Cry for the forgotten, Part VII
A special thanks to Rose, for pointing out a few discrepancies.
|Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |Part 6 | Part 7 |
We landed safely in Chicago and set about locating my source, a hanger mechanic by the name of Joe Thumbler. Joe was an old friend of mine from my younger days. He was a former barnstormer with a trademark maneuver of tail spinning downward into a spiral free fall and pulling up at the last minute. It was that stunt that won him his handle, Thumbler.
His act had an inane way of shocking and stunning the audience who would willingly open the old purse strings and reward him handsomely at the end of every show.
He was doing well for himself until the day he was clipped accidentally by a fellow crewmate while trying out a new stunt. His plane suddenly started spinning out of control though he managed to land it in a nearby cornfield. As he did so, the plane began to fly apart and a metal bolt struck him just below the left eye. He passed out from the impact of the blow as the plane careened forward before finally lurching to a halt.
By then, about the only part still left intact on the plane was the stick, the front seat he was sitting in and the wings and tail section lay scattered behind him in a million pieces. He spent several months in the hospital flirting with death until he finally pulled through and returned to the living.
The result was a serious injury to his left eye that blinded him permanently and a prosthetic device for his right leg. He wore a black patch over his eye though the scar was too large to be fully covered. He was never quite the same after that and never took to the skies again.
Instead, he became a ground mechanic and dabbled in aerodynamics engineering managing to snare a lucrative share of the private market. There was no doubt, Joe had a nose for sniffing out money and he was making a real decent living, as the world of aviation grew in leaps and bounds.
Wild Bill had arranged for his operatives to help us out along the way and smooth out any rough waters loaded with agency bureaucracy. I can't say I was too keen on letting Bill in, but at this point, we had very little choice in the matter. As Bus Stop and I searched the hanger for Joe, Tuvo and Miles went along with the four spooks from Wild Bill's Chicago office.
It was the first time I realized how well conceived and deployed his agency truly was. Whatever he was paying his 'College of Cardinals,' the money was well spent, it was about the only tight group I ever met that could compete with Wild Bill's was Tuvo's. I was growing concerned over the OSS spooks.
By Wild Bill's own admissions, he had double agents within his own agency, which he was hoping to ferret out. The question was, whom did we trust from his team? Tuvo and I both agreed to play this one close to our chest and not give any OSS operative information on our plans.
We were closing in on Charleston and I couldn't afford a single mistake, any miscalculation would have dire consequences for my kitten. I was nervous, but I was never more focused before in my life. My entire body tingled with anticipation and the pent up energy was building to a frenzy.
I was restless and found I couldn't sit or stand still for very long. I was taking wide strides across the hanger and heard that distinctive raspy voice cursing underneath his breath. The loud metal clang of a tool being thrown across the room and landing firmly against a metal drum rang loudly in the air.
I chuckled lightly and shook my head, as it had been an eternity since I last heard that raspy cigar voice cursing so wildly. I recall vividly Joe's idea of flight lessons, it was three fun filled days with him cursing and swearing rabidly using language that even made me blush. Aside from schooling me on the fine art of flying, he did a decent job in increasing my vocabulary as well and not necessarily in the good sense either.
We neared the dismantled plane and he let out another loud curse shaking his hand. I watched him stand and the blood from his right forefinger flowed freely to the floor as he called every saint in the book a dirty name. He wiped his finger on the front of his gray coverall, a long streak of red staining his chest.
"Hey Joe, long time no see."
He smiled broadly, his face though scarred appearing handsome and rugged. There was little doubt Joe had been hell of a looker before the accident. If anything, the patch gave him a more devilish, roguish appearance instead. Joe was about my height with strong broad shoulders and sandy brown hair and the greenest eyes I had ever seen that seemed to sparkle with a life of their own. He had shiny white, pearly teeth and an infectious smile. He ran towards me and lifted me in the air in a spin. At the moment, I was wondering where exactly his cut finger was, and hoped silently he wasn't staining my suit.
He shook me like a rag doll before setting me down and planting a big wet sloppy kiss on my mouth. He laughed loudly when I pushed him away at his attempts to ram his tongue down my throat. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and he damn near peed his pants.
Joe was well aware of my sexual preferences after we spent a month in Kansas wooing the same nineteen-year-old daughter of a local farmer. In a drunken stupor, we made a bet as to who would bed her first. Lucky for me, I won. Joe never let me live that one down and we had some good laughs afterwards, when her father chased us half way across the field shooting at us like crows invading his corn crop. We scrambled to his plane and just made it off the ground as buck shot whizzed over our heads. To add insult to injury, Joe made sure to buzz the farmer four times before heading out.
"Cat, you gorgeous broad, just checking to see if you changed your mind about me."
"Not for all the tea in China you grease monkey. How the hell have you been?"
"Horny as ever, and you?"
"Damn Cat, you always scored better than me."
"That's because I have the better lines."
"That you do Cat, God but you look good."
"Thanks Joe and I owe you one."
"What's the skirt to you?"
"She's my life, Joe."
"Don't tell me you've finally had your wings clipped?"
"Clipped and mounted. This is real important to me Joe."
"Step into my office. Who's the muscle?"
Joe acknowledged Bus Stop, who was watching the entire scene with a new interest, it was evident he'd just learned something about me he didn't know before. My past was something I always guarded jealously and it was rare when any of Tuvo's team got wind of it.
"Joe meet Bus Stop. Bus Stop works for Tuvo."
The two shook hands warmly, and I chuckled as Bus Stop stared in disdain at the blood Joe slapped on his hand from his cut. Bus Stop looked around helplessly looking for a rag to wipe his hand on.
"How is that old dog anyway?"
"He's here. He's chasing down the spooks and getting a handle on the skirt's estate."
"Well, make sure he stops to see me first."
"I'll make sure he does."
"Step this way, I think there's some coffee still up."
Joe motioned for Bus Stop and he led us into a small metal bunker he'd converted to a makeshift office. The place was deceiving once we stepped in. It was decorated in warm woods and large soft chairs, and had a large oak roll top desk stuffed in the corner piled high with papers.
I was taken by surprise by the creature comforts hidden in the stark metal confines of the shelter. We sat down in the large overstuffed chairs and Joe poured Bus Stop and me a cup of coffee. The coffee was strong and even I found it hard to swallow. I let the warmth slide down my throat and knew I wouldn't be sleeping for several days.
"What have you got Joe?"
"Well the first plane touched down at 16:00 hours yesterday, nobody got out and only the ground crew refueling was allowed near her. I tried to get a look inside and was unable to see anything."
Joe pulled out a piece of paper and tossed it on the oak coffee table in front of us. I picked it up and as I began to read it, my face darkened and I heard Joe breath out.
"I can tell you Cat, they have no intention of flying out to Wisconsin, I heard them talking in German. They must have thought I couldn't understand them, but I did, I learned it from some skirt I met in Pennsylvania. They're headed out to San Francisco via Utah.
"Are you sure?"
"Oh I'm sure, I heard the co-pilot mentioning the coordinates."
"Did you write them down?"
"They're right here."
Joe tapped his right forefinger to head, indicating his brain. For my sake, I was hoping that his accident hadn't scattered his gray matter completely and he could still remember those coordinates.
I pulled out my pad and leafed through the pages until I hit the page where I wrote the coordinates Harry gave me. If Harry was right about his information, I had a feeling they were going to be the same. I tossed the book to Joe, and I noticed his eyes grow big and a smug grin touched his face.
"That's them Cat, right down to the last digit."
I smiled for the first time in 48 hours, it meant that my hunch was correct and we were headed in the right direction. For once, the cards were being dealt in my favor and I embraced the new windfall of luck wholeheartedly.
"What can you tell me about the second plane, Joe?"
Joe smiled warmly at me and raked my form up and down, licking his lips in the process. That was the one thing about Joe, he never had a long attention span and it always seemed to wander faster whenever a skirt was in his presence. I decided to bring him gently back down to earth.
"Joe, the second plane?"
Joe shook his head and his good eye cleared and focused on my face again. I could tell I'd managed to get his attention back on track.
"Oh yeah, the second plane. It touched down 31/2 hours later and this crew was more friendly than the other."
"Any women on board?"
