Just Waking

I'm just waking up to the world around me. Has it really been this long? Where am I going and what am I doing? Just walking along I guess. Help me. This is a collaborative blog. Contributors' main blogs are linked below.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Oh bloody hell...

You may want to refresh your memory...

If your're just joining us, go here and read upwards.


Gregor shoved the photo back into the pack. Vertigo struck again as the dark room closed in, still reeking of the explosives and carnage from the night before.

Must get out.

Have to think.


He slung the backpack over his shoulder and leapt over the balcony railing, deftly landing on his feet like a cat and crept away silently into the night.

* * *
Back at his apartment, Gregor sat in a bathrobe with his eyes closed as if to shut out the images of bloody clothes, pleading eyes, and worn photographs. A bar of Ivory had washed away most of the smell, and the nausea had passed by the second scotch. He held the glass up in front of his face and swirled it gently, letting the rich amber liquid spinning around ice cubes hypnotize him into a state of tranquility.

This wasn't going to go away. Whoever this girl—girls he reminded himself were, they were the key to something or why else would he have gotten that phone call. But key to what? Was she indeed and innocent victim, in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was she connected to the operation somehow?

Or worse, what if she was connected to him? The thought made him shudder.

Something wasn't right. There was a disconnect. Say a man walks to work the same way, every day, for months and then one morning stops and wonders, "was that sign always there like that?" He knows something is different, varied, or out of place, but isn't quite sure what. Gregor felt as if he were looking at a fake Mona Lisa, but not able to say how he knew it was a forgery. It was a nudging sensation that was growing into a full blown gnawing. His object d'art was people, places, and details, and using them to make decisions in the blink of an eye, but here he missed something.

How could their intel have been so wrong? The people at OPS are never wrong. There was no ambassador there. It was almost as if they'd walked into an ambush—but it was too sloppy. If they wanted to take out Gregor and Johansen they could have easily done so with the explosives which they obviously had. Instead they engaged them, why? The answer was in his mind somewhere.

"Help me."

The plea was fainter but still there, clouding his judgment. So was the drink, Gregor decided and stood; the shift in weight made his knee crack. He carried the glass over to the kitchen sink, where days of dishes sat with crusted oyster sauce and rice. He thought back to the morning before, when he looked at the image of a pathetic, washed up man in the mirror. Twenty years ago that man would never have lived in filth; every hair was in place, his shirt pressed, and the sunglasses he wore hid a twinkle that could charm his way though a locked door, not eyes red from drinking himself blind. That man never slipped. Things had to change, now. He poured the scotch into the sink with a ceremonial flourish and dropped the glass into the pile where it shattered.

"Fuck." So much for grandeur.

Gregor reached into the sink to pick out the bigger shards, and sliced his finger along a jagged edge in the process.


A drop of bright red blood now marred the snow white terrycloth robe. Gregor stared at the splatter pattern.

Blood spatters
They came out hot.
Flash bang.
(Angel eyes.)
Check the street.
(Look at his face!)
Take aim.
(He paused and smiled.)
I know him.

Gregor wasn't sure whether he felt anger, repulsion, or fear; it was probably all three at once. He began to pace about the small apartment, now ignoring the cut and the droplets of blood that still fell from it. Alex Portrivov. How did he manage to find him? Did he escape or was he released? It had been, what, over ten years since he left him to rot in a Pakistani prison? It was a fate Alex should be grateful for since Gregor could have and would have killed him with his bare hands for what he'd done…

Oh Aaliya, you always deserved so much more.

Portrivov's presence at that apartment building only meant one thing: revenge. He was here to settle a score. Now Gregor just had to figure out how deep it went. Did Alex get himself involved with these radicals knowing that Gregor would be the one coming after them, or is this completely unrelated? Was the girl with him?

Angel eyes.

Aaliya's eyes.

Monday, February 13, 2006

a brief intermission

Ok, I was away this weekend. I just went through and re-read all the posts, copy/pasting pertinent info for continuity and to try to tie things together as I advance this thing.

Ambassador and family being held? Innocent runaways in the apartment below? Grenades exploding and floors collapsing? Stray bullets to the chest? The coin? I had him remembering her from before? I've inherited a logistical nightmare!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAHHH.
*deep breath*
Ok. Better now.

