Shattered: The Price He Paid
by Toni Walker
by Toni Walker
"What in the hell is going on?" Phoenix Gray posed the question to himself. He didn't express the question verbally, that would only warn Scarlett something less than kosher was happening. He internally laughed. Things hadn't been normal in a long time.
He remembered following Faith down the hole in the monastery as it exploded and than having Julian Black, Gia Doyle and Chandelor Knight find them. Things after that seemed to get a bit fuzzy until one day he woke up in his own house. For a time he wondered if it had all been a bad dream, but in the end, his memories didn't lie.
It wasn't long after his re-emergence into the world that Abraham Moses began his vendetta. At first, it was merely loud-mouthed accusation The verbal abuse accelerated until Moses actually sent a cleaner team after him claiming he was the one who kidnapped Faith Fairchild. He knew this was utter nonsense. Phoenix would have to find out why Moses was targeting him for termination.
Phoenix actually knew very little about the Knights Foundation, except that it posed as a high-class think tank. And the thought of his father working there seemed strange. He couldn't see his father being a covert anything much less a spy. And Nigel? Forget about it. Bumbling was Nigel's middle name. Any good spy would catch him in a second.
All he really knew about the Foundation was what he had learned from Faith in Bulgaria. Her brothers were spies of the deepest caliber, so, over the years, she'd learned a great many things about secrets, how to keep them and who to trust. For some reason, she chose to trust him.
He kept his eyes on the road ahead trying to ignore the gentle falling snow and the forcast for a near blizzard coming the next day. The road to Chandelor Knights mansion was free from traffic. Not many people used this stretch of highway. He remembered his grandfather mentioning that fact when he stayed here briefly. And Chandelor himself used a helicopter, making the road extremely smooth and easy to navigate, not one pot hole or bump in sight.
His sister, Scarlett, was quieter than usual and Nadia Kassoff, his new sort-of partner, never spoke much anyway. So it made the drive easier if not slightly disturbing since he was used to women talking up a storm on a road trip across country. It made the silence in the car all the more deafening.
Nadia was the first to break the spell of quiet.
"So, we're visiting the main cheese of the KF because of your mother?" She seemed to find this fact interesting considering their current mission. "Whatever happened to your "I-have-to-find-Faith" mantra? Although, I don't mind the side road, I don't want Moses to kick my ass if he finds out I'm helping you on your Fairchild mission. The faster we find this chick, the better."
"This is just a slight detour," Phoenix explained.
"Yeah, a slight detour that could get you killed." Scarlett's cheeks blossomed with color. It proved she wasn't used to disagreeing with her brother.
"Ya see? My point exactly. Even the sibling questions your thinking with regards to this."
"Mom's been dead for a long time, Phoenix. How do we know that was even her?" Scarlett's mind raced a mile a minute and it had been the entire drive to the Knight mansion.
"And if it wasn't her," Nadia added. "Someone is going to want to know there is a lookalike running around. Those covert types get all edgy if things aren't what they seem."
"My main concern is the person she was seen with. Cameron Cash is a dangerous man. He worked for the Black Council before Julian hired that new security expert."
"You mean, Helms Solomon?" Nadia said.
Phoenix angled Nadia a curious look.
"What? I get intel. I'm informed."
The quiet stretch of highway suddenly became a bustling nerve center when cars converged on all sides of them.
"Heads up," Nadia said. "Looks like we have company, and I doubt they want to wish us tidings of comfort and joy."
The mill house and monastery where they were hiding Faith was not far from the Black Council's compound where Julian Black did a majority of his business. Nigel dressed as a monk in order to come and go freely. Graham Gray, known mostly as only Gray to his colleagues, had been forced to use the complex network of tunnels underneath the holy place. A few branches even reached as far as the Black compound and Julian's private villa. It made checking on Faith easier than if he were to travel above ground.
Gray's long hair matted against his face as he followed the path he'd memorized back to the villa. He had masqueraded as Helms Solomon so many times over the years that the KF had invented some of Solomon's history to mimic missions Gray had experienced. It made becoming a whole new person much easier when he didn't have to remember every single detail.
In an assignment such as this, there were very few people he could speak to frankly, and virtually no one he could trust.
Nigel Bennett and Gray had been friends for a long time. At first, he trusted the safety of his children to him, and now he trusted him with his life. Nigel knew the things he had once had. The great love he had lost and the price he paid to keep those he cared about safe from the enemy.
The bumbling British man knew what Gray most desired: a life with Roanna and his children, Scarlett and Phoenix. But that desire was something fate had taken from him. Early on in his tenure with the Knights Foundation, he learned of a plot to steal the children of top agents and brainwash them into walking in their parents footsteps.
Gray didn't want that future for either Scarlett or Phoenix.
So, in the end, he made the greatest sacrifice he could, he let them go. Gray created an accident. He made it appear that his wife and children had all died in a fiery car crash. In order to keep them all safe, Gray made the children believe their mother was dead. He left Roanna at the scene sedated with an undetectable drug that would fog her memory of the accident and make her think the rest of her family was dead as well.
It was as brilliant as it was heartbreaking. Walking away from her that cold winter's night had torn him up inside. He still had nightmares about it.
In the eyes of the world, he had succeeded in his quest. His family was gone. And with their departure from his life, so went his heart.
A candle flickered a dim flame in the dank room where Faith Fairchild was fighting the brainwashing process the real Helms Solomon had put her through. She was greatly resilient to infection and in the end, the brainwashing hadn't succeeded. But the after effects were hell on her mind and body.
She thrashed on the bed and Nigel Bennett tried to calm her. While he struggled with her flailing hands, he ruminated on Gray's situation. A long time ago he had made his choice. He had sacrificed his own happiness in order to keep Roanna and his children alive. They may have called him father, but in the eyes of the world and any document you could dig up, they belonged to his dead brother, Hunter.
He still couldn't believe Gray had kept up the masquerade for so long. The man was beyond paranoid when it came to the Knights Foundation and the LEGACY.
Faith slapped the glasses off his face and he watched them skid across the floor and into a dark corner.
Nigel knew how important this girl was not only to Gray but to the Legacy. He had to keep reminding himself of that fact. Maybe when she finally woke up she'd be easier to deal with, but for now, the nightly seizures were getting on his fraying British nerves.
"Calm down, Faith," he whispered in a low accent. "It's only a dream."
In that moment, Faith went from a bucking bronco to a docile lamb. She was completely still, fightingly so. This shocked Nigel. He pressed two fingers to her throat.
There was no pulse.