|Primary Characters:||Fiona Carter, Adam Carter|
|Description:||Adam ends up in captivity, and MI5 isn’t going to get him out. Fiona decides to take matters into her own hands.|
Adam Carter stood over his son, shaking his shoulder. It was time for the little boy to get up and get ready for school. Once he’d made sure the child had his eyes open, Adam went into the kitchen to get him breakfast. Cereals and milk.
He looked into the cupboard and found that he’d forgotten to get any fresh fruit. Wes would have to take a couple of biscuits as a snack.
Adam looked up as Wes walked into the room, his eyes still sleepy and his hair tousled.
“Didn’t you get a bath?”
“No. Can’t it wait? I’m so tired.”
“You shouldn’t have been up all evening playing Nintendo.”
Adam bent over his son and sniffed the hair at the nape of his neck. It smelled clean enough.
“Let me see your hands.”
After making sure the hands and fingernails were clean, he relented.
“Alright. But tomorrow you get that bath, do you hear me?”
“Now eat your cereals.”
“I’ll need my P.E kit.”
Adam nodded and got up. He’d put that thing in the hallway, last night after taking them out of the drier.
Having satisfied himself that Wes’ things were in order, he returned to the kitchen and had a glass of orange juice, a piece of toast and a cup of coffee, but didn’t finish any of it. It was time to go.
“Wes – remember that Ruth will be over tonight to watch you? I’ve got a conference to go to.”
“I know. Why can’t I stay with mom?”
“Because – she’s still not well. You like Ruth, don’t you?”
Wes shrugged. That wasn’t the point, his face seemed to say.
“When will you be back?”
“On Wednesday. It’s only the day after tomorrow. Be nice to Ruth.”
“‘course I will.”
Adam put his hand on Wes’ head and ruffled the hair.
“Comb your hair before you go and don’t forget to brush your teeth.”
Wes swallowed the last of the cereals and got up, pushing his bowl and spoon away. While the little boy got ready, Adam put the used china in the sink, then hurriedly finished his own morning ritual.
The conference he’d referred to was a stakeout. He and a few other agents would be watching what might be a training camp for terrorists in England. On the British mainland. What was more, it wasn’t far from London. If they were right in their guess, this was big.
Adam remembered Wes’ reaction when Fiona had been in the hospital. If anything happened to him, what impact would it have on the boy? Adam’s own father had passed away when he was thirteen. There were times when he still missed the old man bitterly, but this was no way to be thinking. Not on the day of such a major assignment.
He couldn’t help letting his mind linger on his ex-wife for a moment longer. After Fiona had been discharged from the hospital, she’d moved into a flat closer to work. Adam was hoping that didn’t mean she was continuing the affair with Ralph St Vincent, but since they weren’t even talking anymore, he had no way of knowing that, unless he humiliated himself and asked an old friend who was still working for MI6.
Fiona Carter – Lewis now – was sitting at her desk at MI6 headquarters, scanning surveillance reports. Since she’d been attacked and ended up in the hospital six months ago, she’d been put on desk duties – at her own request. She could easily have kept up her physical training and to some extent she had, but even if she was now more or less back in shape, she had lost some of the spirit that had made her love her work so much. The thrill of the hunt. Knowing that what she did might put her life at risk.
Even the occasion when she’d been captured and very nearly killed, hadn’t fully cured her of her love of danger. Now, she just wasn’t sure why she did it anymore. She still did her duty, but her heart wasn’t in her work anymore.
As if getting through the days wasn’t difficult enough, she also bitterly missed her son, Wes. After what she’d done to her husband – ex-husband – she hadn’t felt she could insist on joint custody of their son. If Adam hadn’t been fair enough to let her have visitation rights, she’d have lost touch with Wes entirely.
Whenever she thought about Adam, she felt her throat constrict. Pangs of guilt shot through her and she wished she could have turned the clock back. Anything but what she’d done. Her actions had caused Adam so much pain, and what was more, his love for her had impelled him to expose himself to even more pain, while working under cover to get to the man responsible for her hospitalization.
One of her colleagues walked by and said a few words. Fiona smiled automatically, but was lost in thought before her colleague had returned to her desk.
Adam was on his way to his boss’ office to receive any last minute instructions. He caught sight of Ruth, who was looking stressed and overworked.
“Hello. You look busy.”
“You have no idea. I’d better get this done, before Harry sends me back to the salt mines.”
Ruth pointed towards the floor. Adam frowned. He’d been about to ask Ruth if she was still going to manage the babysitting.
“Oh. The archives. The old files. After – about six months ago, Harry sent me downstairs to categorize them so they could be entered into the computer system.”
“So that’s what he did to you. Sorry about that. I suppose I never thanked you properly for – getting me out of there.”
“Never mind. It was the least I could do.”
“What about the rules of the game? Anyway, Jools told Fiona that the older files, 1960’s, I suppose, perhaps later too, were done by Harry.”
“Harry? I had no idea.”
Ruth giggled at the thought of her grim boss hard at work among those dusty tomes.
“Did Jools say what he’d done to bring that on himself?”
“No. I don’t think he knew. If he did, I’m sure he would have told her.”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“Listen, are you still alright about looking after Wes? I could ask Sam if you’re too busy, or -”
“No, no. It’s fine. After work, I don’t have anything pressing. It will be fun. He’s a good kid.”
“Yes, he is. Thanks. I’d better -”
Adam nodded towards Harry’s office.
