Friday, November 23, 2007

Shotgun Thanksgiving Part One

Shotgun Thanksgiving Part One

The last twenty-four hours have just been unbelievable. I know I use a lot of words like "unbelievable" to describe what's going on around here. This time I think it's really justified because I'm really having trouble processing all of it. So much has happened that it may take me several posts to get through it all.

Our normal Thanksgiving ritual is to hit the slopes in the morning, and then prepare our dinner back at the cabin. There is always a good amount of alcohol involved in all stages of the process. This season has been fairly dry so far so none of the local slopes are open yet. We decide to enjoy early-morning Mimosas down on the lake on my dad's boat. It's actually more of a yacht. I try to avoid Marcia and her little inquisition. They all seem fairly sympathetic about my job loss but I still have to endure probing questions about it. Marcia's been questioning me almost every day. I've been telling her that I haven't heard from Ellie but I think she knows the truth.

We get back to the cabin mid morning. As we close the door to the house, out of nowhere Ellie jumps in with a gun and starts yelling.

"Hands where I can see them! Up against the wall!"

Marcia reaches into her handbag.

"Don't even think about it!" screams Ellie. "Hand it over. I want everyone's weapons and cell phones right now! Toss them out."

"Ellie, what the hell are you doing?" I cry out. She doesn't answer. She forces us up against the wall and frisks us one by one, even me.

I can see she has a crazed look in her eye. She's dressed in some kind of black jumpsuit, like a SWAT outfit, with her hair tied back. Once she collects all our phones and Marcia's gun, she asks us to turn around.

"I'm sorry I jumped you like that, but I have no choice. I can't take the risk of one of you deciding to play hero and calling the police or someone. I've installed a cell phone jammer nearby so even if you have a hidden phone it will be useless. I've cut the phone wires. Don't even think about sneaking out of the house. I've wired all the doors and windows so I'll know and I'll chase you down."

"What is wrong with you?" interrupts Marcia. "Haven't you caused enough damage already?"

"I'm being set up, and I need to clear my name. I have some information that there may be a hit on this house today. If I'm right, then it will be a great opportunity to apprehend them and get some information on who is behind this. If I'm wrong, then we'll just have a nice Thanksgiving together."

"What?" asks my dad. "If you think there's a hit here, don't you think having backup would be good?"

"I don't know who to trust anymore," she replies. "I suspect everyone at this point. I've put in sensors down the road and in the woods. We'll know the instant anyone approaches. I brought in some weapons as well, but they'll be kept safe until we need them."

Of course Marcia has to have her say. "Elena. You of all people should know how reckless and ill-advised this is. The moment you leave this cabin, you'll be hunted down and brought to justice. The entire weight of the US Government will thrown into the search for you, and we'll never stop until you are safely in Guantanamo or some other place where you'll soon be forgotten."

Ellie looks at her and sighs. "Yes, I know it's a risk. All I'm asking is to have Thanksgiving with you. Alex, I know you have reasons to not trust me. Marcia, I know your job requires you to pursue me to the ends of the Earth. Brad and JR, I humbly apologize on the intrusion on this sacred American holiday. Considering that this may be the last time I'm on American soil, I just want all of you to allow this one last meal as it were."

I look at her, and I see my family sort of glancing at each other. "So you're not planning to poison us or kill us all after dinner," asks Brad. I cringe a little.

"If I wanted you dead you'd be dead already," she says. "When I kill people it's clean without any traces. Please, I care about all of you, and I'd hate to see you get caught up in something that I don't think you had anything to do with. I'm sorry I have to do it this way, but it may be the only way to clear my name. We'll know if anyone approaches the house, and we can defend ourselves. And if there's any kind of fire fight, you're going to want me on your side."

My dad rubs his chin. "Hmm, a Thanksgiving fire fight. I haven't been in one of those since '72. You really think they'd come here? Who is it? Damn, girl, are you sure you don't want me to call my buddies?"

Ellie smiles wanly. "I think we can handle a couple of low-grade Mercs don't you? Judging from their last couple of attacks, they're just hiring locals off the street. Untrained and poorly supervised. Whatever they're planning won't be well organized. I think if we put up any kind of resistance, they'll turn tail and run. Still, let's draw the shades and not give them anything easy."

My dad grunts at her with approval.

"You guys aren't seriously thinking of letting her stay here?" complains Marcia. "She's a known assassin. She's probably here to cover her tracks. She's playing some kind of sick game with us. She's a killer, and she can't be trusted. I'm not going to sit idly by while she plans our deaths. Have any of you read her file? Do you know who she is and what she's capable of?"

"Oh, get over yourself," says my dad with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Ellie's a sweet girl." He walks over to her and drapes his arm over her shoulder. "So Ellie, you've never been to a Thanksgiving dinner before? You're in for a real treat. Why don't I take you into the kitchen and show you what we're preparing. You coming Marcia? Brad, go get the game up and get some beers ready. Alex, go close all the shades."

