A Castle Reborn II By R. Cary
A Castle Reborn II
By R. Cary
Washington DC, Dominic Culter’s Home
Dominic, how are you?
Benjamin notices Dominic looks a little bit tense. An unease that is usually not present in him. I came by to speak to you Dominic. A few months ago, a girl came by here and she was with the Priest. Do you recall her?
Dominic stated ‘no’ without looking at the photo.
Look. I need to know if you can identify these two.
Okay. I am just under the weather.
You look worse than under the weather, you look like you have been on dope for 10 days straight Dominic.
Just a lot of work and some of it, I just don't want to do. You know Benjamin, I didn't get into this for these reasons, to do what I do now. I always imagined it to be different, more fantastical. It is more ruthless than creative. Every step there is an angle. The blunt brutality of a situation, the work is much different than the idea of it. There is nothing left to the imagination. Just stark coldness. When I was just a middleman, I always got to imagine. You guys came to me for some resolve, I provided it and I could then imagine the outcome. It was all like a movie playing in my mind. If I would have known...
Dominic. Look at me. Eyes up, chin tucked in. Gather yourself. Shoulders back. Breath and relax.
You are one of us. We are on the same team.
I don't feel that way.
Fucking hell Dominic. You are acting like a petulant fucking child. You are the fucking star of DC. Yes, you are stuck here, don't get to do 007 shit, but there is a brutal fact, your impact is measurable time and time again and you always get it done. Isn't that enough? Don't we keep coming to you?
‘It is’ Dominic says, but loneliness is God awful. Look at me, my eccentricity all bottled up in this bungalow of hell. I mean, go look in the bathtub and see what I deal with.
Benjamin freezes, Dominic, what the fuck did you do?
I am sorry, I am going crazy isolating myself like this. I can't even gather myself to get rid of him. I guess I am so fucked up he kept my mind busy, not like a friend being around, but just having something to do in my mind, like telling myself, 'ya, I need to do it', but save it for later.
Dominic walks towards his bathroom. Shit, he can smell it already. Dominic's face begins showing the impact of the smell. He can already imagine the blood turning black, the flies, the swollen skin ready to ooze puss from it, the coloring of juices resting in the bathtub around the body.
Dominic opens the door.
Jesus Christ Dominic. Who the hell is that?
Look at your photo Dominic.
Washington DC, Dominic Culter’s Home
He just showed up, The Priest. I didn't know what to do. I panicked. How the hell does a dead man show up at your doorstep? I mean, this isn't what I asked for.
Dominic, it's okay. Benjamin grabs his arm, just below his shoulder. It is okay. Benjamin grinding his teeth, the normality he presents is far from what lies beneath. Benjamin is a sociopath. He has learned to posture through banal conversations, make those around him believe he feels, but he doesn't. The pain Dominic is experiencing, the confusion, the moral dilemma is a foreign object to Benjamin. Benjamin didn't choose this path, he was forced into it. His history is of bloody murder. He comes into your life, uses you and gets rid of you. When he was arrested 15 years ago, he took his plea deal, met his terms and killed everyone involved. Each step of the way his skill sets and tenacity of killing people was recognized by the U.S. Attorney's Office. His relationship to criminal organizations can be invaluable, especially when they need to remove someone from power. He was cold, calculating, and could sit in on any meeting with the most consistent of tones. His vibrato resonated through his speech. Benjamin looks towards Dominic and says, `I am going to kill you’.
Dominic looks at him with a surprised look, but a bit of sass with it, like if you dare try, gaining himself a bit.
Benjamin say's, I wasn't speaking about you.
Who were you speaking to? The Priest? Are you insane Benjamin? He is already dead.
‘Oh no he is not’ Benjamin groans as he leaves Dominic alone to his situation, like everyone does.
Dominic smiles, proud of himself. You are right Benjamin. He is not dead. And he is gonna kill you. Dominic just watches the back of Benjamin leave his home.
November 5th, 2022
Maryland Institute for the Mentally Ill
Natalie, running to her Psychologist.
Bryce. Why the hell would you tell me to watch the news! Especially at an exact time.
Natalie. Take a breath. Tell me how you are feeling. You can go into an episode quickly and you may not come back from it.
Fuck off. Tell me why! Now! Natalie is leaning over his desk, hair in her face, veins pulsing up her forearms to her narrow shoulders. Natalie was always thin, making her look so much worse. Each vein on her forehead, the one Bryce is staring at, is always visible, showing her emotions all the time.