This may take me a few days. LOL Any thoughts or suggestion are welcome via e-mail or IM.

Monday, February 06, 2006


The room was dark, but Gregor could make out the 12 foot diameter hole in the floor. Light from the corner street lamp bled through the plywood covering the downstairs windows, allowing just enough illumination to give a slight perception of depth.

Fighting back a sudden and familiar feeling of vertigo, Gregor leaned against the wall just inside the doorway and let his eyes adjust.

“How is she alive?” Gregor thought. The answer had to be here.

He carefully skirted the drop-off to the first floor and stopped at the spot where he first saw her eyes. Emotions welled up and a shudder shook him.

“Head in the game, Gregor.” He whispered. “What did you see…”

Images of last night came back to him in spurts, he ticked them off like a beatnik poem:

Her eyes.
She wasn’t one of the targets.
What was she doing here?

Weapons firing!

Duck, evade.
Foot is still intact.
Re-acquire target.

Clear Shot, take it!

Shot is wide…something else is hit.

Weapons firing!

Duck, evade.
Clambering footsteps below.
Targets are escaping.

Radio for sit-rep from support on street.

Check for stragglers.
Angel eyes.

Dark spot on her shirt is growing.
“Help Me.”
Angel eyes, staring, vacant.

Gregor stared through the hole. He knew he’d hit her in the chest with his wide shot. All the other weapons were aimed high, his aimed low. She collapsed just before he left the hole to give chase. She died last night, he was sure of that.

Gregor pulled his eyes from below and scanned the rest of the room. Nothing. Everything in the room was either blown through the windows or fell through the floor. Including Johansen.

Moving to the stairwell, Gregor listened. Two agents out front, but were there more inside? He waited and heard nothing more than jets passing in the distance. Cautiously, he descended the bullet riddled stairs. The hand railing was completely destroyed and the structural integrity was barely enough to keep Gregor from falling through to the basement. Every groan of the steps made Gregor wince. The night and his nerves amplifying the sound so much so that, to him, it was like playing a tuba in a church.

When he reached the foot of the stairs, Gregor stopped and listened once more. He heard the muffled voices of the two agents outside. The words he could not make out, but the tone was of jovial banter. He had gone un-noticed.

He entered the room where he had found Angel Eyes and what was left of Johansen.

The flash memory returned…

No targets.
Angel Eyes, still vacant.

Johansen Torso here.

Johansen legs there.

Check pulse.

Johansen Dead.
Use radio.

Check Angel eyes.

Something shines in her outstretched hand.

Gregor looks down on where her body was. The floor and scraps of charred dry wall stained with her blood are still there, untouched, unmoved.

Glancing around, Gregor notices that his room is different from the others he’d seen. This one looked "lived" in. Someone had placed magazine clippings and travel brochures on the walls. This girl was living here and none of his team had known it. A runaway, perhaps? He continued to search.

There were two sleeping bags on the floor, against the inside wall of the room. One had a backpack, not so hidden under one corner. Inside, Gregor found a change of clothes, a notepad, and a worn and faded picture. The notepad was full of sketches and scribbles which Gregor couldn’t make out in the dim light of the room. He couldn’t make out the picture either, so he moved to the closest boarded up window and held the picture in the light.

It was of two young girls standing next to an older man, probably their Grandfather.

Then it was as if Gregor had been hit in the gut with a baseball bat.


Friday, January 27, 2006


"You sure this the right address?" the driver asked in broken English, seeing the building roped off in cheery, yellow police tape. The tape was the only fresh, colorful object on the grey street.

"Yeah, but it looks like I was late for the party."

Gregor was a bit surprised by his own response. Wit was not a word most used to describe him; invisible was a more suitable word – and it kept him out of trouble. Perhaps Peter was right: Gregor was slipping.

As Gregor was handing the taxi driver his MasterCard, he asked for the time, wanting to confirm yet again what time zone he was in.

"15.75", was the reply.

"Put 20 on the card," Gregor responded.

The driver may not have mastered the English language, Gregor thought to himself. He was glad that he did not live in this city. As an afterthought, Gregor almost scoffed to himself, "but he understood what a tip was."

