Chapter 09

Wanderer Chapter 09


Present – Erast (Ben) – On the road


I have the face dream again, but I'm shocked because the next two faces disappear - I didn't think Millicent and Reginald would count! I guess the faces know better.


The other faces clamor loud and long for their justice. This shit it getting old so I yell back "Shut the fuck up you bunch of dead bastards!" Which is the wrong thing to say because then they laugh (Have you ever heard the laughter of a lot of people echo in stereo? It snaps, crackles and pops around in my head and makes me feel like I'm in the middle of a bowl of Rice Krispies) and they all say, "If you don't like our dream then we're sure you'll like this one better." And I'm back at Hussein's hell hole and the fucking rats are biting me again.


I start fighting with one! He's in my hands and I'm choking the shit out of him! Then I feel someone shake me and say, "Mr. Blaine, put your wig back on?"


What the fuck? When did I ever have a wig at Hussein's? Someone shakes me again and I hear, "Ben, put your wig on right now before someone recognizes you."


I open my eyes and the rat in my hands is my fucking wig - again! The girl from the bus, the one I saved from the kidnappers takes it out of my hands and says, "Here let me do that for you." She puts the wig on my head and adjusts it. I hate this fucking wig since it itches like hell and bothers me all the time – but it does serve a purpose!


She smiles and says, "Wow that was some nightmare you were having. It was like you were fighting with the Devil."


I shake my head and say with my accent, "Sorry Ms. for bothering you. That sometimes happens when I sleep."


She replies, "With all you've been through Mr. Blaine, it's perfectly understandable you would have nightmares."


I lie and respond with an accent, "I am sorry, I do not know your Mr. Blaine. My name is Erast Petrovich Fandorin. You have me at a disadvantage because I do not know your name."


She laughs, "If you're Erast Petrovich Fandorin then I'm Elizaveta von Evert-Kolokoltseva."


Shit! That shocks the hell out of me: First she knows who Erast Petrovich Fandorin is; second, and more important, she knows that Elizaveta was Erast's bride from The Winter Queen1.


1 The Winter Queen - The first novel by Boris Akunin featuring Erast Petrovich Fandorin.


I smile and bait her, "Я предполагаю, что мой гамбит?"


"I suppose my gambit is up?"


She grins and replies in perfect Russian, "Да, но это был очень хороший Tурецкий Гамбит Спасибо за спасение меня от тех похитителей, но почему Вы сделали бы это для незнакомца?"


"Yes but it was a very good Turkish Gambit2. Thank you for saving me from those kidnappers, but why would you do that for a stranger?"


2 Turkish Gambit – The second novel by Boris Akunin featuring Erast Petrovich Fandorin.


Okay, she's read his first two books, let's see how 'Russian' she is, I test her, "Мы иногда сталкиваемся с людьми, даже прекрасными незнакомцами, которые начинают интересовать нас на первый взгляд, так или иначе внезапно, внезапно, прежде, чем слово было произнесено."


"We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken."


She correctly replies, "Я обожаю читать Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский в оригинальном русском. И Преступление и Наказание - одна из моих любимых книг!"


"I adore reading Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoevsky in the original Russian. And Crime and Punishment is one of my favorite books!"


I compliment her on the answer, "Вы русские, превосходно!"


"You're Russian is excellent!"


She smiles and answers, "Но не столь хороший как Ваши господин Блэйн."


"But not as good as yours Mr. Blaine."


I state the obvious, "Well, you seem to have me at a big disadvantage, you know who I am but I have no idea who you are."


She whispers, "I'm Stacy Summers. And do you have anything to help get rid of my pounding headache?"

Son-of-a-bitch! I don't fucking believe it!


Present – Jack – Truth Network - Washington DC


Jens, Maria, and I sit around the conference table and the two of them tell me everything they've found out about Banzai (Jens does most of the talking because Maria seems distracted). It includes what he's been through and how he's acting now. I interrupt several times and asked some key questions. Jens cries more than once during her narration (the damn stupid piss ant has hurt the hell out of her).  Masha was right to have me come here to be with Jens and I need to call and thank her. When they finish, I ask for a little 'space', "Let me think about this for a few minutes." So I get up and pace the room.


I've known Banzai for what seems like forever. It's more than the fact that he's just not acting right, he's acting fucking crazy. What the hell is wrong with him? I mull things over in my mind and finally, I think I understand exactly what is happening. But they aren't going to like what I need to tell them.


I sit across from Jens, take her hands in mine and say, "Jens, I'm not one-hundred percent sure of this, but I'm pretty damn sure I know what the hell is going on with Banzai."


Jens says with determination, "Jack, you've spent more time with him than anyone in the whole world, so I trust your judgment and your instincts. Just tell me what the hell you think is going on with my run-away fiancé."


I answer, "Jens, we need to call some shrinks to verify this, but I'm pretty damn sure he's suffering from a major bout of PTSD3. Having been there myself, but to a lesser degree, he seems to me to have all the symptoms."


3 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a sufficiently traumatic event.  It can include both psychological and physical symptoms.


She looks deep into my eyes and exclaims, "Son-of-a-bitch! You're fucking right! Why the hell didn't I see it coming and why wasn't I with him! I should have helped him avert this disaster."


Shit! She feels guilty for being in Ramstein and taking care of her parents - I need to perform some intricate damage control. I attempt to console her by stating, "Jens, you were really caught between a rock and a hard place and you must stop blaming yourself. First you did exactly what Banzai told you to do: You went to take care of your parents and then almost fucking died. No one, not even the fucking VA doctors saw the PTSD symptoms when they started flaring up in Banzai."


She interrupts, "Jack, I would have known!"


I squint at her, because I remember she used to be able to sense Banzai's feelings and correct her, "Bull-Fucking-Shit Jennifer Donaldson! I can tell you haven't been able to 'sense' his feelings for a while, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation because you'd already have him lassoed, hogtied and married."


That alerts Maria's attention so she jumps out of her chair and sounds out, "Hey gramps, you'd better not talk to my boss that way or I will kick your ass until you can't fucking walk." Jens quiets her down, but I grin at Maria because she reminds me of an even more out of control Mira from our time at the spy school. I wonder whatever happened to her.


Jens says, "Jack, I can't help but take some and possibly much of the blame for this. I really let Ben down by not rescuing him. Then when he was rescued, I left him so I could be with my parents…"


I stop her from taking the blame, "Jens, you really need to get some professional help for your feelings about this. This guilt will poison your relationship forever with Banzai. Plus, we also need to get the fucking shrinks advice on how to handle Banzai. From knowing him, I would say the harder we push, the harder he will fight back."


She starts to cry, "Jack, I can't sit back and do nothing."


I walk around the table and hug her as I try to comfort her, "Jens, I'm not saying we do nothing. But we're dealing with one of the sneakiest, most determined and competent sons-of-a-bitch in the world. If we're going to win this fucking war, and we are going to win this fucking war, then we have to be sneakier, more determined and even more competent."


She pulls back and gives me her patented 'determined' look so I know I've gotten through to her. Then she looks at Maria and orders, "Maria, I asked those fucking twins of Liz's to get me a copy of Ben's medical records but they never got around to it. Please get your ass over to Walter Reed and do whatever it takes to get me a copy of his medical records."


Maria jumps up and asks for confirmation, "Right away boss. You did say whatever it takes, didn't you?"


Jens softens it a bit, "Maria, do me a favor. First try flirting up a doctor to see if that works - before you threaten to shoot his dick off."


Maria laughs, "Yes boss lady, I will only shoot his dick off if he pisses me off."


