The Carlson Imperative
Book 1: Svetlana Curuvija
© 2010 J.W.Brown
Chapter 9: Zee, a minha amiga
Zee opened the door and walked in, turning the key in the lock after she closed it. She walked purposefully across the room and sat down in the chair opposite.
“I’m sorry Joe.”
“For being silly.”
“But you weren’t silly Zee.”
She paused before replying.
“Tomas thinks I’ve been silly, and wants me to apologise to you.”
“Is that why you are here? Because Tomas sent you?”
She shook her head and levelled her gaze straight at me.
“No, rather I used his insistence as an excuse to come here and see you.”
“Ah.” was all I said.
“I cannot bear the thought of losing you.” she said simply.
I leaned forward and took her hand. “What would you have me do? Leave Katrina, and those like her to suffer as Svetlana did?”
“No, but.. I love you.” she said.
“I know.” I said gently. “I love you.”
She gripped my hand hard “No you don’t know Joe, I’m in love with you.”
“Yes.” I said “I know that too. Trouble is, showing your feelings as you did this afternoon, there is a danger that Tomas will soon know too, and where will your marriage be then?”
She didn’t answer.
“I’ve been on several of these ventures before, and you have always taken them in your stride Zee.” I said.
“I feel differently now.”
“I can see that. What do you want to do?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“Would you like a break? Perhaps back in Madeira, seeing your old friends?”
“No, definitely not that.”
I sat quietly holding her hand. We both knew the answer had to come from her.
She withdrew her hand. “Pick me up please.”
I was completely taken aback, and looked at her in surprise.
“Please, Joe.” she implored.
I looked into her dark, beautiful eyes and could not refuse.
I stood up and bending over her, slid my right arm under her thighs, my left arm around her back, and lifted her like a baby from the chair.
As I stood upright, she gasped.
A shudder of pleasure shook her whole body. Her eyes closed then opened and looked up at me pleading. I remembered.
“Hold on to me little one.” I said in Portuguese, and smiled at her.
She put her arms around my neck and hugged me ferociously, then relaxing her grip she moaned again. I walked slowly around the room with her in my arms, her hands caressing my neck and face, touching my chest and arms, as her body undulated in my arms and her contractions grew fiercer. Suddenly her head snapped back and she gasped, then throwing her arms around my neck again, she buried her face in my chest and screamed as she shuddered in ecstasy.
Slowly she recovered, and still with her arms around my neck, looked up into my eyes. She looked exactly as I remembered.
“Oh Joe,” she said “what have I made you do? Please forgive me.”
“There is nothing to forgive. You feel what you feel.”
She made no attempt to get down, so I stood holding her.
“This is beautiful.” she said softly, “I dream of being in your arms again, almost constantly.”
“Does Tomas never lift you in his arms?”
“No.” she said quietly.
“Have you asked him to?” I said gently.
“No. I’m afraid of how I might react.”
“Like now, you mean?”
She nodded. “Yes like now. How could I explain? Or even worse, I might feel nothing at all.”
I pondered. “The event we shared has had a powerful and lasting influence on both of us, and that is perfectly understandable. But as a nurse, you probably know the phrase ‘physician heal thyself’?”
She smiled sadly at me. “I thought I could cope with how I feel about you. I find that I have been fooling myself.”
She tightened her arms and moved her face close to mine. I knew what she intended, and though she waited for me to, I could not stop her. She kissed me. A long, generous, sensual kiss that left my lips on fire. I responded gently and lovingly. I had no choice. We became one, lost in each other for a while before she pulled away.
“You can put me down now.” she whispered softly.
I set her gently down on the chair and sat opposite her.
She looked across at me. She seemed more at ease and content.
“Thank you for loving me so much Joe.”
I smiled. “No thanks are needed. I will always love you. How do you feel?”
She gave a little laugh. “Guilty as Hell, but much better. That was truly lovely.”
“Don’t feel guilty, there is no need.”
“And if I ask you to pick me up again?”
“Then I will, but Zee?”
“Try and work things out with Tomas. He loves you, and would want to make you happy, however odd he thought your request was, or indeed your response.”
