I’m happy to report that my plan to make Frea write Fates seems to be working. When I went downstairs to bring her breakfast (and mop up the remains of a small fire she lit to keep herself warm), she delivered to me two pages of Chapter 52 of Fates. I didn’t think it was really necessary that she crumple the papers and hurl them at me, but whatever. I have painstakingly transcribed the pages for you here.
Now, one thing before you read. I know I promised to let her go once we received $480 in donations to Operation Smile. However, you all are so wonderful and generous we hit and surpassed that goal with ease. Unfortunately for Frea, I am also rather capricious and promptly changed the amount to get her out of my basement to $1,500. So keep donating to Operation Smile because as it stands right now, you have already bought six smiles. You are all awesome! Also, keep voting for the musical you want us to “Chuckify.” And finally, I owe her a chocolate muffin.
4 FEBRUARY 2008
EZERSKY MANOR VAULT ROOM
Chuck stared at Sergei Ezersky. And when the proper neurons and synapses that would have informed him how this situation worked refused to fire, he stared harder. It did nothing.
“You’re not the only one,” Andy said helpfully from where he was handcuffed across the aisle from Chuck. “I am also very, very confused. What the hell is going on?”
“You just said...you’re Sergei Ezersky, really?” Chuck continued to stare. “Really?”
“What?” Sergei Ezersky drew all five foot four inches of himself up, giving Chuck an affronted look. “Why would I lie to you? Who are you?”
A crazed Russian toymaker should be disheveled, Chuck thought. He should wear a crazy vest and possibly a pince-nez eyeglass, and he should definitely carry some kind of walking stick with an odd carving for a handle. Something kooky. Anything. Sergei Ezersky, on the other hand, barely had an accent. Sure, his hair resembled Albert Einstein’s a little, but that hardly made up for Chuck’s months of wondering what this man looked like as they made one Google search after the next, trying to get a good look at their elusive Russian toymaker.
“He’s Chuck Bartowski,” Bryce said with a sigh, sounding annoyed.
“Wait,” Andy said, looking between Chuck and Bryce. “You two know each other? What’s going on?”
“That’s kind of what I’d like to know, too,” Chuck said.
“I work for Chuck,” Bryce said.
“Shut up, Chuck.”
“Well, that’s not a very nice way to talk to your boss,” Chuck said, now thoroughly puzzled.
Bryce gave Andy and Sergei Ezersky a long-suffering look. “Chuck and I were roommates in college. When I say I work for him, I mean I helped him found his company. We run computer security. Well, Chuck does.”
“And what do you do?”
“I keep an eye on Chuck.” Bryce tugged uselessly at the handcuffs chaining him to the shelf.
“Not very well, apparently,” Sergei Ezersky said, and both Chuck and Bryce gave him dirty looks. “Perhaps you two could care to enlighten the rest of us as to how you became involved in this little problem?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps you could care to enlighten us to what the problem actually is,” Bryce said.
“What he said,” Chuck said.
“Gentlemen in masks broke into my home this morning and locked me in this room. I do not know what they want. I do not know what they came for, nor have they answered my repeated demands that they tell me anything.” Sergei Ezersky gave a very serious frown. “I do not recognize any of them. And some time ago—I apologize that I cannot be more exact, but I do not have my watch—they brought these two men down here and chained them up with me. I knew nothing until you two arrived, and I know even less, except that some stranger has been trying to mess with my security.”
He scowled at Chuck.
“Well, that’s nice,” Chuck said, shrinking away from the glare. And the story had been vague despite Sergei Ezersky’s precise way of speaking. Also, not helpful at all. “So, no idea who’s behind this? Any of you?”
Bryce shook his head.
“None,” Andy said. “They snatched us from the restaurant and nobody’s said a thing. I didn’t know you were following us, Chuck.”
“And attempting to crack my security,” Sergei Ezersky said.
“In the name of good! And to be fair, it was really tough to crack.”