Miami, Florida 2:30AM September 11, 2001
Morning in Miami was humid and because of it, it felt colder. In his central air apartment, it didn't feel like this. Justin opened his eyes and waited until he was able to adjust his vision in the dark. He turned his head to the left and looked at the face of his fiancé. She was still sleeping, and air was whispering from her mouth every time she exhaled. He looked at her for about a minute more and with caution moved her hand off his chest and slowly put it beside her. He quietly set down on the bad. He stood up and stretched with his arms up.
“What's going on?” she asked softly yawning without opening her eyes and added “it's time already?”
“No Valera, it's still enough time.” Justin replayed in a whisper, so she wouldn't wake up with him. It would be a disaster he was thinking.
Her name was Valeria, but he was calling her Valera or V. When they were making love and feelings were overwhelming, he called her Valerochka. She usually called him Justin, but when she was angry or something wasn't right by her, she called him by last name Case.
She looked at the clock on the nightstand by her side. It was 2:33AM.
“So early, where are you going?” She asked waking up, knowing the answer.
“Everything is fine my dear, you go back to sleep.” Justin answered softly slightly turning his body to her.
V liked his accent, and she was thinking more now, after three years, that she loved him. They didn't talk about it yet, but soon they will have to start. Justin also was thinking about it but putting out this conversation for a later time. He also loved her but didn't want to be first to start their conversation.
Justin took a quick and refreshing shower and went into his office. In the office he dressed in dark clothes. He looked in the mirror and rolled out top of his shirt on the left shoulder. He touched his gunshot wound. It looked like star of David, that's why his nick name was “Israeli” in his unit of special forces. Everyone who knew him called him by nick name. Justin was thinking that they forgot his real name.
He opened a fake vent door in the wall and pulled out his bag. He put the bag on the table and took out necessary tools. 45mm Beretta with two magazines 25 bullets in each one. Justin inserted one magazine inside, put one bullet into a chamber and put the gun on safety. This one he put it into the holster under his left arm. Second one S&W 38 he mounted on his right calf, just in case. He stood up and looked at himself in the mirror again. He made few deep breaths.
“You can do it Case; this is your last job” he said to himself in English.
Justin was borne in 1964 in Ukraine in city of Melitopol by Azov Sea, but first grade he started in New York. In 1992 he was sent as an agent back to Ukraine, Kiev. Before that for 6 years he was serving in military special forces. He was trained in combat in Afghanistan and Syria, he was an ultimate soldier. Now he was working for FBI in counter terrorism and hostage recovery unit. In 1998 he met Valeria, and something ignited inside both of them. She knew he was a journalist and she met with his “coworkers” several times. He told her a good story and she didn't question it.
In Kiev, Justin was handled by FSB agent Yevgeniy Petrovich Chernenchuk or “dyadya” which means uncle. This agent was always in Justin's head, sometimes he was thinking that he was spying on him. After he told him that he has a friend, dyadya wasn't surprised he just nodded and said, “I am not worried about you “plemyash” means nephew, I just hope nothing bad will happen to your friend”. Justin didn't know Petrovich real age and was speculating, around 60. Petrovich was calling him “plemyash” and Justin was calling him “dyadya”. For one of dinners Justin said he will bring his friend Valera. Petrovich said “I am not going to judge you plemyash. Just be careful.” Only after dinner Justin understood what Petrovich meant and how he was surprised to see yang and beautiful woman. They were coming back to that time sipping beers and laughing on the porch.
Justin and Valeria came back to the United States in Spring of 2001. He shoved her the place where he worked revealing a long past due secret. She wasn't really surprised, just disappointed. Justin explained that he couldn't tell her about it while in the foreign country. She made peace with it after a week, and everything went the way it should be. Justin was spending time at work and Valeria signed up in University of Miami with her student visa, that Justin was able to get for her. After classes she was working part time in one of the boutique stores on a strip. She knew four languages including Spanish and was able to get a job fairly quick. She didn't like to sit home and grands for university were given based on her GPA, which was high. The money wasn't great at work, but it was not all about the money.
She loved to be preoccupied.
Justin was working on the task force with FBI to search and detain slavery ring and extract hostages and get them back to their homes. The operation was tremendous, many countries were involved. Ukraine, Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan, besides Syria and Egypt. Justin was working on this task force for the last nine years. Over the years they recovered over 200 individuals, but he made a promise to a mother that he will find out what happened no meter what the outcome will be. The slave trade was going through Ukraine, port of Odessa. A lot of intelligence was recovered, and the plan was to hit all the points at the same time in each country if possible. The days were set between September 1st and 3rd in different countries, get the hostages back to Ukraine and from there to their families. Justin was certain Eliza was there somewhere as he was checking intelligence reports for description of girls passing through before and now. 12 years ago, it's a long time and long shot that she is still alive. He got a blurry picture from one of the reports about a girl, possibly 17-18 years old and compared to the photo robot produced in his office. It was 70% match, his face lit up, she was in Egypt.
