There Was An Attempt

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sasha_icon.gif tania_icon.gif

Scene Title There Was An Attempt
Synopsis Tania and Sasha take advantage of an opportunity that does not go as planned.
Date June 2, 2018

Staten Island, Outside the Meat Packing Plant


The meat packing plant in Staten Island’s Rookery is a known safehouse, utilized by the human traffickers operating outside the meticulously patrolled borders of the New York Safe Zone, but it’s taken Tania and Sasha Kozlow almost two months to identify it as the location where Logan is being kept.

A little bird told them so.

From Tania’s perch on the roof of the warehouse across the street, she can see that the plant has at least two points of entry. The first is a loading dock, covered in plastic sheeting by day and a rolling set of doors by night. The second is a fire exit off the adjacent alley, visible through the set of binoculars she holds in her small, slender hands. There isn’t much light, not all the way out here, but the Safe Zone’s distant, ambient glow provides her with just enough to see that it’s been bolted shut from the outside.

Neither seems like a viable option.

She can smell her brother a few feet away, reeking of sweat, sour breath and whiskey as he rolls a metal flask between his enormous paws.

“«Can we speak in Russian?»” he gruffs out. “«I want to speak in Russian.»”

Tania is careful about her position, about looking over every inch of the plant, about how she adjusts the binoculars to see details better. When she lowers them, she's also careful about writing everything down in the notebook perched on her knee. The notes are in Russian, so it might be an encouraging sign.

"«Yes,»" she replies before she looks over at him. "«I don't like this,»" she adds with a gesture to the plant, so he knows she doesn't mean his choice of language, "«we're going to have to get creative.»" She knows what her brother's brand of creativity tends to look like and she already has a disapproving look growing in her expression.

Sasha takes a swig from his flask. He’d argue that he’s most creative when he’s drinking, except that he’s always drinking. Even now.

Especially now.

He scrubs a dribble of whiskey from his scruff with the back of his jacket’s sleeve. “«There’s the sewer line,»” he suggests. “«I remember the layout, a little, from Eltingville.»”

It’s just as well they’re speaking Russian and not English: a language Sasha decided was so stupid he’s refused to become fully fluent in it. Clear, consistent communication is more important in situations like this one than it’s ever needed to be before.

Her brother is lazy. Not stupid.

“«It’s a shit plan,»” he adds. Pun intended, maybe.

That suggestion gets a face. One that little sisters are good at. Tania looks over at him, possibly to point out how disgusting that would be, but the joke— intended or not— stops her. She laughs, just a light sound, since they're supposed to go unnoticed up here, but it's more expression than she ever used to have. Before.

"«That cannot be our only option,»" she says dryly. There's a lot she'll do for John Logan, but that might be over an arbitrary line that she has somewhere in her head. The one where she doesn't show up at a heroic rescue all smelly. "«They have to have another way in and out, one they use.»"

It does not occur to her that they might willingly use the sewers to do so.

He cracks an uneven, yellowed smile crowded with too many teeth. “«So squeamish,»” he teases. “Moya sestra, printsessa.”

My sister, the princess.

Sasha shifts his weight, leaning forward to take the binoculars from Tania, but a noise that sounds like thunder makes him pause. It’s strange because the forecast promised clear skies, and if Tania were to tip up her face she’d see only the stars winking above them.

“«Look.»”

It’s the loading dock’s rolling door as it grinds open.

Tania lifts her chin at the tease and flips her hair over her shoulder. Very imperious, which she only notices after. And she huffs— which only makes it worse.

So she is very gracious when he reaches for the binoculars. Or she meant to be. The sound gets a blink before she looks up. But the direction from her brother has her lifting the binoculars to look toward the meat packing plant again. Toward the door. She tries to be a realist, most of the time she's good at it, but she can't help but hope it'll be their friend making an appearance.

"«It looks like they finally woke up.»"

Two guards emerge from the loading dock as the doors reach their crest. In the dim light, it’s difficult for either Tania with her binoculars or Sasha with his soldier’s intuition and at least a decade of military experience to determine whether or not they’re armed.

One leans a shoulder against the warehouse’s break facade. The other fishes out two cigarettes from the inside of his coat, and offers the spare to his companion.

Sasha’s hand grips the rail he’s leaning against, knuckles gone white with tension. Tania does not need binoculars to see the rudimentary math he’s doing behind his blue eyes, which are suddenly bright and alert.

After watching for a few moments, Tania brings the binoculars down, although she still looks in that direction. She can't see, but she's willing to bet on their being armed. Of course, she is also armed, and assumes her brother also is. If not with a weapon, his bare hands have been known to do their fair share of damage.