She leaves and I'm very, incredibly fucking glad I'm not the doctor she's going to visit. Damn! And I thought Mira was bad! What is it about women? Do they all have fucking penis envy? I try to decide which is worse, the slow pain of having my balls ripped off or the fast pain of having my dick shot off but I can't decide. However both the thoughts have now given me castration anxiety.


Jens smiles and continues, "Okay Jack, let's put our minds together and outfox my foxy fiancé."


Present – Maria – WRAMC mission - Washington DC


I miss a good portion of the conversation between gramps and my princess boss because I am still trying to figure out the scheme the 'twisted sisters' are running. The more I think about them, the less I like them and their bony, fucking, skanky, fucking, scheming asses! I might not be the brightest bulb on the tree, but my fucking intuition is spot on most of the time. Once I learned they didn't get the fucking medical records, I became certain they were screwing around with Liz and my princess boss. And no one gets to screw around with my princess boss while I'm on the job - except me! They both need a good ass kicking. The only problem is with the 'twisted sisters' is that if you take on one of them you end up fighting both of them at the same time. I need a way to separate them and give them each a five-fucking-finger interrogation4!


4 Five-finger-interrogation - obtaining information by beating it out of a subject by using your fist (five-fingers).


I'm glad I have something to do that involves some action because sitting around and listening to a bunch of fucking psycho-babble is almost as boring as watching golf on TV. And that is even worse than watching grass grow!


My princess boss certainly has some great contacts since I already have my CCW5 for Washington, fucking DC. This is unheard of and now I have a very nice Kimber tucked in an ass holster under my jacket. I would have preferred a rifle, because any bastard would be dickless within a couple hundred yards, but I can still do a job on them with a pistol at twenty-five yards. And the forty-five leaves a much larger hole!


5 CCW – Carrying a Concealed Weapon – permit which allows the carrying a handgun in public in a concealed manner.


I grab one of the many network station cars and head to Walter Reed. This should be a fucking piece of cake. On my way I realize these fucking doctors see pussy wrapped in camo all day long so I need to separate myself from the other bitches. I decide my princess boss has waited this long, so what's a few more hours, and I cruise by my place and get into a nice summer dress with a low cut neckline and a high cut hem - yeah my normal fighting outfit. I love the feel of the Kimber pressing into my thigh from the thigh holster: Mmmm it makes me hot as hell. Who knows, if I finish this assignment quickly enough, I still might have time to stop by a sailor bar or even two.


I get to Walter Reed and begin my assignment: First thing, I have to get past the bitch they always put in charge of things. This is the hardest part because she always thinks she's a fucking queen!


I walk in, put on a hell of a show with pretend crying and ask, "I, I, I'd like to see someone about getting a copy of my missing fiancés medical records. Perhaps they would help me find him." (Hey I've been around my princess boss enough so I can already pull off acting like her. This is war and we all know everything's fair in war and fuck the hell out of love!).


It works perfectly because the queen bitch consoles the hell out of me and says, "Calm down Miss, we are here to help you. Just let us know your fiancés name."


I still cry some and explain, "I'm Jennifer Donaldson and my fiancé is Ben Blaine. He, he, he went crazy and ran away when we were supposed to get married." Then I break down in pretend, uncontrollable sobs.


She is so fucking stupid, it makes me disgusted to be a woman. She doesn't even notice, I'm fucking Latina and assumes I am a blondie when she says, "There, there Ms. Donaldson, we all know about your problems from the TV ad and we are here to help you in any way to find that bastard fiancé of yours. I'll be glad to get you a copy of his medical records. By the way, one of his attending physicians is also on duty right now if you'd like to talk with him. I was also wondering, will this qualify for any of the reward money?"


Fucking mercenary bitch, no wonder why she's so helpful: She just wants a piece of the pie. I reply, "Thank you nurse. I would love to talk with Ben Blaine's doctor, and the reward depends on whether the information you give me helps find him. If it does then you will certainly get some of the reward."


That lights a fire under her ass and she makes a bunch of calls. I can't help but hear that she promises a cut of her reward to all that help. She doesn't know her only reward from me is going to be a fucking knuckle sandwich if she gives me any shit!


The greedy fucking doctor shows up and wants to take me to an office to 'discuss' Ben Blaine's case. I can tell by the way he's checking out my rack he has much more than just 'discussing' on his mind, so I fucking play along to see what this bastard really has on his mind (do men ever have anything other than getting laid on their puny minds?)


He has a big file folder in his hands, sits behind a desk motions to a chair and says, "Have a seat Ms. Donaldson. I must say you look different in person. Your skin is darker and you look a little heavier." He laughs thinking he's God's fucking gift to comedians and continues, "I thought TV was supposed to add ten pounds to your weight, in this case I'd say it's reversed."


Well, that statement proves he's more of an idiot than the 'queen.' Time to put him in his fucking place, I frown and reply, "Excuse me doctor, did you just tell me I've gotten fat? That, that, that's why Ben left me, isn't it?" I stand up to leave and start sobbing.


He flies around the desk, hugs me in consolation and says, "Excuse me Ms. Donaldson, that's not what I meant at all and that's probably not the reason Ben left you. He has other issues going on."


And this fucking doctor certainly has other issues going on as his hands are slowly creeping lower towards my ass, the horny perverted fucker! I slide a hand down, pull the Kimber out of my thigh holster and wait. Finally the bastard's hands end up on my ass so I push him away, back against the desk and put the muzzle of the Kimber against his crotch and say, "Doctor, I don't know what the fuck you thought you were doing with your hands, but I sure as hell didn't appreciate being felt up by the likes of you. I'm taking my fiancés medical records and you're going to keep your fucking mouth shut about this, otherwise I pull the trigger and then scream rape. Do we have an agreement?"


I watch the sweat roll off his forehead as he says, "Yes Ms. Donaldson, I'm so sorry for the misunderstanding."


I curse him, "Misunderstanding hell! You grabbed my ass and would have done a hell of a lot more to me if I wouldn't have stopped you! Next time you think you can do that to a poor defenseless woman, I would suggest you remember that not all of us are defenseless." Then to make sure he remembers this lesson, I smack the hell out of his crotch with the Kimber! He doubles over in pain, I grab the folder and walk out of the room. Just like taking candy from a baby.


Shit! The night's still young and I'm dressed for fun!


Present – Liz – Dushanbe, Tajikistan


I hear, "Ms. Morgan, please wake up." I open my eyes and Mira smiles at me, "We have landed in Dushanbe and our ride is waiting."


I yawn, stretch and say, "Wow that was some rum and diet coke you gave me Mira. I slept like a baby."


Mira smiles and replies, "Ms. Morgan, you do know that is not a very precise euphuism since babies do not sleep well at all."


That statement makes me question the twins motives again so I ask, "Mira, are you and Ira still thinking about me having a baby?"


She smiles and responds, "Oh no Ms. Morgan, we would never think of you just having a baby."


Something about her answer doesn't seem right, but I'm too groggy to figure it out right now. I declare, "Okay, let's get moving. First we're headed to the Embassy. Then we have to find some way to get those adopted sisters of Ben's out of this country. Did you and Ira figure anything out?"


She smiles and answers, "Yes Ms. Morgan we did and we will tell you about it on the way to the Embassy. By the way, were the very private calls you made to the Ambassador?"


I sass, "That's for me to know and for you not to find out."


I slip on my shoes, stand up and say, "Where's Ira?"


Mira grins at me and sasses right back, "She is already busy doing some things which are for me to know and for you not to find out."


