**This is our gift to you, our readers. If you find a small error here and there be gentle… let email@example.com know and we can fix. **
The room was tiny, and airless, but it was probably more than I deserved. Part of me wishes they could hand me a gun and leave me alone so I didn’t have to make the worst decision of my life.
“Three months in Russia, one job for us, and then you’re free to return back here,” Adrik leaned forward and repeated his offer.
He’d started by saying that all I needed to do was go back for one job, and then I’d be free of everything that had happened. That meant leaving Alfie, and going back to Russia. That wasn’t on my to-do list. If I went back, who knew if I’d ever be able to leave again?
“I’ll take my chances with American justice.” At least I’d be in the US and get to see Alfie every so often.
He’ll end up hating you, that is, if he doesn’t hate you already.
“Don’t be so shortsighted Sacha. This is in and out, mopping up what’s left over,” Adrik insisted.
Adrik signed noisily. “You’re not listening, Sacha. You really think your options are between US justice or going to Russia? You must realize the choice here today is between keeping your lover out of this or not.”
I knew that was the way this was going to work. In my heart I knew they’d use Alfie as a bargaining chip; he was the only chink in my armor.
“Then you are a very stupid man. It’s really simple, Sacha. If you love Alfie as much as you say you do, then you have to work with me on this.” Adrik laced his fingers on the table in front of him. He’d been very patient so far, talking in our mother tongue, persuasive, but what he’d just said was calculating and didn’t leave me room for getting out of here without penalties.
Not that I expected to get away with the shooting, on US soil, of Russian nationals.
My focus didn’t waver, as I stared right at a point just over the left shoulder of the representative from the Russian embassy. Or at least that was who he said he was, but I knew he was FSB; State secret service. When the cops at the arrest handed me over to his care, with not a word about where I was being taken, I didn’t have to imagine the worse-case scenario. That I would be escorted back to Russia, which is exactly where I don’t want to be. Not that there was anyone left over there who wanted to kill me; seems all of those had chosen to confront me in the States.
When they involved Alfie they chose a losing track.
“Sacha, this is the only chance. If you agree to come back, finish things, clear up the mess so the power vacuum isn’t filled, then your lover is watched over and safe. If you think you have any chance to stay, you’re wrong and you put this Alfie’s life in danger.”
Finally I looked at him, held his steady gaze with my own, and I switched to American English. “What assurances do I have regarding Alfie?”
Adrik waved a hand as if Alfie was nothing. “He is of no value to anyone, not on his own. But as a bargaining chip for you? That is a different matter.” His expression was calculating. “If he was here alone while you fought a legal battle here, then thingsmight happen.”
Now it was my turn to lean forward, as much as I could chained to the leg of the table.
“A man who touches Alfie will die the worst death at my hand,” I switched back to Russian, which to my ears always sounded more threatening.
Adrik examined his nails. “Big words, Sacha, for a powerless man chained in a small room.”
I sat back in my chair but didn’t take my eyes off of him. I could be out of these handcuffs and killing him in seconds. He knew it but he didn’t care. Because he could threaten Alfie. My sweet love, and the only person in this world that I would die for.
“What happens next?” I asked, and couldn’t fail to see the gleam of pleasure in Adrik’s eyes. He knew he had me over a barrel, and that I’d agree to his terms. Will I get to say goodbye to Alfie? Would Alfie even care now? He’d seen me kill men. I had dragged him into a mess not of his making. He must hate me.
Either I went to Russia to do what the FSB asked, and possibly die, and maybe stay over there to keep Alfie safe.
Or, I stay here and put Alfie in danger.
There really was no choice.
“I’ll do it. But then I’m done. We are done. You will never approach Alfie.”
Adrik hesitated, but I could see the truth in his eyes, the kind of pact made between criminals and the FSB, the most honest he’d ever be. “Agreed.”
I knew I wasn’t coming back to the States, I couldn’t do that to Alfie, I couldn’t drag him into the darkness that was my past. As Adrik left, I asked for a notepad and a pen. He watched me as I wrote a note that he said would be passed to Alfie.
In it was a very simple message.
*a new episode appears each Sunday, check the master list for updates.