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"Love's Labour's Found"
Written by Katy
While in Russia hunting down an escaped Legacy murderer, Nick is intoxicated with Galina's doppleganger. Is she what she seems to be? Will it cost Nick and his team their lives, or will love come to the rescue?
"The right can stand a thousand trials. The strong will never fall. But watching stars without you, my soul cries. Heaving heart, is full of pain. Oh, the aching. 'Cause I'm kissing you." -Des'ree, "Kissing You"
There was no time for him to take another path. No time to choose another course. Nick looked around for signs of life and saw none. He heard an unfamiliar sound and hit the ground. His gun was drawn. There was something coming after him in the haze of fog that swirled around. Nick listened with caution. Nothing but silence followed.
He slowly and deliberately made his way along the rugged terrain. He tried to keep himself from thinking the worst. Where were the others? He lost them somehow. Nick suddenly grew quite aware that what was pursuing him and had spilt him up from his friends was no more than a few feet away. It came for him, hidden in the fog. He decided the best thing to do was to run. He had to get to the others. He had to find them.
After what seemed like hours of running, Nick slammed to a full stop as if a sledgehammer had hit him in the chest. He looked down at the two graves that looked up at him. Galina and Julia smiled at him from the open coffins. The stench of decomposition slapped Nick in the face. He gagged reactively. Their faces were rotted and gray. Moldy teeth peered out from their grinning mouths. Most of their hair had fallen out and they were swarming with maggots. Nick heard their voices as if they were standing right next to him.
"Our hearts and souls we gave for you."
"Days may not be fair. Always. That's when I'll be there. Always. Not just for an hour. Not just for a day. Not just for a year. But always." -Irving Berlin, "Always"
Nick flew from his sound sleep. He tried to jump from his bed and screamed in frustration. His comforter was entangled around his legs and he fell to the floor with a loud thud. He sat there feeling numb.
"M'soul is m'friend who consoles me in misery and distress of life," Philip said from the open doorway. Nick was immediately comforted by that Irish voice.
"Shakespeare?" Nick asked. Philip shook his head.
"Kahlil Gibran," Philip answered. He walked over and offered his hand to his friend. Nick looked up and took it, allowing the priest to pull him up.
"You're always quoting that guy," Nick stated.
"Gibran was a poet and a true believer," Philip explained.
"A true believer of what?" asked Nick.
"Of faith," Philip answered him. He hesitated then said, "I heard you from m'room. You had another one?"
Nick nodded. "Fourth one this week, Philip." Nick noticed Philip's worried expression and said, "Some nights aren't so bad, I don't sleep well but at least I don't dream. But when I do she's always there. This time Julia was with her," Nick told him. Philip remained quiet as he tried to decide what to say in response.
He finally broke both the silence and the tension by saying, "Developin' a guilt complex o'er one person is hard enough, but two is even worse." Nick tried not to be irritated.
"I'm the reason they are both dead. It's funny, I blamed Derek for Julia's death, and God knows I wanted to blame him for Lina's since she died saving his life. But I know the truth of the matter is that I am to blame. If I could have gotten to Lina, if I had been there when she needed me," Nick said.
"Been there how? What could you have done? How could you have gotten past Tate and Sultar t'get t'her? You were almost killed yourself," Philip tried to make him understand.
"I wish I had been," Nick said solemnly.
"Don't say that!" Philip barked. He got up and grabbed Nick's pillow. "Come on then, let's go downstairs and get some ale."
The two men lay on the large sofas in the living room. They drank Guinness and talked. On and off Philip tried to get Nick to talk about Galina. Finally, the younger man could no longer control his emotions and grabbed his pillow. He tore it to shreds in a grief induced fury. Philip strongly resisted the urge to do the same. He leaned back and closed his eyes.
"I miss her," was all Nick said for the rest of the night.
"But the rain is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh Upon the glass and listen for reply, And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain." -Edna St. Vincent Millay
"Are you sure?" Derek asked, unbelieving.
"Oh yes, I'm quite sure," William Sloan answered him. Derek slammed his hand down in complete rage. Sloan heard the sound over the phone and winced. Even though Sloan knew himself to be an equal match for Derek, he still grew uneasy when faced with the man's fury. Luckily, he had only come into contact with it once before. The lucky part being he wasn't on the receiving end. Sure as hell he and Derek had their differences and their many arguments, but they were never fueled by hate. Derek Rayne hated Feodor Suvoroff. Sloan almost felt sorry for the bastard. Almost.
The two had been anthropology students at the same university. They were roommates as well. It was Derek who suggested Feodor join the Legacy. He brought him in. Trusted him. Not long afterwards, Feodor had been made precept of the St. Petersburg House. The previous precept had lost his life battling a demon which Feodor was successfully able to destroy. It wasn't until later that Derek and Sloan discovered the truth. Feodor had summoned the demon to kill the precept so he could take over. Feodor's ambitions and lust for power had driven him to the dark side. When his team realized what was going on he killed them. Derek and Sloan remembered well walking in and finding the bodies in the St. Petersburg House. The hunt for Feodor Suvoroff began and by the time it was finished, three more Legacy members lost their lives. That was over 16 years ago. Less than two days ago, Feodor Suvoroff escaped from a Legacy prison.
"Aware of what will hurt you, you're prepared to remain this way. So sad yet so safe with your afflictions." - "Fear (Of The Unknown)" Siouxsie and the Banshees
"The Legacy has a prison?" Nick asked with shock.
"Of course it does," Derek answered. "It has a lot of them. With every good there is evil that follows. But the Legacy just can't turn over evil criminals over to unsuspecting law enforcement agencies. They would have no idea how to handle them. We have our own 'police' so to speak, " Derek explained.
"Cool," Nick remarked. He was very impressed by this revelation.
"Not cool," Derek retorted. "Feodor Suvoroff escaped from a Legacy prison in Izhevsk, Russia two days ago. He is a heartless murderer and now he's free to do as he pleases."
"What do you think his next move will be?" Alex asked him.
"He's headed for St. Petersburg, that I know for certain. And two of the Legacy members there, Basil Rotislav and Bohdana Yevgenovich, are relatives of the Legacy members of the Kiev House that helped Sloan and I bring him down," Derek explained.
"Do you really think that after bein' confined for 16 years he would be so stupid as t'try t'get revenge? I know I would get the hell out of there and make sure no one ever found me again. I wouldn't risk gettin' caught like that," Philip said.
"You would if you were consumed by hatred the way Feodor was when I last saw him. He vowed to get vengeance on Sloan, myself, and the members of the Kiev House that helped us. Those members are dead. Anuska Yevgenovich was Bohdana's mother and Zorya Terkovna was Basil Rotislav's uncle. Anuska was killed two years ago. Zorya died of a heart attack in 1983. But their kin will do just as well for Feodor," Derek told them.
"How did he escape," Nick asked. Although he had never seen one, Nick didn't think that a Legacy prison would be so easy to get out of.
"He dug himself out," Derek said. "It took him 16 years to do it. It won't be easy to get him back."
"Easy isn't a word in our vocabulary," Nick said, grinning at everyone in the room. For the first time since Sloan's call, Derek smiled.
"Thank you, but this is something I will handle myself," Derek said.
"Like hell," Alex blurted out. She put her hand to her mouth in an apologetic manner.
"Like hell indeed," Philip jumped in. Derek glanced at Nick. He looked hurt that Derek would even consider not letting them help. There was no way he would be going to Russia alone. An hour later they had their itinerary planned. Rachel was the only one who would not be going. Kat had a bout of the chicken pox.
Derek walked down the hall and stopped at Nick's room. The door was open. The younger man was inside packing his duffel bag. He watched as Nick carefully picked up a picture of Galina and put it inside the bag. He handled it as if it were as delicate as an eggshell.
