Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chapter 12

        Sarah sat on the couch in the library and watched the sun come up through the floor to ceiling windows.  One whole wall of the library was windows.  She liked sitting in here in the mornings.  It was peaceful and helped her collect her thoughts.  She looked down at Sharon asleep, with her head on Sarah's lap.  She gently touched her cousin's hair.  Red hair.  That was so different.  Sharon had always been a blonde.  She said she never planned to dye her hair because she wanted to prove that blondes could be smart too.  Sarah smiled at the memory.  Last night, after she had gotten Sharon inside it had taken a while to calm her down.  Then when she had mentioned getting her checked out by a doctor, Sharon burst back in to tears and had begged her not to call anyone.  She was afraid.  It had taken her hours to get her to stop crying and fall asleep.  Even now Sharon could feel Sarah's body twitching as she dreamed.  What was she dreaming about?  Sarah gently stroked her cousin's hair, remembering that was how her aunt use to calm Sharon down when she was little.  She had also sung her a lullaby but Sarah couldn't remember how it went.  Just then Sharon's whole body jerked and for a second her head came up but then went back down.  Sarah continued to stroke her hair, wondering what she was dreaming about.  She had a feeling Sharon had enough experiences over the past five years to give her nightmares for the rest of her life.  But the few questions Sarah had tried to ask last night had only made Sharon cry harder so she had stopped.  She desperately wanted Sharon to talk to Emily but was afraid to push.  She felt Sharon's head move and she looked down to see her looking up at her.  She smiled down at her.
        "Good morning."  she said.  Sarah looked at her for a moment and Sarah fought back the urge to cry.  The look in Sharon's eyes was a haunted one.  One of her eyes was blackened and swollen halfway shut.  Sarah gently touched the side of Sharon's face and was glad that this time she didn't flinch away.
        "Morning."  she replied.  
        "Are you hungry?  I can make you some eggs."  Sharon nodded and Sarah helped her sit up.  Sharon sat there for a moment, her head in hands.  Then she took a lock of hair in her hands and looked at it frightened.  
        "Sarah!  My hair!  What happened to my hair?"  she cried.  She stood up holding her hair and looking back and forth from it to Sarah in confusion.  Sarah put her arm around Sharon's shoulder and loosened Sharon's grip on the hair.
        "I don't know.  I was hoping you would be able to tell me why you had dyed it."  At Sharon's look of panic Sarah took both her hands in her's and looked her directly in they eyes.  "Don't worry.  We'll figure this out.  I have a friend who can help us.  When you're ready, we'll talk to her."
        "A friend?"  Sharon whispered, sounding scared.  "Like a shrink?  Sarah, am I crazy?"
        "You aren't crazy.  You've been through something no one should ever have to go through.  My friend isn't exactly a psychiatrist but she is good at helping untangle mysteries.  She can help you untangle where you have been.  But only when you're ready.  Come on, lets get something to eat."  
         Sarah walked them back to the kitchen and started getting out the pan and eggs.  Sharon sat on a stool and looked around at the walnut cabinets and marble counter tops.  She watched Sarah put coffee grounds in the pot and wrinkled her nose.
         "You still drink coffee?" she asked.  Sarah looked over her shoulder and smiled.
         "I live on the stuff.  I'm guessing you still don't like it."  Sharon made a face and shook her head.  Sarah poured her a glass of orange juice and set it in front of her.  Sharon sipped at it, watching Sarah make eggs.  
         The two ate in quiet.  Sarah didn't want to push Sharon to talk and Sharon kept her eyes on her plate.  When they were done, Sarah cleared the dishes and put them in the dishwasher.  Sharon put a hand up to stifle a yawn and Sarah automatically took a sip of coffee.  She was working to stifle her own yawns.
          "You're still tired.  Why don't you try to get some sleep.  Your room hasn't been touched…and probably it should have been cleaned.  But you can rest for a while."  Sharon only nodded, her eyes fighting to stay open.  
          The two cousins walked quietly up the grand stair case and down the hall to Sharon's room.  Opening the door Sharon paused in the entrance way and looked around.  The blues and yellows mixed pleasantly and gave it a calm, restful feeling.  Sharon walked in and looked at the bed.  The cover was smooth but there was a fine layer of dust on it.
          "Come to think of it, why don't you sleep in my room for now.  It's not dusty.  I can work on cleaning this one for you." Sarah said.  Sharon turned around and smiled.
          "No, thats ok.  I can pull the cover off.  The pillows and sheets under it should be fine."  As if to punctuate her words, Sharon went over and tugged at the cover, sending up a small puff of dust that made her sneeze.  The two girls laughed and Sarah helped her pull the cover all the way off.  "Thanks." she said.  Sarah nodded and went to the door.
          "Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.  I'll be in the library."  Sharon nodded and watched as Sarah closed the door.
          Walking quietly over, Sharon put an ear to the door and listened for Sarah's steps walking away.  After a moment she cracked the door and the hallway was empty.  Closing it, she locked it and went to the closet.  Moving the clothes aside, she pulled up the corner of the carpeting in the back of the closet and pulled out the earwig Brian had given her.  Fitting it into her ear she then clipped the microphone to her shirt.  She picked up the ring and smiled, slipping it on her finger and felt relief wash over her.  She had about a half an hour before she could make contact with Brian.  Holding her hand with the ring in her other hand, she walked to the bed and lay down.  Absently turning the ring in a circle she thought about what she had to do.  Somehow she had to get Sarah to bring her in to The Company.  She had mentioned a friend who could "help" her.  Was it too much to hope for that this person also worked for the company?  Her understanding from the background material she had studied, Sarah King had very little life outside of The Company.  Over the next half an hour she thought out different ways to find out.  When she heard a soft crackle in her ear she brought the mic to her mouth and whispered,  "I'm in."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chapter 11

