I rub my temples as I sit in the dark kitchen. I can hear the rain outside, like some sort of incessant drum beat to a song no one truly understands.
The light flicks on and I instinctively shield my eyes.
“How are you feeling?”
The voice belongs to Malcolm Saunders – my father’s best friend in life and a man who owed his life, and those of his family, to my mother. He was always Uncle Mac to me.
“It’s funny – I thought I’d feel different after watching Stone die.” I replied. He walked across to the kettle and switched it on.
“Take it from me Amy, revenge is a hollow act,” Mac said as he dropped a teabag into the mug. “It never makes you feel better. How many sugars do you take?”
“Two.” I said. “I don’t want to feel better – I just want them to pay.” Yeah, I sound bitter but then I think I have a right to.
“And just where do you stop?” The second voice entered the room. I turned around. It was Ethan, Malcolm’s son. “Where do you draw the line Amy? At what point do you decide that you’re going to step outside of the circle of blood?”
Ethan Saunders – Ethan is three years and a half older than me – so that makes him around 24 now. He was literally the only other person I interacted with while growing up. Ethan was my best friend – hell, he was my only friend. Whenever he and Uncle Mac came to the island I could barely contain myself. My parents knew I needed some sort of social interaction with another person my own age as I was growing up…and as I became older I tried to hide the fact that he’s the first man I’ve ever been in love with. If I’m being honest, I’ve had a crush on Ethan since I was twelve years old.
And I don’t know what to do about it. It’s just another one of those things that Mom and Dad never got the chance to tell me about.
I find myself holding back the tears as I look at Ethan. I know he means well, but he doesn’t understand.
Actually, that’s a lie – he understands exactly what I’m going through – if there’s one person on the planet that knows precisely how I feel, then it’s Ethan. Only he chose a different path to me. Does that make him a better person?
Two years ago THEY found Uncle Mac and Aunt Mary-Ann in the small town in Ireland they were living in at the time. They used a car bomb – about fucking typical of those bastards. Somehow Uncle Mac was thrown clear – Aunt Mary-Ann wasn’t so lucky. Mom managed to manipulate the hospital records to show that Uncle Mac died as a result of his injuries while Dad got him out of there. Ethan was staying with us for the summer – I remember hearing him crying himself to sleep some nights.
I was too scared to go into his room at first – I didn’t know what to say to him. Then one night I found him sitting in the kitchen just like I am now. We talked until the sun rose – and I can remember every single word of that conversation. That was also the first time I ever kissed a boy too. I felt bad about it until Ethan told me not to, but he didn’t want to “take things further” until “he knew what he wanted to do with his life and until I was older.”
“I’ll stop when it’s over.” I answer him – my voice is flat and I try to keep it free of emotion. Uncle Mac hands me the cup of tea. It sears the inside of my mouth as I take a sip from it – no one makes a cup of tea like Uncle Mac. Ethan says something to him – I can’t catch it – and Uncle Mac makes his way out of the kitchen, leaving me alone with Ethan.
“How’s his hip these days?” I ask once I’m certain that we’re alone.
“Not so bad as you’d notice, they got most of the remaining fragments out when they installed the new replacement six months ago,” Ethan replies, looking into my eyes with an intensity that makes me feel uncomfortable. “You’re expecting a lecture aren’t you?” I nod. “Well you’re looking at the wrong person for that.”
“Aren’t you going to tell me to forget about it all and move on with my life?” I ask. Ethan shakes his head.
“We’re different people Amy – you need to do this, I didn’t.” He said. I broke eye contact with him; something feels strange in my stomach when I look at him. “All I will say is that I want you to be careful, and you know that none of this will bring them back.”
“I can’t forgive and forget…” My teeth are gritted together as I feel the tears starting to roll down my face. “I…I…just…”
“Amy, it’s okay,” I can hear the sound of the chair Ethan is sitting in scrape against the stone floor. I can feel his arms around me – he wraps me inside his arms and it feels so warm, so safe, that I can’t hold it back anymore.
