Chapter 13

Wanderer Chapter 13

 

Present – Jens – Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – late afternoon – Washington DC

 

I’m standing tall and proud at the altar but I can't believe the big day is finally here! I'm as nervous as a bride – because I am not just a bride, I'm the bride! I look simply stunning in my brilliant white wedding gown. Yes I am one of the few brides that can truthfully and proudly wear white on her wedding day!

 

It's my turn and I recite my vows, "I, Jennifer Donaldson, take you, Bennie Blaine, to be my lawfully wedded husband, secure in the knowledge that you will be my constant friend, my faithful partner in life, and my one and only true love. On this special and holy day, I affirm to you in the presence of God my sacred promise to stay by your side as your faithful wife in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, as well as through the good times and the bad. I further promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, encourage you to achieve all of your goals, laugh with you and cry with you, grow with you in mind and spirit, always be open and honest with you, and cherish you for as long as we both shall live."

 

Almost everything is perfect except there is one problem which is bugging the hell out of me. But I am dealing with that; after all, I don't want to be labeled a bridezilla1!

 

1 Bridezilla - is a difficult, unpleasant, perfectionist bride.

 

The ceremony and vows are complete, the priest says, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Mrs. Bennie Blaine."

 

The organist starts playing: Not the recessional march, but the funeral dirge. I turn and face an almost empty church. I let the tears stream down my face, lower my head and dejectedly drop my bouquet. The director yells, "Cut! That's a wrap!"

 

Yes the one thing that is missing, is the second most important thing after the bride” My groom Bennie Blaine.

 

I look up, grin and ask Megan, "How was I?"

 

She smiles at me and says, "Jens that was perfect! Let's head back to the apartments, have a nice sit down dinner, then head to the network and see what sort of magic the editors have performed on this commercial. But remember, we can't stay very long since we still have class later tonight."

 

It was s-o-o-o-o much fun pretending to marry Ben! There were times I swore he was standing right beside me! It felt fucking magical, but I dare not tell Megan about that because she'll think I'm crazy. Wow! What a difference having Megan here has made! What an incredible day this has been! I guess I should start from this morning.

 

Present – Jens – Truth Network – Washington DC – Morning

 

I don't remember the last time I slept this well. I wrack my brain and decide it had to be what seems like three novels ago when Ben and I were together on Kaneohe Bay. I don't want to wake up, so I hug my pillow and pretend I am hugging Ben. I giggle and remember how Ben used to think I was a witch. HA! If I was a witch I'd use all my magic right now and turn this pillow into Ben. Then I wouldn't be a fucking idiot this time! He wouldn't escape this cot until he hit me, that would be fucking magic – h-m-m-m – no until he hit me and Hit Me Baby One More Time. It seems like forever since I've heard that song!

 

Megan, my bestest childhood friend, confidant and partner in crime, is here to help me. I giggle again and remember all the escapades we had; together the two of us were unstoppable. And for the first time since Ben ran away, I truly have hope!

 

My stomach complains with a loud growl and I realize I'm once again hungry, so hungry I could eat a horse, no make that two hippos! I jump out of my cot, start humming the song and head into the office to microwave a breakfast…

 

Present – Maria – Truth Network - Washington DC

 

Megan stayed up late last night talking to me about many things, mainly about my princess boss. The more she talked about Jens, the more my respect grew for her and also for Megan. I had seriously misjudged my princess boss and her singular dream. Yes I discovered she really only has one dream, to marry the man she has loved her whole life. And even I, with my cynical and hard heart fell for the magical love story of the ages! I made a vow to myself that I would work my ass off for my princess boss, to help her realize her dream. Shit, I'll hogtie and haul Ben's ass in here if I ever find out where he is! Stupid bastard! Hurting my princess boss!

 

I glance at my watch, happy that Jens is sleeping in this morning, but very impatient to start our new day together! I am going to rock her socks today! Megan has helped me and we have planned it all out for her. Now she just needs to get her ass in here.

 

Finally Jens walks into the office and the change in her is magical. The bags are gone from under her eyes, she's smiling and humming a song. I recognize that song fuck no, I haven't heard that song in forever! It's from that crazy blonde bitch, the one that shaved her head. All the fucking guys in the Sandbox2 had the hots for her, but she was nothing but a skanky white ho. I guess it is true, 'you can take the bitch out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the bitch'. I almost laugh. She was the reason I got thrown off Wikipedia, since I started a page to define skanky-ho and put a bunch of her pictures on it. You have to love Wikipedia because you can post any old crap you want - at least until they blacklist your e-mail address.

 

2 Slang for Iraq or Afghanistan

 

I say, "Good morning Jens, let me get you a cup of coffee which you can take with you to the showers. Here are your clothes for the day and when you come back, I will have your breakfast ready."

 

She stops humming mid-song, stares at me and questions, "Maria, what the hell is wrong with you?"

 

I smile and say, "Nothing Jens I am fine. Now take your coffee and your clothes and get cleaned up because we have many things to do today."

 

Jens immediately gripes, "Hey, these aren't my BDUs!"

 

I explain, "That's right you're not wearing BDUs today because you and I have many tasks to complete outside of the office…"

 

Jen interrupts but it doesn't even anger me, "But what about finding Ben?"

 

Jack looks up from the computer and says, "Good morning Jens, that's my assignment today. I've already distributed all the videos from the bus terminals to my many friends. We are all manually scanning them for anyone suspicious. And I've started working on retracing Banzai's steps from the time he left the hospital. We are also checking all the police reports to see if there are any clues there. And finally, Megan had us pull all the commercials and kill the reward offers."

 

She gets grumpy and demands, "Well, what the hell am I supposed to do?"

