Episode 11: Lures and Traps

 By: Lauren Derrick

Editor's note: This is another episode in the Marvelous Mind of Marilyn Hansen series.

Marilyn Hansen stood at the front desk of an aging reception room.  The man standing behind the counter was staring at the key she had handed him and scratching his head.  

“Is there a problem?”  Marilyn asked, voice low.  

“No!  No, it’s just that nobody’s been in that safe for, I don’t know, forty years.”

Marilyn’s stare bore down, cold and unblinking.  “But it’s still there?”

“Well, yes.”

“Well then,” Marilyn continued in a flat tone, “I’ll be taking my things out.”

The man flashed a quick smile and forced half a laugh.  “Of course.”

He disappeared into a back room.  When he reemerged minutes later, he was holding an old red tackle box.  It was metal, as evidenced by the red paint peeling in areas.  The man handled the tackle box with great care, a clean white towel underneath.  

The box captured Marilyn’s eyes.  She stared hard at it as it was set before her.  

“Going fishing?”  The man asked dryly.

“You could say that.”  Marilyn replied, not bothering to look up at him.  She ran her fingers over the top of the tackle box.  “How much do I owe you?”

“I think–I think Aunt Madelyn wants Grandma in an unstable emotional state right now.”  Finley said, voice slightly off balance. 

Byrd and Brigham were standing in front of her as she sat on the hotel bed and fidgeted with a long strand of her curly hair.  She cleared her throat and tore her hand away from the strand, clasping it securely in her other hand on her lap.  

She continued.  “After the birthday party, when I tried to get an emotional read on her, she seemed panicked.  She didn’t mention her abilities to me at all until after we went to visit Aunt Madelyn.  During the visit, Aunt Madelyn kept hinting at things and glancing over at Grandma like she was trying to see whether it would get to her.”

“And now we find out that she could have escaped at any time, but she waited until she had something that would make Mar nervous.”  Byrd said, nodding slowly.  “Okay, Maddie’s always been manipulative, and I can buy that she’d want to get under Marilyn’s skin.  But what’s her end game?”
Finley shook her head.  “Maybe she has something she wants Grandma’s help with?  Something that Grandma wouldn’t normally do.”

“To recruit her?”  Byrd asked, hands on hips, looking intently at Finley.  

Brigham let out a long breath and nodded slowly.  He pecked at his phone for a minute, then handed it to Byrd.

It’s a good theory.  It explains why she took the audio recording but hasn’t done anything with it yet.  Also helps explain why Madelyn keeps pushing information on Frank right into Marilyn’s face.  

Byrd nodded and passed the phone to Finley.  “If she needs Marilyn, she’s got something big cookin’.  And she’s probably been planning it for years.  If you’re right, Finley, she’s going to keep stringing your grandma along until she gets her mind right in the wrong place.  She’ll stay hidden until just the right moment.”

Finley finished reading and handed Brigham’s phone back to him.  

“W-w-we nee-need t-to-to g-g-g-get…” Brigham started.

“...to Marilyn first.  Yeah, don’t hurt yourself, kid.”  Byrd said. “That would be the preferred route.  But we can’t count on finding Marilyn in time.  Too much of a gamble.  We need a back-up plan.”

That night, Marilyn tossed and turned in a small hotel room bed.  Finally, she got up and went into the bathroom.  She stared at her sagging eyes and rumpled hair in the mirror for a second, then took a washcloth and wetted it.  As she lifted it to dab her face, she jumped a little and dropped the washcloth.  In the mirror stood a middle-aged woman with dark curls starting to gray.  The hair had been cut short and was pulled back with a headband.  

“What–what do you want?”  Marilyn finally asked.

The short-haired woman hugged herself, grabbing her own arms.  “I’m just so lonely.  I never thought it would be this hard, parenting alone.”  

Marilyn held her breath.

“I didn’t want to hurt anyone.  I’ve sacrificed so much to keep my telepathy a secret.  My own daughter doesn’t know, and I never use it on her.  Mom was the only one who really knew, but she’s gone now.”  The woman’s voice cracked.  “All that time, all those years I spent hiding myself–was that all for nothing?”

The question hung in Marilyn’s face, but she couldn’t answer.

“Are you really going to open that box?”  The woman asked quietly.

Marilyn crumpled, leaning against the counter in the bathroom, dry-heaving. 

The next morning, Marilyn checked out of her hotel.  Late in the afternoon, she arrived outside a townhome in Delaware.  She clutched the red tackle box and strode past the first driveway.  She checked the gold plated number above the garage door at the end of the next driveway and nodded to herself.  She strode to the front door and pressed the doorbell.  

