Chapter 15

Wanderer Chapter 15

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I walk into the main room, see the taxi driver and laugh. He is duct taped to the chair, has his ears, mouth and eyes covered with more of the same tape. At first he scares me because he looks like a mummy but then I giggle because Erast is playing a trick on me. However the name written on his forehead in marker makes no sense.

 

Erast calls, "Lizadacheck, I am ready for you."

 

I walk back into the bathroom and there is now a plastic sheet on the floor. My brother directs me, "Please sit in the middle of the sheet and I will try my best to cut your hair. I am not an expert at this, but it should be acceptable for now."

 

Erast's words worry me as I sit on the sheet. I surely hope my hair looks better than just acceptable! He starts cutting my hair with the scissors, and must sense what I am feeling because he adds, "Lizadacheck, do not worry so much. I will do my best and your beauty will be more than adequate." Then he changes the subject, "How did you like my effigy in the main room?"

 

I giggle and answer, "Erast, how did you know I was scared of mummies. But his name should be something like 'Tutankhamen' - nothing boring like Tommy?"

 

It is Erast's turn to laugh, "No my Lizadacheck, his name is perfect because he is not a mummy and I did not comprehend you had a fear of mummies."

 

I query, "If he is not a mummy, then what is he?"

 

He replies, "I thought you would know – he is 'The Pinball Wizard'."

 

I start to shake my head but Erast commands, "Please do not move your head." So I verbalize, "Erast, you have me confused. His name is Tommy and he plays pinball?"

 

Erast explains, "Lizadacheck, we need to improve your musical education if you do not even know the rock opera Tommy written and performed by The Who."

 

I query, "Who did you say?"

 

Erast again laughs, "Lizadacheck, not who; The Who. They were a British Rock group formed in the sixties and wrote a rock opera about a psychosomatic deaf, dumb and blind boy named Tommy who was a pinball wizard."

 

Suddenly the way Erast covered the taxi driver's ears, mouth and eyes made sense to me: He made him deaf, dumb and blind. But something still does not make sense so I continue, "Erast how can someone who is deaf, dumb and blind play pinball?"

 

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

 

I sense that Anastasia is concerned about her hair because she is slightly vain - but not as vain as many young women. So I plan a diversion to keep her mind off the snick of the scissors – my plan works perfectly.

 

She is totally distracted and asks, "Erast how can someone who is deaf, dumb and blind play pinball?"

 

I answer, "Anastasia, listen to the song and learn."

I softly sing:

 

"He stands like a statue, becomes part of the machine.

Feeling all the bumpers, always plays it clean.

He plays by intuition, the digit counters fall.
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!"

 

I finish the verse of the song as I finish her hair and she remarks, "Erast that is a silly song and they must have been on serious drugs to write something so crazy."

 

I reply, "Anastasia your analysis is probably accurate. The album was released in nineteen-sixty-nine - the same year as Woodstock."

 

She questions, "Woodstock? As in Woodstock, New York? That's a nice sleepy little town."

 

I laugh, "Anastasia, we will continue your music lesson later. It is time for you to inspect my attempt at cutting your hair. Alas I am afraid I made some terrible mistakes so please do not be angry with me."

 

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

 

Erast has me totally distracted with his silly taxi mummy pinball wizard effigy, the incredibly insane story that goes with it and the verse of the song he sings. In the meantime, I have totally forgotten he is butchering my hair! When he starts to softly sing, his voice is wonderfully lyrical and the experience becomes almost hypnotic.

 

He laughs and says, "Anastasia, we will continue your music lesson later. It is time for you to inspect my attempt at cutting your hair. Alas I am afraid I made some terrible mistakes so please do not be angry with me."

 

I jump from the floor and look in the mirror expecting to see a mess but my hair is almost perfect. Erast laughs and comments, "Anastasia, I wish I had a picture of your face right now!"

 

I realize Erast has once again played a trick on me! I stomp my foot and declare, "Erast you are an impossible tease! Leave the bathroom while I shower to remove the hair from me!"

 

He is still laughing when he replies, "Do not be cross my sister because I did it as a distraction, not a trick. Please step into the shower, pull the curtain and hand me your towels."

 

I am very happy when I step into the shower, but Erast must pay for fooling his sister. I turn the faucet on full cold. Erast remarks, "Lizadacheck, please hand me the towels first."

 

I will hand him the towels alright: I soak the towels in cold water and throw them over the top of the shower curtain. I scream and shriek as freezing cold towels fly back over the shower curtain and fall on my head! "Erast! What are you doing?"

 

Erast laughs and taunts, "Настя, мы походим на два гороха в стручке, и Вы не можете одурачить меня."

 

Nastya, we are like two peas in a pod (literally: two drops of water) and you cannot fool me."

 

After the door closes, I try to get warm and I think: Yes, Erast and I are very much, как две ка́пли воды́.

 

Like two peas in a pod (literally: two drops of water)

 

Present – Jens – Extended Stay Hotel – Washington DC

 

We just get ready to leave for the Truth Network when Meg gets a phone call and requests a short delay, "Guys give me a couple minutes."

 

When she returns, I can see she's upset as hell and I ask, "Meg what the hell is wrong?"

 

She looks at me, smiles and says, "Jens, this is our home and we don't discuss work at home."

 

Even though having Meg here has been great, I'm getting tired of her running the show. I get upset and demand, "Meg, who died and made you fucking boss?"