"No, I didn't see the skirt you were talking about, but then again we weren't allowed to board her either."
"Did they file their flight plan?"
"Oh yeah and they're headed to the same location."
"The same Napa valley coords?"
"Not the exact ones. They touch down 4 miles away."
"You have those coords?"
"Here you go."
He tossed the skirt's flight plan paper work at me and I quickly copied the coordinates. I figured we could land here as well. It was far enough to escape detection, but close enough to get there on foot if necessary. I was hoping Tuvo and Miles were getting the layout of the land of the skirt's estate and we could map out our best plan of approach from the coords we would be landing at.
I stood and Bus Stop rose along with me. Joe immediately followed suit and we headed towards the door. We hugged warmly before saying our goodbyes. Bus Stop and I went towards the interior of the airport to catch up with Tuvo and Miles. I had a slight hop to my walk and completely focused now more than ever.
It took us twenty minutes to reach the building and both Bus Stop and I broke out into a mild sweat from our rapid pace across the airfield. We entered the office and there was Tuvo and Miles bent over looking at maps while three spooks hovered above them like a pack of vultures waiting for their prey to breathe its last breath.
There was a young spook of about twenty-two years of age reading the maps with them, his face furrowed into a deep scowl. He lifted his head slowly and shot me a knowing look. He rose as I neared him and he pumped my hand eagerly, it was soft and feminine and I could tell he wasn't a field spook.
More than likely he spent his days locked behind a closed door with his nose buried deep in paper work. He stood at about 6' 2" and had hair that was jet black. His face had a deep olive complexion out of which beamed two enormous dark brown eyes. The accompanying finely chiseled features made him seem beautiful rather then handsome. He appeared to be of Italian descent and I was proved correct when he introduced himself.
"Detective Johnson, I'm Agent Corvino and it's a honor to finally meet you. Please feel free to call me Nick."
He had a certain self-assurance about him and I felt immediately comfortable in his company. I stared into his bottomless dark eyes and he met my stare without flinching. Though his hand was soft, it had a masculine strength behind it and not spongy or squid feeling like I first imagined. I smiled warmly back and answered in my most convincing voice.
"Hey Nick, nice to meet you. You can call me Cat."
"Very well Cat, I've heard a lot about you and have been anxious to make your acquaintance."
"Is that so? And why is that Agent Corvino?"
"I've read your complete dossier detective and I admire a woman with strength, intelligence and perseverance."
"Thanks for the compliment Nick, but I assure you I have none of those qualities."
"You're either being modest detective or trying to throw me off your scent."
"Is it working?"
He chuckled lightly before answering.
"No, detective I'm afraid not, you see I'm bull headed in Italian it's known as capo tosta and I've already formed my opinion of you."
"So tell me Nick, when did you graduate Harvard?" He seemed startled for a moment and I knew I took him off guard.
"Two months ago. How did you know that?"
"But you've been working for the agency longer than that?"
"Two years now, still how were you able to tell?"
"Your dictation agent is a dead give away."
"I see, how embarrassing, I guess I better work on that."
"A wise decision agent."
I'd had enough of toying with the young man and, in my own way, I let him know he wouldn't be able to pull a fast one on me. It was my own tactful way of telling him to tread carefully in my presence and in no way attempt to fool or manipulate me.
He smiled a nice boyish grin and motioned me to sit along side him. He turned to Bus Stop and shook his hand as well introducing himself in the same manner. I was impressed by his openness and his ability to put everyone at ease. I recognized immediately the value of an operative like him and for the second time that day was impressed with Wild Bill's knack for picking winners.
He moved the map closer to me and circled an area that covered at least 100 acres in red ink. He turned to me and smiled blushing slightly over how close I was sitting next to him. I smiled back and gave him my full attention.
He snapped his fingers, and a cup of black steamy coffee immediately appeared and was offered to me. Though I was still flying high from Joe's mud I drank earlier, I accepted graciously and was surprised by its licorice taste.
"It's anisette detective. A very popular flavoring in Italy."
He smiled that warm smile again and I couldn't help being surprised by the level of assurance someone as young as Nick displayed. I relaxed immediately and quickly hunkered down with Tuvo and Miles, waiting to be brought up to speed.
"So tell me, what can we expect?"
"I grew up in this region, my father was a master winemaker from the old country and worked in the neighboring winery. As a young child I spent my summer days exploring the various caves and vineyards in this area. I had my ears boxed several times for ditching my duties, but the adventure was worth it. It was hard to resist the ledges of solid volcanic rock that had to be literally dynamited out of the mountains to access the last of the remaining vineyard. There's more than 32,000 square feet of tunnels that were drilled into the hillside directly behind the winery. It has a storage capacity for over 5,000 barrels. The caves provide an ideal environment for storing wine naturally. All year long the temperature remains constant at 58-60 degrees Fahrenheit, and I'm afraid after a certain amount of time down there it becomes uncomfortable. The humidity stays at about 90-95%, the perfect environment for barrel aging fine wine, but not for storing human cargo. The farthest tunnel reaches 175 feet below ground level.
"How far are these caves from the main house?"
"Well, there are underground tunnels that meet the old house. The house is a Celtic mansion built of stone and there's a large wooden pavilion stretching to the surrounding hills. The private underground cellar was blasted from solid granite, which connects via the series of tunnels back to this point. This is where I recommend we go in."
He marked an area just before the foot of the hill and I could see there were no other buildings near the vineyards from this point. The layout of the map showed the rest of the top ground to be acres and acres of vineyards.
"Because this is a tunnel that has long been forgotten and abandoned. After a severe rainy season when I was a child, a mud slide occurred which covered the entrance to the tunnel. I guess the original owners never found it necessary to reopen it."
"How do you know it's still open?"
"I don't. I haven't gone near those caves in over 15 years, but even still, this is the only point of entry you can go in without being discovered. I have a team in there now digging it out."
"Why can't we just hit the house directly, here from the back and come up along the side?"
"We'll never make it in time without being detected by the dogs and, by then, well, they can kill Dr.Hansen. Besides, I doubt they're storing her in the house. If I read Dr. Charleston's dossier correctly, he would want her in an environment like this. One where he can control the situation and put a little fear into Dr. Hansen, it's also...well...it"
"Spit it out agent."
"Well, you'll never hear the screams."
My jaw clenched tightly and I swallowed deeply. I know what the kid said was the truth, but I still didn't have to like it.
"Tell me more about this tunnel."
He was watching me like a hawk, and I could tell he was looking for my Achilles heel, a chink or flaw in my character. I must have been successful at keeping him in the dark, because he stopped eyeing me like an eagle and returned his vision to the map.
"This tunnel stretches over a quarter of a mile, as I said, I don't know what the conditions are like, but still it's our best point of entry. We can enter it here, just before the grounds, and go undetected by the dogs. The tunnel heads northwest and finally empties into the third main cellar, by the outer wall. The last I recall, there was a rack against the door leading to this tunnel, we may have to break through it."
"How do we know they haven't picked up on this?"
"They would have placed dogs at the mouth of the cave if they had. There's over 10,000 racks in the five main cellars, I doubt if they have bothered to check them all."
"What if the tunnel collapsed?"
"I doubt if it's collapsed, the entire series of tunnels is solid volcanic rock that's thousands of years old. We know the mouth of the tunnel is sealed and my team has managed to break through."
I suddenly grew tense and worried, if any of his team members were caught I'd lose my only opportunity at reaching the kitten.
"Just how many people do you have there?"
"Don't worry detective, I know what you're thinking, the fact is they're professionals at these type of operations. From their last report, they where half way through the first 1500 yards of mud and have cleared an opening large enough for us to slip through one at a time.
"Us? What do you mean us, this is a four man operation, I don't recall inviting you or any other spook."
I locked on to his eyes and shot him a forceful stare, he stood staring back at me with a look of admiration and strength.
"Director Donavan said you could be bull headed, but he also told me if I failed, it would be my ass. You have to excuse me detective, but I still have a family to support and I can't afford to have my career end for failure to do my duty. I know these tunnels and the entire layout of this vineyard. You can certainly use someone like me on your team. I also have an explosives man who'll be joining us. You'll find him useful if we need to blast through anything. He's an expert in his field."
"It would be pointless for us to use any explosives, don't you think? After all, the object is to enter without being detected, not alert the entire compound."
