“Claire is not at home” By Evelyn Rodriguez-Lallave
“Claire is not at home” is about a young woman who sees herself working with a group of an European Terrorist sub-organization of the ETA, called Eureka Basque Agency (EBA) who traffic with Middle East, East European, & American weapons and also with international security secrets. She is assigned by the EBA organization to travel to America to give information to their group organized and stationed there. She also has to bring some very important documents to a man who is the key to their organization in New York, where their secret facility is. Unexpectedly, Claire Leto becomes a victim of these men, and their organization, who are now forcing her to work for them thanks to Peter “Beto” Vaughn, Clair’s old friend and former lover, who is now the Eureka Basque leader. But against her heart she reclaims her freedom and fights back…
As Claire read her favorite book, “Day of the Bees”, she thought that the world had betrayed and given its back to her, the same way it did to Louise Collard [The heroine in the story she was reading]. However, she was now giving her back to the world as well. There was no turning back. She had done something terrible and she knew she would regret it her entire life. She had given away a secret, a secret that only she on Mr. Al Blanco knew about. Mr. Blanco had her in his hands, he was holding this card against her, but at the moment he was all she had. He was on her side, not only as a business partner. He wanted more of her…
Claire had betrayed the only person that ever trusted in her fully, Peter Vaughn, and no matter how bad Peter had been with her and everyone else around him, she had no right to put all the blame on him. Not for something she had a lot to do with. She had being his accomplice. And she was not sure when she had stopped being forced into all of it. When she had starting or stopped being a voluntary member of all of it. Yet she’d loved Peter with all her heart, and he’d used her, turning a fairly innocent young girl into an international spy and worst a criminal and terrorist. Claire felt used tired and disappointed. Everything in her life was surreal and fake like a weird dream or a thriller movie. She decided she needed a change. She needed a new start, with a clean slate. Claire wanted to change her life for good.
The phone rang, and Claire startled dropped her book on the floor. She immediately ran to pick up the phone. It was the call she had waited for, the one that will give her that chance she was looking for to make things right. Yet she still had her doubts.
“Hello!” Claire said with her soft voice
“Claire Leto?” a voice at the other end asked in a harsh tone, almost as if the person speaking were angry at her.
“Yes, it’s me! What do you need?” She replied in an unfriendly tone this time. The voice at the other end of the auricular had the effect of annoying her.
“The drop is tonight!” [A dead silence] Claire smiled a sarcastic smile and thought to herself, “Welcome back to reality Claire!”
“Give me 20.” She responded as she grabbed her sweater. It was 45 degrees outside and in Raleigh, NC. this could feel a lot colder.
“You only have 10 minutes. & Clair, hurry!”
Claire placed the receiver down. She grabbed the hotel keys and dropped them inside her pockets. Then she ran into the bathroom to wash her face. She let the freezing cold water running through her face, making her eyelashes look ever longer and darker than they were. She had great Greek-Italian features, but because of the dark tan on her skin she was easily confused by a Spanish or Brazilian girl. Claire tossed her hair and grabbing a small hand towel and dried her face gently, squinting at the image on her mirror. No matter how many times she that job she always felt sick. But she knew that this time it would be the last one. She tied her hair up in a pigtail, then walked out of the bathroom and put on her old white running shoes that were lying down near her bed. Next she grabbed a cap and put on her leather jacket again, she had taken it a off to change her thin beige blouse into this pretty chocolate-brown turtle neck sweater that made her look pretty but dangerous at the same time.
Outside on the sidewalk she crossed the street and began to walk rapidly. She only had to walk one and half block to her to near Duke Park to be part of her last and final deal with this terrible criminals. They needed her. She was the middleman now. After the FBI captured her partner she had to do everything by herself. She liked working alone, as she always said imitating some bad cowboy filmed she watched as a child, “I walk alone, like Maclovio”. And now being on her own was the easiest way to make things right, for she was her own boss and only few knew her well enough to be able to follow her trail after she did what she was about to do tonight. As Claire walked she tapped her pockets feeling her keys. She also felt something else inside her pockets a business card. She was not surprised she had placed them there herself only few days before. It was the Raul’s business card, the FBI Agent she had to deal with before. She was not happy talking with Raul, he made her nervous each time she heard his voice or talked to him. And he always seemed tense near her. Yet he was a good man, she could see how his eyes looked soft and warm despite his tough “macho” attitude, each time he looked at her. She was no snitch, but she’d kept that card that “Cheyenne”, as they called Raul, had given to her three months ago, when she blamed Peter for every crime they committed together. Yet Peter had forced her into doing them. He and his organization had threatened to kill her if she refused to help, and they almost did. Ironically, she sometimes felt as if she was already dead.
