Morro Bay - a few days later
Angela and Mark flew to San Francisco and hired a boat to head south to Morro Bay. They decided that this was the safest way in to assess the town for any threats before they made contact. If this information from Hetty was correct, then Angela could reunite with her brother and father once again. They’d anchored in the marina and made their boat home for the time being. They scoured the shops, walked the town and blended in as tourists.
It was a Tuesday and Angela was enjoying an ice-cream looking over the marina, when a man walked by. He’d just arrived back from a fishing trip out at sea and farewelled his companions.
“The Beach Boys mentioned this place in California Saga,” Mark told her, but he noticed that Angela’s attention was elsewhere. “Angie?” He looked in the direction of what had his daughter’s attention.
“See you tonight, Julian. Remember to tell your father that it’s been too long since he had dinner out at the Deck, so he better turn up this time.” The man nodded and waved goodbye. A smirk appeared on Julian’s face. Mike Hobson had invited him and his family to dinner at the local hangout, the Harbour Hut Bar. Known to the locals as the Deck. He scanned the area and looked directly at Angela and Mark before getting into his pick up truck.
It was the eyes that struck her. Vibrant blue like her own and that of her children. All of her children had inherited them and from what she knew of her mother, she definitely hadn’t inherited them from her. She closed her eyes and tried to bring back memories of long ago. But they had faded over the years and now she couldn’t even bring up the image of her father in her mind. The man, Julian, had looked straight at her but he didn’t respond to seeing her there. But she wondered as she sat on the bench seat, could it be her baby brother? The name was the same and those eyes, but he could be anyone.
“Angie, are you okay?” The truck drove out of sight and she brought her attention back to her father.
“I’m not sure.”
“Did you recognise that man from somewhere?” He’d noticed her watching the fisherman.
Angela shrugged. “The man called him Julian and he had eyes like mine. I just thought that maybe…”
“That he was your brother?”
“Yes. I mean, he could be anyone, but what if he was my brother? I could walk passed my own flesh and blood and not know it. For all I know I could have already.”
“I see you’re eager to see them. How about we hire a vehicle and go for a drive and check this address out?”
“A drive sounds nice. But what if…”
“You’re worried about these Russians who are after your father?”
“Yes, I am. But that man, he looked like he’s lived here all of his life. And the other man appears to know his father quite well.” Angela started to doubt herself.
“We don’t know how long either of them have lived here. And your brother is a Fed, he’s used to blending in quickly to a new surrounding.”
“Of course.” Angela stood up and looked towards the town. “I didn’t see anywhere in town to rent a vehicle though.” The town was unspoilt and it had missed the developments of other coastal towns.
“You didn’t think I came unprepared, did you?” Mark chuckled and pulled out a set of keys and held them in the air. “I prearranged with an old contact for a vehicle. This is ours.” He nodded over to a silver Audi Q3. “This should do us.”
Angela gave her father a hug. “I knew you’d come in handy, Dad. So what are we waiting for?”
It was a beautiful day on the California coast and memories of her early days on the west coast began to return. The trips to the beach from the orphanage and the nights when she and her friend, Hannah, escaped for a few hours. She wound down the window and allowed the air to blow in her hair. She felt like a girl again with no responsibilities of work or her children. It was just her and her father.
Mark turned up a small country road which wound into the hills. As they rose higher, the green fields were occupied with cattle and horses. They dipped down into a valley and they spotted a shop on the right. ‘Miller’s Fruit Barn.’ Mark pulled in and turned off the engine. “That lane is the entrance to the farm. From what I can find on this place, they grow avocados and apples, mostly.”
Angela nodded and stepped out of the vehicle. It was strange for her to be there, so close to her real family. Yet, she was just a stranger to them. Angela Frost was a judge from Kansas City, with a background of growing up in Washington D.C. in the Burton family. There was no record of her ever being anyone else. She walked towards the country lane and took a look through the arched trees that covered the entrance to the lane. It was beautiful with a hint of mystery about it. Almost like it was meant to blend in and be hidden from view, except for the fruit barn on the country road. This in contrast announced it’s location loud and clear. They were yin and yang to one another. The barn kept the suspicions at bay on who lived up the lane, yet the property couldn’t be more hidden from view from the passer by, than it already was.
