Alamain stared out of the window, lost in thought, not seeing the beauty of the blue sky before him. For a long time after his shattering discovery, he allowed his anger and bitterness consume him, filled with hatred for the woman who he was now on his way to find and confront. A woman he'd loved so much and thought loved him... something she'd often assured him. And he'd believed it... at least until the fateful night she disappeared. He'd nursed so much anger and bitterness, more so after her supposed death; for a long time wondering just why she did what she did in the first place.
Stumbling on her in Russia had given him a terrible shock, followed by anger and the immediate need to have it out with her. But where to start? He had no idea how to find her... or what name she now went by, if she even changed it at all.
An old friend of his from college, who ran a large and very successful security and private investigating company, was given the task after Alamain confided in him. But he came up empty... no trace of Carly Manning, Katerina Alamain or even Katerina Von Leuschner. Which means she must have changed her name.
Then it finally hit him... Salem. And why not? She once went there to hide from her past... why wouldn't she go back there again? It was once in a million chance and he might end up wrong but why shouldn't he see if his hunch was right?
Hence, his trip over the Atlantic towards America.
To the woman who betrayed him.
And he vowed to make her pay.
Clarice rubbed her aching head. Lately, she’d been having trouble sleeping; general restlessness and the same nightmare of the dark menace hitting her. And for some reason, she had also been experiencing a strange and rather disturbing feeling she was yet to understand... or confide in Bo about. He was even happier these days, ever since she moved in with him, hence her reluctance to burden him about it.
‘Knock, Knock...’ Clarice raised her eyes as Bo entered her office. ‘Ready to go to lunch?’
‘Oh...’ Clarice glanced at her watch, surprised at how fast the hours had passed. ‘Sure.’ Getting up, she reached for her jacket.
Bo took her arm as soon as they were out of the building. At her insistence, they didn’t display any show of affection while at work, Clarice still heedful of Hope’s feelings about their relationship. Hope was polite but cool towards her but at least it was far better than hostility and Clarice didn’t want to do anything to antagonise her.
On his part, while Bo understood and respected his girlfriend’s decision, he still felt Clarice was feeling guilt she had no reason to feel towards Hope. And she worried him. Aside from the nightmare she’s been having more often, her moodiness hadn’t escaped his notice. Whether it was the nightmare she’s been having more often these days, he had no idea but he wished she would talk to him about it instead of keeping it to herself.
‘Princess, what’s going on with you?’ he asked finally, over their lunch at the Brady Pub, after watching her pick at her food.
Clarice looked up, green eyes startled. ‘What do you mean?’
Bo sighed, exasperated. ‘Don’t do that, pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about and then shutting me out. You haven’t been yourself lately and you won’t talk to me about it. What’s the point of us being together if you won’t let me in?’
Clarice winced, ashamed of herself. She reached out across the table for his hand, his fingers immediately enfolding hers. ‘I’m sorry. Believe me; it’s not like that at all.’
Bo squeezed her hand. ‘I want you to feel you can talk to me about anything. So what’s going on? Is it about the nightmare again?’
She nodded. ‘That... and something else. And the reason why I haven’t talked about it with you is because I’m not sure how to describe it and I didn’t want to burden you with it.’
Bo shook his head, his expression incredulous. ‘Burden me?’
Clarice lowered her eyes, feeling even more ashamed.
‘Now, tell me... what is it?’ His piercing brown eyes probed her face. Before she could speak he added, ‘Is it probably second thoughts about moving in with me?’
‘No... No, of course not.’ Clarice said vehemently. ‘It’s just... lately I’ve been feeling so disconnected.’
‘In what way?’
‘In the all the years I’ve been in law enforcement and then later Intelligence... I’ve always been focused on the job. What I did and who I am; protecting victims and serving my country. Then... all of a sudden...’ she stared down at her hand, ‘I feel...’ her voice trembled, ‘I feel it’s not what I was meant for or do... carrying a gun... killing people. All of a sudden, I feel it’s been another person doing that all this time...’
‘Princess, you’ve never killed anyone who never tried to kill you first. It was either them or you.’ Bo reminded her forcibly. ‘You’re a trained agent and a patriot and you’ve been one far too long to suddenly beat yourself up like this.’
