The Carlson Imperative
Book 1: Svetlana Curuvija
© 2010 J.W.Brown
Chapter 6: Revelations
I gathered up the print-outs, and copies of Svetlana’s ‘Bad men’ and headed to the garage. I unlocked and opened the main garage doors. It was 5 minutes to one. I entered the small ‘waiting’ room to the left-hand side of the garage, got out two crystal glasses and a bottle of Gordon’s from the small cupboard, and was cutting up a lemon when I heard the door close behind him.
I turned around and stretched out my hand.
“Good Afternoon Sir.”
He smiled briefly. “I’ve told you – it’s George, not Sir.”
George Dearby was approaching sixty, but no-one would have said so. He was still lean and well-proportioned, with none of the spine-bending that affects most men approaching sixty. But he looked tired.
I poured ice and a slice of lemon into the glasses, then a healthy measure of gin, snapped open two fresh bottles of tonic from the fridge, and put his drink down on the table. He sat and pulled open an A4 folder, spreading the contents in front of me – a précis of each of 3 of the 5 ’suspects’ records. Their faces glared at me from the pages.
“The other two sketches you sent, we can’t identify, but that doesn’t mean much. The quality of your witness’s drawings is outstanding, and the other three were immediately identified.”
He paused “These two,” he prodded with his finger “are small-time Russian Mafia. Nasty, vicious thugs, but so far we’ve found nothing we could finger them with. However..”
he paused again “This one – Piotr Vasilov”
This time his finger came down forcibly on the picture of the man’s face. “is FSB. We know he moonlights selling drugs, running rackets and prostitution, and we have suspected him of human trafficking for some time. He is a slimy, vicious, truly evil little man, who has tortured, maimed and murdered his way across Europe.”
He was becoming agitated. I tried not to show my surprise.
He continued “He has murdered British agents, and I have corroborated evidence that he is the execrable ball of slime who murdered my daughter.”
He picked up his glass, tossed it back in one, and slammed the glass on the table.
I was stunned, and to give myself time to think, I poured him another. He picked that up to, but sipped on it, looking at me thoughtfully over the rim.
I looked at him “Finally..”
“Yes” he said defiantly keeping back his tears. “Finally, and thanks to your informant, we might just get a chance to nail him for good.”
“Let me bring you up-to-date.”
I related the events of the last two days in full, describing my test of Svetlana’s memory, and his eyes gleamed. He agreed caution with respect to further questioning of her, but finally he simply asked.
“I was thinking we could prepare to go early Wednesday morning.”
“You think she can give you his location?”
I nodded “We’ll be careful, and she’s very spirited. I think we can do it.”
I paused then asked him. “Same MO?”
He nodded slowly, but then shook his head “I don’t want the Russians spiriting away this bastard using any immunity tricks.”
“No.” I said, waiting.
“And I don’t want any witnesses testifying he’s been snatched.”
He looked straight at me. “Joe. I’m going to ask a big favour from you.”
I nodded “Go ahead.”
“I want this bastard delivered to me personally, not to SOPS.”
“SOPS aren’t to know about him?”
“And his cronies can ask questions, so we..”
“Other than that, conduct the Op as you see fit. I’ll put all normal support in place, including armoury, transport, clean-up and welfare for any girls who want it. As usual any assets you find are yours to dispose of to cover your expenses and support your Refuge. How many?”
“I think myself and four should do it.” I said. He nodded briefly.
“Another?” I said lifting the bottle.
“Shouldn’t, but I need it. Cynthia keeps whinging about my clockwork.”
I topped up the glasses and we lifted them together and saluted, then drained them empty.
I handed him the transcription of Svetlana’s account. “For your records.” I said “It’s grim.”
He shook his head. “One more thing.”
“Yes?” I said
“If we nail this bastard, I’m retiring.” he paused then added “I’m sorry Joe.”
I nodded “No apologies needed. God knows you’ve done enough. I don’t blame you in the least.”
The old twinkle came back into his eye. “But I’m training my replacement, and I’m sure he can be persuaded to come to a similar sort of arrangement as we’ve had.”
I smiled “Let’s get this over first.”
He held out his hand, which I shook, then for the first time ever, he hugged me and said quietly. “Bring him to me Joe – but keep yourself safe. I’d still rather lose him than you.”
“Thanks George.” I said.
Finally he said. “A courier will drop off SOP ID’s and contact details tomorrow. Ask your acting Quartermaster to contact the SOPS armourer with requirements, and I’ll deliver in person.”
I waited in the small room, but heard him making his call. Thirty seconds later I heard his ‘taxi’ whisking him away. I looked at my watch. It was 1:15pm. I locked up the garage, then clutching the transcription copies and criminal records George had brought, I went upstairs.
In the day room, there were a large group of girls around Svetlana. As I walked towards them I heard her say to Patricia standing in front of her. “Who would you like to be?”
Patricia smiled shyly “A model, please.”
