WHEN IN RUSSIA...
Jim had treated Claira to a late night viewing at the cinema to see the latest action packed blockbuster movie of the time. She had made herself ready for the night ahead and Jim bought the regulation hot dogs, popcorn and drinks for the eagerly awaited evening show. Claira stuffed herself out on everything that was to hand and was already full and starting to get sleepy as the main feature started. Claira treated Jim like a bed cover and moved her head into his jacket to shield her eyes from the lights of the film as she sat on Jim's lap as he watched the movie. By the time the film had finished Claira was already well asleep so Jim carried her out to his car and put her into the back seat and covered her over with her favourite blanket and then started to drive home through the traffic. Claira heard the car horns and rows of stationary vehicle engines and slowly sat up.
"Dad?" She said looking around rubbing her eyes.
"Hey sleepy head." He said looking at her through the rear view mirror.
"What time is it?"
"Late, very late, you better get some more sleep we'll be home once this traffic moves itself along." Jim said looking through the windscreen to the rows of stationary cars.
Claira moved into the front seat holding her blanket and tried to get comfortable.
"Sweetheart you'd be better off in the back."
"But I'm awake now daddy and all these car horns around are keeping me up."
"It won't last long now sweetheart, take your blanket into the back seat and wrap it around yourself; you'll soon fall asleep, I assure you."
"It's my blanket dad; I can fall asleep in the front seat with it as well as in the back."
"Alright but I warn you, I am driving and I cannot help you in to the back with it while I'm sitting here on the freeway."
"I know." She said hugging the blanket around her and putting her head into it to smell it and then closed her eyes. "I can still smell the first time I took this from you back at the border crossing."
"I've washed it many times since then."
"No you haven't daddy, it's still so new and anyway, I would know." She said looking at him while keeping he face resting on the blanket.
"I can't get anything round you, ha?" He said looking at her then moved some hair away from her face. "Now get some more sleep for your dad ha because we'll be home before you know it, I promise you."
Claira looked at the rows of cars in front of them then back to Jim in the driving seat.
"Okay." She said and moved to get comfortable, wrapping the blanket around her and closing her eyes.
The noise of the car horns and traffic soon faded away.
"Claira, Claira? Come on Claira, we're home." Jim said through a hazy dream state.
"Hurh, dad?" She said opening her eyes.
"Yes, you're home. Come on, I'll take you up."
Claira watched as Jim picked her up and carried her into the apartment lift and up to their floor. She was very sleepy as Jim opened the door and walked in. At that moment Jim was hit from behind and fell to the floor bringing Claira to the floor as Jim fell down unconscious. Claira started to scream and look around for to him.
"Dad, dad!" She said moving to him unconscious on the floor of their apartment.
The door closed behind them which made Claira look round.
"The voice is exactly the same even if the face has changed." A voice said as Claira was grabbed and pushed to the door.
She started to scream as someone took her top off.
"Burn marks to upper body, which were to be expected after what happened to you."
Claira tried to grab for her destroyed top from the man holding her back from it.
"That's enough, take her out." Another voice said as Claira was picked up and taken out of the apartment kicking and screaming.
"Dad, daddy!" Claira said as the door closed in front of her with Jim still knocked out on the floor.
Claira was bundled into the back of an awaiting car and heard it speed away as someone kept her head below the back seats. Claira was already tired and soon fell asleep again. She finally awoke to hear screeching plane engines around her and another man holding her down. She did her best to look around and stood up.
"Where am I? What have you done with my dad? Where is he?"
"Keep her quiet, it won't be long now, Miss Reese."
"That's not my name, my name is Claira Phelps, my dad is Jim Phelps, it always has been and it always will be." Claira said struggling with a man trying to hold her down.
"You play you're part well, Miss Reese." The voice said over her again.
"Claira Reese is dead, I'm Claira Phelps, and I know I am, I can prove it."
"I'm sure you could if someone was willing to listen to you, specially because you have said something right today Miss Reese, you will be dead very soon now in fact."
Claira looked around for the voice but could not see much because of the man holding her down and soon started to become scared and struggle again. She then fell asleep exhausted again. She awoke this time in a room with cold grey walls with voices coming from rooms and corridors beyond. She got out of bed to find herself in unfamiliar clothes. She moved to the door and opened it as a guard appeared and pushed her back into the room.