"Nick?" Derek asked. "Are you going to be okay about going to St. Petersburg?"
Nick snapped his head up at the sound of Derek's voice. He waited for a few moments before answering. He was wondering if he would be okay about going. He said, "Yeah, I'll be okay."
"We'll be leaving shortly," Derek said softly.
"There's just something I have to do first," Nick said.
"So goodbye, but please don't take my heart. You are far, I'm never going to be your star. I'll pick up the pieces and mend my heart. Maybe I'll be strong enough, I don't know where to start. But I'll never find piece of mind while I listen to my heart." -George Michael, "Kissing A Fool"
"A dirge for her, the doubly dead, in that she died so young." -Edgar Allen Poe, "Lenore"
Nick knew that the gardener would have a fit if he saw that Nick had cut the man's roses, but he didn't care. The gardener wouldn't dare say a word when he found out what they were being used for. Nick pulled his coat closer to his neck and swore under his breath. No matter what the given season was, the Bay Area was freezing in the evening hours. Especially when the wind and fog made their respective appearances.
Nick bent over and laid the roses on Galina's grave and then sat back on the bench in front of it. He looked at the words inscribed on the headstone. Stor a stor ma chroidhe. Hope Of Mine And Hope Of Me. Galina's favorite poem was "Mairin-Ni-Cullinan" by Ethna Carbery. He thought she would have been pleased that he put those lines on her headstone. It was what she called him when they were alone together. When no one else was around. Hope of mine and hope of me. They gave each other hope. He remembered teasing Galina about her country's depressing poets and authors. He suggested she embrace the singing free spirit of the Irish poets. She did and fell in love with them. She had even asked Philip to teach her the Gaelic language and promised to teach him Russian in return. He did and she loved it. Nick's heart heaved painfully. She had never gotten the chance to pay Philip back for his tutoring.
"I'm sorry," Nick said. "I'm so sorry I wasn't there for you. No one could ever really understand how much I loved you. I don't think I fully understand how much." Nick tried to swallow the lump he had in his throat. He had the damn thing ever since the day she died. He couldn't get rid of it. He wondered if he could have it surgically removed. Anything to make it go away. "Damn it, Galina. I can't even remember the last thing you ever said to me. Or what you were wearing that day. It's all a blur. Except the pain, that's the only thing that's clear. How much it hurts. It's the worst pain I've ever felt in my life and I'm scared that I'll feel this way for the rest of my life."
Nick turned around when Philip walked up behind him. Philip said quietly, "Are the men that God made mad? For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad."
"Gibran again?" Nick asked.
"Actually, no, G.K. Chesterton," Philip answered, smiling.
"You're a walking encyclopedia of quotations, Philip, you know that?" Nick remarked.
"It's time t'go, the others are waitin' in the helicopter for us," Philip told him.
"Okay," Nick said, suppressing a groan.
"Nick," Philip said. "I'm here. I'll help you get through this." Nick only nodded before walking to the chopper.
"Love, I don't like to see so much pain. So much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away. I get so tired of working hard for our survival. I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive." -Peter Gabriel, "In Your Eyes"
As they landed, Alex saw the precept of the St. Petersburg House standing on the lawn, waiting to greet them. Basil Rotislav glared at Nick as he stepped from the chopper. Nick looked away and pretended not to notice the obvious look of contempt on Basil's face. It was not something that escaped Alex's attention, however. She filed it away for later use for such conduct was unacceptable to Alex. Basil came forward and shook everyone's hand except for Nick's. An angry Philip waited for Nick's reaction. He was confused when Nick did nothing. He never backed down from a slight or an insult. Nick's heart just wasn't in it.
"Basil, the house is repairing fast. Impressive considering you only have three members, including yourself," Derek said, referring to the damage done earlier the year before when the Legacy was at war.
"We have four people," Basil said in a thick voice. "We just admitted a new member, Manya Pavlova." He looked directly at Nick when he said the young woman's name. Philip wondered why.
They gathered their bags and walked into the house. Alex pulled Basil aside. She opted to behave herself and remain civilized. She said carefully, "In your mind you probably think Nick was responsible for Galina staying in America with us. But it was her decision, not yours, and not Nick's. I know your House shares our loss-"
"Our loss. It was our loss. Galina would be alive now if she had stayed where she belonged," Basil's voice was full of venomous poison. Alex came to the conclusion that Basil had been in love with Galina. That was no excuse for his behavior, however, and Alex gave up trying to be civilized. She grabbed Basil's pinky finger and twisted it. She pulled him into the next room and snarled, "Now you listen to me you weasel. Galina was our family. We loved her. Nick loved her. If you ever had any kind of love for her you never would have made her feel guilty about staying with us. And you are going to make Nick feel welcome real fast. You understand me? You are not going to make him feel uncomfortable in the least bit."
Basil nodded and ripped his hand away from Alex's grasp. They walked back into the foyer. Nick was the only one who saw them. Bohdana Yevgenovich walked in the room with another woman.
She shook hands with them and Nick said, "I'm sorry, I don't remember your name."
"Irina Volney," the girl said. Nick blanched. Philip wondered about Nick's reaction. He squeezed his eyes shut when he remembered Galina's real name was Irina. If Irina Volney had noticed Nick's reaction to her name, she showed no sign of it. Alex and Derek both noticed however and Derek quickly turned his head to Basil.
"Where's your new member?" Derek asked him. "We'd like to meet her."
Nick was thankful for Derek stepping in. He needed time to regain his composure. He wouldn't be able to do so as the newest member of the St. Petersburg House appeared.
"I can see your face but I know that it's not real It's just an illusion caused by how I used to feel And it makes me so angry to know that the flame Will always burn and I'll never get over I know now that I'll never learn." -Eric Clapton, "Old Love"
Alex audibly gasped when the young woman emerged from the upstairs hallway. She walked gently and gracefully down the stairs. For a split second Alex thought it was Galina. She wasn't completely identical but she had the same features. She had the same deep, sapphire colored eyes. She had the same delicate nose and prominent cheekbones. The same jawline and the same lips. The only striking difference was that her hair was a saffron colored blonde instead of Galina's chocolate brown hair.
All Philip could do was stare. He couldn't even turn his head to check and see if Nick was okay. Manya Pavlova stopped walking when she reached the bottom of the stairs. She seemed unsure about the group of Americans that stared at her.
"Manya, it is a pleasure to meet you," Nick said, stepping forward. He held out his hand and when she took it, he felt a shock tingle up his arm. It exhilarated him.
Derek let out a sigh of relief and pride that Nick graciously recovered and broke the silence. He realized their behavior must have seemed incredibly rude. Nick swallowed hard when Manya returned his greeting. Although her accent was much thicker and much more pronounced that Galina's, she had the same thick, husky voice. If he closed his eyes he could almost imagine....
"Nick," Basil's voice boomed. The ex-SEAL snapped out of his reverie. Basil's eyes burned into Nick's face with burning hatred, but the giant Russian man said only, "Would you like to join us in the control room?"
Nick tried to shake off his enthrallment with Galina's double. They all proceeded into the next room.
"Alex?" Nick asked. The woman turned around and looked at him. "Thanks" he said, motioning towards Basil.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Alex smiled.
"Sure you don't," Nick said. "But thanks anyway."
"Our informants last saw Suvoroff headed this way. He was spotted in a town a little over 200 miles from here called Cherepovets. But he disappeared before we could get to him," Bohdana led them into the control room.
"Tell your people to back off. They can watch him but under no circumstances are they to approach him," Derek ordered. Basil stepped forward.
"I know all about this man Derek, I don't need you to tell me how to proceed," he said.