I cry. I cry so much that Ethan’s shirt is stained with my tears where I bury my head in his chest in some sort of twisted reflection of my face. I can feel my legs starting to sag and he takes up the slack, literally holding me up in his arms.
“Come on, you need to get some sleep,” His voice is quiet and calm. He picks me up and carries me upstairs into their guest bedroom. I’ve stopped crying now – I just feel weak, empty and alone. He turns to leave and I put my hand on his shoulder.
“Ethan…I…I don’t want to be alone…”
I didn’t want to get out of the bed. There in Ethan’s arms I almost forgot about the sequence of events I’d set in motion. Almost. Reluctantly I pulled the covers back and began to get dressed. I noticed that there were the first few cracks of sun sneaking in through the blind on the window. I was in my underwear before Ethan woke up.
“Every time there was a sound during the night you woke up,” He said. “Amy, you’re safe here – no one is going to…”
“I thought I was safe on the island and look how that turned out.” Neither of us said anything for a minute. “I should go, I’ve risked too much by staying here.”
“What?” Ethan said as he got out of bed. “You’re not making any sense.” I pulled my shirt on over my head and looked at him – his hair was a mess and he had put his boxer shorts on backwards.
“I’ve lost everything – I can’t risk losing you too.” I said. He looked shocked, he was about to say something but my hand on his mouth stopped him. “I need to go now, but I promise you I’ll be back. Say goodbye to your Dad for me.” I button up my jeans and leave the room before my resolve wavers. I didn’t say anything else to him before I left. As I pulled away on my bike I saw him watching me from the bedroom window.
8 hours later
“Can you zoom in any closer?”
“It’s from a satellite for god’s sake Courtney, it’s already blurred badly enough.”
Both of them looked at the image that had been relayed to them from a contact in France. They then compared it to several other images from the surveillance cameras of the buildings surrounding the alley that Alex Stone’s car had been found in.
“I’d say that’s our girl.”
“At least Alex had something nice to look at before he checked out.”
“Mmm…we’ve just got some imported video from Heathrow…that’s her. Looks like she’s coming our way.”
“Okay, blow up whatever you can and print it off – I’ll go and warn Natasha.”
“There was a time when David Tempest and I were lovers. Did you know that?” Natasha Nicolov said as she felt the water running down her back. Behind her there was a snort of disgust as Kelly shook her head.
“That’s gross! What makes you think I want to hear about that?”
“It was a long time ago and far, far away. If it weren’t for his help I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Natasha said as she savoured the sensation of the sauna.
“You have some way of showing your gratitude to him.” Kelly replied.
“Hush little girl, there’s so much you have yet to learn…” Natasha’s comment was cut off by the door to the sauna opening. The rush of cold air accompanied Courtney’s entrance like a reality check.
“Save it for another day. We’ve just got confirmation that the Tempest girl is heading our way. My guess is that she’ll be landing in forty five minutes with some unfinished business.” Both Natasha and Kelly stopped what they were doing. Natasha stood up and grabbed a robe from the wall.
“Get the photos to my office – I told Adrian that this loose end needed to be dealt with but he wouldn’t listen to me.” Natasha said as she looked at the two young women standing before her. Courtney was every inch the sophisticated raven-haired temptress she was while Kelly looked more like a mall rat with her short spiked red hair. Despite both of the girls being nearly twenty-one, Natasha was surprised just how different they were from each other. “Follow me.”
The boardroom had a strange green hue to it. The table that occupied the middle of the room looked almost lost amidst the myriad of faces looking down at the lone occupant from an oversized screen with the word Ravenstone hanging above it in slate grey letters some eight inches in height. Dressed in a sharp suit and tie, Adrian Stone never took his eyes off the screen as he engaged his virtual participants in discussion.
“…and at what point do we anticipate that Temerax will be viable for sale?” Adrian asked. A man occupying the bottom quadrant of the screen coughed and adjusted his tie.
“We believe that the product will be ready by the end of the next financial quarter – subject to FDA approval.” He said. Adrian nodded.