 

She laughs and taunts, "Jens your common sense died and until we resuscitate it, you're not fit to be the boss."

 

I argue, "Meg, I'm fit enough to kick your ass."

 

She gives me a very sad look, just like a fucking puppy dog and says, "Jens, you'd kick the ass of the one true friend you've had since childhood? What has happened to you?"

 

Her rebuke makes me feel like shit so I apologize, "Sorry Meg, it's just that I'm used to running things my own way."

 

Present – Megan – Extended Stay Hotel – Washington DC

 

I was waiting for Jens to threaten me. I knew it was coming sooner or later so I was ready and I let her have it. Physically sparring with her would have been fun, and we will do that later. But right now the stakes are too high and I require a cheap victory. So Jens receives a good dose of healthy guilt – don't fuck with a shrink unless you're ready to lose.

 

Now since she received the whip, she needs the healing balm. I continue, "Don't worry Jens, you're still really running things. It's just that I'm here to help you right now. Tell me, don't you feel better today than you've felt in weeks?"

 

She smiles, a good sign and answers, "Yeah Meg I do, but I sure don't feel like we're doing much about finding Ben."

 

I turn into the cheerleader, "Come on Jens, we've done a bunch of things today. Let me explain my plan to you on the way to the Network. I don't want to waste any time. Besides I bet the video editors are done with the video of Ben."

 

As we head out to the car, I've remember more than rumors about Jens' driving so I suggest, "Maria, why don't you drive so Jens and I can talk."

 

I look at Jack and Maria and I can see they're relieved. However Jens complains again, "Meg, you know I love to drive."

 

Since I love my life, I again divert her focus, "I want your whole attention to make sure I haven't missed anything. So why don't you let Maria drive? Besides she's the only one that didn't drink any wine tonight."

 

Jens smiles and agrees, "Okay Meg, but you know I'm an excellent driver." I wonder if she means 'excellent like Rainman' and stifle a giggle.

 

Another disaster diverted, we get in the car and Maria drives…

 

Present – Maria – Extended Stay Hotel – Washington DC

 

Holy shit! I thought the twisted sisters were sneaky assed manipulative bitches, but they don't hold a candle – no they don't hold a roman candle to Megan. After the exchange between my princess boss and her, I realize she twists everything around to get her fucking way. Which if she really has my princess boss' best interest at heart isn't necessarily a bad thing. She did talk her into letting me drive, which is a great thing otherwise I might have lost my excellent dinner...

 

Flashback – Maria – Dinner – Extended Stay Hotel – Washington DC

And dinner was fucking great! It was from some Frenchy restaurant called Bistro Francais. I havn't had much Frenchy cooking, unless French Toast or French fries count. And their language is a bigger fucked up mess than English but the food tonight was fawe-some1!

1 fawe-some – contraction for fucking awesome.

Megan ordered one big family style meal for everyone. It started with an appetizer called, moles2 nickiss (moules niçoise). I sure as hell liked the mole the cook used, it was even better than my Mama's sauce but it needed a few jalapenos in it to spice it up. Megan translated - they were muscles (mussels) baked with garlic, tomato, black olives and butter. I didn't know what the fuck muscles they were but I did know they melted in my mouth. I would have been happy as a clam to just eat them for the whole night.

2 mole – Spanish for sauce pronounced mo-lay.

That was until I tried the cuckoos St. Jacks a gingerbread eat poor-environs rogeers (coquilles St. Jacques au gingembre et poivrons rouges) – an impressive as hell twenty dollar name for what Megan said was fresh scallops with ginger and sweet red pimiento sauce served over julienne vegetables. I never did figure out who the fuck St. Jack was, but if he was the cook, he sure knew jack about cooking. And if he was the cook and I ever met him, I'd jump his Frenchy bones in a New York minute and show his Frenchy ass what hot Latina loving was all about! Of course he would have to make me breakfast in the morning, I wonder if he could make French toast?

There was enough so we all had seconds except for Jack. The old fart shoveled food in his mouth like he hadn't eaten in months, cleaned up everything, and was even taking fourths. And I sure as hell would have liked thirds. I complained, "Shit! I wanted more!"

He told me, "You snooze you lose." That's okay I'm going to run his wrinkly old ass so hard tomorrow he pukes up dinner from tonight…

The three of them almost made me fucking sick though as they went on and on with their noses in the air about the wine. What the fuck is it about wine that it turns sane people into fucking snobs?

Megan swirled her glass and whined about the wine, "This wine has an excellent bouquet with slightly fruity overtones." I almost spit out the water I was drinking and thought that was about the fruitiest comment I'd ever heard.

My princess boss swirled her glass and added her two cents of wine whine, "Yes it does, and look at its legs." I stared at the glass and wondered if she was drucking-funk, I couldn't see any fucking legs in that wine.

Jack made a nasty slurping sound but then had to have his whine with his wine, "It leaves a nice buttery aftertaste on my palate which mixes well with the butter used in the dishes."

Fuck this wine whine bullshit! I held up my water glass, swirled the water, stuck my nose up in the air and teased, "This water has a slight bouquet of the Potomac and dish soap but otherwise has its own legs and stands on its own." I caught the old fart at just the right time and he damn near choked to death on the last bit of his food. I didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth so I went over and beat the hell out of his back - about twice as hard as needed. He grabbed my arm on the fifth blow and griped, "Damn Maria! I don't know what's worse. Almost choking to death or getting almost saved by you."