I sure don't like it when the twins become secretive like this - and they've been doing it with greater frequency lately. So I let my reporter instinct run, "Mira, that is not an acceptable answer. If any of those 'things' concerns me I want to know what they are."


Mira frowns and whines, "Please Ms. Morgan, it is a surprise."


Present – Ira – US Embassy, Dushanbe, Tajikistan


Yes, I lost the game so now it is my odious duty to encounter Ambassador Clark, extract what information Mira and I need, and then, if he wants to train me, he will expire! Mira promised me Ms. Morgan will remain unconscious for an additional hour, more than adequate time to execute my plan and if need be the perverted Ambassador.


I announce myself at the front gate and as anticipated, I am escorted promptly in. After a much abbreviated wait, I am shown directly into his office. He greets me, "Ira, it's so good to see you again. I'm assuming your sister and Liz will be here soon?"


I smile and articulate, "Yes sir they will both arrive soon. I arrived early to retrieve the information you have for Ms. Morgan."


He astonishes me because he behaves different from the last time - this time he does not seem to want to train me. He responds, "Sorry Ira, but I promised Liz I wouldn't give the information to anyone but her. So you will just have to wait until she arrives."


This frustrates me so I turn a trifle more seductive, "Ambassador Clark, are you certain there isn't something I can do to persuade you to impart the information to me?"


He laughs at me! Then he replies, "No Ira not even that would persuade me to give you this information since I owe Liz a big debt and this is one little way I can help to repay that debt. So we both just need to wait. Would you like something to drink while we are waiting?"


Previously where I found him detestable, his denial of my body has triggered my interest in him. I wonder if this is a small subset of what Mira experienced with Mr. Blaine. I attempt another stratagem, "Really Ambassador Clark, you do not have to get me intoxicated."


He laughs again at me and answers, "No Ira, but you would have to get me drunk this time. Now be a good girl and let me do some of my work while we wait for Liz and your sister." He dismisses me and starts processing his tedious paperwork.


What! Be a good girl! Oh, I am exceedingly frustrated and fantasize about kicking his rear! And after that demanding the information, training him and then eliminating him. But I recognize I cannot do any of these things so I determine to ask an interrogative I recognize he cannot dismiss. "Ms. Morgan told us you know about the two young girls and the gold. How did you find out?"


This interrogative briefly regains his attention: He looks up at me, reaches in his desk drawer and slips a sheet of paper across to me. Then he resumes his tedious paperwork.  I scan it and understand matters are going to be very unmanageable for us and our original plan to fetch the girls back to America will not work…


Present –Yasmeen and Zarika – Tajikistan


I am still very upset at Zarika for wrecking my face. I know she did it just to make me look bad when we meet our husband. I try to think of a way to get even with her, and then I realize the best thing is to tell Ben the whole truth. I remember how he hated when we fought and punished both of us. And once he sees my face and I tell him about how Zarika attacked me for no good reason at all, he will punish her very bad. In fact I will suggest that he make her my slave then I would give her the many tortures she deserves. I smile at her and keep my thoughts to myself.


Yasmeen is very quiet which means she is thinking. Because her brain is so small she cannot think and do something else at the same time she us quiet when she is thinking. She keeps looking in her mirror and I know she's upset because I beat her face very badly for insulting my dead mother, but she deserved it and now must be thinking of a way to get even with me.  I know it will not be something direct because she is sneaky like a little thief. Yes a little thief that's trying to steal Ben away from me.


I decide to aggravate her some more, "Yasmeen, just remember your place: You are our husband's second wife!"


She laughs and replies, "I think you mean I am his best wife!"


I snap at her, "No, I meant what I said: You are his second wife and you will need to obey me. Now be a good little second wife and fetch me some water to drink." I am shocked when she gets up, fetches the water, comes over to me and declares, "No! I meant best wife." She throws the water on me and laughs, "Not all the water in the world will ever wash the shame off you because of what Hussein did to you. You are not fit to even be Ben's one hundredth wife."


This is too large an insult, so I jump off the bed. The little sneak kicks me in my stomach and yells, "This time I was ready for you, you проститутка!"




The kick hurts very bad but makes me even angrier so I jump on top of the little suka and we roll around on the floor and fight…


Present – Thom – Rogue mission - Washington DC


After I'd driven about an hour away from the team, I pull over and realize I made a mistake. Shit! I hate when this happens: I get all wound up and let my emotions overrun my logic. It was never this way in Nam! The doctors try to tell me it's something to do with my PTSD. I should have used the TSIFFTS resources to get information about the two agents Dwight wants me to 'take care of.' Now it is going to be hard as hell to get the intel I need and I have to do it the old fashioned way: Discretely talk to some friends.


I am still pissed as hell at Dwight for even asking me to do this and I wish to hell that Ben Blaine never talked him into cleaning house. If I ever find Blaine, I'm going to give him a piece of my mind! I'd kick his ass if I thought I could, but after seeing how he brutalized the rape gang, I'm not sure I'd ever want to fight that sick bastard.


I take out my phone, make a few calls to some friends and setup some meetings. Yeah it is going to be hard as hell, but it is going to be great being on my own again: No one to worry about except myself. If I fuck up, it will only hurt me.


I smile as I drive to my first meeting since I haven't seen or talked to him in… Shit - maybe it has been years.


Samantha Stevens - Truth Network – San Antonio, Texas


"Samantha Stevens reporting for the Truth Network from San Antonio, Texas. Brave American soldiers and individual American freedom fighters are still engaged in fierce battles with the troops which have poured into the Southwestern United States from Mexico. While things have calmed down in much of America, a huge battle still rages here. The border between the United States and Mexico has shifted dramatically northward in many places. This seems to be a unified effort between the terrorists which infiltrated Mexico and many of the drug gangs which operate throughout the border regions of the United States. The whole invasion is very organized and well-funded. This reporter has heard from sources that this assault has been planned for years. Because of a weakened and corrupt Mexican government, the terrorists were able to set up many bases just inside the border. The drug gangs are more than happy to help them because the terrorists have been using their supply chain for years. It also appears the terrorist organizations have made very effective use of NAFTA.6 and the eagerness of local governments to set up 'free trade zones' in the United States to have supplies already waiting for their troops in America.


6 North American Free Trade Agreement -


Of all the border states, California has been hit the worst, largely because the overly aggressive anti-gun laws removed weapons from the hands of law abiding American citizens. In this case the firearms would have been weapons of homeland defense. While things constantly change, the current border appears to be a line drawn from Mission Viejo California to Yuma Arizona; from Yuma Arizona to Las Cruces New Mexico; and from Las Cruces to about fifty miles south of Corpus Christi Texas.


Yes America, the cities to the south of this line are currently under terrorist control. And from the few reports leaked out there is brutality of an indescribable nature happening with no regard for human life.


Unfortunately, because the attack is on American soil, the military has been forced into an urban combat scenario and cannot rely on much in the way of air support. The fight has degenerated into a block by block, clear out the terrorists from the houses operation. Because our former President gutted the military so effectively, and then spread the remaining troops across too large an area, America was left without a home military presence and very vulnerable. We are now paying for his traitorous acts.


But just as in Revolutionary times, normal, everyday citizens have stepped up to become citizen soldiers. Bringing the misattributed quote of Isoroku Yamamoto from World War II to fruition, "You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass." Help is pouring into Southwestern America from the entire country: Old men, old women, young men and even many young women who are not part of the Armed Forces have reported for duty with whatever weapons they have.


