Victory's Secret: Finale!!

Rachael Tamayo &
Synthia Austin

I pull out of the driveway, unsure of which direction to point my vehicle. My computer has tracking - meaning with one simple phone call I could have it turned on and know just where it - and William - are.
But that would mean bringing the Council in on this, and that is something I need to avoid right now. Maybe it’s simple. Maybe I’m making this too hard. Maybe he took my computer to draw me in. I use voice command and tell my phone to dial his number. It rings one time.“I was wondering how long you would take to call me. How was your trip?”
I decide to pull the truck over into the parking lot of a service station. Taking the phone off speaker, I press it to my ear and demand, “What’s all this about?”
“I won’t talk on the phone. Meet me at the Confederate Monument. When can you get there?”
He’s in Texarkana, which means he’s been following us. I’m not surprised.
“Give me twenty minutes.”
He hangs up without reply. I toss the phone aside, pissed he knows where I am. Does he know where I put Victory? How is he tracking me? He must have help. It can only be The Brotherhood.
I turn the truck around and head to our designated meeting ground. The monument is in the middle of town and offers no real cover. It’s public. And safe.
I park my truck across the square and bend down, checking the weapon on my ankle. It’s secure, hidden. I exit my vehicle and scan my surroundings. It’s quiet and the sky is clear. My shoes crunch on the concrete and gravel as I cross the road toward the towering statue. Two figures step out from behind the monument; William on one side, Dante on the other. I lose my footing for the briefest moment. Both men notice.
“Hello, Liam,” William greets me. “I believe you know my father.”
“Dante?” My voice trembles with this betrayal.
I’ve known Dante my entire life, and never once had he mentioned a son. In fact, after my parents’ death, he took over parental duties and treated me like the son he never had.
“I know,” the old man says, “this is quite a surprise, but what would the Council be if we didn’t hold on to our secrets? You never know when they might come in handy.”
“They certainly benefited you here.”
“I wouldn’t have needed to use him had you not lied to me.”
The irritation in his voice tells me everything I need to know. He knows everything. The women, the safe houses, Victory…
“How long have you known?”
“Since before your parents’ deaths. You’re way out of your element, Liam. Do you think your father set up these safehouses alone? I helped him. Who do you think protected you all of these years? Approved your choice of wife? It was me. I’m the one who asked them to allow me to train you. When I give my word, I keep it. I promised to raise you right, to teach you everything you’d need to know to survive this miserable world.”
“Promised who? The Brotherhood.”
“No, you idiot. Your father,” William says. “We were protecting you all along because we needed you... to get to her.”
I ache to touch the pistol hidden in my boot, unsure of what to believe. Instead, I crack my knuckles. “Get to who?”
It’s William that utters her name. I feel heat flush my face and I clench my fist. Memories fill my mind of Liberty and I on Christmas morning opening presents; flashes of my mother’s tears when the doctor whispered truths that I’m forbidden to know. The screaming when her name turned up on my father’s list.
“Don’t you dare utter my sister’s name, you sonofabitch,” I growl. “How can I get to someone who’s dead? Stop all this cloak and dagger bullshit and tell me what it is you really want.”
“She’s not dead, Liam. She’s in hiding.”
The words rock my world and send me off-kilter. Is it true?
“We’ve been looking for her for years. We needed you to move through the list undistracted so that we might find her. If we had told you, if you’d known, you would have lost focus and so many women would have died. The Brotherhood has to remain in the dark, and for that to happen, we had to proceed with business as usual.” Dante and William exchange an undefined look. “Your sister holds the key to, well… everything.”
I wrinkle my forehead. A car passes by, and an elderly woman eyes us as they cruise past.
“No. You’re wrong. My sister’s dead. She was killed by one of my father’s men. One of your men.”
Dante ignores my accusation. “Your sister is missing. She’s not dead.”
The words don’t compute. I remember my mother telling me she was dead. I remember my father’s shame. I was young, but I knew. I knew... what my father chose to tell me.
“I don’t understand. How could you not protect her?” I had questioned. “We’re members of The Brotherhood! How could this happen? How could she be gone?”
My mother held a handkerchief over her face, sobbing and jerking away from the touch my father attempted to comfort her with. “No one is exempt from their laws.”
She wept openly into her hands, the words muffled with her grief.
He turned to me. “I can’t explain it without risking both your lives.”
I shake the memory from my head. We had buried her. My parents died only a few months later and were buried with her. I had been at all their funerals.
“And one more thing,” Dante adds, his tone catching my attention. “She isn’t exactly your sister.” He continues before I can protest. “Liberty isn’t your sister. She was placed in your home for protection, just as her fraternal twin sister has recently been placed in your care.”
The blood drains from my face as I violently shake my head. “No. No, it can’t be!”  
“Twins, Liam. Liberty and Victory. We must find her and bring her to her sister. They must be brought together again.”
