By Wayne Fowler
|Author Notes||I began this as a contest entry for 'The Best Time of My Life'. I soon realized that there was an Ohmie story in it. Guess who won.|
By Wayne Fowler
In the first chapter, Ohmie’s parents were arguing over him being suspended from school. Ohmie’s father, who he rarely saw, had come home during the night. Ohmie has stage four lymphoma cancer but takes chemo therapy. Just after Ohmie’s mother left the house in a tiff, Dad gets a call from his employer. It would seem that he was not engaged in import/export, but something more sinister. Taking Ohmie with him, they flew from their home near Washington D.C. to London. They were met by two assassins at their hotel room. Ohmie has just killed them both while Dad had been beaned and was unconscious.
I heard Dad groan. That snapped me outta my trance-like state. I was leaning on the bed, the one nearest the door. The dude that had opened the door was the one who pulled Dad into the room, kicking me and the door. Me, to get me out of the way, and the door to shut it. Dad reached for his head, but before getting there, he jerked alert, checking out the scene. What he saw was two dead guys with two holes in each. They were about his size, six foot one, or so. Both had dark hair and were dark complected, but not Middle East dark. Dad also saw me holding his gun.
What was going on? How’d I get here? I tried to think. But sometimes that’s just about more’n I can do. The last I remember Nurse May was helping me into a wheelchair to go to chemo. I don’t remember going home. Or being with Dad at all. I know we’re in a hotel room. That’s obvious by the exit chart on the room’s door.
Is this normal? Are hallucinations part of my condition and treatment, or side effects of the meds, or the cancer? I know this is real. There’s definitely two bodies on the hotel room floor. You don’t trip and nearly fall over an apparition, or a dream. Or do you? Was my memory of Nurse May helping me the dream?
Without saying a word, Dad slowly reached out and took the gun from me. “How long was I out?” he asked.
I didn’t answer. I was still trying to figure out whether it was one minute, or ten, or two days. That’s a laugh, though. I didn’t even know he’d been out.
“Time to go, Ohmie. Bobbies’ll be here. Probably already in the building.” With that, he had his bag and was out the door, not bothering to see whether I was following. He did take the time to put his gun in his waistband.
The hotel was one of those Old World kind, definitely not a Motel 6 built like a short stack of dominos. This thing had hallways like a hospital. I figured we were heading for the back. We weren’t. Using the stairs, by the time we got down to the first floor, called the ground floor here in England, we were near the front lobby, just down a hallway from it.
“You okay?” he asked. I guess I was having a little trouble keeping up. “Go out the front door just like this is your own house,” Dad said. “Don’t run. Don’t look around. Just head for the door and go out. Turn left and walk. I’ll find you.”
My mouth flapped once or twice, but seeing Dad’s expression, I knew better than to question him. I just hoped I’d been listening to know whether he said to walk left, or right. Sometimes your brain plays games on you. You’re pretty sure you heard one thing, and then you could swear that you heard the opposite. I asked my hands. Yup. My left was the one that had done a little wiggle when he’d said it.
I’d walked about a half mile, I figured. Four blocks, anyway. At home, nine blocks was a mile all over town. I wasn’t walking fast, just trying to match the other pedestrians. That was tough enough. I was really cooked, roll me in batter and drop me into the grease. There weren’t many, other pedestrians, that is, but I tried not to stand out anyway. Dad was beside me without me knowing he was anywhere near. I have no idea how he did it, but he was wearing a blue sports logo jacket, probably soccer, or football as they call it here. And no tie. And a baseball cap. The cap logo didn’t match the jacket.
“Your jacket and hat don’t match.” I said. “You look like a confused American.”
Dad glanced at me, giving me a little nudge. “In here.”
It was a pub. “I’m only thirteen. Just barely.”
“So sit tall and don’t slouch,” he said. “Order Coke.”
“I prefer Pepsi,” I said as we got to a booth that his nod told me was ours. I was beginning to feel a little better.
Dad ordered a pint. I guess they knew what to put in it.
He raised his hand just enough to send a clear signal. His eyes were surveying the room, but I figured he was just thinking.
“You’re not into import and export, are you?”
I saw a slight twitch to his left upper lip. It was just an instant, but it was a smile.
“You’re a spy, aren’t you?”
His glare told me to shut it, even though I’d whispered and there was no one nearby.
“No questions, got it?”
I got it. Dad took another swig, got up and headed for the door, leaving a twenty on the table. He’d only drunk half of his pint. I hadn’t touched my coke yet. Getting up to follow him was about all I could do. So I picked up his pint and took a big a gulp as my mouth could hold. I got it down as best I could. Probably about the same as if it was turpentine. No wonder he left it. Out the door, I turned left. Nope. He’d gone right. I followed at a pace that would catch me up to him in about a week. He never once looked back. I didn’t think him losing the hat was such a big disguising technique.
Suddenly he was at my side again, coming up from behind. “Cross the street, he said. “We’re getting a cab. He didn’t have the jacket anymore. His sleeves were rolled up and his light brown hair looked like Boris Johnson’s. The taxi took us to the bank that Dad told him the name of. He didn’t tell me whether to follow him, or to drop dead. I followed, even though I felt more like dropping dead. Inside the bank he pointed at a couch in the center of the room. “Give me your backpack. And don’t let anyone shoot you,” he said under his breath as he proceeded further into the bank. I hadn’t noticed when he’d lost his carry-on bag. Probably way back at the hotel.
Ten minutes later we were watching for another cab that I figured Dad had someone call for him. Nope, it was the same one as before. Must’ve circled the block for ten minutes.
“You must be used to working alone, huh?” I asked.
He did the same little lip twitch again, but didn’t even glance my way. I started to say something… to ask something actually. But I remembered Dad’s remarks about the same time his hand lifted into the air. My pie hole, I shut. We were going to Heathrow. Flying me back home was my guess. 221b Baker Street would have to wait.
Nope. Wrong again. Dad bought me a ticket to DC all right, but it was on a flight that wasn’t leaving until after his flight to Warsaw. And he bought his Warsaw ticket using a different passport from the one I saw at Reagan National. According to the flight schedule monitor, there were two other flights to DC before mine. Why would he leave me here at the airport alone for an hour after his flight left?
We went to the bathroom where he directed me into a stall. “Lock it,” he said. In a couple minutes I guess the room had cleared ‘cause he started talking to me. I had to strain to hear because he spoke quietly. “We’re not going home.”
Puzzled, I didn’t say anything. “You’re coming with me.”
“To Warsaw?” I wondered, not saying it out loud.
The door opened and several people came in. I figured they just got off a long flight and all had to go. It took several minutes before he could resume. “We’re going to…”
“Warsaw,” I filled in. When he didn’t respond I told him that I’d read his lips when he bought his ticket.
“I’ll get your ticket at the last minute. In the meanwhile we’ll do a little shopping, eat, and wait for our flight at the Canada terminal. Now remember… no questions. Change shirts with one from your bag. When you leave here go back to the main entrance area and look for the shops. It’s okay for you to ask directions. I’ll meet you there.”
I didn’t say anything. A couple minutes after the door opened and shut, I went through it, turning left outside the door. The shirt I’d changed into wasn’t much different from the one I took off, but it was a little. I did have a Nationals hat. I’d thrown it into my back pack grabbing it at the same time as the Clancy novel. Getting my hat was when I saw the bundles of cash and the two guns and boxes of ammo that Dad must’ve put in there at the bank. No way he’d just leave me with all that stuff. I figured he be watching me as I made my way to the shops.
Ohmie is derived from the parts of electricity: amps, volts, ohms, watts, and etc.
This story takes place in modern time. I'm not sure if I will post it all. Usually I don't post until the work is complete. I'm up to about 20K words and still not sure who the protagonist is.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter, Ohmie’s father came to and they escaped the hotel with two dead assassins in their room. They managed to get to Warsaw without detection by the police, or whatever bad guys are after Ohmie’s father, the spy.
Dad bought himself a change of clothes, a reversible coat, and a suitcase. Before leaving the store he stuffed my backpack and carry-on into the case. He had the new jacket on as we left the store. I guess my looks were okay. “Canada” was all he said. I headed back the way we came until I spotted a flight schedule monitor that told me the gate number. I followed signs to get there, picking a seat where I could watch the approaching travelers. I don’t know how he did it, but Dad came from the other direction and sat beside me. After handing me the Clancy book, he settled back, his head leaned way back like he was asleep. He wasn’t though. I could see his eyes were just slightly open. And he wasn’t breathing like a man asleep. More like someone on high alert.
“We’re going to stay right here for about two hours,” he said. It was funny. In my head all I could think of was a ventriloquist. It was like I was the dummy. Dad was talking super quiet, but his lips weren’t moving. I knew not to look at him. I just sat the looking at page eleven. “Then I’ll get up and go to the lounge that we passed. We’ll be in there almost an hour. Then get you a ticket and we’re outta here.”
I acted like I didn’t hear him, surprised that he let so much of the plan out. After we ate we went to a bathroom again. I guess he reversed his jacket when he took it off. This time I did have to go. Dad did too, or at least he made himself go. When there was no one but us in there, he had me stand by the door. If anyone tried to come in, I was to crash into the door and make a big fuss, falling down and all. No one did, and I didn’t, but I could hear Dad breaking down the two guns into their various parts. He gave me back my backpack and had his coat reversed again.
We got my ticket and just made it to the gate. It wasn’t until we were in the air and the seatbelt indicator light was off that Dad leaned over to talk. He started right out like he was answering questions, “Warsaw because this flight is never full. And being as late as we were, they didn’t x-ray our checked suitcase. Warsaw because I know my way around and we can be out in the country in minutes. What we did to get here is because London has cameras everywhere. I don’t have another passport for you. You have my name. Whoever found me, can find me again. I just slowed them up a bit. Make ‘em work for it. They lost me, and figured you were headed home. They probably already know that you are not on that flight, but on this one. They’ll assume that I’m on it, too. But at least they aren’t on it with us.”
“Dad,” I started. He snapped back toward me probably wondering what question I could possibly have that he hadn’t answered. “What about my dialysis and chemotherapy?”
Dad sighed heavily, drawing in a lungful through his nose and letting it go the same way. “Look, the dialysis was precautionary. You’re borderline. And with the other …” he paused for a second. “With the other, the cancer, they didn’t want the complication.”
“And the chemo?” I asked.
“You remember what the doctor said? Radiation was out, right? And surgery.”
“With treatment, you might have what six, eight months? And without maybe two, three if you were lucky? What’s the difference between three months and six months? Six months of puking up your guts? It’s not like in those next three months they’re gonna find the magic cure.”
After a moment’s pause, me not saying anything, Dad looked at me, “Look. I can get you back home. You’ll just miss a couple treatments, But I can’t just send you. They nab you and use you for leverage. Hell, I’d give up the nuclear codes and they know it.”
Dad was exaggerating about the codes. No way he has those. But the shocker was that he’d give up anything at all to keep me from getting hurt. Then this.
“And after whatever they threatened or did, they’d kill us both anyway. It ain’t the movies, kid, where they talk an’ yammer ‘til you find a way to escape. They tie me up, hammer one of your fingers, and then hammer the same one again. You screamin’ and I can’t go belly up fast enough. Then it’s lights out. I’ll know what’s coming, but won’t be able to stop myself from giving up a lot of innocent people.”
“Promise me you’ll find a way for me to say good-bye to Nurse May,” I said, looking him square in the eye.
He nodded. I think that was when he choked back something or other. He looked away to keep me from seeing tears. His other hand was moving like he was wiping his face. I turned to the window and looked at Europe.
We took a cab from the airport to a small hotel on the outskirts of the city, up against a forest that looked more like a wall, a fort wall. We unpacked. Mostly, I think, so Dad could collect all the parts of the two guns. He assembled them seemingly without looking, like his hands knew which parts went to which of the two guns, where they went, and in what order to assemble them. He was like a stranger. A complete stranger. I didn’t even know him. What do you say to a man you thought was just your dad? What would you say to James Bond, suddenly the center of your existence? I said nothing, sensing that to be his preference. Fully assembled and operational, he loaded four magazines, inserted one into each gun and jacked a round into each chamber.
“Only two times you don’t want your gun ready to fire: one, when you plan to operate a jack hammer, and the other when you plan to die.”
I didn’t know this man.
Ohmie is derived from parts of electricity: amps, volts, ohms, watts and etc.
Ohmie has just turned 13. He is a prodigy, gifted both left and right brain. And he has stage 4 lymphoma. Of late, he has had an attitude. He has just learned that his dad is a spy working for the CIA.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie and his father come to the realization that Ohmie may not survive their ordeal. They have traveled by air from London to Warsaw to escape capture, as well as to teach Ohmie to shoot.
“Let’s go,” he said, tucking the larger of the two guns into the waistband at the small of his back. He handed me the smaller of the two, telling me to put it in my backpack. I’d already taken out all my stuff. His jacket didn’t really hide the gun when he stretched, but he didn’t seem to care. I followed him out of the hotel and around it to a path that led into the woods. We weren’t far from the airport.
Barely into the forest, Dad pulled out his pistol. For a moment, just a quick second, I wondered if he was going to shoot me.
“We wait a few minutes. See if anyone followed us.”
I didn’t know this man.
“That’s a Berretta,” he said, pointing to my backpack. His finger and hand told me to take it out. "Nine-millimeter. That’s about the same as a .38 caliber, or .357. All about the same as long as you fire hollow points. Two things are important: Know how many rounds you have, and if you are going to shoot…. Well, I guess you already know the second one.” I knew he was talking about shoot to kill.
“Your Baretta holds thirteen rounds. This Glock holds seventeen. You need to count, yours and mine. One thing sure, whoever shoots at you, has more bullets than you do. Don’t bother counting theirs. Your main job is to survive. Kill ‘em if you can, run if you can’t. And no hiding. They will find you. Run. How do you feel?”
After a moment I replied. He waited. “About my cancer, or killing those two men?”
He just looked at me.
“I feel okay. And those two? What choice did I have?”
Dad just nodded. “It’s normal to feel bad after killing another human. We aren’t supposed to do that sort of thing. Something biological about it.”
“I’m just a little worried they might be, you know, on the other side settin’ a trap for me. When I get there in two or three months.”
This time it was a real smile, teeth and all. “If I thought that for a minute, I’d cross over and take care of ‘em for you.”
I gave him the first smile of my life, far as I know.
He pointed to a tree about forty or fifty feet deeper into the woods. It was about a foot wide. I knew which one he meant because it was the only one with black bark. I mean, why else would he say that tree?
“Put your weapon in your waist band like mine is. Draw it out and switch off the safety as you aim at that tree and fire as soon as you can, but don’t rush anything. Wait for a jet to begin its takeoff." We were still near the airport.
My shot barely caught the right side of the tree.
“You’re a natural. Where did you learn to shoot?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “London, I guess.” He knew that I meant yesterday.
He grimaced and nodded his head. “Thank you.”
“So who were they?”
“Not sure. I wish I’d had the time to search them, but …”
“But you have an idea? Your last assignment? What you’re working on?”
“Could be. Could be any of a number of groups. Thing is, they knew when and where to find me. Only one person knows me well enough to know that I never stay at the hotel I’ve been directed to. But I don’t know who, or how many he’s shared that information with. My contact was to be in the hotel bar across the street. While en route, I had our hotel concierge go across and pick up the package waiting for me.”
“The satchel,” I said. He nodded.
“So, your phone call contact back home, the two hotel concierges, or other hotel staff, or anybody that paid them?”
Dad nodded, that little smiley thing on his left upper lip giving away his feelings.
“Or whoever might have access to my encrypted phone calls.”
“That’s why you didn’t call anyone for help. Or go to a headquarters building, or anything?” I said.
He nodded. “Now, I want you to run back to the tree line, run back here, and when you get here, spin in place until you hear a jet. Then while still turning, draw and shoot the tree. What I want is for your heart rate and breathing to be elevated, and to simulate a moving target.”
I did as requested, sort of, if my running like a hundred-year-old man counts. This time I barely caught the tree on the left edge, but at the same height as the first shot. I ran like a hobbled horse, returning to the same place and whirling like a top on its last breath. Just before falling down I raised the barrel to fire. I saw Dad diving for the cover of the nearest tree as my spinning brought him within my sights. Like I said, I hit the tree. Dad just stared at me, finally helping me up.
After showing me how to stand and hold the gun with two hands, he had me shoot the tree. I killed it, emptying the magazine into it. Without saying a word, he handed me a box of bullets, pointing at the gun. I pressed the obvious magazine release button and began loading it. Dad showed me how to do it more efficiently.
“Somebody reaches anywhere on their body without telling you what they’re doing, or convincing you that it’s normal, shoot him. Worry about who and what after, while you’re still alive. Anyone begin to point a gun at you, shoot ‘em – even if it’s a cop.” He stared at me hard. “Anyone can get a uniform.”
“Now we go to Berlin. An authentic schnitzel, a night’s rest first, and then the train.”
“What’s in Berlin?” I asked, getting a non-answer.
“We can’t fly again until you get a new passport. Our cover story will be a father taking his son across the globe for experimental treatment.”
Dad looked at me like I was his son dying of cancer.
I've tried every trick I know to correct the spacing issue , all to no avail.
Ohmie is derived from parts of electricity: amps, volts, ohms, watts, and etc.
This 13 yr old Ohmie is in stage four lymphoma.
Circumstances dictated he go to Europe with his father, who he did not know was a spy.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie learns that he a natural marksman. Ohmie comes to terms with killing. They need to get to Berlin where Ohmie can get a false passport.
