Episode 13: Power
By Lauren Derrick
Editor's Note: This story is part of the Marvelous Mind of Marilyn Hansen series hosted on the Pensieve.
Editor's Note: This story is part of the Marvelous Mind of Marilyn Hansen series hosted on the Pensieve.
“Brigham’s sending you the tracker link and some details. Yeah, ha ha, I’m glad too. Sorry about that.” Byrd ran some fingers through his hair with the hand that wasn’t holding a phone to his ear. A sheepish grin brought some youth into his wrinkled face. “She’s kept up a link. No–Maddie didn’t have time to find professionals, so our guess is that she’s scrambling through her plan B. Marilyn’s tied and gagged, but they didn’t tranquilize her or even check her clothes.”
Brigham and Finley were cleaning up after dinner, each of them glancing periodically at Byrd. Neither paid any heed to the pug, who stealthily hopped onto a chair and relieved Byrd of the last of his dinner.
“I believe it–let me know what you decide on. I know you have to weigh your options–yeah, Brigham and I will be there as backup.”
Byrd glanced over at Brigham, who shot him a thumbs up.
“Sure. Thanks, Monica.” Byrd finally hung up.
Finley turned from the sink. “So they’re sending people in to get Grandma?”
“And apprehend Madelyn.” Byrd added. Ladybug stared up at him, dancing around his feet. He picked up the little pug and started scratching her behind the ear. “You’ll have her back soon, pup.”
Marilyn worked her old hands out of the tie that held them behind her back. She pulled the gag out of her mouth and began rubbing her shoulders, grumbling. “I’m getting too old for this.”
She stood up from the folding chair and rubbed her bottom a little. “She could have at least found me a comfortable chair.”
Marilyn took the time to stretch, gently tilting her head and resting a hand on top in each direction. She rolled her shoulders a couple of times and put her heel down in front of her to stretch each of her calves. She took a couple of gentle twists, then took a deep breath. She was in an office space, though an empty one. No office chairs or computers–just cubicles with a bit of desk space and drawers. She could barely hear the faint voices and squeaking shoes from floors below, echoing through the empty building.
You said this building is for sale? Marilyn mused. Rather depressing workspace, if you ask me.
Yeah, it’s been on the market for a while with no takers. Perfect place for Maddie to set up. Byrd replied.
Sounded like you had a good chat with Monica. It’s a relief that she’s not cross with us.
Oh, how mad is she going to get at a couple of senior citizens?
Marilyn began poking around the cubicles and desks.
“Everything still looking good with the trackers, Brig?” Byrd asked, strapping a black pistol holder to his arm.
Brigham pulled out his phone, then nodded. “W-w-we l-lo-lo-los-lost one o-of M-m-ma-madel…Mad-Madelyn’s.”
Byrd grinned. “So she’s finally found one. She’s probably fuming right now. Finley, you’re okay to wait in the safe-house while we go provide backup?”
She shrugged. “Yeah–I don’t mind hanging out and playing video games while you guys do your thing. Besides, I’ll have Ladybug here. It’ll be great.”
Brigham’s phone buzzed and lit up. When he looked at it, he frowned. He crossed over to Byrd, who was shrugging on a leather jacket.
“What the…” Byrd squinted at the text on Brigham’s phone screen. Slowly, his face fell. Then Byrd’s eyebrows narrowed. “What the hell?! A construction cover? Really?!”
Brigham looked equally unhappy. His muscles tensed with his frown, like a guard dog met with a thief.
“This isn’t a good plan. She must be counting on the trackers to find her—but Maddie’s already found one. Shit. It’s going to take an hour for them to set everything up.” Byrd complained, grabbing his keys off the counter. Brigham put his hands on his hips, huffing in agreement.
“Brigham, update Monica on the tracker situation. If Maddie found one then she’s going to have the others in no time. Change of plans. Finley, you’d better come with us. We need to haul our butts over there now or else Madelyn’s going to be in Moscow by noon tomorrow.”
“But… wait, what?” Finley asked weakly. “Shouldn’t I stay here?”