"Yes, but he has some very special explosives, the silent kind. He isn't just a demolitions man, he's also a scientist, a brilliant one at that."
"I don't care what he is, I only go with my team. You'll have to excuse me agent, but I stand firm in this. I'm use to working with my team and we're a deadly unit, one that has worked together in the past. As you stated earlier, we can't afford any mistakes and I'm not willing to take my chances on any greenhorns."
"So tell me detective, who on your team is familiar with explosives and geology?"
"Miles has handled explosives before. I'm sure he'll do fine with what ever you have."
"No disrespect intended detective, but isn't Miles claustrophobic? How is he going to handle being trapped in a cave for three hours or more?"
I stared at him and wondered how he knew that, and for the third time today, I was impressed. Donovan's team had superior ferreting skills, better than my own team to be exact. The young agent had me and I knew it, but I still was going to give him my best fight.
"Miles will be able to handle it."
We both looked at Miles and I lost the moment. Miles swallowed hard. The sharp kid didn't miss a thing and jumped at the opportunity laid out before him.
"You need us, and it would be foolish of you not to utilize all of the expertise at your disposal."
I looked at the young punk sitting next to me with admiration, for someone his age he was wise beyond his years. He handled me the way I handled a dozen or more mooks over the years. He gave me a graceful exit, one where I wouldn't feel like I just lost the fight and was trapped, which is exactly what happened. I nodded at the kid with a newfound respect.
"Very well agent, but once we make it through the tunnel your man goes back, he doesn't enter with us."
"You're very suspicious of us, aren't you detective?"
"I have every reason to be. It's your organization that was compromised, not mine. That's the deal agent, either your man heads back or we go our separate ways right here and now."
"I guess I don't have much of a choice in the matter. Director Donavan ordered me to give you whatever you wanted."
"That's what I want."
"Are you sure detective?"
"As you wish, after we break through and make sure we have a clean passage, Pete heads back."
"You and Pete can stow your gear in my plane. We'll be leaving in 20 minutes, don't be late or I lift off without you."
"Tuvo let's go over these maps one last time."
I bent down and went over the plans with Tuvo once again, putting a backup plan in place in case one of the moles was with us. We all knew Miles could never cut it in the caves, he had an acute fear of enclosed places and would never make it in a tunnel we had to belly crawl through for the first half mile or so. We laid out a secondary plan of attack, an approach of the mansion from the far-left bank with Miles as the only assault team.
Before departing Chicago, we made sure to say goodbye to Mike and reboarded the Cabin Waco. Nick and his explosive expert were at the plane on time and we lifted off without any problems. It was several hours later when we finally touched down and piled into the truck that would bring us to the mountainous countryside undetected.
We arrived at the mouth of the cave and were confronted by a burly Irish man with a thick brogue by the name of Pardric, He was the expert on cave ins and was leading the recovery team in reopening the tunnel. We quickly exchanged information and were handed new clothing, an assortment of small weapons and flashlights.
We changed clothing, and donning black coveralls over our black pants and turtlenecks, entered the mouth of the clear tunnel on our bellies. Miles heading in the opposite direction with our backup plan in place, he turned and watched us enter before leaving.
Annia remembered her arrival a day or so before, and from the window of the car, through her good eye, she was able to make out her final destination. The mountains contained vineyards of Mountain Grapes as far as the eye could see their sweet fragrance filled the air, as they sat nestled densely with the morning dew lying on the plump fruit. Through her pained haze, she was able to vividly recall the majesty of the mountainous rugged region and the spectacular natural beauty of Napa. Taking a private road on the left, they headed north and deeper towards the mountains, the estate lied on a mountainous terrain with 45 acres of vineyard burgeoning and filled with the best of the Bordeaux variety grapes.
The winery was named Janeson and sat nestled on a terrace blasted from the base of a mountain slope. A twin-turreted redwood winery was built in a unique and efficient circular design to harmonize with the surrounding scenery. Into the rock face behind the building, caves were carved out, making the winery the first since the repeal of Prohibition to place its entire aging cellars underground. The caves provided optimum conditions for storing and aging fine wines, along with other things one wanted to keep unnoticed.
Volcanic action more than 5 million years ago created the ideal geologic formations for traditional, underground aging caves. Annia recalled the vineyard was a large spacious and romantic setting with a stylish white barn that served as a tasting room. It also held a grand dining room which had been carved into the rock and was furnished with huge tables and benches, hand crafted out of timbers. The mansion itself was built of stone carved directly from the mountain, its large expanse stretched several thousand square feet and boasted a small moat near its entrance. The mansion had a Celtic appeal with a well-manicured garden adorning it from all sides. The stone was a deep stark gray that shone with a wet brilliance in the early morning hours, as did the flagstone path when moist with morning dew.
Annia felt the car come to a stop. Rough hands pulled her from her seat and directed her towards the barn. Her muscles were stiff and sore from being prone and bound for long hours. The sweet scent of flowers and fruit mixed in the air and she inhaled it deeply, recalling with fondness her previous visits to the estate with Dr. Janeson. Charleston's hand pushed her from behind and Annia stumbled on the flagstone path, her knee coming into full contact with the harsh sharp stone and cutting easily. She winced inwardly, refusing to acknowledge the pain, knowing it would only seek to encourage her captor.
Charleston grasped her firmly on her right shoulder and dug his nails in deeply to the tender wound. As she bent and moaned lightly, a cruel smile touched his lips and he reveled in her discomfort. He lifted her effortlessly and pushed her onward, the slippery flagstones making it difficult for her to maintain her balance. Upon entering the barn the smell of fermented wine and wood struck her senses. Annia continued to ignore the burning pain in her shoulder as she was forced to move deeper into the caves. The musky odor of damp rock and wine made her stomach jump and she swallowed deeply.
She walked along the damp dark tunnel and further into the ground caves lying underneath the estate. The sound of trickling water somewhere in the distance and the low hum of a generator churning in the background reached Annia's ears as they entered the main cellars, and with his foot, Charleston moved the chair closer to the table and pushed her harshly into it. She fought to gain her balance and managed to remain seated, her shoulder burning and a fresh spot of blood staining her thin dress. Her wrists were purple and swollen, an indication the binding was too tight. She was beginning to lose the sensation to her fingertips and she shivered against the cold dampness of the caves interior, the temperature at least 20 degrees cooler than outside.
"Well fraulien, I must apologize for the meager accommodations, but I'm afraid we had to give the servants the night off."
Charleston laughed at his own remark and tossed a piece of rope on the table. Charleston held a leather strap in front of him and began to wrap it around his knuckles, his eyes glowing with anticipation and intensity. Annia heard the sound of soft feminine footsteps and watched as his assistant approached and stood behind him. Charleston turned to his minion and indicated to her to bind the legs of their hostage. The mousy assistant moved hesitantly at first, unsure in her confidence, she grabbed the rope and moved towards Annia.
She wrapped the rope tightly around Annia and then tied it into a knot. Annia winced inwardly as the assistant looked at her approvingly. The eyes of the assistant were bright and burning with desire as she began to run her hand up and down the length of the captive's bare legs. She caressed them firmly and licked her lips expectantly, before rising and returning to her spot behind the captor. Annia breathed in deeply and began to empty her mind, focusing on finding a method of escape. She thought back to Cat, and suddenly began gaining confidence and momentum.
She heard Charleston approaching her, and as her eye on the left side of her body was swollen shut, Annia tilted her head slightly to peer at him with her right. Holding a long sharp stiletto knife in his left hand, he began to run it smoothly down the left side of her face, then stopping to dig the tip of the blade slightly underneath her jaw. A tiny drop of blood appeared staining the blade. He smiled when she swallowed deeply, forcing the tip deeper into her soft flesh, the solitary drop of blood joined by others.
"You're very beautiful Dr. Hansen. Beautiful and brilliant, I can see why Katrina was enamored with you."
He ran his finger along the line of her lower jaw catching the blood on his finger which he raised to his mouth and suckled it, the metallic taste of blood exciting him. She never saw the blow coming, but she felt its impact as it struck her soundly across the jaw. The bite of the leather cutting against her cheek and the blood flowing freely from her lip, the impact sending her sprawling to the floor. Though she tried to discipline herself, the shock was to immediate to her senses and she cried out in agony, as she heard the sound of his maniacal distorted laughter echoing through the hollows of the cave.
