#Friay Reads: It was Only on Stun!
Inna Petraro looked around Mira Gajic’s home with interest, eyeing artifacts on the mantelpiece. There were various and sundry photos of Mira with her fellow actors, her husband, her new baby, and several people she couldn’t identify in front of buildings that had a distinctly European feel to them. There were two people who bore a distinct resemblance to Mira, who were, she guessed, her parents. Her husband, who had let Inna into their home, was 6’7” Goran Nikolic, a man with pale white skin and otherwise dark features. There were also baby pictures of their child, Marko Lav Nikolic.
“It is amazing to think that, except for the actors and my family, all of those people are dead,” came a soft, gently accented voice.
Petraro turned, not startled by anything after a few years of dating Ryan. Mira Gajic looked something like a fairy princess; she had soft, high Slavic cheekbones that were dull enough to be exotic without making her explicitly alien. Her diamond gray-green eyes sparkled with reflected fluorescence and her dark chestnut brown hair looked black in the low lighting. Inna, while usually being excellent with ages, couldn’t guess Gajic’s age to save anyone’s life, even though she recalled that the actress was forty-seven. She was only a slight built woman of 5’3”, but had managed to survive the former Yugoslavia long enough to get out of town, and smart enough to speak four languages fluently—Serbo-Croatian, French, German and English.
“We’re just going to make sure that you don’t join them too soon, if you don’t mind,” Inna replied.
They kissed hello—on the cheek, Russian style—and sat down, Inna on the end of the couch, and Mira on a perpendicular armchair, both of them leaning forward.
“Can you tell me about the person you plan to have protect me?” Mira asked.
“I intended to do just that. First of all, he is my boyfriend.”
Mira smiled. “That one with the eyes that look like they glow?”
Petraro smiled. “That is Sean. Have you heard of Sean Patricus Ryan? He goes by Sean Patrick Ryan of Sean Patrick Ryan and Associates.”
Gajic thought for a moment, her eyes drifting to the right as she tried to recall the name. “I believe I have heard of a man by that name. I cannot remember much, I am sorry.”
Inna wanted to sigh with relief. “Do not worry about it; he’s very efficient.”
Oh dear. This is what I was afraid of: details. “You want the scary parts or not?”
Mira Gajic blinked, and squinted a little as she thought about what the scary parts could be. “Whatever I need to know. You are the one who’s taking this seriously; I still do not understand why.”
“Mira, I am taking this so seriously I recommended a man who is a registered lethal weapon. To stop stalkers and hit men, Sean has committed arson, assault, and killed, not to mention destruction of public and private property. He is, quite simply put, as dedicated to the preservation of your life as whoever is out to get you is to ending it.”
Gajic nodded thoughtfully for a moment. “Why would he do such things for money? It hardly seems profitable to die over money…unless he is that materialistic.”
Inna smiled. “Actually, it’s the opposite; sometimes I don’t think he’s all that attached to money. I’ve been dating him for years, I still can’t figure that part out; it either has something to do with his mother being an FBI agent or him being Catholic.”
The actress nodded once more and leaned back in her chair, prompting Inna to relax as well. “And you wish to call upon his services because—”
“I’m the best there is for the job,” said Sean from behind them.
Both women started from their chairs to find Ryan standing serenely in front of the windows. “Your security stinks, and your man upstairs is as deaf as a door.” He paused for a moment in mid-thought, then stepped forward, offering his hand. “By the way, I’m Sean Ryan, Madam Gajic, pleased to meet you.”
She took his hand, and he gave hers a light squeeze and bowed slightly.
Mira’s lips curved, and a hint of amusement tinged her reply. “Mr. Ryan, if you honestly intend to protect me, I think courtesy would allow you a little less formality.”
Sean cocked his head to one side, his brow furrowed. “Really? You think so? Okay, then, you can call me Sean, and I’ll call you Ms. Gajic.”
She grinned so widely it was reflected in her eyes, the skin crinkling. “Why, thank you, Sean, you’re so kind.”
Petraro said nothing, and merely smiled. I hear more of her sense of humor, and he’s in the room sixty seconds. Does he do this to every woman he meets?
“Think nothing of it. Now, I’ve never had to convince a person that she’s in danger before; I’ve never even had to convince someone she needed protection, but, then again, this is one of the few times someone else contracted the protection. I get plenty of paranoid insurance companies who don’t want their precious actors twisting their ankle. Although, I’ve never seen such a clear and present danger present itself without the target running for protection, so you’re either very brave, or very certain you’re not worth the trouble, which means you’ve got to shuck the modesty and work on humility.”
