The Wardens Series (S01E04: Taken) – 2012

S01E04 – Chapters 31 – 40

Chapter 31

Zach took a sip of his Irish coffee and sank further back into the shadows. He wasn’t much of a drinker, but the cold threatening to seep into his bones made it a necessity, at least until he could make himself warm. Having to blend in with the local scene also meant that a light winter jacket was the only real protection he had from the freezing night.

             He was sitting in a quiet cafe watching the Russian woman who’d been picking up various members of the Reshu clan in the last weeks. Further digging had revealed her to be Nataliya Dernov, a real estate broker by day and apparently smuggler by night. She was what those in the supernatural realm called scientes, humans who were aware of the beings that inhabited the realm and worked for a chosen faction.

            The warden had been following her for a few days now, a task that had taken him to Serbia, then Greece and finally Albania. Over that time, she’d travelled alone, or been accompanied by individuals identified as working with or members of the Reshu clan. Containment officers were on stand-by should orders be given to move in, but so far, Zach’s only instructions had been to watch and wait until Kaleb showed himself again. Turned out that Ashleigh had been right when she’d fingered Kaleb passing through the Serbian airport, Zach’s own inspection of the surveillance videos had proven that. He raised his hand for another of the vile concoctions and when it had been brought to him, took a deep sip, settling again into his seat.

            Nataliya acted as if she hadn’t a care in the world, going over papers that with his customised contacts, Zach saw were about her business, as they showed pictures of houses and condos. She’d sat in the same place for over four hours, ordering cappuccinos as though they were on tap, so that Zach praised the stability of her bladder. Her phone rang every half hour and Zach strained to listen whenever she answered, catching bits of information here or there as she rambled on in her native Russian, but hearing nothing that could be of any use to him.

            Zach took another gulp of his life saving brew and looked guardedly around the cafe. It was not very full, but the steady stream of customers wanting to use the WiFi connection or get pastries and coffees, had allowed him to remain relatively inconspicuous in the time that he’d been there. Three others besides Nataliya had been around for the same period of time, so Zach had surreptitiously taken photos of them and, after uploading them to the database on his cell phone, was glad to find out that none had any affiliations within the supernatural realm. He knew that containment was a phone call away, but without his partner, Zach was starting to feel naked.

            Sure he’d spent two years on his own before being partnered up with anyone, but after a few years of having a partner, he was accustomed to the added safety of another warden having his back. Containment was second response and that meant they weren’t right there in the thick of it when things got ugly. A warden alone was impressive, however, some situations were better with two. He thought of Erin and glanced at his phone. Running a hand through his dark hair he considered calling her, but didn’t. She still wasn’t ready to speak to him it seemed and there was nothing he could do about that. Chasing her down wouldn’t change anything.

            He’d deliberately not asked about her when last he’d spoken to Damian and when his handler hadn’t voluntarily given any information either, he’d figured this was the right decision. She’s probably back in England. So much for meeting her at the airport, he thought glumly, then feeling like a fool, straightened up and finished his beverage.

            He turned his attention back to Nataliya, who was speaking to the server who’d waited on all the seated customers that evening. The waiter seemed as though he’d rather be anywhere but working there, yet was so efficient with the orders, that Zach felt it made up for his otherwise sullen attitude. Either way he wasn’t there for the coffee, or the whiskey. The waiter was taking a longer time speaking with Nataliya and Zach listened absently, hearing her tell him that she did not want cow’s milk, but preferred soy. The server nodded and went off to complete the order, while Nataliya got back to work. Zach stifled a yawn, avoiding the urge to stretch in his boredom.

            A teen with a short blonde bob and dark eyes entered the shop. Zach took notice of her as he had all the others who’d come in that evening, but where he’d glanced over others, mentally filing away information quickly before moving on, his green eyes lingered on her. There was just something . . .

            She moved to the head of the line, causing a commotion as others she’d pushed past verbalised their annoyance, yet she paid no heed. Placing what looked like ten euros on the counter, she nodded to the waiter, who simply smiled and picked up the money before handing her two covered, disposable coffee cups.

Orders? Zach wondered, then recalled he hadn’t seen any others do this. The teenager turned and left as quickly as she came in, still followed by curses and rude comments from other patrons. Zach looked over at Nataliya, whose head was still buried in papers oblivious to all that was happening. His gaze shifted to the waiter and his eyes followed the man as he approached Nataliya with her cappuccino.

            Zach frowned and stood, seeing an unfamiliar bulge under his clothing. Nataliya looked up to thank the server as he set her coffee down and Zach pulled his gun from its holster, taking aim. The waiter didn’t move away from her table and instead pulled a small grey pistol from his side. Zach squeezed the trigger of his Glock as Nataliya’s pleasant expression changed to one of fear. Few others observed exactly what was happening, too wrapped up in their quest for the hot beverages, but when the waiter touched his chest, then removed it to look at the blood on his fingers that was rapidly spreading across the white t-shirt he wore, they started to take horrified notice.

            Nataliya jumped back in terror as he fell clutching at the wooden table. She turned, her eyes falling on Zach, who had already put his gun away and was coming towards her. She tried to run.

Note: Apologies for formatting issues in this or subsequent chapters. This seems to be a technical problem in the WordPress backend.

Read on to Chapter 32 . . .

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