Peter was a very handsome tall man with light brown short-cropped hair with traces of gray. He was on hid mid 30s and was built as a gladiator. Everyone loved and respected him. Everyone feared him too. He had the sweetest smile and the strongest arms, he could easily killed with them and he had. He was the biggest “big-shot” on St. Peters, Russia and then in N.Y., America. He had dealing in Western, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. Turkish, Greece, France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, and Portugal, where his main play fields and even The United Kingdom, Canada, and back to America, but especially New York where he lived for a while, and took his business from there to everywhere else.
Claire and Peter had a long past together, she knew them since she was almost a child on a school vacation in Andalusia, Spain. He was there on business and had dialed her number by accident. She said to him she was a foreigner and that she did not know the place he was trying to call, nor where that place was. He told her that he was a foreigner too, as if that meant they had a lot in common. She liked his smart response, so they met and became fast friend for the very moment they saw each other. They became almost inseparable for that week. But Pete had lied to her, at first, about his business there in the exotic and mysterious Málaga, a basque of Andalusia just to get her interested. Also to avoid having to answer her questions he told her that he was a KGB secret agent and all the did there including being with her had to stay classified, and she believed him.
Now she was afraid for her life. Now that she knew everything about him. How he’d killed many people including a female KGB agent because she had let her identity being compromised and how he strangled that woman with his own bare hands as he threatened to do with her many times. Pete, her former friend and lover, was the man she had turned in to the FBI, and so on into the CIA. He was not only the biggest drug dealer but also a former Russian Secret Police Agent, and way before the KGB had being disassembled he ran to America to continue his criminal career more freely.
Claire felt chills running down her spine as she caressed the FBI agent’s card in his hand. What if he was the American version of Pete? What if he was as corrupted and evil as Pete was. She doubted for few minutes, but she made up her mind. She needed to take that risk for her own benefit. So she looked for a pay phone to dial the number on the card. She knew that using her cell phone was a very bad idea so she desisted and opted for the payphone instead, like they do in those old black and white mobs movies.
She was hiding half of her face with her elegant long leather jacket as she placed the receiver near her dark-colored lips and batted her eyelashes in worry.
“Raleigh Police. This is Raul” a young jovial voice responded
“It’s me Raul, Claire”. She said on a high pitch voice, unusual to her.
“Claire! Yes. What you got for me sweetheart?”
“Hmm. The drop is tonight.” she replied with a serious now low tone voice.
“By the Duke’s walk?”
“Yes. That same place.”
“Is this time for sure?” “You are not yanking my chains Claire, right?”
“Yes sir.” “I mean NO, but yes the same place. I’m one hundred percent sure this time.”
“Don’t play games with me Señorita!”
“I’m not playing. I am just doing my darn part. So now do yours.” She ordered him around, something he hated, but coming from her it made him smile as he hung-up the phone.
Minutes later at Duke Park.
There were two large vehicles with the lights off parked on a crowded parking lot of a small restaurant. The door of one them opened slightly and Raul slid his body out the car like a snake getting out of its dark hidden place.
“Is everything ready Raul?” A bold middle age man asked his partner, once Raul gets near him.
“What do you think?” replied Raul, in his young Cuban voice to the older man and his partner, Mr. Blanco.
Mr. Blanco was near his 50, he was not a bad looking man but his bad manners and cocky attitude made him look pathetic. He dresses in a poor imitation of an aging Elvis or an Italian gangster, much more like the latter, with his dark hair combed to the back with a hair paste called ‘Boots Hair Cream’. He perfume smelled strong for a man his age. It that made Raul’s nose itch a little. Mr. Blanco appeared to be living inside a time capsule and he seemed to believe he in his was 20, forever. Yet he did his job good. He was the best at it, so they assigned Raul as his partner so he could tam the kid down and teach him some of his great detective’s techniques.
“Don’t try to be smart with me kid,” The older man replied in an angry voice.
“I’m not Al. Things are going smoothly. Everything is going by the book.” Raul replied
“So you trust her?” The man asked to his partner trying not to look worried but deep inside he was worried. This was one of the biggest assignments he had since he joined the “Federally” and he was afraid the little birdie would ruin his plans on moving up the ladder.
“Yes. You should too. You know her better than I do.”
“And you can put a stamp on that. Indeed I know her”. He chuckled after he said this getting an angry look from Raul in return.
“I knew this bird would sing, sooner than later. All we have to do is now is wait to get them.” He said ignoring Raul stares. What do this kid knew about his business?