“Can we speed up the process? I’d like to make the announcement at the next shareholder meeting if at all possible.” The severe looking woman in the top right quadrant spoke up.
“We can try Mr Stone – we would just need to go to human trials a month earlier than anticipated.” Adrian nodded at her response.
“Very good, now to other business…” the sound of the door to the boardroom being thrown open caused Adrian to turn around. Natasha strode into the boardroom dressed in her robe, flanked by Courtney and Kelly. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ll pick this up later.” He pressed a button on his desk and the screen winked off.
“Adrian, we need to talk…” Natasha sounded authoritarian. Adrian sat down on his chair.
“Save your breath, I already know what this is about.” He said. “Like my father and his predecessor, your obsession with the Tempest’s has gotten out of hand. For whatever reason you’ve held this grudge over them for nearly two decades, please remember that we are trying to run a business here.” Adrian twisted around on his chair, staring at the screen as a stream of data began to flow across it. “A business that does not need to attract any unwanted and unnecessary attention to itself.”
“I am sorry about the death of your father Adrian,” Natasha said. “I’m simply looking to avenge it.”
“Natasha, whilst I may grieve for my father privately I am under no illusions as to the deeply despicable flaws within his character,” Adrian said. “I am sure that his death was something that was long overdue. Now, if you wish to try and clean up this mess that you’ve instigated then do so – only please try to do so without drawing any attention to yourselves.”
London to New York
35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean
The flight is boring – even in business class. I’ve been sleeping as much as I can – this is only the second time I’ve been on an aeroplane in my life and it’s a new sensation to me.
My sleep is filled with dreams that play through my head like the movies on the in-flight entertainment – only unlike the effects laden blockbusters produced by Hollywood, these are all too real…
I’m sitting on a bench with Mom – we’re looking out over the sea and she tells me everything. I’m 15 years old and suddenly everything makes sense. The training, the drills, the incessant secrecy and the sense that we were living on borrowed time. It all falls into place.
20 years ago
“Mr Knotmann wants the latest batch of the test serum for delivery to his office this afternoon.” Mary-Ann said to Katie as she entered the lab.
“What? But it’s nowhere near ready – we haven’t even got the results from the latest animal tests back yet?” Katie replied, looking at her friend with an expression of bewilderment etched on her features.
“I know – however it turns out that they have some guinea pig to trial it upon in the hospital wing.” Mary-Ann replied. “Looks like someone ended up on the top of the expendable list.”
“Poor bastard,” Katie said. “Well, I’ll deliver the serum to Knotmann in a few minutes. I have a few more things to document.”
Knotmann peered over his glasses at the tray of test tubes filled with a reddish-brown fluid. He stroked the small tuft of hair on his chin obsessively whenever he was deep in thought. Seemingly satisfied with the samples, he handed them to one of the young research assistants – a man Katie knew went by the name of Moore.
“Excuse me Mr Knotmann, but what exactly are you planning to do with the serum?” Katie said, feeling uneasy as she watched Moore walk out of the office. “It’s still highly unstable at the moment; as head of the research department any new trials should fall under my supervision.”
“Indeed they should Doctor Westland,” Knotmann replied. “However, I’m taking personal charge of this project now. You will be briefed in full when the time is right. Now, I’m sure that you’re a busy person and I wouldn’t want to keep you from your work.” Katie recognised when she was being dismissed from something. Katie knew that any form of dissent was treated harshly by the Agency, yet as she got up and left Knotmann’s office the sensation in her stomach began to grow in intensity.
By the time Katie had returned to her office, she found Mary-Ann in an agitated state. She was visibly upset and the moment she laid eyes on Katie she dragged her into the ladies room.
“What’s wrong?” Katie asked. Mary-Ann looked like she was on the verge of tears. She was gulping down big breaths of air as she was trying to stop herself from hyperventilating.
“What? What about David?” Katie asked, the knot in her stomach nearly doubling her over now.