There weren’t any last minute updates, so Adam and three other agents, set out together, in an SUV. They were met by a team of soldiers and a representative of the police force’s anti-terrorist unit. It was a joint operation, and at one time it had even been suggested that an operative from MI6 would join them. In the end, that had been vetoed by Harry.
Watching the place – a former manor house, converted into a sort of semi-military school – turned out to be a lengthy and dull business. At times, a few men ran around the compound, wearing tracksuits, or used a set of obstacles reminiscient of an army training setup. That was all.
No vehicles arrived or left, no deliveries were made.
Fiona knew Adam was away on an assignment. She wished he’d asked her to take Wes, and if she’d asked Adam, she knew he’d have let her help. It was just some stubborn shred of pride that kept her from doing that. After what she’d done to Adam, she deserved sitting here alone, missing her son.
After she’d left the hospital and after her convalescense – which she’d spent at her father’s house – with his new wife and her dreadful family – she’d insisted on going back to work as soon as possible. Sitting at home would only make matters worse.
On a day she knew Adam would be gone until late, she had gone over to MI5 headquarters, evaded Ruth’s and Sam’s and everyone else’s well-meaning words and managed to bully Colin into giving her fifteen minutes alone with the surveillance tapes from the S & M club.
She didn’t know why, but she just had to keep beating herself up over and over again. When she heard Adam struggling to get his breath back, while that man – whose terrible strength she was already familiar with – was penetrating him, and at the same time choking him – she had to fight to pull air into her own lungs.
She’d left the room long before the fifteen minutes were up, feeling ill and dizzy, but she still had her wits about her enough to corner Colin and swear him to secrecy. Adam mustn’t find out she knew the details of his ordeal.
All night, until she finally dozed off, with the help of medication, she kept thinking about Wes, no doubt sleeping at Sam’s or Ruth’s place, and Adam – wherever he was.
The following morning, she had a headache and for the first time in years, all she wanted was to go back to bed, but she ignored her impulse. She swallowed an aspirin and grimly focused on getting ready in time for work. These days, she rarely left headquarters, but she still did her utmost to fulfill her duties.
She’d barely sat down, when her boss rang to ask her into his office. Half-hoping it would be a new, more interesting assignment, she walked in. The look on his face warned her that the news wouldn’t be good, but somehow she never suspected it would be anything to do with her family. Not directly. She rather assumed it would be some mistake she’d made in the paperwork.
His tone hinted at something more serious and she was wondering what could be wrong.
“Fiona – I’m afraid I have some bad news. Adam -”
Her face lost all trace of color and for a second, her boss was afraid she was going to faint on him. He eyed the doorway anxiously, wondering if he ought to call Francesca and have her see to Fiona. But he wasn’t surprised to see her rally. Clenching her fists so hard, he could see her knuckles shine white on her small hands, she held his gaze.
“Wait. He’s still alive, but – I’m afraid he’s been captured.”
“Where? How bad is it?”
“We’re trying to find out exactly what we’re dealing with.”
“Where is he?”
“Oh, didn’t I say? He’s here, in England. Not far from London. I’m not sure you were involved, but for a while it looked as if we were going to lend a hand in their operation.”
“What sort of operation?”
“I can’t tell you that. Harry would have my head. I’ll tell you what. Go on over to their headquarters. They’ll be expecting you. I’m sure Harry will tell you everything he’s at liberty to say.”
Fiona nodded and got up so hastily, it looked as if she was going to faint again, but once more she pulled herself together and walked out.
Harry was expecting her and she could tell right away, that the situation was bad. He’d called in the night shift and the room was full of people coming and going, talking on the phone and printing out information from their computers. Fiona searched the room for Ruth and found her ungainly form bent over a printer, where apparently something was wrong.
Of course. Wes would be in school.
Harry nodded to her and she walked over and joined him. He gave Malcolm a few last minute instructions, then waved Sam away, before she even had time to have her say.
“Alright. Come in.”
He gestured towards the visitor’s chair facing his desk.
“I’m sure you’ve been informed about the situation.”
“All I know is that Adam has been captured.”
“It’s a bloody shambles over there. At least three men down. One of them ours.”
“Can you tell me who they are and what they want?”
“The less you know the better.”
“But are they amateurs or professionals? Domestic or foreign?”
“Professionals, definitely, but homegrown, I think. Possibly some from abroad. The point is, they found out they were being watched and they attacked.”
“And you’re absolutely sure Adam’s been captured?”
“Positive. When the army moved in – they were involved in the operation – there were three bodies. Hugh Baxter. Fine man. We did basic training together. Two of their own – the army, I mean. I don’t think any of the coppers were there, but their bodies could have been dumped further off.”
“Do you know where they’ve taken them?”
“We have some idea. They might still be on their grounds, but they have several hundred acres, and it’s all a minefield, literally. We have the place surrounded, but we got there late, so they might be long gone by now. I have my people scanning satellite images, footage from CCTV’s and other surveillance equipment within a ten mile radius.”
“You’re going to get them back, aren’t you?”
“We’ll do our best.”
On her way out from Harry’s office, Fiona happened to overhear Sam talking to a young man her own age. She thought he was new, but wasn’t sure.
“I’ll go tell Harry. This is big. If they get away with it – you can imagine what that will do to our credibility.”
“Yes, but what about Adam and Silas?”
“You know as well as I do, what Harry will say.”
Sam nodded gravely.
It was as if Fiona could hear Adam’s boss talking inside her head. She’d heard him say it often enough before and her boss had another charming little saying, amounting to the same thing, more or less. ‘It’s the rules of the game. You know what you’re getting into when you sign up for this job.’ And more in the same vein.
