Tangled Web: A Short Story, Part 4
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Carla lay on the bunk in the cabin of the boat where she was being held captive. Her right eye was swollen shut. After she had blurted out to Barry over the phone the hint about her location, Orlov had pulled the phone back, dropped the connection, and slugged her in the face.
She considered what Barry might do. She hoped he would call the police. She cared for Barry and respected him, but he was in over his head in something for which he was totally unprepared. She only hoped he wouldn't try to rescue her by himself.
Orlov paced the room. He had been on the phone all afternoon, and now, as evening gave way to nighttime, he sat down to rest.
"All your boyfriend has to do is meet with me."
Carla had no idea why she had been kidnapped or what Barry knew that concerned this man. "And if he does meet with you, will you let us go free?"
Orlov laughed. "My dear, naive young lady, I have no intention of allowing either of you to go free. The moment I lay eyes on your boyfriend—" Orlov rose from the edge of the bed and turned to Carla—"I will put two bullets in his forehead and two in yours. He had his handgun drawn and pointed at Carla's face.
Orlov's phone rang.
Barry got out of his car at the convenience store and looked around. Would she show up? Was it a setup after all? A car pulled alongside his Jeep, and a woman got out. Barry was six feet tall. When the woman approached him and held out her hand, she looked straight ahead into his eyes. She wasn't masculine, but she was fit. She was also dressed in black that matched her short hair. She shoved a paper bag toward him.
"Go into the restroom in the store and put these on."
He looked into the bag and saw a black shirt and pants like she was wearing. A few moments later, he rejoined her. "Now what?."
"Is your phone charged?"
They walked around the store and looked down on the small community of Benedict. Lights shone around a marina where a couple of dozen boats rocked gently as the slow current slipped past.
"Carla is in one of those boats."
"Let's go find out which one." On the way down the slope to the town and marina, Patrice explained the plan.
They took cover next to a small storage shed and several fifty-gallon drums standing next to it. The vantage point gave them a good angle to view most of the boats. There were sailboats and cabin cruisers of various sizes.
"Pull up recent calls on your phone."
"Other than Orlov's call, the only calls I've received have been from friends and family wondering why I haven't replied to their messages…" Barry considered the implication. "Orlov wouldn't leave his number on my phone."
"He wants you to get in touch with him. Of course, his number is now stored in your phone."
Barry found the archived call. "It just says, Unknown Caller."
"Tap the words."
Orlov's phone rang.
"Would you like to save your girlfriend's life?" The voice caused rage to well up inside Barry like bile into his throat. He could barely speak.
"I'll exchange the copy of the email for Carla. Half an hour. You name the place."
"You've made a wise choice, Mr. Alford." Orlov mentioned the location of an empty warehouse in the city. "No tricks or she's dead." Orlov ended the call.
Barry and Patrice stood side by side in the shadows, watching the boats. After a couple of minutes, a man emerged from below deck on a cabin cruiser with a young lady. Alexie Orlov might have been handsome, except for the scar along his jawline. He couldn't afford for someone to see him leading a woman with her hands tied, so he simply held her by the wrist. His other hand was in his pants pocket, holding the grip of a gun, no doubt.
Barry took a step forward. Patrice grabbed his arm and pulled him back. "We'll follow him to the warehouse. He will have others waiting there for him. I'll phone ahead for backup. We want to catch as many of this cell as we can. They have caused a great deal of trouble for us."
"I don't care about any of that. I just want to get Carla away from that madman."
"We will get Carla back, Barry. But this is much bigger than just the two of you. The Russians, the North Koreans, and the Syrian government want to create a situation that makes the United States look as though it is planning to assassinate political enemies with nerve gas. If we play our cards right, we can turn the tables and expose the evil intentions of people at very high levels in all three regimes." Patrice turned to head back to the cars. "There are two more things you need to understand. First of all, you must die. At least Orlov must believe it. There will be a gun battle, no doubt. We will fake your death.
"And the second thing?"
"Orlov must escape so he can report your death to his superiors. If they believe you are dead and that you did not report the email to the authorities, they will go forward with their plans with the nerve gas."
They arrived in separate vehicles at the warehouse in the city. Barry parked and got out of his car. He took a folded piece of paper from his pocket. It was the email he had printed in Senator Eagleton's office. He walked alone through the open overhead door. Orlov and Carla stepped out from an aisle between stacks of crates. Six other men stood behind them, guns in hand.
Patrice and seven other CIA agents had slipped into the warehouse undetected. They emerged from the cover of the stacked crates.
"What's this?" Orlav pointed at the armed men and woman. "
"It seems we both brought some insurance that we'd walk away from here alive."
"What do they know?"
"Only that Carla has been kidnapped. I've kept my mouth shut about everything else in order to protect her."
Orlov reached into his pocket and pulled out his gun. Carla jerked her arm free of his grasp and ran. Barry ran toward her just as Orlov fired.
Guns fired from both sides. Men fell to the floor. Blood pooled around their lifeless bodies.
Carla screamed. "He's dead. You killed him you bastard." She knelt beside Barry's body and wept.
Orlov took cover behind the crates. All of his men were dead or dying, but they had accomplished their goal. The only outsider who knew about the conspiracy was also dead, and that was all that mattered. Orlov turned and ran.
Patrice bent down and put her hand on Carla's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Carla. I failed you."
Carla looked up with tears streaming and a smile on her face. "No, you did not fail." She leaned back so Patrice could see Barry's face. His eyes were open.
"I'm alive, but I could probably use an ambulance. You know, fake death is pretty close to the real thing."
The water of the Potomac flowed beneath the bridge where Barry and Carla walked, holding hands. Life was moving on just like the river. Barry had been recovering from the gunshot wound in his shoulder for a few weeks and was ready to return to work.
"Your congressional aide job is going to seem boring after all you've been through," said Carla.
“Boring? Not if I keep uncovering international conspiracies. And besides, that word isn’t in Senator Eagleton’s vocabulary. Since he’s the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, we will be rubbing shoulders with others in the intelligence community on a regular basis.”
“Does that mean you’ll be rubbing shoulders with Patrice regularly?”
“Patrice? What does she have to do with this?”
“Because she is in the intelligence community and she would love to rub your shoulders.”
"Oh, you've got to be kidding. Patrice is not interested in me."
"I saw how she looked at you."
"She did not look at me like that."
"She didn't—did she?"
"Does it matter?"
"I need to buy another bouquet of flowers, don't I?"
"That would be a good start."
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