“If he found out why I felt that way, he would be profoundly jealous of you.”
I nodded and smiled. “And if he found out what has just happened, how would he feel?”
She nodded. “I will try.”
We both stood up and embraced, and she went back upstairs.
I knocked on Tomas & Zee’s door. Tomas showed me in.
“Zee’s upstairs.” he said.
“I know. I just need a few words with you about tomorrow morning.”
He looked worried. “Joe?”
“Yes?” I looked at him, waiting, knowing his concern.
“Are you and her OK?”
I touched his arm. “Of course Tomas. Zee and I are fine.”
He didn’t seem convinced. “She was out of order.”
I motioned to the chairs “Can we sit down?”
He nodded, and we sat.
“As you know, Zee and several other girls were rescued by my team from one the most appalling places I have ever seen.”
“Zee was injured, and could not walk, so I carried her from that terrible place to my car, and from there into this house.”
“Zee has never forgotten that incident, either the part I played in it, the physical act of carrying her, nor how she felt about it at the time. She probably never will forget. Are you OK with that?”
He nodded “Of course.”
“She still relates to the intense relief and happiness she felt on that night, even though she is now a mature adult, and there is a bond she feels with me that, despite her best efforts, she cannot break, nor bear to think will be broken, as we saw this afternoon.”
He hung his head, he already knew. His awareness could make my task easier, if I was careful.
“She loves you Tomas, and she needs you. The trouble is, that Zee spends so much of her time here trying to repair the damaged individuals we care for, she has had little time to come to terms with, and set in it’s rightful place, what she experienced that night. You understand what I’m saying?”
He looked up. “Yes, but what can I do?”
“At times, especially stressful times, she may want to re-visit how she felt all those years ago. She cannot ask you herself, because she would feel guilty.”
He pondered and I waited patiently.
“I think I understand. I will try.”
“Good.” I said “In time, and with your love and understanding, she will be able to re-focus her perceptions of the incident. Don’t give up on her Tomas, I know she loves you.”
He nodded “I won’t.”
I waited in case he wanted to say more, but he seemed relieved.
“Now what about tomorrow?” he asked.
“OK” I said, “I expect the operation to begin at 2:00am, and be over by 4:30am. I would like you to be on standby from 2:30am, ready to drive if I call you, but otherwise keep Zee, Jane, and Svetlana company in my flat. Thak will be on duty in the house as normal, but of course, call on him if you need help.”
“OK. That’s seems fine. Anything else?”
“No, that’s it, and thanks Tomas.”
He smiled at me. “It’s my pleasure, Joe.”
I left, and headed to Thak’s flat, telling him the arrangements, then headed upstairs to the day room.
Svetlana stood in front of an easel on which she had placed a medium-sized canvas. Four girls sat and watched as she deftly applied pastels from a pallete on to what was already an uncannily lifelike and beautiful portrait of Lizzie.
Lizzie herself, sat alone, in front of the group, Baldwin on her lap. She stroked the cat almost absent-mindedly, her eyes only on Svetlana.
Svetlana looked towards me as I entered the room, and flashed her dazzling smile, blowing a kiss to me. She had paint on her face, but I didn’t care, she looked wonderful. I waved back and made my way over to Zee, who was sat watching from the corner of the room.
“Hi” she said, a little shyly.
I told her of the arrangements for tomorrow morning and she nodded carefully. I continued.
“Svetlana will be excited, of course, and we must manage her expectations. Depending on what I find, it may be necessary for Svetlana to convince her sister to come with me, as she will probably be terrified. I will call you if so, but could you warn her beforehand to try and simply reassure Katrina as to who I am, and not to become too emotional, as timing will be crucial?”
She smiled. “That’s a tall order!”
I laughed “I know, I’m probably being silly, but you know what I mean.”
“Will you bring back anyone else?”
“It depends on what I find. I have pre-arranged welfare organised for the other girls we find, but if there are girls who need immediate attention, I shall bring them back with me.”
She nodded. “We only have one room Joe, remember?”