"I know you think I'm overstepping my bounds, but I'm not. I'm keeping you alive. And with all due respect, Basil, I know him better than anyone. It was your uncle who dealt with him, not you. You have no idea what you're up against. There are eight Legacy members lying six feet under because they made that same mistake," Derek said. "I will have my people deal with this. No offense to you or your team, but mine are much better equipped to handle this."
Nick didn't pay any attention to the angry words that started to fly around the room. He kept his eyes on Manya. He watched her intently. Every move she made only seized his heart painfully. She was so like Galina. Philip leaned over and pinched Nick on the arm.
"Ow!" Nick exclaimed.
"Pay attention, Nick. Derek just gave you a duty," he said. Nick looked up and noticed that Derek was in a heated discussion with Basil.
"No he didn't," Nick said, turning back to Manya.
"He did too, you just nodded your head so he assumed you heard him," Philip said. Nick ignored him so Philip leaned over closer and said, "He's arguin' with Basil about you takin' Manya with you," Philip said. Nick snapped his head back around.
"Where?" Nick asked.
Philip made a face and said, "Well, if you had been payin' attention you would know that. He wants you and Manya t'go....oh, what was it called?"
"Novgorod," Alex leaned in and whispered.
"That's right, Novgorod. That's Feodor's next likely stop," Philip said.
"Okay," Nick said brightly. Manya smiled at him shyly. Basil brought his hand down to the table so hard that they all stood to their feet.
"NO!" he boomed. Nick glared at him angrily but it was Alex that spoke.
"What's your problem, Basil?" she asked. Since Nick and Philip were seated beside her, they couldn't see her expression. Derek was on the other side of the table however and shuddered quietly when he saw her flaming eyes. Derek wondered if the Russian would be shaken by it. He was and Derek smiled to himself.
"Nothing," Basil said. He scowled at Nick and Philip realized why. He obviously had great affection for Manya. Philip wondered if it was only because she looked so like Galina. Basil probably thought that Nick would whisk Manya away like he did Galina.
After they left Alex asked Derek, "Why did you send Manya with Nick? He could have gone on his own. He speaks Russian, Galina taught him."
"I'm not sure why. Perhaps I saw the way he looked at her, perhaps I thought it would help him," Derek said.
"I sure hope it does," Alex said.
Two hours after Nick and Manya left however, Derek felt the familiar buzzing in his head and allowed the visions to flow. He saw Nick and Philip lying on the ground. He saw a dead man crumpled against the wall. Derek picked up the phone to call Nick.
"I dreamed last night I was born a hundred years ago. But when I woke up I was lost with only one place to go. When you smile, I don't know what to do. 'Cause I could lose everything, in a minute or two." -Johnette Napolitano, "When You Smile"
"So, where are you from?" Nick asked her in the car. He reached into his pocket and turned his cell phone off.
"I am from a little town called Kotlas, it's on the Vychegda River," Manya said.
"I'm sorry, but I have no idea where that is," Nick said. She smiled at him.
"I wouldn't expect you to. It is about 400 miles northeast of Moscow," she said. He loved her voice. He kept asking questions just to hear her speak.
"Did you have any brothers or sisters?" he asked. He thought for an instant that she stiffened at his question and was about to apologize for being so nosy but she answered him.
"No, I have no brothers or sisters. Do you?" she asked him.
He smiled, "Oh yeah, lots. We are an Irish family you know." He laughed but she didn't understand his joke. "Uh, nevermind," he stammered.
"There," she pointed out. "Let's try that place."
Nick pulled up by the bar and hurried around to help her out of the car. They walked into the smoky bar and she asked the bartender if he had seen the man in the picture she was holding out. He shook his head. They tried several other bars and hotels but could find no one who might have seen Feodor Suvoroff.
"Well, he probably hasn't gotten here yet. Do you want to get something to eat?" Nick asked her. She smiled enthusiastically. "You'll have to lead the way, I have no idea where the hell we are."
"Here," she said as they crossed the street. "This looks like a good place to eat." They walked inside and sat down at a table. A waiter handed them menus. Nick picked his up.
"You have it upside down," Manya laughed at him. He almost fainted. Even her laugh was like Galina's.
"I'm sorry, I can't read this thing, it's in Cyrillic," Nick lied.
"Well what would you like?" she asked. Manya leaned over. Her cheek almost touched his as she pointed out different items on the menu. Nick swallowed the lump in his throat.
"How about chicken? And maybe a salad or something," Nick said.
She called the waiter over and said, "Salat iz svezhikh agoortsov so smetanoy. Kotleta po kiyevski." She looked at Nick and asked, "Anything to drink?"
"Wine would be fine," he said.
She looked back up at the waiter, "Khvanchkara." The waiter nodded and left them. She smiled at Nick and said, "You'll like Khvanchkara, it was Stalin's favorite."
"That nutcase? He was a butcher," Nick said. Manya gripped her fork tightly. Her knuckles were bone-white.
"He was a revolutionary man. A true hero of the Soviet Union," she said evenly. Nick decided to drop the subject quickly.
After their dinner had come and gone they walked along the streets of Novgorod. Manya was trying to teach Nick how to speak Russian. Nick knew the language from the lessons Galina had given him but wanted to hear her speak it anyway. He pretended to be ignorant to the language.
"Okay," he said, "Let's see, kloobni'ka. That's strawberries, right?"
"Yes! Very good! Now, what is pamido'ri?" she asked him.
"Tomatoes," he said. She laughed again. God he loved the sound of it. He was so captivated that he ignored the time.
"And syir?" she asked.
"Beer?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No, no, no. Beer is pee'vo. Syir is cheese." When she shook her head her features blurred and Nick saw Galina's face instead of Manya's. He got the next four words wrong purposely.
"All right, let's move from food to conversational phrases," said Manya. Nick could see she was paying no attention to the time either. It had been four hours since they had stopped in the restaurant to eat. He didn't care. It could be days. He never wanted to leave Galina. Nick stopped and mentally slapped himself. He realized he kept referring to Manya as Galina and felt guilty over it. Manya didn't deserve to be used like that. "Did you hear me?" she asked. He looked at her. "I said kak dila."
"And that means?" he asked her.
"It means, how are you," she answered. He stared at her a little too long and saw her confused expression.
"We should call in and give an update," Nick said, reaching into his coat. She put her hand on his arm.
"Why do you look at me like that?" Manya inquired.
"Like what?" Nick asked her, embarrassed.
"Like you love me," she answered. Nick felt his face flush.
"You remind me of someone," he said softly.
"Oh," she said in a disappointed voice, "that's it then."
"No, its more than that," he lied to her. His hand stroked her cheek. His other hand went around to the nape of her neck and brought her forward. His mouth was throbbing with lust as it covered hers hungrily. Manya wrapped her arms around his strong, lean body. He sighed when he let her go. His eyes still closed, he could only think of Galina. He was somewhat disappointed when he opened them again to see Manya smiling at him. Nick felt horribly guilty. He would definitely have to talk to Philip about this before he did something he would regret. He couldn't keep using Manya as a pale comparison to Galina. It wasn't fair to Galina or Manya.
"I've had enough of danger and people on the streets. I'm looking out for angels. Just trying to find some peace." -George Michael, "One More Try"
"Come on," she said to him. She grasped his hand and led him on down the street. It was a mildly pleasant evening. It wasn't too cold outside. There were plenty of people strolling about the city streets of Novgorod. They walked for a ways without speaking when Manya's eyes lit up. "Look!" she exclaimed. "Oh, let's go, just for fun!" she pleaded.
Nick moaned when he saw the Tarot card reader's shop. Yet he tightened his hold on Manya's hand as they crossed the street and walked inside. "Madame, what?" Nick asked, trying to read the name on the door.
"Daznetye. It's pronounced dahs-nyet-nyeh," Manya told him.
The Tarot reader was a middle-aged woman with long, red hair. Nick didn't think it was possible for anyone to have such green eyes without the help of contacts.
