Chapter 21: Tears Don’t Fall
5 hours earlier:
The leaves of the surrounding trees had a silvery tinge in the moonlight. Their eerie shadows crawled across the ground and snaked up the side of the old building. Dalmar sat alone in his office meticulously going over some files. A lone lamp was turned on basking the room in a dim glow. Dalmar hadn’t spent much time sleeping lately. All his nights had been devoted to going over the latest files and reports. Every passing second he was getting closer to his goal yet the odds of something derailing his plans increased. Perhaps he was being paranoid, spending every waking hour checking and double-checking every detail of his “operation,” but he couldn’t afford to take any chances.
The sound of his phone ringing interrupted the silence. His eyes widened as they fell on the familiar number. He amusingly shook his head, answered, and held the phone to his ear. “Well, well. Isn’t this a surprise? I always took you for a fool Elias but I didn’t think even you would be so stupid as to call me.”
“Listen up Dalmar. I’m not here to play your games and if you’re smart you’ll pay close attention to what I have to say.” The low, dark voice fairly oozed out of the receiver. Dalmar was affronted by the choice and tone of Elias’ words. It infuriated him to no end how Elias had seen himself as the alpha in their “relationship.” After all, he was the one who had approached him and Norvan with the idea to form their own faction as well as supplied the majority of the resources to fund the party. Without him and his money, Elias would be reduced to a power-hungry insolvent. Elias had turned out to be nothing more than an ignorant blubbering old fool, completely useless to him and his cause. What had possessed him to work with him he didn’t know. He didn’t need him that was for sure.
Dalmar was in no mood to be trifled with. “What do you mean ‘if I’m smart I’ll pay close attention to what you have to say?’ I’m the one who made you who you are in case you forgot!”
“And put a bullet in my back!” Elias shot back.
“Oh I’m sorry” Dalmar feigned remorse. “It was meant for your head.”
“I’d be careful what I say next. I have certain information, recently brought to my attention, that could potentially be your undoing. Two NSA agents have infiltrated your operation. ”
Dalmar haughtily laughed. “You’re bluffing.”
“Oh, I never bluff.”
A chill went down Dalmar’s spine as he heard a voice come behind. Dalmar slowly turned around in his chair. He swore under his breath as he saw Elias standing directly in front of him.
Dalmar chuckled. “Well well, this is a sight I never thought I’d never see again. You..standing in my office.” Dalmar reached into his pocket and pulled out his gun. “ If I were you I would’ve stayed away.” He pulled back the safety.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Elias calmly responded. “As luck would have it. I have these two agents in my custody. I don’t come back, they go free.” He gave a sly smile and took a step forward. “Now I’d be willing to turn them over to you…for a small price. You show me where the weapons are stored and bring me back on as a partner.”
“You actually expect me to fall for this?” Dalmar scoffed. Lines creased around the corners of his mouth.
“Why would I risk coming back here for nothing?”
“Desperation. A desperate man would do anything.” Dalmar sat up from his chair.
“Maybe. Maybe not.” Elias walked closer towards his former ally. “I’m sure it must be hard having to swallow your pride and make a deal with me. If you don’t want to, I completely understand. It’s not like I’m your only option. I could send those NSA people back to their little friends in Washington. Let the agency deal with you. Or I could let that Ohanyan girl know who’s responsible for her father’s death. Word on the streets is she’s out for blood. Lot’s of it.” Elias snickered.
Inside Dalmar was raging. He wasn’t used to someone speaking to him with such defiance. What made it worse was that Elias was in complete control and he knew it. Everything wasn’t lost but this unforeseen event had thrown his plans into turmoil. In the back of his mind, he had a semblance of a plan forming. A way to take the two agents in as well as Elias, though there of course was no guarantee it would work. Even if he managed to be successful, who knew who else out there had knowledge of his plans? Any moment his estate could be overrun with the authorities? However, he knew he had to stay focused on the present and deal with one problem at a time.
Elias’ patience was up. “So what will it be?”
