The motel is one of those older ones, built in the mid ‘60s in one of the northern suburbs of Dallas. The location has clearly gone downhill in the past twenty years, and the rates are really low. It is one of the least comfortable places she has stayed recently, but she isn’t one to complain, nor, really, are rates or comfort level even part of her factors of selection.
She stands in one fluid, catlike motion from the chair that is just to the left of the window, facing the door. She has a clear view of the street and the door from that vantage point, and an easy dash to the bathroom, where the third window is. She has already done her work out for the morning, as well as cleaned all her weapons.
She pads barefoot to her laptop, which is resting on the bed, open. She logs in, opens a spreadsheet and glances at it. Three more days here, then she’ll press the single key to randomly generate from the database the next place she’ll staying, as well as length of stay and length of rental. As she gently closes the lid to the laptop, her cell phone vibrates on the quietest setting. Normal ears would barely register the noise, but thanks to her patrons, Elena is able to hear it quite clearly. She leans over to the night stand and glances at the screen. Saint Patrick’s? she wonders idly. Maybe the preacher?
She taps the receive call icon and holds the phone up. “Hello?” She listens to the ambient noise behind the caller, even as she hears him speak.
“Elena, it’s Matthew.” His voice is as calm as it usually is, although there’s an undertone of something that she can’t identify.
“I think I’ve got your brother looking for you.”
Elena doesn’t say anything for a full five seconds. Is it my brother? Or someone looking for me?
“My brother? Did he say his name?” Her voice is sharp.
Elena’s eyes narrow. So someone maybe really did their research? If they did, they picked the worst of her many siblings to impersonate. “Does he look like me?”
“Yeah,” She can almost hear the nod in Matthew’s voice. “That’s part of the reason he caught my attention.”
“K,” she replies, thinking hurriedly. “Do you want me to come on down to the church?”
Matthew is hesitant. “I think he just wants to talk to you right now…?”
She hears Matthew say in Spanish, “It’s Elena.”
A few moments later, her brother bombards the phone, speaking quickly and she can hear the desperation in his voice. “Sister! Mom and Dad said you were in the Metroplex! Are you still in law enforcement?” He’s using the blend of Spanish and English that they both grew up speaking, and she easily falls back into it, as well.
“No, I’m out.”
“I need your help,” he says quietly.
Elena’s head tilts a little as she considers. “Do you have legal problems?”
“Uh, no,” Salvador seems caught off guard by the question, but when he continues, his voice cracks, “Maria has been kidnapped! We moved to Dallas for a job and we got a ransom note.”
Elena feels the blood rush to her head, and she closes her eyes briefly and breathes deeply. When she opens them, she’s calm again. “Alright, where do you want me to go?” Maria, Elena remembers, is Salvador’s younger daughter, who would be about eighteen now.
“I’m at…” she can tell he’s looking around, and that he’s distracted as he continues, “Saint Patrick’s right now. I don’t know what to do. They said if I call the cops, they’re going to kill her.”
Elena smiles tightly, and responds, “Well, I’m not a cop. I’m just family, as far as they’re concerned.” She pauses, considering, then continues, “Alright, I’ll be right over.”
“Ok,” and the relief in Salvador’s voice is palpable.
Elena turns slowly into the parking lot at Saint Patrick’s. A quick look at the other cars in the lot don’t reveal anything unusual, and there are only six cars there. She waits in her car for a few minutes, scanning the parking lot and nearby buildings before getting out. Then she walks once around the building, noting all the windows and exits carefully, as well as the logical paths one might go if leaving the location suddenly. She also looks for less ‘logical’ variations, considering her own abilities and whether or not she’d be slowed down by her brother or Matthew.
She approaches a side door and pulls it open, slipping silently inside. From this vantage point, she can see her brother talking to Matthew, and from all appearances, yeah, it’s Salvador. Last time she saw him, he was in San Antonio making big money as a successful financial consultant. He’s wearing a fine quality Italian wool suit, and very expensive black shoes, so she assumes that he is still doing well, and wonders briefly what he’s doing in the Metroplex. She studies his profile, noting the tightness of his shoulders and the agitated way he keeps running his hand right hand through his dark hair. He seems to be listening with only half of his attention to whatever Matthew is saying to him.
With a sigh, she walks up to him. Matthew sees her first, and she can tell he’s been trying to do that thing he does, ease the wearied mind and bring peace to the soul or whatever. It usually works, too, unfortunately for her, though fortunately in her brother’s case. She shoots Matthew a brief smile. Matthew smiles in return, and she can’t read anything but concern in his face.
When Salvador sees Matthew smile, he turns and instantly sees his sister walking toward him. Salvador is at her in three quick strides, and he embraces her in relief. Elena gives him a quick, uncomfortable squeeze before backing up a little.
“When did they call you? The kidnappers?” Elena glances around the church. Elena, Matthew, and Salvador are the only three people in the vicinity.
Matthew sees her glance and reads her motive instantly. With a gesture, he leads them through the antechamber, down the west side of the chapel, to a room just left of the pulpit where they can be private.
Eighth window on the west side of the building, she remembers. Easy trot to the alley. The window opens in the center and slides up, she notes. They could easily and quickly climb through. Even if the window sticks, there’s plenty of furniture in the small room to make quick work of the glass, if the need arose.
“Yesterday,” Salvador responds, as Matthew steps into the room with them and gently closes the door.