Tell me why now! Natalie asserts.
Okay Natalie. I will admit something if you sit down and take a breath. Can you do that for me?
Natalie puts her head down, takes a breath and just sits.
Did you see that Natalie? How you were able to gather yourself, compose yourself in a second, that ability is inconsistent with your delusions. You literally live in an alternate world but can gather yourself in an instant. In fact, since day one, you might huff and puff but you always gather yourself. I have feared breaking your reality and putting you in a manic episode you never came back from. So, I chose a neutral platform. If I challenged your delusions, the small trust we do have would be broken, as I would become one of ‘them’ indefinitely. Today, I knew the President would be on TV and even more so, Kat Vogel, the Secretary of State, would make her first appearance after Morning Joe.
You watch that whiny show! Oh God, that isn't something I miss. Before all this started, my last morning I enjoyed with the Priest he was watching that show.
Oh c'mon, give him a break. He just got smarter. I mean, he enjoys English soccer over SEC football. Anyone who understands soccer is a much better sport than football is alright with me. Bryce is consciously opening himself up, wanting to go into Natalie’s story with her, as he knows something is seriously wrong here. This is born into him. He hunches things out. So he will bring himself to Natalie.
Whatever. So, I saw it.
Do you still believe your reality exists and that He was or is President?
Listen Bryce. I didn't know. I was severely depressed when I came in, obviously. I never watched TV, read a paper or anything like that before Five Guys.
So no, I don't think He is President. Hillary Clinton is President. You know Bryce, when that first came on, I thought you put that there for me, like with actors. But I trust myself. I know that was just the news. You had your reason. Now, I have a new storyline for you.
Natalie. Take a breath before you tell me what you are going to tell me. As of right now you are showing signs of recovery. If you make up an alternative reality, I can't help you.
Your decisions are your own Bryce, as are mine. Bryce is struck by this statement, but not showing its impact on him. How can her recognition of self be so clear, Bryce thinks. This does not fit the symptoms of the DSM, her delusions, her diagnosis.
Here is what I know Bryce. I was wrong from the moment I walked in here. Don't ever get me wrong. I was there with the Priest to kill Kat Vogel. But it was a different world, literally.
Ya Natalie, I know that. You have told me.
I haven’t told you everything Bryce.
That in my world you were FBI Bryce. In my world you were interrogating me and the Priest in June 2022. You did so at the request of Kat Vogel. From that point forward, the whirlwind began.
Natalie. You still believe this to be true?
Why didn't you tell me this?
Because I didn't care. Losing my father again, The Priest, being here, failing, it was rough. Now, I know I didn't fail, the Priest didn't fail, my Father didn't fail. We just didn’t fully stop Kat.
Natalie, here is what I must tell you. This is not the CIA. Do you believe that? Bryce puts out a feeler for where he is about to go.
You do understand that He is not and was never President of the U.S.?
And you are clear I investigated you, is that right?
And it was Kat Vogel who had me investigate you?
Good. Natalie. Good.
What the hell does that mean Bryce?
It means I believe you. This is a mental institution Natalie, I assure you of that. I assure you are under the custody of the federal government. I assure you I am a criminal psychologist. And I assure you I am FBI. I may not be the Bryce Miller you know, but I am Bryce Miller as I am, right here in front of you.
November 5th, 2022
Maryland Institution for the Mentally Ill
Natalie. The FBI is investigating Kat Vogel. She was nominated for Secretary of State shortly after you and the Priest attempted to kill her. In fact, we think she knew you were going to kill her and used it to gain publicity. Her nomination for Secretary of State came soon after. Hillary needed a hawk and her career in the CIA and Republican approval was a shoe in. She became a hero. You and the Priest tried to kill her and she stopped WW3.
The war still happened?
Almost, like I said, Kat stopped WW3. Not all your thoughts are delusions Natalie. A lot of what you say is very close to the reality I know.
Natalie noted the extreme change in Bryce's voice. He is interrogating her, gaining information. She has no choice but to give him everything she has. Natalie shows the tension, as she realizes the blur and overlapping between the two realities.
Bryce jumps in. Natalie, relax. I am here for you. I need you to get healthy so I can use you. I honestly didn't know if it would happen, but it happened like a truck. To sit in all this day after day and hour after hour and come back from your trauma, trauma that is still happening suffices to say, you are fucking relentless. To trust yourself without any grounding. I can't say how much I admire this in you.
Do you trust me, Natalie?
Yes Bryce. I do.
