Friends and Anger – 15

Manno was driving her to what he called a place of safety. It’d only be for a few days and it was with a man called Ari whom he told her he totally trusted and she could too. He took a right turn off the main road up a smaller street, then a right again, then another until he took a final right back onto the main road again in the same direction they were originally heading in.

She glanced across at him.

What was all of that about?

He looked over at her. It blows their cover if I’m being tailed. If I see the same car in my back mirror after a maneuver like that, I know I’m being tailed. She saw the practical sense in that. He’d been breaking trail all the way from the apartment and had switched from the unremarkable family car that had gone with the Manannon legend for years. He’d never use it again. Manannon no longer existed.

Where are we going and who’s Ari?

We’re going to what’s called a safe house. It think it’s most probably Mossad, because I know Ari trained the revenge squad in unarmed combat after the Munich massacre of the Israeli athletes, but you never quite know with these things. He’s pulling in favours for us, so I’m being careful not to shit on his doorstep.

She glanced at him. Nice try, but now actually tell me, who is Ari?

She watched that slight tightening of his hands on the steering wheel and that pause before replying that she recognised so well. He was thinking before answering. He would either choose to not reply or he’d come back with the raw naked truth. With him, there was not much middle ground. She put her hand on his thigh and squeezed a little bit hard to snap him out of it.

Talk to me, Manno.

He glanced sideways at her and said nothing.

We agreed, we’re both all in now or it’s nothing between us, she insisted.

She watched him steadfastly staring through the windscreen at the road ahead and adjusting to the new situation of never more being a solo, he’d now got a life partner. She saw the conflict in his face before he answered.

It’s a long story for another time, I promise, but Ari was the one and only person who was kind to me when I first came to this country.

He had that look of his, like hatches being slammed shut, drawbridges being raised and a Sherman tank getting buttoned down before getting into a kill or be killed scrap with a Tiger tank. She left it there. She’d be meeting Ari soon anyway. Whoever he was, he’d be interesting, she thought. She smiled, another piece of the puzzle. Compared to Manno, what had she ever seen in that piece of shit Vince?

They got there and the safe house turned out to be an innocuous middle of terrace house that looked no different from any other house in the street, but it did face onto a small green, which Manno knew would make it hellishly difficult to mount a surveillance operation without being spotted. Manno smiled – Ari always knew what he was doing.

He drove by and parked the car in a nearby street. She made to get out but he held her back for a moment. He knows me by the name Yuri, and it’s probably safer for him if he continues to think that, but it’s your call. Like I said, you can trust him. She nodded and they got out to walk back to the safe house.

The door was opened by an elderly gentleman, and Manno and he looked at each other silently for just that few seconds too long before they were waved into the house. Introductions were made and the man was indeed Ari. He and Manno nearly wrenched each other’s shoulders off with a handshake, and Julia watching it thought it’s the usual inarticulate man love awkwardness. For God’s sake, just hug each other.

Ari waved them both down the hall and into the house but Manno said he’d couldn’t stay because he needed to make some quick moves right now. He gave Ari an envelope which he told him had some contact details. Ari placed it carefully in the inner pocket of the jacket he was wearing. Manno turned to Julia and gave her a kiss before shaking Ari’s hand once again and saying thank you. He turned around and headed back out.

To his back, Ari said, be careful.

Manno froze for a moment at the front door and looked back over his shoulder at Ari – Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon.

Knowing you, I’m sure you will, Ari replied with a kind of man-to-man hard smile which Julia couldn’t quite read.

When Manno had left, Ari settled her in, showing her around the place and finally sitting in the living room where they sat drinking instant coffee and chatting casually while sizing each other up.

So, how did you and the little Russian meet, he asked her.

He’s not Russian, he’s Ukrainian.

That got his immediate attention. Ari, who knew how radical that difference in nationality was, asked her to tell him what she meant.

