The Terrorist’s Game
“I think that no human gets away unscathed in this old life. We’ve all experienced loss and grief and pain and tragedy.”
Cameron, Eduard and Leonid watched Tyrell leave. They stared at one another in total confusion.
“What’s going on?” Cameron asked Eduard.
“Tyrell has removed himself,” Eduard replied solemnly, shaking his head.
Cameron saw the closeness between Talia and Tyrell. She would be lost without him. Cameron knew he was destined become her confidant and protector. There was no one else, save Michael, but her relationship with him seemed strictly professional with no place for a more personal air. He was about to become the most important man in her life, even though he didn’t think that he was ready for that responsibility. He knew he would have to proceed carefully to help her in her endeavors. He could not let anything harm her or he would never forgive himself. He had come too far in this endeavor to fail.
Talia stepped out of the kitchen a few minutes later. She was pale and seemed as though she was about to faint. She was holding a pistol in her hand, and her eyes were red from crying. She appeared as though she had witnessed the end of the world.
Cameron rushed to her side. “Are you all right?”
She looked at him, dazed. “I don’t know. I don’t remember what it’s like to be without Tyrell.”
He guided her to the sofa and joined her. “What happened? Can we fix this?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t know,” she said, staring straight ahead. “He said he couldn’t help me anymore. He said I should let someone else rescue my daughter, which I can’t do. He said a lot of things, but most of all, he said good-bye. I don’t think I’ll ever see him again.”
He looked at Eduard and Leonid, seeking a reply, but got none. Michael had stayed with the plane and was not immediately available to comment. Cameron tried calling him, but there was no answer and no voicemail. He knew that he had to stay by her side and be her hero. She was the strongest woman he had ever met, but she couldn’t handle this alone. She needed someone to be there with her, and he needed to be that hero.
“I’m still here,” Cameron offered.
She smiled at him through tears. “You must be insane. Tyrell knows all of the ins and outs of the trade, and he bailed on me. He thinks I’m in over my head, because I’m too emotionally involved.”
“He’s right,” Cameron said. “You’re way too emotionally involved. It’s your daughter, for God’s sake. How could you not be emotionally involved?”
She wiped away a tear. “Do you think I should leave the rescue of my only child to some stranger, who may not know as much about the Alder Nation as I do? Just hearing the words come out of my mouth, it doesn’t sound right. Am I crazy?”
Eduard had not thought much about the semantics of the situation until that moment. He could potentially lose both Talia and Anya if he allowed her to rush full ahead with no plan and no way to handle what she encountered. His life passed before his eyes, and if he lost them, he would be without any reason to live. He was there once before, and it was worse than death.
It was a cold September day in Moscow many years before. Eduard arrived home from work as an assistant to the Russian Foreign Minister. It was his son’s eighth birthday, and he looked forward to spending the evening with him and his dear wife, Anya. He was distracted all day at work in anticipation of the evening’s celebration. Dmitri was his only child, and the most important person in his life next to his wife.
He arrived at their apartment on the north side of the city, not far from Moscow State University where he met his lovely wife, Anya many years before. The couple fell in love at first sight in the political science section of the library. She was researching a paper on early childhood education regulations. He was studying for a test on foreign policies of the United States.
He was in a hurry to do his work that day. His test was in an hour, and he didn’t want to take it at all, for he struggled on the topic. He nearly tripped over Anya as he was searching for a legal dictionary in a little visited section of the second floor. He immediately forgot about his work when he saw her.
Anya was petite. She had dark brown hair with eyes to match. Her face was framed by soft curls of dark brown hair that lapped at her shoulders. She had the gentlest smile he had ever seen. He remembered the pink suit that she wore on that day that changed his life forever. The picture of his beloved late wife on that day was etched in his mind, and he smiled every time he saw Talia in pink, because it reminded him of that one defining moment that made him the man who would become President years later. The first time he saw the woman who would be his wife, he knew what his purpose in life was. It was to take care of her and give her an amazing life.
That was the first time he saw his Anya. Dmitri’s eighth birthday was the last.
When he arrived at their apartment that evening, no one was home. He wondered what was happening, because they’d planned an evening out for weeks. Anya knew he was coming home at six o’clock. He wasn’t home more than two minutes when the housekeeper arrived with Dmitri. They’d gone to the park so that his wife could get ready for their family evening out.
“Hello my boy!” Eduard exclaimed as he hoisted his son up and gave him a hug. “How is my birthday boy?”
Dmitri’s face lit up. “Great!” Then his face wrinkled up. “Where’s mommy?”
He looked at the housekeeper. His stomach suddenly clenched. “I was about to ask you that question.”
The house phone rang in the hall. He ran to answer it. “We have your wife. We are not above killing her, if you do not do as we say.”
He remained calm. “What can I do for you?”
“Tell your boss to release Nikki Korbut,” the voice answered.
Nikki Korbut was a known terrorist who had been arrested in connection with a series of bombings in Chechnya. The area’s “freedom fighters” claimed responsibility for the incidents, but the caller had not claimed an association with any group. “That is not possible. I have no control over that, and neither does my boss.”