Byrd gritted his teeth. “I’m sorry, kid. I hate to do this to you, but Brigham might need your help. I might need your help. We’ve just shifted from the reserves to the front lines. If Madelyn leaves the country, we’ll never see her again. This has to end today.”
Marilyn opened a large door and stepped into an executive suite. Jonathan sat in his wheelchair while Madelyn sat in a padded office chair. They were staring intently at a laptop computer sitting on the table. There were no other chairs at the massive table.
Madelyn glanced up when her sister walked in. Her eyes jumped to the clock. “That was faster than I expected. Well done.”
Marilyn glanced around the room. Her eyes landed on the man in the wheelchair, half of his face sagging slightly. “Jonathan, I presume?”
“Nice to meet you.” The man said with a warm half-grin.
Marilyn simply nodded.
“Him. Here.” Madelyn said, speaking to Jonathan and pointing to the laptop screen. “He’s the one. He’s well-liked and intelligent, but malleable. The perfect candidate. Did your boys get everything packed?”
“For what, Maddie?” Marilyn asked, tiredly. “What is all this really about?”
Madelyn looked up at her sister with a blank stare. “Why—keeping Russia from a Soviet relapse. I’d thought you’d have that one figured out by now.”
Marilyn closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I wondered if it wasn’t something along those lines, but I had hoped that you had better sense than to open that can of worms. Does the stability we worked so hard for mean nothing to you?”
Jonathan checked his phone and cleared his throat. “It looks like everything is boxed up.”
“Make sure they followed my instructions on how they packed the servers. I’d hate to have them damaged en route.” Madelyn said, a faint smile on her lips. She turned back to her sister. “I will admit, this is a risky operation. But what do we care? We’ve reached the sunset of our lives. We don’t have much to lose.”
Marilyn folded her arms. “Speak for yourself.”
Madelyn sighed and stood. “Your own daughter doesn’t even know you. She won’t even know what she’s lost when you’re gone. This is your late husband’s homeland. Are you really going to sit back and welcome the return of the government that was responsible for his death? Because that’s what’s happening. Have you any idea how long their ‘president’ has managed to stay in power?”
Marilyn stood silent.
“Marilyn—you’ve had a hard life because of the Soviet Union. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t fair. You were manipulated and tricked by a man who had a gun to his head. But now that you know what really happened, it doesn’t have to end there. You can do something about this.”
Marilyn sighed and glanced at the floor, rubbing the side of her forehead with one hand. “Maddie, let’s get one thing clear. I don’t have any love for Soviet Russia, and modern Russia is in an unfortunate state right now. But the Soviet Union isn’t responsible for my mistakes. I chose to keep secrets. I chose not to confront my past. My choices. My mistakes. Blaming myself for Frank’s choices was always a mistake, regardless of what really happened. You may think you have nothing to lose, but I do. I can finally tell my family about everything. I can be myself with them and have real relationships. I’m not going to give that up to meddle in foreign affairs and potentially start a war.”
“War! Who said anything about war?” Madelyn said in a mirthless laugh. “I have no intention of starting a war.”
“I’m sure you don’t,” Marilyn said, raising an eyebrow. “But starting wars isn’t always intentional. Take World War I for example. Do you really think anyone could have guessed how utterly out of hand things would get? If you make just a tiny mistake, if you get caught–you could unintentionally give Russia our secret and lead them to research to create more of us. Our relations with Russia are quite delicate. Anything you do is suspect of being condoned by the United States government. You’re overstepping.”
“And you’re not stepping at all.” Madelyn retorted. “I will not go quietly down to my grave as a failed experiment. I’m going to make a difference.”
“You’re not thinking of the Russian people. You’re thinking of yourself! How can you even presume to know what they want or need, let alone give it to them?”
Madelyn leaned back in her chair, folding her arms and staring at Marilyn for a moment. Finally, she turned to Jonathan. “She’s already made up her mind about this. She’s only here to stall us now. We should go before the agency arrives.”