 

Megan picks the perfect time to walk in and replies, "Jens, you've got the most important job of all. We need to get you ready for the new commercial we are planning on shooting late this afternoon. Maria has a list of tasks you both need to accomplish today, so you'd better get a move on and get showered or you won't have enough time."

 

Jens face lights up and questions, "We're doing a new commercial tonight?"

 

Megan answers, "Yes and you're the big star this time!"

 

My princess boss does a funny little dance, grabs her coffee and clothes and yells, "Thanks, I'll see you in twenty minutes." Then she runs toward the showers.

 

Megan touches me on the shoulder and says, "Maria, you did a really good job!" And I agree: Yes I did a very good job! I throw a breakfast in the microwave and head to the showers to continue taking care of my princess boss, because Jens is still my princess boss. She always will be, but now I can call her that with respect, because even I hope that someday her prince will come! That day will be magical!

 

Present – Megan – Truth Network - Washington DC

 

Well, it is my turn last night not to sleep. After Jack told me all about Ben, Mira and the school I knew without a doubt Jack was right: We had a 'huge fucking problem'. I grilled the hell out of Jack, extracted all the details I could and determined there was a more than ninety percent chance Mira was still in love with Ben and that she and her twin sister Ira were probably acting in a counter-productive manner.

 

I called my sources and had them start checking the twins past, and what they initially uncovered was very unsettling. Those two appeared to be some sort of assassins and now they are working for Liz? Liz loved the hell out of both of them, but they were dangerous as hell and I needed to approach this situation very carefully or someone might get hurt. I really wondered how strong their attachment was to Liz and if she could possibly, really control them; or have they always had their own agenda?

 

Then I had a very long talk with Maria and was exceedingly pleased to see she had responded very positively this morning - sometimes I wonder if I am a magician. At least I feel this problem is mostly solved.

 

Things are working well so far today. I slump into a chair, drink some peppermint tea and look around this 'office!' This place is fucking d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g and won't do at all. I need to call Liz, get the name of her interior decorator and get this prison reformed. No, that's wrong, this place is totally unsuitable for the task at hand so I make a command decision. "Jack, we need to bring on two or three more people to help us with the search for Ben."

 

He stops the video, spins in his chair and responds, "Megan, what do you have in mind?"

 

I spend a long time telling him my plans and jump his case for some of his crazy ideas. As he starts making some phone calls, I relax and wait for Jens and Maria to leave so I can take a nap. But Jack interrupts my relaxation…

 

Present – Jack – Truth Network - Washington DC

 

Well, things have certainly changed since Megan took charge. At first I wasn't sure I wanted to work with a civi3 because normally they are a fucking pain in the ass and don't know their ass from a hole in the ground. But Megan is different: She's smart as a whip, well organized, and even seems to already have a plan in mind. I just wish she'd share that full plan with me. But she did put me in charge of finding Banzai and left me alone to implement it the way I saw fit.

 

3 Civi – civilian (usually incompetent).

 

She really worked me over last night about Banzai and Mira at the school and asked a hell of a lot of very good questions. She was especially interested in the reason why Banzai never screwed Mira and smiled when I told her the bullshit answer he gave me. I of course made sure not to mention that I banged Mira. I may like to brag, but I sure as hell don't kiss and tell, especially to a shrink. That night, even though I don't remember all of it, was magical.

 

But working with shrinks presents some problems. They always seem to be on your case about how the hell you say things and love to correct you. Like they are the fucking psychological grammar police and saying things differently makes you feel different, bull-fucking-shit! Oh well, I can play her games as well as the next guy.

 

It made me happy as a clam when she had me call Masha and tell her to get her ass out here and bring Vanya. I'd missed the hell out of both of them and I was worried. After Maria flirted with me last night, I was concerned she might try something again. Maria may be a hell of a fighter, but Masha would kick her ass if she tried to pull anything on me. Hell hath no fury like a Russian woman protecting her property!

 

I'm watching a person of interest in the video from the closest bus station to 'the shop' when Megan interrupts, "Jack, we need to bring on two or three more people to help us with the search for Ben."

 

I stop the video, spin in my chair and respond, "Megan, what do you have in mind?"

 

She smiles and replies, "Well first we are going to move our sleeping rooms out of The Truth Network building and into a nice extended stay facility. I want to separate our work zone from the rest zone so that when we all rest, we can really rest. If we don't do that, then we will be tempted to overwork."

 

I confirm, "Okay, what's next?"

 

She continues, "Then we are going to fix-up this depressing as hell office. This place reminds me of a prison."  I look around but don't really feel it's that bad since I've worked in much worse places. Shit, it's hard as hell getting the full plan out of Megan, so I question, "You are saying we need two or three more people temporarily to help with the move and redecorating the office?"

 

She corrects me, "No, I plan on having Liz contact the consultant she uses for all her computer stuff because I want to see if he can automate how we are searching for Ben. If he can then we need to have someone here keeping an eye on the program twenty-four hours a day."

 

Damn, this is like pulling fucking teeth without Novocain and I again state my understanding, "So we need three people to help with the move, redecorate the office and babysit the computer all the time. Will they go on any 'missions'?"

 

Megan immediately jumps on my case, "Jack, using a term like 'babysit the computer' is negative thinking and you need to change the way you talk about that very important job. And are you talking about paramilitary missions?"

 

I respond, "Yes that's exactly what I am talking about. Do they need to be mission capable?"

 

Damn shrinks love to answer questions with questions, "Jack, what sort of paramilitary missions are you considering?"

 

I figure she's backed me into a corner and there's no way for me to bail on this one so I blurt out, "I was just thinking, if we find Banzai he probably won't come willingly. If I have three other good guys, I know we could take him down and bring him in with force."