You had no reason to come to me. Trust is going to be on a string, but at least we have a string. From string we make the rope okay? Natalie. There is one thing I am not clear about. Why do you think Trump was President? That never happened here, in my reality.
Bryce, this is how it all started. In June 2022 The President was killed by Russian aircraft and China launched Nukes at us. 72 hours began then. I was at The Priest’s...I used to show up there when I was tired and drunk. The Priest was my crutch.
How did you know the Priest?
My dad wasn't just FBI, he was CIA and so was the Priest. Their role in the 90's turned the CIA into what it is today. They began in L.A. with Asian crime syndicates and soon penetrated all of China when it was beginning to build capitalism. It was a hub of world crime that led out from there.
The Priest was CIA? How the hell did he become a Priest?
He is a conflicted human being Bryce. In the end. He is the one that took me through this. In the end, he gave his life to help. He is the one that told me about the Alpha Omegas, their role in the world, time travel or whatever this is. I still don't know. Still sounds crazy to me. But what I do know Bryce is when you interrogated me He was President. No, Pence was President, The President had already passed. The Priest's purpose was to save His life and it appears he has, we have. You see, me and The Priest went to get some intelligence from China back in 2016 for our intelligence community which proved Russia's role in the election. He, as President, was under investigation by the FBI from 2016 to 2019 for collusion with Russia. Wasn't true, but the Russian part was. We went back in time to stop Russia and let the natural outcome happen. As it turns out, Hillary was the natural order of things, as they are now. My father, Agent Jackson back in 2016 successfully extracted the intelligence from Chen in China. My dad was able to deliver the intel successfully, it appears, as now Hillary is President. When me and the Priest came back, we had hours to get rid of Kat. We knew she wouldn't stop. We failed. But my father didn't. So, since we came back, 3 days after you interrogated us, we believed He was President, the world was ending, and we needed to stop Kat.
Natalie. That is insane. No one will believe you.
Wrong Bryce. You believe me. I can prove it. You want Kat? You need me. C’mon, let's rewatch the news casts.
C’mon, let's watch .
Bryce, don't tell me she doesn't say, 'You haven’t stopped me...'.
Look Bryce, she stares right into the TV and say's 'you haven’t stopped me', like she was talking to me. Look at her body mannerisms as she speaks those words. They completely change.
Natalie, does everything about this say she was talking to you?
Yes Bryce. I am sure of it. In fact, it hit me so hard, it is what let me accept everything else, Hillary, the truth hit me.
So, she is still at it, Kat that is?
Bryce. Her father was killed by the Russians. She wants revenge. She set up Russia to cause the war, well almost war between China and us. She wanted an excuse to obliterate Russia. She wants to wipe it off the face of the earth. Not that I would mind it, it is just not right though.
Natalie. We must go.
How can we? I am here.
Well Natalie, we better start running.
I know right where to go Bryce.
Washington DC, Dominic Cutler's Home
‘Nero’, Natalie says as she opens the door past the crack Dominic was allowing.
'Agent Jackson', I mean Natalie, what, how are you here? Dominic says more as a statement in his mind than a question. Bryce flashing his FBI badge enters Dominic's home. Dominic deals with a lot of people, but he knows, right now, these two-mean business, these two will only accept absolute answers.
Please, call me Dominic. I haven’t been called Nero in a very long time.
Dominic, Natalie resorting to firmness. What happened? That day, when the Priest died.
Bryce is a bit shocked at Natalie's bounce back, something he finds admirable in her. Bryce stepped forward to show a clear disposition of shear force.
I called Kat and warned her that the Priest and you may be going to kill her. I am sorry, but it is my job. I am now like the Priest. I am CIA.
So, you turned your back on the Priest?
No, well yes. It is my job. It is why I am in this.
No. That is an excuse. You overplayed your card.
Dominic is more scared now than with that sociopath Benjamin. He can see it in her eyes. Her posturing is from another realm. Bryce is calm, but is posturing with Natalie’s brute force approach.
Listen, I have something to show you and something to tell you. Dominic knows he only has one truth to tell and one way of getting out of this.
Follow me Ms. Jackson, Agent Bryce. And relax, I am not armed. I want you to know I am here to fix this.
Natalie and Bryce follow Dominic to the bathroom. Dominic notices Natalie covering her face and Bryce gagging in his mouth. With a large breath, Dominic opens the door.
Washington DC, Dominic Culter’s Home
What the hell did you do Dominic? How the hell is he here? This question, whether she would see the Priest again crossed into her consciousness many times. Now she has hope.
