I figure if Lena Olin isn’t coming back as Irina, the writers are going to, Arrrgggghh , kill her off (saving Sydney, of course, romantic that I am). So I’m going to beat them to the punch with my own story. Naturally the characters belong to JJ Abrams. THE LEGACY Monday – 12:00 noon Sydney sat at the dining room table working on her laptop. She had been there all morning after Irina left to go on an errand she didn’t explain. Her mother had asked if she would do some cataloging of her assets. Aleksey had gone to the office to work on the books of the import-export business. The asset list was phenomenal. She was astounded at the amount Irina had amassed over the years. There were twelve apartment buildings in twelve different nations’ capitols: London, Paris, Stockholm, Rome, Madrid, Cairo, Prague, Beijing, Sydney and Tokyo, as well as Copenhagen and Helsinki. There were also apartment buildings in Munich, Florence and Hong Kong. She had her own apartment in each and, to Sydney’s astonishment, told her she had one also. Irina said that if she needed a place to stay in any of those cities, all she needed was her birth date to get into the building. . She also owned businesses in several cities, which were fronts for the cartel, but all were moneymakers and operated separately. Her agents for the cartel reported only to her. She had large sums of money in bank accounts in all major cities. There were stocks and bonds most of it negotiable. Sydney was beginning to understand why Sloane thought Irina could buy him out. And this was only the list of her legal assets. Aleksey knew about the illegal assets. She would have to ask him. That is, if he would tell her. Her cell phone rang. “Yes?” “Anna, there’s been an accident!” Aleksey’s voice was shaken. “Mom?” She felt a chill go through her. “Y-yes.” She could hear him swallow. “I’m at the Rostov Police Station. You need to get over here immediately but first there is a secret door in her desk. Left hand side…at the top…you’ll see a small button. Push it. A drawer will slide out. There are two envelopes in it. Bring them. And remember, you are Anna Derevko.” He hung up. Even as he was speaking she was following his instructions. The drawer slid open revealing two flat envelopes. She took them out, pushing the button again to close the drawer. Without looking at either of them, she stuffed them in her purse. She called Grigor on the phone and asked him to bring the Mercedes around fast. Minutes later, she entered the car’s front seat. “Grigor, something has happened to Irina. Take me to the Rostov Police Station, quickly.” He threw her a frightened glance, and then drove off. The trip took thirty minutes. Neither spoke to the other, lost in their own thoughts. Grigor was visibly upset. He gripped the wheel until his knuckles turned white. Sydney’s body was still cold at the thought Irina could be seriously hurt or even – she didn’t want to think about it. “Can I come inside?” asked Grigor. “Yes, but be careful. I’m Anna.” “Of course.” He led the way up the steps, holding the door open for her. He was a big man, standing six feet six and close to three hundred pounds of muscle. Beside him, Sydney seemed small at five foot nine. He looked the part of a no nonsense bodyguard. A couple of policemen were standing in the lobby and they, when they saw the pair, stepped back to let them pass. At Sydney’s question, they indicated a hallway. “Third room on the right.” Sydney, followed by Grigor, stopped in front of the door. It was the station captain’s office. She knocked and Grigor opened the door for her. Aleksey got to his feet. The look on his face was foreboding. Sydney’s heart almost stopped. “What?” she managed. Grigor saw the look also and stopped behind Sydney, looking as though he might cry. “Mother’s dead,” he said quietly. The other man in the room rose from his seat and quickly helped Sydney to the chair in front of her. “Sorry, so sorry for your loss.” Grigor stifled a moan. Aleksey took one of Sydney’s hands in his. “She was killed when her car was hit by a train.” Sydney’s eyes leaped to his face. She searched it carefully. There was no sign of his lying. He was genuinely shaken by the news. “What happened exactly?” She looked at the captain. He shrugged apologetically. “We don’t know for sure. The witnesses say her car stopped on the tracks. It looked like she was trying to get out of the car, when the train struck it on the passenger side. “The car was smashed, rolled and then caught fire. She didn’t get out.” He looked at her carefully. He had known Irina and now, he was going to have to deal with her children. He knew nothing about Anna Derevko. She had entered his world without fanfare or any history. He knew, however, he had