A/N: This is the last chapter in my story about Brenda's CIA world. In my version of Brenda's and Fritz's story they both served in the CIA before their law enforcement careers. If you haven't read it already, please go back and read "Hollenbeck" to read about their start in the CIA and how they first met.
Brenda tried to open her eyes. There was no light and someone… no, something… was lying on top of her. Whatever it was, although it wasn't heavy, was wrapped tightly around her and constricting her movements. She tried to turn her head so she could breathe but there was no way to escape whatever was cocooning her. Her legs hurt from being cramped. She tried to move them but couldn't. Breathing was difficult so she tried to move her head to get more air, but her cheek was pressing against something hard. She heard the car's engine, felt the sway and rolled slightly when the car braked so she could tell that she was moving. When she tried to take a deep breath the car exhaust smell added to her nausea and headache. Finally, she surrendered to the blackness again.
She came to when the tape covering her mouth was ripped off and a cold, wet cloth was pressed against her face. Her mouth was dry and she tried to suck a few drops from the cloth but the acrid taste stopped her. When it was taken away, she tried to open her eyes but squinted against the stabbing pain in her head so she closed her eyes again. She was slumped in a rickety, broken chair with something binding her hands behind the chair. Her legs were now tied, and even though they were no longer folded up against her, they still throbbed.
The pain in her head hadn't sufficiently subsided to enable her to open her eyes but she heard a man's voice say, "Ah, good. You're coming around." Her mouth was too dry, and her head hurt too much to respond. And she was too nauseous and dizzy to think. She let her body remain limp against the back of the chair. She felt the man try to replace the tape over her mouth but it would no longer stick to her wet skin so he gave up and left her alone.
Eventually her mind began to clear. Although she kept her eyes closed and remained still, she became acutely aware of sounds. She heard a plane taking off. And, in the distance, she heard a ship's horn. As she sat still with her eyes closed she heard footfalls and decided that it was a man. Since there was no conversation she thought she must be being guarded by only one person. When she heard more footfalls and a door squeaking, then the scrape of a latch, she carefully opened her eyes. She was in an empty hangar. Other than the one man whose voice she had heard, she was apparently alone. She craned her neck searching for clues to her location. She remembered her watch and flexed her hands against the restraint. She was relieved that she was still wearing it and that she could reach its face but she didn't turn it on. When she heard a toilet flush and the latch move again she shut her eyes and resumed playing dead. She needed time to clear her head and think before she attempted to engage him.
As she sat there, she thought of Fritz. How long had it been since she'd seen him? Would she ever see him again? One regret consumed her: she hadn't told Fritz that she loved him when she left him in the parking garage. But he had told her, and his last words of love strengthened her resolve to see him again.
Suddenly the man slapped her across the face. "Wake up!" he shouted. She struggled to sit upright in the broken chair and opened her eyes. "That's better," the man said and walked over to another chair about ten feet away and sat facing her.
Brenda tested her hand restraints. Not handcuffs and not rope. Thin. Zip ties, she concluded. But it felt to her that her legs were tied with something else, something heavier. Rope. Then she decided it was time to try to engage the man guarding her so she carefully and gently squeezed her watch face and asked, "Where are we?" When he didn't answer she said, "That's an awfully wide door so we've got to be in an empty airport hangar. I heard a prop plane and a ship's horn off in the distance." She desperately hoped that Fritz and Elaine were hearing those clues to her location, but the man to whom her question was addressed still said nothing. Brenda tried again. "What time is it? I see blue sky with a lot of orange. Is it sunup or sundown? It's chilly but not too cold. How long was I out?"
"Shut up," the man commanded. "You'll find out what you need to know when we're ready to tell you. If we decide to tell you."
"Who is 'we'? What's your name? Why did you kidnap me? Why are you involved in this?"
The man got up from his chair, walked over to Brenda and slapped her again, harder this time. "SHUT UP!" he yelled, then walked back to his chair, sat down, and picked up a book and began reading.
Brenda's jaw ached from his blow. She knew she wouldn't get anything further from this man so she turned off the watch and studied him. He was burly, probably in his early 50s, beginning to bald, and had closely cropped hair. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a dark blue long sleeve shirt. She realized that this was "Halloween Man" and the same man who had called her. But she wondered, Where are Margit and Pollatsik?