Dominic, where is he?
I don't know. He just told me to trust him. To kill him and he will be back when he needs to be back.
Natalie. He forgave me.
He's a fucking Priest, what do you expect? You have got a long way to go until you get that from me.
Well this is my first step Natalie. Benjamin was just here.
‘Who is that’? Bryce asks.
A sociopath looking for The Priest Dominic mutters. He was at the airport when you and The Priest came to DC and the one who shot The Priest at Five Guys.
Natalie jumps in. What was the Priest doing here?
Hell if I know. He was dead and is dead again. How the hell am I supposed to know? He just said he will be back when he needs to. He looked different to Natalie. Younger. And very focused on whatever he was doing.
What did he tell you?
To kill him? Dominic being as brutally honest and simple as he can be with a hint of showing his lack of understanding.
What else Dominic?
To trust him....and that he forgave me, like I said.
Bryce is trying to understand. Are you saying he just came in here and said, ‘kill me’?
No, he came in, said ‘I need you to kill me, Nero’. I looked at him astonished. I was just trying to figure out if I was hallucinating and told myself I need a new career. He calmed me, put his hand on my shoulder and asked me to kill him. He then simply said, ‘Nero, I need you to trust me’. I forgive you. I will be back when I need to be back. That's it. He has been there ever since. I guess my guilt kept him around.
Now, what else can you give me Dominic. Natalie is still being brutally clear that his life depends on it.
I can give you Kat. She is still involved with the CIA and that alleged group, the Illuminati's or whatever. Some call it the Deep State.
‘The Alpha Omegas’ Dominic! Shouts Natalie.
They exist? You are telling me they are real? Dominic showed his enthusiasm for the mystique of it all, feeling like his old self again, for the first time in months.
Enough. You gonna keep helping the Priest?
Of course Natalie.
Well first. Get rid of his body. Show some dignity and professionalism Dominic.
Look, there is an internal struggle going on with the Alpha Omegas Dominic. So far, the bad guys are winning, meaning Kat. You want to help your country, you help me, you help the Priest, even Agent Miller with no more hiccups. The Priest came to you because he trusted you. Don't misplace yourself again.
No , of course not, Dominic showing his giddiness.
Now, tell me more about what you know, Kat, about this sociopath Benjamin, etc. .
Before they could sit down, there was a knock on the door.
Washington DC, Dominic’s Home
Dominic do not answer that door! Do not say a word! Bryce drawing his weapon.
The door knob begins to wiggle. Bryce watched carefully, ready on a hair to pull his weapon. His fight response is intense, his desire to run not existing.
Dominic shaking, knowing very well this looks bad on him, he steps free from Natalie and Bryce's position, heads towards the door and says, ‘hold on, hold on, I was taking my morning rest on the pot’, delivering his expected self. He turns to Natalie and Bryce and mouths a ‘trust me’.
Bryce and Natalie really have no choice. That or kill everyone. They wait, don't move. Eyes peeled, glued to the door.
Dominic opens a crack, already with his excuse being acted out. His stomach is killing him, half crouched over, appearing weak and uneasy, covering for the rotten stench of the Priest. But as he opens the door, it is clear, this isn't going to work. His eyes widened. He screams ‘run’ and lunges his body into the man. Pop! Dominic goes kneeling over with his right arm sliding down the door and his left arm folded across his stomach. The man is in a blank stare with Agent Bryce and Natalie. Before the man can raise his firearm to shooting level again Bryce unloads, catching the man’s right arm as he spun around the door. Bryce emptied all but two rounds and continued forward towards the door. Natalie stays a bit further back, recognizing there is nothing she can do to help. As Bryce reaches the door, he kicks it further open to find the man on the ground but he doesn't. He is gone.
Natalie runs to Dominic, the Priest's death flashing before each step she takes. Dominic, are you okay? Natalie fully recognizes that he may just have given his life not just for The Priest, but for her, for Bryce.
Dominic looks up at her. Do you trust me now? Dominic always looked for approval.
And with a compassionate nod, Natalie gives Dominic his approval.
Russia, Tavern, The Priest
The Priest, a bit younger but more emboldened Walks around Russia. The Priest reflects on his goals and what he must overcome. He took every word Agent Jackson told him to be true, as a matter of faith to a matter of fact. That at one point, his life did end. Something he would not let happen again. This Priest never went through 2022. This Priest was never killed by Kat Vogel or, more accurately, Benjamin. This Priest was never under investigation for espionage. This Priest is a bit rawer, a bit more uncertain, but with a jaw of intention.