Miami, Florida 4:00AM September 11, 2001
Justin pulled out two ceramic knifes from his bag, one larger one smaller. Larger one he mounted on his left calf and smaller he attached to his waist belt. He supposed to give his guns in the airport but knifes were always with him with no detection. He opened a top drover in his table and pulled out his passport and three stubs on GS5, two for him Miami-NY and back and one for Maria. He put his bag back into the ventilation shaft and closed the door.
He came back to the bedroom and sit down on the tip of the bad beside Valera. He moved toward her face and tried to kiss her, but she wasn't sleeping. She put her arms around his neck and pulled him down toward her. Their lips connected and they embraced in the long and passionate kiss. She opened a blanket and he sow, that she was already dressed.
“But if you like, I can undress” she said with provocative smile on her face.
Justin nodded his head from side to side “You know I should be in airport in 45 minutes”
“You don't say anything more and we will be there in 30” she said undressing him while he was undressing her. 15 minutes of love he will never forget.
She pulled over by Miami private and VIP section lines. “I am going to see you tomorrow, right?” once more she asked and continue “I'll have a surprise for you, but you only can open the envelop in your left pocket on the plain, OK?”
“OK!?” Justin replied confused and added firmly, ”yes, OK” automatically checking his pocket at the same time.
“Ah, no, no, no” V said and smiled “on the plain, I'll be watching you, I can see you from here, please Case on the plain, promise?” she asked.
“Promise V” he answered knowing that she is serious now. He took out his ticket stabs and waved in front of her.
“I know” she said little emotional.
“I have a big day tomorrow. Mom will be reunited with her daughter after 12 years. I'll definitely be home tomorrow” he answered with big smile.
On the plain he set down and pull out an envelope from his pocket. It read, “For Us By Us”. He pulled out a little sonogram film, looked at it, smiled with his eyes closed, head resting on the head rest of his chair. “OMG, I am going to be a father!” His head was spinning as he made a call to V.
Eliza was kidnapped and sold to Egypt 12 years ago, she was only 6 years old. She was abducted in supermarket with no trace. Justin was conducting investigation in States and later in Ukraine. When they found intelligence that a lot of American girls went missing and end up in Ukraine in early 90th Justin was assigned as liaison federal agent to Ukraine. His cover was journalist in Kiev and Odessa. Until 2001 his coworkers in States, Ukraine and Russia were gathering information. In September 2001 few different federal authorities including local task force raided places in Ukraine, Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Syria and Egypt. Justin was participating in the raid in Egypt on September 3rd, and it was all done in 15 minutes. They raided several houses, they came, they see, they concurred. Justin was screaming her name all the time “Eliza, Eliza”. All of a sudden in one of the rooms he heard “Hello, I am here.” He rushed into the room and found her. “Eliza?” he asked again. “Yes, but my name is Fatima now” she said with an accent from middle east. She was beautiful and well groomed. Blond reddish hair, blue eyes and beautiful mouth was on her Irish face. She was not pale, just white with little freckles on her skin. It looked like she was from a painting or wax museum. “Let's go to meet you mother, Maria, remember?” He said. She nodded her head. It was another 3 girls with her all very well groomed. When they got all the girls together, not all of them looked healthy like Eliza, some of them needed immediate medical attention. All girls were sent back to Ukraine for processing and would be going to their real homes as soon as possible. Eliza was sent to Miami special victims center until her mother would come and she will decide what to do next. V and Justin were visiting her all the time during this period. In less than a week Eliza started to become a normal girl again. She said she wasn't assaulted in any way and doctors backed that up. She was just living in different country and had a Master who took care her and others while they were performing their daily duties.
Maria, Eliza's mother, was found in New York. After 5 years of searching and waiting she divorced and move out of state for new life. Her ex-husband died in an accident and her parents were living in Ireland.
Justin found her number by searching databases in different states. He called her at work.
“Good evening, this is offices of Chad & Cooper may I help you?” Nice voice said on the other end.
“Can you please direct me to Maria Coogan” Justin answered and added “it's her old friend Justin, it's important” he said knowing it could be more questions.
“Hold please, I'll page her” nice voice said. “Page her” Justin was thinking, she is just a paralegal when he heard a different voice on the phone.
Miami, Florida 6:00PM September 10, 2001
“Hello Justin, it's you?” Maria asked her voice was trembling.
“Yes, Maria it's me” he answered with enthusiasm in his voice.
“Tell me the news, how did you find me, we didn't speak in about 7 years” she said and added “tel me anything, please”
“I didn't call because it was no news and I was in Ukraine, but I was able to find you now, we have good news you better sit down now”
“OK” Maria said and set down in her chair.
“We got your daughter back and she is waiting for you on 12th, she is in processing in special victim's center in Miami. It's a process that have to be completed. I will be at your work tomorrow first thing in the morning to escort you to her. It's a process” do you understand Maria.
“We are meeting at your work and flying out to meet her. She is not alone, don't worry, my fiance and I are with her every day” do you understand? Justin thought he made a mistake telling her all this, what if she will jump on the plane right now.