Johnathan nodded and unlocked his wheelchair wheels. He backed up.
This is going south, Robert. Marilyn’s thoughts sounded tired. Maddie knows the agency is on its way, and she’s going to make a run for it. They already have people moving servers and other supplies. You said you had Finley, right?
Byrd didn’t respond right away. Yeah, she and Ladybug are in the back. Gotta say though, Mar, she’s pretty nervous about all this. She’s worried about hurting somebody. You know, because of the thug she scared into the street. Can’t you try to put Maddie into an illusion for a bit to stall?
You know that wouldn’t last very long. Besides, I need to keep up this link with you.
You could hold up the link and an illusion at the same time. Robert said encouragingly. You’ve done it before.
“Well shit.” Byrd said. Brigham was driving, and shot Byrd a nervous sidelong glance.
“What’s wrong?” Finley asked. “Is Grandma alright?”
Ladybug whimpered, staring up at the window in the back seat.
“Yeah, Mar’s fine. Maddie knows people are coming, and she’s trying to get out.” Byrd took a deep breath. “Mar is going to do what she can to slow her down, but it doesn’t look good. We’re still fifteen minutes out.”
Finley paled. “What is she going to do?”
“I don’t know, kid. She says she wants you to live in your power, and not to be afraid of it like she was. Honestly I don’t know why she wants to tell you this now.”
“Does she have a plan?” Finley asked.
Byrd paused. “We’re working on it. Hey Brigham, you want to speed up, or should I do the driving?”
Brigham shook his head and pressed down harder on the gas pedal.
Marilyn walked up to her sister. Madelyn was saving files and closing out windows on the laptop.
“I have to say, I never thought you’d opt for telling your family.” She paused for a moment, licking her lips. “But you’re still afraid of it. Afraid that you’ll make a mistake and abuse your power. I hope you get over your fears one day, Mar.”
Marilyn drew closer. “There is a difference, Maddie, between being afraid of power and using good judgment. If there’s someone who’s afraid right now–you’re it.”
Without any warning, Marilyn snatched the laptop and shut it in one smooth motion. Madelyn snatched at air as her elderly twin sister began jogging away out of the room with the laptop. Marilyn beat Jonathan to the door.
Madelyn’s eyes widened, and her mouth hung open as she stared after her sister. “Tag? Really?!”
Jonathan set the side of his jaw that was still fully functional and began the chase. He had a definite speed advantage with this wheelchair, but the tightness of the office space full of cubicles worked in Marilyn’s favor. She jogged in her floral print dress, huffing a little and clutching the laptop to her chest. She spared a glance back to see Jonathan make an impressive tight turn around a corner. She clenched her teeth and picked up the pace.
Meanwhile, Madelyn began jogging to come in front of her sister. Her loose black slacks swished as she shuffled along.
Marilyn made two quick turns in rapid succession, successfully transferring to a walkway parallel to Jonathan’s. Jonathan caught a glimpse of her and wove around in his wheelchair, following her.
Suddenly, Jonathan turned a corner to see Madelyn blocking the exit.
“Where the blazes…?” Jonathan muttered.
Madelyn’s face reddened. “She’s drawing this out by hiding. She doesn’t care about leaving, she just wants to slow us down. But if she leaves this room, she’ll have a lot more places to hide.”
Marilyn crouched down in a cubicle near the executive suite. Gently and soundlessly, she opened the built-in desk drawer and set the laptop inside. She closed the drawer as quietly as she had opened it and set her back towards Madelyn and Jonathan.
“Can we leave the laptop behind?” Jonathan asked seriously.
“Their tech team is world class. They’ll be able to decrypt it and see all our plans—we’d be starting from scratch.” Madelyn muttered, still breathing hard.
Marilyn emerged behind a cubicle.
“There!” Jonathan pointed, grimacing.
Madelyn grabbed her sister’s arm. Marilyn worked on catching her breath.
Madelyn drew a tiny pistol from the pocket of her slacks. She pointed it at her sister. “Where is the laptop, Marilyn?”
