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Authors: Nancy Popovich

Secrets

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SECRETS

 

Nancy M.Popovich

 

CopyrightNancy M. Popovich 2011SmashwordsEdition

 

 

 

SmashwordsEdition, License Notes

 

This ebook islicensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not bere-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to sharethis book with another person, please purchase an additional copyfor each recipient. If you're reading this book and did notpurchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then pleasereturn to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you forrespecting the hard work of this author.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

Sighing inunreserved happiness, Sonya’s eyes wandered to her new husbandsitting in the adjacent seat, and she couldn’t prevent the smilefrom encompassing her entire face. They were winging their way toParis, a honeymoon trip planned for over two years.

They lived withSonya’s sister and family in Calgary, in the third floor apartmentof their Victorian home, where they only paid for their utilities.This allowed them to salt away both of their salaries for the downpayment on their own home. Sonya had been in the process ofcompleting her Bachelor of Commerce degree and at the same timeworked for the family company, which was her legacy. And she wasdetermined to ensure its future, its very rosy future!

With her recentmarriage, that future was now set. Uncle Stefan had bequeathed atwenty percent share in Snytyza, Inc., the company created by herthree uncles and her grandparents’ best friend. Pride to be a partof this successful family enterprise fired her resolve to make iteven more successful.

Her historywith Bryan was somewhat storied. She so clearly remembered theirfirst meeting on the University of British Columbia campus duringher second year there. She had been seventeen at the time, and whenher father discovered the almost ten year difference in their ages,he reacted in a manner that Sonya had never before witnessed.

The scene hadbeen most unpleasant, ending in tears and a slamming door. She hadnot been able to convince her father that her decision to abandonher studies in the Faculty of Education was solely based on thefact that she had come to the realization that teaching wasn’t tobe her career. Or, that this decision was hers alone.

Arguments andrationalization had fallen upon deaf ears. Both her parents hadbeen educators before their retirement. Her father had been theprincipal of a high school and her mother a grade school teacher.They loved teaching with such passion that they could not fathomtheir younger daughter’s disenchantment with their chosenprofession. Instead, they placed the blame for her decisiondirectly upon her older boyfriend’s influence, refusing to believethat he had, in reality, tried to coax her to remain in thefaculty.

Sonya had nodoubt at all that Bryan’s decision to accept a post-graduatescholarship position in Paris to study for his doctorate was hisway of giving her time and space to make some serious decisionsabout her life. It had been so very difficult to watch him walkaway and board his flight, but Sonya had accomplished it without atear – at the time. The tears flowed later, in private.

When her auntand uncle decided to take a long-planned trip to Australia, Sonyajumped at the opportunity to stay with her elderly grandmotherwhile they were gone. Her parents lived only blocks away, and sheadored her Gran. They spent hours cooking and talking. Sonya hadeven succeeded in presenting the wonders of the internet to hergrandmother, proudly revealing photos sent by her aunt and unclefrom Australia.

Then the bubbleburst. Her beloved grandmother died in her sleep at the age ofninety-six while she was under Sonya’s care. Unfortunately, thiswas only the beginning in a series of deaths that left the entirefamily devastated.

The nightmarecontinued when her parents had been killed in the massacre that wasSeptember Eleventh. Her sister Susan’s strained voice informing herthat their parent’s plane had been hijacked and crashed, would beforever etched in her brain. She was still numb, even after all thetime that since passed.

Part of it wasthe guilt of having argued, yet again, with her father regardingwhat direction that her education would take. Even now, she feltthe guilt bubble up in her throat. It had been their lastconversation. Certainly, it had not been what she would have chosento be her last words with her father. She and Susan had discussedit many times since, and Sonya was beginning to forgive herself,for as Susan had so bluntly put it, simply being human.

A soft caresskissed the back of her hand. “A penny for your thoughts,” Bryanwhispered as dimples flashed and his smile widened, sparking intodark brown eyes peeking from behind wire rimmed glasses.

“I was justthinking that it’s taken us a long time and a few bumps in the roadto get here, hasn’t it?” she replied as a slow smile crossed herface and flashed in her eyes.

Bryan gazedinto her striking, china blue eyes and saw the love of his life.The fact that this stunning woman chose to be his wife still hadhim shaking his head in disbelief and thanking his lucky stars.

He had neverconsidered himself to be handsome. In true fact, his childhood hadbeen spent wearing the labels of geek and nerd. In an effort to fitin, he had let his dark hair grow, but unfortunately, his thick,curly hair had portrayed far less than the ‘cool’ image he strovefor and made him even more of an outcast. The fact that he grew upon a ranch cemented his fate as an outcast.

Finallydeciding to be true to himself, Bryan cut his hair and stoppedtrying to be someone that he wasn’t. Graduating from high school ayear early, he pursued his love and talent in art, and graduatedwith a degree in fine art.

Because hecould, he continued his studies, next obtaining a degree inteaching. It was while working on a post-graduate degree in artthat the lightening bolt that was Sonya entered into his life.

That firstencounter flashed into his mind as if it were yesterday. A goddesswalked into the department office and he had been in a word,thunderstruck. Hair the colour of ripe golden wheat was windblownaround a perfect face flushed from the wind. Then, she looked athim with the most brilliant china blue eyes that he had everseen.

What struck himthe most was her absolute lack of conceit. It had been hisexperience that beautiful women seemed to be very aware of theireffect on men, especially those men that they considered to begeeky and awkward.

This stunningcreature in the office had no such hang-up. In fact, she appearedto be totally unaware of her effect on men. He found himselfwondering if this girl ever looked into a mirror. Surely, she knewjust how beautiful she was. To his surprise, she appeared to besomewhat shy, but she spoke to him as if she was actuallyinterested in what he had to say. She made him feel so comfortable,that he seemed to lose his awkwardness and spoke to her as if theywere old friends.

Before he knewit, they were dating, and he considered himself to be the mostfortunate man on the face of the planet. Perhaps God was rewardinghim for his difficult youth, for which he would be eternallygrateful. It had been an idyllic time. For the first time in hislife, Bryan had confidence, something foreign to him until then. Hefelt desirable, and the longer that they were together, the moreself-confidence that he gained.

Then, Sonyadecided that she didn’t want a career in Education. He did his bestto change her mind, but she was adamant. As sweet as she was, shewas just as stubborn, and once her decision was made, her decisionwas non-negotiable.

Unfortunately,her father didn’t agree with his daughter’s choice. It was easierto blame Bryan than to accept Sonya’s decision. Their argumentabout Bryan, especially when the difference in their ages became anissue, had become really bitter. That was one of the reasons Sonyahad jumped at the opportunity to stay with her grandmother whileher aunt and uncle were in Australia.

It was thebeginning of a string of the tragedies that had paralyzed thefamily. The first of which was the death of the venerable head ofthe family, and only weeks later, came the news that Sonya’sparents had perished in the wake of the massacre that was SeptemberEleventh, Two Thousand and One.

He had been inParis at the time, and had gone so far as to put his name on awaiting list for a flight to Canada after the North American airembargo was lifted. Sonya had been steadfast in refusing his offerof support. She had shown him a strength that he never knew thatshe possessed, insisting that he remain in Paris and finish his artscholarship and doctorate. Her decision had been devastating. Whywouldn’t she accept his support? Why didn’t she want it?

Her emails had,over the course of time, explained her frame of mind. She stillneeded him, his input and his point of view, but she was trying todeal with life on her own, especially now that her parents weregone. It took every ounce of strength for him to stay in Paris butfinally, they reconnected upon his return to Canada. At that time,Sonya had been living with her sister, Susan and her husband,Kevin. To their credit, Susan and Kevin had welcomed him becauseSonya wanted it that way, something for which Bryan would always beindebted.

Sonya’sdecision to change her education direction to the Faculty ofCommerce, was triggered by her part-time job with Snytyza Inc, afamily owned company. The tragic suicide of her elderly aunt anduncle had only fuelled her need to succeed. Her uncle’s bequeath oftwenty percent of the company stock had come because she was theonly member of the family other than his son, Peter, that took anyinterest in the family company that he had been instrumental increating.

And Bryansupported her all the way. Whatever she wanted or needed, he wouldmove heaven and earth to provide, regardless the cost.

“Yeah, we’veearned what we have,” he readily agreed, pulling her hand up to hislips and grazing it softly. “Happy honeymoon, Mrs.Brody-Mylowsky.”

“Back ‘atcha,Mr. Mylowsky,” Sonya grinned. “I can’t wait to have you show meParis from an insider’s point of view!”

“You will loveit! The art, the buildings, the history – you’ll love it all!”Bryan continued enthusiastically. “I know you will. I’ve evenrented my old place from when I lived there before. It’s centrallylocated, and the landlady is a one of a kind gem.MadameLalonde will make even you gain weight with her cooking. Buckle up,Babe, we’re about to land!”

They held handsas the large aircraft began its descent, and touched down atCharles de Gaulle Airport.

CHAPTER 2

“MadameLalonde, comment ça va?(How are you)” Bryan declared, as hishug engulfed the small, chic woman that welcomed him with a kiss oneach cheek.

“Je veuxvous présenter ma nouvelle femme, Sonya. (I want tointroduce you to my new wife)Sonya, this is our landlady,MadameLalonde.”

“Bienvenue,Chérie. Mon Bryan a dit que son chérie amour viendra.(Welcome, Chérie. My Bryan told me that his sweetheart wascoming.) Welcome!” With that, she clasped Sonya’s hand in avise-like grip. “Vous êtes assez jolie. Très jolie! (Youare very beautiful, very beautiful!)Beautiful!” she exclaimedwith a Gallic gesture of her hands.

Somewhat at aloss for words, Sonya didn’t know what to do next. ApparentlyMadameLalonde knew all about her, but she was woefullyuninformed aboutMadameLalonde. All that Bryan had revealedto her was that they would be staying with his old landlady. Intruth, he had been somewhat circumspect when it came to describinghis time in Paris.

To be fair, thepast few years had been so full of tragedies that Sonya hadn’treally had the strength or the desire to ask too many questionsabout that time in his life, nor had he offered to fill her in.That, added to the fact that she had crammed two and a half termsof university courses into two, while working part time atSnytytza, had kept every waking hour packed full.

Bryan patientlywaited until she was done, never once complaining. Patience was oneof his virtues, Sonya suddenly realized. He had patiently waitedfor her to grow up, to complete her education and to agree to marryhim. Another man would have left. Another man would have demanded,but, he had done neither. It was one of the many reasons that sheloved him.


Page 2

“Sonya?”Brian’s voice snapped her back to reality. “MadameLalondehas prepared dinner for us, but she’ll understand if you want to goout and be alone.” Typical Bryan, she contemplated, never forcinghis wishes upon her.

A smile warmedSonya’s face. “That sounds lovely!Merci,” she said, turningtoMadameLalonde. In return,MadameLalonde graspedSonya’s hand and patted it.

“Bien!Icook now.” Still holding her hand, Madame Lalonde pulled Sonya intothe most charming Provencal kitchen she had ever seen. The tablewas set for four, wine glasses sat at the ready, and candles werewaiting to be lit.

“Sit,” theywere ordered. Bryan pulled out a chair for Sonya and chose anothernext to her. Obviously, Madame Lalonde had expected them to stay. Amost exquisite, mouth-watering aroma emanated from the casserolethat Madame Lalonde removed from the oven.

A grinblossomed across Bryan’s face. “This dish was always my favourite,”he explained. “Merci, MadameLalonde. Ça, c’est monfavori!”

Madame Lalondesilently nodded in acknowledgement as she continued to preparetheir meal. She was just placing crusty bread on the table when adoor slammed. Glancing up, her brow furrowed in annoyance as ahandsome youngster burst into the room. One look at his flushedface and angelic smile, erased every trace of annoyance, especiallywhen he stopped dead in his tracks and stared unabashedly atSonya.

“Sylvain,” Madame Lalonde said quietly. He looked up ather.

“Je suis enretard, Granmama, je le sait.(I am late, Grandmother, Iknow)” Obviously what he said pleased her.

“Sylvain,” she continued in the same voice. “Ça, c’estMadameMylowsky. Sonya, this is my grandchild, Sylvain.”

With aformality befitting one much older, Sylvain very seriously noddedand shook Sonya’s hand. “It is a pleasure for me to meet with you,”he said in fairly good English. “Welcome to you as well,MonsieurMylowsky.”

“Thanks,” Bryanreplied with an amused look, tousling the boys’ shining, dark hairin a way that told Sonya that this was not for the first time.“Your English has really improved since I lived here.”

The youngsterbeamed with pride. “Granmamaallows me to rent Englishmovies on the weekend. Bridgit Jones, it was very funny, yes?”

A laugh escapedand Brian soberly nodded his head. “Yes, she was.”

Watching thisinteraction with fascination, Sonya gauged the boy to be abouteleven or twelve, about the same age as her nephew, Ivan. Hisanimated brown eyes almost danced with mischief, and his hair wasshining and very dark brown, a stray lock of which seemeddetermined to hang across his forehead.

