Touma Shimizu

by Luca

Chapter 5

Zachary could not believe how sumptuous the villa was and how relatively easy it had been to get an invite. Adil had worked his magic with a boy he knew. Perhaps a kid who owed him, or was a relative, it didn't matter and Zachary hadn't asked. The only downside, there was one gold embossed invitation with the space for one name on it, so he was alone. They still discussed who should go although Zachary was the obvious choice.

As he crossed the broad steps that led down to an oasis of a garden all lit by coloured lights dangling from the branches of trees and bushes, he saw there were already quite a few people there. All dressed elegantly as if it they were attending an opera. Men in dinner suits, ladies in long robes, with lots of jewellery. He was pleased that Adil had also managed a hire suit for him. When he'd looked at himself in the old mirror in the hotel the reflection he saw was handsome and befitting the occasion.

The bonus was that everyone was there to celebrate the forth coming exhibitions in New York, London, and Paris of the collection of paintings by Emile Cantagalli. These were planned for immediately after the close of the art festival. Apparently, as well as having an eye for beautiful young boys, Ayoub El Idrissi, the villa owner, also loved art.

Zachary picked a glass from the tray of a passing waiter ignoring the wink he received. It made him wonder if the waiters chosen to serve the guests were also picked to please the owner. He had to get his thoughts back on track and not be diverted by imaginary fantasies. Wandering amongst the guests he sought to find Emile and eventually caught a glimpse of the artist.

It was odd, but Emile even as he talked with a small group by the pool, saw Zachary and appeared to recognise him. It ought not to be odd, there was no reason why he wouldn't, but then again exactly how much of one reality coincided with another was impossible to know. He didn't move or attempt to collar Emile, instead he remained where he was and took a sip from the drink he'd nabbed. It turned out to be a fruit punch with a distinct minty taste and a nice touch of alcohol, perhaps rum, he wasn't sure.

Time passed and more guests arrived filling the place up. He kept to himself, mingling amongst the crowd, trying to keep an eye on Emile and desperately hoping for an opportunity to catch him alone. This proved to be a rather impossible thing because being the star of the evening everyone wanted to meet him. When he was for one moment moving between guests and Zachary approached, Ayoub El Idrissi appeared and scooped him off somewhere else.

By 1AM half of the guests had left and it was much quieter, but Zachary had lost sight of Emile and it seemed he was not in the gardens. Not anywhere Zachary looked and he thought he made a thorough search. Seeing some glass patio doors open Zachary decided to pursue looking for Emile inside the villa. However, as he made his way across the room and was about to open a door, a hand gripped his arm.

Startled he turned. Facing him in his smart waistcoat, crisp white shirt open wide at the collar, and his black slim fit trousers, was the waiter from before. The one who had winked at him.

"je n'irais pas, monsieur," the waiter said.

"Why not?" Zachary replied, rather curtly. He was tired and not in the best of moods having so far wasted an entire evening and probably their only opportunity.

"It is private, sir," the waiter switched to English.

Zachary glared at him, but this did not seem at all to provoke any reaction from the waiter. Not, at least, the kind of reaction Zachary wanted.

"What are you looking for?" the waiter asked, calmly.

And Zachary relented in the face of this young man's charm, beauty and agreeable smile. "I was hoping to have a private word with Emile," he said.

"In that case, come with me." The waiter told him, and turned towards a hallway, set back to their right. "Monsieur Cantagalli is in the drawing room. He does not like the same things as his host."

Zachary wondered what exactly the waiter was saying. Did he mean the owner had left his guests to engage in his own dubious pleasures? Once again Zachary's mind began imagining all manner of things. They arrived at the drawing room as the waiter called it. Knocking first, he opened the door. Emile was across the room sitting in a comfortable armchair with his back to them.

"Excusez-moi monsieur, il y a un monsieur ici qui aimerait vous parler."

"Who is it now who wants to meet me? I never knew I was so popular as I have become this evening."

The waiter had moved into the room and was now standing with Zachary, in front of the armchair.

Emile smiled. "Well I never, Zachary Turin!"

So Emile knew him. He must also have a memory from before, he thought.

The waiter discretely left the room closing the door behind him with a soft click.

"Your father is a dangerous man," Emile remarked, before Zachary had a chance to speak. "Sit down," he indicated another armchair.

Zachary sat in the armchair. Now he was with Emile he didn't know exactly what to say. "Do you remember before?" he asked.

Emile looked across at him. "You mean when I took you to see Baragsen and all that followed? Well, yes. The main players mostly remember every rift. But don't try to put things in any order, that was no more before than this is after. It was more simultaneous."

