The Signal: Chapter 2

Adam’s message had been enough to compel their cooperation thus far, but that window had clearly closed.  Still, they were in the wind for now.  She’d sent Adam a text message letting him know they were safe before destroying that phone.  There was no longer a direct method of contact.  Patrick had trained Adam well.

“I don’t understand why you aren’t taking us to Adam.”  Lidia folded her arms.  “My son is alive and…”  She took a ragged breath.

“His instructions were to keep you safe.”  Stasya shook her head.

“He’s my son.”  Lidia squared her shoulder.  “We should be with him.”

“Yes.”  Stasya nodded.  “On that, we agree.”  She should be watching his back, fighting at his side.  “Is not possible.”  Wren had forced Adam to kill Patrick.  She’d seen the pain in his eyes when he’d come to her.  If Wren learned any of this…  “If we go to Adam, we put him in danger.  This I will not do.  If I take you to Adam, I put people he loves in danger.  This I will not do.”

“If I could just talk to him…”  Tears were visible on Lidia’s cheeks.  “You can’t understand…”

“I too, lost son.”  Stasya met her eyes.  “He was taken from me.  I tried to get him back, and found only corpse.”  She exhaled.  “I met Adam, and for a time, it was like having my son once more.  I do understand, Mrs. Wu.”

Slowly, Lidia nodded.  “Is he safe?”  She swallowed.  “Is he…”

“He is good man.  He is brave man.  He is strong man.”  She smiled.  “He is fighting good fight.”

“What happened?”  She turned at the sound of Sean’s voice.  Adam’s father looked like an older version of Adam, though with less delicate features.  “Who killed James?”

“That…”  Stasya sighed.  “Will be a hard story for you to believe.”  Adam had magic.  Strong magic.  The reason the Cabal had taken an interest in Coraline was because of the chance she had something similar.  It stood to reason that one or the other of Adam’s parents might have magic of their own.  “Or perhaps it will not be.”  She straightened.  “James was killed by a witch.”

“What?”  Coraline stared from where she was sitting on the side of the bed.

Stasya looked at Adam’s parents, then shrugged.  “You might want to sit down for this.”  She waited until they had complied, then took a deep breath.

Then she started telling them of the other world.

#

Coraline couldn’t take her eyes off the Russian woman.  The things Stasya was telling them were absurd.  Her mother clearly agreed, because she kept getting up and shaking her head, muttering the word ‘ridiculous’ under her breath.  Then the sound of her father’s voice drew her attention.  “I always thought my grandmother’s stories were just her imagination.”

“Sean?”  Lidia turned toward him.

Her father leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.  “She said a lot of the same things this woman is saying.  That there are…”  He exhaled.  “Monsters on the edges of the world, but good people as…”  He looked up and met Lidia’s eyes.  “I think we should tell her.”

“I…”  Lidia took a deep breath.  Then slowly she nodded.  “Maybe.”

“Tell me what?”  Stasya raised an eyebrow.

“Adam is…”  Sean stood.  “He’s actually my nephew, not my son.  He’s my sister’s boy.”

“Wait…”  Coraline blinked.  Adam wasn’t her brother?  “You have a sister?  Adam’s…”  Adam was her brother.  He’d always been her brother.

“I had a sister.”  Sean swallowed.  “She disappeared shortly after asking us to take her newborn.  She had…”

“She was afraid of his father.”  Lidia nodded.  “That is why we claimed Adam as ours.”

Stasya slowly nodded.  “The reason they come for Coraline is they think she is Adam’s sister.  Power runs in the blood.”

“Adam…”  Sean turned back toward her.  “You’re saying Adam is one of these —”

“No.”  Lidia’s face became furious.  “Adam is not a monster.”

“On that we do agree.”  Stasya’s eyes narrowed.  “Adam is not a monster.  But he has power.  I have seen him use it.  I have seen him use it to save my life.”

“You’re saying my brother is a werewolf?”  Coraline stared.  Her head was starting to hurt.

“No.”  Stasya shook her head.  “Though I saw him kill one, once.”  She smiled.  “It was pretty badass.”

Lidia’s voice was quiet.  “Adam killed someone.”