“How do you feel?” Dad asked. His eyes told me that he didn’t have much hope. In my skivvies I look pretty pathetic – skin and bones. We were in the Warsaw hotel. It was the middle of the night. It was a routine thing for me, though routine only lasted a week or so, before morphing into something different. I got up to pee, knowing I didn’t have to go. But the pressures, or whatever sensations I had, made me not want to risk wetting the bed. I got up and saw that Dad was in the room’s only chair, sitting there looking at me. Either my noises, thrashing, or just my sweating ran him out of the bed. He probably wanted to escape the room altogether, maybe the entire hotel. He probably thought about how easy it would be to smother me and walk away. The cops would think he was a murdering perv who picked up some kid off the street. I sat down to pee these days. Better than falling down and making a huge mess.
It dawned on me that he’d asked how I felt. I decided to be honest with him. If he’d asked before I killed two men, I probably would have had some sassy retort, “With my fingers. How do you feel?” But I didn’t. “Tired most of the time. Low grade fever all the time. Night sweats, as you can see.” I snapped the soaking wet band of my skivvies.
“Is it too early to shower, or will you be sweating some more?”
“Don’t know. What time is it?”
“Here, it’s almost five, In D.C. it’s eleven AM, yesterday.”
I calculated. Dad got home on Sunday morning. I don’t know when, but the arguing brought me down at about seven in the morning. We were in the air for London by eight. I killed two men during the London lunch hour and killed a tree before dark – Sunday. It was five AM Monday here, but for Mom, if she ever came home, it was still Sunday night.
“My body thinks the night has just started. But I don’t know. Changes come faster all the time.”
“By the time we knew you didn’t feel well, you were at stage four.” Dad’s comment could have sounded like an excuse for bad parenting, but I let it go.
“I know. Just the breaks. Nothing on my tablet but short stories.”
Dad winced. The little left lip upward twitch was a right lower lip downward shrug along with a tiny involuntary wink of his right eye. “Shower, dress. We’ll get something to eat and get on the first train outta here.”
“Where to?” I asked, knowing he’d already said Berlin. But that might’ve been misinformation, just in case I was nabbed.
“Anywhere but east. We have to kill a day or so. I… we need to enter Berlin a couple hours before daylight.”
The train wasn’t anything like what you see in the movies. The sleeper car barely had room for a single wide cot. There was another cot above it that dropped down, but the first person had to be on the lower before the upper could be accessed. Then if there were two suitcases, they had to be stacked up. I was laying down while Dad worked with the upper. I guess it was jammed a bit. There were all sorts of noises, what with the train rolling, bobbing and weaving and such, but Dad froze and listened, his ear cocked toward the door. I don’t know how, but I felt movement that wasn’t the train’s motion. Dad’s eyes were focused on the door handle. He didn’t need to raise his finger to me. I wasn’t going to make a sound.
As the door handle turned downward, Dad slammed his shoulder into the door, bursting it open. I couldn’t see very well, Dad blocking my view, but within a second, it seemed, Dad had a guy who resembled the other two inside the compartment and on top of me. I both heard and felt a suppressed gunshot. I think it went into the floor. Dad had the guy by the throat, his fingers drawing blood as he clawed into the dude’s windpipe. Dad was on his left knee, his right leg wrapped around the dude’s up on my cot. The guy’s struggling seemed like forever but couldn’t have been more’n a minute. Dad found the pistol on the floor and put a slug in the guy’s brainpan without blinking, just picked it up, arced over and fired.
“You all right, kid?” he asked, pulling the guy to my side like he and I were lovers and he lay there spent. Only the dude was leaking blood on my pillow.
I nodded. My squeak sounded something like an answer in the affirmative.
“We’ll give it a few, then get this guy off the train. I was glad Dad hadn’t given our passports to the conductor. Most people did. Dad told him, in German, that we would be getting off and on. We were touring.
Surprise, surprise. I never knew Dad spoke anything but English.
I figured the routine was for the conductor to have the passports stamped at borders, saving passengers from having to wake up at every crossing.
Our problem was getting this guy off the train in broad daylight.
Dad wrapped the guy’s head with the bloody pillowcase. He took the other one and pulled it over the top of the wrapped head, tying it at the guy’s neck. Dad’s hand told me to put the bloody pillow into the suitcase. I tried my best to fold it in an effort to contain the blood. Turns out I needn’t have bothered. The whole thing was getting trashed.
“When they announce the next stop, we chuck this guy out the door, and proceed through the next car to the next door. The conductor sees a signal that a door has opened and will come check it out. We get off and walk, briskly without running, through the station house. We’ll take a taxi to another taxi, and then to another. We’ll have to find another way to Berlin.”
I nodded like it all made perfect sense.
|Author Notes||Ohmie is derived from parts of electricity: amps, volts, ohms, watts, and etc.|
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter, Ohmie’s father taught him the rudiments of handgun shooting, surprised that Ohmie was a natural. On a train from Warsaw to Berlin, Ohmie’s father killed another assassin. They managed to toss the body, and exit the train unmolested, although they learned that Ohmie’s cancer was a force to be reckoned with.
“I think I’d better eat,” I said. Dad didn’t hear me. He was several paces in front of me and pulling away hard. Somebody grabbed me. I think they felt the gun and let me go real quick. Somebody else eased my way down to the floor of the station. I didn’t make it out before Dad disappeared. People were scattering, giving me a wide berth. They probably thought I had Covid-19.
“He doesn’t need an ambulance.” It was Dad’s voice, I think. I mean I know his voice, but this was a different pitch. Besides, who else would say that I didn’t need an ambulance. “He has cancer is all. I’ll take care of him.” Dad helped me up and we walked slowly through the parting crowd. “Make way! Gang way!” Nobody said it; I just heard it in my head. It was cool, like I was the captain of a ship and everybody slammed themselves against the bulkhead to make way for me. “As you were, men,” I wanted to say once we were finally out of the station.
I nodded to Dad that I was fine while he got us a taxicab. Inside the cab I could finally tell him that I thought I needed something to eat, a can of tuna, some peanut butter, an egg … any protein. Like I’d accused him, I think he was used to working alone. Especially not having a sick kid to worry about. I wonder if he considered leaving me to the well-wishers at the train station. But then, he did say that he’d go to Hades ahead of me and take care of anyone laying in wait for me. At least I think he said that. Sometimes separating reality from fantasy isn’t real easy for me. And maybe that didn’t have anything to do with cancer.
Dad had the cab driver take us to a restaurant that offered hamburgers.
“Do you need a bed, a hotel room?” Dad asked.
“I can rest in a car, or bus, or train, anywhere,” I replied, though I truly wished for my own bed. “Where are we?”
“We’re in Lodz. Change in plans. We’re going to Lviv.”
“Ukraine! Isn’t that dangerous?”
Dad just looked at me.
“I guess no more dangerous than riding a train.”
Dad nodded. “We’ll get you a Ukraine passport. It’ll be fake, but not a forgery. I’m an Austrian. Your mother raised you in Mariupol. Your family is dead. I got you out. You have no passport. Won’t be any trouble.”
“But I don’t speak Ukrainian.”
“I thought you were a child prodigy? We have time – two days.”
Dad spoke a sentence in Russian. “You speak German and Russian?”
“You think you dropped out of the sky? That your mother and I are birdbrains lucky to have such a gifted child drop from the heavens?”
Dad’s little lip twitch morphed into a smile and then a grin. “My name is Timothy, Tymofiy.”
I had him say it in Russian a few times, but then I came close.
It wasn’t hard to convince the Ukraine officials of Dad’s story. I was having a kinda bad day and didn’t have to fake anything. They took Dad’s application and the photo we had made and sent it off to Kyiv. They promised three days. It was at our hotel in two. With my new passport and one Dad hadn’t used in years, we could go anywhere. But Dad said because of cameras, we would not be flying until we got on a jet for home. But that was still too dangerous. We would take a train to Vienna.
I debated whether to ask questions for a couple reasons. The most important one was the memory of his expression when he told me not to. The second was that I knew that it wouldn’t take hardly any torture at all to get me to talk. And three, he’s a spy. Spies lie for a living. I’d never know if something was true or not. And too, if he told me anything at all, truth or not, if I were to be caught and questioned, I couldn’t say anything, make anything up, because I might accidentally get him, or someone else hurt. And there was a whole lot of that happening already.
“What’s in Vienna?” I asked.
“Only the best philharmonic you’ve ever heard in your life,” he said. “And a cello master that would make Paul Bunyan cry.”
I smiled. Maybe I do know this man.
Dad bought tourist passes. Meaning we could get on and off at our will for a week. But it was only for coach seats. I’d picked up a train schedule and map when we boarded. “Can we get off in Krakow?” I asked. My uncle Stan, he’s dead now. Lung cancer, nothing like mine. His wife’s entire extended family was killed at Dachau, either starved, shot, gassed, or just plain worked to death. Nobody knew for sure, only that they checked in, but never checked out. Leah was given to Catholic neighbors when they were rounded up.
“You wanna see the camp?” Dad asked. “You know they were at Dachau, not Krakow.”
“Yeah, I know, I just figure I’ll never be back.”
Dad didn’t say anything, probably thinking about all the other places I'd never be back to, not in the two or three months I had left.
I made a mental note to stop referencing anything like never this, or never that.
“Vienna sounds great,” I said, staring out the window.
Apologies - After repeated efforts, I could not persuade FanStory to copy the Russian text a second time - My name is Timothy.
The name Ohmie is derived from parts of electricity: amps, volts, ohms, watts, and etc.
FanStory wouldn't copy and paste in Russian, forcing me to put this in edit mode while I was away from home. Sorry.
This is chapter 6 of 38. It will take over 4 months to post it all. I'm not inclined to string it out that long, but longer posts do not interest me, either. Does it break any rules to email the entire file to interested readers? Or would it make more sense to make a Kindle book and offer a free promotion? The problem with Kindling it is how that affects its future in the marketplace. Thank you for any replies to the question.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie got a Ukraine passport. He and his father boarded a train bound for Vienna where Dad would take Ohmie to hear the philharmonic orchestra.
We never got to the philharmonic. Dad had to hit another bank, running low on cash. I guess the first one didn’t have enough of the right kind, or he just didn’t have that much stashed. He also traded passports. I was to call him Papa still, but his name was now Pierre. Oh, yeah. He spoke French, too.
“What other languages do you speak?” I asked, violating our rule. “Swahili, Inuit, Pig Latin?”
I got enough taste of his glare that I imagined him facing off against a killer enemy. It didn’t last long, but I saw it.
“I speak smart aleck fine.” His eyes squinted ever so slightly. “I can understand, and make myself understood pretty much all over western and eastern Europe and Russia. Now going up to Finland, I might just as well be in the Bronx.”
I chuckled because I knew he meant it to be a joke. I guess that’s the first Dad joke I ever heard. Probably my last. (I just couldn’t seem to help breaking my own rules.)
I said we didn’t make it to the philharmonic, not because we weren’t dressed for it, we were going to rent suits, but we were waylaid. My fault. I couldn’t keep up. Dad got his cash at the bank. He told me later that there were cameras outside and inside every bank and that bad actors had access to them, nothing the authorities ever tried could keep them from hacking. He didn’t say, but it was probably my image that triggered them, since Dad looked like everyone else and was wearing a hat. I was too, but how many wobbly thirteen-year-olds go into the Bank of Vienna. Also, I noticed at least one camera that shot pretty much face-on.
“Run!” Dad grabbed my arm to help me run with him. My legs were trying to pump, but it was like they were a day behind my commands. I’d say, “Left leg, now. Right leg, now.” And both of them would stop and say, huh? Which way? How far do you want me to extend? Dad sort of persuaded me into the next alley. He was going to keep running, I guess. “Go toward the river! I’ll find you.”
I don’t know what he saw that triggered his escape mechanism. He must’ve seen my confusion.
“East! Go east.”
We had been standing on the curb waiting for a cab. A car pulled to a stop just past us a little too rushed to Dad’s liking. That’s when he said to run, pushing me to the direction from where the car had come from.
After guiding me into the alley, Dad dodged cars running across the street. He ran into a restaurant, he later told me. He met up with me just two blocks further toward the Danube. I made it through the alley, then turned right toward the river at the end, and then in two blocks he was ahead, walking toward me. We went into the restaurant I had just passed. “Hungry?” he asked as if we’d just had a stroll through the park.
“That happen a lot?” I asked, breaking my rule.
“Mmm-hmmm. Their bacon quiche, or their stuffed tomatoes are good here,” Dad said as if he lived on the block. But first go into the bathroom and move your gun to the small of your back. Leave your shirt untucked. We’ll get you a sport coat that will cover it and get you into the theater.”
I finally opted for a bacon omelet. I ordered two of them, thinking that it would help me. Like cure cancer, I joked to myself. But I couldn’t even finish one. Dad ate the second one like it was nothing.
Dad finished eating, but just sat there. I’d already told him that I was done. I guess he was thinking.
“There’s a cheap hotel a few blocks from here that hookers do their business in. Trouble is, those sort of places will call the law if they think I’ve picked up a boy, just to get on the good side of the law. You know, to earn Brownie points. That makes those places no safer than fine hotels where there are cameras.”
After another pause Dad asked if I’d ever stayed in a Presidential suite, knowing that I hadn’t.
“We’ll cab up near the hotel. You’ll time it so that you can walk in beside an older lady, just pick one. I’ll be behind you a couple steps. Get to a couch and read your book, or something. Don’t try to hide your face, just look normal. I have to make a phone call.”
I was catching on to this stuff, so I didn’t look at Dad at all going in, or once inside. Just casually sauntered to a chair by the wall. No one seemed to notice me. I hadn’t read a page when Dad walked up and whispered “elevator to the top floor” as he walked past. I saw that he waited until I was in an elevator before he got behind a couple people to enter another one. He met me on the top floor where we walked the hallway looking to see if we were alone. We were.
There were only two doors that looked like hotel room entry doors. There were a few more, but there was no key apparatus and these doors were decorated to match the walls, not the grand entries as the other two. Dad knocked on one. I guess he was prepared with some kind of line had anyone answered. It was about ten minutes before his friend showed up. We waited in the stairwell. They spoke in very low tones, Dad’s hand over his mouth. I gathered, confirmed by Dad later, that the guy was a burglar. I saw him pull some sort of steel band like a large steel measuring tape from his pant leg. He slid it under the door, did a few wrist flips and had the door handle turned, obviously from the inside.
Dad gave the guy a bill. We went in. He went home, I guess.
Seeing my questioning look at him, Dad volunteered. Guess he figured it wouldn’t do any harm, after the fact. “I’ve used him before. He looks for jewels, I look for… other stuff. Or I plant stuff.”
“How many names and numbers do you have memorized … all over western and eastern Europe… and Russia?”
I saw that little lip twitch again. “I have a system. Of course, I can’t put any numbers in my phone, so … heard of The Memory Book? Well, a basketball player named Jerry Lucas wrote it, he and someone else. They assigned phonetics to numbers. You make words and phrases out of the sounds. For example, your phone number is cause my car to go quickly. 7-0-3-7-4-1-7-7-7-5. I see a caricature of you speeding in my car , and there it is.”
I made him explain the code to me. No telling how many ways that could help. I wrote it out.
“When that paper leaves your hands, you need to either cook it, eat it, or flush it. Flushing should be the last resort because it might not go all the way down. And if it’s a full sheet of paper, certain parties have been known to break plumbing in order to attempt retrieval.”
“Burn it, eat it, or flush it,” I repeated to his nod. After previewing it for a few minutes, not having a lighter, and not feeling a particular propensity toward paper cuisine, I shredded and flushed it. Dad nodded assent.
“What can you tell me?” I asked, feeling that to be a safe enough question and wanting to know what was what. This way I figured I was leaving all the options in his pocket.
By Wayne Fowler
By Wayne Fowler
The name Ohmie is derived from the parts of electricity: amps, volts, ohms, watts, and etc.
This Ohmie is dying of lymphoma.
By Wayne Fowler
The name Ohmie is derived from the parts of electricity: amps, volts, ohms, watts, and etc.
Ohmie has stage four lymphoma.
Both his parents work for the CIA.
By Wayne Fowler
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie’s parents entertain Ohmie at a polka pub and surprise him at the philharmonic.
Dad hadn’t been to his bank box yet. He didn’t want to be carrying anything if he got captured. In his business, he could be picked up by … put it this way, there was always more than two sides. A dodecahedron has twelve sides. There’s probably shapes with even more. It was just Dad’s side against the bad guy’s side. There were lots of bad guys in this world. And lots of okay guys who spied against their enemies and their friends just because that’s what they do. And those guys act like bad guys when they don’t want your side to know what they’re doing, or what they got.
Anyway, Dad had his present operation guys to think about, and also the other side of every operation he’d ever been involved with. I mean, something he was a part of ten or fifteen years ago might be the other side’s present operation and they’ve been looking for Dad to pick him up and torture him, or something. But to make it worse, triple-double worse (in NBA basketball terms), Dad’s own side thinks he went rogue. For non-spy speakers, that means they think he might have gone bad, turned to the dark side as we Jedi-minded people would say.
All this, and more, came out on Sunday. Not all this, I already knew… I’ve read books. Anyway, here’s how it went on Sunday afternoon.
Mom nodded for Dad to follow her into the tiny bathroom. I saw her glance at me, and then do her head nod.
“You know I can hear you talking in there, don’t you?’
Dad just looked at me.
“Dad,” I said dismissively. “I shot two men in their chest. Then shot them both in the forehead. I got their blood on me. And I helped you throw someone you killed off a train. I know about Pete and Viktar, another guy you killed. Did you shoot him or stab him? Maybe garrote him with a wire tucked in your belt?” I rattled on like a thirteen-year-old. “And I’m going to be dead in a matter of weeks. You don’t have to go in the bathroom to talk.”