Marilyn batted the gun away with the back of her hand. “So you’re pointing guns at me now? That went from honey to vinegar awfully fast.”
Madelyn pointed the gun at Marilyn’s feet. “This is Byrd’s doing. He’s in your head, isn’t he? I need that laptop, Marilyn.”
She stared her sister straight in the eye. Marilyn’s vision went black, and then Frank stood before her. Frank in his Soviet Uniform, tall, lanky, and blonde. He turned his head down in shame as Marilyn stared.
“I’m surprised you even remember what he looks like seeing as how you only met him twice–you didn’t even come to my wedding.” Marilyn muttered, words laced with bitterness.
Marilyn stood motionless as Jonathan hurriedly began wheeling himself around, opening drawers in the cubicles.
“Could you look him in the eye, Marilyn? Could you look him in the eye and tell him that what I’m trying to do is wrong and that you refuse to help? Could you do it?” Madelyn shouted so loudly that her voice cracked.
Marilyn saw Frank turn to face her, blue eyes tired and watery–intensely looking to her for some sort of release, some sort of miracle. Marilyn shook.
“You need to give this up.” Marilyn said, voice quavering. “You’re a breath away from causing an international crisis.”
The image of Frank faded away. Marilyn and Madelyn stood on the rooftop of a tall building in New York City, surrounded by skyscrapers. Madelyn’s eyes shot up to the sky, imploring heaven for a miracle she could not create. Marilyn stood in a wide stance, tense and defiant.
From the back seat of the car, Ladybug began heaving loudly.
Finley frowned. “Uh…guys?”
Byrd glanced back at her. “What?”
The hefty breathing turned into a gagging noise.
“I think Ladybug’s about to hurl.”
Brigham didn’t react, but Byrd’s eyes widened. “Aw, no—no! Quick, hand her to me.”
Brigham rolled his eyes. “D-does it m-ma-matter?”
“Yeah, it does! We’re not going to have time to clean it up once we get there, and if it sits it will be a nightmare to get out of the upholstery. Quick—Finley, hand her to me.”
Finley reached out towards the little pug and began searching for the clip that kept her belted in the car. “I…I can’t get her to hold still so I can get her out of the seatbelt.”
The gravely gagging noise from the dog grew louder.
“B-b-Byrd, it-it’s ju-ju-jus-just a c-car!”
“It’s not just a car!” Byrd retorted, then said a little more quietly, “It’s a Mustang. Shit. Brigham, drive faster!”
Finley glanced from the dog to Byrd. “Do we have a towel or a cloth or something? I could set it down under her…”
As Finley trailed off, she finally unbuckled the dog and secured the little creature on her lap:
“Good thinking.” Byrd said. He began glancing around the car and then threw a look over at Brigham. “Hey, do you think I could use your ja—“
A wet, mushy splat sounded, cutting Byrd off. He stiffened.
Finley groaned. “Well, there’s good news—she didn’t get the upholstery.”
“We were close once. We were a phenomenal team. I thought it would be nice to have that back.” Madelyn still had her pistol trained on Marilyn’s shoe. A soft wind blew on the rooftop, pressing her loose slacks against her legs.
Marilyn blinked, tears welling up in her eyes. Then she stared at her sister, wide-eyed, and shook her head. “You force me into an illusion. You’re still pointing a gun at me, and you want to have a heart-to-heart? You thought there would be no hard feelings after what you did to Finley?!”
Madelyn sighed. “I knew you were angry about something.”
“Damn right, I’m angry. I admit, Maddie, at first I thought it might do you some good to have some freedom for a little while. I wasn’t especially keen on locking you back up. Heaven knows I’ve tried a thousand times to get you a pardon or a field trip…anything. They always said no, you were too dangerous, you weren’t emotionally stable. And they were right. At what point did it become acceptable to you to send thugs after my granddaughter? Are you completely unhinged?”
Madelyn closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Don’t be melodramatic. They were only supposed to detain—”
“Oh, is that all!”