I knew I sexually scared the hell out of him, so I laughed and answered, "If you didn't like my foreplay, you're lucking-fucky you didn't need mouth to mouth resuscitation. You'd never survive that!"

He turned about fifty shades of red and started choking again, this time for real. Jens shot out of her chair and performed the Heimlich maneuver on him until a piece of scallop flew out of his mouth. That reminded me of a joke so I began,

"Two idiots from Texas were sitting at a bar when a young lady nearby began to choke on a hamburger. She gasped and gagged.

One Texan turned to the other and said, "That little gal is havin' a bad time. I'm agonna go over there and help."

He ran over to the young lady, held both sides of her head in his hands and asked "Kin ya swaller?"

Gasping, she shook her head no.

He asked, "Kin ya breathe?"

Still gasping, she again shook her head No.

With that he yanked up her skirt, pulled down her underwear and licked her ass. The young woman was so shocked that she coughed up the bit of hamburger that was stuck and began to breathe on her own. The idiot sat back down with his friend and said, "Ya know, it’s sure amazin' how that hind-lick maneuver always works!""

I smiled at Jack and teased, "So Jack you ever had the hind-lick maneuver performed on you?"

Jack blushed and hid his face and Megan scolded me, "Maria, Jack's a happily married man!"

I smart mouthed, "Oh yeah, I forget, he's no stranger to pain since he's married! This also means he has sex about once a year – probably on his anniversary if he's lucky."

 Jens added, "Masha will kick your ass if you keep flirting with him and talking about her like that."

I laughed, "Relax you two. You're starting to sound like a fucking tampon commercial. I was just teasing the old fart because all three of us know women are always better off when left to their own mechanical devices."

I watched as Megan, Jack and my princess boss blushed and knew I'd won this fucking battle - not an easy thing since Megan showed up. In celebration I took a small sip of the wine, choked and spit it right back out: It was fucking nasty and I'm sure it must have already started turning into vinegar. Give me my Boone's Farm or even Thunderbird any fucking day of the week. Now those would have made this meal perfect…

There were a crapload of Frenchy pastries for dessert. My favorites were bitchin' awe-citron (bichon au citron) - they looked like little slippers made of dough and tasted like caramel filled with lemon crème. They certainly got the name right, because they were bitchin' awesome! I was glad the old fart finished off the cuckoos dish. Since he was so full it left more of the bitchin dessert for me. I ate so many I thought I was going to burst and even hid a few in my purse for later tonight. I was so fucking full I might have to run myself until I puked up dinner in the morning.

We could barely move as we headed towards the car and Megan talked my princess boss into letting me drive again. But if you don't already know that, then you don't fucking know jack!

Present – Maria – Drive to the Truth Network – Washington DC

It's interesting listening to Megan finally explain her plan to my princess boss. It's about fucking time she tells us what the hell is going on.

Megan says, "Jens, when Ben sees the ad we just did it will activate his guilt over breaking his promise to you and he will either: Come back to you or call and let us know where he is!"

My princess boss excitedly interrupts, "Then I get to kick his sorry ass for leaving me!"

I add, "Don't forget I want a piece of his sorry ass too!"

The old fart even gets in the show and adds, "Shit! I'll even hold him while you three kick his ass at once!"

Megan throws a huge as hell hissy fit, "Listen you three, there isn't going to be any ass kicking going on at all!"

Jens complains, "Meg, after the pain he's caused me, he deserves to hurt some too!"

Jack compounds the complaint, "Yeah, the bastard really deserves a good ass kicking."

And I love a good fight so I add, "Come on Megan, we can't let him get the fuck away with what he did to Jens. He won't have any respect for her if he doesn't pay the price."

Present – Jens – Truth Network – Washington DC

Fuck yeah! Maria is fucking right! Ben won't respect me unless I teach him a lesson and kick his runaway ass. I'm fired up and start singing, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Ben needs to pay for hurting me!"

I guess the song is a hit with Maria and Jack because they start singing it with me!

We're having a great time until Megan, the spoil-sport, has a fit and yells, "Cut it out you three and let me explain something to you!"

I give her a dirty look and stop but she asks, "Are you three crazy?"

I provide a sassy answer, "Well, you're the fucking shrink so you should know!"

Maria and Jack laugh and Megan says, "Jens keep it up and I will go crazy on you and kick your butt!"

Wow I don't believe she said that and I'm sure as hell not going to miss this opportunity. I give her a sad puppy dog look and whine, "Megan, you'd kick the butt of the one true friend you've had since childhood? What has happened to you?"

Present – Megan – Truth Network – Washington DC

I love it when a plan comes together and this plan worked even better than expected! Maria is a big help and she doesn't even know it. When she and Jens get going, they fire each other up; all I need to do is gently guide the conversation in the direction I want it to go. The conversation has come full circle: Jens thinks I've made a mistake, but now I need to make my point.

I snap back, "So Jens, are you telling me if I kick your butt because you got me upset, it's not a good thing? Tell me then why it would be okay to kick Ben's ass for doing the same thing to you?" The silence in the car is almost deafening as I wait for an answer.

Present – Jens – Truth Network – Washington DC

Son-of-a-bitch! I've been majorly played by Megan! Somehow she set things up so I would have to address the overwhelming urge I have to kick Ben's sorry runaway ass. Damn snaky sneaky shrinks, I thought Meg would be the same, but it's obvious she isn't the same Meg I used to know. Shit! Back then she would have joined me in kicking Ben's butt, it makes me sad and I respond, "Meg, what happened to you that has changed you so much? There was a time you'd be right here beside me to kick Ben's butt."

