It had taken a toll on Sapphire, but she acknowledged that one good thing came from the day, and that was the perfect mood to have a drink with a friend.
“Whoa, take it easy there.” Alexey chuckled as he held onto Sapphire’s glass. “Remember that you drove here.”
Sapphire groaned. “I know, I know. It’s just been a long day. If I should crash and fall into a coma, it’ll be a favour,” she mumbled as she reached for the glass again, but this time Alexey wasn’t smiling.
“You know I don’t like when you speak like that, Sapphire.”
“Oh, Lord,” she mumbled with an exaggerated eye roll. “Chill, Alexey. I don’t actually mean it.”
Alexey simply frowned before cautiously giving her back her drink. Over the past weeks, he had grown quite protective of her. And every time they met like this at the bar, He would showcase it more and more, especially when she spoke of the mafia.
It was still a pressing issue between them, especially now since Sapphire was more involved and evidently closer to Valentin. Alexey still received intel from her, but he had noticed that nowadays, she kept certain information confidential, especially details that had to do with Valentin.
“I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am actually glad that Valentin is coming back tomorrow,” Sapphire said as she slid the glass away. She knew just the right amount to soothe her stress without intoxicating her.
“What do you mean?” Alexey frowned. He still didn’t like Valentin, and Sapphire’s evident switch from contempt to genuine care for the mafia boss was concerning in his mind.
She shrugged. “I just think we work better together. Don’t get me wrong, I can deal with things on my own, but with Valentin, it’s just—”
“Easier?” Alexey asked with a raised eyebrow, at which she nodded.
“Exactly. I mean, we have our ups and downs… A lot of downs. But he—”
“Wasn’t he furious about us sending his men to jail?” Alexey asked, cutting her off sharply.
“Of course he was. He was wrathful. But I think he knows why we had to do it. Don’t worry; he doesn’t know about your part in the act.”
Sapphire wasn’t stupid. She noticed the uneasiness in her friend’s face and found it alerting. Alexey wasn’t the one to hide his emotions or opinions. In fact, he was quite bold with them. Sapphire appreciated it, though. It was his very bold thoughts that made the earlier operations a success.
“What’s wrong?” she finally asked.
He shrugged. “I just—I just don’t know what side you are on anymore. I’m a cop, Sapphire—a detective. This mafia had been the main priority, and when you just arrived, you were certain that you hated Valentin and his operations, and you wanted nothing to do with either of them. Now, you seem to be pulled in more than you think. Of course, your vision and aim of making the country better regarding the mafia are still on track. A lot has changed because of your hand in the deck of cards. But let’s face it, you are seeing long term plans in your mind. You are looking for ways to move forward and better this organisation.”
“I thought that was the original plan. I came here to make the injustice stop and bring some normalcy and peace for these citizens in regards to the mafia.”
“Yet, you’re in deep.” He was whispering now. His voice was barely audible against the vivid conversation going around the bar. “You’re doing a terrific job Saph, don’t get me wrong. But don’t you see? You’re becoming acquainted with the devil himself. Perhaps even more.”
A quick image of Valentin’s body being pressed to hers flashed across her mind for a second, which then led to the exotic dreams she had been having about him. Yet, Sapphire shook her head as she dismissed the thought.
“We made a deal. You stay away and let me do my thing, and I’d give you updates about the mafia. I didn’t promise that everything would be a hundred per cent legal when I’m done, Alexey.”
“I am the law,” he replied with a sigh. “I didn’t intend for it to be a hundred per cent legal, and so I intended for it to come to an end.”
Sapphire’s eyebrows shot up at this before a humourless chuckle escaped her lips. “Do you have any idea what will happen to this country if the mafia ceases to exist?” she questioned as she inched closer to him. His face fell in thought as she continued. “Over a hundred criminal minded men will go unemployed, and everything that we changed would be in vain. I know it sucks, but this is one of the few things that we simply cannot get rid of. Why else do you think the government turns a blind eye? With such power, wealth and status, something as big as the Trevoga Mafia has no ending in view unless you are willing to kill or imprison hundreds of people, including me,” she added, and his face fell in defeat as she said this.
Alexey would never accept the mafia, nor would he be okay if Sapphire got thoroughly involved. But one thing was for sure—even if she became as ruthless as Valentin, he could never put her away.
“That’s what I thought.” She sighed as she held onto his hand. “Look, I know that you are doing right by your parents and living up to your vow to this country and yourself. But rest assured that once I am through, it will seem as if there was no Trevoga Mafia in the first place. Do you trust me?”
Alexey met her eyes with his defeated ones. “With all my heart, Sapphire. You know that.” He brought her knuckles to his lips, where he left a lingering kiss there. “I just want you to be careful. Once you’re in, you can’t get out.”
“Even if I go ‘in’,” she said, using air quotes for emphasis, “I’ll never be gone in a bad way. My morals live with me every day, Alex. Besides, I will not become my father, nor will I think of upholding certain things.”