I smiled “Yes, I know. I’ll sleep on the floor if I have to.”
She shook her head and reached out, taking my hand.
“Ever selfless, ever giving. Do you blame me for loving you?”
I replied gently “And you. Despite your feelings about me, or indeed because of them, your joy at my love for Svetlana, is that not selfless and ever giving? Can you blame me, then, for loving you?”
She shook her head slowly.
“Sometimes Joe..” she paused.
“Yes?” I said quietly
“Sometimes I feel as though we were two parts of the same person, torn apart, but forever trying to re-unite. Does that make sense?”
“I don’t know Zee. For a long time now, I have simply accepted what I feel about you, as multi-faceted and contradictory as it seems to me at times.”
She looked at me, her gaze very steady.
“You are the most non-judgemental person I have ever known. At times, your cool and calm acceptance of the emotional needs of others is almost as glorious as it is at times frightening.”
I tried to evade her praise. “Tell my enemies I am non-judgemental.”
She shook her head. “They deserve your wrath. I talk of me. I talk of your friends. I talk of little Lizzie, of Svetlana a few short days ago.”
I was quiet, she had more to say.
“I quickly grew to be jealous of your love for Christine, but over time I began to understand that you have so much within you, that there is enough for everyone. Only your sexual fidelity for your chosen one stops those who would have your heart from breaking it.”
“I took you to a place this afternoon, a place I’d created because of my selfish love for you, a place I had no right to force you to go. I am truly sorry.”
Tears poured down her cheeks.
“Zee. You needed to be there. Do you not understand how glad and happy you made me feel, that my simple act of holding you, gave you so much pleasure?”
She looked at me recovering slightly, but still doubtful. “It was selfish, just plain selfish.”
I shook my head. “It was both innocent and adorable. Please don’t think otherwise.”
She wiped her eyes with her hankie, and managed a nervous smile. “You really think that?”
“Yes,” I nodded “I do. Your conflation of my act of rescue with that of a beautiful orgasm, is not only innocent and understandable, but a tremendous compliment to me.”
She gave me her most gorgeous smile. “You have turned my selfish act into a compliment to you! How do you do it?”
I laughed “Sorry!”
“Fibber! No you aren’t.”
I got up and kissed her cheek. “I need a word with Jane.”
“Of course.” she smiled and squeezed my hand.
Jane was part of Svetlana’s audience, but I caught her eye and beckoned her to two seats at the side of the room.
“Hi Jane. Everything OK?”
She smiled “Fine. Did you notice the picture?”
I nodded. “It’s beautiful.”
“It’s absolutely remarkable..” she paused.
“and talking of remarkable, I heard about your conversation with Lizzie yesterday, and her giving you an address today.”
I felt myself blush. She noticed and smiled.
“I’m sure she was ready to talk anyway.”
“Now that’s just bullshit Joe. Throw away the modesty. You are as pleased as everyone else is with your breakthrough.”
Her candour surprised me, but her insight was undeniable.
I smiled and nodded “OK Jane, it was quite difficult, especially her earthy language and the very direct question about myself and Svetlana.”
She nodded. “You did well, many would have bottled at her personal remarks. That’s why you must accept your success gracefully. If it was easy, anybody could do it.”
“You,” I paused “are too kind.”
“I,” she mimicked my pause “simply tell you the truth.”
We both laughed.
“About tomorrow.” I said.
“Of course, go ahead.”
“I want you to keep Zee and Svetlana company, from about 2:30am. I need you to keep an especial watch on Svetlana when Katrina arrives, as I suspect that after the initial excitement of their re-union, all of the pent-up anger and guilt she feels at herself about leaving her sister may surface. Zee will help with Katrina.”
“There is always the chance I may bring back one or more other girls Jane. Are you ready for that?”
She nodded. “We’ll manage.”
“Shall I ask Anna to help?”
She shook her head emphatically. “No Joe, she’s not ready for this just yet. Don’t worry, we’ll cope.”
I smiled. “Good. I like your confidence.”
I looked across at Lizzie, still sitting with Baldwin, apparently totally content as long as she was with Svetlana.