Even though it's dark in the car, I see the sadness on her face as she says, "Jens, I've learned that violence doesn't really solve anything. Oh, it does make you feel better for a short time, but there's always a bigger price to pay for that short term feeling."

Maria interrupts, "Yeah, then you just kick their asses again and keep the good feelings going!"

Megan responds, "And what happens if your ass gets kicked, how does that make you feel."

Maria sasses, "I never get my ass kicked!"

Megan answers sarcastically as hell, "Oh yeah, I guess I forgot about you kicking Jens' ass. How many times did that happen, twice now?"

Maria obviously lies as she replies, "Oh those times I was just letting her win. After all she is the boss."

Megan just starts to go off on Maria for her lie, "Maria that was…" when Maria interrupts, "We're here!"

I bail out of the car and announce, "I can't wait to see if the editors have any new information about my runaway fiancé."

Megan answers, "Jens, you need to stop calling Ben your runaway fiancé, that's negative thinking. However the rest is a great idea. You go and check with the editors to see if they have any new information. Then see how Linus is doing with the computer program while I talk with Jack and Maria. We will all meet in the office in forty-five minutes."

I excitedly dance just a bit and yell, "Meg, Linus is here!"

She smiles and says, "You bet Jens - he's writing the computer program to help find Ben."

I can't wait to see my old friend Linus. He's like a brother to me even though he's a Seal and not a Marine. Oh well, we can't all be Uncle Sam's Misguided Children (USMC)! Plus he has beaucoup connections which we can use to find my runaway fiancé. Yeah, fuck Megan and her negative thinking bullshit! I like to 'call them as I see them' and Ben is my runaway fiancé. He’s a fucking moron and is going to get the hell kicked out of his ass when I find him. I silently hum my modified version of Respect Yourself as I head off to find the fucking editors and then reminisce with Linus. At least he understands the value and education of a good ass kicking!

Present – Megan – Truth Network – Washington DC

Once again I symbolically pat myself on my back. Jens is going to be distracted with the editors and Linus while I get to talk to Jack and Maria about the terrible news I have from Liz. Sometimes I am so good I even amaze myself.

Jens runs inside and now I can deal with another problem. "Maria, what did you think you were doing earlier?"

She laughs and sassies, "Megan, don't get your panties in your crack! I was just telling a little fib."

I am shocked and answer, "What the hell did you just say to me?"

Present – Maria – Truth Network – Washington DC

I've had my fill of this business suit bitch! Yeah she may be smart and might be my princess boss's good friend, but I can tell everything's not hunky-dory between the two of them. I've played along and been the 'good little girl' until it's stuck in my throat like a chicken bone in the neck of a Pit Bull. It's time this Pit Bull hacks out the bone to the trash where it belongs. The only real control this bossy bitch has over me is what I gave her when I thought she could get my princess boss to fire me - and now I'm not sure she could do that. So let's see how the fuck she handles some defiance.

She starts to get on my case about lying so I sass, "Megan, don't get your panties in your crack! I was just telling a little fib."

It shocks the hell out of her and she angrily answers, "What the hell did you just say to me?"

I grin and sarcastically say, "Excuse me I guess you didn't understand me so let me explain myself better. I said, Megan, do not let your emotions control you to a point that it feels like your undergarments have disappeared between those two massive ass cheeks of yours!"

Present – Jack – Truth Network – Washington DC

Son of a bitch! What the hell is Maria doing? It's like she's trying to get (no she's already got) Megan pissed as hell at her. Normally I would have laughed my ass off about the 'panties in your crack' comment. But it painfully reminded me of having to wear Mira's fucking thongs back at the school.

Megan answers Maria's last insult, "Hello, this is the pot calling Maria black!"

I did laugh at that comment, but I don't think Maria understands because she replies, "Hey cracker, I'm Latina not negro!"

Megan sasses, "No, you're not negro, but you are stupid! I was referring to the 'pot calling the kettle black' in simpler words so even a puss-ridden puta can understand. Your ass is twice the size of mine!"

Maria replies, "Yeah well you're a slimy skanky slut! And I'm going to kick that fat flat ass of yours!"

Megan replies, "Like hell you are! I'm going to teach you some respect bitch!"

They square off at each other but this is counter-productive and I decide to stop it. I step in between them and…

Present – Ira – Tajikistan – super-secret mission

I smile as I walk out the front door of the eugenics laboratory and proceed to my car. The mission was much easier than expected. I had them search for the vial of Mr. Blaine's male component, examined it, declared something was obviously wrong with the sample and demanded to see the laboratory's director. The instant the technician left, I substituted a counterfeit vial for the actual vial. When the director arrived, I explained I made a misapprehension and now I am proceeding to my car.

My sister Mira will be very happy when she and Ms. Morgan are carrying the bastard children of Mr. Blaine. They will be the last children he will ever father because I will destroy the vial of his male component after it serves its vile purpose.

Now to retrieve Ms. Morgan and Bernie and confront their wrath: Ms. Morgan will be easy because she still suffers from some of the effects of our drugs, however Bernie will present a more difficult, but not insurmountable problem. After all, he is a man and I am a woman and I have many (pleasurable for him but not for me) ways in which to mount an insurmountable problem. He might possibly survive some of my methods.

