Back in the living room, Sasha and Ilya sat in silence. It had been over 2 hours since Ilya had agreed to the terrorists demands. Why hadn't they called? Sasha rubbed a hand over his face. He was exhausted beyond comprehension but couldn't rest. His father had urged him to go to bed and get some rest but he refused. In truth, he felt enormously guilty about the entire situation. The least he could do was stay awake.
Ilya's phone beeped. "We have her location," he told Sasha. "She's in the old church, just outside our house!"
"They never took her?" Sasha couldn't believe it. She had been so close to them the entire time.
The two men raced over. Ilya saw the door hanging ajar and ran in first.
"Elena!" he gasped, relief flooding him as he ran to his wife and untied her hands. Sasha removed the hood and hugged his mother tight, tears running down his face as he took in the large bruise on her jaw.
"I'm so sorry," he told her. "I shouldn't have said what I did, I'm so sorry."
"It's alright, Sasha," she soothed him, feeling guilty for putting him through this. She moved to stand, holding onto Sasha for support. Sasha wiped the tears from his face with one hand, still supporting his mother and looked at her carefully to see if she really was alright. She smiled in response, wincing slightly as pain shot through her jaw.
"I'm fine, darling, just get me home." Sasha wrapped an arm around his mother. Ilya discarded the ropes and took his wife's hand, unable to get any closer due to Sasha's refusal to let go of her. Together, they walked out of the church and back to their home.
Two days later.
"Did everything go according to plan?"
"Yes, everything is fine. My position here is intact."
"And how is your jaw?"
"Sore. As are my wrists. Might I suggest you keep a closer eye on things, Mikhail . I would not be so willing to let you punch me again."
"Of course, Elena. I am sorry."
"It was necessary to convince them of my innocence. Let us say no more on the matter. We continue as planned. Going dark."
Kuzmin sat in his office, a set of files piled neatly to the left. Three were open in front of him.
"Sir, you wanted to see me?" Anatoly stood in the doorway.
"Yes, Anatoly come in. Close the door." Kuzmin replied, gesturing to the chair opposite his desk. "What do you have for me so far?"
Anatoly took a deep breath. It wasn't easy going behind Sasha's back, watching his every move, listening to the private conversations he had with his parents. "I have no reason to believe that Minister Gavrik is corrupt," he began. "Both Sasha and his mother were kidnapped by these men, we would have to assume one was willing to be taken. The question is why?"
Kuzmin sighed. "There is a connection, there has to be. Given the choice, do you think Sasha would protect his mother or his country?"
"I don't know, sir, he loves his mother as you would expect, but he supports the talks, he idolises his father. I am sure of that."
"Then Elena is our key suspect. Keep close to them Anatoly. You and Sasha will form part of the delegation team. If Elena is the guilty party, then Sasha may find himself in an impossible situation. Predicting his behaviour might be difficult. Be careful."
Anatoly nodded and understanding that the meeting was over stood and left. He walked over to his desk. Sasha looked up and smiled at his friend, and a new wave of guilt washed over him. He was sure Sasha had no idea he was spying on him and his family.
"I owe you a few drinks, for looking after me in the hospital –"
"Doctors did that -"
"You protected me. My parents are grateful to you too, Anatoly." There was sincerity in Sasha's voice that made Anatoly feel very uncomfortable.
"Fine, one drink," he conceded.
Sasha grinned "It won't be just one drink, you know that." He tossed Anatoly's coat over to him and the two agents left the office, walking leisurely into the street, shining bright as the sun beat down on the snow.
Well that's it! Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks again to all those who took the time to share their thoughts and review various chapters, it's been great to hear your thoughts and get feedback! :)