The Dealey Five
Chapter 16 (or, “The Plan To End All Plans”)
Where We Last Left Off: Milaya headed to the KGB headquarters to get her questions answered, and got more than she bargained for.
“We can’t stay here,” Jason said to Rifka, both perched on the roof, the sky still dark overhead, the buildings of Brighton Beach all around them. “I know you can’t speak to me. Can you at least understand me?”
“Then follow,” he said, and then “I’ll go slow.” His eyes were intent, watching the sky, and Rifka got ready to run. She didn’t know when he would move. The way Jason flew over and around buildings was a mystery to her. She loosened up her muscles and prepared herself mentally for sprinting harder than she ever had in her life...but they didn’t move. Jason was still watching the sky.
She didn’t know why they weren’t already moving, getting a head start against Dimitri or whomever he would send after them. But she couldn’t just ask him. It wasn’t that simple right now.
Instead, she tugged on Jason’s blue jacket sleeve. He had come out here in uniform. He turned. “Yes? Oh, right. Sorry. I’m working out the route in my mind. Don’t want to take the wrong way back.” He pointed off into the distance. “Sometimes I don’t have time to plan a map. I just have to go, then. But usually I try to make sure I can get from point A to point B without falling five stories. I’m remembering how I came, which buildings I jumped off of, but also where you can and can’t go.”
She nodded to show she understood.
“Okay.” Jason clapped his hands, loosened himself up, smiled. “Ready...go.”
He took off at a run. Rifka thanked the gods she could dance, which did give her an athletic edge the other members didn’t have. She kept up with Jason, though she couldn’t tell if this was because she was fast or he was going slower.
They ran across the roof, then jumped from one building to another, a distance Rifka could easily make in this neighborhood due to the compact buildings and small alleys. He flew down a fire escape, and she followed, slower in her dress than she would have liked to be. “Jump!” he yelled, and she did from the second story. He easily caught her, lowering her to the ground.
“I don’t know why you trust me right now,” he said, “but I’m glad you do.”
She only gave him a smile. Because I can’t trust Dimitri ever again, she thought to herself. You and Tamasine and the others have my allegiance.
They weaved in and out of a few alleys, found their way to the boardwalk, took it at a regular run across Brighton Beach and to Coney Island out in the open. It was a long run, and the boardwalk was technically closed, but Jason took it at a good pace, and Rifka didn’t get tired. She kept her pace as fast as she could, Jason right in front of her, lighting the way. He finally made a right on Kensington, a sloped alleyway between two empty lots. Rifka followed, jumping over a barricading bar and into the alleyway. Jason was a few feet away from her now, heading toward the subway terminal.
She felt the ground disappear under her feet, and then, she was hoisted upside down by her right ankle. The world inverted in her vision, and she felt the blood rush to the top of her head. Rifka tried to reach for the ground, to right herself, but no such luck.
“We’ve got you, little snot,” she heard in her mother tongue, and she waved her arms some more. She found herself staring straight at a black pant leg.
“You let me go right now!” she yelled back, knowing the person would understand her. As she waved about, the handkerchief that was in her pocket fell to the ground.
Somebody else grabbed her arms and lifted her torso upright; she could now see that it was Anton and Vlad. Vlad had her arms, and he stared down at her. “Somebody’s got to learn to be good,” he said. “That means coming back to headquarters with us, traitor.”
“Dimitri doesn’t want me,” Rifka said. “Why are you taking me back?”
Anton grinned. “Who said Dimitri wanted you?”
She tried to focus, not to think about what anybody at the KGB might do to her, now that Dimitri’s uses for her were done. She just had to make it back to Mac’s place in one piece.
She inhaled and, much like Tamasine had done before, did her best impression. Jason’s attention had to be got somehow. “Джейсон!!!”
Jason heard his name across the alley, but hadn’t been expecting it from that distance. He had thought Milaya had been right behind him.
“Shoot,” he said, running right toward a dumpster, up it, and over in a somersault. He kept his eyes open as he flipped and saw Milaya cornered by the two guys from before, as they carried her back onto the boardwalk. “Double shoot!” Hitting the ground, he turned and put on the speed, the only weapon in his arsenal at the moment. Anton and Vlad might have had Milaya, but they wouldn’t have his speed.
And he wouldn’t let them take her. Not after she had just remembered her past. Not while she was still so vulnerable.
He flung himself over the bar at the end of the alley and back onto the boardwalk, jumping right towards Anton and Vlad. “You put her down!”
He was airborne when, suddenly, Anton and Vlad disappeared without a trace. Not even their shadows were left behind. The night was quiet once more.
Milaya hit the boardwalk with a thump, and Jason landed on his own two feet, then ran over to her. “Are you okay?” he asked.