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

I had a long phone conversation with Megan about the twins and told her everything. She was more pissed than I ever remember and told me they were going to come up with a plan to deal with the twins. She seriously cautioned me to behave exactly the same towards the twins - otherwise my life might be in danger. I sit on the floor and wonder if Mira and Ira would really kill me?

My mind still isn't totally right, so I look at Bernie and ask, "Bernie, Megan is worried the twins might kill me if they find out I know about them. What do you think?"

He smiles at me and says, "Liz, Megan is a great shrink, but sometimes she gets too emotional and carried away. Plus, she has not seen your interactions with the twins so she can't accurately judge things."

I continue to bug the hell out of him, "Bernie, I might still be drugged, but I can tell you didn't really answer my question. So answer it!"

He grins at me and chuckles, "Liz, you're getting better all the time. I know Mira and Ira would not kill you. However, they might make your life very difficult."

I am not sure what he means so I ask, "Bernie, what do you think they would do to make my life more difficult?"

He gets serious and replies, "Liz, I'm still not sure of their motives, so…"

I interrupt him with more information, "Bernie, would it help to know that Mira was in love with Ben Blaine and still might carry the torch for him?"

Bernie jumps up, walks around the back of the van and swears, "Shit! Shit! Shit! It sure as hell helps and now it all finally makes sense to me. Megan told you this on your phone call with her, what exactly did she say?"

I relate the whole conversation to him. When I finish he looks at me and exclaims, "Liz we're really fucked this time!"

Suddenly I hear the truck start and…

Present – Zarika and Yasmeen – Tajikistan

Yasmeen
Yes I am free because the chain broke and I surprise Zarika. I jump on her, knock her from the bed onto the floor, start to beat her head against the floor and yell, "You suka! I am going to kill you!" She fights me terribly, but I continue to bang her head until I feel hands grab me.

I yell, "Leave me alone you nasty old man. She deserves to die for what she did!"

I hear a man say, "My, you are a feisty little one! What did she ever do to make you so angry?" Then I realize it is not the man with no tongue, who cannot speak, so I struggle very hard with him…

Present – Thom – Rogue mission - Washington DC

 

I tail these guys to work and wait around all day for them. I want to find one place, other than work where they are together where I can take both of them out at once so as not to alert the other bastard. I sure as hell hate being this close to any Federal Building, let alone the ATF. I hate the F part of their acronym! And who doesn't hate a government agency designed to take firearms away from law abiding citizens. What about the second amendment? The whole thing smacks of Nazi Germany to me!

 

As I wait I wonder what the hell they do in the building all day: Probably play grab ass with each other and mess with the firearms they illegally confiscate. Damn, I bet they have some nice toys in there. Too bad I don't have the TSIFFTS team - we just might take a stroll inside and take back what's rightfully ours. Shit! Who am I kidding? We would never pull a mission like that. I wonder what the hell the old team is doing?

 

It's about fricken time! Here they finally come laughing and carrying on with each other. Son of a gun, they both get into one car so it looks like I can still get an occasional break. I slip in behind them as they leave the parking lot.

 

Present – Byron – TSIFFTS

We walk back into the trailer and I'm all smiles. Yes sir! There is nothing like a day of shooting to fix a person's attitude. Betsy and I kicked ass and took names today. Jim and Todd owe me a steak dinner apiece. I comment, "Well, I think I'll take care of my girl, get cleaned up and then cash in one of my dinners."

Jim says, "I should have known better than to let you talk me into that sucker bet."

Todd signs, "I really didn't think you could hit a twelve gauge shotgun shell on end at one-hundred yards, let alone do it twice in a row."

I just smile and don't say a word. It's not like it's that hard, especially with Betsy since I just point her in the right direction and she does all the hard work. Shoot! The shotgun shell at that range is just under one MOA, and when a fifty caliber round just gets close to the shotgun shell it blows it to oblivion. Yeah it was a sucker bet and the two suckers fell for it. Too bad Thom and Hammer aren't here or I'd have four steak dinners. Of course, Linus would never take this bet - shoot he even tried to pull this trick on me but it didn't work.

I sit down, start to clean my girl and reminisce about the good old days. Once we were a team and did something useful. Now it feels like I'm just taking up space again… I finally make a decision: It's time to get off my ass and find us some replacement team members. If Thom, Linus and Hammer are gone, there's no reason to waste our lives waiting for them. There are still victims that need retribution and bastards that need retaliation.

I order Jim and Todd to start the process, "Guys fire up the computers and find us some new candidates. I'm tired of sitting on my butt waiting for the others to return. I expect a list of ten candidates with preliminary background information so we can look the list over this evening during my free dinner."

Jim agrees with me, "It's about time we do something. I was getting tired of playing Battleship against Todd on the computer all day."

Todd signs, "That's just because I always sunk your battleship and won!" Then he mimed a laugh.

I laugh and add, "I guess we know why Jim never made Admiral in the real Navy."

Jim complains, "I sure as hell wouldn't want to be a fucking Admiral. They are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. I don't understand why I used to rock at Battleship, but now I've lost to everyone lately. It wasn't bad losing to Todd or Linus, but losing to a Marine - that's just disgusting."

Todd signs, "I'm sure the 'men' on your many lost boats in battleship agree with you!"