“He killed a monster that was trying to kill Adam’s friends.”  Stasya shook her head.  “There are bad things in world, Mrs. Wu.  Adam is trying to fight them.  He needs you safe so he can.”

“Can you…”  Lidia wiped tears away.  “Can you at least get a message to him?  Tell him we…”

“He knows, Mrs. Wu.”  Stasya smiled gently.  “He knows.”

#

“What can he do?”

Stasya turned to see Adam’s little sister staring at her.  There was still some family resemblance, around the eyes mostly.  “You should be asleep.”

“I’ve spent the past couple years hoping my brother wasn’t dead.”  Coraline sat down on the arm of the couch.  “And now he isn’t but I still can’t see him.”  She swallowed.  “It was hard enough with James, but at least, you know, we knew.  I had nightmares about Adam being stuck in quicksand or with his foot in a bear trap waiting for me to come help him and…”  Tears started streaming down her face.  “And now he’s still in the trap but there are wolves circling.”

There were wolves circling, but the girl didn’t need to know that.  Adam was smart enough to find a way to turn the wolves to his advantage.  “We taught your brother how to fly a helicopter.”

“Adam can fly a helicopter?”  Coraline’s eyes widened.

“Yes.”  Stasya smiled at the memory.  “It take him a while to figure out landing a helicopter though.  He land so hard he nearly make my teeth crack the first time.”

Coraline giggled.  “When he was learning to drive he used to hit the brakes too hard.  Dad still puts his hands up sometimes when he’s in the passenger seat.”  Her smile faded.  “That’s why James usually drove.”  She sniffled a little.  “The bad guys killed one of my brothers and took the other one.  Can you…”  Coraline hesitated a bit.  “You beat them up.  Can you teach me?”

“I…”  Stasya took a deep breath.  “If your parents say yes, then I will teach you.”

“How long are you going to stay to…”  Coraline shifted a little.

“Until I can be certain you are safe.  Adam is…”  Stasya exhaled.  “My friend.”  She hadn’t been able to protect her family.  All she could do was hope she could protect his.

#

Lidia noted that once again, Stasya was awake and dressed before any of the rest of them.  She was starting to wonder if the woman ever actually slept.  “Coffee?”

“Please.”  Stasya nodded.

As she prepared the coffee, she looked up to note Stasya watching her with a bemused smile on her face.  “Is everything alright?”

“Adam does same thing.  Checks temperature with little finger then blames coffee when it’s hot.”  Stasya’s smile was fond.  “He does make good coffee though.  Never burned.”

“James and Coraline are both like my husband.  They sleep in.”  Lidia offered Stasya the second cup.  “Adam was a morning person, like me.”  She took her first sip.  “Another may have birthed him, but he was my son.”

“No, that is clear.”  Stasya sat.  “He draws.  Paints.  I knew all of your faces well.”

Her eyes watered.  “These people, they…”  She swallowed.  “They are the ones who killed James?”

“Adam had avenged James before he and I met.  Wren was…”  Stasya hesitated.

“Wren’s alive too?”  Lidia raised an eyebrow.

“Is…”  Stasya exhaled.

“She’s why he’s staying, isn’t she?”  Lidia sighed.

“Is not his choice, Mrs. Wu.”  Stasya shook her head.  “Wren too, can do magic.  She has…”  Stasya exhaled.  “There is talisman.  Adam cannot leave Wren while Wren has it.”

“I tried, but uh…”  Lidia took a deep breath.  “I never really liked that girl.”

“Patrick and I were going to kill her.”  Stasya’s voice was quiet.  “We told Adam plan was just to knock her out but after learning…”  Stasya trailed off.

“What did she do to my son?”  Lidia looked up at her.  When Stasya didn’t immediately respond, Lidia’s eyes narrowed.  “What did she do to my son?”  She enunciated each word carefully.

“Wren found out about Patrick and I, somehow.”  Stasya’s voice was a little ragged.  “She…”  Stasya closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again, and Lidia noted the woman’s eyes were wet.  “She used the talisman to make Adam kill Patrick.  Then she sent him to kill me, but he managed to resist long enough to tell me where to find you and let me escape.”