“Call your boss and convince him to make this happen, or we will kill your lovely wife. We will call in one hour. Have an answer then, or she dies.”
Eduard did everything he could. He tried to get the foreign minister to do as the terrorists ordered. He called every person that he knew in the government, to no avail. In the end, Dmitri’s eighth birthday ended with his mother’s death. The only event that his only child remembered from that time was his mother’s funeral. They never found her body leaving them with no closure.
Eduard never forgave himself for not taking action and instead, following the rules. The government did not negotiate with terrorists at that time. The government never had to lose a wife. Sometimes institution did more harm than good. His life had never been the same since that one feted day. His good relationship with his son had gone to hell from that moment on, until Talia came along. More than a decade passed with his only son despising him because he believed that he let his mother die.
“You are not crazy,” Eduard said. “If you do the expected thing, and something bad happens to Anya, you will never forgive yourself. Sometimes, you need to do what your gut tells you. Sometimes it matters not what anyone else believes.”
He walked over to her and looked down into her expectant eyes that were seeking his wisdom. He gave her a look that only she could understand. She knew about his wife, and she knew about every pain that dark chapter of his life had caused him.
“Do not hesitate to the point of doing nothing. Rules are not always the answer, therefore you cannot always follow them. Do not rely on others for something this important. Your daughter is your first priority. If you allow strangers to take over, she will become a portfolio and a number. She is a priority to you, not to an agency, and she should be regarded as such. Do what you know is right, and do not put yourself in a position where you regret a decision which you make for the rest of your life.”
She gazed into his eyes and saw the hurt and regret brought on by the death of his wife, which he shouldered the blame for, at the hands of terrorists like Percival. She loved her father in law. He was so much like a father to her that she had all but forgotten that he was an in law. She trusted his judgment, and she knew that he truly understood her position as no one else could.
He took her hand. “Do not become like me. Do not allow your only daughter die, because you feel obligated to follow protocol. She needs you, not an operative. She needs her mother.”
She hugged him. “Thank you. I knew you would understand.” She turned to Cameron. “I have to go.”
Her phone vibrated. She looked down at the screen. “I have to take this.”
She exited the suite. “What is it, Taheem? I don’t have time for this right now. I’m sorry.”
“Where are you?” Ambassador Sarraf of Qatar asked.
“I’m with my family, why?” she replied in question.
“Is the man still with you?” he asked.
“Cameron Walker, yes,” she answered.
“I know you will find this disconcerting, but I have contacts at Google. No one knows of this man.”
“Did you speak to Gene Markowski?” she asked, annoyed with his constant questioning.
“No,” he stammered.
“That is the only person he answered to. He was a security specialist, and everything he did was classified and cutting edge. He rarely even left his lab. Very high tech stuff. The kind of thing that the CIA and Secret Service commission. That’s why you’re not finding him. He was Google’s version of a top secret agent.”
“Google has a top secret division? Are you certain?”
“Apparently so,” she snapped. “I adore you, Taheem, but you are being paranoid. I have some serious problems right now, and he’s nothing but helpful. Give the man a break. I have.”
“How did he get into my house?” Taheem asked.
“The beach, like I told you,” she replied. “Look, I adore you, and I understand why you worry, but I have to go. I will call you as soon as I get back and we will double check that your security is up to speed with the best in the world.” She disconnected and went back into the suite.
“I’m coming with you,” Cameron announced.
“I also will come,” Eduard joined in.
“No, you’re not,” she said to Eduard. “You become President in less than a month. I can’t involve you. I’ll take care of it and bring her home. You have to trust me to do that. Then I’m coming back to live in Russia, and you will have to put up with being the only man in a house full of annoying American women for the rest of your life.”
He hugged her tight. “I look forward to that. Please be careful. I want to enjoy what is left of my family.”
“I will,” she promised him. She turned to Cameron. “Are you sure you want to do this? It could get very dangerous and complicated.”
Cameron wanted to tell her that he didn’t care. He needed to ensure her safety and that of her daughter. “I’ve come this far. I’ve never not finished something I started, and I won’t start now. Besides, who else is there? I don’t want you to do this alone.”
“So it goes,” she said. “He needs a gun,” she told Leonid, who handed her his Baikal 441. “Here you go,” she said, handing it to Cameron “Do you know how to use it?”
“Yes. I learned at a range,” he replied.
She shook her head, wondering if Taheem was paranoid or well informed. “Where would Cameron get a Baikal Pistol to shoot in Seattle?” she wondered.
“Good luck,” Eduard said, hugging her tight. “We will be together soon.”
“We’ll be by your side at the inauguration,” she said. “I’ll bring your granddaughter home.”
“You protect her. She is my family,” Eduard said, handing his phone to Cameron. “In case you need help. I have many contacts in there which can be of assistance to you.”
“I swear to God, I won’t let anything happen to either one of them,” Cameron replied, as he put the phone in his pocket.
“You are a good man,” Eduard said, shaking his hand. “I love her like my own daughter. She is extremely important to me, so you need to protect her as though your very life depended on it.”