NUMBER SEVEN AND THE LIFE LEFT BEHIND
An original thriller novella.
About The Book
Thriller novella written in December 2017, edited through 2018, and published with Amorphous Publishing Guild in January 2019. My first original fiction publication.
Number Seven is a soldier-turned-bodyguard. His assignment: keep sheltered Olympic hopeful Kirill Morozov unharmed, untouched, and under control until he wins the gold. An easy job if only Kirill weren’t so desperate for a woman’s touch. And if Seven’s superior, Number Two, weren’t scrutinizing their every move.
Seven enlists an old friend to satisfy Kirill’s lonely needs. But Number Two discovers their extracurricular activities, dropping Seven into a labyrinth of indecent proposals and explosive conspiracies and leaving him and his friends with only one choice for survival: run.
How long can Seven stay out of the crosshairs of his fellow agents? How far will he go to protect his friends? And what might he lose on the way – his friendships, his love, or even his very life?
“The life you leave behind may be your own.”
Number Seven knew from the moment they met that guarding young Kirill Morozov would be the last job he’d ever do. Not because the young Olympic hopeful was a snooty, demanding, or difficult assignment. In fact, quite the opposite. It was hard not to like him even when he was being obnoxious, as was the case tonight.
“Look!” Kirill demanded. Three years together had made them colloquial and comradely, to the point where the string of lewd messages sent from his teammates neither embarrassed nor deterred him from shoving the phone into Seven’s face. “Even Darya is there.”
Among the dim, blurry photos of loose-limbed young ladies, Seven recognized the blonde stunner with the whipping ponytail. Like Kirill, she stood out from a crowd as much by presence as by beauty. Nevertheless, Seven leaned away. “So she is.”
Kirill took his phone back, holding it in both hands with the same reverence one might show a gold medal. “She is fantastic,” he wheezed. “Did you know she can do an armstand back double-somersault with one-and-a-half twists, and barely break the water going in?”
Seven knew what that mishmash of words meant, and the impressiveness implied. It didn’t compare to Kirill’s time for the 200m butterfly, though, which put him well on his way to becoming a world record-holder. Seven hunched one shoulder up. “If you like that sort of thing.”
“What’s not to like?” Kirill said, still ogling. He finally pulled his gaze away and looked up at Seven with once-more-brilliant eyes. “Can we go? Please, say we can go.”
Seven held back a sad smile. Getting permission from his superiors at the security division to take Kirill off the grounds on a standard training night was difficult enough. To do so just for the sake of a party in the city, which was a forty-five-minute drive in the best of traffic, was pushing insubordination. But Seven touched the communications bud in his ear to make sure the vibration mic was activated and made the effort anyway.
“Control?” he said. “Requesting permission to—”
“Request denied, Number Seven.” The voice on the other end was clipped, stoic, and female without being feminine. “You are to escort your charge to his room and secure him for the night. And, make sure he has his supplements.”
Seven glanced at Kirill, who’d clasped his hands in a tight-fingered prayer gesture and was grimacing a silent, drawn-out Please? He turned his head away, muttering, “It is just a party. I don’t see why—”
“Yours is not to question why,” the voice at Control told him. “Yours is to follow orders. And Number Two has given his orders. Control, out.” In his ear, the faint whistle of connection went dead with a click.
Seven stood straight and turned to Kirill with a ready look of apology. “The old man says no.”
“That’s not fair!” Kirill complained. The woman on duty behind the reception desk cast them a snooping glance but returned to her computer screen when Seven met her gaze. He had that effect on people.
“Please,” Kirill begged. “Ask again?”
“It would not do any good.” Once division command came down with a decision, that decision was done.
Seven walked over to the bank of lifts, leaving Kirill to follow. He pressed the call button and tried to be reasonable. “They will probably break it up before we could get there, anyway. You know how Two likes to throw his weight around.”
Beside him, Kirill’s baritone swung into a grumble. “No one even told me they were going to a party. I wouldn’t have gone back to the pool, if I’d known.”
“Your training is important,” Seven began when Kirill groaned, loudly and long enough to deflate his posture.
“I’m always in training! I swim faster and stronger than anyone on our team or any other. But every day, it’s the same thing: ‘You need to be ready for trials,’” he said, affecting a sneer and a mimic of his coach’s deeper, lazy basso. “‘You need to be better for Masters. The Olympic committee doesn’t like losers.’” He returned his voice to normal for another grumble. “Meanwhile, Ullman and Adamski and everyone else get to go out and get laid as much as they want.”
“Adamski is a clown,” Seven said without looking his way. “And Ullman is an ass. No woman in their right mind would give either of them the time of day, let alone anything else.”
“They still get to go!”
The lift dinged and the doors came open. Kirill loped inside, moving to the back to rest against the bar. Seven went in after him and pushed the button for their floor. The low chime of the rising floors was the only thing to break the quiet, until Seven turned to Kirill with more sympathy.
“I understand how you feel,” he said, but the swimmer humphed.
“No, you don’t.”
Seven held back a harrumph of his own. “You are not the only young man ever to be told he cannot have something he wants.”
Kirill’s stare stayed on his sneakers. “Just the only one who will die never having made love to a beautiful woman,” he muttered.
On the other side of the car, Seven snorted. “Stop being dramatic.”
“I’m not being dramatic!” Kirill straightened all the way up. He wasn’t as buff or as tall as Seven, but he was built in that classically handsome, heroic swimmer’s image, and very nearly capable at his full six-foot height to look Seven in his good eye. “Even the women here don’t notice me. I say hello to them every day, and every time, they walk right by me like I am not even there.”
“I have seen you say hello,” Seven said, and glowered at him. “…to their busts and behinds. Did you ever stop to think that their ignoring you has something to do with that?”