While he picked up his book, Rudy kept his eye on Brenda. Even though he was sure she couldn't move, he was still irritated by the boldness of her questions and so he glared at her in expectation that his menacing expression would silence her.
Why am I involved in this, bitch? Are you so stupid that you don't realize that it's money? A lot of money. Oh, Károly thinks I'm doing it out of loyalty to a cousin killed in your little action but I never met him. No, I'm more interested in money than in revenge or family loyalty.
Rudy was clearly willing to do anything if the price was right. As he opened his book he thought about what that money was going to give him: the wonderful life of a millionaire in Central America.
Fritz heard Brenda's voice on the transceiver and instantly was on his feet. He was so consumed with relief that she was alive that he wasn't sure he had taken in all she had said. But then he heard a man hit her and he was immediately hurled into the throes of rage.
Without knocking, Dave opened his door and asked, "Did you hear her?"
"I heard her voice. Do you remember all the clues? I just remember something about planes and a ship. He hit her, Dave. THAT FUCKING ASSHOLE HIT HER!" Fritz screamed.
"I know, Fritz, but you have to calm down if you're going to be able to help her." When he saw Fritz take a breath and nod, Dave continued, "Now, she specifically mentioned prop planes and a ship's horn but she didn't mention jets, so I'm guessing that she's near a small airport."
"And it has to be close to the ocean," Fritz added. Then he remembered her saying something about it being either sunset or sunrise and that it was cool but not cold. "She's got to be somewhere in this area," he realized as he looked out the window at the colors of the sunset.
"I've got a map and an airport list in my office. Come on," Dave barked and both men ran down the hall.
"There are hundreds of small airports in the region," Dave said as he unfolded his map.
"But not that many near enough to the ocean that she could hear a ship's horn."
As both men studied the map Fritz remembered the airport security tape. "Pollatsik moved like he was in a lot of pain. I doubt he would want to get too far from whatever his getaway transportation is. So, let's concentrate on small airfields within a 50 mile radius of LAX." Then he remembered something else. "Elaine said that she was moving south on the I-5 before they lost her, so let's check south of LA."
As they studied the map, Dave pulled out a red sharpie and drew rings around the airports that would handle mostly prop planes while Fritz dialed Elaine. When she answered he put her on speaker.
"Fritz, I heard her. And I've got operatives ready to head out," she said.
"We're looking at small airports handling prop planes that are close enough to the ocean for Brenda to hear a ship's horn."
"If she heard a ship's horn she has to be near a port or harbor traffic," Elaine added.
"True, but we don't know if that could be around Long Beach, Newport Beach or even farther south," Fritz said in frustration.
"She could have been hearing one of the Catalina ferries," Elaine theorized.
"Her watch is off again for now. She's probably saving the battery. We can split up and start checking the local airports," Dave said. They decided to concentrate on checking the airports south of LAX and Elaine dispatched agents to the closest ones.
After about half an hour of silence Brenda decided if she could move around she might get more clues so she said, "I've got to go to the bathroom."
The man made no move but said, "Not yet," and continued reading.
Since the man was preoccupied with his book, Brenda carefully explored the back of the broken chair. As she had hoped, she found a jagged metal edge and began trying to cut through the zip ties binding her wrists but progress was slow. She had to be careful because she didn't want to activate her watch and she didn't want the man to notice what she was doing. As she worked, she heard another helicopter and it sounded like it was landing next to the hangar. The man folded down the corner of the page and set the book on the empty work table beside him. He got up, peered out a side door and walked to the hangar door and pushed the button to raise it.
Two figures were illuminated by the light from inside the hangar. Brenda recognized Margit as the blonde in the elevator who now pushed Pollatsik's wheelchair into the hangar. Pollatsik said something to the man that Brenda couldn't hear. Then the man lowered the door once more and took up his post by the side door. Margit wheeled Pollatsik to within ten feet of Brenda.
Fritz's phone rang. "It's Elaine," he said to Dave as he answered and punched the speakerphone button. "Yes, Elaine. Have you heard anything else?"
"Maybe. We received a report that an incoming military plane had to circle and saw a helicopter flying into a little used private air strip after dark. And he's never seen any activity there at night because it's a small field with no runway lights. He said they've never seen helicopters using that facility, either. They tried to raise it on the radio but the pilot didn't answer. Apparently no laws were broken but the contact said it was unusual."