        Sarah looked out the window of the jet and down at the water below.  She hadn't been able to sleep at all on the way back from Russia.  The extraction had been uneventful.  Apparently Yuri had fallen farther down Putin's ranks then he had lead them to believe.  She looked over at the old, balding man sitting across from her.  He was looking out his window as well.  He looked so much older than she had remembered him.  His hair was almost completely white now and there were dark circles under his eyes.  He had also lost a considerable amount of weight.
        "Are you going to tell me what happened to you Yuri?" she asked.  The old man looked towards her and gave a small, feeble smile.
        "Ah Sarah.  So long I've lived in Russia.  My whole life.  And in that life I have seen much.  But lately, what I have seen has been so very bad."
       "Worse than communism?"  Yuri gave a small, dry laugh.
       "Communism was predictable for me.  You say this and this will happen.  You do that and that will happen.  Now though, the predictability has disappeared.  The players have changed and the game is no longer a game but something closer to a fight with no rules.  What is coming will be...uncontrollable."  Sarah sat forward and looked closer at Yuri.  It was only then that she saw the almost healed bruises on his face and a tremor in his hand as he took a sip of water.
         "What happened Yuri?" she demanded.  Again he gave her a feeble smile.
         "And so, I wasn't able to hide it from you after all.  Well, I was surprised I hid it this long.  Your mind must be elsewhere."  Sarah swallowed and silently yelled at herself for not being focused.
         "Why have you lost your position Yuri?  It wasn't because Putin came back to power.  You worked for him before.  He trusted you."  Yuri laughed but then fell into a coughing fit.  After Sarah helped him take a few sips of water he reached over and took her hand.
         "My dear Sarah.  Putin is not the problem.  Yes, he is back in power.  But he didn't do that on his own.  He has become a puppet and someone else is pulling the strings.  They wanted me out and so, I was removed.  I'm lucky they didn't kill me.  But they didn't take it easy on me either."  Sarah gripped his hand over hers.
          "Who?"  The old man shrugged and patted her hand.
          "I wish I knew.  I do wish I could give one last piece of information to help you my friend.  Tell your people over there to stay awake.  Whoever is in charge over there will be taking the gloves off, as you American's say."  Sarah squeezed his hand and sat back as she felt the plain dip down to land.
          "I'll get you to The General to be debriefed and then we'll set you up in a nice home Yuri.  Anywhere you want to go."  Yuri smiled and leaned back, closing his eyes.
          "Someplace warm please?  I have heard good things about Texas."  Sarah smiled and watched the old man look out the window.  This was not good timing for her.  A new player was coming on the scene but all she could think about was Sharon.  She had to find Sharon so she could focus again.  As the plane landed at Dulles she wondered just how close she was to her cousin.

                            ***                                 ***                            ***
          The Watcher followed Sarah and Yuri as they made their way through Dulles and considered for a moment moving forward the plan now rather then later.  Things were speeding up faster than anticipated but that could be adjusted for.  Pausing for a moment, The Watcher studied Sarah.  She was protective of the old man.  Sarah King had a problem with not being able to button up her emotions and separate herself from the people she was in charge of.  Yuri was the perfect example.  She hadn't seen him in probably two years, but she had brought him in as an informant in the beginning.  Sarah always got too close to her assets but The Watcher could see that she was closer to this one than others.  He would do well when the time came.  Soon, but not yet.

                                 ***                   ***                           ***

             It was late when Sarah finally left Yuri in the care the agents in charge of relocation.  The debrief with the General had been long and ultimately fruitless if not a little frightening.  Yuri had been imprisoned and questioned for a month before being released without a job and the inability to ever get one.  He had stayed with a niece, hoping things would change, until she started to hint that perhaps he should try looking for work somewhere outside of Moscow.
            "My disgrace and fall from trust was starting to impact my niece.  So I contacted my handler to defect.  I don't believe I will be missed."
          His face had been sad and his entire demeanor one of defeat.  Sarah had never seen him like that.  When she had met Yuri three years ago he had been active, determined and a major player in Russian politics.  A disillusioned one, but trying to do what was best for his country.  Sarah had been able to convince him that the best thing for his country was to help keep corrupt officials in check and to stop a slide back into open communism.  That was The Company's only interest in Russia these days.  To keep everything calm and away from the days of the Cold War.  For two years Yuri had been a wealth of information.  It was only in the past year that things had started to trickle down to nothing.  He wasn't sure if someone had found out about him or only suspected.  Chances were it was only suspicion.  If someone had actually known, given the state of the Russian government now, he would have been quietly killed.  A car accident, a robbery gone bad, something that wouldn't attract attention.
            Shaking her head to clear it of all things Russian for the time being, she pulled into her drive and yawned.  Right now she needed sleep.  Rest would give her a clear head, which she desperately needed.  She had gotten a text from Sam saying the campaign would be back in town for three days before the final two weeks of the race.  Two weeks that Sam will be too busy to do much more than relay messages.  She had received an email from Jack tonight.  He had finally gotten his hands on a secure computer and let her have it!  Swinging from her old, gruff, no nonsense trainer to the concerned friend all the way through the email.  It had made her laugh.  He knew he couldn't help and if he won this race, there was no way he would ever be able to help her again with anything.
            She let herself dwell on that idea.  Jack had been her trainer and mentor.  When he had gotten wounded and his hip put him out of commission as a field agent, he had started to become distant from her.  Dating agents was frowned upon inside The Company.  But their relationship had never been that defined.  She was drawn towards Jack and she knew he felt the same way towards her.  But nothing had ever been said.  If nothing was said then nothing had to be taken back.  When Jack had started riding a desk, she found herself being neatly cut off from him.  But when Sharon had disappeared, he had been the first to be there for her, helping in any way he could.  But he was in Congress then.  He could do very little.  She smiled at how irritated he would be as President if he won!  She knew he wasn't doing it for himself.  She also knew better than to ask why. 
             Pulling around the last bend in the drive she drove into the darkened courtyard.  Her headlights lit up the front door and she hit the breaks hard!  Someone was huddled in the doorway, their hand's up to block the light and their body curled into a small ball.  Jumping out of the car Sarah ran towards the door until she saw the person pull away, trying to force them self further into the corner.  They were whimpering and had their head turned away from her still.
           "It's ok.  I won't hurt you.  I live here.  Who are you?"  Sarah crouched down a few feet away from the person, just out of reach.  The whimpering turned to full crying.  The person's hands started coming down from covering their face.  From the long hair half falling out of the hood pulled up Sarah could see it was a girl.  "It's ok, I won't come any closer.  Are you ok?  Can I help you?  My name is Sarah."  The girl on the step turned her head slightly towards her and slowly brought her hands all the way down.
           "S-Sarah?"  The voice was quavering between sobs but Sarah gasped in shock.  She knew that voice!  As the hands came completely away from the face, Sarah felt tears come to her own eyes!  Bruises covered her face and there were restraint marks on her wrists but she knew that face, that voice!  Reaching out tentatively, not quite touching her, Sharon edged forward a little.  Disbelief filled her as the girl shrank away from her outstretched hand.
          "Sharon, it's me!  Sarah."  The tears were streaming down her face freely now.  Sharon looked at her for a moment and then slowly reached out to her cousin's waiting hand.  She was gulping air in between sobs but they were starting to slow down.
          "Sarah?  Is that really you?"  Sharon whispered.  She tentatively touched Sarah's hand.  The two sat there staring at one another for a minute, as if neither could believe the other was there.  Then Sharon took Sarah's hand and gripped it tightly.  Her face became one of total fear and she started crying again.  "Sarah, help me!  Please!"


