LIAN DE LA CRUZ - THE ROOM
Lian has been in love with stories for as long as she can rememember. She's also Puertorican.
“What are you trying to say, Romanov,” asked Mrs. Watkins, “that you can’t do it?” Shifting one leg over the other, she moved her scotch around listening to the ice clink against the glass. “I’d assume a man such as yourself would be able to get the job done. It’s not like I don’t pay you well.” She peered at Romanov from the rim of her glass.
“It’s not that, ma’am.” Romanov pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed at the perspiration on his forehead. “We just haven’t been able to track him down. I still have my men set up in the Maldives. If your husband so much as sneezes, we will find him.”
“Is that so?” Setting her glass down on the small table, she wiped the red lipstick stain on the edge. “Do you see that chair over there? I chose this hotel because of it. Believe it or not, we had one just like it back in Tahoe. And do you know what happened in Tahoe, Mr. Romanov?” Shifting her legs again, Mrs. Watkins ran her hands up her ankles and grimaced as her fingers traced the welts in her skin.
“Ma’am, I promise we will find him. We’re canvasing the area as we speak.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the shrill sound of the telephone unit in the room. Mrs. Watkins got up and walked over to the phone to answer.
“Watkins speaking.” She listened to the receiver and made a sound of approval. “How far? I see… yes, I do. Immediately. Get on it.” She ended the call and dialed another number. “Code orange,” was all she said before hanging up. Turning her gaze to her conversation partner she asked, “Mr. Romanov, how long have you been working for my husband?”
“Ma’am?” Romanovs eyes looked between the woman and the phone, wondering what prompted the question.
“You were his right-hand man for, how long now?” She began to pace the room. “And you always got the job done neatly. My husband praised you so much you were even invited to our Christmas dinners!” Mrs. Watkins walked over to the room’s door and peered through the peephole. Satisfied with what she saw, she unlocked the door. “But you were never invited to Tahoe.”
“23 years of service is a very long time, I assume, since you’re willing to aid him even after the small fortune I’ve paid for your services.”
Romanov shot up from his seat and walked inside. “I don’t know what you mean. I’m doing as you’ve asked. I’m working on what you’re paying me for. I will find your husband.”
“No need, Mr. Romanov. He’s already been found.” Mrs. Watkins opened the door and ushered in two burly men dressed in black carrying what seemed to be a medical bag. “My men spotted him in one of your safe houses quite cozy and very, very far away from the Maldives, as you’ve led me to believe is his current location.”
Heavy feet stump on the carpet as the men grabbed Romanov by the shoulders and wrestled him into the chair where they fastened him with cuffs.
“What? It’s a set up! Can’t you see?” Romanov pleaded with Mrs. Watkins who moved to sit by the edge of the bed after having closed the other door and the heavy drapes. “I didn’t know he was there! My spies told me he was in the Maldives! I swear!”
“Hard to believe that a man such as yourself can’t even realize that his target was right under his nose. I’m sorry, Mr. Romanov, but I just can’t believe that. Such gross miscalculation. Gentlemen.” She gestured at the two brutes who proceeded to open the bag and pull out hardware. Romanov’s breath is shallow and quick as he eyes what the men are doing. Once again, he tried to reason with Mrs. Watkins. Annoyed by his words, she instructed the men to “shut him up” and a large piece of duct tape covered his lips. Romanov began yelling but the sound was muffled by the material.
“Believe it or not, Mr. Romanov, I’m quite acquainted with lies. Heavens knows all the ones I had to tell my husband.” She got up and walked over to him. Her small nose wrinkled in anger, giving away her calm demeanor. “Let me explain why you were never invited to our home in Tahoe. You see, it wasn’t a home. It was my deathbed. It was where my husband took me to release all his pent-up anger from butchered business dealings, the politics of the crime trade, and an unfaithful, unhappy wife. But only the worst got me in that chair you’re sitting on now.” She nodded at one of the guards who promptly exited the room to stand outside.
Romanov shook his head no. You could hear his pleading and sobs as tears trickled over the duct tape but Mrs. Watkins was hearing none of it. “Perhaps it’s time I showed you what happened in Tahoe.”