"Ah," she said in English, "an American." She looked directly at Nick and smiled.
"How did you know I was an American?" he asked.
"I am Madame Daznetye, I know everything," the woman replied. Nick rolled his eyes. "And," she added, "you're jacket says U.S. Navy on it."
"Oh," Nick said, looking down at his olive green coat.
"Please, sit down. You wish to have your cards read?" Madame Daznetye asked.
"Well," Nick said, pointing to Manya, "She does."
"No, no! We both do. You first, Nicola," Manya said. Nick froze like a statue. Only Galina called him Nicola. The way it rolled off her tongue, Nick thought for a second that Galina had said it. He didn't answer her. He wanted her to say it again. "Nicola?"
He smiled and sat down next to her at the table. Madame Daznetye had been watching him. She noticed his reaction when the young woman had called him Nicola. He was a troubled man, Madame Daznetye concluded. She looked at his kind, but powerful eyes and decided she would do his reading first.
She explained that she would lay down six cards in the position of a cross and then four cards along the right of the cross. Nick tried to keep his skeptical behavior to himself. He said nothing for Manya's sake. She seemed to be enjoying herself and Nick didn't want to take away from that.
"The first card I lay down will represent who you are," she said. She laid down the card and smiled. "Ah, the Knight of Swords. You are a skillful man, and brave. Very capable. It is also a card of wrath," she said, looking at Nick. He is strong, Madame Daznetye thought, he has powerful magic.
"The second card is your obstacles," she said. Nick silently joked to himself that she would probably lay down the card of the devil. She didn't. "The Moon. A sign of hidden enemies, danger and deception."
Well, it wasn't the devil but it was close enough, Nick mused. Madame Daznetye continued. "The third card is the card of possibility. Where you could go if you choose the right path." She laid down the card of the Sun. She smiled. "This is very, very good. A card of happiness and contentment. If you let it be."
"The fourth card is your ability, what you have that you can use to your advantage." Madame Daznetye smiled again when she laid down the card of Strength. This man is special, she thought to herself. "Strength represents power, and energy. Action and courage. These are qualities at your disposal."
Nick was fairly pleased. So far she didn't seem to be outrageous. She was very serious. He looked over at Manya. Her expression was blank. "Well," Madame Daznetye said, "the fifth card is what is behind you, what you are passing away from. The immediate past." Madame Daznetye felt sorry for the man when she laid down the next card. It was a heart with three swords piercing it through the middle. "The Three of Swords. The card of loss, pain and grief. There have been three instances of loss in your life that have scarred your heart." Nick was visibly shaken. He had lost Julia a little over two years ago. And he had lost Galina twice. He tried to breathe but his chest was constricting to rapidly. He thanked God that neither Manya or Madame Daznetye noticed.
"The sixth card is what is about to happen," she said, "Your immediate future." She laid down the Page of Cups. It was upside down. "Seduction and deception," was all Madame Daznetye said. She looked at Manya.
"The next card is your strongest quality, what signifies you as who you are," she said. She flipped up the Four of Pentacles. "A Legacy," she said. She wondered why that card had come up, how the man was signified as a legacy. He stared at her in shock.
"What's the next card?" he croaked out.
"It signifies your environment and the people around you," she said as she overturned the Ace of Cups. She looked at Nick in wonder. Nick looked down at the card. A white dove hovered over a golden chalice being held by a strong hand descending from the clouds. "The House of the True Heart, a holy house, friendship and family. You are a lucky man to have such a card."
Madame Daznetye hesitated before continuing. She the told him that the next card would be his hopes and his fears. She placed the card down. "The Star. A card that represents loss and abandonment, yet hope and happiness. You fear being abandoned by those closest to you. Yet you have hope that someday you will be happy." Nick nodded his head slowly. That was something he wanted more than anything. To just be truly happy for once in his life.
"And now, the final card," she said. She placed down the card and Nick breathed in painfully. "Ah, the Lovers. That does not need explaining, does it?" she asked. Manya finally spoke up.
"What do my cards say?" she asked. Madame Daznetye picked up all the cards and shuffled them. Nick sat in a trance, his mind wandering.
"What you are," Madame Daznetye said. She placed down the card of the devil. It was upside down and Manya sighed in relief. "Don't be so relieved, upside down the card represents perverted evil...and weakness." Nick stared at Madame Daznetye unbelieving.
"Your obstacles," she said as she put down the next card, "The card of Justice. Your obstacles are justice and righteousness." Madame Daznetye did not wait for a reaction from her clients. "The best you can arrive at," she said. She put down the card of the Hermit. "Corruption." She placed the card that signified Manya's qualities. "Hmph, the Eight of Wands, upside down. Jealousy and anger." Nick became angry. Why the hell was Madame Daznetye suddenly attacking Manya? Before he could speak, she laid down the card that showed Manya's recent past. "Well," Madame Daznetye said. "Not surprising. The Ace of Cups, upside down. The House of the False Heart. Revolution and instability."
"That's enough!" Nick bolted up. He grabbed Manya's hand and pulled her up. "How much do we owe you?" he asked.
"Nothing," Madame Daznetye said. "Just leave. Take this woman far away from me!" she ordered, looking at Manya.
She waited until the American left with the woman before finishing her read of the cards. The card in Manya's immediate future was the Eight of Swords. A card of violence and destruction. The card that was her true personality was the Queen of Cups. Again, another card that was upside down. The card of a perverse and depraved woman. The card that was the significator of the people she was closest to was that of the Tower of Misery and disgrace. Her hopes and fears was the card of the Hierophant. Power and conquest her hopes. Slavery and servitude her fears. Madame Daznetye smiled with satisfaction when she pulled up Manya's final card. The card that was her future. The card of Death.
She wondered why this young, powerful man was hanging around with such an evil, and dangerous woman. She closed up her shop and said many prayers for the young American. She knew he would need them.
"When you were just a stranger and I was at your feet. I didn't feel the danger. Now I feel the heat." -George Michael, "One More Try"
"Did she frighten you? Are you okay?" Nick asked a shaking Manya.
"I'm fine," she answered. Nick reached into his pocket and pulled out the cell-phone. He flipped it on and dialed the numbers.
"It's Nick...Alex, Alex will you let me explain? We're fine....I know I wasn't thinking, okay?...listen...Alex will you just listen to me instead of lecturing me? There was no sign of Suvoroff...nevermind what we've been doing for the last five hours..no....no, I really don't give a shit what Basil thinks... Manya and I are going to stay in a hotel tonight and start searching again in the morning...no, don't put Derek on...shit....hey Derek...yes, we're okay...yes I know, stay out of Suvoroff's way. We'll call you as soon as we spot him. I promise, bye," Nick clicked off the phone before Derek could answer him and exhaled heavily. That went well, he thought.
"Are we in trouble?" Manya asked.
"No," Nick answered.
"Sounded like it," Manya remarked. Nick smiled.
"Basil is having a fit. He probably thinks I'm going to steal you away like I did before," he smiled.
"Like what?" Manya asked.
Nick winced. He forgot again, she wasn't Galina. "Nothing. Can you find us a decent hotel?" She nodded and a few minutes later they both checked in to a small, modest place.
"I'll be right next to you, so if you need me, just knock on the wall," Nick said to Manya. She nodded and gave him a quick kiss on the mouth before heading to her room. Nick watched her go and stood standing in the hall for several moments afterwards. He finally walked into his own room and closed the door behind him.
"Suicide blonde. Was the color of her hair. Like a cheap distraction for a new affair. She new it would finish before it began. Got some revelation put into your hands. Save you from your misery like rain across the land. Don't you see the color of deception? Turning your world around again." -INXS, "Suicide Blonde"
Klaudia Reznakovna waited until she thought Nick was asleep before leaving her room. She left the hotel and got into the car waiting for her. Her brother looked at her disagreeably.