She felt chilled. They weren’t going to do anything to get Adam and that other agent back. She should have known all along, but somehow it hadn’t occurred to her that Adam would suffer anymore than he already had. He’d never told her much about the torture, and nothing at all about the incident six months ago.
Fine. If no one else would make sure her husband was safe, she would. Hadn’t Adam once said that she was the most cool-headed, uninhibited, amoral person he knew? As it happened he was right about most of it, just not the last statement. She’d find a way to get him out safely, and then – she’d figure it out as she went along. But first things first.
She remembered where she’d last seen Ruth, and retraced her steps in that direction.
“Oh, Fiona. I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it. Listen, at a time like this, I want Wes with me.”
“Of course. He’s at school until – two thirty.”
“I’ll pick him up myself and take him home with me, if that’s alright with you.”
Ruth’s eyes looked suspiciously moist and Fiona really didn’t want to deal with her emotions right now. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate the other woman’s sympathy. She just couldn’t stand to stay here and listen to more expressions of commiseration. They sounded just a bit too much like condolences.
By the time she’d picked Wes up, Fiona had the makings of a rough plan ready in her mind. Whatever operation the terrorists were launching, they wouldn’t bring their hostages there. She needed to know where they kept them and get Adam out. The others too, if she could. That would be a complication and if it came down to a choice between Adam and the others, she knew what she’d do, but perhaps there would be a way to take them all.
“I asked her if I could take you tonight. Do you mind?”
“No, of course not. When will daddy be back?”
“That’s it. You see, I’ve just heard that daddy might be a little late. In fact, we might just go and get him. Would you like that?”
“Yes. Where is he? He just said it would be a conference.”
“We might go to some other place and meet him there. Then we’ll all go away together for a while. How do you like that?”
“That’s great. When will we go?”
“Soon. Now let’s go home, to my new place and have something to eat.”
At least Wes didn’t suspect anything. Yet. She didn’t know how she’d handle that. By the time she was out of the hospital, she’d found out that Adam had told Wes about the baby. In a way, it was a relief, but she still felt it necessary to say a few words about that.
The doctor had given her a little more hope about future children, but at the time it hadn’t really registered.
She knew that Wes must have worried and she had a feeling he would have asked Adam if she was alright. When she knew more about Adam’s status, she’d think of something to tell her son, but not any sooner.
Once Wes was asleep, she went to meet a friend from MI6. Not Ralph. He’d been stationed in Jordan. Howard had been in the service for longer than Harry or Jools, and at one particular time, Fiona had been a position to render him some invaluable assistance. He’d never forgotten. Now it was time to call in that debt.
They met in a diner which was open all night. All the information he gave her had to be oral, so no package was transferred. Howard ordered a beer and Fiona a cup of coffee. Neither touched their beverage.
“I just heard. They’re keeping Adam and Silas alive to use as bargaining chips. They killed the police officers.”
“Do you know where they’re keeping them?”
“Yes. I’m afraid they’re in an embassy. Techically foreign soil.”
Howard hesitated. He was about to give her top secret information connected to a major operation aimed at putting a stop to one of the more serious acts of terrorism that had ever been attempted in the United Kingdom. If his boss learned about his indiscretion, he’d be lucky if they put him out to pasture. On the other hand, without Fiona’s help that time, he’d have been a goner long ago.
In the end, he told Fiona what she wanted to know. It was bad, but at least knowing what she was dealing with helped her make plans.
“You’re not going to – do anything foolish?”
She held his gaze without flinching.
“You know me. I never do anything foolish.”
He nodded, but he knew he wasn’t sure what she was capable of. Her ex-husband had been singing her praises to everyone he could, and Howard for one, agreed completely. There was probably no finer agent in the country. So far, she’d never been tested, but what if she was – past breaking point? But he owed her too much to question her.
“Right. Well, I’d better go. Look after yourself.”
“I will. Thanks. I mean it. You don’t owe me anything anymore.”
He took her hand and held it, while he studied her face closely. Somehow, he had a feeling he’d never see her again. He silently wished her luck, but didn’t say anything.
Fiona stayed for another twenty minutes or so, deep in thought. Howard’s information had given her a lot to consider. That particular embassy – it meant major trouble, but at least there was one advantage. The people there, were more corrupt than anywhere else in the Middle East. If she went about it the right way, she should be able to get him out. As it happened, she knew of a way in.
Once she had the rough draft of a plan, she got up and returned home, making sure she wasn’t being watched. She’d taken the precaution of pulling up a hood over her hair. The shapeless tracksuit she wore would help to confuse any watchers.
Still, she didn’t think anyone would suspect what she was up to. She’d brought Wes home with her. They’d think she’d be curled up at home, comforting herself by being close to her son.
Unfortunately, both her colleagues at MI6 and Adam’s colleagues too, knew what she was made of. If anyone should guess – but no one would, not until it was too late to do anything about it.
Afterwards was easy, at least comparatively so. Getting there would be the tricky part. She didn’t know what she’d be dealing with, on the way out, or in what shape Adam would be.
She took some time to deal with what they’d do afterwards, for two reasons. One, it was less likely to arouse suspicions, and two, it would help her nerve herself to get started on the first phase of the plan.
Once she’d finished with that, she made herself another cup of coffee and started over again. She should have the outfit necessary, and the rest of the outer accoutrements necessary for what she had in mind.
Now came the trickiest part. Again, it would involve leaving the flat, this time for a more anonymous place. Once she’d set things in motion, she’d have a couple of hours, at the most. Fortunately, she didn’t have that far to go.