“Pour the wine,Bryan,” Madame Lalonde requested as she dished out their dinner anddispatched Sylvain to light the candles.

Their meal wasas delicious as the aroma had promised. Conversation was acombination of English and French, in deference, Sonya assumed, tothe fact her high school French was much less than adequate.Sylvain enjoyed practising his English, and argued when hisgrandmother sent him to do his school work and then to bed.

After assistingto clear the dishes, Sonya and Bryan retired to their room whichwas, as Sonya expected, every bit as charming as the rest of MadameLalonde’s home. It made her curious about how Bryan had met her andhow long he had boarded with her.

“What do youthink?” he asked as they prepared for bed.

Pausing as shebrushed her hair, Sonya’s reply was immediate. “I think this isabsolutely perfect. How did you ever connect with Madame Lalonde?”she asked casually, unable to keep her curiosity hidden.

“A friend of afriend,” he answered somewhat noncommittally. “One of the Profstook pity on me and put in a good word. Apparently,MadameLalonde is pretty particular about who she allows to board withher.”

“Does hergrandson live with her all the time?”

A flash ofcompassion crossed Bryan’s face. “His mom died and his dad works inthe Middle East. They had a family conference as to what would bebest, and it was decided he would live with his grandmother inFrance. His dad comes home every six weeks or so for a visit.”

“How sad forthat boy,” Sonya’s sympathy arose. “Thank goodness he has hisgrandmother. I’m a lot older than he is, and I still miss mymother,” she admitted as they crawled into bed. “I’m wiped! It’sbeen a very long day with the flight, time change and all.”

Gathering Sonyainto his arms, Bryan stifled a yawn. He was wiped as well, headmitted as he drifted to sleep beside his wife.

Awake longbefore dawn, Sonya sat by the window and watched as nightreluctantly surrendered to day. A cat wandered down the street,crossed the road and entered into what appeared to be a garden. Bythe way it patrolled the perimeter of the yard Sonya surmised thatthis was where it called home. Sunrise finally struggled throughthe pale light, bathing buildings with its golden glow and castingdeep shadows like tall giants all leaning in one direction.

“Been awakelong?” Bryan’s voice whispered in her ear.

“A few hours.Time zones are a bit of a bitch. Did you sleep?” Sonya replied.

“Off and on allnight. I’m pretty lucky – for some reason I seem to be able tosleep almost at will. Maybe it’s because my younger brother, theone that died, needed twenty-four-seven care. We all took turnssitting with him. When he died, we didn’t know what to do with allthe extra time. Until then, we looked after Kenny. He left a prettybig gap in our lives.”

She reachedover and stroked his cheek softly. “I know that you still miss him.I guess my family was really fortunate not having to deal with aterminal illness, especially in one so young. All of the cousinshave been healthy.

Leaning hischin on his wife’s head, Bryan gathered her into his arms, watchingout of the window with her. “Every family has its own hardships.What your family hasn’t been forced to deal with in health issues,it has dealt with in tragedy. No one gets through lifeunscathed.”

“I guess you’reright, Sonya agreed with a ragged breath. “Everyone pays theirdues.”

Recognizing thechange in her mood, Brian decided to change the subject. “Do youwant to do some sightseeing today or do you want to shop, eat orwhatever?”

“Whateversounds good to me right now,” Sonya smiled as she reached forhim.

His heartskipping a beat at the look of desire in her eyes, and he doubtedthat any of the jocks that had preyed upon him as a youngster couldever claim such a beautiful woman as a part of their lives.

Their bodiestouched softly, almost in a fragile manner. Passion, which wasnever far from the surface exploded, as they created their ownuniverse, one in which no one and nothing existed other than eachother.

Leading Sonyato their bed, Bryan began to make love to his love and with everytouch trying to convey the depth and breadth of his love andcommitment for his gift, his love, his wife. In the early light ofdawn, they joined the sun in their explosion of light, love andpassion.

CHAPTER 3

“Do you want tosee some of Paris today?” Bryan asked as he pulled a sweatshirtover his newly combed hair, sending it back into its seeminglyconstant disarray.

“Absolutely,there’s nothing better than seeing a city from an insider’s pointof view. Where do we begin?”

“Afterbreakfast, why don’t we askMadameLalonde to pack us alunch, and we can buy a bottle of wine somewhere, and have lunchalong the river in one of the parks. We can just wander around foryou to get the feel of Paris, and perhaps, go to the universitywhere I studied. Then, tomorrow if you like, we can go to some ofthe tourist places – theEiffelTower,Versailles,Notre DameCathedral orMontmartre.Le Louvrewill take much more time. How does that sound?”

“That sounds sovery honeymoon like! I love the idea. We can just wander around,suck up the ambience and forget work and the rest of the world.Great idea!” Sonya replied. “I’m starved!”

They proceededto the kitchen, where Madame Lalonde had set out a continentalbreakfast and asked if they wished coffee, pouring each of them acup. Sonya’s eyes popped wide open with her first sip. It was thestrongest coffee that she had ever encountered.

From theglitter in Bryan’s eyes, Sonya knew that he had been expecting thisreaction, and decided to put this item in her little black book.She did, gradually, become accustomed to the coffee, but definitelydid not require a refill. Her caffeine level was over the top withjust one cup.

Afterbreakfast, Bryan loaded their lunch into his backpack along with athermos of water, and then they bidadieutoMadameLalonde, promising to be home in time for dinner.

Sonya lovedParis. She loved the feel of it, the architecture, the sound of itand the pulsing life that it seemed to have. Bryan was a great tourleader. He seemed to know the smallest neighbourhood corners, themost unique little spots and the shortest routes to where he feltthat they needed to be. It was such a bonus to have a guide thatknew not only the city, but what she would enjoy.

Eventually,they ended up at the American University of Paris, and as analumni, Brian proudly led her around the campus that he knew sowell. It was a learning experience for Sonya, given that her degreewas earned in two slightly smaller universities. Bryan led her tothe department in which he had studied. Some of the staff membersgreeted him. Others watched him with blank looks, wondering howthis stranger could know their department so well.

Finally, theystood in front of an open door. Bryan didn’t knock, he simply said,“Hey!”

The slight manwith the goatee looked up from his desk and his smile lit the room.“Hey, Man!” was his response, as he leapt from his chair andenveloped Bryan in a king sized hug. “What the hell, you’re inParis?”

Then, he sawSonya and his jaw dropped. “Holy shit, is this the lady youcouldn’t stop talking about? Jaysus, you weren’t braggin’, she isdrop dead fuckin’ gorgeous!”

Sonya didn’tknow what to do or to say, she was that embarrassed.

“Watch yourmouth, Grégoire! The lady happens to be my wife!”

“If I were aFrenchman, Sonya, I would have some silky words to apologize, butI’m Louisiana Cajun and ya know, all I can say is, man, you are offthe scale beautiful!” And, Bryan, I apologize for thinkin’ that youwere braggin’. Shit, you weren’t evin’ half right!”

Bryan laughedout loud. “I told you so, Grégoire, she’s totally beyond belief!And, I will repeat, my wife. Your southern charm will not work withher like it does with the ladies here in Paris! You really arelaying it on a bit thick,” he added seriously.

CHAPTER 4

Grégoirechuckled and let go of Bryan. He held his hand out to Sonya, andlike a southern gentleman, kissed her knuckles. “Grégoire Benoit,at your service. It is my supreme pleasure to meet the beautifulwife of my good friend and student,” he stated very formally.“Welcome to Paris!”

Sonya didn’tknow how to take this over the top man, but she relied on theinternal radar that she could always depend upon. She couldn’t helpher blush, but she realized full well a come-on when one waspresented. And for a change, she used her blonde beauty to pretendthat she was not nearly as intelligent as she really was, as muchas she despised that ploy. And she hoped that Bryan would keep hismouth shut.

For some reasonthat she couldn’t understand, despite hisbon vivregoodhumour, she instantly disliked Grégoire. It was a visceralreaction, one she always listened to, not that it happened often.Sometimes, she decided, it was better to have someone underestimateyour intelligence, and his kind did automatically. This was a manto keep at arm’s distance she decided, despite his seemingfriendship with Bryan.

“Ah, Grégoire,how very nice to meet you! Bryan has spoken of you and theuniversity so often. I love Paris, thank you. It’s such a beautifulcity for a honeymoon! I’m so looking forward to seeing the rest ofits beauty. With such a wonderful tour guide, how can I go wrong!”she kissed Bryan softly on the cheek and took his arm possessively,batting her china blue eyes at Grégoire.

Grégoire’ssmile didn’t quite reach his eyes, as he appeared to analyze her.They remained flat brown, but his face still smiled. “MadameMylowsky, you are so right, Paris is such a lovely lady! I hopethat you have a wonderful time here. I know that Bryan will showyou everything that Paris has to offer. I have a class in twentyminutes, so I must rush! It was wonderful to see you again, man,and to meet you, Sonya. Perhaps, we can meet at theLeCavernlater?”

“Great idea!”Bryan replied before Sonya could object. “Same time as usual?”

“Oui!Wewill have an opportunity to socialize then.Au revoir!” Withthat, he lifted his computer bag onto his shoulder and rushed outof the office and down the hall.

Bryan put hisfingers against his lips to shush Sonya from saying anything, andthen led her out of the building. Then he turned to her and said,“That wasn’t exactly the way that I wanted you to meet Grégoire.He’s not quite what he appears to be. Neither were you, for therecord, why the Barbie doll act?”


Page 3

“And whatexactly is it that he is?” Sonya demanded. “Frankly, he struck meas a total and complete asshole!”

Bryan blinked,and then threw his head back and laughed. “Yeah, he can be,” headmitted, still laughing. “But when the chips are down, Grégoire isthe guy you want in your corner. Unless,” he admitted, “there is abeautiful blonde in the mix. Then, all bets are off! He isn’t quitethe Don Quixote that he’d like to pull off. If there was someonethat I would choose to guard my back, however, it would behim.”

“Why would youneed someone to guard your back? And why did you shush me in theoffice?” Sonya queried with a furrowed brow. “Are you in some kindof trouble?”

“Don’t besilly, Sonya, why would I have any sort of trouble? I’m an artist,a nerd, not someone that anyone would look at sideways, unless ofcourse, I’m walking with my gorgeous wife! The walls have earssometimes, Sonya, so it’s best to keep our thoughts to ourselves,while in the department, anyway.”

“That wassomething that Grégoire taught me when I worked on a specialproject with him. It was a prestigious project, and I got somehassle from other students because it meant extra credits. Not onlythat, but I got paid some money. Grégoire had my back, and Iappreciated it.”

"Let’s forgetabout anything but you and me, Sonya, we’re on holiday. Let’s headon down to theChamps-Élyséesand stroll down to theArcde Triomphe. It’s definitely more fun to watch than todrive.”

With that theystrolled out of the university, arm in arm, lost in each other andtheir discovery of the City of Lights. Unbeknownst to them, therewere two shadows in their wake.

LeCavernwas noisy, loud and young and they definitely fit in. Itappeared to be a hangout for university students, and Bryan led herthrough the crowded room to a corner already occupied by Grégoireand his groupies. Before she knew it, Sonya had a beer in one handand was sitting next to Bryan. She had been unable to manoeuvrequickly enough and unfortunately, was seated next to Grégoire aswell.

Most of theconversation took place in French, as would have been expected, butshe understood the gist of most of it and spent her time analyzingthe small group around Grégoire. She reflected that her sarcasticanalysis of ‘Grégoire’s groupies’ was right on the money.Obviously, most were students gravitating towards hisauthority.

One woman,however, appeared to be his age and status, and Sonya found herinteresting to watch. She didn’t miss anything that Grégoire said,but instead of hanging onto his every word like the students, shesimply assimilated the information that he seemed to have acompunction to divulge.

The woman fitin, Sonya decided. She was petite, fashionable and very pretty. Hershining hair was styled in a very short bob and her thickly lashed,luminous hazel eyes didn’t seem to miss anything. Sonya noticed aparticularly intriguing ring on the hand that held her beer glass.It was big, silver and held a cabochon of dark red. What was hername again, Sonya pondered. Lulu, no, that wasn’t it. It did havetwo syllables, and it was French sounding. Ah, it was Mimi! Shewould ask Bryan later about her.

“I do hope wehaven’t bored you too terribly,” Grégoire stated as they preparedto leave.

“Not at all,”Sonya was pleasant. “My high school French recognized the odd wordhere and there. Good day,” she said and moved away as Grégoireseemed to be zeroing in for an embrace.

She couldn’tescape and he whispered, “What’s wrong, darlin’? Louisiana HotSauce too sizzlin’ for ya, Crusader?”

Her stomachheaved at his even being this close. “Not at all,” she repliedquietly. “However, I do prefer the subtlety and sophistication ofBéchamel, personally.”

Grégoire threwhis head back and laughed, making a show of putting his finger tipsto his lips and made a sizzling sound as he shook them as if tocool them. “I am tha wizard!” he declared as he joined the grouponce again.