Zachary thought he had things vaguely organised in his own mind, but now he wondered and started to question his own organisation of events.

"Don't try to work it out," Emile told him. "You can't. You can only deal with one reality at a time. Your father is on a cruiser in the North Atlantic. The USS Lake Champlain. It is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and is heading for Russia. It will soon be within range of its target."

"What!" Zachary's mouth stayed open. He couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"There is a secret plutonium storage facility outside Fedoseevka in Northern Russia. They bury their nuclear waste under the frozen tundra in old mines."

"That's his target?"

"Yes. And you have to stop him. We have about twelve hours!"


"You fly to Murmansk,. An air force jet is waiting at Tangiers airport. It's a six hour flight. You have to leave now."

"This doesn't make any sense. How could you prepare all this? How could you know I was coming here to find you?"

"Timelines. Now go."

He clicked his fingers and that same waiter stepped forward.

"Show Monsieur Turin to his car and go with him to his hotel. Make sure he gets on the plane in Tangiers."

Zachary was swept up in the urgency of the situation. An urgency created entirely by Emile who bizarrely acted like he expected him to show up. Despite having no reason to believe the scenario Emile had evoked, it seemed in keeping with events.

The waiter, Fiad was his name, escorted Zachary from the villa and into the waiting black limo, with black tinted windows and a little pendant flag on the front wing. He'd noticed in the lights of the villa the number plate was a diplomatic registration, orange letters and number on a green background.

They sat side by side in the back of the car and said nothing. Although Zachary couldn't help a sideways glance at the young waiter. The car motor purred like a large feline and whisked them along the drive and out through the gates. Here they were joined by two motorcycle police outriders who escorted them with flashing blue lights. It was well past 1AM when they pulled up outside the little hotel in Asilah. The two police riders dismounted and knocked on the closed door. Some few minutes later Zachary caught a glimpse of the youth from the reception as he opened the front door.

Lowerstoff and Touma were half asleep when they were woken by the police.

"Vous devez tous les deux venir avec nous, maintenant!"

Touma looked at the police then at Lowerstoff.

"Okay, were coming."

He grabbed their things and they followed the police out of the hotel were they were surprised by what confronted them. A large, luxury, black limo with dark tinted windows and a little Italian flag. Lowerstoff immediately thought of Emile, but when the passenger window slid down it was Zachary he saw.

They threw their things into the trunk and joined Zachary and Faid in the limo. With the police outriders back on their bikes, they sped off down the main street leaving the youth from the hotel staring after them.

In less than an hour they whizzed through the gates of the airport and out onto the tarmac, drawing up beside a dull grey monster, a Moroccan army transport plane, it's propellers turning. In the lights of the airport they noticed the different tints of camouflage and the emblem on the tail.

Once aboard they strapped into their seats and were blasted by the noise of the take off. For the next six hours there was nothing to do but wait until they landed in Murmansk. It was 10AM and they'd gone from 19°C in Tangiers to 11°C in Northern Russia.

"Lucky it's July," Touma said as they walked off the rear of the plane.

"Ah, why?" Lowerstoff asked.

"Warmest month of the year. Otherwise we'd be freezing our bollocks off!"

"You've got those English sayings down to a tea," Lowerstoff laughed.

Across the tarmac was a Mi-26 heavy transport helicopter of the Russian air force, plus a few military vehicles and some heavily armed soldiers.

"Fuck, they got the troops out of bed!" Lowerstoff joked.

In no time at all they were onboard the helicopter and were accompanied by two armed soldiers and someone who appeared to be an officer.

The officer spoke, in English. "Welcome to Murmansk, gentlemen. We will soon be over the Barents sea, in the artic, and will make contact visually with the USS Lake Champlain. I have to warn you the ship is maintaining radio silence and not responding to our communications. We have been shadowing the ship for some time. It is our intention to put the three of you on-board, but its risky. Are you in agreement?"

"What do we have to do?" Zachary asked.

"Persuade them to turn around and exit Russian waters."

"And if they don't?"

"We will give you thirty minutes. If the ship's course doesn't change we will sink it. Is that clear?"

Zachary nodded, "Yes, it's clear."

Zachary thought this all seemed to be a replay of previous events but with a twist. Last time on-board they'd failed and Hamilton had shot Lowerstoff. Would it be different now?

"Put these on," the officer said, handing each of them flak jackets. "If the ship goes down," he continued, frowning, "your only chance is to make it into a life raft. In the water you'll be dead in minutes."

They looked at each other and donned the flak jackets.

