CHAPTER 8-THE PAST AND PRESENT COLLIDE
It was four by the time Logan came to me and told me the U.S. Marshalls had picked up Rebekah and the kids and were waiting for me at Atlanta airport in the private wing we had for our jet. I thanked him and told Madison and Christiaan to go get them and take them to my house to wait for me there. Once they were gone I explained to Logan that I thought Melina may be coming after Brian’s family if she finds out who he is and what he was doing there. He said he understood but I think all of the danger surrounding our life so soon after me being blown up and the death of our children was starting to get to him. Sadly, however, he also understood that the only way to end this danger was to fish out the moles and cut them out of our life permanently.
By 9 P.M. dinner was done and I had put the kids to bed after bathing them while my team was laying out the information they had gathered on Jason’s son’s disappearance. Christiaan and Jojo had pretty much everything we needed and after looking close enough a few connections were made. For starters, Melissa was sneaking around having private conversations with someone from an anonymous email account and a burner cell. The email account looked somewhat familiar considering it was one that closely resembled Melina’s civilian one with minor variations. This one sounded more like it came from a man, though. That must’ve been how Melissa was taken; she was thinking she was meeting a man that she had been corresponding with for a few months.
It didn’t take long for the rest of my team to put it all together either and though Logan isn’t technically one of my team he was the one to comment on it. He said, “So it looks like Melissa was thinking she was meeting a man that she had been talking to for months but when she got there she found out the person she was meeting wasn’t who she thought. But what I don’t understand is she didn’t have Jon with her when she went to meet this person so how did they get him? And from everything you’ve gathered on him he is an extremely smart and alert boy so what would have happened for him to be taken by someone and not alert anyone as to what was happening, including his father?”
I was puzzled myself at first by that and told him I didn’t know but as I was sitting there looking through some of the pictures Jason brought to us it hit me. “Damn, I know what made this kid go with his kidnappers with no resistance. Look at this picture of Melissa’s car. It’s a dark SUV with almost completely blacked out windows. She was supposed to be picking Jon up from his karate class at night and if I remember correctly Melissa looks pretty similar to Melina. Jon wouldn’t have been paying close enough attention because it was his mother’s SUV, they look close enough at night from a distance so he would’ve just walked up and got in. Once inside, he would’ve been easy enough to subdue without resistance if they showed him his mother in the back bound and gagged.”
Berdina stood there looking almost like she was stuck between something she figured out and something that didn’t make sense. Justin asked me, “So then why would Melina want Melissa and Jon, and then why kill Melissa after she got Jon there? What does any of this have to do with Melina? I don’t see the connection.”
I stood there chewing things over for a few minutes trying to figure things out myself when Berdina spoke up this time. “Rain, I think I know what this is all about. When Melina threatened me she said you took something from her years ago and were too stuck on yourself to even notice you had. I think this is all about Jason. Look at the way she goes through men. She’s never satisfied with any man she finds and chews them up always making comments about how they’re not like ‘Him’. She’s the same age almost as Jason and went to the same school. That could explain why she killed Melissa, because she was his high school sweetheart. Then, when they started growing apart he found you. She could’ve thought that it would be her that he would go to after things fell apart with him and Melissa and when that didn’t happen that was when she turned her hatred and fixation on you. Think about it, she started training for hours a day and then a year later she joined the Army in the same field as you and from the same recruiter. She’s pretty much tried to follow in your footsteps almost exactly but was never good enough. Now, she’s trying to take you out and anyone else that’s better than her so she can be the best and take your place. She won’t hurt that boy. She wants to be his mother.”
I had to admit that she was on to something there but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I knew that if she was right, which was likely, then it would only infuriate Melina even more if she found out Jason came to me for help after all this time. I was starting to come up with something in my head when I heard Justin questioning Berdina about when Melina threatened her and why she didn’t tell him about it. I threw out there for him to shut up for the moment because I told her not to tell him just yet since I didn’t want anyone knowing. He dropped it but I could tell by the look on his face that the conversation wasn’t over for them, just on pause temporarily. Something I couldn’t really blame him for since I would feel the same way.
