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THE VAULT

the vault

A final scene, a scene of an unplanned yet gifted night of sensuality at the end of the story in Fenceless Asylum forms the initial scene to The Vault.  Unbeknown to McKinnon’s constant character, James Bergen, this night of innocent corporeal pleasure was not so innocent.

In a previous story, Rag Doll, James Bergen and the Russian assassin known as Varvara Alekseeva at the time had also spent a similar unexpected night together. That particular event yielded, against the odds, a beautiful girl child whom she named Tatyana. In that story Varvara found her estranged mother and also took back her real birth name of Anna Lovansky in the process. James and Varvara followed different roads to their respective lives at that point, although as years passed they often thought of one another. Anna built a new life for herself and her daughter and also opened a small orphanage for girls. She had never told James that Tatyana was his daughter. She made sure that Tatyana felt secure within her mother’s love.

James had opted for a quiet life due to many personal disappointments and had found a tranquil, if not sometimes lonely place to find some solace. 

Anna’s life was full with love and good things. It was peaceful. However yet again, her life was turned upside down in an instant. The incessant evils of this planet rubbed shoulders with her once more. Someone had taken her beloved daughter. Most mothers would do anything to find a missing child, but if there was one mother and child that you wouldn’t put yourself between, it would be Anna Lovansky. In a state of panic her emotional instinct was to call James. “Pick up, James. Pick up, goddamn you!”…….. 

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ISBN: 978-1-922229-52-6  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 284
Genre: Fiction
Cover: Clive Dalkins

BY THE SAME AUTHOR:

Butterfly Kisses
(Poseidon, 2006)Curse of the Wings (Poseidon, 2007)Czech Point (Poseidon, 2011)
Rag Doll
(Poseidon, 2014)
Fenceless Asylum
(Poseidon, 2014)

 

Author: Daniel McKinnon
Imprint: Poseidon
Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published:  2015
Language: English


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About the Author 

 

‘The Vault’ is a work of fiction. The author’s comment is that; names, the inclusions of places, events, times, happenings and references to government agencies and their activities in connection to this story are all fictional, and that any real life connections to the same are purely coincidental.

Life’s merry-go-round of unexpected changes gave the author the motivation to look outside of the normal previous structures of his life that had been a security blanket of a type and perhaps even a habit for him. He had found himself like most other people, grinding away to fulfil the expectancies of others including those of the greater system that we live in. He had often found that his viewpoints on all of this conflicted with many of those that he rubbed shoulders with. With an inner conviction to try and stay as true to one’s self as one could, he re-assessed what he saw as being important to him.

In reflection, what he came up with was that few of us actually spend much of our lives doing things that make us feel passionate or even fulfilled. All too often it seemed that the masses just did what culture, family, media, organised religion, the government and other institutions almost demanded of them; sometimes even bullied them to do and even how they should do it.

In balance, the imposed economics of this structured world hampered the efforts of many to address this. So the only choices to change that he could see had to come internally. In retrospect he found that it wasn’t that easy to overturn decades of entrenched directional thinking.  However, he addressed it all in the same manner that it had all been infused to begin with; gradually.

When things don’t go right in life as they often don’t it is important to have a plan ‘B’. In discussions with friends on this subject, he noted that many people’s plan ‘B’ was just another version of plan ‘A’ with a different engine. Seldom did many set up a plan ‘B’ that arrested the original problem. The plan set aside in simple terms, often basically went like; ‘when I get my new house, my new car, my new girlfriend my new wife or husband, my trip or my new shiny shoes my life will be fulfilled. If I lose my high paying job to achieve all this, I’ll borrow some money and buy a business and work hard to chase down my goal’. The problem was that plan ‘B’ was just a different engine to chase the same goal that made them feel depleted in the first place. It’s an endless cycle and designed that way.

The author isn’t suggesting that it is necessarily wrong to want those ‘normal’ things. What happens though if you come to the realization that the majority of people in this period of time won’t achieve a magical point of satisfaction gained by reaching out to hold that plan or dream? What happens if you did manage to ‘get there’ and changes of circumstance then whisked it all away? How would you cope mentally and emotionally?