The two spooks quickly picked her up from the floor and repositioned her on the chair, the taller spook running his hands along her breast. She bit down on the pain from her shoulder and with all her strength lunged at him, her body landing solidly against his, as they both crashed to the ground. Reaching for his ear, she sunk her teeth into it, and the sound of his scream filled the air. Annia felt herself being lifted by her hair, but still held tightly to her prize, the soft flesh giving way and tearing. The tall spook punched at her wildly, though struck only empty space. As she spit the soft flesh to the floor she glared at him triumphantly.
The smaller spook placed her back into the chair and held her in position. The tall spook stood, his hand held firmly against his ear, the blood flowing freely down the side of his neck. The initial shock began to wear off and he advanced towards her determined to strike back. Before he could do so, he felt the blow strike him, his injured ear falling victim once more, and as he fell to the ground screaming in agony, the captor stood above him and leered at him in disgust.
"Get up you idiot and clean yourself up and if you ever think of putting a hand to her again, I'll kill you slowly."
The tall spook swallowed deeply and rose from the floor, his face refusing to look at her, as she smiled victoriously once more at her fallen victim. He peered at her side glanced, giving her a hateful stare before departing the cave. Her captor neared her and bent down slightly, and whispered.
"I'm going to take a distinct pleasure in you my dear."
"Go to hell you freak."
Annia felt the knife dig into her wounded shoulder and she screamed out in agony, the pain raking her body and convulsing, the darkness sweeping over her, she slipped into unconsciousness.
"Leave her, we have other work to do right now. I want the plane refueled and ready for take off, by tomorrow we will be in the fatherland."
The small spook exited, bent on carrying out his orders quickly and efficiently, desperate to return home to his family. The war in Europe was beginning and soon the Third Reich would take their place in the annals of history where they rightly belonged. The city of Paris would be surrendered and Alasace returned to her rightful owner.
Charleston turned to his assistant and eyed her feverishly, Dr. Hansen's early retreat into unconsciousness robbed him of his arousal, and he felt the heat of desire rising and could smell the fear in the mousy woman's scent. He motioned to her, and she followed obediently, as they slowly made their way back to the mansion.
Annia awoke to the sound of approaching footsteps, the cold damp air of the cellar chilled her and she shivered slightly. Her hands were bound tightly behind her back and she felt the blood trickling from the binding. Her shoulder was hot, pained and fevered, her lips cracked and her throat cotton dry. She tried to open her eyes and focus her vision, the left one still swollen shut from the blow she sustained after refusing to answer Charleston's questions when he had first interrogated her in New York. There was a light sheen of sweat forming on her brow and she knew she had a fever. The gunshot wound to her shoulder throbbed and the blood was flowing again, the wound though dressed was freshly opened when Charleston dug a knife deeply into it. She couldn't remember what happened afterwards, only the darkness that enveloped her and sent her into its deep abyss.
She tried to swallow but her mouth was dry, and with a clinical indifference, she realized she was suffering from dehydration. In her dark slumber, she dreamt of cool running water flowing freely from a brook. She tried to lift her head and only managed to move it to one side. The steps where soft, feminine, and she recognized them immediately, they were the steps of Charleston's assistant, less assertive and more timid. With the sound of high heels echoing and bouncing off the solid rock walls, she shivered and waited, her legs bound and numb from the tight rope holding them in place.
She dropped her head forward and rested it on the table. As the figure approached, the scent of wild roses filled the air, it was the assistant's perfume, she recognized it from earlier, and a glimmer of hope and relief overwhelmed her senses. Annia knew this visit wouldn't cause her pain. She felt the cool hand smoothing her hot and fevered brow, and through the slit of her right eye, she saw the figure standing before her. The cool softness of a wet cloth touched her lips and she suckled greedily at the wet fabric, its taste smooth, refreshing, and paradise in her fevered stated. She heard the soft words of comfort and moaned when the precious fluid was taken from her.
"You have to be quiet and you mustn't drink to much at once. It'll make you sick."
She tried to open her mouth to offer her thanks, but the words were caught in her throat, and tears filled her eyes as she witnessed the metal cup rising to her lips. Her keen sense detected the smell of water. "Was that possible?" she thought inwardly, water is odorless and tasteless, yet I can smell it."
Annia tried to bring the entire contents of the cool metal cup in to her mouth and found herself restrained, the agony too much for her to bear and she moaned her protest lightly. The cool hands brushed the hair from her face and forced her to slow her intake of the cool liquid. She felt the water sooth her cracked and parched throat, the liquid flowing down smoothly and effortlessly, but then her stomach jumped in protest and nearly lost the sparse contents it contained.
"I told you, you have to take it slowly, it's been four days since you've had anything to eat or drink."
The cool hands reached out to her again and she felt the wet cloth caress her face gently, the caked blood resisting the efforts to be soaked away. She flinched slightly as it touched the corner of her eye and again the soothing words comforted her.
"I can't stay long, if he finds me here he'll kill me. You're beautiful, do you know that?"
Annia felt a delicate hand brush her breast and the flesh beneath lurched in response. Stifling the moan of pain threatening to engulf her, the touch reminding her of Cat, she cringed in disgust and pushed her head back.
"I know you like that, I can tell."
The laughter rose deeply in the woman's throat and she realized her saving angel was not what she appeared. Annia cried out in protest until falling victim once again to the ensuing darkness of unconsciousness, this time more grateful than before to be sinking to its icy depths.
The woman was disappointed her toy was no longer conscious and able to endure the torture she wished to bestow on her. She felt slighted and slapped Annia forcibly against the face, ordering her to awaken. The bound figure slumped further forward not responding to the new assault. Charleston's assistant emptied the contents of the metal cup on
Annia's face and still there was no response. Disgruntled, the woman spun on her heels and quietly departed the dark cellar, the sound of her heels echoing and bouncing off the walls.
The four of them froze in place when they heard the footfalls long before the individual appeared and passed them completely unnoticed. Tuvo, Cat, Bus Stop and Nick remained quiet as the figure left them behind and headed deeper into the tunnels. They had arrived two hours earlier, and after reaching the mouth of the collapsed tunnel and rendezvousing with the beta team, they quickly began their ascent into the dark crevice.
Cat nodded her head and they quickly set about their task. The four working together, they began to disassemble the rack in front of them, which was blocking their entrance to the main tunnel. After several hours, and what appeared an eternity, they managed to remove enough bottles off of the wooden rack blocking the door to make enough of a gap between the shelves to squeeze through.
We stripped off our coveralls and reverted to our black slacks and turtlenecks, our shoes were rubber soled to disguise the sound of footsteps. Our faces were covered in mud and grime from the tunnel. We each carried weapons. Nick and Tuvo teamed up and Bus stop stood close to me.
I turned the corner and was abruptly pulled back by Bus Stop, the silhouette of three armed guards were quickly approaching us from the second tunnel. We crouched low to the floor and held our breaths as the guards continued their approach into the main cave. Hearing the muffled sounds of voices raised in a state of excitement, we remained silent. Charleston, his assistant and three armed guards had entered the mouth of the main cave.
Charleston's eyes were glowing with anticipation, the plane was fueled and the return to Germany was but a mere few hours away. He thought of the prestigious position awaiting him and the promise of live test subjects to experiment on and test his theories. The only thing he required was the final resolution to the kitten's quantum equation.
We sprang into action and split up into to two groups. Bus Stop and I drew our weapons and covered one side of the tunnel. We immediately reverted to hand signals and crouched low. Nick and Tuvo covered the opposite side and we began our slow movements towards the main hall. The tunnel was dark and the only light visible was at the mouth of the main cellar. The stark darkness helped to conceal our approach along the long pathway.
The sound of trickling water was heard in the distance, a natural underground spring running nearby. We reached the entrance and crouched closer to the floor, from our vantage point we were unable to spot the location of two of the guards. Charleston and his mousy assistant had their backs to us, and I watched as the freak walked over to Annia and grabbed her firmly by her hair. He lifted her head roughly, throwing it back, and I saw her bruised face.