And then shedid move away, hoping that Bryan was doing the same, because shewas getting the hell away from that asshole, pronto! She sensed himbehind her as his hand touched her elbow, and they wound their wayout of the bar and onto the street, where Sonya virtually sucked inthe fresh air.

“He’s not thatbad, really,” Bryan began, and one look at his wife’s face stoppedhim dead. “Well, okay, he was somewhat out of line in there.”

“I’d like totalk to you about him, but let’s wait till later, okay? I’ve hadhim up to here, right now,” Sonya exclaimed, chopping her hand overher head for effect.

Bryan hailed ataxi and they climbed into it in silence. A car slid away from thecurb as the taxi left and from the doorway of the bar, Mimi quietlywatched and then pulled out a cell phone.

CHAPTER 5

By the timethey returned to Madame Lalonde’s, Sonya was famished, over herirritation at Grégoire, and pleasantly tired. Sylvain was anxiouslyawaiting their arrival and his English practice. Dinner was anotherhappy, chatty and enjoyable time. Sylvain was sent to attend to hishomework and after enjoying a nice conversation with Madame Lalondefor a while, Sonya and Bryan decided to retire to their room. Theyhad barely closed their door when noise and voices caused them toquickly return to the living room. What they saw surprisedthem.

Standing in themiddle of the room was a tall, dark haired man, surrounded by bothMadame Lalonde and Sylvain, engulfing him in a bear hug.

The man lookedup at their appearance and his smile began to grow bigger. “Bryan!J’entendu dire que vous est à Paris. Bienvenue, mon ami! (Iheard that you were in Paris. Welcome, my friend)”

With that, hethrew his arms around Bryan in welcome. “Ah, la belle fille!(Ah, the pretty girl!)You must be Sonya. It is my pleasure tomeet you,” he declared with a kiss on each cheek. “Bryan is a verylucky man to have such a beautiful woman for his wife.”

Bryan wasgrinning like a Cheshire cat. “Sonya, meet Lucien Lalonde!”

So, this wasthe missing Lucien! There was no doubt at all that he was Sylvain’sfather. His glossy black hair and dark brown eyes showed Sonya aglimpse of Sylvain as a mature man, and a very handsome man atthat.

Sonya snappedout of her analysis of Lucien and smiled brightly. “It is apleasure to meet Sylvain’s father. He looks so very much likeyou.”

A look of prideflashed across Lucien’s handsome face. “My son istrès joli,is he not?”

Embarrassmentburned Sylvain’s face red, but his father simply curled his armaround his son’s neck and kissed the top of his head. “You willconsider this a very good thing when the pretty girls line up todate you, my son!” he smiled.

“Bedtime,”Madame Lalonde announced to Sylvain. “You may visit tomorrow.Tonight is a school night!”

Neither Sylvainnor Lucien seemed to even consider arguing withMadameLalonde. Lucien acquiesced with a shrug of his shoulders to hisson. “Sleep well,” he smiled, “We talk tomorrow.” Sighing, Sylvainturned and trudged towards his bedroom, shoulders drooping and in adefinite pout.

“It isdifficult to be young, is it not?” Lucien remarked to no one inparticular.

“We will leaveyou to your reunion,” Bryan said with a smile. “Good night!”

With that,Sonya and Bryan returned to their room. “You seem to know Lucienquite well,” Sonya remarked as they readied for bed. “I thoughtthat he worked in the Middle East for months at a time.”

Bryan hesitatedfor a fraction of a second. “He was home for an extended vacationwhile I was here,” he replied in a somewhat nonchalant manner.“Actually, I met him through Grégoire, but I didn’t want to mentionit because you dislike him so much.”

“I really don’tlike him –not at all! But Lucien strikes me as a decent sort. Heobviously loves his son.”

Changing thesubject, Sonya asked, “So you know where we are meeting Mike andSteve for lunch tomorrow?”

“Absolutely,”he replied immediately. “You will really enjoy this place, it’svery Paris!”

“About today,”Sonya began.

“I know, Iknow, Grégoire was an absolute asshole, you were right. I apologizefor him. I had no idea that he was such a jerk to women,” Bryanstated. “He was even starting to piss me off.”

His apologytook the wind out of Sonya’s sails. She had been prepared to gointo a long tirade about all of Grégoire’s indiscretions. “Yeah hewas! What does crusade mean? And why is he a wizard? And what aboutMimi? Does she teach at the university as well?”

If herquestions surprised Bryan, he didn’t indicate so. Taking a deepbreath, he began, “Crusade was a word that he used to describe ourproject. It was a series of oil paintings, contemporary in style, abit subdued for my taste, but I was paid for them, and the extracredits were a major bonus. Yeah, I heard the wizard part too! Ihave no idea, unless of course, he considers himself magical andmythical now. He does have a somewhat over inflated ego! It didn’tseem so at the time, but now that I’ve been away, he is, as you soeloquently put it, an asshole!”

“I’ve seen Mimibefore, but I don’t think that she teaches at the Department, atleast she didn’t when I was there. She could be in another faculty,though.”

“At first Ithought that she was Grégoire’s girlfriend, but at one of theparties, he was all tanked up and crossed way over the line withher. She calmly pulled some slick judo move on him and faster thanhe could blink, he was flat on his back. After that, she usuallyshowed up with some big, dark haired guy on her arm. Could havebeen her boyfriend for all I know, but Grégoire kept his hands tohimself after that.” They turned out the bedside lamp and called ita night.

Dawn coughedout a weak light around the edge of the window covering. As Sonyapulled back the curtains, she was greeted by grey, mist-ladenskies. Surprised to find Bryan already gone, she hurriedly cleanedup, dressed and rushed to the kitchen, interrupting what appearedto be a very intense conversation between Lucien and Bryan.

Lucienimmediately stood to refill his coffee, and Bryan’s smile seemed tolight the room when he spied her.

“Morning,” hegrinned as he got up to kiss his wife. “Coffee?” he challenged witha little snicker.

“I’d love one!”Sonya met his challenge with a lift of her eyebrows and nodded herthanks as Bryan handed her a cup ofMadameLalonde’s strongcoffee.

“So,” Sonyabegan, “what were you two discussing when I came in? It lookedpretty intense.”

“Soccer, whatelse?” Lucien shrugged and lifted his hands in a very Gallicgesture.

While shewasn’t about to argue with Lucien, Sony knew very well that Bryandidn’t follow soccer. Her radar was fully engaged. Something wasoff.

Not muchconversation took place during breakfast, after which, Bryanconfirmed their lunch reservations and busied himself enough witheither Lucien orMadameLalonde, and it prevented Sonya fromquestioning Bryan about a number of things that were puzzlingher.

It was obviousto her that Bryan was aware he would be queried and was avoidingthat particular discussion. He had been successful in that regard,as Lucien decided to drive them to thecaféand dropped themoff, instead of their planned walk. Sonya decided that their chatcould wait until they were alone in their room that night.

CHAPTER 6

Thecaféwas lovely, as Bryan predicted. They were seated, and ordered winewhile waiting for their lunch companions to arrive. Sonya found itvery amusing to watch the attention of the women in thecafézoom in to appreciate her cousin, Mike, as he strode across thefloor to greet them. And she couldn’t blame them.

He was veryblonde, a tall and toned man, dressed in casual clothes thatemphasized his body and his good looks. Sonya hadn’t had much timeto spend with Mike at their wedding, so she was looking forward tocatching up on the news with him.

“How’s yourmother?” she asked politely, knowing that he had just been inHolland to visit his mother. Ilsa had returned to her nativeHolland after her husband, Mike & John’s father, had beenkilled. “Did you enjoy your visit?”

Mike’s facehardened and his smile faded. “Not so much, I’m afraid. Do youremember what John revealed in July about how Steven Hunter’smother had not been truthful with him about his biologicalfather?”

Sonya nodded.That revelation had added a new member to their family. And thatman, her newly found cousin, was Steve Hunter, John and Mike’s halfbrother.

“Well, I had aheart-to-heart with my mother while I was there. She had a littlesecret of her own, which Air Marshall Blackburn was going to letout whether or not she wanted it to, hence her honesty at thistime. It seems that while John and I have the same mother, we donot have the same father.” He took a swig of his wine, throwing itback without tasting it, his anger obviously bubbling just underthe surface.

Trying not togasp, Sonya placed her hand gently over his. “I am so sorry, Mike!Is there anything that we can do for you?” she asked withcompassion.

Shaking hishead, Mike took another mouthful of his wine, this time savouringits flavour a little. “I have an extremely good idea of what Stevewent through now. It’s like the person that you are somehow, hasbeen taken away from you, and you don’t know who or what youare.”


Page 4

“No question,our mothers were cut from the same cloth. No small wonder that theyhave remained friends for so many years. I’m amazed that they keptthese secrets for so long, to be honest. But, sadly, there isnothing that anyone else can do.”

“So what’s thenext step?” Sonya inquired kindly. “Do you have any idea who yourfather is? Could Ilsa at least tell you that?”

An interestinglook crossed Mike’s face as he answered. “In all probability, it’sSteve’s stepfather, Air Marshall Blackburn. At least that’s what mymother said, not that I believe a word that she says anymore. Steveis going to arrange for us to meet, and we have had DNA testingdone. As a matter of fact, the Air Marshall is the reason that allof this has come to light, and why I am in Paris right now.”

Almost on cue,Steve Hunter appeared in the doorway of thecafé, smilingand waving when he spotted them. As he marched across the roomtowards their table, he was matched step by step by a very handsomeand dignified older gentleman, ramrod straight in posture, exudingpower and command in his very being.

When Stevereached the table, he embraced Sonya, shook hands with Bryan andthen butted his fist against Mike’s shoulder in greeting.

Then he took astep back, and placing his hand against the shoulder of hiscompanion he began to speak, his cultured British accent seeming tosuit the occasion. “I am very pleased to introduce to you mystep-father, Air Marshall Blackburn. Sir, I would like you to meetseveral members of my family. My cousin Sonya and her husband,Bryan, and John’s brother, Mike.”

The elegantgentleman’s radar like eyes analyzed the entire group in one sweep,his dark lashed, steel blue eyes resting upon Mike for amillisecond longer than the rest.

“It is my verydistinct pleasure to meet you,” his upper-crust British accentdeclared. “Steven has assured me that you would not object to anuninvited guest, but I do apologize for gate crashing your reunion.Unfortunately, my curiosity overtook my sense of decorum. Pleaseforgive me, but I was most anxious to meet you.”

Sonya stood andtook his hand. “You are so very welcome to join us. Please, sit!”she demanded, as Steve pulled out a chair. The Air Marshall didtake his seat next to Sonya.

Mike sat wherehe was, somewhat mesmerized. So this man, in all probability, washis father! How different he was from the father that he had knownall of his life.

What struckhim, strangely enough, was how much Sonya had seemed to be so liketheir Gran. The entire family knew that she was identical to theirgrandmother in looks, but today, she seemed to be the embodiment oftheir grandmother’s innate sense of grace and ability to read asituation. And he was so impressed. Sonya was the youngest of themany cousins, but today, she took on the air of their matriarch.Sometime when he hadn’t been looking, she’d developed into quite awonderful woman.

“It is a greatpleasure to meet you,” Mike finally said to Air Marshall Blackburn.“May I ask, what name do we use to address you?”

A huge smilesplit the older man’s face, lighting his eyes until they glowedwith mirth. “Dad,” he quipped immediately. “Of that, I amconvinced,” he qualified with certainty. “My family called me Merl,short for Merlyn,” he smiled. “But, my nickname is BB, which wouldbe my preference.”

While thisdissertation was taking place, Steve simply sat in silence andobserved as his ingrained MI5 training dictated that he should. Hewas seeing another side of BB that he hadn’t even known to exist.And he was simply floored.

It occurred tohim that BB’s unusual request to join his family for lunch had beena very rare event. In a flash of insight, he saw that the venerablegentleman might have had some anxieties about meeting for the firsttime, the man that both he and Steve had no doubt whatsoever washis son.

Bryan broke thesilence at the table by lifting his glass. “I would like to proposea toast to family, which we are all aware isn’t always clear cut.It’s the people that we love and those that we wish to hold dear.”Glasses were raised and the lunch continued without any moreawkwardness.

From Sonya’sperspective, she could see both the profile of the stately BB andthat of her cousin Mike, a man that she had known all of her life.With a start, she realized that they not only had the same profile,but identical dark lashed, steel blue eyes. There was no doubt inher mind whatsoever, that these men were father and son.

Her heart bledfor Mike, for his pain, for this upheaval in his life, and for thehurt that his mother had heaped upon him without warning. And shewas grateful that their new cousin, Steve, had facilitated thismeeting. As awkward as it had been, it certainly could have beenworse.

On the otherside of the coin, he had a father that was sitting in front of him,an obviously patrician man, someone that Steve had described as arigidly honest and honourable man. Truth be known, he could havedone one hell of a lot worse. It could have been tragic. Ilsa couldhave told him that she didn’t know who his father was. That wouldhave hurt much, much more she imagined.

Their lunchlingered for hours. It wasn’t forced, it simply was family enjoyingeach other and in the case of Mike and BB, getting to know eachother, at least on a superficial level.

