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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Break - Chapter 33

Chapter 33

At the last minute, Big Ron decided to send a car for Anita and Elena. It was the right thing to do. Instead of making them drive on unfamiliar roads looking for his remote home, he thought it would be better to have them arrive relaxed and refresh. Anyway, he had the car on retainer and he hadn’t used it at all this month.

Big Ron always referred to his remote home as a little place in the mountains. But it was false modesty. He only said it because he enjoyed seeing the look on his guest’s face when they saw his estate. It truly was a magnificent place. Big Ron went out of his way to find a young, talented architect to design it.

Sorting through all the candidates was a tedious task, but Big Ron forced himself to take his time. This was going to be his statement and he wanted to make sure it was a definitive one. Having a large amount of disposable cash made him a very desirable target for all the large agencies and Big Ron reviewed all of their proposals. Despite the slick presentations, they just couldn’t deliver what he was looking for. What he wanted could only be delivered someone hungry that wanted to use this design as the launching pad for his career.

The man he selected turned out to be a man and a woman. They formed one of the best teams he had ever seen. Each complimented the other. Their arguments were rare, but spirited. When they did argue, they focused on the issue at hand, solved it quickly and then implemented the solution. The result was breath taking. The exterior was a complex mixture of glass and wood at fantastic angles.

Although the exterior was truly remarkable, the interior humbled it. The use of light combined with the contrasting muted colors, generated a vibrant feel rarely present in residential dwelling. But the most striking part of the home was upon entry, visitors were greeted by forty foot vaulted ceilings cover with the finest teak wood completed the initial sense of wonderment.

The entire house was impeccably decorated which enhanced the ambiance. It wasn’t just beautiful. It was also inviting and warm. This young team far exceeded even Big Ron’s greatest expectations.

Anita and Elena were speechless as the car made its way down the three-quarter mile driveway and stopped in front of the house. Before the driver opened their door, Elena put her hand on Anita’s arm.

“Nitti, I have never seen such a place.” Elena said awestruck. “Not someone’s house, anyways.”

“This really is impressive.” Anita agreed.

As the door swung open, they could see Ron walking down the stairs from the massive front door.

“Welcome.” He said as soon as he could see the women. “To my humble.”

“Not much about you is subtle, is it Harrision?” Anita asked as she stepped from the car.

“Be nice.” Elena admonished her sister. “He is our host.”

“That may be true.” Ron said. “But Anita is right, I’ve never been accused of being subtle.”

The self-effacement did not go unnoticed. Anita saw Big Ron’s dichotomy. On one hand, here was the big successful business man with the country estate to prove his success. On the other hand, Big Ron careful managed exactly what he let people see. He definitely understood subtly and he knew exactly when to use it to his advantage. It was expert use of diversionary tactics. Since Big Ron was so skilled at it, most people didn’t even notice. But Anita was not most people. She felt a smile cross her face as she realized her reporter’s instincts were back.

“Looks like you are glad you took me up on my offer.” Big Ron said to Anita.

Not wanting to explain the real reason for the smile, Anita reacted quickly.

“Very glad.” Anita said enthusiastically. “This place is gorgeous. And look at this view. It’s like sitting on top of the world.”

Big Ron took it all in as though his was looking at the view for the first time through Anita’s eyes. It truly was an impressive view. Inhaling deeply, he exhaled and turned back to his guests.

“Shall we go inside?”

“Yes.” Elena said excitedly. “I can’t wait to see the rest of the house.”

“Great, then follow me.” Ron suggested. “John will see that your bags get to your rooms.”

The group walked up the staircase and entered the house. After he gave them the grand tour, he suggested they take a few minutes to settle into their rooms.

“Elena.” Big Ron said. “You are welcome to anything in the house. You can go to the pool or go riding or you can stick with us.”

Although it passed quickly, he saw the dark shadow in Anita’s eyes. He knew exactly what it meant. Not wanted to start off on the wrong front, Big Ron turned to Anita.