A middle-aged man in a thin, white t-shirt that showed off his round belly opened the front door and stared at Marilyn, clearly confused.

“I’m looking for Andre Harris.  Is he home?”  

The man tilted his head, scowling, then nodded.  “Yeah, he’s upstairs.  Come on in.”

Marilyn seated herself on a stool at the kitchen bar and waited.  Before long, a thin, older gentleman with a stately gray mustache hobbled down the stairs with a cane.  He paused when he saw Marilyn, wrinkling his eyebrows.  

“Well hello.”  He said slowly.  “I don’t believe I—”

“My name is Marilyn Hansen.”  Marilyn’s eyes narrowed, piercing Andre’s. 

Andre’s bushy gray eyebrows furrowed deeply and he shook his head.  “I’m sorry, is there something I can do for you?”

“Does the name Frank Hansen mean anything to you?”  Marilyn pressed.

Andre stared dumbly.  

“Friedrick Borodin?”  

Andre’s face changed as recognition widened his eyes.  “Ah–Tim?  This is a private matter.  Might we chat in your office?”

The man in the white t-shirt shrugged.  “Sure, Dad.”

Andre showed Marilyn into the office.  There was only one chair, a wheeled office chair that stood before a messy desk and laptop.  She found a black folding chair leaning against the wall, unfolded it, and sat.  

Andre shuffled into the room, glancing around and shaking his cane.  “Friedrick Borodin…you must be…his wife?”

Marilyn nodded.  

Andre’s mouth worked, twitching his mustache, as he sat in the rolling chair.  The chair slid back a little as he plopped down into it.  “You...”

“I found out.”  Marilyn said dryly, raising an eyebrow.  “And I found out that you were the one who did the paperwork on the incident that led to his demise.”

Andre’s head twitched around, eyes darting down and then from left to right, then up again.  “But how?”

“Genealogy website, memories of old colleagues.”  Marilyn said, leaning in.  “Now tell me, Andre, what do you remember?”

Brigham and Finley drove all day.  In the early evening, they stopped in front of an apartment building in Augusta, Maine.  They walked up a flight of stairs, stopping at a door with peeling forest green paint.

“Do you think this is a good idea?”  Finley asked skeptically.

Brigham shrugged.

“I mean–I get that it would be good to know what Grandma’s finding out.  But what if this guy doesn’t know anything?”  Finley whispered.

Brigham grimaced.

“Yeah, that’s how I feel about it too.  Hopefully Byrd knows what he’s doing.”  She sighed.

They knocked on the door.  A tall, lanky man with blonde hair streaked with gray opened the door.  He looked at the visitors curiously and smiled gently.  “You must be Finley.  I was so happy to get your email.”

His voice was tinged with just a hint of a Russian accent.  Finley smiled back.  “Mr. Borodin?  Thanks for having us over.”

The man ushered them in quickly and invited them to take a seat on a loveseat in the living space.  An ancient woman sat scowling in an armchair to the side.  She muttered something under her breath in Russian.

“Don’t mind Auntie–the subject of my father makes her grumpy.”  The man said softly.

The old woman directed her scowl directly at him, but the man seemed unconcerned by it.  Finley’s eyebrows scrunched together.

“Your father?”

“Yes–Friedrick Borodin was my father.”  The man said, stumbling over his words in his excitement.  

Brigham’s head tilted, and he let out a soft whistle.       

            “How about a little information exchange?  For fun.”  Marilyn said, no “fun” present in her tone.  “I’ll tell you a little something you’ve always wanted to know—I’ll tell you what Byrd’s secret was.  What made him so effective and kept you chasing after him all those years.”

            “And…and what price are you asking?”  Andre asked skeptically, mouth bowing downward.

             “I want to know about the report you submitted.”

             Andre licked his lips, then began speaking very slowly.  “I have no reason for keeping that from you.  The Soviet Union is gone, and Russia has disowned me.”

              Marilyn simply stared at him, waiting.

             “I can see why you’d want to know,” Andre continued speaking carefully, eyes narrowing, “but I can’t help but wonder if it’s the only reason, and how that information could possibly be important now.”

             “It’s important to me.”  Marilyn said, voice hoarse.

              Andre was silent for several minutes.  His eyes moved like a metronome, as if they were lasers scanning and assessing.  Finally, he sighed.  “Are you going to threaten me if I don’t comply?”

              Marilyn leaned back and cocked an eyebrow.  Her voice grew icy and methodical.  “Threaten.  I could do that.  I could reveal your falsified citizenship.  Leak your work for the Soviet Union to your very American grandchildren.  Look up your former colleagues in Russia and give them your location.  I have a host of options when it comes to threats.”  She paused.  “But I don’t need them.  Do I?”

