"Più caffè, signorina?" my waitress—Mona—asked, wondering if I wanted another cup of coffee. I nodded, gently nudging my cup towards her. "Grazie," I said, as she filled it. I lifted the menu, one I had looked upon more times that I can count in the years I have spent in Verona. I sit, as I always do, Sunday morning at the Caffee Pialto, sipping back coffee at an orange-clothed table. I waited patiently for news.
"Good morning, Katarina," Mr. Hartley said, as he rested into the chair across from me, "How have you been?"
I gave a distant smile, "Fine. You're late, as usual." I replied, looking at my wristwatch.
"Yes, well. My days are busy, as usual."
"Do you have it?" I asked.
He bent down and grabbed his leather satchel, undoing the buckle and pulling out a long, blue folder. He set it on the table and pushed it towards me, I quickly snatched it up and flipped it open, scanning the contents briefly. I closed it and slid it into my bag.
"Thank you, I'll look at it more later." I paused, "Have you heard anything on my Father?"
He leveled my gaze, being careful with his words. "Not recently, he's been keeping a low profile."
I raised a brow, "I wonder why,"
There was a short silence, Mr. Hartley removed his glasses and leaned forward in his seat.
"When will you be leaving?" he inquired.
"Tonight, I'm catching a 4 o'clock flight out."
He gave a look of concern, "Are you sure that's a wise decision?"
I sat up straight, "I doubt that your genuinely worried," I commented. "I'm pressed for time, it's best to go now. Besides, I am fully capable to take
care of myself."
He smiled, the corners of is eyes crinkling. "I don't doubt that you can."
Mona came over and set the bill down on the table, I opened my wallet and put down ten euros. Picking up my bag, I got up from my seat.
"Sorry, but I have to go. Arrivederci." I said, and started to walk away.
Mr. Hartley called out over his shoulder, "Be careful, my dear, for you are walking a dangerous path."
I paced up the cobble street, not looking back.
I arrived at the Palazzo Victoria shortly after my meeting with Mr. Hartley. I pushed open the large glass door and entered the foyer. The hotel was surprisingly upscale inside compared to its modest exterior. Everything was decorated in varying shades of white and grey. I strode down the long hall to the front desk, passing all the modern art and décor.
"Buongiorno, signorina Katarina." Cecilio greeted. The desk clerk of the hotel was a stout, middle-aged man, who had a constant smile plastered to his face. As nice as he appeared, there was something about him that I didn't quite trust.
"Mattina, Cecelio." I returned, "Could you please send a bellhop up to my room around 1:30? I'm going to be leaving today and would like someone to take my things out for me.
The corner of his mouth twitched slightly, "I wasn't aware that you would be checking out, wouldn't you care to stay another night or two?"
"No, sorry, I can't." I stated.
I stepped forward, boring my eyes down on his, his pupils slowly dilated.
"I'm leaving." I repeated.
After several moments he blinked and shook his head, "Yes. Yes, of course."
I turned and walked quickly up to my room. After many flights of stairs I reached the door. Unlocking it, I stepped inside.
Sun streamed in from the open balcony door. The room was clean, and fresh white flowers stood on the table. I hung my purse over a chair and pulled out the folder from earlier. I laid it on the desk at the front door.
I made my way over to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. My wild black hair fell over my shoulders, I pulled it quickly back into a tight ponytail, revealing the small crescent moon just above my heart. I placed my hand over the mark, feeling it pulsate with energy. I turned the sink tape on and splashed my face with cold water. After patting dry with a towel, I looked over to the small white candle on the windowsill. I moved closer. Lifting my hand, I touched my finger to the tip of the wick. It burst suddenly into a bright orange flame. I sighed.
Realizing how tired I was, I sauntered back into the bedroom and sagged down onto the large, plush bed. I looked up at the ceiling, and my mind started to drift…
I was running down a long, dark hallway, my heart pounding in my chest. I darted quickly to each door, opening and checking inside before running to the next. "Maria!" I screamed, "Maria, where are you?!" No one responded to my cry. Damn it, I thought.