“I’ve been detained for the past forty years!”
“You’ve been sneaking out! Besides, you committed crimes. You know what you did.”
“Finley would have been fine! It was just supposed to be one night in a truck.”
Madelyn rolled her eyes. “Oh please. Kids these days don’t know how good they’ve got it. I don’t know what kind of trauma she thinks she experienced, but I’m sure she’ll get over it.”
Byrd handed Finley a clear package containing a folded paper napkin and a set of black plastic cutlery. “This is all I’ve found up here so far. I’ll keep looking.”
Carefully, Finley lifted Ladybug off her lap and buckled the little dog back in the seat beside her. She stared at the mess on her jeans, then opened the plastic package.
“I’m so sorry, kid–I wish there was time to get you cleaned up..” Byrd said. “If I hadn’t used up my emergency water bottle last time, I’d give it to you.”
Finley used the napkin to scoop up the bulk of the mess. She sighed deeply and threw her head into the headrest. “But then how would you get out of this speeding ticket?”
“What?” Byrd asked, frowning.
He glanced back. A highway patrolman was tailing them, lights flashing. The siren sounded. “Now?! Good glory, I swear they always find me.”
There’s a problem, Marilyn. We’ve got a highway patrolman on our tail.
Robert, were you seriously speeding at a time like this? Marilyn asked.
Byrd paused a moment before answering. Well technically Brigham was driving this time…but I thought it would get us to you faster.
I see–and how did that play out for you?
I’ll let you know. How is the stalling going?
I finally got to chew Maddie out. Marilyn answered. But she’s being impossible.
Well, it’s a good thing that you’re equally impossible.
Madelyn finally sighed. In the office building, her eyes came into sharp focus and she looked away from her sister. She used her left hand to reach into her other pocket, keeping the pistol in position with her right hand. A small flash drive appeared in her left hand. “We could argue over this all day, but I want that laptop, and you want this flash drive. Let’s just trade and be done with it.”
Marilyn shook her head. “I think not. How do I know this isn’t a bait and switch?”
Madelyn licked her lips. “Get me the laptop, and I’ll prove that it’s the one you want.”
“And how do I know you haven’t made a copy to blackmail me with later?” Marilyn put her hands on her hips. “I’m a little insulted you’d even think I would fall for that.”
“I could just shoot you.” Madelyn muttered.
Jonathan called out from a few cubicles away. “Found it!”
How is it going with the police officer? Marilyn asked Byrd after several minutes had passed.
Oh, we’re not stopping. Brigham’s just going to show him the agency pass once we arrive. It feels like cheating, but oh well. Ladybug sicked up all over Finley, so we’d have a decent story to feed the guy if we had time to pull over. The car’s upholstery was spared, thank goodness. Should be there in five.
Honestly, Robert, one of these days you’re going to have to stop picking on highway patrolmen. It’s not nice. Marilyn chided.
I just don’t like it when Monica calls me into her office and says things like, “I see you used the emergency code, Byrd. Now tell me, was it REALLY an emergency or were you just joyriding?”
She’ll believe you this time.
No, Brigham pulled it out, so she’ll have to talk it out with him.
But the rental car is in your name, isn’t it?
A string of curse words passed through Robert Byrd’s head.
Jonathan took the laptop and began rolling towards the elevators. Madelyn gave her sister a pitying look. She put the pistol back in her pocket and handed Marilyn the flash drive.
“For what it’s worth, this is the only copy of our conversation. I never intended to hurt your granddaughter.”
Marilyn caught her arm. “Don’t do this, Maddie.”
Madelyn twisted out of Marilyn’s grip and turned away after Jonathan.
Maddie is on her way out of the building. She’s taking the elevators on the north side. I’m going to attempt to cut the power to stop the elevator. Where are you?
Just pulled up. There are four exits on the building–I’ll take the northern exit and put Brigham over by the emergency exit to the southeast. I figure that’s her second most likely route. I’ll send Finley around to the east side. She’ll be close enough to Brigham that she can call out to him if Maddie comes her way.
