The Terrorist’s Game
“You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”
-Mary Tyler Moore
As Talia dreamt, she crossed Rynok Square in Lviv, passing a sign that announced its name. The carnival was loud and music played in the background. There were people roaming everywhere. She looked over her shoulder to see Cameron yelling something to her. The ring she twisted on her hand was not her wedding ring, but instead black and shiny. Why was it a different ring? She crossed the square and walked to the black stone house, reached out and turned the knob on the door, and entered.
She entered an office. The door opened. Dmitri walked in. They argued, he smiled, and turned into a giant red serpent. She pulled out a gun, took aim, but then she fell to the floor. Someone else fired a shot. She woke with her usual blood curdling scream. Cameron jumped to her side. She woke to find him hovering over her and realized she had screamed again.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Why do I do that?”
Cameron put his arm around her shoulders. “It’s okay. Maybe we can put an end to the dream when we put an end to Percival.”
“God, I hope so, but why does it keep changing?” she queried. “It used to be the same each time.”
“Changing?” Cameron exclaimed. “What do you mean, changing?”
“I used to play with my wedding ring as I walked across the town square in my dream,” she explained. “It’s called Rynok Square, by the way. I saw it this time, which was different. And this time I was wearing a completely different ring. I’m always wearing my wedding ring. And also, this time I fall to the floor and someone else shoots him. It’s weird. Why is it changing?”
“I don’t know. Who kills him?” Cameron asked.
“I have no idea,” she answered. “I woke up.”
Cameron had an epiphany. The wedding ring. The Alder Nation knew exactly where Talia was every minute of every day. How was that possible? Percival may have been a friend of Dmitri’s that had turned on him. Dmitri worked for the Detective Administration for several years, and they had devices for monitoring people. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t thought of the one thing that followed her everywhere she went. Her wedding ring.
“The wedding ring,” he said to her, pointing at her right hand.
“What about it?” she asked, covering her ring and staring at him, confused.
“That has to be it,” he said. “Give it here. I need to look at it.”
“I’ve worn this ring since my wedding day,” she snapped. “I’ve never taken it off. Why on Earth would I take it off now?”
“You need to take it off so I can examine it,” he told her. He saw the disgusted look on her face. “I think there’s a tracking device in it. Give it here.”
“Have you lost your mind?” she snapped. “That’s outrageous! Why would anyone do that?”
“We’ve all wondered how Percival tracks you,” he snapped back. “The only thing that you’ve had on your person constantly all these years is that ring. It’s the only constant in all of this. You’ve all changed phones, clothes, everything except that ring. He was a friend of Dmitri’s right?”
“Yes,” Talia replied. “So?”
“If for some reason Dmitri decided to track you, and Percival knew about it, then he could have tracked you all these years,” he surmised. “Percival may have known about the ring if they were truly friends. You’ve been a grieving widow all this time, and that may have made it convenient for him to follow every step you take. Ironically, if you’d moved on, he wouldn’t have been able to track you, if I’m right about it.”
Talia stared at the ring. It could be the reason that she’d never been able to catch Percival. Her ring could be keeping him one step ahead of her. The one thing that she cherished more than any item in her world, could be the one reason that she couldn’t win against the Alder Nation. She didn’t want to believe it.
“How would it work?” she asked. “If it had batteries, it would have died years ago. I take a shower with it on every day. Wouldn’t it short circuit or something? How could it work after all this time?”
“Motion generated, like the old Swiss watches,” he said. “That’s the only way I know to keep something working perpetually. As long as you keep moving, it keeps generating power. There’s no need to change batteries, and it’s probably water proof.”
Cameron saw that she was about to burst into tears as she handed him the ring. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to upset you. This is not a bad thing. This could be the discovery that tips the scales and it’s right under our noses. I don’t want it to be true, but nothing else makes sense. This could be a game changer.”
He took the ring to the computer desk where Talia had been sitting throughout the flight, examining maps. He turned on the desk lamp and aimed it directly over the ring and his hands. He turned it over in his hands a few times. It wasn’t a typical piece of jewelry. It weighed nothing in his hands, and it wasn’t small. It should have weighed more for its size.
“Could you do me a favor?” he asked.
She wondered what he was seeing, because she had been wearing the ring for almost two decades, and it had never occurred to her that there might be something abnormal about it. “Sure. What?”
“Could you grab the tool kit in my bag and bring it here?”
How could she have worn a ring all those years and never known that it was a tracking device? Why would anyone do that? Talia started to think that she hadn’t known Dmitri at all. How could she have been so oblivious? She should have remembered feeling like a piece of property. How had he managed to do it? It had never been away from her. That ring had been on her hand since they took their vows all those years ago.