to be careful at this point. “Where’s her body?” The captain grimaced, “There’s,” he paused, “not too much…” He looked at Aleksey and swallowed, not wanting to go any further. “Could you leave us alone for a minute or two?” Aleksey asked. The Captain nodded and quickly left the room, saying, “Take as much time as you want.” Aleksey nodded at Grigor to leave also. “Did you bring the envelopes?” She nodded and removed them from her purse. “Mother told me to be sure to read what was in them as soon as we heard of her death.” Sydney was surprised to see one was addressed to her and the other to him. She handed Aleksey his, then opened hers. Monday – 1:00 p.m. Aleksey looked at Anna. He had discarded her given name when Irina brought them back to Russia. She had finished reading and held a smaller sealed envelope in her left hand. She looked at him, eyes widening. He handed her his letter and she, hers. They quickly scanned the letters. She handed him his letter, standing up. “What does she mean, “your orders?”” He shook his head. “I’ll tell you later. Not here.” She nodded, understanding immediately that the police station was not the place to discuss family matters. “Shall we go?” Grigor took Sydney back in the Mercedes and Aleksey followed in his. As she rode in the front seat, she saw that the big man was crying. He had loved Irina for many reasons and it was evident her death had been a shock to him. Sydney reached over and touched his arm lightly. “I’m sorry for your loss, Grigor,” she said in Russian. “You knew her longer than I did, really.” He nodded. He couldn’t speak yet. “She’s asked me to tell you that I’m to retire you with all the money you and your family need. You are to keep the apartment in the building, but will not have to work any-more.” He glanced at her. “No, I cannot stop. I work for you now.” His voice was firm enough for Sydney to know he meant it. “Very well, but anytime you want to retire, you will tell me. Promise?” “Yes, Anna. I tell you.” Monday – 5:00 p.m. Aleksey picked up the cell phone when it rang. He listened for a minute or so then, closed it up. He stood for a moment in the apartment he called home. God, his Mother had been dead for only five hours or more and the vultures were already out and circling. He would have to do something and do it quickly. He left the apartment and walked down the hall to Irina’s, no, Sydney’s apartment. She had told him she was going to live in Irina’s apartments. No use having two when one could be rented for a profit. Very pragmatic of her, he thought, but then, he supposed if he were in Sydney’s place, he’d want to stay where she had lived. Suddenly he felt so lost. The last three years had been wonderful. She had taken him everywhere and taught him so much about her businesses and the cartel she ran. He leaned against the wall, next to Sydney’s door. He wondered if he would be able to hang onto the organization she had built. He pulled himself together and knocked. Sydney opened the door. Her face looked so sad. “Do you miss her like I do?” He said, entering and closing the door behind him. “Yes and I didn’t get much time with her alone.” She sat down on the sofa, turning her head to look out at the evening sky. He tried to be less sad, at least for her. “We have a problem!” She looked at him. “What?” “Some of the rats Mother dealt with are rebelling, led by one particular big rat named Ilya Ivanovich. He’s been spreading the word she’s dead and now is the time for them to take over her territory, which just happens to be all of Moscow.” He grimaced. He knew Ilya. Sydney brightened. Here was something she could help with and get her mind off Irina’s death. There was nothing like a little action to take their minds off their sorrow and loss. “Where does he hang out?” “He owns a bar and spends most of his time there.” “Then we’ll take Grigor with us and pay him a visit. I suggest you go prepared to handle him exactly the way she would and I mean it.” He grinned. “Gotcha!” Monday -- 10:00 p.m. Ilya Ivanovich sat at a table in his bar, a bottle of vodka within easy reach. He was drinking it by the shot. He had heard the news, Irina Derevko was dead and he was celebrating. He was at last free from under her thumb. She had been a pain in his ass long enough. He had sent word to the underground about her death. He chuckled. All of them were free to be their own boss. They could start dealing drugs, which she had forbidden. He poured another drink out of the bottle and tossed it down, staring at the tabletop. He was suddenly aware that the room was very quiet. He looked up and froze. He recognized the giant standing there, Grigor, Irina’s bodyguard, but the young woman in front of him was unknown. My God, he thought, she