Marcia spits and stutters in exasperation. "! If we're all dead at the end of the day, you'll only have yourself to blame."

I'm kind of just standing there trying to comprehend everything. Ellie holsters her weapon, and my dad leads her into the kitchen. Marcia doesn't look happy. After shading the whole house, I join Brad in the family room. I grab a cold beer and collapse on the couch.

"I didn't know you had it in you," says Brad. "I've always liked her. I didn't know she was so crazy. What is with you and psycho women anyways?"

"Shut up," I tell him.

"You think she's on the level? Or are we talking about poison pumpkin pie? I think I'll just stick to beer today."

"She's not here to kill us," I reply. "She's not a psycho killer. I'll talk to her in a minute. Maybe I can get her to go."

After a minute my dad comes back in.

"You left her alone in there with Marcia?"

He shrugs. "I don't know how to cook. Ellie volunteered to help cook."

"Great. I'd better get in there so they don't kill each other. Too many knives in there."

As I walk over, I hear them conversing. I stop before entering. Marcia is sauteing something while Ellie chops some greens with a big knife.

"Why aren't you with your Commie friends celebrating Thanksgiving?" spits Marcia. "Oh wait, you don't have Thanksgiving. You people are godless."

Ellie responds. "Why aren't you in one of your secret residences that Brad doesn't know about having one of your secret trysts? Don't think we don't know about that."

"Do you really think you can keep Alex after all of this? You think if he knew the whole truth about you he'd still want you?"

"Do you think you'd keep Brad if he knew about what you're up to?"

"Listen Missy, do you know how many people die from kitchen accidents every year?"

Ellie slams down her knife and faces Marcia. "Do you think I'm afraid of you?" She starts muttering in Russian, never a good sign. She might be Chinese, but for some reason she prefers to cuss in Russian, I've discovered.

"What did you say? What did you call me? You god damn Ruskie--"

"Ladies!" I exclaim, walking into the room. "Come on, it's Thanksgiving. Hey, who wants egg nog? What about some white wine? Can't we all just get along?"

The two of them glare at each other.

"How's the stuffing coming? What about the pie," I ask. The two women stare at each other. Ellie's hand is inches from the knife, and Marcia's hand is inches from the hot saute pan. "Cranberry sauce?"

Ellie grabs the knife, but turns and continues her chopping, muttering in Russian. "What do have with Vodka?"

"I'll find something. Marcia? Anything?"

She huffs. "Sure. Get me a nog. Heavy on the nog, if you know what I mean."

I go over to the bar, trying to keep an eye on the two of them. Of course Marcia starts up again. She's one of those people who can't let anything go.

"You may have fooled Alex, but you don't fool me. It's a great cover you've come up with, I'll grant you that. You've got him wrapped around your finger so tight, he doesn't know if he's coming or going. You don't care who you destroy or what the consequence are, do you. You're going to leave him ruined, just as he's getting his life back. Just look at him, he's miserable."

"You don't know me at all," responds Ellie. "I would never hurt Alex. He's the only person I've ever...well let's just say I usually don't get a chance to get to know people."

Marcia stops and looks at Ellie for a moment and then laughs. "My're serious. You think you're having some kind of real relationship, in your line of work. Elena, not only are you psychotic, you're delusional as well."

"Do you think I like this? Do you think I really want to be who I am? Alex is the only thing that's made my life bearable in the last few months. I lie awake almost every night, worrying about what might happen."

"Well you won't have to worry much longer. I'm going to personally see you onto the plane, although if I can connect you with a few of these killings, which I'm sure I can, you'll be seeing me for years to come, from inside the walls of one of our secret prisons."

I walk back in with their drinks. "Cool it! What is wrong with you two? This is Thanksgiving. Marcia, I know all I need to know about Ellie. I'm not saying I like it. She wants to change her life, and out of all people you should be the first to support that. Ellie, you should know better than to engage her. She's just trying to agitate you. Now both of you settle down and let's try to get through this day. You're both smart, you're both beautiful, you both love your countries and would do anything for them. I know you might think of each other as the enemy, but you're both my friends, and the whole point of Thanksgiving is to get together and celebrate what we share, not dwell on our differences. I want you two to call a truce. Enough is enough. Please."

The two women glare at each other. Marcia finally smirks. "Fine. I don't like have Thanksgiving by gunpoint. But in the spirit of the holiday, I'll try to be nice."

"I don't want to fight," replies Ellie.

"Now hug or something."

They both glare at me, and then give each other a quick perfunctory hug.

"Good. Now where are we on the turkey? Is it in the oven yet?"

I help them prepare the rest of the meal and get it in the oven, playing referee the whole time.

Almost as soon as we finish loading the ovens, a chiming fills the house.

"Shit! Are you sure you're not having guests," Ellie cries.

She runs over and pulls her laptop out from under the couch. In a moment she pulls up a shot of the road leading to our cabin from a camera she had set up. Sure enough, we spot a number of vehicles toiling up the hill.

"This is it," she breathes. "Everyone get ready to defend this place."

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