She spotted the same old pick up truck from the marina. It was parked in the lane underneath the arch. She spotted some movement in the trees and as she tried to adjust her eyes to the shadows, she realised that the man she’d seen earlier was up in the branches, but he wasn’t alone. She heard screams and laughter and then the man landed in the rear of the truck holding a blonde haired girl, who was laughing. Another girl joined them, such a contrast to the first. She was dark with hair with the tightest curls. The girls appeared to be best friends and they began tickling the man, who laughed at their antics.
This was the address her father had given her for her brother and real father. She had seen her baby brother. All grown up into a man. He appeared happy and settled here and a smile crept onto her face at the sight.
“Come on Riley, let’s race my Dad back to the house.” Both girls jumped off the back of the truck and started running up the lane. The man laughed and watched them go for a minute before climbing back into the cabin of the truck and followed.
He was a father. Now she understood why Mark had told her that her brother and his family were at risk. He had a family of his own. Pride for what her brother had achieved swelled inside of her.
A hand on her shoulder brought her back to her surroundings. She jumped and relaxed when she saw Mark. “Dad. You gave me a fright.”
“Sorry, sweetheart. Did you see anything up there?” By the time Mark had decided to follow her the lane was empty.
Angela’s eyes had welled up with tears, but thankfully her sunglasses hid them from her father. She took in a deep breath and managed to rein in her emotions before she spoke.
“I saw the truck again. The one from the marina. I think…maybe that man we saw is my brother. He was with two girls, one a blonde, she looked just like I used to at that age. She must only be around seven. She looked so happy. The other girl was much darker, a friend I think.”
“Do you want to go up to the house and see them?”
He saw the hesitation in her eyes. “They think I’m dead. How can I show up and say hi?”
“Why not? You are Amelia Reznikov after all. You deserve to see them again.” He choked on his words, he thought that this would be easier on them, but he had to admit, he was afraid of losing her. He loved her like his own flesh and blood.
Angela hugged him and let her own tears fall. “Dad, don’t you set me off.” She understood that this was as hard for him as it was for her, but in a different way. Taking that step would change their lives forever.
She broke away from her father and she looked back up the laneway. She longed to make contact, but she hesitated. She’d wanted this moment for so long, but now she wasn’t sure if she was ready. She took in a deep breath and reined in her emotions before turning away and walked to the fruit barn. Mark stepped in beside her, this was her move not his. He would support her in whatever decision she made.
The next day - March 11, 4:30am
Angela wrestled in her sleep, memories from long ago returned to the forefront of her mind. Her mother laughed as she danced to some music playing on the radio. Angela remembered dragging her brother into the middle of the room and danced with him. The three of them were laughing as they danced to the music. A smile formed on her sleeping form as she remembered happy times, before it all went so very wrong. But that memory quickly changed and became that day on the beach, the gunshot, seeing her baby brother standing beside their mom in shock. The horror in his eyes haunted her for many years. Their uncle, she remembered him, but no one was supposed to know that he was family. Uncle Max, he was fun and Papa’s younger brother. He would play dress ups with her and Gale, they’d be pirates fighting red coat English soldiers.
Mark awoke from a sound, a voice, the fear in the voice concerned him but he didn’t understand a word. It was foreign and when he cleared the cobwebs from his brain, he realised it was coming from Angela. She was sitting up in her bed crying, and it was then he realised that she was reliving the death of her mother. He understood a name, Gale, but he didn’t know who this Gale was. He sat down beside her, trying to calm her down, as her breathing remained fast and heavy.
“Angie, it’s okay. I’m here, you’re safe.” His words soothed her. She calmed down and her eyes suddenly became clear and she recognised him.
“It’s okay, sweetheart. I’m here.”