Kirill bit his lips closed for a second of shamed self-awareness. Seven let him fret in silence. When the lift opened on their floor, Kirill attempted a weak excuse.
“I can’t help it if those are their most interesting features.”
“Sometimes, I despair of you,” Seven mumbled, and nodded to the doors.
Kirill walked out, spreading his long arms in a clueless, can-you-blame-me? gesture. “What?”
“A woman is more than the sum of her measurements,” Seven told him as he kept stride. “They are minds, and hearts, and strength, and—”
“I know that.” Kirill stopped in front of the door to the suite. “But how am I supposed to get to know any woman when I am training, training, training all of the time? I want to live.”
Seven pulled the suite’s key card from inside his jacket and tapped it to the security pad. “You live very well.” To prove his point, he pushed the door open and flipped on the entrance light, illuminating the suite’s luxury of size and aspect; only Number Two had larger quarters, what used to be the Presidential Suite on the top floor. This one was still the most lavish accommodation for anyone who wasn’t the security division’s overseer in the field, though, with two private bedrooms with baths, a fully equipped kitchenette, an entertainment center across from the lush sectional sofa, and a work space facing the windows.
Kirill walked in around him and went straight to the sofa, seemingly oblivious to it all. “Hotel rooms,” he griped. “Pools. Gymnasiums. It’s boring!”
Seven had hung back in the entrance hall to put his suit jacket in the closet, but now crossed his arms over his wide chest. “Many people would be very happy with boring. I would have been, at your age.”
“I know swimming is not soldiering,” Kirill said, briefly cowed before he rebounded again. “But at least you had your freedom! You saw the world. You must have had tons of women!”
“I also got this,” Seven said, indicating his face and its harsh reality.
“The scar is cool,” Kirill muttered behind a snort. “Everybody thinks so.”
“You think it is cool to get shot at? To spend your nights shivering under a desert sky, wondering if you are going to make it home alive or in a casket, or at all? Because that is what my life was like.” Seven waved his hands around. “I did not have my own suite in a four-star hotel, with my choice of waffles with strawberries or custom-made omelettes for breakfast, or a personal massage instead of the group sauna.”
Kirill’s gaze flicked away. “You are saying I’m spoiled and ungrateful.”
A swell of guilt pulled down Seven’s mouth. He drew a deep breath and let it go, more to settle himself than to convince Kirill, and approached the sofa. He put his hand on Kirill’s firm shoulder and gave it a quick squeeze, in what he hoped would be taken as assurance.
“I am saying that everyone has crosses to bear. You are right,” Seven said. “You are the best swimmer on this team or any other. Which means you are held to a higher standard than everyone else.” He tried a comforting smile. “Your time will come.”
Kirill looked at him a long time, not moving or speaking. Seven could tell his words had reached him, though; the lack of another outburst was proof of that.
At last, Kirill sighed and pushed himself to his feet. “It’s already been twenty-two years.” He spread his arms in a gesture of acceptance. “What is one more night, eh?” he said, and headed for his bedroom.
Seven shifted into his place on the sofa and watched him go. Like the rest of the athletes at the compound, Kirill possessed a deep-seated drive to succeed. He also had the impatience that came with that trait. But he was thoughtful, too, in his sheltered young man’s way, and very agreeable; his demands had never gone beyond wanting a second bowl of ice cream at dinner or asking for some extra time in the sauna. He was due for a bit of wish-fulfilment, though Seven wasn’t sure how. Parties weren’t his strong suit, and he didn’t really know anyone outside of his job.
He picked up the remote control for the television and switched it on. It landed on the news, in the middle of a report about the latest border arrests of desperate immigrants trying to enter and the disillusioned marginalized trying to escape, complete with video footage of men and women in military armor threatening a line of protesters with their weapons and shields.
Seven grimaced at the screen. He sympathized with the military’s day-to-day actors just following orders, but turning aside or locking away people simply because they didn’t fit the administration’s idea of the preferred citizen? That wasn’t what he’d fought and bled for. Someone in the ranks had to stand up against the injustices, soon. It was, after all, often easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.
Seven paused. It had been Natalya to tell him that all those years ago, when he’d run from the boys’ home to the army recruitment center in an effort to get out of a life destined for defeat.
He pulled his phone from his pocket and scrolled through the contacts list. He tapped the dial icon with his thumb, pulled the comm from his ear to keep this conversation private, and waited for an answer.
Three rings went by before a feminine voice as rich and smooth as chocolate truffles said, “Allo?”
“Natalya!” He couldn’t quite keep a smile from blooming. “Long time no talk, eh?”
“Who is this?”
“Your favorite ex-war hero.”
“You’ll have to be more specific.”
He frowned. “Quit fooling. You know it’s me.”
Her voice broke suddenly, into a laugh of sharp delight. “My darling sourpuss! Still so easy to tease.”
“Still so eager to do so.”
A pause before her tone took on a leading lilt. “It’s been a while.”
He nodded against the phone. “I know.”
She didn’t dwell on their time without talking. “To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”
His smile returned. “Are you still in the entertainment business?”
“It’s the most honest way for an enterprising woman to make a living,” she said with a blasé straightforwardness; he imagined her glancing at her nails as she spoke. “Why do you ask?”
Seven looked at Kirill’s bedroom door. Beyond, he could hear the shower running. He snickered. “How would you like me to owe you a favor?”
An action thriller novella of desire, death, duty, and devotion.
About the author.
By day, Mayumi Hirtzel works as a video producer and media programmer. In her spare time, she creates worlds and universes populated by wild, eccentric, passionate characters who often ignore their initial plots in favor of a far more complicated one, and who seldom give up even after their stories are supposed to be done.
She lives in the United States with her family.