Yassen’s eyes narrowed. It was the only outward sign that he’d been shocked by her words. He was certain that he’d misheard her, that somehow the music of The Nutcracker Suite, playing from the speakers around Santa’s Grotto, had interfered with his hearing. The volume was loud, but not so much that he would have heard those seven words incorrectly.
Making sure his surprise was not evident in his voice, he said, “That’s an interesting request, coming from you. You’ll have to forgive me if I suspect it might be a trap. What better way to finally capture me than while I’m attempting to assassinate the head of MI6 Special Operations.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Gregorovich,” she replied evenly. “I think you misunderstood me. I didn’t say I needed you to kill Alan Blunt. I said that I needed you to shoot him. There’s a difference.”
Yassen didn’t let his irritation with her show. She had to have known he’d assume that she’d meant she wanted Blunt dead. He was ready to walk away, refusing to play her game, but then he reminded himself why he’d come here in the first place.
“You said you wanted to talk about Alex. What does shooting Alan Blunt have to do with him?” he asked.
“You met Alex on his first mission,” she began. “You’d be surprised by how much he’s changed in just these few months. He’s never had time to properly mourn the death of his uncle. Against his will, he was forced by Alan into going undercover at Sayle Enterprises.”
She stared at him hard before making her next statement. “And I know that he would be dead right now if it hadn’t been for you. If it had been anyone else with Sayle on that rooftop, you would have killed them too.”
When he didn’t deny it, she continued. “Alex came through that assignment for us magnificently. I almost wish that he would have failed – not that he would have died, but that he would have simply failed. All his success ended up doing was to make Alan want to use him again, which he did a few weeks later, and he's been using Alex ever since.”
Mrs. Jones paused now, and took a deep breath. Yassen could see that she was having difficulty telling him all of this. She was betraying her supervisor, and MI6, because she cared for Alex. Or, he told himself, because she feels guilty for what she did on Albert Bridge fourteen years ago.
“Alan cares nothing for Alex. He’s put Alex into situations that no boy should be in, life-threatening situations that even a fully trained adult agent would have found daunting. We all know Alex is an exceptional boy, but that’s the key word – boy. I’ve tried to get Alan to leave Alex alone, and he promises me that he will, but then the next mission comes along, and all those promises are cast aside because Alex is the only one who can get the job done.
“After each mission, Alex returns not only physically hurt, but also emotionally. And it’s the emotional wounds that are taking their toll. Eventually, his mental state is going to affect his performance, and he’s going to be killed.”
With a note of desperation tingeing her words, she told him, “You’re the only one who can get Alan Blunt to leave Alex alone. I need your help, Yassen. Alex needs your help. I know you care for him, and I know why.”
She stopped speaking now, and they sat in silence, her words hanging heavy in the air. He turned to gaze at the families as they waited in line to see Santa, the soft, sweet notes of The Nutcracker Suite continuing to play in the background.