"You have been ordered to stay in this room and here you will stay." The guard said looking at her.
"Where am I? You have no right to treat me like this, I am an American citizen." She said trying to move forward but the guard was much stronger than her.
"That might mean something if you were in America." He said laughing and pulling the door.
Claira grabbed the door.
"I'm not in America? Then, where am I?"
"Well, Russia, of course."
"Russia? What about my dad, is he here with me? Have you brought him here too?"
"Who wants him here? Your all we came for, you must have known that by now." The guard said then closed the door.
Claira tried to open the door but it was already locked.
"Daddy." She said looking down as a tear fell from her eye.
Claira sat on the bed looking at the grey drab walls and a kind of fake light above her that did nothing and just sat there looking at her as she look at it. She then lay back down and closed her eyes and thought about the good times she had had with Jim and tried to smile as she remembered the laughs. She had finally fallen asleep again but was soon awoken as she heard the door opening and someone walked in holding a tray. She watched as the guard made sure that Claira did not try to run out as the other man put the tray onto the small table and then went back out.
"If this is what it's going to be like until you finally choose what you are to do with me?"
"We've already chosen what to do with you Miss Reese, we just need to get you to realise that."
The guard said stepping out.
Claira jumped up and tried to do something to get out of the situation she found herself in but the guard just pushed her away and closed the door.
"I wont give in to you. You can't keep me locked up in here forever you know!" She said as her voice echoed around the room. "You can't keep me in here forever, you won't, and they can't." She said to herself then looked down to the tray. She slowly knelt down and looked at the slim pickings of a meal and started to taste it. She sipped at the water then sat on the bed and again went back to looking at the grey walls.
Eventually Claira was taken to another much larger room with oak panelled walls and a single chair that the guard's man handled her into. The door opened and Claira immediately recognised Vasilentov who was behind the order to torch the hotel back in Poland and the more recent demise of her friend Matt Davis in South America for helping Jim keep Claira from being returned to Russia as ordered.
"I was informed that you attempted to eat something while you waited for me to see you." He said moving forward acknowledging the guard as he moved closer.
Claira shook her head and looked down.
"I should have realised you were behind this. I guess that's one trait I didn't have passed on from my father, you son of a bitch!" Claira said getting angry and trying to struggle free from the restraints on her wrists.
Claira was hit from behind and she was knocked to the floor. She looked at the guard that had hit her.
"Was that meant for what I did to your family in Poland or you're friend in South America?"
"I'm not happy that he sold us out but I am glad he realised just in time to stop you. Matt helped me realise who I am today."
"And what is that, Miss Reese?"
Claira looked at him and laughed his question off.
"I don't need to answer anything from you and its Miss Phelps, Claira Phelps."
"Very well, then I think we're finished here."
Claira was picked up.
"Wait, wait a minute." She said with her legs dangling in the air as the guard held her aloft. "You can't just leave it there. What the hell am I here for?"
Vasilentov moved face to face with her.
"I don't need to answer anything from you either. Nice face by the way. Jim Phelps went to a lot of trouble to keep your true identity safe."
"I was barely recognisable after your torching of my parents room totalled the whole hotel."
He slowly pulled her top down.
"I guess he had to leave something to remember them by."
She quickly pulled away and tried to compose herself.
"My dad was never looking to replace them and I wasn't looking for a substitute." She said as she realised a tear was falling down from her eye.
"But you fell in love with him all the same."
"He's my dad, what else was I supposed to do?"
Claira watched as Vasilentov moved away and she was placed back in the chair.
"His team, which is you included, runs directly opposite to mine in Russia."
"No kidding but, I wasn't the one spying on the Polish now, was I?"
"You think that is why you're here? To have a go at you for surviving a fire, for becoming Claira Phelps when you were meant to die along with the other members of your family?"
"Well there's no other..." She stopped looking at him.
"You really think that you are here for a telling off, don't do that again and I'd just let you go?" Claira looked at him as he started to laugh. "Get this kid. She thinks that a telling off, don't do that again will suffice. You don't walk away from the KGB, no-one ever does."
