Armed and Dangerous (The IMA)

BOOK: Armed and Dangerous (The IMA)
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Copyright © 2013

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To my awesome fans (i.e. all of them).

Chapter One



My psychologists suggested that it might be therapeutic to write about what happened. That it would be beneficial, as they put it, for me to confront my demons head-on. What they failed to take into account was the fact that I might not
to confront the horrors of my recent past, let alone document it all in the written word for any and all to see. Whatever you say can and will be held against you, and with the IMA it would be at gunpoint.

The IMA were a terrifying group. Mercenaries trained like soldiers. The moral code of assassins. They took no prisoners if they could help it: the less evidence, the better. Was it so hard to believe that some skeletons might be better kept buried?

One visit to the psychologist was all it took for me to realize that these sessions would be a complete waste of time and money. I would not be able to tell her anything about my problems without fearing more for my life than I already was, and she wasn't equipped to deal with them besides. I had expected that, and I wasn't too disappointed. Since my mother had been the one to select Dr. Linden, my expectations had been low to start. I knew she did not hold my best interests at heart. Mamá, that is, not the therapist — although Dr. Linden probably didn't give a fig about my interests either, beyond what the session bill required.

Considering that I had been the one who was kidnapped and held hostage by hardened criminals, I figured if
in my family had a right to be traumatized, it ought to be me. But no, at the urging and endorsement of Dr. Linden, whose motives I now questioned, my mother was in the process of writing a memoir about her “three months of terror.” Critics were singing her praises in anticipation of the book's success, calling her “brave” and “inspirational.”

had been forced to endure unimaginable cruelties too, at her expense — and what had I gotten out of it? A temporary prescription for sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication to help with the panic attacks. My mother, who had chosen to save her own life instead of mine, thereby forcing me to pay for the mistakes made by her and my father, had a book deal. In what universe is that fair?

My mother's egocentric one, apparently.

Worse, I was concerned my mother's memoir would put me on another hit list. Despite stealing from large corporations by hacking into their computers as though he thought he were
, my father hadn't realized what he'd been messing around with until it was too late. My mother was just foolish when it came to the IMA. If she revealed a detail that the IMA did not want revealed, we were both dead. They might kill us to err on the side of caution.

When I brought these points up with my mother, she was dismissive, even hostile, telling me that I had no right to talk to her as if she was a child. “But don't you think you should quit while you're ahead?” I asked. “You have your fashion line. Think about fall — winter ball —
,” I concluded, a little desperately. She was horrid while designing clothes, treating me, her size fourteen daughter, as though I were a fat cow for not being able to squeeze into one of her perfect double-zero gowns. She would be worse if her memoir was turned into a Lifetime movie.

Christina, in today's economy, people do not want to buy fashion. They want to buy sob stories that will make them feel better about their own miserable lives.”

I followed her down the hall, into the master bedroom. She had converted her walk-in closet to an “office,” and because she never did anything by halves, she had
purchased a vintage Royal Arrow typewriter with glass keys. It was incredibly noisy, and since her office shared a wall with my bedroom I heard her pinging away well into the night. Not that I'd have been able to sleep anyway.

The office was hardly big enough for her antique desk and swivel chair, let alone for me. I knew what she was trying to do, shutting me out, pushing me away the way she always did. It made me angry enough to persist with, “Great. I respect that. But why don't you write about your own life? Why do have to drag me into this — again?”

“I cannot work with you standing there pestering me.”

That was kind of the point. “But — ”

“Go.” Dismissive wave. “Be sure to change into something nice for dinner. John is coming over at six.”

But I hate John.”

This is not up for discussion.”

I clenched my hands into fists. “You know I can't stand him. You
. Why would you invite him over here while I was staying? I don't visit you often. Would it really be so hard to accommodate me? Just once in a while?”

You are upsetting me, Christina.”

I was upsetting her?
was upsetting

John is the only reason I have been able to get through these past few months with my sanity.”

He's doing a pretty crap job, then
. “Does he have time-traveling powers, too? Because Dad told me you'd only been going out for about a month.”

She jabbed a finger at the door. “Out.”

“Fine,” I snapped. “But when I come down, it'll be because
want to,
I want to, and I'll be wearing an
old, ratty t-shirt

Her office door slammed shut, shaking the walls.