Saying theirgoodbyes, Sonya and Bryan walked home from thecafé,reliving some of the nicer moments of their lunch, dissecting justhow difficult this had been on Mike. And on BB.

Obviously thestately gentleman appeared to be delighted to meet Mike, and Sonyathought, to be proud of the man that his son had become withouthim, regretting no doubt, the fact that he had been cheated of alifetime of knowing him.

Perhaps, theywould form a bond of sorts, and hopefully, something more. Mike andSteve were staying at a hotel in Paris and they all planned toconnect several more times during their respective visits to theCity of Lights.

CHAPTER 7

“Well Sir, whatdid you think?” Steve asked BB.

BB thought fora few minutes as they drove along the roadway to his home. “Sonyais a stunningly beautiful woman, and she is obviously veryobviously in love with her husband. I think they make a wellmatched pair. I wonder though, if she knows what he was up to a fewyears ago in Paris.”

“You don’t meanthe Crusade mission do you? I didn’t realize that he was the talentthat Grégoire used,” Steve replied slowly. “Please tell me that hewasn’t!”

“I cannot dothat Steven. He is an incredibly talented artist, and Grégoire onlyuses the very best in his operations, as he has his choice of thebest of the best at the university. You know that. Fortunately,Grégoire never advises his artists of the end results of theirtravail.”

“Well, shit! Doyou honestly believe that the cartel won’t know that one ofGrégoire’s artists is in France? They’ll hang him by his balls ifthey discover that he was even remotely attached to Grégoire!Especially after the stunt that he pulled the last time. It causedthem embarrassment!” Steve declared.

“Has Grégoireat least put up some firewalls and protections for him? I wouldhate to see either him or Sonya caught up with those goons thatGrégoire deals with. Not to mention, that bastard, Grégoire,himself.”

“It is myunderstanding that all protections are in place and that they havebodyguards as we speak. I do have to echo your opinion regardingGrégoire. Personally, I have never been able to stomach the smarmylittle man. He makes my, how do the Americans say it? He makes my'spidey sense' tingle. The only problem that we do have, is thatLucien is back.”

“Why? Doesn’the know how dangerous it is for him right now? He was theintermediary in the Crusade mission, despite its failure. Hell’sbells, both he and Bryan back at the same time? That spells troubleso far as I’m concerned,” was Steve’s reply. “I can almost smellit.”

“His son ishere, Steven! I am only now beginning to understand the meaning ofthat depth of connection, and mine has only been superficial thusfar. It is a huge pull! I am only sorry that you were never able toknow your father. You would have liked Ivan Toth. Please do notmisunderstand. I am not saying that Paul was not a good father toyou, because he was. As my best friend, I know that he dideverything and anything that he felt he could for you and yourmother.” BB took a deep breath and exhaled.

“But?” Stevepushed.

Taking inanother deep breath, BB continued, “But, I feel such a sense ofbetrayal, for both Ivan and Paul and as well, for you and Mike. Itis a good thing that Paul is no longer here. He would have likelychoked Celine. And I would not have blamed him one bit. I couldbarely be civil to her during our divorce. On the other side of thecoin, can you tell me that this state of affairs has not affectedyou in a number of ways?”

Steve drovealong in silence for a few minutes. “Affected. That’s aninteresting word! How about saying that everything that I believedI was, feels shattered. I’m learning to know an entire family – myfamily – some of whom I have only met for twenty minutes. Emotionsrun from flat out joy to have a large family, to a desperate searchto find some firm ground upon which to re-plant my feet.”

“I am so angryat my mother that I find it difficult to be in the same room withher, and that is becoming tougher as time marches on. What isworse, is her firm belief that she and Ilsa did nothing evenremotely inappropriate! All they thought about was what they feltand wanted! Not only did they betray you and Ivan, they betrayedboth Mike and me.”

“It’s going totake some time in the gym with the punching bag to get rid of someof the hostility that I feel. And, one look at Mike today, told methat he’s feeling the same kind of anger. We’ll have a heart toheart later back at the hotel. I think that it will do us both somegood.”

BB’s nextstatement was cautious. “Given your unique insight into thismatter, do you think that his anger will affect whateverrelationship that he and I might be able to build?”

"Ah," Stevethought, "that was the million Euro question!" He had to be carefulanswering this one.

“I can’t speakfor Mike, only from my own point of view. If he is as angry as Iam, it will be his mother with whom he’s so livid. He is well awarethat you were cheated in the same way that he was. If it were me inhis place, I would make it a mission to get to know the man who wasmy father. Mike has that opportunity. I did not, which is in part,I think, some of the anger that I feel. Have you both done the DNAtesting?”

“Yes, severalweeks ago. I was expecting the results by now. After seeing Mike,do you really think that there is much doubt about it?” the old manchallenged.

“Not in myopinion,” Steve replied immediately. “And, that was my opinion backin June in Calgary when I took a really good look at him. Myopinion hasn’t changed since. As turn about is fair play, how doyou feel about this twist of fate?”

“That issomething that I have been asking myself since this became anissue. Surprisingly, I am at a loss to explain the plethora ofemotions that I am experiencing. Primarily, it is one of pride. Heis a fine man. I have done my research. I even have grandchildren,did you know that?”

“If the DNAresults are what I believe them to be, I have a great deal to doand say in the short time that I have left here on this good earth.And, I feel a sense of urgency to do and to say it all.” BB took adeep breath and straightened his shoulders.

“Are you ill?”Steve asked with concern.

“Not to myknowledge,” BB responded, “but I am no longer a young man.”

Steve wassurprised by this uncharacteristic candour. BB had never spokenthis personally to him, ever, despite the length of time that BBhad been married to his mother. But then again, Steve was thego-between to his son, and as such, the pragmatic side of BB woulddefinitely use that to his advantage.

It was thatvery pragmatism that had assisted him to climb to the top ranks ofthe Royal Air Force. His rigid honesty and adherence to the rules,along with his innate intelligence, had stood him in good stead. BBhad been instrumental to bring to light the issue of his ownparentage when he had observed both Steve and John whilst on amission to Gibraltar, six months previously. BB’s well-honedinstincts and rigid sense of honesty had been the catalyst to forcehis mother and then Mike’s, to be honest with their sons.

It had beenjust after that mission, following the solving of the murders oftwo retired MI5 operatives when back in England, that Steve learnedof BB’s elevated status in MI6. Then, many things in hisrelationship with BB made much more sense.

Theirs had beena somewhat adversarial relationship, particularly when Steve choseto leave the RAF to join MI5. The fact that BB had married Steve’smother shortly after his father had been killed in an air crashmany years ago had grated at the time, which he could now admit.There was presently much more of an alliance between them. And itpleased Steve.

CHAPTER 8

MadameLalonde’s house was quiet when they arrived home, which surprisedSonya.

“I wonder whereeveryone is?” she speculated.

“Lucien saidsomething about talking his mother to the market and having lunchsomewhere,” Bryan explained. “I think he enjoys those little thingsthat we seem to take for granted, given that he’s away somuch.”


Page 5

Almost as hespoke,MadameLalonde and Lucien entered through the door,laden with groceries, which Bryan hastened to retrieve fromMadameLalonde. With a smile, she led them into the kitchento put groceries away, as Lucien began to brew some coffee. Despitethe fact that she was still stuffed from lunch, Sonya sipped on acoffee and sat at the table with the others. Plans were made to dosome sightseeing the following day.

Montmartrewas agreed upon, and by the time that Bryan andLucien had finished extolling its wonders, the door slammed andSylvain rushed in, obviously having run all the way home fromschool. He sat at the table with them, explaining about his day,munching on some pastry that his grandmother placed in front ofhim.

Dinner wasanother wonderful, noisy and enjoyable meal. Lucien and Sylvaindeparted immediately afterwards, whileMadameLalonde didthe dishes with unaccustomed effort.

“Where did theygo?” Sonya asked curiously.

“Lucien insiststhat they must have some men time,”MadameLalonde replied.“In my time, boys did school work and men stayed home with thewives,” she declared somewhat sulkily.

“But, sincethey don’t get to spend much time together, isn’t it nice thatLucien takes the time to spend with his son?” Sonya remarked ratherguilelessly.

“That is true,”MadameLalonde responded. “However, Lucien must not keepSylvain out late – tonight is a school night!”

Arching hiseyebrows at Sonya, Bryan stood from the table. “Bonsoir,MadameLalonde, it has been a long day. We will go to our roomnow.”

“Bonsoir,” Madame Lalonde replied, deep in her ownthoughts.

Once theirbedroom door was closed, they readied for bed. “So,” Sonyaremarked. “You seem to know Lucien very well. Spill it, Bryan, Iknow you and he are friends. That just doesn’t happen on a briefholiday home.”

Bryan hesitatedfor a few seconds. “This isn’t public knowledge, Sonya, but I metLucien while I was painting for Grégoire. He’s the agent thatbrokered the commission to someone in the Middle East. Lucien isthe reason thatMadameLalonde allowed me to board here. Hisonly request was that our liaison remained between us. I saw noreason to disagree. It was a win/win situation for me.”

His explanationsatisfied Sonya and they climbed into bed and as the mood struck,made love in the antique room, in thebijoutwo-story housein the midst of a quaint neighbourhood in the middle of Paris, theCity of Love.

Morning dawnedgloriously sunny, and the decision was made to go toMontmartre.Brian had the bus schedule, so they set outearly and took the bus through a part of Paris that Sonya had notyet seen. Climbing down from the bus, Bryan led her across a busyroad and then up a steep little street, lined with smallstores.

They finallyreached the top of the street where the hill levelled out somewhat.A big, beautiful church loomed on the top of the hill, but whatcaught Sonya’s attention was a sort of large gondola, set on tracksbut with aerial pulleys. Bryan called it a funicular.

Paying theirfee, they climbed onto the strange little elevator, as Sonyathought of it, and then climbed the hill on an angle, stepping outat the top to a spectacular view of Paris. The church was immense,with stairs its width climbing from their level to itsentrance.

Surrounding thechurch was a small village, with storefronts lining the narrowstreets, and what appeared to be living quarters above the stores.Bryan led her to the left of the funicular landing and into avillage square. In the square, artists were everywhere, their artdisplayed around them, as they showcased their talent by paintingwhile tourists watched.

“This is one ofmy favouritecafé’s,” Bryan announced, leading her into asmall restaurant. He ordered without the menu and while they sippedon wine, sat back and took in their unrestricted view of theplaza.

“Well,” heasked. “What do you think?”

“I think Icould live here!” Sonya smiled. “If I could bring the rest of mylife too,” she added. “It’s just wonderful!

“Even on arainy day,” Bryan added dreamily, “it is one of my favouriteplaces.”

Their luncharrived, and conversation ended for a while. “Oh, look, isn’t thatthe woman from the other night atLe Cavern? What was hername, Mimi, I think,” Sonya stated as she sipped on her coffee.

Bryan looked upand waved, beckoning her to join them. “Bonjour, Mimi!” hegreeted. “You are a long way from the University.”

Mimi lookedfabulous as far as Sonya was concerned, the epitome of what shewould have thought as Paris chic. From the shining cap of darkhair, big sunglasses, leather jacket and skinny jeans down to thefrilly blouse, messenger bag slung across her chest and her highheeled boots, she screamedhaute couture.

As she sat,Mimi smiled broadly. “I live here,” she declared. “My apartment isseveral blocks away. I go to the city now.”

“We must getback too. May we walk with you to the funicular?” Bryan asked as hetook the bill to pay.

“Certainement,” was the reply.“Allons-y!”

The trioleisurely walked back through the village towards the funicular,and were shortly afterwards striding down the hill towards the mainroad. Bryan and Sonya hurried to catch their bus, while Mimi afterwatching them board the bus, signalled and a car pulled up to thecurb. She slid into the front seat and the driver eased intotraffic again.

“Well?” Thequestion came from the back of the sedan.

“There are two,one is Grégoire’s. The other, I do not know. They are unaware ofthe shadow. There will be a problem, yes?”

By now, the carhad come to a stop beside the curb, and she was being assisted outby a tall sandy-haired man. “We hope not,” he replied. “I shall seeyou later,” he murmured quietly into her ear.

And as Mimiwalked away, she flashed a brilliant smile over her shoulder. “Donot be late!” was all she said, as she disappeared into thecrowd.

“It was astroke of genius to add Mimi to this operation, Steven. She isperfect. Congratulations on a brilliant idea!”

“Thank you,Sir,” was the reply.

“And for what Iam? Chop liver?” the voice of the driver joined in. “Without mypermission you do not have the beautiful Mimi to help! You need theinfluence of her brother, even with the persuade of her man!”

“You areabsolutely correct, Maurice,” the voice from the back of the sedanstated. “And the Wizard graciously thanks you.”

CHAPTER 9

There was muchjoviality in the Lalonde household that night. Lucien and Sylvainhad coerced Bryan to assist them to prepare dinner.MadameLalonde and Sonya sat at the table sipping their wine, giggling andmaking suggestions. Dinner was edible, and the ladies left the mento clean up the mess that they had made, including warnings to washthe floor.