I found myself being held down. My natural instinct was to rise from my position and put a bullet in the bastard. Bus Stop pinned me low to the ground and my attempts to loosen myself from his grip were futile. I felt the heat of anger rising quickly, my face and ears burning with a deep intensity. I ground my teeth together and squeezed the gun tighter in my hand.
Tuvo inched over to us, and he held my weapon in his hand, pushing the nozzle downward to the floor. He moved his head from side to side and his eyes were locked on to mine. I could tell he wanted to reassure me, to make certain I had regained control of my senses and was not likely to go off half cocked in a blaze of glory after the freak.
He held his elegant hand up and pointed to a rack, just to the right of the table where my kitten was sitting. I was able to make out the form of one of the spooks through the slotted racks of wine. He pointed to the left and indicated the number two. I knew the second spook was to the far left of the room and out of sight. If anything, that made the situation more dangerous, his unknown position added a level of danger to the kitten if I went in shooting wildly.
The third spook was directly behind the kitten, I recognized him right away it was obvious he would spot us immediately once we made our move. It was the tall spook, the other half of the two, that had spent the last few weeks tailing us. I noticed he had his ear bandaged. He held the kitten's head up by her hair, as Charleston threw a bucket of water into her face.
I heard her gasp as if she was drowning and my body immediately tensed. I fought valiantly to keep my self-control and my jaw began to hurt from biting down so hard. The spook seemed to be taking a distinct pleasure in rough housing my kitten, and I knew then, he would be the first one that I would take down.
The four of us laid down on the ground and began crawling on our stomachs, using the dark shadows of the tunnel to our advantage. We split off into separate directions, Tuvo cutting to the right and Bus Stop taking the left. It was their job to immobilize the two hidden spooks, while Nick and I went straight on and confronted Charleston and the other goon.
Charleston grabbed my kitten roughly by the chin, forcing her to look at him, his voice a low growl. I watched as she winced in pain from the pressure he was applying to her jaw. I breathed in deeply and counted down silently in my head, I knew I had to have all of my wits about me if I expected to save her.
"Such a beautiful face, it would be a shame to blemish it any further. I hope you've reconsidered your position because you're running out of time and my patience is wearing down. You must think yourselves very clever, did you really think you could deceive me? I know its you, I know you have the answer."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't be coy with me Dr. Hansen, I know you're the true genius. Perhaps I can persuade you to cooperate."
I watched as he held the stiletto knife in front of Annia's face and though her eyes were nearly swollen shut, I could detect her fear as she watched the blade trial the length of her cheek. He reached the line of her jaw and stopped, caressing its outline with the blade like a lover stroking her face gently. He jabbed the point of the blade into the nape of her neck and she swallowed deeply.
"You're being foolish Dr. Hansen, I will have my answers. You see, I've made a deal with the German government, I agreed to pass them certain high level secrets and they, well, they've agreed to give me everything I have always desired. My own lab and a hand picked team of the finest scientists Germany has to offer. Imagine if you will, what that means to me, and you'll understand why I'll do whatever it takes to obtain it, including killing you if I have to. It would be a shame to waste such talent, you would be an added jewel to my collection and I can derive such pleasure in teaching you my other interest."
"I find that you would be a poor mentor compared to Dr. Janeson. You're weak and a coward, and I'd would rather die then follow you."
Charleston's face contorted in anger, the muscle of his jaw flexing as he slapped her firmly in the face. Nick had me pinned down with his powerful frame and I was unable to react. My eyes were spewing daggers at him and I knew I would take pleasure in killing him. He clenched his teeth and hissed out at her.
"Somehow I knew you would say that and perhaps I haven't made myself clear. You will die, but it's up to you as to how. The Germans are excellent in the techniques of torture, by the time they're through with you, you'll be begging me to kill you."
"I'll take my chances with the Germans."
"I never took you for a fool Dr. Hansen, but your arrogance impresses me. I will take a distinct pleasure in breaking down your resolve. You see, you're nothing but a vessel to me, no different then this bottle of wine."
He held the bottle of wine in his hand and suspended it over her head, before sending it crashing to the table in front of her. The glass shattered against the force and the liquid and glass covered her face and upper body. I went to move and found Nick holding me down. Charleston held the broken end of the bottle to the kitten's neck and I saw as the jagged end cut into her soft flesh. She flinched slightly and he smiled his evil grin. I aimed my gun at him and steadied my sight, my finger on the trigger and ready to pull it if he attempted to cut any deeper.
"A fine bottle, but replaceable just like you. However your mind isn't, is it Dr. Hansen? I know you've found the key, the key that would lead to time travel and I intend to have the secret, even if I have to take apart that brilliant little mind of yours to do it."
His eyes were shining with a deep intensity and perverse pleasure. "You're very proud of that mind of yours aren't you? I wonder if your arrogance would still fuel you if you suddenly began to lose it a piece at a time."
Nick signaled that he would cover the tall spook, though my natural instinct was to put a bullet in him first, I agreed and gestured that I would cover Charleston instead. We were all in position and as strategically placed as possible. Bus Stop made the silent count down and at the drop of his last finger we sprung into action. The sound of gunfire erupted loudly, the natural formation of the caves echoing the sound of gunfire off the walls, so it sounded like an entire battalion was at war. I was surprised by Nick's quick response and noted the red dot appearing on the tall spook's forehead as he keeled over forward and landed on the kitten, his limp, dead form acting as a natural defense protecting Annia.
There was a loud commotion coming from the left and I saw the wine rack coming towards me as dozens of bottles flew around me crashing to the ground shattering, the broken glass flying forcibly and striking us like shrapnel. Bus stop was trapped underneath the rack and Nick leapt to his rescue, while Tuvo was exchanging rounds with the second spook to the right. I recognized him right away, he was one of Henke's goons and I knew right then and there he was one of the moles.
I felt a bullet passing over head and noticed the short dangerous spook was using me for target practice, though I returned his fire, my eyes never left Charleston. Charleston took the opportunity to spring into action and before I could get a clear shot at him, he lifted Annia from the chair and using the knife cut the rope binding her feet. He pushed the dead body of the spook to the side and he fell like a sack of garbage, rolling face up. Charleston lifted the kitten to her feet and proceeded to use her as a human shield.
We began taking heat from all sides as Charleston's reinforcements arrived and a full fledged battle quickly ensued. Tuvo was laying down cover for Nick, and Bus Stop, who was now free from the rack, quickly entered deadly mode, shooting back at the additional heat.
I took down two goons and continued my gun play, all along keeping my eye on Charleston who was now moving out of the main cave and further into the third tunnel, his assistant following closely behind. More goons entered and for a moment, I wondered if there was an endless reserve of freaks in this god-forsaken hellhole.
I felt the sting in my left arm and clasped it, the blood flowing freely, as I took a glancing hit from a ricocheting bullet. The bullet never making an entry but grazing me, caused a major discomfort. I turned to Tuvo and shouted to be heard over the loud noise of echoing gunfire.
"Cover me, I'm going after them."
Tuvo nodded in ascent and immediately began laying down cover. Nick and Bus Stop quickly joined him and I managed to make it across the room and to the mouth of the third tunnel. I was able to see the three figures several hundred yards in front of me.
Their shadows were large, cast by the light Charleston was holding in front of him as he dragged my kitten forcibly behind him. I broke into a quick pace and headed towards them tossing caution to the wind and ignoring the shots his assistant was sending in my direction. I knew for the moment I was safe, the distance between us too far for the bullets of her 38 to come within striking distance.
I followed them for several hundred yards and continued ducking and dodging, the more distance I narrowed between us, the closer I came into shooting range. I reloaded my gun and continued my chase. I watched helplessly as Charleston, with Annia, disappeared into a winding curve ahead of me. I zipped quickly by and stopped abruptly when confronted with two caves. I looked into the mouth of each and was unable to hear or see anything.
Using my natural instinct, I took the one to my left and proceeded onward. Ten minutes later, I heard their voices ahead of me. I froze in place when I caught a fourth voice and knew he just managed to gain an ally. I turned the corner and was immediately pressed back by open gunfire. Crouching low, I peered around the corner and caught Charleston exiting the tunnel into a larger cave.
I waited a few seconds before squeezing off a few shots in the direction of fire and managed to wing his new shooter. I ran full force towards them, trying to avoid the shots as they whirled passed me, and managed to put a fatal shot in his shooter.