I’d been sitting up in the bed reading on my tablet. I flopped over to my side, feeling kind of tired. But I kept my eyes on him. In my peripheral I saw mom was staring at Dad.
Dad looked at Mom, “Tomorrow, I’ll go to the bank and get whatever Pete put into that bundle. Ohmie has to be right on that. Then I’ll take it to the Embassy. I’ll activate my phone once I’m inside and call you. You and Ohmie can be at the airport ready to board.”
Mom thought a moment and nodded. She wasn’t one of those who had to hear an idea come out of their own mouth to hear it, or accept it.
The fallback was to return here, since we wouldn’t actually check out. And that’s what we did, late Monday evening. Mom really was a spook. After waiting in seats at the airport until nearly noon, we mixed into a crowd and left the airport. The crowd helped with cameras and personal surveillance, but it made it harder to get a cab. We got lucky, though, edging our way ahead of people, using our sex appeal, Mom being a looker, and well, I probably was, too, with my bosomy figure.
Mom had our cab drive us past the rooming apartment house. She’d given the driver an address just down the block so he was slowing down enough for her to give the area a good look over. Then she told him that she’d changed her mind, to take us back to a restaurant we’d passed back the other way. Not seeing anything amiss, she told him to stop. “Yes. Right here!” she scolded him. Oh, I forgot to mention that Mom spoke French and rudimentary German, enough to function, but not fool anyone.
We walked the block back to the room, a hassle since we had two suitcases. Mom’s eyes never quit. Our room was on the second floor. Mom made me stay in the lobby while she went up to check out the room. The stupid part of my brain thought “cool”, Dad and I are tied at two. Mom could catch up by shooting two guys in the room. That stupid idea lasted about a half a second, which was a half a second too long. All clear, she signaled for me to come up. Those two suitcases were all my weakened condition wanted. I was exhausted. Catching my breath was hard.
Dad got back to the room just after dark. He brought a bag of cold McDonald’s fish sandwiches. They were all right.
“Tom Dortch,” Dad said to Mom.
She didn’t reply, just waited for him. I think he was still hung up on what to say in front of me. Finally, he came to terms with it, visibly shrugging his shoulders and sighing. “He was in the lobby as I came out of the safe deposit box vault area. I saw him before he recognized me. I went back and returned the drive to the deposit box.”
“Why would you do that?” Mom asked.
I guess Mom didn’t do all that much fieldwork. Or it had been a long time. Since I was born, maybe.
“There was no good reason for him to be there. I figure he’s been staking out The Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Berlin by himself. He absolutely wasn’t there when I went in. And he was watching the entry, not the vault area when I came out. I think he made me as I left, but he didn’t communicate with anyone. It was not an organized operation.”
“Viktar was his,” Mom said. “You think he had something going with him? Between the two?”
“Dortch has no morals, no line he won’t cross to get the job done. I know him well enough to know that. After me doing Viktar, Dortch would visit Pete. It depends on Dortch’s loyalties at that point.”
Both Mom and Dad looked like they were thinking. Not babbling every thought that passed through their heads, but thinking.
“I’m glad you came back,” Dad said. “I mean, not that I want you or Ohmie to be exposed, but I …”
Dad choked up a little.
“I want to spend as much time as I can with … you two.”
I think he was saying with me before I died. Mom dabbed at her eyes and pinched her lips.
“Tell me,” Dad asked looking at Mom. “The good stuff on Viktar’s drive. Did it point to Ukraine, specifically the Russian-speaking Donetsk area?”
Mom said “yes," then added, "but that’s all I know. That’s when I put in for emergency leave. Paul knows about Ohmie’s…”
Paul was Mom’s boss. I knew that. What I didn’t know was that it was at the CIA.
Mom continued. “Paul would have called me the next day, or the day after that for sure. After leaving a message on the home phone, he would have tried my cell. Of course, I pulled the battery before leaving for the airport. He’s probably been to the house, or sent someone, Sarah, maybe.”
Dad nodded his head.
“Tom Dortch shouldn’t have been anywhere near Deus in Minsk. He had no business there, and his presence in Minsk only confused and conflicted my operation. They would never send him to that building as long as I was working Pete.”
“He was freelancing,” Mom said just before I was about to. I wished I’d been an instant quicker so I could contribute. Actually, so I could show off. Who was I kidding?
“You know,” Dad began, “something’s been bothering me since London. Those gay guys…”
Dad probably did realize what he’d done, but he nodded toward me. “Those gay guys that Ohmie killed were muttering nonsense. ‘I want to kees you.’”
“I thought it was weird, too. And it was not a British accent,” I said.
“My guess is some kind of Slavic, but I didn’t hear enough of it to know,” Dad said. “They were sent.”
“Dortch,” Mom said.
“Or somebody in the states, politics, if that’s who Dortch is working for.” I saw my comment ping-pong back and forth between Mom and Dad. An old pinball machine came to mind. I saw thoughts bounce around that neither one cared to put voice to.
“It was weird. I should have been summoned to Langley, not London. Dortch wanted me in London. The Company wouldn’t be that ridiculous, nor would they attempt anything with Ohmie there.” Dad nodded toward me. “What’s more motivating than money or … love?”
I beat Mom’s answer by a nanosecond. “A cause.”
They both nodded.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie’s father is surprised to see Dortch at the safety deposit box bank.
“Right now,” Mom began, “Dortch has you on points. You turned in bad intel. You went off the reservation and powdered someone… not just someone, an asset. You know the rules.”
At this point Mom looked at me like she was sorry to have to say the next part in my hearing.
“Termination of a target, or in self-defense.”
An idiot could figure termination to be whacking somebody. I knew, too, that in the defense of others was an acceptable reason, but an agent had to be pretty clear and honest. And prepared to take a polygraph test, something they had to endure on a regular basis.
Mom kept going. Probably a lot for my sake, since Dad more than likely knew it all anyway. She might have been just thinking out loud. “Dortch brought good, credible stuff. And he could concoct any story he wanted about how he came to be at Deus Comtec. My bet is that he would have found you with a self-inflicted fatal wound to the head. He searched hideouts he and you had used before.”
Dad nodded. I noticed that our family tends to nod a lot, a little conservative with words. “I need to find Dortch.”
“And what, beat the truth out of him? Kill him, maybe? He has you on points, remember?”
“You need his satellite phone,” I said to two sets of staring eyes. “He has to be in contact with somebody outside the Company. And he knows how you guys communicate, picking up phone calls and stuff. A satfone doesn’t use towers. It would be encrypted, though. And he would use a voice distortion device. I mean, look. He couldn’t be having a lot of meetings with people back home who are under constant press scrutiny. In fact, he couldn’t do a whole lot of traveling without drawing attention to himself with the Company. He could have a contact at any of the European consulates, but still… ‘Why are you here, Agent Dortch.’ Nah. He wouldn’t want that question.”
Mom and Dad both had their jaws open.
“What? I read,” I said in a kind of whiny defense.
“And I need to be able to move around without worrying about some facial recognition program identifying me and sending it to the Company. You know I left the country without notifying anyone.” Mom looked at me. “We’re not supposed to leave the country without filling out a report identifying what we’re going to do, and who we’re going to see. It’s a security thing. The official reason is so the Company can protect us… or find us.”
“But you thought the Company was sending you. Are they notified whenever your passport is checked?” I asked.
“So Ohmie and I will go to the Embassy after you leave for Minsk. Paul knows about Ohmie. I’m going to call him and tell him that he and I are filling his last days with experiences, the Alps, the arts, … no doctors. I’ll cry.”
Mom looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. I knew what she meant. She would put on a show for her boss, but would not have to fake cry.
“I’ll tell Paul that we’ll travel when we can, and rest when we must. We’ll be in that chateau we stayed at that time south of Lucerne. You know, where we spent the whole day watching the mountains.”
“You watched the mountains, I watched you,” Dad said.
They both laughed.
“You know, Paul will demand to know where I am? He’s not stupid,” Dad said.
“I know he’s not stupid!”
I flinched. It gave me a reminder of when she stormed out when this all started.
“I’m sorry,” Mom said. “I’ll just have to convince him that I did see you, but that you were trying to figure things out and would then come in. No point in lying to him on that score. He’d see right through it. I’ll let him know that my son is my total focus.”
I kinda felt bad about the burden I was giving them at that point. Oh, and Dad nodded.
“He’s, not a bad guy, Paul. He’ll see the truth, but know the spot we’re in, too. I don’t know where he stands on political issues, we don’t talk about those things. But he’ll cover for me.”
“He might surveil you,” Dad said.
“I’ll check into the chateau as Mrs. Mureaux and her daughter.” Mom winked at me. “And if I’m not there, you know where I’ll be.”
Ahh… Mom could spy, too. There was a place, my bet was somewhere in France, that only they knew about, and no amount of torture could worm a name from me that I didn’t know. It wasn’t right then, but later on that I saw Dad show Mom the inside of a passport. No doubt the name he would be traveling under. Another case of keeping me from giving him up under torture.
It’s a small room, Mom must’ve seen me observing them. After Dad left to get us something to eat, Mom told me about spy work. “Let me tell you something, Ohmie. Everyone, and I mean everyone, falls under enough pressure. We’re trained to hold out as long as humanly possible. Who knows, maybe they’ll give up, or maybe there’ll be an earthquake that frees us. But if we give up too soon, they’ll think we’re giving them false information. The other thing …”
“They’re going to kill you anyway. So don’t talk. Maybe it’ll end before you ….”
“Fall under the pressure,” Mom finished for me.
Dad came back with hot hamburgers this time. All I could eat was half mine and just a few fries. I was feeling pretty bad.
By Wayne Fowler
We've recently had two sets of company come for extended visits - yay!
Unfortunately, Ohmie stories are on hold.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie's father leaves for Minsk. Ohmie and his mother get a visit from the Company.
Dad couldn't rent a car in Lithuania to drive all the way to Minsk. They wouldn't allow rented cars across the border into Belarus. He wouldn't fly, of course, for pretty much the same reasons he didn't fly from Berlin. Mostly, though, his disguise wouldn't stand much scrutiny, especially of intense inspection. They might even have his fingerprints or DNA on file. Who knows.
It's only two-and-a-half hours by car. I'm sure Dad could sneak his way over the border. He could steal a car, convince someone to take him, or stowaway, somehow.
Mom didn't tell me this. And I didn't read it in a book. Well, maybe novels influenced me a little. Mostly it's plain common sense, the way I would get across. Leave a rented car where I could get back to it. Hop the fence after dark. "Help, help, please. My wife was in an accident and I have to get to her. She was in our car. I've been getting rides. Please help." Or, "Get out of your car or I will shoot you." Tie him to a tree. Before he is found, you are in Minsk. Then steal a different car to drive back after dealing with Pete.
Here's the story Dad told us when we reconnected at the chateau south of Lucerne.
More or less the way I supposed, Dad drove east from Vilnius toward the Kamienny Loh border crossing. South to Dainava was a wooded area where the border ran consistent with a small creek. Not Dainava the big city, but Dainava the little village near the Belarus border. After parking in the woods, he could hike in tree cover to the creek where he crossed easily. Once he made it to Ashmyany, he was in his element.
His last trip to Minsk was not hardly as strenuous, traveling under the cover of the Agency as a businessman. This time, he was not only on his own, but the Belarus government might have been tipped to his possible presence. Though that was unlikely, he could not discount anything Dortch might have done. If Dortch had turned political, his allegiance to the Company and the Constitution might be in doubt, riding in the backseat, so to speak. Dad kept watch on Deus Comtec from an hour before Pete was supposed to start work until an hour after he left. Dad either sat where he could observe without being too noticeable, or passed by, both walking and in a car. He used a few different disguises, different coat, hat, scarf, glasses, things like that. But he knew his trade and was never approached.
Pete came and went as if nothing had happened, completely normal. No one seemed to pay him any attention. No-one came in or out of the building that didn't appear to belong. Everyone was under thirty years old and nerdy-looking. No-one looked particularly athletic, business-like, too handsome, or too beautiful. And no-one was over dressed, or flamboyantly put together. And Dad was ultra careful. Not über, that stupid fad is over. Anyway, Dad was careful to see whether he was followed each time he left the area. He wasn't. But he was only one man. And a single person can't see everything.
All things considered, Dad figured that one: the Russians, the SVR, or Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, which was the modern version of the Soviet KGB, were either not involved with the operation, or had already dismissed Deus as irrelevant. Or two: Dortch was on his own. The Company would have told Dad if anyone else was involved with Deus before he'd ever connected with Pete. And Dortch would not have been surveilling Deutsche bank by himself had the Company been involved. And Virginia would have been followed. And he would not still be a free man. The Company knew all about the clandestine Dainava border point. It was safe to confront Pete. No-one would be staked out in his apartment. No-one but himself.
The next day Dad stole his way into Pete's apartment. He waited until he figured everyone who worked was out of the building. For such an old building, he was surprised at how quiet the stairs were, Pete being on the second floor. Even taking the stairs in a normal manner, as if he owned the place and belonged there, it was quiet. Someone opened a door down the hallway, quickly closing it when they discovered Dad's presence. It was just as he was about to pick the lock. Dad, instead quickly turned to return to the stairway where he walked up a flight to wait for whoever it was to leave. They never did.
He went on up to the top floor. Deciding to kill some time, he thought he might as well check out emergency exit routes. There was no roof access, and no fire escapes from either end of the hall. Returning to Pete's apartment, he was inside within thirty seconds of starting on the lock. After closing the door behind himself, he thought he'd heard the sound of another door closing. The sound came from the same direction as the previously opening and closing door. He listened hard but couldn't hear any footsteps. Now he cursed the quiet stairs.
A methodical search turned up nothing remarkable. Pete's morning appeared normal. He left at the appropriate time and had taken the time to eat a breakfast of bread, that he'd fried in a skillet, with peanut butter. The pan and knife were all that was unwashed. Pete was a night shower person, his washcloth damp, but not wet and the shower unused that morning. The bed in the one-bedroom unit was made, of a sort, the sheet and blanket had been thrown back up in place, but would not be considered made. His toothbrush had been used. Pete's morning was routine with no evidence of stressful behavior. There were no work papers, or writing materials, or anything that might resemble work in the open. The novel on the end table beside the small couch had no papers or notes in it. Dad found nothing out of the ordinary, not even in the drawers of the small, student desk. Pete had no computer. He thought that odd, but then thought that maybe he just couldn't afford one or couldn't get an Internet hookup.
He waited until after the lunch hour to fix himself the same meal Pete had for breakfast. The wait was in case Pete came home for lunch, something Dad had never known Pete to do.
An hour after Pete should have been home, he still hadn't shown. Did he have a code, a signal that Dad missed that told him someone was inside his room? Had the neighbor seen him, seen the door close behind him and called Pete? Or was it a shopping day? That was unlikely since Pete's container of milk was about half full. Perhaps it was Dad's bad luck that it was Pete's day to visit his mother. Maybe Pete had had an accident and was in the hospital, Or in hospital, as the Brits and English speaking Europeans were wont to say, dropping the article. But I guessed that we did the same thing for jail - he's in jail, he's going to jail. I hopped off my bunny trail and got my mind back on track with Dad's story. Dad continued to sit quietly, waiting for Pete to return. At five o'clock the next morning, exhausted from staying awake all night, Dad ambled his way to the Deus Comtec building. No Pete. Dad kicked himself for not following him, confronting him, the previous day. Sometimes extra caution was not your friend.
Dad returned to Pete's for some sleep, this time using a spare key that he'd found in the apartment. Moving the room's only sitting chair to the area behind the entry door, Dad napped in it sitting up, satisfied the door's opening would awaken him. The door never opened. Dad waited until five the following morning to make his way back to Deus, this time not necessarily looking for Pete, but hoping to find someone who worked with Pete, preferably a female. He was hoping he would recognize someone that registered on his memory as someone he might have seen Pete speak to, or at least nod good morning or good-bye to.
That afternoon Dad picked a likely target, someone not married, at least not wearing a ring, though she could be living with someone. She was about the same age as Pete and Viktar, but then, they all were in Deus. And someone with a nerdy look, but then again ...
The young woman drove an older car, one that had a fob entry, but used a key to start and run. Dad saw her extract it from her purse as she walked to the parking lot, a small fifteen or twenty car lot beside the building. She waved at a co-worker who drove by and quickened her pace when, during her turn, she saw Dad behind her.
As she reached the driver's door handle with her left hand, Dad grabbed her right, wrenching into it like a vise. She winced in pain. "Open all the doors," he commanded. She did. Dad deftly hooked his fingers into her shirt collar from the back door behind the driver's seat as she got in. "I'm not going to hurt you. Start the car and drive out of the lot. We're going toward your home but pull over a block down the street. We will talk, and I will leave you alone forever. Do you understand?"
Dad spoke in Russian, hoping that she could speak it. Most Belarus learned Russian in school. Some learned English, but only a small percentage.
"I speak English better tan Russian," she replied, guessing that he was not Russian. When Dad didn't respond immediately, she continued. "A Russian would come in building like tank. Take want dey want. Interrogate."
Dad released his grip as she followed his instruction, driving without drawing attention.
"Viktar," Dad said.
"He is dead."
"Who killed him? Why?" Dad hoped not to be the one mentioning Pete.
"I dón know. Someting. Of computer hacks. He tought he to be my boyfriend. I already have boyfriend. He knew dat. Not interested in two boyfriends."
