My Sweet Lisa is Book Seven in the Operation Quickline fiction series – Lisa’s kidnapping spurs a host of changes in both hers and Sid’s lives. Yep, it’s finally Real Love. Now what? You can read Chapter One here, or check out all the episodes so far here.
I’ll admit it. I do not use swear words. I was thinking about it some months ago and I realized it was how I was raised. When I was growing up, there were few things that would get mine or Mae’s fannies tanned faster than using a bad word. Even darn or stupid were pushing it. Mama was not oppressive about it. You just did not do it and that was that.
I don’t get weird about other people using foul language. Sid, for example, has quite the foul mouth and I don’t usually object, except when he uses Jesus’ name in vain. That one does bug me.
So, when I state that what happened that afternoon, the Monday after Easter, made me come about as close to swearing as I have in a long time, you can bet I was at my limit.
It started mildly enough. Ivan Danschenko called to see if Sid had any additional questions. I put him on hold.
“That’s interesting.” Sid sorted through his notes, then looked up at me. “You know, I do have a question or two. Do we want to assume he thinks we’re civilians?”
“Probably not a bad idea.”
Sid nodded and picked up the phone. “Mr. Danschenko, how are you today?”
I went back to my office and looked over some interview notes for another article we were working on.
“Lisa,” Sid called. “Are you okay with another lunch meeting with Danschenko today?”
“Sure.” I wasn’t okay with it, but we were still investigating Danschenko.
A minute later, Sid leaned on the door jamb between the offices. “He wants to meet us at his warehouse.”
“Is he setting us up?” I bit my lip.
“We’ll find out, I guess. Will you be ready to leave in an hour?”
I looked over my notes. “I should.” I sighed. “I’m missing something. There should be one more deadline coming up, but I can’t find it.” I looked up and glared at him. “You didn’t re-organize my tickler file, did you?”
“No. I just put some rejection letters in there.”
I sighed and went back to looking through the papers in my inbox and the tickler file. I hated it when we got behind. Inevitably, something would be missed, and we wouldn’t find it until right on top of when it was due. Fortunately, we had yet to miss a deadline and I wasn’t about to let it happen.
I tried to put all that out of my mind as Sid drove us to the warehouse near the airport. Neither of us said much. With no idea of what we were getting into with Danschenko, both Sid’s and my nerves were on high alert. We were both armed to the teeth, even though it didn’t show. The problem was that if we wanted to keep our covers intact as civilians, we wouldn’t exactly be able to draw any weapons.
We parked near the door to the warehouse office. It was in an industrial park filled with cement block buildings all painted white. The office door was glass, and next to it, there was a huge roll-up door, which was closed. Besides the suite number and some gold lettering on the glass office door, there were few clues as to what was inside.
Danschenko was in the foyer, sitting behind the receptionist’s desk.
“Good to see you, Mr. Hackbirn, Ms. Wycherly.” He stood and shook our hands. “Come. I will give you a little tour of my business.”
Behind the receiving area, there was another larger office, where most of the paperwork was done. There were two doors at the back, one leading to another office with a one-way window facing out so that we couldn’t see inside, the other door leading to Danschenko’s office. Near the door to the warehouse there was a huge refrigerator, which housed all the caviar the business imported. I could see Sid salivating as we walked past.
“Did you enjoy your little treat?” Danschenko asked.
“That was some little treat,” said Sid. “We enjoyed it very much. Thank you.”
The warehouse was empty of people. The employees had all gone for lunch, apparently.
“I do not need that many, so this is what happens.”
Pallets of crates and cardboard boxes were scattered about the floor near the front roll-up. A ladder in the far corner led to the roof, and under it was a back door. Freestanding shelves of all kinds stood in rows next to the back wall. Over at the far side of the front was a packing and mailing station. Danschenko showed us his inventory system, then took us back into the main office.
“My office is here.” He showed us to the small room at the back. Papers and boxes were everywhere and on the back credenza stood a brass samovar.
“Now, shall we go to lunch?” he asked.
We followed him to the front office door, but as he put his hand out to open it, gunfire echoed against the cement buildings and bullets shattered the glass just in front of Sid and me. I didn’t have to pretend to be afraid. I was. I screamed.
“What the hell?” Sid yelled.
Danschenko pushed us back into the main office, and slammed the door shut. He pulled an automatic out of a shoulder holster. I screamed again. He sighed and pointed to the room with the one-way window.
“Hurry. Hide there. Is me they want.” He looked out the door to the front of the building.
“What the hell are you trying to pull?” Sid hollered as he pushed me toward the side room.
“Never mind.” Danschenko looked back at us apologetically. “You’ll be safe in that other office. They can’t see you.” He nodded and waved us to the room. “They’re coming. I’ll go out the back. I see two. You wait until they come through, then go out the front. Stay low just in case.”
I moaned as Sid shut the office door. We bent just enough to see out of the one-way glass without exposing ourselves in case a stray bullet or two came our way.