 

It's worse than I imagine when Megan chews my ass, "Jack, you really need to engage your brain before you open your mouth. First never again say 'if we find Ben', especially in front of Jens! Those words scare the hell out of her. I guarantee you we are going to find Ben. Next if you and your buddies went after Ben with force in his present condition, he would view it as a life-threatening attack and in all probability respond with deadly force. Do you have a death wish for yourself or your friends?"

 

Son-of-a-bitch, I hate psycho-babble, especially when it's right! Banzai would think we were attacking him and he would use anything and everything to keep from being captured. But this crap of her answering questions with questions has to stop. I grin at her and say, "Hell yes I have a death wish! Doesn't everyone who's not crazy?"

 

Her mouth drops open, then she realizes I am teasing and surrenders, "Touché Jack. I guess I have been a pain in the ass with all the psychology. I spent all night talking to you and Maria and then looking at Ben's medical records so I'm a little bitchy this morning. Please forgive me."

 

Thinking I'd hate to see when you were really bitchy I reply, "That's okay Megan, but it would help me and anyone else I bring in to know your whole plan for how we're going to find Banzai; and when we find him, how we're going to get him to come to his senses."

 

 She smiles and I notice how tired she is as she explains, "Jack, when someone has PTSD to the degree that Ben does, their psychological state resembles a house of cards. All it takes is a tiny breath of wind and the whole thing tumbles to the table."

 

I like the hell out of the metaphor and question, "So some 'breath of wind' triggered Banzai's – shit, I don't know what to call it other than – craziness?"

 

Megan chuckles and answers, "I would personally call it bat-shit craziness. Yes Ben found out he is sterile from some tortures inflicted on him, and with everything else he had endured, that pushed him over the edge. He is now deep into a psychotic episode: An alternate reality his mind has created because his rational mind cannot deal with the trauma he has endured."

 

Holy shit! I feel sorry as hell for Banzai: I had no fucking idea he was sterile. Now it all makes sense since Banzai loves children and has always wanted a big family. My eyes tear up as I question, "So how are we going to fix Banzai?"

 

Megan says, "We are going to remind Ben of what his life was like before the psychotic episode, especially the promises he made to Jens."

 

I shudder and think about how that's going to make him feel and state, "Shit! I know Banzai and he never breaks a promise. This is going to rip him up. Aren't you worried it will make him even crazier?"

 

Megan answers, "Yes it's going to 'rip him up' and destroy the new house of cards he is building -his altered reality. And our actions should snap him out of this psychotic episode. If we do this properly, he will come to us or at least let us know where he is so then Jens can calmly go to her man."

 

I think, Megan's going to be a fucking magician if she thinks she can get Jens to calmly go to Ben. It's more likely Jens will go and rip him a new asshole, possibly even two. I respond, "Thanks Megan for letting me in on your plan because now I know what sort of guys to call."

 

She smiles, "It's good you're on our team Jack and I know you'll do an excellent job."

 

Damn shrinks, they always try to make you feel better, or perhaps they are really trying to force themselves to like you. I spin around in my chair, start making some phone calls and stare at the bastard on the video. I rewind, mark the location and watch it again. Could it be? I watch it one more time, hang up the phone and say, "Hey Megan, I think this is Banzai."

 

Present – Jens – Truth Network - Washington DC

 

I walk into the office from my shower wearing my nice skinny jeans and a little bit slutty crop top. The song by Britney has me feeling slutty-like-her today and I had Maria bring me a different top to match my mood. I was shocked when Maria didn't even give me any shit about getting it for me. She's changed; shit, I think we've all changed since Megan has infused us with hope. She's not a Psychological Goddess, she a Mental Magician.

 

My timing is impeccable because Jack just declared, "Hey Megan, I think this is Banzai."

 

This is the best break we've had so I sprint to the computer and command, "Jack show me!"

 

Megan and Maria are on each side of me and Megan cautions, "Jens, don't get your hopes up. It might not be Ben."

 

I growl, "Well, if Jack never shows me then how will I ever know; come on Jack, run the video."

 

He runs the video and my eyes are locked on the screen, I watch the person walk up to the ticket counter and think, well it could be. I order, "Okay Jack, run it again!"

 

Jack says, "Watch how he walks, I'm damn sure that's Ben's walk!"

 

I watch and… hell yes it's my Ben! But I don't recognize him from his walk. I start my little dance because we have finally seen him. Megan orders, "Jens simmer down!"

 

I stick my tongue out at her and say, "Meg, that's Ben and I know it!"

 

She gets all huffy and confronts me, "How the hell do you know it's Ben?"

 

I grin and say, "I'd recognize his cutie booty anywhere!"

 

Jack adds, "He sure walks like Banzai."

 

I start to take over, "Okay Jack move over and let me work on this video."

 

Megan clears her voice and countermands, "Jens, did you forget you already have your assignments for today. You need to…"

 

I interrupt, "Fuck you and fuck your assignments, I want to find Ben."

 

Megan answers, "Jens, we will get someone from the network to work on this video for you. Your time is much too valuable to waste on trivialities like this."

 

I get ready to argue with her when Meg looks at Maria and surprises the hell out of me, "Maria, if Jens doesn't leave in the next five minutes, kick her ass!"

 

Maria answers, "Seriously Megan, you want me to kick Jens' ass? Come on Jens, I really don't want to fight you!"

 

Fuck, what the hell is going on! Megan has my own girl Friday listening to her and not me. I threaten, "Maria, if you don't let me work on the computer, I'll kick your ass and then fire you!"