"Which airport?" Fritz was so nervous he thought he would hyperventilate.
"I've got it," Dave said as he pointed to one of his red circles. "It's just south of here. We've got a chopper standing by."
"All right, Elaine, we're rolling now," Fritz barked.
"My men are on their way, too. And, Fritz, good luck."
Fritz thought that Elaine's last two words sounded like the prayer he was feeling, but in his hurry, he disconnected the call without replying.
No one said a word as Brenda and Pollatsik studied each other. Finally, Brenda broke the silence in order to deflect attention from her arm movement needed to activate her watch. "Well, hello there, Károly. It's been a long time." Her voice displayed more bravado than she felt.
"Ah, CIA Agent Brenda Leigh Johnson. It has been a long time," Pollatsik greeted her in Czech. "I see you are not changed. You are still as beautiful as ever, Liebchen," Pollatsik said. "Allow me to introduce to you Margit Bálint. You will remember her father, Viktor? You killed him when you shot me. You are already meeting my other assistant, Rudy Schalek. His cousin was another casualty in your endeavor." He turned and ordered Rudy to tell the helicopter pilot to prepare for take-off so Rudy immediately left the hangar.
Brenda didn't acknowledge the assistants. Instead she looked steadily into Pollatsik's eyes and replied in flawless Czech, "I did not kill Viktor, and I am no longer with the CIA. But you already know that since you had Rudy call me at work."
"Ah, you remember your excellent Czech. But I am right about the occasion. That was a happy occasion for you, I am sure, Liebchen, since you received a field decoration for your work. And difficult work it must have been, allowing me to purchase for you exquisite clothes and jewels and escort you to the most exclusive places in Istanbul. It must have been excruciating for you to eat the most excellent food and drink the finest wines in the world, which I provided to you."
"My whole team received the commendation. I was not singled out," Brenda replied.
"IT WAS YOU WHO SHOT ME!" Pollatsik screamed in fury but he immediately lowered his voice and smiled. "And it was your action, was it not? Which led to years of constant pain and longing to see you again from my prison cell."
Fritz was sitting in the chopper, picking up Brenda's conversation on his headphones. He was listening intently to Brenda's and Pollatsik's conversation even though he didn't speak Czech. He was attempting to decipher Brenda's frame of mind and he was relieved to hear a calm and steady voice with no trace of fear or pain, despite her having been struck earlier. Even so, he was terrified that Pollatsik would further hurt her. As he listened he leaned forward, willing the chopper to fly faster.
Elaine's voice intruded. "Agents, be very careful. Remember that these are extremely important packages so pick them up as gently as possible," she ordered.
"Surely you have not gone to so much trouble to bring me here in order to reminisce about old times, Károly. What are your intentions?" Brenda was amazed that she was able to keep her voice steady with no trace of the fear she was feeling.
"Ah, Liebchen, just to see you again is a dear reward. But you are correct. I have brought you here to pay a debt for many years I have owed to you," he smiled as he withdrew a gun from his coat pocket.
Brenda saw that it was a snub-nose revolver, probably not accurate for any distance work, but he could certainly kill her at such close range. She had to try harder to cut through the zip ties so she had to begin talking again.
"Do you intend to kill me, Károly? Is that the 'debt' you are speaking of? I think you are exacting too much interest, Károly. After all, I did not kill you. You are alive still."
"Oh, no, my Liebchen. I have no intention to kill you. It is my intention to put bullet through your leg the same way you put your bullet into me. That way you can live the rest of your life in the pain and in the wheelchair I have come to know so well. I think it is fair. Do you not agree, Liebchen?" As he spoke he raised his gun and pointed it at her leg and fired.
Brenda's heart stopped beating for a minute but she quickly regained her composure. She was determined not to give him the satisfaction of seeing her fear.
"There was no bullet there," he smiled. He spun the barrel and said, "Let us discover if this is bullet, shall we? But first." He stopped and asked Margit to wheel him up to Brenda's side. "The debt requires that the bullet hit you in the same place that I was hit. Is it not so, Liebchen?"