She paid no attention to him, looking on the boardwalk, checking every nook and cranny like she had lost something. “Uh, Milaya…” Jason looked across the boardwalk. It looked like it had recently been cleaned by the parks department, and nothing looked out of place. “Did you lose something? Did Anton and Vlad take it?”
She jumped back into the alley and squealed, kneeling to the ground. Jason followed her in and saw that she was still on the ground, holding something close to her that he couldn’t see. So she had found it, whatever it was.
He wasn’t expecting her to look up and smile at him. He couldn’t tell what she was saying, but he assumed she was finally happy.
She fell asleep in Mac’s room when they got back to Mac’s place, neither one of them disturbed by any more random KGB members.
First Tao had disappeared with that time stop, and now Anton and Vlad? “This is sounding more and more like a bad sequel,” Carissa noted, relaxed on Mac’s gaming room couch. “I wish I could fall asleep and wake up with all of this gone.”
“It doesn’t work like that.” Mac sighed, flipping through more channels. They were alone in the room; Jason was filling the other kids in on what had happened with Milaya in the living room, and Mac’s mother was late again from work. “We have to do everything in our power to help those kids right now. After we’re done, I’m confident they’ll be able to handle the rest on their own, but until then, we still have to be here.”
“Why? Why can’t I just go to summer school and focus and live my new life?”
“Because the two of us are the only ones here who know the truth. The only ones, Carissa, on this entire planet. We can’t just leave them to flounder. And you wouldn’t do that, anyway. I know you. You’d help anybody.”
“I only started really helping people when I got signed up for this gig, Mac. You didn’t know me before. Isabel’ll tell you that I was horribly selfish. I faked my volunteer hours on my form my sophomore AND junior years. I was lazy and boring. You would have never liked me back then.”
The room was silent, then “I’m sure glad I met you when I did, then. And for that matter, I’m glad my mother was using those bad Social Security numbers. If I hadn’t been an anomaly, I would have never noticed that we were the only people at that point to tell the world was ending. You would be with somebody else now. Another boy who would help you out with your adventures. Maybe even Peter Doyle.”
Carissa broke into a laugh. “Peter Doyle? You think if you weren’t here I’d be with Peter Doyle? I don’t date white guys!” Then, “Well, except for you.”
“The circumstances were extravagant.”
“You are extravagant,” then “Dios mio” at the same time Carissa did. He laughed. Instead of laughing back, she glared.
“We both know if Sarah hadn’t picked me, we wouldn’t even know each other. And I’d still be the person I used to be.”
“Consider every day of my life a thanks to Miss Dealey, then.” Mac wrapped an arm around Carissa’s shoulders. “Get over it. The world isn’t what it once was, and you did that. Isabel set it into effect, but you wrote it. This is literally your world now. There are little things that have changed for the better, all because you stepped up to the plate and gave it your best shot. You’re still thinking like old Carissa. Take the parts of old Carissa that worked for you -- like your history and your family, and your peaceful nature -- and keep them close, but toss out anything you don’t want. It won’t happen overnight, but soon, you’ll really be the person you want to be. And when you love yourself, you’ll finally understand that I love you, and you’ll stop pushing against me.”
Carissa sat with her mouth open. “How…”
“Do you think I don’t get privy to every relationship problem my mother has? I should write a romantic comedy, because it would make millions.” Mac chuckled and turned off the television and wrapped both arms around his girlfriend. “We should check on those kids.”
“Not now.” Carissa smiled at Mac. “I’m too busy thinking about what you said. You can check on them if you want. But first…” She leaned her head on his shoulder. “Can you do that thing you do, when you tell me all the things you love about me?”
He laughed. She loved it when he did this. Even though she didn’t believe she could be really loved just yet, he still did it, as a romantic gesture, and to help prove he truly did love her. “Let’s see...I love the way you drink chai, the way you smile when I’m driving you crazy, the way you hold onto my coat when we’re riding down 2nd Avenue…”
Didi sipped on his juice pack as she came out of the room. He was the first to notice; the rest, including Carissa and Mac now, were watching a movie. “Mliaya,” he said, and they all looked away from the movie.
Her eyes went from Didi to Tamasine, then to Jason, who was looking straight at her. She was in pajamas, her hair down, and shy. He spoke first: “Are you safe now?”
They all knew what she had been through, but were glad when they heard her answer in English: “Yes.” She walked to them, and they let her have her space, as she sat on the floor in front of the couch that the boys now took up. She looked at the floor, the room quiet save for the movie still on TV. “I don’t want to talk. Not yet. But I want to stay here with you. I don’t ever want to go back to Dimitri. I don’t ever want to be a Soviet ever again.”