I stumbled into the mouth of the cave, and taking a big chance, took a shot blindly at Charleston, the bullet striking his shoulder. He dropped his pistol and released the kitten clutching his arm instinctively. I watched as Annia threw herself at the assistant knocking her off balance to the ground and landing on top of her.
I raced towards them and tripped falling to the ground and losing my gun, I beheld it, as it sailed gracefully across the granite flooring and out of reach. I quickly gathered to my feet and stood finding the barrel of a gun bearing down on me.
"I wish I could stay and teach you a lesson or two detective, but as you can hear, I have a pressing engagement that won't wait.
Through the interior of the cave I could hear the roar of a plane's engine and watched carefully as Charleston motioned with the gun for me to back off and move to the side. He bent and lifted Annia off his assistant, never once losing me in his sight. I began to inch forward and he ordered me to stop.
Grabbing Annia by her bound hands, he began to back out of the cave and towards an overhead opening, I knew if I blew this, I would never be able to save Annia. I quickly dropped to the floor while simultaneously reaching for my ankle gun, and then rolling, came into a crouch position squeezing off a round of fire that grazed him across his right cheek.
I saw the fear in his face, and watched as Annia quickly responded and dove to the side, falling into a roll and out of harms way. I took another shoot at him, but he was swift to react and succeeded in lifting himself through the hole above his head. I shot at him anyway but hit only air.
His assistant was rising to her feet and had somehow managed to regain her gun. I aimed my gun at her point blank, but changed my shot at the last second, knocking the gun from her hand with my shot. Annia had managed to stand and quickly brought her down with a roundhouse kick that rendered her unconscious and broke her jaw in two places.
I quickly ran to Annia and released her from the bindings. I cringed when I saw her blue hands from the rope that had been bound too tightly and which had cut off her circulation. She fell into my arms eagerly and I held on to her for dear life. Her body warm and comforting against me, I heard her small whimpers of I love you and gently pulled her from me.
I looked at her face and kissed it gently, her left eye swollen shut, the right red and bruised. I cradled her face gently in my hands and kissed her lips, at which she flinched slightly. I apologized, immediately locking on to her eyes and absorbing every feature into my memory forever. I felt my heart overwhelmed by my love for her and I took her into my embrace again.
My voice cracked as I held her and I whispered quietly,
"I love you."
I felt the rumbling in her chest and the ensuing laughter that rang heavenly in my ears.
"It's about time you showed up."
I felt the tears sting my eyes and I breathed in her scent. Although she was soiled, her fragrance was like a bouquet of fresh cut flowers to me and I closed my eyes in thanks, feeling her body meld into mine.
"Sorry about that."
"I love you Cat, I always have."
I pulled her gently away from me and stared into her beautiful bruised face. "What does that mean?"
"I'll tell you later, I promise. Go after him Cat, don't let him get away."
For a moment I was stunned, not wanting to tear myself away from her, even for a second. I looked into her eyes and she smiled warmly at me, a half-crooked smile.
"Please, do it for me, don't let him get away."
I nodded silently, picked up my other gun, and handed it to her.
"If she moves, shoot her."
I pointed towards the unconscious body lying on the floor, Charleston's assistant was down for the count and not waking up.
"You have my word."
I pulled her to me one last time and kissed her gently before releasing her and heading after Charleston. I reached the opening and stopped when I caught sight of a gun bearing down on me. I crouched immediately and took a shot at the shadow above, when I heard a familiar voice begging me to cease-fire. I quickly held back and moved carefully to the circular hole immediately above my head.
A long, strong hand reached out to me, and from the diamond pinky ring, I knew right away it was Miles. I grasped it as though it was my last drink of water in a desert. I found myself being pulled into the air and out into the warmth of night. Miles had his trademark toothpick in his mouth and he smiled warmly at me. I was never happier to see his mug than I was at that moment. We gathered to our feet and headed in the direction of the airfield where I was able to make out the retreating figure of Charleston.
"I've never been happier to see you than I was at that moment."
"I knew eventually you'd admit you love me."
He smiled enigmatically at me and I gently squeezed his arm and smiled crookedly at him. We looked at each other, and without saying another word, broke into a light run towards Charleston who had managed to cover some decent ground and was close to the plane sitting in the field, its engine running and the propellers spinning.
He reached the cabin of the plane and turned to look at us, waving arrogantly, before disappearing into the cabin. We broke into a full run and began taking shots at the moving plane as it came towards us gaining speed with each passing second. We jumped out of the way, but continued firing, watching helplessly as the plane sailed by us and began its slow ascent into the dark of the night. We stood upright and watched as it flew away and I cursed myself inwardly for letting Charleston escape my grasp. I stood staring at him and promised myself I would even the score one day. The thought of the freak getting away sickened me and I felt dejected at letting him escape.
The rest of the team pulled up behind us and observed along with us as the plane slowly began to disappear into the cover of night, the sound of the engine barely audible. We remained there until it was no longer visible and headed back towards the cave and back to the woman I loved with all of my heart.
Over four weeks had transpired since the incident in Napa Valley, the kitten was hospitalized for ten days and I remained faithfully by her side as she slowly healed and was finally released. We spent an entire week in each other's arms, rarely leaving the bed for anything more than a meal and a shower.
By week four, we were summoned to the White House, it was one of those invitations you couldn't refuse and Donovan had sent Nick to come and get us. He wanted to make sure we wouldn't shrug the invitation, which was a thought that had crossed both of our minds. The majority of the bruises had disappeared from Annia's face, and only a light purple stain remained above her left eye, the last sign of her injuries that was slowly healing and would soon disappear.
It was about 12:00 in the afternoon when we were led into a large antechamber leading to the oval office. Though I pretended to be nonchalant about the summons, I have to admit, I was deeply impressed and honored. He was sitting behind his desk and barely looked up when we entered, his assistant motioned us to sit down and we obliged obediently. It was several minutes before he raised his vision and acknowledged our presence.
"Ladies, may I say what a pleasure it is to see both of you alive and well."
"Mr. President, It..'s It's good to see you again."
As in my previous visit with FDR, I was suddenly rendered into a babbling idiot and wondered why this man had such an effect on me. I felt Annia's knee press against mine and heard her stifle a chuckle. I knew she picked up on my discomfort and seemed to be getting pleasure from seeing me knocked off my mark.
I looked at her side-glance and she had that slight curve of a smile to her lip, her eyes took a quick peek over to me and she was trying hard to contain her laughter. I breathed in deeply and felt the room grow suddenly warm. I hated when she had me squirming like that, I laughed to myself and wondered how is it that this beautiful kitten could know me so well.
"Dr. Hansen, you're looking wonderful and, may I add, I was pleased to hear you weathered your experience well. We were very concerned about you, you're an integral key to this country's continued success."
The kitten stiffened in her chair and smiled back warmly, nodding her elegant head towards him. I watched her with a warm glow to my face and marveled at her grace and beauty.
"Thank you Mr. President. I'm honored that you think so highly of me."
For a split second I thought I was in some weird play, I could tell by the sound of her voice that ever present arrogance was gone, something she only dropped when alone in my company. I was suddenly struck with the knowledge the kitten was as much enamoured at being in FDR's presence as I was, and I chuckled openly and moved my hand to my mouth to stifle it. FDR picked up on it immediately and shot me a scrutinizing stare. I suddenly felt like a little kid caught with his hands down his pants and swallowed deeply, the room growing warm and uncomfortable. I tugged at my collar and cleared my throat, all along FDR was eyeing me with an eagle's stare.
The door opened and in stepped Wild Bill, he nodded his head and added a hearty, "Good Morning", I could tell by the lilt in his voice he was pleased with the outcome. To tell you the truth, I had no idea how they would react, after all, I let Charleston escape and that couldn't be good.
"Ladies, Dr. Hansen, Lt. Johnson such a pleasure to see you again."
I stood and shook his hand, it was soft yet strong and warm. The kitten turned her sultry little head and nodded silently at him, never once accepting the offered handshake. I was suddenly curious at her behavior and looked at her with a new interest. If it was one thing I had learned about my kitten, I knew when she had a bone to pick against a particular individual, she was always curt and short and went out of her way to be rude, and the kitten was definitely being rude.