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chapter 10

            Sharon watched Sarah King drive away from her house and felt her heart beat faster and took a breath to calm it down.  Brian took her hand and she looked away towards him.  He motioned her to follow him.  They walked out of the trees and strait up to the house.
            "What about security?" she asked.  Brian shook his head as he worked on picking the lock.
            "Amazingly, she doesn't have any.  Come on, we have plenty of time to get you familiar with the layout of the house.  She will be gone for a couple days but this shouldn't take more than an hour or two."   They walked in and Sharon whistled at the large foyer and grand staircase.
           "She lives in a place like this and doesn't have security." she said as she walked around, looking up at the ceiling and elaborate molding.  Brian didn't say anything but watched her as she took it all in.  After a minute or two he took her hand and she looked back towards him.
            "According to our information your room is this way."  He lead her up the stairs and into the west wing.  The third door down on the left opened into a large suite decorated in yellows and blues.  Brian kept hold of her hand as she walked around the room.  There were framed pictures on shelves and the desk and she looked at them carefully.  She picked up one with a small girl holding the hands of a young couple.
           "Are these her parent's?  The other Sharon I mean?" she asked.  Brian took the picture and studdied it for a minute before putting it back down.
         "Yes.  They were killed in a car accident when she was seven."  Sharon walked around the room one more time and then let Brian guide her out.  She stopped at the door though and looked back.  Her head was starting to ache again.  She hadn't had these headaches in years.  Maybe just the strain of being on her first mission.  She closed her eyes and touched her forehead.  She felt Brian's arm go around her and she leaned into him.  He could always make the headaches go away.
          They walked around the house more, and Sharon started to get the lay of the land.  They ended in the kitchen and she jumped up on a stool.
           "So how is this going to work exactly?" she asked.  Brian took a seat next to her.
          "When she gets back, we'll put you in.  Your going to have to sell it Sharon. might be difficult."
          "Difficult how?"  Brian covered her hands with his.
         "We need you to have a real reaction; the emotions, the amnesia...the escape."  Sharon closed her eyes for a moment.
         "And you can't be there can you?"
         "No.  They have my name and face.  But we won't completely loose contact."  He reached into his pocket and pulled out an ear wig radio.  "I'll hide this in your room tonight.  We'll have a set time to communicate.  You won't be alone."  He handed her a watch.  "If for some reason you find yourself in danger for your life, turn the stem and it will broadcast your location and a distress signal."  She handed the watch back to him.
          "Put it with the radio.  They might be suspicious of anything they find with me."  Brian nodded and took it back.
          "Most importantly, Sharon knew nothing about Sarah's real job."
          "Right."  Sharon looked around the kitchen and took a deep breath.  Brian gently turned her towards him.
          "There will be one more thing with the watch and radio."  He held up a small, plain, silver ring.
         "What does this do?"  she asked.  He slid it on her finger and then kissed her hand.
         "It reminds you of me.  If you get scared, unsure or those headaches come back, just hold on to this ring and I'll be holding your hand."  She closed her hand around his and put her forehead against his.  He had always been able to calm her ever since she had woken up from her coma.  But she had to step away from him now.  She felt a sense of loss when he pulled the ring from her finger.  "Come on.  Lets get these hidden and get going.  You have more studying to do before she gets back."  They hid the items and left the house.

                                       ***                                       ***                          ***
           Brian walked into Malcolm's office and took a seat across from him.  Malcolm handed him a cigar and Brian clipped it, lit it and puffed slowly. 
            "How did it go?"  Brian blew the sharp smelling smoke up into the air and smiled.
            "Smoothly.  I think the headache only started up once.  She responds so well to me that I think the ring will do the job to keep her from sliding backwards.  It is just a stop gap though.  Once we put her in we are on a time line."  Malcolm nodded and blew his own stream of smoke into the air.
            "Fair enough.  I'm not anticipating any difficulties."  Brian watched Malcolm for a minute before leaning forward.
           "Who is the General?  You know and you are excited about it.  You said things were going to change.  I need to know when and how.  The General was never a part of the plan.  Why do I have the feeling he is now?"  Malcolm smiled and rolled the cigar with his fingers thoughtfully.
           "You are right.  The General is now part of the plan.  Don't worry. You will have plenty of time to prepare Sharon."  Brian sat back and studied Malcolm.  The man was cold and calculating.  He had known that from the start.  Now he wondered if perhaps working for him was getting him in over his head.  He had known from the start the Sharon was expendable to the old man, just a pawn in his twisted game of chess.  He wondered how many moves were left and for the first time, if he would be able to do anything about the outcome.