Gajic merely shook her head and sighed. “You also think an actress is worth killing for politics’ sake.”
“You told an essentially fascist government that they don’t have total authority, that theater shouldn’t serve the state. In case you haven’t noticed, some guy named Alexander Solzenijen pulled something similar in the old Soviet Union, and was damned lucky he didn’t get his head blown off.”
He stepped closer to Gajic, only an inch away from violating her personal space. “If you haven’t been paying attention to your own TV program, having a spine is a victory. You preferred to exile yourself, rather than kowtow to the malevolence in your government. This is more than any of your theater colleagues did. You are well spoken and intelligent, and as an actress, you have an audience and a bullhorn big enough to give Milosevic’s old friends a headache. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but leaving a message like this”—he tapped his vest pocket—“on your way out of town is like a rearguard throwing a hand grenade out of the helicopter as he’s being airlifted out, and I’m certain some people in your old home are still pulling political—if not literal—shrapnel out of their backside. I don’t care who this is, but keep in mind that it may indeed be someone you’ve pissed off earlier in life, and they’ve come to the conclusion they have nothing better to do than to bury you.
“I’ll be at the conference with or without your permission. If you don’t cooperate, I’ll improvise. I’ll always be four steps away from you on the vendor’s floor, sit in every front row; and sleep in the hotel room next to yours. I’ll be protecting you one way or another, but it’ll be easier on both of us if you help me protect you, Mira Gajic. Help me do this—for you, for your husband, and for your gorgeous baby boy—let me keep you alive!”
Mira Gajic didn’t take a step backward as he proceeded to inch his way closer to her, and barely blinked, as though refusing to break eye contact for even a moment. In the acting world, she had come across plenty of people with the ability to put shutters on the poetically named “windows to the soul” to conceal what was inside. Some had Venetian blinds that revealed parts of them, wooden boards, and some who merely walled over the window and used water paints to portray whatever they wanted someone to see. Sean Ryan didn’t have windows to the soul, but French doors, releasing doses of pure personality that felt like light, heat, and warmth from a generous sun. She knew exactly what he was thinking: he wasn’t trying to convince her for a paycheck, but to preserve her life, which he obviously felt was worth preserving, for whatever reason he maintained.
“Hello, Inna,” said a deep and gently soft male voice from the other side of the room. It had the same accent as Mira, only a little thicker. It hardened quickly with, “Who the hell are you?”
Mira, sticking with her analogical analysis, saw bars slide behind the French doors, followed by a solid metal drop gate like in front of businesses after closing.
Ryan turned, smiling pleasantly, hand outstretched toward the dark, blue-eyed Serbian giant. “I’m Sean Ryan, security expert and consultant, and sometimes bodyguard. I’m trying to talk your wife into protection from someone professional.”
Nikolic smiled. “Ah, about time. What would you have her do?”
“To start with, have her come with me to the shooting range.”
Goran Nikolic nodded. “I like him.”
Ryan beamed and turned back to Mira, whose thoughtful gaze peered into him. “I think,” she said momentarily, “I like him, too.”
Sean grinned. “Then let’s get to work, then, shall we? We only have three months before the convention starts, and God forbid that we’re all wrong and your harassers don’t want to wait for New York.”
Gajic cocked her head slightly. “Get to work on what?”
“Urban survival training…and don’t worry about the US news statistics on guns. Guns are used five times more often to prevent crimes than they are to commit them, and trust me, we’ll be preventing one.” And maybe causing a few others. “Not to mention that Switzerland has a nonexistent crime rate, and everyone owns an assault rifle.”
Inna Petraro touched Mira lightly on the shoulder. “Mira, trust me; Sean taught me how to fire one as well.”
Mira turned to face her agent. “Have you ever needed to use it?”
“Yes, sort of…but that’s another story. It involves two previous clients, a hand grenade, a shotgun and a Barney Doll.”
Sean nodded. “Later. Right now, I’ll be doing a security audit of the house, see where the weak points are. By the way—having French windows doesn’t help much; but, frankly, unless the houses across the street have been sold or rented out recently, there’s not much of a way to put a sniper rifle up there.”
Liar. It’s just that it’s not reliable, but you could break in there and put a bullet through her head without blinking an eye, and so could anyone with half a brain.
Sean thought a minute. Telling someone that she’d only be safe in a bomb shelter for the rest of her life was beyond even Ryan’s strength—and telling Mira that the only way to stop someone permanently was THE permanent solution didn’t seem a smart move. The more he thought about how vulnerable she was, the more he suspected that if these people were truly out to get her, nothing could have stopped them.