 

Megan comes over, puts her hands on my shoulders, looks me in the eyes and explains her thoughts, "Jens, you're acting irrational again. Yes we have a lead on Ben and yes you could sit on your ass in front of the computer and waste all day trying to enhance the video to find out more information. At the end of the day, you'll probably still call in the Truth Network guys. So why don't you and Maria just go and get ready for your commercial late this afternoon."

 

I throw a hissy fit and resist, "I'm not sure I want to do a fucking commercial!"

 

Megan laughs, "Stop trying to be a pissy bitch - you've never been able to pull that off. Are you sure you don't want to do the commercial even though you get to wear a wedding dress?"

 

I look at her and she's grinning. I blink and try for confirmation, "A wedding dress! Meg what sort of plan do you have in that devious mind of yours?"

 

Present – Ira – Tajikistan – super-secret mission

 

After the jet safely departs I order the truck driver, "You will take us out of the gate and into the city." I enforce my orders with the application of my pistol. Once we are away from the airport, I temporarily render the driver inoperative, pull him over to the passenger seat and assume operation of the truck myself.

 

I hear Ms. Morgan banging on the truck behind me so I turn, open a little sliding window and she yells, "Ira, what the hell is going on? Let us out of here right now."

 

I respond, "Sorry Ms. Morgan, but I would prefer not to."

 

That answer inflames her anger and she commands, "Ira, I don't know what the fuck you're doing, but you will do what I order immediately."

 

I inform her, "Ms. Morgan, there is one mission I must perform before we acquire the girls and it is something I must perform individually. Until it is completed, you and Bernie will be sequestered in the back of this truck."

 

She replies, "Just what the fuck are we supposed to do back here? What happens if we get hungry or thirsty?"

 

I answer, "There is the food and water removed from the plane which you may consume. And there is a bucket for your sanitary needs. My mission should not take more than three or four hours so make yourself comfortable until then. However, if I do not return, someone will release you in two days."

 

Ms. Morgan yells, "Two fucking days in the back of this shitty truck! Ira, I'm going to kick your ass…"

 

I slide the window closed and the banging starts again. However this is a noisy city and none of the other drivers pay any heed to the noise. I drive the truck to a warehouse, stop, open the door, drive inside, back the truck into a parking place, turn off the truck and close the door. Ms. Morgan continues the banging so I open the window again as she demands, "Ira, let us out right now!"

 

I explain, "Ms. Morgan that will not happen. Now you and Bernie must stop the infernal racket you are producing otherwise someone might discover you and that will demolish the plan we have to recover the girls. If you cannot be quiet, I do have ways to temporarily silence both of you but those methods are not pleasant."

 

Ms. Morgan complains, "Ira, we will be quiet, but you and I are going to have a serious discussion when you let us out of here. This is totally unacceptable behavior."

 

I surmise Ms. Morgan will eventually accept their temporary confinement. She is exceedingly logical for a woman and knows how to choose her battles wisely. I respond, "I will be back posthaste, until then I noticed some reading material in the back of the truck with which you might entertain yourselves." I close the window and leave the warehouse.

 

Present – Liz – Tajikistan – super-secret mission – back of the truck

 

After Ira leaves, I look over at Bernie and he's grinning like a fucking idiot! I say, "Okay Bernie, let's get out of here."

 

He just sits and his grin gets bigger as I shake my head and whine, "You're going to make me say it, aren't you?"

 

He continues with the grin and nods his head. Dammit, I hate it when he's right about things because he becomes all male on me. I humble myself and confess, "Okay Bernie, you were right about the twins and I apologize for doubting you. Now please tell me you have some way to get us the fuck out of the back of this truck."

 

He says, "Thanks Liz, I told you that sooner or later those two would do something like this…"

 

I interrupt, "Yes Bernie, you told me, and you sure as hell don't need to remind me of this fact anymore. Just tell me you can get us out of the back of this truck."

 

He smiles, "Sorry Liz, it's just that when I'm right…"

 

I interrupt, "I know, 'when you're right, you're right!' Are you through punishing me or do I deserve more?"

 

Bernie replies, "No I think you've learned your lesson again and that's enough. Now are you really sure you want me to get us out of here?"

 

I look at him like he's crazy, but wonder what he's got up his sleeve as I answer, "I'm pretty damn sure but why do you ask?"

 

He grins again and explains, "Two reasons, the first is do you remember how Ira backed the truck up right before we stopped?"

 

I answer, "Yeah I remember that."

 

He responds, "And remember the bump when we stopped?"

 

I confirm, "Yes I remember the bump, what about it?"

 

He shakes his head, "Liz, you behave differently with the twins around and have stopped thinking and analyzing things like a reporter. Think about the two things I just mentioned and tell me what Liz the reporter would determine from those clues."

 

I blush because dammit, he's right again! I have become- well different, with the twins being around and I've lost the edge I used to have. But it's not so fucking far gone I can't get it back! I watch as Bernie pulls a cordless drill out of the camera bag, starts putting a drill bit into it and think about the clues.

 

Shit! Shit! Shit! I know exactly what the fuck Ira did so I proudly announce, "Ira, assumed we would try to escape so she backed the truck up against a wall so even if we open the back door we're still trapped." Then I add, "And you're going to drill a small hole through the door to verify that's what she did."

 

Bernie smiles at me and says, "Welcome back Liz, it's about fucking time! Now while I check to make sure that's what Ira did, you need to use your reporter instincts to analyze what the motivations are for Mira and Ira."

 

I watch as he turns the bucket over, stands on it and starts to drill a small hole near the top of the door. Shit! Bernie's statement bothers the hell out of me and triggers some deep, hidden concerns that I've always had about the twins. At first I was wary as hell about the two of them, but I'd gradually let down my guard. Everything was all too easy with them: They just happened to show up and happened to become my 'body guards'. No, something was certainly rotten in Denmark. It is going to be hard as hell to figure out their real motivations but still appear to be enamored with them. If there is one thing they are it is they are smart as hell and that makes them hard as hell to fool.

