The Errant Rose
Borodov was at his desk, stuffing maps, dossiers, communiques and the gilt-framed photo of his family into a brown attache case, with Elena standing nearby, when Chenko entered the vast, vaulted great hall.
"The helicopter will be here in ten minutes, Colonel," said Chenko. "I just heard from them. And I radioed ahead to Lesbos. The plane will be ready."
Borodov merely nodded. The chopper would take them to a float plane which would transport them to Istanbul, where they would transfer to a Russian freighter bound for the Black Sea. A short voyage would carry them to Sebastopol.
Chenko knew his boss well, and could sense that Borodov was reluctant to leave, and he thought he knew why.
"I have also received a message from headquarters, Colonel, questioning why we were not on our way yesterday."
Borodov didn't stop what he was doing. "And what about the Wolf?"
Chenko was grim. "General Valenten orders you to terminate him."
"Of course he does. A bone tossed to Gorinsky, so that he won't feel so bad about losing Vulkan. 'I fear that few die well who die in battle, for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument?'"
"Shekspira?" asked Chenko.
"Of course." Borodov was silent a moment. The relationship between Hazard and Emmy Rose was of great interest to him -- perhaps greater than it should have been. He had hoped that even if Triakis was not a sufficient lure to bring the blonde Special projects agent to Ikor, then perhaps the Wolf would be. But he had tarried as long as he could, an extra twenty-four hours. "Very well. Go tell Zandros. He will take care of it. Then bring Triakis to the yard."
Hazard was hanging by his wrists, which were encased in thick iron shackles chained to a wall of stone, and it hurt, because he could barely touch the floor with his toes. Triakis, being shorter, was in worse shape; similarly trussed up to Hazard's right, his feet dangled a good six inches from the floor. He'd tried to find purchase with his heels, but the wall had been worn smooth as glass by centuries-worth of prisoners who had no doubt tried to do the same thing. But Hazard forgot all about the pain when he heard the clatter of the latch on the door to the cell, which then swung open to allow a burly Greek and a slight, boyish-looking Russian enter. The Russian looked a little pale. The Greek looked indifferent. His features might as well have been carved from the same stone as the wall from which Hazard was hanging. But there wasn't any question what the pistol in his hand meant.
"What, not even a last cigarette?" asked Hazard.
"Smoking is bad for you," said Zandros, the Greek, in English, delivering the gallows humor deadpan.
Hazard looked at the man's eyes, then at the pistol in his hand, and finally came face to face with his own death. The last thing we do in life is die, so you should do it well, a man had told him once long ago. The man who had turned a young street hoodlum into a well-educated, highly skilled and resourceful master thief and confidence man who, it seemed, was going to meet his end on the island of Thera. Thoughts of Emmy tried to insinuate themselves into his head, but he pushed them away, fearing they would weaken him. In their place came a very clear image of a man and woman, in the prime of their lives, aboard a sleek sailing yacht called the Wind Dancer, skimming over the seas, and as he watched them they turned their heads and looked back at him, smiling warmly, lovingly, and waved....
"I am sorry," said Chenko, sincerely. "We have received our orders."
"Then stop talking," said Hazard coldly. "And get it over with."
Tthe Russian nodded reluctantly at the Greek, who quickly raised the pistol.
Hazard looked down the barrel of the gun, but saw his mother and father, as he last remembered seeing them, sailing off on another adventure, one from which they had never returned....
A shot rang out. Then another.
Zandros whirled towards the door. The body of the guard who had been posted outside the cell, one of the Greeks in the Zandros apparat, came into view as it fell across the threshold. Then Emmy appeared, in the corridor beyond, and she and Zandros exchanged fire at point-blank range, the gunshots blending into one loud crashing percussion. Zandros was hurled backwards. His pistol skittered across the stone floor. Chenko hesitated, then made for it. But the hesitation cost him dearly. Emmy stepped over the body of Zandros and kicked Chenko in the face as the Russian bent down. The impact of her bare foot sounded like another gunshot, and Chenko sprawled on his back, out cold.
"If you rescue people dressed like that," said Hazard, somewhat.amazed that under these circumstances he could think the thoughts provoked by seeing Emmy Rose clad only in a thong, her golden hair clinging in wet tendrils to her neck and shoulders,, "I may have to fall into the wrong hands more often."