There would even be more and better ways to mess with her mind. Thus far, it’s mild, but given her past betting that this is mere harassment is suicidal. So what would keep them from getting to her between now and the convention? Cameras…but couldn’t they simply bring in a digital camera and film the hit? Not with the amount of crystal clarity as a C-Con camera, the way they have the lighting.
Aside from relying on them being camera hogs, what else? Why the window? Anyone who wanted her dead would know that no one would assume it’s just harassment, not someone like me, and not anyone who knows her or her situation. Assassins wouldn’t rely on Gajic not wanting protection, they’d assume that security would only increase.
Why would any assassin want increased security? Answer…
Sean’s eyes widened a moment, before they went back to their normally calm, amused look. “Would you mind if I spent a few nights here…on the couch, I mean? It would only be in the evenings, and I promise I won’t do anything to upset your life too much. I’d like to make sure that, if someone wanted to break in here, I could dissuade them a little.”
Inna nearly tore out of the house, trying to catch up with Ryan. Her boyfriend had suddenly taken on uncharacteristic mannerisms, like being quiet.
Once she was close enough, she grabbed his arm and pulled him to a halt. “Sean, what’s the matter?”
Ryan looked at her, his eyes aglow. “I know what they’re going to do, Inna. I know what these bastards have in mind. They want more security. They want people to know there’s an attempt to be made on Gajic’s life; terrorism at its purest wants to create the illusion of omnipotence and omniscience, to deliver a message that they can get you anywhere, any time they want to, and nothing can stand in their way. They want as much security as can be thrown at them so they can beat it, kill it, laugh at it, and kill her, as publicly and as brutally as possible. Which means they’re confident enough to go after her no matter what I put up; they won’t be deterred—they want her dead.”
Inna took hold of both of his arms. She looked into his eyes, searching, afraid to find doubt. He had once told her that his certainty was all that kept him alive. “But that is if there is someone after her, right? It could still be simple harassment, correct?”
“Are you kidding me? Harassment in LA involves throwing drive-by lead through windows, not rocks. The odds of this being harmless are as likely as me being a Bhuddist in Utah. These are honest-to-God political assassins, with all the trimmings—and they come in teams, Inna, and they don’t stop for people like me.”
Petraro’s face fell, and her brown eyes dimmed against her will. Her grip slackened, letting her hands slid from his shoulders. “Then you’re not going to do anything?”
Ryan’s brow furrowed, and his eyes flared alive. He cupped her chin in his hand and raised her face to meet his eyes, which looked like the bright, burning flames of an alcohol fire. “I said they don’t stop, but neither do I. Call it a cop gene that I got from mom, or maybe some archaic notion of Irish Catholic chivalry, but nobody threatens a woman without getting his manners adjusted with a lead pipe. That woman has lost friends, family, and she’s not going to suffer one more death for a very long time. No, I’m not running from this Euro-trash, I’m going to send it to the incinerator; if these people want to walk into the fire, then I’ll see to it that they burn. These people want a war, then I’m gonna give them one!”
They all wanted a war, and they were going to get one. Again.
In 1993, there began a great and glorious war to divide Bosnia into two separate, ethnically distinct countries. This lunacy drove out neutrals like Mira Gajic.
Two years later, the great and powerful NATO force swept in like a drizzle of power against a brick wall. Thanks to the suave diplomacy of the Great Powers, Clintonian ambassadors, and the UN forces, a settlement was reached. Bosnia was divided into two, separate, ethnically distinct countries that wanted to kill each other. Three years after the Dayton Accords, the Muslims—known as Ethnic Albanians to the PC set—in Kosovo were attacked by Serbians, who had a grudge with the Muslims since the Ottoman Turks a thousand years before.
The damage was horrific. The Serbians created general destruction, the Albanians caused selective destruction, and the utterly pointless destruction was caused by the NATO bombs trying not to hurt anyone. After the NATO bombs started to drop, everyone hurried up and killed as many people as possible before they had no more time to do it, and then, after the NATO troops finally landed on the ground—after building all the bridges they had already blown up—they barely arrived in time to keep the Albanians from killing ALL the Serbs, who were already out to take their turn as the oppressors, leading to a genocide of Serbians, where Serbians had been run out of town on a rail, or burned out. At last count in 1999, there were less than four hundred Serbs left in Kosovo, a town that had held over ten thousand.
In any event, Captain Andre Dragov of the Serbian underground, in general, smiled to himself. The tall man sent himself into a laughing fit so hard that his lungs disagreed with him, and sent him into a coughing fit that threatened to hack out a lung.