“I know, I know. I don’t know why I doubted you.”
Despite the twinge of annoyance at his earlier accusation, Sapphire smiled at him wholeheartedly. “It’s okay. I understand.”
“And you are being safe, right? You cannot trust anyone in that place.”
“I am being careful.” Sapphire decided not to tell him about the incidents with her clocks or Alyona’s suspiciousness and Elisa and Luka’s hatred towards her. She had finally gotten Alexey to agree to stay away from the mansion. Exposing something like this to him would have him in protective mode again.
She appreciated his genuine concern for her, and it was evident that it wasn’t only because she gave him intel about the inside. He genuinely cared for her.
“If for any reason I feel unsafe one day, you’ll be the first I call,” she promised with a small simper, automatically smoothing the stress lines from his handsome face.
Alexey felt pleased as he continued to sip on his water. They fell into casual conversation for the rest of the evening before Sapphire called it a night and bid her friend a good night. He was supposed to be working on a case anyway, so she was only doing him a favour.
It was around eleven in the night by the time she arrived at the mansion. She spent the ride home on the phone with Tiffany and D’Andre to stay awake. She imagined that when she should wake up tomorrow, Valentin would be in his office. Oddly, the simple thought excited her as she pushed through her bedroom door.
But the instant she stepped through, she acknowledged that something was wrong. First of all, she knew that her closet light was switched off when she left, but now it was on, shining from under the cracks.
Sapphire didn’t own a lethal weapon, but she kept a bat under her bed for cases just like these. Quietly, she dropped her purse on the bed and retrieved the wooden object before carefully and slowly creeping towards the grand closet on the opposite side of her room. She kept the bedroom door open just in case she needed to make a run for it, but this person could be the answer to her unanswered questions for the past three days.
Her hands shook violently as she reached for the handle. It wasn’t out of fear but mere anxiety. She desperately wanted to see who it was, yet she didn’t.
With a deep breath, Sapphire twisted the knob and flung the door open, raising her bat over her head to attack the person she caught behind it, but stopped immediately when she saw who it was.
“Sophie?” she questioned in confusion at a scared-looking Sophie sitting on a suitcase. Sophie raised her hands in defence as she watched Sapphire wide-eyed.
She began babbling something in Russian that Sapphire couldn’t understand, though whatever it was seemed urgent.
“Slow down, Sophie. Why are you still here?” Sapphire asked, trying to find the logic. She knew Sophie couldn’t have been the person behind the clocks. First of all, she wasn’t hired yet, and secondly, Sophie simply had no reason to be out for Sapphire.
As far as she knows, Sophie was sweet, caring and hard-working. So, Sapphire concluded that she must’ve had a valid reason to hide away in her closet five hours after all staff were required to leave the compound. If it were Valentin, Sophie would’ve definitely been kicked to the curb.
Yet, the more Sophie spoke, the more anxious Sapphire became.
“Your phone,” Sapphire suggested, knowing that Sophie understood that word. “Where’s your phone?”
Sophie tried to tell Sapphire that she left it at home today since her three-year-old son dropped it in the toilet last night. It didn’t take long for Sapphire to realise that Sophie simply didn’t have it. She then pulled for hers but found it completely drained of life with not a single percentage in battery life.
She sighed, seeing that her other devices were dead also, and it would take a while to get them all on. But they didn’t have time. Sophie would somehow have to find a way to leave without anyone realising, or perhaps spend the night on Sapphire’s couch until morning. With all the uncertainties of their blocked conversation, there was one thing that Sapphire knew for sure.
“Sophie, it is late, and I am exhausted. Here’s what, I’ll put my phone on charge, and you can tell me in the morning, okay?”
Though Sophie barely understood what her boss had said, she realised that Sapphire was dismissing the conversation, and this scared her even more. In truth, Sophie overheard Luka and Elisa’s conversation earlier about their plan to get rid of Sapphire. All the workers were leaving by then, and Sophie realised that Sapphire had just pulled out of the garage to head into the city.
She didn’t know the entire story, but she swore to warn Sapphire about their plans. With all the stress and worry, Sophie had utterly forgotten that Sapphire didn’t understand her language, and thus warning her would be near to impossible without help. Feeling utterly helpless and terrified, Sophie waved her hands helplessly and shook her head furiously as she gripped Sapphire’s shoulders.
“Net, net, net, Sapphire!”
“Sophie, I don’t understand!” Sapphire returned, just as frustrated. Sophie indeed got her attention with her urgency, but they couldn’t help the fact that neither of them could understand the other.
Tears brewed in Sophie’s eyes, and Sapphire took notice of this as she instantly straightened her posture. She noticed that something was seriously wrong, and so she held onto Sophie’s hand and pulled her through the door.
“I’m going to find someone who can translate,” Sapphire mumbled under her breath, but Sophie was protesting behind her, though she didn’t understand what she said. Sophie knew that she broke one of the significant rules of the Trevoga Mansion, and that was that all staff members should be off the compound by six.