"I wasn't expecting to but, well, why?"
"Why, what?"He said watching Claira swallow a lump in her throat as he moved closer to her. "I am going to send you to your lowest ebb, your lowest low for what your "father's team" has caused my "team". He said moving up to her.
"Your team is just like dad's IMF?"
"If that's how you want to believe my wing of the KGB acts." Vasilentov said moving away.
"I'm nine years old. I don't know what my dad does, he's just my dad, and I don't control what happens when he meets with the team. He's my dad, that's all." Claira said starting talk quickly believing that Vasilentov was searching for answers.
"Just your dad? If he was just your dad you would be dead in that hotel fire not sitting here now trying to give me meaningless answers just to stay alive. He needs you as much as you need him." Claira tried to wet her very dry lips with no success as Vasilentov moved around her. "You're fighting just to stay alive in here, yes? Thinking of something that might keep you breathing, keeps me interested in you that little extra second." He said continuing to move around her.
"Well, what do you expect, you want to kill me and I want to live." Claira said now following him watching her moving round.
"We're finished here, take her out. Eat and sleep well, Miss Reese for your time is almost up." He said watching a guard carry her out.
Claira was put back in her drab cell with the drab grey walls. She looked at the dirt on the floor and loose chippings as she kicked them with her shoes.
"What does he want from me? If I really want to get into dad's team, to be recognised then I have to think like dad's team, think like dad. How do I do that sitting here alone, without dad?"
"By hoping that one of the members of you're dad's team infiltrates the guards situated around here." Rollin said opening the door and going into her.
"Wait a minute, if you're here, what about dad?"
"He's here too, but at a safe house where you'll be soon."
"Ah, thank god for dad and, thank you Rollin." Claira said hugging him.
"My pleasure, come on, before the shift changes." Rollin said pulling Claira out and down the corridor.
They got outside to an awaiting car and it sped away from the building to a house in the trees. The car pulled up and Rollin got out.
"Where are you going?"
"To get changed, I don't want to look like this any longer."
"He's waiting for you of course, in there." Rollin said pointing towards the open doorway.
Claira cautiously got out of the car and watched it pull away. Claira stepped between the doorways and went in.
"In here, sweetheart."
Claira heard his voice and run through into a large room and looked to see Vasilentov facing her. Claira stood there looking at him frozen to the spot.
"You really think I'd let IMF even think about getting to you?" He said laughing then stepping up to her as Claira started to cry. "As I said, I also have a team, much more suited to being you're father's team than they could ever be."
"His voice? That's simple, like you took one of my men to be Rollin; he can also handle the art of disguise. Vasilentov said looking back as the operative walked in taking off his Rollin Hand disguise.
"Rollin Hand and Jim Phelps, whomever and whatever I am required to be, right sweetheart." Vasilentov's operative said starting to clean his face as well as putting Jim's voice on as a joke.
Claira ran forward to attack him as Vasilentov grabbed her.
"You react the same way IMF requires their subjects to react. We both own the vices of surprise and attack at the same time at anytime." Vasilentov said watching her.
"That was my dad, my family friend, Rollin Hand, he..."
"You're family is dead like you will be just remember that, Miss Reese." Vasilentov said throwing Claira to the floor.
"Then do it, do it now, if you feel so proud to finally kill me, do it now!" She shouted as her voice echoed around the room bouncing off every wall.
"You're family died almost at once; you will not have that privileged." Vasilentov said looking to one of his men and watched as Claira was dragged away to another room as drab and dark as the previous one.
Claira slid down the cold, damp stone wall to the just as cold, damp stone floor and started to cry as she thought of her father and her home slipping further and further away. She was allowed to sleep for a few hours and then she was violently woken up and pulled out of her cell and placed back in the same large wood panelled room alone. Vasilentov walked in from another door and stayed by it slowly closing the door which made Claira glance at him then look away.
"Sorry but, was that look at me an 'in disgust' or because..?"
"Because what?" Claira said deciding to look at her feet.
"Well, because you no, that can't be for fondnesses because I'm quite sure that you hate me with a passion not..."
Claira took a deep breath and looked at him.
