It was almost noon by the time they felt somewhat satisfied with their strategy.
“So, excluding specific details, the game plan is:” Aleksei summarised, “We all go some place public, being certain to always have an escape route. I will hold the tracking device, keeping at least one of their guys occupied. Mashka and John, you will go downtown to shake anyone who might be following you. Chekhov will scout out the docks and find any tactical advantages we can glean.”
“That’s basically it.” Evan affirmed, “From here on out, watch the clock and get going.”
“Da!” the other three agreed.
Aleksei’s job was to stay put until 5:15 pm, when the ambush was supposed to be ready. Any daytime operation was out of the question, too much chance for getting other people involved, especially if they or their pursuers were forced to exploit their supernatural abilities.
With a final glance at his friends, he walked to a bench on the sidewalk. Closing his eyes, he raised his right hand, extending his first two fingers to his lips, to maintain his focus. He lowered his other hand to the seat of the bench next to him. Twelve wisps of mist rose ten centimetres above the ground. They spun in place for a moment like tops, then fell over and spread out in each direction, making branches between them, completing the web, a hundred and twenty metres in radius. He could sense all movement as the vapour lost its design, and became an invisible sheen. He had it climb over any obstacle as well. He did not want anyone trying to come from above to avoid his screen. His right hand fell to his side and his head nodded forward. To any casual observer it would seem as if he fell asleep, but his mind was more active now than it had ever been.
“Just six hours,” he whispered to himself.
Mashka and John were to go into the shopping district of town. This was a ploy to split up anyone who might be tracking them. They would ‘shop’ until 4:10 pm at which time they would lose their followers, and return to the docks and hide.
Mashka looked around, trying to force herself to appear interested in what was around her in the large market. Normally she would have enjoyed the excursion, had her partner not been a complete stranger, and the small matter of being fugitives.
“I’ll have one of these.” John said to a well-bundled merchant at a stall. He walked back towards Mashka.
“What did you get?” she asked.
“These might help disguise you.” He handed her a pair of sunglasses.
She smiled, “That’s not the only thing I can use them for.” She placed them on her face and looked over them at John. He saw her blue eyes change to a bright golden, and the pupil shrink to a tiny slit. “Now I can use all my senses.” she raised the glasses which now effectively hid her eyes.
John suppressed a shudder. It was just so unnatural. The young woman next to him was far more than anyone would imagine at first appearance.
Mashka had other thoughts on her mind. She was working hard to hear past all the bustle of the market, concentrating on anything irregular. Smells, both pleasant, and not, came to her. And her eyes looked far into the crowd for anyone who might be following them.
Suddenly her mood changed and she grabbed John by the arm, “This way!” she cried gleefully. She dragged him to a clothing boutique and walked in. More specifically, a woman’s clothing shop.
“Well we have time, and money, or so I’m told. Might as well use it!” Mashka said mischievously.
“Oh dear.” he sighed.
Evan strolled down to the boardwalk in front of the docks taking deep, thoughtful breaths of the brisk lakeside air. He noted the port administration building and started to walk towards its glass door, until he saw a particular woman in front of the reception desk through the windows. 'Anya!' He panicked and ducked into an alley, between two restaurants. He leaned out carefully to look. 'The last thing I need is a confrontation with her!'
He needed a map of the docks, and the easiest source had been cut off. As he began formulating schemes, a voice spoke to him.
“Hey, sir, why are you hiding?”
He whirled around to see a young, golden-haired girl behind him.
“Well,” she said, “What are you up to?”
Evan considered his next words when inspiration struck. “You see, in that building is my ex-wife. I’m not allowed within 150 metres of her. However I need a map of the docks.”
“And why is she in there?” the girl prodded, “And why are you not allowed near her?”
“Both she and I have boats here, a shared hobby, actually. It’s how we met. Anyway, it is really difficult having to avoid each other constantly. But I don’t have time to wait for her to leave. Perhaps you would get a map for me? I’ll pay you, say, six hundred roubles; one hundred now, and the other five hundred, when you return.”
“You still haven’t told me why you can’t be near her.” the girl continued glaring.
“Th-the details aren’t important!” Evan feigned embarrassment spectacularly.
The girl shrugged, “Very well, can’t refuse free money.” she took the roubles, signing the deal.
Evan complimented himself at having come up with a believable story on such short notice. Before he could stroke his own ego much longer, the girl returned. She extended her hand with the folded map. Just as Evan was going to take it, she snapped it back.
“I want the money first,” she said, “eight hundred rouble.”
Evan was about to protest at the raised price. However the girl gave a challenging look that conveyed her thoughts, ‘you’re the one stalking your ex here, I have all the cards.’
“You’re good,” Evan replied smiling, “And here’s an extra thirty, for being savvy.”
“Spasibo,” she said, giving him the map, “You were asking for trouble marrying her,” she nodded the direction of the building, “she was too young for you and uptight. Try to find someone who has a little breathing space next time.”
Evan shook his head, “Just how old are you? Twelve? You shouldn't have this much insight.”
“I’m eleven,” she responded, seeming irritated at the gross over-assumption of her age, “and yes I know more than most any eighty year old.”
“I am honoured to have encountered your wisdom.” Evan bowed. “Now before you go, I just need to ask, what was she asking about?”
“She was trying to get a full list of who owns which docks, but was not having any luck.”
“Heh, nosey as ever. Well spasibo young lady, you can go.”
She rolled her eyes, as if it was absurd that she needed to be told when she had to come or go. She dashed away, but before she was out of sight she turned and yelled, “See you some other time--!” Her voice fell away when all she saw in the alley were spinning bits of paper, the man nowhere in sight.
From the roof Evan smiled and waved, then hurried to the next rooftop, making as much space between himself and Anya. He flipped open the cell phone he had bought from Yaakov, and called John.
“Ah, John, I caught sight of a former associate. Bad news, they know you have a plane. Good news, they are clueless as to where it’s located.”
“So everything continues as planned?”
“Yes, have you lost your tail yet?”
“Hopefully, you are paying me back, right?”
Evan chuckled. “All in good time, yes. Just be sure to remind Maryja that she will not be keeping most of it. Might make her a little less zealous. Oh, and I’m sending you a picture of the dock map. Find a place to print it off. Good luck.”
Once he took and sent the photo, Evan was onto the next part of the plan: hide out at a bar, with a good view of the boathouse, where the plane was being stored. When the time was right, he would be the third line of defence, and take out anyone causing Maryja and John trouble. He would wait until it was dark enough to fly without being noticed. Being in a bar gave him extra cover as anyone who did see him take off, would be assumed as being drunk if they told anyone.
He decided to check up on Aleksei. Staying in the same bar for five hours would be bound to attract attention, so he figured he might as well see if there was going to be any problems.
Evan walked carefully towards the edge of the statue-adorned lawn. He saw Aleksei leaning over, looking as if he had fallen asleep. He was startled when Aleksei opened his eyes and gazed directly at him. Evan bobbed his head, hoping to get across that he was just seeing if the boy was fine.
The young man pointed to the ground. Evan looked down and before him were Cyrillic letters written with lines of vapour.
‘Plan… going… well?’ they said, one or two words forming, then vanishing, to be followed by the next. The letters reformed again, ‘nod or… shake… head.’
Evan nodded in reply, taken aback. He shrugged his shoulders in wonder and pointed, mouthing the word, ‘how?’
It took a few moments for the clouds to give the reply, ‘Boredom… makes one… learn much. At least it’s… discreet way… to talk.’
Evan nodded, still in awe at Aleksei’s brilliant application.
‘This means… we… wait.’ were Aleksei’s last words before leaning over, feigning sleep.