must be all of six feet. She did not seem to be in a pleasant mood. “Good to see you, Grigor. Sorry about…” he didn’t finish, because the woman pulled out a very large automatic and pointed it at him. “I’ve just learned you think you and your scumbag friends can take over Irina Derevko’s cartel and businesses. You evidently don’t know there is a new boss.” “You?” he sneered. “You are not Irina Derevko!” Her eyes narrowed and she stepped to one side, the gun never wavering. “Sark!” The young man came into view from behind Grigor, smiling in a way that made Ilya shiver inside. He did not like what was happening. “I’m Irina’s son, Sark, and I know all about you and the others. You and the other crime bosses will now follow my orders! Otherwise…” He looked at the woman whose eyes seemed to glitter with anticipation if Ilya gave her any reason to shoot. “Oh, sorry, you haven’t met. Ilya Ivanovich, may I introduce Anna Derevko. Anna is my sister, and every bit as dangerous as our Mother.” He looked up and around the room. Everyone was hanging on every word spoken. The word would get out in a hurry. Without warning, he pulled a snub nose revolver out of his coat pocket and fired. Ilya fell backwards in his chair, dead, shot in the heart. “Good riddance,” said Sark to Anna. “He would have caused more trouble. Now word will get out and we won’t have any.” She nodded, putting her automatic away, turned and left with Grigor following. Sark looked at the rest of people in the bar. “I suggest you all leave before the politzei and FSB arrive.” He smiled at the bartender. “How would you like to continue working here, for me, with a considerable raise?” The man smiled broadly, nodding his agreement. “Good. Get rid of this garbage,” said Sark pointing at Ilya. “Earn yourself a bonus.” The bar emptied in a hurry. Sark left. He had solidified his status among the underworld. His mother had kept all of them under her organization, minimizing their effectiveness. Her letter to him had asked that he continue doing the same. Tuesday – 1:00 a.m. Jack awoke up in a cold sweat. It was about one in the morning and he’d only been asleep a short while. He felt sick to his stomach. What was wrong with him? He hadn’t eaten anything that would make him sick. He sat on the edge of the bed. Now, he felt a sense of foreboding. He stood up and went to the bathroom. He’d take something to help him sleep. He had almost reached it when he heard the cell ring. It was his private cell, the secret one he kept hidden. Retrieving it from its hiding place, he knew it was Sydney. She was the only one who had the number. He hadn’t heard from her for weeks, ever since Irina and she had disappeared from Paris. He went to the bathroom, shut the door and turned on the water. He didn’t think the place was bugged, but he was a cautious man. “Sydney?” “Dad!” Her voice sounded sad. “What’s wrong, honey.” He didn’t use that term of endearment often. International. I’ll see you here.” She sounded as though she was going to hang up. “Wait!” He swallowed. “Are you all right!” “Yes!” “Do you want Vaughn to come?” There was silence on the other end, “Oh Dad, I don’t think so. Not for this.” Jack sensed a sort of bitterness in her voice, something he would have to find out about when he saw her. He glanced at his watch. He’d have to hurry to get to LAX on time. Tuesday – 8:00 a.m. Sydney sat in a chair she had pulled over from the dining table. It had not been a good night. Jack was on his way but she was painfully aware of how much she was going to miss her mom. She put her feet up on the windowsill and tilted her chair back so she could look out comfortably. She had to go to the morgue and make arrangements. The politzei were not going to hold the body, especially after she arranged to pay the necessary bribes. The DNA tests were being run so they didn’t need what was left of the body. Grandfather had asked her to come to his office, telling her Grigor would know where it was. She would have to face him and tell him about Irina and Sloane and what they had been searching for so long. She wondered if he knew about the quest. Irina’s letter had asked her to continue looking for the answer. There was a knock on the door. “Who is it?” She called out. “Aleksey and Grigor.” She opened the door. “Come in. I’ve got to put on my boots and I’ll be right with you.” Aleksey smiled at his sister, “You sure you want to do this now? If you wait a couple of hours, I can go with you.” “No, it’s okay. You do what you need to do. I’ll see you later.” A minute later she was seated in the back of the Mercedes and Grigor was heading in the direction of the Rostov Police Station. She would pick up papers that would release her mother’s body to her. She took out