Authors: Drew Sinclair
"I don’t want to hear what you did to my mother you piece of shit."
"What if I tell you that Louise still alive Nadia? Would you want to hear then?"
"Tell me where she is you motherfucker?" She screamed into the phone, but it was too late, the call had ended. She threw the phone across the room and descended into sobs and was immediately surrounded by Clayton's strong arms. He cradled her lovingly, held her to him in a way that was becoming more familiar to her each time.
"I can't take it anymore." She said, her face buried into his shoulder. "I can't take this anymore." She repeated it over and over while Clayton rocked her gently in his arms.
The plane ride back to New York was somber. Nadia, the girl formerly known as Katy, slept the sleep of the emotionally exhausted for most of the way. The latest call from a new untraceable number had instructed them to return to the city and be ready to negotiate. Clayton had demanded evidence of Louise's existence and Mikhail said it would be forthcoming. In the end they had decided to follow instructions and play ball.
At least for now.
They were sitting in the most incredible mid-town Manhattan, Central-Park-view penthouse imaginable - the residence of another friend of Clayton's. Dale Hargrave had travelled with them on one of the family's private jets and then they had taken a bullet proof limo into the city.
Nadia was sitting in a daze wondering if any of this could be true when another party came through the front door.
Like Dale and Clayton he was tall, incredibly good-looking and impeccably dressed. She looked at him in wry disbelief. He had to be gay, at least that much was clear.
"I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, should I?"
"Excuse me?" The impossibly good-looking man said.
"Are they cloning hot billionaires in New York City now?"
The stranger smiled as Clayton approached him for an introduction.
"Nadia this is Ruben Mayweather, our business associate and honorary third Hargrave brother. Ruben, this is--"
"I don’t need any introduction to the famous Nadia Komerov, Clayton. It's a pleasure and a true honor to meet you." He said, extending a long, expensively cuff-linked hand to her. "I'm just sorry it has to be under such difficult circumstances."
"Help me find my mother." She said. "Then I'll give a damn who you are."
"Of course." He said. "We'll do what we can. What's the situation as it stands right now?"
"Mikhail Boyevik claims to have her mother."
"None so far."
"Then it's bullshit."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Trust me, if they had the goods then they would want you to know."
"What makes you such a damn expert?" Nadia interjected.
Ruben turned to look at her and raised an eyebrow.
"It's my field Ms. Komerov. Just as you are the most brilliant mind in software development for privacy and security, I'm the most brilliant mind in physical security. I deal with hostage situations regularly and this is not a hostage situation. This is a desperate bluff situation." He spoke with absolute authority. "Tell them to fuck off unless they have proof."
"This is my mother you're talking about, not a pissing contest for you and your ego."
The colorful language didn't faze him in the slightest.
"This is a figment of your mother we are talking about Ms. Komerov. Do you really think they kidnapped her four years ago and held her all this time just so they could leverage her against you in the event of your surfacing from the Witness Security Program? I don’t wish to be harsh Ms. Komerov, but please, don’t be absurd. You're much smarter than that."
Nadia glared at him in rage, but knew he was right. It couldn't be her mother. She had to let that idea go. She felt Clayton's arms surround her again but she shrugged him away.
"You don’t have to do that all the time, I'm a big girl."
He moved back from her, his dark eyes revealing nothing. Ruben watched, appraising the relationship between them. Dale had warned him but he needed to see it with his own eyes. Clayton with a 'girlfriend'? This was something entirely new.
"So what's the plan Ruben?" Dale asked him. "What do you suggest?" The good-looking older brother was gunning to take action. He hadn't said anything to Clayton but the truth was that since he had met Nadia he could really see what it was that had taken his brother about this girl. She had awakened something in him that he didn’t even know was there and he burned with the need to help her somehow. He looked at Clayton jealously but forced the feelings down - now wasn't exactly the time to think about sexual rivalries with his crazy little brother.
"As I said," Ruben continued, "unless there is something you actually want from them then just tell them…" He looked at Nadia. "… just tell them that you aren't interested."
"Sounds good to me." Dale said.
want." Clayton said. "I want these sick individuals arrested and jailed for the rest of their natural lives. And I want Angel back so that I can deal with him myself. He may have double crossed me and put Nadia in danger, but he still doesn't deserve to die."
"Okay, so this is something we can get our teeth into." Ruben seemed to relish the thought.
"What about me? Don't I get a say in this?" Nadia put in.
"Of course Nadia." Clayton said. "We don’t do anything without input from you."
"Well what I want is information about my mother. I don’t care what it is, I'll take anything I can get, even…" She faltered. "…even a final location."
Clayton put his arm around her again and this time she didn’t push him away.
"Okay." Ruben said with a look of determination. He reached his hands out to Dale and to Clayton. "Take my hands."
The brothers looked skeptical.
"Take my hands." He said more insistently. "It begins like this. Always. Now take my fucking hands."
The brothers exchanged a glance and then reached out to take a hold. Nadia put her hand in Dale's to complete the circle.
"Close your eyes. I mean it. Everyone. Close your eyes."
As theatrical as the request seemed, it still it felt right to Nadia. She closed her eyes and the feeling of protection, love and support surrounding her on all sides almost brought her to tears.
"Okay." She said. "I'm ready."