              Andre’s face grew slightly ashen, and he shook his head.  

“My father was cornered into spying for the Soviet Union.  He had a friend smuggle Auntie and I out when I was little, but he died shortly after.  We never knew what happened to him, but I was able to find a headstone with his alias on it.”

Finley breathed slowly, eyes trained on the man before her.  She pressed her lips together.  “That’s–that’s terrible.  I’m so sorry.”

            “Oh,” the man said, bashfully glancing downward. “It was the price he paid for getting us here probably.  I’d really like to know what happened.”

“Did he–did he ever mention being married?”  Finley’s voice cracked and squeaked a little, but she sat still, watching the man carefully.

             He nodded.  “Yes–to a woman named Marilyn Hansen. He said he liked her.  He hated having to spy on her.  You’re one of her descendants, I presume?”

Finley nodded.  “Yeah, she’s my grandma.”         

          “Friedrick did not want to be here.”  Andre began slowly, eyes turning downward.  “He was very good with women—he always seemed to know what to say to make a woman like him. And he was an excellent spy with perfect English.  We needed him, but he was unhappy with the arrangement, so we watched him carefully.”

          Marilyn’s hand trembled a little as she hugged the old tackle box on her lap.  Andre’s eyes darted down to the box.  

         “Forgive me for asking—but what do you have there?”

         Marilyn shook her head, her voice quiet.  “I don’t know.  It was in a safe—and he wanted me to have the key.  But I only now retrieved it.”

         Andre opened his mouth, but quickly slammed it down on his follow-up question.  He cleared his throat.  “Ah.  Well, back to Friedrick then. We wanted to neutralize Robert Byrd.  He was a constant thorn in our side.  Friedrick was to get close to get information on Byrd.  He was offered a high position and a large sum of money if he could deliver.”

              “Was marrying me part of the assignment?”  Marilyn asked.  

              “Yes.  There were things you wouldn’t tell him because of protocol, so he had to go all in.  And you weren’t going to sleep with him without being married, so bedroom talk was out.  His superiors struggled with him after the marriage.  The night he finally was able to hear about your work, he was to report to us as soon as possible.  He did that, but his report was not what we expected.  He said you and Byrd were simply a distraction from the true spies at work.  You were a secretary, of sorts, and Byrd was a showman.  That did not match any of our other intel, and there were glaring holes in his story.  We were suspicious that you had persuaded him to lie to us.”

Andre paused, looking at Marilyn intently.  “You know it isn’t my fault, don’t you?”

Marilyn nodded.  

            The old man sighed and rubbed his forehead.  His cane slipped a little, the top dropping down from its prop on the chair to rest on his leg.  “Right.  So we sent in a tail to follow him home after he gave his report.  The aim was to confirm his loyalties and apprehend or destroy him if they were out of line.  Friedrick managed to fake a suicide.  Trying to escape the service that way was…frowned upon.  It took about three months for us to track him down.  Like I said though, he was quite good.  Finally caught up with him in Guatemala, if you can believe that.”

Andre stopped there, leaning back.  His eyes trailed towards the light fixture and fan above them.  

Marilyn frowned.  “And what then?”

“What do you mean?”

“What became of him?”

Andre let out a shaky, troubled breath.  “They sent a hit out for him.  Bullet to the head.  Hid the body out in the jungle somewhere.”  

Marilyn closed her eyes and sucked in a breath.

“He knew too many secrets, and he was disloyal.  There was nothing else to be done.”

            There was a long silence as Marilyn stared down at the tackle box in her lap.  Her fingers ran over the top and she closed her eyes.

             Andre squirmed a little in his seat.  “You don’t have to tell me about Robert Byrd.  I’m not sure why exactly Friedrick decided to lie to us, but I assume it had something to do with you.  Honestly, I don’t need to know that either.  It’s in the past.  He’s gone, I made a new life here.  I try not to hang on to the things I can’t change.”

             Marilyn stood.  “I was Byrd’s secret weapon.”

Finley and Brigham stepped out of the apartment door.  The sun had long gone down, but the stairway and street were well lit.   

Finley shook her head as they walked down the stairs.  “I have an uncle.  Can you believe that?”

Brigham made no response but smiled a little. 

“He sure seems excited to meet Grandma.  Geez, I wonder what Mom’s gonna think.”  Finley muttered.  They stepped out of the corridor that led to the apartment stairs.  “I mean, and he’s got kids too, so apparently I also have cous–”

She cut off as four gruff men sprung on them from around the corner.  Short trimmed beards, beanie hats, and dirty jackets darted towards them.  Finley barely had time to gasp as Brigham sprang into action.  He forced Finley behind him, sandwiching her between his back and the wall.  The men began attacking, and Finley huddled down, throwing her arms over her head.  