Danschenko stayed in the front office long enough for two men in faded jeans and black shirts to burst through the outside door. They both carried automatic rifles. I gasped as I slid my hand into my purse and got a grip on my Model Thirteen. Sid had his left hand behind his back, where good odds he had at least a twenty-two in a back holster. The two men saw the door to the warehouse closing and ran after. I looked at Sid as the door closed behind them.
He nodded and pulled his hand out empty. “Let’s go.”
I kept my hand in my purse. Sid got through the front door first, staying low and watching everywhere. He usually goes to the front, and I take the rear because I’m the better shot. We scurried over to the car, but no one was about. Sid poked his head up cautiously.
“Looks like we’re clear,” he said breathing heavily.
I got up then yelped when I saw the hole in his jacket at the shoulder. White stuffing and interfacing stuck out through the back side.
“Sid, you’re hurt!”
“I’m fine,” he said, then looked down at his shoulder. “Damn it, I liked this suit.”
I pushed the jacket away and looked underneath. His snowy white shirt and dark vest were unmarked. I closed my eyes in relief.
“Looks like it just went through the shoulder pad,” I gasped.
“Let’s get out of here.” Sid whipped the jacket the rest of the way off and tossed it into the back seat while I ran around to the passenger side.
A minute later, the Beemer roared out of the industrial park.
“Well, that answers one of our questions,” Sid said as he dodged cars and headed up Sepulveda Avenue.
I tried to control how badly I was shaking. “He thought we were civilians.”
“He’s either a hell of an actor or he bought it.”
“I’ll go with he bought it.” I suddenly started crying. “Sid, those two men, though. I recognized them.”
“They were two of the kidnappers.”
Sid swore. “You’re sure?”
“Yes!” I shut my eyes and dug into my purse for a tissue. “But why would they be after Danschenko?”
“KGB was involved somehow.” Sid cursed. “That must have been Danschenko.”
“I thought the cartel was anti-communist. That’s why the Company is working with them, isn’t it?”
“Sort of. We need to talk to Henry.” He looked over at me. “You look a little rattled.”
I took a deep breath. “I am, but I’ll be okay.” I blinked and suddenly smiled. “In some ways, it actually feels a little on the normal side, at least, normal for us.”
Sid couldn’t help chuckling. “It does, doesn’t it?”
“Can we go to lunch?” I finished wiping my eyes. “I’m starving.”
“That is a constant with you, but let’s.”
“Then we have to get back. We’re getting more and more behind by the minute.”
Sid made a point of calling Henry James about what had happened with Danschenko. Henry, apparently, didn’t have much to say, which did not make Sid any too happy. I left it at that. I was pretty sure there was something we really Needed to Know, but that didn’t mean we were going to find out. That evening I went to the Teen Bible Study. When I got back Sid was waiting for me on the couch in my sewing room, in his pajama pants and reading.
“It’s not that late, is it?” I asked checking my watch.
“No. I just felt like getting ready for bed early and reading.”
“Oh. Okay.” I sat down next to him.
“How are you feeling?” he asked, brushing my hair away from my forehead.
“Well, I was scared when it was happening, but like I said, that’s normal.”
“Good.” He reached over and gently kissed me.
My heart pounded against my chest as I kissed him back. I so wanted to be with him.
“I love you so much, Sid.”
“Lisa, I love you.”
We said good night somewhat later and with a great deal of reluctance. After changing and washing up, I got into bed and knew nothing more until Sid nudged me awake. He was dressed to go running.
“You slept through your alarm again.” His tone chided, but he was smiling.
I blinked. “I slept through the night. That’s two nights in a row, Sid.”
He grinned. “That’s good. Now, get up. We don’t want to get any further behind today.”
It was a normal morning. Shortly after we got to the offices, the pagers went off.
“My turn,” said Sid.
It was a pickup down near the port of Los Angeles. Sid was gone for a couple hours, and I went back to working on some edits for one of his financial articles. As I put the printout on his desk, however, I found the file I’d been looking for.
“Shavings!” I yelped. It was for a back cover piece I was doing for a sewing magazine. Worse yet, the essay was due in the magazine offices the next day.
“I’m back,” Sid announced from my office.
I went in there with the file. “I found it. I must have left this on your desk sometime last week and forgotten I had. And guess what? Due in their offices tomorrow. It never fails.”
“What? Your sewing essay? You’ll get it done in plenty of time.” He gently tugged me to his chest and kissed me.
I giggled. “You can’t keep doing that. That’s probably why I left that file on your desk, you know.”
“Okay. Back to work we go. Oh, uh, the drop won’t happen until four-thirty, but I’ll have to leave by three-thirty.”
I ate lunch in the office but got the essay ready for review by one.
As Sid made his notes on it, we got a call on the Quickline phone. Sid answered it, then put them on hold and looked at me.
“Someone upline wants a meeting.”
“About what?” I asked.