Plan ‘B’ has to be about the soul and the mind. Life is just a thought; nothing more than a perception; a chemical imprint in our brain of the ever changing circumstances around us all. Our realities are based on how we are able to desalinate the imagery, how we process it and what we then choose to be our personal reality, but even then, it’s only just a thought.

Life is much like a sailing trip where one had to constantly trim the sails to fit the change of wind direction. One experience that stood by the author was early years spent in rural circumstance. A rural life often refined people like a smelter did precious metals. ‘Dyed in the wool’ rural folk are often more in touch with life’s pyramid of human needs as opposed to the mountains of human greeds nurtured in plastic environs and fabricated warrens of high density living . The author made hard decisions to create a change to his surrounds and mental feed lot.

The changes made by taking a simpler approach to his daily life found him living in a very small village in a pristine valley surrounded by the daily wonders of nature and people with values that reflected all that. The changes surrounding a move to southern Tasmania also gave him an opportunity to find time and space to write and reflect; breathe and deflect. As his tailored suits, silk ties and expensive leather shoes grew mould in the wardrobe, he found himself in worn out jeans and scruffy jackets sitting around blackened iron fire pots in soiled work boots discussing life and all it meant with people who would call it like it is; say it like it is; people who dealt with it all in the most pragmatic of ways.

The author had always had a creative and sometimes complicated mind. He had always loved the artistic and more mystical props of this life that could take you away to another place; to another dimension. ‘Life is after all just a thought’. The author enjoyed reading and experiencing the works of many authors over the years although not an avid reader in his youth. However there was one early influence that had sown a tiny seed that now directed his style of storytelling. The author had an older cousin in his youth that had a collection of Ian Fleming’s intriguing stories of outlandish espionage. His parent’s didn’t allow him to read this kind of literature but he would sneak over to his cousin’s house and read some of the novels in his cousin’s collection. The colourful characters fascinated him. The stories excited him.

The seed stayed dormant. A very structured life then changed and turned upside down for the author in a latter period of his life. For many years after that he had felt lost, now finding himself living alone. Writing became a friend; a passionate friend. The author will admit that like many new writers, his first offerings emerged tainted with personal rants and misgivings that dredged up from within.

However during the turbulence of these years he met some new wonderful and fascinating people. One of those people who in particular had influenced the flavour of his emerging stories was also instrumental in exposing him to the romantic surroundings of Eastern Europe. He took several vocational trips to that part of the world and enjoyed time with his friend who seemed to have mystically tapped into his inner thoughts and passions. She exposed him to situations and experiences that were normal enough within them but with a little imagination were easily transposed into the tastes and flavours cognisant with the scenes in the books he had read as boy. 

With a little water, the tiny seed grew into an enjoyable passion. The author trusts that you will enjoy the unfolding of ‘The Vault’.

Preface

 

Anna Lovansky had hung up her guns, both figuratively and literally. She had totally changed the life she had lived as Varvara Alekseeva; one of the best assassins in the business. Love had briefly come into her life, a gift from a mysterious night of long-awaited affection shared with James Bergen. Love had stayed in her life from the result, a wonderful baby girl she named Tatyana.

Anna and James had gone their separate ways. James had moved back to the more familiar surroundings of his homeland. Anna had buried herself in the disciplines of motherhood and businesswoman running a charitable home for orphaned children. Life had been running smoothly for her and except for the occasional tug on the strings of loneliness, she was content and grateful to have been given the chance to create distance and a difference from her previous world.

James was probably more acceptant than totally content but was living a quiet life in serene surroundings. His life had taken a dozen tumultuous, unexpected and uninvited turns, so he was okay with what was. Life had exhausted him emotionally, so the respite was welcome and most probably needed. He thought of Anna from time to time and she often thought about him. They both wanted to see each other again one day; maybe one day that would happen.

Unbeknown to each other, they had both shared a troublesome dream; the same dream. On one night no different to any other, Anna’s sleep had been broken by the reappearance of the strange dream. Casually, she went to the kitchen and made tea. By habit she checked on the object of her affections, the one who had changed her whole life. However, when she quietly pushed the bedroom door aside, a sudden shock coursed through her mind and body. Tatyana’s bed was empty! She frantically searched every inch of the house but she was gone!