Anyway, where was he… Oh yes, he was practicing his evil laughter. Really needed to give up the cigarettes. Then again, he didn’t start coughing until he bought those new NATO filtered cigarettes. He probably had to switch back to the unfiltered version.
He looked at the photo of the woman he was going to kill. Bright blue eyes, dark brown hair. Not bad looking. Pity he wouldn’t have the time for his rape squads to have a go at her, that would be a real disappointment. It also would have made good film. But then, he needed to kill her and make it out alive, so the death would have to suffice.
After all, what could go wrong?
Across Kosovo city, Luan Mulliqi looked at his laptop, studying his target on the website. He had stolen the computer off of a journalist several years back when NATO first arrived. He came complete with a satellite uplink, and so he was able to examine the prey.
Mira Gajic, another infidel. However, she was an infidel that the West knew and his neighbors knew. She was on Broadway and television, and she would be a wonderful notification that he and his organization were not impotent. Al-Qaeda still had teeth.
And they would show it by killing Mira Gajic, that heathen bitch who dared opposite his Albanian kinsmen and their just slaying of those damnable Serbs—spit and curse. Her and her blood soaked corpse will be a sign that no one is safe.
All they needed now was for Mira Gajic to have the best security, the best bodyguards, the best protection that money could buy, and then, then, she would die screaming in agony.
After all, what could go wrong?
Meanwhile, back in New York City, in the borough of Queens, where most of the stranger people in New York City lived—if you didn’t count the entire 100 mile radius as one big nuthouse—there was a house on the edge of Queens, and it was on the edge in more ways than one. The Queens-Nassau border was a refuge for other, even stranger people, and the author should know, the author lives there with his Catholic school yard filled with children wearing Saris and Yarmulkes.
In any event, the owner of the house was on the edge even more than the house was. His hair was naturally blonde, and it had been grown out long, down to the tip of his shoulder blades. Most people who saw him always noted that his hair was simply immaculate all the time—when woman asked him for hair care tips, he always smiled, “My hair is this way naturally,” and moved along.
Then again, his hair wasn’t the only thing most women noted about him. He was slender and graceful, never in disarray in his entire appearance. He was a handsome sort, with a perfectly circular face, and deep blue eyes so distracting most people never even noticed that the tips of his ears were slightly pointed.
What everyone else noted about him was he always wore interesting clothing, generally white shimmering cloths that looked like they were for a formal ball, if the Renaissance festival was designed by someone on acid, and nobody knew if that might be the case from one year to the other, because who knew where that festival was supposed to be? Or when? Or who cared, that’s what C-Con was for.
His little known secret—so little known that even he barely knew it—is that he was the most feared man at Science Fiction conventions across the country. He slayed Orcs for profit, as well as wizards, sorcerers, and other demons of the night places.
He was only known by one title: Middle Earth’s Most Wanted Elven Assassin.
Don’t you look at me like that: Middle Earth’s Most Wanted Elven Assassin happened to be about 5’9”, with blond hair, blue eyes, and enough sleek muscle to make jaguars back away slowly. His daily routine consisted of eating his own homemade Mueslix, with enough healthy food to make most health food freaks run the other way. He did everything short of picking his own fruits and harvesting oats personally—though he thought the Quaker Oats man was one of the oddest looking elves he’d ever seen, and he wouldn’t even discuss the Keeblers (he had long ago figured that they were actually Wood sprites, and someone was just too lazy to make that distinction).
At the moment he looked at her in the full, blown up poster on his wall. Waif-like body, graceful of speech and movement, and those eyes, she was definitely an elf—and he didn’t mean those Earth Liberation Front idiots (who were they to steal the honorable name of Elves!). He had proved it to himself… especially the way she handled those weapons. He himself had his own personal weapons training, not that he needed it with his 20/15 eyesight—he could cut the wings off a fly at twenty paces, and circumcise it with an arrow at a hundred yards.
After years of searching, he had finally found another elf. Better yet, he knew exactly where she was going to be, within shouting distance, in the East, in the direction of Mordor…
Or was it called Montauk? No matter.
He would meet with her, and he would talk with her, just to confirm his suspicions. At the moment, it seemed as if she had forgotten ever being an elf, or she had never been told—her parents might not have told her, and had surgery performed on her ears, just in case someone might notice. If that was the case, few things would convince her that she was, indeed, an elf.
Unless, of course, he took the simple route, and simply showed her she could not be killed. Immortality was a hard thing to deny with a knife rammed into one’s chest.
Yes, that would be the way.
He would stab this woman, this Mira Gajic of… Yugoslavia, and she would see that she was, indeed, an elf queen, and he would no longer be alone.
What could go wrong?