The sun’s morning rays could not be found in the dim lit room. Evan tapped his forefinger on his crossed arms. It was as much patience as he could muster, listening to the infernal racket that Yaakov polluted the room with as he worked. Calling such racket music was a delusion Evan could not understand.
Just as one particularly scream-laden piece seemed to be running a little long, the music stopped. “All done, buddy!” Yaakov called.
“Great!” Evan replied relieved.
Yaakov handed them over while Evan gave them a quick examination. “Ok, looks good,” he reached in his pocket and pulled out a large stack of bills. “Keep the change.”
“Thanks man,” Yaakov said with a mixture of flattery and of feeling flattered, “that’s what I like about you. Even though I don’t know your name, you always pay in good hard cash.” He looked once more at the picture of Evan on his screen. “Man you look different with a beard. It really looks good on you.”
Evan felt his facial growth self-consciously, “You think so?” he asked, not sure whether to take it as a complement, coming from an overgrown youth covered in tattoos and piercings.
“Yeah, in a 1920s Muscovite mobster, sort of way.” Yaakov grinned cheekily. “Either that, or a mugger.”
Evan rolled his eyes in annoyance at the rebel. He was also thinking how he should have shaved back at John’s house, especially since his short beard had a great presence of grey hair. Far more than, he felt, a man of a mere thirty-nine years should have.
“You will delete the info right?” Evan asked.
“Duh,” Yaakov replied. “I just press this and ‘bye.’” The three passport layouts vanished. “You see, I designed my hard drive components myself. When I wipe, there’s no way to recover even traces with my micro-magnetic sweeper system.”
“Good to know. Is there anything else, before I go?”
“Yes, you could give me more stats on the girl: phone number and maybe her measurements. She looks to be a seven out of ten.”
“She’s out of your league,” Evan replied, “trust me.”
“A guy can dream.” Yaakov replied with a shrug. “You always did get the hot ones.”
Before Evan could correct him as to the nature of his female colleagues, the counterfeiter rose and stretched. “Oh by the way--” his words were cut short when he suddenly went stiff. He fell forward against Evan, who caught him. A warm fluid covered Evan’s hand that was supporting the back of the man’s head.
Yaakov’s face was frozen in his partial grin, his eyes stared downward at nothing. Evan looked up, as on the wall before him, an ominous black spot grew, and through it stepped The Czech.
“You should drop him and run, but it’s not going to help you much.” The Czech sneered, as he produced the familiar tranquilizer gun from his jacket.
Evan had been easing his hand into Yaakov’s pant pocket. He saw The Czech’s muscles twitch as he prepared to shoot. Evan dove backwards and to the left, rolling behind the computer desk. In his hand he held the cell phone he had retrieved from Yaakov’s jeans.
Backing up against the office desk, Evan tried to calculate his next move. His thoughts gave way to reflex, when he noticed a black spot appear in the desk by his neck. He dove forward though a doorway as a dart shot by him, having passed through the desk and computer. His roll ended with him standing up and staggering into a large room with a staircase, hugging the wall as it spiralled upwards. He ran up the stairs. As the building of Yaakov’s hideout was an abandoned development project, many of the floors that the stairs would have led to, had not been built, therefore his only destination could be the roof.
Evan did not hear any pursuit. But he refused to look back. In three more flights and he would make it to the top, but to his consternation, a black circle appeared in the ceiling, above the next landing.
The Czech slipped through the void. Once he was out of the wall, the black stain vanished, returning the ceiling to its original drab appearance, while he landed lightly on the steps.
Evan was shocked, and he could not help but show it.
The Czech grinned, “Come now, you didn’t think I was a one-trick dog, only able to merely phase through things?” he shook his head as he raised the tranquiliser. “I would think, you would expect the unexpected.”
Evan’s eyes looked slightly upwards, noticing the edge of a sky light above the centre space of the staircase. He silently fell backwards over the railing into the air, hoping he would be able to take off quickly enough to not hit the cement floor below. Just as his fall began to pick up some speed, he felt the energies swirl around him, and the inertia of being rocketed towards the domed skylight. He pushed both of his hands upwards, sending a ripple to impact into the plastic dome. The dome shot off of the building into the air, followed by Evan.