The Priest picks up a NYTimes in Russia's Square, walks a few more feet and walks into a tavern.
Here in Russia, it is the same as everywhere else in the world. People drink and drinking people eat. The Priest just enjoyed the grittiness of food cooked at a tavern. Today, he is here for Wu. Today he will sit and read the paper, November 2nd, 2022. Today he will begin to orchestrate the black hand of GOD upon Russia. They will realize attempting to destroy the United States in any way is like grabbing a snake by your hand. You will get bit.
Wu. Have a seat.
Wu was a Chinese intelligence in Russia. China and Russia have always agreed on one thing. The United States needs to stay out of their lives. Wu was the key ingredient to their relationship. Working directly for China's President and delivering American intelligence to Russia. China had the intel. Russia did the dirty work. It was just the nature of their relationship.
Wu was a politician by nature, but a loyalist first. His only goal was to serve the President of China. The Presidency represented the whole of China, its history, its place in the world and he would protect it with his life.
Wu knew Agent Jackson well. He respected Agent Jackson's desire to do good and not weigh basic statements such as humanity against China. Agent Jackson respected other countries' ways, especially China's. And so did the Priest. When the Priest got word to him that they needed to meet, Wu made the time. When the Priest said, ‘I am in Russia’, Wu left immediately, understanding the message this could mean.
Wu noticed the name on the Tavern where the Priest was waiting inside and realized the definitions of this meeting place. This tavern was built after WWII and was a symbol of life coming back to Russia. Wu never flinches, walking directly into the Tavern, as he did anything else. Completely competent to have discourse at any given moment, anywhere in the world about any subject. The country, the scenery, the subjects of discussion change, but in the end what Wu knew was it is just two people having a conversation. Something he was a natural at.
Hello Priest. Been a long time.
Washington DC, Dominic’s Home
While Natalie and Dominic are out after Natalie tending to Dominic’s gun shot, Bryce sits at the dinner table with his bottle of cognac. Bryce hid himself a lot, a way of hiding his history, hiding where he came from. He lived his life in the FBI as an educated dilettante that was unshakeable when conducting an investigation. His slim nature gave hints of history. Growing up with nothing, always thin, always looking a bit shaky at times. But he worked hard to change his external perception. To give himself off as someone confident, in control, when deep inside, who would do anything to hide is years growing up. But in high stress situations, his raw out. And in this moment, he is resorting to himself, that is not his best. He slipped into it without even noticing. Anxiety ridden situations tend to bring this out in him. But for Bryce, it wasn't anxiety, it was something much different, rather than the world speeding up, his slowed down to a crawl. His mind still racing, his eyes still moving quickly only Jack would help or, in this case, cognac. At this moment, he doesn't need a thing. There is enough imagery in his mind at this moment to entertain him and everyone walking by outside. He needed it to stop. Hoping to regain his composure and not expose himself any further to Natalie and Dominic, what he refers to as his worst disposition, his worst self, he tries to gather himself. But in reality, in what he got himself into he is going to have to accept, he needs to live on both sides of himself, the perceived dilettante from UCLA and the man that walks like he is 10 ft. tall on his thin frame. That is, if he is to survive what is coming. One more shot and he feels his thoughts ease, folds his arms, sits back in his chair, shoulders resting softly on his body and lets his eyes drop, hoping he has regained himself by the time he wakes, by the time he has to talk to Natalie and Dominic again.
What brings you to Russia, Priest? Last I knew you were out of this business. Even further, to come to me after all this time. Either you are overreacting or something significant brought you back. Either way, I owe you this one visit.
Wu, remember operation Lazarus you so kindly pressured me about 15 years ago? You are looking at living proof of it. The Priest brings Wu’s Imagination to him, to make sure this conversation is the beginning, not the end.
We tried every possible way to break the Lazarus code and discovered nothing Priest. We even dug up Hitlers supposed time machine tunnel and tried to revive it. It gave us little insight. Even further, your country failed. Closing it as you did your research on mind control. Just a part of your history. Your willingness to do anything to maintain your status in the world.
Are you sure that is true Wu?
Let me imagine with you that I believe what you are telling me to be true. I don't see the rationale for using it. Everything has just been fine. We argue like little kids sometimes, but civilization is too far advanced for anyone to want to destroy it. We back down, Russians back down, the U.S. accepts how we are. It isn't logical to even use such a machine, unless one wants complete control.
