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Tangled Web: A Short Story, Part 2

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.


Link to the Other Parts of This Story

To read the other three parts of this story, go to my profile page.

Tangled Web

The doctor was examining Eagleton when Barry arrived at the Cardiac Care Unit so he went to the waiting room. Two men sat near the window conversing in Russian. One of the men he had never seen before. The other he had seen in Senator Eagleton's office on the day he had suffered the heart attack. It was the same man who had driven the white van on Carla's street, and his voice was the same voice Barry had sparred with over the phone. Orlov. Barry backed out of the room before either man looked up.

He returned to the Cardiac Care Unit just as the doctor walked out of Eagleton's room. Barry slipped in to find the Senator sitting up with an electronic notebook in his hands. Barry set aside any thought of small talk and got straight to the point. "Catching up on your emails?"

Eagleton held Barry's gaze for a moment. "So you did see it. That has been the only thing I have thought about since my heart attack."

"Yes I saw it, and I read every word." Barry circled the bed so he could keep an eye on the area outside the room. "And I printed a copy as well."

"You did what!"

"Your comrade, Orlov, knows about the copy."

"He's contacted you?"

"Yes, but I've been able to evade him until now. Unfortunately, breaking up with my girlfriend wasn't enough to keep him from using her to get to me."

"He has her?"

"Yes, he has her, and he's about to have his chance to nab me as well."

"What are you talking about?"

"Orlov is out there in the waiting room with another of your Russian friends."

"Barry, things aren't always what they seem."

"Really? It seems pretty straightforward to me."

"This is as tangled a web as you will ever encounter." The Senator set the notebook on his bedside table. "I'm working both sides of this operation. I am as loyal to my country as I have ever been."

Voices carried into the room from the nurses' station. Orlov was just outside the door.

Eagleton grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. He scribbled something and handed it to Barry. "Get out of here while you still can."

Barry took the paper and looked his boss in the eyes. Could he trust him? He turned and stepped into the doorway. Orlov's back was to him. The other Russian was facing him. Barry retreated into the room. He grabbed a nurse's stethoscope and draped it around his neck. A clipboard on top of one of the monitors completed his disguise. He walked into the corridor, head down studying the paper on the clipboard and passed by his pursuers unnoticed.

On the drive back to his hotel room, Barry's mind was overwhelmed with everything that had happened. Carla had been kidnapped just as his feelings for her had been growing. He was responsible for whatever nightmare she was living now. His boss, Senator Eagleton was either a traitor to his country or he was every bit the patriot and champion of democracy that Barry had thought he was. And now, he wavered between contempt and compassion for his boss. Alexei Orlov, the Russian businessman had turned out to be a spy who had taken Carla and was now a threat to him and possibly to Eagleton. Barry knew he was no James Bond, but here he was, holding the truth of a secret conspiracy that was designed to destroy the reputation and leadership capacity of the United States. It could even cause a mass rebellion of America's own citizens.



Carla sat on the edge of the bunk, the only furnishing in the room she had occupied since the man with a long scar on the left side of his jaw had abducted her from her home. She heard a car horn in the distance, and it made her wonder where she was. At first, she thought the man who had a strong foreign accent would rape her. She knew of no other motive he might have for taking her from her home that night. But the man had not touched her—yet.

She and Barry had been seeing each other for several weeks. Her feelings for him had been growing each day. They spent evenings together, going for walks, talking about the little and the big things in life. They texted during the day and said goodnight over the phone. Then he had shown up one evening with a bouquet of flowers. She had put them in a vase and placed it on the coffee table in her living room. They had gone for a walk along the river. She couldn't believe what she was hearing from him. Even now, she struggled to comprehend his words. He wanted them to stop seeing each other and offered no explanation for his change of mind. The words pierced her heart and sent her mind into a freefall of rejection. Why had he done it?

Half an hour after he had left, Carla heard footsteps on her front porch. Her hopes rebounded and she had run to the door and slung it open. It wasn't Barry. The Man had walked straight into the room, forcing her backward until she ran into the coffee table, knocking the vase that held Barry's flowers to the floor where it shattered into pieces. The man had overpowered her, tied her hands, gagged her mouth and put a bag over her head. She had been helpless. Moments later, she had been forced into a vehicle. Maybe it was her mild OCD that caused her to count off the seconds and minutes, but fifteen minutes later, the vehicle stopped and the engine died. Carla was hustled along what sounded like a boardwalk. The lapping water brought a vision to her mind of boats and a harbor. The man pushed her forward, and she stumbled onto something that reminded her of her uncle's pontoon boat she had played on at its dock when she was very young. She descended four steps, and a door slammed shut. She was alone.


Her family didn't have the kind of wealth that would cause someone to kidnap one of them for money. So why had she been locked in the sleeping quarters of some kind of boat for three days? She thought of Barry. Did he even know she was missing? He had broken up with her, so he wouldn't call or expect a call. Eventually, her parents would wonder why she hadn't contacted them. But that might take at least a week, maybe two.

She heard footsteps overhead. Someone had come onto the boat. Now they were descending the steps. Keys jangled. The doorknob turned. Carla looked at the scarred face and dug deep into her heart for courage. She charged him and slammed into his body, slapping, kicking.

With one backhanded swing of the man's arm, Carla flew back onto the bunk. Blood ran from the corner of her mouth, down her cheek. She screamed. He grabbed her and spoke into her face.

"We are going to make a phone call together—you and me. We will talk to your boyfriend."

"Barry doesn't have any money, my god, he's a congressional aide." Carla felt the anger rise in her chest.

"Young lady, I do not have need of your money or of your boyfriend's money. But he knows something he should not know."

"What are you talking about?" Carla sobbed as she spoke.

"Why don't we hear what your boyfriend has to say?" The man released her, and she fell onto the bunk.

Why did he keep talking about Barry? What did Barry have to do with this? Yes, she wanted to talk to him, to find comfort in his strength.

The man pulled a cell phone from the pocket of his pants. He dialed and waited.

Carla waited.

"Hello, this is Barry. You are showing up on my phone as an unknown caller. Who is this?"

"A young lady and I are calling. She is quite attractive, and she seems to think a lot of you, Barry Alford." Orlov paused for just a few seconds. "Would you like to speak to her?"

"Yes, put Carla on, Alexie Orlov."

"So you know who I am."

"Give the phone to Carla."

Orlov leaned back and laughed. "Be patient, Mr. Alford. You have something I want, and I have someone you want. All we need to do is meet and make the exchange."

"I won't agree to anything until I talk to Carla."

Orlov handed the phone to Carla.

"Barry, is it you?" Carla stood up and turned away from Orlov.

"Carla, yes, I'm here."

Then she blurted out a string of words so fast, Orlov couldn't stop her. "Boat, fifteen minutes from my house—cars, he'll kill you."