“Unless you have another thought.” He added quickly enough that it seemed he meant to say it in the first place.

“No, Elena.” Anita said, a bit surprised and pleased that Big Ron had included her. “You do what you want.

“I here to listen to Mr. Harrison’s story.” Elena responded.

“What’s with the Mr. Harrison?” Ron said. “My name is Ron.”

There it was. One of Ron’s subtle moves. Anita saw how he watched Elena for a reaction and responded accordingly. Then it struck her that it was exactly the same move he had just used on her. Anita was very happy Elena was here. In that moment, she knew she had to keep Elena in the room with them during the interview. It would be much easier for her to pick up on Ron’s idiosyncrasies. Meaning, it would easier for her to see when he was bullshitting her if he was talking to Elena.

Anita told herself that she needed to be careful. This Ron Harrison was an impressive man. It was obvious that he was very skilled and had an awesome presence. It would be very easy to be captivated by his charm and charisma. She wanted to get to the bottom of this story, but she wanted the truth, not the story that made him look good. Once again, she reminded herself that she was a professional and she had a job to do.

“Right…Ron.” Elena said.

“Let’s go into my study.” Ron said as he turned and led the way.

The exchange served to reinforce Anita’s previous thoughts. She knew from Elena’s reaction that her sister was completely taken in by Ron. That was fine with Anita, Ron would continue to show his hand in his interactions with her. Anita would pay particular attention to his non-verbal communications when he was talking to Elena to ensure that he was being straight with her.

The study was as well appointed as the rest of the house. But there was a difference in this room. It had Big Ron’s stamp all over it. The rest of the house may have been for his family and visitors, but this room was definitely for Ron.

From the matching black, top-grain leather couch, loveseat and chairs to the oversized mahogany desk to the flagstone fireplace to the crystal decanters of scotch to the stuffed elk head to the Denver Broncos team autographed football from Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII to the framed autograph photo poster of John Elway, this room was Ron’s. It screamed testosterone, but it also had the same warm, friendly feel as the rest of the house. The room mimicked its primary occupant.

This room had been skipped on the grand tour, so this was the first time the women had seen it. Both were very impressed with it. Ron waved toward the leather furniture that was arranged in a circle around the most unique coffee table.

“I think we’ll be comfortable in here.” He said. “Drink anyone? I’m going to have some scotch.”

“That sounds good.” Anita said.

“Do you have any tequila?” Elena asked.

She saw the look on Anita’s face and felt as if her sister was judging her.

“What?” Elena said. “I don’t like whiskey.”

“No problem, Elena.” Ron said. “I have Patron, will that do?”

“Oh yes.” Elena responded giddly.

“Done.” Ron responded. Then he decided to test Anita. “Single malt or blend?”

“I’ll have single malt.” Anita said recognizing the challenge she continued. “I don’t suppose you have any Macallan’s?”

“Ah…a woman after my heart.” Ron said. “I do have an 1982 Grand Reserve, but I have something you may find amusing. It’s Ben Wyvis, 1965.”

“Wow, Ben Wyvis ’65. I am impressed.” Anita said. “Very impressed.”

Ron was taken aback. Not many people understood what they were being offered when he mentioned Ben Wyvis, but she seemed to appreciate it immediately.

“Didn’t peg you as a scotch drinker.” Ron stated honestly. “How do you know so much about it.”

“Scotch is the nectar of the gods.” Anita responded. “I spent one semester at the University of Edinburgh and I go to the festival every August…well… not so much lately.”

Had it really been four years since she made it to the festival? After completely falling in love with the city, she and her roommate vowed to return every August for the Edinburgh Festival. They had kept the commitment for seventeen years, until four years ago when Anita started making excuses. She knew that her roommate continued going, but Anita always seemed to busy. Beginning to see a pattern, she didn’t want to keep thinking about this now.

“Ah…yes…The Festival.” Ron said. “I’ve only been there twice myself, but I’d love to go back.”

“I think I might have to recommit to my vow.” Anita offered truthfully.

Ron busied himself getting the drinks for his guests.

