Here’s the next part in my ongoing story for Rachael Ritchey’s #BlogBattles. This week’s word was a hard fit. I hope that you don’t mind.
You know, I am starting to wonder if using this for a serial on my blog was such a great idea. This story seems to keep evolving, and thanks to the (positive) feedback that I’m receiving, I’m starting to feel bad in releasing it in such little bits. I’ll have to think on it and maybe find a good place to stop so I can focus on this solely as a stand alone novel.
Then you all can enjoy it in one go. But until then, I’m also working on a page where you can read all the parts together at once. I will be posting a link to that as soon as it is up and running.
But until I make up my mind, here is the next section.
Kristen’s Thriller: Part IV
Carter coughed. His throat was dry and every swallow of saliva made it burn.
“I don’t know what you mean,” he croaked.
The man crouched down on his heels before Carter. Something, not quite madness, danced in his eyes. “Come, come Mr. Andrews. There’s no need to play that game. We all know who you are. Well, we all do now. I must confess that my compatriots downstairs had no idea who you were before now, but I’m sure they can hear us from downstairs.” He raised his voice. “Can’t you, boys?”
Murmurs of assent drifted up the stairs. Four, maybe five voices. That was quite a number for a job like this. Snatch and grabs usually required less. They must have been expecting more trouble than they got.
Carter shook his head. If only he’d been younger, then they’d have never gotten the drop on him. Hell, his own bunk mates in training would have laughed him out of the building for this. Never had he been so bad. Not during the midnight raids, the four-day marches, and not during the years he spent— No. Stop. He was better than this, age or not. They shouldn’t have been able to sneak up on a mouse without him knowing, let alone his house. Like it or not, he was going soft. And soft wouldn’t get him out of this.
“Now,” Carter’s captor said, standing and returning to his seat on the bed, “I can’t see what you’re thinking, but I wouldn’t do it. Someone with training like yours probably could see half a dozen ways out of this situation—at least your legend could. Between you and me, I know you aren’t your legend, but those men downstairs know of that legend.
“But because of that legend, I’ve had to put safe guards in place. Just to make them feel more comfortable. ‘I’ll treat him,’ I said, ‘like he’s Frank Andrews himself.’ And so I have. They just didn’t know you were still living and breathing, nor that they were hunting you. Don’t make me use them. We’ll all have a better time of it.”
“What have you done?” Carter asked.
“I’m afraid that I’m not willing to share much of the details. Watched a bit too many James Bond films growing up. I won’t be spilling all the details. But there’s more than one way to make a man bleed, to make him suffer. And I bet that a man like you, Mr. Andrews, can’t be swayed by your own blood or pain. But those of the people you care about, that’s another story.”
“My name isn’t Frank Andrews.”
“Come, come. You can’t persist in this nonsense, Mr. Andrews. Frank. Do you mind if I call you Frank?” He didn’t pause for permission. “What do you expect me to do? Allow you to live in some fantasy world where you’re Jonathan Carter, some unimportant nobody who didn’t single-handedly destroy countless Soviet plans? No, I can’t do that. It’d be a disservice to you, to my men, and, frankly, to myself. No.”
“I’ve never been out of the country,” Carter said.
There had to be a way out of this. What plans had this psycho made? Of course, knowing that would help tremendously. Besides, there couldn’t be that much leverage. People close to him? Not many of those left. He’d cut ties with most of them, and the few that he hadn’t he didn’t care much about anyway. But let them suffer for him, not knowing why? No, that was beyond him.
“Of course, of course,” his captor said. “Mr. Carter has never been out of the country. In fact, he has barely left the Great Lakes region of your fine country. There’s a whole list of things that he hasn’t done. Let’s see. He’s never held a job—officially, he’s never gotten a speeding ticket, had an email address—really who doesn’t have one of those anymore?—, and voted democrat. He only has a high school education, and barely earning even that. Not a smart man—you should have chosen better. Anyway, I digress. Am I missing anything? There’s more as well. Do I need to continue?”
“Who are you?” Carter asked, stunned. He’d been right, though. All those things, Jonathan Carter’d never done. To have such detail notes meant resources and time that he couldn’t even comprehend. Given enough time, a proper surveillance team could uncover all that information. Time was the only thing that hindered intelligence gathering. In this day and age, almost everything was discoverable. But to do it with the detail that his captor insinuated? That was inconceivable.
“Bless me, I’ve forgotten that, haven’t I?” The captor stood and extended his hand. “Ivan Kuznetsov, at your service.” The smile that hadn’t left his face since Carter had woken up now grew into a broad grin. It slipped a little when he noticed what he was doing. Withdrawing his hand, he rubbed it on his pant leg, awkwardly. “Can’t do much with that, can you?”
A chuckle bubbled up, soft and insistent, from Carter’s chest as he shook his head. It hurt his throat more than the swallowing had, and soon it turned into a racking cough. After what had seemed like hours, but were probably closer to a few minutes, he looked up at Ivan through tear filled eyes. A smile, painful through cracked lips, appeared briefly before disappearing.
“You talk to me about names, and then give me that?”
Ivan looked taken aback and even a bit hurt. “What are you talking about?”
“Ivan Kuznetsov. The Russian equivalent of John Smith—one of the most common names in the English language. That’s an alias if I’ve ever heard one.”
“Ah,” Ivan said, standing and leaning over Carter. “But that is my name. What I’m vexed about is how you, Mr. Carter, knew something that you have no right in knowing, but that Mr. Andrews wouldn’t even think about twice.”