‘Why do I feel like this all of a sudden then?’ Clarice whispered. ‘This and the nightmares I keep having, it’s almost like I’m living in a stranger’s body, living someone else’s life. Suddenly, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Bo. I just don’t know...’
‘Hey, Hey...’ Pulling her to her feet, Bo held her tightly in his arms, consoling her. She clung to him, trembling. Worried, Bo made a mental note to consult Marlena again, wishing for the umpteenth time she was home to really help Clarice. Maybe what she was now experiencing was a sign she will actually start remembering things at last.
‘You know what...’ he pulled back to look down at her, running a finger under her damp eyes. ‘I think all this came about from stress.’
Clarice’s eyebrows rose in askance.
‘Think about it, you’ve been running yourself ragged ever since you’ve been on loan and then there was that mission to Russia. You’re pretty much burned out.’ It was most certainly not the case but it was the only thing he can say to calm her and to his relief, her eyes looked a little less haunted as she pondered on his explanation.
‘You’re probably right...yeah, that’s probably the reason.’ She sat back down and Bo moved his chair closer to hers, watching her anxiously. ‘But that nightmare... I don’t know why I keep having it. And it’s always the same one. I can only hear a voice never the face.’ She shook her head, her expression troubled again. Bo rubbed her arm.
‘I wish I knew how I could help you with that, Princess.’
Clarice smiled faintly, touching his cheek. ‘You are, just by listening. You keep reminding me how lucky I am.’ Leaning over, she kissed him. ‘Thank you.’
Bo smiled back, raising her hand to his lips, holding it between his. ‘Tell you what... why don’t we go away somewhere? You certainly need and deserve some time off anyway. I’m pretty sure you’ll feel much better after spending at least ten days on a beach.’
Clarice smiled again, this time a tad brighter than before. ‘That definitely sounds like a good idea. Will you really be able to come with me though?’
‘Not only do I have some unused vacation time, I wouldn’t dream of letting you go alone.’ Bo smiled back, very pleased to see how much she’d cheered up. But he still needed to talk to Marlena.
Spurred by Bo’s welcome suggestion, Clarice sat straighter in her chair. ‘So what do you have in mind for us?’
‘I’ll let you know at home tonight.’ As he spoke, Caroline came up to them. ‘Hi Mum.’
Caroline patted her son’s shoulder and kissed Clarice on the cheek. ‘I hardly see you two these days.’
‘Work hazard Mum, sorry about that.’
‘I can easily imagine, seeing how Clarice looks right now. She’s got circles under her eyes... just how many hours do you keep this girl working every day?’
‘Mum...’ Bo protested, while Clarice chuckled quietly.
‘I don’t work harder than anyone else down at the station. And trust me; Bo’s a thoughtful boss, even if he can be a bit of a pain sometimes.’
‘Thanks a lot.’ Bo made a face at her. Caroline still didn’t look amused, her eyes on Clarice.
‘Seriously dear, are you okay? You’ve hardly even touched your plate.’
‘I’m fine. I’ve just been going through some stuff but I’m better now, I promise. Bo and I just talked it out and everything’s okay now.’
‘Well, I’ll be more convinced after you get more colour on those cheeks and do something about those lines under your eyes. Now eat up.’ With a smile, she left them. Clarice was somewhat more cheerful as they enjoyed the rest of their lunch break; on the walk back to the station, she was eager to know where they’ll be going for their vacation. They were halfway back to the station when Alamain’s cab pulled up in front of The Java. Paying the driver, he got out; scanning his surroundings through his sun glasses. The same and yet not the same, he thought with no interest. He had no liking for the town now or several years ago. All he wanted to find that bitch and drag her back with him by the scruff of her neck if he had to. She had a lot to answer for.
Inside he ordered a latte, wondering how to broach the subject without arousing suspicion. Salem was not exactly a small town but he knew from experience word spread fast.
‘You’re not from around here.’ The waitress, who looked to be in her thirties, set his order before him, her face mildly inquisitive.
‘It is that obvious?’ Alamain asked dryly.
‘It’s your accent, European right?’
‘You’re very perceptive. Yes.’ He nodded. ‘I am actually here on business... and to catch up on an old friend.’ He paused, the first name coming to mind, ‘Shawn Douglas Brady.’