"Who is your other boyfriend?" It dawned on Dad that maybe Pete was not worried about discovery after all, merely jealous, or used Dad to get rid of competition. Maybe married Pete could afford to eat more than peanut butter.
"My name is Lizavieta. You call me Bett. You come up, if you do."
Elizabeth. Dad knew that she meant up to the front seat. He doubted that she would pull a sneaky and drive away while he was out of the vehicle but opted to stay put. "What happened to Viktar?"
"As I say, dead."
"But how?" Dad asked. "Accident? He get mugged, uh, robbed and murdered?"
"I tink murder. Broken neck, fallink down steps. Russia tink murder. I think murder."
Bett shrugged her shoulders.
"Any others killed?" Dad was fishing.
Bett didn't answer.
"Anyone else missing? You know, not show up for work?"
"Piotr," she replied. Dad waited for more. She didn't bite.
"Has Piotr been sick? Is he in trouble?"
Bett tried to turn and look at Dad as if he was asking stupid questions. "Piotr tinks he in luf wit me. Want to move in wit me."
"Is that where he is? Now?"
Bett laughed, "No, I dón tink so. My boyfriend. He dón to like dat." She laughed again. "But Piotr dón know of Val. Maybe he went over at my house and Val kill him." Bett laughed again. "No. Last week. After Viktar was killed. Supervisor looked in all computers. Even mine. I dón know Viktar, but Piotr say he back up too much. Wrong day. Maybe in trouble for dat, I dón know."
Satisfied he'd learned all he could from Bett, Dad got out of the car without saying anything more. He returned in the direction they'd come, taking the first side street before sprinting away, taking as many turns as there were.
Mind you now, this was as close as I could come to remembering how Dad told it, me laying there in my sick bed, asking him to fill me in on the case. (I might have filled in a few voids on my own, but it coulda all been exactly like this.)
They were on to both Piotr and Viktar. Probably found Piotr's and Viktar's money. Might have learned both men had been behaving strangely recently. Someone might have even seen himself, or Dortch. They might be sweating Piotr that very moment. He'd learned nothing that he couldn't have guessed from Berlin, but he had to try to see Piotr. Now Dad was certain that he was either dead, or in custody, wishing that he was ... dead.
Poitr could probably convince his interrogators that he had nothing to do with Viktar's death, even though he'd hired Dad to do it. And he might be able to prove that Viktar had been into his computer. Viktar could be established as a leak.
Dad shuddered to think that the SVR could have been searching Poitr's apartment while he had it staked out. It would be suicidal to wait and watch for Poitr.
|Author Notes||Not much Ohmie action, but I felt this chapter necessary for plot development.|
By Wayne Fowler
The last chapter detailed Ohmie’s father’s Minsk excursion.
Dad told me that he more-or-less reversed his route leaving Belarus. Finally getting to his fence crossing location, he saw what looked to be a trap. It was hard to tell considering it was only a quarter moon and his little, made for snooping in offices, pen light was so weak. He wasn’t taking any chances. That was how agents got killed. There was probably an enemy combatant, whether military, police, or SVR or all three, watching him that moment, or staking out his car, or both. There was no question that they would not shoot him from a distance. They would want to interrogate him.
They could have the car. It was rented under a false name, one that he would have to abandon. It was paid for with a fake debit card. Oh, it was real money, but there was no tie to himself, or the Company. Clandestine work was getting more expensive all the time.
He quietly walked back to the wooded area behind him, back into Belarus. He traveled south, staying in the woods nearly all the way. He had to wait for dark at one place, glad that he had as many power bars as he did. He finally got to a place where the fence had been cut, whether by locals, defectors, or other spies, he didn’t care. Hitching a ride to Vilnius was safer than hitching a ride in Belarus. And trains ran through Vilnius.
Dad didn’t have a bank in Vilnius. After buying a week-long pass for the train, regular coach seating, he had enough cash left for a tube of salami and a bottle of water. Since Vilnius was where he’d rented the car, and the car was only found the day before, possibly even only the night before, he tried his debit card, the same one he’d used to rent the car. If it was declined, he would get to the train as fast as he could. It worked. He bought a cheap flip phone, figuring to use up the minutes and toss it. The debit card he left at a pay phone with the pin number etched on it, hoping that someone would steal it and use it, sending searchers on a chase.
From the train station, Dad texted one of the few agents that he trusted. But then again, Dortch had been on that short list just a few days past.
Dad could tell without asking that he was not the subject of an all-out search. The man knew nothing, only that Dortch was taking personal time from work. That information was offered because Dad mentioned that Dortch was MIA. Dad told his friend that Dortch didn’t show at a pre-arranged meet. The guy then told Dad that it was probably connected to Dortch suddenly taking leave.
Dad figured that the car being spotted was more than likely a local affair – someone seeing it, or even seeing him drive in. They reported it to the border agents, who sent someone to check it out and to watch the next couple nights for the driver’s return.
The Company didn’t have a Code on him yet, at least not an all-hands Code. The SVR might not be on to him, yet. The assassins might have been SVR, but that was very unlikely. They might have been Middle Easterners from past operations. But that, too, was unlikely. What was more probable was that they worked for Dortch, or the people who Dortch worked for. The question was how much money did they have backing them up? Could he expect very many more?
Dad decided to go back to Berlin for the thumb drive. He would deal with Dortch if he had to but preferred to let the Company sort out the traitor matter. He would clandestinely get the drive to the Embassy. And a day or two later contact his immediate supervisor.
If he was still alive.
There was an espresso shop on the corner across the side street of Deutsche Bank. I would have called it caterwhompus, but no one ever knows what I’m talking about when I do. Catercorner isn’t right because that means diagonally across the street. Caterwhompus is across the street from cattercorner. But some people, those who do not own dictionaries, might call catercorner kittycorner. Dad went to the espresso shop an hour before the bank closed. It was a long shot one: because it had been days since his appearance there could have been predicted. And two: it was a bad place to observe the bank’s entry. There were too many other ways to enter and not be seen from this vantage point.
But guess what? Bingo, you win the booby prize. Dortch. Sometimes long shots pay off.
Dad was already in line to place his order before he recognized Dortch. It wasn’t such a great disguise, only that Dortch had just slightly let down his guard. My guess is that it is impossible to keep it up constantly, that there is a lot of dependency on luck. Dortch was looking at a newspaper and occasionally looking out the window toward the bank. He obviously hadn’t been looking at the entry door, or the direction Dad had come from. A big mistake.
Dad ordered a sixteen-ounce latte, no adds, just hot. Waiting for Dortch to resume his window surveillance, Dad sat down across from him, tapping him on the knee with his Glock. “Who you working for, Dortch?” Seeing hand movement, Dad again tapped his knee with the gun. “Keep your hands on the table, please. Who do you work for?” Dad repeated.
Dortch gave him the professional response – a blank smile.
Dad offered a few possibilities, beginning with the most unlikely: "The Israelis, the Taliban, the SVR?” Dad paused a second. “Surely not Company sanctioned?” Dortch let out a very modest guffaw. Dad named the two American political parties. He thought he saw something when he hit on one of them, but he wasn’t sure. He might have been reading something into nothing. Then Dad named the President. Bingo. Dortch’s smile failed him on his right side. It wasn’t much. Maybe no one else would have seen it, but my dad, the spy, did.
His latte still hot enough, Dad splashed most of it onto Dortch’s chest.
Half surprised and half in pain, Dortch let out a string of American curses, attempting to stand. Dad kicked his legs out from under him, bringing Dortch back down. Before his butt found the seat, Dad had the heel of his hand into Dortch’s nose, breaking it instantly, and sending excruciating pain into his frontal lobe. Done properly, it would kill the largest of men. Dad hoped he hadn’t struck that hard. Dortch was out, slumped down to the floor.
“The American wants to sue for too hot coffee!” In German, Dad announced to the crowd, “Call him an ambulance, please.” Dad casually got up and left, not crossing the street to the tourist visitor shop across the street from the bank until he was out of sight. There, he watched and waited. An ambulance appeared, but no one else. Dad waited for the bank to open, and promptly took care of his business.
It's a fine line line, the thread that combines good grammar and a 13 year old's vernacular in first person - all too easy for the amateur to miss a stitch.
For those who jump in and out, Ohmie is a prodigy, the son of CIA agents, and has stage 4 lymphoma.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie’s father returned to Berlin from Minsk and promptly sent Dortch to the hospital.
I got off the tourist bus from the Jungfraujoch excursion first. It was a train to the top, but we bussed from Lauterbrunnen to Zurich, where our chateau was. Someone separated me and Mom by using the zipper system of taking turns getting in line – left, right, left, right. The bus driver was standing just outside the door. So he could get tipped, probably. He helped me navigate the steps since they were pretty awkward for me. I guess my frailty was pretty obvious at that point. I thought that the people who were wanting to get on the bus were pretty rude, jamming themselves up to the door. Then I took a better look and saw that it was only two dark-complected men that were pushy. The bus driver said something to them that I didn’t get. Probably telling them to back away. I was too concerned with not falling down, working my way to a lamppost to hang on to. That’s when I looked back for Mom.
The two rude men had her by her elbows. I imagined that they had her up on her tiptoes. There were quite a few people milling about, but she caught my eyes. I didn’t catch what she mimed, her mouth moving, but not her voice. “Call Paul.” I’m sure that’s what she’d tried to communicate. Her head also dipped downward as if pointing with her forehead. Within a second, maybe two, they were gone.
Protecting me, she never once called out to me. Never calling out, “My son!” She wanted me to get away. I remembered the hammer to the fingers talk Dad and I had. I would talk, she would talk. Everybody talked. Then you died anyway.
Once people cleared out and the bus drove off, I saw that Mom had managed to drop the room key to the gutter. It must’ve been in her jacket pocket. It was then that I realized Mom really was a spy. She’d stuck a few Euros in one of my pockets before we left our room. “You never know,” she’d said. I took a cab to our chateau. Once in the room, noting that it did not seem to’ve been disturbed, I put the battery into my phone and called Mom’s work number. No one answered. When it went to voice mail, in a loud voice, just short of a shout, I called Paul Santos’ name until someone picked up asking who I was and what could they do for me. They finally transferred me to Paul.
I talked like my fingers had been hammered. I was able to describe the two men pretty well – “they looked like Romanians, Turks, Bosnians.” There, that ought to narrow down your search.
One thing sure, I had to git. Paul would have someone at the chateau within the hour, most likely. Maybe within minutes if he used local authorities to just pick me up.
I grabbed what few things I thought I might need, which of course included the gun, jammed ‘em into my backpack and kicked into my version of running out the back way. A small chateau south of Lucerne. One that had a nice view of the mountains. Probably where I was conceived.
I’d removed the battery from my phone. And I also noted that I only had one magazine for the Baretta – thirteen rounds. Fortunately, Mom only had my U. S. passport with her. I would travel as Tymofiy. But just in case, the wig and bra went into my backpack, too.
I forgot I had cancer; I was so sick with worry about Mom.
The chateau restaurant was too far from the main entry. So, with the wig on and me looking my prettiest, I buried my face in my novel and tried my best to look casual as I glanced through my eyebrows over the top of the book. I was on a couch in the lobby where I could see the front door. I couldn’t see the check-in counter very well, though. I didn’t like that, not being able to see whether any of the clerks took a phone call and quickly looked to me. That would have been helpful. But I guess spy work always had its risks.
I was going to watch for two hours. I didn’t expect to see Mom. But I wanted to know if whoever came were Americans, or more like Romanians, Turks, Bosnians.
Could I trust Paul? I was one hundred percent certain that he would have me first taken to the American Embassy. And then probably back to the states, probably to whoever Mom had listed as who to notify in case of whatever, after Dad. But had Paul been apprised of Dad’s operation? Probably by now. Was Paul a Dortcher? Would Paul believe the story that I’d babbled like a baby? That Dad was trying to find out who killed Viktar and why he had bad data, and who was trying to kill him? No way for me to know.
At the end of two hours, I would have to make a choice: to go to the little chateau south of Lucerne, if I could find it, or go to Berlin and find Dad. Like that would be a snap. Hah!
The first to show was a single person, walking not in what I’d call a rush, but with all deliberate urgency. He was tanned, but white, fair-haired, about six feet tall. Prob’ly American. Okay so far. I could follow him up to the room, or wait to see if he was followed. I waited. Good thing.
Romania followed about a minute later. I was feeling pretty full of myself so I got into the elevator with them. “Go ahead, Bosnia, just even look at my boobs and I’ll plug ya both." My thoughts were very close to being actual speech. Oh, I forgot to say that I had the Baretta in the small of my back. Well, tucked into my belt in back. My back is all small nowadays.
I followed them out of the elevator, but turned the opposite direction. Looking back through the eyes in the back of my head that every good spy has… Hah! Actually, I stooped down to tie my shoe (that was Velcro fastened), I saw that they were drawing out guns from shoulder holsters as they reached for mine and Mom’s room door. I drew mine. I got down there as fast as I could.
Man, these Swiss chateau doors are for crap. It hadn’t closed behind them.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie’s mother is kidnapped. Ohmie snuck up on two guys who were entering his and his mother's hotel room.
It sounded like one shot, but I knew it was two, just real close together, They were taking better aim this time. I could tell that by their shoulder motion. Bam – bam. I dropped ‘em both. Dead center mass – in their backs. Does that make me a cowardly back-shooter? I didn’t care. I thought about head shots just to make sure, but I was sure enough, the way they crumpled down. Another man was down. Shot once in his right chest. Looked like it hurt.
He acknowledged me. I wished I didn’t have the wig on. One, I looked like a … and two, he could pass on my description. I ran, as best I could, to the bathroom for a couple towels. I rolled him as best I could, cramming one of the towels where I knew the exit would be. Probably a hole the size of my fist, well… maybe Dad’s fist. After pressing the other one to his chest, I pulled off his belt to tie him together. It wouldn’t reach. So I took my own off and buckled them together. That was enough to do it. But I’d be a sagger getting out of here.
“Where’s Mom,” I kept asking the whole while. “Virginia Westlake?”
I guess it finally registered. “She’s okay. Broken arm is all. Scrapes.” My guess was that she jumped out of the car that they put her into while it was moving. “She’s at the Embassy.” His voice was weak, one word at a time, like. A lot of pain, I was sure. I wondered if Dad was as tough as this guy seemed.
Captive, was my bet. Mom was kept captive at the embassy. Otherwise, Mom would have been here.
Satisfied that I’d stopped the worst of the bleeding, I skedaddled outta there, but not before taking the two Romanians’ extra magazines. The magazines wouldn’t fit the Beretta, of course, but the nines would. Like Mom said, “You never know.” I also told the desk to call an ambulance.
I took a cab to the train station. There was a line that went to Lucerne. The Lucerne depot had brochures where I grabbed one of each. My cab driver spoke French, naturally, since Switzerland was half French and half German speaking. Most Swiss spoke one, or both, of them plus English.
I was comfortable with French, and more confident in the cabbie’s French than in the hope he properly understood my English, and then used the correct English back. I showed him the brochures that I’d narrowed my search down to. I explained that my parents were revisiting their honeymoon without phones, but that my Mom’s mother was in the hospital with a heart attack and needed her. I explained that it was probably one of the cheaper ones, but had to have a good view of the mountains. He thought a minute and we took off like a shot. I tipped him well.
At the chateau, and I agreed that this had to be the one, I talked to the owner/manager. The place was more like an American B&B than a resort. I told her that my parents were returning to the place where I was conceived. (ha-ha) I smiled in what I thought to be a blush. Then I told her that at the train station I boarded, but they spent so much time kissing that they missed the train. I came on because I have lymphoma and couldn’t just wait around. I had to lay down. It was the truth. I figured that the closer I could stay to the truth, the easier time I would have remembering my story.
I had money, I said. And that I could sleep on a chair or in a shed, or closet. I guess I was lucky that it was early fall and not ski season. She had rooms. Did I need anything? I asked if she had anything to eat. She would bring me bread and soup.
I woke up to Dad sitting beside the bed watching me.
I told him what I knew about Mom. And what happened at the hotel room. And that it was now my four to his two. I didn’t want to sound like a crazy, gun-happy kid. I just thought he needed to know, and tried to put a light side to it. He just looked at me sad like. After a moment Dad told me that I’d saved a man’s life. A good man. I don’t think Dad knew who he was, though. But maybe he did.
When I woke up again, Mom was there, her right arm in a cast and sling. She and Dad were kissing.
“Hey, Ohmie,” Mom said, seeing me try to get up to go to the bathroom. “Can I help you?” she asked. I just looked at her. But I know she meant well.
“No thanks. Maybe something to eat,” I said as I shut the door behind me. “And some clean clothes,” I shouted as loud as my weakened condition allowed.
Turned out, Mom not only jumped from the moving car while she was zip tied, but she also skipped from the hospital. Jumping from the car, she was immediately surrounded by well-wishers. Rather than go to a hospital, she demanded police take he to the Embassy. After giving her report four different times, they finally took her to get her arm looked at. As soon as the bone was set and cast applied, she bolted. Of course, that meant she was now without her passport. Now that I was more, or less, capable of feeding myself, Dad would go with her back to Berlin to get one from the guy who was originally going to make one for me.
But they would first have to stop at a couple of Dad’s banks. I’m learning a lot about the industry.
Mom planned on calling Paul from somewhere away from Lucerne to tell him the story, the one that they wanted him to know. She would also refuse to come back to the states, or to be guarded (read babysat while they trapped Dad). She was going to stay with me until the end, and then deal with whatever had to be dealt with, whatever the cost. I was really proud of her. I wondered if I should, I don’t know, hurry the end.