"Look, can you cut the small talk crap; even my dad knows I'm not one for that slushy trash." She said checking her top for another line of dirt from the stone floor.
"Except when it's behind the family closed door, ha?"
Claira now looked up from her top.
"I'll call my number one costume supplier to arrange some new clothes for you." He added now walking to the large table and looking into the only folder sitting neatly on it. "Now, let's have another 'boring' conversation."
"You're the one who's making it boring Vasilentov, not me." She said looking at him lifting the pages out of the folder.
"And here's me thinking that you were finally realising that there is no escape from here, from me, Miss Reese and that maybe, just maybe you was willing to give a little."
"Give a little what; I don't understand what you want from me? I'm here aren't I?"
"Oh yes, your very last known position in fact." He said sitting down.
Claira looked across the shiny table top towards him and slowly relaxed in her uncomfortable chair.
Some smaller than small sandwiches were placed on the table but not in reach of Claira as she watched Vasilentov move up to them and slowly pick one up. Claira watched him eat one of the few sandwiches on the plate.
"Sorry, where are my manners? You want one of these?" He said picking up another one and swallowing it.
"Not when it's been anywhere near you, no thanks." She said trying to look away but the smell of the fresh bread soon brought her gaze straight back to them.
A door now opened up and a young assistant walked in first speaking in Russian then noticed Claira and stepped up to Vasilentov.
"You're needed, quick."
"I told you I was not to be disturbed."
They now talked in Russian as Claira's urge to eat over took her urge to understand any of the Russian they were speaking.
Vasilentov looked at her then pulled the plate further away and checked her restraints.
"Go, go!" Vasilentov said as the young assistant went out and he followed him grabbing her folder as he went.
The room slowly settled back to itself as Claira's gaze continued to look at the now very out of reach sandwiches on the shiny table top. She looked at her restraints and straight back to the sandwiches. At that moment the door opened and Claira looked over to it and recognised who it was.
"Dad, my god dad!" She said looking at him.
Jim went up to her.
"You're very hard to track down."
"Well, what do you expect, look where I am." She said watching him releasing the restraints over her then noticed the sandwiches.
"Was Vasilentov teasing you with these, being out of your reach?" He said pulling them towards her as Claira made a grab for them and ate them double quick.
"Sorry to talk with my mouth full dad but I haven't seen food this appetising in days."
"No need to apologise..." There was now gun shots heard around the building. "I think we better take these in a doggy bag, so to speak." Jim added.
"No need, pockets."
"You know if this was an ordinary situation what you are doing now would be deemed as ground able but, being here..."
"Well, when in Russia..."
They managed to make it out of the building with minimal effort to an awaiting car and drive towards the border. Claira stayed close to Jim's chest all the way back to the States and home.
Jim led Claira through the apartment car park and into the lift.
"I can't believe that the team rescued me and you brought me home."
"I was not going to leave you in a foreign country all alone. You know I would have rescued you."
"What was it like talking to the team? No, I can imagine..."
"Well, it's obvious that I told your Uncle Rollin that we had to pull of something incredible but you know that it was worth it."
Claira looked at him.
"Yes, and Aunt Cinnamon and Barney, Willy."
"I guess, yeah." She said looking down.
They walked out of the lift and Jim opened up the door and they walked in.
"Welcome home, sweetheart." He said turning round to look at her.
"Well, don't sound so enthusiastic about what I have done to get you home."
"Yes, with Uncle Rollin, Aunt Cinnamon, Barney and Willy all involved."
"And rightly so."
Claira watched Jim place his keys onto the table and move towards his bedroom. Claira picked up the keys and looked at them all perfect as she knows them to be. She shakes her head then moves into the kitchen to make herself a drink. She looks around the kitchen to try and see if anything was out of place but everything was perfect but, she could still not shake the feeling that something was wrong or missing. She walked around the whole apartment checking as she went everything she knew would be in its place.
"Have you lost something?"
Claira spun round to see her father standing in front of her.
"You're checking the whole apartment, have you lost something or checking if everything is in order?" Jim said looking at her.
"No." She said quickly stepping away and sat down on the sofa. "I was just checking if everything was as I left it before, well before Vasilentov..."