Of course those countries who are our allies have not stepped up to help. Yes, many of them are still fighting battles of their own, with Israel being in the worst trouble. But others have decided since it's on American soil, they shouldn't get involved. Those countries are cowards and in this reporter's opinion, when this is over we should terminate all relations with them.


And as you can see, this reporter is carrying a rifle. After I am finished with this report, I will be traveling with my unit and with Jim, my cameraman into the heart of the battle for America.  And our battle cry will be what it was back in eighteen-thirty-six: 'Remember the Alamo.' But this time we will be victorious and repel the terrorists. Finally I would encourage those who are able to fight to travel to the Southwest where we can use all the help we can get. Samantha Stevens - signing off for now."


I look up and smile since I see someone I need to go and greet! I run over and jump into my sweetheart’s, Frank Cohen, lap and give him a huge hug and kiss. After a very long time of getting reacquainted I let him up for air and ask, "Honey, what are you doing here?"


Frank grins at me and says, "I came to fight for America and I brought some friends with me." He motions behind him and I blush because I didn't notice the twenty very hard looking men and women behind him. Frank motions to one man so he walks up and Frank says, "Samantha, I'd like to introduce you to Emanuel, my brother. These troops with him are Mossad and we are here to fight and die if needed for America."


I start to cry and say, "Frank, we'd better not die because we have our two children to raise when this is over." Then I lecture a little, "By the way, what did you do with our two children?"


Emanuel shakes my hand and answers, "Ms. Stevens it is a great honor to meet you. I bring the whole family's thanks for giving Frank a reason to live again. And do not worry because our mother is taking very good care of your children."


Frank hugs me and says, "I have a question to ask you." He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a ring and asks, "Samantha Stevens, when this is all over, will you marry me?"


I hold my breath as he puts the ring on my finger, don't hesitate and moment and declare, "Frank Cohen, you bet I'll marry you!"


All the Mossad start to clap and cheer as I wave my finger with the ring in front of them and add, "The quicker we finish this war, the quicker we can get married."


Emanuel says, "Well, let's give these two lovers a huge wedding present and end this war…"


Present – Erast (Ben) – On the road


Stacey grins at me and says, "By the way, I want to thank you for bumping me off the front pages of the tabloids."


I stutter, "You're the missing billionaire heiress? That would explain your professional hair color and what's left of your French manicure."


She responds, "Yeah, when I got fed up with things, I left in a big hurry and didn't have time to change those things. And I used the money I brought with me to help take care of the so called friends I was traveling with until it's almost gone. Once my money got low their friendship waned, unless I wanted to pay in other ways I wasn't comfortable with."


I recover from the shock and answer, "Yeah, the one guy told me you were a cold fish."


She laughs, "Yeah little did they realize I was really a gold fish."


I laugh and like the hell at her sense of humor! But next I ask, "So aren't you worried your friends will turn you in for the reward? By the way, what is the reward up to now?"


She giggles a bit, then grimaces and says without answering my questions, "I think your disguise is really good and I didn't recognize you until you pulled off your wig. Man my head really hurts."


It reminds me that she asked for something for her headache. I open my daypack, hand her a bottle of aspirin and an unopened bottle of water. She says, "Thanks, I don't know what those two bounty hunters gave me but my head is pounding like a jackhammer. If this is what a hangover is like I sure hope to never have one. Oh, those so called friends of mine are idiots and have no idea who I really am, otherwise they'd already have turned me in for the quarter million being offered for me. In addition, I see your reward is up to one-hundred-thousand."


That news pisses me off, but I hide it and reply, "Those two gave you fast acting sodium pentothal. But how do you think they got wise to you?"


She bites her lower lip, just like Ms. Donaldson does and says, "I made the mistake of accessing one of my bank accounts and that's what put them on to me. They seemed to be real professionals, what happened to them?"


Shit! That reminds me the two of them were on the phone, so whoever they were talking with would know about Stacey being on this bus. I look at her and comment, "They both had unfortunate lethal accidents but it was self-defense. However, Reginald was on the phone so I'm sure someone else knows you're on this bus."


Stacey gets a panicked look on her face and pleads, "Please help me, I'm not ready to go back to them and don't know if I ever will be."


I argue, "Come on, from what I read and heard you had a pretty good life."


She teases, "And I could say the same thing about your life. Look we both had our reasons for leaving and neither of us wants to go back. Somehow, fate has brought us together so we need to work as a team to help one another. Besides, they are looking for us individually, not as a couple so it will be a better disguise if we travel together."


What she says makes sense, even though I'm not sure why she left home. The tabloids and news had distorted the truth so badly about the reason no one but her really knows the truth anymore. I say, "I had planned on being alone, but it does seem to me fate has brought us together for some unknown reason. And if we travel as a couple it will be a better disguise, but first we have to get the hell off this bus and take care of a few things."


She says, "Erast, we both have reasons and secrets that neither want others to know. Thank you for helping me and I will never forget it."


We'd taken the bus route out of DC which took I-270 up to I-76 and then I-70 which was a straight shot into Denver. Fredrick Maryland was coming up and I knew we had to get off there and take a different and slower route west.


I reply, "We will both get off the bus separately in Fredrick. I will go first to make sure no one is waiting for you. If they are then I will cause a distraction with them - you need to be ready and slip off the bus." I reach in my pocket, hand her two-hundred in twenties and continue, "Slowly walk up the street, make sure to take several turns and then take a cab to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. I will meet you there." I look at her and ask, "Do you have a hat or something to hide your hair?"


She shakes her head, "No, is that a problem?"


I hand her my ball cap and reply, "Yeah, it's a big problem because you're too recognizable. So for right now wear my cap."


She asks with a smile, "Do you have any more orders for me, Sir?"


I reply, "Only two more things: If either of us get caught we don't divulge any information about the other person; and two, this isn't going to be a cross country joyride, because once we get west of the Mississippi we're taking hомер автобуса одиннадцать7."


7 Bus number 11 – Russian euphemism for walking, 11 looks like legs.


She smiles and says, "Я понимаю, спасибо Эраст!"


"I understand, thank you Erast!"


The bus pulls into the Frederick station, I grab my daypack and leave. With an accent, I ask the driver, "Excuse me sir might I get my backpack from under your bus?"


He says, "Sure wait outside and I will be there in a minute."


I step off the bus and scan the crowd…


Present – Stacey – On the road – Fredrick MD bus station


I have always been told I was lucky, because I had everything in the world money could buy - everything except for parents who really cared for me. For them I am nothing but a commodity or an asset, another way to increase their wealth. And even though I am still young, I'm not so young that I don't realize money is more addictive than any drug. With drugs, you can reach a point where too much kills you, but with money there is never that governor. The lust for money is only limited by the greed inherent in humans and that is unfortunately boundless.


It's funny, because my parents didn't even care at all about me when I was a child. They left me with Grandmamma while they traveled the world and squandered their minimal inheritance. Grandmamma was a wonderful, loving and kind woman who taught me her wisdom and also took my inheritance and invested it wisely. She made sure my parents couldn't touch it.


However there was one thing Grandmamma willingly spent money on and that was a good education - she made sure I had the absolute best education money could buy. She and I traveled the world, not to waste money and live lavishly, but as a means to further my education. Well, it was more like we lived the world. I would get to choose a country I wanted to live in, and then I would have to research and prepare a solid justification of what I would learn in the country of my desire.


I remember my very first justification project: I wanted to travel to Vienna, Austria to see the famous Spanish Riding School, the home of the royal Lipizzaner stallions. The justification wasn't very good, but it was good enough so Grandmamma and I took our first trip and spent a wonderful year in Vienna. By the time we both grew tired of Vienna, I was quite the little Viennese young lady, and I spoke and acted as if I grew up there.