The highway patrolman marched up to the car. Brigham hurriedly flipped open his wallet, pulled out an identification card, and handed it to the officer. He then turned without a word towards Byrd and Finley, who had just stepped out of the car.
“Finley, see the glass doors over there? Go block them off–if you see Madelyn, call out for Brigham and he’ll come stop her. Can you do that?” Byrd asked, holding her shoulders gently.
Finley squirmed, glancing down at her pants. “Uh…sure.”
Byrd grimaced. “It’s okay–soon as this is all over, I’ll take you shopping and buy you a new outfit. I promise.”
Byrd talked to Brigham briefly, who jogged over to the emergency exit. Finley sighed and stalked to the east exit. She sniffed and wrinkled her nose. The stain on her clothes had a pinkish-red cast to it.
“Spaghetti.” Finley muttered.
She stood by the glass doors. She could see Brigham crouched down near the emergency exit door fifty feet away. She couldn’t see Byrd around the corner. She looked up at the sky. There were white and puffy clouds outlined by the light of a sinking sun. Once again, Finley looked down at her stained clothes. She gripped the sides of her jeans and pulled down a little, smoothing the stained area. A few half-digested noodles fell from the creases and landed on her shoe. Finley squeezed her eyes tight and took some deep breaths. Hands shaking, she tried the door. It was open. She glanced quickly at Brigham before running inside.
There was elevator access just ahead, and a drinking fountain next to a flight of stairs. Finley ran towards it and pushed the button. A healthy stream of water appeared. She sighed in relief, then began to glance around. Clearly alone, she unbuttoned her shirt and slid it off, revealing a black tank top underneath. She folded the stained portion of the button-up shirt in on itself, then used the drinking fountain to wet the clean portion. She began scrubbing at her jeans.
The elevator door opened on the third floor. Madelyn stared intently at her phone, swiping on the screen. Jonathan glanced upward at his companion, eyebrows furrowed.
“Karen finally got me access to the tracker cameras. I was able to briefly gather intel from the trackers I stuck on Marilyn. It looks like she’s going to try to do something to the power to stop the elevator.” Madelyn explained. “I’ll need to take the stairs.”
“But I…” Jonathan gestured to his wheelchair.
“Yes, I know. I’ll take the laptop and get it over to the boys. Stay in the elevator and stay quiet. With any luck, they’ll be too busy pursuing me to realize you’re here. I’ll have to pull some strings to get you out, but our work is the priority.” Madelyn explained calmly. “I’ll stay linked to you. If that link is disrupted, make sure you send someone after the laptop.”
Hesitantly, Jonathan handed over the laptop and Madelyn exited the elevator. The doors shut again. Moments later, the power went out.
The doors Byrd had come to were automatic. He prodded at all of them and sighed. He sent a text message to Brigham.
Marilyn cut power and these doors aren’t operational. I’m going in. Send me the link to Maddie’s tracker.
Brigham sent the link and Byrd pressed down on it. He dug a pair of sunglasses from his jacket pocket and threw them on. Then Byrd ran towards the east doors where Finley had been minutes before. He glanced around for Finley. Not seeing her, he kept running until he came to Brigham.
“Maddie’s tracker shows that she’s up on the fourth floor–so it might be a minute. Where did Finley get to?
Finley wadded up her shirt. She had a conspicuous wet spot on her jeans, but she had managed to contain most of the mess. A soft swishing accompanied by light footsteps sounded from around the corner.
Byrd came into the building. He sighed and untensed his muscles when he saw Finley. “Oh good–I was worried when I didn’t see…”
Madelyn strode down to the bottom of the stairs. She threw a glance over at Finley. “Well, if it isn’t the wild card that threw off all my plans.”
Madelyn narrowed her eyebrows and pointed her pistol straight at Byrd. “And then there’s you.”
“Uh, hey, Maddie… it’s been a while…”
“Not nearly long enough.” Madelyn sighed. “I couldn’t bring myself to shoot Marilyn, but I have no qualms about shooting you.”