Wild Bill stood with his hand hanging in the air a moment or two before dropping it quietly and sitting next to the kitten. He looked as uncomfortable, as I did at first, and I watched him tug at his collar as well. I was struck by the irony of it all and a huge grin covered my face. I may have been overwhelmed by FDR, but it was plain to see Donovan was a hen pecked husband.
I looked at my kitten with a crooked grin and she gave me that knowing stare, the one that told me she knew exactly what she was doing and had a distinct pleasure in doing so. She turned her vision to FDR and tried to ignore my questioning smile, I shrugged my head in amazement and couldn't wait for this meeting to end to find out what that little scene was all about.
"I've invited Mr. Donovan here to debrief you detective, as I've mentioned before, we have an interest in your particular service. One might say you can consider this a recruitment of sorts, though you have very little choice in the matter. How much have you told her Annia?"
For a second I was momentarily stunned, the use of my kitten's first name in a familiar voice alerted me that this wasn't her first meeting with FDR as she led me to believe. Though I felt the bite of anger rising slowly, I quickly quelled it, the truth was I was more curious than anything else. I turned slightly in my seat, my arm rising over the top of the chair and I stared at her openly. I was well aware these two men knew of our personal relationship and it didn't seem to bother either one of them.
I nodded my head to her and motioned with my hands for her to answer, for once since I had met this stubborn, bullheaded woman, I was going to get some real answers. It occurred to me that in the three weeks since her abduction she'd always found a clever way of dodging my questions and had an innate way of using her sexual appeal to silence me, not that I was complaining.
"I haven't told her anything."
"I see." FDR turned to me with a profound respect and smiled warmly at me. He moved his wheel chair from behind the huge desk and headed towards us.
"Detective, how would you like to join me for a walk, the gardens are very lovely this time of year and I enjoy being surrounded by them. Annia, Bill please join us."
We all rose like servants and followed his command without question. There was little doubt it was exactly that, a command. I watched as my kitten walked over behind him and with the sweetest smile offered her assistance, which he graciously accepted. From their easy comfort around each other I was well aware they done this before and on more than one occasion.
Wild Bill opened the doors leading to the garden and I quickly slowed my pace to keep my place along side FDR. I glanced over at Annia, who kept her vision faced forward and I could tell she had every intention of ignoring me. I breathed in deeply and tried to gain control of the building frustration she always managed to emote in me. I rolled my eyes and remained walking silently by her side.
"Detective, I have a most interesting story to tell you and I would appreciate your silence until I conclude it, am I making myself clear?"
I swallowed deeply before answering and suddenly had the impression of a kid being dragged into the principal's office after being caught smoking in the bathroom.
"I understand Mr. President."
I eyed Annia sarcastically and she swallowed deeply, refusing to look at me. For some reason I was suddenly feeling uncomfortable about the subject that was about to take place and as she continued ignoring me, I finally gave up trying to stare her down.
"Several years ago I dispatched a military unit to New Mexico, we detected a most unusual object that came on screen and was unable to be identified, I believe the official term was Unidentifiable Flying Object or UFO for short. The army, after a thorough search of the area, located a craft, an air craft to be exact."
"You mean an airplane?"
"I asked you not to interrupt detective, please try to restrain yourself."
I heard Annia chuckle and I immediately handed her a hateful leer and stopped myself from voicing the thought forming in my mind at her. I resented being told to shut up, most of all, I hated the next words that were about to come out of my mouth.
"My apologies sir, please forgive me."
"It's quite alright detective, now where was I? Ah, yes. What the army found was an advance form of aircraft, one that does not exist in this world. It was designed as none ever seen before and, well, inside the instruments and technology, we know, do not exist in this day and age. It contained an online system referred to as a computer with the capabilities of speech and complex thinking."
I was about to open my mouth again when I saw Annia giggle slightly an indication she knew I couldn't help myself. I bit down on my tongue and remained silent, not an easy task to do.
"The craft had very identifiable markings the kind that were easy to determine it was at least an American or English aircraft. The craft was badly damaged and, luckily for us, the cargo was intact if not badly bruised. That cargo detective was you and Dr. Hansen."
I immediately stopped dead in my tracks and felt my jaw hit the ground. I knew exactly who I was, I was Cat Johnson, daughter of Marcus and Gwen Mason, born Kathleen Erin Mason and I had a younger sister Fiona Elizabeth Mason, and FDR was nuttier than a fruit cake if he thought otherwise.
"I'm surprised you managed to refrain from speaking detective."
My mouth opened and shut several times and I was looking for a diplomatic way of telling him he was insane, something that may prove detrimental to my future health and success if I attempted to voice it the way it first jumped into my mind.
"I'm sorry Mr. President, but I find you must be sadly mistaken. My name is Kathleen Johnson daughter of Marcus and Gwen Mason, I was born in New York and raised in various boarding schools in Europe. Aside from flying one or twice, I've never been in any type of a aircraft you've just described."
"Ah, but I assure you detective you have. You see you are one of the two bodies retrieved from that aircraft, so to speak. According to our doctors, you sustained cerebral damage and were incapable of giving us either your identity or any semblance of your previous life. Dr. Hansen, on the other hand, sustained only minor injuries and told me a most incredible story. One of time travel and rifts in space. She was able to speak with, and correct, the theories of some of the greatest scientific minds available today in this period. You see detective, both you and Dr. Hansen are not of this timeframe, but one of our future and although it is something I am logistically unable to understand completely, I am able to determine the significance it has to both our present situation and our future. Dr. Janeson was in charge of the team interrogating you and Dr. Hansen and is convinced this is the truth. Our thorough examination of your aircraft only proves what Dr. Hansen has spoken is the truth."
"Wh...why are we here. If what you say is true, what purpose will be served with us being here?"
"That is something only Dr. Hansen can explain. Though I can't say I agree with her approach, I would be lying if I said I did not appreciate the advantage this has given us. Especially now with our imminent entrance into this World War breaking out in Europe. You see detective, I won't live long enough to see its outcome, but I will take every advantage I can to ensure we win this, regardless of the morality issues it raises. Annia, I believe you should speak with detective Johnson alone, I think she has a lot of questions only you can answer."
Annia swallowed deeply and for the first time in ten minutes turned to look at me and I was able to detect a touch of fear and anxiety in her look. For a second I felt sorry for her, but at the same time I was angry and upset, I felt like I was a patsy in one of her dark and mysterious games. I leveled her with one of my death stares and watched as she straightened her shoulders and stuck that arrogant loveable chin at me."
"Bill, why don't you accompany me, I hear the irises are blooming quite wonderfully."
Wild Bill gestured solemnly and took Annia's position behind FDR and was quick to hasten his steps leaving us suddenly alone. There was an awkwardness in the air and I eyed my kitten warily, my eyebrow raising as I tilted my head at her, wanting her to begin her side of the story.
It was evident she knew me well and I wondered if there was any truth to what FDR just told me. I pinned her with my stare and took a position directly in front of her, my head craning up to look directly into her eyes.
"Annia, you have something to say?" She swallowed deeply and clasped her hands behind her back.
"It's true, what the president has to told you. You and I are not of this timeline. We come from the 24th century, 400 years into the future, your name is Captain Kathryn Janeway and you were the Captain of the USS Voyager, a federation vessel. My name is Annika Hansen, former Seven of Nine. I was assimilated at the age of six by an alien species known as the Borg and you liberated me from their control. You did that while lost in the Delta quadrant, at the time it was an unexplored region of space that your vessel was accidentally lost in. Upon your return to the Alpha quadrant, back to your home planet of Earth, you were tried and found guilty of failure to perform your duty. The charges levied against you varied from disregarding the prime directive to the negligent death of Captain Ransom, another USS federation captain. After your trial you were sentenced to twenty years in a penal colony, I intercepted the penal colony shuttle and liberated you. I changed your physical appearance and was enroute with you back to the Delta quadrant when we were intercepted. We were caught in a temporal distortion and unable to avoid it, and then transported here back to Earth in this time frame."