Jane caught my thoughts. “They are close, so very close.”
I related the events of our threesome earlier in the day.
Jane nodded. “They have both benefited enormously from each other’s company, there is real love between them..” she paused
“ and you.”
“Lizzie is adorable.” I said, “It would be hard not to love her.”
I added “I was going to tell her I’ve spoken to her Mum, but I’m not going to interrupt them now. Can you tell Lizzie later, that her Mum now knows that she is safe, that she loves Lizzie, and that the boyfriend is gone. Also tell her that I expect we can organise a visit for her Mum here, in a couple of days or so.”
Jane smiled “Of course Joe. Are you off somewhere now?”
I grinned. “Just bed. I probably won’t sleep, but I’ll be up all night so any small rest will probably help.”
She touched my arm. “Come back to us please. We would all miss you dreadfully.”
I looked into her now serious face. “I have every intention of returning. Don’t worry.”
She smiled, a little sadly.
“I’ll see you early tomorrow morning.” I said, and quietly left the day room.
The drive to Waltham Abbey took me only 30 minutes or so.
I parked the M3 in between a few other cars, two blocks away from Jasmine Drive. I got out and looped the heavy holdall’s straps over my right shoulder, locked the car and started to walk. There was no one around. It was a quiet neighbourhood and although only just a little after midnight, most houses were now in darkness.
It took me 3 minutes to walk to ‘Grace and Pride’, which was about half-way up Jasmine Drive. The front garden and house were screened from the road by a dense hedge, and the drive looped around from the right to the left – perfect cover. I walked up the gravel drive and slowly the front of the house was revealed to me. It was a large Mock-Tudor double-fronted detached dwelling built around the early thirties, with big Bay windows and a substantial entrance porch and front door. To the left was a large three-door garage block, and it was to that I headed first.
I opened the side door into the garage and clicked on the light, putting the holdall down just inside the door. Immediately in front of me was a large Transit with the insignia of BT on the side. I walked around and opened the back doors. At first sight it looked stuffed full of cable, tools and all the other paraphernalia required for modern telecom installations these days, but closer inspection revealed that one of the panels slid sideways to reveal a small enclosed seating area sufficient to hide at least 4 people. Two baggy boiler suits hung amongst the clutter fastened to the side panels. The van looked familiar, and I suspect we had used it before. I got out and checked the roof. It had a substantial rack on which there were a selection of extending ladders, along with several aluminium poles.
The next vehicle was a venerable, but sleek 4-door Sierra Sapphire Cosworth. I smiled with quiet anticipation. I knew this car also, and it rode like a dream.
The other car was a 5 year-old BMW M5, with a nice big boot. I started each vehicle in turn, checking that all lights etc., worked correctly and that all 3 tanks were full. I was well-satisfied, George had done us proud.
Returning to the door, I opened the holdall and removed two plastic bags, walked back to the Cosworth and put them in the boot. I then picked up the holdall, switched off the light and locked the door, then walked to the front door of the house. I let myself in, and made my way to the kitchen before switching on a light. The house was naked and bare, as I expected, and I suspected Dearby’s department had simply ‘borrowed’ it on a short let from a friendly estate agent for a few days. However there was a table and 5 chairs in the kitchen, together with a kettle, cups, and the makings for both tea and coffee. I closed the kitchen window blinds and unpacked my briefing materials from the holdall, arranging a small set of papers in each of 4 places. I also laid out a large-scale map detailing Spinner’s Lane and the area immediately around it, which I had already annotated, and put the SOPS ID’s in a neat pile in the centre of the table.
I filled the kettle and whilst it heated up, opened the holdall and removed a heavy Glock, together with a screw-on silencer, ammunition and holster, and one of the Kevlar vests. I dismantled and checked the weapon. It had been thoroughly cleaned and was in perfect condition. After re-assembly, I fed rounds into the 4 clips supplied and fitted one clip into the pistol, then snapped the holster onto my belt, putting the remaining clips into the large right-hand vest pocket. I left the remaining weapons alone. Each man preferred to check his own.