Chapter 9

        Jack walked quickly from the suburban into the hotel and was met with a horde of reporters all shouting questions.  He answered with pieces of his stump speech and slowly made his way to the elevators.  He noticed his protective detail talking more than usual over their radios.  He wondered what was going on.  The elevator doors closed behind him, cutting of the cries for answers on campaign issues and he took a deep breath.  When the elevator stopped and the doors opened he made a move to go but a man was standing in his way.  It was a reporter he recognized that had recently joined the campaign trail.  He was surprised when the agents motioned him to come in.
        "Congressman.  My name is Sam Howe, I'm a friend of Sarah King.  She asked me to talk to you about some new developments."  Sam looked at Jack Sheffler and wondered what the man was thinking.  his face was blank, he didn't even blink at the mention of Sarah's name.  Jack turned to one of the agents.
           "We have a secure room for you on another floor Congressman."  Jack nodded and then turned to stare at the elevator door.  Sam shifted his feet, unsure what to say.  He wondered just how much he should reveal about his own relationship with Sarah.  He had been surprised when she had called him and said she had set up a meeting with him and the Congressman so he could pass on the information.  He hadn't know she was this close to him.  The reporter in him wanted to dig into that relationship to see if there was a story there but the part of him that wanted to stay in one piece knew to leave it alone.  He looked the Congressman up and down and realized that hip injury or no, he would have no problem taking Sam out.  Sam shook his head.  Why had he ever gotten himself involved with the world of spooks?  Even ex spooks like the Congressman never seemed to leave that world behind.
          The elevator stopped and they all stepped off.  It was only then that Jack realized the agents had neatly seperated him from his aid, Sean.  They walked to a room guarded by two more agents and went in.  Then it was just Sam and Jack.  The two men took a moment silently sizing up the other one.  Then Jack shrugged out of his suit coat and loosened his tie.  He went to the refridgerator and took out a water, offering a second one to Sam who declined.
           "How do you know Sarah?" Jack asked.  Sam shook his head and smiled.
            "Not sure I'm allowed to say.  Lets leave it at she helped me out of a difficult situation and we took a liking to each other.  I've been helping her look for her cousin."  Sam walked over to the table and set his briefcase on it, opened it and started to rummage through.
            "That's right.  Sarah said you found that letter Sharon wrote."  Sam nodded.  "I have to ask you Sam, do you think she is still alive?"  Sam stopped looking for the folder with the papers Sarah had sent him and looked at the Congressman in surprise.
            "Honestly sir, Until last night, I was almost sure she had to be dead.  Or at least hoped she was she has been gone so long.  But I also knew that saying anything like that to Sarah would land me on the ground in a rather unpleasant way.."  Jack laughed and rubbed his hip.
            "That's for sure.  Wait, what happened last night?"  Sam gave a small smile.  Was the Congressman dumb enough to suggest such a thing to Sarah?  She had been particularly upset when she had seen this name attached to Kirland's name. But the information he had was a game changer.  "Here we go." he said as he pulled the file from the bottom of the briefcase.  Walking over to Jack he handed it to him and let him look through it.  The first picture made the Congressman stop and put down his water.
         "You've got to be kidding me!" he said.  He flipped through the rest of the pictures then turned to Sam.  "Do they know where she is?"  Sam made a face.
          "No.  They lost her before she left the airport."  Jack kept looking through the pictures in disbelief.  Sarah had been right, she was alive!  Other then the darker hair, she looked the same, maybe a little thinner, more muscular.  He hadn't expected that.
         "What does Sarah need?  We'll be back in DC in a week."  Jack said, handing the pictures back to Sam.  He took them and looked at them a moment himself.
         "Yeah, she told me to tell you specificaly to stay out of the way."  He glanced up at the Congressman who had a startled look on his face.  "Meaning no disrespect, I actually cleaned up her message a little bit.  She thinks you are too much in the public eye to be able to do anything."  Jack swore and Sam bit his lip to keep from smiling.  He would have been just as mad if she had said the same to him.  "To be honest, I don't think there is much either of us can do right now. Analysts are working to see if they can find someone traveling with her or following her.  Trying to figure out if she is still in someone's custody and if not where she could have gone."  Jack nodded and started walking around the room slowly.   Sam could see he was frustrated.
         "I'm assuming it goes without saying we are completely off the record in here Sam." he said.  Sam nodded.  "Dammit I would give up this whole campaign to be back there helping her!"  Sam watched him a moment and then decided to see what would happen with a question that had been bugging him since he had spoken to Sarah last night.
           "Why are you running Congressman?"  Jack stopped and looked him directly in the eye and for a split second Sam wondered if he had gone too far.  There was a dangerous look in the other man's eye that was gone before Sam was sure he had even seen it.  Then he just looked tired.  Jack rubbed a hand over his eyes and walked a few more steps before stopping and turning back.
          "That's classified Sam." 

                                      ***                                   ***                         ***

         Sarah put her head down on her desk and resisted the urge to fall asleep.  She couldn't sleep!  For the first time they had real time proof that Sharon was alive.  She had to keep going until she found her.  Lifting up her head she picked up a picture of Sharon looking almost directly at the camera.  She didn't look scared, sick, tired or in any way like someone who had been missing for five years.
         "Where have you been?  And where are you now?" she whispered, trying to will an answer from the photograph.
       "All good questions.  We'll find the answers, don't worry."  Sarah looked up at Emily and dropped the picture.  She had to ask the question she had refused to even acknowledge in her own mind.  The pictures made no sense.  As much as Sarah didn't want Sharon to be hurt or traumatized, she had been gone five years.  And the letter she had written was two years old.
        "Emily, I know I stopped you before from talking about this but these wasn't what I was expecting."  Emily sat on the corner of the desk and picked up one of the photographs.  She studied it for a few minutes.
         "Any number of things could have happened.  My guess, just by how well she looks, is that they took care of her physically.  Her face seems calm.  She is always looking forward or occasionally to the side, like most people walking through an airport.  I watched the footage carefully, she never looked behind her, she never hurried.  She didn't seem scared.  She could be completely fine.  She could be following directions or she could also be just someone who looks astonishingly like Sharon."  Sarah shook her head.
         "I heard once that supposedly there is a large number of people out there who have someone who looks exactly like them.  A doppelganger.  I can't believe that is all we are seeing.  If she wasn't wearing that scarf...Sharon had a small birthmark on the side of her neck.  Just a small, brown spot.  If I could just see..."  Sarah trailed off and Emily put a hand on her shoulder.  They both jumped a little at a throat being cleared behind them.  Emily stood up and nodded.
         "General." she said as she went back to her office.  Sarah turned around and looked up, wondering what he wanted.  He pulled a chair over and sat down, tapping a folder on his knee.
        "I know this is a bad time but I need you in Russia for a few days."  Sarah looked at him in disbelief!
        "Now?!  For what?"  he handed her the folder and she opened it.  A growl started in the back of her throat.  "Yuri is getting on my last nerve General."
         "I know.  But with things heating up over there, he is getting nervous.  He wants out and honestly, he is becoming more of a liability than a help there now.  And he only trusts you.  You brought him to us and he doesn't trust anyone else to bring him here."
         "He had to pick now to defect?"  She stopped and looked up, an idea forming.  "You don't think there could be a connection do you?  I mean, we never learned who took Sharon.  And honestly, I thought at first the reason was because of me.  That someone was trying to get to me because of my job.  Could someone over there have figured out Yuri was working with us?  Could they have been controling him all this time?  Could--"  The General held up a hand and she stopped, realizing she was starting to babble.
         "I know you are looking for answers but I can guarantee they aren't there.  Yuri has been carefully watched.  She was taken long before this mess over there got under way.  Take a team, extract Yuri and come back.  Maybe we'll have something more by then."  Sarah sighed and nodded.  The General got up and walked away as she gathered her things.  She looked one last time at the pictures and put them in a drawer.
         The General watched Sarah go and sighed.  He needed her out of the way and this was the perfect excuse.  He couldn't believe Sharon had shown up after all these years.  The fact that from the cameras she seemed in good health, while good for Sarah, concerned him.  He returned to his office and watched the footage of her walking from her plane through Dulles.  He paused it and zoomed in on her face.  With her hair dyed now she looked so much like her mother.  Sighing, he closed his computer and sat back thinking.  Something was wrong.  And he had to find out what before Sarah got hurt even more.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chapter 8

