The images on the computer screen flashed and changed as rapidly in the
expert hands of the man sitting at the desk. A name and a display of personal information
appeared on the left side of the screen
height and weight. The city of Cascade
a quadrant by the bay
of one square mile
three square city blocks
a street named Prospect and
the home of James Joseph Ellison.
The cold-eyed mans smile held no trace of warmth.
Ellison, he breathed.
Simon orders us all home. Micki is escorted to the station, with Vaslova
anxious to start the interrogation immediately, but Mickis in no condition for it.
Bless Simon; he agrees to give her until morning to recover from the shock of having a
second friend murdered before her eyes.
Im exhausted by the time we return to the loft, ready to pile in bed, clothes and all. From the looks of Jim, hes not in much better condition. He didnt say a word on the ride in, and I didnt push it, content to allow the silence to lie comfortably between us. Jim revealed so much in the time before the raid on the warehouse. After catching Micki red-handed, Im certain hes not in a talking mood.
I head for the bathroom, and when I emerge a few minutes later, I spot Jim, standing by the windows, staring outside. I wait a full minute, but he doesnt turn, doesnt acknowledge my presence at all. Finally, I give up and quietly move to stand beside him.
Whats wrong, man?
Without speaking, he hands me a single sheet of crisp, white paper. Neatly printed in black ink are the words:
I havent forgotten Peru. Have you?
Thats it. No full signature, no elaboration. Nothing.
The threat is unmistakably there. Lying unspoken, hidden beneath those innocent seven words is a threat real enough to send an unexpected shiver up my spine. I grab onto the doorframe, supporting myself until the weakness in my joints passes.
Jim turns and heads to the trunk where we keep the spare linens. Im sleeping on the couch tonight, Sandburg, he states flatly, laying his gun on the coffee table as he passes by.
The sentinels personal territory - his home - has been invaded. Im not surprised, and Im more than a little relieved, that Jim will spend the night on guard outside the French doors to my room.
Taking a last look out into the black night, I turn and head to bed.
I hope the dawn is quick in coming.
Early the next day, a female officer stands nearby as Vaslova questions
Micki, and we watch through the one-way glass of the interrogation room. The coldness of
her tone makes me cringe. I dont envy Micki.
I do not know him, she repeats wearily. And if I did, I wouldnt tell you.
A bit of fire remains in those challenging eyes. Good for you, Micki.
I dont understand Vaslovas reply.
On khotel ubit tebia.
Theres no mistaking the venom in Mickis voice. He is my enemy. Who are you?
You think I am your enemy, too? I am a Russian trying to find the murderer of another Russian.
Jim glances at Simon. Youre letting her interrogate Micki alone?
The captain shrugs slightly. She thought she could get more out of her.
Obviously, Jim disagrees with that assessment. Bad move. Shes not getting a thing.
We listen to whats going on inside the interrogation room.
Your father, Vaslova says quietly. He was political, right?
My father was in the camps, if that is what you mean. That is where he met Gordievsky.
And where did you meet him?
It would be easier to speak Russian, Vaslova points out. Yet you prefer in English. Why?
Micki retorts, Russian in a police station brings back bad memories.
Vaslovas voice drips with anger. Do you think that just because you live here and your friend is an American policeman that we cannot touch you or your family? Her hand whips out, grasping Mickis chin firmly. How is your mother in Smolensk? Or your grandparents in Vilnius? Where will your American friend be when we visit them in the middle of the night?
Mickis tone is as cold as Vaslovas was heated. Calmly, she orders, Go to hell.
Striking like a snake, Vaslova hits Micki hard across the face.
The sentinel springs into action. Thats enough! Jim tears out of the viewing room just as Micki stands and hits Vaslova back. Finally, the officer breaks in to separate the women, and I hurry into the room in time to hear Jim shouting.
You! Outside right now!
Vaslova apparently realizes it wise not to argue and storms from the room with Jim on her heels. Simon looks at me and I shrug. Better go after them, man. Jims pretty pissed.
We catch them around the corner. Jim and Vaslova are eye to eye, glaring at each other with equal fury.
Just what the hell were you doing in there?
This is called interrogation, Detective!
I dont know what kind of oppression goes on in the old country, but here, when you hit and threaten a suspect, it blows the case because theyll file charges!
Vaslova shakes her head emphatically. She wont do that.