Milena and Liana sat in the SUV. Crickets chirped all around. The moon shone dully overhead. Being around each other, after everything that had happened, felt strangely comforting yet unbearable at the same time. Both of them felt conflicting waves of emotions, at times wanting to fight and at others wishing they could throw their arms around the other.
“Who would have known we’d meet again like this,” Milena spoke. “You’d find me with a knife against my throat. Strange world huh?” she smirked.
“Yeah, it is.”
Milena glanced toward his little sister. It was still weird being with her again. To her, she hadn’t changed much in the past five years, though she seemed tired and had a deep sadness in her eyes. Though her sister probably could say the same about her. “These past five years I’ve thought about seeing you again. I wondered how I’d react. Sometimes all I wished for was for us to be together again. I’d hug you and tell you ‘I love you.’ And other times I was so angry at you for not being here, I wished you were dead…it would have been easier than you choosing to leave.” Milena stared straight ahead. Outside the wind picked up blowing fallen leaves and dust into the air. “Remember you told me about how your ‘reinvented’ family. Dad was a botanist. Mom was an astronomer. And your sister was just…me.”
“It’s funny, I imagined you too. What your life was like in mind. Three years ago you moved to France. You’re a yoga instructor and your husband owns a bicycle shop.”
“A bicycle shop?” Liana gave a small laugh.
“Oh yes, it pays well since a lot of the tourists there want to try the Tour de France route. Though you two sometimes get into arguments since you prefer scooters to bicycles. You’ve also decided to wait a few more years before having children.”
“That’s not my life. Like at all.” Liana teased.
“Really? I thought it was pretty good. ”
“Hmm, it’s better than my real one.” Liana glanced down at her hands. Silence enveloped them once again.
Questions swirled in Milena’s mind. Questions she needed answers to. She’d often heard it said that you can’t move forward until you go back. It was obvious the past was keeping Liana and her apart. Painful as it was, they knew they had to talk about it. “So you left me and never thought to seek me out all this time.”
“Honestly, I didn’t think you’d want me to see.”
“Ha! Like I’m supposed to believe that.”
“Believe me I’d rather it have stayed that way but if I did…you’d be lying on the ground cold right now.”
“Oh, come on. I would have found a way to deal with him. The way Dad made us learn Krav Maga. We’re practically trained killers.”
“Whatever. Shut up. Out of our family, the only killer was him.” Liana’s words were as sharp as daggers. The hatred in her voice was evident.
“How can you say that?” Milena shot back “He was everything.”
“To you, maybe but not to me.” She noticed Milena’s uncomfortable stare. “He deceived you, let you see a different side of him. A side that wasn’t real. That didn’t even exist.”
Milena shook her head, an angry expression on her face. Her hand found the car door handle. “You know what I’m done with this.” She stepped out of the car and began walking away. The grass crunched underneath her feet:
Liana followed right behind her. She grabbed her arm and spun her sister around. Forcing her to face her. “You can’t just walk away!”
“Yes, I can!”
“Stop living in this fantasy! Eventually, you have to accept the truth!”
“You mean your truth. Dad was the best father to me. He was always there. Unlike other people!”
“He blamed me for mom’s death! He abused me!”
Milena held up her hands. Tightly she shut her eyes as if physically trying not to hear Liana’s words. “He wasn’t perfect but he was all I had!”
“He took everything from me! The love of my life! He was responsible for the deaths of dozens of people and was working with Dalmar!” Liana paused for a moment, gathering by her breath. “And as far as I’m concerned he got what he deserved.” Liana stepped closer to Milena. She continued speaking, her voice was softer now, less angry and defiant. “Lena I wish it didn’t have to be that way but he gave me no choice. I had to make sure he didn’t make anyone else suffer the way he made me.”
Milena took a step back. Her mind was racing and she was furious. The sight of her father’s burned body flashed in front of her.“What are you saying? You’re telling me that you had no other choice but to kill him?!”
“Aren’t you hearing me! All you knew was a lie! He was a monster!!”
