Chapter 13: We Walk Through the Fire
Scarlett stood in the ballroom of Dalmar’s house directing where the delivery men should hang some paintings Dalmar had ordered specially for the gala that evening.
“Where should we place this piece ma’am?” One of the delivery men asked as he held a portrait of Tigran Hakobyan, a famous Krudian general.
“Place the portrait on the right side of the fireplace.” She pointed in its direction.
“So is everything set for tonight.” She heard a male voice come from behind her.
Scarlett turned toward Dalmar. “Nearly done Dalmar. The works by Sargayan were just delivered.”
“Excellent. I want everything to be perfect for tonight.”
“And it will be.” Scarlett stepped closer towards him. “I must say I have never felt such a great feeling of anticipation for anything before. To know that we are on the eve of a new Krudia, a different world. You can’t help but feel the excitement in the air.”
“I must confess that after all the time, energy, and resources I have put into this project, I find it hard to believe that I am so close to accomplishing my goal.”
“I’m just grateful to be by your side and to have played a small part in making your goal a reality. Your tuxedo is tailored, pressed, and ready for this evening. I laid it out on your bed.”
“Very good. I best get ready for the gala. See you later this evening.” Dalmar began walking to his bedroom.
“Of course.” As she saw Dalmar leave the room Scarlett smirked to herself. All the pieces of her plan were falling into place; it was just a matter of letting things naturally run their course. That was until it was time for her to interfere with that course.
As Dalmar slipped on his shawl lapel tuxedo jacket he wasn’t even the slightest bit aware of the tiny voice-activated recorder carefully placed in the left pocket of his suit.
Jason stood in front of the mirror in his hotel room, adjusting his bow tie. Once he was finished he picked up the diamond cufflinks he’d placed on a table by the dresser and attached them to the cuffs of his white dress shirt. He then slipped on his notch lapel tuxedo jacket and did up the front bottoms. He glanced down and up at his reflection, checking his entire outfit, and took a deep breath. Jason wasn’t one to be nervous but even he would admit that the thought of attending a Gala with a wanted criminal was jarring. He knew that the success of his and Tasha’s mission depended on the outcome of this evening. They needed to get the necessary information tonight, otherwise, most likely his first field mission would be a failure. After all the time he had waited to prove himself as an agent on the field, he was going to do whatever it took to make sure that didn’t happen.
He heard a knock at his room door and walked over to open the door. He opened it and saw Tasha. Jason was taken aback by how gorgeous she looked. She was wearing a dark blue off-the-shoulder gown. The dress had a draped ruffle cascading down the left side. All over the gown was embellished and embroidered with sequins. Her shoes were dark blue suede pumps. Her hair was pulled back and twisted in a crown braid. She also wore a pair of diamond halo earrings and held a navy clutch. He always thought she was breathtakingly beautiful but her evening attire seemed to accentuate her stunning features even more.
As Tasha looked at Jason standing in front of her she couldn’t help but think about how good he looked. He was wearing a black notch lapel tuxedo suit, emerald-cut white diamond octagon cufflinks, and black Oxford dress shoes. From the time they met she thought he was very handsome but now, standing there in his suit, she found him even more good-looking. Though of course, she’d never admit it.
“I thought I’d stop by, see if you were almost ready,” Tasha said as she entered the room.
“Funny, I was just about to go over to your place and make sure you were at least out of the shower” he teased.
“Well,” Tasha glanced down at her outfit “I’m not wearing a bathrobe” she playfully replied.
“No, you definitely aren’t,” Jason smiled, causing Tasha to smile as well.
“Speaking of the shower, let’s go in there.”
“The…shower?” he asked, an expression of confusion on his face.
“The bathroom actually, just for a moment.”
“Okay.” he responded, still confused by Tasha’s statement. Jason followed Tasha into the bathroom. After they entered she quickly turned on the shower.
“I thought you already had one of these.” Jason joked.
“We need to talk.” Tasha responded, a serious look in her eyes
“Oh and to talk you need the shower on?”
“Unless you want to be covered with bugs.”
“Bugs?” Jason repeated, still confused. After a second it dawned on him what Tasha meant. “Oh bugs, right. Too bad I forgot to pack my insect repellent.”
Tasha kiddingly rolled her eyes and gave a slight smile. “As I was trying to say, I know technically you’ve been undercover already since we’ve met Dalmar and secured the deal. But tonight is going to be—“
“Hard. Difficult. Demanding.” Jason crossed his arms.
“Let’s just say not a walk in the park.” Jason nodded his head. Tasha continued, “in my experience at these events, where you have to remain undercover for a long period of time, new agents tend to slip up or lose focus. We already have a good deal of intel on Dalmar. From what we’ve seen, with his massive base of followers and speech about radical change, I suspect he’s planning on staging a coup.”
“Either that or win power first by legitimate means and then seize control of the entire country.”