Gregor hears the wheels of the Lincoln Continental throw loose gravel into the street as the cabbie returns to find his next fare.

Gregor initially was going to enter the building – he knew he missed something the other night – but two police officers stepped out from the shadow if the entrance. Gregor immediately sized them up, his eye catching an ear-bud in each officer's right ear. That, combined with shoes too pricey for uniformed officers, signaled that these cops were more than they seemed. CIA, perhaps? Gregor did not want to find out.

So instead of entering through the main entrance, Gregor walks to the end of the apartment building, and nonchalantly ducks into the alley between two 1960's looking flats.

"Great place to get mugged," Gregor says to his most loyal companion, himself.

He knew there would be another way to get into the building, but he also wanted to enter undetected, a more difficult feat. As he scanned for an alternative place of entry, the girl's pleading continued to haunt him, "Help me!"

She had died in this apartment building the other night, and yet her voice was on his phone the following day. It was her voice, he was sure it was.

Moving a crate under the second floor balcony, Gregor balanced himself and gingerly reached for the railing. He judged that the iron railing, forged nearly forty years ago, should hold his weight, and in what his mind would suggest was a leap of faith, he swung and pulled himself up to the outside edge of the balcony. One quick maneuver, and he was over the railing, standing nonchalantly on the neglected balcony.

Gregor took a deep breath, and walked through the windowless sliding glass door. Observing the blown-out window, Gregor began wondering what was awaiting him inside. He needed answers; being in the dark was uncomfortable, and he disliked being uncomfortable.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

24 Hours

Gregor looked at his phone in disbelief. The voice was real. He listened to it again, covering his opposite ear with his hand. There it was, like a slap in the face with a brick. He immediately turned the phone off and with a shaky arm waved at an orange taxi. The Crown Victoria cut off two other vehicles to run up to the curb, pausing to allow any paying customer to get in. He opened the rear door and slipped inside, he was developing a more insistent headache.

Help me.

"Where to?" The driver's accent was thick, Gregor imagined himself wading through it to find the real words. He shut the door and allowed his eyes to close, Gregor's head lolled back against the head rest.

"Tucker and Fourth."

"Tucker and Fourth." the driver repeated it and whipped out into traffic again, it was a 15 minute drive at least. Gregor took the opportunity to let his mind wander, to get rid of the voice in his mind. The drone of the car took him to another place entirely.

Gregor set the plans of the apartment building on the table. It was on Lexington drive, the more unsavory stretch of the road. It sad on the border of the revitalization project the city had started two years ago. Taxes had apparently been a key factor for the entire deal grinding to a halt. The apartment was an important building; though, not because some group or another was trying to save it. That wasn't the case at all, everyone was all too eager to see those buildings come crashing down. In that particular building, a two story four family flat, an ambassador's wife and children were being held. He didn't care about the politics involved, that was for someone else to worry over. He was a gun hand, and that meant when they said shoot, that's what happened.

He'd gotten the formal background, a diplomat from South America with large stakes in the oil industry brought his family up for a conference. It had all been very hush hush, and before the media jumped on any leaks he needed his family back. It would look excellent in the eyes of the governments if everyone were non the wiser. And that is where this building came in. It was rumored paramilitary forces were at work, but to Gregor it didn't matter one bit. He had simply decided it was a very nasty situation all around.

"We've verified the upper northern apartment right?" he looked at Johansen across the table.

He glanced at the photographs strewn about the table and nodded. "Yeah. Upper north. Five men. Have to assume they are armed. No one's come or gone from the place and there is no phone work going on. Other three apartments are vacant."

Gregor furrowed his brow and after a moment of nibbling on his own lower lip, "Why?" he leaned back in his seat as Johansen shot back a response.


"Why are they vacant?"

"Oh, not sure. The super said something about the project buying out the place later in the year."

Gregor didn't think further than that, and went back to his assessment of the raid. "We have a bird to sit on our shoulder?"

Johansen motioned to and then laid an index atop a building perpendicular to the main site. "Casey is going to be right here. It's completely empty. Cited it condemned with an agent couple of days ago. So no big deal there, sweeping field of fire."


"Going through the basement with two and coming up the back stairwell. We think the steps are wood though, so we're going to be slow on that side. Same with the front."