her cell phone and made a call to the funeral people. She didn’t want to waste time. She stood on the steps of the morgue watching the box being loaded into the hearse or what passed for one. Irina was on her way to her last stop. Sydney turned and walked over to the Mercedes. Grigor had tears running down his face. She slipped into the seat beside him, putting her hand on his arm. “Come on, Grandfather is waiting at his office. You have to get me there.” “Yes, Anna.” They headed in the direction of the Kremlin. The car stopped at the guard post in front of the building. Sydney showed her papers. The Sergeant saluted, giving Grigor instructions to park in a certain space. Sydney thought it odd she would be saluted. Grigor helped her out of the car. “This way. Keep your papers handy.” Sydney nodded. She noticed that almost everyone stopped to stare at them. Grigor at six foot six and she at six feet, with these boots on, were certainly imposing visitors. They took the elevator to the tenth floor and as they got out, Grigor turned left down a corridor. “Have you met the General” He asked? Sydney almost stumbled. “General?” Grigor smiled, “Yes, a good man. Good father to Irina when she needed him.” The secretary in front of the door looked up. “Yes, you have an appointment?” Sydney nodded, holding out her papers. “Anna Derevko!” The secretary jumped up, hurrying to the door. “Please enter. He’s expecting you.” Sydney, who had seen the general at his dacha some ten miles outside of Moscow, did not expect to see him in a uniform. He was a Lt. General. She recovered her surprise and met him half way as he hurried to greet her. “Grandfather! I didn’t know.” She gestured at the uniform. He hugged her tightly. “Little Anna. I am so sorry I could not be with you yesterday. Know what? Oh, my uniform. Don’t let that worry you. Come. Sit down. Tell me about everything. Tuesday – 10:00 a.m. The plane was approaching New York and would land soon. Jack stirred in his first class seat. There was only one other person in the section. His seat reclined back far enough for him to at least relax even if it was impossible for him to sleep. He had spent the last four hours reliving his life with Irina and then, without her. He had come to the conclusion that, if it had not been for Sydney, he probably would have been dead long ago, either by his own hand or as an alcoholic. His passion for Irina had been so complete that her betrayal was agony, even now, as he thought about it twenty some years later. Jack’s heart seemed to be beating louder than ever as he thought about recent events that brought her back, into their lives, Damn her! What she had put that young woman through! Now she was dead. Irina Derevko no longer existed and no longer could cause pain in the lives of her husband and daughter, and, he paused, even her son. Their son, he remembered. He felt such a sense of loss. He had considered, when Sydney called, if she really was dead. There had been so much deceit in her life. Maybe, he thought, she staged this accident for some reason; maybe to rejoin Sloane. God, he hated that man who had once been his friend and his salvation. Was he responsible for her death? He closed his eyes for a moment then, looked out the window in to a cloudless blue sky. Irina Derevko! Who the hell was she? No one really knew. She only allowed people to know what she wanted them to know. She controlled everything connected to her: situations, people, life and death. What had happened to her those twenty years before he knew she was alive? Arvin Sloane had lied to him by keeping the knowledge of her being alive from him. Then leaving him once more. That had hurt even though he knew she was going to do it. It had hurt even as he planted the passive tracker on her. I was so stupid to think she might have changed, having come to know her daughter. What was it she called me when they were debriefing her? A fool? Well, even if he hadn’t been able to see her face when she found the tracker, he could imagine her chagrin at being caught by him as they revisited their passion of years ago. Now she was dead, gone forever. He wondered what it would mean to him and to Sydney. Well, he would soon know. Tuesday – 5:00 p.m. Jack saw the man with his name on a card and nodded at him. “Jack Bristow.” “Yes sir, come with me. I have a car outside.” Jack threw his small overnighter on the floor behind the passenger seat. The car was nothing spectacular, but the police were allowing it to park without ticketing it. He had a feeling Irina knew many policemen here in France. “It will take five minutes.” The driver said. And five minutes it did. The driver pulled up in front of a small terminal. Jack could see several private jets parked on