Tamasine put his hand on her shoulder. “We will accept whatever you choose to do.”
“It’s just -- the Soviets like me. But they don’t like everybody. They always find ways to blame people. They blamed the Chechens, and they are now gone. They went to Dagestan and sent everybody to Siberia. They forced all of the Jews out, and then…” She pulled out the handkerchief. “This.”
“Uh...who are Jews?” Didi asked.
Jason noticed the handkerchief and made a note to try and ask her later about it. It’s the same one she went looking for earlier, the one she lost. I’d ask her now, but I think Tama would tear me apart for it.
“Okay, look,” Mac said, interrupting. “It’s quickly becoming clear to me that nobody here should have anything to do with anything Soviet. There are no Soviets in this world, save for the KGB, and they clearly are just trying to mess with everything. Milaya --”
There were collective gasps around the room at the mention of her name. Nobody spoke until Mac recollected himself. “Rifka. You are from Russia, and Didi is from China. That is it. The Soviets in this world are now our enemy, so let us focus our efforts on that, on getting Jason’s boombox back and getting out of here. If I had it my way, we’d leave without the boombox, but that piece of machinery has tied us all together, and I know Jason won’t leave without it.”
“So what we need is a plan to storm KGB headquarters, using every tactic we have, and get the boombox,” Tamasine said. “We then need to call Mick and get back to headquarters before the deadline. I think we should be patient and see if Isabel will show tomorrow. Since we have to be getting close to our deadline, she should be able to help us, especially with her guardian powers.”
“Her usual tricks won’t work on Dimitri, though,” Jason reminded, “and we don’t know why.”
“Well, our phones can do things too,” Rosa said. “And Jason is the fastest person any of us have ever seen. Mil -- Rifka knows the KGB headquarters, and even Didi can sneak into tight spaces that we can’t.”
“What we should do is work out a plan,” Tama said. “A plan that has all of us working together to get this boombox back. Didi, I think you should be a big part of it.”
Didi finished his juice box. “Hmm, Tama-niichan?”
It still felt weird coming from a small Chinese boy whom wasn’t related to him, but Tama did his best to let it slide. “Well, I don’t think Rifka should go back inside that building. She tried to do that tonight, and she got her memory back, one that we shouldn’t talk about. That means you should do it for us. You said you were coding something for them, which means you’re probably really important to whatever they are planning. If they see you, they’ll probably welcome you in, am I right?”
Didi was silent for a minute. “I don’t want to go back. I want to stay here with Tama-niichan and play with my new tablet.”
“This is a mission,” Jason said. “And you’re our greaseman!”
Rosa glared at Jason. “What does that even mean?”
Rifka looked back at Didi on the couch. “Do you think you can convince them to like you again? Like a spy?”
Didi gulped. “I’m gonna come back here, right?”
Tama smiled at him. “Of course.”
“Then I guess I could. I can try to work on the code, and then when they’re not looking, get the boombox.”
“Or let us in, or whatever we decide. We should sleep on it and tackle it first thing in the morning. The KGB is still going to be out and looking for Jason and Rifka, after all. Their guard should be back down by tomorrow morning. We’ll be up early so Didi can go without any delay.”
They were just settling back into watching the last fifteen minutes of the movie when the doorbell rang. “Oh, really, Mom?” Mac asked as he got up from the couch.
Carissa gave Mac a glance. “She that drunk tonight?”
“Who knows? This is my mother we’re talking about.” Mac left the bonus room, and Carissa followed. They walked to the door, and Mac looked through the peephole, as he always did this time of night.
His eyes widened. “It’s Plotnikov.”
Carissa gave him a look. “Really?” She opened the door. “Isabelle, what are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be back in Washington Heights?”
The blonde Isabelle looked exhausted, as if she had just been on a long subway ride. “Your parents and my parents are still there,” she said. “But I had to come here. I told them it was really important. And it is.”
“Okay. Which celebrity died?”
She crossed her arms. “I want to know what’s going on right now, Carissa Lopez. If you don’t fill me in right now, I -- I don’t know what I’ll do, but it will be something drastic.”
“What are you talking about?”
Isabelle’s face was serious as she stepped into the apartment, taking off her shoes and making herself at home. “Don’t tell me you don’t know.”
“I really don’t, Isabelle. I’m always honest with you.”
“Okay, then.” Isabelle turned and looked Carissa in the eye. “I want to know why those men all dressed in black are stalking me all of the time. Shouldn’t the KGB be sticking to Brighton Beach?”
Carissa forgot how to speak. Mac had to do it for her. “You have people following you? Why haven’t you told the police?”
“There’s more to it than that. Something the police wouldn’t understand.” Isabelle now teared up, though her facial expression hadn’t changed. “I’m not from this world, am I?”