"Klaudia, why haven't you killed him yet?" he asked. "Suvoroff will be very disappointed when he finds out you haven't done your job. They were all supposed to be dead by now," Dmitri said.
"I'm having too much fun," she said joyfully. "Besides, I want to wait a little while. This American was really in love with our dear, departed sister. You should see him Dmitri. He's falling all over me like a love-sick puppy. This is going to be so much fun. I will toy with him some more. I want to hear his heart as it breaks and see his face as he realizes who I am and that I betrayed him. I want him to suffer miserably before I kill him." Klaudia laughed heartlessly.
"You always did play with your food," her older brother said to her. "It's cruel."
"Don't you dare sit there with that look on your face. You think you are so much better than me? We are more than flesh and blood Dmitri. We are the same. You kill too. You just do it so boringly," she said. "You have no flare for the dramatic. You just kill them. You don't realize that the best part of the kill is the chase. I am the cat. He is the mouse. And I want to batter him around for a while." She looked at her brother, his face full of scorn. "Don't worry, I have every intention of killing him."
"Just kill him, get back to the House and take care of the others," he said angrily.
"What's the matter, are you jealous of him?" she asked. She laughed at the expression on his face then leaned over and kissed him forcefully. He violently pushed her away with disgust.
"You are sick! Just get the job done!" he yelled angrily. "I will be here outside. If you need me then pull up the shades in your room and I'll help you. You will kill him tonight."
"Here come the woman with the look in her eye. Raised on leather with flesh on her mind. Words as weapons sharper than knives. Makes you wonder how the other half dies. Here comes the man with the look in his eye. Fed on nothing but full of pride. Look at them go, look at them kick. Makes you wonder how the other half lives." -INXS, "Devil Inside"
"Philip," Nick said over the phone. "Do you think you could make it out here? I need to talk to you. Not over the phone." He waited as Philip agreed and told him he would be there in a half an hour. Nick laid his head back and sighed. He was sure that he never felt so confused before.
Every time she moved. Every time she spoke. It was Galina. He repeated to himself the only reason for his attraction to Manya was her likeness to Galina and nothing more. He knew it was heartless of him to use her like that. Nick sat thinking of her for what seemed like forever. Almost 45 minutes passed by. He wished Philip would hurry up. He knew his friend would set him straight. There was a knock on the door and Nick got up out of the chair and hurried over.
"Thank God," he muttered, opening the door. "I've been waiting for you-" Nick stopped. It wasn't Philip, it was Manya. "Oh, I thought you were someone else."
"Yes, you seem to have that affliction," she answered. Nick didn't know what to say so he moved out of the way to let her inside. She walked by him. Damn it to hell, she even smelled like Galina.
He lost control. Nick grabbed her forcefully and pushed her against the wall, kissing her hard. She returned the kiss eagerly. He turned her around so that he could back her up to the bed. They were both breathless as he almost violently tore her shirt off and kissed her again. He threw her blouse aside and ran his hands over her bare back and closed his eyes. Her skin burned his hands and only ignited his ecstasy even further. "Galina," he whispered under his breath. He stopped, mortified at his behavior.
"I'm sorry," he exclaimed breathlessly. He pushed her half naked body away from him. "I can't do this, it's not right." She walked over and pulled the shade up. She picked up her blouse and turned back to him.
"You're right. Sleeping with your dead girlfriend's sister so soon after her death would be terrible," she said, smiling. Nick blinked at her. He wasn't quite sure what she was talking about.
"What?" he asked.
"Irina was my sister," she said. Putting her shirt back on. "Or Galina, whichever you prefer. I have to say, I can see why she wanted you. You're so easily won over. I wish you had given me the chance to see how good you really are." Klaudia did the remaining buttons on her blouse and said, "Tell me, she did suffer when she died didn't she? Basil told me she was impaled by a sword. I imagine that is agonizing pain. He also told me you let her die. You weren't there for her when she needed you. Tell me, when you close your eyes at night to you hear her calling you for help? Do you think that she wondered where you were as she laid there, dying?"
A low, furious growl emanated from Nick. He was convulsing with anger. Klaudia looked at him and cried out in exaggeration, "Nicola, Nicola help me, I need you." She laughed heartlessly. "Do you think she knew you abandoned her? Or do you think she just laid there, hoping beyond hope that you would come for her?"
Dmitri crept in behind Nick who was so overblown with rage and pain that he didn't notice. Klaudia reveled in his pain. She watched as his face filled with anguish at her words. But it also filled with the most violent hate. She smiled. She had him on the breaking point.
Nick pounced on her like a lion on a gladiator in the arena. In mid air Dmitri brought his gun down on the back of Nick's skull. Klaudia went over and retrieved Nick's gun from the bedstand. She snapped her head up when she heard footsteps coming down the hall. Dmitri backed up against the wall behind the door.
"What the bloody hell?" Philip asked when he saw Nick lying on the floor moaning. He rushed to Nick's side and hit the floor in a heap when Dmitri hit him hard on the back of the neck.
Dmitri aimed his gun at Philip's face. "No, no! Let me! I want to kill them both myself," Klaudia cheerfully cried. Klaudia aimed her gun at Nick's face. Suddenly the room grew cold. Dmitri looked at his sister when she screamed in anger. She was struggling around the room with an unseen force.
"LET GO!" she screamed. "LET ME GO!" She writhed around with her invisible foe. She slammed against the far wall and froze. Suddenly her features softened and she relaxed. She stepped forward and aimed the gun in her hand and fired two shots.
"Little sister, break your vow. Break down the sacred side. Little sister, break the rules. Little sister, now you're gone. Let's just say it's a mercy kill. But little sister, you've left me howling at the moon. Will the free hand of captivity, heal all this brutality?" -Siouxsie and The Banshees, "Little Sister"
Dmitri went flying into the wall when the bullets hit him in the forehead. Nick wearily looked up and saw a dead man against the far wall and Philip crumpled by his side. He looked at Klaudia. Nick saw her standing with his gun in her hand. She lowered it and stared at him. Nick scrambled over and grabbed Dmitri's gun and pointed it at her. He thought she would retaliate or at the very least tell him not to move. She did neither.
"DROP IT!" he yelled. She bent down and laid the gun on the floor.
"Nicola," she whispered.
"Don't you call me that," he snarled. Without taking his eyes off of Klaudia he leaned down and felt the side of Philip's neck. He had to make sure Philip was okay before he could do anything else. She called his name again. "SHUT UP!" he bellowed. Philip moaned and got up off the floor.
"Are you all right, Philip?" Nick asked. He still didn't take his eyes off Klaudia.
"What in the bloody hell is goin' on here?" Philip asked when he stood up and saw the dead man and Nick pointing his gun at Manya.
"She's not Manya. She's Galina's sister, Klaudia," Nick told him. Philip's eyes widened.
"I'm Galina," Klaudia said. Nick felt rage and fury fermenting in his blood. If she thought she was going to try and play off his emotions she had another thing coming to her.
"If you don't shut up right now-" NIck started to say. Philip put a hand on his shoulder.
"Nick, don't you see what's going on here?" Philip said slowly. "She's working for Suvoroff, she was hired to kill us, not just you, all of us," Philip said. Nick looked at her intently. He told Philip to hold his gun while he tied her hands behind her back.
"Listen to me, Nicola, it's me! I came back, it's not Klaudia, it's me!" Klaudia said. Nick grabbed a pillow and tore off the pillowcase. He bound it around her mouth despite her protests. Philip eyed Klaudia intently.
"Let's take her back to St. Petersburg, see what Derek wants to do with her," Nick said.
"What about him?" Philip pointed to Dmitri.