"Great, so we're okay then. Piece of cake right?"

Johansen smiled and picked up his pack of cigarettes, "Piece of cake."

The taxi must have hit a bump.

"They're coming out hot!" Gregor heard Casey's voice over the ear piece, he had just taken the last stair when the door opened. Automatic fire ate through the wall just to his left. With no where to run in the small hallway, he returned fire. The others began moving back and sprayed the doorway. The AK-108 that the target held in his hands deafened everyone and sent Gregor colliding with the door to his left. He thanked God that the hinges gave way. He scrambled back and to the side, trying to find shelter inside the empty apartment he'd just fallen into.

Casey's voice acknowledged the man had gone down. "He's down, hit him in the neck. The others are taking cover."

Gregor's heart was beating hard in his chest, he'd nearly had his brains painted across the wall of the hallway. Shouting started and over his ear piece he thought he heard 'grenade'. An explosion shook the walls and Gregor found himself up on his feet again, moving forward. He was going through that door. Rifles sounded off and the door that had been flung open only moments ago was ripped apart by flying metal. He pressed forward coming in low.

"Flash bang!" the room he was in was nearly instantly turned into a glowing sun. He managed to turn his face and close his eyes, the noise distracted him for a moment as he felt someone brush by him.

"Get down, friendly!" there was erratic fire and glass began to shatter from deeper within the apartment.

Gregor willed himself forward, ears ringing and sight haloed. Two had gathered at the last bastion of the targets, Johansen was kicking the door open. Thunder erupted from the room, blowing the door into a thousand different pieces. Johansen vanished in the cloud of smoke, everyone else was taken to the floor. The entire apartment was filled with dust and still shaking.

"What the fuck was that?" Gregor took the lead this time, as he came forward the room was nothing more than a husk. He expected to see the remains of everyone scattered about the floor in some grotesque menagerie of self sacrifice; instead, he saw movement from beneath him.

"Help me!" it was a small voice at least in his half deaf state it was. He looked her right in the eye, she couldn't have been more than 16. Her face was that of an angel in fear. Gregor ducked back from the gaping mouth within the floor narrowly escaping having his foot separated from the rest of his body.

"They're down below! Casey, check the street!" There were a few people from his team covering the exits, but no one had expected a wall to blown all to hell. Two of his men had been wounded and unable to give chase. Gregor lined up a shot on one of the four remaining men and fired. The shot was wide and struck something unseen. The return fire littered the apartment building, making him duck away from the opening in the wall.

"$15.75." Gregor opened his eyes.



Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Damage Done

He continued to sip his coffee as he listened to the instructions but he no longer tasted it. It was just a reflex action, nothing more. While it may not have appeared so to the casual observer, his concentration was focused solely on the man next to him. He listened intently as the litany of instructions Peter gave him and silently filed them away for future reference.

As Peter spoke, it dawned on Gregor that the previous night's escapades had done more damage to his reputation than he'd anticipated. Not only was he being reminded of things that a rookie would know in his sleep, but it appeared that Peter would be supervising him - at least for the time being.

Normally, he was in complete control of his emotions but after last night's events his nerves were frayed. It was all he could do to choke back his anger and remain seated. He noticed his leg shaking and fought to keep it still. He picked a point on the opposite wall and focused on it, taking slow, deep breaths. Slowly he felt his anger subside. He tuned back in to Peter's words as he wrapped up.

"I hope you understand that there will be no more fuck-ups...or there will be no more Gregor. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal." replied Gregor with a smile that resembled a lion bearing his teeth. He leaned slightly to his left and muttered "And I hope you understand that if you ever threaten me like that again, I'll rip your balls off and feed them to you."

With that, Peter waved to a woman strolling through the lobby as if she was the one he'd been waiting for and feel into step with her as they left the lobby.

By the time she reached the curb, he'd alredy melted into the crowd of pedestrians on the busy sidewalk.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He was relieved to see that even in his diminished state the previous evening, he'd remembered to turn the power off. Forgetting to do so was a mistake many made, and they paid for it when there location was traced by the periodic beeps the phone sent out to inform the service of its location.

When the phone powered on, he was surprised to see that he had a message. As far as he knew, nobody had his number.

He dialed his voice mail. As the phone rang, he caught sight of himself in a store window.