“He was shot…in the park…” Katie could feel her head starting to swim as the words started to sink in. “Katie…he’s the test subject.” Something clicked inside Katie, switching her over to autopilot.
“I have to get him out of here – that serum will kill him.”
“How?” Mary-Ann asked. Katie looked at Mary-Ann.
“Okay, this is how we’ll do it…”
Five minutes later, Katie headed directly back to the lab. As she stood at the door she could see Moore inside loading up the vials of serum. Entering the lab without saying a word, Katie went directly to the refrigerator. Inside she removed a series of tinted vitamin B shots that looked just enough like the serum to pass to the untrained eye.
“I think that Doctor Evans wants to see you,” Moore nodded and walked out of the lab. Mary-Ann had agreed to distract Moore for just long enough to allow Katie to do what she needed to do. As she switched the vials over Katie realised that at least one was missing already. Cursing under her breath, she placed the vials in her jacket pocket and walked out of the Agency building.
Lunchtime was spent at the bank, withdrawing half of her savings in cash and transferring the other half to a friend in Scotland. Katie went back to her rented apartment and cleared out everything of value to her; three photographs of her family, a necklace her mother had given her and her gun.
As soon as she returned to the Agency building, Katie made an immediate detour to the hospital wing. Nothing could have prepared her for the sight she would encounter.
David Tempest was barely conscious. His pupils were dilated yet he managed to recognise Katie’s face as she knelt down beside his bed.
“I’m going to get you out of here,” She whispered. “Please hang on.” Katie felt David’s hand squeeze hers. A faint sign of understanding and life.
Heading directly to her locker, Katie smiled when she saw the package in there that Mary-Ann had left for her. If things were going according to plan then her colleague would already be out of the building. Putting the small brown packet in her lab coat pocket, Katie just needed one more thing.
The building was in chaos – the explosion had torn a whole through the power grid and everything was going into lockdown. The internal security personnel had orders to account for everyone going out of the building – yet they were drowning in a sea of people fearing for their lives.
“Please, I’ve got to get this man to a hospital,” Katie said as she struggled to carry the security guard through the throng of people. One of the desk staff tried to stop her.
“Dr Westland, where are…?”
“He was caught in the initial explosion,” Katie explained to the guard – a man she knew as Curtis, she had no clue if that was his Christian name or his surname. “He’s got burns and took a nasty blast of Halon gas from the fire suppression system.”
“Okay, go!” Curtis said, pushing Katie and the injured guard through ahead of the others clambering to get out of the building. The fresh air hit Katie like a brick, prompting her companion to cough as well. Once she managed to get to her car she pulled the baseball cap off the security guard and fired the engine to life.
Looking over at David Tempest, she knew he wasn’t out of the woods yet, but at least they had a chance. Her foot pushed down on the accelerator and Katie never looked back.
Rusk Holm Island
Off the coast of Scotland
Two and a half weeks ago
The shadowy figures seemed moved in tandem, covering each other as they approached the small balcony. As one opened the door the other stepped in, the stub-nosed rifle held in his hands and aimed at the bed. Joined by his colleague a moment later, he motioned towards the bed.
“Hey, that’s a…”
“Stone said to clear the island,” The other replied. “No questions.” He gestured to his partner towards the bed.
“Excuse me,” The woman’s voice made both men turn around. “That’s my daughter you’re talking about.”
Phfft! Phfft! Phfft! Phfft!
Amy woke up as the two now very dead bodies hit her bed. Suddenly realising what was going on, she saw her mother standing at the bottom of the bed.
“Come on Amy, it’s time.”
Following her mother through the house, Amy found herself stepping over or around dead bodies. She was at a loss for words as they made their way down the stairs to the ground floor. As Katie reloaded her pistol while she walked, David limped made his way up from the basement.
“We clear?” He asked.
“We’re clear.” Katie confirmed. He nodded and lifted open he access door that was cut into the floor.
“Mom, Dad…what’s going on?” Amy asked as Katie ushered her into the basement. David handed her a wetsuit and breathing apparatus.
