Dvorak: The Dealey Five
Chapter 10 (or, "Early Morning Blini")
Where We Last Left Off: After a shopping trip gone wrong, Isabel and Mick visited the kids and figured out their main nemesis, the lead man in black, wasn’t submitting to their usual tricks.
Ring, ring, ring. Dimitri picked up easily.
“You got through,” he said.
Milaya nodded, even though Dimitri couldn’t see her. “It was not easy,” she said, and it hadn’t been. After the previous day’s events, she hadn’t been away from the group for more than a few minutes at a time, most of those in the bathroom. Rosa, in particular, had kept a careful watch over the girl, even going so far as to suggest everybody stay at Carissa’s apartment that night. Rosa and Milaya slept on Carissa’s floor, while Matsumoto and Jason took the couch. Milaya, however, had woken up before either Carissa or Rosa and had made her way to the kitchen, then the fire escape for her call with Dimitri.
“I am still disappointed with you,” Dimitri scolded her over the phone in Russian. “I do not understand why you would just take off like that. You have been a good girl by giving us updates. Now that you are free, I can meet you. Please get the machine we have requested and take it to the street. You already had one chance to bring this machine to us, and you failed then. I will not allow this again.”
Milaya remembered that too well -- that had been the night she had met these other three people. The others who had said they were from their world. She looked down at the white shirt and black pants she had borrowed from Carissa while her other clothes -- stained from the food fight -- were being cleaned. Give it time, and she could sneak out, grab the dress and boombox, and meet Dimitri on the street.
“I understand,” she said. “The glory is for --” She stopped and realized she was talking to a dial tone. Looking back at the phone, she saw it had gone dead.
“You have nowhere to run.”
She turned, and there was Matsumoto, in his normal clothes, in the open window. He was holding his own phone. “Who were you calling just now?”
Milaya looked back down at her phone. “What does it matter to you?”
“What does it matter to me?” Matsumoto tried not to throw his phone at the girl. “What does it matter to me? What do you think you’re doing, coming out here to have a chat with your friends in black? If you want to hang out with them, then go! But stop staying with us and then deciding to help them out. In case you haven’t noticed, they’re after us, and especially after Jason’s boombox.”
Well, there went her plan to grab and run. “So why don’t you give them the boombox?”
“Because it doesn’t work like that.” Matsumoto stepped onto the fire escape and shut the window. “It’s Jason’s boombox, and he should be free to do whatever he wants with that. It’s not like your Soviet world.”
“You don’t remember the Soviet world.”
He paused for a minute. “That is true. And I was never a part of it. But, to be fair, you don’t remember it either.” Matsumoto sat on the railing, steadying himself. “That’s what we don’t have in common with either Jason or Rosa right now. They remember who they were in the other world, and while they don’t remember everything about our world, they know more than we do. You don’t know the entire story, Milaya. So why are you so insistent on following these guys?”
Because they’re Soviet, Milaya almost said, but she kept her mouth shut. She was certain Matsumoto wouldn’t like that response. Instead, she asked her own question. “I could ask the same for you. If you don’t remember who you are, then why are you with those two Allies? For all you know, you could be a Soviet spy, transmitting information for our utmost glory.”
Matsumoto tried his best not to roll his eyes. “Look, I don’t know that,” he said, trying to stay calm. “But I woke up at QWERTY headquarters with Mick giving me instructions and Rosa as clueless as I was. Rosa and Jason are the only friends I know. If we were enemies in the last world, that no longer matters to me. What matters is QWERTY and becoming a team. And if you don’t want to be a part of that team, then I would rather you leave now and become our enemy instead of causing more trouble for us. You contacted Dimitri yesterday, and because of it, the shopping trip was cancelled AND we had to lose an entire day of searching because they were too busy searching for us! Look, I can’t afford to lose any more time, because there’s one other person out there we need to find, and it’s clear to me that you’re not interested in helping us look for them. In fact, I wish you’d leave now before you did any more damage.” He took a deep breath, then sighed it back out.
