The Terrorist’s Game
“Of course, we’re all a mass of contradictions.”
Cameron followed Talia across the tarmac, determined to continue the conversation and understand what was happening in her mind. Eventually, she spun at him, her vicious eyes piercing through his soul. He could see an entire lifetime of hurt in her bloodshot eyes filled with tears. He didn’t know what to do, but he knew it had fallen to him to wrangle her raw emotions and keep her focused on the task at hand. He had come too far, to let her fall apart now. It was his idea to come and now it fell to him to keep her eyes on the prize.
“What the hell is going on?” he asked, trying to ignore her gaze. “You’re acting crazy. So your mom knew about the ring? Who cares? What difference does it make?”
Talia glared at him. “You don’t get it.”
Cameron didn’t flinch. “You’re right. I don’t get it. You’ll have to explain it to me. You will have to let me in, suck it up and talk to me.”
She stared up at the sky, eyes closed, trying not to cry. “I would have put the wedding ring away years ago. If I was that attached to the memory of Dmitri, I would have talked about the ring more often. I kept my ring, because it was a wedding present from my mother. She buys planes and houses and expensive stupid gifts. That was the only time I can remember that she gave me something meaningful. The rings were supposed to be hers, but my father died before their ceremony.” She kicked at the ground hard. “I had no idea she put a tracking device in it. Why would she do that? What kind of mother does that?”
“Your mom did this?” Cameron asked, shocked. “Not Dmitri? Did not see that coming.”
“Dmitri probably never even thought about our wedding bands. He didn’t care about symbols then. He was into hipster non material crap, and I thought he was incredibly deep. I can’t believe how young and dumb I was. I had romantic ideas about changing the world. I guess I had the cliché rose colored glasses to look through to see him.” She stared off into the distance. “I had ideas about everything, and had no idea that none of them would work. I was so naive. So stupid, so gullible, so in love that I saw nothing but what I wanted to.”
“I would have liked to have known that girl,” Cameron said. “The idealistic young girl who saw the good in the world. Not the one that you describe as gullible and stupid. That hopeful happy woman would have been a great girl to know.”
“Who wouldn’t have wanted to know me then? I must have been the most gullible girl in the world. You could have talked me into believing anything. Like believing that my rings held sentimental value to my mom, instead of being something out of a James Bond movie.”
“I doubt that you have ever believed everything you heard. That doesn’t strike me as part of your psyche. Seems as though you catch every little innuendo; every little sign that appears in your life. Look, can we go somewhere and talk about all of this? Can we get away from this airport? I feel like we’re being watched,” he said. “I know it’s tough, but given this new information, you or your mom may have information surrounding those rings that can help us find Anya.”
“Anya,” she mumbled. “Oh my God! I almost forgot. God, this is turning me into the world’s worst mother.” she was exhausted and having trouble thinking straight. “Let’s check into a hotel in town. I can’t think anymore. Eduard has a hotel he uses in Krakow. I need to rest, or nothing will ever be solved. Give me a little time to rest and then we can call my mother and find out about that damn ring. We need to know who knew about the tracking device.”
Tyrell ran up behind them. “Talia, where are you going?”
She trusted Tyrell. He was far more loyal than her family deserved. He had always been there for her mom, especially during the infamous nervous breakdown years. He went to the hospital every day for months. He brought Clarissa fresh flowers, her favorite Starbucks drinks, her favorite designer clothes and her makeup. He made sure that the staff treated her properly, and that she had all of her favorite foods. He even brought her hairdresser and nail stylist to her regularly.
He picked Talia up at school every day, and took care of her. He made sure she did her homework, had nutritious meals and went to bed at a decent hour. He eventually made the arrangements for her to be tutored at home at her mother’s request. Clarissa didn’t want Talia to see her in the facility where she stayed during that time, because she was afraid it would upset her, so Tyrell did as she asked. Every day, he took care of everything for both of them. Until she met Eduard, he was the closest thing she ever had to a father. He went to all of her school events and took her clothes shopping. Before she was incarcerated with tutors, he helped her pick out her prom dress and her prom date. He drove them to the dance that night, and he waited to drive them to a class party afterward. He was her body guard and her friend and confidant and guardian.
She smiled at him. “I’m sorry, Tyrell. Why do you put up with my family? Sometimes I think you’ve got to be crazier than me or mom.”
“I’m sure I am,” he said, smiling. “I don’t know any other way of life after all these years. It is a privilege to look out for you ladies. If I don’t, who will? You are family to me. Now, where are we going?” He gave her a hug and a kiss on her forehead like a little girl.
She smiled. “Let’s go into the city and figure out what to do next.”