“The how doesn’t matter, we just have to ensure that he doesn’t take over this country. And the only way to do that is to find out where the weapons are located. As of now the only way we have of learning this information is from Dalmar directly.”
“And who knows if we’ll see him again before Wednesday, when the weapons are supposed to be delivered.”
“Exactly, which makes tonight our only shot at getting the information we need, which means that you and I have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
“Good.” Tasha smiled and turned off the shower. She then remembered something. “Oh, sorry I almost forgot but would you give me a hand with this necklace? For some reason, I can’t get it to clasp.” She held the sapphire bar drop necklace out to him that she’d been holding for the past few minutes.
“Sure.” He took the necklace from her and clasped it around her neck.
“It sure is a beautiful necklace,” Jason remarked.
“Thank you. It belonged to my grandmother.”
“Well, it looks wonderful on you. You look great by the way.”
“Thanks. Though I’ve worn this dress to a million other parties.” Tasha laughed. “You don’t look too bad yourself.”
“Why thank you. I try my best.” Jason gave a boyish grin.
“Just don’t let it go to your head.”
“Okey-dokey.” They both smiled again.
“We’d best get downstairs. The last thing we need is to be late.” Tasha began to head for the door.
“Right behind you.”
The older man reached for the microphone that was placed in the car and spoke into it. “This is White Falcon. The targets have just left The Chardell.”
Red Sparrow’s voice echoed in response through the car speaker system. “Affirmative. Do not take action. Stay in your current position until further notice.”
As Tasha and Jason made their way to Dalmar’s house they each noted the drastic change in scenery. The vehicle traveled through the sprawling city, a large grassy plain dotted by small farms and villages, and up a windy road on Mt. Karanaj. Finally, the BMW pulled up in front of a mansion which was located about halfway up the mountain in the middle of a forest. The house was four stories tall with a basement as well. The house was in the style of a modern mountain home as parts of its walls were made of redwoods with the other large sections being made out of stone as well as cutouts and windows of glass. It also had sloped and flat rooflines, timber and steel details, and a massive porch and deck situated in the front of the house.
A doorman walked up to the car and opened the right passenger door. Tasha and Jason each said “Thank you” to the gentleman as they exited the BMW and headed for the entrance to the house. They entered through the arched doorway into the entryway and were greeted with a crowd of people gathered in the house, the women dressed in the finest designer dresses and jewelry and the men wearing their best tuxedos.
The inside of Dalmar’s home was even more elaborate than the outside. It had high vaulted ceilings, redwood beams that stretched from one end of the room to the other, ornate gold and onyx carvings in the walls, murals, and paintings from world-renown artists hung on the walls. The floors were made of the finest marble and numerous crystal chandeliers hung throughout the mansion.
Almost as soon as they entered the home Tasha and Jason were greeted by Tarek.
“Melinda, Edward. Welcome.”
“Hello Tarek” Tasha responded.
“It’s good to see you again,” Jason added.
“Dalmar’s been anticipating your arrival. I’ll take you to him.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Jason replied. Tarek led Tasha and Jason through the crowd to a gold-plated bifurcated staircase. They walked up a couple of flights of stairs and arrived at the second floor of the house. Tarek led them down a hall past several rooms and into a grand ballroom. The ceiling was adorned with frescoes that depicted famous moments in history. The walls and ceilings were overlaid with gold trimmings and carvings. A marble stone fireplace was in the center of the room and three gold and Swarovski clear crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The three of them made their way over to Dalmar who was standing by the fireplace, holding a glass of champagne in his hand. Tarek withdrew himself and headed downstairs to greet more arriving guests.
“Mr. Delucas, Ms. Tylerson” Dalmar greeted them.
“Dalmar” Jason acknowledged him.
“It’s a pleasure to see you again Dalmar,” Tasha added.
“Davit. You can call me Davit” he smiled.
“Only if you call Melinda.”
“For you my dear, that I can do.” He outstretched his arms “So what do you think of the place?”
“It’s amazing…Davit. Certainly one of the most elaborate and beautiful homes I’ve ever seen.”
“A man that can do this well for himself…it shows even more that we partnered with the right guy.”
Dalmar smirked and took a sip of his champagne. “Who am I to argue with that?”
Jason sensed an opportunity and spoke. “Speaking of our partnership. Melinda and I have been giving our deal a great amount of thought and we feel since we’ve supplied you with firepower we are entitled to be given some more information.”
“Information?” Dalmar furrowed his brow.
“Yes,” Tasha responded. “You’ve kept your plans for this operation rather close to the vest. Overall strategy. Location or locations of your armaments. We’re not in the habit of partnering in operations we know close to nothing about.”
“Trust me, for the sake of our success I can’t divulge much. My secrecy has been the only way I’ve gotten this far. What I will say is that you will be handsomely compensated. Whatever money you want. Whatever position you want. It will be yours” Dalmar took another swig from his glass.
“What do you mean by position?” Tasha pressed for more details. “A high position in society? To be honest we had our eye on a little more than that.”