Manicured fingernails drum against the rail, her own show of tension even if it is more delicate than Sasha's.

"«We might not get another chance at this,»" she notes, her voice more firm, darker. She looks over at Sasha, then nods toward a fire escape ladder on the side of the building. And then she hurries to it herself. Apparently ready to go ahead and take the chance that a pair of Kozlows trump two kidnappers.

Sasha hauls himself over the side of the building and drops down the ladder several rungs at a time. He moves swiftly and with a large predator’s purpose, but without straying more than a few feet from Tania, whose presence he is acutely aware of and informs the exact path that they take.

An arm loops around her waist, helping her down the last section of ladder, which drops down into the adjacent alley, to save her a six foot drop. Although she can feel the strength and tatuness in the muscles of his shoulders and chest beneath the fabric of his jacket and wifebeater, he handles her as though her bones were made of glass.

Tania’s feet touch down on the pavement, feather light. He presses a kiss to the top of her ginger head.

“— heard he used to run a brothel,” one of the guards is saying as he steers his now-lit cigarette from one side of his mouth to the other. “That ability’s some shady shit. Wish I could make my girlfriend feel good about putting out when she don’t wanna.”

Tania takes a more conventional route down, at least until her brother plucks her up and helps her down to the ground. From anyone else, she would protest, but Sasha gets a pass. As he does with many things. The kiss even gets a smile and a gentle squeeze of his arm.

And then she slides a gun out of a holster resting against her back.

She is careful moving ahead, not wanting the guards to spot them before they absolutely have to. Careful lasts until she's close enough to hear them talking. About John.

Tania has always been good about keeping her emotions away from her face, about remaining calm, about letting stronger people handle the important things. And some of that is still true, as her expression remains neutral while she listens, but Sasha can see the telltale signs. Her grip tightens around her gun, her shoulders inch upward. Her fingernails tap out a staccato against the wall.

But then she moves, gun aiming at the guard that's talking, firing twice in quick succession. Then she turns the weapon on the other one. She's not making any demands. Perhaps she thinks they're obvious.

That’s one way to do it.

The first guard doesn’t see what hit him. The first bullet enters his skull and blows out the back, taking a messy chunk of bone and brain matter with it. The second does the same, and his body droops, slumping against the wall on its way to the pavement.

The second holds both his hands above his head, cigarette still dangling from pursed lips.

“«Someone will hear the shots,»” Sasha says, too late, as he comes loping up from behind the smaller silhouette that Tania cuts. He looks past the guard with his hands up, past the loading dock’s plastic sheeting, inside the warehouse’s darkened exterior.

Somewhere a dog is barking.

"«Yes,»" Tania says, as guns are quite noisy, "«but we weren't going to be sneaking in.»" Because the sewers are gross, even if they're not in use the same way they used to be. Maybe worse for that, even. At least in her own imagination.

The second guard gets a moment of consideration. Like she wants him to think for a moment that these two Russians would rather just kill him than attempt to communicate. But after a breath in, she tilts her head a bit. "You have something of ours," she states, in English, "and we'd like him back." Her fingers tighten, just a bit before she remembers to add, "You can help or you can get shot." There's a vague gesture toward his former cohort. A worryingly dismissive one.

“Skinny,” Sasha says, because these are human traffickers and there are probably multiple hims to which Tania could be referring. “Like green bean. Brown hair, eyes too bright. Always talking.” That should narrow it down, but just in case: “Englishman.

There’s a pause, broken by the hitch in the guard’s breath as he swallows, hard. “John Logan, then?”

Da. That one.”

The guard glances down at the blood pooling around the corpse bent at the middle, one shoulder against the wall, the other sloping toward the ground. “Downstairs,” he tells Tania, without looking directly at her. He has trouble meeting her eyes, not because she’s a woman and he’s shy — because she’s pointing a gun at him and it’s all he can do to keep his voice from shaking. “I don’t know where. With the cattle, maybe. Or his room. Sometimes they keep him by the boiler.”

"The cattle," Tania repeats this with incredulity. Not because she didn't know human trafficking was a thing but because she can't believe he would actually call the people cattle.

She will think about apologizing if they find actual cows down here. She might actually do it if that's where they find John.

"«That was too easy,»" she comments to her brother. Neither her gun nor her gaze move off the guard, though, so he can see how she looks suspicious. Whatever she expected out of these people, she didn't expect them to be easy to scare. It makes her hesitate. "«Would you mind knocking him out?»" Her tone does not give any clues as to whether she has decided to be kinder or if she worries about the response to more gunshots.

Sasha doesn’t respond to Tania with words. He grabs the guard by the throat instead, and slams him into the wall once, twice, three times. It’s impossible for either of them to know which blow is the one responsible for putting him under, only that he’s blacked out before a fourth is necessary.

