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Tangled Web: A Short Story, Part 3

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.

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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 phone went dead.

Barry stood in the middle of the hotel room still holding the phone to his ear. What had just happened? He repeated Carla's words. Directions and a warning.

Barry's mind went into high gear. Carla had given him information that could lead him to her location. He wasted no time and opened the map program on his computer. He put in Carla's address and zoomed in. He activated the real image selection. Slowly he pulled away, taking in more and more area. To the east, Chesapeake Bay was an obvious choice. He checked the mileage from Carla's house in Cheltenham to the nearest part of the bay at Deale. It was nearly twenty miles and crossed the Patuxent River just east of Upper Marlboro. The map program predicted a drive time of twenty-five minutes in light traffic. Too long. He checked farther south on the bay. That was even more unlikely because the next bridge across the river was at Benedict, ten miles away. It was forty-four minutes to Dares Beach on the Bay.

He changed directions and looked west. National Harbor on the Potomac was about twenty-four minutes from Carla's. Other than a few private docks, which he couldn't completely overlook, there was nothing closer. The clincher, for Barry, was that when he had seen Orlov leaving Carla's house the night she had disappeared, the white van had been traveling east, the direction of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay.

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Orlov wasn't keeping Carla in a boat on the Chesapeake. It was too far. The only remaining obvious place, other than a few creeks and ponds, was that they were someplace on the Patuxent. Barry checked up and down the river. Much of it was part of a wildlife sanctuary where boats were not permitted. But there was one marina that was within fifteen minutes of Carla's house.

He knew it was a longshot. Orlov might be using a private dock on either river. He could also have hidden the boat in some obscure cove or creek mouth. Carla could have been off in her estimate of fifteen minutes. But his best guess was that Orlov had Carla on a boat in Eagle Harbor at the Benedict marina on the Patuxent.

He stopped to review the phone call. He was missing or forgetting something...a detail. There had been noise in the background, faint as if it were in the distance. Music? No, it hadn't been like that. A lighthouse horn? No, those horns sounded deep and long. What he had heard was short, higher pitched, like a car horn. Carla had said the word, cars. He checked the time. It was rush hour on the Benedict bridge.

Benedict, Maryland and the Benedict Bridge over the Patuxent River

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Barry considered his options. He could call the police, but that might put Carla in more danger. Then he remembered the piece of paper Eagleton had given him at the hospital. A phone number.

Barry punched the keypad on his phone and waited. Finally, an automated voice invited him to leave a message. "A friend gave me your number. Apparently, he believes you can help me. I'll wait for you to call back." He ended the call and sat down to plan his next move. In spite of the seriousness of the Senator's email and his questionable loyalty to his country, Barry's first priority was rescuing Carla.

His phone rang once, twice, three times. "Hello?"

"Hello, Barry. I was beginning to think you wouldn't call." It was a woman's voice. "Do you have more news about Carla?"

"Who are you?"

"I am a friend of the Senator. He asked me to help you."

Barry didn't respond. The man he had respected most in this city had possibly sold out to foreign powers. And here was someone who claimed to be a friend of that man. He couldn't trust her any more than he could trust Eagleton. "Help me do what? Get nabbed by the Russians?"

"Thomas is no traitor."

She used Eagleton's first name, not his title. Barry rubbed his temples. A wrong decision here could get him captured by the enemies of his country. If that happened, who would save Carla? But he couldn't do it alone. Barry trusted his gut instinct that Eagleton was who he claimed to be. "Orlov has her on a boat near Benedict Bridge."

"How do you know that?"

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Barry explained the phone call and how he had narrowed down the possibilities to Eagle Harbor and the Benedict Marina.

"Nice work. I'm looking at a map now, and I fully agree with your conclusion."

"We've got to rescue Carla. She is just an innocent bystander. The only reason she is involved is because of me. I have something Orlov wants."

"The copy of the email."

"Yes."

"Think about it for a moment, Barry." She paused, giving him a chance to do just that. "Did you make another copy of the email you printed off the Senator's computer?"

"Did I make a copy? Why would I do that?"

"In case the original was taken from you."

"I never even considered making a copy."

"Does Orlov know that?"

"I suppose not. How could he?"

"Exactly. So even if you give him the original, he has to believe you made a copy...even if you didn't."

"So why is he demanding I give it to him? Why does he have Carla?"

"Oh, he wants you to give it to him, alright. But it isn't really the email he is after."

"Then what does he want?"

"It isn't what he wants, it's who he wants. Barry, you are the only one who can ruin the operation being planned by the Russians, the North Koreans, and the Syrian government. He's gambling that you haven't gone to the authorities out of concern for Carla's safety."

"Then why does he want to meet with me?"

"To kill you."

The woman's words were the same as Carla's warning on the phone. Barry hadn't seen himself as a factor. But he was. "So now what?"

"We find Orlov."

"But you just said he'd kill me if I met with him."

"I didn't say we would announce our visit. We've got to outsmart him. He is an intelligent man, but he is also impulsive. We will have to take advantage of that."

"What's your name?"

"We will meet at the convenience store this side of the bridge in half an hour. You can call me, Patrice." The call ended.

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