the tarmac. He grabbed his bag and walked inside up to the desk. “I’m Jack Bristow.” “Oh yes, we’ve been expecting you.” She turned to a man sitting nearby on a stool. “Anatoliy, Mr. Bristow is here.” Minutes later Jack was seated in a private jet, not unlike the ones the CIA owned. Anatoliy saw that he was strapped into the seat, nodded, and went into the cockpit. It took them only five minutes to get clearance for take-off and then, they were in the air. Jack looked around him. The plane, from what he understood from Sydney, must have belonged to Irina and her cartel. It had to have cost about five million. Sitting in the chair brought back memories of his and Irina’s trip to Bangkok and Hong Kong. He remembered their conversation. She had the grace to thank him for raising Sydney and there had been a look of terrible longing on her face. He had seen it and knew she was going to try to escape. Now she was dead. Irina Derevko, a crime boss, assassin and spy. What could she have been if she had turned her immense talents and brains to something good? Then, he mused, he would have never met her, fallen in love with her and … he sighed, rubbing his eyes with his index finger and thumb. Fate was a terrible thing, he thought. Without her, there would have been no Sydney. He leaned back and, glancing at his watch, knew he would be in Moscow sometime after midnight. Wednesday – 1:00 a.m. Sydney stood on the tarmac with Grigor behind her. It was very cold this time of the morning. She wore a black pants outfit with a gray blouse. Over that, she had put on her mother’s long black coat. Black boots with three-inch heels raised her to six feet and even then, she looked small standing in front of Grigor. On her head she wore a shapkas, a fur hat. Her face bore little of the tears that had streamed down her face when she and Aleksey had gone back to the apartment she had shared with Irina. Neither she nor Aleksey had wanted to view the remains. Now, however, she waited for Jack to arrive. The last update had the plane landing sometime near one in the morning. She had told Aleksey it would be better if Jack met him at the apartment later that morning. He was to come for breakfast. Suddenly a plane loomed out of the darkness, taxiing up with just its running lights shining. It swung around so that the door faced her. The door opened. The pilot pulled a ladder from its hiding place and dropped it to the ground. Jack didn’t bother. He jumped to the ground and ran to Sydney, holding her tight, not saying anything. He was so thankful to have that opportunity when he had thought she was lost to him. “Sydney, I love you.” It was the first time he had said those words out loud. “Oh Dad, I’m glad you came.” “When’s the funeral?” “It’s scheduled for 12:00 o’clock at the cemetery. There’s a mausoleum bought and paid for long ago. It’s a family one. Grandmother is there.” Jack tried to think about what she was telling him. It seemed so strange to hear her talk about a family she had never known. He looked at her for the first time. My God, he thought, she reminds me so much of Irina. Then he saw Grigor and took a step back. “Who’s he,” he asked? “My bodyguard, Grigor. I inherited him from Mom.” Jack reached out his hand. “Jack Bristow,” he said. Grigor took it and nodded. “Shall we?” said Sydney, turning and leading the way to the Mercedes parked near by. Jack put his arm around Sydney. “What happened?” She told him. “According to the witnesses, she was trying to get out.” “Did the car stall?” “They don’t know. They weren’t close enough.” Jack turned his daughter so he could see her face. “Are you going to check the wreckage?” She nodded. “Aleksey had it towed to a garage owned by mom. They’re going over it with a fine toothed comb, so to speak. Do you want to see it?” “Definitely!” She put her head on his shoulder. “I’m glad you came.” Wednesday – 2:00 a.m. Jack pushed open the door for Sydney after she had entered a series of numbers on the keypad. “That’s a unique way to enter your apartment.” “Mom set up all of them that way.” She didn’t elaborate. “The doors are steel, so no one can break it down and enter. The windows are bullet proof glass.” He stopped inside putting his satchel on the floor, looking around at her apartment. This was where she lived and breathed when she was in her motherland, her Russia. My God she had taste. The living/dining rooms were warm and homey. Pictures and decorative pieces looked and were expensive, but nothing garish. “She had taste,” he said. “She did,” said Sydney. “I won’t be changing much if anything.” “What does that mean?” Jack stared at her. “Do you want some coffee? Or could you use some sleep? You could stretch out on the bed.” Jack’s eyes narrowed. “Answer