Cameron was opening her eyes to things that she should have see decades before. The only question for her was whether or not she should hate him for making it all clear. She supposed she should be grateful instead of angry for the information. Maybe now that she was realizing what her life was actually like behind her back, she could finally get on with her life. She grabbed the tool bag and handed it to Cameron.
“What do you think?” she asked. “Is it a tracking device?”
“I think it’s ingenious,” he announced. “You’re absolutely sure that you’ve not taken this ring off for any reason since you got married?”
“I’m certain,” she answered. She wanted to cry. She didn’t want him to be right about her ring.
“Brace yourself,” he advised.
“Sure,” she mumbled. “Like that will help.”
Cameron picked up a tiny screwdriver and the ring. He placed the screwdriver blade into a tiny, virtually unnoticeable seam in the inside of the ring. He twisted it, and the ring snapped into two pieces. Inside was tiny wiring. There was no doubt that ring the was a device. What kind of device, remained to be discovered.
“It’s delicate, but very high tech,” Cameron said. “This is impressive for being nearly twenty years old. It was way ahead of its time.”
Talia’s eyes filled with tears. It was true. Her husband had done this to her. He had actually tampered with her wedding ring to keep track of her. He never trusted her. She wondered why. She was as honest as anyone could possibly be. She never lied to him. Dmitri must have known Percival well enough to let him in on it. The Alder Nation must have known about it and used it to track her all these years. Every perception that she had was wrong. Her entire marriage shattered before her eyes as she stared at the inside of her own wedding ring. Lies, all lies. Nothing was real anymore, except that she needed to rescue her daughter.
“Talia, I’m so sorry,” he said sympathetically. “I wanted to be wrong.”
He tried to put his arm around her shoulders, but she pulled away. “This is it?” she sobbed. “This is what my marriage was about. Dmitri didn’t love or even trust me. He told Percival about it, but not me. He lied to me about so much! I was such a fool. I didn’t know him at all.”
Cameron hated seeing her like that, and it made him angry, but they had no time to dwell.
“I hate to say this, but knock it off. You found out that you were duped by your own husband. Watch a Lifetime Movie. You’re not alone,” he said. “You have a daughter to think about. You’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and you’re the only person in the world that can best Percival. Now that you’ve discovered you’re being tracked, you have an edge, so pull yourself together, and let’s get on with it.”
Talia was impressed. No one had ever talked to her like he did. Had she met him years ago, this might have ended years ago. So much wasted time, that she spent hiding in her own bubble, just like her mother would. She had ultimately been behaving like a spoiled child her entire life. It was time she woke up, grew up, and cleaned up the mess that was the Alder Nation. It was time for her to be in control. This man and his henchmen had done enough to her family. It was time for her to end it.
The speaker from the cockpit came on. “Prepare for landing at John Paul II International Airport.”
“What?” Cameron asked.
“Krakow,” she replied. She took winy wire cutters from Cameron’s tool kit. “It’s time Percival quit tracking me.”
He cringed as she snipped wires. “Now he knows that it’s not working. I thought we would make him think that we were in a different location by leaving it somewhere. Now he’ll know that there’s something wrong. He’ll be looking over his shoulder for you.”
“Good,” she scoffed. “I hope the bastard loses sleep, and it gives him nightmares. Payback.”
Twenty minutes later, Talia, Cameron, and Tyrell joined Eduard and Leonid in a private hangar reserved for charter flights and clandestine meetings. Eduard walked up to her and hugged her tight, causing her to lose her breath for a second.
“What was that all about?” she asked him.
“I was afraid,” he replied. “Your mother called a few minutes ago, as we were about to land, because she thought something awful had happened to you. I am so relieved that she was mistaken.”
“My mom?” she exclaimed. “She called you out of the blue and thought that something awful happened to me. Why would she do that?”
Cameron immediately followed her thoughts. “Talia, you don’t know that this has any connection…”
“Bullshit!” she yelled. “Apparently everyone but me knows about the ring. Why does anything she does surprise me?”
“What ring?” Eduard asked.
“My wedding ring was a tracking device,” Talia snapped. “I thought Dmitri did it, but I guess I was wrong. It was mother.”
“I thought you knew about that,” Tyrell said.
She turned to Cameron. “See, I told you! Everyone knew that I was being spied on! I feel like a petulant teenager!” She walked away.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Cameron called after her. “We have work to do. We can deal with this later.”
She didn’t look back at them. “I don’t care! Everything can wait. I’m going outside to call my fucking mother right now!”