Dalmar chuckled to himself. “I must say Melinda you are quite—”
“It’s how I’ve survived in this business as long as I have.”
“That I can respect. Likewise, I think you and your associate can understand my hesitancy to disclose sensitive information.”
Before either Tasha or Jason could respond Adrian came up to Dalmar and whispered in his ear. Dalmar whispered something to Adrian in reply and then turned back toward Tasha and Jason.
“If you’ll excuse me for a moment there is an urgent matter I must attend to.”
“Of course,” Tasha replied. Dalmar exited the ballroom with Adrian by his side, leaving Tasha and Jason alone. Tasha slightly shook her head and sighed. “I should have known a man like Dalmar would try as far as possible to keep things close to his vest.”
“At least you tried.”
“Thankfully, we have the rest of the evening. Though I have a feeling it’s going to be a very long one.”
“I’m going to go get some sparkling water to drink. Do you want any?”
“No, thanks. I’m fine.”
“Okay, then. I’ll be right back.” Jason made his way out of the ballroom and down to the first floor of the house. He walked through several rooms trying to find the bar. He then heard a voice from behind him. “Lost?” He turned to see Scarlett.
“Is it that obvious?” Jason laughed.
“Don’t feel bad it happens all the time to first-time guests. It is a pretty big house.”
“I was just looking for the bar.”
“Walk to the entryway, pass the staircase and go all the way to the back of the house, turn left and you’ll find it next to the kitchen.”
“Scarlett is fine.”
Jason then left, followed Scarlett’s directions, and arrived at the bar. As he waited in line to get his drink something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. Through a window in the back of the room, he spotted two of Dalmar’s security guards, talking to each other in hushed tones. Jason walked closer to the window to get a better look, careful not to draw any attention to himself. He saw the two guards talk for a few more moments before they started heading towards the woods. As they walked they stopped every so often to look back towards the mansion, He assumed to make sure no one was following them. Jason stood there going over in his mind what he should do.
Tasha said we should get the info from Dalmar but so far he’s been nothing but…cagey. It’s not like we have a guarantee he’ll give us the necessary info. This could be our only opportunity to get the intel we need. I could also prove myself to Tasha, to Donovan, to the Agency. Show them I actually have what it takes as an agent. The last thing I want is my first mission to be a failure. Sure, it’s a bit risky, but this is a great opportunity. Who knows it might be our only chance of getting the information we need.
Jason saw the two men walk farther and farther away in the distance and knew it was now or never. Pushing all remaining doubts out of his mind, Jason glanced around the room to make sure no one had noticed him watching the two guards. No one had. Jason quickly exited the room and walked back to the entryway. He discreetly slipped through the crowd and made his way outside.
Tasha leaned against the railing of the wooden deck, taking in the majestic view of the mountainside and night sky all around. The views reminded her of the times she and her parents used to go camping in the woods together when she was a little girl. They’d all snuggle up by the fire, tell scary stories, and roast marshmallows. At night she and her parents would lie on the ground and gaze at all the stars. Tasha would point out to them and name all the constellations and stars she knew, which was a significant amount. Her parents would laugh and joke that she spent all the time they stargazed talking her head off. Tasha smiled to herself as she thought of the memory. Suddenly, she saw two men walking in the distance near the edge of the woods. She then spotted another man sneaking behind them. Tasha recognized the outfit the first men were wearing as the uniform Dalmar’s security wore. The other man wasn’t wearing a uniform, rather a tuxedo. Tasha soon realized the man was Jason.
“Enjoying the view,” Dalmar remarked. Startled, Tasha quickly turned around and saw Dalmar standing on the deck. “Sorry I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Tasha forced a smile. “No, it’s all right.” Dalmar walked closer to her. “The views here are…stunning,” she said as she looked over the landscape.
“Yes, they certainly are,” Dalmar replied, though Tasha noticed that he wasn’t looking at the view but at her.
“In the ballroom, I couldn’t help but admire the portrait of Tigran Hakobyan above the fireplace. It truly was a lovely piece of art.”
“General Hakobyan huh? So you know your Krudian History.”
“Some, though I’d be the first to admit that I’m no expert.”
“That portrait is actually part of a collection by the famous Krudian artist Garine Sargayan that depicts famous Krudian generals and leaders. I just acquired the collection for tonight.”
“I would love it if you could show me the other portraits. You could tell me more about the men and women depicted. Their lives and conquests. I’ve always been fascinated by history. Besides I have no doubt that one day we’ll be adding your portrait to that collection.”
“I think I can manage that.” He offered her his arm. Tasha took it and the two of them began making their way back inside the ballroom.
As Tasha and Dalmar walked through the doorway she quickly glanced behind her and saw Jason disappear in the distance. She was relieved Dalmar hadn’t spotted him while on the balcony yet she still had an uneasy feeling she couldn’t shake. All she could do now was stick to her plan and hope for the best, though she expected the worst.