We had another hour left before I needed to leave to go meet Brian and I wanted to try to get through as many jackets as I could of the remaining team I had. I had everyone’s files lying across the table with pictures and the rank on top when Jesse came out to get a drink. He crawled up on my lap and was still drowsy as he was taking a drink of my water when he noticed something. He sat straight up almost dropping the bottle of water.
Jesse looked at me and asked, “Mommy, who are these people?”
I answered quickly knowing he recognized someone. I learned a long time ago not to be surprised by his intelligence. “They’re the rest of the members of my teams. Why? Who do you recognize Jesse?”
He pointed to six different pictures so I took them all one by one asking him how he recognized them.
Jesse said, “This guy worked at the stables of the camp. He wanted me and Rory to go ride his horses without Ben and Andrew but when I told him no and that I was going to tell them he said he was just playing and he never came back to the camp. This woman is Uncle Johnny’s girlfriend but she doesn’t act like she likes him much when he’s not looking. This woman worked in the cafeteria of the camp where we got our lunches. This guy was outside talking to Gary a couple of different times. This woman keeps telling Andrew he should go eat with her. And this man is the one that goes around school taking pictures of everyone for the books.”
All people that I wouldn’t have had contact with because they would have easily avoided me making sure our paths never crossed. It gave me very sick feelings knowing six more of my team were plants and that close to my children at times when we didn’t even know they were compromised yet. I told Jesse thanks for telling me and to make sure he and Rory stayed even closer to Ben and Andrew now, not going anywhere without them and not to tell the people they recognized that we knew who they were. He said ok and hugged me before going back to bed, telling Ben that Mommy was going to want to talk to him.
I put the six files back before Ben walked out there and asked him if he recognized any of the people in the pictures and sure enough he picked the same six and gave me the same stories of how he recognized them, though, he was a little confused or so I thought. I told him to stay put as I went to get Andrew to question him about those people as well.
Andrew pointed out the same people with the same explanations. He did have slight variations though. When I told Andrew and Ben who they were and what was going on neither looked confused and when I asked why Andrew said, “Rain, we love these kids and we sure as hell aren’t going to let anything happen to them because of our negligence. Jamie, or whatever her name is, made mistakes, though I think it was done purposefully. She called you wolf, she made mention to you and some things she shouldn’t or couldn’t know. Now she did it subtly but every time she did this she looked at me almost pleadingly like she wanted me to catch her. I never let on that I noticed but the longer I go without making mention of it, the more she does it. I’m waiting until she spills it.”
Ben continued, “As far as ‘Uncle Johnny’s girlfriend’, he’s no dummy either. He noticed something wrong with her from the beginning and brought it to us almost immediately. We told him to keep in the relationship and not to let on that something was wrong. We’ve kept a very close eye on her as well, Jenni I believe is the name she’s been going by. The two camp workers, the stable guy and the cafeteria man, we’ve had under surveillance since the day they popped up with some of our old team on them so they didn’t know who they had following them with the guys rotating out every day. The popped up showing too much attention to Jesse and Rory almost as if they wanted to get caught as well as making stupid rookie mistakes that I’m sure your team doesn’t do unless it’s purposefully. As far as Gary’s friend goes, he knows too. Gary was the one that noticed him lurking about and befriended him, so to speak, trying to draw him closer when you weren’t around so he could try to figure out what his end game was.”
This time it was Justin’s turn to finish the statement. “You see Rain; we’ve been very attentive as to what’s been going on. Every time some new development happened Ben, Andrew, and Gary has made sure to keep me in the loop so if anything were to happen I could let you know at the drop of a hat. You are our family and we will do anything to protect our family, just like we know you will do with us. I know you put a protection detail on my kids, and I’m betting it has something to do with Melina’s threats against Berdina. We’ve got your back; we also know you have enough on your plate with what’s been going on so we wanted to take some of that stress from you so you didn’t have to stretch yourself so thin.”