I made myself a coffee and relaxed. I didn’t have long to wait. Two short rings on the doorbell announced the arrival of the rest of the team. I opened the door and gestured them in and towards the lighted kitchen.
We all knew each other, having worked together before, but as was usual I had left Mac, aka ‘Derek’, to choose the team from who was available. We all shook hands and I poured another 4 cups of coffee and we sat down.
I sat back and said nothing as they went through the material in front of them. Only when everyone looked up did I speak.
“Its good to see you once again Gentlemen. I want to thank you for volunteering for this mission. All of you have been with me before, so I’ll try to be brief.” I picked up the photo of Piotr Vasilov. “This man is FSB, but also moonlights in almost every illegal, nasty racket he can get into. There is evidence that he has tortured and killed British intelligence officers, and currently he is holding about a dozen under-age girls captive and selling time with them to every nasty little pederast who is interested. Our primary mission is to rescue these girls.”
I paused, but there were no questions so I continued.
“The other four men form the rest of his team. We believe that these two” I lifted up their photographs, “keep him company at his house in Hampstead. The other two are guarding the girls at an unknown location. The address of this location will have to be obtained from Vasilov or his two immediate henchmen. Any questions so far?”
They all shook their heads.
“OK. We will form two teams. Carl and John, I want you to take the BT Transit. Mac and Peter the BMW, and I will take the Cosworth. Shortly after 2:00am we will effect an entry from the rear of the house, but only Mac, Peter & myself will actually enter, Carl and John acting as backup. When the second address is known, Carl and John will leave in the Transit to observe and await my arrival. Mac and Peter, when I finish talking to Vasilov, I want you to deliver him to this address.” I handed them a piece of paper.
When you get there, simply ring the doorbell and when challenged just say ‘package for Mr. Linton.’”
“When I arrive at the second address, two of us will enter, the other staying outside as backup. When the hostiles have been neutralized, I need to extract this girl in particular, before we make the call to the services.” I held up a photo of Katrina.
“All of these men can be regarded as armed and dangerous. Don’t hesitate to shoot if threatened. Also be aware that there may be more hostiles than we have discussed here – if in any doubt act first.”
I looked around for comments. They were waiting until I finished.
“Normally, we leave any hostiles trussed up waiting for the police when they arrive. This time is different. Apart from Vasilov, the hostiles are to be eliminated. I am taking that responsibility myself. I will try to do this out of sight of yourselves. Any questions?”
“No? OK. Last but not least, your normal fee will be paid, whether this mission is deemed a success or not. As is usual, any disposable assets will be retained by us, and after expenses, 90% of the remainder will be given anonymously to charitable Refuges for young women. The other 10% will be divided equally as a bonus between the four of you. Everyone happy with that?”
They all nodded, so we moved on to discuss the entry operation at Spinner’s Lane.
At one o’clock all weapons were checked and loaded and we vested up and headed for the garage. We left for Spinner’s Lane at two minute intervals starting at 1:15am.
I walked over to the two glowing monitors at the small CCTV station in the corner of the room. Five pictures looked out at me, and I realised that some of the cameras were already switched to infra-red.
I could see an empty downstairs inside the front door, with a partially-dismantled burglar alarm system. Peter stood in the 2nd bedroom on the floor below with the two nylon-manacled prisoners. One of the monitors showed an empty downstairs living room, and the next showed the figures of Mac and myself looking at the CCTV desk. The final infra-red picture was of the bedroom next door. The shape of a medium-built body lay still on the bed, and that of a much smaller body lay as far as possible away from the larger, almost at the very edge of the bed.
I holstered my weapon. Pointing at the largest figure, I gestured to myself, then to Mac and his weapon. He nodded and we moved toward the connecting door.
The door opened without a sound and we split, I took the left-hand side of the bed. The room was only partially-lit from a weak moon and the street lights, and I made my way towards the head of the bed. I saw his right arm moving up in a fast arc from it’s position down by the side of the bed and stepped quickly to the right. There was a muzzle flash and a dull thud, and my left shoulder turned as if kicked by a horse.