I laugh at Jim and Todd's comments. Jim doesn't realize Linus got pissed off the time Jim beat the hell out of him and rubbed his nose in it, so he hacked the game and told everyone, except Jim, how to determine where Jim's ships are located. I'm finished cleaning Betsy, give her a nice coat of light oil and announce, "Well, I'm hungry and ready for a steak dinner. Hey Jim, how about you and I play a game of Battleship when we get back - double or nothing?"

Todd signs, "Come on Jim, your luck has to change sooner or later. Besides, you're not going to let a Marine beat you again are you?"

Jim replies, "If I wasn't so hungry, I'd stay here and win that bet right now. But victory will taste even better on a full stomach. Let's go."

I smile as we head out to the car. I'm going to get fat if I keep winning all these steak dinners.

Present – Thom – Rogue mission - Washington DC

Yes lady luck finally smiled on me. The two bastards went to a local bar together in the same car. Now I just have to wait in the shadows for the two of them to come out, pop both of them and leave. This is too simple.

Sitting in the dark gives me time to think about the guys. You know if this mission goes off without a hitch, I just might be able to return to the team – that is if they haven't replaced me already.

Damn, it's cold out tonight and I'm getting stiff from the weather. I can't wait to get the hell out of DC and back to the West coast where the weather is warm, the beers are cold and the women are hot! I can't stomach these east coast bitches since they walk around with their noses so far up in the air they look like hood scoops on a muscle car. They take one look at me in my blue jeans, cowboy shirt, and combat boots then won't even give me the time of day.

Of course all hell has broken loose right now in our unofficial war with Mexico. At least we've started kicking their asses back across the border, but it sure as hell isn't safe to get too close to the action. My old team is one of the few TSIFFTS teams that hasn't joined the fray. I know if I was still leading the team, we'd be kicking some ass right now. I was pissed as hell when I found out Byron’s and my place in Arizona had been destroyed by the mothers - yeah they need to pay for that.

I'm snapped out of my thoughts when one of the bastards starts heading towards the car. Where the hell is the second bastard! Shit! This is a mess! Oh well, he has to come out sooner or later, I raise my pistol and get ready to pop him when I hear someone behind me…

Present – Byron – TSIFFTS

I lean back in my chair after devouring a huge sirloin steak, baked potato with all the fixings, green beans, four rolls and pat my stomach and announce, "Now that was good. Thanks guys for the meal and anytime you want to…"

My mobile phone rings, I look at the number, quickly answer it, listen to the caller and say, "We'll be right there."

I order, "Guys we have an emergency and need to roll!"

Present – Jens – Truth Network – Washington DC

 

I sprint into the Truth network building. I can't wait to see what the video guys have figured out about my fucking runaway fiancé. Even though I know Megan is just trying to get rid of me (yeah I can still read her like a cheap book and know she has something she needs to discuss without me being around) I'm very excited to see what's going on!

 

 But Megan is right: It would have been a waste of my time to mess with the video when we have the best team in the business. I was s-o-o-o-o happy we hired the video guys from the post production house that figured out my fricken runaway fiancé lived through the helicopter crash. I threw a huge fit until Liz agreed to hire them and then I gave them millions of dollars to purchase the world's best equipment. We now have the best post video people and equipment in the world and make tons of money from all the work they do. It's a big plus they are geeks and love their work. Shit! They moved into the network building and never left. Yeah they are geeks raised to the twentieth power - no, not computer geeks but video geeks, so we sort of speak the same geek language. I know they must have done some fucking miracles with the videos and couldn't wait to see them.

 

And then there's Linus! Next to me, he's the best hacker in the world! Plus, he's like the big brother my stupid bitch mother never decided to have. Oh well, you can't choose relatives, but you can certainly choose friends and your adopted family.

 

I fly into the post production room and the guys are all smiles. Turner says, "j3n2, 9R347 7o 533 joO! W417 un71l joO 533 7h3 V1d3o2 W3 h4V3 pHoR JOO!"

 

          "Jens, great to see you! Wait until you see the videos we have for you!"

 

I giggle and reply, "9uYS, If j00 M4K3 M3h W4I7 4ny l0N93R I Mi9H7 pisS MY p4N7s!"

 

"Guys, if you make me wait any longer I might piss my pants!"

 

Hooch replies, "5h17 7URnER jOO'D be77Er 5HOW her KU2 1 dO'N7 W4n7 7O ClE4n UP 7Eh phlooR 4941N."

 

"Shit Turner you'd better show her because I don't want to clean up the floor again."

 

I'm afraid to ask what the 'again' part of the cleanup means. Turner says, "j3nZ, H3R3'z A p1xoR OF JOor PH1ancé w3 3X7Rac73d pHrOM A r3Fl3C71ON 1n a w1NdOw."

 

"Jens, here's a picture of your fiancé we extracted from a reflection in a window."

 

I analyze the image and it's profile and sure looks like my Ben, other than the tiny mustache. I ask, "k4n J00 9uYz R3m0V3 73h mu574CH3?"

 

"Can you guys remove the mustache?"

 

Hooch smiles, clicks a button and the mustache is gone, he says, "wE kNew J00 WeRE 901n' 70 4sK u2 70 D0 7h47 S0 wE d1D 17 4LrE4dy."

 

"We knew you were going to ask us to do that so we did it already."

 

I look at the picture and do my little dance since it most certainly is my runaway fiancé. I say, " ThX GUy2 joo D1d 4 gR34T JO8!" and start to leave.

 

"Thanks guys you did a great job!"

 

Milo asks, "J3N2, D0 j00 WaN7 70 kn0W wh3r3 H3 Wa2 901N'?"