But the voice said different “I understand Justin, I understand. I'll wait for you in the lobby of 24th floor”.
“OK, tell me your cell number and I'll send you some pictures and video, you can send me back video too for her” Justin said. Few seconds later he heard clapping and shouting in the office and Maria's voice “That's my baby, that's my girl, FBI found her for me.” Maria was crying saying “Thank you” for hundred time.
“I'll see you tomorrow first thing” Justin said thinking what would happen with his breech of protocol if this thing came out.
“Yes Justin and thank you again. I'll be waiting”
New York, New York 7:50AM September 11, 2001
The plane landed in JFK, from there limo took Justin to the entrance of North Tower of World Trade Center. He came out in his dark attire with no tie. He looked at the towers from top to bottom and exhaled. There were people on the streets, like work never stopped. “City never sleeps” he said to himself. He got an orange alert for New York on his phone. Something wasn't right. He called the office and found out it's terrorism alert in the cities of New York and Washington D.C. Justin paid attention to it all the time. “What could be happening” he was thinking. He entered the vestibule and went through the security check point showing his credentials. He found an elevator that stops on 24th floor and pushed the button. Elevator took him to 24th floor and as he came out, he found himself in a huge open space. Offices all around him. He found offices of Chad & Cooper and set down on the couch in front of them. Minute later elevators doors opened, and several secretaries and clerks came out on the floor. They started to open their office doors with their keys, smiling and saying good morning. Door in front of Justin got wide open.
“Are you waiting for someone, or you have an appointment Sir?” loud voice buzzed in Justin's ears.
“Special agent Case, I am here to meet with Maria Coogan” he answered and showed his credentials.
Doors of several elevators opened, and dozens of people came out to the floor. If it was quiet before now it was a working noise.
“She is not here yet, would you like some coffee, Sir? What flavor would you like?” Secretary asked looking at Justin with smile on her face.
“It doesn't matter, French roast perhaps, strong, black. Thank you” he answered not paying much attention to her. He was looking at the people that were coming out from the elevators. And then he sow her. She didn't change a bit for the past 7 years. She was beautiful and full of energy; the only thing was different is the strings of gray hair that she didn't want to color or hide. Perhaps it was a reminder for her of what she got through. Their eyes are met, and they recognize each other right the way. When they were walking towards each other Justin's phone vibrated again.
New York, North Tower WTC 8:46AM September 11, 2001
Justin looked at the phone and froze, like blood was drained from his body.
“Everyone stop!” he shouted and continue “drop whatever you are doing and run to fire exits, don't use elevators. Now, now!” Justin kept shouting. He ran to the fire stand and pushed the fire alarm button.
“Fire, fire! This is not a drill!” Justin was shouting on top of his lungs. At this point they got to each other and together they ran into fire exit stairs. Crazy stampede started on all the floors; people were running in different directions. Someone screamed “Plain, plain, something is coming this way!”
And huge explosion ruptured the building and another and another.
They were on the 18th floor at this point. When they got to 16th floor, they could hear how elevators were dropping down with people inside, they were screaming. More explosions and massive studs started to crumble in different directions. Building walls started to collapse inside and out opening a beautiful site on Hudson River and Liberty Park. They thought that Statue of Liberty is so close now extending its arm to them for help.
10th floor – Burning, screaming, yelling
8th floor – Hot, everything burning, screaming
They were running and helping others to get up and run. Some of the people were just skipping over the bodies.
6th floor – Explosions, burning, screaming, crying
Half of burning plane went down the elevator shafts, dozens of burning people went down with it screaming.
3rd floor – Explosions, burning, screaming, crying
Justin took his coat off to help someone extinguish fire. He ordered Maria to run down and out to the Hudson River, hide in one of the stores “I'll find you” he said “If not, tell V that if it's girl to call her Eliza”
“You will tell her yourself” Maria said and ran down with others, helping others on her way. He put one body on each shoulder and started to run down as well.
Vestibule – he can see that the tower will go down any minute. People jumping down inside and out. He ran further and dropped people in one of the stores. He saw South Tower in the same shape. Justin ran back to the lobby as fast as he could.
New York, North Tower WTC 9:00AM September 11, 2001
Darkness and nothing, can't see or hear or even breath.
Only in a letter from his agency he finds out that he rescued 17 people and received a medal. What about other 3000 people? GOD bless you all.
9+ month later Miami, Florida July 2002
The table was set, everyone around. Maria, Eliza, Petrovich with his wife Martha and few Justin's coworkers. Also, a double stroller for little Elizaveta and Alexander Case
“OK, who wants what?” Justin came out behind a grill with huge bowl of meet. He was limping because he lost all toes on his right foot. Doctors said “you are going to be OK soon”
“Give me some of that gator meet!” Petrovich announced. Justin put the bowl in the middle of the table and picked up his shot glass with vodka.
“Toast” he said, and everyone picked up.
“For 15 minutes” Justin said and continued
“15 minutes of love before airport”
“15 minutes for rescuing hostages”
“15 minutes from 24th floor to the exit”
Slava P ©