I stepped inside his arm, grabbing it with my right, and with my left hand pushed his gun-hand back. There was another thud, but this time the bullet only found the ceiling. He grunted in pain and the gun fell to the floor. The girl started screaming. I jammed my boot into his armpit then pulled his arm around and down, giving it a sharp yank. He yelled in pain. I let go of his arm and it fell down beside the bed like a piece of dead wood, his shoulder dislocated. I kicked his weapon across to the side of the room. “Lights.” I said.
He lay there blinking at me and grimacing in pain. I looked at the child. She was sat upright, completely naked, her eyes full of terror. She had screamed only once but now sat sobbing, with her hands to her face, her small body rocking to and fro.
I ripped the silk sheet off Vasilov and put it in front her. She looked at me, but could only see the cruelly-cut ski mask balaclava I wore, and looked away in terror, but she picked up one corner of the sheet and draped it around her shoulders.
I turned to Vasilov “Get up.” I said quietly.
He pretended not to understand, and mumbled “Sorry.” in Russian.
“Get up,” I repeated again, just as quietly, then added “or otherwise I’ll help you get up by taking your arm.”
He inched himself gingerly off the bed, supporting his dead right arm in his left.
I stood to one side to let him pass and gestured to Mac. “Take him in there and sit him down. If he twitches, put a slug in each knee.”
Mac nodded, I tossed over Vasilov’s dressing gown and they both left the room, Mac closing the door behind him.
I turned again to the child. She couldn’t stop shaking. Worse still, she wouldn’t look at me.
She was about 11 years old. I didn’t hesitate, but tore off the balaclava, and put it down on the bed, sitting down on it myself but giving her as much space as possible. I saw her eyes move to the balaclava, then to my face. I smiled, and this time she didn’t look away. I noticed she was sweating. I got up and poured a glass of water from the decanter on the bedside table and offered it to her. She reached out for the glass and sipped, her eyes still on me.
“What is your name little one?” I asked gently.
She mumbled, the glass and hand still in front of her face.
I waited until she had finished drinking, and held out my hand. She passed me the empty glass. She still shook, but much less so, and although the odd involuntary sob broke from her, I was much relieved.
I took a small bar of chocolate from the tin in my breast pocket and tore off one end of the wrapper. I broke off a square and placed it in my mouth, then offered her the remainder of the bar. She reached out and took it. I waited as she munched through the first part of the bar then repeated my question.
“What is your name little one?”
This time it was quiet, but plainly audible.
I reached into my pocket and retrieved the plastic card I’d made of the girls names Svetlana had supplied.
“Constanza De Sousa?”
“Sim!” she said loudly, probably in surprise at hearing her surname.
“Chamo-me Joe” I said, and she nodded.
Next I brought out a copy of the photograph of Svetlana and Katrina, and showed it to her. Her face lit up and she pointed a chocolaty finger. “Svetlana, a minha amiga!”
I pointed to Katrina. “Katrina!” she said emphatically.
My Portuguese had never been good, so I retrieved my crib list of carefully-worded questions I had prepared years ago. I turned to the section Zee had written in Portuguese, and pointed to the question. “Do you know the address of the house where you were kept?”, then pointed to Katrina.
She answered me in sign language. She shook her head, gestured to the other room, and put her hands in front of her eyes. I understood. It didn’t matter, the vicious little bastard next door knew the address, all I had to do was ask him.
I smiled at her. I gestured to myself, then to her, then to the picture of Svetlana, and spoke the words, hoping she would understand. “I would like to take you to see your friend Svetlana Will that be OK?”
She responded, probably to my tone of voice, with a sad smile and she nodded her head.
I stood up and picked up her shabby clothes from a chair, placing them in front of her. I pointed to her and then to the clothes. “Can you get dressed for me now? Até breve.” She understood and nodded. I walked over and picked up Vasilov’s weapon, put it in my side pocket, and left the room, closing the door quietly.
“Watch her on the screen please.” I said, and Mac walked over to the CCTV desk and sat down, his gun still pointing at Vasilov.