“That was kindof fun, wasn’t it?” Sonya asked that night as they prepared forbed. “I don’t think that any of you will make blue ribbon chefstatus,” she teased.

“Nor do I wantto,” was Bryan’s retort. “It’s harder than it looks, especiallywhenMadameLalonde does it. Will you cook like her, ohwife?”

“Not bloodylikely,” she replied with a toothy grin. “You’ve heard the storiesabout how my mom didn’t cook at all. And, I work full-time,remember?”

“Oh yeah,” hegrinned back. “This trip is turning out pretty good, isn’t it?” heyawned, turning off the bedside lamp and reaching for his wife.

“It sure is,”she agreed snuggling in. “I can’t wait to see what tomorrowbrings.”

There was noschool the next morning, and Sylvain took advantage of sleeping in,something his grandmother never allowed on school days. Aftercoffee, Sonya went upstairs to check her email, just as Sylvainarrived for breakfast. Shortly afterwards, she came back into thekitchen.

“Where are themen?” she asked. “I wanted to show Bryan a really funny slideshowmy cousin sent.”

“They went forwalk,”MadameLalonde replied with a smile. You know menlike to talk. They think that what they say is most important!” shesmirked, some private thought obviously entering into her mind.

“I can see thisemail?” Sylvain begged, “Please?”

“Sure,” Sonyaresponded, “Come upstairs to our room, the computer’s still on.”Sylvan quickly followed Sonya to their room to view the email.After it was viewed, Sonya shared a funny picture joke, which sentSylvain into gales of giggles.

They were stillchuckling, when voices were heard on the road below. Sylvainrecognized his father’s laugh and ran to the open window to wave.Sonya stood beside him, appreciating the youngster’s desire tospend as much time as he could with his father.

Lucien andBryan looked up at the window and with a smile and a wave, began towalk into the house. It was then that a car drove down the street,screeched to a halt, and two really big men forced both Lucien andBryan into the car. It sped away, leaving Sonya and Sylvain lookingdown at an empty street.

Both rusheddown to the front door and threw it open, frantically looking forany trace of the car that they both had seen.

“What is thetrouble?”MadameLalonde inquired from the doorway. “Why areyou on the street?”

“Granmama,men take Papa and Bryan!Ils ne sont pas ici!(They are not here!)” The youngster was almost hysterical.

“What hashappen?” she demanded of Sonya, who was standing beside Sylvain, onthe verge of tears herself.

“We werelooking out of the window, because we heard Lucien and Bryantalking. They waved and were coming into the house, when a car camescreeching to a stop, two really big men forced both Lucien andBryan into the car and then it left! I couldn’t see the licensenumber because we were above them. The car was black, wasn’t itSylvain?”

The youngsternodded his head in agreement. “Why men take my Papa away?” he askedin barely a whisper, his eyes brimming with tears and his faceglazed in shock.

“We must callthe police!” Sonya exclaimed. “They have to look for Bryan andLucien!”

MadameLalonde glanced at her sceptically. “You are not a French citizen,”she began. “You cannot just call the police and expect them toaccommodate you.”

Sonya wasstunned. “What do you mean?” she demanded. “Your son was justkidnapped! What else would you choose to do?”

Madame Lalondestudied Sonya for what seemed to be hours, which in probabilitywould have been a few seconds, and then took a deep breath. “Thereare many things to explain – perhaps it was his company require himto return.”

“So, Bryanwould be included in this? What kind of company would kidnap him?”Sonya countered with vengeance, her eyes beginning to glow withanger, her body stiffening with antagonism.

“You do havepoint,”MadameLalonde replied after what appeared to becareful consideration. “My thought, to wait until tomorrow, to seeif we hear from them.”

“They weretaken against their will and forced into a car! What makes youthink that they will contact us, when they were taken away againsttheir will?” Sonya replied, trying hard not to snap atMadameLalonde, not understanding why she wasn’t as upset asshe and Sylvain.

“Paris is verydifferent from your Calgary,”MadameLalonde replied.“Things happen different here.”

“Does that meanthat kidnapping is allowed?” Sonya retorted, becoming more and morevisibly upset.

“Non,non,Chérie, it is just that you may not have all of thefacts, and sometime, things are not as they appear. Of course, wecall the police if you wish.”

“I wish!”declared Sonya, with a defiant glint in her eye, her back ramrodstraight with irritation.

“Then,Chérie, that is what we do!”MadameLalonde declared,leading them into the house to collect her purse. Once the housewas locked, she led the way to thearrondissementof thePolice Department, where she calmly explained her situation to theyounggendarmeat the desk.

CHAPTER 10

They waited insome chairs until summoned. Sonya’s French was not up to the rapidfire discussion between Madame Lalonde, the policeman and youngSylvain.

When itappeared that it was her turn to speak, the policeman askedquestions which Sylvain translated and then translated her answersback to the policeman in turn.

Immediately,Sonya realized that she was being viewed as a Barbie doll. Herlooks had never ever, as far as she knew, been interpreted that shelacked intelligence. But today, her radar reasoned that it appearedas though this was the case. And it pissed her off.

She recalledeverything that she had seen from the window, but Sonya felt thatthe police had dismissed Sylvain as a young kid with an overactiveimagination, reading their body language as they listened to him.It appeared that by the time that the interview was over, theybelieved that both Sonya and Sylvain had exaggerated what they hadseen. Sonya’s gut feeling was that they saw two young people withan unlikely story and didn’t give them any credence. Promising tolook into their story, their little group was dismissed and leftthearrondissement. Sonya very much doubted that anythingwould come of this report.


Page 6

“Why won’t theybelieve us?” Sonya demanded ofMadameLalonde. “I amnotimagining this, and Sylvain and I both saw whathappened. It’s the truth, not some made up story. Why on earthwould we make up something like this?” she demanded, beginning toshow the panic that had escalated ever since Bryan had been shovedforcefully into the black sedan.

“Chérie,”MadameLalonde soothed as she placed herarm over both Sonya’s and Sylvain’s shoulder. “It is a most unusualstory,” she began. “The police have your report, but they havenothing to, how can I say, do. There is no license number, the onlydescription is black sedan. Paris is filled of black sedans. Youcannot identify the men except really big.”

Sonya’s eyesbegan to tear. “So what do we do now?” she demanded.

“We wait,” wasMadameLalonde’s reply. “Because there is not muchinformation, does not mean that the police do nothing.Allons!” she demanded and keeping her hold securely on bothof them, quickly walked home and locked the door securely uponentering.

“Va etudier,tout de suite! (Go study, now!)” she ordered Sylvain and thendisappeared. He obeyed immediately.

Wondering whereshe went, Sonya discretely followedMadameLalonde, to findher checking the house thoroughly, efficiently and systematicallylocking unlocked windows and checking each room completely, eventhe closets.

Aha! Sonyathought. So,MadameLalonde wasn’t as calm as she pretendedto be.MadameLalonde then sat into a small chair in thecorner of an upstairs hallway, looked around, pulled out a cellphone and pushed a button. She spoke for perhaps forty-fiveseconds, terminated the call and returned the cell into her pocket.The only word that Sonya thought that she recognized was the word,“wizard”. Wizard? in the middle of a French conversation? What waswith the name wizard. Was this the new buzzword?

Sonya quietlyslipped into her bedroom where she found the formerly open windownot only closed, but locked from the inside. This was gettingscarier and scarier. Where was Bryan and why hadn’t he called?Instead of enjoying her honeymoon, she was all alone in astranger’s house, and in a foreign country with no one to rely uponbut herself.

Tears began tostream, tears of frustration, of self pity and of fear. Once hertirade was over, Sonya washed her face and engaged her ratherprodigious brain.

Taking out awriting tablet from her computer case, she began to write down allthe facts that she knew, starting a separate list of the peoplethat they had met since coming to Paris. Two, Grégoire andespecially Lucien, were those that would require furtherinvestigation. What were Bryan and Lucien discussing in theirlittletête-à-tête’ssince he had returned to Paris? Andwhat about Grégoire? Bryan had said he was someone to watch hisback? Why would he need someone to watch his back?

It wasimpossible to stop thinking about the details surrounding thekidnapping. Sonya’s mind would not stop whirling. However, it wasthen that she was able to sort things out, cutting out theextraneous and concentrating on the solid facts.

She would beslipping out ofMadameLalonde’s house.MadameLalonde had not been much help. If the French police wouldn’t helpher, she knew someone with pull that maybe could. Some forethoughtwas needed, just in case. She dressed in casual, fashionableclothes that would allow her to blend easily into a Pariscrowd.

Sonya packedher purse with both of their passports, their airline tickets anditinerary, all of the extra money, the documents envelope that waspacked into Bryan’s backpack, his camera and her computer. An extrashirt, jeans, underwear, cosmetics and overnight groomingessentials were next. It all fit very easily into a fashionableleather tote-bag, which had been a graduation gift from her sister,Susan.

Carefullyhiding it in a corner of the closet and covering it with the navyblazer that she planned to wear, Sonya took a deep breath andstepped outside her room, quietly taking the stairs down to thekitchen.

MadameLalonde was already there, sipping a coffee. Without a word, shepoured a cup for Sonya, handing it to her before she even sat atthe table. She looked very little like the chic woman that Sonyahad met on her first night in Paris. Dark circles smudged her eyes,which were somewhat bleary.

“Worried?”Sonya asked.

Slowly sittingat the table,MadameLalonde took a deep breath and exhaledslowly. “Oui,” she replied. “Still, there is no telephonecall.”

“I waslistening for the telephone too. What can we do other than wait?”Sonya replied.

AllMadameLalonde could do was shake her head. “Rien,nothing,” was all she said.

At that moment,Sonya knew that her plan was the only option that she had. Theypartook in a solemn, quiet coffee, with even the usually cheerySylvain subdued.MadameLalonde left the room, returning inabout twenty minutes, fully made up and elegantly dressed,seemingly to have shed her weariness.

“I have severalappointments that I can not cancelce matin, (thismorning),” she explained. “Sylvain, I wish for you to remainhome with Sonya this morning. You must promise that you will notopen door to anyone.Tu comprend? (Do you understand?)”Sylvain nodded, somewhat shocked at his grandmother’s warning.

With that,MadameLalonde left the house, carefully locking up when sheleft. Immediately she did, Sonya rushed upstairs, put on her blazerand picked up her tote. She was almost to the door when she wasintercepted by Sylvain.

“Where do yougo?” he demanded. “We must remain untilGranmamareturn.”

Unable towithhold her smile, Sonya looked into the earnest young eyes of herhousemate. “I have some business to attend to,” she explained,hoping to bounce him off.

“You leave,” hereplied, his astute eyes having taken in her tote bag. Sonya didmentally note that he had seen her purse, and the tote bag wasconsiderably larger.

“I have tospend some time in town,” she replied vaguely.

“Granmamatell me I must be with youce matin,” hecountered. Opening a closet, he removed a light jacket, put it onand reaching for his book bag, he dumped its contents on the floorof the closet, tossed a few articles into the bag, closed it andturned. “I am ready.”

Astonished,Sonya protested, “I can’t take you with me Sylvain! Yourgrandmother would be very angry with both of us.”

“I willfollow,” he replied stubbornly. “I callGranmamato tellwhere we are.”

This was adilemma. She couldn’t allow Sylvain to follow her, not after thekidnapping. He could be the next victim. And she couldn’t trust himto stay and wait for his grandmother. Against her better judgement,she nodded, “Okay. But you must call your grandmother.”

Sylvain nodded.“Yes. Where we will go?” he asked.

Sonya told himthe name of the hotel to which she was going, and he seemed tounderstand. “Where can we catch a taxi?” she asked.

“You follow,”he replied seriously and they left the house, locking it securelyas they did.

Carefullylooking around, Sylvain possessively took Sonya’s arm and led herdown the road a few houses, suddenly ducking into a lane andhurrying along a few hundred feet, where he turned right. Withinminutes, they were on a busy roadway, with lots of traffic andpedestrians milling about. He seemed to breathe a sigh ofrelief.

“What was thatall about?” Sonya demanded.

“I do not wishfor to be kidnap,” he replied in a very grown up manner. “Jecomprend ce voisinage très bien.(I know this neighbourhoodvery well.)We walk one block this way. There we get taxi.”

 

“Please explainto me how two men were kidnap in broad daylight on your watch!” thecontrolled anger in the voice demanded.

“We believethat we were made, and that the hijackers were aware that theirpickup point was our only weakness at that moment. We do notbelieve that those in the car were working alone. Sir!”

Silencing themwith a wave of his finger, he answered his cell phone, listened fora minute and then put the cell down.

“Find them!” heordered. “Unfortunately, I have been advise that there was nooption but to informles Gendarmes. We have only a shorttime before explanation must be made to those who must be obey. Ifmy ass get kick,mes amis, yours are chop liver!”

With that, hedismissed them.

CHAPTER 11

Paying for thetaxi, Sonya stepped out and analyzed theHotel Mercure.Sylvain, being a sophisticated urbanite even at his age, tooklittle notice of the lovely building, concentrating instead onSonya, following her into the lobby.