“They’ve found us.” Katie said. “You need to go.”
“What? What do you mean, I need to go?”
“You need to get out of here,” David said. “They don’t know about you and it’s us they are looking for.” Amy watched her mother load an automatic rifle.
“But…the three of us…we could escape…”
“We would just be delaying the inevitable.” David replied as he gently pushed Amy into the small opening in the floor that led out to the ocean. “Baby, we love you, but we can’t protect you anymore.”
“You need to leave – get to Uncle Mac’s on the mainland, take the money that’s in your bank account and live your life.” Katie said, holding her daughter in her arms for the last time. “I want you to turn around, leave and never, ever look back.”
“But…” Amy couldn’t see clearly through the goggles her mother had pushed over her head. She couldn’t determine if it was the condensation inside them or the tears that were streaming from her eyes. “I…I can’t do this…”
“Yes you can,” David said. “Now go!” Amy turned and sank into the water. Before her head disappeared under the waves she saw her parents kiss.
“Now, I figure there’s about two dozen of them,” David said as he slammed home a magazine into his pistol. Katie handed him a shotgun that he slung across his back as she began to load up her bag with grenades. “If we split up and work around the island in opposite directions we should be okay.”
“You’re such an optimist,” Katie’s expression was grim. “Just promise me that you’ll meet me at the gazebo – I want to be in your arms at the end.”
“I love you Mrs Tempest.”
“I love you too.” Katie replied, kissing David again. “Now, let’s get this over and done with.”
I awake with a start as the plane touches down. By the time I’m through customs and making my way through the arrivals lounge I realise that I’ve picked up a shadow. She’s about my height, long dark hair and a glare that looks like it could melt glass. I make a few calculated stops at a several of the concessions just to confirm that she is actually following me then I decide to act when she’s pretending to look through the European copy of Vogue.
“Excuse me,” I attract the attention of one of the security personnel. I stand close to him so she can’t see what I’m doing. “I’m really sorry about this, but can you see a woman with dark hair standing about thirty five feet behind me at the news stand?”
“Yes ma’am,” He replied, casting a glance over his shoulder before looking back at me. The clasp on his holster is easy enough to pry loose.
“Well, I overheard her talking to her friend about pick-pocketing some of the business class arrivals,” My lie is seamless as he returns his attention to the woman. My hand is ready to act.
“Thank you ma’am, appreciate that.” The security guard replies and then moves towards her. As he brushes past me I manage to lift the pistol out of his holster and stash it inside my bag. Perfect! The guard has no idea that his weapon isn’t where he thinks it is. I head towards the airport exit without a second glance, confident that the delay will be enough to shake her.
Once outside I head for the taxi rank. I’ve got a short stop planned at a hotel in downtown Manhattan before…
The large black sedan screeches to a halt in front of me. The window opens and a woman is looking at me. I recognise her face from somewhere – maybe one of Dad’s files?
“Amy Tempest, I presume?” Her voice is clipped and I realise who it is.
I think about pulling the gun from my bag – however I feel something stinging in the base of my spine. I have a fraction of second to realise what’s happening before I lose consciousness and slump to the concrete.
“She’s one cocky bitch,” Kelly said as she returned the taser to her bag. Courtney walked out of the arrivals lounge to she her sister lifting the unconscious figure of Amy and dragging her towards the trunk.
“Yeah, but we’ll soon knock that out of her.” Courtney said as she helped Kelly.
“Hurry up you two, I want to get out to the farmhouse before sunset.” Natasha barked. Courtney nudged Kelly as she looked at Amy in the trunk.
“I think you should zap her again, just to be on the safe side.” She said. Kelly had a wicked grin on her face.
“I’m glad we’re on the same side.” Kelly said as she pulled the taser out of her bag again. “You’re an evil bitch.”
“Takes one to know one.” Courtney replied as she slammed the trunk shut. “I call shotgun.”
“I call nine millimetre.” Kelly snapped back as she hopped into the car.