The Wrong Girl
Berlin, Germany Taylor stepped off the plane into the early morning sunlight, adjusting the strap of the sling holding his arm in place. Four days had passed since the chase from Malik’s compound, and he was happy to finally be out of Russia.
As promised, Andre had been waiting for him with other members of the FSB, ready to pull Taylor’s ass out of the fire as soon as they got across the border. The crash across the border coupled with the bodies Taylor had left in his wake, had stirred up both the American diplomatic corps and the Russians. There had been a few tense moments where it seemed Taylor might not be allowed to leave the country, at all. Those officials who’d been receiving regular payments from Malik to allow him to operate freely, were less than happy Taylor had shut off their payday, and tried to make Taylor pay for it.
Andre had put his neck on the line again, defending Taylor, while Suzette Caldwell rallied enough diplomatic pressure that it was decided the best option for everyone would be to sweep it under the rug and get Taylor out of the country.
Taylor winced as he slowly walked down the stairs, the stitches in his side pulling slightly. Thankfully, Andre had had a medic standing ready, who had come to their aid the moment the Mercedes had stopped its spectacular tumble onto Russian soil. They had managed to pull Taylor and the girls out of the stoutly built car, banged up, but alive. They’d all been rushed into a chopper Andre had somehow gotten his hands on, and had been flown back to St. Petersburg.
The bullet Taylor had taken in the compound had only clipped his intestines, but otherwise passed through without hitting anything vital. The surgeon who’d fixed him promised he would be stiff for a while, but wouldn’t have any lasting problems. Besides the bullet wound, Taylor had dislocated his shoulder and elbow in the crash and sustained more cuts, some deep, along his neck and opposite shoulder.
Turning, Taylor reached his hand out to help Mary Jane down the ladder that had extended from the plane. She had by far the most severe damage, having shattered multiple bones in her left leg. The surgeons had pieced her back together, but said she would probably have more extensive surgeries in the future to get full use of the limb back.
As soon as the girl was firmly on the ground, Taylor moved aside as her mother rushed forward and swept her little girl into her arms. Taylor turned away from them to give the two some privacy, or at least as much as was possible on a tarmac surrounded by security people and officials. He looked at the last person coming off the plane.
Although Kara came out of the crash the best of all, suffering no serious damage at all, she looked by far the worst. The right side of her face was covered in bruises, which traveled down her neck and disappeared into her shirt, which hid even worse bruising. Her right eye was just now losing the swelling that had held it closed for several days, and seemed totally at odds with the giant smile plastered on her face as she stepped off the plane.
“What are you grinning at?” Taylor asked.
“I’m not in Russia anymore!” she said, looking at him with her one good eye. “I really got out!”
“We’re not out of the woods yet, kid. I still need to talk to Mary Jane’s mother, and see if we can figure out how to get you into the US, permanently.”
“You’ll figure it out.”
“See if you can pry Mary Jane loose and hang out with her, while I talk to her mother.”
The girls had spent a fair amount of time together over the last few days and found they actually hit it off. Both seemed to have a very similar sense of humor, although Kara’s could be vicious at times. They had convinced one orderly they were sisters, and had spun wilder and wilder tales that had the poor guy’s head spinning until Taylor had clued him in.
Taylor was pretty sure Kara had spent some time talking to Mary Jane, giving her some perspective on what her life could have been if they hadn’t gotten her out. It had seemed to be another in a series of gut checks for the party girl, and hopefully would be a turning point for her.
The senator wiped her eyes as she let Kara lead her daughter a few steps away, and tried to compose herself.
“Mr. Taylor, I can’t even begin to think of how I will ever repay you for this. I had hoped, but I didn’t think ... you really did it. You found her and brought her back.”
“I’m sorry she got so banged up.”
“I’ve read some reports out of Russia about what happened. It’s a miracle the leg was the only thing injured. No, you did phenomenal work, and I will forever be in your debt.”
“While I don’t normally like to jump right in calling in favors, I do have one thing I need from you.”
“I need a permanent US residence status for Kara,” Taylor said, tilting his head in the girl’s direction.
“That’s the ... working girl who helped you?” she said, sounding skeptical. “Senator,” Taylor said, his voice becoming hard as granite, “she is what your daughter would have become, forced to do things you wouldn’t even want to think about. Had it not been for her, not only would I have not found your daughter, we would have died in that compound, and your daughter would be the ‘working girl.’”
“Ohh,” she said, taking a step back at the sudden anger that sprang off Taylor, “Of course. I didn’t mean anything by that, I promise you.”
“Of course,” Taylor said, letting the anger fade from his voice, “I just want you to understand that, as much as you think you owe me, you owe her just as much. Not only did she save my life, she was already out of danger when she put herself back in the hands of those men, to stay next to your daughter and help lead me to her. Had things not gone right, she would have given up her chance to escape that life.”
“Of course, and I’ll help however I can. Off the top of my head, I’d say the easiest would be to use an existing program for minors with legitimate fear in their home country, to be fostered by an American. Past that, I can talk to some people I know and see about getting a special Visa, but that will take more time.” “If the foster thing is faster, let’s do that. But I also want a way for her to become a citizen, if possible. I promised her I would do everything I could to make that happen.”
“I can work on that. Given time, I don’t think it will be an issue.”
“Can I take her back with me today, or do we need to stay here while you make the arrangements?”
“No, she can go with you. I’ll have my office take care of it and have everything set up when you land.”
“Thank you, Senator,” Taylor said.
“Like I said, Mr. Taylor ... I owe you more than I can ever repay. Apparently the same goes for...”
“Kara,” Taylor said.
“Kara as well. Anything I can ever do for the two of you, all you have to do is ask.”
“Well, I still appreciate it. Of course, now I have to talk to Whitaker about this.” Caldwell let out a giggle that sounded wildly out of place for her, “Now that, I can’t help you with.”
“Go get your daughter,” Taylor said, “I know she starts hurting after standing a while. She’s probably ready for more rest.”