Emmy frisked the dead guard and produced key. "I only did it because I owe you for Bangkok," she said, with that infuriating smirk of hers. She had to lean her slender body into him, rising up on the balls of her feet, reaching as high as she could, to use the key on the shackles that held him fast. Hazard had long since lost all feeling in his arms and once released they fell like lead weights by his side. Emmy grabbed his wrists and pulled his hands behind her, resting them on the soft round globes of her ass, then trapped his arms against her sides with her own.
"Does that help?" she asked. with a wanton curl at the corner of her mouth.
"You have no idea how much."
Her facade cracked then, just a little, and she laid her head on his chest whispered, her voice suddenly thick with emotion, "I almost lost you."
Hazard managed by force of will to move his arms enough to hold her close.
"For the love of God," said Triakis, highly agitated. "Someone get me down!"
Emmy slipped out of Hazard's arms and unshackled Triakis.
"You're still alive," said the scientist, bitterly, leaning against the wall, clumsily rubbing the circulation back into his arms. "How disappointing."
Hazard picked up Zandros' pistol., stuffed it under the waistband of his pants. He could faintly hear the sound of a helicopter -- high up on the wall from which he had, until recently, been dangling, was a narrow lateral opening that allowed a modicum of fresh air and light into the room, and that distinctive frenetic thumping of a chopper's blades. He took off his shirt and held it out for Emmy to slip into, then buttoned the topmost button.
"Don;t get any holes in it," he told her. "Is that the cavalry?"
"No. I'm the cavalry."
"So how do we get out of here?" asked Triakis anxiously..
"We walk out," said Emmy, and gave the scientist a not-so-gentle shove towards the door.
Standing in the castle yard, neither Borodov nor Elena saw Emmy and Hazard immediately -- they were both peering up at the Kamov helicopter that had just appeared above the castle battlements, a monstrous loud mechanical insect black against the cerulean blue Aegean sky. It was Elena who saw them first -- some primordial instinct for survival made her look around -- and she shouted a warning to Borodov that was swept away by the tumult caused by the descending chopper, but she grabbed his arm and turned him, and when Borodov saw Emmy he reacted instantly. Elena was still in her Yasmin Liraz disguise, wearing the fatigue jacket and faded jeans and she had not changed her hair. Borodov reached his right hand into a coat pocket and brandished a Steyr automatic even as his left arm snaked around Elena's neck. The stranglehold secured, he used her body as a shield, put the barrel of the Steyr to her temple.
"Drop it!" shouted Borodov, "Or I will kill her!"
Hazard turned sideways, bringing up the automatic taken from Zandros, while making a cautionary gesture at Triakis to get behind him. Emmy didn't move, just stood there with Hazard's mostly-unbuttoned shirt whipping out behind her, the long sleeves concealed her hands, down by her side, the Beretta 70 clutched in the right one.
Borodov began backing up as the helicopter descended to the yard, leaning against the powerful whip of air currents produced by the Kamov's rotors. "Kill the man," he said, his lips brushing Elena's ear. "She won't shoot you. She thinks you're Liraz. Kill HIM now, Reyanovich!"
Frightened, Elena groped under the fatigue jacket, bringing out the Makarov semi-automatic, taking aim at Hazard.
Hazard fired a single shot, into the meaty part of Elena's thigh. She cried out and sagged against Borodov. For an instant Emmy had hesitated. She knew now that the woman with Borodov wasn't Yasmin, but rather just one of the spymaster's pawns, and had been willing to let her live -- until, watching her eyes, and Borodov's, she realized Hazard was the target. Then she dropped into a shooter's two-handed crouch and in the blink of an eye had put a bullet in Elena's heart and another between her eyes.
Shocked, Borodov stepped away, letting Elena's lifeless body fall at his feet. Rage twisting at his features, he raised the Steyr and got off two shots that sent Emmy diving to the right and Hazard pushing Triakis to the ground and crouching in front of him. Borodov made a break for the helicopter. Rolling and coming up on one knee, Emmy drew a bead and squeezed the trigger. She had Borodov dead to rights. But the Beretta was empty.She'd had only the one clip. Standing up, she watched with helpless frustration as the Kamov rose into the sky and veered away over the courtyard's low crenellated perimeter wall carrying Ilya Borodov to safety.