“My god…”  Lidia felt a little dizzy.  Her little boy had…

“That is why he cannot come.  Why I cannot take you to him.”  Stasya swallowed.  “If there were any other option, I would be at Baby Bear’s side right now.”

“Baby Bear?”  Lidia blinked.

Stasya managed a small smile.  “Adam is young.  I got a little overprotective of him, and he told me to stop being a mama bear.  So I started calling him Baby Bear.”

“When he and James were little, I used to just collectively call them ‘Trouble.’”  Lidia choked a little on the words.  “Trouble, get in the house right now.”  Tears started streaming down her face, and she looked up to see tears on Stasya’s face as well.  “I miss my boys.”

“Me too.”  Stasya’s voice was thick.  They sat for a time in silence before Stasya spoke again.  “Mrs. Wu, Coraline asked if I would teach her some fighting moves.”

“I…”  Lidia looked down at her coffee cup, then set it aside and stood up.  “Okay.  For starters, you can call me Lidia.  Second…”  She squared her shoulders.  “I want you to show me how to throw a punch, so I can break that little skank’s face.”

#

“I made arrangements with a moving company to put all our stuff in storage.”  Sean came out to join them on the small patio.  “It’s paid up for a year.  I’m not sure what we’ll do for finances in the meantime, but…”

“You don’t need to worry about finances.  Adam took care of that.”  Stasya shook her head.

“I’ll still need to get a job or something.”  Sean frowned.  “I know Adam had a nice saving’s account but…”

“You do not need to worry, Mr. Wu.”  Stasya smiled.

“Excuse me for not wanting to waste my son’s college money.”  Sean glared.

“He drained accounts into account for me to use.  I have moved it to untraceable and am getting you new IDs.”  Stasya shrugged.  “If twelve million dollars is not enough money for…”

“Twelve million dollars?”  Coraline dropped her soda.

“Oh god.”  Lidia sat down heavily on the couch.

Sean just stared at her.  Then he took a few deep breaths.  “And how much trouble will Adam be in when they learn that?”

“The one whose accounts he drained had many enemies.  By now Adam has arranged introductions, and she is no longer anyone’s problem.”  Stasya’s smile showed teeth.  “Except perhaps maybe some poor janitor’s.”

“I’m not amused by the idea that my son is mixed up with violent killers, Ms. Stasya.”  Sean’s eyes narrowed.  “He should be in college, showing his work at galleries, not…”  He took a deep breath.  “Draining accounts and arranging introductions.”

“You are right.”  Stasya nodded.  “He should.  When we were in Paris, he would spend all day at —”

“Adam’s in Paris?”  He immediately straightened.

“He was.  He is not now.”  Stasya shook her head.

“Did he get to see Notre Dame?”  Lidia’s voice was quiet.  “It was on his list.”

“Took the tour four times.”  Stasya nodded.  “He and Patrick used to spend hours talking about Impressionist artists and going to the museums.  They once spent a six-hour flight arguing over whether some Sisley painting or something was the original or whether it had been replaced by a forgery after being stolen.  Each time I would think they were done, they would switch sides and start all over again.”

Despite himself, he chuckled.  “Now that does sound like Adam.”  He hesitated a moment.  “Who is Patrick?”

“Patrick was…”  Stasya exhaled.  “He was mercenary.  Worked for Cabal.  When Wren brought Adam in, Patrick was assigned as bodyguard.  He started helping Adam with his French, and then sort of took Adam under wing.”

“And when you say…”  He swallowed.  “’Was’, you mean…”

“Wren learned Patrick and Stasya were trying to help Adam escape, and had Patrick killed.”  It was Lidia who answered.  “Wren’s also the one that told them about us and Coraline.”

“Stasya?”  Sean frowned.  “How do we help my son?”

“I have no means to contact Adam.  He made sure of that.”  Stasya shook her head.  “Is his only way to protect you.”

“Alright.  Fine.”  Sean squared his shoulders.  “You mentioned the people he was with having other enemies.”  He folded his arms.  “How do we get in touch with those?”

“Mr. Wu…”

“Ms. Stasya…”  Sean shook his head.  “These people murdered one of my sons, and are holding the other against his will.  I will not stand idly by.”

“On the contrary…”  They all jumped at the sound of another voice.  “You’re going to do exactly that.”

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