 

Present – Ira – Tajikistan – super-secret mission

 

By now my sister and new-found brother are safely out of the country, and Ms. Morgan and Bernie are safely sequestered so I can finally perform my mission without concern. After this mission, my sister and I might never be welcome in Tajikistan again, but this mission is necessary for my sister's happiness. Our future with Tajikistan will depend on my skills. If I am sneaky enough then things will be fine, but should I need to resort to force, then we will be banished and possibly hunted forever.

 

I take a car and drive to the eugenics laboratory. With Mr. Blaine being broken and absent, our eugenics laboratory might be the only location in the world with his viable male component, a fact that my sister does not even cognize.

 

I remember Mira's abominable mission, where she failed in the secondary part to obtain Mr. Blaine's male component, and I was secretly very happy! Had he trained her I feared she would have never returned but would have followed him like a puppy follows its master. But it still angers me because the Mira which returned from that dreadful mission, was not the Mira which departed. She left behind a portion of her personality inextricably tied to the then L.Cpl. Blaine. This was the start of the divergence between Mira’s and my personalities. The divergence which I blame on Mr. Blaine! I still have not determined how I am going to deal with the issue - but it will be dealt with.

 

My superiors were intelligent and planned for such a failure on Mira's part. How they even questioned she might fail I am still unsure of but it must have been some blemish they observed in her psychological profile. It makes me question if I have a similar blemish in my psychological profile. I have, ever since, been on guard to prevent the same evil fate befalling me. But they arranged to have a secondary agent available and she did not fail on her primary mission.

 

All of which was never exposed to Mira because she would have been devastated had she known the then L.Cpl. Blaine vigorously trained our secondary agent when Mira was so ardently in love with him. I know my sister and she would have killed that agent if she ascertained their liaison. I remember being privy to the report describing how our secondary agent took the then L.Cpl. Blaine to her flat and gave him bourbon laced with rohypnol4 and then extracted prodigious amounts of his male component.

 

4 Rohypnol – Commonly called the 'date rape' drug. The prescription of rohypnol as a hypnotic is generally intended to be for short-term treatment of chronic or severe insomniacs that are not responsive to other hypnotics.

 

I only hoped our eugenics laboratory still maintained an adequate and viable quantity of Mr. Blaine's male component with which to impregnate Mira and Ms. Morgan. Because I have no plans to carry his (or any other male's) fetus, the thought of being pregnant with all the complications it imparts holds no interest for me.

 

I have arrived at the lab, now to complete my mission…

 

Present – Liz – Tajikistan – super-secret mission – back of the truck

 

What the hell are the motivations for Mira and Ira's actions? I try to arrange the many facts in my mind, but they're too convoluted so I ask, "Hey Bernie, do you have a notepad?"

 

He stops drilling, looks through the hole and announces, "Shit! It's just like we thought, the back door is blocked by what looks to be a concrete wall." He jumps off the bucket, walks over to our gear bag, pulls out a notepad and pen, hands it to me and remarks, "Are you having problems sorting things out?"

 

I'm thankful Bernie was 'nice' and included me in the discovery of the back door being blocked, when it really was his idea. I answer his unusual question, "Yeah, it's pretty convoluted and confusing so I thought I would write it down."

 

The bastard grins at me again and questions, "So your mind is sort of dull, like you're thinking through a fog?"

 

I stare at him, blink my eyes and wonder how in the hell he knows… Oh Shit! I announce, "Those two have drugged me!"

 

Bernie's grin turns into a smile and he says, "Welcome back to total reality Liz. Yes, those two would drug you occasionally. And it was happening more frequently, probably when it suited their needs. My guess is so they could go off and do something."

 

He's right and I am pissed as hell so I demand, "Well, don't just sit there, get us out of this fucking truck!"

 

The grin returns and Bernie sarcastically replies, "Earth to Liz, Earth to Liz, think about it, do you really want me to do that?"

 

I think for a minute, can't come up with anything and ask, "Okay Bernie, until the fog lifts from my thinking, I'm going to ask you to help me. I have no idea what you are talking about."

 

He comes over, hugs me and explains, "Liz, don't worry I'm your friend and I will always help you. It's good to see the old Liz again and I bet she will totally return in time. If we escape from the truck right now, it will alert Ira to two things: the first, we are more capable than she realized and second, we have figured out what she and Mira are doing."

 

The hug feels really good, I am so thankful for a friend like Bernie and I'm pretty horny, so I start moving against him. He pushes me away and yells, "Liz, control yourself!"

 

I blush and realize that had to be another side-effect of whatever drug they gave me and say, "Sorry about the Bernie, it won't happen again. Have you figured out their motivations?"

 

He looks at me, laughs and says, "Yeah Liz, I know it's the drugs they've been giving you that caused that so don't worry. I've figured out a few of their motivations, but not all of them! I'm a guy and have no idea what goes on inside a woman's head. Why don't you have some water, make some notes and figure it out."

 

It sounds like a good idea, I walk over to the supplies removed from the plane and grab a bottle of water, take off the cap, bring the bottle to my lips and Bernie again sasses, "Earth to Liz, are you really sure you want to drink their water?"

 

I freeze, let the bottle fall from my hand to the floor and swear, "Dammit! You really think they have the water drugged?"

 

He tosses me a bottle out of the gear bag. I miss the catch, realize my reaction time is slower than normal and silently curse them. Bernie answers, "I don't know for sure, but I sure as hell don't trust anything that comes from the two of them."