My next choice was influenced by my continual watching of the movie Anastasia. It was a movie which I now realize is not based on actual history, but captures my mind even today. For this justification Grandmamma made me work much harder. I couldn't be cute and beg since now I also had to show that we could financially profit from living in Russia. It took me three months of working by myself and with my tutors to come up the justification. When I presented it to Grandmamma she praised me and told me how proud she was, particularly the financial part which I mostly came up with by myself. So we lived in Russia and I pretended to be Anastasia while Grandmamma followed my financial plans and we became even wealthier.


I would have gladly lived in Russia forever, but the year drew to a close and it was on to another country. But Grandmamma realized I had very good intuition when it came to the financial parts of the justifications so it was off to Japan where we became even wealthier. But when we left Russia, I left my heart there. So I constantly read and spoke in Russian no matter where we traveled. I even demanded my tutors be from Russia. Grandmamma did grant me this one indulgence, which always surprised me because that was not like her.


My eighteenth birthday was held in New York City because Grandmamma had grown tired and wanted to rest for a short time in America and not travel. I had visited most of the world I wanted to see so it was fine with me. On the day of my birthday, Grandmamma told me that I would have access to one fourth of my inheritance and that I was to use it wisely and make sure it wasn't taken from me. In the midst of my party, my parents showed up. We hadn't heard from them in years and I hadn't even thought about them for a long time.


What should have been the best day of my life, ended up being the worst. Grandmamma and my parents had a huge fight over me and the money. I remember watching Grandmamma clutch her chest and fall to the floor. I ran to be with her and yelled for my tutor to call the ambulance. The ambulance didn't arrive in time. I'll always remember Grandmamma's dying words to me, "Stacy I love you with my whole heart. You are like my own daughter so I've left everything to you - it's totally legal and your parents can't touch it. But that doesn't mean they aren't going to try every way they can to separate you from your inheritance. Promise me you will never let that happen."


I cried and said, "I love you Grandmamma and I promise you they will never take our money."


And try they have. First they tried to act like they loved me and pretended to be real parents to me. But Grandmamma had made sure I could judge people very well and I could see through their deception.  So I threw them out of Grandmamma's Park Avenue apartment.


Then they tried to threaten me legally, but Grandmamma had made sure they couldn't do that either. My lawyers filed restraining orders against them.


Finally they resorted to trying to have me killed. Inka, my wonderful tutor stepped in front of the gunshot and sacrificed herself for me. I knew it would never stop so I took some (but not enough) money and left home.


My parents played it like I was distraught over Grandmamma's death and was mentally unstable - yet one more scheme to get the inheritance. So they offered the reward and hired the bounty hunters which had hounded me until Ben Blaine took care of them. I couldn't believe someone actually killed people for me, especially since at the time I was a total stranger. I was very lucky when I got on the same bus as Mr. Blaine otherwise I'd be locked away somewhere in a sanatorium while my parents convinced the doctors to declare me insane. And for enough money, doctors will do whatever you ask them to do.


I carefully watch Erast out the bus window. He doesn't look like he's paying much attention to anyone, but then he grabs his pack and stumbles into a group of people, falling on top of two of them. This is the sign I was looking for! They must be looking for me and without Erast I wouldn't have known it. So I did as he suggested, slip off the bus and slowly walk up the street taking four turns. Then I hail a cab and say with a Russian accent (two can play this game), "Please take me to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine."


The cab driver asks, "You some sort of foreign doctor?"


I reply, "Да, I mean yes. I am a Russian doctor and have an interest in the battlefield techniques used during your Civil War."


He whistles, "Damn they sure let you all become doctors at a young age over there."


I regret telling this lie because it is not working well so I grow uncomfortable with his conversation and explain, "My Papa is Russian Spetsnaz - I think they are much like your American Seals. He is waiting for my arrival and will not be happy if I am not on time." He stops talking and concentrates on getting me to the museum. I just hope that Ben Blaine decides to show up, because I'm not quite sure what he wants me to do next…


Present – Jens – Truth Network - Washington DC


The minute Jack tells me about Ben's PTSD I realize he's right and then I wonder why in the hell I never saw it or even thought about it being the reason for Ben's crazy actions. I even remember the time in WRAMC when Ben had the huge PTSD attack. I should have known it would happen again - once again I let him down because I wasn't with him and I didn't ask him nicely to get treatment for it. I worry about the whole situation: Does a person get a limited number of mistakes in a relationship? Boy I sure as hell made too many mistakes in this relationship. I check my watch - good Liz should have landed by now, and I need to talk to her.


I dial her cell phone, Liz picks up and asks, "Greetings Jens, do you have any good news for me?"


I dejectedly answer, "Hey Liz, we found the shop but missed my errant fiancé. However Dwight from the shop gave us a bunch of information. It seems Ben left DC on a bus and I just know he's headed west. Also Jack is here. I told him everything and he thinks Ben is suffering from PTSD again."


Liz replies, "Jens is Jack there right now? If so, put the phone on speaker."


I punch up the speaker phone and Liz says, "Jack can you hear me?"


Jack replies, "I hear you fine Liz, what's going on?"


She answers, "Jack, I agree with your assessment, and it's the only thing that makes sense. I can also tell Jens is beating herself up over this and her guilt is going to cause some huge issues if we don't nip it in the bud. Call my shrink and get her over to help with Jens. Then tell her all that you two know about Ben. She can give you some great ideas on how to handle Ben."


I start to complain, "Liz, I really don't have time or need this…"


She interrupts, "Jens you sure as hell do - I can tell from your voice! Now you listen to me sister, we already have one crazy person in this relationship running all over the fucking country; if you don't get some treatment for your problems you're going to be doing the same. Jens, the mistakes you feel you made in the relationship are clouding your judgment and until you work out your misconceived guilt you're going to keep making more mistakes. Jack, what do you think?"


Jack affirms Liz's statement, "Yes Liz I agree with you, Jens is feeling like this is completely her fault. I will make sure Jens gets the treatment she needs."


I complain, "I'm not sure I like being talked about this way to my face!"


Liz laughs, "Hey be thankful we aren't doing it behind your back. Now you make sure you get well sister because I might be a few more days getting back than I thought, there are a couple of minor complications that we need to take care of before we come back. "


Present – Liz – US Embassy, Dushanbe, Tajikistan – The big surprise


I look at Mira and think: A couple of minor complications my ass, we have some major hurdles to cross before we can get out of this country. Mira says, "Ms. Morgan, Sgt. Reynolds and your analysis is correct for Mr. Blaine. It is the only obvious conclusion. And that was very nice disinformation you provided to Ms. Donaldson so she will not worry when we are late."


I think yeah, well first we are going to give you and Ira the surprise of your life. I can't believe for once I am going to surprise these two. I sure as hell hope Sam has a camera because I want to save the looks on their faces. I order, "Okay Mira, let's go in so I can give you and Ira your surprises."


Mira's face shows how shocked she is as she replies, "I do not understand, we are coming here so you can give us a surprise?"


I grin and reply, "That's right, several surprises to be exact."


Mira shows an excitement I have never witnessed before and she says, "Ms. Morgan, this is not something Ira and I expected."


I laugh, "Of course not, if you know what is coming then it wouldn't be a surprise! Let's head inside."