Even with Sapphire’s help, she would surely get in trouble with Valentin. Then again, she didn’t even know if Sapphire herself wasn’t furious. She barely understood a thing the red-headed woman had said since the moment she opened the closet door, so who’s to say that she wasn’t throwing her out?
Soon, Sophie stopped fighting as she slowly followed behind Sapphire down the empty hall. The minute they arrived at the staircase, they came face to face with the she-devil herself—Elisa.
Sophie stiffened in fear for more than one reason, but Elisa’s gaze lingered on Sapphire in disgust for a moment before she even noticed the young cook. There was also a glint in Elisa’s eyes—something similar to excitement. Excitement for what? Sapphire wanted to know, and little did she know that this was precisely what Sophie had been dying to tell her.
“Look who the garbage truck dropped off,” Elisa snarled as she eyed Sapphire coldly. She was about to make another remark when her eyes landed on Sophie. “Why are you still here?” she instantly demanded, after which she repeated the question in Russian after noticing that the cook didn’t understand her English words.
Sophie gulped as she shook like a leaf, but luckily for her, Sapphire came to her rescue. “She had something urgent to tell me,” she said. “And I hate to ask you, but if you could translate then, that would be good.”
Elisa rolled her eyes with a chuckle as she shifted her weight to the left. “And why would I help you? I obviously despise you.”
“Trust me, Elisa, the feeling is mutual. But if this woman stayed back and risked her job to tell me something so urgent, do you not think it could be something that can affect us all? What if one of the cooks is planning to poison the breakfast tomorrow?”
This certainly had Elisa reconsidering, and it didn’t take her long for her to oblige. As she turned to Sophie in evident scorn, she repeated Sapphire’s question in their native tongue. However, Sophie’s eyes widened, and she realised that Sapphire was trying to understand through Elisa—the only person who couldn’t know what she wanted to tell Sapphire.
Sophie gulped. She was shaking profusely now as she glanced between the two women. She had no options. If she told Elisa the truth about what she wanted to tell Sapphire, there was no doubt that Elisa would keep the information to herself and ban Sophie from the mansion, which would still deem Sapphire dead.
Her only choice was to keep it quiet and help another way. She couldn’t even let Elisa know that she suspected her or Sapphire could be dead before midnight, and she would probably be next. Her heart broke at the thought. Sophie thought about her son and if he’d have to grow up without her.
When she took this job, she was aware of the risks. Sapphire pointed them all out quite keenly. It was moments like these that she was warned against. Now, her back was against the wall.
“Nichego,” she finally said, trying to give Elisa a smile. She then told her that it could wait till morning, and of course, this pissed off Elisa even more.
“You little!” Elisa grabbed after Sophie, but Sapphire stood between them.
“What did she say?” Sapphire demanded impatiently.
Elisa met Sapphire’s eyes with her blazing ones. “She said it can wait till morning. Isn’t it obvious? This woman was trying to steal something and got caught! She ought to be fired. Waste of my time!” She then turned to Sophie and pointed a finger at her. “You better be gone in two minutes, or I shall have you shot on your way out,” she warned lowly in the language Sophie could understand.
Scared out of her mind, Sophie simply shared a worried look with Sapphire before dashing down the stairs. But as Sapphire watched her go, she knew that something was wrong. Sophie was far too eager to talk to her for it to be dismissed this casually. But as Sapphire turned her gaze to Elisa as she went stomping down the hall in the opposite direction, it became clear.
It definitely had something to do with Valentin’s evil little sister. She just hoped she would find out before it was too late.
Meanwhile, Sophie was already on her way to the door with her belongings within a minute, and the guard watched in confusion as she dashed from the building.
He threw questions at her, but she ignored all of them as she tried desperately to get away. Still, her conscience ate her up. She knew that Elisa’s plan was tonight, and she feared that Sapphire would be dead in the morning.
She racked her mind for a solution until her eyes landed on the guard’s phone stuffed in his pocket. Sophie tried to think fast on her feet as she forced crocodile tears down her cheeks. The guard’s face fell in sympathy as Sophie expressed a very verbose lie that she had been locked in the washroom for the past six hours, and she had only just escaped.
She then asked to borrow his cell, at which he didn’t hesitate to hand it to her, seeing that she would probably need a ‘ride home’. Sophie felt terrible for lying, but she knew she simply had to as she scrolled through the guard’s contacts. She almost yelped in relief when she found Valentin’s number. Perhaps she would lose her job after tonight, but Sophie knew that she couldn’t go on knowing what she knew without helping in some way.
The line rang for a few seconds as anxiety ate her whole. The guard wasn’t any wiser as she stood just far enough away from him so that he wouldn’t overhear the conversation. Alas, the ringing stopped, and her heart plummeted in her chest as Valentin’s strong voice boomed through the line.