Milaya kept her mouth shut and looked at her phone, now dead. “What did you do to my phone?” she asked.
“Electromagnetic pulse. Isabel showed me how to do it yesterday. Thought I might need it if you ever decided to contact Mr. What’s His Face again.”
“Dimitri. His name is Dimitri. And for the record, he has been rather good to me this entire time, so I would watch your mouth.”
“Oh, really? Where is your Dimitri now, Milaya?” And then Matsumoto realized that, if Milaya really cared about Dimitri and this Soviet business, she wouldn’t have said his name out loud like that. His identity was Matsumoto’s to use. “You said his name was Dimitri?”
Milaya realized her mistake. “He told me never to tell anybody that,” she said. “But I never thought I’d meet Allies who didn’t remember.”
“Well, you did, and there’s nothing you can do about that. But if you do one more careless thing and put Jason or Rosa in harm’s way, I will want you gone, out of here, never to come back. I’ll tell Mick that you have made your choice, and you will never be a part of QWERTY, and I bet you remember what he said about not surviving without us. I hope I have made myself clear.” And with that, Matsumoto opened the window and went back inside, closing it.
Milaya let go of her sigh. Her phone was still dead, courtesy of Matsumoto’s own. But for once, her thoughts were not on Dimitri and the betterment of Soviet society. Instead, they were on this strange boy who was from her own world, who didn’t remember any more than she did, but he had friends who would honestly back him up for the sake of themselves as a group. In a way, it was more true to the Soviet message than what Dimitri was doing, as whatever Milaya did was for HIS sake and not, as of yet, for the society as a whole.
She crossed her legs and played with the switches on her phone, even though they didn’t work. This would take some pondering.
He took a deep breath, then could picture every formation in his mind. Every movement was clear, constructed, fluid, planned down to the most minute detail. It was what he had done with the pipe last night, though he was fairly sure he wasn’t supposed to be using a pipe. Perhaps a sword? Maybe not even that. He didn’t even know what it was called, but it felt natural.
He stood in the living room and went through the motions, using an air sword, as best he could. Jason was still asleep, notably snoring and taking up the entire couch bed. Normally he would have made noise with each movement, but Matsumoto didn’t want to invoke Jason’s wrath just yet. That could wait until after breakfast --
He suddenly got an idea. He still didn’t like Milaya’s attitude when it came to all of this. But, like it or not, she had been from their world, and was supposed to be a member of QWERTY. He needed to find a way to bring her into the group instead of excluding her, and he thought he had found it.
He went to the bathroom to execute his plan, seeing as how it was the most privacy he would get. “You’re serious?” Mac asked him after he explained himself.
Matsumoto nodded. “I am. I’ve got to find a way to get her on our side.”
“Hmm. Well, my guess is it’ll work. I’ll do you a nice and try to be there in a half hour tops.”
Milaya stayed on the fire escape long enough to take a nap in the early morning hours. By the time she woke up, the day was bustling under her in Washington Heights. The ice cream truck was on the corner, blaring its tinny tune to gather hungry kids and money holding parents. Across the street, vendors were selling clothes and old tapes and miscellaneous merchandise. Every few minutes, a bus would go by. It was so different from what Milaya was used to -- but then again, what was she used to?
She didn’t know what time it was, except that the noise and smells made her hungry. Carissa and Mac had bought the entire group pizza last night, but they hadn’t eaten since then. She opened the window and walked into the kitchen, still holding her phone. “Who...”
