Despite the dark glasses, I blink against the sunlight as it stings my skin. But I keep my eyes firmly on my mark. The girl is easy to track. Inexperienced. Naive. Thinks she isn’t being followed. It’s there in the false confidence of the way she walks, the way she holds her shoulders. Maybe it’s because I’m good at my job. Good enough that my target will never know how long I’ve tracked them, or how much time I spent watching them. I’m hoping it’s because I’m better than most at my job.
Otherwise the girl is a danger to herself.
I’m standing beneath a tree, amidst the bustle of midday sidewalk traffic, the shadows of the branches and sparse leaves providing meager cover in the baking sun. I’m watching as Sara Roshkov hurries across the busy road toward the entrance to the San Francisco Public Library. I have little idea what she’s come to the library for, which makes me more than curious. I can’t imagine she’d be loaning out a book; not now, when her life is in such turmoil. That leaves the option I don’t like – meeting someone.
The thought spurs me to move and I wait only until she’d reaches the top step before I jog across Larkin and enter the building after her. The cool air is a shock against my sweat-covered skin and I’m momentarily blinded going from bright sun to shaded interior. I keep my sunglasses on, habit and protection. She’s hurrying up the marble stairs and I pause to watch her, pretending to admire the high, glass ceiling of the atrium. I follow her up the stairs and watch her enter General Fiction. My shoes don’t make any sound on the stairs and I know she has no idea she’s being followed.
Her hair is short and black today, a wig she’s been using since she arrived in San Francisco. She keeps her neck straight and stiff. Seems she knows not to appear as if she’s looking over her shoulder. I’m not sure what she’s learned from her father but she sure has to learn a lot more about running and hiding so the likes of me won’t find her.
I’ve been tracking her for a while now and I feel a pull of something as I watch her. There is a fragile air to her and she’s lost weight, the hollows of her cheeks proof that life on the run doesn’t exactly involve luxuries like three square meals a day. And Sara Roshkov is used to a life of luxury considering the family she belongs to.
I follow, grabbing a book from the bestseller shelf beside me, keeping sufficient distance between us that she’d see nothing suspicious should she turn around. What she would see is a young guy, black jeans, black tee, black sneakers, much like her own dark clothing. The hoodie I’m wearing is equally nondescript, the ball cap plain too. Nothing I wore would stand out in a person’s memory should they spot me. My black hair is short, the style efficient and easy to maintain. Again nothing to remember me by.
She sneaks a look over her shoulder as she enters an aisle up ahead but her eyes graze my face and her gaze seeks further beyond me. I flip through the book and then enter the aisle next to her. She’s facing me and I can watch her through the stacks without her seeing me. She’s already halfway down her row, finger running along the covers as she searches for her book.
It feels a little voyeuristic but hell, the full scope of my job is inherently voyeuristic. I keep my attention on her as her finger stops on one particular book. Her expression is satisfied; she’s found the book she wants but before she takes it off the shelf her eyes cloud, the gray darkening to dark metal; a moment of doubt that shows on her face as if she battles the monsters within.
As much as I can read people, their eyes, their body language, it’s what goes on inside their heads that eludes even the best of us. Nobody can train you for that.
She straightens her back and then tilts the book toward her. taking it down from the shelf with extra care.
She flips to the back of the book and slowly the pieces fall into place. Someone has left something for her in that particular book. There are a number of possibilities but it’s clear that someone is helping her. Is it someone within her family? Roshkov had always kept his personal life totally private. Not that our surveillance hadn’t picked up on his many mistresses or his other extracurricular activities. The man was involved in everything from human trafficking to drug-running. No wonder his wife, having left for St. Petersburg a year ago, is still to return. Something is rotten in the Roshkov paradise perhaps?
Now, as I study his daughter I wonder if her mother is the wife in Russia or is she the offspring of one of Roshkov many affairs? There is too much we still need to know about Sara and perhaps we will get our break soon. One thing I do know is that she has a heart, that there is a goodness in her.
There is no way for me to tell what the book hides and any attempt to find out will likely jeopardize the mission. I could pass her by and steal the book from her without her even realizing it happened. But that won’t help the case.
She has what she wants, so now she heads out, and her shoulders relax a little. She thinks the coast is clear. I allow her that misconception. I hang back as she leaves the library, keeping my distance as she exits the building and heads back into the sunshine.
I’m her shadow as she hurries to a fast food joint where she buys a couple burgers and then keeps moving. I follow, my awareness turned on to full blast.
She heads further west, into the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. It didn’t surprise me that she’d chosen one of the most dangerous parts of the city to hide out in. What does surprise me is that she’s had the guts to stay there this long, hiding among the homeless and the drug dealers. People get killed every night in this area and so far she’s survived. If anything she is resourceful.
I’ve watched the building in which she’d found a place to sleep, cased the place once when she’d left for a soup kitchen a few blocks away. Other than that, I just watch and report back on her activities. Despite my impatience that we were too slow in getting info, despite my need for us to reacher the next level of this investigation in which we take Roshkov down, despite all my personal feeling I must remain clearheaded, keep my head in the game.
Now I watch her enter the deserted building as I lean against a light pole and pretend to light a cigarette.
I hear the buzz in my earwig that indicates someone is being patched through.
“Eagle, come in, over.”
I press the button on the comms. “Eagle here, over.” My eyes don’t move from the mark.
“This is HQ, do you have a situation report, over.”
“All quiet here, over.”
Release Day 10th December 2014
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