Svetlana’s pencil moved over the A4 pad with great speed, accompanied by Oohs and Aahs from the girls who were watching her draw. She gave comments in broken-English, as she drew. I watched in fascination as Patricia’s pretty face and slim body appeared rapidly on the paper, her body then covered in a lovely sheer dress, together with wide-brimmed 30’s style hat, all completed finally, set in a sashay down a catwalk.
As I watched the girls applauding, and Patricia’s delighted smile when Svetlana handed her the drawing, another picture pinned up on the wall to my right caught my eye. I walked across.
I stood in front of it, and I felt my jaw slacken as I stared at the terrible creature she had drawn. A Viking warrior held a broadsword by both hands with the blade pointing vertically downward. On his head, a helmet with bull-horns projecting menacingly forward. Behind him, filling the rest of the scene were two incongruously beautiful large wings. His face looked down at his invisible victim and was a truly frightening vision that was an admixture of cold fury, grim determination, and the total conviction of his murderous intentions. His face was very familiar. His face was mine the night after Christine was murdered, when I had looked into the mirror as I washed away my tears.
Behind me I vaguely heard Connie call everyone to lunch, but I could not move. Then I felt a warm hand take mine.
“Girls pinned up my drawing though I did not want. I see I hurt you. Plis forgive me.”
Her voice was shaky, and when I turned to look at her, there were tears in her eyes.
“Hush” I said and took her in my arms. She gave a little sob and wrapped her arms around me holding me very tight. I whispered softly in Serbian “There is nothing to forgive, for you have only drawn what you see.” I paused. “I thought I kept my hatred hidden, but you have shown me that I delude only myself.”
She seemed to be calmed with my words, and turning round she pointed at the drawing. “I see this man in your eyes on train.”
I nodded. “And you are right, for he was there.”
“In Serbia we call person avenge..” she halted and resumed in her own tongue “..avenging Angel, and he strikes terror in the hearts of those who would hurt his loved ones.”
“And the wings?” I asked gently. She continued. “Despite his deadly mission, he is still an Angel, and his heart brims over with love for those he holds dear. You understand?”
I nodded. “I do”
I made to move into the kitchen, but she took my hand and walked me to where she had been sitting. Picking up the sketch-pad she opened it up at the first page and passed the pad to me.
“This is man I saw in your eyes this morning, with his chosen one.”
I gasped. It was the most exquisitely-drawn sketch of two lovers I had ever seen.
I stood naked, my arms loosely held out around her shoulders and side. Her left leg was lifted from the ground and crooked a little around my right. Both bodies were perfectly drawn, with an accuracy of detail that had my heart racing. Her simple, slim, naked beauty; my powerful, all-protecting build. On our faces as we looked into each other’s eyes was a look of serene and tender love.
Tears welled in my eyes, as I turned to her. “This is simply the most beautiful drawing I’ve ever seen, and it gladdens my heart.”
“We keep?” she smiled.
“We certainly do.”
“I tear other down and to pieces.” she said matter-of-factly, moving toward the Angel drawing.
She turned “No? But it hurt you.”
I walked to her. “It is both terrible and beautiful” I paused as she looked at me quizzically. I repeated my sentence in Serbian and added “It is a terribly powerful observation, but it serves to remind me of who I can be, and it is beautiful because of that.”
She nodded, “I understand. We keep then.”
This time I nodded and smiled, and hand-in hand we joined everyone else in the kitchen.
After everyone had eaten, Svetlana was dragged off by the girls to do more drawings. I passed a copy of the transcription to Zee. “It’s bad Zee. You don’t have to read it if you prefer not to.”
She touched the back of my hand and smiled. “We need to know the devil that haunts her.”
I grinned ruefully at her close quote from “Crazy Man Michael”
I began “The room..”
“Shall I do it for you this afternoon?”
“Can you?” I said “Do you mind?”
She kissed me on the cheek “Of course not. I’ll come for you when I’m ready.”
I looked at her, a little alarmed and puzzled. “I can’t..”
“Not to clear it darling Joe. But you must pick and keep one thing only.”
She nodded. “If you don’t, you will regret it, trust me.”
“I do.” I laughed nervously and she grinned “No you don’t, you great fibber!”
This time I laughed, then handed her an envelope with the criminal records in it. “Please give these to Tomas, and ask him to show them to Thak too. I now have information that Svetlana’s captors are known murderers, and everyone should be on their guard.”
She nodded “I will.”
I crossed the room to where Jane sat, watching the impromptu art class with some amusement.
“She is very, very clever.” Jane said shaking her head in wonderment.
I laughed “You’ve noticed?”
“Joe, she is a real Godsend. I’ve never seen the girls so animated.”
I nodded. “You’re right. Let’s see what happens.”
She looked quizzically at me. “It’s none of my business, I know..”
I stopped her. “Of course it is Jane. I realise that what I do affects others.” I paused “I have to confess that I am completely smitten by her.”
She laughed “And her with you!”
“I believe so.” I grinned.
I passed her the remaining transcription. “I have a great big favour to ask you. If you have any doubts at all, please refuse. I will not be offended.”