When morning came, she didn’t even feel tired. She had packed Wes’ things and a few necessities for herself. For Adam, they’d mostly just have to get new things. She couldn’t risk going to his place. If someone was keeping an eye on the house, she’d have called attention to herself unnessecarily. She knew far too well how little attached Adam was to material posessions. In that they were alike, just like in so many other ways.
She stood over Wes’ bed, enjoying the sight of her son sleeping calmly. Who knew for how long they’d be this safe? But it was time to go.
“Wake up, darling. Time to go.”
“No, we’re going on that trip, I told you about. That will be fun, won’t it?”
“Yes. Where are we going?”
“It will be a surprise. Go on. Hurry up and get ready.”
They left the house shortly before nine and went directly to a hotel Fiona had chosen for its proximity to the embassy which was her target. It had other advantages, one of which was a handy back door.
She explained to Wes that she’d need to deal with a few things for work, before they could leave, and she was hoping he’d be comfortable in the hotel room.
The tv running cartoons ensured that. She told him he could order room service. To her relief, she could see that Wes was going to be more than happy to stay for a few hours in the room, waiting for her. As an afterthought, she added that she and daddy might be a bit late. If they were, he just had to wait. Someone would come for him.
She went into the bathroom and changed clothes. Making sure the door was closed, she stripped and faced the mirror. It wasn’t the first time she’d had to wear something this ridiculous, but each time, she had to fight to keep from laughing. Why on earth men liked to see so much skin exposed was beyond her. Or rather – not when it came to certain men. Adam looked rather nice in a pair of shorts or swimming trunks.
Hastily, she began to add more makeup. She put on the outfit she’d put together in the early hours of the morning. It made her look absurd, but as long as it got her into the embassy, she didn’t care about that. Finally, she put her coat on on top of it. Wes was too young to wonder about her change in attire, but she’d rather not have her son see her like this.
The makeup was regrettable. She’d be remembered, at the bank, but that was unavoidable and far better to withdraw the money now, before her former colleagues were after her.
On occasion, in her line of work, she’d been required to handle large sums of money, but it still felt odd to be carrying around this much cash. Still, it would all be put to good use.
The fact that Howard hadn’t been able to give her any blueprint of the embassy didn’t bother her. She’d been inside once before, about three years ago. No one would know where Adam and the other agent were kept anyway, but she had a good idea of where to start looking.
She was bargaining a lot on her guess that Rachid would still be there. If he wasn’t, she’d better hope there was someone else, as enamoured of women who advertised themselves with the help of cards left in phone booths.
She marched up the stairs, boldy asking for Rachid. If he wasn’t there anymore, she was hoping there would be someone by a name similar enough for her to have misheard or misrememered it. But Rachid was still there. Someone escorted her up the stairs and though she’d only seen the rooms downstairs, she had a good idea of the layout of the building.
“Rachid is in a meeting. You will wait here.”
It was as she had expected. Rachid still brought prostitutes to his suite at the embassy. How convenient for her. The metal detector at the entrance wasn’t quite as fortunate, but she could manage. So far she’d never actually carried out the procedure, but she knew it in theory. If she had to, she could do it.
She waited until the secretary’s footsteps had receded down the corridor, then opened the door and looked around. Those doors over there, had to lead to the ambassador’s suite. The question was, would he be there at this hour? On the other hand, unless he had a reception downstairs, she suspected he’d be in his private office.
A noise coming from downstairs made her freeze. There was no time to retreat into Rachid’s suite again. She withdrew further into the corridor. Unfortunately, the woman carrying the tray was coming in her direction. The scarf covering most of the woman’s face made Fiona consider a change of plans, but she wanted to know more before she made any move. Besides, the woman seemed to be both older, shorter and fatter than she was. No good, after all.
Fiona saw a door standing partially open and slipped inside moments before the woman would have caught sight of her.
A quick glance around told her the room was emtpy. It seemed to be an office, which wasn’t used much. There was a desk and chair behind it, but not much more. She stood by the door listening.
The woman knocked on a door at the furthest end of the corridor. After a brief pause it opened and a man asked said a few words in quick Arabic.
“There you are. Come in. I’ve been waiting for over an hour.”
“The ambassador -”
“Yes, yes. Put the tray over here. Then you can go.”
“What about the prisoners?”
“Look at them. Do you think they’re going anywhere?”
“No. I meant, shall I get them anything?”
“Don’t be stupid, Farida. If their people know what’s best for them we might release them, but I don’t think so. In any case, it’s not our job to feed them. Now go.”
Not until now, did Fiona notice that there was another door in the room she was in. It led to a room that was between the small office and the room or rooms where the prisoners were kept. She put her ear to the door and listened. Not a sound came through it. She put her hand on the doorknob and twisted it. It wasn’t locked and even better, it seemed to be kept well oiled. There was no sound from the hinges.
The other room was empty too, and there was another door connecting it to the room with the guard and the prisoners. Again, she listened intently. She couldn’t hear anything. Most likely, the guard was having his lunch.
She was considering her next move, when she heard the guard speak again, this time in English.
“What are you looking at? Are you hungry?”
He laughed harshly. The prisoner – whoever he was – didn’t reply.
“I asked you a question.”
Fiona heard the guard walk a few steps across the floor, then there was a dull thud as if someone had hit the floor. She had to bite her lip to repress her reaction. If she panicked now, all she’d done until now would be wasted.
The guard cried out words in English and Arabic which were insulting to say the least. Fiona took advantage of the noise to open the door a crack. To her relief, there was another door standing ajar, which led to the room where the guard and the prisoners were. The one she could look into was small, perhaps an old dressing room. It looked like a waiting area. There were two chairs and a narrow table standing against the wall. Nothing more.