I was at a loss for words. I was used to my team taking point and getting stuff done without having to be told to but I wasn’t used to it from others, especially when it concerned the safety of my family. I’ve been the leader that took charge for so long that not having to do it so much on my own was a little unnerving. I wasn’t sure if it was because I didn’t know how to relax or because I was starting to feel useless, but either way, I knew things would get better and I could start spending more time with the kids again.
I gave them a grin and nod of appreciation and I think they could tell how grateful I was for the added help. I was thinking my team was shrinking by the day but I think I had it backwards the entire time. It was growing; I was just weeding out the links that have grown weak with fear and the thirst for power and revenge.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
It was ten minutes until midnight and I was crouched beside the dumpster in the back alley where Brian’s apartment was. I was silently counting the time when I watched someone come through and stand on the other side of the dumpster. I recognized the body stature before I heard her speak. She called someone saying she was in the spot and waiting. Almost a minute later Brian came downstairs and walked over to where she was standing. They stood there staring at each other for about thirty seconds before Brian addressed Melina.
He said to her, “Ok, Melina, you said you could help my career take off much faster than it’s going at the moment if I help you with something, so what is it you need me to do? I took the day to think about it and I’m tired of getting in the ring day after day and not getting anywhere with nothing to show for it. I’m not getting any younger so if you can do something for me then I will do whatever I need to do to make that happen.”
I could almost hear her smile in the dark when Brian finished what he was saying. While Brian was talking I was slowly inching my way around to where I could see Melina better. She smiled at Brian and said, “I have someone, well two someones, in another location that need to be handled, delicately. Neither have seen my face yet so I can’t go in there to handle them personally, but you can. One is my boss’ younger brother and the other is my ex’s son. I need you to kill one, slowly, and scare the hell out of the other. I’ll come in and pretend to have followed you and fight with you making it look like I killed you and take the one home.”
Brian didn’t hesitate. “Which am I supposed to kill and which am I supposed to scare?”
Melina stopped momentarily before saying, “You don’t seem at all thrown off by my request or by having to kill someone. Why?”
Brian sneered making himself sound more than convincing. He told her, “What you do with your life is your business and I don’t need to be asking why you want something done. As far as me not being thrown by the request to kill someone, well, I had some extracurricular activities in my last job as an enforcer for some very nasty people so the thought of killing someone to get what I need means very little to me.”
She seemed to like his answer because she smiled a lot bigger than I’ve ever seen her smile before and it seemed almost genuine. Almost.
At that she answered him. “Whichever you kill is up to you. I don’t really care at this point like I thought I did because I can work the rescue either way to my advantage.”
Brian thought about this for a minute and said, “Hold up, who’s guarding these people and how many of them will be there?”
Melina almost sneered, “The place will be guarded by six people, members of my team if you will, and the way I’ve been training you these past days we’ve been sparring together means you shouldn’t have any problems taking them out.”
Brian looked at her almost incredulously, “So now I’m taking out seven people instead of one?”
Melina looked almost angry when he asked that. She spit through her teeth, “Is that going to be a problem for you, Brian?”
Brian must have sensed her anger and wanted to keep her on the same page of giving information so he said the one thing that I knew would calm her down and make her want him even more. He smiled at her and said, “No. Killing them won’t be an issue, but one person I do to gain my career. But seven can get me the needle so if I’m going to kill them then I want something more out of it. I want you and whatever you’re in on.”
My God, I have never seen Melina so, well, words failed me at that moment, and I started realizing how much she really was just a young girl that was unhappy with her life and didn’t know how to fix it. I think the problem was the fact that she was 35 years old and should have been past this already. When someone dedicates their life to something it tends to take over completely, however.
Melina told Brian, “If you pull this off you can have me and anything else you want.”