Margit did as she was asked, just as Brenda finally sawed through the zip ties, freeing her wrists. But as Brenda was gauging her move to take the gun from Károly, Margit suddenly pulled a stiletto from her shoulder bag and plunged it into Pollatsik's neck. His expression changed from a malevolent smile to horror. He grabbed his neck with both hands, gurgled, and fell forward, his blood spurting into the air.
As he tumbled to the floor, Brenda jumped to her feet. Margit, still holding the stiletto, moved toward Brenda and said, "It is your time now. I kill Károly and now I kill you as well."
Brenda froze but did not sit down. "Why did you kill him?"
"Because of both of you my father died. Károly is dead and now it is your time."
"But, Margit, neither one of us killed your father."
"For his death you both bear responsibility."
They heard more helicopters as well as men shouting, and Margit turned to look at the hangar door just as Brenda elbowed her in the stomach, hoping to knock her off balance. Margit doubled over in pain and Brenda knocked the knife from her hand while landing a blow with her elbow at the base of her neck. Margit was dazed and fell to the floor just as Rudy rushed back into the hangar. He pulled his gun and shot out the hangar door at an unseen enemy.
Even though the return fire made Brenda realize that the cavalry had arrived, she knew she was not yet safe. So she sat down and used the stiletto to cut the ropes binding her legs. As she was working feverishly to free her legs, Margit moaned and tried to stand up so Brenda pressed the stiletto against her back and ordered, "Remain down and be still or my men will kill you." Margit complied as Rudy continued firing outside until he was out of ammunition.
Suddenly the hangar was filled with navy blue FBI jackets and other plain clothed men Brenda knew to be CIA operatives. She saw two of them grab and handcuff Rudy as the rest continued toward her and Margit. But she was only interested in one man and she immediately saw him as he broke through the crowd and rushed to her.
"Brenda! Brenda! Honey, are you all right?" Fritz sounded frantic. He was rushing at her so fast that she was afraid that he would bowl her over.
"I'm ok," she replied and raised her hand to slow him down. Two plain clothed men took Margit into custody while another checked Pollatsik but found no signs of life. Fritz took Brenda in his arms and, as he held her, was overwhelmed by the realization that she was alive and once more safe.
Brenda held onto Fritz as tightly as she could while he buried his face in her hair. She marveled at how good it felt to lay her head on his shoulder and how strong his arms felt as they enfolded her. She heard his rapidly beating heart slow to normal and the comforting knowledge that she was both loved and protected flooded over her.
"What took you so long," she asked with a smile when her emotions finally permitted her to speak.
"I guess Mark Antony's chariot wasn't as fast as Cleopatra's," he said as he visually checked her over for injury. "Come on. We're going to get you checked out at the ER."
"No, Fritzi. I don't need to go to a hospital. I'm fine. Really."
"Just humor me. I need to hear a doctor say that you're fine," and they walked out of the hangar.
Brenda rested her head on Fritz's shoulder and said, "I'm so sorry."
"What are you sorry about?"
"When I said goodbye, I didn't tell you that I love you."
"I know you love me, honey."
She stopped and looked up into his eyes. "But just so it's been said, I love you with all my heart, Fritz Howard." And she kissed him.
They boarded the chopper, and as it rose into the air, Brenda watched the hangar shrink in size and finally disappear from view. To her it was a symbol of her old life finally shrinking and moving from her. Oh, she knew that she would be debriefed by the CIA, but that would be the final purge.
As they pulled up in front of their home, Brenda thought her humble little bungalow was more beautiful than the most spectacular mansion in Beverly Hills, in spite of the ridiculous Halloween decorations still on the porch.
It had been a lifetime since they had put up those decorations. She noticed that no other house on their street still had them up. But she focused her attention on the ghost swinging in the breeze beside the fiber optic spider web. "I had to deal with a real ghost today, she said quietly to the grinning apparition nodding at her on her porch, "And neither of you have any more power over me."
Fritz put his arm around her and hugged her. "Come on. Let's go inside. I promise to take everything down as soon as I get you comfortable. Would you like me to make you a cup of hot cocoa?"
"That sounds wonderful. And is there any Halloween candy left?" she asked as she put her arm around his waist.
And so, with their arms around each other, they walked back into their lives.
A/N: Even though this story is fiction, I researched the inner workings of the CIA in order to bring you the most accurate story possible. And now I'd like to hear from you. Please leave your review. Thank you.