Me, I wanted to, one: look at what was on Dad’s thumb drive, the one that was still in Deutsche bank. And two: I wanted to go to Minsk and get into Deus Comtec. There had to be computers there that were only intermittently on line, if ever. Work product could be manually carried to other computers that did not have programs or data, but merely used to upload, to transmit. I might have to pull a Mom to get there. I should be able to pull it off while they’re in Berlin.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie kills two bad guys and saves a good guy. His mother escapes kidnappers and the CIA, and Ohmie’s father meets them in Switzerland.
We went to the public library. For a nominal fee we could use a computer that was connected to their WIFI.
“Yes, Mo-om, I can do it.” I knew I shouldn’t have been so bratty, ‘specially since Mom had a kind of meeting of the hearts when she sort of opened hers up. I felt bratty and was sorry, but I didn’t say anything. I wish I had. It wasn’t like I could count on time to set things right, you know? I mean what if that was the last thing I ever said to her. I wanted to run to her and apologize and bawl crocodile tears and say how sorry I was for being a brat and that I would never do it again. But I didn’t ‘cause I knew I would… do it again.
I think Mom assigned me the computer chore ‘cause she an’ Dad didn’t trust me to be safe, or do it right, being lookout or stopping someone from looking at what we were doing. So I was working the computer while she and Dad kept me private and watched for assassins.
First thing I did was turn off the WIFI. Then I opened the thumb drive. One file had programmer’s code. I was pretty sure it was a Russian version, or usage in Russian, of JAVA code, but I could’ve been wrong. Might’ve been Belarussian, or some other Slavic language. Dad would know – more on that in a minute.
As soon as I saw that there might have been stuff of value on the drive, I made a copy of it, handing the original to Mom. Then I went in and deleted any evidence from the computers’ hard drive. A pro could have learned that we made a copy of a thumb drive. He might have been able to retrieve what it was that I copied. But I really didn’t think so. Besides, in the long run, America would not be hurt by public release of information that Russia was involved with other countries’ politics and elections. And besides all that, who would think to investigate some obscure computer in a library in Lucerne, Switzerland?
After several minutes, at a time when I lingered in a file, Mom looked on with me. It was a list of names. Mom probably thought she might recognize some. I was almost snotty again, she was invading my space, nosing into my part of the operation. Instead, I just gritted my teeth, careful not to break one. Boy, it was hard not to be a twit.
The plan was to just go in to see what we could see, make sure we could navigate around, and then let Dad have at it. He watched to see that we were not eavesdropped on. What we could see was other files, some of which looked like lists, others could have been projects. There were folders, each of which contained folders entitled by individual names: politicians’ names. Most of them, but not all, were American. A quick look inside a couple of those appeared to contain social media posts. Some looked to be videos, videos that I would not play in the library. Another folder was different. I thought it might have been ransomware stuff.
But I’d seen enough. And so had Mom. We let Dad have it for the rest of the hour. Then we went to eat and put me to bed. It was getting hard for me to keep my head up by the time we got back. I crashed in my clothes. Mom just took off my shoes and jacket. She laid down beside me and stroked my back. I’d rather she didn’t, but I wouldn’t ask her to stop for a million bucks. I was out in under a minute anyway.
I woke up hearing Mom and Dad’s muffled voices coming from the bathroom. I thought it was funny because I knew how small the room was. They were trying to figure out how to get to Berlin to get Mom a new passport, probably from the same guy that Dad was going to get one for me. I guess the Ukraine thing wouldn’t work as well for an adult. Anyway, they didn’t want to take me to Berlin. Dad said I would make it hard to run. That made me sad, thinking that I was slowing him down, that I was a hindrance. Mom took his side. That made me sad, too. Mom’s issue was what to do with me. They couldn’t leave me alone. Her “what if” about made me cry. I hate to say it, but I had feelings of resentment, that she was thinking about her own feelings of not being a good mother, a mother who wouldn’t be there to watch her son die. Later, when I’d given it some thought, I’m sure she meant for it to be that she didn’t want me to go on alone, without someone there to tell me that they loved me.
I spoke loud enough for them to hear me. “Mme Benoir can bring me soup. No one will come looking for me. She can call the Embassy if, you know. So, Mom can take me home.” (We’d long ago had the talk and agreed on cremation. No one wanted to look at mummified remains of a cancer ravaged kid.) “But that won’t happen. I promise. I’m the reason Mom’s here. Mom takes me back to the States. Squares things with Paul. Dad takes the stuff to his boss, whoever that is. After taking care of Dortch, that is.” I met Dad’s eyes. I knew it. I knew that was what he had in mind.
What I didn’t say, was that I was going to Minsk. I needed the IP addresses of their computers. And to see what computers those computers had been talking to.
I don’t know if it was my promise not to croak while they were gone, or the line about Mom taking my remains home, but they were both very accommodating after that. Not that they weren’t before, but you know what I mean. Mom would set it up with Mme Benoir. Dad wouldn’t be coming back here until after his business was done. He would come back before turning himself in, though, because, well, he just would. Mom and I would stay right here where no one but Mme Benoir knew where we were. Anyway, we had a real nice view of the mountains. And with enough sugar, Mme Benoir’s coffee was good. Too bad I would acquire a taste for it after it was practically too late. I know somewhere there’s a chunk-head that would sigh and say, “Ah, such is life.” Maybe for them.
Mom hoped to be back in four days, five max. Dad didn’t know. He’d had a better look at the drive. Him knowing the language no doubt helped. But he didn’t have any answers for me. And I remembered the part about not asking questions.
My worst issue was Mme Benoir. I had to convince her not to call the Embassy after I left.
“Mme Benoir,” I said as if I was an executive speaking to my secretary. “I will be going to The Top of Europe in about an hour.”
Mom and Dad had just left after a leisurely breakfast. There was no particular hurry, and they figured to let the work traffic and busy travelers clear out first.
Mme Benoir lowered her head and gave me a stink eye, an eye of “Oh yeah? We’ll just see about that. That does not at all comport with what your parents asked of me.” She didn’t say it, though.
Keeping my air of superiority over the matter, I said, “I have met a young woman, Eva.”
Mme Benoir smiled a devilish grin. Her eyes twinkled. But she wanted to hear what a thirteen-year-old kid had to say about love, was my guess; so she didn’t say anything.
“She offered me a gift.” It was embarrassing. I said it like a whiny plea and it wasn’t even a request.
Mme Benoir couldn’t help herself. “A gift?” She knew exactly what I was talking about. Her eyes, held mine but only after a quick dance southward.
“Yes.” I was the boss again. “And what man can refuse a beautiful woman such an offer of altruism?” I threw that in there in order to properly continue the role.
“And how old is this beautiful, young woman?” Mme Benoir asked.
“Sixteen,” I blurted. “We met on the train. She is a woman.” I said this expecting Mme Benoir to understand that this made-up person, Eva, was experienced and fully understood my condition and was behaving perfectly normally, finding me attractive, and no one wanted to die before… well, you know. “Surely, you understand, Mme Benoir." I restrained myself from giving her the little universal wrist flip that said “go away.”
“Perhaps, I should go wiz Master Ohmie, to assist wiz matters of such, uh… privacy?”
She was playing with me. I could feel it. Her mouth didn’t laugh, or even smile, but her eyes were roaring with hilarity.
I embellished my lie. “Eva has an apartment.”
“Ah, an apartment.”
By this time, I really didn’t know if Mme Benoir believed me, or not. But I was committed. I did it. I gave her the little wave-away. “Half past nine, Mme Benoir. Will you call me a taxi? Thank you.” Another wave of dismissal.
She didn’t dismiss so easily. “Master Ohmie, I have a concern for your health. Are you sure you are…?”
“I am, Mme Benoir. Shall I perform pushups? I’ll do twenty pushups right now.”
Mme Benoir chuckled. I was glad that she hadn’t called my bluff.
“I will call you when I get there. And again when I begin my return. I promise, Mme Benoir.”
I hugged her and kissed her cheek. I think that was what sold it; though I doubt she believed I was going to be blessed with a gift.
She made bacon sandwiches for me and said that if I didn’t call, she would call the Embassy and tell them everything. I was good with that.
By Wayne Fowler
|Author Notes||I apologize for the length of this chapter. I just couldn't leave Ohmie in jeopardy.|
By Wayne Fowler
|Author Notes||With heartfelt gratitude to Lyenochka for giving me Mme, as it should have been from the start, especially since Ohmie and his mother speak French.|
By Wayne Fowler
By Wayne Fowler
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie and his mother have a moving experience in the Sistine Chapel. They then took a train back to Switzerland.
It was tough not hearing from Dad. Not knowing. Dortch was every bit as professional as Dad was. He had all the training and experience Dad had. Plus, to a certain extent anyway, Dortch had the blessings and backing of the Company at his disposal. And he had the official contacts within the various nations of the European Union. Not that Dortch could put out an APB, all points bulletin, on Dad, but he had access to all those cameras that spied on the public. And he could ask a variety of officials whether Dad crossed borders, where and when. He, Dortch, could himself make official inquiries at hotels using the names of law enforcement people. And the United States would not stop him from doing any of these things. After all, Dad had killed outside his license. And he had provided phony data in an official operation. The fact that he hadn’t come in to give his side made him guilty of espionage against the United States of America.
And now Dad had assaulted and injured an American employee of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Company.
Dad was in trouble, and aside from me and Mom, he didn’t know who he could trust. Other agents, one in particular that I knew about from talks with Mom, Dad was particularly chummy with. They had worked together on a lot of jobs. Both trusted one another with their lives. But that guy, I don’t know his name, I’m sure Mom does, though, would give Dad up if he was convinced Dad had gone over to the dark side.
We never turned on the TV, Mom and I. While I rested (a pleasant way of saying lay there dying), Mom talked to me about their practices. I guess she thought I would like to know the rest of the story, which I did. Also, Dad filled a lot of this in later. And double also, I can fill in a lot of the holes myself. Not that hard.
Dad would never put that guy in a tough spot, having to decide between himself and his career, or his and Dad’s career. Dad wouldn’t do that. Well, unless a thousand other things complicated it.
Dad and his buddy used a variation of the secret code. Almost exclusively, they used it for coordinates, dates, and times. Mom told me that she learned that the Company intercepted one of their messages. It was a jumble of nonsense words, but if you took away all the vowels and all the silent letters, and counted double letters as a single letter, then it reduced to a twenty-six-digit code. The Company code people figured that much. Yay bang for them. Score one for the good guys. Except this one worked against Dad.
Dad and his buddy knew that the first nine was the coordinate for the latitude in decimals, and the next nine were the longitude, again in decimals. The next two were the date. The month and year were understood. And the last four would be the time. They trusted one another to figure out any ambiguities, such as the fact that sometimes latitude or longitude numbers in front of the decimal could be one, two, or three digits. But there was one other catch. Whoever sent the message subtracted one digit from each digit. And whoever received the message, added a number. If Dad sent the word mistake, that would decipher to 3017. But his buddy would do the adding and get 4128.
Dad sent his friend coordinates for the middle of a park in London for 6:35 PM on the eighteenth. Those are the coordinates and time his friend would have worked out if he’d decoded the message according to their routine. The message read: soursmakenogcafeceaselame-funkcuffsageducksevenoar. It decoded to 04037277800538277806170824. And that, after his friend added back all the ones to each digit, translated to the middle of Kennington Park on London at 7:35 on July 18.
Had anyone intercepted the signal, and then managed to translate the words to the proper numeric code, and then accurately figured that it was coordinates, it would have put them in the Atlantic Ocean. And on an unknown time and date. With no way to get it right. Ordinary decoders would be stuck trying to understand what café served sour eggnog.
The location was heavy with trees, going on dusk, and had many avenues of escape. Dad would be there very early in a disguise and would leave at 7:40. Dad bought a one-time-use phone as soon as he’d broken Dortch’s nose and texted the guy, giving him plenty of time to get there, or code something back to Dad’s phone. Dad would never activate his phone unless he was in the process of leaving that place immediately.
Spy work ain’t all fun and games, taking pictures and shooting people.
Like I said, Mom told me they had people trying to break the code. She thinks that after some more time, when they give up, they might buy the code off us and use it Company-wide.
Dad was at Kennington Park an hour and a half early picking up cigarette butts with a stick thing and wearing coveralls. He had a bald head, a goatee and mustache, and funky horned rim glasses. He showed me when he got to the chateau to try to cheer me up. I was having a real bad day.
Dad saw his friend, Dale Fremington, already on a park bench near the center of the park. Dad noted that it was the one most obscured by lilac bushes. After scanning the immediate area, Dad approached. He was sure that if it was a trap, Dale would wave him off. He didn’t.
“You wired?” Dale lifted his left hand holding the electronic device. Of course, it was operating. With his right hand, Dale withdrew a photo of his twin sons, briefly showing it to Dad before returning it to his pocket. Dad studied his friend’s sad eyes for a moment. “How’s the family?” Dad asked.
“Ah, Beth’s fine. And the boys start their sophomore years next month. Both made State last year. It’ll be the first time M. U. will have brothers on their varsity team.”
“I’d like to see them play,” Dad said. Dad knew that someone in the Company was holding Dale’s family over his head somehow.
“I’ll get you their schedule. How’s Ohmie?”
Aside from Ohmie’s friends and his school principal, Dale was the only person in the world who called him by his nickname. Dale’s eyes conveyed his sincere concern.
Dad shrugged. “Guess you know we stopped treatment.”
Dale pinched his lips, nodding once.
“The boy is truly gifted.” Dad’s voice uplifted emotionally, nearly a cry at the end. He cleared his throat and strained his chin from side to side.
“He saved Zürman’s life,” Dale said matter-of-factly. “And the Company knows it.”
Dad nodded. Obviously changing the subject, Dad pointed to his eyes.
“My boys can hit a baseball, but what Ohmie did…” Dale shook his head.
Dad knew another code they’d used. When asked a question that they didn’t want listeners to understand the response, they coded. The first sound out of the responder’s mouth was all that mattered. Using only the cardinals of analog clock, three, six, nine, and twelve, the first phonetic sound Dale made was an m, three. Dale could have said Gee, my boys… or simply my boys. Gee would have told Dad to beware of his six o’clock position, and simply boys would tell him nine o’clock. Dad knew that there was someone at his three o’clock, to his right, that had binoculars trained on him. Or maybe a rifle scope.
“Might as well have sent you an RSVP,” Dad quipped, joking about sending the code in the first place.
Dale laughed. “Remember Slobodan Praljak?”
Dale nodded. Slobodan was the general that he and Dad captured and had sent to The Hague for his war crimes trial.
“It’s possible someone made a connection with his inner circle, his guard.”
“Ah, the two in London and the two who hit Zürman.”
“And your train,” Dale added. “There was another on that train, more than likely.”
Dad nodded. Getting down to business, Dad handed Dale the thumb drive that Poitr had hidden in the fake packet of Euros. “Pete said that Viktar was on to him.”
Dale didn’t know who Viktar was, but he didn’t need to know. The Company was listening. “Thing is, they didn’t know. For sure, that is.”
Dad knew what Dale was saying, that the Company had Dortch over Dad on points.
Dale continued. “But when they finally nailed down the stiffs…”
Dad just nodded.
“Here’s the thing,” Dale began, raising himself up on his seat, leaning in with his elbows on his knees. “They don’t know Dortch’s game, the who and the why.” Dale then nodded toward the wire still in his left hand.
Dad knew that Dale was playing to the people listening in.
“They need the whole package. Bringing you in won’t get ‘em that.” Dale settled back an inch, telling Dad that it was his turn to talk.
“I’m to put Dortch in a box.”
“And tie a ribbon on it,” Dale finished for him.
“Your bank box here in London has ten thousand in Euros.” Seeing Dad’s eyes perk, Dale added, “Yeah, I was surprised, too. Officially, you’re the goat, but no one’s assigned to rope you.”
“Just Dortch,” Dad said.
“Just Dortch. But he’s between assignments. Well, sort of. His assignment is Belarus. To get another asset in that computer company.”
“Which gives him complete liberty to travel Europe unbridled.”
Dale nodded. “The Company wants to put somebody on your family. I volunteered.”
“No,” Dad said, no ambiguity in it. “With politics involved, loyalties are fluid. You know that. Too many would be able to locate you. They’re safer alone. And right now, Ohmie is Virgie’s best protection.”
Dale smiled, showing most of his dentures, his real teeth having been knocked out by certain of the Taliban before Dad rescued him. “My friend, this is an ugly business we’re in.”
“And getting worse,” Dad agreed.
“Call me,” Dale said. “You know I’ll come runnin’”
“Unless one of the twins is at bat,” Dad laughed, joined by Dale.
Dad left first, unimpeded.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie’s father chanced a meeting with a trusted fellow spy. Ohmie’s father is forgiven, but assigned to catch Dortch, without Company help.
First order of business was the bank of London where the Company had money in Dad’s account.
Dad caught me up with his activities once we reconnected.
He would take out nearly all of the currency and what he didn’t need, he would try to replenish what he’d already tapped. His next task was a gunsmith he knew in Czech Republic. For not too much, he could get a composite, single use gun that fired a nine-millimeter bullet. It was basically plastic and could pass through metal detectors undiscovered. The biggest problem with it, Dad said, was that you couldn’t trust the accuracy. First of all, it only had a two-and-a-half-inch barrel – extremely inaccurate over mere feet. Secondly, even with perfect conditions, the composite barrel may not have been true from manufacture. It was made for very close quarters. The bullet was painted pink and glued to a neck chain and was easily pried loose. Airport security people usually smirked at it.