‘Oh dear... you won’t find Shawn D here I’m afraid. He moved to Chicago with his family ages ago.’
The Bradys left Salem? Damn it! ‘Oh, that’s a shame; I was really looking forward to surprise him.’
‘You can go over to The Brady Pub and ask his grandmother for his address if you like.’
Rewind. ‘But you said Shawn Douglas moved away with his family...’
‘No, No... I mean his wife and little girl. The rest of the family still live here. His grandmother, his parents...’
Parents? As in Plural? Did she actually dare come back to marry him? He sipped his latte, forcing himself to act affable. ‘That’s excellent. I imagine Bo and Carly are still very much in love.’
The waitress frowned. ‘Carly? You mean Hope, right?’
Hope? ‘Uh of course, it’s been a very long time, I got confused. Forgive me.’
The waitress shrugged. ‘No big deal. They got divorced months ago anyway. You would think a couple like those two would stay married forever but it was just one of those things. Bo even has a new girlfriend now. I can’t imagine how Hope’s able to cope working at the same place with her.’
He’d come all the way here for nothing. When he thought of Salem, he’d immediately assumed that Carly had immediately found refuge with the Bradys again, Bo eagerly taking her back into his arms. What a fool he was. Yet he was so sure he would find her here. He sighed angrily as the chatty waitress moved away to attend to another customer.
A wasted journey all together. He might as well just book a suite at the best hotel in this hick town and go home in the morning. He glanced round and then a framed newspaper clip on a wall nearby caught his eye. He put down his cup abruptly and strode over to get a better look.
Before leaving the station for the day, Bo sent an email to Marlena about the latest development in Clarice’s condition, urging her to get back to him immediately. Now that Clarice was living with him, he could no longer communicate via Video Calls, for fear of her walking in on the conversation.
Roman had something he wanted Clarice’s input on, so she told Bo not to wait for her; requesting that he picked up a movie from the video rental store on the way home. Passing The Java, Bo pulled over to pick up some pastries.
‘Did Shawn D’s buddy stop by the station?’ the waitress asked as he pulled out his wallet.
‘Shawn D’s buddy?’
‘Uh huh... he just arrived in town on business and said he wanted to catch up with him. Of course I told him Shawn D’s in Chicago. But he said a weird thing though... he thought you were married to some woman called Carly.’
Bo’s eyes narrowed. ‘What did this guy look like?’
The woman smiled, the image of the handsome stranger vividly coming to mind. ‘Absolutely gorgeous and the with the most fantastic European accent. Before he left, he kept staring at the clipping we put up there.’ She pointed to it and Bo’s blood ran cold.
As soon as he got outside, he pulled out his cell. ‘Ro, where’s Clarice?’
‘She just went home, why?’
‘Bo... what’s wrong?’
‘Larry’s in town, why else would he be here unless he somehow tracked her down! I have to get to her!’
Clarice opened the door at the sound of the bell. ‘Hello, can I help you?’ She asked.
Alamain stared at her incredulously, unable to believe her audacity. If it hadn’t been for the newspaper clipping, showing a photograph of her standing between Bo Brady and the town’s Mayor, he would have been none the wiser. And here she was, putting up an elaborate charade. ‘How dare you?’ he hissed, shoving her hard, forcing her backwards.
‘Who the hell are you?’ Clarice snapped, shocked. ‘And what do you want?’
Alamain fought to control his temper, a very difficult task because he was seriously angry. ‘After all these years, years of lies... that’s all you can come up with, you heartless bitch!’ Unable to control himself, he slapped her across the face, causing her to stumble. But he then found himself raising his hands after she pulled out an automatic from under a jacket lying on the couch.
‘Oh no wait...wait... let’s not be hasty.’ He said, anger abating. ‘I’m... I’m sorry I hit you, I didn’t mean to.’
‘Who are you?’ Clarice asked harshly, her gun still aimed at him. ‘Who are you working for... talk!’
He stared at her, now suddenly feeling like he was the crazy one. ‘You know exactly who I am...’
‘Get down on your knees right now!’ a familiar voice snarled from behind. Alamain turned and Bo managed to recover enough to hit him across the face, causing him to fall down hard.‘Hold on...’ he said weakly.
Bo’s fist knocked him out.