She tiptoed across the floor and looked through the door. The guard was still kicking the man who was lying on the floor. Not Adam. It had to be the other one. Silas. Instantly, relief flooded through her, but she repressed it. If she could, she’d get this Silas out too.
“What are you looking at? Want some of this too?”
Adam didn’t reply, but the guard decided to take his silence as a provocation. He had a gun in his hand and he placed the barrel against Adam’s neck. Fiona drew in breath.
“I could tell my boss that you tried to escape. It won’t make much difference. Your friend here is still breathing. If we need to we’ll use him. I don’t like your face. Too pretty. It’s not natural in a man. Perhaps I should do something about that?”
Fiona silently kicked off her shoes, then slid across the floor so silently the guard never had any idea of what hit him. She did as her instructor had shown her on the dummy. He’d been right. It didn’t take as much strength as she’d imagined. There was a dreadful crack as the neck broke, and the guard slumped down.
For a second, Fiona felt dizzy. Was it that easy to kill another living creature? How long had it taken her? Ten – fifteen seconds? A bit more? Her hands had moved as if of their own accord and now another human being lay dead at her feet. But she hadn’t come this far to break down. She forced herself to focus on what was still ahead.
Adam had recognized her by now. He was standing on his knees, hands tied behind his back. The other man was lying on his side, looking as if he was in pain, but still conscious.
Fiona put a finger to her lips and Adam nodded his understanding.
She went to work on the plastic bands that were eating into Adam’s wrists. On the tray the woman had brought up, there was a knife. It was an ordinary table knife and it wasn’t much good for carving through the tough material, but there didn’t seem to be anything else she could use. It would have to do. She began sawing through the plastic. It was taking too long. Rachid would come upstairs and wonder where his tart had gone off to. Someone would come along sooner or later, perhaps the woman, Farida, to pick up the tray.
Finally, the plastic broke and Adam could pull his hands free. He took the knife from her and managed to saw through the other man’s bonds more quickly. The man – Silas – seemed to be able to walk on his own.
To Fiona’s surprise, Adam pulled her into his arms and gave her a quick hug, placing his lips to her ear.
If she remembered the layout of the building correctly, there was a service exit leading to a back alley. There would be surveillance cameras, but as long as they were able to leave quickly, there would be nothing their ‘hosts’ could do about it.
Their escape would depend on equal parts speed and stealth. They were able to make their way back through the corridor and to the narrower stairs leading to the kitchen and the back door. Not until now did Fiona notice that not only Silas, but Adam too, was walking slower than usual. It looked as if her ex-husband was favoring one leg and his left arm seemed to be hurt somehow too.
At the foot of the stairs, they stopped to listen. From the kitchen Turkish arabesque music was streaming out. At least Farida wouldn’t hear them coming. The passage leading out to the back yard passed outside the kitchen door, but with luck no one would see them.
Unfortunately, there were high gates facing the back alley. There was no barbed wire but would Silas – or even Adam – be able to climb all the way to the top? Fiona was painfully aware of the surveillance cameras. At least none seemed to be aimed at the door where they were standing. Apparently they were more concerned with keeping unwanted visitors out, than keeping anyone in.
“Can you climb?”
Adam nodded decisively. Fiona glanced inquiringly towards Silas. Adam shrugged. They would all have to take their chances. She could see Adam talk quietly close to Silas’ ear, then the other agent straightened his shoulders and nodded.
Adam let Silas go over first. The gates were broad enough to let them all climb side by side, so he didn’t wait to see Silas go up. Fiona jumped up, grateful for having left the high-heeled shoes behind. The pavement would be rough against the soles of her tights, but she’d worry about that when she had to.
So far, there hadn’t been any sounds of pursuit from inside the embassy, but it was only a matter of seconds now. She and Adam were over the top and going down. Silas was still trying to get over, when the door opened behind them. Fiona let go and dropped the rest of the way down. So did Adam. They didn’t wait to see what became of Silas.
Before Adam had rounded the corner, he saw that Silas had hit the ground hard, but was up and moving, limping after them. After a moment’s hesitation Adam returned for his colleague. So far, the embassy’s guards were holding their fire. It seemed they were hoping to get them back, without drawing attention to themselves from their neighbours.
Fiona could have bitten her fingernails, as she impatiently waited for Adam to round the corner. This was a wealthy area, filled with embassies. If they only managed to get a few dozen yards more, they’d end up within sight of another embassy’s surveillance cameras or an international bank’s or a major international corporaration’s. Only a little further.
She could hear Silas arguing fiercely with Adam. There wasn’t a chance in hell that they’d get away if Adam kept dragging Silas along. Suddenly, a large car slid to a stop in front of them. Fiona swore under her breath in Punjabi. That was all she knew in that particular language, but she’d always liked the sound of those mysterious, lusty words.
But the voice coming from inside the huge armoured car sounded decidedly Mediterranean. Italian or Romanian.
“Yes, my friend has had a bit of an accident. Would you -”
That was all Fiona was able to catch. Thirty seconds later, Adam caught up with her, put his arm around her and they were on their way again. The timely appearance of the Italian ambassador’s car had slowed their pursuers down. If they were lucky, they wouldn’t dare to keep up their pursuit at all, in broad daylight in front of independent witnesses.
Now it was more a question of escaping their own people, once they’d learned of her interference. The diplomatic complications following an attack on a foreign embassy could escalate and cause endless trouble for Whitehall. But that wasn’t their problem anymore.