She picked up ahouse telephone, and a frown crossed her brow. “Monsieur StevenHunter, s’il vous plait.(please)” She waited, and then left abrief, terse message before hanging up. “Steve, this is Sonya. I’min the lobby. Please come when you get this message – it’s vitallyimportant.”

Picking up thephone again, she asked for Mike Toth, with the same results.Frustration was becoming apparent, but she left a message, hung upand took a deep breath.

“It looks likemy cousins are out,” she explained to Sylvain. “We can wait in therestaurant. Do you want a coffee or a hot chocolate? And we shouldcontact your grandmother.”

“Yes, we sit inrestaurant. I forgotGranmama!” They took a seat at thecaféand ordered some hot chocolate. Sylvain took out hiscell phone, quickly texting a message to his grandmother.

Sonya almostsmacked her own forehead. Of course! She could text Steve, and hewould receive the message immediately! Both were busy texting, whenthey heard someone clearing their throat next to their table.Looking up, Sonya was immensely relieved to see Mike. She almostbegan to cry as she rose to hug him.

“What asurprise to see you here,” he began. “Is this your new boyfriend?”he smiled kindly, referring to Sylvain.

Sonyaintroduced Sylvain, who was eyeing Mike with suspicion. “Mike, thisis Sylvain Lalonde. We are staying with him and his grandmother.Sylvain, this is my cousin, Mike Toth. Do you know where Steve is?It’s really important!”

Mike’scuriosity was piqued. “Where is Bryan?” he asked quietly.

With that,Sonya’s eyes began to fill and a tear rolled down her cheekunnoticed. “We don’t know,” she whispered. “He and Lucien werekidnapped early this morning.”

“Kidnapped?Lucien?” Mike repeated in a Desoto voice. “Who is Lucien?”

“MonPapa,” Sylvain solemnly replied, his eyes beginning to fillwith tears.

“Sonya?”Another voice interrupted, and Sonya looked up to see that BB hadalmost materialized beside them. “Why the tears?” he inquiredsolicitously.

By now theentire situation was beginning to become emotionally overwhelming,and Sonya was finding it more and more difficult to keep the tearsfrom flowing. Immediately, BB took her elbow, Mike paid for theirhot chocolates and with Sylvain tagging along behind, they crossedthe lobby and stepped into an elevator. Mike led them to his room,opened the door and their little procession stepped inside.

“Perhaps we canhelp,” BB stated. His voice was kind, but his authority wasundeniable.

With a littlehelp from Sylvain, Sonya began to describe the kidnapping,including their visit to the policearrondissement,and thenshe sat somewhat heavily onto the side of the bed. Sylvain satbeside her, rather awkwardly patting her hand in a very sweetgesture to try to comfort her.

Mike wasdumbfounded. BB stood at military rest, not saying much, his faceinscrutable. As he stood, his cell phone signalled. In oneeconomical motion, he flipped it open and appeared to read a text.He punched a number, listened to whatever was said and terselyordered, “Galahad home base immediately!” And then in one motion,he flipped the phone closed.

His radar likeeyes focussed upon Sonya and Sylvain. “So, young Sylvain, what isyour father’s name? Do you have any idea why anyone would forceyour father and Bryan into a car?”

In no way cowedby the obviously powerful older gentleman standing in front of him,Sylvain pulled himself into a straighter position, and stillpatting the top of Sonya’s hand, replied. “Lucien Lalonde estmon papa,”as if challenging BB to dispute it.

“Ah,merci,” BB replied, his face registering a slight and verysympathetic smile. “And neither you nor yourgranmammaknowwhy he was kidnapped, I take it?” Still holding onto his composure,the youngster simply shook his head.

“Well,” BBcontinued, “I believe we must ensure that nothing like that happensto either you or Sonya or yourgrandmamma!I believe that itmight not …”

A knock at thedoor interrupted him. Mike, who throughout all of this conversationwas silently taking it all in, stepped to answer the door, allowingSteve to enter.

“I received a…” Steve stopped mid-sentence, the moment he viewed the assembly inMike’s now somewhat crowded room.

“It wouldappear that both Bryan and Lucien have been kidnapped in front ofthe Lalonde home. Sonya and Sylvain witnessed it from an upstairswindow. The police have been informed,” BB advised in amatter-of-fact manner.


Page 7

Steve’s faceregistered a split-second flicker of shock and surprise, returningto normal instantly. “And you have not heard anything from thekidnappers?” he queried.

“No,” Sonyareplied, “nothing!MadameLalonde was so sure that someonewould call, but nothing. We left while she had some appointments.Maybe someone called when we were out! Sylvain, maybe you shouldcall her instead of texting.”

Immediatelypulling out his cell, Sylvain hit speed dial for his grandmother.Its ring was not answered. He then dialled her cell. Again, noanswer. “She always come home at this time,” his worried voicedeclared. “We go home, Sonya, she be worry.”

“If you willgive me a moment alone with Steven, I shall drive you both home. Mycar is downstairs and I am very familiar with Paris as I havecalled this city my home for decades. Mike, would you be so kind asto accompany them to the elevator? I shall be out momentarily.”

Mike nodded andopened the door for the others. Neither Sonya nor Sylvan refused.It occurred to Sonya that BB was accustomed to being obeyed. Then,she remembered that he was retired from the RAF, and thought thathe was definitely accustomed to being obeyed.

CHAPTER 12

“How the helldid this happen?” Steve demanded testily, pacing back and forth andrubbing the back of his head. “I thought that Grégoire had takenprecautions for his men.”

“As did I,” BBreplied serenely. “He just sent a text to advise about thekidnapping and that he has every eye and ear looking for them. I amnot pleased! Grégoire has a great deal to explain.”

Steve took adeep breath. “You do realize that this is no longer just anoperation. My family is involved, and make no mistake,” he stated,looking BB directly in the eye, “I will not look the other way inthis instance no matter what MI5 and MI6 wants or needs.”

BB inhaledslightly, surprised at Steve’s statement and his emotionalresponse, and he obviously considered his next words verycarefully. “This is an operation,” he replied quietly. “We followprotocol.”

“No, it is nolonger the same!” Steve rebutted. “A child, a young woman and anelderly lady have been sucked into this! And may I remind you, thatBryan was a temporary stooge who was used without his knowledge.This is non-negotiable. These are not department employees!Department employees are aware of the circumstances in which theywork and understand as Lucien understands, the risks. Non-employeesdo not!” Steve stated with emphasis. His eyes had become burninggreen embers in his face and his anger was escalating.

BB sucked inanother breath, calmly stting, “You do not give the orders here, Ido.”

“Let us notdicker,” Steve countered in a chillingly quiet voice, an inflexiblelook crossing his face. “I have options. You know that. I am herebecause our cases intersect into one mission. I can and I willaccess others if you cross me on this!”

A slow smilefiltered across BB’s face. “You continue to surprise me, Steven.Were I in your place, I would have said the exact same thing. As itturns out, this is also my family now and because of that, I agreewith you.”

This took Stevecompletely by surprise. He had never contradicted his stepfather,not even when he left the RAF and joined MI5, despite considerableopposition from BB. Now he knew that BB was MI6, but at that timehe did not. His MI5 training came into play and he waited insilence, allowing it to force more conversation. BB had much moreto lose than he did, given that his son was waiting for them at theelevator.

“We shall dowhatever we can to make this unfortunate circumstance cease. Thecase will take second place. Are we agreed?” BB asked.

Steve held outhis hand. “We are! Whatever resources I can muster, we willuse.”

BB shook hishand. “Mine as well. Now, let us make this happen!”

With that, hemarched to the door, holding it open for Steve to follow. Theyjoined the group at the elevator and once on the ground floor, BBrequested that Mike drive with Steve. He then climbed into hisMercedes with Sonya and Sylvain and gave his chauffeur theaddress.

Both youngpeople were surprised at their mode of transportation, eyeballingone another and not saying a word. The trip toMadameLalonde’s home was silent. It occurred to Sonya to wonder why BBknew the address, but today had been so strange, she was beginningto believe just about anything could, and would happen.

The Mercedesarrived atMadameLalonde’s home and all was in chaos.Police cars were parked and there were blockades. BB emerged fromthe Mercedes, assisted Sonya and Sylvain to step out, and thenmarched up to thegendarmeat the blockade, flashing somesort of identification that garnered immediate attention. They wereallowed passage without hesitation, Steve and Mike at theirheels.

Sylvain was soupset that he ran into his home shouting his grandmother’s name.What appeared to be a paramedic stopped him just short of anemergency stretcher. Upon the gurney, Madame Lalonde lay, bandagedand bloodied.

Sonya had neverin her life felt more like heaving than at the moment that she sawSylvain’s face when he first spied his injured grandmother.

A firm handgripped Sylvain’s shoulder. BB quietly spoke something into his earand Sylvain nodded. BB approached the stretcher and then whisperedsomething intoMadameLalonde’s ear. She smiled, and when BBheld her hand, she visibly squeezed it. He spoke to her again andshe called a police officer over.

The three ofthem spoke for several minutes, after whichMadameLalondecalled her grandson over and hugged him as best she was able. Shethen spoke to him privately, gently wiping the tears from hisface.

He then nodded,kissed her cheek and returned to Sonya’s side, leaning against heras she encircled him in her arms. He laid his head on her shoulder,bravely watching as his beloved grandmother was loaded into anambulance and whisked away.

BB and Stevespoke to the police officer in charge after which, they approachedSylvain and requested that he come into the house. Sylvain claspedSonya’s hand and they both entered the house.

It was adisaster. Drawers had been emptied everywhere, cushions had beendumped on the floor and bookcases overturned. Upstairs was nobetter than downstairs had been. Sonya and Bryan’s bedroom had beenabsolutely trashed. Bryan’s backpack had been ripped apart andevery drawer and had been dumped. Their suitcases were in shreds aswas Sonya’s computer case.

Sylvain neverlet go of Sonya’s hand as they went from room to room. He spoke tothe officer as they entered each room, unable to tell them ifsomething had been taken. Until the chaos was cleared, it wasimpossible to tell if anything was gone. His grandmother was theone that would know, and his worry about her was palpable.

Steve and BBseemed to be clearing the way with the police and within minutes,they were sitting back in the Mercedes.

The policeofficer that seemed to be in charge came to their car and spokebriefly with BB. With a nod of his head to the officer, BB spokemomentarily to his chauffeur and the Mercedes glided away from thenice street upon which resided the lovely home ofMadameLalonde, and then turned onto a busy road. From there, Sonya had noidea where they were, other than the fact that Steve’s car wasalmost stuck to their bumper.

CHAPTER 13

The interior ofthe Mercedes was silent and BB was seated in front with thechauffeur. Sonya could see his ramrod straight back and part of hisprofile. He said not a word, even when his cell phone rang. Hesimply listened and then hung up.

It brokeSonya’s heart to see young Sylvain’s face. He was doing his utmostto be brave, but every now and then, Sonya could almost feel himrelive the vision of his injured grandmother.

“Where willthey takeMadameLalonde?” Sonya asked.

“To thehospital,” was BB’s minimal reply.

“I would hopeso!” Sonya retorted somewhat sarcastically. “Sylvain is entitled toknow which hospital. She is his grandmother and his guardian! Arewe going to the hospital to see her?”

Sylvain’s tearyeyes looked up at Sonya in what seemed to be thanks, and shesqueezed his hand. Given his age, she felt that he was holding upvery well. First his father’s kidnapping, then his grandmother’sinjury and then the trashing of their home, were happenings thatindividually were difficult, but clustered together were a majorblow.

“WasMadameLalonde badly hurt?” Sonya continuedrelentlessly.

“Not too badly,she was bruised, her nose bloodied, but she was not seriously hurtotherwise. She will be checked out by a doctor and then placed in asafe house, where she will be free from fear of another attack,” BBreplied with what seemed to Sonya, some emphasis. Sylvain seemed tosigh in relief.

A safe house,Sonya thought. Somehow, it seemed like everyday business to BB.Truthfully, she had expected Steve to be the one taking over, giventhat he was MI5. Of course, she reasoned, they were in France andhe was British interior intelligence and probably had no pull here.However, whatever the identification that BB had shown to thepolice at the Lalonde house had received immediate recognition. Itwas puzzling.

“So, where arewe going? To seeMadameLalonde?”

“No. We aregoing to the safe house. She will be escorted to join us as soon asshe is cleared by a doctor,” BB replied, somewhat preoccupied.

Well, at leastthey now had an answer of sorts. A slight smile crossed Sylvain’sface, and he silently let out a sigh of relief. It was then thatSonya allowed herself to actually look out of the car and view thescenery. The sun lit the lovely city of Paris, with itsarchitecture and green boulevards. It literally glowed in thebright light of late morning.