Her immediate thought was to ring James, but he didn’t answer. Panic rose, but this crack in the wall of her structured life was only one of many more to follow. The furtive trail to find her missing daughter would unveil a nest of hidden secrets.

Every mother would do whatever was possible to stand by their child but if there were one mother you really shouldn’t put between you and her child, it would be Anna Lovansky. The average person might even have outer limits as to how far they would go, but when it came to Tatyana, Anna had no limits.

She will find you …

 

Chapter One

Gone Without a Trace

 

St Petersburg:

 

A trickle of cold sweat unhurriedly made its way down to the bridge of Anna Lovansky’s pretty nose as the mobile phone in her clammy hand fruitlessly persisted in trying to connect. The phone, at the other end was turned off. Anna’s stomach soured and lurched uncontrollably inside of her. Tatyana was not in her bed nor was she able to be found anywhere in the house. Both Tatyana and her favourite rag doll were missing, gone without a trace.

It was still early in the morning and Darya would be fast asleep. The faithful friend had been a second mother to her after Anna’s own mother, Inessa, had recently passed away. In reality Darya had always been a second mother to her even before her mother’s passing and she loved her as one. She let the old woman sleep. Darya worked too hard for her age at Anna’s small orphanage, Ravenswood, but that kept her going.

At this moment Anna felt sick and more alone than she had for many years. Tatyana and Anna were very close. It was not possible for Tatyana, now nearly five years old, to have wandered off, she told herself. Someone had to have taken her. When the morning light came Anna would judiciously check everything to see what evidence there was around her secure property. In a previous life under the alias Varvara Alekseeva, Ephron Reiner’s number one and extremely potent assassin, someone would have to be very stupid or very powerful and confident to do this to her.

Anna’s life was very different these days; she was very different. In years past her very soul had been soured from the violence and the cold sterile darkness of the life she had once led. Life had thrown her an opportunity; the universe had gifted her this beautiful girl child in mysterious circumstances. She had lived with bitterness but she seized the chance and changed her entire world accordingly. Love was the drug that set her life ablaze with transforming light. Everything had been near perfect since. Maybe her early training from life’s university should have made her feel less vulnerable than how she felt right now. Right now it didn’t.

She had made enemies without a doubt in those days and she had rubbed shoulders with the sewer rats she knew pulled the strings from above the heavy curtains in the world’s never-ending play of misery. This was the exact reason she hadn’t called anyone in authority immediately—if this was what she was thinking, in her learned opinion they would be of little use. Her heart was pounding; nervous sweat was beading just like it had during her disturbing dream that same night. Inessa had ‘the gift’ and was able to connect to many things not tangible. She would have connected all the parts of this dream. While Anna had some of her mother’s extraordinary intuitions most of the gift had been passed on to Tatyana. Her tea now cold in the cup, Anna sat in the kitchen in semi-darkness on a breakfast bar stool recounting her dream. She drummed her fingers on the benchtop as she did so.

A cold shiver shot down her spine as the scene replayed. Icy particles and vapours of mist swirled around her as she stood there upon the frozen lake. She was aware of a barely visible, intermittent small flame, a flicker of light somewhere amongst the mist. For whatever reason, she had the feeling it was connected to a kindred spirit. In her mind’s eye the flame was a lantern on the bow of a frozen boat; a Norse timber boat stuck hard in the winter freeze.

A thunderous noise coming from the end of the now-solid lake distracted her attention away from the flicker of light in the mist. It took time to make out what it was that made the brouhaha. A break in the mist gave her a view; a warrior; a war lord; a huge man dressed in the skins of many animals astride an eight-legged horse; a giant metal javelin in his hand. The pounding hooves of the beast he rode shattered the ice and splintered slivers of it into the clouds of spraying ice and snow that followed his determined route. Behind him the spill of an equally frozen gorge emptied into the lake and joined with it solidly. The narrow gorge wound its way through gigantic boulders.

The warrior’s foreboding blood-red eyes almost shone within the mist as the thunderous noise of the pounding hooves increased. Wolves kept pace beside him and a flight of ravens just above his head completed the entourage. Then … then she heard it; the faint cry of a voice coming from high up the ravine between her and the warrior; a faint feminine voice. Anna could not make out what the voice said.