I could feel my anxiety quickly rising, adrenaline started to pump through my veins. I need to get out of here.
The last door was off to the right, light streaming out from underneath it. I frantically reached up and turned the large brass doorknob. "Hello?" I whispered cautiously as the door slowly creaked open. I poked my head out from behind, looking inside the room.
Someone's large hand came down on my shoulder, shaking me roughly. I gasped and bolted upright. I was on the bed in the hotel room.
It was only a dream, I thought, thank God.
I looked up to see who had woken me. "Damon?"
Both his hands still rested on my shoulders, his grey eyes staring intently back at me.
"You okay?" he asked, the slightest twinge of concern in his voice.
I felt my throat tighten. I swallowed, hard.
"I'm fine," I replied hoarsely, "Thank you."
"You don't seem like it."
I felt something on my cheek, I touched a hand to my face, and felt warm tears under my eyes. I scrubbed them away, embarrassed.
"Only a bad dream," I said, taking a deep, shaky breath.
He smiled crookedly at me, and kissed me lightly on the cheek.
"Such a strong girl," he mused, "But you'll have to rely on me sooner or later."
I smiled faintly back at him, and placed a tentative hand over his.
"I do rely on you," I assured him, "Much more than I should."
It was true, too. Damon had been there for me since I was a child, watching over
me, teaching me, protecting me. He even followed me when I left home at the age
of eleven. I doubt I'd be alive if not for him. I owed him so much.
"Anyways," I said, changing the subject, "I'm going to start packing."
I patted his hand quickly and got up from my bed, moving to the closet. I opened it and started removing cloths from hangers, shoving them into a carry-on bag.
I brought the bag over to the bed and started to zip it up, Damon was giving me a contemplative look.
He cocked his head to the side, "Are you sure we should leave?"
"Dear god, why does everyone keep saying that?"
"Your father has people all over Manhattan searching for you. I'm just not sure it's the smartest move to, you know, go flying into his trap." He said, trying to reason with me.
"You are the one who suggested I wait until now. I listened. If I don't go now, I have absolutely no chance."
"Shush." I cut him off, "I'm not going to argue. You can come with me or I'll go without you, it's your choice."
He sighed. Rising from the bed, he walked over to where I stood.
"Why do you have to be so stubborn?" he asked, frustrated.
I leveled his gaze with my own, not shying away.
"Fine," he reluctantly agreed.
"Everything is going to be fine" I whispered, "I promise."
He frowned, brushing the mark just below my collarbone.
"I hope your right."
We continued to pack for the next hour, I had spent the last two years in this hotel room, yet there was so little to show for my time. I packed research papers, files, my computer, clothes… yet I had not one keepsake to take with me. I hadn't kept much, so that when I did need to leave, it would be a quick move.
I zipped up my last suitcase, placing it at the door. "Well," I said, looking around to double check, "I think that's it."
There was a knock at the door, I turned around and opened it. A young boy smiled at me "Buongiorno, I was sent to grab your things."
I opened the door wider, stepping aside, "Please, come in."
He nodded and walking past me. I watched him from the corner of my eye, something was wrong. A horrible feeling started to twist in my stomach.
As he bent down, I saw something poking out from underneath his cuff. I narrowed my eyes. A slender, pointed needle slid down into his hand.
My reflexes were much quicker than his, and I was stronger. Before he had time to react, I jumped at him, pinning him by his neck to the wall. He hit his head, hard.
"Kara! What are you doing?" Damon said incredulously.
"Stay back," I warned.
I ripped the small implement from his hands, inspecting it more closely.
I moved in closer, pressing his neck harder back against the wall. He yelped.
"What is this?" I demanded, lifting it up for him to see. He didn't respond, squirming underneath my grip.
I hated using manipulation, but I felt it was my only choice at the moment.
I stared him down intensely. His eyes soon glazed over and he slipped into a trance.
"Who sent you?" I questioned, I could feel him resisting my compulsion, trying to block his mind from me. I was surprised, not many could do this.
It took a moment, but I pushed past it. "Who?" I barked.