“Now where do we go?”
She told him. Only a few blocks away. If Adam could keep up this pace.
“What’s wrong with you? What did they do?”
“Nothing much. A few of them blew off steam by using me and Silas as punching bags. Rather like you saw the guard do to Silas.”
“Is that all?”
They made it to the hotel without attracting anyone’s attention, at least Fiona hoped so. Wes was still waiting upstairs. He jumped into Adam’s arms, oblivious to the pain he was causing his father. Adam covered it well, but Fiona could see how his features tightened when the boy barrelled into his chest.
Fiona hugged her son briefly, then let go.
“We’ll need to freshen up a little. Why don’t you watch some more tv?”
She closed the door behind them and turned on Adam.
“Ok. Take off your clothes.”
“Just a minute. I take it this isn’t authorized by Harry or – your people?”
“We’re wasting time. If you just – I have other clothes for you too, here. Just one change of clothes. We’ll have to get the rest later. If you don’t want to go with me and Wes, that’s alright. We can split up later, but – when they find out what I’ve done we need to be out of the country.”
He nodded thoughtfully, as he pulled off his shirt. Fiona gasped as she took in the bruises. Worse. There was a fresh wound on his shoulder.
“An accident. Stray bullet. It just grazed me. Nothing to worry about.”
She pulled out the pants and shirt she’d found for him. It was just luck that she’d still had some of his belongings. They must have come along by accident, when she packed up her things.
He made no comment, just dressed as quickly as he could. In the meantime, she put on her only really casual skirt and a top she’d received as a gift. It was rather too frilly for her taste, but she thought it might do for now. As a finishing touch, she put on a scarf around her hair. She was hoping it would change her appearance enough to fool anyone keeping a lookout for her.
She kept hurrying Adam and Wes along, until she was sure Wes suspected something was wrong. To her relief, he was far too happy to be with both his parents for a change, to question the situation. They got on the bus, which Fiona had deemed least likely to be watched, and sat together, Wes on her lap. She hadn’t forgotten Adam’s reaction. If she wasn’t mistaken, he’d broken a rib or two.
They sat leaning on each other, as the day turned into evening and no one came to look for them. At the terminus, they got off. Wes had fallen asleep a few hours ago and Adam was carrying him, despite a shortness of breath that worried Fiona.
She was carrying the backpack and a shoulder bag. It contained all their worldly goods, but with what was hidden at the bottom of the bag, she knew they could get anything else they needed. Unfortunately, they had to wait for another three hours, well into the night, before the night bus for the seashore left.
Fiona felt as if the back of her head was itching. Any second now she expected to be challenged and stopped by someone. But nothing happened. Towards dawn, when she’d nodded off more than once, they arrived at their destination.
She could see that Adam’s strength was vaning and so was her own, but they couldn’t rest just yet. There was still a little distance to go. Wes woke up and made a nuisance of himself. Fiona was hoping no one would remember, but at least there were hardly any people out.
At the docks, she stopped.
She walked a little distance further, trying to read the names on the sides of the ships. Most of them were small fishing vessels but there was another, a trawler, which was slightly larger. The one she wanted was so small it would have bothered her if her nerves hadn’t already been stretched to the limit.
“Hello? Mr Clausen?”
“Are you Helen Fuller?”
“This way, please.”
“My husband and son are over there.”
The fisherman waited while she went to get Adam and Wes, then nodded politely as she introduced them. She deliberately left out their names, so Wes wouldn’t wonder. Time enough to tell him later, once they’d made their getaway, that from now on, he’d go by another name.
She glanced about her suspiciously, but nothing alarming came to her attention. Chances were that the Dane wouldn’t be aware of anything unusual about her passengers. Through a friend of a friend, she’d heard that he wasn’t averse to a little smuggling. No huge quantities, mainly for his own use, and on occasion, he could be persuaded to take passengers, usually people with something to hide.
They were shown into a small cabin and left there. Fiona noted with relief, that the fisherman didn’t lock the cabin door. The cabin was tiny, but relatively clean. There were two bunks – only two – so she’d have to share with Wes. She didn’t mind that. Fortunately, her son was an unusually sound sleeper.
The fisherman returned, telling them to get some rest. If they wanted something to eat, there were sandwiches and something to drink.
“When do we leave?”
“Not until early afternoon. You sleep.”
Though every fiber in her body was screaming, she forced herself to accept the situation. There was nothing she could do about it anyway. This was what she’d been able to get on such short notice. It would have to do.
“Are you hungry, darling?”
Wes shook his head. He looked so tired, Fiona just helped make him comfortable on the upper bunk. It was his choice, not hers, but it really didn’t matter.
“What about you?”
Adam shook his head. Fiona knew they should try to eat, but she didn’t have any appetite and didn’t feel up to arguing with Adam about it. They could always get something later.
After making sure Wes was asleep, Adam turned an inquiring gaze on to her.
“Can you tell me a bit more about what I can expect?”
“Why don’t you lie down?”
He agreed so easily, she knew he had to be in considerable pain. There was a small basin in a corner and there seemed to be running water, so Fiona took some paper tissues and prepared to clean up Adam’s wound. Again, he didn’t fight her, so it was obvious he was not only in pain, but perhaps dizzy too, as well as exhausted.
“So, where are we going?”
“Well, you know, our people have less influence there and besides – it was either that or some Arab country. Would you have preferred Morocco?”
“Russia will do. My Arabic accent is atrocious. I know yours is better, but – Russian will be fine.”