"We can have someone come out and take care of his body later. Let's go," Nick said. He looked at Klaudia, who was still trying to get Nick's attention. "If you don't knock it off you're going to ride the way to St. Petersburg in the trunk," he said to her. His tone was deadly. She looked at him and stopped talking. Nick avoided all eye contact with her and shoved her outside the door.
"But all God's angels come to us disguised..." -James Russell Lowell
"IMPOSSIBLE!" Basil shouted. "I would have known if she were an imposter!"
"Apparently you didn't know," Derek said. "I told you Suvoroff was not to be underestimated." Derek walked over to the young woman bound and gagged. "What is she trying to say?" he asked Nick and Philip.
"Take off her gag," Alex said.
"NO!" Nick said. "She'll just try to talk herself out of this, don't listen to her."
"What are you talking about?" Derek asked. He bent over and pulled the gag out of her mouth.
"Derek," she breathed. "It's me, it's Galina."
"I see what you mean," Derek said, looking at Nick. She was going for the sympathy play.
"No, listen," she said. "Derek, your father was Winston Rayne. He died in Peru." She looked over at Alex. "Alex, your mother died of a stroke a few years ago. Your father died in a car accident at the age of 32. You, Ethan and Tanya were raised by your Gramma Rose in Louisiana-"
"Nothing that you couldn't have found out by being here. You could have accessed the Legacy databases and found all of that out," Alex said angrily.
"We were in Brazil Alex, with the Amazons," Klaudia started to explain.
Alex shook her head in disbelief. "What happened in Brazil is all in the database."
"Nicola, please listen to me. Little Bell, the song my grandmother used to sing to me-" Klaudia started to say.
Something within Nick snapped and he growled savagely as he turned around. "A song your grandmother sang to you too, Klaudia! Come on, you can't do any better than that?" He didn't give her the chance to answer as he walked forward and gagged her mouth again. He lifted her up by one arm and dragged her into another room. He tied her down to a chair and left, slamming the door behind him.
"Nick, we still have to find out what she knows about Suvoroff," Derek said.
"Well, you go talk to her. I don't ever want to see her again," Nick said.
Alex was just as enraged. She said, "I have half a mind to go in there and smack her upside the head. How dare she think that she could do that. She's a disgrace to her sister's memory." Her eyes flashed with fury. "How dare she," Alex repeated.
"Basil, we need to work out a strategy to trap Suvoroff," Derek said. "Let's see what we can come up with." Derek led them all into another room. Only Philip remained. He stood staring at the door to the room Klaudia was in. He walked over and opened it. His curiosity got the better of him.
"All look and likeness caught from earth. All accident of kin and birth had passed away. There was no trace of aught on that illumined face. Upraised beneath the rifted stone, but of one spirit all her own. She, she herself, and only she. Shone through her body visibly." -Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Phantom"
When he opened the door and walked inside, Klaudia's expression softened considerably. She tried to smile at Philip through her gag. He walked over and sat down in front of her.
"Don't you be thinkin' for an instant that I believe you," he said evenly. Klaudia's smile faded. She looked at him pleadingly. Philip bent over and took off the gag.
"Mo chraoibhin cno," she said to him. Philip's face went white and he leaned back in his chair in shock. "My chestnut-haired lass," she said. "You always called me that, remember?"
Philip nodded his head slowly. He felt like throwing up. "No, wait," he said. He wasn't going to let her do this to him. Or to Nick.
"The poem you taught me, Philip. Ethna Carbery's poem. Underneath the shrouding stone where you lie in death alone. Can you hear me calling, calling. In a wild hot gush of woe? 'Tis for you my tears are falling. For you, mo chraoibhin cno," she said to him. Philip sat there unmoving. He felt numb. She continued on, "Philip, do you remember what you said to Nick at my grave? You quoted Chesterton, 'Are the men that God made mad? For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad'. Nick called you a walking encyclopedia of quotations. Remember? Please Philip, please! You must remember! You must believe me!"
Philip jumped out of his chair, sending it crashing to the ground. He turned and ran from the room without looking back.
"NICK!" he yelled, running down the hall. He ran into the control room and collided with Derek. "You have to come hear this, it's her, it's really her," Philip said.
Derek looked at him, "What are you talking about? You went in and talked to her?"
"It's her," Philip said. Nick looked at him angrily.
"I'm not listening to this, Philip! How could you do this?" Nick asked.
Philip turned back to Derek and Alex, "Go talk to her, you'll see."
Alex gave an apologetic look to Nick and then left the room with Derek behind her.
"Philip-" Nick started to say.
"She knew, Nick. She knew the name I called her. She knew the conversation we had at her grave yesterday. She recited it word for word," Philip said. Nick put his hands to his ears.
"I'm not listening to this," Nick cried painfully.
"Why not? Don't you want her back? When you thought she was Manya, you clung to her, you wanted her around only for what she reminded you of. Now I'm tellin' you it's Galina. The real thing," Philip said to him. "I don't know what went on b'tween you and Klaudia before I walked in, but I know it hurt you. If you could just listen t'her! You'd see!"
Philip and Nick walked around the corner and saw Alex and Derek standing pale outside the room. They had untied Klaudia. She was standing behind them. Nick walked forward. He looked at her but said nothing. Finally he pushed her back into the room and closed the door. Derek looked at Philip and Alex.
"He has to find out for himself," Derek said. "But by God, it is her."
"Have you ever heard of something like this happening before?" Alex said. She noticed the recognition on his face and said, "You have heard of this before."
"Yes, about eight centuries ago it happened. A member of the Paris House, Pierre Bolaunt wrote about the death of his brother, Jean. He was very grieved and mourned not only for his brother, but for his brother's wife and child. Jean was deeply in love with his family and did not want to leave them. He refused to move on the other side. He stayed in limbo where he could watch over his family and be near them," Derek explained.
"But how did he come back, did he enter his brother's body like Galina did her sister?" Alex asked.
"No, no. His brother was a good man. One day Pierre was being robbed by a highwayman. Jean saw his opportunity. He entered the man's body at the moment the man was about to kill Pierre. You see, it is at that crucial moment, when a criminal commits a crime, that he is at his weakest state and very easy to overcome. The soul of the evil man went to hell and Jean lived on in his body. He lived to be eighty years old. He had a full, rich life with his family," Derek told them.
"Don't ask me what you know is true. Don't have to tell you. I love your precious heart. I was standing. You were there. Two worlds collided. And they could never tear us apart." -INXS, "Never Tear Us Apart"
Nick just stood still. He wasn't sure what to do. The woman looked at him and said, "Stor a stor ma chroidhe. Hope of mine and hope of me."
"Stop it," he said. He backed up. He asked her, "What's my favorite color?"
"You don't have one," she answered.
"My favorite poet?" he asked.
"W.B. Yeats," she said.
"What was our song?" he questioned.
Instead of naming it, she sang it, "I'll be seeing you. In all the old familiar place. That this heart of mine embraces all day through. In that small cafe. The park across the way. The children's carousel. The chestnut trees. The wishing well. I'll be seeing you. In every lovely summer's day. In everything that's bright and gay. I'll always think of you that way. I'll find you in the morning sun. And when the night is new. I'll be looking at the moon. But I'll be seeing you. Bing Crosby. That was our song. The first time we heard it was in Moscow. When we first met. It was in Russian. You laughed because it sounded so different."
He stared at her. He looked like a statue. "Damn it Nick!" she cried. "Believe me! Trust me! Remember those nights when we used to listen as our love unfolded. You came as a dream to me and you opened me up to such a world of joy and happiness. But then that world was ripped apart and darkness flooded in. You felt guilty about my death, you had nightmares every night. I tried to enter your dreams to tell you it wasn't your fault, but your guilt was so strong it prevented me from doing so. It pained me so much to see you suffer."