Milena lashed out, and grabbed Liana’s throat, slamming her into the side of the SUV. Liana wrestled out of her sister’s grasp. One of her hands found Milena’s arm while the other wrapped around her neck. Liana pushed Milena over the hood of the car and held her down. “Stay down! Stay down!” she yelled.
Milena yelled as she brought her foot to Liana’s face and pushed herself up from the hood. She slammed her fist into Liana’s face sending her back into the car. Liana straightened herself up and lunged toward Milena. As Milena fell back to the ground her hands found Liana’s arms. She flipped her younger sister over her. Liana’s body hit the ground. Ignoring the pain she pushed herself up from the ground.
The two women’s eyes met each other. They stared at one another for a moment. Milena reached into her pocket and slowly pulled out her gun. Liana followed suit.
They kept the guns aimed at the other as they walked closer to each other. A few more seconds passed, no one blinked let alone said a word.
The two of them reached for the other’s gun but only succeeded in exchanging weapons. As the sisters attempted each to get both guns again, the weapons flung across the grass.
Milena wrestled Liana to the ground. Liana swept her leg and caused Lena to fall beside her. Liana scrambled over to Milena and tried to pin her down. Liana pushed Milena off of her and the two traded swings and punches.
Liana took another step back and sprang in her sister’s direction. After jumping off her thigh she grappled her neck and flung her again to the forest floor.
Milena was shaken but brushed it off. She brought her fist toward Liana’s face repeatedly. In response Liana dove for her legs. The two women struggled on the ground, each of them out of breath and drained.
Milena grabbed Liana from behind and pinned her arms behind her back, dragging the two of them to their feet.
Liana brought her legs to her chest and then down again to the ground, flipping Milena over her head to the ground. Liana pinned her arm over Milena’s neck and pressed downwards.
Milena lay there without a struggle, trying to catch her breath. The world faded in and out of focus.
“I’m not eleven anymore,” Liana said. Silently she stood up and released her grip on Milena. Tears began to form in the back of her eyes. She had been almost certain that her relationship with Milena would be over but still, she couldn’t help but hope that things would have ended differently. Perhaps it was better if she walked away. Still, she knew there was a part of her deep down that would always love her sister. The ache she felt in her heart was proof of that.
Liana spoke again, though her back was to her sister. “I’m sorry…things had to be this way. I’m sorry that we hate each other now.” Her voice broke. “And that we can’t be sisters anymore.” She faced Milena. “But I don’t regret anything. I gained Dalmar’s trust and now I can take him down. And I guess that will have to be enough. I’m used to it being alone anyway.”
Liana climbed into her car. She hadn’t expected her sister and her to be frolicking in the sun but the distance and anger between them had still caught her off guard. It seemed as though the past and the present had broken them beyond repair.
The white box truck swerved down the mountain road. The roar of the engine and the rushing wind were the only discernible sounds from outside.
Now that he was packed in beside Tasha, Jason could now more clearly see the effect the day’s events had had on her. A bruise marred her face and blood trickled down her arm; her pajama shirt was torn in several places, revealing various cuts and bruises.
Jason wished that Tasha hadn’t been captured along with him, but at the same time, her being here with him lifted his spirits. Made him feel as if he wasn’t alone and lost in the world.
Perhaps it was selfish on his part but right now, facing most likely torture and death, he needed someone to lean on. Unbeknownst to Jason, Tasha felt the same way.
“Are you all right?” Jason whispered to her.
Tasha gave a wry smile. “I’m okay.”
I’m sure I’ll get my turn anyway. I’m not exactly looking forward to that—but if there’s a way for me to somehow draw their attention away from Tasha, I’ll do it. She’s too good an agent…a person…whatever it takes. I’ll do it. Whatever it takes. He shuddered. He’d never been one to shrink from danger, in fact, his parents would say he embraced it. But now he found himself unnerved, he was completely vulnerable and his fate was in the hands of a psychopath. If he had to make the ultimate call to save Tasha, to complete their mission, he’d do it.