 

"Jens, do you want to know where he was going?"

 

I am shocked so my mouth drops open and I say, "J00 kN0w WH3R3 h3'2 901n'?"

 

"You know where he's going?"

 

Hooch clicks his mouse and Ben's ticket comes up on the screen. The bastard wasn't even sneaky at all since he took the most direct route to Colorado and Denver. This is the best new ever and I hug both the guys. They blush like crazy and I run to see what Linus has for me.

 

Present – Linus – Truth Network – Washington DC

 

The video geeks Jens hired are magicians and pulled a big fucking rabbit out of their hats. I not only know what Ben now looks like, I know which route he's taken. Plus I have awesome computers to work with. I'm not sure who spec’d these systems, but I'm going to shake his hand when I meet him. Because these things rock!

 

I have a feeling, especially after hearing about the rape gang Ben brutally took care of earlier, that something unsettling has happened to him and that he will be leaving a significant trail which we can follow. Now all I have to do is have the computers hack into the local systems along his route and look for abnormalities.

 

Most people assume hacking into the systems is the hardest part, which is not true! Shit most law enforcement agencies are underfunded when it comes to computer technologies. Many still run Operating Systems like Windows XP and some even Windows 98 and 95 - and most aren't even patched. So it's a hackers paradise: The hard part is just finding the systems and then breaching the boundary protection. With those issues taken care of I found a wealth of information and I’m analyzing some strange reports my program found.

 

Jens flies into the room and shouts, "Wake up and get to work you fat, lazy assed Seal!"

 

She scares the shit out of me so I tip too far back in my chair and fall over. I yell, "Dammit Jens! Someday you're going to give me a fucking heat attack!"

 

She giggles, "Linus I know you're just trying to get mouth to mouth from me and that's not going to happen. But I'm fucking happy to see you too. So tell me are you still a hacker or have you gotten so old you’ve forgotten everything!"

 

Oh yeah, it's a big challenge and one I'm ready for. I reply, "Jens, take a look at what my program has already discovered." As I show her the first items, she comes over, sits beside me and says…

 

Present – Jens – Truth Network – Washington DC

 

I am pissed as hell when I run into my office! Someone has foo-fooed it all up again! I thought I got rid of all this crap. Oh well, I can deal with this shit later but seeing Linus is more important. I scare the crap (not literally) out of him and then tease him. Damn it's good to see him again.

 

He shows me what his search program has discovered. I almost pee in my pants and exclaim, "Shit Linus! Are you sure your program hasn't made a mistake?"

 

Linus answers me, "Unfortunately Jens, no! It looks like someone, probably Ben, has indeed killed two people at a rest stop. The good news is it also looks like it was self-defense. The most interesting thing is they both worked as bounty hunters. I wonder if they were looking for Ben for the reward."

 

I bite my lip and ask, "Do the state police have any idea who did it?"

 

He grins and says, "As usual, they are still chasing their tails and have no idea. I took the liberty of hacking into their systems and planting some evidence to make it look like a gang took them out."

 

I smile at him. He's always thorough and doesn't make mistakes and I query, "So do you have anything else?"

 

He gives me a quizzical look and asks, "Jens, do you know someone named Erast Petrovich Fandorin?"

 

I immediately answer, "Fuck yes I know who that is! Why do you ask?"

 

Linus replies, "Well, it seems like a couple private dicks beat the shit out of a guy with that name in Fredrick Maryland. The program flagged that as an interesting fact."

 

I hopefully ask, "Did you get any video of it?"

 

He shakes his head, "Sorry Jens, but the cameras were down at that station."

 

It doesn't matter since I now know what alias my runaway fiancé is using. I hug the hell out of Linus and say, "You're the best and I have to leave!"

 

Present – Linus – Truth Network – Washington DC

 

The second Jens leaves, I do what I should have done first: I search for Erast Petrovich Fandorin and almost shit my pants! Son-of-a-bitch!

 

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

Erast has taken such good care of me tonight it was almost like having my own personal spa treatment. I am totally transformed: Stacy is gone and I really am Anastasia. Erast is so smart! I wanted a French nail job, but he informed me, "A young lady who is travelling across the country by bus would most likely not have French nails." He did put nice little flowers on each of my nails and I liked it better than French nails.

He is such a wonderful man and his ex-fiancée must have been a real bitch to chase him away. Oh well, her loss is my gain since I always wanted a big brother and now I have one. He takes several pictures of me. I critically look at them and tease, "Erast, you did a very good job with coloring and cutting my hair. Perhaps you were really a beautician?"

He blushes and stammers, "Lizadacheck, are you trying to insult me."

I giggle, "No my brother I am just teasing you. However I do need to thank you for everything you've done for me. If it was not for…"

He interrupts, "Lizadacheck, do not dwell on the past because it is full of bad memories and broken dreams. We have a whole future ahead of us!"

Yes Erast is right! We have a whole future and a whole country ahead of us. I watch as he pulls a tiny computer out of his backpack, connects the camera to it and then sends the pictures to someone. I comment, "Erast you are a man of many talents. What are the plans for tomorrow morning?"

He responds, "Anastasia, we will leave the room early by the fire escape and take bus number eleven to a different part of town. I forgot to mention, tomorrow you will not be Anastasia, you will be Angelina Luciana Fernandez."