“This doesn’t make sense. How can—who—”
“You ask too many questions,” William says as he steps forward. “We don’t care about the halfway houses. We don’t care that you’ve been lying. Don’t you see?” he whispers, looking around. “We’ve been protecting them for years, hoping eventually she’d turn up in one and we could put the two halves together at last.”
The pieces start to fall into place. Dante said Liberty was placed in my parent’s care to protect her. Liberty was barren. Her twin sister is also infertile. The only protection they would need would be against…
“You don’t work for The Brotherhood, do you?”
Two halves? Two halves of what?
They glance at each other, and my head is spinning.
“What are you? Plants? Spies?” I run a hand over my face, unsure of what to believe. “You’re working from the inside,” I whisper to no one in an attempt to unravel the information thrown at me. “How is this possible? Victory has never mentioned a sister or being adopted.”
“Victory has no idea who she is. Her parents have lied to her all her life, under threat of execution. They don’t know about her sister, either.”
“What do you mean, the two halves?” I narrow my eyes.
“We need you to protect Victory and find Liberty. We have to get them together again. It’s imperative for our goals.”
“What goals?”
“The same as yours: to end this, the lies, the tyranny… to be free once again.” Dante and William look to one another, and William steps closer. “Our wife... your wife… she’s not infertile.”
I frown. “But I’ve seen her file, I know her history. She had surgery, a hysterectomy.”
Dante laughs. “You are foolish, especially considering your position. Dr. Matka wasn’t who you were led to believe he was.”
My brain furiously tries to work out the puzzle I don’t seem to have all the pieces for. She was barren, I know she was. That doctor was killed for his black-market surgeries as punishment by the Council. If he wasn’t saving young women’s lives, then what was he doing? He must have lied.
The surgery must have been for other reasons.
“He betrayed them,” I mutter and glance up as I remember they’re watching me with curious eyes.
“The doctor. He must have known something, and The Brotherhood killed him for it.”
“Now he’s catching on.” Dante crosses his arms. “When he was captured he surrendered his records, hoping to save his own life. He discovered something in the girls that he wasn’t meant to ever find. He ultimately signed their death warrants when he turned those records in.”
I carefully eye the men in front of me. “Who are you?”
“For now, all you need to know is that we’re here to protect these women at all costs. The twins must be found. They are the key to the end of this...” Dante waves his arms, “...madness created by mad men.”
“How do I know I can trust you?” I look from one man to the other, hoping for an answer I know I won’t receive. “How do I know this is the truth?”
Dante is the one that steps forward. “You recognize this?”
He pulls up his sleeve to reveal the white ink tattoo. It’s the brand of the resistance. Only members of The Brotherhood know this army exists. If the civilians knew, it would give them hope. I nod.
“This is how. You must trust us, or she will die. They will find out, and all hope will be lost.” The desperation in his eyes, despite the tone of voice, is enough to remind me of the man I knew as a child, of the Dante my father called his friend, of the man that I once trusted. “We must save them, or The Brotherhood will kill us all. No one will be spared.”
I leave my truck at the monument and get into the backseat of the Lincoln Towncar. Dante drives toward the safehouse. I don’t know what I’m going to tell Victory.
Surprise! Turns out William’s not the bad guy… maybe… and you're not infertile. Oh, and by the way, you have a twin sister. She is infertile but don’t worry, we’re going to fight The Brotherhood and save her life, and together, you two will save the entire nation.
There’s no right way of unloading this onto her. I pull my cell phone from my pocket, but William spins around, snatching the phone from me. “You know they’re tracking your phone. I wouldn’t.” He hands the phone back to me.
“Is this how you found me?”
He nods. “Yes. We’re working from the inside.”
I knew this. I look down at the phone in my hand and consider tossing it out into the field, but I decide against it. It might give the whole operation away if they suddenly can’t find me. Then I remember Victory and the phone I gave her. I resist the urge to dial her number.
“What am I supposed to do for a phone?”
“We have connections, we’ll get you a clean one.”
“I gave Victory a phone, but I don’t think she brought it when we left.”
Dante looks at me into the mirror. “You gave her a phone?”
“I did.”
The two men exchange a look. “Did she bring it with her?”
“I don’t know. We left in a hurry.”
A bad feeling washes over me. I lean forward. “Hurry.”
As we turn the corner, the smell of smoke hits my nose. It’s faint at first, but the strong, unmistakable scent of burning wood increases as we get closer to the safehouse. The haze of white smoke is in the air, as thick as fog. I lean forward in my seat as if it might bring us there faster. “Hurry, something is wrong,” I insist again.
Dante steps on the gas, and moments later, my breath leaves my body. We are greeted by an inferno.
I rush from the car, only to be held back by the two men. I watch the flames lick and char the house, the roof caving in just as I pull away, ready to punch the man that tries to stop me this time.
“Victory!” I intend for her name to come out as a scream, but instead, it floats out of my throat in a hoarse whisper. I thrust my hands into my hair, watching helplessly. “The women! Damn it, who could have done this?”
