The ride back to his destination only took about fifteen minutes which was a blessing since it was one long extended awkward silence. Eugene’s mind was racing; all he could do was try and prioritize the feelings of panic by danger level.
The first and foremost was that thought he’d seen some of Nikitin Fedorov’s men around the corner from the Scott’s house. He was pretty sure they weren’t going to try anything with the insane police presence that was there but it was worrisome nonetheless. They were impatient and he was pretty sure it was them who had tried to kidnap her today on the freeway; if they didn’t mind a broad daylight carjacking the odds of them being worried about an after-hours kidnapping were unlikely at best.
The Institute for Scientific Cancer Research was really a shadow organization Nikitin had used to funnel money into Eugene’s research. He hadn’t wanted to get involved with either the Russian mafia or the Department of Defense but his options were limited after his grant money had run out.
He was also uncertain about what the damn General was up to. That old bastard was after his fourth star before he retired and Eugene wouldn’t put it past him to have some hidden agenda here. He wasn’t on a Veteran’s Affairs board; he was in the Spec Ops Development division. That was definitely trouble regardless of the specifics.
Eugene also shuddered at the possibilities of what might be happening to the girl herself. He was astonished with her reactions to even the most basic of situations. Not just leaping from a speeding car the instant before it had hit the guardrail and escaping unscathed; something which had hospitalized and nearly killed him. No, she had also responded like a battle hardened soldier during the police raid. He had scanned the logs and her heart rate had been rock steady, no adrenaline, not even erratic breathing.
His breathing, on the other hand, was anything but stable. Eugene forced himself to take a deep breath, “Mr. Scott, please make sure your daughter’s safe OK? I know she’s important to you but I want you to know that the technology she has is the culmination of my life’s work. I won’t let anything happen to her next weekend when we go to the trade show.”
“I don’t know about what the fuck happened today, but if it happens again I won’t hesitate to call this shit off. There’s no way… listen, if you let those assholes get within a hundred meters of her I’ll kill you with my bare hands.” Rich was shaking as he parked in front of the address Eugene had given him and there was little doubt as to his sincerity.
“No need for the melodramatic threats Rich. I certainly don’t intend to allow any harm to come to her.” He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, “I really don’t know what General Hallbeck was talking about but I’m pretty sure your daughter being an American citizen of legal voting age will keep him from forcing her to do anything she doesn’t want to. That and her indomitable spirit, I think she’d tell the devil himself to get stuffed if he made a request that didn’t suit her liking.”
Rich seemed to recover his composure slightly, “Well there is that. She has always been a strong willed girl; well young woman now I suppose.” He leaned over and extended his hand, “I won’t apologize because I meant what I said; but I appreciate that you’re concerned for her too. Even if it’s mostly for what you have invested in her.”
Leaning over to take his hand, Eugene shook it firmly. “Thanks for the lift.” The grip Rich had on his hand tightened to the point of dizzying agony.
“Have a good night Doctor.” He let go and Eugene quickly got out of the car.
“Yeah, you too Rich.” After the car pulled away, he looked up at the apartment building he’d asked to be driven to. “Now to talk with Nikitin and get him to call off his goddamn dogs before this whole thing comes crashing down around me.” He squared his shoulders and walked up to the doorman.
“I’m Doctor Arlington, I need to see Mr. Fedorov. He’s not expecting me.” As the man turned to talk into a speaker on the wall, the bulge of a large firearm underneath his jacket was a stark reminder of exactly who he was dealing with.
The doorman was turning back to him, “You come at an opportune moment Doctor. The young master has requested your presence.” He smiled; a humorless slash across his face, “I’ll see you again, but you may not see me on the way out.” He adjusted his shoulder holster meaningfully. “Take the elevator to the penthouse.”
“I’ve been here before Jeeves. Just watch the door; I’ll be out in a few.” What was Dmitri doing giving orders? The eldest son shouldn’t be overstepping like this if Nikitin was in town. That had to be what the doorman meant by ‘The Young Master’ what else would that mean?
Pushing the button for the 30th floor, Eugene attempted to get his thoughts in order. He knew almost nothing about Dmitri other than he was young; in his early twenties and rumor had it he was a little mentally unhinged. Damn, this wasn’t going to be easy. The door opened all too quickly for Eugene and a man in an immaculate blue pinstripe suit was waiting for him.
“The young master will see you immediately.” The man gave him a cursory pat down and then turned and gestured, “This way please Doctor.” He began to lead the way through a foyer towards a set of carved doors with ivory handles.
“What does Dmitri want to see me for?” Eugene was trying to get anything he could to prepare himself for this meeting; he was completely in the dark.
