Kansas City - March 8, 2015
It took Mark Burton six days before he mustered up the courage to tell Amy about her brother. He’d asked her and her family over for Sunday lunch and he watched the children play basketball in the driveway from his study with a smile. The stone two storey home draped with vines was nestled in a matured garden that was well tended. The large property in Mission Hills, Kansas City, was the perfect retirement location. With three golf courses on their doorstep, they had plenty to entertain him and his wife. But their other reason to move to this location was to be near their children and grandchildren. It wasn’t just Angela and her husband, Adrian, who lived in this idyllic part of the country, but their other children, Steven, Andrew and Victoria, had also moved here. So it just made sense after they’d retired to join them and moved from Washington D.C.
Mark moved to the rear of the house finding their eldest in the kitchen alongside his wife, preparing the family meal. She had only been eleven at the time when he first brought her home, still very much a child. But she was haunted from witnessing her mother’s death and from being separated from her father and brother. However, it was her baby brother, as she kept calling him, that affected her the most. The two children were close and he couldn’t understand why anyone would have separated them after moving them to the U.S.
Angela looked up and smiled fondly over to her father, the only one that she remembered, as far as Mark was concerned. She never mentioned Nikita to him since she arrived to live with them thirty-seven years earlier. It felt like another lifetime ago and with all that the Burtons had achieved with the blonde haired, blue eyed girl since, one would think that she had only ever been Angela Burton. She noted the look in his eyes and curiosity got the better of her.
“Dad, is everything okay?” She left what she was doing and walked over to him. The two of them were close, in fact, Angela thrived in a large family and loving environment. She loved family and loved being close to her siblings and parents.
“Have you got a few minutes for your old man?”
Angela smiled, hooking her hand through his arm and walked with him into his study. She looked out the window and smiled at her children. “They love their basketball. At least it gets them out of the house away from the television and trouble.”
“You and Adrian have raised your children well, Angie.”
She turned and beamed over to him. “I had good teachers. You and Mom are great examples.”
“You give me too much credit. You are your own person and have achieved so much in your life.”
“Thanks to you and Mom for taking me in and giving me the best family I could ever wish for.”
“You deserved this, all of this and more, Angie.”
“Please, let me finish.” Mark sat on the edge of his desk facing her. “I know you have wanted to find your brother. More than anything in this life, you wanted to be reunited with him.” He swallowed the hard lump in his throat. What he was about to tell her would ruin every trust that she’s had in him. It will change their lives forever.
Angela looked into her father’s eyes and saw it there. The guilt, the regret. “You found him, didn’t you and you never told me.” Her words sliced through Mark’s heart and ripped it in two.
He saw the anger in her eyes flare for a brief moment, her body tensed as she stepped back from him. But her voice remained calm. She was good at remaining calm. It’s what made her great at her job, as judge at the Kansas City Justice Courts. She’d dealt with the petty criminal, to the unfortunate, the victims, even the hardened criminals. At every case she sat behind the bench in her long black robe with a nonchalant expression. No one in the court room could read what she thought on the case as it was presented to her. She dealt with everyone with respect and played fair, listening carefully before making her decisions. When a case involved a jury, she made it a point to advise them the importance to keep one’s emotions out of the decision process and deal with the facts that had been presented in court. She was well liked in her community: amongst the other judges, the police department, lawyers and those who came in to seek justice. And he was proud of her achievements.
“Yes.” He didn’t apologise, how could he? He’d tried and failed to reunite them. It wasn’t his fault that Hetty refused to let them adopt the boy.
“How long?” Her breathing became heavy as her heart pounded inside of her chest. “You know how much this means to me.” She furrowed her brow and it reminded him of when she talked with one of her children when they had done something wrong. Now he felt like the child being scolded by a parent.
“Too long.” He met her gaze, she was one tough woman. He’d raised her with as much love as he and Sarah could, yet she beheld a strength that she’d inherited from her mother that shone through. Clara was just like her, he remembered her well. But Clara also had a heart of gold, always trying to be the protector and help those less fortunate. And it was this heart of gold that Angela had inherited, that he prayed would take over the emotions that she was feeling at this moment, before he lost her for good.
Angela took in a deep breath and heaved out a sigh. She couldn’t turn back time, but it still didn’t mean that she was happy with the only man she now saw as her father. “Where is he?”
“He’s been there all this time?” She remembered living in an orphanage in Los Angeles at one time. She made a friend there, Hannah. But there was no signs of her brother. Why had they been separated? Nothing that she could remember since her mother’s death had made sense to her. Not until Mark and Sarah took her in and gave her a family.
“No. He spent many years on the East Coast, he somehow made his way west and wound up in Los Angeles.”
“Are you telling me, that while I lived in D.C., my brother was living nearby?”