Angela felt like that eleven year old girl again. When she first came to live with the Burtons, she would cry in her sleep and Mark would come in and soothe her. He was always patient with her. She wiped the tears and rubbed her hands down her arms as goosebumps spread on her skin. She shivered and Mark instantly wrapped a blanket around her shoulders.
“You should get some more sleep.”
Angel shook her head. “No. I can’t.” She stood up and walked up onto the deck of the boat. Dawn was just starting to emerge, in the early hours. She noticed a few boats head out of the marina. Fishing vessels heading out to catch their daily supply of fish. She caught the attention of one of the occupants of the Kristina. As he looked at her, wrapped in a blanket, his vibrant blue eyes stared back at her own. She couldn’t move, she just stood there watching him as the boat moved out of the marina into the Pacific Ocean.
Thoughts ravaged through her brain as she stared back at him. Did he know who she was? Did he recognise her or her eyes? She mouthed his name as the boat moved between the stone walls that protected the bay from the Pacific. She’d remembered his name after all of this time. His real name. It was Gale Reznikov. Did he know who he was now? Was he really with their papa?
As if someone had turned on a switch, Angela came to life. She ran down the steps. “We’ve got to get the engine running and follow them.”
“Follow who?” Mark looked over at her puzzled.
“The Kristina. Gale’s on it.”
Mark studied her for a moment. “Who’s Gale, Angie?”
A smile spread across Mark’s face. “You remembered?”
“Yes. I thought after all of this time that I would forget, but I remembered. She looked at her phone and her eyes widened. “And it’s his birthday today. Come on, let’s go.”
She threw on a sweat jumper and climbed back up the stairs. Mark followed and started the engine. It was ridiculously early, but if this was what Angela wanted, he would do it.
They followed the Kristina out into the Pacific, but they kept their distance. Angela held the binoculars up to her eyes and watched her brother work on the boat as if it was any ordinary day. Now and then he would look in their direction and she would quickly hide the binoculars from view. She felt like a stalker watching his every move. But this was a huge step for her. He was her baby brother, all grown up and he thinks that she is dead. It was never going to be easy to make contact with him again. Her heart pounded heavily in her chest as excitement and trepidation took over.
After a few hours the Kristina returned back into the marina but they didn’t follow. She couldn’t. She needed the time to think. How was she going to go about walking up to the house and wish her baby brother, happy birthday. She needed to a present and then it hit her. She climbed back down into the cabin and found the box that she had brought with her. Carefully, she opened it up and lifted out the gold watch. It had belonged to George Callen, their grandfather. Yes, this was the perfect gift for him. A family heirloom, one that she could confirm who she really was. She had Mark to thank for this family heirloom. After she came to live with him and Sarah, he’d given her a box of family heirlooms that he’d found in Clara’s home, before it was sold. He kept it for Clara’s children and it had helped Angela settle, knowing that she had things that had once belonged to her mother and her family.
“What’s this?” Mark came down the steps and looked at the watch. He picked it up and looked at the inscription underneath. George Callen. “This was your grandfather’s watch. I’d forgotten you had this.”
“It’s Gale’s birthday present. It should go to him as the male heir.”
Mark placed the watch back inside the box, the original box that the watch had been bought in. “This will mean the world to him, Angie. But I think finding you will mean much more.”
“Do you think that he’ll believe me, that I am Amelia, his sister?” Mark saw the hope in her eyes and he smiled.
“Yes. Your father will too. How can they not, look at you? Except for the eyes, you are so much like your mother, now that your hair has darkened.”
“Gale has the same eyes, I think our father has blue eyes and our uncle Max. I remembered him. Papa’s younger brother. He was the one who got us out of Romania, he was with us that day.” She hitched her breath as her emotions got the better of her. “But I don’t understand why he separated us.”
Mark wrapped his arms around her and drew her in. “Let’s go back to shore and meet your family.”
Angela looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “You are my family, Dad. You will always be my family, you and Mom, Steve, Andrew and Victoria. But they’re my family too. And I need to see them.”
“Good. Then I will take you to them.”