The bulkiest of the men charged in first with a right hook.  Brigham dodged easily, tripping the bulky man and sending him stumbling into the other goons.  A man with a tattoo peeking up under his collar tried a tackle, but Brigham slammed his foot into the man’s knee as he swung an elbow straight into another man’s nose.  There was a sharp cracking noise as the tattooed man went down, screaming out in pain.  Blood began flowing from the nose of the bulky man who had been elbowed as he staggered back, hands flying to his face.  The two least injured of the four rammed into Brigham then, each taking a shoulder.  Brigham leaned the top of his back against the wall and gripped the collars of the men pinning his shoulders, pulling them together and slamming one man’s forehead straight into his companion’s chin.  

The man whose nose was bleeding managed to bend down and yank Finley’s arm.   She stumbled, coming upright from her crouched position and stared up at him.  Her wide, frantic eyes gripped his.  Only a few steps into dragging her off, the man’s entire body went stiff.  He stopped abruptly and began to make a wheezing sound, like he was trying to scream silently.  He turned and stared down at Finley, eyes wide and mouth hanging.  He let her go, spittle dripping into his beard, tripping over his feet to get away from her.  He dashed straight into the street, just in front of a white sedan.  

Finley stared in horror as the man’s body was thrust forward and rolled in front of the sedan.  Luckily, the car had not been going terribly fast, and it screeched to a halt just before the wheels would have crushed the man’s body.  

             Finley’s hand flew to her mouth, and she dropped to her knees.  

Brigham finished with the other assailants. Brigham zip-tied two of them back to back by the wrists and ankles.  He left them awkwardly on their sides, groaning.  The tattooed man was moaning on the pavement, tears and nasal drip trickling as he cradled his knee. 

“A-are you alright?”  Brigham yelled to Finley.   

She didn’t respond.  Brigham rushed over.  He stopped and knelt in beside her, examining.  She shook her head, doubling over, breathing hard.  Brigham looked into the street, where a very frazzled driver was cussing loudly and standing over a still body lying in the road.

“I…I panicked.”  Finley whispered.  “I didn’t know what to do–I was too scared to know what to do.  And I thought, I thought if I could just get rid of that fear then I’d know what to do.  It happened so fast.”

She stared down at nothing, and her shoulders trembled.  She whispered hoarsely.  “I can’t…the way he looked at me…”

             Brigham knelt down and put his arm around her.  He whipped out his phone and sent out a message, a five digit number followed by four star asterisks, to Monica.  Next he sent a text message to Robert Byrd.  

We were attacked by four assailants on exit.  Finley is shaken, but all right.  No injuries on our side, but one assailant was hit by a car and another has a broken knee cap.  Please send private police escort and trauma kit. 

Madelyn Gray climbed out of the back seat of a car and waited patiently in front of the townhouse.  Her hands were clasped reverently down by her hips, and her expression was demure, though a slight smile crept up on her withered lips.  Before long, Marilyn emerged from the front door, nodding politely to the large man showing her out.  

            Madelyn stood a little taller at the sight of her sister, and she waited.  

            Marilyn’s gaze fell on the doorbell as her host shut the door.  The barest sliver of a small, pink paper was tucked behind the fixture.  With a smooth, well practiced motion, Marilyn slid it out with her fingernail and tucked it under her bra strap.  At last, Marilyn turned around and saw her sister standing before her.  She stood frozen for only a second before striding forward.

            Marilyn approached quickly and dropped her tackle box.  She took her sister by the wrist and flipped her around, pressing her body against the black car.  

“You have a lot of nerve.”  Marilyn growled.

Madelyn sighed.  “Don’t take it out on me, love.  I just thought you ought to know.”  

“You thought I ought to know, did you?  Then why didn’t you just tell me?”  Marilyn cried.

“I would have.”  Madelyn said quietly.  “But you didn’t want to hear it.”

Marilyn’s head dropped down and hung.  

            “I’m not so spry these days as to take off running down the block.  You can let me go now.”  Madelyn said gently.  

            Marilyn sighed.  “I didn’t want to hear it.

“Hop in.”  Madelyn said, gesturing to the car door.  “We’ll go somewhere quiet.  You can have some time to process.”

Marilyn gently collected her tackle box, cradling it.  Madelyn held the door and she got into the car.  