Present – Mira and Ira – US Embassy, Dushanbe, Tajikistan – The big surprise


Ms. Morgan is giving us several surprises, so this is very shocking to me and also troublesome. I do hope that Ira didn't already persuade Ambassador Clark to give her the surprises and then eliminate him, which would ruin everything and possibly get Ms. Morgan very angry at us.


I hurry into the Embassy almost forgetting to guard Ms. Morgan. We are escorted into a big conference room and there are Ira and Ambassador Clark. Good we are in time! I walk up to Ira and say, "You were unable to persuade Ambassador Clark to divulge the information?"


She grouchily responds, "Mira, he has been very frustrating and has ignored all my advances."


I giggle and state, "Ira, perhaps you now understand how terrible that is when it happens?"


Ms. Morgan says, "Alright my scheming twins, you both need to come and sit at the table."


We obediently walk over and sit down. Ms. Morgan and Ambassador Clark are both grinning at us like the cat from Alice's looking glass. He passes a small booklet to Ms. Morgan and she enunciates, "Mira and Ira, you are both now moderately wealthy women."


I open the booklet and it displays a large sum of money, much greater than I had ever anticipated seeing if I endured two lifetimes, I pass the booklet to Ira and inquire, "Ms. Morgan, I do not understand why you are compensating Ira and I for performing an occupation which we have freely offered to perform and one which we both completely relish?"


Ambassador Clark laughs, "Mira and Ira, Liz did not pay you this money. When Kostia was killed by the assassin, all his worldly possessions became yours and Ira's. Liz asked me to dispose of them for you and this money is the proceeds from that."


Ira enjoins, "We do not require this sum of money so I believe we should contribute it to the destitute."


Ms. Morgan responds, "Oh, I think you two are going to need that money, you just don't realize it yet. Sam, will you please go and bring in the big surprise, and please take your time."


He laughs and comments, "Liz, you're really enjoying this." Then he leaves the room.


I state, "Ms. Morgan, the money was already a big enough surprise. I am not certain we merit anything more."


Ira contributes, "Yes Ms. Morgan you have already done too much for us."


She just grins at us and says, "Oh, I think you'll both like the next surprise."


Present – Liz – US Embassy, Dushanbe, Tajikistan – The big surprise


The twins continue to whine about their surprise like a couple of kids whine about having to sleep in on Christmas morning and not being able to get up and open their presents at some ungodly hour. And Sam is certainly taking his time, which is even better. For once, I have the upper hand with these two and I'm enjoying the hell out of it. Finally the door opens and Sam walks in with their big surprise. I look at the twins and announce, "Mira and Ira, I would like to introduce you to your younger brother Alexi! Alexi, meet your twin sisters Mira and Ira!"


The room erupts in pandemonium as Ira replies, "Ms. Morgan he cannot be our brother because I recollect observing our Mama expire." Mira adds, "Yes Ms. Morgan, you have made a horrendous error!" Poor Alexi doesn't know what to think and he's confused as hell. I slide a file folder across the table to the twins and announce, "Sorry girls, but multiple DNA tests done in several different certified labs in America confirm that Alexi is your younger brother. Does one of you have the picture of your family?"


They both pull out the picture and I ask, "Didn't you ever wonder why your mother looked so large in that picture?"


I guess both of them had repressed it until now. They both start hugging and crying as one of them says, "Yes Mama was pregnant, I recollect that now."


Ira says, "But Mama expired with the baby still within her - I recollect that now."


I answer, "No, you two were taken away and didn't realize one of the men there was a doctor and did an emergency cesarean section on your mother. The fucking animal Kostia gave Alexi to one of his friends to raise as his own."


It finally sinks in and they both run to Alexi and smother him with hugs and kisses. Mira asks, "But how did you know Ms. Morgan?"


I explain, "I saw a picture of Kostia with Alexi, and he had a strong resemblance to both of you. I remembered noticing your mother was pregnant in the picture so I asked Sam to get the DNA tests done. When the first test came back positive I asked for two more just to make sure."


Sam walks up to the group, holds out his hand and offers, "By the way, here's his American Passport. I pulled a few strings and called in a few favors so he will be able to travel back to America with his sisters." They both come over and hug the hell out of Sam then run back to get better acquainted with their long-lost brother.


I look at Sam and say, "Sam this has to be the best thing we've ever done together."


He grins at me, "Yeah Liz, we made a hell of a team on this. Thank you for letting me help you with this."


I give him a coy glance and say, "You know, I have this itch I'd love for you to scratch and these three are going to be busy for a good thirty minutes or more."


His face portrays his shock when he answers, "Liz after you read me the riot act about raping you…"


I shush him and say, "Sam, you're how old and you don't understand you can't rape the willing? Tonight I'm going to teach you how much better it is with a willing woman instead of a coerced woman."


I grab his hand and we saunter back to his private bedroom…


Present – Jack – Truth Network - Washington DC


Even though Jens complains, I make the call to Liz's shrink and she says she's coming right over. It makes me wonder how much Liz pays this female shrink that she'd come trotting over for a house call in the evening.


Jens computer beeps, she runs over to it and exclaims, "Son-of-a-fricken- bitch!"


I query, "Jens what the hell is wrong?"


She answers, "I worked my ass off to get all the video from the four fucking bus terminals in DC. Then I ran it through my facial recognition program in hopes we would discover what Ben looks like in his disguise, and it just came back with no matches. Jack, you don't think he had surgery do you?"


I laugh, "Jens, you really aren't thinking well right now. Of course he didn't have surgery, he didn't have the time. Why don't you pull up the video of the bus station closest to 'the shop' and let me take a look at it."


Jens asks, "I don't know what the hell you're going to be looking at that my facial recognition program couldn't find?"


She pulls up the video on the computer, moves out of the way, I take her place and explain, "I'm not going to be looking at his face. First I'm going to look closely at anyone with any sort of hat on. Then I'm going to watch how they act, move and walk."


Jens smiles, "Jack, sometimes you make me feel so stupid."


I question, "Jens, when was the last time you ate anything or slept?"


She bites her lip and says, "Uh, I don't really know Jack. It’s been awhile."


I loudly command, "Jennifer Donaldson, get your ass in a cot right now while I make you some food." She complies as I go to the mini-fridge, pull out a TV dinner and start heating it. Son-of-a-bitch, no wonder Jens is thinking so poorly - that damn aide of hers and I are going to have a big fucking talk when she gets back here because she needs to be taking better care of Jens - that is one of her fucking jobs!


The microwave dings, I pull out the food and take it to Jens but she's already fallen asleep. I figure there is no reason to waste good food, so I sit at the computer and eat while I watch the video roll.


Present – Maria – Truth Network - Washington DC


I do get a little sidetracked on my way back to my princess boss. I stop at a sailor bar, making sure to leave my pistol in the car, and try to have a bit of fun. But I can't really say it is fun this time, certainly not like it used to be. Instead it is…. really disgusting! There's no real honor in beating up drunken men and there isn't an endorphin release this time. I ponder this as I walk back to the car. I review at all that's happened today and realize I've had four or five smaller endorphin releases all day long - no wonder I'm so calm.


I head back to the network, proud to have completed this mission for my princess boss. It will sure make me look good in her eyes compared to the twisted sisters' failure. I stop back by my house, take a quick shower to wash off the smell of booze and cigs, get back into my BDUs and head back to the station.


I pull into the parking lot and head up to her office. I walk in the door and announce, "Hey boss…"


Gramps shushes me, "Shut the fuck up, Jens is sleeping."


I sure as hell don't like his tone of voice - what the hell did I do to him to get him upset at me. I walk over and demand, "Excuse the fuck out of me gramps! How the hell was I supposed to know she was sleeping?"