“I’m glad she gave us all the insights we need. This band is not an easy fish to catch”
“Pst, boy; there they come!” And he gestured Raul to follow him as he unfolded his silver weapon.
At that very moment three black limousines parked on a parking space that was purposely left empty for them. There were no greetings, no exchange of any kind, but only of a knowing silence. The men got out of the limousines and stared at each other. They knew something went wrong. They could smell it in the air.
“Where is that little whore?”, Richard Snyder, the leader, yelled as he asked the other guys.
“Where in the hell is little Miss Claire? She was supposed to be here before us.
But Claire was not there. This was a very important transaction and Claire was the main contact. She had the paper they needed and she was also their last target.
As they looked around trying to see if she was anywhere near by, Raul flashed his gun.
“FBI. Don’t move!” Hell got loose then, and there where lightning of bullets flying everywhere, steps running, some yelling, cars driving away, and then silence and blood, splattered everywhere.
Later that night, only one light was lit at the Nova Hotel, where Claire had been staying for the past two months. A persistent knock on the door woke her up. Claire get up from the chair she was nervously seating at, puts on a robe over her half-naked body and opens up the door softly. “Yes?” Claire asked, but a loud noise is heard and Claire falls down on her face after being hit on her neck with the butt of a silver gun. When she opens her eyes later she slowly tries to stands up.
“Gosh! What a dream.” She tosses the blanket away from her legs and walks to the tiny kitchen the Hotel had to brew some coffee. But then she hears a knock on the door. Deja Vu. She’s half-naked but she grabs her robe and then toss it to the floor as if it were a scary poisonous snake. She takes a deep breath and she walks towards the door then opens it slightly.
“Yes?” She asked. There’s no gun this time, only the raspy voice of Agent Raul Hernandez.
“No. I’m Agent Raul”. “We did it Claire! We got them and you are safe now. Thanks to you, we cracked them, all of them, down. But you can’t stay here.” “Let me in!”
“Why? Why I can not stay here? You said before it was safe. No one will look for me here.” she said as she let him into the room.
“Because you have become our star witness again. We ought to move you some place safe. This town is small for you Claire! They can find you anywhere here. Besides, there’s other charges and many people involved in all this. Including me. We still need you, young girl.”
“But…” Claire responded a little confused. But she did not resisted when Raul pushed her gently into the room area and opening the drawers he soon started throwing all of her few belongings inside a bag he had brought with him just for that purpose. She knew that she could be dead any time soon if she didn’t leave town with Raul. So she grabbed her luggage and dumped some of her ill earned money, she had previously stashed away, and her important papers inside her large bag not caring what Raul had to say about it. She was taking what she believed belonged to her, Peter’s dirty money.Besides she has helped him in trapping a group of smugglers that where trafficking with secret information, drug money, and weapons. So she felt she’d gained that money, money she’d taken from Pete and form one of the guys she’d just turned over to the Federals. To Raul Claire seemed hardened by her past, but he knew she was like any other young girl, with dreams like and too much to live for. She just needed a new chance and he was willing to be there for her. He wanted to tell her that as he closed the Hotel door behind her but he knew it was too soon to open his heart to her.
During the prior two years she was working for a Security company as weapon design assistant and was able to sell the plans to an organization called EBA thanks to Pete, who had offered her half a million for that information. The EBA was and organization in Eureka and France, similar to ETA. She’d been contacted by one of their leaders due to her friendship with Pete, who was also a member of their militant power, and also with an Escort/Madame who had her own connections with the underground and was trying to “help” Claire in getting some quick cash. But Claire refused working for her, so she thought that maybe working for the EBA it would help her earn some cash, and get worldly and toughen up a little.
But when Claire refused to join then or help them she was threatened to dead if she did not cooperated with them and did everything they asked. Claire was in their hands. She had no choice but to comply with their demands, yet somehow she managed not to show truly important information. Yet enough to get them convicted if that information was found in their hands.
“Claire. Claire!” Raul called her name realizing she had had a blank expression on her face for a long time.
Claire stared at him then at the road ahead of them.
“Raul”, Claire called after Raul, the FBI agent now in charge of her, as he was driving through a long dark and empty road.
“Yes?” He replied coldly, not looking back at her, but instead staring straight to the road.
“Where are we heading? Raul, where are you taking me? Raul?” But Raul didn’t answer, he gestured forward with his head, and turned on the volume of his radio as if he didn’t wanted to hear any more questions. All Claire could hear now was a sad Country song coming from Raul old radio speakers, and her hear beating hard on her chest like aborigen’s sacrificial drums, as they both drove away, far into the darkness”…