She stopped dead in her tracks. Sitting on the kitchen table was a plate of Russian pancakes and sour cream. The food felt so familiar, even looking at it, that she ran up to the table and grabbed the fork that was sitting there, digging right in. Who had brought these blini pancakes? Where had they come from? They tasted just like something she couldn’t identify --
Milaya turned. Putting down the fork, she saw Matsumoto, with a pole slung over his shoulder, standing near her. He looked like he had just been using the pole for something. Maybe he had been practicing with it, just like he had used one last night at the store? He wasn’t alone: Jason was sitting on the nearby couch with his boombox, Rosa by him. Carissa was in the nearby chair.
What were they all doing here? And after Matsumoto had just yelled at her? “I don’t understand.”
“You don’t have to understand,” Matsumoto said. “You just have to --”
He never got to finish his sentence. Milaya flung herself at him, almost knocking him over and making him drop the pole. “Dimitri never got me blini,” she said, tears forming in her eyes. “Somebody used to make it for me. I don’t remember who, but they did. Thank you.”
Matsumoto was speechless. “It -- honestly, it was Mac. He brought them from Brighton Beach. I didn’t do anything.”
“Oh, shut up, you,” Rosa said from her spot on the couch. “You were the one who called it in.”
Matsumoto blushed. “Thank you, Miss Tell It Like It Is.”
“Oh, bebe pobre. Suck it up and take the credit!”
“Well, isn’t this charming.”
Milaya turned toward the sound and found two men standing in the doorway. She didn’t let go of Matsumoto. “Vlad. Anton. What are you doing here?” she asked in English.
“We could ask the same for you,” Vlad said as he and the other man in black, presumably Anton, stepped into the apartment. “Let’s go ahead and make this straight. We can follow you, Milaya. This is your last chance. Come with us now, or else.”
“Or else what?” Rosa said. She tried to stand up from the couch, but found she couldn’t move. “What...?”
Anton smiled. “Just another sliver of our secret weapon,” he said with a grin.
Matsumoto found he couldn’t move either. “How did you guys get here?”
“Well, duh. We sneaked in while the tall guy was bringing you your blini. Didn’t even notice.”
Matsumoto tried to move again, to no avail. “Why won’t you let us free?”
“Shut up. We’re not here for you.” Vlad turned to Milaya. “You are the only one who is free. Take the boombox and come with us.”
The taste of sour cream was still on Milaya’s tongue. “Why?” she asked. This wasn’t Dimitri. And how could these people just freeze everybody at will except for her? This didn’t make sense, and she didn’t like it.
Besides...Dimitri never gave her blini.
“I don’t see why I need to go with you right now,” she said. “Tell Dimitri I will catch up with him later.”
“There is no later,” Anton said. “There is only the now.”
Milaya swallowed hard. “Please let them go,” she said.
Vlad didn’t listen, his hard face indicating he had already made up his mind. “Fine. It’s not like he needs you in order to carry out his plan.”
Milaya’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Silly girl. He never told you his little secret? How stupid you are.”
“For the last time,” Matsumoto said, his face stern. “Get out.”
Vlad simply shrugged and smiled. “Okay.”
He moved so quickly that Matsumoto couldn’t catch him. Milaya was forgotten, but Anton grabbed the boombox from its place in Jason’s arms as they swiftly departed down the hall.
Jason was off in an instant. “Oh, they are so dead!”
He was down the hall in a flash. Carissa, now no longer frozen, took in a huge breath of air. “What --”
“They took Jason’s boombox,” Rosa said as she slipped on the only pair of shoes she could find -- heels -- and bolted out the door after him. Matsumoto, still holding Milaya, let go of her, grabbed the pole, and ran toward the door. Then, he turned and looked at Milaya.
“Are you coming?”
What secret had Dimitri been keeping from her? She couldn’t think about that right now. Instead, she nodded. This time, there was no question in her mind. “Yes.”
Jason and Rosa were already down the hall when Matsumoto exited the apartment. He turned, and Milaya was there.
“Where would they have gone?” he asked her. As an insider, she would know the best.
“There’s probably a car downstairs,” Milaya said. “It’ll take them back to the beach. Matsumoto, you can’t -- you can’t let them take the boombox.”