I turn to Dante and William, their two faces as slack-jawed and pale as mine must be. “Who would have done this? Why would they do this?”
William runs a hand over his face. “It must be them. But these women are nothing to them; it doesn’t make sense.”
My dog, Duke, comes running to me from a distance. I have no idea where he came from. I whistle at him, tears blurring my eyes. “Come here, boy.” My voice shakes. Emotions flood me for my wife, for the women, for my lost sister. I’m not sure which.
“You said they were protected.” William’s voice holds accusation as he yells at his father.
Dante watches me step toward my dog. “I thought they were protected. Everything I saw, everything we did said they were. Maybe this isn’t the Council’s work.”
I look up from Duke, who’s running circles around me, barking. “There is no one else. They are the only ones. It has to be them.”
Duke whines, pawing at the ground. “Shut up, will you?” I mutter at him. I turn to William. “You have to tell me more. I need the full story here.”
Dante opens his mouth to reply but I’m distracted when Duke barks at me and tears off toward the house, the direction of the fire. I mutter a swear under my breath just before calling his name. When he doesn’t return, I’m forced to chase him.
The heat coming off the burning structure is terrible as I make a wide pass, following the path I saw my dog take. I see his shape just inside the woods, howling.
“What in the hell?” I make my way to where he stands. He wags his tail as if proud of what he’s done. As I reach for his collar ready to scold him, I see it. There, in the leaves, as if it was covered in a rush.
It’s a handle.
Bending, I brush away leaves and dirt to expose what looks like a heavy metal door hidden near the tree line. My heart starts to beat quickly and out of rhythm as I wrap my hand around the metal and rise, pulling the door open.
It opens with a soft groan, revealing only darkness and a set of stairs. I glance at the wiggling dog, scratching him on the head. I’m afraid to call out, not knowing who or what might be inside. I retrieve my weapon and head down. I’d rather risk it alone than call Dante and William. There are still too many questions, and so much I don’t know. Nothing makes sense.
The steps protest under my weight, and as I descend, I realize they are terribly steep and narrow, forcing me to reach for the wall with my free hand. I find myself wishing I had a flashlight as I step further into darkness.
Finally, I reach what feels like concrete under my feet. I scan the room, barely lit from above, and that light doesn’t reach into the shadows. I swallow and take the safety off my weapon.
“Is anyone there?” I call.
Cellars in Texas are rare, but the metal and concrete have the feel of a storm shelter or a bunker of some sort. Either it was here the whole time and Elizabeth found it, or she had it installed.
“Liam, is that you?” I hear the soft, trembling voice from the shadows.
“Victory!” I suddenly want to cry. “Are you alone?”
I hear her steps as I search the black for her shape, only seeing her when she steps into the dim light. “Yes, I’m alone.” With relief, I holster my weapon.
I pull her into my arms and crush her against my body. “I thought I’d lost you. I thought you were dead.” I whisper.
I pull back, searching her face. Her cheeks are tear streaked, her hair has cobwebs and dust in it. “The fire, the house. The women are gone.”  How could she not know?   
Her eyes go wide. “What fire? Where are the women?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing. Look, we have to get out of here, and then you can tell me what happened.”
I pull her up the stairs, where Duke greets her with excitement. “Good dog.” I will have to reward him later when there is more time. “We have to get out of here.”  
She starts for the tree line but I grab her. “No, not that way.”
Confusion controls her face. “What? Why?”
I pull her deeper into the forest. “I don’t know if I can trust them. We have to go before they come looking for me.”
“Dante and William. Come on.”
I hush her questions with a finger to my lips, and the two of us head into the woods with nothing but the clothes on our backs, our dog at our heels, and more questions than answers in our heads.
Half an hour passes before either of us speak again. “Tell me how you ended up in that storm shelter,” I finally break the painful silence as we move through the forest in the direction that I know will take us across the state line.
Victory doesn’t answer until we cross the border. “The phone rang and Elizabeth answered it. I don’t know who it was; she took the call in another room. She came back with panic all over her face. She said some sort of code word and they all scattered like roaches. She grabbed me and dragged me out the back. I asked her what was happening, but she didn’t say anything until she reached that door. She told me to get in and stay in until someone came for me. Next thing I knew, you were calling my name.” Victory takes my hand. “I was terrified and confused, Liam. What’s going on? Why did they leave?”
I stop walking and turn to her. I see the fear on her face, the unasked questions in her eyes.
“And William, how did he—”
I silence her with a kiss, just because I need to touch her to calm the turmoil in my soul. I rest my forehead on hers and close my eyes.
“Victory, there is so much I need to tell you.” I take a deep, cleansing breath. “But for now, let me just say I love you.”
She reaches up and touches my face, which startles me since my eyes are closed. I lean into her gentle fingers. “And I think I love you. Lead the way, and tell me everything.”

The End
Series to be continued in: The Shadowman (The Shadowman Chronicles Book 2)