My head was suddenly spinning and I felt like I was about to collapse. I was wondering if I was the only sane person present on this planet and held my hand to my head. There was something about temporal distortions that always made my head spin and gave me a horrific headache. I stopped in mid thought and realized the full impact of my words and a sinking feeling hit my chest, the kind that spoke of brutal truths. With a sense of trepidation, I realized I had a previous understanding of what she was speaking of and there could only be one way I would have first hand knowledge of what she spoken, what Annia was telling me was the truth.
I inhaled deeply and let out my breath slowly, allowing the truth to settle in and I looked at her, those icy blue eyes warm and frightened, I nodded my head in acknowledgement and answered her for the first time.
"I want to know the whole story. Who is the fake Dr. Janeson? And what am I to her?"
She nodded appreciatively and seemed to relax her tense features. She began to tell me the story of our past/future selves and I knew that somehow she was being truthful this time and my inner self was screaming out and verifying her most incredible tale.
"The real Dr. Janeson, is an exact physical double of Captain Kathryn Janeway and a brilliant scientist of this time period. However, it is Kathryn Janeway's true body that Dr. Henke has been protecting though you as Cat Johnson hold her mind."
"How is that even possible you can't be serious."
"I assure you, I am quite correct. We were being chased when a spacial temporal rift occurred, I was unable to divert our shuttle from its path. I enhanced the shuttle using Borg technology, something went wrong and I was unable to make the proper adjustments. Upon entry, the rift began to tear. I realize now, it was the Borg nanoprobes distorted by the electoral-magnetic pulses within the rift. Time began to fold and enfold within the shuttle and we along with it. The shuttle was damaged as we entered Earth's atmosphere. A second electromagnetic pulse struck us and you were thrown from the terminal just as we crashed into the desert. When I was able to regain consciousness, I discovered that your memories were no longer present. In fact, all of who you once were, was completely missing, your mind a blank. That was four years ago. At that same moment in time, 400 yards from our crash site, the real Cat Johnson searching for a client, the second case in her career, entered a bar and was shot by her client's lover.
"I remember that incident, I took a hit to my shoulder. Tuvo was with me and he pulled the bullet from my shoulder"
"The bar was caught in the electromagnetic induction from our shuttle. It is my belief that somehow the mind of Kathryn Janeway was transferred into that of Cat Johnson and, in a sense, became fused into one mind. It wasn't until several months later, that I was able to determine the course of events and prove that this is what occurred. It took me three years before I was able to pinpoint the person down to you, the bar was full to capacity and I had to investigate every person present that evening."
"Dr. Janeson, what does she have to do with all of this? She does exist in this timeframe."
"Dr. Janeson was the lead scientist sent to investigate us, she was astounded by the similarity in physical appearance between herself and Kathryn Janeway and when I was able to convince her of my theory, she agreed to help me. At the time, she was working on her own theories and I was able correct her errors. She agreed to help me locate you. It was Dr. Janeson's idea to stage her own disappearance so that she might continue her work underground. She discovered there was a mole in her team, that mole later turned out to be Dr. Charleston. In order for me to make contact with you, Cat Johnson, we devised this plot to involve you in the case so that I might study you closely to determine if I was correct in my assumption."
I laughed aloud, in an effort to disguise the fear and realization of what she was saying.
"Are you telling me, Dr. Hansen, that I am both Kathryn Janeway and Cat Johnson?"
She swallowed deeply and I knew it was something hard for her to admit.
"It is something I find illogical, but I am unable to explain it any other way. There was an incident once on Voyager where two of your crewmembers became fused into one being, a new entity. In the end, you separated them and they returned back to two separate individuals. What has occurred with you is similar, but in this case, two minds have become one."
"And you? What about you?"
"I was given a new identity and a cover as assistant to Dr. Janeson. I traveled to Europe in order to form the cover that you have read in my dossier."
"When did you figure out it was me?"
"After we were intimate with each other."
"How was that?"
"There were certain mannerism of your natural being that could not be disguised. I also observed you while you were sleeping and, with your subconscious no longer suppressed, I heard you speaking things that only Captain Kathryn Janeway would know."
"What exactly was that?"
"You were speaking of your home in Indiana."
"I see, I gather this Janeway lived there?"
"Yes, that is correct."
"Why did Henke's people shoot at us?"
"That was in error, it was the second team's shift when you entered the apartment and they were not expecting an abrupt attack. I was unable to warn them of your plans, it was at that time I was kidnapped by Charleston."
"Charleston is a defector and a sociopath, he is also responsible for forming a German operative ring here in the United States and he must be stopped. We now know that some of Henke's men are part of his ring, they have been arrested and are being charged with treason."
"Why do I have a feeling this isn't the last we'll see of Charleston?"
"He is a very dangerous man and you must not forget that he is brilliant scientist. If he determines the final solution to the quantum equation, he will have the capabilities to change the course of the war and in doing so alter Earth's future. He must not be allowed to succeed."
After several hours and a thousand questions, we sat quietly next to each other without saying a further word. The reality and impact of what was said settling in and coming full circle, the truth no longer being disguised, but laid out open and waiting to be accepted. I exhaled slowly and accepted what I spent the last two hours fighting.
She held her hands in her lap, her knuckles white from her hands being balled in a tight fist. I reached out to them tentatively and she seemed to relax under my touch. I smiled warmly at her, the outburst of anger I displayed earlier quelled and gone, I had managed to regain my complete composure.
"Were we always lovers?'
She hesitated before answering and I noted her discomfort as she shifted her weight.
"No, that is something that has happened here and now, in this timeframe."
"Do you regret that?"
She turned her sight to me and her eyes bored deeply into me, reaching the deepest recesses of my soul.
"No, and it is knowing what I know of you now that causes me to fear returning to our timeframe. The person you were then is not who you are here and now and I know that I will lose you if we return."
I swallowed deeply absorbing the full impact of her words.
"Are you saying I never would have pursued you as a lover in our timeframe?"
"Yes, that is precisely what I am saying."
"Well, I think you're wrong. I think eventually I would have come to that realization and have actively pursued you at one point or another."
Annia looked at me warmly and I stood pulling her into my arms. I kissed her hungrily and she responded in kind. For the hundredth time, I lost myself in the love and beauty of this incredible woman, which constantly seemed to overwhelm me. After a long while, we parted and she stared at me warmly.
"Are you disappointed with me?"
"No, I can't say that I am, though I doubt as Kathryn Janeway I would have approved of what you did."
"You didn't approve. In fact I was forced to render you unconscious when I freed you from the penal shuttle."
I laughed out loud and shot her my crooked smile, marveling at the depth of loyalty and devotion she showed to me in both timeframes, and thanking God that I was able to know her in this most intimate way.
"Somehow I knew you were still holding back a part of your story. Nonetheless, I expect that you will find a way to return us to where we belong, we can't remain here and you know that."
"I understand captain, I will do my best."
I looked at her lovingly, she responded warmly, and I enfolded her into my arms once again.
"Cat, I want you to call me Cat."
She drew back gently from me and stared into my eyes, her sultry head nodding slightly, indicating she understood. She was about to kiss me, when we were interrupted by a very elegant, cultured voice.
"Dr. Hansen, Detective Johnson, how nice to see you again."
Eleanor Roosevelt walked over to us with a woman close by her side. As they approached us, we managed to release each other and appear presentable. She shook our hands warmly and gave us each a light embrace.
"I would like to introduce you to a very special friend of mine, Lorena Hickok. Lorena, these are the two women I spoke to you about earlier, Dr. Annia Hansen and Detective Cat Johnson.
We shook hands warmly and entered an easy banter remaining in their company until FDR and Wild Bill joined us. I felt the kitten loop her arm around mine and lean warmly into me as we followed Wild Bill and FDR back to the oval office. Annia whispered warmly into my ear, the touch of her warm breath thrilling me wildly.
"I wonder if he's aware of it?"
"FDR, I wonder if he's aware Eleanor and Lorena Hickok are lovers."
I stopped in my tracks and stared at her openly, leaning into her and whispering into her ear.
"How do you know that? I didn't notice anything between them to indicate that."
"I spent an enormous amount of time reading Earth's history and came across it in one of the data files on this era of history."
Annia smiled warmly, her eyes sparkling with mischief. I shook my head in amazement and we headed into the office, the feel of her arm in mine bringing me warmth and comfort. I knew then, I would spend an eternity with this woman, regardless of the timeframe.
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