"Everything is in its place, as expected. Will you stop worrying and relax."
"You look confused."
"I guess I am because..."
She watched Jim sit down next to her.
"You guess what?"
"Well, before you rescued me from Vasilentov he, Rollin, no that's wrong, not Rollin. Its hard to explain to you what went on because you were not there."
"Start from the beginning." He said leaning back and folding his arms.
"Okay, well we know that Vasilentov ordered my parents dead along with you, me..."
"You're Aunt, Uncle, Barney and Willy, yes."
Claira stopped and looked at him looking back at her.
"Why do you call them Aunt and Uncle, I know that we're a family but, when did that get decided?"
"I believe that it would be better to sort of bring us more together, as that family." He said as Claira looked at him. "So, come on, what did Vasilentov say and more to the point, do?" He added looking at her.
"Oh erm, well after you got clobbered by one of Vasilentov's men I ended up in Russia in this big house, mansion even dad, you could not believe the size of it. The room you found me in, it was massive as I sat in it being incapable of not doing anything except sitting there and be in ore of that room as Vasilentov tried to strip me bare." She said looking down. "But dad what was the worst was him knowing that he has already stripped me bare with the death of mum, dad and my brother and twin sisters back in Poland."
"Then what do you think he wanted out of you being there?"
"That's obvious; he wanted my death, to add me to the dead of the hotel fire. It didn't take me long to realise that."
"Don't you think he wanted to know exactly what my IMF team was all about?"
"Dad, he knew about them already, about you about..."
"About you're aunt and uncle...?"
"I don't see them as my aunt and uncle, dad couldn't we just drop that?"
"But, we're family so why wouldn't they not be your aunt and uncle in this case?"
"Because we're not like mum and dad here, this team." Claira said jumping up and turning away.
"No, dad what is going on here?"
"You tell me, we need to find out exactly how the team operates with or without Claira Reese involved."
"Reese, what?" She looked down as a door opened and Vasilentov stood in the doorway then looked at one of his men taking off the mask that made him look like Jim and cleaned his face.
"Dad, dad, no dad...!" She said now waking up.
"Hey, hey easy."
Claira focused in on Jim in the driver's seat then looked around as she realised she was in his car with the blanket around her.
"Dad?" She said adjusting herself.
"Who else?" He said now looking towards the windscreen then back to Claira. "I was hoping that we would be home by now darling but I think someone has had an accident up ahead." He said opening his jacket and taking out a cigarette from the packet and pressing the light button on the dashboard as Claira continued to look at him "Are you alright?"
Claira took a deep breath and rubbed her eyes as the sleep fell onto her favourite blanket.
"I'm not sure."
"Did you have a night terror?" He said as the lighter button ejected itself from the dashboard and Jim picked it up to light his cigarette.
"I don't know dad, I, I saw Vasilentov."
He looked at her for a moment then replaced the lighter back into its holder.
"Defiantly a night terror." He said looking back towards the windscreen.
"How do you know, you...? Are you really my dad or are you one of Vasilentov's men?"
"Claira!" He said turning his head sharply to look at her.
"Dad, I'm serious here he, this man was you. Vasilentov was there, he wanted to know about you about IMF. Dad he has his own IMF team, or whatever they call it working from Russia like you work from the US."
"How much of that film did you take in while you were asleep?"
"The film you fell asleep at before it even started, remember? The film that has caused us getting stuck in the traffic jam we are now sitting in." He said pointing to the traffic around them.
"What film? Dad, that was weeks ago, wasn't it?" She said moving closer.
Jim looked at her and shook his head.
"Sweetheart, you're sitting in my car, we're stuck in a traffic jam that we get every day in this city and we, no, you were asleep, I have just seen a very good action packed film that I had promised to take you to. You have been asleep for most of the evening and half of that in the company of your favourite blanket..."
"Dad, I saw Vasilentov he, he has a team just like you. He even thinks that because we're a family that Cinnamon and Rollin are my aunt and uncle."
"Well, that settles it then."
"That it was defiantly a night terror because you would never call Cinnamon and Rollin your aunt and uncle even if as you know, we are a family and, in the film back there I remember someone making a mention of a family with an aunt and uncle."