He stands up, gets in my face and says, "You might try opening your fucking eyes. And while you're at it, you also might start doing your fucking job so I don't have to do it for you!"


Well, well, well, there's some fire under this old fart's snow. I sass, "Listen gramps, if you don't like the way I'm doing my job, blow it out your ass!"


He answers, "If it wouldn't wake up Jens, I'd shove it up your ass!"


I grin, "Well, I know the way to the gym gramps and I'm your Huckleberry."


He pauses for a second, like he's surprised and says, "Lead the way, I sure won't get lost following your fat ass!"


Bastard, he's going to pay for that comment. My ass isn't any bigger than J Lo's. We head towards the gym…


Present – Jack – Truth Network - Washington DC


It's time I teach this mouthy bitch who is boss around here! Yeah, I heard how she and Jens fought to a draw, and since Jens and I have sparred a few times, I think I can take her if I'm sneaky; and very few are as sneaky as I am because I've learned a thing or two about fighting from Banzai.


I know many Latina's are sensitive about their cabooses so I insult her about it. We're walking to the gym and I continue, "Shit, can't you walk any softer? It feels like a fucking earthquake with every step you take!"


She spits back, "Shut up old fucker!"


I pour it on, "I hear when you roll out of bed, you cause an earthquake."


She answers with some anger, "I'm going to hit you so hard you'll think there was an earthquake!"


I continue to press for an advantage, "Shit what do you use to weigh yourself, a Richter Scale8?"


8 Richter Scale - assigns a single number to quantify the amount of seismic energy released by an earthquake.


She yells, "I'm going to kick your ass so hard you won't be able to sit." I think, yeah bitch, been there done that by someone better than you!


Yes, Banzai taught me the best way to win a fight is to get your opponent upset so they make mistakes, and she's about as upset as I dare make her. I can't resist one more barb, "I bet your swimsuit size is T for Tsunami!"


With increasing anger she screams, "I can't wait to go all tsunami on you!" Then she spins and attacks me in the hallway before we ever reach the gym - I guess that last taunt was one too many!


Present – Maria – Truth Network - Washington DC


Gramps is ragging on me about my ass, which I don't think is that bad. At least it's not all bony like the twisted sisters. Finally I have enough of his mouth and decide that fuck the gym, this hallway is good enough. I spin and scream, "I can't wait to go all tsunami on you!" and attack.


The old fart baited me and is prepared. I miss my punch so gramps knocks me on my ass, steps back and sneers, "Damn I bet when you haul ass to get back up, you're going to need to make two trips!"


I'm pissed as hell and yell, "They're going to need two ambulances to haul all the pieces of your ass out of here after I rip it up."


I try to jump up, the sneaky bastard moves forward knocks me right back down on my ass, steps back and laughs, "Your ass is so big it has more crack than a drug dealer!"


I've learned my lesson, so I scream, "Oh yeah, I'll show you crack. That will be the noise your head makes when I hit you!" But I fake getting up so when gramps steps forward, I do a leg sweep, take the old fart down and pounce on him.


He's a tough old buzzard and we're both beating the shit out of each other when we hear…


Present – Jens – Truth Network - Washington DC


One of the station security guards wakes me up and says, "Ms. Donaldson, your girl Friday and some old guy are fighting in the hallway and tearing stuff up."


I'm groggy as hell and ask, "What?" As he repeats his message, I notice Jack and Maria are missing so I cuss, "Shit! What the hell is wrong with those two? Let's go and take care of things."


He takes off and I'm right behind him. We run up just as Maria takes Jack down and tries to jump on him. I say try because he's giving her a hell of a fight. They're both beating the shit out of each other! I didn't know Jack could fight that well, but I bet he learned that from Ben.


I'm pissed as hell about being awakened; it's the first fucking time in days I've slept. I yell, "Maria and Jack, what the fuck are you doing?"


They both stop and look at me like puppy dogs that have done something wrong. Jack says, "Jens, sorry Mira and I had a disagreement."


Maria punches the hell out of Jack and says, "You senile old fart, don't you ever call me one of those fucking twins names again."


Jack sasses back, "What would you rather have me call you, Speedy?" and the fight is back on.


I look around, notice a CO2 fire extinguisher on the wall, break the glass, take it out, pull the pin and start spraying both of them with it.


Maria yells, "Hey stop it that's fucking cold!"


Jack adds, "What the fuck are you trying to do, freeze my ass off."


They both look at me and I say, "Either you two quit or I will freeze both your asses off!"


Jack laughs as he just can’t control his mouth, "Shit that would kill Maria!" They start fighting again so I spray the hell out of them until they stop and I say, "Alright you two bastards, I'm pissed off because you two woke me up and now I'm going to kick both your asses at the same time. Get the fuck up and get your asses to the gym."


They start whining so I douse them again and yell, "Move it!"


Present – Maria – Truth Network - Washington DC


My princess boss is more pissed off than when we fought and she's going to kick both our asses at the same time. I don't think so! I'm going to kick her ass and then then open up a real can of whoop ass on gramps since this is completely his fault. Plus he's in the lead and has no idea where he's going. He slows up and my princess boss gooses me with a blast from the fire extinguisher - I think the old fart is doing it on purpose.


We finally make it to the gym and I run inside because she again sprays the hell out of me with the fire extinguisher. I yell, "I should make you eat that damn fire extinguisher."


She ignores my threat and yells, "Alright you two, choose your weapons and get ready!"


I sass back, "Hey, I already fought you to a draw or did you forget?"


She ignores me again and says, "Choose your weapons!"


Gramps comes over to me and says, "Shit we're in a world of trouble now."


I reply, "Maybe you are, but I almost kicked her butt once already."


I watch and she has some sort of stick and is slicing through the air with it. Gramps answers, "Yeah, I heard about that and it was hand-to-hand combat. Tell me, are you any good with weapons?"


I smugly reply, "I'm a pretty damn good shot."


He laughs and expands his question, "I mean martial arts weapons."


I shake my head, "Shit no, I've never had to use them. Why?"


Gramps explains, "Because she's damn good with most of them and she's fired up. I didn't see her do it, but I heard about it and saw the results of what she did to her fiancé. We're in big trouble."


I shrug my shoulders, "So maybe he isn't very good at fighting?"


That gets him pissed off and he chews my ass, "Listen Maria, I'm not sure what to think about you. You seem really smart, but you're a real fuck up on this job. First thing is you don't know much at all about Jens or Banzai and that limits your effectiveness. You need to learn about both of them. If you did, you'd know Banzai is one of the best at martial arts and Jens is one of the best at martial arts weapons. Then you'd realize just how truly fucked we are right now. I got upset at you earlier because I found out Jens didn't know when the last time was she ate or slept - that's your fucking job! You need to get your head out of your ass and take care of her. Or all her fucking friends, and she's got a shitload of friends, are going to take care of you!"


Well that made me feel like shit because gramps was totally right. I guess I had sort of just been punching the clock and not doing much other than trying to figure out the twisted sisters. And Shit! He's right again because I don't remember her eating or sleeping.


My princess boss yells, "You two have fifteen seconds to choose your weapons then I'm attacking." Shit, I don't know what she's been doing but she's even angrier right now than before. I run over to the weapons rack and look at everything. I don't know how to use half of it, but I figure this long stick is probably my best bet. Maybe I can at least use it to keep her away from me. I look around for gramps and he's kneeling on the floor - it looks like he's given up and is going to commit hari-kari.