She sat silent and still at the breakfast bar in the semi-darkness recounting all of it. It was some time before she pulled herself out of the mesmerizing fixation of the dream. ‘What did it all mean and why this dream at the same time as Tatyana’s disappearance?’ Inessa could have read its details in a flash, but Inessa wasn’t there. She would have to work it out for herself.

Fragments of the dream kept spinning around at random in her head. A freeze-frame of the flickering flame in the mist passed through her mind’s camera. She dialled the same number again. “God dammit, James, why are you not picking up? Pick up!” The message was the same, ‘the mobile phone you are calling is either switched off or not in a mobile phone area.’

The situation—the possibility of your child, your only child, being stolen from her own bed would be mind-numbing enough for any mother. For Anna, who had lived most of her earlier life as a victim of that very circumstance, it had the prospect of becoming mind shattering. She glanced across at the draining bench beside the sink. The remnants of a glass of milk and a small plate that had held a fruit cookie, both of which she had taken to Tatyana earlier in the night sat in want of rinsing. A slideshow of her own horrible stolen years started in her head, slide after slide of disgusting and hideous memories.

“No, no, this is not the situation! It can’t be! It must be something more innocent than abduction!” It was getting closer to the break of day. Anna ran to her bedroom and dressed in a warm tracksuit and sports shoes. She grabbed a torch and headed to the front door. She had already combed every inch of the house inside and had searched around outside in the darkness. She would scour the well-secured property outside more thoroughly.

After an hour and a half she found nothing out of place, nothing that could even hint that anyone had been lurking outside or any sign to suggest a struggle with a kidnap victim. All the windows were secure as was the automatic wrought iron gates that formed the only ingress to the high-walled perimeter of the property. She pressed the opening button for the gates and started to inspect the quiet street. It was a quiet elite estate with only three other houses in proximity. All were in darkness with no signs of life as yet. There had been a light rain during the night and the sealed roadway held no evidence of tyre marks or the residue of anything foreign like dirt or mud.

She had no constructive reason for her persistence in calling James, as there was nothing he could do, but due to some instinctive longing she felt she needed to hear his voice. Anna tried again to no avail and then made a call to Darya.

Darya recognised the number as she sleepily checked her phone beside the bed but when she accepted the call she couldn’t hear Anna on the other end. “Anna, what’s wrong, girl? Anna, speak to me.” All Darya could hear was nervous and irregular breathing. “Anna, talk to me. Has something happened?” Finally Anna calmed herself enough to reply.

“She’s gone! My Tatyana’s gone. They’ve taken her!”

“What do you mean, gone? Who’s taken her? Are the police there? Anna?”

Darya could hear bitter sobbing before Anna abruptly hung up. She leapt out of bed in her room at Ravenswood and threw a dressing robe over her warm, brushed-cotton pyjamas and headed for her silver, Asian-built SUV parked in the laneway that led to the orphanage service and goods bay. She knew there were night staff still working their shift to look after the children. Darya spun out onto the damp road and put her foot down hard. She was old in years but not in spirit. Anna’s home was only fifteen minutes from the orphanage—she’d make it in ten.

As she turned the corner into the no-through lane that serviced Anna’s property she could see a huddle of light grey material lying on the wet grass through the open gates. Darya spun into the driveway and slammed on the brakes bringing the vehicle to a sudden, skidding stop. She threw the door wide open and ran to Anna. She was soaking wet from the sodden grass and the flooding of tears pouring from her eyes like water from an irrigation outlet upon each mournful sob. Anna’s body was quivering in emotional agony.

Darya pulled her to her feet, put her arm around her and marched her inside, straight into the shower. Darya spun the handle on the hot tap and then helped her off with her wet clothing before almost pushing her into the open cubicle. “Get some heat back into your bones, girl and I’ll make us some hot tea. Then you had better tell me what in hell has happened.”

As Anna pulled herself together in the shower, Darya switched the button of the stainless steel kettle to boil and arranged two fine porcelain cups ready for hot tea. She was about to wash up the glass and plate from Tatyana’s bedtime snack but left them. She prepared some toast and waited for Anna. Living on the outskirts of a city of five million people meant the sound of emergency sirens wailing in the distance wasn’t an alarming occurrence; it maybe one more road accident or an elderly citizen falling victim to a heart attack. There were more disturbing things to discuss.

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