Page 6 of Beta (Alpha 2)

As if nothing had happened, Harris stood up, replaced his weapon in the holster at his shoulder. He wiped his face with a handkerchief, wiped his hands, then placed the cloth in his back pocket. He pointed at me, held up one finger, which I took to mean wait. So I waited, watching. He leaned into the open door of the BMW and pushed a button, freeing the trunk hatch. He crossed around, lifted two black duffel bags from the trunk. He left the trunk open, left the door open, and strode calmly to where I waited in the Rover. He opened the passenger-side rear door and tossed the bags inside.

“I’ll drive,” he said, then shut the door. Gratefully, I shoved open my door and moved around the hood. Halfway around, my knees gave out, my stomach heaving. I fell to the asphalt, bile on my tongue. I felt Harris lifting me to my feet. “We don’t have time for you to break down just yet, Miss St. Claire. Where there’s one of that sort of man, there’s more. We need to move.”

He helped me into the destroyed passenger seat and buckled me in. I was out of it, adrenaline receding, leaving me shaken and shaking, dizzy, nauseous. I blinked, and the Rover was moving, air rushing past my face from the shattered window, then I blinked again and we were weaving through the wreckage we’d just left behind—twisted and jackknifed semis, a crumpled Peugeot. Once we were out of the wreckage, Harris gunned the engine, and then I blinked again and we were bouncing over a dirt road and approaching the chateau. Then we were in the garage and Harris was helping me out, putting me in the passenger seat of the Aston Martin, buckling me in.

“Wait here. Let me check out the scene upstairs.” He tossed the two duffel bags and my backpack in the trunk, and then vanished into the house.

I concentrated on breathing in, breathing out. I tried to block out the horrific images: the twisting, spinning Peugeot. The jackknifing semi. The rolling Audi. The spitting spray of blood.

What the hell was going on? Where was Roth? Why were people shooting at me and chasing me?

Harris slid into the driver’s seat, threw the car into gear, and backed out. He said nothing, only brought the sleek red sports car onto the road, pointing us in the opposite direction from where we’d come. Sirens howled in the distance.

Fifteen minutes passed, and we were rolling between rows of grapevines, the sun shining, and the land peaceful and silent. As if nothing had happened. As if Harris and I were merely two friends out for a drive.

I couldn’t take it anymore. “Harris? What the fuck is going on?”

He let out a sigh, the only sign of emotion a slight twitch in the muscles of his jaw. “It’s complicated.”

“This is Roth we’re talking about. Everything is complicated.”

“Well, obviously he was kidnapped.”

“By whom? How? Why? Who could take him out of our bed in the middle of the night without waking me up?”

“Do you know much about the world Mr. Roth came out of?”

“A little. He was an arms dealer, wasn’t he?”

“Correct. But that’s not a world one simply walks away from.” Harris paused for a long moment, considering. “I think we have a case of jealousy going on.”


“Miss St. Claire, you know how private Mr. Roth is. I’m somewhat stuck in that I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to tell you. What has he or hasn’t he told you, what does he want you to know?”

“Harris. That’s bullshit. I was almost killed several times just now. I was shot at. Roth is gone. He was taken from me, taken out of our fucking bed while I slept! I think I have a right to know what’s going on, don’t you?”

“I understand that. However, the problem is, I myself do not know very much.” He pinched his lower lip between thumb and forefinger. “Here’s what I know. Roth dealt in crates of assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades. Small things like that. Nothing huge. In the circles Roth operated in, he was a small but important fish surrounded by some big, man-eating sharks. Back then, he was a young man with a big attitude. He’d made some good decisions, some good investments early on, built up a good client base and a decent stash of capital.”

Harris paused to slow the Aston Martin and make a right turn onto a wider highway, and then resumed speaking. “But then he got involved with a girl. Gina Karahalios. He met her in a discotheque in Athens, had no idea who she was. Just thought she was another pretty Greek girl he could have a fling with for a night and move on. Well, turns out Gina was the daughter of one the most dangerous men in the world, Vitaly Karahalios, a drug dealer, smuggler, and major arms dealer. When Gina brought her new boy toy home with her, Vitaly recognized his promising talent. That meeting? It was Roth’s downfall. He ended up working for Vitaly, running errands and doing dirty work. It was never part of Roth’s plan, to hear him tell it, but he didn’t have much choice. You don’t say no to a man like Vitaly Karahalios.

“And his daughter? She’s her father’s daughter in every way, cut from the same cloth: cunning, violent, dangerous, manipulative. And she had her hooks in Roth, had them in deep. He wanted out, though. From the start, he wanted out. He never wanted to get involved in that kind of business. He never wanted to be a criminal. He was just trying to make ends meet. That’s how he explained it to me, at least. He started out doing a favor for a friend in return for investment capital. Deliver some boxes, get paid, and don’t ask questions. So he did it. And then again. Then, sort of by accident, he discovered he was running boxes of small arms. Well, by then, the money he was making doing that started eclipsing his legitimate business income. For a kid in his early twenties, pulling in twenty or thirty grand for a single afternoon’s work? Easy choice. But then he met Gina, and everything spiraled out of control.”

“Sounds like Roth glossed over a few facts when he told me all of this.”

“One thing I have learned, working for Valentine Roth: He will never tell you an outright lie. But he will often leave out facts, keep the whole of the truth from you. I’ve seen this in his business dealings many times. It is part of his way. He doesn’t consider it lying, or even an omission. The flow of information is vital in any business. He learned early on in life to never reveal too much, and now it’s just…how he is.” Harris shrugged.

“I’m still not understanding how we got from that whole story about Vitaly and Gina to people shooting at me.”

“This is where my knowledge of events is somewhat sparse. Something went wrong. He tried to get out, I think. Tried to go legitimate. The Karahalios family wasn’t thrilled with that decision, I think. And now, for some reason, I think Gina is out for revenge, or to get him back, or something. I don’t know what she wants. I’m not even sure I’ve made the right guess, quite honestly, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me, based on my limited knowledge.”