Zachary tried to imagine what might happen, but it was hard to think. The engine noise seemed like a blanket that clouded his ability to reason. Time seemed to slow, this reality suddenly became like thick glue, as if he were struggling, crawling his way through trying to get free. He shook his head several times, held it in his hands, and when he looked up the Russian officer was watching him.

"Are you alright?" He asked Zachary.

"Not really. But we'll try to get the job done right this time."

"This time?" The officer looked puzzled.

"Yeah, it's not the first time we've tried to stop him."

They fell to silence again, until the pilot announced they were approaching the ship and to get ready to be winched on-board. Standing tied to a line, the door open, Zachary could see the waves below and a short distance separating them from the ship.

"All three of you go down together, one above the other, you're expected." The officer patted him on the shoulder. "Good luck," were the final words he heard.

Then he was swinging above rough seas in the middle of a freezing cold ocean with Lowerstoff and Touma attached to the same rope above him. At one instant he thought they would hit the side of the ship as it bounced through the waves, but the helicopter pilot was skilled, pulled up and then Zachary swung in towards the deck. Uniformed American sailors grabbed him and soon all three were safely on-board. He gave a glance skyward and saw the helicopter turning away silhouetted against the midday sun.

"I have to see Hamilton!" Zachary shouted over the noise of the wind and the waves. Sea spray wet his face and he tasted that familiar saltiness on his lips.

They were ushered through a metal door and a certain calm enveloped them as the door closed behind.

"Admiral Hamilton is expecting you," one of the sailors said quite formally."

They went down a narrow metal staircase, one after the other. A sudden roll of the ship made Zachary grab the hand rail.

Finally, they ended up in a large empty room, which oddly, was strangely familiar. The walls were steel riveted sheets, there were some tables, a large board holding a map pinned to it, and rows of chairs. From the far side of this space in the middle of the ship, with no natural light, appeared a familiar figure. Familiar by his moustache and jet black hair, there was no sky blue jacket, Panama hat, or flared trousers. Those were replaced with a navy uniform, the uniform of an Admiral.

They stood some distance apart. Their escort had retreated, closing the door behind them. The only people in the room, were Zachary, Lowerstoff, Touma, and Hamilton Gode. This was not only familiar it was a re-run of the last encounter. The only difference, there was no Emile, he had not come with them. Was that good or bad? Zachary had no way to tell and before he had any time to think he was immediately drawn to his father's right hand.

Hamilton held the very same Magnum 357 he'd carried in Paris, the gun he'd shot and killed Lowerstoff with.

"I do regret this," Hamilton said.

Zachary lunged towards Lowerstoff, his arms outstretched. He made contact at the same time as t he loud crack of the Magnum reverberated through the room. Lowerstoff dropped backwards onto the floor.

This time the bullet had missed it's target. Before Zachary or anyone could do anything Hamilton had rushed out through the door.

The ship's intercom blared out a double horn blast and a voice announced, "Action stations! Action stations!"

More horn blasts. "All crew to action stations!"

"The life boats!" Zachary shouted, and pulled Lowerstoff to his feet. "Its our only chance."

"No!" Touma said. "That's playing their game."

"What?" Zachary screamed, adrenaline coursing through his veins.

"We need to take control. The bridge!"

With no time to think Zachary acquiesced. If he wanted to die here, what the hell, he thought. He followed Touma and Lowerstoff out of the empty room and they made their way through corridors and up stairs until they arrived at the bridge. Hamilton was standing there barking orders.

"Missiles ready to launch," a uniformed officer at his side announced.

Hamilton stood perfectly still, legs set apart, back straight, the perfect picture of an Admiral.

"Don't!" Zachary screamed at him.

Hamilton turned, he had an absent stare, an odd vacant look about him. Then the ship lurched hard to port and there was one almighty explosion.

"Torpedoed! Midships," a voice spoke from somewhere.

The room was suddenly bright and he recognised this room. It was very familiar, it took a minute for Zachary's head to clear. This was the Foyer Des Jeunes Travailleurs De La Cité Des Fleurs. He blinked several times, was he back where all this began? What just happened?

There was a knock on the door. He knew who was outside and he smiled.

"Lowerstoff!" Zachary grinned as the door opened. "This time round I saved you."

"Yeah, but you know its not over. Quantum reality is an enigma," he replied, rather smugly.

"Maybe my father drowned," Zachary said.

"I don't think so, that would be too easy."

"What happened to Touma?"

"He's coming. He's on the phone talking. Talking to Emile. Apparently we nearly did it."

"Did what?" Zachary was totally confused.

"Touma says if we had control of the ship we could have stopped Hamilton. He knows what to do next time."

"Next time?" Zachary repeated.

Lowerstoff laughed.

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