At least flying as himself didn’t risk the Company nabbing him, just Dortch to be concerned about. Dale said nothing about controls on him. Dortch should be expected to continue as before: possible connections with EU authorities, and a Croatian army at his disposal.
Dad’s third order of business was me. And Mom, of course. He flew to Zurich using a fake passport. His real name wouldn’t show up on the manifest; and if anyone flagged his photo with facial recognition, he’d be in his rental car and gone before anyone was the wiser. When Dad told me the details, I wondered, if trading places, I would have kept the same order. Anyway, I guess I’d taxed myself pretty hard. Mom and Mme Benoir were worried. That’s when Dad got here and told me his story while I lay there more than half dead.
Mom put Dad’s rental car to good use. She drove Mme Benoir on some much-appreciated errands, and then did some much-needed shopping. I had to have more suitable clothes – night clothes and warmer daytime stuff. I don’t think I had any excess body fat. At all. And it was hard to stay warm. I started a bit of uncontrollable shaking sometimes. Mom also came home with everything that she thought came close to my favorite snack and candy food. Swedish Fish were good if they were fresh. But even though the ones she bought were soft and tender, they were a chore for me. Soup and Malto Meal, at least I called it Malto Meal, some kind of porridge that Mme Benoir swore by. Break up a biscuit and let it soak and it was good, really good. But I could never eat more’n a half’a bowl.
Dad had time to look at my thumb drive. He was double glad we were his third priority after seeing that. Mom gave him the play-by-play of my Minsk trip. I could tell he was impressed. I think that was why he gave me all the details of everything he did while apart from us. And… he was amazed that I’d brought home a computer – perfect. He poured over that thing and made notes, notes that he promptly burned up. Said the writing logged it into his long-term memory. Good trick to know for… He’d started to say school. School that I would never again darken the door.
I’m half ashamed of myself, but one time when Mme Benoir was there, bringing fresh linen, I think, I made a point of asking Mom if we could go back to Jungfraujoch. You should have seen Mme Benoir’s face turn red! “I love you, Mme Benoir,” I said. She gave me a Swiss wave-off. At least that’s what I called it, a cross between a royal British wave and an oh, you, silly.
“I’m going to ask you to take this thumb drive to Vaduz, Liechtenstein. It’s only an hour or so from here. Some beautiful country. There’s a small Embassy there. Usually no operative, but they’ll let you seal it into a diplomatic pouch.” Dad was holding up the drive like it was the code to the Presidential nuclear football. “But this part is most important – Be sure they understand that I have more.”
Personally, I would have questioned that… how to get them to do that. But this was their trade. I trusted they knew what they were talking about.
“This isn’t the one Ohmie brought you,” Mom observed.
“No, I only copied the spyware, malware, and ransomware files. And a little bit of the political stuff. The rest, I don’t know… Some of it’s encrypted. Some of it I may be able to use to flush out Dortch. If he thinks I might still have incriminating stuff…” Dad looked over at me. “Well, let’s just say he wouldn’t use a rifle.”
“You know the Liechtenstein flight will fly right over here to Zurich?” Mom was a bit skeptical of going out of her way when Zurich was closer and bigger, and had a Company presence.
“Dortch,” Dad said. “He knows you and Ohmie are in Europe. He knows I would want to see you. Both of you.” Again, Dad stole a glance at me. “I wouldn’t put it past him to have a couple soldiers watching the Embassy. They got you once, remember?” This time Dad looked at Mom’s right arm in a cast.
“I’ve never been there. You might swing past the airport and check out its security, how advantageous it might be for me to fly in for you to pick me up… on occasion.” He looked at me again.
Ready to go, he came over to say goodbye to me. By this time I was sitting up in a chair where I could see the mountains. I was wrapped in a blanket, my arms bundled up. I could see that he was at a loss for words.
“I should be going with you,” I said. “We’re a team.”
Dad smiled. His eyes were blinking faster than normal.
“Dad, I love you.” It was the first time I ever remember saying it. Mom was by the door dabbing her eyes.
“Ohmie, Tim. I love you.” He kissed me on the forehead. It was the first time he’d ever said that.
|Author Notes||Seems like I've tried a hundred ways to get line and paragraph spacing more professional. What's the trick?|
By Wayne Fowler
By Wayne Fowler
|Author Notes||Covid-19 caused many flights to be cancelled and entry into many countries was limited, or controlled. Liberties have been taken in this story.|
By Wayne Fowler
My apologies to new followers (I can't make myself say fans, since that seemingly elevates my writing to an undeserved level.) This is an action-free chapter. Ohmie is dying of cancer. He became involved with his parents' spy work before even aware they worked for the CIA. If it was me, I wouldn't even try to get into a story in chapter 28. But a reading of chapter one would definitely help.
I could not make FanStory blacken Saint Goran.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie’s father traveled to the EU and to the Interpol headquarters. He also learned of Dortch’s nose surgery and that he’d gone to Stockholm, Sweden. Ohmie began to turn for the worse.
Mom gave me a dose of the anti-nausea stuff and waited only half the time to repeat the steroid and pain killer. They weren’t helping. I don’t think I was in pain, but Mom couldn’t tell. She sent Dad a text that we were going to a local clinic. Turned out we had to go all the way into Lucerne. They got all excited and sent us by ambulance to the University Hospital of Zurich. Zurich refused to do a thing until Mom authorized them to send to the states for my records. All she wanted was pain control. They were unimpressed with our recent decisions regarding my healthcare. Of course, they had to use my real name.
Dad opened his phone in Stockholm. All he learned about Dortch was that it was outpatient surgery. Dortch could be anywhere, but was most likely there in Stockholm for a few days, at least. No matter. Dad made plans to fly to Zurich on a series of cargo planes. A person would be amazed at what a 007 card and a decoder ring could get you. (just kidding, sort of).
Mme Benoir came to Zurich as soon as Mom called her to let her know that we were not in Lucerne. I figured she would come to see me in Lucerne. I was pleasantly surprised to see her in Zurich. How was I doing? Not so well. I was able to catch what was going on, but my ability to grasp any subtleties was pretty much shot. Hearing was working, speaking, not so much, especially since they had an oxygen mask on me. Mom refused to let them intubate me. Palliative care only. Okay, they said, washing their hands of me once I was made comfortable. They went to work looking for a hospice that would take me.
Dad showed up. He hugged Mme Benoir, and then really hugged Mom. Then it was my turn. “Virgy, would you and Mme Benoir give Ohmie and me a little time? Maybe get yourselves something to eat and bring me back some coffee? Virgy you have your…?” Dad nodded toward his hip. Mom nodded back. Gun. Dad had seen something.
That was when Dad caught me up. He knew that I was dying to be involved. Hah! Get it? With just a little time to tell it, I know he only hit the highlights. I don’t think I even blinked the whole time. When he finally took a breath, I tried with all my might to take off my mask. Dad did it for me long enough for me to tell him that he could trust Zürman.
Mom and Mme Benoir came back.
“Mme Benoir,” Mom began. I thought it peculiar that Mom would start a conversation like that after being with her a half an hour. “Maybe you should say good…” Mom choked up, unable to finish her sentence.
“Virginia, Sam. I know. I saw those men, too, Virginia. And I saw your guns in the room, and on your back, Sam. I also saw your disguises,” She looked at me. “And Ohmie’s brassiere. You are C.I.A., or something like that. I know.”
Mom and Dad snapped their heads one to another and Mme Benoir a few times, saying nothing.
“My grandmother was French resistance. My mother was a nurse in Vietnam, a French nurse in the Gendarmerie at Dien Bien Phu.” She let that sink in a minute. I knew history pretty well. Not only was I an advanced student, but I read a lot. Dien Bien Phu was where the French army was defeated, the impetus for their leaving Vietnam.
“Me. I have cooked soup, and changed beds my entire life. My mother, my grandmother were heroic.” She stopped for a moment, not in self-pity, but in tribute. “My mother was conceived under, shall I say, less than pleasant conditions. My mother never spoke of her battle experiences. Never. But I read stories. I saw the films. I always wondered what I would have done, how I would react. Well, this is my moment. It may not be much, but for Ohmie…”
Mom and Dad both started to speak, but Mme Benoir held up both hands like she was a traffic cop in the middle of an intersection. “I will disguise as Virginia, arm sling, a wig, one of her…” Mrs Benoir nodded toward Mom’s much larger chest. I couldn’t help but chortle through the mask. Mom thought I was gagging, but Mrs Benoir knew. “Such a stinker, he is.” She was grinning.
She continued. “We put a dummy in a wheelchair. And with your car parked at the door, Dummy and I, what do you say divert those men before they shoot up innocent people.”
“And when they catch you?” Mom asked.
“My moment,” was all Mme Benoir said.
Dad looked at the wall clock. “Soon as it’s dark,” he said. Then Dad left to set things in motion. Maybe steal some kid to play me in a wheelchair. He hadn’t touched his coffee.
Somehow, I felt a little invigorated and motioned toward the cup. Mom made a little face and shrugged her shoulders. I think right then I could have asked for anything in the world. I just wanted to sip Dad’s drink, like it could make me closer to him. I don’t know. Maybe that’s stupid, but that’s what was in my head. It tasted awful, but I took three big sips anyway.
Mme Benoir gave me another one of those little stinker looks.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie was whisked off to the hospital. Both his father and Mme Benoir show up. Assassins show up at the hospital. Mme Benoir discloses her heroic ancestry and determination to help.
Dad was still gone setting things up. Mme Benoir was out fueling up her car for Dad to use. She had said that she knew it was low, but had come on to the hospital to see me. She was also going to pick up a bag of foodstuffs in case we had to run and hide out. She knew that we would never just lead them back to her chateau. Mom was dozing in the chair beside my bed. When a doctor entered the room. I could see him all the way into the room—all of him. Mom only saw over the bed.
Two things: one, he didn’t tap, tap, tap on the door. Two, he was wearing dirty tennis shoes. They were made of leather, but still sneakers. And old and dirty. And three. Three things. And three, his stethoscope was backwards. I’d never seen any medical person put the pick-up piece on the left, always on the right, their right.
I furrowed my brow at Mom, blinking hard. She nodded. My bet was that she’d picked up on some other clues.
The fake doctor looked around the room. No doubt reconnoitering the security. “You are feelink better, yes? We weel transfer you soon. To other floor. Good day.”
As he turned to leave, Mom let him have it with her cast right over the top of his head. Him being not overly tall gave her a lot more torque. It broke her cast, and probably didn’t do his head any good at all. Mom winced a little. I’m sure it hurt her arm, too. After first closing the door, Mom tied him up with his belt and the TV cable. Then she gagged him with a face cloth and a cut-up towel. Who knew that Mom carried a knife? After dragging him into the bathroom, I don’t know if she finished him off or not. She might’ve been taking the time to get him all the way in so the bathroom door would close. Or…
Mme Benoir came back with fish sandwiches. I wasn’t much for eating. Mom told her about their friend using the bathroom. Mom said that he was probably doing recon, and would already be missed. Mme Benoir hadn’t seen any of them when she came in, but that didn’t mean anything. Probably in their car.
Dad returned with a mannequin. Really. A female a little larger than me. He said that it cost him three hundred Euros and if he’d had time, he could’ve bought a brand new one for half that. Spy work is expensive! Turns out he had to break the legs. It was an older model made without flexible limbs. They would bend, he’d said, but not enough. They bend just fine now.
Mme Benoir went to work on making herself look like Mom. She couldn’t use the bathroom, so Dad turned his back. I shut my eyes – mostly. Dad made the dummy look like me, a scarf, a baseball cap and a blanket. Mom helped me get dressed.
“I don’t think they know I’m here,” Dad said. “I used the administrative entrance each time. Right now, I don’t know how many of them there are. It’s me they want. I could show myself, and let them chase me, but they will come for you just in case they don’t capture me. So that’s out. I’ll put our car at the emergency department entrance. They may have someone watching our car right now, and also the emergency department door. I’ll deal with that.”
“Mme Benoir, if you will leave the wig here with Virgy, and go move your car to the main discharge door. We’ll have your Ohmie and the wig near the reception kiosk. And our Ohmie at the emergency exit.
There was something missing to Dad’s plan. I just knew it. But I also knew that he would have it covered.
Mom and I were to wait for gunfire before going outside. I convinced Mom that I could get into the car on my own if she would get behind the wheel and be ready to roll.
Mme Benoir slowly pushed the dummy out to the car. Her job was to give them a chance to identify Mom and Ohmie. It was almost too easy. She could have pushed faster, loaded the dummy and been gone. We needed her to draw any assassins away from the emergency door. Since Mom did not want to show herself, she couldn’t look to spot any of them. And she would have had to expose herself fully in order to get a good look around. We waited, hoping we would hear gunfire from that distance.
Mme Benoir left the dummy in the wheelchair beside the passenger door, the door open, as if waiting for an orderly or nurse to come help her. She waited patiently, until an assassin with his gun out was mere yards away. (Meters to Mme Benoir) The car already running, she put it in gear, ducked low, and sped off as quickly as a four-cylinder Fiat could speed her. The man in front of her car with a pointed weapon suddenly dropped as if shot, which he was, by Dad.
That was our signal. There was more gunfire, but we were too interested in getting into the car and racing toward the back of the hospital to count, or try to figure how many different guns might be involved. I worried about Mme Benoir.
Dad had a borrowed taxi a short distance away. As quickly as he’d dispatched the first assassin, he ran to it to chase Mme Benoir. After crashing into a vehicle that he’d seen chasing her, presumably full of assassins, Dad jumped from the wrecked cab and three dumbfounded Croatians got out of their vehicle and ran back toward the hospital. By then, we were in a parking lot off Gloriastrasse watching for a pedestrian that looked like Dad. He came strolling by like a man walking a dog, only he had no dog. The way Dad told it, there were no terrified bystanders, no cars slamming into other cars to get out of Mme Benoir’s way. No screaming or shouting for the police. Uh-huh. Another day at the beach.
We drove the speed limit on the route we expected Mme Benoir would take, looking for a bullet-ridden blue Fiat.
|Author Notes||Dying of stage four lymphoma, Ohmie, the teenage prodigy, has seen enough doctors to know.|
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Mom takes out an assassin in my room. Mme Benoir, disguised as Mom fakes out more assassins, covered by Dad, as Mom and I snuck out through a different exit.
We were back at the chateau, Dad standing guard down the road. Dad noticed that Mme Benoir had removed her car’s plates, leaving them at the chateau. Smart lady. I hugged her tight when we got back. I was feeling better. Mom learned while we were there to double the corticosteroids. Well, the same dosage, but twice as often. We would have to get more pretty soon.
This time our good-byes were for real. We all knew it. “Yes, Mme Benoir, of course I will keep in touch. I will.” I meant it, too. As best I could. For as long as I could.
Mom drove us to a train station in Bern. It was only an hour away. We’d spent the night before boarding a morning train. Dad would meet in Spiez where he would board after guarding Mme Benoir all night.
I thought it cool, fitting. That three spies would meet up in Spiez, Switzerland. Get it, spies. ’Course that’s not how the Swiss pronounce it.
Dad and I slept the whole way to Rome. I never did get to see that part of the mountains. Mom made reservations for us in a nice villa outside Labaro, the last stop before Rome. We took two cabs to get there. Spy work was expensive. We stayed there two days.
I’m not quite myself those two days, pretty quiet. But I watch, and listen. It was during one of those watching and listening times that Mom opened the subject out of the blue. We’d just finished some kind of tomato-pasta dish. I didn’t eat much.
Mom said they didn’t know. “I came home from work and you were pale, short of breath, feverish. I thought the flu. Covid wasn’t a thing yet. It didn’t sound like the typical symptoms, but who knew? I took you to the doctor’s and then we went back home. The next day I took you to the emergency room. Within thirty seconds the doctor there locked eyes on me like I’d shot you. The emergent blood work proved it: lymphoma, stage four. You’d never once complained of being sick.
“Ohmie, you don’t know how sorry we were. We are. They offered… well you know. But what they didn’t offer us was hope.”
“I know Mom. Dad.” Dad had been as engaged in what Mom was saying as she was. “I felt stuff, tired, but I didn’t know it wasn’t normal. Or a bug, or something. It wasn’t anybody’s fault.”
We all moved into the living room. The picture window looked out at rolling hills of grape vineyards. It was cool, but not cool like the mountains. The TV was on a news channel. It was in Italian, but I understood some of it. Italian’s not that much different from French or Spanish. They were all related. There was a video of a super yacht that had been confiscated from a Russian oligarch, a friend of Putin’s.
Dad grabbed one of his many one-time-use, disposable telephones and called his friend, Dale. He had to leave a message: share my gmen gym kit (6-4--2--7-3-2--6-3--7-1). It was a code used several times before. After Dale added back the ones: 7-5--3--8-4-3--0-7-4--8-2. Call me from a secure phone.
Dad explained it when he saw my confusion. “Sometimes we need the numbers sorted by syllables. Gmen, of course is 7-3-2. Dale adds one and gets 8-4-3. He knows that it’s one word, not for me, two words. Of course, it could be either from, or from. We have to get that part from context. Many sequences are instinctual. 0-7-4 is secure, no matter what else it could be, we see secure. Usually, the spaces aren’t needed, and running letters all together helps confound the bad guys. But in this case, I want rapid response.
Dad let me listen in to his side of the conversation. It was way better than a steroid shot.
The Koroleva Ledi was the name of the yacht, Queen Lady. From Dale to his boss, to his, to his, and to the Secretary of State. From him to the President. The boat was ours. It took all day and all night, but midmorning the next day, it was ours. All Dad had to do was find a captain and crew.
As I read in some novel, somewhere: No hill for a hilly horse. Or for a spy: typical day at the office.