Elena turns to her brother. “How long did they give you?”
“They are going to call me today at two,” he replies anxiously.
Elena checks her watch. Like Conor, she has invested in an old, classic wind-up one, what with all the crazy zap-o-matic stuff that Jamie, Matthew, and Erica do to anything newer than a billion years old. She sees at a glance that it’s 10:56. She synchronizes her watch with the global clock on her cell every morning and at various times throughout the day, so she knows the time is right.
“Ok. Alright,” she murmurs as she gathers her thoughts. She looks back at Salvador. “At your house? You’re not in San Antonio anymore?”
“No, I… I… got a sweet deal here,” Salvador is still dazed. He sits down in the chair facing the desk, puts his elbow on the arm of the chair, and rests his forehead in his left hand. His eyes close as he continues distractedly, “I came to the Metroplex not too long ago. Brought my whole family. I have a nice house.”
“Ok, lets…” she thinks a moment as she surveys the area outside the window and listens to the sounds of the building. Her gaze returns to her brother. “Do you want to go to your house?” She casts a quick glance to Matthew, who is standing patiently by the door. “Do you want to come? You could be helpful.”
At his nod, she looks back at Salvador. “You drove?”
Suddenly, Elena remembers her manners. “Oh. Salvador, this is my friend Matthew. Matthew, my brother, Salvador.”
“Oh, sì,” Salvador’s smile is grateful, if a bit wobbly. “We met. He heard my prayer.”
Elena sees Matthew arch an eyebrow at her, and she can’t hide the small puff of laughter that escapes her. Of course he did, she thinks wryly.
Salvador is now studying Matthew, who is leaning against the door frame. “How do you know my sister?”
Elena and Matthew respond at the same time.
“We’ve done a couple jobs together.”
“We’ve interacted professionally.”
Salvador blinks, and looks at the two of them. “Ok,” he responds hesitantly.
Elena gives another amused huff, almost seeing the gears in her older brother’s head shift. If only he weren’t a padre, she knows he’s thinking. Of course, being Lutheran, it wouldn’t matter, but it’d hard for his brain to make that leap.
After a brief discussion, they decide that Matthew and Salvador go in Salvador’s car, and they head outside. She gives her car a quick once-over before climbing in, and checks her mirrors regularly to see if anyone is tailing them as she follows Salvador to Dallas.
Sometimes I’m really glad that Matthew doesn’t drive, Elena muses as she follows her brother. Uncomfortable discussions about not being a good family member are better avoided, though she knows she’s only delaying the inevitable. It’s not like I can tell them the truth, though, and her lips twist ironically. Hanging out with me, or even acknowledging me, will make anyone a target. Like Miranda, except even worse equipped to deal with it.
As they pull into the Highland Park area, Elena suspects why they marked her brother. She knows exactly why as she follows him and he parks his car in a driveway. His house is one of the more beautiful historic homes. All the houses around here are big, but this one is special, with an artfully manicured front lawn and oozing subtle elegance and old money.
Even though she knows that Salvador’s money is very, very new.
She puts her ’95 Honda Civic in park and sits in her car for a moment. She knows manners dictate that she follow her brother immediately, but good habits die hard, and she studies the area quickly, just to see if anything jumps out to her attention immediately. When nothing does, she slides out of the front seat and walks up to the front door, where her brother and Matthew are waiting for her, Matthew patiently and Salvador curiously.
Salvador opens the door and looks at his sister and Matthew. “Please, come in.”
Salvador has led them to the room just right of the door, Elena mentally designates the room the ‘parlor’ from its refined decor. She glances at the furniture situation, and not seeing one she likes, she walks calmly over to the antique writing desk in the corner and moves its chair against the wall that faces both the door and the window. A well-stocked bookcase is at her back now, and from the smell, antique leather covered books.
While Elena was getting “comfortable,” Salvador’s wife Priscilla got them drinks, and just as Priscilla sits down on the couch next to Salvador, Elena hears footsteps approach the door, followed by a they hear a knock at the door.
Elena stands with a swift motion, noting that Matthew has risen as well. Priscilla also stands and starts to move to the door, but hesitates as she sees Matthew and Elena move. Elena chooses an advantageous position between the door and her family.
“Should I get the door?” Priscilla is clearly unsure.
Elena shakes her head, walking toward the door. “How about I get the door?”
“I’ll get the door,” replies Matthew.
Elena nods, and moves back to her position, and Matthew goes to the door.
“Hey, Jamie!” Elena hears Matthew say cheerfully.
She looks past Matthew’s shoulder and sees Jamie Harper standing at the threshold. He’s wearing one of his trademarked dark, high quality wool suits. This time it looks like he really stepped out of his comfort zone, as the tie he is sporting is a blue and silver striped tie. He never wears striped ties. Huh.
Jamie blinks when he sees Matthew at the door.
Matthew grins. “Oh, I’m sure you’re at the right place.”
Elena sees Jamie nod and shrug. “Probably.” He looks past Matthew and says, matter of fact, “Could someone please invite me in?”
Matthew looks back at Salvador. “He’s a colleague of ours, also.”
“Uh, please, come in.” Salvador looks confused.
Jamie looks at Salvador, and steps in. “Thank you.” He walks into the parlor and takes a seat.
Matthew sits near him and casts Jamie a curious look. “So what brings you out here?”