I frown at him and start to complain, "Erast…"

He corrects me this time with a different accent, "Angelina, I am not Erast tomorrow. I will be Paulo Roberto Fernandez."

 

I really like being Anastasia and I'm not happy so I ask, "Paulo? Why?"

 

He very seriously replies, "Angelina, the desk clerk was right last night when he told me they do not like foreigners in this part of town, especially non-Latino foreigners. So for a while tomorrow we will be Portuguese."

 

I complain some more, "But Portuguese are not really Latinos."

 

He laughs and agrees, "Yes Angelina, you are right, but we will pass for being Latino."

 

I look at my hands and say, "Eras… I mean Paulo, your skin is dark enough you will pass for being Latino, but I am too white for that."

 

He replies, "Angelina, we will take care of that in the morning. Now it is time for sleep because the crowing of the red cockerel comes early for both of us tomorrow."

 

He crawls off the bed to sleep on the floor and I loudly complain, "Paulo, you cannot sleep like a dog on the floor. This bed is big enough we can both share it without bothering each other."

He starts to argue and I threaten, "I can stay up all night and fight with you about this. Now get on your side of the bed and stop trying to be a macho muchacho."

 

I'm happy when I win this fight because while I do not have untold feelings towards my brother, I do not want to sleep alone in this bed with the scary taxi driver mummy in our room.

 

Paulo falls asleep immediately and starts to have a bad dream. It reminds me of when we were on the bus together. I slip his wig off his head in hopes he will sleep better but he still moans and moves in his sleep. I wish I could hold him and comfort him, but that wouldn't be wise.

 

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

 

I had the face dream again last night and it troubles me very much because one more face disappears. The others complain about wanting their freedom from my subconscious prison cell, but this time I let them complain because I learned my lesson last time. As bad as the face dream is the torture dreams are even worse.

 

I wake in the morning, uncomfortable with being in the same bed as Stacy. She has scooted over against me last night, stealing all of the bed except for the tiny edge I have been clinging to all night long. It reminds me of how Jens used to steal the bed… Shit! I can't allow myself to think of her and especially not that… last time that happened she could sense my feelings again.

 

I snap myself out of the thoughts just in time and wonder why the hell another face disappeared. I slip out of bed and can tell right away. Shit! I fucked up with the taxi driver and must have over medicated him - I can tell from his color he's dead. But a face disappeared so he must have been 'bad' enough that he counted; this is puzzling.

 

I take care of my bathroom chores and then ready my pack for the day. Now it's time for me to become Paulo, wake Angelina (keeping the taxi driver's death from her) and get the hell out of this room.

 

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

 

Ben, I mean Erast oh yeah, Paulo wakes me, "Angelina, we must quickly leave this room."

 

I am half asleep and don't understand why the hurry so I stretch and ask, "What is the rush Paulo?"

 

He replies, "Angelina, it will take some time to properly apply your makeup today. And I want to be out of the room during the time when others will be walking to work. So get up and please take care of your necessary duties in the bathroom, then I will come in and help you with your makeup."

 

I reply, "Paulo, I have been playing with makeup since I was a little girl so with this you will not need to help me. Please give me the makeup."

 

He smiles at me, hands me the makeup and reminds me, "Don't forget to do the back of your neck and the back of your hands."

 

As I apply the makeup I let my mind wander and consider how changed and exciting my life has become in just the last few days. Oh, it was really exciting and even scary when I first ran away from my evil parents. Then I found the group of kids I was traveling with and things got boring. All they talked (I should say complained) about was money, food and sex. They never had enough of any of the three even though they spent my money like it was unlimited, ate like pigs and screwed each other like sex crazed bunny rabbits. They were so childish and juvenile.

 

And now, things are exciting again but with Paulo it's not scary, well other than the taxi driver mummy - I really hate mummies. I can't wait to see what today holds. I step out of the bathroom and notice Paulo has been busy: The sheets are off the bed and tied in a big pile on the floor. I comment, "Paulo, it looks like you cleaned the room."

 

He replies, "Angelina, I have very carefully worked at removing every trace of us using this room so please come out of the bathroom and stand here while I clean the bathroom."

 

The place he wants me to stand is too close to the taxi driver mummy, so instead I move by the window and ask, "I would like to stand here if you do not mind."

 

I listen and it sounds like Paulo is destroying the bathroom, I wonder what in the world he is doing. After about ten minutes he comes out with all the towels and the shower curtain. I ask, "Paulo, what are you going to do with all of these things?"

 

He grins at me and says, "Angelina, we need to dispose of all these items because they contain traces of us. We will toss them into a dumpster in the alley."

 

I query, "This will make the hotel manager very upset. Are you not worried he will call the police?"

 

He falters for a second, then says, "Oh I am sure the police will be called, I just want to make sure they cannot identify us."

 

I ask, "But what about our names in the register. Can't they use those to find us?"

 

He laughs, "They will have a very big surprise when they check the names in the register."

 

We are done. Paulo uses a hand towel to open the window and helps me out onto the fire escape and says, "Angelina, do not touch anything out here."

 

 He follows with his pack and the huge bundle from the hotel room. We climb down the stairs, into the alley and walk towards the street. I question, "Paulo, you did not throw away the bundle?"

 

He replies, "No we will do that only when we have travelled a safe distance from our room."

 

As we walk along the street, I notice no one even bothers to look at us. With Paulo's help we have blended into the fabric of this part of the city and are now invisible. I shudder slightly in anticipation of what new adventure today will bring…

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