“Yes.” Angela expected to see guilt in Mark’s eyes, but instead she noted regret, failure. Her eyes widened at the realisation of something that occurred to her. “You tried, didn’t you? To adopt my brother for me?” It was the only thing that made sense to her, of what she knew about Mark and Sarah. They loved her as if she was their flesh and blood and they would do anything for her. She remembered the pleading, when she begged for them to find her brother. But back then she couldn’t remember what name he would have been given. Her name had been changed when she moved to America, from Amelia Reznikov to Amy Callen. Her brother would have had his named changed too. But to what? She did not know.
“You never told me your brother’s name, why is that?” Mark watched her expressions change from anger to defeat.
“I wasn’t sure what name his was changed to. My name had been changed when I was moved to Los Angeles, I assumed his name had been too, but I didn’t know. In the end, all that mattered was that I had lost my baby brother.”
“Your brother forgot his name. He was left at an orphanage with an old bed roll with the name Callen, G. printed on it. He’s spent his life with a letter for a name.”
“What?” Sadness filled her heart over her brother’s lot in life. “Did anyone ever adopt him?”
A tear betrayed her strength and fell down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away, she’d told herself long ago not to cry. But now, hearing this about her brother, it broke her heart.
“What can you tell me about him?”
A small smile appeared on Mark’s lips as he told her what he knew. Finally he had the permission to tell her. “He’s a Federal Agent. He’s worked for numerous agencies, but this you cannot tell anyone, not even Adrian. What I used to do, when I worked with your mother has only ever been our secret. Not even Sarah knew the truth about what I did and how I found you.”
“I know. So he’s followed in our mother’s footsteps. What about our father? Did you ever find out anything about him?”
“Yes. I met him a few times.” The anger returned in Angela’s expression, but she kept her mouth shut as she listened. She was good at listening.
“This was before your mother was killed, Angie. His name is Nikita Reznikov. He was sent to a Siberian prison soon after your mother was killed and somehow he managed to escape. He’s been under the radar since.”
Angela nodded. “I remember him. I used to be Amelia Reznikov. He used to wear a uniform, but I don’t know for who. The name Reznikov, is foreign, from Europe somewhere, that I do know.” She looked up at him. “Where am I from?”
“Russia. Your father was a Major for the KGB.” He let the news sink in for a moment before he continued. “But he was a good man. He helped people escape from behind the Iron Curtain and gave them new identities in America. That’s how he met your mother, Clara. She was working undercover in Romania, that was where she was from. Her father was American, her mother was Romanian. After her own father was killed, her mother took her to America and after learning about her father, she followed in his footsteps and joined the CIA.”
“That’s when you met her.”
“Yes. She became my partner, but because she was fluent in Romanian, she was sent undercover as a student to help bring down a well known crime family, the Comescus. But what we didn’t know at the time was that there was a blood feud between them and your mother’s family.”
“Is that why she was killed?”
“Yes. It took us a long time to find this detail out.”
“Do you know who brought me and my brother to America?”
“I never knew. But last week I met up with a former colleague. Her name is Henrietta Lange. Everyone calls her Hetty.”
Angela’s brows rose. “I’ve heard of this women. Fellow judges who have dealt with Federal cases have talked about her as if she’s an urban legend.” Angela laughed at the idea. “That’s she this tiny woman who can make grown men tremble in their shoes.” A smile broadened across her face. “I think I like this woman already.”
“She’s been watching over your brother since she found him. He was seven before she found him. He hardly spoke, and the two years he’d lived in an orphanage with only a letter for name had been hard on him. But…” He held up his hand to continue. “She tried to find him a family. Unfortunately, every time she found somewhere nice for him, the Comescus found him and she had to move him again. Let’s say, Hetty played the role of Fairy Godmother for your brother. He works for her now and the two of them are very close. She’s been like a mother to him.”
“I like her even more. When can I meet her?” He saw the hope in her eyes. This woman was the link to her brother.
“I can do one better than that. I have an address for where you can find your brother.” He handed the piece of paper with two names on it.
“I don’t recognise either name.” She looked at him puzzled.
“Aah! There is a complication.”
“I don’t understand?”
“Your brother has had to go into hiding from some Russians who are after your father. They thought that if they targeted your brother and his family, that they could draw your father out of hiding.”
“He’s in danger?”
“Yes. You all are. If they knew that you were still alive…” He turned his head back outside to his grandchildren playing basketball. “You have an uncle who has changed his own identity and he’s moved to Los Angeles to keep a close eye on your brother. He’s reunited your father and brother only recently. Daniel Miller is your father’s new identity, Julian is your brother’s. They are both living at this address. It should be safe there.”
“Then I should go alone. I cannot afford to put my family in danger.”
“I will go with you for protection, just to be sure,” Mark told her, not giving her a choice.
Angela nodded. “We need to come up with a story so no one will worry. I need to contact my boss to take some leave.”