            Malcolm Blake sat behind the large, mahogany desk set in front of a large window.  The drapes were open sunshine poured in behind him and gave some much needed light to the darkly decorated library.  The house he had rented was more than adequate.  Dark, paneled  walls covered the whole interior.  The darkened decor fit his mood.   The closer he came to the end the darker he got.  He would succeed.  For years he had been planning and building.  For years he had watched and waited for the perfect moment.  And if they played it right, the moment was here.
          A knock came at the door and he straitened in his chair as the person entered.
          "Have you done as I instructed?" he asked, pointing towards the seat across the desk from him.  The Watcher sat and and looked at him.  He felt as if he was being weighed in some calculation and he didn't like it.  After a moment of scrutiny The Watcher gave a small smile.
           "I looked where you said but it wasn't there."  Malcolm swore and stood up and began to pace.
           "What about the information on Kirland and Sutan?"
          "Not there either.  But not surprising.  She probably keeps them with her."  Continuing to pace Malcolm started grinding his teeth in frustration.  He needed those files.  To make his triumph perfect he needed those files that proved Thomas King had been ordered to kill his father.  The people of the United States had become suspicious of the intelligence services and he needed to use that suspician in his plan.  He suddenly realized that the Watcher was sitting looking at a picture on the wall.  They weren't concerned or in any way upset over the set back.  Why?  Malcolm walked back towards the desk and leaned against the front of it.  He used his advantage of standing over The Watcher to look down on them and study them.  The Watcher simply looked back at him, no expression on their face.
           "What was there?  What did you find in the safe?" he asked.  The Watcher smiled and he felt like he was looking into the face of a very satisfied cheshire cat.  The watcher sat back in their chair folded their arms loosely.
           "Something you will pay me a great deal of money for."  they said.
           "I'm already paying you a great deal of money.  What could you have possibly found that would ever induce me to pay you more."
          "Pay me double you mean."  Malcolm snorted and walked back around his desk.  He sat down and stared at The Watcher.  They were a very helpful tool in his plan and had come at a heavy cost.  But there was something he saw in their face that made him pause before dismissing the possability of more payment outright.
           "Alright, tell me what you found and I'll tell you if it is worth double."  The Watcher shook their head.
           "I'm afraid it won't work that way.  But trust me when I tell you that if I had asked for triple, you would have gladly payed it without blinking."  Silence stretched out for a long minute as the two studied each other.  Malcolm steepeled his fingers in front of his face and leaned his forehead against them thinking.  Money wasn't the issue for him.  His fortune was more than he could spend in two life times.  It was more the principle.  He knew The Watcher was an asset he couldn't do without but was also one he knew he couldn't trust.  That being said, they were no fool.  He didn't doubt that information they had was worth something.  But as a business man, could he take the chance that it was worth the amount asked.  Revenge had not blinded him yet and he hoped it never would.  To be calculating and clear headed to the end would make his success that much richer.   The Watcher began to stand and opened their mouth to speak when he cut them off.
             "Very well.  The price is double."  Sitting back down, The Watcher smiled.
            "Transfer the money into my account and I'll hand it over." they said.  Malcolm grumbled as he picked up the phone on his desk and gave directions for the transfer.
             "There," he said as he hung up, "the money is in your account."
             "You'll understand if I check first."  The Watcher pulled out their phone and pulled up their account information.  A slow, ugly smile spread over their face as they looked at the screen.  Malcolm worked to keep the grimace off his face.  He couldn't forget the danger this person put him in.  "Everything looks in order."  they said and pulled several folded sheets of paper out of a pocket in their coat.  Standing up they tossed it on the desk and turned to leave.  "I'm sure this will change things.  Get in touch with me when you have figured out how and I'll tell you if it will work." 
            The Watcher left the room.  Makolm waited until the door closed behind them before reaching for the papers.  As he scanned them he swore in frustration.  They were Sarah King's adoption papers.  Useless information he already had!   The last page was different though and as he read it he swore again, this time loudly and in shock.  Then he began to laugh!  The Watcher was right, he would have paid triple for this information.  And it changed everything!  A knock on the door was followed by his assistant putting her head in and looking at him concerned.
            "Is everything ok sir?" she asked.  He slapped the papers down on the table and continued to laugh in sheer delight.
           "Everything is perfect Ms. Lake.  More then perfect in fact." 
          "Then is it ok to send in Mr. Kirland and Ms. Brennan?"  He calmed himself down and took a deep breath.  But he was unable to wipe the smile from his face.
           "Please do Ms. Lake."  She nodded and opened the door all the way and gestured for the two people standing in the outer office to enter.  As the door closed behind them Malcolm looked at Brian and Sharon and the smile widened even more.  Brian took a step forward, giving a small tug to Sharon's hand that he was holding.
            "Sharon, this is the head of Runda, Mr. Malcolm Blake."  Malcolm reached out and took Sharon's free hand, covering it with his own.
            "Ms. Brennan, it is indeed a pleasure to finally meet you after all these years.  I have heard only wonderful things about your progress." he said.  He pulled her over to one of the chairs and she let go of Brian's hand as she sat down.
           "Thank you Mr. Blake.  I'm excited to be here."  She smiled and Malcolm nodded, putting on the air of a loving grandfather.  He leaned back on the desk behind him.
          "That's good to hear.  We have a very important job for you to do.  Something that you have already been working on without knowing it.    But now we are entering the final stages of the mission and you are the final piece we need to succeed."  Sharon took a deep breath and glanced at Brian who gave her a small nod of encouragement.
          "Anything I can do sir."  she said. 