She says, "Time is up!" and heads towards gramps. He says something to her and she wails on him with the stick! Shit! It looks like she's beating him to death. I'd better go help the old fart!


Present – Jack – Truth Network - Washington DC


This might be the only time the best offense is no defense. I know there's no way in hell I can defeat or even defend myself against Jens and if I try it will just make her angrier. Besides, it is partially my fault and I need to pay for my mistakes. She runs up to me and commands, "Jack, defend yourself!"


I look at her and explain, "Jens, I fucked up and I deserve whatever punishment you deem acceptable, I will not defend myself."


She lightly whacks me with the practice katana, pulling all the blows and it doesn't even hurt. She yells, "Jack, you should know better."


I notice movement out of the corner of my eye and yell, "Jens, watch out!"


Her stupid fucking aide is attacking. Jens ducks as the staff Maria has slices through the air and barely misses both of us. The attack only succeeds in getting Jens really pissed off. She whacks the hell out of my head three times and then goes after Maria.


I crawl off to the side of the mat to lick my wounds and watch that smart mouthed aide get the hell beat out of her. And she fucking deserves every fucking blow of it.


Jens runs up to her. As Maria pokes at her with the staff, Jens steps to the side, moves in and whacks the hell out of Maria's hands. Maria drops the staff and falls back in a fighting stance, -now this should be fun to watch.


Maria yells, "Come on blondie, I'm your huckleberry."


I almost laugh as I think: No Jens is your huckleberry this time."


Jens dances in and nails the hell out of Maria three times. Maria throws a kick but Jens has already stepped back. Jens fakes an attack, Maria throws a kick and Jens katana goes rat, tat, tat on Maria's leg - damn that one had to hurt!


I continue to watch the massacre and wonder who would win with a katana, Jens or Mira. Wait, didn't Maria get really upset when I accidentally called her Mira today and mentioned something about the twins? No it couldn't fucking be!


Present – Jens – Truth Network - Washington DC


Jack is a smart old codger and knows I can't beat the hell out of him if he doesn't fight back. I am well on my way to calming down, until my own fucking girl Friday pulls an idiotic sneak attack on me. That fires me back up and it's time for me to show her I am the only fucking alpha female around here! Yeah she may have fought me to a draw in hand-to-hand combat, but there's no way in hell that's going to happen with weapons.


I can tell she never used martial arts weapons, but she makes a good choice when she chose the staff. If she only knew what she was doing it would have been a fun fight. But she didn't use it like a staff, instead she used it like a stick - so I beat it out of her hands. Then it's hand-to-hand against sword and she doesn't stand a fucking chance. I do pull most of my hits because I don't want to break her since this is mostly for instructional purposes.


Finally after a hell of a beating, in which I beat her into submission, she knelt on the floor in front of me, looks at the floor and yells, "Uncle!"


I place the katana under her chin, raise her face so she can see me and say, "So, you had enough?"


She says, "Yes boss. I am very sorry for fighting with Jack."


I smile, hold out my hand and help her up. Jack walks up and asks, "Jens, Liz has two twins working for her, are they named Mira and Ira?"


I answer, "Yeah Jack that's their names. Why?"


He gets a very serious look on his face and says, "Jens, we might have another huge fucking issue!"


Present – Liz – US Embassy, Dushanbe, Tajikistan – The big tragedy


Yeah Sam got lucky, unfortunately his luck ran out and things didn't go quite as we planned. Poor old Sam - his heart couldn't take it. He didn't die with his boots on, but he did die with a hard-on and a smile on his face. Every man should be afforded the chance to die in this manner. I did struggle to dress him in his pajamas out of respect for him and his wife. I kissed him on the cheek and cried as I walked back to the conference room. I'm going to miss that old bastard…


Present – Ira and Mira – US Embassy, Dushanbe, Tajikistan – The big tragedy


I observe as Ms. Morgan walks into the room and I can tell she is distressed. I tell Mira, "Please keep talking to our brother. Something is not right with Ms. Morgan."


I walk over and inquire, "Ms. Morgan, you appear to be upset. What is the problem?"


She cries, "Ira, Sam is dead!" Then falls on my shoulder and sobs.


I console her and ask, "Ms. Morgan, what happened?"


She says, "Ira, I'm embarrassed to tell you. But we were making love and he – well he – he had a heart attack. I tried CPR on him but it didn't work. And because of what we were doing, I didn't want to call an ambulance."


This is very upsetting to me, but I hide it and ask, "Ms. Morgan, did anyone see you go into his bedroom?"


She sobs but shakes her head no. I motion for Mira, she comes right over with Alexi and I say, "Mira, you must take care of Ms. Morgan. Ambassador Clark has expired."


Mira gives me a knowing look and replies, "Ira, you must do what needs to be done. I will watch Ms. Morgan."


Mira says, "Ms. Morgan, come and meet our brother."


Ms. Morgan replies, "Don't you mean your brother."


Mira laughs, "Ms. Morgan, if we are your adopted sisters, then Alexi is your adopted brother."


I can tell things are under control and Ms. Morgan is distracted. So I head to Ambassador Clark's private bedroom and silently curse myself! It was not Ms. Morgan's fault Ambassador Clark expired - it was supposed to happen if he trained me. I had slipped an undetectable drug into his water when we were together which would cause his heart to stop under exertion. Now I needed to make sure no evidence of Ms. Morgan's liaison remained in the room because there would be an investigation. Then the four (it is so strange saying four now that I have a younger brother) of us need to leave posthaste.


I am impressed on how well Ms. Morgan cleaned up the crime scene. I fixed a few things she missed (the tool cover in the trashcan was a big mistake) and made sure to wipe everything to remove any fingerprints and left. I walked into the conference room and smiled as I saw Ms. Morgan, Mira and my brother Alexi. I nod at Mira and she says, "It is time for all of us to leave…"


Present – Stacey – On the road – Fredrick MD the National Museum of Civil War Medicine


Finally I see Ben Blaine as he's jogging up the sidewalk towards the museum. I have waited for over three hours and started to wonder if he decided not to help me. He runs up and says in character, "Sor, sor, Sorry I was unavoidably detained."


I notice he has a split lip and a black eye, so I ask with a Russian accent, "Erast, what has happened to your lip and eye?"


He smiles, then grimaces, and stammers, "It, it, it seems the two gentlemen I accidentally fell upon did not care for my clumsiness and they decided I needed to be taught a lesson."


I giggle and whisper, "If you look this bad, I can only wonder if you left them alive?"


He replies with a whisper, "I didn't touch them. You see sometimes to lose a fight is to win."


I shake my head, "I don't understand."


He tries to smile again but gives up and whispers, "There were police on duty at the bus station. When the duroks9 started to beat me, the police came and arrested them. They searched them and found illegally concealed weapons. Then I had to go to the police station and file a complaint."


9 Fools in Russian


I am shocked and reply, "You went into the police station. Weren't you worried they'd figure out who you were?"


He stammers, "N, n, no, I have become Erast Petrovich Fandorin. Oh they questioned me but I was the 'victim' and the police almost never suspect the victim."


I then realize Ben is gone and all that remains is Erast. He has taken on the character of his disguise and is stammering - two things Erast does in the novels. I ask, "So what do we do now?"


He says:

"One – We find a hideout and get you off the street.

 Two – We do something about your appearance.

 Three – We create a new identity for you.

 And Four – We teach you how to become your new identity."


Yes, he made a numbered list, just like his namesake, the older and oh so smart, dashing Erast Petrovich Fandorin. I smile as we walk away from the museum and hope my life ends up more like Erast's second Elizaveta, than his first Elizaveta!