If it was a surprise that Eugene knew he was here to see the son and not the father, his guide didn’t show it. “He has instructed me to say nothing until he can tell you himself.” The man kept walking and opened a door, motioning for him to enter.
“I’ve been waiting for you Doctor Arlington. I understand you had some business with my father, and now I wish you to have some business with me.” Dmitri didn’t sound like a wet behind the ears punk. He sat behind a large mahogany desk, presumably his father’s. The suit he was wearing fit perfectly and looked freshly pressed. An ashtray on the table was full of cigarette butts and he was lighting another.
“Where is your father? I’m surprised to see you sitting behind his desk.” Eugene felt the urge to smoke; something he hadn’t felt for five years. He forced it to the back of his mind.
“That’s why I have called you here.” He leaned forward and tapped the ash of his cigarette in the ashtray. “He is in a coma. Apparently the Italians caught wind of some investment he made with you and tried to capture it today. It ended up in a car crash that left two of his men dead and him unconscious and at the edge of death.
“I need to know what he was involved with and I need to know now. Those Italians are going to make another move now that they think we’re weak and if I don’t have all my cards on the table we are going to be at a disadvantage.” He leaned back, took a deep drag on his cigarette and exhaled a cloud of smoke. “So what do you have that is so amazing that my father was willing to die for it?”
Eugene was caught so completely off guard that he forgot to lie. “You’ve heard on the news about the so-called cyborg?” Dmitri nodded, “Well she’s real. I invented the technology that created her and your father financed part of that invention.”
“Ivanov. Vodka.” The man in the blue pinstripe suit seemed to appear from nowhere with a bottle and two glasses.
“Of course young master, do you require anything else?” At a curt shake of Dmitri’s head he set a fresh pack of Nat Sherman Black cigarettes on the desk and left as unobtrusively as he had come.
“So… a secret worth killing for.” Dmitri poured two generous glasses of straight vodka and slid one across the desk into Eugene’s waiting hand. He then took the final two cigarettes from a pack, put them in his mouth, lit them and passed one over. “So what do we need to do in order to protect this investment?”
“I don’t really know Dmitri; this is new territory for me.” Eugene’s resolve failed him and he took a pull on the cigarette. Yeech, how had he used to smoke these things? He stubbed it out in the ashtray. “She’s just a girl you know, just a normal girl.” The vodka, however, was amazing, “What do you have in mind? It’s not like we can give her a guard day and night or anything.”
“Correction. You cannot have her followed, but for me it would be a simple thing. If this is as big as it seems to be what happened today will not be the last attempt they make.” He had already finished his glass of vodka and was pouring another.
“She’d notice; that’s why.” Eugene shook his head. He’d underestimated Victoria as well. “You seem to think everyone’s as smooth as your Ivanov but even I spotted your goons outside her house today.”
Dmitri leaned forward on the desk fixing Eugene with an uncomfortably direct stare. “I do not have anyone watching her house. How could I? Until just a couple seconds ago I did not even know about her. If you value the life of this girl you need to give me her address. Now.”
An icy finger of fear began sliding down Eugene’s spine. This man was used to having people obey without question. “Not to worry, there are cops crawling all over her house. It seems someone called in a terrorist threat there and a SWAT team kicked their door in this afternoon. Not even the hardest of criminals is going to try anything with that many black and whites in the area.”
Dmitri closed his eyes and leaned back, taking a deep drag on his cigarette. “You would have no way of knowing this but the Italians own the police. That is likely why they were called in the first place.” Exhaling through his nose he stood, pulling a pistol from the top drawer of his desk “What is the address? What is her name? You will be staying here; you would only get in our way.”
“Listen this is a quiet residential neighborhood, you can’t just go in and start a gunfight!” He was halfway out of his chair when a hand pushed him back into it as though he was an infant.
“What. Is the address?” A quiet voice that was obviously used to getting what it wanted purred from behind him, “We don’t exactly have all night here Doctor Arlington.” The hand on his shoulder tightened like a vice.
Not having any other option, Eugene killed the rest of his vodka and told them, “4487 Honeysuckle Terrace. Just don’t kill anyone if you can help it OK?”
“You are a doctor. Stick to what you are good at and I will do what I do best.” He gestured to the men standing behind Eugene. “Time to go. Those Italian bastards have overstepped their boundaries twice today; we are going to make them pay.”
As he reached the door he turned back, “4487? That is Victoria Scott’s house. Derr ‘mo, I went to high school with her. She’s this… Machine Girl?” He scrubbed a hand over his face, “I had a thing for her for a while ago but she was too young and way out of my league. Fate is a funny thing.”
With that he turned and stalked from the room, leaving Eugene to wait alone.