"You look like shit" he said to his reflection.

He punched in the password and listened to the automated voice.

"You have one unheard message."

"I know. That's why I'm calling." Gregor mumbled into the phone.

He played the message.

"Gregor. We have something that I think you want."

The ensuing silence was broken by the sound of a slap. He heard someone whimper, then in a tiny voice spoke the words that made his blood run cold..

"Help me."

Thursday, January 12, 2006


The Embassy Suites hotel was a good twenty blocks away, but Gregor walked. Despite the bright sun that laughed its way through his Ray Bans, he needed the time and the motion to bring himself fully to life. Some things still needed processing.

Sully's coffee shop was on the way, and even though it was probably the last thing he should add to the churn of bile and blood that he was sharing with the sink most mornings, caffeine was definitely in order. The waitress at the register—"Anna" her tag read, wore a pale smock too big for her small frame and she kept adjusting it up, afraid she was exposing herself. He was trained to notice things like that. She had violet eyes that at the moment bored into Gregor more than the sun outside.

"Help me."

Gregor never spoke to anyone. It was rule—hell it was self preservation. Talk as little as possible; never look them in the eye if you could help it, and keep moving. But everyone has a moment; a moment they lose themselves in. On a day much like this; it was warm and bright, and there was no blight on his soul. He came to hear her voice so soft and sweet. She was singing quietly to herself as he walked up the steps to the front door of the building. Something about the melody made him stop mid-step:

A promise made will never fade
Fly me away on the nightingale's wings
And my love will always return

Without even a thought he had asked her, "Where do you know that song?"

"Help me!"

It was like a slap. The haunting refrain was not content to remain buried under his covers and piles of clothes. It had become a collective consciousness, personified and sitting on his shoulder like some antithetical Jiminy Cricket doppelganger. Just stop it! God dammit go away!


Did he say that out loud? She was looking at him expectantly.

"The coffee? It's a buck twenty-five," she said. She probably had ten hours more to go in her shift and a toddler back at an apartment even crappier than his. Gregor pointed to the plastic display case on the counter next to them.

"Are those donuts fresh Anna?" He asked her. That's right, talk to her Gregor.

"Sure," she said, "We get 'em from the pastry place on Fourth."

"I'll take a glazed."

His wallet held a Benjamin and four singles. He took his coffee and donut, handed Anna the hundred-dollar bill and walked out without a word.


The lobby of the Embassy Suites was as generic as any other large chain hotel located in every city across America. Large, fronded plants in fake-cemented urns ornamented pillars, and everyone, whether they were coming or going, sitting or standing in line, looked like they were anticipating being somewhere else. Except the man Gregor noted sitting on a settee across the room. He wore a blue suit and was reading a newspaper. Well, pretending to read most likely. While the fabric bench was a quiet retreat from the people checking in an out for the day, it afforded a view of the whole lobby. His eyes peered above the tabloid's edge and met Gregor's.

It's show time, he thought.

Gregor sat down next to the man, placed his cup of coffee on the ground between his feet, and pulled the glazed donut out of the bag. Staring straight ahead, he took a large bite and moaned with pleasure, exaggerating each chewing motion with his mouth and cheeks. The suited man looked at him from behind the newspaper.

"You look like hell."

"Nice, very nice," Gregor said and took a sip of his coffee. He spoke softly and to no one in particular. "I even shaved for you, and that's how you greet me Peter? It's been so long."

Peter gave his paper and shake, and turned the page. "Don't be a snot. What the fuck happened last night?"

"Last night was a huge fucking mistake that's what," Gregor said with much more fervor than he should have, and instantly regretted it. He knew Peter Havershaw from way back, but it was impossible to know who you could trust anymore. The last thing Gregor needed was Peter going back and telling everyone he was losing it.

"It must have been huge for them to have called me out of Vancouver to deal with your sorry ass." Peter looked at him, newspaper still concealing his gaze. "Gregor listen to me. I don’t need to emphasize to you the importance of this mission. Are you with us or no? Because there will be no more 'huge fucking mistakes.'"

Gregor shoved the rest of the donut in his mouth defiantly, picked up the coffee once more and took a sip to wash it down.

"Tell me what to do next."