me, Sydney, what did you mean?” She swung around to face him. “She left me all her assets except the businesses. They belong to Aleksey. She owned a lot of property. She left it all to me.” Silence fell between them as he assessed her answer. He looked at her. “That means you are not returning to the U.S. doesn’t it?” “Not for a while!” She took off her coat and hat. “Want to give me your coat. I’ll hang it up.” He shrugged out of it, handing it to her. “Do you want to stretch out for a few hours?” She walked to an open doorway and through it to the bedroom. He followed. “I need the bathroom.” She nodded. “In there.” She put the coats on the chair near the door, and left. When he had finished, Jack stopped at the dresser and looked at the pictures in astonishment: he and Sydney in Paris, the old picture of the three of them, pictures of Sydney growing up. A little shaken, he sat down on the edge of the bed, swung his legs over, and lying down, fell asleep, emotionally drained and exhausted by the long hours on the plane. Wednesday – 7:00 a.m. Jack woke with a start. He smelled meat cooking. His overnight bag was on the chair. The coats were gone, probably hung up. He took out the small kit bag and walked back into the bathroom. Minutes later, feeling better, he walked out into the dining area. A man sat at the table, his back to him. Feeling his presence, he stood up and faced him. Sark! That was Jack’s first thought and he caught his breath. Sydney was fussing with food in the kitchen. She looked up when he stopped to face Aleksey. “Dad, this is Aleksey S. Bristow, your son.” She took Jack’s arm. “I know it has been a shock, learning you had a son, but Mom, well, she couldn’t find the right time to tell you. Why don’t you sit down, the two of you, and really get acquainted. I’ll finish fixing our food.” Jack sank into the closest chair. Aleksey sat across from him. They looked at each other for a minute, remembering their clashes at SD-6. Jack searched Aleksey’s face, looking for some sign he was his son. He was still shaken by the news even though he suspected it after seeing Aleksey’s name on the genetic/genome disk Irina had dropped when Sydney shot her. “I’m not quite sure how to handle this,” Jack said stiffly. “How old are you?” “I was born in 1983, just after Mother was released from prison. I’m a little older than twenty.” “My God!” Jack said thinking of all the crimes Sark had allegedly committed. “When did she let you join her?” “I was 16, almost 17. She did want me to go to Oxford or Cambridge, but I didn’t want to be left behind anymore.” Jack smiled, “I can relate to that.” Sydney brought the food into the room, placing it on the table. She poured tea for herself and Aleksey and coffee for Jack. They ate quickly and in silence, each with their own thoughts. “The funeral is at noon.” She said. “But I thought we’d go to the garage to see the car, then come back and dress. Grandfather said he’d be here by ten thirty.” Wednesday – 8:00 a.m. Jack, Sydney and Aleksey got out of the Mercedes and walked inside the garage. In the center of the floor stood what was left of Irina’s car. Three mechanics were taking it apart, or at least trying. There didn’t seem to be much left of a recognizable car. The three of them stood staring. It was the first time Sydney and Aleksey had seen it. Jack felt sick to his stomach as he took in the scene. Then he walked over to the mechanics. They stopped what they were doing and started explaining what they had and had not found. Jack listened, asked a few questions, then thanked them and returned to his two children. “They’ve not found anything yet. What’s more,” he paused, “they don’t think they will. The car as you can see is not even close to resembling what it was when she drove up on the tracks. The gasoline burned everything that might have helped: brakes, electrical system, and anything that could be of any use to us were destroyed in the fire. “They’re going to keep looking, but they didn’t give me any reason to hope there would be some clue as to why the car stopped and why she couldn’t get out.” Both Sydney and Aleksey looked at each other. “Sir?” Aleksey said quietly. “Could some radio controlled device been planted in the car to cause the electrical system to default?” They were at the car now and Grigor held open the back door. Jack waited for Sydney to get inside. Grigor shut the door after Aleksey. “To answer your question, no, I don’t think that happened. The chances of her driving to that particular spot are astronomical. Before we get too caught up in speculation, we need to get some closure with the DNA test.” “They said they might have a preliminary report sometime today,” Sydney said. Jack relaxed. “Then we’ll know. Of