At that she started to walk away and I signaled to Brian to stop her so he grabbed her and pulled her back to him wrapping her in his arms and kissing her as he pushed her against the dumpster and at just the right moment I stuck the small injector into her leg but she didn’t notice since she was wrapped up in what she wanted; someone who wanted her more than anyone else. I patted Brian’s leg as soon as the microchip was injected and he let Melina go. She smiled at Brian and walked away as he stood there and smoked a cigarette.
After five minutes I pulled the tracker out of my pocket to see where she was. When I saw she was more than five blocks away I stood up coming around the dumpster to talk to Brian getting the rest of the story that made him call me to meet in the first place.
Brian said, “She has the apartment and car wired which is why I had her meet me out here. I told her it was because I have a nosey neighbor and didn’t want them to spot her so she couldn’t be tied to me which she seems to like. Originally, she brought this to my attention earlier today before I called you. Melina said she had a deal for me, that if I helped her do something tomorrow night then she would help my career take off a lot quicker than it was going now. I knew that you would want to know considering how she said tomorrow. I also know she started googling me, or at least my cover, and seen the criminal record you planted showing I had assaults and thought to have murders on my belt. I figured this meant she was going to test me before she threw this proposition out but apparently she’s on a time restraint. She also seen where it showed I was divorced. What’s going on with that and why was that in there?”
I smirked, “I figured she’d dig into you to try to see what she could use against you if you didn’t agree to help her so I thought that would be a good cover. Rebekah and the kids are in P.C. with my people here in Atlanta and I have someone in your place there as a decoy in case she goes that route. Listen, Bri, I know this isn’t your ideal scenario but if something happens and this starts getting messy I need to know you’ll do what you have to do to make sure this ends tomorrow.”
Brian looked almost wounded at that point, “Look, I know this isn’t exactly the job I wanted but you know I will do anything and everything it takes to make sure you, those kids and my family are safe, don’t worry about that. I want to make sure that you’re okay with the way things are going to happen tomorrow. Which brother does she have?”
The wheels in my head were already turning at that point. I answered almost absently, “She has Jacob. He’s the only brother she knows I have and that’s just because Jake was with me the day I enlisted.”
He giggled some, “Well, I think the jokes on her then because Jakes more like you than anyone even knows and since you’ve trained him since he was old enough to walk I assume that means he’s just been playing along with her?”
I had to smile at how much Brian really knew about my life and how big of a part he’s played in my life since I met him. I don’t think he’ll ever know how much he’s meant to me to have a friend like him.
I said, “She picked Jacob up the day of the wake. I knew she was going to try to go for someone after she found out that her explosion didn’t kill me. Well, I should say, I knew someone would go for someone I knew since I didn’t know then who it was that tried killing me yet, so I warned Jake knowing he would be the one to make himself known and use himself as bait. He was caught going between the cemetery and the wake.”
Brian started putting things together too. “So is this why Jake never enlisted like he wanted to? To make sure he could be used if need be?”
Brian looked even more surprised by my revelation, “Bri, Jake is enlisted. He has been for about six years. He’s technically part of my unit but kept invisible by everyone except my team and David. Wes is in too in the same thing. So are Nora and Teddy. They all stay under the radar and look like civilians and pass me intelligence on cases that need to be handled discreetly.”
Brian sputtered out, “Well I kind of figured that for Jake and Wes but not Teddy and Nora. I figured Nate would be in more than the others.”
I loved the way Brian sputtered information when he was trying not to say I knew it or I told you so. That was the end of that conversation because as soon as I thought that my pocket started beeping and when I took the tracker out of my pocket it was beeping to signal me that Melina had stopped and was still for more than three minutes. I pulled the address to a warehouse in the ghetto and told Brian it was time for me to go to work and that tomorrow when the time came to focus his concentration on Jake because he would understand what was going on when he seen him and go slow because then I’d show up.
With that, I left to go get the rest of my team and fill them in on what was about to happen and what we needed to do to make that happen.
OUR EYES ARE PLACED IN FRONT OF US BECAUSE IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO LOOK IN FRONT OF US THAN BACK