Ever since her and my father's divorce, my mother had gone through a series of boyfriends, each as unlikable as the last. Dr. Linden, on our one and only session, had proposed that I felt “threatened” by these men who I perceived to be “taking my father's place,” and that I still felt “angry” about my parents' separation. No. Freud said it best, I think, when he said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Sometimes your mother's boyfriend is just a loser.

This current model was named John, an irony that went over my mother's head. John was twenty-nine, younger than the typewriter she was using to write her memoir, and an aspiring actor. “Aspiring” in this case
meant that he wasn't enrolled at a film college, wasn't actively looking for an agent, and didn't have any work lined up. He seemed to be operating under the belief that if he spent enough time in our bathroom oiling his hair like a 1950's greaser a talent scout would drop out of the sky like the finger of God Himself and say, “You, with the cowlick, I want
to be in my next Big Picture.”

Maybe that was why my mother liked him; he shared her delusional style of thinking.

Not only was John a loser, he was also a total creep. I found him prowling around in the hallway outside my bathroom door when he knew I was taking a shower, and he'd “accidentally” brushed up against me a couple times. Once, he'd even asked me if my mother and I did threesomes — something he denied when I told my mother about it, which put the blame back in my court, of course, as the girl with the scheming Electra complex. It would have escalated from there, but I'd asked him if he was aware of my ties to the mob, and whether he'd ever had a bullet go through his penis, adding casually that if I spoke to the right people, he could easily find out.

Not that Michael would do that. He was only cruel
when he was paid to be, or so I liked to think. He wasn't a sadist, but he also wasn't around, and therefore wasn't worth thinking about. In any case, after that conversation John stopped sniffing around my bedroom door, and that's all I really wanted from the exchange anyway.


Mamá made good on her threat. Six o' clock found the three of us in the conservatory of her newly renovated Victorian, eating limp, green things that could have been weeds salvaged from the roadside. John whined about how he needed meat to build up his muscles for his headshots. Mamá was, by turns, consoling and condescending, saying that maybe he should spend more money on her so they could go out. Just one fucked-up happy family, that was us.

I snorted.

Mamá turned the full-force of that look on me. “Do not make the noises of a barn animal at the table, Christina, or you will be eating your dinner outside like one.”

Sorry.” I lowered my head.

Mamá pursed her lips, looking at me closely, then shrugged it off. I could see her making the conscious decision to ignore me. “I finished twenty pages of my memoir today,” she informed us, speaking to John as she laid her hand on his bicep.

John looked up from his stare-down with the mystery greens. “That's fantastic, babe.”

I was so inspired,” she gushed. “The words just flowed out of me.”
So does crap
. “It feels so good to unburden myself from the horrible events I was made to endure by those heartless,
men. But God works in mysterious ways, no? And now I can share His wisdom with others. To give them solace where I had none.”

Provided that they're willing to shell out the $9.99 for your poorly edited ebook
. I put down my fork. If I had to listen any more of this, I thought I might scream. “May I be excused?”

Christina, don't be rude in front of our guest.”

He is not a guest. He practically lives here.”

Christina!” Mamá narrowed her hazel eyes. “You will stay seated, and you will eat your

The memoir sounds great, babe,” John cut in, ever eager to get in my mother's good favor. “Fantastic.”

You said that already,” I informed him, prompting  Mamá to snap at me in Spanish, telling me not to “ruin her last chance at happiness by being a pettish brat.”

I bet they'll make your memoir into a movie.” John shoveled a mouthful of kale into his mouth and she beamed at him. Like he'd just said something exceptionally profound instead of smarming it up with his mouth full. “And if they do,” he added, spattering bits of chewed vegetation on the tablecloth, “I can play as myself.”

God help us,” I muttered. Quietly.

Naturally, Penelope Cruz will star as me, though she is a little heavy in the hips.”

I glared at my plate and stabbed at one of the green spears. “Don't you think you're being a little overly optimistic? Your book hasn't even been published yet.”

“Christina, I find your negative attitude extremely hampering to my creative process.”

For God's sake
. I drew in a deep breath —
count to three, Christina —
and said, “I'm not being negative. I'm being realistic. There's a difference.”

She sniffed. “You are being difficult. You should be more focused on your personal advancements. Dr. Linden informed me that you terminated your sessions with her prematurely. Do you realize she does not give refunds? You
wasted hundreds of dollars.”

Dr. Linden is a quack. And just what the
do you think you're doing, talking to her behind my back? Haven't you heard of doctor-patient confidentiality?”

BOOK: Armed and Dangerous (The IMA)
13.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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