Forty-Six - Ira

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We sent the client out of the back door since we could still see Linkin and the overly dramatic action hero guy debating what to do with the original front door. Sir Drin wasn't happy in the slightest and he made sure that Stuart and I got the point. He wrinkled his nose at the poorly kept garden and gave us one last loaded glare before getting into his car. A black car that drove by, much too fast for the country road, almost took out Drin's door. Stuart opened his mouth to tell him to be careful, but I kept mine shut.

When the client was gone, Stuart pulled me aside. "Can you just... Pinch me?" He was stunned, and I didn't blame him. So was I.

I pinched his wrist. Stuart flinched, but otherwise, it did nothing. It was an overcast day, the perfect backdrop for disaster. I cast Stuart a sympathetic look; after yesterday, he was really trying to hold himself together. "I might have screwed up again. I had no idea this was going to happen."

"It's the only thing any of us are good at these days." Stuart's laugh sounded like he was being strangled. We walked around to the front door to where Linkin was leaning against the doorframe with her head in her hands. The big man noticed us and glared our way, focusing most of his annoyance on Stuart.

"I'm Ira," I said, walking up to him, "as you may have heard."

"Konstantinov?" He shook his head and didn't take up my offer of a handshake. His thick accent butchered my last name. "Fuck, Linkin. I thought this one was in New York mourning her dead boyfriend."

I gaped at him, but Linkin finally looked up, looking doubtfully between Stuart and me. "That's Thierry," she said. "You're welcome."

"Let's talk inside," I finally said. They all glared at me.

Linkin was livid. "We might as well have a picnic outside with a sign that says 'Who needs safety? Not us!'"

"Linkin..." Thierry laid a hand on her back.

"I was trying to help," I said, trying to be as civil as I could. "I don't think you would want Linkin to be in danger, either." I turned to Stuart, who was also pointedly looking away from me. "Do you?"

"Let's just go inside," Thierry huffed, and we followed without protest. "Pack your essentials. The plane is leaving in an hour and a half."

"What?" Stuart was horrified. He clasped his hands together but they started trembling. "What do you mean, a plane? A plane where? Going where?"

Linkin walked past him on the way to the staircase, looking upset. "We'll tell you everything, Stuart, I promise," she said, giving Stuart a few reassuring pats, "but we can't stay here anymore. We've got to go to the safehouse."

The safehouse. I stole a look at Thierry, who shrugged. Of course, this place wasn't the end of the road. We'd probably be working out a new backup plan on the plane.

"You aren't getting a gun," he said through his massive beard. I could barely tell that he had a mouth underneath the dark mess.

"Do I get a phone?" I asked coolly. It worked. Thierry was not impressed and I wasn't sorry about it.

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The private jet that Thierry arranged for us was luxuriously impressive; it was just a shame that none of us could enjoy the trip when such a tense silence stretched between us. To my surprise, Stuart and Linkin took their places opposite each other. Linkin looked down at the crafted table between them and fidgeted with her hands underneath. Stuart had endured his unfamiliar trip well, and he was even fine enough to look at Linkin with concern every now and then. She looked stressed beyond belief. It wasn't Linkin who had told us that we were going to a seaside town in France; Thierry told us the itinerary while Linkin braided and unbraided her hair in the car.

When the silence became too much to bear and the clouds outside the squeaky-clean window started looking the same, I turned to Thierry. I got his attention when I laid my elbows on the table. "Can I have a word with you?"

"What now, Russia?" the muscular man grumbled and raised a thick eyebrow. "I almost got more info on the dead boy before you called for room service."

I rolled my eyes. "He wasn't my boyfriend," I made sure that I was loud enough for everyone to hear. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw both Linkin and Stuart look our way. "And I wanted to ask about Russia, and the killer who escaped there."

"So the freaky scratches on him weren't from you?" Thierry taunted, and my face descended inches to the table. He was impossible and I had no idea how Linkin could stand to be around him. "Fine, Ira. What do you want?"

Straightening up and brushing my frayed hair out of my face, I sucked at my cheeks. "Well... My family is there. They haven't seen me since I was a child, so they wouldn't have any idea about where I am, but there's a chance that if they're found by Celestia and whoever's working with her, they'll be killed anyway."

Linkin was nodding in agreement.

"Thierry," I continued, "I know the girl. There's definitely someone else giving her information, telling her what to do. No one from that island is humane... Maybe just Stuart over there. I just want my family to be not dead by the end of all this."

Thierry whistled a piercing, tuneless note. "You owe me one, Konstantinov. I'm going to need names."

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