The Czech lunged forward and looked up into the hole the skylight left behind, just in time to see his target disappear from view. He hit the railing in frustration.
Up in the air, Evan pulled out Yaakov’s cell phone and dialled. He landed on a flat roof and listened for an answer.
“Emergency services,” a female voice responded.
“Hello, I have an adult male with head trauma and bleeding badly.” Evan reported calmly.
“Is he breathing?” she asked.
“Alright, I need the address.”
Evan gave her the directions and hung up, rubbing the arm that had been shot the night before. He needed to remember to move it as little as possible. He was about to take off again, when he had the sensation of being watched. He turned to see three pre-teen boys, standing dumbstruck and wide-eyed; their ball game forgotten.
He smiled and nodded politely, “Good evening lads.” he said in English. “I’ll be on by way.” With that, he took off into the air again, leaving three slack-jawed boys in his wake.
“Top of the morning to you!” Evan greeted John and the Sharov siblings, as he rounded the corner of the whitewashed building, onto the lakeside lawn.
“What took you so long?” Mashka asked, in a poor attempt to cover her concern with irritation.
“I landed a few blocks away where there were fewer people. But that’s not important.” Evan’s tone quickly changed, “We have a problem. The Czech found me, I think they are on our trail again.”
“That would be correct.” Aleksei mumbled.
Evan glanced at the boy, then to John, giving a knowing look. “So I assume that they did have a tracking device?”
“That’s not all. If they have been tracking Aleksei since the train station, and they figured out where you were going, then that means they must be onto our plan,” John said. “And since you all were at my house, they might have tracked down my plane.”
“Yeah,” Aleksei spoke up, “The Messenger stabbed this into the base of my neck.” he held up the small device between his fingers.
“And why haven’t you destroyed it?” Evan asked, keeping his tone even.
“Because,” Mashka answered, “it wouldn’t have helped much getting rid of it anyway. They’ve already tracked us this far. We could use it. At least,” she turned to Aleksei, “that’s the idea.”
Evan lowered his eyes, deep in thought, “Alright,” he said, “what have you come up with so far?”
“They don't know everything yet,” Aleksei began, “It may seem our only way of escape has been compromised. But what information could they have found out about you? That you have a plane, probably. Would they know which dock it’s currently at?”
“Maybe not…” John replied with a hint of hesitation. “It is parked in a different boathouse than usual, and government records, Russian government records at that, take a while to update. For once, bureaucracy might come in handy.”
“Still,” Evan countered. “As soon as we head to the docks, they’ll figure out which boathouse is the right one.”
“That’s where the tracking device comes in.” Aleksei said, “I will go into a neighbouring boathouse, throwing them off. They will surround that one, and go after me. You and Mashka, meanwhile, can hide and jump them from behind, while John works on getting the plane ready for take-off. Once the people following us are taken care of, we hop onto the waiting plane, and get out of here.”
Evan shook his head, “Could not someone else be the decoy?”
“No,” this time John elaborated, “both you and I have the training to take down the enemy in a quick and stealthy ambush. And Mashka has the ability, though she lacks experience. Aleksei is the only logical option.”
“Yes I am,” Aleksei insisted, “and I would have plenty of water, just in case.”
“Aleksei,” Mashka said, looking into her brother‘s face, “Don't you think you are being too much of an astronaut? I mean, you act like you can do anything, as long as there’s water nearby. Are you certain that you can do this?”
Aleksei grinned. “There’s little that is certain in this world, but even closer to me than the water, is God. I will be fine, but I am trusting you to have my back.”
She nodded. “And you will. I trust you. Just don’t do anything stupid, besides what you are already planning.”
'Thanks for the vote of confidence, sister.' He had been expecting an all-out ‘nyet,’ but from her response he sensed she was taking him seriously. That felt good.
Evan made eye contact with each one of them as he spoke, “Taking all things into consideration that leaves two tasks for us: finish the plans for tonight, and scope out the docks.”
Everyone nodded in unison. In just a few hours they would open a Pandora’s Box. They could only hope that what sprang out would not be more than they could handle.