“Patron for you.” He said as he handed the crystal snifter to Elena. “And Ben Wyvis for you.”

“Thank you very much.” Elena said and took a sip. “Hmmm…now that’s tequila.”

“Yes, thank you.” Anita added. “It is very generous of you to serve this.”

“My pleasure.” Ron said suavely.

Anita took a medium-sized drink of the 40 year old scotch.

“It’s like heaven.” She said. "But I wouldn't expect anything less from a twelve hundred dollar bottle of scotch."

When she took her second drink, she was flooded with pleasant memories of Scotland. It was very strange, for a good portion of the time she had spent in bed her thoughts often turned to Edinburgh. Now she was having a conversation about it. Could this be a coincidence? Anita didn’t believe in coincidences. She believed that everything had a reason.

The whole conversation about Edinburgh convinced her of one thing. Someone had delivered Ron Harrison to her. The only possible reason was for her to make her comeback. She was onto the biggest story of the century. It was up to her to dig it out. Right here in this study, she was going to get the story. She was the best reporter in the country and she knew it.

This was her opportunity to prove them all wrong. She couldn’t wait to see the looks on their faces when she broke this story. Cord, Jim and especially that little bitch Bobbie, who she noticed had taken her position behind the anchor desk. For the first time since before it happened Anita truly felt like herself again.

The burning desire, the need to prove herself, the absolute need to succeed, it was all there. Anita wallowed in it. Maybe it was the scotch that reignited the fire or maybe it was the scent of the story. Whatever it was, she was ready to go.


For the last three weeks, he had done everything possible to avoid human contact. But he was completely aware that there was no practical way to get from Central Asia to the United States without developing a network.

He knew he was somewhere in Afghanistan, but he wasn’t sure where. As he dodged local militia, a plan began to formulate in his head. Dressed in Soviet issue fatigues, he could act as an army deserter from the occupation. It wouldn’t do him any good to be Russian though. The Mujahideen may be a little sympathetic to a Russian, but it didn’t mean they wouldn’t kill him. No, it would be better if he was from an Eastern Bloc country. At first he thought he would adopt Bulgaria as his homeland.

Then he struck a brilliant idea, instead of being from one of the elitist partners of the Soviet regime he should be from one of the oppressed territories that made up the Soviet Union. He decided that he would become a Chechnyan. It was a perfect cover. Although he didn’t know the language as well as he knew Bulgarian, he was sure he could pass. Any errors he made, he would make them in Russian. If he was called on it, he would blame his forced Russian education and the time he spent in the army. His confidence was bolstered by the fact that he was well versed in Islam.

After practicing his cover for another week, he was ready to go. He allowed himself to be taken by a roving band of gunmen. They belonged to the militia of the local warlord. When he explained that he was a Chechnyan deserter, they immediately escorted him to the warlord.

It didn’t take Ian long to endear himself to the warlord. Quickly he moved up in the ranks and became a very integral part of the opium smuggling operation. Not only was he establishing credibility, he was amassing a huge personal fortune. Originally, he had planned to get back to the United States as soon as possible. But when he began to hatch his plan of vengeance against the people that sentenced him to 20 years in hell, he realized it would take money to execute his plan.

Everything was going according to plan until violence erupted in Chechnya again. His warlord had family ties to Hattab, the warlord that started this escalation in violence. Since Ian was a Chechyan, the sent him to lead a militia to try to take some of the pressure off Grozny by attacking the Russians from the surrounding country side.

For almost two years, Ian led a magnificent campaign against the Russians despite his initial lack of knowledge of the terrain. It gave him so much pleasure to be getting back at his captors that he almost forgot about his unfinished business with the CIA – almost. Finally, he was allowed to return to Afghanistan. His battlefield experience had made him even more dangerous than he had been as just an ex-CIA field agent.

Now he had the funds, the experience and the desire to wreck havoc on those that had betrayed him. He had a plan and the means to execute it. All he had to do now was return to the United States.

<<< Chapter 32

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