He’s about to unceremoniously dump him onto the pavement when it happens.

One shape comes streaking out of the darkness, then two, fast-moving and low to the ground, with enough momentum behind them to hurl Sasha down. The first German shepherd snags him by the forearm. The second goes immediately for his throat.

He kicks out with his legs and a snarl that’s as vicious as any dog’s, struggling to get a knee between his more vulnerable parts and his attacker’s teeth.

It only sort of works. The dog that had been aiming for his neck gets a mouthful of his face instead.

There was a time when Tania would have— and did— hide from her brother's displays of violence. Not these days. It isn't until figures move unexpectedly that she jumps. She hesitates too long to stop their rush toward Sasha, and she doesn't seem to want to fire and risk hitting him so it takes her a moment to decide what to do.

Because she might be better at some things, but Tania is still a thin, frail thing. Distance, she likes. Up close is dicey.

Still. She rushes over to kick at the dog biting Sasha's face, trusting boots to help make up for her lack of physical strength. Boots and repetition.

Sasha’s screams are wet. Muffled, too, by the muzzle of the dog where its jaws have clamped down on his cheek. Blood pours down his jaw and neck, clumping in his beard. Even in the dark, it stands out against the white cotton of his wifebeater, quick to saturate the fabric and leak out into his jacket.

Her strategy is effective in that Tania succeeds in getting the dog off her brother’s face. When her foot connects with its ribs, it rounds on her with a strangled yelp and lashes out to seize her by the leg. Abruptly, her world tips sideways. She feels her shoulder connect with the ground and pain blossom in her calf. Teeth puncture skin and penetrate the soft muscle close to the bone. Its head swings back and forth, shaking the tiny Russian like a ragdoll with enough force that she has to grab at the loading dock’s lever to keep the animal from dragging her across the floor.

There’s another yelp, followed by a high-pitched squeal. In her peripheral vision, Tania sees Sasha’s knife — finally freed from the sheath he keeps inside his boot — flash in the dark.

A panicked noise follows the bite as Tania does her best not to scream. The fall helps, for a moment, to distract her from the dog. She's jarred and trying to orient herself when the pain really hits. Tears blur her vision and her hands are kept busy trying to keep her anchored. Stable. It only sort of works.

The movement in her periphery spikes the panic upward for a moment, before she can process what is happening over there. But her attention doesn't stray from her own issue for long. Her foot comes down on the dog's face. Nose, eyes, ears, anything soft and sensitive enough to give her a moment to free her leg.

A door bangs open.

Sasha rolls over, shouldering off the corpse of the dog that had been savaging his arm. He doesn’t take the time he needs to recover because there isn’t any; he lurches out, fingers hooking in the collar of the animal attached to his sister, and yanks it off her.

It twists in his arms. Back legs rabbit. Front legs scrabble to get find purchase on the floor.

He shoves his knife cleanly between its ribs.

“Pham!” shouts a voice that’s much closer than is safe. “Travers! What the fuck is going on out there!”

Sasha rights himself, breathing hard through his nose. The right side of his face is in tatters. He holds his mouth shut only because he knows that if he opens it, more blood is going to come pouring out.

He swallows it instead as his hand finds Tania’s arm, hauling her to her feet. Lean on me, his eyes seem to say.

Tania scrambles back from the dog when Sasha grabs it, dragging her leg with her. Her gaze flicks to the loading bay door, to the darkness beyond it. Even with a new voice shouting and Sasha hauling her up, there's a lingering urge to keep going. Because they're close. Because he's been gone so long.

A glance to her brother is what changes her mind.

She has just enough presence of mind to scoop up her gun and by the time she straightens up, she really needs to lean on Sasha to stay upright. She leads them off, though, away from the voice, hoping that the dark is enough to cover them until they can slide behind something. Or make a break for it, whichever opportunity presents itself first.

They leave behind them a trail of blood, gradually thinning, that glistens on the pavement and catches in the tall tangle of weeds and too-tall grass once they hit the edge of the Rookery, where new growth and the remnants of civilization collide.

In the distance, there are more voices, shouting voices, baying dogs with keen noses attracted to the sharp, coppery scent that hangs in the air around them, but by the time the traffickers catch up with Tania and Sasha’s trail, the Russians are long gone.

There is an entire body of water between Staten Island and the New York Safe Zone, which may not be as safe as people claim, but is certainly safe enough as far as Tania is concerned.

Glittering city lights, towering chain-link fences, and military patrols will give them the time and space they need to come up with another plan.

One that will ultimately involve two sets of siblings instead of one.

There is strength, they decide, in numbers.


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