Then, Mom had some work to do. She used another of Dad’s phones to call Paul. Would he use his influence and get Ohmies’ – Tim’s – doctor to send some meds to Ottavia. Mom made reservations at a hotel there and explained that schizophrenia medication would be arriving for them, to please hold it. No hotel would dare lose, or withhold a customer’s schizophrenia meds. And they weren’t worth anything on the black market, anyway. I didn’t have schizophrenia, but the ploy worked.
The boat was in Naples, so that’s where Dad went. Mom and I had to wait for the meds. We didn’t have them sent to Naples, because you just get into the habit of being careful in the spying industry. Mistakes like that can get you killed. Sure, we trusted Paul, but who else might see an address? Or who at Dr. Hamilton’s office, or the pharmacy? Or in the carrier service? No. Too many hands. Mom would call the hotel in a couple days. When the package arrived, she would go in disguise. She would go by taxi as herself, because she didn’t want Paul, or anyone, to know her fake name. After getting the package, she would change her disguise a little, and go out a different door, and walk to a taxi.
I wanted to go with her, but you know how mothers are.
13 yo Ohmie, a gifted prodigy, is in stage 4 lymphoma. Unaware his parents worked for the CIA, he was drawn into the trade having saved his father's life by killing would-be assassins. The intrigue has persisted despite declining health.
The code was explained in detail in previous posts.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie and his parents leave Mme Benoir’s chateau for good, heading toward Rome by train. Learning of a confiscated Russian yacht, Ohmie’s father arranged to commandeer it to sail to the U.S. Ohmie tells the tale.
Here’s something funny. The authorities waited until the Russians had the boat fueled and outfitted for travel before taking it over. They knew whose it was all along. Six other yachts had been confiscated already. The boat captain had already alerted the Port Commander that they were bound for Cuba. My bet is that was what the authorities were waiting for. When the harbor pilot came aboard, he wasn’t the harbor pilot, and he brought trainees, who weren’t trainees. Hah!
Get off our boat, Mr. Ruskie! If you wanted to keep it, you shouldn’t have invaded Ukraine. They weren’t even allowed to pack. But they did eventually let Mrs. Ruskie aboard to pack personal meds and stuff. My bet was that she got all her jewelry and expensive clothes. Mom wouldn’t want that stuff anyway. Hot don’t need gaudy.
Just thinking about the cruise perked me up. I was definitely feeling better. Then again, maybe it was compounding the steroids. Whatever, I could walk again, and not like a one-legged dog, either.
Dad introduced us to the captain and crew. They were from Greece, but spoke French, at least the captain and one or two of the crew did. The captain spoke Greek, French, Spanish, and Italian, but not English. I didn’t blame him. English, unless spoken at home, would be a terrible language to learn. My bet was that his command of languages was what helped make him a captain. Auggie, I don’t know his regular name, was the second in command, second mate. Hah! I get the lingo, feelin’ it. Auggie spoke Greek and English. It seemed like he made most of the decisions running the boat.
That was one thing about Europe – the languages. About the same size as the states, they had about fifteen languages. The U.S. was basically one language. There were a lot of Spanish-speaking people, but English was everywhere. In Europe you might need three or four different languages in a single day of ground travel. Weird. Guess it made more sense when nobody traveled faster than a horse.
Mom gave me the nausea medicine just in case. Sure can’t hurt. Hah! Yes, it can. I didn’t take any more of it. Tinnitus and too sleepy. I was finally feeling better and I didn’t want to sleep it away. And the tinnitus was like living under buzzing bees, or mosquitos, only louder, more constant, and higher pitched. No mas!
The captain said that I might want to take them when we hit the Atlantic. He’d take us close enough to see the Rock of Gibraltar, and then… hang on. He liked to make that crossing in the daylight, one: because it was relatively narrow and you didn’t want to be anywhere near other ships, or boats. And two: people didn’t like to be thrown out of their beds. Or to throw up in their beds. It wasn’t always like that, but often enough.
This was the best time of my life. I was cruising on a luxury yacht with as much caviar as I wanted. I was with Mom and Dad, a dad that I finally got to know. And I knew that Mom and Dad loved each other and would make it without me around. An empty nest. I bet I knew what would be goin’ on. And it wouldn’t be a lotta bickering.
The week was going too fast. So fast, in fact, Dad had the captain slow down to a creep. It’s like we were treading water, nearly drifting. We hit the gulf stream and turned right. Hah! Starboard. We were going to dock at Newport News, Virginia. And get this – Grandma Vera, Dad’s mother, was going to pick us up in her Escalade. Grandpa Westlake was going to secure the house, make sure it was safe. I guess he was the one that taught Dad how to shoot. They didn’t know any details, but Dad got word to him to look things over, with his nine. Grandpa, of course, knew what business we were in.
Even drifting went too fast, but without actually turning around, which would probably be breaking the rules…. Well, we couldn’t actually drag an anchor, or run the props in reverse. Oh, well. I missed my own room and bed anyway. And I’d had all the caviar I wanted for the rest of my life, all four to six weeks of it.
Grandma actually hugged me. She really was nice about it too. Her perfume was a bit overwhelming, but that was okay.
Grandpa had burgers ready to grill. As soon as we got inside the house, he went to work on them. I went out back with him because Dad did. We were a team, after all.
“Hey Timmie!” He never did like the name Ohmie. “Hear you can make a violin sound like a fiddle.” He chuckled at me. Dad’s head said to go ahead and get it. It took a few minutes because I wasn’t too good on stairs. I saw Grandma frowning out of the corner of my eye. She wasn’t frowning in my eye. From the corner of my eye, I saw her frowning just a little bit. After tuning the violin and carefully negotiating the steps, it was time to eat. I got about half a burger down and showed them what a spoiled violin sounded like with my version of Orange Blossom Special.
Mom and Grandma came out to listen and watch. Since they came out, I added another minute or so to it. I think that after the Berlin deal, she forgave me my fiddling.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie’s father managed to get the yacht. They made it to Newport News where Grandma Westlake shows Ohmie affection. Grandpa Westlake made sure the house was clear.
Dad gave me a copy of his thumb drive. He worked in his and Mom’s office, and I worked in my bedroom. We decided that instead of moving my room downstairs, converting the dining room, or the formal living room, and then in a matter of weeks having to change it back, we decided to put a chair lift on the stairs. And it would be handy if the next time Mom broke her leg instead of her arm. Hah! They didn’t laugh when I said that.
When Mom got back from having her arm x-rayed and re-cast, she worked with the files some, too.
Dad told me to forget about the spyware and ransomware stuff, the Company already had that and had experts on it. He didn't want to give up the political stuff yet for a few reasons: one, it was explosive. Some people might get hurt, some get mad, and some take actions that would compromise our investigation. Two, heads might roll. Maybe appointee heads, maybe elected heads. And that might affect our investigation. And three, we didn’t know who was who. I’m sure Mom and dad had some guesses, but….
So, I went through what I’d copied in Minsk line by line. I tried to show Dad where the stuff was that came from the locked office, the pass-coded computer, but whether he got it, I don’t know. But I knew. The trouble was that I didn’t speak Russian, or Belarussian. But I knew patterns, and I knew numbers. And I could use simple translation website programs. I did that once, just once, before catching myself. After that once, I bought a translating program that I could do the same thing, but off-line. Referencing a Russian alphabet, I wrote an extra simple substitution program.
I did searches of U.S. politicians’ names, both candidates and elected, all I could think of. Names from both parties showed up. It was easy enough to see which were viewed positively by the data author, and which more negatively. It struck me odd. From what I’d learned in history classes, fifty years ago I would expect opposite sentiment expressed.
Then I searched for Dortch. Nothing. Not one time. But neither was Dad’s name mentioned anywhere. What I did see, was a word that should have been a name, but translated dutch. I showed it to Dad. After all, we were a team. Dad’s fingers flew over his keyboard. His monitor displayed a chart with dutch at the top of a list of names. Right of the names were series and columns of numbers. Not every name had an entry in the middle column, but dutch did.
“Those are off-shore bank account numbers, Ohmie. And the next column are amounts in U.S. dollars.”
I saw that dutch had 100,000. The column to the right of that had 2,985,500, probably cumulative. “They’re paying Dortch?” I exclaimed.
Dad called toward the door of his office for Mom. I ran as fast as a one-legged horse could for my chair lift, willing it to go faster. I heard Dad talking to Dale on the phone, asking him to get to his encrypted line to call Dad back. My bet was that Dad wanted Dale to go to the Company and get them to see if that number was really a bank account, and was it really Dortch’s.
I was going to go a more direct route. On my computer, I wrote, and printed out, entries for every one of the social media sites, all with relevant tag markers and detailed notifications. Of course, I would get Dad’s approval, but my plan was to draw Dortch to 1010 Rocky Waters Avenue, our house.
We had our answer the next day. Yes, Dortch owned that account in the Bank of Singapore.
It didn’t take much debate. Why traipse all over Europe where you couldn’t very well watch your own back? And it was highly unlikely that Dortch could get his hired assassins to America, very quickly, anyway.
They tweaked a couple of my posts, but most they left what I wrote. I think out of curiosity, but Mom followed me up to watch me post them. I’d opened the accounts days ago, a couple I opened years ago, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. I posted them all, and hashtagged as much as I could. Some of the hashtags were fake, just designed to make Dortch mad enough to make a mistake. Like #FatDortch, and #DortchTreason.
Dad double-checked the house’s defenses, the fence, the camera locations and performance, and the security system. He thought about getting a big dog from the pound, but didn’t want Dortch to just kill it.
I didn’t either, life being kinda precious.
“Dad, don’t you think I should have the Berretta?”
“No, he doesn’t.” It was Mom from the other room “Ohmie, you’re thirteen years old.” Mom came into the dining room where Dad and I were having a snack. I think it was part of Mom and Dad’s plan to eat a snack, getting me to have one too. Mom wasn’t done. “Honey, I know what you’ve been through. I know you are capable. I just can’t have anyone taking shots at you because you have a gun. Your father and I are trained for this.” She looked to Dad for support. He gave it to her with his silence.
We kept working on the data. Mom kept up with medicating me every couple hours. Believe it or not, I felt well enough to bypass the chairlift once in a while, at least halfway up, to where I wished I’d used the lift.
Mom and I called Mme Benoir. She was fine. No one had bothered her. And yes, she would like to come visit us. Maybe soon, before the skiers arrived. I thought soon… before I died.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie and his dad figured out that Dortch had an off-shore bank account and that he received millions of dollars from either Russia, or Belarus. They baited him to come to their house.
Paul Santos came to the house. He’s a good guy, Mom’s boss. I felt good about him, like he cared. I know Dad and Dale talked on the phone some. I overheard at least one conversation. And the way Dad talked to Mom, I think they would like to go to one of the twins’ baseball games, but not until after… They didn’t say it like that, but after Mom saying that she’d like to go, hers and Dad’s eyes sort of leaned my way. They changed the subject.
A couple days after my posts hit the ether, the netherworld, I asked, “Dad?” As if the idea was novel, I asked, “Could Dale, or Mr. Santos track Dortch’s travel? See if he came back to the states? Tell you where he is?”
“No more than they could when we were in Europe, Ohmie. Dortch uses fake names about as much as I do. And America doesn’t use facial recognition cameras like they have in Europe.”
“Doesn’t the Company keep track of your phony names? Aren’t they who gave them to you?”
“Not all of them.” Dad and Mom exchanged grins and glances.
“And remember, the Company is hands off. It’s my operation.”
“Ours,” I corrected.
“Ours,” he agreed. He and Mom exchanged glances again, sans grins.
We played with the data for two more days before we heard the alarm telling us that someone was at the back fence. Ordinarily, that triggered flood lights. Dad rewired it, making it signal a buzzer on each floor. We didn’t care that the wire ran right there on top of the carpet. It was temporary. And Dad had it taped at the edge where I wouldn’t trip on it. Mom and Dad took positions as if practiced. If I was downstairs, I was to go to their office. If upstairs, I was to stay in my room.
It was three o’clock in the morning. We were up because I got up, done with sleep for the night. My shower woke Dad. We were having coffee in the dark. Why not. We were glad that we did, but the plan was spoiled by the light outside by the backdoor of the garage. It came on with the alarm. Dad must have forgotten about that one.
Mom came into the dining room carrying her Glock after she and Dad were sure that the night’s event was over. I wondered where my Berretta was.
We all looked at the security video. All you could make out was a shape that was probably man-sized. It’s a big back yard, but the system worked. If the flood lights had been wired, we probably could have identified Dortch. But we didn’t want to identify him. We wanted to catch him. Maybe put a couple bullets in him first.
Mom and Dad, after unscrewing the light by the garage door, made sure that they had naps that day. Dad said that if it was him, he would come back the next night with some kind of spring-loaded Jack-in-the-Box gizmo that would trigger an alarm in the front of the house, and a moment later come into the yard from the back. Dad said that we would naturally expect a different route, and not be as well prepared for an attack from the same location.
It was just after eleven when an alarm tripped indicating an intruder at the front gate. Mom watched the front – just in case. Dad was at the back where he could see the back door, as well as the windows in the kitchen and kitchen dinette area. I crept down the stairs and made it into the office. What I worried about was a bomb – worse, an incendiary bomb, one that would blow up and burn. A single shooter who blew up the back door would be ready to shoot whoever came out the front. I know I read too many Clancy type books, but what if he had an RPG – rocket-propelled-grenade launcher? Or a couple of them?
I hated staying in the office. But I knew that if I came out, Mom and Dad’s attention would be diverted, split between me and where they should be paying attention. I get it. Being thirteen sucks. I cracked the door open.
None of us made a sound. I had no idea if Mom or Dad was moving around, or frozen in place. I also had no idea where Dortch was. I suddenly had the idea that I should go out and show myself to him to bait him. If he had me, like Dad said, Dad would do anything. But I have nothing to lose… what, a few more weeks? I had an appointment to see Dr. Hamilton that we might, or might not keep. I do want to see Nurse May, though. So, we might keep the appointment just to let them draw blood and to see her one last time.
But right now, if I stepped out the back door….
Suddenly, the automatic garage door opener activated. Dad, I think, stayed put. I saw a flash go by the office doorway that was probably Mom, positioning herself to watch that entry. I could really help out if I had the Berretta. I could watch the front door where Mom was.
I would have been flattened as the front door crashed down, flat inside the foyer as if the hinges were blown with some sort of detonation device. Dortch was probably in the house, but it was dark, too dark. Like even the TV and electronic device power lights weren’t even on. The garage door – the breaker box was in the garage. The back door blew the same way as the front had. Now, Dortch could be at either door. Or neither. He could come in through the garage where Mom was. I really needed the Berretta. All I had was my phone, so I called 9-1-1 and gave them our address. I don’t think either Mom or Dad factored in blowing the doors down.
Our house is pretty big. Too big for just the three of us. There were a couple walls between the front and the back doors. So you couldn’t guard them both. The entry from the garage into the house was only a hallway from the front entry. With a professional lock pick device, Dortch could be in that door in seconds, and quietly too. That’s why Mom went there, hoping to also detect anyone coming in the front. Dad couldn’t leave the back, the kitchen area.
We just had to wait. I was wishing I hadn’t taken it on myself to call the cops. What if they came with sirens and just scared him off. It would be all this damage for nothing. Maybe the cops would just do a courtesy drive-by. My phone rang. I answered it immediately.
“No Ma’am. It’s a false alarm. Our power is off is all.”
“No, Ma’am.” I’m home alone. My folks are out, but they’ll be back soon. I just got scared is all.”
“Yes, Ma’am, I opened the garage door for my parents.”
The cops were out front. I told them I would step out and wave if everything was all right. I had no choice. Dortch just had to be in the garage or out back.
I stepped out front. Fortunately, the cops' spotlight saw me, but not the blown-up door. Mom and Dad were probably pretty upset with me.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Dortch set off the backyard alarm. A light bulb that Ohmie’s father thought he taken care of came on and interrupted the trap. Dortch blows in both the front and the back doors, after successfully killing the home’s electricity. Ohmie calls 9-1-1 and then has to go outside to call the responding cops off.
I tried to back up into the house, but I stumbled a bit when I got to the threshold. An arm caught me and kept me from falling. Wishful thinking made me believe for a second that it was Dad, but I knew better. Dortch let go, but only long enough to grip me by the back of the neck. His paw wrapped just about all the way around.
“I gotcher kid,” Dortch shouted. “And the police are gone.”
Mom was inching her way up the hallway. I could feel her. I guess Dortch did too. Either that or he felt me looking that direction. He fired several rounds toward where I’d been looking. Mom was down. I knew it. She’d been creeping our way, but Dortch just threw bullets that way. One of them got her. I screamed as loud as my cancer-ravaged body could, struggling to get free.
Dad yelled from the dining room. “Let him go, Dortch. Just you and me, hand-to-hand. Take Ohmie into the yard. I’ll come out.”
There was only one reason Dortch would take Dad up on that – that’s if he had a second gun. All of a sudden, I was being yanked by the neck backwards. I almost lost my footing. His grip hurt so bad that I thought I would pass out. There was a street light a half block away that provided a little bit of illumination, enough if your eyes had adjusted to the dark.
Dortch had me with his left hand. His gun was in his right. Dad carefully laid his gun on the concrete porch and stepped toward us. Dortch pitched his toward a birdbath that I used to hate mowing around, and flung me in the other direction. The two faced off. Dad feinted with his right, parried a blow from Dortch that glanced off his head and threw out his foot in a crotch kick. I could feel the clonk through the ground that I was still trying to get up from. We later learned that Dortch was wearing some sort of custom designed protective cup. It was not only a cup, but also a holster for the Browning .25 semi-automatic that he had pointing at Dad.