Their littlecaravan continued to drive, turning here and there, and Sonya hadnot a clue where they were, or where they were headed. They passedthrough some gates and down a pretty road. Sonya felt that perhapsthey were in a residential neighbourhood. Finally, their carentered a driveway and the garage door automatically lifted. TheMercedes drove in and Steve pulled his sporty little car beside theMercedes. He and Mike climbed out and the garage door closed almostsilently behind them.

The chauffeurwas immediately out of his seat and around the car to open BB’sdoor, while Sonya and Sylvain joined Steve and Mike. Then, thechauffeur opened the house door and glanced around the hallway astheir little group followed him, finally arriving at a livingroom.

“Please makeyourselves comfortable,” BB requested. “Steve and I need to talkfor a few minutes, but we shall be right back.” With that they bothleft the room, step in step.

Mike sat in anarmchair and watched their retreating backs. “Well, today isturning out very differently than I thought it would!” heannounced. “Are you two all right?” he asked Sonya and Sylvain.

Sylvainsilently nodded and Sonya was certain that he was just as confusedas she was. “I’m not so sure, Mike. We still haven’t heard fromBryan and Lucien. They will call the house, and there is no onethere to answer,” her voice wavered a bit.

“Calls arebeing transferred, it is all arranged,” Steve reported as heentered the room. “If they attempt to contact any of you, the callwill not go unanswered.”

BB interrupted.“Lunch will be served in about half an hour. Maurice can show youto your rooms and you have time to freshen up.”

With that,Maurice stood and walked down the hallway, obviously expecting themto follow him, which they did. He climbed a set of stairs at theend of the hallway and opened bedroom doors, indicating which onehad been earmarked for each of them.

Thanking him,Sonya stepped into her room, which although small, was really mostcharming. It’s seamlessly mismatched furniture and warm coloursmade it welcome and cosy.

So, she mused,the chauffeur’s name was Maurice. He was a very good looking man,his dark hair and hazel eyes giving him a somewhat exotic look. Hereminded her of Steve the first time that she had met him. It hadbeen at John and Sara’s, the day that the family learned that Stevewas really Johnny and Mike’s half brother. He had the same felinegrace, and although slim, appeared to have a strength andathleticism that was not normal day to day.

CHAPTER 14

Immenselyrelieved that she had covered all possibilities when packing hertote bag, Sonya mentally thanked her sister, Susan the worldtraveller, for her lessons in packing. Sonya removed the shirt andjeans from the tote bag and hung them up in the closet. She placedher tote bag under the bed, her computer upon the dresser and herovernight essentials and makeup upon the adjoining bathroom’scounter, where she splashed cold water on her face.

The reflectionlooking back at her from the mirror seemed to be the same as it wasyesterday, but today’s vision held the tension of the gut wrenchingworry that she held for Bryan, and for the situation that she andSylvain were now enduring. Pulling her hair out of its ponytail,she brushed it loose, threw on some lip gloss, squared hershoulders and stepped out of her bedroom.

Sylvainappeared out of his room at the same time and they both walked downthe stairs and into the living room together, surprised to find itempty. Before they could sit down, someone walked slowly andpainfully into the room, with one arm in a sling.


Page 8

The joy onSylvain’s face was undeniable. He ran to give his grandmother abear hug, stopping halfway, afraid to hurt her. Realizing hisdilemma, she hugged him and kissed both cheeks, leaning herforehead against his.

He then led herto the sofa, where he helped her to ease into a sitting positionand then sat beside her. Not a word had yet been spoken. Watchingfrom her spot in the hall, Sonya knew that Sylvain was havingdifficulty keeping in his tears.

One look atMadameLalonde and she knew why. The stately, stylish ladyhad a large cut on her forehead that had been dressed withsteri-strips and which was beginning to bloom in shades of blue,maroon and purple. She had bruises around her neck and moved as ifin great pain.

“MadameLalonde,” Sonya exclaimed, walked over to her and knelt to take herhand. “I am so sorry that this has happened to you. Who did this?”she demanded.

“Perhaps,” BBstated as he walked into the room, “we can spareMadameLalonde from reliving this disturbing occurrence more than once andwait until everyone else is here to reveal her story. Is thatsatisfactory, Lise?” he asked very gently, almost as if he and sheknew one another.

“Absolument,”MadameLalonde replied. “One time,c’est bien!”

With that, BBhanded her a drink. What it was, Sonya had no idea, but she noddedthanks and took a mouthful, tossing it back into her throat andswallowing with what seemed to be appreciation and surprisingly,anger.

Within secondsof each other, Mike and Steve walked into the room and Mauricesimply seemed to materialize out of nowhere.

As they hadlunch, Sonya analyzed the people in the room around her. They werehaving a very civilized lunch upon the heels of the Lalonde homehaving been vandalized, its owner injured and two of itsinhabitants having been kidnapped. What was not wrong with thispicture?

“Perhaps, Lise,you would allow me to tell some of the story, the story that thepolice have told me. That might be less stressful for you. Is thatacceptable?” BB asked.MadameLalonde simply nodded.

BB began. “Fromwhat we know, whoever kidnapped Lucien and Bryan were looking forsome data that they believed was in their possession. Obviously, itwasn’t upon their person, so they came to the house to look for it.Unfortunately, Lise came into the house as they were searching forwhatever it is that they were after. They tried to force her totell them where it was, but she had no knowledge of what that wasor where it was. The neighbours called the police because theyheard noises and once the sirens were heard the thugs took off. AmI missing anything, Lise?” he asked solicitously.

“That is whathappen,”MadameLalonde agreed, taking another somewhatindelicate slug of her drink, obviously alcohol of some sort.

“Do you knowwhat they wanted?” Mike asked.

“Non,not for certain! I think it was memory card. We have no such thing,n’est-ce pas, Sylvain?” she asked her grandson.

“Only in mycamera,Granmama,” he replied. “And remember, I lend to myfriend, Gerard, to take to his holiday. The card, it was empty whenI give to him.”

BB continued."It was so very fortunate that Sonya and Sylvain left the housewhen they did as they, in all probability, would have also beeninjured. I am pleased beyond belief that Sonya made the decision toseek out help from Steven and Mike."

Sonya justlistened. BB calledMadameLalonde by her first name,definitely not their first encounter in her opinion. The peoplethat took Bryan wanted something, something that wasn’t on hisperson. A memory card?

Okay, they hadseveral memory cards with them. One was in the computer, simplystored there as a backup to the one in Bryan’s camera. Perhaps, shewould be doing some research after lunch in her room.

CHAPTER 15

The minute thatSonya was in her bedroom, she quietly locked the door behind herand rushed over to the bureau to boot up her computer. To hersurprise, her WiFi found and logged onto an unsecured network withdecent strength, something that had been an issue atMadameLalonde’s. Bryan had explained to her that most folks in Franceused their cells for communication versus having a computer.

The firstwebsite that Sonya checked was her email. There was nothing fromBryan and other than checking for family news, she quicklyexited.

Then she openedthe memory card already stored in the computer. To her utter shock,it was filled with photographs that she had not previously seen. Itheld photos of paintings, beautiful paintings that had been shotfrom every possible angle.

She was certainthat these were Bryan’s, despite the fact that his usual work wasmuch more contemporary and edgy. These were in a much differentstyle of painting, still contemporary but with a familiar feel andlook. Otherwise, why would he have documented them in the same waythat he documented all of his paintings? Perhaps these were thepaintings that he had made for Grégoire.

There were alsophotos of people. The only one that she recognized was Grégoire.Perhaps the other people were his fellow students and friends.

What gnawed atthe back of her mind more than anything was the lack of knowledgethat she had about Bryan’s time in Paris. Certainly she had beenmore than preoccupied at the time with her grandmother’s death andher parents’ murders. No small wonder she hadn’t kept up to datewith Bryan’s happenings and friends in Paris during that period.They had been in constant touch by email, but in hindsight, verylittle had been said about his day to day life during thattime.

However, shewas here now, and some instinct led her to believe that what shehad in hand was the one piece of information that might be the keyto Bryan’s freedom. The question was what to do with it? Did shetrust anyone enough to share this information? This was, after all,Bryan’s life that she was dealing with.

Steve was MI5,that she knew. But he was in France. Did MI5 have any pull here? Hehad just been introduced as her cousin and therefore family, butshe barely knew him. Was he someone that she could trust?

Sonya mulledover what she should do. Her cousin Mike was a possibility. He andhis brother, John, seemed to know Steve much better than the restof the family. But, if BB was indeed his father, would there be apull towards him and not to her? Maybe at dinner, she would pumphim for information. Maybe.

In themeantime, she would have to be careful. Certainly if all herinstincts were wrong, she was no match for Maurice or Steve, shouldthey be the enemy. Even the older BB struck her as a formidablefoe.

Mike, SylvainandMadameLalonde were in the same position as she was,except perhaps for maybeMadameLalonde. She obviously knewBB previously and that might be a difficulty, given that he was adark horse, no matter how accommodating. The bottom line was thatif it came down to a choice, Sylvain would side with hisgrandmother. Understanding the closeness she had held with her owngrandmother she deduced that she was on her own.

Added to that,she had no idea whatsoever where she was. Sonya had chosen not toadd the outrageously expensive roaming option to her cell phonewhen they left, deciding that they didn’t need it on theirhoneymoon, especially since Bryan knew Paris so well. She certainlycould have used a Google GPS map pinpointing her location rightabout now. If need be, she still might use it, no matter theexpense.

In a flash ofinsight, she pulled out her cell and composed a text message toBryan. Without disclosing anything that she knew or what hadhappened, she simply asked how he was and where he was, suggestingthey should fly home ASAP. It couldn’t hurt to try.

Now, what to doabout the memory card? It was too tiny to try to hide anywhere onher person, it would be lost or damaged if out of its plasticsleeve. Pacing the floor didn’t help much. It was a small room.

Finally, anidea! Before Sonya pulled the tiny memory card that held her mp3’sin her cell phone, she copied the one in the computer and saved itin a folder named Art. She placed the art card into her cell phone,and put the MP3 card from the cell into the plastic sleeve andslipped that back into her computer.

Changing intoher jeans and dark, long sleeved shirt, she French braided her hairout of the way and then washed her face. The cell phone was slidinto her jeans pocket. It was snug enough that she would know if itmoved or buzzed.

Next thepassports, and then their money. Undecided about the bulky airlinetickets, she made note of their retrieval code, the flight timesand flight numbers on a sheet of paper, and then slipped it intothe passports in her back pocket. If she and Bryan needed to leavein a hurry, she would be prepared.

A knock on herdoor surprised her. It wasMadameLalonde.

Ushering herinto the room, Sonya helped her to sit in the bedside chair.

“MadameLalonde, are you all right?” she asked.

“Oui!Iwish to thank you for take care of Sylvain. He is just baby,” shedeclared as tears formed in her eyes. “If he was at the house…”

Sonya knelt tohug her landlady. “He wasn’t there,” she stated. “But you were, andI’m so sorry that you were hurt. Is your arm broken?”

“Non!They dislocate to find memory card. I do not know where is.MonpauvreSylvain! If they find him…” the older lady dissolvedinto tears. Sonya embraced her until she was over her emotionaloutburst. There was absolutely nothing that she could do to helpher, other than allow her to release the awful pressure and painthat she obviously felt.

“Can I get youa cup of tea?” Sonya asked.

“Non,Chérie, merci!We both are in same situation. The men that weloveson perdu, lost! It is a pain that no one else canfeel.”

A large sighescaped and Sonya nodded. “Yes, we are alone, I agree.”

“Ah, not alone,Chérie, but in mind, there issolidaritewith pain wefeel. We must do something, but it is something that I do not know.Help me up, and I go to my room. We will talk at dinner.”

With that Sonyaassisted Madame Lalonde out of the chair and watched as shegingerly walked across the room, out the door and across the hallto her room.

CHAPTER 16

Dinner was verycivilized and under other circumstances, would have been absolutelydivine. The dining table was perfect, the china obviously expensiveand the crystal exquisite.

“Is this yourhouse?” Sonya couldn’t resist asking.

“It is,”replied BB. “Is it to your liking?” he asked, swirling his winecasually.

“Mostdefinitely!” Sonya replied lifting her wine glass in salute. “It isabsolutely perfect. Thank you for taking us into your home,especially under these circumstances.”

BB appearedsurprised by her statement. “The pleasure is mine,” he repliedgraciously. “My home is greatly enhanced by her guests.”

Steve took adeep breath and began what Sonya believed to be a somewhatrehearsed speech. “Sonya, I need to ask, as difficult as it mightbe, if you can perhaps give us some insight into the people thatyou have met since you and Bryan have been in Paris. Of course,other thanMadameLalonde, Sylvain and Lucien.”

Sonya thoughtfor a few minutes. “The only person that immediately comes to mindis Bryan’s professor while he was studying here, Grégoire. I don’teven know his last name to be honest.”

“So where didyou meet Grégoire,” Steve continued.

“At theuniversity, just after we arrived in Paris. We met again later thatday, at a bar calledLe Cavern. To be brutally honest, in myopinion Grégoire is a total asshole!” Realizing that she had swornunintentionally, Sonya blushed.