Why wouldnt she?
Because she wont give me the satisfaction. Vaslovas voice drops into a low, forceful range. To you, she is a hero. She came to this country looking for freedom. Well, let me tell you something, Detective. The heroes are not the ones that run away, but the ones who stay behind.
Wow. Score one for the Russian inspector. Got a point there, Vaslova.
Simon interrupts the heated exchange. All right, you two, knock it off. He turns to Jim. You go outside. Go on. To Vaslova, he orders, You take a walk and cool off.
I can see the argument building in Jims eyes, but apparently he decides not to buck Simon on this one. Probably a wise choice, given Simons current frame of mind. Unsolved murders involving the feds and international cooperation dont exactly put the man in a positive frame of mind.
I follow Jim from the building, trying to decide whether or not to bring up an idea thats been slowly forming since we found Yuris padded assassination suite. On the one hand, Jims in a pretty foul mood himself. On the other, maybe a change of topic is exactly what he needs. Anything besides Vaslova, right?
Jim? I ask tentatively. Ive been thinking about this Yuri guy.
He waves me off. Chief, I just need a little time right now, okay?
Right. Interpreted from Jim-speak, that means shut up, Sandburg. I ignore the warning. What the hell? How mad can he get?
Jim, just listen to me. This is important. I quicken my steps to match his long strides. Thats Jim. He gets upset, he attacks everything with more of a vengeance. Including walking. Think about this, man. Youve got your incredibly acute distance vision; Yuris got his scopes. Youve got your night vision; hes got night scopes. Youve got your sentinel hearing; Yuris got radios and microphones, right?
The monster-strides slow almost imperceptibly. Yes! Gotcha, Jim!
Whats your point?
Here comes the hard part. Well, hes a sentinel.
One eyebrow quirks upward. Oh, is that so?
I can almost see Jims macho defenses rising. Well, sort of, right? He extends his senses through technology, whereas yours are genetic. I struggle for the right words. Hes a techno-sentinel.
Yeah, Jim points out quickly, I use mine to protect and serve people. He uses his to hunt and kill.
Yeah, yeah, I concede. Given, my analogy isnt perfect, but in all predator combat, even with sentinels, theres some ritual display.
Jim stops at that, staring down at me in full concentration, but I see the clouds of doubt behind those blue eyes. Is this going somewhere?
Calmly, I explain, Yeah. Thats why he didnt explode that bomb last night, man. Why he spared your life. Why he didnt plant another bomb in the loft or pick you off from the top of some high-rise when he had every opportunity. Because in some way, he recognizes you as an equal and that was his way of acknowledging it.
Yuri doesnt know Im a sentinel, Jim points out reasonably.
No, but he knew you in Peru. He knows how good you are, and apparently he came to respect you. He
Jims cell phone rings and he snaps it open. Yeah?
Yuri, Jim mouths silently after a moment. He holds the phone out from his face and leans down so I can listen in.
<I think the thing I miss most about Peru is the food. The trouble with Moscow is you just cant find a good tortilla.>
Oh, man. Where did he get Jims number? Dumb question. This guys a pro. Of course he knows the number. God only knows what else the bastards got on Jim.
<Its been a long time, Captain Ellison. I didnt recognize you at first, but then, a man in jungle fatigues looks very different from one in a stylish leather coat. Also, you did not hang around with how do you say it? hippies? in Peru.>
Jim looks down at his black leather coat, then his eyes cut to me. Im suddenly painfully aware of my long hair and rather casual appearance.
Yuri is watching us.
Jim surveys the rooftops, and it only takes him a moment to zero in on Yuri. Immediately, he maneuvers so that he is between me and the figure high on the building across the street. Covering the phones mouthpiece, he orders, Stay behind me, Chief. Get on your phone and call Simon. Tell him Yuris on the roof of the Goldman building. Now!
I quickly dial the call and fill Simon in. When I cut the connection, I turn my attention back to this scene thats straight out of a spy movie thats playing out on the streets of Cascade.
Mission Impossibles got nothing on us.
What do you want, Yuri? Jim speaks again into the phone. Even though hes still got the phone held out from his face, hes facing Yuri, and I have to strain to hear the reply.
<This is an interesting moment, dont you think? Here we are, two old adversaries facing off again.>
Is that why you called? To catch up on old times?