“That’s what I was thinking. I’m afraid we’ll be travelling around. There are plenty of homeless people and tourists of a kind – mainly drug addicts, but others too – who travel from town to town, especially in the south. Rather like gypsies. I don’t think anyone will look for us there. So, if you can stand the idea of travelling with me -”
“If you can stand travelling with me. I heard it was over between you and Ralph before -”
“Yes, when I found out I was pregnant – I just – it made me come to my senses.”
“So why did you let me believe you were still involved with Ralph?”
“It wasn’t my intention. I just wanted you to know that – I wasn’t worthy of your sacrifice.”
“Don’t be silly. Of course you were. I’d do it again if I had to.”
“Do you mean that?”
“Of course. Though, honestly, I’m glad I won’t have to.”
“So am I. Adam – I’m really sorry about that.”
“Never mind. I’m alright. Well, I will be soon.”
“I – can’t bear to think of you with that man.”
“Then don’t. As far as I’m concerned, that never happened. At any rate, it’s over and done with. Fiona – ”
He broke off, his face twisting into a mask of pain.
“Just the ribs. I tried to move too fast and – never mind. You know I’ve had worse. I suppose we might as well talk about – us.”
Fiona nodded. She’d known it would come to this. Normally, she was excellent at getting out of an unpleasant situation. At the moment, she felt that whatever Adam had to say, she owed it to him to listen and accept whatever it was he wanted to tell her.
“I can’t believe you did it. You always loved your work more than -”
More than her family? Was that what he thought about her? She felt a burning behind her eyelids.
“What? More than you and Wes?”
“No, that’s not what I meant. But now you’ve thrown everything away, just for me. I thought -”
She swallowed hard, never taking her eyes off Adam. There was a long drawn out pause. At first she didn’t think he was going to finish.
“I thought you didn’t love me anymore.”
“Oh, Adam. I suppose I deserved that. After what I did to you.”
“No. I’ve been giving what you said a lot of thought and – you were right. I didn’t see it at the time, but I could have been more considerate. You weren’t the only one who loved your work. I let you down.”
“You didn’t know. I hurt you.”
He smiled crookedly.
“Well, sometimes pain can be good.”
Remembering the scene at the S & M club, he couldn’t help laughing.
“Nothing. I just meant that even being hurt by you is better than not being with you.”
Fiona suddenly felt as if he had struck her. Normally, she never cried. Since losing the baby and finding out what Adam had done for her, she’d done nothing but cry, night after night. She’d really lost it, whatever edge she once had. It really was time to get out. She tried to hold the sobs back, but failed.
Adam was fighting against dizziness, exhaustion and pain, and it took him a while to notice that she was no longer looking at him. Her head was turned away from him and he could see that she was shaking.
Without a word, she sank down on the bunk beside him and leaned her head against his relatively unhurt shoulder. He put his arm around her and pulled her closer.
“What? You’re that happy I’m back?”
It was a long time before she spoke again.
“I had to do it. I couldn’t bear to lose you again. I’d had it up to here with those rules. Harry and his damned rules. I decided to change them.”
“Thanks. I wasn’t quite ready to die yet. Not with everything still left unsaid – between us and – If – would you have quit and looked after Wes instead?”
“You know I would have. That was the understanding, remember? If I went first, you’d quit and take care of him and if you went first I’d do it.”
“So, now we go together.”
But Fiona didn’t stop crying and Adam was beginning to worry that perhaps she’d been hurt too. It suddenly occurred to him that she’d been wearing damned odd clothes when she threw off her coat and began to rummage through that backpack. That embassy. The ambassador’s right hand man, Raschid, a dissolute son of a rich father.
No reply. He began to stroke her hair and neck soothingly. Come to think of it, he found it quite comforting too.
“If that bastard Raschid -”
“What? No. He never showed up. Besides, I didn’t wait for him. It was just my way in.”
“Oh. Then what -”
Suddenly, Adam realized what it was. ‘I had to do it.’ Not referring to becoming a renegade, as he had assumed. It was to do with breaking that sadistic guard’s neck.
“Fee. He killed Hugh. You remember Hugh? And two of the others. Played with them. Faked executions a couple of times before he actually did it. He -”
No, Adam didn’t think telling Fiona about how that man had cut off the head of one of the soldiers, then tossed it back and forth like a ball.
“But – that crack – it was so -”
“I know. You never get used to it. But it was him or us.”‘
“I’m never doing it again.”
“You don’t have to. I won’t have to. It’s over. After – losing you – it just wasn’t the same anymore. I just realized that it wasn’t a game. Real people get hurt and though I didn’t see it like that when I started out, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even worth it. Besides – I’ve had a lot of time to think about it – once you go beyond a certain point, you’re out of control. Nothing seems too cruel or gruesome anymore.
There was this prisoner I was interrogating. I – think I went too far. That’s what he told me. It’s how it started for him. Once you cross the line, you won’t care what you do or why. You might as well do it for money as out of loyalty to your country. Doing it for kicks is the same. I want to stop too. Before it’s too late. Before I can’t.”
Fiona pulled back slightly and looked into Adam’s face. This didn’t sound like the man she’d fallen in love with and married, but suddenly she knew that she loved this new Adam even more.
“I didn’t know that. It’s hard to believe anyone will repeat the experience.”
“Perhaps you wouldn’t have had to. Then one day, you might have run into a situation where you had to again. Soon it might not bother you as much anymore.”
“Was it like that for you?”
Adam thought about it. In a way it had, then again, in a way, it hadn’t. It was hard to explain. Each time it happened, it bothered him, but the reaction always came too late. After he’d done it. That was what really scared him. Perhaps Santiago was a bad example. He was sexually dominant, but most of the other terrorists they hunted thought nothing of killing or injuring women and children. Old people. Helpless prisoners, tied up or unconcious.