          "Good." Malcolm said, then walked back behind his desk, carefully folding the papers he had just finished reading.  "New information just came to me so there will be a small change of plans but for now we will continue with the original."  He sat down and pulled two files from his desk drawer handing one to Brian and the other to Sharon.  "Many years ago, when we were first getting started, we came under attack by an inteligence group called The Company,  Several of our best agents were killed and ever since them, we have been fighting a battle against this group.  We have discovered they have ties to Alquida and the IRA before it was ended.  There has been some evidence that also connects them to the drug cartels in Columbia and numerous black market weapons dealers.  We believe that we now have what we need to bring this agency down.  You Sharon."
        Sharon looked up from the unopened file in her hands in shock and confusion.  She glanced at Brian who seemed completely calm and unphased.
         "I don't understand." she said.  Malcolm gestured to the file she held.
          "Open that."  She did and gasped at what looked like her own face looking back at her.,  The only difference was her hair.  The girl in the picture had blonde hair, like hers had been before she had dyed it.  "That is Sharon King.  She is the cousin of an agent of The Company.  She was kidnapped several years ago by an unknown organization.  We recieved intel that shortly after the kidnapping she was accidentaly killed.  The death was hidden from The Company and her cousin still looks for her today."  Sharon looked from the picture of the young woman to Brian in confusion.
        " helped me pick my name.  You said I looked like a Sharon."  Anger rolled through her and she snapped the file shut.  She couldn't look at the picture.  "Tell me that's not me!" she hissed at Brian.  He closed his own folder and reached over to take Sharon's hand.
         "Of course not."  She pulled her hand away and looked at him.
         "Then why did you say that about the name?  When was she kidnapped?"
         "About a month after I found you.  You were in a coma.  The information was given to me to look in to.  I was shocked by how much you both looked alike and I looked into it to see if the dates were off, to see if you were her.  But you weren't.  I'm sorry."  Sharon stood up and started pacing slowly, folding her arms across herself because she suddenly felt cold.
          "You picked that name for a reason.  Why?" she asked. 
         "That was my doing."  Malcolm said.  He stood up and walked over to Sharon. "My dear, Brian told me about you shortly after you woke up.  He showed me your picture and I couldn't believe that resemblance.  He said he had made a connection with you and felt that you could be a great asset for Runda.  Perhaps someone who would have the ability to finally break into The Company and bring them down."  Sharon backed away from them and felt a pain begin in her head.  "Yes, it was manipulative.  But you had no memory of anything about yourself.  Brian felt that we could give you a life and a purpose in Runda.  We are an organization of spies.  Perhaps what we did was cold and calculating.  But we gave you an identity, a purpose and a family."  Sharon looked over at Brian and the pain in her head intesified.  She put a hand to her head and closed her eyes.  Fear shot through her and she started to wonder for the first time in years who she really was.  She felt Brian take her hand and she opened her eyes. He was standing close to her.  She found herself gripping his hand tightly as the fear started to melt away.
           "I'm sorry Sharon.  I'm sorry if I hurt you.  I never meant to.  I saw a strength in you.  The doctors said you might never wake up but you proved them wrong.  You fought yourself back to this world.  I thought that strength would get you through anything.  But I understand if you want to walk away.  You don't have to do this."  Sharon felt her breathing slow down and her heart stopped racing.  The pain was gone from her head.  She let go of Brian's hand and sat down looking at the closed folder for a minute.
          "So this organization is basically a terrorist group." she said.  Malcolm nodded.
          "One that has connections in every country and is based here in the U.S."
           "What about the FBI and Homeland Security?  They haven't been able to do anything all these years?"  Brian and Malcolm both took their seats again.
           "The Company only moved it's base of operations to the U.S after 9/11.  They are set up as a ghost inteligance agency.  As far as we know, the only one here who knows their true purpose is their leader, a man we have only identified as The General.  Until today."  Malcolm said.  Brian looked at him in surprise.
           "We have a name?" he asked.
           "We do.  But that will stay with me for now.  At any rate, we are here alone.  The FBI, HS and CIA are all unaware of The Company's true nature.  For them, The Company is the helpful cousin no one talks about."  Sharon tapped the folder.  She still didn't want to open it again just yet.
          "Why not show them the information you have?" she asked.  Malcom leaned back and sighed.
          "The truth is, we don't know who to trust.  Since the agencies started sharing information The Company has inserted itself in every American agency.  We don't know who has been bought or who is just being used.  You understand, if we take down The Company, the US Intelligence network will have to clean house, and there are too many important people, here and in other countries, who don't want that."   There was silence for several minutes as Malcolm and Brian let it all sink in.
           Sharon sat looking down at the folder.  Her hands were clutching it tightly and creases were starting to form.  She worked to relax her grip and slowly opened it again.  She looked at the picture of Sharon King.  The pain was starting to come back to her head again, but not sharp.  She shook her head, trying not to think about it.  She felt like she was looking into a mirror of herself three years ago.  She had dyed her hair red so that every time she looked in the mirror she didn't wonder about her past.  It was the only thing she could really change about her appearance.  This poor girl.  They had each other's face's and because of that, Sharon was being asked to play a role in bringing down what sounded like a giant terrorist organization.
             "She's really dead?  And her family doesn't know?" she whispered.  She felt Brian's hand on her shoulder.
           "She's dead.  And her only family was her cousin who refuses to believe that she is anything other than alive."  Taking a deep breath Sharon looked at Malcolm.
          "What do you need me to do?"  Malcolm smiled and leaned forward.
         "We need you to become Sharon King."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Chapter 7