She smiled “Joe, just ask.”
“That is the transcription of Katya’s interview with Svetlana. It is terribly grim reading. But if I’m to attempt to persuade Svetlana to make a series of drawings to help identify the location that she was taken to, I will need help, and anyone helping me needs as much information about what has taken place, as is possible. As our only other fully-qualified psychiatric nurse, your helping Zee and myself with this would be invaluable.”
I paused, but she didn’t hesitate. “I will give you all the help you need. I will read her account, and maybe weep a little, but if I can help, it will be worth it.”
“Thanks Jane. I shan’t forget this.”
She smiled broadly, clearly pleased with my thanks.
I got up and brought back two glasses of Connie’s lemonade, and we sipped in silence as we watched the girls.
“Have you noticed Lizzie?”
Jane nodded. Lizzie was the only girl in the crowd who wasn’t behind Svetlana as she drew. Instead she sat closely to her, but in front of her, in rapt attention.
I smiled. “Yet another conquest?”
Jane laughed. “It would appear so. Although you didn’t do so bad yourself yesterday.”
I raised my eyebrows. “But I didn’t..”
You are the first male Lizzie has approached since she arrived.”
“But I thought Thak..”
“She likes him, but has not approached him yet.”
“Oh.” was all I could say.
“You have the great gift of inspiring trust Joe – perhaps instinctively she knows you will never harm her, or let her down?”
She quietly looked at me, her calm blue eyes inviting an answer.
“I hope that I never, ever, let a single one of you down.” I said slowly.
She relented. “You know what I mean. It’s important for Lizzie and girls like her, to know that all men aren’t complete bastards.”
I felt relief and laughed. “Aren’t we?”
She didn’t answer my half-joking reply directly. “Sometimes” she said quietly, gesturing to the Angel drawing, “it takes someone like that over there to put really bad things right.”
I looked across at the drawing and nodded.
“What was the girls reaction to it?”
She laughed gently. “Not negatively, as you might have thought. They all recognised you. Anna stood in front of it and said ‘Wow!’ Some remarked that you were ‘having a bad day’, others that you looked ‘well dangerous’ and a few, I suspect, actually found the drawing a turn-on, so said nothing.”
“Good God! A turn-on?”
She smiled, but said soberly “You are a fiercely attractive man. Add to that a cachet of danger, and some women cannot resist.”
I was silent. She had stopped me dead, and she knew it.
She said gently “I apologise for my candour – I meant no disrespect.”
I said slowly “There is nothing to apologize for, and I respect your speaking your mind.”
“I want only to help you. Working here is a great privilege.”
I nodded. “It is our privilege to have you with us.”
We both sat sipping our drinks for a while.
Jane said quietly “Well, I’ve lazed at Svetlana’s expense long enough. I’m going to check she isn’t tired.”
She got up and walked over to the group. I saw Svetlana shaking her head and smiling, and Jane simply sat down. Shortly after that, the girls pulled her up for to pose. It was ‘her’ turn.
I closed my eyes and drifted, thinking that so many events couldn’t happen in such a short time. I must have dozed off, and was woken by a light hand on my arm, and Zee’s soft breath in my ear.
“It’s time. Are you ready?”
I opened my eyes. She looked down at me, her dark hair falling around her face, and her soft warm loving eyes smiling at me.
“I will probably never be ready Zee, but let’s do it.”
As we walked down the one flight of stairs she asked “Have you thought about what to choose?”
“I haven’t a clue. Please forgive me if I turn and run.”
She must have heard the tremor in my voice, and she took my hand and squeezed it. “You won’t. I am with you.”
She opened the door and led me in, closing the door behind us, then walking me to the centre of the room.
I looked around. Everything was clean and neat. The room had obviously been cleaned and dusted regularly. Christine looked out at me from a half-dozen different photographs. Her personal possessions everywhere. It was more than I could bear, and a great sob erupted in my chest.
Zee turned and threw her arms around me, holding me tight and whispering in my ear. “She would not have wanted you to suffer so Joe. Let her go, and embrace the beautiful woman who has just walked into your life, and who so-obviously adores and wants you.”
She held me until I was ready, then slowly released me. She reached into her sleeve and wiped my face with her hankie.
I looked around. Moving over to Christine’s dressing-table I picked up her hairbrush. I turned around and looked at Zee.
“Good choice. Is there anything else?”
I shook my head. “Show her clothes to the girls and give them to anyone who wants them.”
“Don’t you mind seeing her clothes on another girl?”
“No. I don’t. And she has some beautiful clothes that should be worn.”
She nodded, and opening the door, ushered me out.
“Go downstairs Joe, and spend some time on your own. You need it.”
She kissed me. I nodded and made my way to the basement, the lovely Lalique hairbrush in my hand.
I placed the hairbrush on Svetlana’s dressing table, and made my way into my bedroom. I stripped and showered, then lay down on the bed, covering myself with a single sheet. I felt exhausted, and fell asleep instantly.