 

I reach down, pick up the bottle, take a long drink and wonder how in the hell I ever let myself get into this predicament. I scold the hell out of myself: I was so fucking foolish and didn't notice. I start making my list and suddenly realize I have my mobile phone. I pull it out of my pocket, Bernie looks up from his magazine and says, "Good job Liz, I was waiting for you to remember your phone." I place a long overdue call…

 

Present – Zarika and Yasmeen – Tajikistan

 

Zarika

I anxiously watch the clock as the time approaches for the Liz lady to arrive and laugh at Yasmeen trying to get ready. I tease, "Hurry up lowly second wife or we will leave you here for the entertainment of the man with no tongue who can not speak."

 

She yells at me, "Ha! You are the one we should leave here because you are the expert at entertaining many men!"

 

Her words wound me deeper than the wounds Hussein gave me. I wish I had never told her about how that animal tortured me because she has used it against me ever since I told her. I sit on the bed and a few tears slip out of my eyes. She taunts me again, "Oh Zarika is crying, do you miss the life you had before?"

 

That insult was too much and I look to see how I can punish her for it. I finally see it, pick it up, grin at Yasmeen the stinky and start to tear up the paper. She looks at me, realizes what it is and yells, "No Zarika, please do not do that!"

 

I continue while she fights against her chain, like a mad dog until there is nothing but a pile of small scraps on the floor. I grin at her and say, "Now prove to Ben you are his wife!"

 

Yasmeen

I sit on my bed in tears. I can not believe Zarika, she is the meanest girl in the world and I hate her! She just destroyed my marriage license to Ben. Yes I know it was fake, but in my heart I secretly hoped no one would question it. Now… now… now I have no way to prove I am Ben's wife and she… she… she does.

 

I pull on my leg chain with all my might and, it breaks!

 

I stand up and threaten, "Zarika, I am going to make you pay for what you just did." As I run toward her, she is surprised when she realizes I am no longer chained to the wall, but not nearly as surprised as when I…

 

Present – Thom – Rogue mission - Washington DC

 

It is hard as hell this time planning my final mission. I guess I've gotten used to planning missions for the TSIFFTS team and have forgotten some details about planning lone-wolf missions. Shit! I am older and slower than I imagined and I am damn glad this is going to be my last mission.

 

Plus my planning is constantly interrupted by thoughts of my old team: I wonder what sort of great missions they are on and hope they are safe. Every time something comes on the news about an incident the police are investigating, I wonder if it is my old team. I go over my mission plan one more time and I am happy as hell with it. This is going to me my last and greatest mission.

 

Now time to observe those bastards, map their patterns of movement and determine the location and the time.

 

Present – Byron – TSIFFTS

 

I sit at the table drinking another cup of coffee but can't even look Jim or Todd in the face since I'm depressed as hell. This is worse than when the Marines forced me to retire! I have really failed the team and most of all Thom. I tried my best to hold the team together, but my best isn't good enough.

 

Linus received a phone call from Liz's shrink saying she needed some computer work done and he took off like a rocket. And Hammer left because something came up with his kid sister. Without Thom on the team we had marginal manpower for many missions, and now with just the three of us, almost all missions were off the table.

 

Jim says, "Come on Byron, cheer up. They'll both be back soon."

 

I wave my hand in dismissal and hang my head.

 

Todd bangs on the table, I look at him and he signs, "Byron, Jim is right. Linus and Hammer will be back soon, we will find another team member to replace Thom, and then we will continue the missions just like before."

 

I shake my head and say, "No it will never be like before."

 

Then Jim come up with a great idea, "Byron, you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and go shoot something!"

 

I smile and say, "Jim, you're absolutely right. In fact, let's all go shoot something." After all a bad day shooting is better than any day at work!

 

Present – Stacey (Anastasia) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

I guess I fell asleep, because the next thing I know, someone I don't recognize is opening the door! I dive to the far side of the bed, bring up the derringer and yell, "If you come any closer! I will shoot you!"

 

I just start to pull the trigger, dreading the fact that I will most likely end another human's life, when whoever is in the doorway disappears. I shake my head and wonder if I am dreaming. I look and verify I am on the floor, behind the bed, holding the derringer and the door is open – no, it was not a dream!

 

I hear, "Анастасия, пожалуйста не запускайте оружие. У меня есть инвалид человек, который был в дверном проеме!"

 

"Anastasia, please do not fire the weapon. I have disabled the man who was in the doorway!"

 

I breathe a sigh of relief and reply, "Эраст, я очень боялся!

 

"Erast, I was very scared!"

 

He replies in a very calm voice, "Да Лизадачэкк, я знаю о Вашем страхе. Я вхожу в комнату прямо сейчас так, пожалуйста не стреляйте

 

"Yes Lizadacheck, I am aware of your fear. I am coming into the room right now so please do not fire."

 

I am amazed when he comes through the doorway with a bag in one hand and a man slumped over his other shoulder, I was not aware he was so strong and ask, "Эраст кто тот человек?"

 

"Erast, who is that man?"

 

He unceremoniously dumps him on the floor with a very loud thump and I shudder when his head bounces off the floor. Then I recognize him, he, he he – I tell Erast, "Он - человек, который вел мое такси!"

 

"He is the man who drove my taxi!"

 

Erast smiles at me and replies, "Lizadacheck, that I did not know. I do know he is the man who followed us from the museum, the one you did not notice. I am sure he ascertained who you were and wanted to collect the reward money."

 

I blush and Erast says, "Do not berate yourself my sister, I had you distracted. We will teach you how to be more observant."

 

Once again, I am thankful I was on the same bus as Erast so I run to him and give him a big hug. He surprises me when he shakes and then says, "Stacey, what do you think you are doing?"