The group Ubered their way crammed in a Lada Riva from John Paul II Kraków-Balice International Airport to the centuries’ old Imperial Hotel, and rented two suites and a room for Tyrell so he could have some peace and quiet, and a place to get away from the bickering between Cameron and Talia. The ancient hotel overlooked part of the old town in Krakow. It had been there for centuries and once catered to kings and emperors. Eduard had stayed there many times before, like he seemed to have in every major city in Slavic Eastern Europe. Eduard and Leonid went to their suite upon arrival shortly after the others. Tyrell decided to go with Talia and Cameron to the two bedroom suite they were sharing. She had yet to call her mother, but first she needed rest.
Talia went to the window to get some fresh air. It had been a while since she had been to Eastern Europe. It smelled like diesel exhaust, and she closed the window after merely a few minutes. Poland had made enormous strides in emissions and environmental issues over the years, but it still stunk to Talia.
Long gone were the days when people lived underground in old salt mines like Wieliczka to get away from air pollution, but there was still a bit of a smell in the air. Some people still purposely lived in controlled environments in the suburbs. Talia preferred the old world charm of the city center. The charm of the ancient buildings and cobbled streets was worth the slight aroma of remaining pollution.
She walked away from the window with a tear rolling down her cheek. She loved Eastern Europe. It felt like home, but she was conflicted in her feelings. She hated the area at the moment, because of Percival and the Alder Nation, but it was once a charming place to spend the weekend in her world.
She wanted to scream at her mother, but she didn’t want to do it until she had time to think everything through. She was having a million thoughts per second and it was overwhelming. The stress was overwhelming that she wanted to sleep but didn’t feel that she could. She was afraid it would be a very short nap.
Cameron didn’t ask why she was crying that time. He was so tired he could barely think and decided it would wait for another time. He desperately wanted to help her with her problems, but he was exhausted. He was no good to her in his current state of mind. He wanted to lie down somewhere and take a nap. With a little rest, he felt he could begin to solve her problems, and end her pain.
Talia saw in his eyes how exhausted he was. She didn’t start any conversations with him. They were too tired to discuss deep topics. She went into the kitchenette of the massive two bedroom suite, decorated in a blend of renaissance blue velvet and modern art and appliances. She sat at the steel and glass dining table in one of the two steel chairs so that Cameron and Tyrell could nap in the living room in velvety soft peace.
Soon, Talia unwillingly fell asleep on the table in the kitchenette. She dreamed of the awful look on her daughter’s face as she left her in Moscow many years ago. It was so long ago; so many years, but it was the most vivid picture of Anya that resided in her memory. How could she have ever left her daughter? Percival had made such awful threats against the family that she had to do what she was told.
She dreamed of Lviv, walking across the square, listening to calliope music. It reminded her of the circus. Behind her, Cameron yelled at her, saying someone was following her. She couldn’t see anyone that stuck out to her in the massive crowd as either threatening or familiar.
She crossed the street and walked to the black stone house. She could see the carvings over the door and windows. She turned the doorknob. It wasn’t locked. She went in.
She stood in an office. There were animal heads mounted all over the walls. It was morbid. She twisted her ring. It was an Onyx inlay in sterling silver. Where did it come from?
She looked up as the door opposite her opened. Dmitri entered. She didn’t know what to think. He was supposed to be dead. There was an argument, and in the end he turned into a giant serpent. She pulled out her gun, leveled it and took aim. Then she heard a voice yell from behind her to get down. She fell to the floor. A shot was fired. There was a thud. When she stood, the serpent was dead.
She woke up screaming. Thoughts raced through her mind. She wanted to know more. Who killed Dmitri in her dream? Who fired the fateful shot? What guardian angel was looking over her and why? Who followed her through the park that Cameron warned her about? What did she and Dmitri argue about? Why did he turn into a serpent in her dream? Why was she dreaming any of it?
She realized at that point that Dmitri may not ever have loved her. She was suddenly aware that her mother had been lying to her for years. Was Percival somehow, other than by investigation, connected to her husband and maybe even her mother? Anya had been victimized by the demons in the Sokolovsky world, and Talia felt like the worst mother ever. She told herself some impressive lies years ago when she looked at her life through distorted lenses, and now she was forcing her daughter to pay the price. However, her mother had told her lies. Her husband had told her lies. Tyrell had kept things from her. There were so many lies that she couldn’t keep them straight. Worse yet, did the lies have any bearing on events in her life? Maybe they were inconsequential and maybe she was simply having a dream.
Talia was told repeatedly that dreams were insights into the soul, based on longing and desires. She had consulted dream dictionaries which all said that she was dreaming of betrayal. That was starting to make sense, but she didn’t understand why Dmitri was the serpent. Her mother should be the serpent, because she lied to her and tracked her like a criminal for years. She felt that her mother had betrayed her. Why would she dream of her husband at all? He may have betrayed her at some point in time, but it was pointless to think about that now. Her husband was dead, and had been so for years.