Hazard was on his feet, emptying the clip at the Kamov's tail rotor as the helicopter turned, and was rewarded by a puff of smoke and the sudden erratic movement of the chopper. Without the counteracting torque of the tail rotor, the body of the Kamov began to turn with the main rotor. The pilot could have manipulated engine speed and the pitch of the main rotor blades to land -- but he was over the cliff's edge now, with the sea four hundred feet below. The helicopter pitched sharply left, turning, and dropped out of view. Seconds later Hazard not only heard but felt the explosion shaking the ground beneath his feet, as the helicopter smashed into the cliff face. Oily black smoke billowed into the sky beyond the courtyard's perimeter wall.
Hazard moved closer to the wall, peering over, eyes narrowed and watering as wisps of that acrid smoke swirled over him, and all he could see through the dense, billowing black cloud that partially obscured the cliff was a glimpse of the Kamov coming apart as it slid down the jagged rock face, sparks flying as the rotor blades hacked away chunks of stone before ceasing to spin, the body of the craft turning once more to smash the tail into flaming pieces. He saw no sign of Borodov or the pilot and turned away.
Emmy knelt, turned Elena over, gazed at the face that was too much like that of the woman she had loved. Breathing a long sigh, and shaking her head at the waste of it all, she closed Elena's sightless eyes. Hearing footsteps, she rose and turned to see Hazard, with Triakis in tow, coming toward her. Idly buttoning up Hazard's shirt, she indulged herself in a slow perusal of the blue Aegean, pushing tendrils of wind-whipped golden hair out of her eyes. The mission was over. The loose ends neatly tied. But there was no redemption, no ghosts exorcised. She glanced at Elena's corpse again. Just one more ghost added to the ranks of those that would haunt her.
Waiting for Emmy Rose at a small sidewalk cafe down the block from Norwegian embassy in Athens, Hazard gestured at his attentive waiter when he saw her coming. The glass of ouzo was in place, along with the bottle of cold Fix beer as a chaser, when she sat down at the table. Hazard thought she looked like a Bohemian college student in her low-riding patchwork jeans and black halter top, her feet comfortably encased in woven Spanish sandals. The waiter stared at her with unabashed admiration until a look from Hazard compelled him to go about his business.
Emmy sipped the ouzo and gasped. "Well, Triakis is safely delivered to Tel Aviv. They recovered the body of the helicopter pilot. But no Ilya Borodov." She gave a little shrug. "Who knows? And it seems I'm back in the fold after all. Though it means a month or two at The Abbey." She made a face.
"So you're not quitting after all," said Hazard, his smiling face betraying nothing.
"Well, I'm not very good at anything else. I fly out this afternoon."
Hazard was silent a moment, carefully considering his reply, then dug into a pocket of his khaki slacks and brandished a key, which he place on the glass-topped table between them. "That fits a door to a house on Hillsleigh Road in London, if you ever change your mind."
She stared at the key a moment, then her sky blue eyes slowly rose to meet his gaze, and they were as soft and warm as he had ever seen them.
When she reached out to pick up the key he place his hand over hers. "I'm not talking about just a roomie, either."
She smiled. "I know. So what do you think the chances are?"
He squeezed her hand. "I don't think I can make a prediction about that. But i can predict that you are going to miss your flight today."
A salacious smile tugged at the corner of her full, luscious lips. "Oh?"
"Mmhmm." He placed a pile of drachmas on the table, rose, and offered an arm. "Shall we?"
She let him help her up, and then draped her arms langorously round his neck and locked her legs round his waist, her hips moving in a slow gyration -- all of which captured the attention of most of the sidewalk cafe's patrons and more than a few passersby.
"We could do it right here if you think they would throw us in the same jail cell," she whispered huskily in his ear.
Hazard laughed and with one arm round her waist and a hand firmly on her splendid ass, he carried her off.
Copyright 2008, 2015 by Jason Manning. All Rights Reserved. No unauthorized reproduction for any purpose whatsoever is allowed without permission of copyright holder. This copyright notice to cover all text found in this post except that attributed to others. Copyright is not claimed on any images included in this post.