Tasha could feel the truck begin to slow down. She imagined they were nearing their destination. Whatever came next she’d be prepared for it. All those months of training wouldn’t be in vain. The NSA was counting on her. Donovan was counting on her. The last time she’d seen him she’d told him not to worry, that she could handle this assignment. She wasn’t about to let him down or allow the whole operation to fall apart.
Tasha glanced back at Jason. Despite his reckless tendencies she’d seen firsthand his skill and ability in the field. Donovan was right he did have all the makings of a great field agent. It was clear that he had a genuine passion and desire to make a difference in the world, a desire, unfortunately, some agents lacked.
He was also charismatic and had an overwhelming charm about him that she found irritating yet attractive at the same time. He knew how to make her smile or laugh. Even more importantly she could see that he was a genuinely upstanding and honest man.
Tasha didn’t let too many people into her circle. But if they each survived this adventure she hoped to be able to call him a friend. She inwardly sighed. If it’s between him or me I hope it’s me…I have seniority and more experience. I’m less likely to slip up. Besides, I have to do whatever I can to fix this. So many people’s lives are at stake. Deep down Tasha knew there was another reason behind her wanting to take Jason’s place. She cared about him though she’d never admit it to herself. In this line of work, it was easier to put guards up rather than let people in.
Tarek’s attention was glued to Tasha and Jason. He held his gun out in front of him. His stare was deathly cold. When Tasha and Jason had seen him at the gala he had appeared to the unsuspecting eye charming and vibrant. Now this version was hard as marble, coldly amused, and dangerous. The one before had dissolved like a mask, revealing his true face underneath.
“You know you may have had some fools convinced by that performance of yours. But not me. I saw right through it from the beginning.”
Tasha smirked, “I guess that makes your boss a fool then.”
Anger spread through him. He glowered again at Tasha, but this time a blow accompanied it, his fist slamming across her cheek; the tang of blood filled her mouth. Tasha didn’t wince or even react to the blow.
Jason leaped forward in front of her. “Don’t you touch her!”
“I’m okay.” She wiped the blood off of her lips. “It’s definitely not the hardest punch I’ve taken.”
“Oh isn’t this so adorable?” he mocked. “The star crossed agents. Need your boyfriend to come to your rescue.”
“I can take a punch so you shouldn’t underestimate me.” Her eyes smoldered as she looked at Tarek. “Also PSA I have a hard and fast rule about not dating coworkers.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about your breakup.” Tarek’s amused laughter filled the truck. The other henchmen in the truck joined in the raucous laughter.
“Don’t you know? A person can never have too many of those.” Tasha sarcastically replied.
“You know it’ll be really interesting to see which one of you cracks first” Tarek snickered. He stood up from the metal floor. “My money’s on you, lover boy.” He gazed toward Tasha. He touched her face; she flinched away, but he grabbed her chin, his nails digging into her skin. “This one’s got some fire in her.”
“Better be careful before you get burned. Though on second thought I’d love to see it” Jason remarked.
Tarek sat back, gazing at Jason with a ridiculing smile. “Trying to act all tough now. Sorry. My money’s still on her.”
The truck jolted to a stop in front of Dalmar’s house. The henchmen pulled Jason and Tasha out of the box truck as more of Dalmar’s men converged on them. The cold metal of the handcuffs shoved against their already throbbing wrists, pain shooting through them.
Jason’s heart thumped against his chest as the men forced him and Tasha through the arched doorway. Their shoes clicked on the marble. The ticking of an old grandfather clock was noticeable in the background. How different things were now compared to the last time they’d stepped inside this room.
The men brought them up the gold-plated bifurcated staircase, down a long hallway to a large office. Carved wood paneling lined the walls along with bookcases filled with an assortment of books. The room was sparsely decorated, save for one framed picture on the desk which was turned away from the rest of the room. Cigar smoke pervaded the air.
Standing behind the desk, a bodyguard on either side of him, was Dalmar.