To say that Helena was astonished was putting it mildly. First she was slapped in the face and the sting was intense. Then she was kissed – passionately - and forgot about the sting completely. Now she was being asked to leave and the pain was everywhere. What was going on?
There was not a time in her recent history that Helena was not two steps ahead of her opponent. 'Are you bloody kidding me?' was being repeated in her brain, but her heart knew she had just given her word that if Myka wanted space, she would go. She had just humbled herself by confessing and kneeling, and she was still being asked to leave. Her pride alone wanted her to bark something nasty. 'Do you think I would bloody get on my knees for anyone else?' flashed in her head like an LED readout.
"OK, Myka," Helena said solemnly and walked back up the aisle.
If Myka thought Helena had cast a spell on her, she gave little thought to how she was affecting her suitor. Myka always assumed that while she might impress people with her knowledge of the law and literature, she never made a lasting impression on their hearts. Except for maybe Sam.
Myka leaned – no fell – back against the wall. She felt like she wanted to throw up, her chest pounded, her head hurt, her legs felt like they were going to give out on her any minute. So many feelings at once and they overwhelmed her.
Why couldn't Sam make her feel like this?
Myka watched as the woman who had turned her world upside down in the last few days, walked up to the counter, took her sunglasses, and put them on. Myka heard the door close, but couldn't see because the tears overpowered her resistance and made their escape. Myka held the book, slid down the wall, and cried uncontrollable sobs of agony, her chest involuntarily moving in and out.
Helena stood outside for a moment, unsure of what to do next. The magnificent writer was at a loss for words. The genius inventor could not figure out how to fix this situation. She had felt this intense sense of defeat only once before – when she learned that even when she traveled back in time successfully, she could not change the course of events. That realization is what led to her fall into madness, and Helena started to shake with fear that it could happen again.
Helena's demons rose inside her – we told you playing fair didn't get you what you wanted – they taunted her. But it did get Myka what she wanted - her broken heart replied and quieted them.
Pete and Claudia jumped from their seats and rushed to the street where Helena passed them by and walked down the long block to the car without a word.
Claudia wanted to go with Pete, but she felt responsible for making things worse so she walked away from them and went to the bookstore. She expected to see Myka in a state of fury, and she thought she might just throw her out. She didn't expect to see Myka's eyes swollen and red. She rushed in and saw the spy-book on the floor and picked it up.
"I did this, Ms. Bering, not Helena. She had no idea, I swear to you. I thought I was helping," Claudia said all in one breath.
"Thank you, Claudia," was all Myka could get out.
"I know you may not have gotten a chance to see this, Ms. Bering, but she's a really good person. She yells a lot, but underneath it all, she's one of the good guys," Claudia said without explaining how she knew that for a fact. Even if there were other twenty-three year olds who headed up IT Departments, none were rescued from the brink of being homeless like she was.
Claudia started to leave, but stopped at the door. "Ms. Bering? I can't tell you how I know this, but Sam is on his way here," she said as she opened it. She didn't want to be the bearer of bad news, especially given how shook up Myka looked, but she thought she should know Sam was coming.
"Claudia?" Myka said before the door closed. The Techie was sure Myka would press her on how she knew.
"Yeah?" Claudia said ready to refuse any explanation.
"Tell Helena …..," but Myka stopped. "Make sure….," but Myka was sure Helena would be okay. "Thanks for letting me know," she finally said through a half crest smile.
Claudia nodded her head and closed the door behind her. She rushed to the car expecting to be grilled by her boss, but Helena sat in the back motionless, staring out the window.
"The Eagle has been wounded by an arrow and I don't mean Cupid's," Pete texted to Artie. That was exactly how the former marine thought his boss looked as he stared in the rear view mirror; wounded.
"It didn't go well," Artie said to Irene who let out a deep sigh. She really had hoped it would. For all their sakes, she really had hoped it would.