       Sharon walked into her hotel room and tossed her coat on the bed and left her bag by the closet.  She looked around at the nondescript, normal hotel furnishings and loosened her scarf from around her neck.  Pulling it from around her neck her long, red hair crackled with the dry air.  She smoothed it down and dug out her laptop from her bag.  Her directions had been clear, if a bit confusing.  She had been taught to be invisible but today she had been told to make sure to find cameras in the airport.  To be sure she was seen.  Then disappear and go to this hotel.
       This was her first mission for the organization that had given her a second chance at life.  She couldn't remember much about her past but what she did remember was foggy, and not pleasant at all.  She had flashes of streets, and dirt and laying somewhere outside.  She remembered seeing Brian's face above her's and then a lot of blank space before waking up in a hospital.  She had been in a coma for a year she was told.  Brian had found her badly beaten in a back alley in Dublin and had brought her to the hospital.  He had been there when she woke up too.  As her computer powered up she sat back and closed her eyes, trying to remember that moment.  There had been a bright light and a beeping sound, like a heart monitor.
              "Easy there now girly.  You've had a rough time of it."  The voice came from beside her.  She slowly turned her head and saw a man sitting in a chair and holding her hand.  She looked down at her hand and then back at his face.  His black hair was brushed back from his face but a lock fell forward over one eye.  He smiled at her and she tried to smile in return.  It was hard for some reason.
           "Where am I?"she asked, or at least tried to.  Her throat felt like sand paper and the words sounded like an inaudible croak.
           "Hold on there.  Let me get you some water to help."  He held a cup with a straw in it to her mouth and she gave a tentative suck on the straw.  The water felt like heaven and she pulled in more, painfully swallowing but thankful for the relief of the feeling of sand.  "There now, that's better.  Don't push yourself right now.  You have a long road ahead of you."  He had withdrawn his hand to help her drink.  When he set the cup down she tried to move her hand towards his again.  He saw it and took her hand in his once more.  She was frightened but for some reason, she felt safer when he was close by and holding her hand.
           A beep from her computer pulled Sharon back to the present and she clicked on her email.  She sent Brian a note letting him know she had arrived.  She was glad he was her handler for this first mission.  She was sure that had been by design.  The past four years had been full of training and desk work.  But she had wanted to get out into the field from the minute she had been introduced to Runda, the organization Brian had worked for.
            She had thought he had been flirting with her when he first told her he worked for a top secret government organization in Ireland.  She had been out of the hospital a week and had been staying with one of the nurses she had gotten to know during her recovery.  Brian visited almost every day. taking her out to see the city to see if anything jogged her memory more.
           "I'm not pulling your leg darlin.  I promise.  I'm assigned missions to collect intelligence and was on one when I found you.  I'm telling you this because I think I might be able to get you a job with them.  Something entry level.  Doing desk work like a secretary.  Who knows what you could work up to though."
           "Why would they want me?  I don't even know who I am.  Don't you need proof of who you are?"  
           "I'll talk to my boss.  See what we can do.  Honestly, people without connections are preferred."
          "And what if I remember who I am?  My past?"  Brian smiled down at her and took her hand in his.
          "Then I'll say congratulations for that.  Trust me, once you get a taste, you won't want to leave no matter what your past is."
          He had been right.  She loved her job and felt a thrill just thinking that she was finally out making a difference.  She still didn't know who she use to be but she knew who she was now.  She was Sharon Brennan and had no desire to change.
           Standing up she stretched, trying to work the kinks out of her muscles from the long flight from London.  A hot shower sounded in order.  She had to wait to get her second set of instructions.  As she dug through her bag looking for a fresh pair of clothes there was a knock at the door.  Pausing she instinctively put her hand to her hip but there was no gun there.  She had had to travel without her weapon to stay below the radar.  Cautiously approaching the door she looked through the peep hole and smiled.  Throwing the door open she launched herself at Brian!  He caught her without missing a step and swung her around and back into the room.
           "If that's how you answer your door now I'll have to come see you more often!" he laughed as he put her back down and gave her hair a gentle tug.  She smiled and took his hand.  She always felt better when she held his hand.  She felt safe and calm.
           "I didn't expect you so soon." she said.  "I wasn't sure where you were."  He pulled her close and put his forehead against her's.
          "I'm never far from you darlin.  remember that."  He kissed her gently and she melted into him.  Her head spun and she felt light as a feather.  But then he was pulling away from her and she felt a second of sadness.  "Now, we have to get to work.  I have someone you need to meet.  He'll tell you whats next."       
         He let go of her hand and she took a half step towards him before stopping herself.  This was work, and Brian was her handler.  But he had saved her. He had protected her and taught her.  There was a connection there that wasn't there with anyone else she worked with.  But now she had to focus.  Grabbing her coat she followed him out the door.