She walked up to him and looked in his eyes. She said, "You can't blame yourself. What my sister told you was a lie! She said those things to hurt you. I never once thought that you let me down. I tried to tell Derek to tell you that, but I died before I could. My only pain was in knowing that you would suffer so much, and that you would feel guilty. I'll never blame you. I'm glad it was me, even though I was so lonely without you. That's why I refused to go on. I refused to leave you. You dreamed of me and Julia in rotting graves. Philip came in and talked to you and you both went downstairs and had Guinness and talked. You ripped your pillow. And at my grave you said you couldn't remember the last thing I said to you. You said you were scared that you would feel the grief for the rest of your life," she said. "I know because I was there. I never left your side, not for one single moment. God gave me a second chance. I knew my sister and brother were coming after you. Suvoroff hired them to kill the St. Petersburg House and when he found out that Derek was coming it only excited him even further. He didn't know who Klaudia and Dmitri were. He came across them through an old KGB friend of his."
Nick dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around her waist. He buried his face in her body. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Lina. I'm sorry," he repeated. Galina began to cry uncontrollably and cradled his head in her arms. "How long?" he asked. "How long do you have?"
"Forever. Klaudia is in hell where she belongs. I am here to stay," Galina said through her tears.
"Lina," Nick croaked. "When Klaudia was Manya I, I kissed her and I-"
"It's all right," Galina said. "I know you. I know your heart. You were grieving. You wanted her to be me, it's okay. It's okay. Shhhh." She smoothed his hair and he tightened his hold on her.
"Don't leave me," Nick pleaded. "Don't leave me again."
"Never," she whispered. "I didn't leave you when I was dead, I never will. Ever." He reached over and locked the door. Galina picked him up from the ground and held him close. She moaned with delight when he began to hug and kiss her passionately. They fell down unto the bed and listened, liked they used to, of the sound of their love unfolding.
"Let us alone. What is it that will last? All things are taken from us and become portions and parcels of the past. Let us alone. What pleasure do we have to war with evil?" -Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Lotos-Eaters"
"Absolutely not!" Nick yelled. Hours later they were seated around the table in the control room. "Derek, you said yourself, he's not to be underestimated, you can't send her out there!" Nick sat next to her at the table. He held on to her hand fiercely. He was not going to let her go again, even if he had to physically hold onto her for all of eternity.
"Nicola, he doesn't know who I am. He'll think I'm still Klaudia," Galina said.
"I just got you back, and you want to put yourself in danger again? No way, and that's final," Nick said, tightening his grip on her hand.
"I will decide whether or not I go. That man hired my sister and brother to kill you and the others. Because of him, Klaudia hurt you badly, she made you suffer. Dmitri hurt Philip. All because of Suvoroff. I want him to pay for that," Galina said.
"If I have to tie you up and gag you again, sweetheart, I will," Nick said. Galina glared at him, but lovingly so.
"This isn't accomplishing anything," Derek muttered. "But I agree with Nick, you can't do this, Galina. He's right. We just got you back."
Galina started swearing in Russian much to Nick's amusement. She said to them, "You both are such pigheaded, stubborn, macho men! I can handle myself, Alex and Philip know that, don't you guys? You remember Brazil?"
"Oh no, don't you be draggin' me into this, Mo Chraoibhin Cno. I agree with Derek and Nick," Philip said.
Galina looked at Alex, "We women have to stick together."
"Nope, not when my best friend is given a second chance at life only to want to jeopardize it again," Alex said. Galina started swearing again.
"Careful, Lina, you forget I understand what you're saying," Nick said.
"I know you do," she said and then swore some more. Nick was trying to keep from laughing at her frustration. He wasn't going to move an inch on this however. He was serious. He would definitely tie her up to keep her out of danger if need be. She must have caught the expression on his face for she stopped and began to laugh herself. "I don't know whether to kiss you or slap you in the face," she laughed. "I never can stay angry with you."
"So what are we going to do?" Alex asked.
"Once he realizes that Dmitri is dead, and Klaudia hasn't called him, he'll do either one of two things. He'll hire someone else to come kill us, or he'll be so enraged and come and do the job himself. I'm betting on the latter. His ego is too great. He'll come here. We just have to plan for that," Derek said.
"Great," Philip said. "Another waitin' game."
"Well, let's get to work on it then," Derek said. They got up and Basil pulled Galina aside. Nick started to protest but Galina gave him a look to let him know it was okay.
"I'm glad you're back," he said to her in Russian. "How does it feel to be back in Russia where you belong? To be with us again?"
She answered him in English. "Go to hell."
"What?" he asked her.
"You heard me, Basil. I will never forgive you for the way you treated Nick. He's my life. They're my family. San Francisco is my home. And when this is over, I never want to see you again," she said. Galina walked off and grabbed Nick's hand.
"What did he say to you?" he asked her. "Did he bother you? Do you want me to talk to him?" Nick clenched his fists.
"Nevermind, Nicola," she said. She stroked his chin. "I handled him."
"The Gods are hard to reconcile. 'Tis hard to settle order once again." -Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Lotos-Eaters"
"Derek, I don't mean to suggest that you or your team are uncapable. But this is getting out of hand. One man is already dead and even though he was an assassin, I wanted this done with zero body count," Sloan explained. He was exasperated. Things were dangerously close to spinning out of control.
"Two. Two people are dead," Derek said. "Both of the assassins."
"Ah yes, Galina entered her sister's body. Do you believe this to be true, Derek?" Sloan questioned. He didn't want to encroach on Derek's joy at the return of one of his own, but he had to be sure this wasn't Suvoroff's plan from the very beginning or that Klaudia was somehow pulling their leg.
"She told us things that only Galina could possibly know," Derek told him. "Besides, both Alex and I can feel it. It's her, it's Galina. Everyone here would stake their life on that."
"Why didn't either one of you feel it before? When Klaudia Reznakovna was masquerading as Manya Pavlova?" Sloan asked.
"We were preoccupied with finding Suvoroff. We were caught off guard by Klaudia's likeness to her sister," Derek said. He offered several other reasons before saying, "Look, I would love to discuss this with you but frankly I don't have the time."
"I agree," Sloan replied. "Listen, I'm coming down there. I'll have to charter a private jet. Debra had to take our Legacy jet to the Seattle House on an assignment, she took Devin Connors with her."
"The newest member of your House, didn't Clarianna bring him in?" Derek inquired.
"Yes, and working quite well I might add. A lot of potential," Sloan said. He faltered a minute, losing his train of thought. Derek was trying to derail him and wondered why. He's up to something, Sloan thought. He said, "I won't be able to get there for another six hours, so don't do anything until I get there," Sloan ordered. "I mean it, Derek."
"I won't," Derek lied. He hung up the phone and thought, like hell I'm not going to do anything.
He told the others of his conversation with Sloan. Nick wasn't too pleased with the news that Sloan was coming out personally. He paced back and forth.
"Well, at least it will take him a little bit longer to get out here than if he had his Legacy plane. Right?" Alex asked.
"Yes," Philip mentioned. "Hey, who is the precept of the Seattle House these days?" he wondered.
"You remember Patti," Alex told him, "She just brought her sister, Maryalice into the House a few years ago."
"I'll have to send her a postcard to thank her for asking the London House for assistance. In doing so she's slowed Sloan down by at least three hours. We must use that to our advantage," Derek said.
"You really don't want him out here," Alex stated.
"I want to handle this. Suvoroff is my responsibility. Sure, Sloan was there when we brought him down, and if Suvoroff crosses us off his list he'll be after Sloan and his family next. But I was the one who initiated Suvoroff into the Legacy. And it was my family he caused the most hurt and did the most damage to," Derek said, looking at Nick.
"Well, we've got work to do then," Alex said. "We've got to come up with some sort of plan to trap Suvoroff. And we've got to do it in six hours."