"When are they coming back?" Irene asked and Artie texted Pete the question and waited.
"Two o'clock flight out of Colorado Springs," Artie relayed.
"She'll come right here I bet. Tell everyone to man their battle stations, Arthur. There's only so much salve I can put on a gaping wound," Irene said as the first line of defense.
"I really need to have my blood pressure checked," Artie mumbled as he directed the staff to prepare for the Homecoming Queen of Terror.
The person who jumped the highest was Eileen. Not out of fear, but out of a deep sense of remorse. A romantic at heart, Eileen thought the happy ending was more than guaranteed especially given that it was her boss who was doing the pursuing. She had never seen Helena come back empty handed. She had even stopped the office pool that many wanted to start. Eileen had enough of what her grandmother would call – 'shenanigans'.
Irene called the newest member of the Wells Staff. She asked Leena how the restoration at the house was coming along and she was happy to hear that the doors had all been repaired and the smoke damage taken care off. She reminded Leena not to take anything that Ms. Wells might say personally, because even though her services were desperately needed, they were not quite wanted yet. Leena assured Irene that she was more than able to handle difficult situations, and that she never judged people simply by their behavior, but by something she liked to call their 'auras'.
That didn't help Irene feel any better.
Helena moved slowly through security and took a seat near the large window at the airport and stared out at the open space.
Pete kept turning around – waiting to see Myka running through the terminal screaming Helena's name. As the time got closer to boarding, he fingered his phone wanting to text Myka.
"Why don't I just text her, you know, to see if she needs us to stall Helena?" Pete asked Claudia.
"She had over an hour to do that Pete," Claudia said softly.
"Maybe she didn't know Helena was leaving, or maybe there's a new JK Rowling book out and she's stuck at the bookstore or I don't know," Pete said almost frantically.
"Pete!" Claudia said to get him to calm down and take his seat. Claudia looked around to make sure no one could hear her. "Pete, Sam is on his way there."
"WHAT?" Pete yelled and caught everyone's attention except his boss. Claudia punched him in the arm. "You know this? Of course you do, you probably had his dentist implant a tracking device in his last filling. Are you sure you don't work for the CIA?" Pete asked.
"Very funny," Claudia said and immediately began wondering how that filling idea would work.
"Now what do we do?" Pete said. "Suppose we tell Helena and she goes back there and is all like 'get away from my …..Chief Counsel or whatever' …..and then Myka is all like, oh Helena that was great cause he's a huge douc'….whatever ok but I had dinner with the guy and he's not good enough for her," Pete summarized his fantasy and facts.
He was flexing his muscles after that total display of his romantic side and Claudia thought how adorable he was.
"How are you not taken, Lattimer?" she asked him.
"Hey, I could be. I could have had Kelly Davenport if she had just been able to show me her high school diploma," he teased. It broke the tension and the two friends laughed at his joke. Then he looked over at Helena and in spike of the fact that she had her back to them, it was easy to see how sad she was.
"I thought for sure my advice would help," Pete said looking at Helena.
"You? I thought the book would be perfect, too," Claudia said.
"How did you even think of that?" Pete asked her.
"Helena told me about it. I don't know how she knew, but she had me check the inventory and sure enough, there it was," Claudia explained.
"What do we do?" he asked.
"The first thing I'm doing," Claudia said tapping her keys on the laptop, "Is sending Myka flowers."
"No Claud, I think we have helped enough," Pete said feeling bad that his advice might have worsened the situation.
He was right and his younger friend knew it. "Fine, then the least I can do," she said resuming her tapping, "…..is to switch Sam's ticket to a four hour layover in Ohio. What? I know how to access a few programs, so what?" she asked without looking up. Pete put his hand on hers and stopped her. "OK," she said. Maybe knowledge wasn't always power.
Pete went to the men's room and told Claudia to keep an eye on their boss. A beautiful woman dressed in a gorgeous ensemble sitting alone in an airport was an easy mark for a guy out to make an impression.