<I called to tell you to let the girl go. Shes going to die anyway. Theres no need to hurt innocent people.>
Jim asks, Why do you want to kill her?
<Ask Vaslova. The death of Micki Kamerev was decided the minute she entered that warehouse. There is nothing you can do to prevent it. The smugglers will be stopped.>
You killed a friend of mine in Peru. Its not going to happen again, Jim says flatly.
<I killed many people in Peru. I dont even remember the names. However, Micki Kamerev is already a dead woman. There is no need for other innocent people to die, perhaps even a third friend of yours, Captain. I take it that is another friend you seek to protect behind you now.>
Reaching behind, Jim finds my arm and shifts me farther behind him. Stay back, he orders quietly. To Yuri, he declares, It stops here.
<Then I wish you luck, Captain. But know this: the next time we meet I will kill you and whoever else gets in my way.>
The phone clicks off, and I see the figure on the rooftop disappear. Moving in front of Jim, I look up into a face carved from stone. Jim? You okay?
His eyes break away from the roof at last. Yeah, Chief. Lets go. Jim takes off at a run toward the station.
Jim told me to wait in the break room with Vaslova while he filled Simon
in, and Im trying to make the best of the situation. Everybody has their redeeming
qualities, right? Ive just gotta find them in Vaslova.
Moscow must be pretty exciting these days, huh? I ask in an attempt to start a conversation about anything but the case at hand. The divergent cultural pressures, they must be enormous.
She turns on me in a heartbeat. Cultural pressures, Mr. Sandburg? The city is falling apart!
Before I can respond, Jim blows in like a hurricane, with Simon in his wake. Yuri told me to ask you why Micki is a target. Now, what the hell does that mean? No more lies!
After a long look from Jim to Simon, she closes the door. The Russian economy, it is crumbling. Diamonds are one of our few stable sources of income. Smuggling threatens that stability. If too many diamonds are sold, the value of our stones goes down. They cannot allow that to happen.
Simon barks, They? They who? Who the hell are we talking about here? The Russian government?
There is more than one Russian government, Captain. There are the leaders everyone sees, and then there are the people who are behind them. These people will do whatever is necessary to protect their interests, even if it means hiring assassins.
I cannot believe what I am hearing. Is that who hired Yuri? This shadow government?
Yes, she confirms. To stop the smuggling.
Jims calmer now, but the irritation in his voice is undeniable. Why didnt you tell us this before?
I come from a country of secrecy, Detective. In Russia, we thrive on suspicion. Being open is a sign of weakness. A hint of a smile breaks the cold mask. Perhaps there is something I can learn from you.
The intercom buzzes, announcing a call for Simon. We all watch him curiously.
Banks here. What? Well, stall her, damn it! He slams down the phone. Micki Kamerev just made bail.
Jims already out the door before he finishes the sentence.
Mickis in no mood to listen to reason as we trail along after her
down the street away from the station.
Come on, Micki, Jim argues. This is stupid! The guy that shot at you could still be out there.
I will take my chances. She strides on in determination.
He got Dimitri. He almost got you at the warehouse. I mean, at least, at the station, youre safe.
She shoots a look at Jim. When I left Russia, I swore I would never be in prison again.
I cant believe her. Oh, good! I comment sarcastically. A lot of good that freedoms gonna do when youre dead!
Live free or die. Thats the American way!
This is suicide, Jim shouts as we cross the street. This guy could be out here anywhere.
The words have scarcely left his mouth when two dark vans screech up, stopping on either side, effectively blocking us in.
Watch out! Jim warns, trying to get between me and the guy in the dark suit heading at us. He goes for his gun, but one man stops him as another grabs Mickis arm.
Leave me alone! she protests.
No sudden moves, cautions the guy whos now slipping Jims gun into his jacket pocket.
What the hells going on here? Jim shouts. Who are you people?
No one answers him, but two of the suits grab Jim as another firmly grasps my shoulders, escorting us to one of the vans. Mickis quickly placed in the other, and we take off in opposite directions.
Oh, hell. Im pushed down on the floor in the windowless back of the van, and Jim is forced down across from me. I stare at him, trying to get a clue about how to handle this situation. Shaking his head, Jim shoots me a look that is half-apology, half-promise.
Itll be okay, Chief, he says softly. Itll be okay.