Finley woke up around noon the next day.  Her eyes were bloodshot and her curls hung limply as she sat up in bed.  She hugged her knees in and didn’t leave the bed.  

After several minutes, the door to her room opened just a crack, and Finley stiffened.  Robert Byrd peeked in.  

“Oh good, you’re awake.  I’ll have Brigham grab you some lunch.”  

He was gone before Finley could protest.  Her face reddened, and she fumbled for her phone.  She had three new messages.  She looked at the one from her mom.

Hey sweetie–just wondering how things are going with Grandma.  Give me a call when you can.  Love you.

Finley’s chin quivered, and she threw the phone, face down, on the bed.  

When Brigham entered the room with a Subway sandwich in one hand, Finley hugged her knees in tighter and looked away.  Her face grew red.  

Brigham set the sandwich on a table near the bed.  “H-hu-hung-hungry?”

Finley buried her face in her knees.  “I’m a monster.”

Brigham’s eyebrows furrowed, and he walked slowly towards the bed.  

“I–I can’t believe what I did to that guy.”  Finley blurted, looking frantically at Brigham with tears streaking her face.  “I could have killed him!”

“Y-y-yeah.  I-it wa-wa-was awe-awesome.”

Finley gaped at him.  Brigham shrugged.  “H-h-he di-di-di-did att-atta–attack fi-first.”

She frowned, scrubbing tears away with the edge of the sheet.  “I guess…but…I don’t know, it just feels so wrong to put someone under that kind of duress.”

Silence stretched for a moment as Brigham walked over and drew back the curtain.  Sunlight streamed into the room.  

“Okay, yeah, I guess we were kind of being attacked.  Four on two.   And that was intentional.  And it was also wrong.  And I guess it was just all the fear that he caused me that I was pushing right back at him.  So…so you don’t think I did something really, really bad?”

Brigham shook his head and shrugged.  “I-I…br-broke a-a-a g-g-g-guy’s kn-knee-knee c-cap.  Sel-self d-d-d-def-defense.”

“Oh.”  Finley said, straightening a little.  “Huh.” 

Brigham nodded and patted her back.  He left the room.  Finley stared dumbly at the wall for a moment, but then got up and attacked the sandwich on the table.  

“She somehow came across an old tackle box that was her husband’s.  I don’t like not knowing what’s in there.  She hasn’t set it down since we arrived, so I can’t take a look.  I don’t think even she has looked inside yet, so if I can lull her away from it I’ll need you to send someone in to examine the contents.  Hopefully whatever is in there only helps our cause.  If we can control what she sees from here on out, I’m positive we’ll convince her.”

           Madelyn paused briefly, looking out over an indoor hotel swimming pool.  A group of rambunctious boys in swim trunks were playing Marco Polo, splashing around wildly every time the seeker approached.  Suddenly, Madelyn stiffened, leaning forward, phone still pressed to her ear.  

           “What do you mean ‘they failed’?”  She hissed.  

Madelyn sat in a white pool chair in a black swimsuit, listening to the other line.  “So you’re telling me that the boy took out three–all on his own–and the girl shoved the fourth into traffic?  You really talked up your crew, Jonathan.  You said they were strong but competent enough not to do long-term damage.  They’re ex-military for heaven’s sake!  And that girl’s such a little thing.  How on earth did she push a full grown man out into the street?  This is a big setback.  I’m quite disappointed.”

           Madelyn’s eyebrows came together, as if collaborating.  Her eyes darted from side to side in a slow, methodical beat.  Slowly, as her gaze steadied, her mouth pinched itself tight, as if she had just put something incredibly unpleasant in it and could not spit it out.  

            Below, the seeker in the Marco Polo game had been evaded once again, and his eyes opened briefly to see where his comrades were.  

           “No, I need them out of the way. The best we can hope for is that they’ll decide to send the girl home.  No, you can’t hurt them!  I’m trying to get my sister on our side.  How do you think that would play out?  Working together to save Finley was to prove to her my rationality.  If she finds out I’ve harmed her then we lose everything.”

Madelyn grew quiet and frowned deeply as the voice on the line spoke more urgently.  “They’re in the hospital?  Really?”

            The seeker in the pool game had grown impatient and was squinting in a half-hearted attempt to appear as though he still had his eyes closed.  He dove for his comrade who had sunk under the water to hide, and caught the unsuspecting victim easily.  

“Oh…bother.  All right.  You may have to tranquilize them.  I didn’t want to do that, but I can’t have them coming in now.  It could ruin everything.  Leave Byrd to me.  He’ll damn himself, likely as not. I’m not surprised they lost him.  Since you botched that extraction, he’ll be on high alert.”


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