Well, that is just it Wu, you nailed it, someone does want complete control and I am stopping it. Well, me and a few others. We are traveling through time, well I am to stop the person who is causing the current conflict. Tensions are pretty high aren't they?
That I can agree on. But we always get through it.
What if you were tricked? What would you do if you had proof we were gonna attack?
We have our ways of refuting such things, as we do routinely.
Just go with me. What if?
We would attack.
Isn't that the real threat Wu? False information, false threats, fake news. These are scarier than the real threats we face every day.
Let me say something more Wu. What if Hillary didn't win the 2016 election and the Republican nominee won?
‘That would be even better, more money in the market’, says Wu with a smirk.
He is an isolationist, don’t let his Hollywood side fool you. Maybe, in another time, he did win and his goal was to make the United States the almighty power and couldn't stand China. What if he cut off trading with you? What would happen? What if this was an economic war causing China to crumble economically and Russia was sending you false information.
That would cause the world to change Priest. Why are you telling me this?
Because in another history, in 2022 China attacked the United States with mid-range nuclear weapons. And the person from inside the government, besides economic trade policies, was the cause of it and she is still in power today?
Who are you talking about, Priest?
The Secretary of State. Kat Vogel.
Washington DC, Dominic’s Home
Natalie opens her eyes, looking at Dominic, the needle still in her arm but tied off from giving Dominic blood. She immediately looks for Bryce. She pulls out the needle letting the blood drizzle down her arm. First checking if Dominic is still breathing then walking into the kitchen, where Bryce is, head tilted back to the right, arms crossed, mouth half open. Right next to him are two bottles, one full, one almost gone. She herself empties the bottle into Bryce's shot glass and throws it down. She doesn't bother to wake Bryce. She needs some sugar now. She gave Dominic way too much of her own blood to keep him alive. Opening the fridge, she sees multiple bags of blood. Great, we should have checked rather than me giving my own to Dominic. Moving the blood bags to the right, she finds a bottle of apple juice and a V8. She grabs them both. Cracking the V8 first, she drinks quickly. Before she can finish the V8 she twists open the apple juice, which feels so much better, quenching her thirst. With a breath, her shoulders relax, her vision coming back to her. As she looks over to her left, Bryce is just . Her eyes begin to focus.
Natalie looks at him, changing her disposition a little towards him, as a little disdain rose from him letting himself go last night and drinking the cognac. What if Benjamin would have come back, she thinks. They would all be defenseless. Natalie didn't understand this. She just saw Bryce act heroically in a moment's notice then decides to let it all go and pass out drunk? She is missing something with him. She turns to Bryce, ‘do you want some water’, looking to help him rather than depend on him.
No thanks Natalie. I am good. I just needed some shuteye like you did. Like Dominic did. Is he still alive?
Natalie kind of shocked at how passively Bryce asked the question. Bryce is showing his weaknesses. With every act of bravery comes a downfall. He only has so much to give. She takes note of this.
Yes Bryce, he is, as of now.
Let me go check on him.
You mean you didn't check on him or me last night?
Nope. Either you were making it through or you weren't. When things are out of my control, I take a step back and retreat into myself a bit. Can't you see that?
Ya, I can. Clearly.
You know how I have a reputation as a fierce interrogator, someone who does not sway.
Yes. I mean. You follow the truth. Hell you followed me Bryce.
Well with that intensity comes a need for solace, a need for myself to just be. Last night, last night was the tip of the iceberg. My last thought was, don't let them see you like this. But I had no choice and the truth is I trust you enough to show myself.
Natalie is a bit more understanding and compassionate. She tells herself never to jump to conclusions like that. She needs to be better. He is a person and we all have our way of getting through.
I need a coffee, Natalie. You want one?
No. Sounds horrible Bryce.
A few minutes at the coffee shop will do me well. When I get back, after you get your nourishment, we have to get right back to it. We are not safe here. We got some time before anyone would try and flush us out.
Natalie nods her head and watches Bryce walk out the door. She finishes her juices, pauses for a minute, gathers herself and she walks through the doorway and turns to check on Dominic.
‘Dominic, we need you’, Natalie whispers. She sits next to him and holds his hand as she lets her forehead rest on the side of the table. Praying for the Priest, not noticing what she is doing, as she rests.
