Monday, June 13, 2011

Chapter 35

Oct. 24 – 8:30am

             Sitting at the foot of her bed and staring at the door, Alex could appreciate the irony. After a thorough examination of her injury, Erik had conceded to allowing her to walk on her own throughout the house as long as she promised to rest if she began to get tired and made no further attempts to steal any of his vehicles. At that particular moment, she would have promised to grow butterfly wings and flutter away if that’s what it took to escape his bedroom and her embarrassment. So why was it that, now that she could leave the room whenever she wanted, she sat staring at the door as if it was the gates of hell? The answer, as always, was Erik.
            Rising to pace the small room, she blushed furiously at what he’d forced her to confess to him earlier that morning. Good God, what he must think of her! She’d known him less than two weeks and she was ready to crawl into bed with him. A shiver ran down her spine as she remembered his body holding hers to the bed, his lips so close and yet still out of reach. When Da’ud had pounded on the door thinking she was gone, she was torn between wanting to kill him and getting on her knees to thank him. Alex could feel Erik’s piercing eyes follow her as she left the room with the detective. He would corner her later for explanations and so she was hiding in her room after working so hard to be allowed out of it.
            “Alexandra,” Alex jumped at the soft knock and velvety voice that called her name. “You cannot stay in there all day, ma petite. Breakfast is ready and we need to talk.”
            “I’m not hungry,” she glared at her stomach’s rumble which declared her a liar and hoped Erik hadn’t heard.
            “Nonsense. You’ve eaten very little over the last three days so I know that to be untrue.” Annoyance had filtered into his lovely voice and Alex knew she’d been beaten. Not even noon and she was already tired of fighting with the infuriating man.
            “Very well, I’ll be right there.”
            Throwing off the sweater for a more comfortable t-shirt, she quickly ran a brush through her short auburn hair. She’d decided to let it grow long again but it was at that in-between stage that can tempt a person to simply shave and get a wig. Alex took a deep breath to calm her nerves and opened the door to join the men at the table.