course, I’d like to know before the funeral.” His voice had a slight edge of skepticism to it. Sydney glanced at him. “I have something from Mom for you at the apartment.” He looked surprised. “What?” “I think it’s a letter.” She answered. “But we’re going to drop Aleksey off at the office. He’ll join us later.” Wednesday – 10:00 a.m. Jack took the envelope from Sydney. He recognized the handwriting. Irina had written his name and the words, “Only to be opened in the case of my death.” He sat down slowly, looking at it. “I’ll leave you alone,” said Sydney and she walked into the bedroom. He opened the envelope. There was a letter and something else. He put it aside in favor of the letter, which opened “My dearest Jack,” he swallowed hard. As his eyes scanned the words, they filled with tears. It was so, so incredible that she could elicit so much feeling in him. Damn her, why now? Why after all these years these words? Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sydney at the doorway watching, a concerned look on her face. He pulled the handkerchief from his inside pocket and wiped his face. “Dad, are you okay?” “Yes.” He took a deep breath. He folded the letter and put it in his pocket for safekeeping. He wasn’t going to let this letter get away. “What’s that?” She pointed to the other paper in his hand. “Oh! I forgot it.” He opened it and his eyes widened. “It’s a letter of credit drawn on my bank in Los Angeles.” Sydney smiled. “I guess she must have said something about you retiring from the CIA?” He nodded. “I think she mentioned it in the letter.” “Oh, Dad, do it! Resign and find someone you can love. Mom’s gone. I know it.” He looked up at her, sighing. He wondered if he could. Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. Sydney was momentarily startled, but regained her composure. “Sounds like it might be Grandfather. Now, Dad, I think I should warn you about something. He might be in uniform.” Jack looked at her. “What are you talking about?” Sydney was at the door, opening it and admitting a tall, gray-haired man. He was in uniform. His chest was covered with medals. He gave Sydney a kiss on each cheek. Then he looked at Jack, who was staring. “Ah, this is Jack, my son-in-law whom I’ve never met.” He walked up to him and shook his hand, then kissed him on both cheeks. “I am glad to meet you. My Irina spoke of you many times.” Suddenly he stopped, realizing the situation. He sighed. “Sorry.” “The uniform,” Jack stated. “You’re a Lt. General, sir!” “Da! Da!” “Ummm, Dad,” started Sydney, “I think you should…” But Jack was ahead of her. “You’re Mikhail Alexandrevich Probukov? My God, you’re the director of Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, the SVR!” Sydney’s grandfather laughed loud. “Funny. I am director of SVR and you, a director of CIA, father and husband of Irina Derevko.” Jack stared at him for a minute. Then, his mouth quivered, and he tipped his head back and laughed. “My God, what a woman,” he exclaimed! His mind was filled with endless possibilities regarding Irina’s status in Russia. “My daughter very smart. She picked you to have Anna and Aleksey with.” Jack shook his head, “I was told once her KGB supervisor picked me.” He winced a little, as the scene in the cell in Kashmir unfolded in his mind. “Tell me, Jack,” said Mikhail, his demeanor turning serious, “do you really believe that she didn’t know how to,” he fumbled a moment, searching for the right words, “how to protect herself.” He shook his head. “No, she wanted you to be the father.” He smiled. Sydney had been following the conversation and blushed when he spoke of Irina’s pregnancies. She glanced at her watch. “It’s about time.” And to punctuate that, there was a knock on the door. She opened it and Aleksey entered. He greeted his grandfather. “I think we should go,” said Sydney. “One thing,” said Mikhail. He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Jack. “This is DNA preliminary report. I know you want to see it first.” Jack scanned it, his shoulders dropped. “Are you sure?” “Jack, SVR have excellent laboratories, better than any in all of Russia.” He put a hand on Jack’s shoulder. “I too was hoping maybe, but not possible. It’s her DNA.” He looked at Aleksey and Sydney, both of whom were shaken by news. They, in their hearts, had hoped it would not be true. “We go now.” Sydney looked at Aleksey. “Grigor was going to drive us. He wants to be there.” “Then I take Jack and you two go with Grigor.” Wednesday – 11:45 a.m. Jack and the General left the car at the foot of a few steps leading to a magnificent building, a church, now restored to its glory as it had been before the revolution. They walked up the steps. Every man in uniform saluted the General. There must