“Don’t know. They’re asking for Thursday. How about two p.m. at the Code Five?”
The Code Five (not the real name) was a diner near the airport which handled things like film to develop and paychecks and was an occasional safe house.
Sid set up the meeting, then went back to marking up my essay. When he was done, I took the printout back into my office. I stood next to my desk, reading the notes, then reading the essay again. Sid came out of office behind me. I bent to make a note on my desktop. Sid’s hands slid under my jacket and up to my breasts. He gently pulled me back closer to him.
“Oh, Sid. That really feels nice, but…” I was getting irritated.
“Uh. I’ve got work to do.” I turned and faced him.
“I’m sorry.” He smiled. “You were just kind of tempting there and I wanted to try giving in to it for a change.”
I sighed and gave him a quick kiss. “It’s okay, I guess. I’ve got to get this done though and I don’t have a lot of time before I have to head over to the overnight office to get this sent.”
“Okay.” He wasn’t thrilled and it looked like he was going to say something else, but he didn’t.
“I’ll probably be gone when you get back. I’ve got league tonight and Bible Study, so I’ll just stay out and pick up dinner somewhere.”
“You want to go out?”
“I don’t want to miss any more games and, yeah, I do want to go to Bible Study.” I hoped I didn’t sound as irritated as I felt.
Sid sighed but backed off.
I had the essay corrected in time for Sid to take off. I kissed him goodbye, then set up the letter quality printer. While the article and the cover letter printed, I went and changed clothes. It was ten minutes to four when I got to the overnight company office and got the article sent in time to get to the magazine the next morning.
I ate dinner at a small restaurant nearby, then headed to the gym. Sid didn’t show, at least, not while I was there. He’d buzzed my pager at a quarter to five, so I knew he was home. After Bible Study, Frank, Esther, Kathy, Jesse, and I went out for a drink. I called Sid to let him know and invited him to come. He declined. I thought he sounded like he was a little peeved.
It turned out that he was. When I came in through the garage, he was there, in pajama bottoms and robe.
“You do not look happy,” I said, heading for my room.
“I’m not. Why didn’t you come home after Bible Study?”
“Because I wanted to go out with my friends. I did invite you.”
“I wasn’t dressed to go out and by the time I would have been, you’d be back.”
There was an awkward pause.
“Alright,” I said. “I’m going to get dressed for bed.”
Sid followed me into the sewing room. He already had the couch set up and a book lying next to it.
“I’ll be out in a minute,” I told him.
After I changed, we kissed each other goodnight. Later, the nightmare came back with a vengeance. Sid was there, rubbing my back, as I gasped and got myself under control.
“I’m never going to get over these,” I sniffed.
“Yes, you will. They will fade with time, maybe not completely, but they will fade.” He laid his head against mine. “Listen, I’m sorry about earlier today. When we were necking last night, it got me pretty stirred up, and then temptation struck, and since things have changed between us, I thought maybe I could have a little fun.”
“Sid, I didn’t mind you grabbing a feel. I was worried about that story, and you kissed me, and then you wanted to play games, and I did not want to miss my deadline. I don’t want to make you feel like I don’t want to be touched or anything. I just didn’t think you were listening to me.”
He sighed. “I wasn’t. But you’re not really listening to me, either. It seems like as soon as we eat dinner, you’re rushing off to a meeting or have something else you want to do, and I’m not really part of it.”
“I want my life to be normal again.”
“Yeah, but your life includes me. At least, I hope it does.”
“Shavings,” I grumbled. “I screwed up, didn’t I?”
“And I didn’t realize until tonight that I’m having another problem, too.”
I looked at him. “What?”
“I’m bored. I am bored out of my skull. I seriously considered meeting you at your bible study tonight, that’s how bored I am.”
“But, Sid, you have your music. You have reading, even some TV.”
“I have a lot more time on my hands than I used to.”
I suddenly realized that he was right. Before, he’d be out anywhere from three to six nights a week, and sometimes all day on Saturdays.
“So, how do I fill all those hours formerly filled with the pursuit of carnal pleasure?” He smiled at me, sheepishly. “I was hoping to spend more of it with you. I understand how you feel about being glued to my hip, and I really do not want to do the clingy thing, even if you wanted me, too.”
“Which I do not.” I looked down at my hands.
“Good. But, Lisa, you are very important to me, and I like being around you. I love talking to you, and teasing you, and you teasing me, and the way we verbally spar sometimes. And then when we get close, like we are right now.” He shook his head. “I love you so much, Lisa.”
I bumped up against him. “I love being around you, too, Sid. We’ll just have to figure it out.” I touched his cheek. “I do like being in the library with you, even when I’m reading or knitting.”
“I kinda like that, too. But we could use a little more variety.”
“And you could use a hobby. How about charity work?”
He nodded. “That might be something.”
He got up and bent over to kiss me. He sighed deeply, then I slid down under my covers and slept through until morning.