Washington DC, Coffee Shop
Bryce finds the closest coffee shop he can see. A small place. Very fucking hippy he thinks. The place is filled with young people. Every single one of them has earbuds on a laptop or tablet. They look like zombies to Bryce. No, he thinks, they look like androids. Either way, there is a seat for him near the lounge area he notices. Perfect.
Bryce orders a small black coffee. He is handed a cup. Disappointed when he is pointed to the end of the counter where there are at least 20 carafes of various kinds of coffee, as he knows he has to pick the right one or it won't be hot. Why does anyone use those things? It is a damn coffee shop. Using carafes in his eyes lacks the uniqueness that each young person here comes for. They use those at gas stations, not coffee shops. He pays for his drink and has a seat.
Bryce rests back into the seat, ignoring his running mind, making judgments about anything and everything around him. He knows in about a few minutes his mind can digress. The fluctuating thoughts will cycle down to his pin point focus. He did this best in private, but with people around him, rather than in pure solitude. In some way, even though no one can possibly know his thoughts, he always felt the social pressure to be his best self when around people, even if they didn't know him. Just as he takes a breath to settle in, he reaches for the paper on the table and hears, ‘Bryce, let me help you with that’.
Washington DC, Dominic’s Home
Do I know you?
In 2022 you were interrogating me, but I, along with Natlie disappeared.
Bryce calmly sets his coffee down and stares directly into the Priest's eyes as he sits down on the two seat sofa next to him. The Priest never looked away himself.
Bryce, I need a favor. Natalie.
What about her?
I need to see her Bryce. It is important.
Bryce responds to the world in various ways. Sometimes, it just takes brunt force to get him back to his best. With questions of doubt and uncertainty, Bryce does what he does. What his academic training taught him to do. Don't go off your emotion, go after the facts. When he grew up, his emotions drove him. Now, as an adult, his emotions are well quelled. He looks at the Priest, staring past the wrinkles of his blue eyes and says, ‘Priest follow me’.
Washington DC, Dominic's Home
Natalie resting alongside Dominic she begins to think about the Priest, again the whirlwind she is in makes her want to run to him. As she is now, she needs to find a way to slow herself down. To give each moment the time it deserves. She hears the door knob wiggle. A bit of fright hits her, but not enough to make her jump up, she is just kind of frozen, in a dream-like state.
Bryce walks through the door, leaving it open wide behind him. Natalie just gives a smirk, not a full smile, but a smirk. Still a little upset with Bryce for leaving them so vulnerable yesterday, even though she now understood, she is hoping Bryce's night off did him some good.
As Bryce walks in, Natalie sees an older man in his 50's, dressed in normal clothes, slacks and a traditional Ralph Lauren shirt. She looks closer at his body, his sway when he walks, moving up to his face. A hint of familiarity struck her, just slightly. Then their eyes met.
Priest? It can't be. She gets up and starts running to the front door, where Bryce just moved through and now this man stood. The closer she gets the closer she realizes, it really is him. She meets him with a tight grip of her body. The Priest embraces Natalie with an endearing touch.
Priest, couldn't you have come back younger?
Maybe I have Natalie. Maybe he is in Russia.
Russia? Natalie thinks there still may be hope. She hugs the Priest, a bit of joy coming with her hug. She is beginning to feel a circle of completeness.
Natalie. We have work to do. The world is fragile again.
Bryce interjects, ‘Guys, make it quick, we need to get out of here’.
Wait we aren't leaving him, Dominic. He is one of us. This notion of 'us' felt good to Natalie and from what she could tell, Bryce liked the idea of 'us' as well.
Dominic begins to wake up. 'What the fuck! I feel like my asshole was ripped open'. Dominic's own way of showing his comfort and vulnerability with Natalie and Bryce. His head falls to the right. He blinks. Priest?
Priest, whatever you do. Don't go to the bathroom. You are still laying their dead. I'm sorry, but my mind was getting to me.
The Priest begins in. Bryce is right. We need to go. Dominic, I think you can make it.
‘I suggest we leave then’, The Priest says calmly.
‘To where’, Natalie asks, a bit baffled as to what the next step is.
Following the aged Priest into an old fashioned tavern in Russia square, Natalie takes a mental note. She looks at Bryce holding up Dominic. She has no idea how he is still going. Her thoughts arise in her as a sense of belonging. Even further, maybe this has already happened before. This time Natalie say's, we will get it right.
The Priest opens the door, holding for each to follow. Natalie comes in last making her way to the front of the group to scan the room, looking for the younger Priest.
Wu turns around. Priest, looked at what just walked in.