"Are you who I think you are?" the businessman asked as he sat down near Helena.
"You have no idea who I am," Helena said truthfully and without turning her head.
"No, you're Helena Wells, I know who you are," he said thinking this was his chance.
"What is your name?" Helena asked.
"Mike Anderson," the Wall Street trader said and smiled broadly when Helena leaned over to whisper.
"Mr. Anderson, it is not who I am that should concern you, but rather, what I am," Helena said her voice filled with warning.
Her tolerance for the human race had just taken a huge dip downward.
"What you are is…. hooooot," he said drawing out the word ….. and drawing in his last conscious breath.
As soon as Claudia saw him slump over in his seat, she signaled for Pete to hurry up.
"You didn't kill him, did you?" Pete asked his boss when he saw the man.
"Not at all, Mr. Lattimer. I merely helped him take a break from being a total nuisance to the whole of society," Helena explained.
She was tired of things getting in her way.
Myka left the 'Closed' sign on the door and went upstairs with her book. The book that she had fantasized owning one day was now hers. She went to her wallet and took out the money she had withdrawn and put it in an envelope. Her parents would at least think they got paid for the forgery. Myka put the book in the suitcase she brought and went online to pick her next destination. Coming here had been a mistake. Not only was there no peace, it seemed everyone found her too easily. That would not happen again. She booked her flight and hotel and went back downstairs. Her parents never closed the store unless it was a national holiday. So Myka went to the door and flipped over the sign to indicate they were opened. It didn't seem to her that anyone noticed they hadn't been.
Myka shook off the pain as best she could so that she could help her parents one more day. By tonight, she'd be 2279 miles away.
Jeannie and Warren returned in the late afternoon bubbling over with excitement about the show.
"Who got you those tickets?" Myka asked suspicious of everything now.
"Oh I think it was that woman who visited the store a long time ago. We bought a bunch of her books – the first edition ones I think, isn't that right Warren?" Jeannie asked.
"Wow, she paid in cash? Did you see how she was dressed? What a looker," her father said of the buyer.
"Warren, what was the name of the woman we bought all those first edition books from. The HG Wells ones and Oscar Wilde, too I think. She was passing through on her way to New York she said and practically sold them for a dime," Jeannie said and went to hunt for the receipt. Warren and Jeannie have every receipt from every business transaction in a box under the counter.
"Mom, why would she send you tickets to a show?" Myka asked as her mother hunted for the paper.
"What? Oh she said that she wanted to repay us for being so kind. I don't know - we were nice I'm sure, but I don't think we were especially kind, do you Warren?" Jeannie asked.
"What will we do with all this money? Woohoo," Warren was saying.
It irked Myka to see her father make such a big deal over an envelope of money that he would have trouble believing was only a portion of what she had earned.
"How about you finally change the damn sign, Dad?" Myka said, her hands on her hips staring at him. It stopped both her parents in their tracks.
"Well isn't that the strangest thing," her mother finally said, breaking the tension that filled the room.
"What?" Myka said out of patience.
Jeannie lifted up the piece of paper that she had dug out from the box.
"The woman who sold us the books a few years ago has the same name as the person who bought the book today; Emily Lake."
"What?" Myka asked.
She knew that was the alias Helena had used to gain access to the store. Was there really an Emily Lake or did Helena visit her parents' store years before? Myka grabbed the receipt out of her mother's hand. There on the bottom of the page was the very familiar elegant script handwriting.
Myka looked at the list of books. She ran to the section in the back of the bookstore and pulled the first edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde off the shelf. She remembered seeing something in that book. She opened to the first page and read -
"To Helena Wells, you are my muse, my inspiration. Don't ever give up trying to seduce me, Oscar"
"She comes from a long line of seductresses, I see," Myka said to herself.
"Oh my word, Myka! Here comes Sam," her father said excitedly as the federal agent crossed the street making his way to the store.