She looked at Ari and saw a kind man and why Manno loved him. There was something old-school about him. If Manno was the storm-blasted castle keep, this man was the gnarled village oak that had stood alone in the middle of the village green for as long as anyone could remember. She trusted him instinctively, so she decided to bend her word to Manno and told him Fedeyka’s story.

About the farm with the magic soil, of his family and baby Sasha, of his traversal of half the European continent as a child, of the lengths he’d gone to keep himself alive, and as she spoke, Ari closed his eyes and just listened to her. Towards the end, he’d heard about enough and slowly started shaking his head from side to side. All Fedeyka had to say was he wasn’t Russian, and he’d have saved himself a lot of pain in the murder room. Just once. At any time. Truly, the son he’d never had.

She finished up with what had happened at the apartment, though she left out the exact details of Vince’s demise, though watching him, she could see the dots being connected without comment.

Now, you have to tell me about Yuri, she asked. Ari had his own rigid code of personal honour, which he’d never violated. She’d been honest with him and more importantly had taken a chance on him on nothing but Yuri’s say so. He could see why the little Russian loved her. That put her well inside his honour code, so he told her about Yuri, and didn’t hold back. About the gym, the murder room and the bad Russian mafia connections and what a feral child he’d been when he’d first met him. Of trying to tunnel through a lot of scar tissue to get to a child inside who was becoming a man he’d grown to love.

Ari told the story and after he’d finished, he looked at her and considered. She reminded him so much of his wife Hanna when he’d first met her. London was supposed to have been just a waypoint for a few months on his journey to the fabled America, but he’d fallen heavily for Hanna, and she was deeply rooted there with lots of family. America got put on a permanent holding pattern. In the same way, Julia also reminded him of his wife in that she didn’t realise life could have some very hard edges, so he should start preparing her for what was coming.

There’s something you should know. He asked me if he could place you under my protection. Do you know what that means?

Put me up for a few days?

No, it doesn’t. It’s a warrior form of words. It’s asking if anything should happen to him, would I watch over you for the rest of your life. That’s why it’s not asked for lightly and it’s a big commitment if you agree to it. He only asked me because he knew in advance I’d agree. Ari smiled, remembering. His manners always had that touch of Japanese subtlety. A refusal, no matter how delicately phrased, would be embarrassing to both parties.

She looked at him, slowing down to getting the gravity of the conversation they were having – I understand.

No, you don’t, not really.

He looked at her steadily before making the decision to give her the full truth about what was happening, she looked strong enough to take it, so with a heavy heart, he continued.

He’s decided to go to war against someone so powerful that they’ve no thought about throwing three soldiers in your direction to beat out of you where exactly he is. They’ll have a lot more of them. He’s only one man. Realistically, you can’t beat odds like that. You’re his problem, though it’s him they’re after. His intent is to take so big a bite out of them, they’ll never dream of coming anywhere near you again. He stopped and looked at her.

And?

It means he has little expectation of coming out of that war alive.

She stood up, instantly furious. Where is he?

Your guess is probably as good than mine, but you have to see the line of reasoning in what he’s doing. If they get their hands on him, they’ve no more interest in you. If he gets killed, they’ve no interest in you. If by some chance he should win, they’re no longer a danger. As far as he’s concerned, it’s a sure win-win for your safety.

The logic is impeccable.

©Pointman

Click here for all currently written chapters of Friends and Anger.

Click here for other Pointman fiction.

Comments
2 Responses to “Friends and Anger – 15”
  1. spetzer86 says:

    Damn. This just took a really novel turn. Here we are in the digital age having to deal with a Serial Novel. I really hope this comes out in book form (preferably a large, fat book) at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Blackswan says:

    Pointman,

    So frustrating … reading a page-turner when there are no pages to turn. A slo-mo action thriller has to be rated as “cruel and unusual punishment” for avid readers.

    The woman in this story is driving me NUTS!! She’s redefined the meaning of trust!

    The way you paint characters and relationships is very thought provoking on so many levels. Intriguing, and clever.

    Liked by 2 people

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