The Priest, not paying much attention, took a glance for Wu's amusement. He glances briefly, assuming it is just Wu's nature of woman mongering. He is 5'1 and looks like a child, but acts like he is the Marlboro man with women, always grabbing his pants at them. So strange The Priest always thought. I guess he is getting pretty drunk by now if he is turning to women already.
But then the Priest gets a feeling. The world slows down a bit. He looks again. A feeling of Déjà Vu, a feeling of he has experienced this before. Paying close attention he sees a tall young lady, very familiar, walking towards him but with an unfamiliar smile.
The Priest, Natalie begins running. Quickly, The Priest is embraced by her. A warm feeling for him. Letting go, Natalie grabs him by the shoulders to stand a bit back, to gain a vantage point on his blue eyes. 'You look so much younger' she says. Suddenly, his eyes widened, looking over Natalie’s shoulder. Natalie believes this to be The Priest seeing his older self, but it is The Priest looking at Bryce, Dominic with AR15's pointed to the back of their skulls.
A guard comes and grabs Wu, The Priest, Bryce, Natalie. Rather than shrinking, Natalie is pissed, really pissed. She doesn't say anything. Her head is down. Every fucking time she feels comfortable, gaining perspective on her true self, some bullshit like this happens. All she can think is brutally clear. She looks directly at Bryce. A dead stare. At first he wants to shake his head no, but her determination is unavoidable. The guard pushes Natalie with his hand flat on her back. Before the guard can release his hand she has spun around and has her hand on his throat, fingers digging deep into his windpipe, enough to pull his body forward so she can knee him in his balls, causing him to crunch forward where his nose will soon explode with blood, as Natalie's forehead meets it on its way down. Immediately Bryce has his sidearm and fires a round at the armed man immediately in front him. He drops like a truck. With Wu looking at everyone, not knowing what to do, he reaches down and grabs the AR 15 from the man Natalie just took down and turns to lift it only to drop it as his left side goes limp. A stray bullet from Bryce's struggle. In just a few moments, there were no more armed men with AR 15's aimed at them. Rather, a team having their first successful battle together. Bryce looks at Natalie with a blatant, ‘well done’.
Bryce immediately asks, ‘everyone good'. Everyone but Wu say's the Priest.
Wu, you okay? I don't know, I can't move my left side. Bryce walked to him looking for the wound.
I don't see anything. I see a little blood by his knee, but that is it. Wu, roll onto your back, let me take a look, says Bryce. Rolling Wu over to his right side he sees what happened. Wu, you will be fine. It grazed you, but I think it hit a bone on the outside of your knee. The pain will subside, but you can walk. Wu is not used to these things. He may work in the dark shadows of China, but he is a talker, a politician, not a warrior.
Natalie wanted to pop one in each of their heads but she knew it wasn't right. It is over, she told herself. Only forward.
All of them, Dominic, Bryce, Natalie, the two Priests and WU leave the tavern together.
Wu says, here, I am around the corner, I can get us out of here. The younger Priest said, 'thanks, but we are on our own path’. ‘Do what I asked of you and remember what is at stake’, Wu.
Yes Priest, Kat Vogel. I will not fail. That I promise.
Wu gets into his escalade, his security detail in a panic. He tells them to relax and whispers a ‘good luck Priest'.
As Wu drives away they all look at each other knowing there is only one focus now. Nothing else matters. Her name is Kat Vogel and her day has come.
Flight Back to U.S.
Dominic, still exhausted from the past 24 hours, is still somehow kicking, still fighting. He grabs the older Priest's hand with a suggestion of thankfulness, thankful for being forgiving. Natalie, noticing the gesture, reaches forward and grabs his shoulder, giving Dominic comfort. The older Priest looks back behind him and sees Natalie and his younger self. Natalie lets go of Dominic and sits back in her chair, then resting her shoulder on the younger Priest. Not much is said, not much at all. Just comfort. This makes the older Priest happy. He sees and feels the groups coming together. Their sign of belonging to each other, himself included. But again, Bryce is a few rows up. The Priest curious as to why his separation, why maybe he doesn't feel a part of the group.
The older Priest gets up and walks over to Bryce, giving Bryce a clear square stance so Bryce knows this conversation must happen.
Priest. Can I help you? Bryce not letting down, putting out a tough exterior. The Priest asks the lady next to Bryce if he could sit with his friend a bit. She didn't mind at all.
The Priest sits down, looks to his left out the plane window and says, 'it is a beautiful sight isn't it'. Bryce agreed.