 

I pull away and look at him and Erast is gone and has been replaced by Ben Blaine. What in the world is going on?

 

Present – Ben (Erast) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

Stacey surprises me when she hugs me because it isn't a totally sisterly type hug. Erast could not cope with it, so I become Ben Blaine again and ask, "Stacey, what do you think you are doing?"

 

She pulls away from me, looks at me and questions, "Ben?"

 

I smile at her and say, "Yes it's me. Please do not ever hug me like that again."

 

She blushes and then apologies profusely, "I am so sorry, I did not think you were attracted to me. I will never do that again."

 

I once again stammer, "Anastasia, a beautiful young woman like you is always a distraction."

 

Present – Stacey (Anastasia) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

Okay! Something strange just happened. Erast became Ben and then Ben became Erast in almost a blink of my eye - and it's my fault! I hugged him and yeah I guess I did get a bit carried away. He looked so hot and buff when he carried the taxi driver into the room – I well, got emotional and excited. I mean, he's old enough to be my dad, but hey, he's still pretty hot for being so ancient and sometimes I get urges. I will just need to be more careful around Erast or Ben or whoever the heck he is.

 

I guess Erast or Ben must be a little mentally unstable. Shoot, I read about the things they could write about his capture and torture and know there had to be a bunch more they couldn't write, so he deserves to be a little crazy after all that. He's been such a great help to me, I need to help him cope with the problems in his past and support him any way I can.

 

I can tell Ben has left and Erast is back so I ask, "Erast, what will we do with the taxi driver?"

 

He replies, Lizadacheck, I am not certain he did not inform his friends. So we need to quickly do a few things and then leave this room."

 

My stomach reminds me, so I question, "Erast, did you bring me dinner."

 

He smiles and pulls a fast food bag out of his bigger bag. I respond with gratitude, "Thank you, I am very hungry."

 

I sit and eat while he shows me everything else he purchased for my disguise. He says, "After you eat we will take care of your hair color, fingernails and a few other things, we will e-mail a good friend of mine some pictures so he can create a new identity for you. Then we will leave this room forever."

 

I hesitate to ask but I find the courage, "Will you eliminate the taxi driver?"

 

Erast laughs, "No Lizadacheck, I will not. But I will give him a very strong drug which will keep him unconscious and give him amnesia about the last few days."

 

That makes me happy and I devour my hamgerbur, fries and shake.

 

Present – Ben (Erast) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

I am pleased Anastasia and I worked out our minor annoyance. My sister is very smart and I know she will never make that mistake again.

 

She ate her quick food dinner with such great speed, it redefined the meaning of quick food, I laugh, "Nastya, you ate too fast and will get a tummy ache."

 

She gives me a dirty look and haughtily replies, "There are no Nastyas in this room so I do not know about whom you refer!"

 

I laugh again, "You will always be my little Nastya, but I will honor your wishes from now on and not use that name again."

 

She smiles and states, "I guess I need to dye my hair, but I fear I will not do well because I do not have much experience."

 

I answer, "Fear not Lizadacheck, I will help you with it and you will look perfect. But first I would like to shower before we start."

 

Present – Stacey (Anastasia) – On the road – Fredrick MD

 

Things are good again, Erast calls me Nastya once more. I know he did it just to annoy me so I feign annoyance just to please my brother. His reaction to my hug is still troublesome and I realize if I did that in public, it would be a grave mistake because he would once again lose the Erast character. I am angry as the devil about what his terrible fiancée did to him and he seems sort of fragile from her abuse and torments. Just like his little sister, I need to seriously protect him from her evilness and keep him safe.

 

And I am flattered that he finds me attractive enough to even consider that with me. He hasn't shown any interest at all in me until the hug. I turn on the TV, wait for Erast to finish his shower and wonder what I will look like as a brunette. I keep looking at the picture on the box of hair dye and decide I don't like it, but it is a necessary evil.

 

I am distracted by the TV when a new ad comes on! Shoot, it is Erast's – I mean Ben's evil fiancée! The ad angers me: She is in a white wedding dress (like the bitch deserves to wear white) and is getting married without a groom. Then it talks about how Ben promised to marry her and how he is breaking his promise to her! What an evil advertisement designed to make Ben feel incredibly guilty. Like it was Ben's fault! He's the nicest man I have ever met and I'm sure she was an evil bitch that drove him away – at least that is what the tabloids say. I need to make sure that Erast never sees this ad, so I go over to the TV, grab the cable connection and pull on it until I rip it out of the wall. No more ads from that evil bitch for my brother!

 

Erast comes out of the bathroom and questions, "Why are you not watching TV?"

 

I lie, "I was, but I tripped over the cable and broke it."

 

He says, "That is fine, I do not care for the American propaganda from the television. Please go shower, then conceal yourself very well with towels and call for me. I will come in and dye and cut your hair. Then we need to give you a manicure and pedicure."

 

I am shocked, but do not show it. That Erast can cut my hair is a minor surprise, but he is going to give me a manicure and pedicure, I did not know men, well men that were not fruity, did that for women. It slightly excites me as I head into the bathroom. I simply say, "Thank you Erast! I will be expedient."

 

As I shower, I determine Ben's fiancée must be even a bigger evil bitch than I ever imagined. To chase away such a wonderful man! I decide, just like he is protecting me from the bounty hunters, it is now my duty to do anything and everything to protect him from her - what a conniving evil bitch! I bet she just wants his money just like my equally evil parents only want money from me. Yes, Erast and I are orphans, a brother and sister traveling the country together: Fate has brought us together and I must keep us together.

 

I finish my shower, cover up with two towels and call, "Erast, I am ready."