Galina went over and pulled out her sister's cell-phone from the purse she had used. She hit the redial button.
"Lina, what are you doing?" Nick asked her.
"I'm seeing if maybe Suvoroff was the last person my sister called. We can lure him here," she explained. She suddenly started speaking Russian rapidly. Nick, Basil and his team listened intently.
"Nick," Derek whispered, "what's she saying?"
"She's telling Suvoroff that Dmitri is dead. That he bungled the job and that she thinks we're on to her. She's giving him directions to the House," Nick interpreted.
Galina shut the phone off. "You were right Derek, he is a psycho. He's angry, he told me not to do anything. That he would take care of things himself. He's on his way here now," Galina said.
Derek smiled and said, "I knew his ego would get the better of him. Let's get ready."
"If there's one guy, just one guy. Who'd lay down his life for you and die. It's hard to say it, it's hard to say it. But it's probably me." -Sting, "It's Probably Me"
Nick put his hand on Galina's shoulder when the lights went out. They stood there in the darkness, listening. Derek was upstairs with Alex and Bohdana. Basil was in the other room and Philip took Irina somewhere safe. She was too young and had no defensive skills, making her an easy target.
"He's in here, I can feel it," Galina whispered. "Come on," she said. They crept through the House like two silent cats on the hunt, putting their plan into motion. "If nothing goes wrong, this should work out perfectly," Galina told him.
"Lina, do not in any way put yourself at risk," Nick ordered. She nodded and kissed him quickly.
Basil gave Philip the fright of his life when he came up behind him. "Bloody hellfire and damnation!" Philip shouted in a whisper. Basil ignored him. He started speaking to Irina in Russian. Philip couldn't make out what he was saying but Irina seemed agitated by it.
"We have to take care of this," Basil said to her. "This is our House, we make the decisions, not these Americans." Basil kept prodding the girl. She finally got up to go with Basil.
"Wait, what do you think you're doin'?" Philip asked. "Irina, stay here with me, you'll be safe."
She looked at him pleadingly for help. Philip grabbed her arm to pull her back. Basil mumbled an apology and punched Philip, knocking him unconscious.
"What did you do that for! You hit a priest! Are you crazy!" Irina shouted. Basil put his hand over her mouth to silence her.
"Damn it, Irina. Listen to me. William Sloan told them to wait. But they ignored him. They will be punished for their disobedience, while you and I will be rewarded for capturing Suvoroff. The priest will be okay, let's go!" Basil commanded.
From the upstairs hall, Derek heard Irina's shout. It was something about Philip. He left his post and descended down the stairs rapidly. Galina met him half way. "Go stay with Alex and Bodhana, I have to help Philip."
"I'm going with you," Galina commanded. Derek didn't second guess her as he was sure she wouldn't listen to him anyway.
Irina and Basil rounded the corner of the downstairs hallway. Irina slammed back, colliding into Basil's body as it was riddled with bullets. He threw her off of him and ran in the opposite direction.
Nick had somehow gotten separated from Galina and was in agony trying to find her again. He abandoned the search for Suvoroff and concentrated on finding his love. He was damn sure going to be there for her this time. He heard the gunfire and almost died. When he reached the downstairs hallway and saw a woman lying dead on the floor, he released a cry of pain and ran forward. He turned over the body to see Irina, and not Galina. He felt for a pulse.
"Is she dead?" Philip asked, crawling forward. Nick looked at the bloody cut on Philip's cheek.
"What the hell happened?" Nick asked.
"Basil, took Irina. I don't know what the hell he said t'her. But from the looks of it, I don't think he wanted t'wait for Suvoroff t'come t'us. He wanted t'handle this himself. I tried t'stop him and he knocked me out," Philip said. He looked at Irina, "Is she?"
"Yes," Nick said. He was livid as hell. Basil had gotten one of his own team killed, not to mention he'd hit Philip. "Come on," Nick said.
"I have t'give her the last rites," Philip said. Nick started to speak but Philip's look stopped him cold. He decided to stay and remain guard over Philip while he performed the ceremony. He looked around and saw two figures approaching.
"Thank God," he muttered when Galina and Derek appeared. He told them what happened and Galina shook with fury at Basil's irresponsible actions. She turned and ran down the hall.
"Lina!" Nick shouted her name in a loud whisper. He went after her. Derek saw someone run out the front door. "Suvoroff," he growled. If he went after Suvoroff then Galina and Nick were safe wherever they were. The figure ran over across the field and perilously close to the edge of the cliffs nearby. He stumbled and fell, clinging to the side. The ocean waves thundered below him. Derek flew forward and grabbed the man by the arm. He looked down. It wasn't Suvoroff, it was Basil.
"I didn't mean to, it's my fault she's dead," Basil cried. He was sobbing hysterically. "It was my fault," he repeated over and over. He was blabbering like a baby. It disgusted Derek and he felt his stomach pitch.
"You're damn right it was your fault," Derek snarled. "I should let you die." He thought the better of it and pulled Basil forward, back to solid ground. Derek dragged him back to the house but flung him aside when he heard Galina cry out and gunshots go off.
He flew through the front door and saw Feodor Suvoroff lying dead on the floor. He breathed a sigh of relief but quickly caught his breath again when he saw Galina holding a bloodied Nick in her arms.
"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun. My hunger for her explains everything I've done. To howl at the moon the whole night through. And they really don't care if I do. I'd go out of my mind, but for you." -Sting, "Sister Moon"
Alex was putting the finishing touches on Nick's neck. "Luckily, it's just a graze," she said.
"Not lucky, Sloan should be here any minute. He'll probably finish the job himself," Nick said.
"What happened?" Derek asked.
"After you ran out the front door, I saw someone else move down the hall in the direction Galina had gone. It was Suvoroff. He was pointing his gun at her. And there was no way I was ever going to go through that kind of hell again," Nick said.
"He jumped in the way," Galina said. "He saved my life. I shot and killed Suvoroff before he could realize what was happening. I'm am just thankful you didn't..." she hesitated. She choked up and couldn't speak.
"Die? Like you did?" Derek asked. She nodded. "Galina, I will never be able to repay you for what you did that night. You saved Kat and me. You paid the ultimate price."
"Well, you need to take it easy, Nick. You need to get all the rest you can before 'his holiness' gets here," Alex said. They heard a car door slam and then a booming voice resonating from the next room.
"Speak of the devil," Derek muttered. Sloan came crashing through the door.
"And the devil appears," Nick chimed. Sloan's eyes widened when he saw Nick's bloody shirt.
"What the hell happened?" he asked. "Nick, are you okay? Why the hell is Basil Rotislav tied to a chair?"
"If you'll just listen for a moment, William, I'll tell you," Derek said.
Derek filled him in on what had happened. He let Sloan get off a few rounds of angry bellowing. Sloan finally said, "Basil will be banished from the Legacy for his actions. You, however much I would like to disagree, are not at fault here. Irina Volney is dead, but not by any fault of you or your team. She would still be alive if Basil hadn't goaded her into going with him. Your trap would have succeeded without any problems if he hadn't interfered." He looked at Galina and said, "Welcome back, Miss Perovskaya. You were greatly missed." She nodded and he turned to Bohdana. "I'm sorry for your loss. You are the new precept of the St. Petersburg House now, Bohdana. I will help you with instating a new team. You will have the final decision of course. Again, I am sorry." Sloan put a sympathetic hand on the woman's shoulder and then left the room.
"Well," Nick said. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" He started to say more but Sloan walked back in.
"I almost forgot, Philip. Your old parish in Ireland called. They need your help. Apparently they're infested," Sloan said.
"With what?" Philip asked.
"With Vampires," Sloan said matter-of-factly.
Philip shook his head. "What's this world comin' to?" he said wryly.
Now go e-mail Katy with your comments!