"Victor," he gasped, trying to breathe beneath my hand. I felt shock and anger rush to my head, threatening to engulf my common sense. It was almost enough to overwhelm me entirely, but not quite.
I asked another question, "Why?"
"He wanted us to take you to him, he said it was vital to his research."
I heard footsteps thumping up the stairs.
"Kara," Damon warned, "We have to hurry."
I was infuriated that I didn't have time to ask more, but it wasn't an option. I quickly bashed the boy on the side of his head and he crumpled to the group.
I turned to Damon, "Take care of the ones outside, I'll be right out."
While he slipped out into the hallway, I grabbed my purse and the folder from earlier, shoving it roughly into my bag. I ran out from the room.
When I arrived, Damon had already beat two large men to the floor, they laid stirring at his feet.
"Come on," I said, rushing past him, "There will be more coming."
We moved quickly downstairs. When we past Ceceilio, he picked up the phone and spoke urgently into the receiver.
Once we were out on the street, Damon hailed a taxicab. I jumped in the back seat and he directed the cab driver, "Valerio Catullo Airport."
"What are we going to do?" I said to Damon, "They're going to surround the Airport, how are we going to get through?"
He sat foreword and shrugged off his jacket, handing it to me.
"Keep the hood up and your head down," he instructed, "Once we get inside there will be too much security for them to make a move. We just have to get past the entrance."
I nodded and put on his jacket, not speaking the rest of the way. I stared out the window for the most part, watching everything flash by. We arrived twenty minutes later, Damon paid the driver and we got out. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and I looked down at the street, keeping my face hidden.
I could hear footsteps hurrying from behind, Damon quickened our pace, they quicked thiers.
"Exuse me, sir!" a mans voice called from behind, I stiffened in place, panic rising inside me. We were so close. We stood motionless as the person rushed up beside us. Damon positioned himself infront of me, putting a distance between the unknown man and I.
"Yes?" Damon said carfully.
I looked up slightly, he was pulling something out from behind his back. I placed a hand on Damons shoulder, prepared to protect the both of us. Insead of a gun, he pulled foreward a small booklet.
"You dropped your passport." he explained.
Damon stepped closer and took it from him.
"Thank you." He replied flatly.
I glanced up, to my right a tall male in a black suit and tie stood roughly thirty feet away, staring coldly back at me. I looked down quickly.
Once we were inside the protecting walls of the airport, Damon let out a heavy sigh of releif.
Baggage claim and security went quickly, and we were soon waiting to board in the terminal.
I suddenly felt very weak, the past hour had drained me. Physically and mentally. I rested my head between my knees, breathing slow, shallow breathes. I felt Damon place his hand on my back.
"What's wrong?" he asked, worried.
I waved him away, "I just used too much of my energy, I'll be fine once I rest."
He rubbed the small of my back while we waited to board. A thousand thoughts were running through my mind. How did he find me? Why was he after me? Who were those men? All questions that I didn't have a single answer for. I had stayed hidden for 7 years undetected by anyone, why now?
My head throbed painfully with every thought. I couldn't think about any of that right now, I had to focus on what I was doing. Focus on my goal.
The flight attendant called our plane and we walked up, handed her our tickets, and boarded. I reached my seat in first class and slumped into it, Damon sat down beside me.
"We have an 8 hour flight ahead of us," Damon whispered, "You should try and get some rest."
"I will," I assured him. After the flight attendants demonstrated the safety precautions and we had taken off, I lifted my bag onto my lap. I pulled out the folder that Mr. Hartley had passed on to me earlier. I opened in and grabbed the contents from inside. It was a profile of a young female. It stated her name, age, address, education, occupation. It then went into further detail, with backgrounds on her friends, her history of the past 10 years, and several other things.
I flipped to the last page, and a picture fell into my lap. I picked it up and looked at it. It was a girl in her late teens. She had dark, brown wavy hair, a heart shaped face, pale skin, and big, bright green eyes very similar to my own. My heart pounded harder in my chest and my troat tightened. The picture was of someone I knew too well. My sister.
"Ready or not, Maria," I uttered under my breath, "Here I come."