 

He comes into the cramped bathroom and says, "Lizadacheck, you need to lean over the bathtub."

 

I carefully keep covered, move and lean over the tub and Erast massages the dye into my hair. He has very strong hands and it feels so good to have my scalp massaged. I am lost in the wonderful feeling when he says, "Okay, sister you may sit on the edge of the tub. While you wait I will remove your fingernail and toe polish."

 

I comply and Erast gently and expertly applies the polish remover and wipes off all the remnants of the old polish. He announces, "I will leave the bathroom and you must rinse the dye out of your hair. Cover up again and I will come in and cut your hair, then we will move to the bed and I will finish your manicure and pedicure."

 

I question, "Erast, are you sure we have enough time for that. What about the taxi driver's friends?"

 

He smiles and answers, "Lizadacheck, I interrogated him while you were in the shower and he informed me he did not notify anyone else of your presence. It seems his greed overwhelmed his judgment - an almost fatal mistake. So we will spend all of tonight in this room, and leave early in the morning. One more fact: Your story of being a doctor was what alerted him to your identity so you must not make mistakes like that again."

 

I blush and reply, "I am sorry my brother to have caused you more problems. Please forgive me."

 

He answers, "Tut, tut, my sister. Solving your little problems are big joys for me."

 

I rinse the dye out of my hair, cover up and call, "I am ready my brother."

 

He opens the door and asks, "Please move to the main room while I prepare the bathroom."

 

I walk into the main room, see the taxi driver and laugh…

 

Present – Jens – Washington DC

 

What a huge fucking difference Megan has made in just one day! First I have an awesome day with Maria at an oh s-o-o-o-o nice salon and get a total make over! They go above and beyond the normal massage, haircut, manicure and pedicure - they even whiten our teeth! I feel like a million bucks and look like two million bucks! I am just a little sad when I look at my body in the mirror: First because I have lost too much weight and am a bit bony, but worst of all, Ben won't get a chance to see how awesome I look!

 

Maria comes up, hugs me and says, "Hey boss lady you look great!"

 

I frown, "Maria, Megan is right, I've lost too much weight and I'm looking bony."

 

She laughs, "At least you're not as bad as one of the bony bitchy twins!"

 

I know Maria doesn't like them - someday I need to find out why. I giggle, "Yeah, your right. But I still could stand to gain about five pounds."

 

Maria gives me an evil grin, "I know of this place that serves the best Mexican food, how about lunch?"

 

After a huge fucking lunch, I can hardly move. Maria looks at her watch and announces, "Well, it's time to get you to the church!"

 

I question, "The church?"

 

She laughs, "Hell yes the church. Don't tell me boss lady that you forgot about the commercial?"

 

I giggle, "Heck no I didn't forget! I just thought it was going to be at the studio."

 

Maria answers, "Nope, Megan's going all out for this one. It's going to be shot in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception."

 

I whistle, "Wow that's one of the best churches in DC."

 

Maria says, "Only the best for the best. Well let's go or we'll be late."

 

When we get to the church and Megan hands me the wedding dress. I check the size but it isn't my normal size two, it's a size zero. I look guilty and confess, "I hope after lunch I can still fit into this!"

 

Megan laughs, "Jens, until we put ten more pounds on you, you will easily fit into a size zero." She swats me on the butt and orders, "Now move that skinny ass of yours and get dressed. Maria will help you and I will read you the script while you change."

 

I am shocked, because I've never been able to fit into a size zero and hope I can. I look at my skinny jeans and they are a little loose on me. If I hold my breath, I just might be able to squirm into this dress. And I am shocked, when I easily fit into it, without holding my breath or even squirming. I look at Meg and frown, she laughs and says, "Jens, don't worry, we played a trick on you and had the size tag changed on the dress, it's really a size two."

 

I reply, "Megan, I'm going to get even for that!" And I start planning my revenge - oh yeah, she is going to pay big time.

 

The fake wedding goes great, but you already know that and then we went to our 'hotel' (that was a big change) and have a great sit down dinner complete with wine!

 

I complain, "Megan, all I've done all day is eat and act like a spoiled, pampered bitch. I know you want me to gain some weight, but I really need more exercise than I've had today!"

 

She smiles at me, "Jens today was a special treat for a special lady so enjoy it, because tomorrow you start off the day in Maria's boot camp."

 

Maria adds, "That's right boss lady, tomorrow morning at oh-four-hundred your ass is mine!"

 

I banter back, "Oh yeah, tomorrow morning at oh-four-hundred, I'm going to hand you your ass on a platter!"

 

Megan grins and taunts, "You're both fucking wrong, tomorrow morning and oh-four-hundred, I'm going to teach both of you the meaning of pain."

 

Jack interjects, "I already know the meaning of pain: It's fear leaving the body'. And tomorrow morning at oh-four-hundred I am going to teach the three of you the meaning of fear!"

 

We all look at Jack, he grins but I know he's fucking serious and remember some of the stories Ben told me about Jack's extreme training methods. Maria makes a muscle, laughs and sasses, "Fear this old fart!"

 

He gets a look in his eyes like a rattlesnake getting ready to strike a rabbit and says, "You'd better watch what's coming out of your mouth. You're digging your grave with your tongue and your gonna get your ass whipped."

 

Megan interrupts, "Okay, I think I've heard enough of this posturing bullshit! Let's head over to the network to see what they've done with the video and to see if Linus has created a computer program for us. We also have our class for the evening."

 

I am all excited and say, "Meg, you brought Linus in to help? I can't wait to see him again!"

 

We just get ready to leave when Meg gets a phone call and requests, "Guys give me a couple minutes."

 

She comes back. I can she's upset as hell and I ask, "Meg what the hell is wrong?"

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