she not hiding in her mansion in Kent?”
Talia and Tyrell shot each other a look. No one knew where her mother lived, except close friends and family. Cameron gave Talia the thumbs up, indicating he’d found the location that they all so anxiously wanted to know.
“When do I get Anya back?” Talia demanded.
“Never,” the voice said, calmly. “She is mine now. Do not seek her. There is no ransom. I wish for her to stay with me. And your mother can stay far away from me. Your mother is a danger, both to herself and others.” There was a small pause. “Do you have any further questions?”
Cameron was smiling at her. He knew something. She could tell.
“I have one more question,” she said.
“Yes?” the voice replied.
“When I find you, and I will…” she began. Her voice became low and throaty as hatred oozed up from her soul. “How would you like me to kill you?”
Everyone in the room gaped at her in disbelief. Leonid signaled her to end the call by waving his hand across his throat repeatedly. She wasn’t listening to any advice. She had waited for years to talk one on one to Percival. She had so many things to say, and she wanted to get as many of them out as she could before he hung up. She didn’t care how anyone felt after hearing that her daughter was never to be returned. She was pissed.
“I have died many times, in many ways,” he stated. “This time, just shoot me.” Then, he disconnected.
Cameron took the phone from her hand and patted her shoulder, as she sat on a chair and stared blankly into space. “He’s a sick bastard.”
“Tell me that after I put up with that whole God awful conversation, you know where the prick is,” she snapped.
“I do,” he grinned. “I’ve got him this time. I know exactly where he is, and considering the history of the situation, I’m guessing he’ll stay there.”
“Where is he?” Eduard ordered. “We do not have time to waste playing games. We must move now.”
“He’s in Ukraine, like I thought,” he said. “It’s spelled, l-v-i-v.”
Leonid and Eduard shot each other looks.
“What?” Talia asked.
“Do you remember?” Eduard asked her.
Talia glared at him. “Of course I remember. Lviv is where Dmitri was murdered. Let’s go. We’re wasting time. He intends to keep my daughter. I’ve got news for him.” She walked toward the door so that she could go and pack her things.
“Wait,” Leonid said. “We need a plan. Dmitri was killed, because he had no plan.” He looked at Cameron. “If we get closer to Lviv, can you track him to an exact location, yes?”
“I have the address now,” he replied. “If that’s what you had in mind.”
Eduard looked at Cameron. “What is the address?”
“It says house #4. It’s on Rynok Square,” he replied.
Eduard and Leonid gaped at one another. “That was my family ancestral home,” Eduard said. “I believe it is a museum presently.”
“House #4? Rynok Square?” Talia asked, remembering her dream with the black house.
“That’s what this says,” Cameron reiterated.
“It is the black stone house,” Eduard explained. “It stands out, because nothing on the square resembles it. It is truly unique.”
The house that they were discussing sounded exactly like the one she dreamt about. “It didn’t have white colored carvings over the doors and windows did it?”
“How could you know that?” Eduard gasped.
“How do you know that?” Cameron asked her.
She looked around the room and back to Cameron. “I saw it in a dream. It even said ‘museum’ over the door.” She watched the color drain from Cameron’s face. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pack.” She left Eduard’s apartment and slammed the door behind her, leaving four confused men behind.
The group took off from Keflavik International Airport in separate planes, enroute to Krakow, Poland. Eduard felt that Percival and his group might track them flying to Ukraine, and Talia and the others agreed. They had no idea what technologies the Alder Nation have that they weren’t aware of. They knew that they needed to approach the situation carefully, or they could endanger Anya. No one wanted that.
From Krakow, they would drive to avoid being tracked. A road vehicle was the most difficult mode of transportation to track, and secrecy was their best weapon. It was approximately 150 miles from Krakow to Lviv, but even Eduard had never driven across southern Poland. Talia studied maps during the flight. Lviv was in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Their route, highway 4, would be mostly rural accept for small cities such as Tarnow and Rzeszow on the way. Route 4 led directly to Lviv and Percival’s lair.
Cameron was still hyper focused on his laptop when they entered European airspace. He stood up and stretched as well as he could in a Lear Jet to work out the kinks from remaining hunched over a computer for too long a time. Stretching in a plane was uncomfortable, because of his large frame. He was exhausted and wondered if he would ever sleep again. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept. He had spent the entire flight working to find out more about Percival and the Alder Nation. He wanted to know as much as possible before finding himself in the middle of a confrontation with one of the world’s most notorious separatist groups.
There wasn’t much information about the group available, and they had no platform or cause, whatsoever that he could find. Most separatist groups had a list of goals or a mission statement of some kind. Most of the mantras were ridiculous, but the Alder Nation had no publicly defined issues. They wanted to be in charge of Russia. That was their entire premise. They preached the importance of a single defined ruler. They didn’t believe in Parliaments or Congresses. They wanted a dictator for Russia, and apparently that was to be Percival via Eduard. They had an impressive following, but he had no idea how they convinced people to join.
“He must be one hell of a cult of personality,” he thought.
Cameron came from the back of the cabin where he was working and pulled up a chair next to Talia, at her computer, where she sat and twisted her wedding band. He watched her expression. There was more hate welling up in her face than anyone should feel.
He put his hand on her shoulder. “How are you holding up?”
She looked over her shoulder at him. How could she tell him that she was at her last straw? She was worried about her daughter and exhausted, but she didn’t want to dream. She wanted it to end. She wanted to dress up in designer pink and go to a cocktail party, which was her stress relief. She wanted to hug her daughter and take her home. She wanted to drink Margaritas and dance the night away on a cruise while Anya was safe with Tyrell and Michael. Dreams.
“I’ll be all right when it’s over,” she said.
“Driving will take a lot of time,” Cameron said.
“Percival will have people watching the airport in Lviv. There’s Kiev, Krakow, or Minsk, all roughly equidistant. Krakow is Poland, and the only country in that group without strong ties to the Russians. They still use old Soviet connections to monitor movement within the old Union. Poland is the key. That could give us an edge,” she explained. “It’s roughly 150 mile drive and a border crossing.”
“Will it be hard to cross the border?” he asked.
“There shouldn’t be a problem,” she told him. “There have been some smuggling issues along the border, but we won’t be driving a big truck, so we shouldn’t arouse any suspicions. It should be a passport wave and in.”
“What will we drive?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I mapped the route; Eduard makes arrangements for a vehicle. It’s fall, so an SUV in case it snows in the mountains. We’ll figure it out.”
Cameron hadn’t thought about snow. He was used to the Pacific Northwest where snow was on the mountain tops. One more unknown in a whole adventure full of them. His head hurt from all the new information it was trying to process. He learned things easily, but it was all a bit overwhelming.
“Snow?” he asked. “Already?”
“Are you okay?” she asked him.
“It’s a lot to take in,” he explained. “I was always inside before. I’ve never left the country until now. Hell, I’d never flown before I went to New York.”
“I didn’t realize how sheltered you’ve been,” she said. “But, we’re all seasoned professionals. This is a tricky situation, but not impossible to solve. We each have distinct talents. Together we can do anything.”
“Can you catch Percival?” he asked.
“Sure,” she smiled. “As long as you can point the way.”
“Deal,” he smiled. “There’s something about you, Talia Anderson. Something that makes me want to help you and take care of you. I hope I can do that.”
“You’re doing a great job so far,” she told him. “I’m going to bite the bullet and try to sleep.” She lay down on the sofa by the opposite window. “Wish me luck.”