have been forty or so uniformed men milling about. They stood at the top, waiting for Sydney and Aleksey. “Remember, Jack, no one must ever know, including Aleksey and Anna.” Mikhail explained in the car that he always referred to Sydney by her middle name since she looked so much like his wife, Irina’s mother. Jack nodded, still somewhat shaken by what Irina’s father had told him. The Mercedes stopped below. Aleksey and Sydney walked up the steps to join them. The General turned and walked inside, the other three behind him. They sat down in the front row. The bier on which the coffin was supposed to rest was empty. Sydney nudged her grandfather. “Where’s her coffin?” she whispered. “Coming.” Sydney heard movement behind her. People were standing up. She couldn’t quite see, so had to wait. But she heard the measured tread of feet coming down the aisle. Finally, they saw six officers of SVR, the coffin balanced on their shoulders, moving in a funereal cadence step. They moved to the bier and, facing each other, placed the coffin. It was draped with the Russian flag. Both Sydney and Aleksey were puzzled. Jack seemed to take the drama without showing any emotion. The General smiled. Moments later the service began for Irina Probukov. Wednesday – 5:00 p.m. The General left the apartment, slightly tipsy from the vodka he had been drinking. Sydney and Aleksey had gone down to the street with him. Jack sat in the darkening room with his thoughts. She was gone. Her casket rested inside the family mausoleum at the cemetery. He felt so disconsolate, so exhausted by the finality of it all. He was alone and, he thought, free of her at last. It was funny. He was a widower. He’d never broken the legal tie between them, even though he certainly could have. It was something he couldn’t bring himself to do. Now she had done it. He thought about their conversations regarding the marriage and the deceit she had perpetrated on him nearly thirty-two years ago. Why had he been so reluctant to get rid of her legal tie to him? Perhaps it had been his hope she would come back to him. He knew in his heart though that wouldn’t happen, if only for the fact she would become a prisoner, and possibly even executed. The door opened and his children entered. He stood up as Sydney turned the lights on in the room. The three of them looked at each other in silence. It was as if they were strangers, not knowing what to say or how. Irina was gone out of their lives, but not from their memories. Jack cleared his throat. “I’ll be leaving in the morning.” He looked at Sydney. “I know I’ll probably not see you much, so,” he smiled, “I will wish you good luck and a good life. Take care of yourself.’ He turned to Aleksey. “I’m your biological father, but I hardly know you. I wish only the best for you.” “Dad,” cried Sydney, “you can call us anytime on the phone. We can meet any place.” “I know, but for now, I’m about to follow your mother’s suggestion and retire.” He thought of something. “What about Vaughn? I thought you loved him?” “I do, but I don’t know if he loves me enough.” She smiled wistfully. “He would never talk to me about Mom. I gave him a few chances, but he always backed off.” “Sydney,” said Jack. “Call him. Get him to meet you in Paris. Talk to him.” He paused. “This event could change things. Don’t lose your chance at happiness.” He turned and looked at Aleksey. “And you, son, are so young that you have a long time to live and find your love. But, when you find the woman who will make you happy, let me know and I’ll come to the wedding. I love you both and I know your Mother did too! So, please, take care of yourselves.” Friday – 10:00 p.m. Jack took the key out of his pocket. He paused, thinking about the consternation on Devlin’s face when he resigned. He had told Jack he had planned to move him up the ladder to an assistant director at Langley. Jack had refused. Too much had happened, he told Devlin, to make the job worthwhile to him. He had been planning to do this for awhile and it had been Irina and Sloane that kept him going. Now it was over, at least the most important part of his life. Devlin, for once, had understood. He accepted the resignation. He’d asked where Jack was going, but Jack told him he didn’t know yet. He was going away for a few days to think it over. He took a deep breath, smelling the lush smell of the tropics. He put the key into the lock and opened the door. Closing it behind him, he put his suitcase on the floor. The room was dark. He turned to reach for the light. Then, he sensed her. “Laura?” “Jack!” She moved into his arms as he bent his head down to kiss her. _____ But let's hope it (Her not coming back) isn't true, This story leaves the possibility of guest appearances.