If the victim, that particular time, hadn’t been Fiona, would it even have troubled him? Perhaps in a strange way, he’d been lucky to come to this insight now, before he’d become like that. Empty of emotions. Driven only by a mercenary instinct or simply for the thrill of it.
“No. Not yet. But it might have been soon enough. I’m glad it’s over. And that you’re here with me. You and Wes. To hell with Harry and the job. This is more important, it always has been.”
Fiona nodded slowly.
“Come here. If you lie on top of me, there’ll be room for both of us.”
“I can’t. Your ribs.”
“Screw the ribs. I’ve had worse. Come on. I want to know you’re here. Wes will sleep just as well without you.”
“The shoulder -”
“On the other side, then. Here.”
She stretched out next to him, and he put his arm around her and pulled her close. Her head rested on his shoulder. He was right. It was better this way.
Wes solemnly accepted the slice of melon from the bearded old man in the marketplace. The boy took a bite, licked his lips, swallowed, then smiled and nodded.
Fiona bought half a melon from the salesman. It would make a nice dessert after their bread and cheese. Goat’s cheese was an acquired taste, but they’d managed to get used to it. Travelling through the southern part of the former Soviet Union had made them virtual vegetarians. The mysterious pieces of meat didn’t look appealing and Wes had refused to touch them outright. So at least during the summers, they existed on fruit, vegetables, some bread and butter, the occasional piece of cheese and some nuts and almonds. So far, there had been no adverse effects on their health.
In fact, Fiona seemed to have put on weight, unlike her son, who had shot up during the past year or so, and now looked almost like a teenager, rather than a ten-year-old. Adam, too, looked thin, but healthy and much happier than she’d ever seen him in London. They managed on the odd jobs they did, usually together. Living like this had its advantages. The low cost was one of them.
Wes ran ahead to the park bench where Adam was sitting, eyes closed, face tilted up towards the sun.
“Hey. Look what I got for us.”
Adam looked up, smiled warmly and held out one hand for her. She sat down beside him. Together they sat and watched their son play with another boy called Mika.
“Great place. I think we’ll stay here for a while. We might get a job teaching Arabic. At least you might.”
“Yes, I like it too. Wes is becoming fluent in Russian. We’ll have to teach him too. He can’t miss out on an education because of us.”
“Right. I’ll do my part. If we get a good job, we’ll pay for some classes. Maths, physics, that sort of thing. We can handle the rest.”
Adam looked around the park. Unbelievable. If someone had told him, a few years ago, that he would be sitting in a strange town in southern Russia, taking each day as it came, he would have laughed. Now the carefree life had grown on him. He didn’t think he needed the kicks anymore. Living with the woman he loved and their son beat it hands down. Funny though, how much weight Fiona had put on. It almost looked as if – but of course that was impossible. The doctor had told him –
Harry sat down in his seat at the opera. At times, he found the deafening music relaxing. He was wondering if Jools would make it this time. The first act was almost over. Of course, he was used to Jools’ habit of showing up in the first intermission.
A deafening crescendo of drums, cymbals and a fat soprano singing, covered the sound of the door into his private box opening. Harry almost jumped out of his skin when he noticed Jools sitting there beside him as if he’d been there all along.
“Ah, honey, you waited for me.”
Used to Jools’ humour, by now, Harry took no notice.
“So you made it.”
“As you see.”
“Did you find out where Adam and Fiona Carter went?”
“No. There isn’t a trace of them. Are you sure they even left the country?”
“I’m not sure of anything. All traces of them end in that hotel room Fiona took her son to.”
“Don’t look at me. Adam was one of yours.”
“And Fiona one of yours.”
“If you think about it, they’re not doing any harm. Why not let them be? If they begin to work against us in some way, we’ll take action. As it is, alive or dead, they’re not causing any trouble.”
Harry thought about it. Perhaps Jools was right. Dead or inactive really didn’t make a difference. A dead diplomat in an embassy wasn’t any real problem. It had been easy enough to claim ignorance. After all, the woman in question hadn’t been working for them. Anymore. By all accounts she had been dressed as a prostitute. Drug addiction could make people unpredictable. If there was jealousy involved – MI5 surely wasn’t responsible for every addict and tart who was allowed inside embassies.
Of course, the bank job was something else. The first couple of months, Harry had been livid with rage, and he had a feeling some of his colleagues over at 6 had reacted the same way. Now, enough time had gone by to make him regard the matter more philosophically.
Still, it was infuriating, the way that confounded woman had made fools out of them all. She’d walked in then out again, right under their noses and no one had suspected a thing. Then she’d stolen a million pounds without anyone being the wiser until it was far too late. Remarkable. Another one for the history books, or – Harry had been thinking about it for some time now – his memoirs.
Times were changing. Agents working for MI5 were now considered more or less normal human beings, and could do what they wanted, after they retired, with a few important exceptions. Why shouldn’t he write a book? He had some stories to tell he was sure the general public would be interested in. In fact, he was betting Jools was planning to write one himself. Why let that intolerable fool beat him to it?
Mm. Yes. He rather thought he’d get to work right away. Tonight. A rough draft, then the next time he took a week or two off, he’d revise and edit. What was that chap’s name again? They’d been to school together. Ended up in bed together too, if he remembered correctly. Surely this fellow – Mark? Michael? Miles? who worked in publishing owed him some consideration. Splendid idea. Who cared about two rogue agents anyway?