Bam! I put the one shot from the single use nine-millimeter right in his breadbasket. Dad slapped the .25 out of his hand and ran for Mom. I retrieved both of Dortch’s guns. I’d seen too many horror movies where the supposedly dead guy sneaks up in the dark, or from your blind side.
The cops were there within an instant, it seemed like. Guns drawn, aimed at me, at Dortch, at the house, back at me. They were shouting, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. One of them was taking the guns out of my hands. There was an ambulance at the gate. Turned out the cops that came for my call decided to circle the area and drift back for another look. By then, calls had come in about the explosions and shooting.
My hearing and other senses were coming back by then. Dad was carrying Mom out of the house toward the first responders who’d jumped the gate. I heard Dad tell them that her arm cast was shattered and either the bullet, or a fragment had grazed her head. Her head was wrapped with Dad’s shirt. Dad opened the gate after they put Mom on their surfboard stretcher.
One of the cops was tending Dortch and was on his shoulder microphone telling them to send another ambulance. Then Dad was leading me to our car. We would follow the ambulance that had Mom.
“Dad, I’m sorry, I…”
Dad interrupted me. “Ohmie, you saved my life… again. No, the 9-1-1 call was not in the plan. But neither was blowing up both doors and possibly coming in a third door. Ohmie, I was beside myself back there unable to help your mother.”
“I didn’t see. H-how was Mom’s wound? Bad?” Tears erupted like two water faucets, streaming down my face.
“It was dark, too dark to tell, really. But I think, well, I don’t know if it was one shot that broke up when it hit her cast, or two shots. But she has a head wound. Fragments maybe….” Dad stopped talking when his voice began to break.
The cops were still taking our stories, first a uniform cop, and then a detective when a doctor came into the room where we sat with Mom. They’d already x-rayed her arm and head. The doctor looked from Dad to me, causing Dad to tell him that it was okay to talk in front of me, a wisp of a kid. He was pretty sure that a bullet had fragmented when it hit her cast, a piece of it made a four-inch slice in her scalp and did a little more than just graze her skull – there was penetration. They had a neurosurgeon on his way. She was in a coma.
Not good news.
“Dortch?” Dad asked.
The doctor was familiar with the ordeal and the relationship. He knew that I was the one who shot Dortch. Probably from the first responders, maybe hearing the cops. “Blew up his duodenum, pancreas, half his stomach… oh, and a few inches of his spine. He’ll live, but he won’t be very happy.” The doctor winked at me. I couldn’t believe it. My bet was that the doctor had a little brother.
Then the doctor looked squarely at me. “How are you doing? How long since you’ve had anything?” He glanced at my shunt.
Dad let me speak for myself. “I’m due for the steroids. We’re not doing the antibiotics.” I saw him grimace. “I think I could use some antiemetics, though.”
“That, I can do.” He looked to Dad, who nodded assent.
When we got home the next day, Mom admitted after brain surgery and still in a coma, Mom’s boss, Paul Santos had a contractor crew fixing the doors. I guess he felt some responsibility since it was Company C-4 that blew up our house. Grandma was there waiting for us. She’d already cleaned up inside. She said that professionals were coming out to clean the carpet where Mom was shot. Dad said fine, they should come out; but he ripped out that section of carpet and threw it away. Dad showed her how to give me shots and then helped me with a shower and get into bed. I was out for the rest of the day and all that night.
When I woke up, Grandma gave me a sponge bath and changed my sheets like they do in hospitals, one side at a time. I was kind of surprised at her skill. And I didn’t care that she saw me. I mean what do I care? They say pride goes before a fall. Well, I fell. What does that say about whatever pride a thirteen-year-old should have?
“Ohmie. I, I love you. You know that, don’t you?”
I didn’t, and I guess my face showed it. “There are things… well. You know it now.” She smiled at me like Nurse May and Mom do.
She mouthed a word, or a phrase, actually. She gave it no voice, but I made out the phrase. Then she got up saying that she would go start the laundry, taking the towels and sheets with her, promising to come back with some food. I told her that I was feeling some better and would eat in the dining room. She nodded approval.
The Pledged. That was what she’d mouthed. That was gonna take some thinkin' on.
Three days later, when Grandma brought me a plate of scrambled eggs, scrambled with milk the way I like ‘em, she said that Dad had gone to get Mom, she’d been out of her coma two days and doing well enough to come home as long as Dad had some kind of home health nurse check her every four hours. The hospital set it up. Dad hinted that he had to plead national security. I had learned a lot about how spies operate.
Grandma went to the kitchen to cook, giving the three of us a chance to talk. Dad and I wanted to bring Mom up to speed. I don’t know why I wrote that, since I detest writers speaking in clichés. We told her all about the fight. She couldn’t remember anything past the garage door going up. Which reminded me that I wanted to check that out.
“You shot Dortch?” Mom was shocked. And dismayed. “Oh, Ohmie.”
“Dad’s plastic gun was on his desk. He was using it for a paperweight.” I said, like it was just sitting there going to waste. Funny, it was just a paperweight now.
“But only one shot, and you would have to be close.”
“Twelve feet,” Dad injected. I measured it. “Dead center mass.”
“Blew up his duodenum,” I said with a grin.
Dad’s left lip twitched just that tiny bit.
“But I was aiming for his nose.”
Mom and Dad both just about busted a gut.
...Mom admitted after brain surgery... (admitted into the hospital)
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Dortch broke into the house and shot Ohmie’s mother. Ohmie’s father and Dortch fought and Ohmie shot Dortch with the one-shot composite gun. Grandmother Vera is staying on and helping out while Ohmie’s mother recovers.
As I suspected. I had to use a stool, but written in pencil behind the keypunch code box that was fastened outside the garage door was a four-digit code. Like lead pencil marks will do when rubbed, the notation was smeared, nearly smeared out. I couldn’t make out the numbers, but that’s what it was: 5-8-9-7, Mom and Dad’s personal code: l-f/v-p/b-g/k, I love you back.
Of course, vowels having no value, the literal expression would be just love back. But I remember one time hearing Mom on the phone, "I love you back." 5-8-9-7.
Someone had written the code. And someone had tried to rub it out. None of us would have put it there. Grandpa.
I punched 5-8-9-7 and the door began to open. Just as it was supposed to. I played it out in my head.
Grandpa checked out the house – all clear. He wrote the code on the board behind the box. None of us would have written it there. Anyone could see where the electricity went into the house, and then figure where the breaker panel would be. Maybe Grandpa pre-staged the explosives at the door hinges with wire leading to a receiver. It’d be simple to rig both doors to telephone numbers.
And the screaming-loud garage door mechanics would rattle the home’s defenders, giving them a third entry to guard. And no one would open the entry door from the house to the attached garage – certain death would await, possibly even shot through the door before you even got it opened to check out who was in the garage.
Dortch, or somebody, tried to wipe out the penciled code, but it was dark outside. He didn’t see that he left a smear. All he had to do after turning off our lights was to telephone a number and kablam-kablooey.
The Pledged, I searched it on-line. Mom confirmed it. A secret organization. The Company was aware of it, but being domestic, it was a concern for the FBI, not the CIA. Grandpa was a member, a high-ranking member.
The Pledged had infiltrated every facet of American agency, every organization: the FBI, the CIA, Homeland Security, the Secret Service, the various executive branch departments, even the National Park Service. Sometimes only one or two key people, in some cases dozens of people, all pledging an oath superseding their oath to the Constitution.
How did I know all this? In the industry, we call it another day at the office.
How we found out was a quiet affair. Me, Mom, and Dad were ushered into the White House. Mr. and Mrs. Zürman were there too. As the President put the Medal of Freedom on me, I asked him, whispering quietly, if he would get me a meeting with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. I just knew that I could trust him, Congressman Smith. A staffer escorted us all the way up the mall and into the House Office Building and to his office. The staffer even pushed my wheelchair. We weren’t in there a minute, and he held up his hand, stopping me. He made a phone call and another Congressman joined us in just a few minutes: the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. They had oversight of all the agencies.
“Ohmie,” the Intelligence Committee guy started, then he introduced everybody. Everybody knew our story and who Mom and Dad were. That was where I learned most about The Pledged. And what else I knew, Dad was learning for the first time. Grandpa. Dad’s dad. A man of men. The single most admired man in Dad’s life. I felt bad for Dad.
Congressman Jones looked at Dad, and then Mom, and then me. “What you folks have been through…. Well, for our part. We’re sorry. It shouldn’t have been.” He looked at me again, glancing at the medal around my neck. “I hear you’re quite the violinist!”
He showed me all his teeth with his smile. Okay, he knew everything.
“I know that you folks can keep a secret. Your job.”
He meant jobs, plural, but I let it go.
He was addressing Dad now. “See, the trouble is, The Pledged are patriots, super patriots. It’s like a circle, you know? You can be so far left that you meet yourself on the right, or so far right, that you… anyway. Some are ordinary Joes, doing regular work. Some in the private sector, some in government. Some are political appointees, some are even elected to office – at every level, local, state, federal. And far more than we’re comfortable with, they are members of our military, every branch. On January 6th, had the DC National Guard unit been called out… well…” He dropped that line but kept talking. “The Pledged controls nearly every other fringe out there: the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, the Arm and Hammmer… on and on. And when The Pledged speak, every militia in the country perks their ears.”
Dad was the one to hold up his hand. He didn’t want what was going to be said next to be said out loud, in front of me. “Mr. Jones, I share a trait with my son. Ohmie and I can see big pictures if we look at it long enough… if we’re compelled to.”
Dad thanked the two men for their time, offering his services upon request. He asked Mom and I if we were ready to go home.
“Dad,” I asked after we’d crossed the George Mason Bridge, “when he said if the Guard was called out on the 6th?”
“He wouldn’t say it, but they might have fought on the wrong side. Maybe between themselves, too. It would have been far worse. Who knows, we could still be fighting.”
“1776 meets 1861,” I said.
We were all quiet the rest of the ride home, chewing up what all we’d heard.
Grandma greeted us at the door, but then made herself scarce.
“Later son. I have to think.” I understood. I had to think sometimes, too. I wanted to go to bed anyway. I was exhausted and having a hard time catching my breath. “Oh, Ohmie, before you go up I need to show you something.”
I stepped into his office. Dad reached for the Clancy book that had ridden all over Europe with us. “Oh, that’s okay, Dad. I have my tablet. He kept going for the book, lifting it from the bookcase behind his chair. He didn’t hand it to me, but briefly exposed the Berretta, casually replacing The Cardinal of the Kremlin. The extra magazine was prob’ly there, too. I nodded.
Mom followed my chairlift up the stairs to help me. The home health nurse that was waiting for us followed Mom. She waited for Mom to give me my injections and strip me to my skivvies. I think the nurse saw my medal. It was a ridiculous thought, but I hoped she would tell Nurse May about it.
Light on action, but it is the only way I know to limit post size.
5-8-9-7 : l-f/v-p/b-g/k, I love you back : The Jerry Lucas phonetic code was explained a couple times earlier in the book.
I have toyed with reality, obviously. In a previous chapter the Covid-19 outbreak resulted in flight cancellations and restrictions. Here, we discuss Jan 6 as if that event occurred first. Oh well, it's fiction.
By Wayne Fowler
In the last chapter Ohmie learns of his grandfather’s involvement of their battle. The President awards Ohmie the Medal of Freedom and the family learns of The Pledged.
Paul Santos, Mom’s boss, came out to see us… me. And my medal. I was in bed that day, a kinda bad one. Paul's head nod to Dad said that he wanted a private word. What Paul didn’t know was that Dad and I were a team. Mom too. But Dad and I, well… Dad later told me that Paul warned him of Dad's supervisor, J.R. Sullivan. He didn’t say it to Dad, but like Dad said, we can see the big picture. Dad’s supervisor was Pledged. The next rung up was not. Dad’s immediate boss was not happy about what we had done to Dortch, who BTW (by-the-way for those just entering textland), was a paraplegic now, but wouldn’t be for long. I guess it was a race who would croak first, him or me. I really wanted to win that one. Along with seeing Nurse May again, I now had two goals. The first one was set for this afternoon. I had an appointment with Dr. Hamilton who had a report on the blood work. And Nurse May would be there.
When we got to the office, Nurse May was waiting. She had her smile on, the one reserved for me, was the way my imagination went. From around the back of the receptionist counter came someone who nearly killed me dead. I looked at her and then Mom. I guess my filters took a little walk, because I could feel my eyes widen to their fullest and my mouth make the word WOW! Mom and Nurse May both burst out laughing in a friendly kind of way.
Who came from behind the reception counter was the most beautiful person, besides Mom, that I’d ever seen in my life, and that counts TV and movies. “Hi Ohmie, I’m May.” She held out her hand, unafraid to take mine. (Some people shy from sick people.)
She’d done this part before. “Yeah.” Nodding toward her older sister, she explained. “My sister is Olivia May. I’m Jessica May. We both like it, so…”
“You’re beautiful!” I said, unable to say anything else, she had to be my age, maybe a bit older.
She blushed and giggled a little. Nurse May and Mom laughed again.
“My older sister told me about you, that you are both a genius and cute. I begged her to let me meet you.”
I looked to Nurse May. She seemed okay with conceding her place in my heart. “I’m really glad you did.”
“You won the Congressional Medal of Freedom?”
That was supposed to be a secret. I have no idea how the news got to Nurse May. I was certain, though, that she didn’t know that I killed people to get it.
“Uh, yeah. It’s at home in a box. To tell the truth, I’m better about my violin than I am about that.”
May turned to her older sister, “You didn’t tell me!”
“I didn’t know!” Nurse May said.
Beautiful May said that she was learning the guitar. “Cords are easy. Three finger picking is a bit tougher. Could I hear you play?”
I looked at Mom. “I’m not getting in the way of romance,” she said.
Beautiful May blushed.
Somewhere a whole bunch of jocks at her school were probably crying their eyes out, wishing they could play a violin and were dying of cancer.
Mom and the two Mays set up a date while I was with Dr. Hamilton. Since we quit treatment, he wanted a minute with me, alone, before Mom joined us. He was cool. He didn’t say it, but I think he would do it the same way as I was, stop treatment. He wanted to know if I wanted any happy pills, but I told him I was plenty happy.
We got a McDonalds’ burger, fries, and Coke on the way home, I was so happy. I couldn’t finish them, but they were good, the fries especially.
When we got home, Dad was in his office with the door closed, thinking still. I know what he was thinking about—Grandpa. I wish I’d gotten the happy pills for him.
By suppertime, we were all feeling better. I was, Mom and Grandma were because I was, and Dad was. He acted like I imagine Rodin’s The Thinker would act if he were to ever have a Eureka event. I’d get Dad to lay out his plan after supper. We were a team.
“We know Sullivan is Pledged,” Dad started out. We also know that Bell, his boss, is not. They know that we were the ones with the data that burned Dortch, and that the data was encrypted. Not just encrypted, but in code. Remember Dutch. So, we, you and I, found Sullivan’s name on the list.”
I continued the line, “Tell him that we haven’t found his account yet, but we will. You think he’ll try to do what Dortch couldn’t?”
“No, Ohmie. We’re safe. But we’ll give him the opportunity to retire. He has his thirty in. Adam Bell knows that Sullivan put me out to dry, gave Dortch a free hand. We’ll also tie Sullivan to Dortch’s assassins, that he knew about then. That carries life imprisonment. Bell will threaten a military tribunal since it happened overseas.”
“Oh, man! He’s really in trouble, isn’t he?”
“He will be as soon as we frame him up.”
Dad didn’t care what the data showed. We were going to get him – another day at the office.
“But Grandpa?” I asked.
“Part of the deal. Sullivan avoids prison by busting out your grandfather. Grandpa has to resign. I can’t make him abdicate, or renounce, but he has to step down. Your grandmother is prepared to divorce him if he doesn’t.”
“She might anyway,” I said to Dad’s nodding.
As soon as we let Mom know about potential risks, which she could very well figure out for herself, we, meaning Dad, was good to go.
Myself, I spent time practicing my violin, getting ready for May’s and Mme Benoir’s visits. May on Saturday, and Mom would pick up Mme Benoir from the airport on Monday. I was having the best time of my life. Until I overheard Mom and Dad talking.
“Sam,” Mom was saying. “Are you sure, really sure?
I didn’t see them I just heard them. Mom was still speaking. “Before Ohmie came along, he used to call you Ohmie.”
Dad cleared his throat. “Yes. But America, Virgie. It could have been the death of you, me, and Ohmie. But worse. He doesn’t care if he destroys America in his misguided attempt to save an America that most Americans don’t want.”
Ohmie, 13 yr old prodigy, is dying with stage four lymphoma. He didn't know that his parents were CIA. Chapter one explains most of the story.
Paul Santos - Mom's CIA boss
Nurse May - my Oncologist's nurse
Dr. Hamilton - my Oncologist
J.R. Sullivan - Dad's boss
Adam Bell - Sullivan's supervisor
Mme. Benoir - our friend from Switzerland who owned a resort and helped us escape from assassins
By Wayne Fowler
Initially, the story ended after "in times where I wasn't sick." And then after "It didn't matter," and before "A noise, the rush of air, a presence... I felt it." I included the new ending when I decided that I had no desire to write an American Civil War Two story. I do regret, though, that some really good stuff between Ohmie and Beautiful May will have to remain locked in my computer file. (great big smiley face here!)
(Some in stage four lymphoma remain there for years., but probably not likely without treatment. Many people, with all sorts of diseases, experience a sense of resurgence just before the end.)
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