Chapter 6

 The light of the rising sun began to creep it's way across the floor of the room and over the bed.  As the light came to Sarah's face, her eyes closed tighter, as if that could stop the morning from coming.  She stretched her arms over her head and pointed her toes and felt them push against something.  For a few seconds she frantically searched for her gun before remembering where she was.  Sitting up she saw Jack asleep across the end of the bed, papers scattered on the floor.  Looking at the clock she made it completely to her feet with the next jump.  It was almost seven.  They had fallen asleep going over the files.  A knock on the door brought her head whipping around as a secret service agent walked in.
       "Congressman, time to get--" the rest of the sentence was cut off as he saw Sarah standing by the side of the bed.  His face never changed, he didn't even blink.  "Ma'am."  Sarah gave him a cold look.
        "Whatever idea is forming in your head, it's wrong." she said.  The agent turned to leave.
        "No idea what you are talking about ma'am." he said as he stepped outside and closed the door behind him.  Sarah glared at the door and then at Jack's still sleeping form.  Picking up a pillow she brought it down hard on his head.
       "What the hell!" he yelled, grabbing the pillow from her hands and launching himself to his feet looking around.  When he saw her, his body relaxed and he tossed the pillow back on the bed.  "Not a good idea Sarah." he said.  She snorted and pulled her hair from the pony tail that had gone askew in the night.
        "Please, I could take you anytime.  In fact, I already have." she said as she used her fingers to brush her hair and quickly tied it up in a hasty bun.
        "You caught be off guard.  And if I hadn't had half my hip blown off, you never would have been able to do that." he said.  He looked at his watch and sighed.  He was late.  Picking up the papers that had fallen off the bed he handed them back to Sarah.  She took them and shuffled them, unwilling to look him in the eyes.  Sighing he walked away a few steps to think.  Nothing.  There had been no real leads in the papers or in his memories.  If Brian Kirland was working for someone again, he didn't know who.  The IRA was gone for years.  The organization that ran those cells torn apart and scattered.  He watched Sarah look through the papers one last time before closing the folder.  She looked at him almost defiantly.  Daring him to say what he knew had to be said.  He opened his mouth to say it but couldn't.  He couldn't bring himself to look her in the eye and tell her she was no where.
        "We'll figure it out Sarah.  Somehow."   Sarah nodded and reached for her purse on the bed.  Putting it on her shoulder she walked past him towards the door.  She paused with her hand on the knob.  Without looking at him she took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
        "I'm not stopping Jack."  She opened the door and walked out.  As the door closed behind her Jack sat down on the bed with his hands on his knees and his head down.  He would make a few calls today to old friends who owed him but he honestly didn't think anything would come of it.
                                          *                                       *                                      *
         Sarah walked back into her house and looked around. Something was different but she couldn't put her finger on what.  Shrugging it off she walked back to the kitchen and tensed up when she someone standing by the window.  A moment later she relaxed when the person turned around and she saw it was Emily.
           "How did you get in here?" she asked walking over and accepting the offered cup of coffee from her friend.
              "Back door was unlocked.  Seriously Sarah, you would think with this beautiful house you would have more security."  Emily said, settling down on a stool by they island.  Sarah shrugged.
              "Everything is insured and this place is so far off the road, I think most people don't even know there is a house back here."  Emily watched her over the rim of her mug for a moment.  Sarah looked exhausted, and maybe a little bit defeated.  Setting her mug down, Emily reached for a tinfoil covered plate on the counter and handed it to her friend.
              "I actually came last night, around ten.  I made cookies, your favorite.  I assumed correctly that you wouldn't have any food in here."  Sarah smiled and pulled a cookie out from under the tin foil.
              "Breakfast of champions.  Orange chocolate chip cookies and coffee."  Sarah popped the cookie in her mouth and laughed at the grimace Emily made.  "Did you sleep here last night then?  It's a bit of a hike for you to come out here twice."
                "I did.  Spent a comfy night on a couch in...well, one of your many rooms."
              "Why not a bedroom?  I have close to a dozen of them."  Emily rolled her eyes.
              "Have you been in any of them lately?  There is more dust in them then anywhere else.  No thanks.  Have you ever considered getting some help to keep this place clean?  Or maybe sell it?" 
             Sarah wandered over the the french doors that let out onto the terrace.  She closed her eyes and could almost clearly see in her mind's eye Sharon running across the stones, waving a doll above her head.  Her Aunt and Uncle were sitting watching the two girls play.  She shook her head and opened her eyes.
            "I can't sell this place Em.  Too many memories."  She turned back to her friend and gave her a small smile.  "But someone to keep this place clean, that's not a bad idea."  Sitting on the stool next to Emily, Sarah put her coffee down and folded her arms on the island top.  "So what brought you here?"
             "You mean other then wanting to make sure my friend is staying nourished even if it is only with cookies?  Ok, you got me.  I have this."  She pulled a small manilla envelope from her purse and handed it over.  Sarah opened it and pulled out a hand full of black and white photographs.  She looked at the top one and her heart starting beating faster along with her breathing.  It was a side angle and the hair was darker, but that was Sharon!
             "Where...when..."  She couldn't get full sentences out as she flipped through the pictures, all showing Sarah.  She was dressed in a dark coat and scarf and in a few she was wearing sunglasses but it was Sharon!
             "The General has been having me scan cameras for her face this whole time.  Last night, I found her. She was at IAD, just off a plane from England."  Sarah's head jerked up.
             "England?!  How did she get out of the country?  Were you able to get anything from Heathrow?  Do we know what name she was traveling under?  Was she traveling with anyone else?"  Emily put her hands up slightly, trying to calm her friend.
            "Slow down.  I'm working on that.  I left some people back tracing her.  I wasn't able to track her from the airport.  I lost her after she went through customs."
            "You lost her!  How?"  Sarah demanded, continuing to poor over the images.  She was older, obviously, and thinner.  But not unhealthy thin.  Emily gently pulled the pictures away from Sarah who only reluctantly gave them up."
             "Lets head in to the office.  Maybe they've found something by now.  I was hoping to have this to you last night but you weren't answering your phone.  Where were you?" she asked as she stood and gave Sharon's arm a tug.  Sharon blinked and stood.
             "I was...with a friend." she said.  "Let me get changed and I'll meet you there."  Emily looked at her a moment, wondering what the hesitation was.  Sarah had avoided all relationships since Jack.  And that couldn't have been classified as a technical relationship since they both were sticklers for the rules.  But there had been something there.  But now...Jack was on the campaign trail, very much in the public eye.  The exact opposite of where Sarah would ever allow herself to be.
            "Ok.  I'll see you there."  Emily said after a moment and headed out.  Sarah watched her go and let her breath go slowly.  She didn't want Emily to know she had seen Jack.  While she might not tell the General, Sarah preferred her contact with him to remain quiet.  Telling someone who spent their days in people's heads was not a good idea, no matter how close a friend she was.
            Sarah reached the front foyer as the front door closed and pulled our her phone as she went upstairs.
            "Sam Howe here."
            "Sam, she's here!  In DC!"  Sarah said as she got to her room and started rumaging through her drawers for clean clothes.  She would have gone in what she had been wearing but she had wanted to call Sam and she didn't want Emily to know she called anyone.
           "What?  Who?  Sarah?  This you?"
           "Yes!  yes it's me!  I saw pictures of Sharon walking through Dulles Airport yesterday!  She's here in town Sam!"  She heard Sam swear on the other end under his breath and then loudly followed by apologies.
           "Sorry ma'am, I'll--I'll clean that up.  Are there any more details?"
           "I'm going in to see.  She left people working on a back trace."
           "Let me know what you find out."
           "I will.  And Sam, I told you I would find her!"  Hanging up the phone, Sharon threw on clothes, grabbed her phone and purse and ran down the stairs.  As she jumped into her car she opened her phone one more time and sent a one word text to Jack; Progress.