It had been almost seventy-two hours since David was kidnapped. Grandma Annie was worried. David promised to have dinner with them on the second night he was missing.
“He’s never late, you know,” Grandma Annie said dejectedly.
“I know, but David works very hard. I’m sure he’ll make it next time,” Marlene fibbed. She knew how every single fictional spy character felt now. Lying to the people that mattered to her the most was agonizing.
If you want to see your brother alive, go to 650 Cavendish Crescent South in Nottingham at 9 o’clock tomorrow night. Tell no one.
Marlene stared at her Section Seven cell phone, lying in her left palm quietly. She looked at the mouse attached to her computer, gripped by her right hand. Oliver. Oliver would know what to do. He always had the answers and always knew just what to say when she needed to hear it.
But maybe, just this once, she would do this on her own and prove her worth to Section Seven. She deleted the e-mail immediately, and hacked the server so that no trace of the e-mail could be found. Then she tossed her cell phone in the trash and left the apartment Section Seven put her in for the duration of her stay in London. David didn’t deserve whatever Aurora and Syrai were doing to him. Marlene squeezed the tiny jade necklace engraved with good luck characters around her neck. She was going to fix this.
Marlene changed clothes, rented a car, and staked out number 650 on Cavendish Crescent South. She was unable to sit still and her rental car was already littered with Starbucks cups and fast food wrappers. Cavendish Crescent South was an affluent neighborhood and a “for let” sign was stationed outside of the flat. A few of the neighbors stared at her from their fancy windows as she sat alone for nearly an hour, waiting for nine o’clock to roll around.
When it finally did, she left the car unlocked and walked to the front door. Testing the doorknob on the front door, she found it unlocked as well. Marlene’s senses were on full alert, her body taut, her fingers itching to shoot the Beretta in its holster at her side.
“Punctual. I like that,” Syrai said nastily from nearby, before lunging at Marlene.
It was dark, but the house was empty, so there wasn’t any furniture to contend with. Recalling her hand-to-hand combat training, she discovered that she and Syrai had similar moves, and Syrai knew them better than she.
After a few minutes of sparring, Syrai launched herself across the room to give herself some distance and pulled something from her hip. Marlene freaked out, but there was nowhere to run. But instead of hearing a gunshot, it was muffled and flew into her leg. Before she could figure it out, she touched the tranquilizer dart in confusion before she fell asleep.
“Hello sweetheart,” a familiar Italian voice sang from in front of Marlene.
Her head was spinning, her vision foggy. She blinked her eyes. There was a pale light cast from behind two looming shapes that stood in front of her. Marlene tried to rub her eyes, but she found herself restrained. Her stomach hurt from hunger. It must have been days since she’d lost her fight with Syrai.
“I didn’t want to do that,” the Italian accent said apologetically, “but my safety comes first. You understand.”
Marlene blinked more and her eyes adjusted to the whitish glow cast from a single light bulb overhead. “What do you want with me?” Marlene croaked from her dry lips.
“With you and your brother, you mean,” Aurora said. “I don’t think we’ve formally met. My name is Aurora Pagano, and you… well, I already know who you are.”
“Let me go,” Marlene demanded halfheartedly.
“You haven’t heard my proposition yet,” Aurora said brightly.
“Don’t care,” Marlene shot back. “Where’s my brother?”
“I was getting to that. If you agree to become partners with me, and your brother is included in your decision, I’ll let you out of here. See, we’re connected, the three of us. It only seems natural that we take down Section Seven together,” Aurora explained. “They have taken everything you love. They have done the same to me. I only pursue retribution for those they have done wrong.”
“Is this your sick, twisted idea of Robin Hood?” Marlene bellowed.
She paused at Marlene’s outburst, smiling like a child in a candy store. “Syrai told me she was there when you told David you withheld her true identity from him. Why? Because you are a cog in the capitalist, blindly patriotic machine that is Section Seven. Is that what you think of yourself? A tool? You’re much better than that Marlene.” Aurora’s high heels clicked on the wooden floor as she paced in front of Marlene. “The world will be our oyster, as they say. Come with me, join me, because I won’t allow allegiances to a country. Our only allegiance will be to ourselves. Secrets will never be kept between us. We have a common bond that makes perfect sense if, and only if, we work together.”
Marlene’s focus was adjusting quickly. They were in an empty room somewhere in the house. She could smell the musty dampness like there was standing water sitting in puddles nearby. The windows were blacked out with dark curtains, and she couldn’t see further than that, but she felt that David was inches away from her. She racked her brain, trying to figure out a way she could get out of this. They had taken her Beretta and she was bound tightly. ‘Stall for time,’ she thought. ‘They do that in all the good movies.’
“And if I say no?” Marlene asked.
Aurora pulled out Marlene’s Beretta. “Then I kill your brother. And you get to witness his assassination.”
Marlene hesitated. But before she could give Aurora her decision, someone spoke up before her.
“What?” Aurora said icily.
“Aurora, you said it yourself,” Syrai argued. “We need him, but we can’t have her without him. Leave David alone.”
There was a brief, muted flash of light, illuminating the angry face of Aurora Pagano, before there was a thump on the floor. Marlene could smell the charred flesh of a fresh gunshot wound, and knew immediately it was Syrai.
“I could never stand for blatant insubordination. Now,” Aurora said, her voice moving and aiming – at least Marlene could assume – the silenced but still smoking 9mm at her with every vestige of politeness a terrorist could muster, “what say you?”