"Yes, now that's something I remember even if you do not. Claira, just relax, we'll be home, soon." Jim said checking his watch.
"Yeah and he is going to be waiting for us, like before."
"What do you mean, like before?"
"When we came home before."
"Claira, we haven't even made it home from the film premier yet."
"Then let's not go home tonight, dad please, I know he's waiting for us, like when Matt was with us..."
"So this is what this is all about. What this has been leading up to, Matt."
"No! You can't blame Matt, just because Vasilentov ordered my death along with mum, dad, my brother and twin sisters after..."
"You really liked Matt didn't you?" He said stopping her.
"Well what do you expect? I didn't know who I was after that car accident and he did help me realise that Claira Reese was dead and that Claira Phelps is very much alive."
"And then he turned round and betrayed you."
"I don't believe he did that out of spite dad, he..." She looked down into her blanket and pulled it around her.
Jim finished his cigarette and looked at her still keeping her head down.
"Claira, if this is you just being you and you are reacting to a film that you took in subconsciously then all you need is a reassuring hug from me because you know very well that Vasilentov would not try anything here. Matt sold us out for money, not because he cared for you."
"How can you believe that when he had second thoughts and actually tried to warn us that Vasilentov was on our plane?"
"Because once a man is desperate for money like Matt was, especially the money Vasilentov has out on you my team second thoughts is just that a thought, nothing permanent and certainly nothing that Matt could have done would have stopped him trying to kill us that night."
"Even dying for it?"
Claira looked at him then moved her head into the blanket.
"But he helped me so much that you would never know. Realising that mum and dad are dead and I, I was so confused." She said looking at Jim while keeping her head inside the blanket.
Jim watched her close her eyes then looked at the traffic.
"I think you should jump into the back and get some sleep."
"How long are we going to be here for though dad, I don't want to fall asleep and wake up just before Vasilentov's men...?"
"Claira." Jim said moving his hand to her face. "I will wake you if I notice anything suspicious."
"But, by then it might be too late."
Jim looked at her and moved the blanket.
"I promise to wake you if there is anything I am not happy with, how about that?"
"Alright, okay, the minute anything happens."
"The second." He said watching her move into the back and settle down.
Jim looked at her through the rear view mirror then looked again at the traffic.
The traffic soon relented and they soon headed back to their apartment and parked the car. He got out and moved to the back door and opened it to see Claira fully asleep on her blanket. He slowly picked her up and carried her into the lift and up to their apartment and moved to the door, slowly opening it.
"It's about time." Jim said moving towards them.
"Will you relax, you're as bad as Claira and that traffic in town was manic."
"Dad?" Claira said moving her head.
"Erm, that's me now, not you." Jim said picking Claira up and carrying her to the bedroom and turned back to see Rollin take off Jim's mask. "Any problems?"
"None to report, just Claira being Claira, as ever." Rollin said watching Jim holding her.
"I'll just put her to bed and we can talk, help yourself to my scotch." Jim said opening Claira's bedroom door and going in.
Jim appeared some time later with Claira's blanket.
"I'll take this back down to the car later because Claira hates being in the car without it." Jim said putting the blanket on the table by the door. "We're you followed?" He said turning back.
"Not that I know of. There was a bad accident on the freeway that took the authorities over an hour to clear up but it only allowed me time to get to know Claira more especially when she's tired." Rollin said as Jim made himself a scotch and sat down.
"I can just imagine her now, her head in that blanket." Jim said smiling.
"She had a night terror because, as predicted, she didn't stay awake for the film and of course, with her worried about Vasilentov and Matt and what happened she subconsciously turned the film that I was watching, around to believe that what was happening in the film was happening in real life. So, instead of you waiting at the door for us this evening, Vasilentov's men would be here waiting to take her back to Russia alone and deal with her on his home ground."
"Isn't it wonderful how children can turn anything around and then to go completely ballistic whenever their comfort zone is threatened."
"At this moment you sit a firm second behind that blanket." Rollin said looking back to it sitting on the table.
"I don't mind loosing out to a warming blanket but, I will not loose my kid to anyone or anything for that matter." Jim said finishing his drink as he looked at the blanket then the closed door to Claira's bedroom.