“I apologizefor using rude language, but that guy really, really is a pig! Canyou believe that he hit on me, not only at the university, butagain at the bar? He also made some comment about Crusader andbeing a wizard. I dislike him so intensely, and I cannot give you areason why. I can’t understand why Bryan even gives him the time ofday!”

Severaleyebrows at the table rose in surprise at the mention of Crusaderand wizard, but no one remarked.

“This is theonly person you have met here?” Steve continued.

Sonya thoughtfor a second. “There was a woman, Mimi. She was at the bar when wewere there with Grégoire. We saw her again atMontmartre.Iliked her! According to Bryan, she really rang Grégoire’s bell atsome party when he got totally gross with her. Flipped him flat onhis back! I’ll raise a glass to that lady – she is A-okay in mybook!”

Steve grinnedat her. Obviously, he liked what she said. BB flitted a glance atSteve and all Maurice did was nod and take a swallow of hiswine.

“You met no oneelse?” BB prompted.

Sonya shook herhead. “Not that I can remember. We have been playing tourist, wehaven’t met many people other than those two. There were others atthe bar, but they were just students kissing Grégoire’s ass. Ilabelled them Grégoire’s Groupies.”

Maurice chokeda bit on his wine, his hazel eyes sparkling in a face handsomeenough that it could have been in the movies, and then he seemed totry to hide his rather large grin.


Page 9

After dinner,they retreated to their rooms. Sonya checked her email and her textmessages. Nothing! Damn.

Hanging herblazer on the doorknob and placing her shoes beside the bed, shelay upon the bed fully clothed, pulled the bedspread around her andclosed her eyes, hoping for at least an hour or two ofdowntime.

Sonya woke witha start. The room was dark, and the clock read 10:30. The cellbuzzed again – a text message! Sonya fumbled to retrieve it, butshe was forced to light the bedside lamp to orient herself. Themessage was from Bryan!

 

“M ok. Need 2 CU 2nite. 2:30 @ Eiffel Twr. No 1 else. Brng camra. Tak Taxi”

 

Okay! He washealthy enough to send a text. But, this wasn’t his usual text, andhe hadn’t signed it with the silly little symbols that he usuallydid, so someone else had written it. It was, however, her onlylifeline.

What now?Obviously, she would require assistance to leave this home. It wasguarded by Maurice, perhaps even by others outside. What had BBcalled it? Ah yes, a safe house. But safe from whom? And therewasn’t much time to waste.

Sonya slippedon her shoes and jacket, said a quick prayer and silently unlockedthe bedroom door. A night light at the end of the hall providedenough illumination to allow her to find the stairs. Closing thedoor again, she pulled out the cell phone and gritting her teeth atthe expense, pulled up Google maps, waiting impatiently until itpinpointed her location. Carefully writing her coordinates and thesurrounding streets, she exited the map. There was no point inincurring the national debt. She could always reconnect once sheleft.

They weren’t asfar away from downtown as she had imagined. The question now, washow to get a taxi. She was definitely too far to walk. There weretwo cars downstairs. Steve’s was a small one, it was late at nightand perhaps she could navigate that one to theEiffelTower.It was likely her best option.

Opening thedoor again, Sonya quietly closed it behind her and began to tiptoeto the stairway. A hand gripped her arm. Inhaling a scream, sheturned to assess her assailant, ready to do battle. Instead, shelet out a deep breath. It wasMadameLalonde.

“Where you go?”she asked in a whisper. “You have hear,ne c’est pas?” shedemanded.

“I’m just goingdownstairs,” Sonya lied.

“And out ofdoor,”MadameLalonde finished. “I smell lies very well,”she stated.

Opening herbedroom door and steeringMadameLalonde into her room,Sonya closed the door and took a deep breath. “Yes, I did hear fromBryan, a text message. I don’t think it was from him, to be honest,but I have no choice but to go.”

“You can tellthe others,”MadameLalonde suggested.

“I don’t knowwho can be trusted,” Sonya admitted somewhat tearily.

“Chérie,”MadameLalonde took in a deep breath andbegan, “you must trust someone. You cannot go alone! The men thattake Lucien and Bryan, they are bad people. You are but a girl. Ifyou must go, I go too. He is my son.”

Tears stungSonya’s eyes as she studied the older woman standing in her room.Her forehead was swollen, discoloured and held together withsteri-strips and her arm was in a sling. She most probably hadbruised ribs or worse and was in a great deal of pain. Yet, thereshe stood, ready to do battle and to help her.

“MadameLalonde,” Sonya began. “You are hurt! You must stay here. You can’tcome with me!”

“How do youleave here?” the older lady demanded quietly. “You cannot walk. Youdo not know Paris. Do you know where we are?” she asked.

Sonya justshook her head. They were very good questions and she had noanswers.

“Chérie,”MadameLalonde heaved a great sigh. “Yougive me one half of one hour? I find some way to have car keys anddirect you to where we must go. I cannot drive, but you can. Whattime we meet them?”

Reluctantly,Sonya agreed. She did have to trust someone, and it might as wellbeMadameLalonde. She could always ditch her if the goinggot tough.MadameLalonde had been through enough physicalviolence already.

“Okay. Onlythirty minutes and then I’m leaving, even if I have to walk. Theysaid 2:30 at theEiffelTower.”

“I be back intwenty minute, maybe less. I go to my room to take medicine first.I know where are auto keys. Be ready when I knock on door,oui?”

“Oui!”

CHAPTER 17

“You are verycertain?”

“AbsulomentI am certain! Why else do I tell you? She willleave alone and you know what will happen. I must have car key andyou must let us go! 2:30 atle Eiffel. I trust you to make anet for us.”MadameLalonde hung up her cell phone andcrossed the bedroom to take her pain killers. Bed looked prettyinviting at this juncture.

However, oldhabits did die hard, and she had dealt with both pain and midnightops before. She changed into black pants, turtleneck and cardigan.In a drawer of the bureau, she found a balaclava and stuck itinside her sling, beside the gun already resident there. It couldcome in handy, she presumed. On impulse, she reached into thedrawer and pulled out another balaclava. Sonya’s blonde hair wouldglow like a beacon in the dark, which would put them all indanger.

 

“That’s exactlywhat the monitors recorded,” Maurice reported. “The only contactpoints that were compromised are those two bedroom doors. “Wemove?”

“Yes. Advisethe others, we move in fifteen minutes or less,” BB ordered,already dressed in black, he stowed his handgun into its shoulderholster and covered it with a lightweight windbreaker.

“I sent Stevento back his car into the driveway. Those are the car keys that Igave to Lise. I don’t want her to go, but she overruled me. IfSonya insists on going, Lise insists that she will have protectionand experience on her side. It is difficult to argue with Lise onceher mind has been made up.”

Maurice shookhis head. “She is quite the woman, Lise,non?”

“Quite thewoman, indeed. But an injured one, nonetheless. I pity the men thatcaught her by surprise if she spies them. No doubt she inflictedsome injuries of her own at the time that she was attacked, whichis likely why she was injured. Even injured, she will deal themphysical distress if she sees them again. It might be entertainingto watch. Just because she is retired does not mean that she is noteffective,” BB smiled somewhat proudly.

“Oh, by theway, I cannot stop Mike from joining our little party tonight. Heis insisting, so Steve is instructing him. He has sworn to followorders and stay out of the way. We cannot leave him here alone, hewill just try to follow and screw things up. It is best to keep himclose at hand. I shall get him and Sonya out of the waysoonest.”

“I had a callfrom our Slovenian friend a few minutes ago. Apparently, there is ashipment in the basement of the art department that we need tocheck out, rumoured to be Crusaders. By the way, do not besurprised if Igor shows up. We do owe him.”

Maurice’seyebrows shot up as he holstered his gun. “Why is he interestenough to share information?”

“I suspect thatSteve asked for his assistance. Igor owes him and John Toth fromthe Azores incident. Despite the fact that he really does not likemany people, Igor has readily admitted that he does like the Toths.I am not certain if he knows anything about my relationship in themix, but Igor’s information can usually be relied upon. Ready?”Maurice nodded. “Let us roll!”

A soft knock,barely heard, caused Sonya to start. She opened the doorcautiously.MadameLalonde was standing in the hallway, allin black and looking rather chic for an injured woman. Using hergood arm, she beckoned Sonya to follow her.

Immediately,they quietly descended the stairs. Madame Lalonde led the way to aside door, sliding something plastic over a spot near the top ofthe door, ushered them through, closed the door and pulled thepiece of plastic away. It was a credit card! Sonya’s brow furrowed,butMadameLalonde placed her fingers to her lips andSonya’s question went unasked.

Handing her carkeys,MadameLalonde pointed to Steve’s car, sittinginnocently on the driveway. Sonya unlocked it, helped to easeMadameLalonde into the passenger side and then took thedriver’s seat. It was a sweet little stick shift, and Sonya feltright at home. The engine purred quietly when she started it,shifted into reverse and backed out of the driveway. She didn’tturn on the headlights until they were well clear of BB’shouse.

“She handles astick shift rather well,” Steve remarked to Mike, sitting behindhim on the motorcycle. Both were clad in black and wearingwindbreakers. When the women were far enough away, Steve booted upthe bike and slid away from the house, not following Sonya andLise, but taking a more direct path to the rendezvous. He hadoperatives to deploy, and Lise was going to use a lengthier routeand perhaps get them lost a few times, just to delay their arrivaluntil all was in place.

Seconds later,the garage door opened and the Mercedes emerged, taking yet anotherroute to the Tower. The Crusaders were on the move.

CHAPTER 18

MadameLalonde directed Sonya as they made their way into central Parisand instructed her to pull into an empty parking spot in the row ofparked cars along the side of the road within view of theTower.

“It is tooearly,”MadameLalonde stated. “If we must play the game theway they direct, we control what we can control.”

Sonya’s jawalmost dropped open. “You aren’t new to this are you?” she asked,realizing that this was true. “Do you work for Steve?”

With a serenesmile,MadameLalonde patted Sonya’s hand, still on thestick shift. “I am retire. But, tonight, I work for Wizard, thesuperior to Steven. These men have take my son and invade my home!”Anger flashed in her bruised eyes. “There is no forgiveness forthem!Jamais (Never)!You can trust all in the house,” shecontinued. “We will be surround and if there is danger, you will bepull away.”

Sonya began toprotest, andMadameLalonde raised her hand to stop her. “Ifyou do not agree, we leave. You havepas de choix.Simplement!”

Oh wow, thoughtSonya. ObviouslyMadameLalonde wasn’t nearly as calm aboutthe kidnapping as she had assumed. What had she gotten herselfinto? What the hell had Bryan gotten them into? Surrounded? Stevewas involved? Who the hell was Wizard? Hadn’t Grégoire said that hewas a wizard? She couldn’t imagine that BB, Steve and Maurice werealigned with Grégoire, by their reactions at dinner alone.

MadameLalonde touched her arm and pointed, then put her finger to herlips. A motorcycle slid quietly by with two men aboard, Steve andMike! Following them was a Mercedes, which turned the corner anddisappeared.

Now thatSonya’s eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness, she began to seesome detail. A dark figure walked quietly past the other parkedcars directly to their car and climbed in. “I’m to stay here inthis car,” Mike stated, “Word will be given when you can walkacross towards the tower.”

“How will weknow, it’s getting towards two o’clock,” Sonya exclaimed. “I can’tbe late!”

Madame Lalondepulled a cell out of her pocket. “The captors will wait for you,”she declared confidently.

Sonya watchedas a dark clad figure approached their position and was joined bysomeone with a familiar look. Steve! The figure beside him was thatof a woman, dressed in what looked to be a cat suit. Mimi! Theyspoke for a few seconds. Steve bent to kiss her, and with a smileand a wave, she pulled on a balaclava and disappeared into thedarkness. Steve pulled on a balaclava and disappeared in theopposite direction.

Mauricematerialized, as did BB, who opened the car door on Sonya’s sideand handed something to her. “I take it that Lise explained ourstipulations to you?” he asked. Sonya nodded mutely.

“This is anearpiece,” he explained, handing her a small electronic device.Then, he handed her another small electronic device. “Put this intoyour bra. It is a receiver. Should anything go wrong, we will knowwhere you are. If you are ordered to run, follow orders and get thehell out immediately! Return here and hide. Understood? This is foryour protection.”

Sonya gulpedsilently and nodded, taking the electronics. When she looked upagain, both Maurice and BB were gone. Silently, she slid thereceiver into her bra and put the earpiece into place.

“You willslowly cross the street and stand just outside the circle of lightfrom the street lamp directly across from your present location,”BB’s voice was quiet.

Taking in adeep breath, Sonya received a heads up sign from Madame Lalonde andwith a nod to Mike, she quietly left the car and slowly made herway across the street, hesitatingly stopping just outside thebright circle of light thrown by the street lamp.

“Well done,Sonya! Fear not, young lady, you shall be kept safe,” BB’sreassuring voice was heard. “Do not look quickly, but you are beingapproached to your left. We have allowed the contact to come toyou.”

As he spoke,Sonya noticed a slight movement to her left and turned to findGrégoire standing in front of her.

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