            He’d been tempted to wait outside Alex’s room until she emerged but he wasn’t up to another lecture from Da’ud. Once he’d escorted her down the stairs to her room, the detective had practically shoved Erik into the Library. After a fifteen minute long tirade about tying Alex to her bed with no way to get free, not to mention locking her door – for the love of Allah, Erik, there could have been a fire! – the detective had just started picking him apart for having her in his bedroom when the fax machine started printing. They’d gotten lucky with Alex’s sketch.
            Both men rose when she entered and waited for her to be seated to resume their breakfast. As they ate, they kept the conversation light. Erik had heard from the agent who was watching over Lizzie and all was quiet at the Lake House. Alex was glad her friend was safe though she wished she could see her. He also informed them of the new security personnel and their overlapping patrols. If anyone managed to reach the house, it would be a miracle. He and Da’ud discussed the trustworthiness of the new guards but he preferred to take that risk over losing a man due to errors made while exhausted. Once everyone was done, the detective retreated to the Library to rest while Erik and Alex washed up the few dishes.
            “We will have to talk about it sometime, ma petite.” Erik’s soft murmur sent a delicious chill down her spine but she kept her eyes on the soapy plate in her hand.
            “No, we won’t. There’s nothing to discuss.” Alex’s voice was equally soft but strained. She really didn’t want to deal with this right now.
            “Later, Alexandra. You cannot avoid me forever.” His fingers trailed along the back of her neck as he left the kitchen.  She wondered if anyone would notice if she stocked up the bedroom and just refused to come out. Contemplating the logistics of such a thing, Alex joined the men in the Library.
            “Let’s get started,” Erik motioned to the sofa beside the detective and waited for her to sit before continuing. “We’ve finally got a lead on the mysterious Raoul de Chagny. Your sketch, Alexandra, proved most useful as the Agency was able to scan it into a facial recognition program. They’ve sent us several choices since the computer program isn’t perfect. I’ll let you and Da’ud make the final pick.” Once they’d handed him the pictures back with Raoul’s on top, Erik glanced at it and pulled the appropriate background that accompanied it. Scanning it quickly, he passed it to them.
            “It has been confirmed that Christine Daae is involved in the murders of both your parents and your brother,” Alex brought her eyes to his quickly but he had a firm hold on his emotions. “However, we are still uncertain as to how many are in the group nor do we know with a certainty who is picking up the tab. That’s where Mr. de Chagny will come into play. Alexandra, we are going to need your help on this one.”
            “Of course, Erik, anything. I’ve been pretty useless so far.”
            “Hush, no you haven’t.” He pinned her to her seat with the ferocity in his gaze and Alex bit back the retort that had already formed on her lips. “What it will require of you, however, is some deceit on your part. We need for you to strike up a relationship with de Chagny, invite him over to celebrate your return to good health.”
            “What exactly has he been told was wrong with me?” Alex hated to interrupt but needed this information before she forgot to ask once the discussion progressed. “I truly doubt he was told that I was shot.”
            “Ah, good question,” it was Da’ud’s turn to interject. “The last time he sent a text you were still feverish and unconscious so we told him it was a bad case of the flu; that way you can discuss the fever as well as feeling weak and achy. Will that do, Alex?” At her nod, Erik resumed control of the conversation.
            “Good. We’ll discuss various options later though I’d like to keep it nonviolent as long as possible. You also mentioned an audio recording of the day your parents were killed? I’d like to get that to the Agency for voice analysis as soon as possible. Where is it hidden?”
            “It’s at the Lake House. Lizzie knows most of my hiding spots as we spent many summers up there as kids. I can tell her where to find it if you want the agent to take control of it.”
            “Very well, I’ll send word to her escort but I can’t allow you to talk long. Not many know where either house is located and I’d like to keep it that way.”
            “Of course, I understand.”
            “Tonight I’m going to the opera house to familiarize myself with the layout. I should return well before dawn but regardless of the time, I expect both of you to still be here when I arrive.” He glared pointedly at Alex who had the grace to blush. Clearing space on the large desk, Erik unrolled the blueprints and Da’ud moved to examine them with him. Alex, on the other hand, was terrible with maps and didn’t feel any more confident with blueprints. Grabbing the laptap, she searched again for the picture she’d seen of Erik and Christine. Something was bugging her about that picture.
            While the two men argued over the best route into the opera house, Alex had saved quite a few pictures from the newspapers around the same date. Zooming in as close as possible without terrible pixilation, she felt like she was playing a much more important game of Where’s Waldo?. Printing each one separately, she grabbed a pencil on her way back to the sofa without realizing it was the one Erik had been holding. She circled the same face in each picture. She didn’t know if the photographs were too old to be of any help but she didn’t want to just sit and do nothing.
            “What have you found, Alexandra?” It shouldn’t have surprised her that he’d been watching her but it still did.
            “I’m not sure.” She passed him the stack of print outs. “I’ve added the dates at the bottom. All of these pictures were printed in the local newspapers and all of them have one unnamed person in common.”
            “de Chagny.”
            “Right. While once or even twice might be a coincidence, that wouldn’t account for his being present in every single picture of you and Christine. Though these were taken years ago, the fact that they both showed up now seems a bit suspicious.”
            “Excellent work, ma petite.” She told herself that she’d be just as thrilled if anyone else had complimented her on a job well done but knew it was a lie. With only the faintest hint of a blush, she powered down the laptop and grabbed a random book from the shelves. It could be about the mating rituals of lemurs and she’d still read it in order to prevent throwing him onto the desk and thanking him “properly” for his compliment. She was quite relieved to see Austin’s Persuasion on the front cover. It didn’t take long for her to tune out the blueprint discussion and get lost in the trials and tribulations of Miss Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth.

            “Have you been able to track the girl?” The voice over the speaker phone spoke in heavily accented English. In the background, there was the faint sounds of an auctioneer discussing the latest acquisition.
            “Not yet, Mr. Vlascenko, but I’ve got my men on the way. We had a break earlier today when she received a telephone call from the Roberts bitch which helped us in finding where she was hiding. We should have possession of both her and the chip before dawn.”
            “You’d better, Zakharov. I’ve already paid for her and I don’t like being cheated.” When the line went dead, the handsome blonde man replaced the handset with a frown. Vlascenko was overstepping his authority if he thought he could threaten him and get away with it. Rapping his fingers on the desk, he was deep in thought when soft hands slid over his shoulders and down his chest.
            “Come to bed, lover. We’ll have plenty of time to teach Vlascenko a lesson in the morning.” Zakharov rose and clasped the beautiful, and naked, brunette close to his body and began walking her backwards towards the bed.
            “As you wish, Christine.”

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