"Good." Ruben said. "Now I want to hear it from all of you. Say this isn’t over until Boyevik is in jail."
"The cops can't know about this." Nadia said urgently.
"Don’t worry about the how, just say the words. Say it together and say it now."
The three repeated the phrase in unison.
"This isn't over until Angel is with us again.
The three duly repeated.
"This isn't over until we find Louise."
Nadia squeezed hard on the brothers' hands and they squeezed back.
They repeated the phrase.
"And last but not least, let me hear you say; we've got these assholes."
The group opened their eyes and exchanged glances. As cheesy and crazy as it was Nadia felt better than she had in days. With these three men by her side? What could possibly go wrong?
The phone rang and all four stretched for the phone but Ruben was the first to reach it. He held it next to his own handset for three rings and then handed it to Nadia.
"Only her from now on." He said. The Hargrave brothers reluctantly stood down.
Nadia took a breath and then answered on the fifth ring. Ruben prodded the screen of his own handset and then put it to his ear.
"It's me." Nadia said. "I'm ready to listen."
"Good. You are intelligent woman Nadia. I never doubt for second you would make right decision."
"Tell me what you want? Because as far as I can see I don’t have anything to give you."
Mikhail laughed softly.
"How modest of you Nadia. Don't you realize how important you were to my organization? I want you back baby." He gave a soft laugh. The use of the term of endearment sent a shiver of revulsion down Nadia's spine. "It's all I've ever wanted." He said.
"I destroyed your organization Boyevik, that's why you’re back to extortion and narcotics, like any other common criminal. I don’t believe you. I don’t believe a fucking word you say. So tell me, what is it you really want from me?"
Boyevik sighed like a resigned parent.
"Okay Nadia, its true I want something more from you than just technical genius." At this point he switched into Russian. "You have new friends Nadia. Powerful ones. These friends of yours can be very useful to me. Or they can be very dead to me as well."
"Never." She spat back at him in English. "Ask whatever you want from me but--"
"Would you like to hear your mother's voice again Nadia?"
She felt herself begin to shake uncontrollably again.
"This is too much." Clayton said. "Let me speak to that bastard."
"Leave her." Ruben hissed at him.
Nadia switched to Russian now.
"Don’t fuck with me you piece of shit, if you have her, let me hear her now or fuck off."
"Come to the phone Louise."
Nadia's heart missed a beat and her breath froze. A woman's voice filled with fear came to the phone.
"Nadia… Nadia baby, is that you?"
"That's enough." Mikhail pulled the handset back and spoke violently.
"Ready to listen now Nadia?"
The line went dead.
Nadia looked at the three men surrounding her. Her face was deathly pale.
Clayton took her by the shoulders, turned her to him and looked into her eyes.
"What is it Nadia? Tell me."
"It's Louise." Ruben said nonchalantly. "They have her mother. My bad."
Clayton sat in the darkness on one side of the room while Nadia lay on the bed. She had become almost disoriented after the phone call and he had to force her to lie down and rest before the next call. He had left Ruben and Dale together to come up with a plan of action while he watched over her.
"I can't believe they have her." Nadia repeated over and over again at intervals until finally Clayton walked over the bed, took her hand and pulled her to him.
"I know you think you can do it all alone Nadia, but nobody is that tough. Just tell me what he said and then we can begin working this out."
"How can she still be alive." Her eyes pleaded with his for some kind of explanation but he had none.
"Are you sure it was her?"
"Of course I'm sure. Don't you think I know my own mother's voice?"
He breathed in deeply. It was against all reason.
"So we have to get her out of there." He said. "Ruben is very good at what he does. If you trust him--"
"That slick, heartless wise-guy you call a business associate? He couldn't have been more wrong about the whole damn situation. I'd like to see my mother alive again, not in neat, individually packaged, disposable pieces. Do you know who these people are? Do you have any idea what they could do to her?"
"Ruben has an excellent track record. He was off base about your mother but he reacts quickly to changing circumstances; if anyone can get her back for you, believe me, it's him."
Nadia didn't look convinced.
"What's the alternative?" He continued. "Disappear into an underworld of international crime? Become slave to a drug lord and extortionist for the rest of your life in order to be near to your mother?"
"I'll figure out a way once I'm in there."
"Forget about it. I'm not giving you up - not for Angel, not even for your mother. How do you even now they'll keep her alive if you hand yourself over to them?"
"Don’t say that. Not another word Hargrave. I've spent the last four years wondering what happened to my mother and now I have a chance of finding out. I have a chance of being with her again and I won't give
up for anything."
They stared at each other, neither backing down in their grim determination.
"I'll give you to the government before I give you to them." He said in a low, intent voice.
Nadia glared at him, unable to control her shaking, then got off the bed and walked over to the breathtaking view of Manhattan.
"And I will jump out this window before you have time to call them." She said.
The two faced off again; hostility mixing with love, devotion and a wild twist of desperation.
"I won't allow that to happen either." He said with a supreme exercise of control.
Nadia heard his determination and felt close to breaking point.
Of course she hadn't meant it about the jump, but as she looked down to the tiny streams of New York traffic and pedestrians far below, there was a part of her, for just one tiny fraction of a second that gave the idea serious consideration. After all, it would solve everything, wouldn't it? Stop the pain in one sharp instant….