The way she had said that seemed particularly urgent to Matsumoto, but he didn’t know why. “Okay. Go ahead of me. I’ll call Jason and tell him.”
Milaya nodded and ran down the stairs, leaving Matsumoto in the hallway. He dialed Jason’s number, and he picked up. “Yo.”
“Get the black car. There should be one on the street.”
“Got it. Thanks, bro.” Click. Matsumoto looked up from his phone.
Where had he seen this hallway before? No, it wasn’t this hallway, but there was something inherently familiar about all of this.
He closed his eyes.
And she was standing there, in the hallway, brown eyes on him, matching set of goggles on her head because she wanted to be just like her big brother.
When the windows shattered, she was no longer standing there, blown apart by the blast. He remembered the goggles melded to her face in the heat.
Jason and Rosa had made it to the stairwell when there was a sudden explosion near the building.
The blast shook the building and the surrounding area. Jason grabbed a hold of the railing, but Rosa didn’t have that luxury -- she fell right into him. Jason caught her with one arm. “Gotcha!”
“Good,” Rosa said as she steadied herself. “What was that?”
“I haven’t the slightest.” Jason looked down at her feet. “Girl, couldn’t you have brought anything but heels to run in?”
“It was the only thing I could find at the moment! So sue a girl!”
Jason gritted his teeth. “You stay here,” he said. “I’ve got to get this car.” And then, he was off, as if there had been no blast to begin with. Rosa was left to wonder what the blast had been when she heard a scream upstairs.
Jason slid down the bannister and toward the open window. At the last second, he jumped, sailing through the window and outside, into a tree. He went down three branches and did a rolling fall onto the ground. The men with the boombox were in that car across the street, and if he could just get to them before they got too far --
“You have got to remember to take me along more often.”
Jason looked to his right. “Would you remember to make your appearance more permanent? And I thought you couldn’t do anything to these guys.”
“I can’t,” Isabel said, “but only to Dimitri. This should be fine.” She aimed her phone, and one tire blew out, sending the car skidding into a fire hydrant.
Jason grinned. “Nice aim.”
“Funny. Now you parkour your way over there and get your boombox back.” Isabel picked up her ringing phone. “Yes? Mmhmm...WHAT?”
Jason looked back at Isabel. “What was that for?”
“Get the boombox. I’ve got to go back.”
“Now wait a minute, I want an explanation --”
Isabel held up her hand to shush him. “Matsumoto got hurt in the explosion. I can’t hear Rosa over Milaya screaming, so I can’t tell what’s going on. Just get that box and get the hell back up that building. Something tells me this is really bad.”
He had been right behind her.
She had been sure of it.
Neither one of them had anticipated Anton or Vlad to show up. She hadn’t anticipated Matsumoto to put up such a fight for her. But when the building had shaken, she had fallen to her feet, putting her hands out to catch herself.
When the rumbling stopped, she breathed a sigh of relief. It hadn’t been their building, but the KGB had done something in the area, a warning blast of sorts. They weren’t done with her, that was for sure. But as long as Matsumoto and the others were here --
She turned back, and he was no longer there. Rosa and Jason were still ahead of her, but where was he? She got to her feet, now stable, and ran back down the hallway leading to Carissa’s apartment. No, he wasn’t in this hallway at all -- she ran back up the stairs.
Something was wrong with this picture. The lights were still out, the last remaining sunlight filtering into the long hallway. One of the windows was broken, glass on the floor, scattered around a motionless Matsumoto.
The world buckled under her feet, and she ran toward him, reaching his side in seconds. His eyes were closed, hair a mess, and there was a steady stream of blood trickling from his forehead. Milaya couldn’t determine what had happened, but there was only one thought going through her mind -- the blini and sour cream.
For once, she didn’t run. She knelt on the ground, dizzy and sick from the damage and events, and finally found the strength to scream.